Sunday, April 30, 2006

bamboo school and the border police - 1

Part 1 of 3 - CHICKENBONE'S COURAGE

Trucks crawled into the village of Bong Ti, Thailand, shattering the peace of a May afternoon. On the outskirts of the village, 11-year-old Chickenbone*, and many Karen children who had gathered to begin classes at Bamboo School when it opened in a week, were bathing in the river. As the trucks rumbled closer, laughter changed to silence as one by one the children climbed out of the water to peer through the trees.

Farther up the hill, on the school verandah that looked down on the village, principal Momo Cat (Catherine Riley-Bryan) was interviewing a new student. She too heard the trucks. They rolled to a stop at the base of the hill. Then sixteen soldiers, in the uniform of Thai border police, climbed out and made their way up the hill. Near the top they broke into two groups. One went in the direction of Pastor David's* house, while the other marched toward the schoolhouse and surrounded it.

"Special armed force," a policeman barked, stepping onto the verandah. "We will search."

Momo Cat stood by helplessly as the men rooted through the classrooms, the kitchen and the dormitory sleeping quarters.

Meanwhile, several soldiers had found the swimming hole. "Get clothes on and come with us!" one commanded.

Chickenbone's heart beat hard. This was not his first run-in with soldiers. He remembered, as a little boy, how his family had escaped from the Myanmar army soldiers (SPDC and DKB). They had burned his village to keep the people from joining and fighting in the Karen army (KNU). His family had fled through the Myanmar hills and jungles. Finally they had made it into Thailand and to the refugee camp. Now if the soldiers found that any of his identification papers were missing, they could arrest him and put him in jail or take him back to Myanmar and force him into military service.

His family was still at the refugee camp. But Chickenbone had been accepted into Bamboo School where he was going to learn to read. Even better, Momo was teaching them about Jesus. They were learning new songs and how to share Jesus' love with children in other villages. Would the soldiers spoil all that?

"Hurry!" the men called, as the children scrambled to find their clothes, tie on sarongs, pull on t-shirts and shorts. Chickenbone was herded with the others, up the hill to Pastor David's house.

At the school the leader, finished with the search, confronted Momo Cat again. "You come with us," he demanded.

"One minute," she said. She went to her special hiding place and grabbed the bag which held all the identification papers she had for the children, and her own passport. Then she went with the soldiers.

When the children got to the house, Chickenbone's eyes grew wide with fear. There were many soldiers. They were shoving and pushing Pastor David, and calling out insults. "You are spy! You are KNU!" But when Pastor tried to explain, they just hit and kicked him more.

As the children huddled near the house, soldiers surrounded them. Just then Momo Cat and the other soldiers arrived. "These children are not illegals," she said to the men. "Here are papers and my passport." She showed the leader the documents.

He shuffled through the papers, then said gruffly, "Take them back to the house."

"Come," Momo Cat motioned. "Back to the school."

As they walked in stunned silence, they saw the soldiers push and shove their pastor and his family down the hill.

"You stay here," Mom Cat said, when they'd reached the school. "I'll go and help Pastor David."

Chickenbone watched Momo Cat start down the path. Would the soldiers hurt her too, he wondered? He couldn't just sit here. He trailed down the hill behind Momo.

He saw that Pastor David and his family were now at the bottom of the hill beside the trucks. Soldiers were hitting and punching him again, and yelling out, "KNU!" and "Spy!"

They were wrong! Pastor David was no spy. He was a kind man, who told them Bible stories, led them in worship and listened to them when they needed someone to talk to. Chickenbone couldn't stand to watch the mean soldiers beat up his friend. But how could he stop them? He would take their attention away from the pastor. He took a step, but a soldier who was nearby noticed, struck him and Chickenbone went flying.

Momo Cat, now surrounded by village children and students who had followed her down the hill, looked over from where she was negotiating with the soldiers.

"I need to go to the toilet," Chickenbone called, getting up.

