Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Columbus and Me

It's a sad fact of life that I was born on Columbus Day (which for many years in America was observed on October 12, but now floats around in the October calendar like a piece of dislocated cartilage). As a child, I recall that Columbus Day was often a school holiday, too. And so I was glad that Columbus had "discovered" the New World on my birthday so I could stay home and watch cartoons.

Last week I completed The Last Voyage of Columbus: Being the Epic Tale of the Great Captain's Fourth Expedition, Including Accounts of Swordfight, Mutiny, Shipwreck, Gold, War, Hurricane, and Discovery, by Martin Dugard. Great book. What I learned was that Columbus was everything I thought he might have been, including a religious nut who enjoyed enslaving the native populations, whose insatiable lust for "Gold" drove him back to the "New World" in search of more plunder (which, of course, he stole from the native peoples in copious amounts), and a guy who enjoyed his fame and fortune so much that, when he was no longer famous and fortunate, he decided to die in his early fifties.

But, hey, it was a crazy time back then, and it was a swashbuckling era. I wish I lived in a swashbuckling era now. I would love to swashbuckle, and I would love to be known as a swashbuckler. And I don't even know what swashbuckling is! I just love the word.

Columbus died broke, and in fact, his name faded into oblivion and he was completely forgotten and disregarded as the discoverer of anything, until more than two hundred years later, when he was recognized as the one who actually "found" the New World. But as the book points out, there were certainly others (like the Vikings--who are now in Minnesota and run a football team) who preceded him. But Columbus wasn't really recognized because he discovered and ran. Rather, Columbus stayed in the New World (and actually made four voyages. . . and that's his real claim to fame.

I'm just glad the guy was savvy enough to discover America on my birthday. Thanks, Chris!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just Do It

Some time back I was talking with a group of other pastors when the subject turned to sex. (Still want to read this blog?) One of the pastors asked me, "Have you told your congregation to 'just do it'?" I asked him what he was talking about. As it turns out, there is evidently a growing movement in the church (among some pastors) who favor the idea that marriages can be saved and/or restored if couples just "did it" more often. Not long after this, I read a major article in TIME detailing this church movement and the plethora of books that are being published to advance this great cause. So I bought one of these books: Just Do It, written by Douglas Brown.

Now, let me pause here and add, I had to make my wife read this book, too. I favored her opinion. After all, the couple in this book decided they would "do it" for 101 consecutive days. And they did! The book details how all this "doing it" effected their marriage, what the sticking points were, how difficult it was "to do it", etc. Evidently, there are many pastors out there who are asking the married couples in their congregations to take a "30 day" pledge, or a "40 day" pledge, or even more, and to "do it" every day. (But hey, that ain't me!)

Essentially, after reading this book and after perusing many other blogs advancing this cause as a means of slowing down the divorce rate, or saving marriages, or spicing up lame marriages, I'm not convinced this is the answer. After all, a couple who is not communicating is still going to have communication problems no matter how much they "do it." A couple with financial worries is still going to have financial stresses even if they "do it" for forty days and forty nights. And a couple with a bad marriage or who might be on the brink of divorce isn't going to save the marriage simply from "doing it" more often.

Even so, my wife and I did sit down with our master calendars last week to make our own plans. We were pleased that we could "get together" (in spite of our two 60+ hour work weeks) on the following dates (which we have penciled in):

November 5 (after charge conference)

November 6

And July 14, 2009.

Yes, I realize that the 3rd date is quite a distance out there, but with our work demands, two teenagers, a mortgage, two pets, and no time for funny business, it's the best we could do. That, and the fact that, I actually need months to plan my advances. I'm like Tony Dungy that way. I have to come up with a good game plan, review it with my wife weeks before game time, and see if she likes the plays I'm going to call. Usually she calls a time out and asks me to resubmit another game plan. This, of course, can take weeks/months . . . but eventually we arrive at a plan we can live with.

I did like reading Douglas Brown's book (I'm not loaning it to anyone!!) and so did my wife. But I'm not convinced any of these "Do it" books are the answer to ailing marriages. Mine, after all, is full, robust, and chocked full of goodies, as you can see. Thank God Becky and I have a plan. All we have to do now, is stay awake.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Day of Proposals

Today (Friday) was a big day . . .

