Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Allison + Mike = Twenty One Years!!!

Today, December 21, I've been married for 21 years. Our wedding fell exactly 4 months after our first date. It was love (I mean, luuuuv!) back then, and it is today. We chose this date from a mixture of passion and practicality--it fell in the middle of Christmas break, giving us time to settle in as newlyweds before going back to teaching; it came at a time that would make it easy for family members to travel and attend; 12-21 just sounded cool. (Of course, we had our fair share of "Longest night of the year" wink, wink, nudge, nudge jokes.)

We went into this marriage thing as each other's best friend. Twenty-one years and three kids later, that has not changed. I still enjoy my Mikey's company far and above any other. I get a little thrill just driving to the library together. Nobody else can make me laugh like he does. I may very well be one of the few people who looks forward to the empty nest like it's a life-long trip to DisneyWorld.

Back when we stood at the front of that church and made our vows, Mikey had no idea what all he was getting into. He didn't know he was promising to spend the next 21 years tripping over the shoes I leave in the middle of the living room floor. I didn't know about his annoying habit of constantly locking doors. And neither of us knew that, during those seasonal transitional times, one of us would always be a little too hot, or a little too cold. We didn't know we'd lose a baby, miss a mortgage payment, or face a holiday without a complete set of parents. On the other hand, we couldn't have foreseen the joy of three healthy sons, a forgotten $20 bill found in a sock drawer, or a final car payment (even if the car is a Kia mini-van).

People will say that marriage is messy--and it is. But if you get the mess just right, it's the most fun two people can have. We'll be celebrating today with a Disney movie (Tangled) and maybe lunch somewhere. Our first date was lunch and a movie--Parenthood--so, it seems right. What I know for sure is that today will bring laughter, and a little complaining because it's too hot for December. Nothing spectacular, just ordinary. But, oh, how I praise God for ordinary days.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Coat of Muted Colors

Throughout December, I'll be sharing some of my favorite Christmas stories in the form of Advent Season devotionals. What an honor to share my memories!

Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your owrk and in everything you put your hand to.

[Deuteronomy 15:10] -- NIV

What a treat it was, shopping with my mother and her friend Darlene. We bought new socks for my brother and underwear for my sisters. Apparently my mother didn't think I needed anything, but when we eventually wandered into the Girls 4-6x department of Sears, my hopes began to rise as we found ouselves in outerwear. A new coat? Snow pants? I ran my finges along the sleeves and cuffs, loving the vvvttt sound of stubby fingernails on nylon. I was in anticipatory heaven.

"My niece needs a new winter coat," said Darlene. "Her parents can't afford to buy her one, so I'm planning to." She bent to my level and put her arm across my shoulder as if engaging me in a a secret mission. "Would you help me pick one out? She's about your age."

"Couldn't we just give her my old coat?" I asked. "Then I could get a new one."

"We really can't afford a new coat either right now," my mother said. "Maybe for Christmas."

Oh, now this was fair. Choose her coat? Why not ask me to drive a knife through my heart with my own hand? Goodness knows my old coat wouldn't be thick enough to protect me from its fatal stab.

Thumbing through the rack half-heartedly, I removed a garment. It was hideous, and as much as my mother tried to talk me into something else, I insisted this was the perfect coat for that lucky little girl--all the while inwardly gloating that she would be stuck wearing it all winter. I figured she ought to be grateful she got a new coat at all; I wasn't getting one.

Until, under my mother's wise, watchful eye, I unwrapped that very coat for Christmas.

Father, help me not to focus on what I do not have, but rather to see the abundance of blessings heaped all around me. Help me to love those in need, to see the void in their lives, and to be a vehicle for the generosity of the Holy Spirit.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Proving Jesus

So...I get this email:

"I challenge to present the hard PROOF for your Christian CLAIM that Jesus Christ is the truth, etc! (John 14:6)"

And, I thought I'd share my response. Would love to hear your thoughts--where I went right, where I (gulp!) went wrong, and how you would respond to the same challenge.

My response:

Dear E--

There are three reasons why you are asking me this question.

One, that you have a sincere, seeking heart, looking for reassurance of what you hope to be true—that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. If this is the case, it is my prayer that my answer will give you reassurance and will invite you into a relationship with him.

Two, that you are a fellow Christian, inviting me to the challenge in 1 Peter 3:15, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

Three, that you are one of those from 1 Peter 3:15, seeking to speak maliciously.

That said...here's my answer!

I could bring your attention to the fact that, as his life is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus fulfills the prophecies of a thousand years before, recorded in the books of Isaiah and Daniel. I could tell you that, were the promises of his power not true, we would not have seen this new “religion” sweep through the world and endure—unchanged in its message—more than two thousand years later. I could go on with the statistics of his resurrected appearances being the best documented historical even of its era.

