Wednesday, October 31, 2007

book review: Absolution by Paul Martin Midden


Title: Absolution
Author: Paul Martin Midden
Publisher: American Book Publishing, 2007
Genre: Contemporary fiction
ISBN: 158924180

What if a Catholic priest, pledged to celibacy, fell in love, married and had children? Paul Martin Midden has created just such a scenario in his first novel Absolution.

In order to carry out his life of duplicity, Father Radko Slopovich does his job well, keeps mum about his personal life, and does a Mr. Bean costume change in his car every day on the way to and from his diocese office in Chicago.

Then one day he gets word that he is being considered for appointment as a bishop. A trip to Rome gives him a glimpse of the power and influence that could be his. He realizes, too, how he will sacrifice the anonymity he loves. And what of Ursula, his atheistic wife? If he accepts the appointment, he will surely need to ask even more complicity from her – a risky request considering her forthright and outspoken nature. Things get even more complicated when he discovers that he is being used to further a Vatican official’s secret agenda.

Absolution is a book that majors on character. The main players, Radko and Ursula, are interesting, complex and delineated in rich and believable detail. Author Midden, a trained psychologist, has worked extensively with the Catholic clergy. He brings his expertise and background to the story, and the result is a psychological reading experience not unlike getting into the head of Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov. Even the bit-players come alive on the page.

Though the story is set in modern U.S.A. (complete with cell phones, computers and a hacker), the reference to Catholic traditions and the pomp of the Vatican give it a traditional, even timeless feel. Further, Midden from time to time uses setting in a symbolic way. At one point Radko takes up a position in North Dakota in the winter. The frigid temperatures, barren landscape and his stark, frumpy residence reflect his emotional and social state.

I enjoyed Midden’s way with language. His prose is confident and at times picturesque:

“He didn’t talk to anyone about what was happening; he didn’t quit his job; he didn’t do anything different. Except see Ursula and luxuriate in the sublime rabbit hole into which he had lately fallen.”
“When Ursula’s phone rang, she barely heard it. She was bonded with her computer screen.

The book covers a lot of territory as it addresses issues of love, marriage, family, relationships, celibacy in the Catholic church, honesty, integrity, and forgiveness. If the book surprised me in one way, it was in Radko’s lack of personal spiritual conviction and commitment. He was religious enough. Yet, though he never questioned the dogma of the church to the point of losing his faith (I got the sense that if he had gone there, he might have), his dilemma over whether or not to remain a priest hardly seemed to involve a relationship with God at all. Rather it seemed all about whether or not he should turn his back on what he felt was his destiny, plus what job would he ever find that was as fulfilling as being a man of the cloth.

All in all, Absolution is a skillfully told tale. Marriage and family gain a new allure when they are portrayed as forbidden fruit. Radko and Ursula will live with readers long after they have turned the last page.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

how readable is your blog?

Put your blog through the page and discover its reading grade level by seven standardized reading tests, including FOG and SMOG (great names, wouldn't you say?). Also find out about your word usage, average length of words, sentences and paragraphs. Then compare your results with other popular web sites aimed at different audiences.

Also, learn about web design by finding out how NOT to do it on Web Pages That Suck.

Monday, October 29, 2007

monday mural

(Click on photo to enlarge)
In "Crossing the Saskatchewan," one of the murals of Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, artist Glen Scrimshaw depicts a settler crossing the river using a red river cart as a raft.

For more Duck Lake murals, click on check it out, below.

Friday, October 26, 2007

God is here, now

Does God sometimes seem absent from your day? Lately he often does from mine. Oh, I know not to expect to feel God's presence all the time. The Christian life is, after all, a life of faith. But I'm thinking how easy it is to do one's quiet time thing in the morning, and then go blithely into the day - alone.

This morning on reflecting about this, I thought of some questions I can ask myself to change focus. (What's that verse - "Come near to God and He will come near to you"?*)

- What is my first thought on waking - I wonder what will go wrong today, or God has made today and I expect it to be a great one?

