"" Writer's Wanderings: September 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Is Well. . .

Last weekend I spoke at a women's conference in Wadsworth, OH. Part of the morning program included the testimonies of two ladies who had started businesses on faith that it was what God wanted them to do. Mara Bochart is a graphic designer who gives God all the glory in the artwork that she produces. She told an amazing story about one particular design she did early on in the formation of her company.

Mara is a photographer as well and was out one day taking shots of a fishing boat long before her business was getting off the ground. The pictures were filed away until one of her first clients needed a graphic that had to go along with the song/hymn, It Is Well (With My Soul). The story behind the hymn has to do with the man who wrote the lyrics, Horatio G. Spafford. He had sent his wife and daughters on a steamer bound for Europe and he was to follow soon after. The steamer met with tragedy when a ship hit it. The four daughters were lost but his wife, Anna, survived. She telegraphed him, "Saved alone."

Horatio hurried to join his wife. As his ship was passing over the same spot where his daughters had perished, he went to his cabin and penned the words to the now beautiful hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul."

With that story in mind, Mara began her work. She pulled up the pictures of the fishing boat from her file. They were all she had to work with. She chose one shot and began to blow up the picture to get a good basic graphic of the bow to work with. As the program drew her closer into the picture, she suddenly discovered the name of the boat she was working with--Daddy's Girls. To her, it was more confirmation that God had led her to this work. Months before she needed the picture, she had taken it. And there, in the name and composition, it fit perfectly with her project.

You can see samples of Mara's designs at her blog or her website. She does all sorts of notecards, bookmarks, journals, banners, Bible cases, etc. Recently she has collaborated with a friend, Susan Obrad who uses Mara's designs for the purses she produces and sells. Susan also gave a wonderful testimony of how God brought the two of them together. The two of them were a "tough act" to follow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Books for the Road - The Great DIvorce

Being a member of a book discussion group has always moved me out of my usual reading zone. The library, and now our church discussion group, forces me into books I would never think of picking off a shelf--or now downloading to my e-reader. The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis is another one of them.

In The Great Divorce, Lewis uses fable and allegory to tell the story of someone who finds himself in Hell boarding a bus bound for Heaven. He proposes that anyone who wants to stay in Heaven , can. Of course the puzzle is that so many of those who visit Heaven by bus refuse to give up a variety of personal quirks, emotions, desires, etc. in order to stay there.

If you enjoy Lewis' penchant for making you look at symbolism and hidden meaning you will love exploring the pages of his dream-story. This particular book did not endear me any more to Lewis even though so many others are such fans of Narnia and his other stories. But if you're looking like for a challenge and like to think and ponder over fantasy, you will enjoy the read. If you are looking for escape and entertainment try a different book.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumn Travel

It's happened. Summer has ended and Autumn has begun--at least for the northern hemisphere. The farther north you are, the more likely you are to enjoy what the new season brings. Crisp morning air greets you with the scent of apples, pumpkins, summer's discarded leaves and a hint of chrysanthemums. Even freshly cut grass smells different in the fall. With the season of stacked cornstalks, bales of hay, and decorative scarecrows scattered among the pumpkin fields and under the amber, orange, yellow, and red leaves comes the desire to get out on the road and absorb all the beautiful natural artwork.

It is probably a little late to plan a fall trip through the northeast as we did a few years back. Places to stay fill up quickly and their autumn is probably about to peak soon since it is a little earlier than other places in the country. But think about it for next year and start planning. With a little internet surfing, you can put together a great trip rather it is by land or by sea. Many of the major cruise lines offer fall cruises from New York up to Nova Scotia and to Montreal. Google "fall foliage tours" and you'll find a wealth of information.

This year there is still time to get out on the road in other states like Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia, and parts of the midwest where the autumn colors are just beginning to turn. Be spontaneous and take a weekend trip to enjoy the season and be sure to get out and shuffle through some falling leaves.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lone Woman Traveler

Last weekend was the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Indianapolis. Since it was so close to home, it was hard to pass up. (Picture at right is of Tim Downs giving keynote.) I drove and had a room to myself which is best for me since I would tend to want to talk late into the night if I had a roommate. If you find yourself traveling alone, here are a few things to consider for doing so safely.

  • Keep your cell phone handy and charged. Use it to keep family or a close friend updated as to where you are and what your schedule is. Don't discuss with that friendly stranger what your plans are.