But, really, the best proof I have is my own life. I can tell you that I never live a day without hope. I can tell you that, even with the tragic death of my brother, I had (and still have) an unyielding sense of peace and comfort because of the promise of eternal life with Jesus Christ that both he and I share. And I can tell you that I see miracles in my life every day—prayers answered before I even knew to pray them. I look at the troubles in this world, and I have no fear because Jesus told us there would be troubles in this world. Things may be awful sometimes, but they are not out of his control. I have accomplished things in my life that I never could have accomplished in my own power—including answering this email, because after my first flash of defensiveness, I took a deep breath, hit “reply” and asked Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to reply through me.

You referenced John 14:6 in your email. I invite you to the next verse—If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him. (John 14:7) That’s all the proof I can offer—the Jesus of the scriptures, and the Jesus of my life. One and the same.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Allison Pittman and the Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day

...actually, it stretched over several days. But anyway--so, at least a month ago I got my notice to renew my driver's license, and I spent all of the intervening time reminding myself to do so. In Texas we can renew on line, just a matter of logging in. No lines, no hassle, no problem. So, of course, I didn't do it. Instead, I was at the DMV first thing on expiration day, standing in line, only to find that I had a flag up, and I needed to present my social security card.

Now, the average adult can probably either whip open their wallet, or open a drawer, and find that little blue card instantly. Not so, me. No clue. Don't even remember the last time I saw the thing. Like, in years. So a great part of the day is spent turning the house over and over and over.

Part II--After a weekend of driving across two states on an expired license, I go to the social security office to get a new card. Armed with a tax return, marriage certificate, said license, teacher certificate everything but a birth certificate (ironically, my SSC is tucked away with it...somewhere), my number is called. I present my information, but nothing there will give me a card. A print-out that yes, I am who I say I am, but no card. Apparently I needed a secondary form of ID to prove I am who I say I am. Something with a picture and date of birth. Or DOB and SSN. She hands me a list--but nothing.

INTERMISSION--Trip to DMV with print out from SSO, but no-go. They need a card. Hysterical phone call to husband. He's very sweet and understanding, given that I'm in this mess because I never got a new SSC with my married name.

Part III--Hubby has broken through my hysteria to direct me to our life insurance policy. There you go! My name, SSN, DOB. Back to the SSO, wait for my number, get the same sweet woman. I show her the policy and say, "If this doesn't work, my husband's going to be cashing this in today." She laughs, and gives me a new letter that more specifically identifies me as saying I am who I say I am. Back to DMV to try again. Nope. No card, no license.

SUMMARY--100 miles driven, 51/2 hours wasted, no food consumed, potty-bread postponed from office to office.

EPILOGUE--After succumbing to a tension headache-induced nap, I woke up to a family wanting, of all things, dinner. From behind the ice-pack, I beckoned to my youngest child, please, please...go see if there's a frozen pizza in the freezer. There was; it was the best spot in my day. Later, as we gathered around this feast, heads bowed to bless it, the Lord gave this to me: I thanked Him for loving me enough to provide this meal at the end of an awful day, but then I realized this awful day was due to my negligence. It was I who hand't played by the rules of our government. Rules meant to keep people like me safe. If nothing else, it means I'm driving very, very carefully!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to (and for, and with) Me!!

It has been an unusual birthday. Private and inauspicious. I'm turning a boring number (I prefer odd, prime numbers--this year I'm 44: even and repetitious), and I actually never gave it much thought. Except to request a very specific gift. A stapler. Last year's unfortunate choice of dinner in quite possibly the worst Italian restaurant outside of a hospital setting meant that I didn't have too far to reach to make this year better. And, as I find myself alone in a LaQuinta hotel in north Texas, some might think that I've got another loser year on my hands. But anybody who thinks that doesn't know me--not really.

To catch you up: I made a commitment months ago to speak with an ACFW chapter in Shreveport, Louisiana. Yes, at the time I committed I knew it would mean driving up on my birthday. And, honestly, my first thought was--"Yippee! Now I don't have the pressure of planning what "to do" on my birthday." Because, if you know me, you know that parties, celebrations, special occasions--not really my thing. They bring the same kind of nerve-wracking pressure of ordering at Luby's (something else I avoid).