"Ask the soldier," she shouted back.

"Can't I even go to the toilet?" Chickenbone asked in Burmese.

"Go on the grass where you are," the soldier answered back.

Chickenbone acted as if he was undoing his trousers. Then like lightning he took off, away from Pastor David and toward the jungle.

The soldiers stopped beating Pastor David to watch. "Stop!" the leader shouted.

But Chickenbone kept going. In the next instant there was a click, then a gunshot.

Momo Cat gasped in horror. She and the children fell to their knees to pray just as another shot rang through the valley.

A few minutes later the soldiers picked up Chickenbone's limp body and put him in the truck.

Momo Cat saw that he was still alive. "I'm a nurse, let me help him," she begged.

"Go back to your house." was all the soldiers said.

Quickly Momo Cat climbed the hill back to the school. She got together packages of milk powder for Pastor David's grandchildren and hurried down to give them to Pastor before the soldiers drove away with him, his family and Chickenbone. In between the packages, she had slipped 1000 baht (approximately $24.00 U.S.).

That night Momo and the children had a big prayer meeting. They prayed for Chickenbone and Pastor David. They also praised God that they were alive. "And thank you," prayed Momo Cat, "that we were able to give Pastor David the milk and the money."

"But we saw soldiers take the milk and the money away from Pastor," said one of the children.

"Oh no," said Momo Cat. "I hope they get a belly ache."

"Momo," said one of the children, "we should love our enemies, not speak badly of them."

You're so right, thought Momo Cat, but it is hard. She hoped she'd seen the last of the border police. But God had other plans.

To be continued...

****************
* Fictitious names used to protect real people.

bamboo school and the border police - intro

The April 18th edition of Persecution.com (a weekly email put out by Voice of the Martyrs) alerted me to the ongoing tense situation in Burma. Quoting from Christian Newswire services on behalf of Christian Freedom International, the email said:

“In Burma this time of year is known locally as the ‘killing season’ and this year is no exception. During the dry season soldiers can move easier in the dense jungles of Burma and this year the military junta has stepped up its genocidal attacks on the Karen, an ethnic (predominantly Christian) minority in Burma.”
This reminded me of a story I wrote for Guide several years ago. The events of that story took place in Bong-Ti, a village in Thailand just over the Burma (Myanmar) border. That story also had its beginning at this time of year (May) in 2002.

I got the story facts through email exchanges with the Bamboo School founder and teacher Catherine Riley-Bryan. The three-part piece, “The Bamboo School and the Border Police,” ran in Guide in November of 2003.

I’ll be posting the story over the next few days. You'll meet an exceptional woman and gain a little understanding of the plight of the Karen people in 2002, which continues to this day.

Friday, April 28, 2006

update

on how things are going:

- My mom’s condition is about the same – even improving a bit.

- Because she tires with the least exertion, I’ve begun going over to her suite every morning to help her get dressed, to fetch her breakfast and to make sure she’s comfortably installed in her recliner. We’ve also arranged, through the local health authority, for aides to come in for an hour in the evening to help her shower and get ready for bed. This makes it possible for her to stay in her assisted living suite for the time being.

- Various family member have or are coming from distances to visit Mom. Our house has become the grand motel. This is actually lots of fun.

- I’ve begun training my replacement for the medical transcription job. May 12th is my last day!

- Via an email from The Word Guild yesterday: the two pieces of writing I entered in this year’s Word Guild Awards have both made it onto the short list (PDF):
~ “More Beautiful Than Flowers” in the Article - Young Adult / Children category.
~ “Transformation” in the Poetry category.

Monday, April 24, 2006

ten simple pleasures


I’ve been tagged by the lovely Julana to name ten simple pleasures. (Thanks! Once I got started, it was hard to stop at ten. )

1. Reading a good book about writing (like Page after Page or Beyond the Page or Writing the Natural Way)

2. Looking at my garden in the late afternoon on a spring day and seeing how the sun shines through the new hosta or astilbe leaves.

