Thursday, January 31, 2008

Reading Dungy

I've started rereading Tony Dungy's book, Quiet Strength, so I can lead a book study group with intelligence and assurance. In the rereading, I've come to the conclusion that Tony Dungy is a spiritual giant. He's managed to boil the essense of life down to a demi glas of six questions. Namely: What's my game plan? What's my strength? What's my success? Where's my security? What's my significance? and What's my legacy?

I've been awake for two nights pondering these imponderables and have finally arrived at the answers.

What's my game plan?
To make love to my wife.

What's my strength?
My kissing.

What's my success?
About five times a week (okay, I've inflated my stats, but I'm taking steroids and hgh)

Where's my security?
Ten thousand in cash and T-bills hidden in a portable safe at an undisclosed location in my house. The combination is 36-14-44.

What's my significance?
My wife and children adore me.

What's my legacy?
I'm insured for over a million pesos. If I die tomorrow my children will never starve and my wife can marry our dentist. He's quite good looking actually.

Tony, thank you. Now I can sleep.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

First Words

Last week someone asked me, "How long have you been writing?"

Short answer: Since I could read.

Long answer: I actually began talking about writing when I was in middle school, and would frequently write stories to amaze and astound my friends. These were incredibly juvenile, of course, but, although my writing often sparked on the idiosyncracies of teachers and our collective hatred of the principal, I was given a green light to write an 8th grade play that several in the class permormed to a packed gymnasium. It was a musical, and I talked several of my weaker classmates into delivering the lines and singing the tunes. My mother (who taught in the school) was appalled. Some teachers stopped speaking to me. I was a hero to my friends for weeks. This early experience taught me that writing does have power and that I should never listen to the critics. There is no way on God's green earth a school administration would allow this to take place today--and I don't know how I got by with it then! I was twelve--maybe thirteen--years old.

In high school I started writing really bad poetry, but did manage to make my first sale when I was seventeen. The five line poem was published in a religious journal--and later I placed a number of equally bad lines in some publications that have long since gone out of print. On one occassion I recall receiving a check for $25 for one poem.

I was seventeen, and I thought I was rich.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


A couple of years ago I purchased Schott's Original Miscellany--a book about nothing, really. From time to time I pick it up and flip through the pages. The book contains lists for such noteworthy trivia as International Business Envelope sizes, Bed sizes, How to wrap a sari, the longest and shortest city names, and the Victorian timetable for mourning.

Important stuff? Hardly. Fascinating? Abosolutely.

Here's two trivia pieces about me you may not know.

My favorite joke:
"Have you heard about a new disease they discovered? It's called chirpies. It's a canarial disease. However, it is tweetable." (I once told a doctor I had chirpies, he attempted to prescribe medication and didn't, apparently, have a sense of humor.)

My favorite President: William Henry Harrison. He was from Indiana, was in office only a few days, and died from health complications that set in as a result of giving his Presidential acceptance speech in the rain. Way to go, Willie!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My First Typewriter

My foray into writing began when I was in grade school. For my thirteenth birthday I asked for a typewriter, as I though this contraption would help me to write stories that would amaze and astound my friends. My parents, I think, lived to regret this gift.

Many nights I would be in my bedroom, typing away (actually pecking with two fingers in Hemingway style) into the wee hours, my father, periodically, poking his head through the door, squinting into the light and asking, "Can you keep it down? And what in God's name are you writing, anyway?"

Since I enjoyed writing more than many other pursuits, I'm sure my father may have wondered about my sexuality (Good Lord, Pauline, the kid's gay!). But my mother would have pointed out that I had a terrible crush on the creative writing teacher at school, Miss McGee, and I was infatuated with sending "sugar notes" to a girl in my class, trying to impress her with my basketball exploits and my ability to write "Roses are red..." poems on the back of my notebook.

That first manual typewriter, a cheap little Corolla that had to be hammered to make an impression on paper, has had a lasting impression on me.