- Am I still carrying the small annoyances and concerns from yesterday or have I left them with Him?

- Do I listen, before the day goes into full swing, for what His plans are for my day?

- Have I opened myself up to interruptions He might place in my path?

- Do I practice thankfulness?

- When I don't know what to do, do I think to ask Him for wisdom?

- When I blow it, do I take the time to reflect on what happened and why? Do I let Him point out what inside me needs to change?

Wishing you a God-filled day.

*James 4:8

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Twilight zone

While others line up to ride the roller coaster, even the thought of it brings cold sweat to my palms. No thanks!
Thursday Challenge

Next week: ORANGE (Fruit, Vegetables, Flowers, Leaves, Signs, Sunsets,...)

kilian on blogging

Yesterday I decided to use my daily walk to check out the local (new-to-me) library. Twenty minutes. That's nice! I picked up two books (though goodness knows I don't need more books hanging around waiting to be read - I guess that's just what you do when you're a bibliophile *sigh*).

One of them was Writing for the Web 3.0 by Crawford Kilian. Interesting stuff for bloggers and others who write web content. I went straight to the section on blogs and discovered a categorization of personal blogs that had never occurred to me: Introvert and Extrovert.

According to Kilian, personal blogs in the Introvert category are mostly about the author's personal life. They talk about the ups and downs of relationships, jobs and family life, often with a self-deprecating tone. Sprinkled in here and there are posts about triumphs, good times etc. He claims these blogs have designs that are often hard to read, gray text on dark or white text on black. The main reason for the existence of these blogs is not so much for the reader as for the writer to have a place to vent.

Personal blogs in the Extrovert category focus more on the blogger's surroundings. They may deal with the environment the writer lives in (city or countryside), or the industry in which he/she works. He gives as an example of a successful extrovert blog Adventures of a Big White Guy Living in Hong Kong.

Of course I immediately asked myself - what kind of blog is mine? Extrovert - I think, with a few introverted posts thrown in? By his definition, what kind is yours?

Crawford Killian writes several blogs too: Writing for the Web - a companion to his book, Ask the English Teacher - about English usage, H5N1 - about avian flu, Neat Stuff - about web discoveries, plus seven more (linked on right sidebar under "My blogs" on his 'Writing for the Web' site.). My question would be, when does he find time to teach his Capilano College classes?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

book review: One Smooth Stone by Marcia Laycock

Title: One Smooth Stone
Author: Marcia Lee Laycock
Publisher: Castle Quay Books, October 2007
Genre: Suspense,
ISBN 189486034-9

When 21-year-old Alex sees an outboard beach just below his isolated Yukon cabin, he’s apprehensive. But little does he know how the appearance of the lawyer from Seattle will change his life. Against his better judgment he leaves with George and is soon facing not only all his old demons but discovering new ones as well. Even the intriguing and beautiful Kenni plus the promise of more money than he’s ever dreamed of don’t have the power to keep him in one place. And so in One Smooth Stone, a debut novel by Marcia Lee Laycock, we have the gripping tale of a young man fleeing from his past, only to encounter Someone who keeps dogging his steps at every turn.

Laycock’s plot is twisty and I was glued to the story to the last page. Laycock enhances suspense by teasing with just enough information about what is happening elsewhere to make the reader expect calamity around every turn. The chain of events feels natural, and trouble heaped upon trouble keeps the pace brisk. The tight plot is enhanced by Laycock’s efficient story-telling style. Her prose isn’t showy and doesn’t get in the way of the story’s spell.

The characters are another strength of this book. I felt immediate and continuing sympathy for Alex as well as Kenni. Gil, a character who comes to prominence midway through the book, seemed more contradictory to me, however. His roughness made it hard to believe he had ever lived the life he claimed. Bill and Ruby, minor characters whose shadows tower over the whole story, are brilliant in their blackness.