But, that doesn't mean I don't love my friends--my family--all the special people in my life. So, as I drove the 500 or so miles, I had my trusty BlackBerry in its cubby in the dash, and every 10 miles or so, I'd hear the distinctive chime of a FaceBook update. A posting on my wall...and I knew each posting was a birthday wish. (I assumed...for safety reasons I didn't confirm until later!) It was like having everyone right along with me, and I said a little "Thank You" to the Lord each time, because He's blessed me with so many wonderful people. Because, if you know me, you know I might not be overtly social, but I'm a lover of people! (and...of FaceBook)

Driving all those miles gave me the longest uninterrupted reading time I've had in months. I listened to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood... which I have wanted to read forever, but have never gotten around to. If you know me, you know I love true crime (murder, mayhem, I.D. TV), and this book is mesmerizing. And beautifully written. Listened to exactly 1/2 on the way up, will listen to 1/2 on the way home. One book in 2 days. That only happens when I drive!

I'm enjoying a free night's lodging thanks to points accumulated in the LaQuinta rewards program (and if you know me, you know there's nothing more relaxing than a hotel room to myself!); I had a BLT for dinner (and iykm, you know that is traditional birthday fare); and the BLT came from a Waffle House (and iykm, you know that I have always wanted to eat at a Waffle House).

Tomorrow I'll spend a few hours hanging out with writers--my FAVORITE genre of person, and then a long, lovely ride home. But, for now, I'm watching Dateline NBC, fixing to read every posting on my page (might not respond to all--there's a ton!!), and watch last week's episode of Huge on Hulu. It's not the birthday everybody would want, but I realize it's a birthdy meticulously planned by Somebody who knows me. And for that--and for the blessings of the year--I am truly, blissfully happy.

Oh, and tomorrow I'll come home to a chocolate turtle cheesecake prepared by my son. So, that's cool, too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Joe

For those of you who have read Saturdays with Stella, you know what a treasure she is to us. And, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that, just over a year ago, we inherited another dog...Joe. Joe belonged to my father-in-law, Wayne, and when Wayne passed away last year, Joe became part of our inheritence. He is, in many ways, like Wayne. Gruff and stubborn, he moves around with a distinctive limp. When we first brought Joe into our household, I admit I was less than enthusiastic. My standard line was this: "The bad news is, he weighs 85 pounds; the good news is, he's 13 years old."

In recent weeks, though, Joe's health has taken a sharp decline. He's obviously in a great deal of pain. In fact, he moves only from the door, to his big pillow, to the food dish, and back. His evening walks are little more than a few steps out of our alley gate, and he returns from that exhausted. He's relentlessly incontinent, and intermittently aggeressive. So, it's time.

It's a huge, grave, daunting responsibility to hold the life of another creature in your hands. Dog or not, Joe embodies a lifetime of memories with us. I remember his puppyhood--even though his "puppy" size was enough to knock over my then-toddler sons. I remember him running head-first into the van door when I shut it against his invasion. Tiny little dent, there--in the door, not his head. I remember him running through cattle fields on my inlaws' land, tearing down the drive to usher in the visiting family (I was always terrified we'd run him over). Most of all, though, I remmber the days and weeks and months after my mother-in-law, Jean, died, and Wayne would walk for hours and hours with Joe at his side. He loved that dog, and when Wayne went into the hospital, Joe was left at home alone for a while. Nobody knew Wayne wouldn't be coming home from that visit, but I think somehow Joe knew. When we brought him to our home, he had large patches where he'd worn his fur clean away--great big bald patches the vet said was due to stress. And, I believe, to sadness.

And so, on Saturday, Joe and Wayne will be reunited. I'm a firm believer in animals in heaven. Scripture assures us that the new Earth will have all the creatures that the old one has. Joe is God's creature, and he was Wayne's best friend. I have the most beautiful picture in my head of Wayne in Heaven, turning around, and having his already-complete joy doubled over at the sight of Joe--fully restored--bounding across some patch of paradise to meet him.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

American Idols

...that's right. Idols. With an "s," because this year, it's a Sophie's Choice kinda vote. Do we stick with the girl who seemed destined for confetti since auditions, wobbled a bit in the final rounds, and came out a-swingin' and a-singin'? Or, do we put our money on the dark horse who kept a steadily increasing pace--even if he choked a bit on the last stretch?

I'm at a loss.

Often, when we get to the final two on American Idol it comes down to two ends of a spectrum. In season 1, we had your basic guy vs girl in Kelly and Justin. (Then we had the horrid experience of reuniting the two on film in From Justin to Kelly. I'd give a quick review of it, but my therapist advised me to never speak of it again.)

Season 2: Old soul (Ruben) vs. Old style (Clay)~~historically, I believe, the closest final vote.

Season 3: Fantasia Barrino vs. Diana DiGarmo~~kind of like pitting a vocal powerhouse up against a couch. No contest there.

Season 4: Bo and Carrie~~ Round 2 of girl vs guy: Southern rock vs Country. Bo never had a chance, though I admit to rooting hard for him to win. Carrie never did a lot for me, and this was my first major AI disappointment. Now, she's sold more records than practically all other contestants combined. So what do I know? And then...