3. The first sip of coffee in the morning.

4. The mellow feeling in my body after exercise.

5. The smell, outdoors, of word fire on a chilly autumn day.

6. Putting together a collection of photographs from a happy occasion.

7. Rattling off something I’ve memorized word perfect.

8. Spending a whole Sunday afternoon with a good book.

9. Getting bank accounts to balance.

10. Eating mocha chip ice-cream in a waffle cone after a walk on the beach.

Now I tag slow' n 'steady and Elsie whose blogs, as far as I know, are memeless.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

heaven bound

It’s been one week since we said goodbye to Ernie’s Mom. It seems longer, in a way.

The ‘longer’ of it started last Saturday evening when the cell phone rang just as Ernie was digging in his pocket to pay a Kelowna grocery store cashier for the Easter dinner punch fixings.

It was my sister calling from home – about our Mom. Mom was concerned about edema and the fact that she was having trouble breathing. Our doctor’s clinic was closed and when sis suggested she take Mom to Emergency, Mom said to phone me. (My mother has congestive heart failure. Edema, as well as collecting in her feet, legs and elsewhere, can collect in her lungs. When this happens she feels extremely uncomfortable, can’t get a good breath and tires very quickly). Of course I concurred that sis take her to the E.R.

When we got home Sunday, Mom’s edema had not improved at all, even though the doctor had upped her Lasix (diuretic). The E.R. doctor had also left us with a string of orders - more blood tests and doctor visits.

I took Mom for a blood test on Tuesday and to our family doctor yesterday. I noticed the deterioration in Mom from Tuesday. Yesterday walking slowly with her walker wearied her beyond all reasonableness.

The doctor’s prognosis is not good. On top of her CHF, Mom now has kidney failure – what we suspected from reading the E.R. doctor’s notes (and it’s why the edema won’t go down). She said, among other things, that Mom needs to be in a place with more care, and that we need to discuss ‘end of life issues.’

Since yesterday and the doctor’s frank confirmation of what we’ve suspected, I find myself tearing up at the most awkward moments.

The doctor hasn’t given us a time frame - only that we need to be prepared. We’re reading into that days to weeks, maybe even months – most likely not years.

This morning I was thinking of her, alone in her room and not seeing much of anyone now until we visit – in her present state she can’t go to meals in the dining room so someone delivers a tray to her room – and wondering what she’s thinking and how she will fill her time. She’s great that way though, keeping her hands and mind occupied with embroidery, watching the odd TV show, and reading.

I was thinking if it were me in my mom’s place, I’d want to read. But not about just anything. I’d want to read and research where I was soon going to be going – like you research before you travel to a foreign country or to a new vacation spot.

Immediately I thought of Things Unseen – Living in Light of Forever by Mark Buchanan and wondered if it wouldn’t be the perfect book for her. I found it on my bookshelf and read the beginning:

“I’m dying.

Sometimes I forget that...
a line here and there:

Heaven is meant to be our fixation – our big Fix. It’s to be our deep secret, like being in love, where just the thought of it carries us through menial chores or imparts to us courage in the face of danger...

And He will be more beautiful than we ever imagined.

Life doesn’t justify living. Only eternity does...

and suddenly I realized, I may need this book as much as she does!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

job vs. vocation

Nancy Nordenson in yesterday’s post on Just Thinking asks the question: “What do you think about how you earn your living – is it your vocation, your calling? If it’s a “job” is that okay with you?” She invites responses.

Rather than write a long comment at her place and because this is something I’ve grappled with myself, here are some thoughts.

My experience echoes Nancy’s. I began doing medical transcription the year my son began Kindergarten (1991) and continue to this day. Though at first it was exciting and challenging (my own home-based business!), it soon became just a “job.”

