"" Writer's Wanderings: February 2006

Monday, February 27, 2006

Da Vinci -- Da Rumble

Do you hear it? It's beginning again. The rumble over The Da Vinci Code can be heard in the distance, getting louder as it approaches. The release of the movie in May is already causing a buzz as the movie trailers are beginning to pique curiosity all over again.

I read the book. Ho-hum. It was a decent adventure/mystery story--a good puzzler, if you like solving puzzles. A great novel? No way. It was slow and sluggish in places and the characters were not so deep that you really cared that much about them. If the publisher is smart, he'll take the profits from all the hoopla surrounding the book and publish something that is truly worth reading and caring about.

So what about this hoopla? Where did it all come from? Whoever started it--publiscists, media, evangelicals--it certainly paid off in dollars for author and publishing house, and now the movie makers. By the way, in case you've really been out of all the loops, the commotion has been over the premise that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children together. The protests raged when the book came out over the propagation of the premise as though the author had presented a theological dissertation. Dan Brown wrote the book as FICTION.

I can't help but wonder if the book would have quietly gone into the night had the Christian world not taken up arms against it. Of course it sold millions of copies--to those who who wanted to find out what all the rumble was about. Now Tom Hanks and Ron Howard will add to it. Will I go see it? Probably. My husband hasn't read the book--too long, so he'll want to see it. After all, he's curious to know why everyone is in such a dither over the whole thing, as are so many others--guaranteeing it to be a box office hit.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Parenting Tips

When I was raising five kids, I could have used a parenting tip everyday--probably two. A writing friend of mine whose expertise is in early childhood behavior and parenting is offering a Daily Discipline Tip each Wednesday. Her wise counsel can be obtained at http://www.brendanixon.com/ . Click on the sidebar that says Daily Discipline Tip to sign up.

My tip for the day: A piece of chocolate can calm the nerves, lift the spirit, soothe the beast, and refresh a weary soul. The trick is to let it s-l-o-w-l-y melt in your mouth. By the time its gone your troubles seem a lot smaller.

This tip comes to you free of charge from a confessing chocoholic.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ah, Chocolate

The love affair with chocolate in America extends far beyond eating it. A trip to Hershey PA, the town that was built on chocolate, will engulf you in all sorts of chocolate themed activities—Hershey’s Chocolate World where you can learn about chocolate making—theme park rides centered around chocolate bars—and of course the ultimate: the Chocolate Spa where you can immerse yourself in a cocoa bath or be covered in a chocolate body wrap. All guaranteed to be calorie free treatments.

Personally, I’d rather eat my chocolate.

You do have to be careful in your chocolate forays however. I did have a near death experience about a year ago. We were on the Queen Mary 2 and eating at the specialty restaurant on board ship. The desert was called Fallen Chocolate Cake. It arrived warm from the oven in the shape and size of a large muffin. The aroma wafted up and began to set my taste buds for the treat ahead. There was a scoop of vanilla ice cream beginning to melt next to it on the plate.

I took my fork and gently cut a small wedge from the cake. As I pulled it away, dark lush creamy chocolate flowed like molten lava from inside the cake and pooled around the ice cream. Ah…

The waiter had described the dessert as “death by chocolate.” I ate every last bit of it anyway.

Well, if I’m going to die—let it be by chocolate.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Web of Lies

Arachnophobics beware! Brandilyn Collins's new book will send you screaming back to your therapists. I just finished reading Web of Lies and must admit that I now make sure my shoes are on before I tramp around in the basement. Her characters, Annie Kingston, a forensic artist, and Chelsea Adams, a Christian whose visions have helped to solve crimes, come together in this book. Their combined efforts finally nab one of the creepiest villains you'll ever find--emphasis on creepy.

I met Brandilyn at Mount Hermon Writers' Conference last year--sat in on a couple of workshops. To look at this lovely lady with a beautiful sense of humor and spirit, you would never guess that somewhere in that mind lurks the creative fodder to chill you to the bone. Her forays into the minds of her villains are remarkable in creating the suspense that holds you in your seat turning page after page.

The Hidden Faces Series (Annie Kingston) and the Chelsea Adams Series are recommended reads--especially Dead of Night, my favorite. These books are best read during the day unless you enjoy that spine tingling little feeling that comes when you read a thriller shivering under your covers with just a reading light on.

One more thing--when you read Web of Lies, do it with your shoes on.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Be A Barnabas

Barnabas, the man who was nicknamed "Son of Encouragement" in the Bible, seems to keep cropping up in my life. A few years back when I needed some real encouragement myself, I decided that you get what you give and tried to "be a Barnabas." It worked. My attitude about people changed when I had to look for the good in them and encourage it.