  • Choose a hotel with rooms that have an indoor hallway. I once booked a hotel without realizing it had doors on an outside perimeter along with a window that had sliding glass panels that opened. I spent a very uncomfortable night not feeling safe and changed hotels the next day.

  • Which leads me to the next item: Follow your gut instincts. If it doesn't feel safe go somewhere else, don't stop there, eat somewhere else, leave.

  • When you arrive at your hotel room take note where the Exit sign is in the hall and how many doors away it is. Is it a left or a right turn out of the room. Don't rely on the map on the back of the door. It's confusing sometimes.

  • Always turn the bolt and set the chain while you are in the room. Unless you order room service, there should be no reason to open the door. The cleaning staff will come back later if you ask them.

  • Keep your key in a place where you don't have to fumble for it as you stand in front of your door.

  • If you are at a conference that requires you to wear a name badge, be sure to take it off when you are out of the conference area. It surprises me how many people don't realize their name is advertised on their chest when Bob (his favorite thing to do) calls them by name in the elevator.

  • When you are eating in the hotel, do not leave a signed bill with your room number on it on the table. Give it back to the server.

  • Don't run alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Use the gym or find a running partner from fellow conferees you can trust.

  • Always BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. This goes without saying rather you are miles away from home or just in the parking lot of your local mall.

Stay safe out there. Gee, now I sound like one of those police shows.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Books For The Road - The Appeal

On my trip to Indianapolis this past weekend, I listened to the audio book, The Appeal by John Grisham. The story is a legal thriller in the Grisham style. A couple of small town attorneys win a big case against a chemical company that has been polluting the water system of the town causing illness and death. Of course the chemical company will appeal to the state supreme court so the owner of the company, Carl Trudeau, will make sure that first he stacks the court in his favor. He arranges for his candidate to run against the incumbant judge and win. The question I had as I read was will he overturn the verdict or follow true to form as he was groomed to do?

The story is good but at times seemed a bit bogged down with detailed legal analysis that might have been easier to read on a page than to listen to on a CD. Still, it kept me wanting to know more and to see how it would come out. One thing Grisham does with his legal stories is always make you think. After reading King Of Torts, I couldn't look at the TV ads for medical class action suits and not think about the book. This one has me reexamining who the groups are that are supporting our candidates in the upcoming election. And with all the corruption that has been uncovered in our county lately, voters really should know who's putting together the ads that we will be bombarded with from now until November.

I would suggest reading this one rather than listening to the audio but either way, you'll get a good story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Planning for D.C.? Tips for the Trip

Please welcome my daughter-in-law, Lori, as guest blogger today. She has some great tips on planning a trip to Washington, D.C.

This past February our son’s 2nd grade class did a unit about national monuments. Each night our son came home and shared with us a long forgotten fact: The Washington Monument is 555’ tall. The Lincoln Memorial has 36 columns around it, one for each state in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. There’s a tomb in the US Capitol but no one is buried in it. He really seemed to enjoy learning about the monuments, so we decided to take the kids to Washington DC to see some of our nation’s monuments in person.

I started researching our trip in March, thinking maybe we’d go for a long weekend over Memorial Day. As I started to research our destinations, I quickly discovered a vacation to DC is not something you can plan in just a month or two if you want to actually go inside the buildings. A lot had changed since I visited with my 8th grade class! We adjusted our calendar and planned a Labor Day trip instead. Here are some things I discovered that visitors to Washington DC should know in advance:

Requests to tour the White House should be submitted through your member of Congress 3 to 6 months in advance. You will receive notification of your approval (or denial) 1 to 2 weeks before your requested visit date, so have back up plans in case you’re denied. (There are a limited amount of tickets for each day, so it is quite possible that you will be denied.) If you’re lucky enough to be approved for the self-guided tour, don’t plan on carrying anything extra with you that day – including your camera.

Requests to tour the US Capitol should be submitted through your member of Congress at least 30 days in advance. Our representatives had request forms for both the White House & US Capitol on their websites.

You must have tickets to enter the Washington Monument. Tickets are free, but not necessarily readily available. You can wait in line at the Visitor’s Center for tickets, but they frequently run out within an hour or two of opening and the line forms early. Your best bet is to order tickets online. There is a $1.50 convenience fee per ticket, but the cost was well worth it. The day we were there, the line at the Visitor’s Center was quite long, and the tour tickets for the entire day were gone by 10am.

