Friday, October 30, 2009

I Love You, Pioneer Woman, But Not That Much

About three years ago, my daughter introduced me to It’s the first blog I started reading regularly, and it’s written by a fellow Oklahoman. If you are one of the few internet users who hasn’t yet seen it, go take a look. Ree Drummond, the “Pioneer Woman,” has taken the blogging world by storm with her writing style, photography, and cooking skills.


This week, her cookbook debuted, and she started a book tour. Last night she came to Full Circle Book Store in Oklahoma City. I decided to go buy a couple of cookbooks and have her autograph them.


Now, I knew Pioneer Woman has more than a couple of fans, so I determined to get there before the crowd gathered. When I had a hard time finding a parking place, I thought there might already be more than a few people there. But I didn’t expect this.

The line ran from Ree through the store and out into the mall—way out into the mall. This was at 6:30, when the signing began.

Customers went into the store to purchase cookbooks, then returned outside to stand in line. I bought my cookbooks. But I figured that with hundreds of people already in line, everyone who was coming to the book signing was already there. It would take a good hour or more to reach Ree, and I knew that my old legs weren’t up to standing that long.


I decided to be smart about this. I knew I’d be more comfortable sitting for an hour or two, so I plopped down into one of the mall chairs. So what if I was at the end of the line? I already had my books, and I was comfortable.


So I sat and read—all the way through the cookbook. I couldn’t see the end of the line, but it had to be getting closer to me, right? After all, how many people could possibly show up for a book signing?

As I sat there, a number of people stopped and asked me what was happening. What were all these people buying? I tried to explain, but non-blog readers just didn’t get it.


About 9:15 I finished the book and decided I’d walk for a while before getting in line. By the time I found the end of the line, reality sank in. Obviously, while I was sitting, more and more people got in line. She still had a couple hundred books to sign.

By that time, my eyes were focusing about as well as my camera did for this shot.

Since I live close to Full Circle Book Store, I considered going home for a couple of hours and then returning for her autograph. But it was already 9:15. I’m old, and I was tired. So I went home and stayed there.


This morning I’m still marveling at this phenomenon. I console myself with the thought that if we insist upon having heroes/heroines, at least Ree has done something to merit this kind of attention. She’s not just a pretty face, or some obscenely overpaid sports figure. She’s actually talented, and she has worked hard.


Congratulations, Ree. I love your blog, but I’m sorry to say I don’t love you enough to invest more time in getting your signature. Actually, you’re probably grateful that I didn’t stay. Writer’s cramp must be quite painful after giving so many autographs.


Today’s post on The Pioneer Woman has Ree’s report of the events at Full Circle. I’m glad she had such a good time. Since she’s an Oklahoman, maybe our paths will cross sometime, and I’ll be able to congratulate her in person. But I doubt she’ll find me standing in line.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Carnival Time!

For the past several years, my church has sponsored a carnival around Halloween. It's a toss up as to who enjoys it more, the adults/overgrown children who work in the carnival, or the kids who attend.
Last night was the big event.

Dr. Lobo and I participated in the "trunk or treat" part of the evening. Church members decorated the trunks of their cars and passed out treats to children as they traveled from trunk to trunk.

Take a look at this scary guy. I'm a brave woman; I share my bed with that creature!

But then, I guess I look a little scary, myself.

The gym was full of games and prizes.

Many people wanted their faces painted, but some kids were a bit hesitant.

Everyone got a hot dog to eat, served with a smile.

Our congregation is undergoing a process of transformation. About thirty years ago, when we first joined, about 250 to 300 people participated in worship on Sunday mornings; now we have about half that number--or even less. We're in the middle of the city, and the neighborhood around the church is changing. We're moving from what we once were to what we will be, and we're seeking God's guidance as we strive to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the people around us.
Last night I got the sense that we are moving in the right direction. We offered what we could, without judgment. No sermons were preached, and no demands were made. We didn't ask for money. For two hours, the diverse people of our neighborhood were a community. We got a glimpse of the kingdom of God, and it was good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Habitat for Humanity Unity Build

Before you can fully understand today’s blog entry, you need to know a little history.

Two hundred years ago, a Presbyterian preacher named Thomas Campbell wrote the founding document of what is now known as the Restoration Movement. He encouraged people to get away from denominational creeds to form a unified body of Christians. Instead of unity, however, the movement eventually led to three major streams: the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Churches of Christ, and the Independent Christian Churches.