Encouragement is not just praise. It is also comfort and consolation. It's what helps someone through those despairing times in life.

Barnabas cropped up again when I joined a writers' forum online. I became a part of a group of encouragers. We cheerfully refer to ourselves as the Barnabas Babes. When someone is down due to rejection, illness, stress, you name it, we jump in with words of encouragement and prayer support. On the other hand, we also applaud accomplishments and try to keep the green eyed monster of envy from ruining our honest good-wishes for each other.

Praise is good but encouragement is better. Praise needs you to be successful to be received but encouragement is given rather you succeed or not. Praise is a part of encouragement but if it is the only part, then there is no room for growth. Encouragement urges us ahead despite our circumstances.

In a few weeks I will be giving a talk on encouragement to a group at a womens' retreat. Its title? Be A Barnabas, of course!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Life Jacket Drill

We have been on enough cruises to know the drill. At around 4 or 5 p.m., after everyone should be aboard and ready to sail, the announcement is made that the alarm will sound and everyone--and they do mean everyone--needs to get their lifejacket from their room and proceed to their muster station indicated on the back of the stateroom door.

Some ships insist you wear the bulky orange vest that makes you feel pregnant all over again all the way to the muster station. I think that's to keep people from tripping on the straps if they aren't wound around the life jacket. Everyone assembles while those in charge take attendance. A demonstration of the proper way to wear the vest follows along with sometimes humorous descriptions of all the nifty attachments--a light for reading and whistle to irritate the marine life. Everyone is usually good natured about the whole thing. Although there was one cruise where the photographers (who are often irritating enough) decided it would be cute to take picures of everyone up to their chins in orange covered cork.

The Antarctic cruise actually had two life jacket drills. The second was for the inflatable life jackets that we would wear while on the zodiacs. The information went something like this:

You will proceed to the gangway with your parkas zipped and hoods up, holding any loose items in your right hand while the crew puts the life jacket over your head and secures the straps for you. If for any unfortunate reason you should find yourself overboard, your life jacket will inflate automatically. If the automatic inflation for some reason fails, there are two red knobs you pull to inflate the jacket. If for any reason that should fail to inflate your jacket and you have not sunk and are still conscious, you can manually inflate with the tubes at the top of the jacket. Of course by that time, hypothermia has probably set in and your life jack will only serve as a means of recovery rather than rescue--which explained the big loopy strap on the back of it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Iceberg Souvenir

Well, a little update on the delivery of the "iceberg" from Antarctica.

It was a great hit!

Tyler couldn't have been more pleased. He and Danielle ran and got their plastic seal, penguin, and polar bear (although polar bears are from the northern hemisphere--but then the iceberg was from my driveway...). They played with the iceberg in the plastic container for a bit and then decided we could float it in the bathtub.

Lori ran some cold water and we set it in the tub. Next time I'll have to give my iceberg more of a solid ice base. The packed snow absorbed water too fast. Tyler kept insisting he was going to get in the tub with it. We finally convinced him it was too cold.

The play continued in the bathroom for a while until Tyler noticed the iceberg getting smaller.

"We haffa put it in the freezer. It's gonna melt!" He fretted.

We rescued the melting berg and plopped it back in the container. Lori saved its life by putting it in the freezer and we went on enjoying the rest of our visit with all the grandkids.

When we got back home late Saturday night, I checked my e-mail before going to bed. A note from Lori said, "Tyler had to kiss his iceberg goodnight."

If he becomes too attached, I might have to make another trip to Antarctica and get another one. Hope he doesn't want it in the middle of summer.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Iceberg, Ho!

I'm a little late in posting today. I've been out making an iceberg.....

Yes, you read that right. I'm making an iceberg. We've had about 6 inches of snow over the last few days--perfect for iceberg making. Let me explain.

Just before we left for our trip to Antarctica we called our grandkids to say we'd send a penguin postcard. Tyler (our 4-year old grandson) burst into tears over the phone. For some reason he'd gotten it into his head that we were taking him with us so he could see the glaciers and icebergs. He has developed a fascination with them and has seen our Alaskan pictures with the glaciers and small bergs in the water. I felt terrible.

When it came time to buy souvenirs, I decided I wanted to get something really nice. I was surprised to find little to choose from for grandkids. Somebody missed the boat--er, ship--by not ordering more things for grandparents to buy. There was little to choose from.

I ended up with a couple of fleece vests, the word Antarctica written across the back and "free" mittens snapped inside the pouch on the back of the vest. Clothes. I could imagine the disappointed look on Tyler's face. The girls might enjoy the clothes but he's far beyond that.