I just wish I could find Miss McGee and tell her how much I still love her!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I read two books over this long weekend, the best of which was Shakespeare, by Bill Bryson (the prolific and very funny travel writer from England). I can't say that I learned much that was new about Shakespeare (but according to Bryson, there isn't much we can know). However, reading the book did make me pine for some long days to read Shakespeare afresh. No doubt, he's one of the most influential writers/dramatists/poets in this history of the English language.

I took a Shakespeare class in college. It was the most informative English class I ever had and one of the most enjoyable, despite having to read two-three of the plays each week. This class also produced (by far) the worst grade I received in college (a C-). I simply couldn't write fast enough to complete the comprehensive tests given by the prof.

Until I read Bryson's book, I'd forgotten about that class and how much I loved it. Once you get into the language, the world of Shakespeare opens up and becomes accessible, and it's quite a world. I also remember that the bard of Stratford was fond of using the phrase, "Thou Saucy Wench" to describe an ill-tempered woman.

I use it from time to time with my wife, but it doesn't have the same effect. Something gets lost in the translation!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Some years back I wrote a regular column for a national bridal magazine which I called, "For the Groom." The idea was simple. Write about weddings--but from the groom's perspective.

I wrote columns about gifts for groomsmen, bachelor parties, and how to pick out a tux. I wrote about wedding rings and rehearsal dinners. I also wrote one column about how to get along with the mother-in-law.

Of course, this is a loaded subject, but a man can earn the heart and trust of his mother-in-law if but follows three basic principles.

Principle one: Tell her she looks as young as your wife. This works well in the early years of marriage, or until your wife begins to look like a grandmother herself!

Principle two: Rave about her cooking, especially if she is willing to grill steaks, brauts, and marinated pork chops.

Principle three: When you are in the presence of the mother in law, fawn over the wife and children, kiss them repeatedly, and otherwise demonstrate that, if your wife hadn't married YOU she would be living in a shanty down by the river and the kids would be eating bread crusts off the street.

Guys...I hope you've found this little chat helpful!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

First Book 2008

I just completed reading my first book of 2008--a short story collection edited by Stephen King: The Best American Short Stories. Some good stuff in there.

One of the stories was about a drug addict and his meth lab production. Got me to thinking about my home town, all the friends I knew who died from drugs, and the fact that the house I grew up in burned to the ground last year. The police suggested someone was operating a meth lab in the basement. I used to watch TV in the basement (3 available channels) and neck on the couch with Becky (pre marriage). The closest thing I had to a meth lab was an old chemistry set I received in the 6th grade. I was always trying to fabricate a stink bomb that would drive my parents out of the house.

One of my oldest friends, who still lives in the house across the street, writes me every month with updates on who's been arrested, who's marrying whom, and what the senior center in town is serving for lunch. The last time I returned to my home town, I did a book signing to raise funds for the town library. My old high school English teacher showed up with a punch bowl and cookies, told me I was her favorite student, and gave me a kiss.

Thank you, Miss Wallace!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Old Letters

My aunt prepared a scrap book for me this Christmas--a massive collection of photographs, letters, etc. she'd dredged out of old drawers and filing cabinets. I was astounded at what she found--including letters I had written years ago and photos of girls I had dated in high school, including Becky (my all time favorite date).

Reading these old letters, I couldn't help but worry about this blog and if some of my old flames might be able to find me. I mean, what if they were able to track me down (I thought I'd thrown them off the trail years ago). My imagination runs wild. What if, say, this week, I got an email from old girlfriend #1 that read:

So, you thought you could ditch me and get away with it, huh? You creep, you still owe me ten bucks. I don't know where this Brownsburg is, but I'll find you!

Or girlfriend #2:

I studied your photo and bio closely. Boy, have you aged! And not very well! From the looks of ya, I doubt you could dunk a donut. And you were my basketball hero in high school. So, you married that Osborn floozie, huh? She's probably still retaining a lot of water after giving birth to your little cretins. Serves ya right.