I completed a third revision for my editors at Sourcebooks in Chicago. The book is now slated for publication in May, 2009.

I received an email from my editor at Abingdon (our UM Publishing House) informing me that my book, School's Out, is near completion, too. I was also invited to submit yet another book idea and was informed that Cokesbury wants me to help write a new curriculum for youth (okay . . . but do they know how OLD I am? Have they seen my liver spots? Do they realize I have two teenagers of my own and often threaten to serve them up for adoption?)

I completed three article proposals for three magazines . . . but, hey, I can propose anything (just ask my wife!) A proposal is easy, but getting the wife . . . er, editor, to accept it is another matter entirely. The story of my life.

And finally . . . I also worked up another chapter on my "dog book" . . . which is absolutely some of the funniest stuff I have every written. If I complete this sucker and it sees the light of publication, no one in my family will every speak to me again. This memoir of my childhood dog is so funny, I sometimes blow snot out of my nose.

All in all, not a bad day's work for a rainy Friday (and my son was home all day with me, too, although he did sleep the better part of the afternoon after staying up half the night before). Rather quiet around here otherwise . . . just the way a writer likes it.

Tomorrow, off to Muncie to see the daughter. We'll see how many of us can fit into that tiny dorm room!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rev! It Up

Last week I sat down one evening and whipped out an article for a church magazine (REV!, a rather cute title for a pastor's magazine, don't you think?) Total time, about an hour. I sent the article via email attachment to the editor, who promptly sent me back an email last night saying, "We love it! We'll take it! Look for a contract in the mail next week!"

Getting news like this makes my day, and if they end up paying me $100 for the article, that's pretty good money by-the-hour as far as hourly rates go. It also makes me feel good to know that I can write an article like that every now and again at a very rapid pace, with no corrections, no rewrites, and still sell the sucker.

This Friday, I plan to write all day . . . I've got about four articles I plan to write, I'm still working on my "dog book", and I've also got to do one more round of rewrites on the wedding book that will be published in 2009. All in all, it should make for a very busy day and I know that, after twelve to fourteen hours of rapid-fire writing, my fingers are going to burn.

But bring it on!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pope Mobile

I also finished reading Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, by Pope John Paul II. I've always thought that the former Pope was a great writer, and this little autobiographical summary of his priestly and episcopal call is fascinating. But it is tough to relate, personally, to the call to celibacy, marriage to the church, and the vows of poverty assumed by many priests of the past generation. I liked Pope John Paul II and wish him well on his way to beatification. Hope he makes it. I'd love to see him in stained glass.

Of course, since his autobiography is entitled, Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, I couldn't help but consider my own autobiographical title. So far, I've come up with:
Rise, Let Us Go To Dunkin' Donuts
Rise, Logan, Get Your Sorry Butt Out of Bed
Rise! (Hey, Why Aren't These Biscuits Rising?!)
Rise, It's Monday Morning Again

Rise, Naw . . . I'll Hit the Snooze
Rise, Rising, Risen (The Pastoral Guide to Latin Cognates)
Rise, Let Us Be Off to Conference

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Christian Vote

I also read Electing Not to Vote, Edited by Ted Lewis. This book is a series of essays written by Mennonite, Catholic, and Lutheran theologians and pastors who offer their perspective on why Christians may elect not to vote in a national election. All of the essays are older, written long before the current Presidential campaign, but they do present some compelling Christian and Biblical arguments for not helping to elect "Caesar", or why the ultimate Christian concern goes far beyond the kingdoms of the world, as represented by governments and policies that may most always oppose the kingdom of God.

I haven't always voted in national elections, but do plan to vote this year, though as I've gotten older, I certainly have grown very cynical and jaded when it comes to partisan politics, national parties, greed, corruption, and the gigantic cogs that keep the money flowing and the votes coming. I like Jesus and his vision a lot better than any vision I've heard during my lifetime offered by a blue suit and a star-spangled tie.