Laycock’s own experience of living in the Yukon no doubt helped in her depiction of Yukon life, which is not only plausible but colorful. The barren landscape, peopled with more than its share of social misfits who then face the challenge of surviving some of the cruelest conditions on earth, feels completely believable. As well, the stark, isolation sets off the rugged strength of the characters and fits this somber story well.

For a somber tale it is, dealing as it does with some not very pretty aspects of life – abuse (physical and sexual), abortion, family – and lack of it – anger, revenge and, finally, forgiveness and a new beginning. The book is boldly Christian in the answers it gives and the reader is left with a definite aftertaste of hope. If I would have one criticism, it would be that some of the pastor / counselor talks seemed a bit preachy – although I don’t know how Laycock could have explained many of the concepts she did without going beyond small-talk conversation.

All in all, the trim (252 page) One Smooth Stone would make a perfect stuffer for a Christmas stocking and a lively winter companion on a blowy night.

Read an excerpt here:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

i missed my baby's birthday blog baby, that is. It was my blog's third birthday last Friday (October 19th) and I totally forgot. So maybe something I wrote way back when I hadn't been blogging as long as I have now, is in fact coming true:

My blog is weaned

and taking its first steps on its own.
I've stopped tip-toeing into its room
when all is quiet
to see if it is still breathing.
I've even begun to ignore the baby monitor.

For that is a writer's way
when she finds she is pregnant again
and all instincts demand
she turn her energies
to the gestation of new words,
the private nurturing of an embryo
story, article, collection of poems.

c. 2005 - V. Nesdoly

blogging today


Monday, October 22, 2007

monday mural - Duck Lake historicals

A detail from one of the historical murals in the small Saskatchewan town of Duck Lake.

Click on check it out below for more Duck Lake murals.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Ken!

It's been a busy weekend as we helped a special brother celebrate a special birthday. We hosted it in the party building of our new home.

It was a wonderful gathering of the truly young and the young at heart, family and friends.

My brother's granddaughter Liesel & her mom Julie

Ken's daughter Rosie and grandson Benton

my Ben

My sis Bea and cousin Bonnie

Of course there was a cake...

and presents. My brother and his wife have recently moved from Kelowna where they ran a landscaping business, to Lucky Lake, Saskatchewan where they will pastor a church. We made sure he will have suitable winter attire.

Before we parted, we gathered around Ken and Dawn and prayed over them and their new career. Bro, may this new venture be as verdant as your birthday bouquet!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

nature's graffiti

"What is that? Graffiti?" E. asked as we approached a church on our walk today. When we got close, we saw that it wasn't spray paint that had tagged the walls of the building, but this clinging, creeping vine.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Small treasures of creation


Thursday Challenge

Next Week: SCARY (Spiders, Danger, The Dark, High Places, Phobias, Accidents,...)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

go for a walk!

Saturday night after the recent writer's conference I attended, I mentioned to hubby that there was nothing I'd like to do more than take a walk - especially if it could be beside the Saskatchewan River. But though he had scouted Edmonton during the day, neither of us had a clue about where to find access to the riverbank. We did eventually go for a walk that night. But it was in the West Edmonton Mall (hardly as pastoral as a river, but it was a walk!).

Imagine my joy the next day, though, when we visited my niece and she asked, would we like to go for a walk along the riverbank. Would we?!

A few days later, we walked along that same river in Saskatchewan with my brother and his wife. The riverbank here is much wilder than within the Edmonton city limits. But to our surprise, we found that civilization is encroaching. A whole new development is in the making on the hilltops with roads already built and lined with signs giving the plot numbers and names of owners. Only one house was built but another one was in the making. It felt strange to be hiking around on the rough cow-pie-strewn paths and hillsides, then to look up and see the long arm of a cement conveyer contraption hard at work. The people who live there will have this view.

The next day another brother took us on a walk to Beaver Creek -- a stream that feeds into the South Saskatchewan.

The area around Beaver Creek is criss-crossed with footpaths and is maintained as a conservation area by the Meewasin Valley Authority. It was a perfect place to walk on a crisp fall morning.