In one of my more creative moments--I do have one or two--I decided to make him an iceberg. I've packed some snow in a large plastic container and we plan to put it in a cooler with lots of ice packed around it to keep it from melting too fast when we take it to him. I will explain to him that the glaciers are made of snow that is packed down and when it slides to the ocean, it breaks off and floats in the water. We'll put it in the bathtub--with Mom's approval, and maybe float a couple of boats around it.

I know he's probably smart enough to figure out it's not really from Antarctica but what's an imagination for if you can't use it?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Penguins and Penguins, Oh my!

Penguins and penguins and penguins. And then more penguins. Our trip to Antarctica was filled with them. It’s summer in the southern hemisphere and the penguins have migrated to their breeding spots. If you have seen March of the Penguins, you sort of have the picture. We were not as far south as the Emperor penguins so the conditions were not severe.

Thousands of penguins (we saw mostly Gentoo and Chinstrap and then Magellan in Argentina) cover the small islands and outcroppings of the Antarctic Peninsula where the ice has melted. During the winter, Antarctica is twice its normal size because of the ice that forms around it in the sea and the penguins live out in the open sea. When the ice breaks up and begins to melt, the birds return to their rookeries, find mates, and do what comes naturally to perpetuate the species.

At one of the lectures aboard our ship, the expedition team leader had given a talk about what we would be seeing. His specialty was something other than birds and penguins and he poked fun at the other team member who was to talk about the different kinds of penguins on the continent. The leader showed a slide with a shot of two penguins, one facing the camera, the other with its back to us. “There are really only two kinds of penguins,” he quipped. “Black ones and white ones.”

At each rookery landing, it was hard to stop taking pictures. There were too many good shots and we wanted to make sure we got them all. Thank goodness for digital—we took over 700 pictures plus video.

This week Bob put most of the pictures on a CD so we could begin to share them with others. He didn’t take a lot of time to edit so the slide show is almost an hour long—only for the stout of heart and those, like family, who have to watch. Somewhere in the midst of all his work, he sat back and said, “You know, that expedition leader was right about penguins.” He flipped through a few pictures. “There really are only two kinds.”

Friday, February 03, 2006

Colorful Antarctica

Our first day in Antarctic waters was gray and misty with spurts of drizzle that tried to dampen our spirits. No way. This was an adventure and we were awed by our first glimpses of large icebergs and a rookery of penguins.

The next day, however, brought bright sunshine and clear skies--clear blue, blue skies. This is where it gets difficult because I am going to try to tell you in words what I saw not only with my eyes, but my heart and soul as well.

Bright whiteness, pure white snow, whiter than anything I have ever seen graced the mountains and glaciers that ran down to the water's edge. It was made more shockingly white by being set against a backdrop of crystal blue skies. Here and there coal gray rocky cliffs poked through the ice and snow and were met by the surf of the ocean gently licking at their base.

How I wished that for just a few minutes the buzz and hum of the ship could be silenced, for I know that the quiet would have felt holy.

As I stood on deck and drank in the pristine beauty of my surroundings, the words, "whiter than snow" came to mind. This was the whitest snow I had ever seen and yet the Bible says Jesus washes our sins whiter than snow. What a wondrous miracle.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Not My Cup of Tea

As we explored the shopping area of Buenos Aires, we noticed some unusual items in many of the store windows. I’m not an expert on drug paraphernalia but these items looked suspicious. They were round cups made of wood (actually a gourd) and a variety of other materials and each had a silver/metal straw in them that ended in a little silver strainer-type contraption on the end that was inserted into the cup. Did you smoke something in it, I wondered?

Window after shop window, we passed the same thing with unique designs, materials, and decorations. This was getting to be too much, I decided. At an outdoor craft market there was a table full of these cups with their unusual straws and a fellow whose English was pretty good so I gathered the courage to ask.

“It is mate--our national drink!” He was amazed that I didn’t know that. From a chair behind him, he picked up his own cup and showed me. “It is our tea. See?”

I peered into the cup at a concoction of liquid mixed with some sort of leaves. There was more leaf material than liquid it seemed. Then the light bulb went on in my head. Of course, they put their tea leaves in the hot water in their cup and the drink is strained through the straw. How clever. It reminded me of the Japanese teapot my daughter-in-law had given me where the strainer was in the spout.

I lifted the cup close enough to my nose to take a whiff. It was not the aroma I expected. While the gentleman insisted it wasn’t tobacco, I was sure it had to be at least a first cousin to the plant. It reminded me of my grandfather’s old cigars when they would get wet in an ashtray he kept outside.

The opportunity arose to purchase some tea and one of the cups but I passed. I can’t imagine it tasting any better than it smelled and tobacco juice isn’t my cup of tea.
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