But perhaps we could also start a new political party. How about:
The Billy Bob Party: You pull a lever, and everyone named "Billy Bob" takes office.
The "Cash Back" Party: Every time your congressman or senator votes to increase your taxes, you get "cash back".
The Frequent Flier Party: You pull a lever for a candidate in this party and you automatically get 1000 pts added to your frequent flier voucher.
Of course, there are other great ideas for political parties, too. Any others?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Inside of Me

I've finished three other books in the past two weeks, including this fine Biology book written by Neil Shurbin: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body. I try to read 2-3 biology books each year, and I really enjoyed learning more about what is inside of me. And I was convinced that Gatorade had a corner on my liver!

Speaking of what's inside of me: I did get my doctor's lab report and blood-work last week and learned that the bad cholestorol in my body is low (which is good) and that good cholesterol level is low (which is bad). Prescription for improvement: fish oil or OMEGA 3, and lots more nuts. The nuts won't be a problem, I am Mr. Nuts. But I also learned that my kidneys are putting out high levels of creatinine (a protein enzyme). Conversation:

Dr.: Can you explain these high levels of excess protein in your body?
Me: I eat a lot of protein. I drink 2-3 protein mixes a day.
Dr.: Anything else?
Me: I also take creatine. Should I stop taking this?
Dr.: I'll have to "Google it" and find out.

Wow, the Doc actually said he was going to Google with my health. He's going to rely on a Google search to learn if what's inside of me might be harming my body or creating a tumor the size of a softball . . . I'm going to Google, too, and see what I can find out about what's going on inside of ME! But it's probably just donuts.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Book Delivery

On Friday it came in the mail: a small box addressed to me. I knew what it was an opened it immediately. It was my author's copy of a book published by HCI (Health Communications, Inc.) entitled: The Ultimate Christmas.

Not much, really. But the book did contain two of my Christmas memoirs, both previously unpublished.

I'll consider this my first Christmas gift of the season (an early bird special). I did look at it briefly, I told my wife and daughter that the book had arrived, they feigned mock interest, and so I stashed it on the shelf . . . another book I've contributed to (I have roughly twenty of these contributors books on my shelves--in addition to my own titles--and some of these books actually have my name on the cover).

Oh, well . . . somebody, somewhere is going to read it, I guess. Or maybe it's too early to think about Christmas. But it will be there, staring blankly back and me, when it's ready to be opened.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Birthdays & Boss's Day

This past week I received a plethora of birthday cards, and the office staff at Calvary also pitched in Wed. with a boss's day celebration (who knew?). Of the various birthday cards I received this year, I particularly enjoyed this one from my mother-and-father in-law. It's one of those fill-in-the-blank cards that are becoming so popular these days.

When God made you he broke the mold
And never created another
That's half as witty as you are,
Or half the man (why bother?)

Some sons-in-law are shady,
And others filled with vice,
But you married Becky honorably,
Then got her knocked up (twice!).

You've filled our lives with laughter
And graced our days with mirth,
And as your salary has grown,
So has your considerable girth.

Didn't know you had it in you,
But we love you as you are
You're still firing on all pistons and
You've certainly passed our bar.

Oh, some like their sons with jelly,
And others with their jam,
But you saved our daughter, Sonny,
And you're sweeter than a ham.

To Becky you are everything,
Her warrior, lover, friend,
And you've showered her with kisses
And you're lovin' knows no end.

So have a happy birthday, Son!
(Oh, may we call you that?)
We've watched you grow from boy to man,
And you're really where it's at.

Of course, I did receive other cards, too. And I thank you for these! And thanks to the Calvary staff for recognizing my innumerable gifts on boss's day with their very special verse:

Some churches have their St. Terese,
And others have their Pope,
But we're the only church we know,
Who's leader is a dope.

Yes, some bosses may have intellect,
And others may have tact,
But thank God the rest of us are here,
To make up for what you've lacked.

Some day if God should call you home,
This office won't repair,
We'll just keep going day by day,
And never shed a tear.

We'll keep on makin' copies,
We'll keep on singin' songs,
And few will miss your sermons
Or the space your chair belongs.

We'll call the bishop, ask for "Joel",
He'll send us Mert or Billy,
And yes, we'd grieve a day or two,
But then feel rather silly.