Or girlfriend #3:

So, hon, when can we get together?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Science Fiction

The first time anyone gave me feedback on my writing was in the 7th grade. I was thirteen and had a big crush on a young teacher, Mrs. McGee, who was teaching a creative writing class. I handed in a science fiction story about a domed city on the moon (was reading Clark and Asimov and Vonnegut back then), typed nonetheless, and got an A+. I've dabbled in science fiction ever since.

This past year (2007) I had three or four science fiction stories published, including one as an Amazon Short entitled, "The Word Master" (which YOU can download for only 49 cents--a bargain at any price). At the heart of this story was a question: What would happen if, in some future age, information began to surpass the human capability to process it? How would human beings cope with the deluge of information? (Maybe I've been reading too many blogs.)

I don't know if I wrote a good story, but I guess the folks at Amazon thought so.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Another book I purchased with my Christmas Barnes & Noble gift card was a biography of Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts (Charlie Brown). As I presented the book at the checkout, the cashier (a guy with two earrings and a tongue clip) said, "You know, I hear this is a very depressing book."

I haven't read it yet, but I'm not into Oprah picks (as they usually are very depressing books about people who have to claw their way out of horrible situations like the plague, an airline accident, or some kind of deformity). I just wanted to read a book about the creator of Peanuts and have some quiet time away from my own depressing situation with teenagers and the beavers that are eating up all my trees along the creek.

Now, I'm not sure... I hate it when people give me unfavorable book reviews.

Monday, January 7, 2008


I received several Barnes & Noble gift cards for Christmas this year. One of the books I've purchased is a book entitled, Pigeons. It's a fascinating book about these birds and what they can teach us.

I've already read a fascinating pigeon story that I'm going to use in my sermon this Sunday (baptism of Jesus). So stay tuned. Listen in.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Writing on Air

Last year I told my wife that I was going to write an article for a fitness magazine about mattresses. "What in the world do you know about mattresses?" she wanted to know.

"I was born on one," I said. "As a teen I made love to the mattress for upwards of twelve hours a day. And you know how well I perform on one now."

"It will never work," she said. "You're no expert."

Great...but I go down to the local mattress store to do some research and to get a few quotes from the people who work there. The manager--a fresh-faced guy with dimples--looked at me rather suspiciously when I told him what I was doing. "Who are you again?" he asked a dozen times. "I'm writing an article on mattresses for a fitness magazine," I told him. He looked me over, wondering how the word "fitness" could be assosiated with the likes of me. I held my gut in while he told me: "I'll be up front if you have any questions."

I lie down on a beauty, select my "sleep number", and drift off. Forty-five minutes later the manager wakes me. "Sir," he says, "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to put your shirt back on. We don't allow bare-back tryouts in the showroom. I think you can understand."

"Just trying to get a real-life feel for this baby," I said. Later, he tells me how the mattresses work and I'm spellbound. I get me three quotes. I write the article for the big fitness publication. The editor loves it.

When I get paid I go down the gym and renew my fitness membership. Every month I make my wife read the article.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What Did You Do in 2007, Honey?

Every new year my wife wants to know what I accomplished with my writing the year before. I think she wants to review my output to determine if 1. she might want to leave me for a younger, more nimble writer with a wittier pen 2. she can make me feel more inadequate.

Looking back on 2007, I take note of having published the following:

Four satirical pieces for The Wittenburg Door
A magazine article for American Fitness magazine on how to buy a mattress (more on this next blog)
Four science fiction stories (including one on entitled "The Word Master")
A novel (again published as an "electronic book" on Amazon entitled, A Christmas for Joey)

I hope this production will be enough to keep my wife with me another year. She rarely reads what I write, and would prefer that I spend my time washing dishes, cleaning kitchen floors, and fixing things around the house. I did get dozens of new tools for Christmas, though. All I have to do is figure out how to use them.