About ten years ago I gave a nod to my real passion – writing – by enrolling in a writing course. That activated a source of tension in my life. Necessity dictated I spend my most creative hours typing, though I wanted to be using that energy to write the stories, articles and poems which satisfied my creative itch but paid only a pittance, if at all. I’ve lived with that tension, then, these last ten years.

Lately I’ve read a book which has helped me process this reality further. Though Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions by George Barna is written to parents of young children and church leaders to give them a perspective on discipling children, some ideas in that book have helped me to understand my own journey and given me a perspective on the future.

In Chapter 4 - “What Kids Need” - Barna addresses the issue of instilling in kids a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Some of the things I highlighted from the beginning of that chapter:

Meaning and purpose in life are gained by developing spiritual understanding....It is about knowing God so intimately that you can discern His calling upon your life. Establishing an unwavering commitment to God’s calling should trump your devotion to realizing your personal desires every time (although when you consistently live for God, His desires eventually become indistinguishable from your desires).

With that as a foundation, he goes on to give some direction on how to help children figure out God’s calling for their lives (things which I take to apply to adults too).

The first step toward knowing what that calling is, is to comprehend our life mission.

Barna suggests as a general life mission for all Christians, Jesus’ advice to the religion professors in Jerusalem: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27.

He goes on to say:

Whereas all believers share the same mission, God gives every true disciple of Jesus Christ a unique and detailed vision. If mission is generic, vision is very personal....God calls each of us to commit to that vision – our calling – and prepares us for success in its pursuit by giving us the special combination of talents, skills, education, experiences, relationships and spiritual gifts required to bring that vision to reality.

He then discusses five aspects of how to help kids discern their specific calling or vision. I quote from the book:

1. Purpose: ...We come to discover that vision through a concerted time of intense prayer, vision-focused Bible study, situational analysis, self-awareness (with appropriate repentance, humility and self-confidence) and wise counsel.

2. Passion: One way to know if we have truly ascertained God’s vision for our lives is to evaluate our passion for that calling...it should ignite tremendous excitement and energy... (People who have found this vision) develop a sense of urgency about getting on target. In most cases once people gain clarity about the vision, they not only burn with zeal, but they also cannot imagine being devoted to anything else in life.

3. Perseverance: A mark of God’s purpose for our lives is that there is little chance of accomplishing that purpose based solely on our human capabilities....we have no choice but to rely upon Him.

4. Power: When we are devoted to serving God according to our calling and rely upon Him for guidance and capacity, we will experience the power and presence of God in our work...success only comes when we submit to His calling and allow Him to work through us, in us and around us in ways we cannot foresee or orchestrate.

5. Pleasure: People occasionally ask how we know if we have correctly understood God’s calling. One of the most recognizable means is by experiencing pleasure and joy as we engage in that calling...we will find a level of fulfillment unlike any we could otherwise experience in life.

Now, back to the subject at hand, that job, versus the vocation I dream of, the personal life vision that I have recognized from the points above. How do we reconcile the two?

My conclusion is that in my life this continues to be a developing story. I hearken back to the quote at the beginning - how our unwavering commitment to God’s calling should trump our devotion to realizing our personal desires every time.

Part of God’s calling (made abundantly clear all through Scripture) is to the duties and responsibilities of family, church and community life – looking after kids, parents, being part of a church, loving my neighbors. I believe that’s where all those years of uninspiring jobs, then mothering and medical typing fit in for me. They were the part where my commitment to God and to my duty trumped my devotion to personal desires.