So have a happy boss's day,
Put this card on the shelf!
And should you have a thought to share,
Please keep it to yourself.

One thing's for sure . . . birthdays and boss's day really builds a guy up. But, gee whiz, Wally, these cards do sure make a guy feel swell.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

House Warming

As winter approaches, I thought it would be good to read a book about energy savings. So I read this baby. . . . Not a bad book, and I've already tried one of the energy-saving ideas. I wrapped my water heater in insulation and turned it down a notch. But this book just doesn't go far enough to save energy. So, here's the plan I'm implementing this winter.
First, I'm boarding up the house and our family will take up residence in the utility shed in the back yard. If we use a oil space heater and sleep under the lawn mower, we should be able to save big on energy costs. Living in the shed will also save us money on food, as there are several squirrels that have eaten through the roof and are nesting in the shed. They, along with the nuts and berries they squirreled away for winter. A double bonus! Meat and veggies! Finally, our family will do our part and cook over an open fire just like our primitive ancestors. I'm looking forward to the grunting, the non-communicative evenings, and pulling squirrel jerky. It's going to be an interesting winter, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this great book. I might even use it to start my first fire!

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Health Report

Mark Twain once wrote: "Beware of reading health reports . . . you could die of a misprint!"

Having just read my own heath report, I can believe it. My report shows that I have very low cholesterol, but not enough "good cholesterol". How can something be good and bad at the same time, or of two differing varieties? My report also shows that I'm putting out excess protein from my kidneys (so I guess I eat too much protein).

So . . . what am I supposed to do to be more healthy? "Eat more nuts," the report tells me. "Almonds, cashews, hazels. That's the good cholesterol." That, and stay off the protein supplements for awhile until I can complete another urine test.

I've got the plan worked out. Starting tomorrow I'm eating nothing but nut covered donuts. That should spike my good cholesterol count. I'll drink a couple of gallons of coffee, too. That will help me fill the little urine cup. According to my health plan, I am to write all this down and submit it to the insurance company.

I can't wait for them to read my plan. Somebody out there is going to flip. I might even get a call from the CEO of Dunkin' Donuts asking me to become their official spokesperson. Move over, Jared! I'm goin' nuts.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rev! It Up

Last week I also wrote an article for a clergy magazine (how boring is that??) about leading through the tough times. Not that I know anything about that, really, but the editor seemed to consider me some kind of an expert. Of course, we all know the only true expertise I have is when it comes to telling the difference between a Krispy Kreme donut and some Wal-Mart knock-off or wanna-be.

Still . . . it's fun trying to write something that might contain an air of authority. I approach these kind of articles in much the same way I would approach trying to convince a fifteen-year-old boy that he should wash under his armpits. I arch my shoulders while I write, deepen my voice, and give the page a real whoopin'. I shout at the armpit ('er page) and tell the article that, if it doesn't shape up, I'm going to reach inside and pull out its liver with my bare hands.

But its tough writing as an authority. My wife always sticks her head into the office at midnight, bleary-eyed for lack of sleep, and asks, "What in the world are you yelling at?"

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Upcoming National TV Tour

Last night I received word from the marketing crew overseeing my upcoming book. They told me they are sending me on a national television tour to promote the book when it hits the shelves. (No kidding!)

Now, before anyone gets too excited and begins jumping out of the windows in tall buildings, I've got news (and lots of experience to draw upon here). I'd be shocked . . . no, more than shocked, well, actually I'd be dumbfounded and left speechless if anything along these lines actually transpired. What usually happens is this: the publisher prints the books and sends them out to the distributors and these distributors get the books into the bookstores. The books stay on the shelves for a month or two, and then are sent back to the publisher (where the author eats the cost of the return shipping and ends up losing money because he actually wrote a book). During the time the books are in the bookstores, the author is attempting to do book signings, speaking engagements, and appearances that might spike sales.

But national television exposure?

Okay, so in case I do get appear on The Today Show, here's what I envision will be my conversation with Matt Lauer. I'll start practicing.