You must have a timed-entry ticket to tour the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, depending on the month of your visit.

Many other sites around Washington offer tickets you can order online before your trip. Google each of your destination sites to verify their tour times and ticket availability. We found it convenient to pay a couple dollars per ticket in order to guarantee we got to see everything we wanted to see. By ordering the tickets, we were also able to select our own tour times and better plan our days.

As our kids marveled at the bird’s eye views of the White House, Jefferson Memorial, and US Capitol from the observation deck 500 feet up in the Washington Monument, I was glad I had taken a little extra time to plan their first visit to our nation’s capital.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Movie Destination

Friday night is usually date night which means a light dinner and then a big bag of popcorn as we sit back and enjoy a movie on the big screen--or the little screen at home if the theater offerings are not to our liking. Many times we will choose a movie because of the location it was shot--Rome, Tuscany, Paris, London, etc. Although then it's hard to sit back and keep from saying, "Remember when we were there?"

Once in a while, there is a movie that inspires a just-gotta-see place to visit. Some scenes from Florence will have us wanting to revisit Italy since we've not gotten to that great city yet. Under the Tuscan Sun will have me wanting to revisit Tuscany.

Closer to home there are several movies that come to mind--"hand holders" as I like to call them or "chick flicks" as Bob refers to them. You've Got Mail might whet your appetite for Seattle or New York City or The Bridges of Madison County might send you out to Iowa to take in the covered bridges in Madison County.

There are movies that don't inspire quite as much. I'm not sure I want to see Dracula's castle although I hear the countryside is beautiful. I just wouldn't want to be out after dark.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Have Kids, Will Travel?

We didn't travel with our children a lot but we did take several outstanding vacations that they remember quite vividly. Of course they remember Disney World but the trips to the Smokey Mountains, the North Carolina coast, and Washington, D.C. are also mentioned when we are together reminiscing. We didn't fly often. There were five kids and even back then it was too expensive. Today, I see more and more families traveling with young children and I applaud their sense of adventure in this day and age of airport security lines.

The internet has brought a whole new slant to travel planning in recent years as more and more blogs and sites make themselves available for looking ahead on what to expect at hotels, parks, cruise ships, etc. In surfing around, I found two that are specifically aimed at families traveling together. TravelSavvyMom and Minitime. They feature reviews on kid-friendly places and give lots of tips on traveling with kids of all ages. If you're planning to travel and toting the little ones along, you might want to check them out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Fishy Theme

This week seems to have taken on a fishy theme. Our Perch Fest began the week and I will be ending it with "fishing" for an agent and editor. So keeping all that in mind, here are some tips I found from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources about taking kids fishing.
  • Look for a place that offers the best chance for success and be sure to use the proper bait/lures for the fish common to the area.
  • Keep the tackle simple and easy to use.
  • Remember kids have a short attention span. Be patient-even more with the kids than on waiting for a fish to bite.
  • Don't plan a day trip on a boat if you fear the child may be prone to motion sickness.
  • And my favorite, "Even the smallest fish or a less desirable species is a 'trophy' to a kid if you make it one!"

Now if I can just get an editor to bite on my "bait."

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's All About The Fish

A few years ago, we discovered a great festival in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. It's called the Great Lakes Perch Festival. While the festival is not large compared to some of the others running this time of year, its main attraction, the perch dinner, is just too good to pass up. The dinners are supplied by Bennett Fish whose sign read something to the effect that their fish were so fresh, they were just sleeping in Lake Erie yesterday.

This weekend marked the only Buckeye game we had tickets to so we couldn't get to the Perch Fest on Saturday. After a quick change into jeans after church, we drove out there on Sunday. Fairport Harbor's Lakeside Park is right on Lake Erie and has a nice sandy beach that I'm sure is wonderful in the summer. Sunday was a bit chilly since our area has cooled down considerably from the 90 degree temps we had this summer. Still, it is fun to sit and munch deep fried perch, french fries and cole slaw on a picnic bench with a view of the lake.