However, I believe God has also led me down a path toward discovering a personal vision or calling. In my case I didn’t discover it as a youngster (although there were seeds of it then) but as an adult. Now as I grow older, my home and parenting duties lighten and I've actually given my notice for the transcription job - only three more weeks - I’m finding the time to pursue the thing that I am passionate about. I’m finding, too, that much of the drudgery of the past has prepared me for what I’m doing now, and may have prepared me for what I still want to do – those things which answer the question: If I knew I had only one, or five or ten more years to live, what would I wish I had done above everything else?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

book review: Rekindled


Title: REKINDLED
Author: Tamera Alexander
Publisher: Bethany House, March 2006
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction / Romance
ISBN: 0764201086


With the ball of her fist, Kathryn rubbed a layer of frost from the icy pane and peered out of the cabin window. More than two weeks had passed since she’d awakened to an empty bed to find Larson’s note on the mantel. Kathryn, gone to northern pastures. Back by week’s end.

Larson Jennings’ unexplained leaving begins Tamera Alexander’s debut novel Rekindled. Set in 1868 in the Colorado territory, though this historical romance is ostensibly about Kathryn and Larson’s struggle to keep their ranch from the auction block, it is really the story of the rekindling their barren and grown-cold love.

The story is fast-paced and fateful. Its successions of near meetings and misses, unhappy accidents, and incidents where characters act, or don’t because of mistaken assumptions reminded me of the stories of Thomas Hardy. Its rural (though frontier) setting and preoccupation with appearances – of both the outright physical and the what-will-people-think variety – also gave it that Hardy-esque feel. However, Alexander stops far short of being truly pessimistic.

The theme of relationships runs through the story. Kathryn and Larson’s marriage has its share of dissatisfactions, secrets, avoidances, disappointments, and a hoard of fears, suspicions and jealousies. When Kathryn is thrown into the company of, and befriends the town’s coquettes she is forced to face her own prejudices while gaining a whole new appreciation of her husband’s demons. Later, when Jacob arrives on the scene, his repulsive disfigurement becomes another relationship complication.

Perhaps because the romance genre with its preoccupation with the minute-by-minute machinations of the heart is not my favorite, I found that aspect of the book a little tedious. And though the mystery of who Jacob is (to Kathryn) is a major story element, the cat-and-mouse tension between the two, stretched out through about two thirds of the volume did, at times, tax my patience and credulity.

However, the setting was postcard-clear and the characters were interesting and complex (I was fascinated by the villains Kohlman and MacGregor). There was even a mysterious character Gabe, who I expected more than once to unfurl his wings and take off into the blue.

All in all, Alexander leaves us with a good romantic read and a lot of hope. The story’s burning message is that though the circumstances of life may scar us, God uses those same circumstances to purify us, strengthen us and prepare us to participate in making our own dreams come true.

Tamera Alexander’s second book in the Fountain Creek Chronicles series, REVEALED, is due out in November 2006.

Filed in Book Reviews - Fiction

Monday, April 17, 2006

the Easter weekend of 2006...

sad, but sweet.

We drove to Kelowna Good Friday morning (no snow accumulations on the mountain passes to speak of, despite the dire forecast). In the evening after a family dinner we gathered at the funeral home. Tears were followed by a spontaneous time of singing - as we remembered the hope of those who die knowing Jesus.


The funeral service on Saturday morning was beautiful. Later the sun shone on us as we gathered around the plot at the cemetery. But no sun could dispel the forlorn look on Dad’s face as he said goodbye to his sweetheart of almost 62 years.

Just before we left the cemetery Ernie’s sister Marilyn took flowers from the casket spray to hand out...





to Mom's sisters Aunt Julia and Auntie Sally,

children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.









On Sunday afternoon we got together again in the home of Ernie’s brother (Arnold and Daphne).



This spread (and a lot more that didn't fit in the picture) fed a collection of about 35 aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, kids, spouses and grand-kids!









Of course no matter how yummy the desert,

Easter wouldn’t be complete without a hunt for even more.










So the Easter weekend of 2006 is one I'm sure I'll never forget.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

spring is...


Pieris Japonica - in new leaf.

This particular variety is Mountain Fire. It also has flowers – stems of white blossoms that look like lily of the valley.