Two years ago, groups from the Christian Church (Disciples) and the Churches of Christ worked together on an Oklahoma City Habitat for Humanity house. Although this was supposedly a scheduling error, the participants felt that working with their Christian “cousins” was a good experience. This year, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of their common beginning, the three faith groups built a Habitat house together. They called
it a "Unity Build."

The three branches disagree about a number of issues, but they all concur on the significance of The Lord’s Supper. Every Sunday members of all three groups gather around communion tables. So of course, the Unity Build had to begin with a communion service.

On Saturday, September 27th, members of the three groups came together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Representatives of each branch led the service.

Notice that each representative has a cup of juice that he pours into a common cup before the participants share in communion.

Approximately twenty churches from the three faith groups sponsored the Unity Build. Churches held fundraisers and individuals contributed money. Volunteers worked on site. Other people provided food for the workers. Across the city, Christians prayed for the success of the build—and for the family that will live there.

On September 27th, only a concrete slab and a bunch of lumber sat on the site.

Three weeks later, the house was completed.

Isn’t it amazing what Christians can do when they work together?

Monday, October 19, 2009

What I Learned From My Writing Residency

First, the week affirmed how much I love writing. Since childhood, writing has filled a need in me that nothing else does. This is indeed what I want to do during these retirement years, whether or not my writing results in publication.

Writing a novel demands an incredible amount of time. I knew that, of course, but I have a new appreciation of this truth. My writing residency offered the best possible circumstances for writing, as I could escape the normal distractions of my life. Still, progress was agonizingly slow, even though I remained focused and worked hard.

I have never been a disciplined writer with a solid routine. Now that I have a better idea about the kind of time commitment writing this novel will require, I know I must make it a priority if I ever want to finish. Otherwise, I might as well abandon it now and take up playing golf instead.

Each day as I resumed writing, I saw the advantage of returning to my novel within a short time. It’s much easier to stay inside your story than to have to re-enter it each time. This is another reason for self-discipline; writing is more efficient this way. Since I know I am a slow writer, efficiency is imperative.

I realized that I may be writing a novel that is beyond my present skill level. All along, I have thought of this book as Justin’s story, told from three different points of view. But now I see that Margaret and Lauren have their own stories as well. Each story needs a climax and resolution, and all three stories need to come together to create a whole. This task is far more daunting than simply writing one character’s linear story.

Finally, I learned something about balance. At Heartland, I used my intellectual abilities as I wrote and as I discussed literature and the writing process. Doing something I felt passionate about satisfied my emotions. I loved being outside on gorgeous October days, surrounded by beauty. Walking nature trails and a labyrinth fed my spirit. I ate healthy food in reasonable amounts, and I exercised every day, which made me feel great physically. I enjoyed socializing with interesting people. I had fun, and I laughed. All of these things made me aware of how much happier I could be if I worked to achieve more balance in my life.

My writing residency week was an amazing experience. Now I must remember what I learned as I continue my journey.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Wrote!

For a week, all I had to do was write—and that’s what I did!

The Heartland Spa, where I spent my writer residency, is surrounded by beautiful Illinois farmland, not far from a little town called Gilman. I ate healthy, low calorie, delicious meals and snacks, prepared by someone else! I had a comfortable, quiet room in which to write. The spa included an exercise room, a pool and hot tub, a walking/running track, a labyrinth, a nature trail around a lake, and even a paddleboat and water tricycle. It was an awesome place.

This is the Writers’ Building, where I stayed.

I met some remarkable people. I shared mealtimes and evenings with three brilliant young women who were also chosen for the writing residency. All of them were powerful writers and wonderful people who tolerated this old woman with grace and good humor. (Two of them were thirty year olds, and one was forty, so I certainly felt my age, but it was enlightening to hear a younger perspective throughout the week.) The staff took care of the writers in every possible way, and the spa guests showed interest in our writing and supported our work. The two women who put together this residency and raised the money to support it, Patricia and Charlotte, thought of everything necessary to make the experience a success. (They even arranged for each of us to have a massage!)

The time available for uninterrupted thinking about my novel was incredibly valuable. I spent many hours clarifying the characters and their motivations and figuring out the novel’s structure. I revised and rewrote a great deal, and I wrote some new chapters. This novel is coming together.

A couple of times my muse seemed to be missing; I suspect that she was off getting a massage or a facial. But for the most part, she hung around my little room and helped me find ways through the maze.

I made some interesting observations about writing (and my life) during the week, but I’ll save them for another post. For now, I’ll just say how grateful I am for this opportunity. I could not have asked for a better experience. It was amazing.