After satisfying our perch craving, we strolled along the beach a ways and then checked out the other booths at the festival. There was a fishing "pond" for kids and several outdoor activity vendors as well as a tent with a big screen TV for watching the weekend's football games. Many were other types of foods: pastry, fresh lemonade, candied apples, funnel cakes, some meaty treats for those who don't like fish, and the wonderful kettle corn booth that filled the air with the delicious smell of fresh popped corn. Yup, we couldn't resist and very little of it made it all the way home.

There is an old lighthouse and museum in Fairport Harbor worth exploring as well and the little town is an interesting place to meander through if you are looking for a little shopping experience. Some day we will have to visit when we have ample time to enjoy it all.

While Oktober Fests seem to be the most popular thing going around here this season, this little festival met our needs. After all, it is all about the fish.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Worth a Thousand Words

If it's true what they say about pictures, then this says it all. BIG game Saturday! Just wondering who our Miami son will be cheering for?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Grandma By Any Other Name. . .

Take a little side trip to my column at Positively Feminine today. Some of my first travel experiences were on a bus trip into the big city of Cleveland with my "substitute" grandma. It is fitting that it would post on the same day as her birthday.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Miscellaneous Travel Tips

Booking your hotel online? Be sure to read the fine print about cancellation policies for the online service. You may lose all of the cost of the room and the booking fee if you cancel. Grace periods change and fees change. Be aware of them before you enter your credit card number.

Booking an airline flight? Take a look at some of the travel sites like Travelocity or Expedia but also check out the flights they list with the airline website. You might find a better price. Also, the online sites are good for booking your flights when you are flying to one city but coming back from another.

Doing a lot of walking on your trip? Take along moleskin for those blisters that seem to pop up even when you're not in new shoes.

Packing tip: Hang on to those freebie shower caps and use them to cover your shoes when you pack and keep your clothes cleaner.

And finally, for those who are App addicts here's one for travel: GoTourIt. Buy and download GPS guided audio tours of cities, parks and historic sites. It's available at iTunes App Store.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Lost Not Found

Have you ever lost something while traveling? Most of us have. Thankfully the things we lost were not critical like medications. Bob once left a camera in the glove compartment of a rental car. And on another trip, we lost a pair of trousers. I suspect they were left hanging in the closet.

One of the easiest places to lose something is in that pocket of the airplane seat in front of you. Too often we grab stuff out of our carry on and pack it in there to use during flight. Not a good idea. Not only is there the chance of you leaving stuff behind, do you really want to stick your hand all the way in there and search around for your Ipod, or your phone, or your candy bar that you decided would taste good along the way? Who knows what might be lurking in there?

Here's a suggestion for you to help keep your things together and prevent them from being lost forever to that deep pocket. Get a ziploc gallon plastic bag. Now you can't use this for security but you can use it for those things you want to use while in the air. Before you board the plane, stick the things you want in easy reach in the bag, zip it, and keep it in the top of your carry on or tucked under your arm. When you find your seat, you'll spend less time getting organized and stowing your gear. And everything comes out of and goes back into that plastic bag as you use it. The bag is big enough to see the top of in the pocket to remind you that it's there (as long as you don't fold it over and tuck it down).

From what I understand, you won't be let back onto the airplane if you leave something behind and you'll have to rely on lost and found at the airport to hopefully recover your belongings. Most people don't have the time and/or never find it there.

Hope this has been helpful. Trust me, it only takes one time to leave a camera behind and you'll never put it in the wrong place again.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Buckeye Fans

If you have never traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for an Ohio State Football game you are missing out on a real treat. There are few places that I know of where the whole city is crazy over their football. You may see team colors worn in other cities but in Columbus it is the norm, the expected. If you aren't in red and gray, you will stand out.

While tickets are hard to come by and you may not want to spend the big bucks for a seat in the stadium, you can still soak up the atmosphere and the excitement at the skull session for the bands in St. John's Arena. It starts about 2 hours before the game but you'll want to arrive at least a half-hour before that for a seat. The place reverberates as the OSU Marching Band's percussion section shakes the rafters with its march onto the floor. Though you won't get to see the formations, you will get to hear the half time performance and see the drum majors work out. You'll also get a peek at the team. Tressel makes them march through on their way to the lockerroom and one of them will give a short pep talk. It's a great tradition.

Afterwards, stroll through the parking area where the tailgating is going on. It's an art at OSU. You will even be able to catch the game on the TVs that will be running off of generators for those who are tailgating without a ticket to the game.

Ah, yes. Football season is here. Go Bucks!!

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