During the few weeks the leaves are so brilliant it feels like a glowing presence is just outside the window, warming cold damp dull spring days, like today - which doesn’t feel like spring at all, but like winter has returned (and it has in the mountain passes, where we’ll be driving tomorrow)

Gradually the red fades to orange, to peach, to pale green, to regular green. The shrub is an evergreen so it keeps its leaves through the winter.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now to all who read here, have a blessed Easter weekend!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

eating crow

I have just mailed an envelope that contains a bit of crow*. Here’s the story about it.

A few weeks ago, March 23rd to be exact, I got one of my SASEs** back. When I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised. Because instead of the expected rejection letter, it contained an acceptance note and a contract-on-a-postcard for a little article I’d written and bulked up with a crossword puzzle. This was welcome news indeed, seeing as how they’d had my piece for over a year!

In order to get payment I needed to fill out and send back the postcard contract. I promptly did after which I highlighted that entry in my submission log – and grinned for the rest of the day.

However, I wasn’t grinning when on a Friday morning about a week later I got another postcard from the same outfit. This one said: “Thank you for allowing us to hold “Name of same article as above.” Unfortunately we are unable to place this piece in the January / February 2007 issue. Please feel free to submit it elsewhere. We look forward to receiving more of your work...”

What!? Look forward to receiving more of my work after accepting my story one week, then taking back that acceptance the next? They’ve got to be kidding!

In a fit of pique I searched my market guide for another place to send that manuscript, found one, typed the cover letter offering first rights to my duo and packed it up. I did, though, hear a little voice saying I really should find out what this was all about. So I sent an email asking for an explanation. However when, after waiting through the whole weekend the email came back undeliverable, I decided that it really was perfectly evident they’d had a change of heart about my piece. Besides, by hounding them about it, I might seem like a whiner. And so instead of pursuing it I popped the manuscript in the mail for its second go-round feeling even a bit smug that I was learning to handle rejection so well - particularly one dealt in this give-then-take-back-again manner.

Then I forgot all about it until this Monday when, lo and behold, there was the promised cheque.

Now I was thoroughly confused!

This time I picked up the phone. The person who had signed all the correspondence with me answered. He told me they had indeed rejected the article, but bought the puzzle. (To be fair to me, that fact was in no way spelled out in any of their letters.)

This was wonderful news. Yet there was a problem. The contract I’d signed stated I’d agreed not to republish what they’d bought for one year after first publication. Now I’d just sent it out again.

So yesterday I wrote my eat-crow letter, withdrawing the puzzle from consideration of magazine number 2, all the while wishing I’d listened to that inner voice that said, more than once, ‘Shouldn’t you be sure about the state of things first before sending this out again?’ Oh well, like Anne Shirley in Green Gables, I apologize really well (I’ve had enough practice)! Hopefully, though, one of these days I’ll learn to listen so that the taste of crow will become only a memory.

*****************

*origin of eating crow (to admit you have been wrong; apologize.) According to my Collins Pocket Idioms Dictionary:

This expression is said to relate to an incident during the Anglo-American war of 1812-14. An American soldier who had accidentally entered an area occupied by the British was tricked into handing over his gun. He was then forced by a British officer to take a bite out of a crow which he had shot down. When his gun was returned to him, he forced the British officer to eat the rest of the bird.

**SASE - Self-addressed stamped envelope

processing death...

we all do it differently. I do it by writing.

So does my daughter.

Monday, April 10, 2006

we will miss you


Mary Nesdoly
September 14, 1920 -
April 10, 2006

Just before boarding the bus for the six-hour trip home this morning, Ernie dropped by the care home for one last visit. He prayed for his Mom, said a blessing over her, gave her a kiss and said goodbye. He got home about six hours ago after having spent the last week in Kelowna with his brother and sister. They rallied around to be close to Mom when she got increasingly worse after that fall.

E’s brother called about half an hour ago. His Mom went into the presence of Jesus at about 6:40 this evening. Dad, her sister and brother-in-law, her three kids, and many of her grandkids and great-grandkids were near Mom the last week of her life.