So don't spend the beautiful days of autumn inside missing summer. Go for a walk. All the better if you can do it beside a river or stream. But of course if you can't find one, there's always the mall.

Monday, October 15, 2007

monday mural - prairie scenes

As we drove up and down the streets of the various towns and hamlets on our recent trip back 'home,' I was, as usual, attracted to the murals. They are all over!

The Saskatchewan town where my husband grew up, Blaine Lake, has some that weren't there the last time we visited.

This striking depiction of Blaine Lake in its grain elevator era is painted on the back of the arena. When I was taking the photo, being careful not to stray off the sidewalk, the lady who lived in the house directly behind me popped her head out her front door and in typical prairie-town fashion invited me to come onto her property to take a better picture. I did - and this is the result (thanks again!).

More Blaine Lake murals posted here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

morning will come

If you like stories of what God is doing around the world, you'll enjoy the stories our pastor told in church this morning about his recent trip to Kazakhstan and Russia. This is an encouraging word, especially if you're in a dark time. Streaming video here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

happy fall!

from a roadside market in Creston B.C.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

fall conference

One of the reasons for our recent trip was to attend the Inscribe Fall Conference in Edmonton. This was the first Inscribe conference I've ever attended, though I've been a member for some years.

One of the weekend's highlights for me was listening to our keynote speaker, novelist Angela Hunt. She actually didn't talk much about writing at all. Instead, she addressed the place a Christian writer should write from. Here are some of her words as captured in my notes:

Angela Hunt

Satan is a leashed lion -- and God has a firm grip on the other end of the leash. Nothing (that happens to us) is a mistake, it's all in God's hands.

Three principles to remember:
1. Our vision is limited. Everything in our lives is a learning experience. God is not our puppet, we are His.

2. Our God has a plan. We cannot surprise God. When God puts me in a place where He knows I'll make a mess, He'll help me clean it up and in the process show me how to keep from doing it again.

3. Your offering to the Lord should cost you something -- maybe even your dreams. God wants the surrendered life. Our lives are a beautiful tapestry in God's hands. We decide to take a leap of faith but later discover we were pushed.

Strive to write excellently because your work is an offering to the Lord. Excellence is that place where precision and passion meet in an explosion that rips through the world of complacency.

As a writer, eschew pride. You are, after all, in the middle. There are certainly some writers that aren't as successful or as talented as you. And it's just as certain there are writers that are better and way more successful.

Marcia Laycock

Another conference highlight for me was the book launch Friday evening. Can you blame me, since my own Family Reunion was part of it -- along with Marcia Laycock's first novel One Smooth Stone. Sue (bless her heart) got this cake for the occasion. How special is that?

It was a real thrill to actually meet people (Inscribe members) I've known only virtually through our Yahoo group. Because we've met each other online, it felt more like being with old friends than new ones. My big regret was that the conference wasn't longer. After we parted Saturday night, I kept thinking of people I wish I'd have had a chance to talk to. As a workshop presenter (I led two poetry workshops), I felt somewhat focused on my job during much of Saturday, so another day to relax and take in the people and surroundings would have been wonderful. Maybe that means I need to attend another conference real soon (like next year's? I see the ads are already up!).


(Amusement Park in the West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta)


Thursday Challenge

Next week: THANKFUL (Family, Children, Home, Friends, Good Food, Beautiful Things,...)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


We're back. We arrived home yesterday from our two-week fall holiday. It was a fabulous autumn trip ...

past rivers,
(Photo: Wire Cache rest stop on the North Thompson River, Hwy 5 North - B.C.)

(Photo: Uppper Arrow Lake, Nakusp, B.C.)

and mountains
(Photo: Nearing the mountains west of Fort McLeod, Alberta)

all the while enjoying lots of this.
(Photo: Colorful hillsides between Merritt and Hope, B.C.)

I'll share a bit more in the days ahead.

(Thanks to all who prayed for my workshop presentations in Edmonton on the 29th. They went just fine, though of course I can always think of ways they could have been improved... if there's ever a next time.)

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