Lauer: Todd 'ol Buddy, why did you write this book?
Me: To make money, Matt. To pay Ball State tuition. To buy a ham sandwich.
Lauer: So, what do you think of Studio 1-A in Rockefeller Plaza?
Me: It's much smaller than I imagined. And you're really short. Al, too.
Lauer: Thank you . . . now about your book. It's a dandy. I understand you've written others?
Me: I've lost count, Matt.
Lauer: What are their titles?
Me: I don't remember.
Lauer: Where can people buy this book?
Me: I'll buy extra copies and keep them in my garage next to the motor oil and silicone caulking. Call me for a copy . . . I'm in the phone book.
Lauer: Well, we thank you for coming on the show this morning and drinking our disgusting coffee. Do you like Starbucks?
Me: Yes, but there's a new Dunkin' Donuts moving in right down the street from my house. I'm gonna eat boxes of those things and write a book about the creme-filled ones. I'd love to come back and talk about it. When is Katie available?
Lauer: She's not here any more. Meridith took her place.
Me: Oh, she's the blonde over there? Hi Meridith!
Lauer: Thank you. Now, back to Al for the weather.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Writing My Guts Out

A miracle happened on Tuesday night. I was at home! I didn't have a meeting at church and I actually had hours ahead of me for writing.

So . . . I turned on the television at one point to watch the Presidential debate, but quickly realized I didn't want to waste my time and had more productive things to do. So I sat down to write. And write I did.

I was primarily focused on writing some essays for a book that will be published in November of 2009 about weddings, and I have some very funny and unique wedding stories. So, I wrote about a wedding I performed in a hospital delivery room (as the mother and bride was giving birth), about a wedding that I performed for a Texas bride (fourteen bridesmaids, fourteen groomsmen--all wearing blue jeans, riding chaps, leather vests and cowboy hats) and a wedding that a retired pastor told me about some years ago, where he was asked to preside over a wedding between two circus performers. He was Marvin the Magnificent (the lion tamer) and she was Sally (a high wire walker). The ceremony, incidently, was performed in the lion cage while the groom cracked a whip and sported a taming chair. (I wonder if he used the very same on the honeymoon?)

Yes, weddings are fun. I had four hours of writing about them. But when I was done, my guts hurt from laughing. I had to have a donut to calm my nerves.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Finding Me in Starbucks

A couple of weeks ago I slid into Starbucks for a cup of coffee and, since I was waiting on a friend, meandered over to the corner to find a book. I happened to note one of the many Chicken Soup of the Soul Books published by my friends at HCI in Florida, and, when I opened it, I discovered that I was reading an essay I'd written some years back. Kind of odd, opening and book and finding my name there.

I don't remember when or where I wrote the essay, but I guess someone at HCI liked it enough to publish it, and I assume they paid me, but I don't remember that, either, so it must not have been much! I probably spent it all on donuts.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the many discoveries I would rather have made (other than seeing my name in print in Starbucks).

I would rather have found a big wad of sweaty bills on the floor crimped together with a rubber band. I would pocket the cash, go from table to table and ask: "Has anyone here lost a big sweaty wad of bills? If so, I found your rubber band!"

Or, I would rather have found a grande Vienna coffee on a table (perhaps someone left it there while visiting the restroom). I would drink it before they returned and say, "Oh, was that your coffee?"

Sometimes, it is actually fun being me. I hope to run into myself more often.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Movin' On Up

Driving back from Muncie on Friday, I passed a giant billboard advertising an up-and-coming moving company called TWO MEN AND A TRUCK. The idea is simple, when people need to move, they usually think that two men and a truck can take care of them.

But I got to thinking about that and decided that 1) If The Wittenburg Door would publish my satire and 2) If I could create a moving company to meet any need . . . I'd advertise the following slate of Moving Company Options*:

For Campus Moves:
Two Students and a Backpack

For Slumlords:
Two Social Workers and a Wheelbarrow

One Husband, One Wife, and an Argument ("You told me you were getting the truck . . . AND you're two hours late!")