(There will no doubt be stuff to do in the next few days and blogging will take a back seat to life.)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

lost and found

Lyn Breshaw found Jesus a few years ago. Actually that’s wrong. Jesus found her. Her moving story begins:

I started drinking really heavily when I was an exotic dancer. When I became an exotic dancer, the night I went in to apply for the job I was so nervous and scared and I had so much fear in my life that I drank some tequila and I was able to get up on the stage and I was able to become a dancer.

But that became a really bad cycle. I had to drink every single night. I would drink so heavily that I couldn’t walk. So then I would have to do drugs so that I could stay awake so I wouldn’t pass out. My life was messed up. It was just upside down; I had to drink, I had to do drugs. I didn’t know that I was an alcoholic or a drug addict because I only did it for my job. I thought that everything was fine.

[...] Then one night I got to the point where I didn’t want to be on this earth any more. I just wanted to die. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again. And so I had planned on taking 50 Valium pills and just going to sleep and never waking up again.

As I started this process, as I was contemplating it, as I knew that this is what I was going to do – end my life – I heard these really loud thoughts in my head: “Call to me and I will save you.”

I didn’t understand what it was. I thought, oh, now I’m nuts. I’ve got bipolar disorder. I just freaked out. I thought something was wrong with me.

I turned on the TV and Passion of the Christ had just come out and it was like me and the TV became one. I just zoomed in to the TV. And I saw Jesus there...

The link to the video of the rest of her story is here (“Former Exotic Dancer Hears Jesus’ Call”) . Watch -- and worship the living, loving Christ!

Hat tip: Grace

Friday, April 07, 2006

"The enemy has plans for your children..."

This ‘alert’ on the book I began reading a couple of days ago was never more graphically illustrated than by the story of Justin Berry:

The 13-year-old boy sat in his California home, eyes fixed on a computer screen. He had never run with the popular crowd and long ago had turned to the Internet for the friends he craved. But on this day, Justin Berry’s fascination with cyberspace would change his life.

Weeks before, Justin had hooked up a Web camera to his computer, hoping to use it to meet other teenagers online. Instead, he heard only from men who chatted with him by instant message as they watched his image on the Internet. To Justin, they seemed just like friends, ready with compliments and always offering gifts.

Now on an afternoon in 2000, one member of his audience sent a proposal: he would pay Justin $50 to sit barechested in front of his Webcam for three minutes...”

So begins the December 19, 2005 New York Times article by Kurt Eichenwald, "Through His Webcam A Boy Joins a Sordid Online World.”

Eichenwald goes on to detail Justin’s descent into internet pornography. It is not a pretty story. Thankfully, it has a happy ending. With Eichenwald’s help, Justin broke with his sordid online world and is this week testifying before a U.S. government committee investigating exploitation of children over the internet.

For links to a variety of articles related to this story, go to Stacy Harp’s Writing Right.

Don’t miss her 8-minute podcast snippet of Mr. Eichenwald’s testimony.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

welcome to our world


Isaiah Walter Livingston Sperling - son of my nephew Chris and his lovely wife Jane. Born March 31st - already a week old tomorrow


Grandson to my brother Ken and sis-in-law Dawn, (Ken surrounded here by baby Isaiah’s brothers.)











He’ll be a great addition to the band!



march-madness Christian Carnival

is up. At ...in the outer...

But it's April! Oh well, what can one expect from a feverish basketball fan.

Thank you, Bloke in the outer!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

book review: Book Proposals that $ell


Title: Book Proposals that $ell
Author: Terry Whalin
Publisher: Write Now Publications, April 2005
Genre: Writing how-to
ISBN: 1932124640
182 pages.

When I dutifully picked up my new copy of Book Propsals that $ell a few days ago, knowing that I (a perennial avoider of writing said proposals) really should read this, I admit I thought I’d enjoy it about as much as a handful of vitamins. But this slim volume had more than one surprise in store for me!