Alternative Lifestyles:
Two Gays and a Lavender Station Wagon OR
Two Lesbians and a Harley Davidson

One Old Broad, a Prenup, and a Cadillac

Nursing Homes:
One Old Man, A Nurse, and a Walker with a Basket

Two Pastors and a Fifteen Passenger Youth Van

One Faith Healer, An Usher, and a Wheelchair

Two Russians and a Rickshaw

Two Pastry Chefs and a Four Wheel Dessert Cart

*Moving Company Policy: We are an equal-opportunity offender and do apologize in advance for any prejudicial indications found herein. Please visit our web site: www.twogeeksandamotherboard.com if you wish to voice your concerns.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Done & Done

I rarely write two blogs in the same day. Heck, I can hardly do anything one time a day (just ask my wife). But this afternoon, pulling up my new batch of emails while preparing a funeral message and my Sunday sermon, I was overjoyed to receive word from one of my editors that she was "signing off" on my book. "You did a great job," she said. "Thanks for all the rewrites, I know it was a pain in the petootie! I'm sending this on to press!"

Oh, what sweet words: "on to press!" And an even sweeter word, "petootie!" What this means is that I don't have to work on that book anymore. I can move on to another piece of slop, and I'm eager to get at the slop bucket (all of my hundreds of books, articles, and essays in waiting that I keep piled in a thirty-year-old index card file next to my ancient, smoking computer).

Who knows . . . by this time next week I may have another two hundred pages of material to send out. And it's just itching for rejection.

Anybody out there want to buy a manuscript fresh from a smouldering computer? I'm serious, it could spark and blacken my fingernails at any second! I'm keeping the fire extinguisher close at hand.

The Pistol

Last weekend, while I was driving to do the wedding for a relative in Illinois, I read Pistol, The Life of Pete Maravich, by Mark Kriegel. I simply pressed the "cruise control" button on the van, climbed into the back seat, and read. It was fun watching the cars flash by and hear them honking. I'm amazed the van stayed on the road. Great feature, that cruise control. Anyway, I wanted to read about "Pistol" Pete because he was, without doubt, the greatest basketball icon during my childhood and teenage years. The Pistol has NCAA basketball records that will never be broken (44+ points per game average over his college career . . . give me a break, no one will ever equal that). The Pistol also has some of the highest-scoring and highest-assist collegiate games on record and he is regarded as the greatest ball handler and passer ever to play the game (especially among other great ball handlers like the Globetrotters and modern-day NBA players who have watched film footage of his greatest feats on the court). Pete learned to handle the ball so well at age six, when his father made him practice bouncing the ball up and down the basement stairs while wearing thick work gloves. His father (Press, head coach as LSU) also made Pete recline across the back seat of the car and practice dribbling as his father drove around town at various speeds. Pete would often dribble for miles--over chuck holes, gravel roads, etc.--and never lose control of the ball. He would often dribble and pass until his hands bled.

Reading about the Pistol, his exploits and the faith in God that he possessed near the end of his life, was thrilling. He died at age 40 after a pick up game in a church gym. What a way to go! Me, I'll probably pass away at a Krispy Kreme counter or "mid-dunk" at Starbucks as a Lemon-filled scone slips out of my hand and my wife yells, "There he goes! Going . . . going . . . gone!!!" She can bury me in a Dunkin Donut crate in the back yard under a placard that reads: "Here Lies One Sorry SOB, Still 'Dunkin' In That Great Golden Sugar Vat in the Sky. May He Rest in Grease!"

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Big 2-0-0

I couldn't help but note that my last blog was my 200th entry of "Between Pages". I'm not sure that's significant, actually, but I've given some thought to other 200s in my life. Here are a few:

I know that I've written at least 200 short stories.

I know I've written at least 20 books with at least 200 pages of manuscript.

When I competed in the bodybuilding competition at age 40, I stepped onto the stage weighing 200 pounds exactly (having lost 40 pounds of fat in 4 months). The toughest physical and mental achievment of my life.

I receive about 200 emails a month.

I could eat 200 donuts a month.

I often feel like I'm 200 years old.

My dog licks himself 200 times a day.

We spend $200 a year on pet food.

We clean up 200 piles of cat puke a year.

In the year 2160 I will be 200 years old (Happy Birthday!) Come visit my grave, will ya?