From the start author Terry Whalin captured my interest. He did it by not only educating me on how to write a non-fiction book proposal, but also by giving me numerous telling glimpses into the world of editors and royalty publishing.

Whalin, in the first three chapters, lays the foundation of why such proposals are necessary. He starts by sharing the story of how one of his projects went from idea to published volume via a proposal. Then he goes on to enlighten us about the current state of affairs in publishing and explains why, given the piles of submission on editors’ desks and the small window of opportunity an unsolicited proposal has with an editor, only the most complete and professionally presented will even catch that editor’s eye.

The twenty-one chapters that follow deal with the nuts and bolts of proposal writing. Many chapters address elements that must be included (e.g. #1 - Know the topic of your book; #5 - Know your competition; # 7 - Create a dynamic marketing plan etc.). A few chapters also discuss attitudes which foster writing success (e.g.#15 - Build editor relationships; #21 - Always take the attitude of a learner).

The chapters are short (about three to five pages) and information-packed.

They are interesting thanks to Whalin’s ability to weave personal anecdotes into the instruction:


I once received a large manuscript in a note binder...

I received an entirely handwritten manuscript (fiction). I found it almost frightening to be holding the single copy of another person's work... p. 88

[...]He looked at my name tag and, knowing that our house took children's material, he reached into his briefcase, pulled out a bound copy of a manuscript and almost threw it into my hands. "You need this manuscript," he said. "I read it in the elementary schools and the kids loved it." p. 110

His information is also authoritative because he is no stranger to the writing and publishing world (he has authored over 60 books, written for as many periodicals and worked as an acquisitions editor in several publishing houses). Though the type of proposal he advocates takes a lot of work, he is persuasive in explaining how each element adds value for author and editor alike.

The book ends with a section of Appendices including samples, a list of other books about proposal writing, a checklist, helpful websites, and more.

I read it in a few hours and came away feeling empowered, motivated to give this brand of proposal-writing a try, and asking myself – now exactly why have I avoided this for so long?

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Terry Whalin blogs at The Writing Life.

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Filed in Book Reviews - Adult Non-fiction

be warmed and fed

The winning poems of the 2006 Utmost contest are up!

First place: "A Letter to the Girl I Was" by Jennifer Zolper

Second place: "Judas Tree" by Mary Rudbeck Stanko

Go. Read them. You will be warmed and fed.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

golden bowls - shattered


This is a picture of my husband’s parents taken last October (Thanksgiving). At the time they were still living independently in their townhouse.

In mid-December, at the urging of their doctor - and much to their own dismay - their children moved them to an assisted living complex. They settled in and began to enjoy being pampered – free of housework and cleaning, having their meals made for them.

Then on Christmas day Dad fell. In hospital they discovered he had an aneurysm. We expected he could go any time. The family rallied around.

But he survived. Somewhere along the way, though, he lost his ability to walk. After three weeks in hospital he was moved to an extended care facility (this is a higher level of care than assisted living). It was what he needed, but now after 65 years of marriage, he and Mom were separated.

They pined for each other. We put in numerous requests to the powers-that-be to move Mom to the same place as Dad. (With increasing memory problems she definitely qualified).

Last weekend the extended care facility told E’s brother they had a spot for Mom. She was moved last Sunday night. Dad was happy!

The first night there, during the night she got up to go to the bathroom – and fell.

At first they thought that she only suffered bruises. But yesterday the caregivers had her examined by a doctor. They discovered she has a hematoma as well as a broken pelvis. Now she’s in hospital, they’re separated again and she may need surgery.

And so I’m reminded again how quickly and inevitably physical life disintegrates. I love how these words from Ecclesiastes 12 describe aging, and the advice they give:


Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
‘I have no pleasure in them.’...

Remember your Creator
before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain
Or the wheel broken at the well... (NKJV)

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