Season 5: I picked Taylor Hicks to be in the top 3 at his audition. I just adored him. My quibble here is that it should have come down to Taylor and Elliott Yamin. Katherine who?

Season 6: Blake (beat box) and Jordin (teen queen) -- I wasn't surprised that Jordin won, but I remain surprised that Blake has gone absolutely nowhere. I mean, if Ace Young can be on Broadway, just sayin'...

Season 7: Battle of the Davids...and I couldn't make a call. I pretty much disliked L'il Archuleta with every cell within me, but he seemed the sweet-cheeked answer to continue the reign of Sparks and erase the stain of Hicks. But few people screamed more when Seacrest said, "Cook!" No prediction there.

Last year, of course, Glambert and Kris Allen. By the way, somebody should probably poke the producers and remind them that Kris Allen won, because I don't think his name was said out lout 3 times this season, even though Lee's trajectory clearly matches his own. BTW, I totally picked Kris to win.

So...I have a pretty decent track record. But coming into tomorrow night...I'm clueless. Really. My heart wants Lee; my head wants Crystal. And since both of those are pretty vital elements, I guess I'd be happy either way. I've said several times that I don't think either's career will be any more or less of what it would have been regardless of the outcome of the vote. Crystal clearly out-performed Lee tonight. She wants it more. That leads me to think she deserves it more. And, I kinda think the vote will agree with me here. Will I buy Lee's CD? Yes. Crystal's? Yes. Am I glad they don't have to release an cringingly awful cheese-fest of a first single? Oh, yeah.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And-a One, And-a Two, And-a Three...

I'm an unashamed fan of the Idol journey. Really. And I have my favorite seasonal landmarks. Hollywood Group Sing week. The last week of semi-finals when the final top 12 are sent on. Then, it's sing, sing, sing, blah, blah, blah. And then it's the top three, and the judge's pick the song! Yay!!

I can't help but sense just a twinge of producer favoritism here. And, yes, I'm an American Idol conspiracy theorist at heart. But, really. Somewhere along the line they "discovered" Lee, and while I adore the guy, he's been given a blind ear to a lot of bum notes over the past couple of weeks. Crystal, meanwhile, seems to be diminishing bit by bit. And Casey, well, isn't he adorable?

So, when Kara and Randy chose a John Mayer song, I was a bit puzzled. Hasn't the guy spent all season being the country/blues/bluegrass/heartland boy? Funny how their pick for him was infinately better than the song he picked for himself. I think that's Casey's problem. He's like an artist who thinks he knows who he is, but maybe doesn't have a clue. Maybe he and Katie Stevens need to get together: "No, I'm a Country artist." "No, I'm a Country artist." "No..." But, really, by the end of the night the poor guy looked like the friend of a friend of a friend who got invited to a party and found himself all alone at the punchbowl.

Ellen's choice for Crystal was a bit of a head-scratcher, too. She, too, seemed to pick a song that played opposite to Crystal's wheelhouse, and I loved Crystal's voice. But, really, she's not the dramatic-sit-on-the-steps type. I thought she looked extrememly uncomfortable during the entire performance. It might have been nice to find a Paul McCartney song where she didn't have to repeat, "Maybe I'm a man..." over and over again. Maybe "Live and Let Die?" Hmmm.

Then, it one of Idol's less subtle manipulations, we have Lee, dressed in white, bathed in light, surrounded on all sides by a gospel choir singing "Hallelujia." I mean, like I said, I've always been the guy's biggest fan, but even I was a little overwhelmed. I'm a little surprised Simon didn't run on stage and pull a pocketful of confetti out and dump it on the Lee's head. So while it's great to see the judges come alongside my season favorite, I just feel a litle bad for the others. Does that make me a wimp?

It seems superfluous to speculate about who will go home. I've been wrong more than once this season, but honestly, if it isn't Casey, I'll hang up my Idol hat.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ticket Stub: Robin Hood

Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked with most of my best friends. We all taught at the same school, just a few lockers between us. Now, one is retired, I have resigned, one still slugs it out, and two have moved two towns over. So, we try to schedule regular dates at an in-between location. Just a quick check-in. Lunch at Mamacitas where we each get our favorite half-order of nachos, and a movie. It's a date we put on the calendar, pre-booked before we part. Sometimes the movies are great (The Blindside), sometimes they're awful (The Invention of Lying). Last Saturday we saw Robin Hood, and it falls somewhere in the middle.

My friend Raquel referred to the film as "Robin Who?" on her facebook update, and I think that kind of sums up everything. Now, first of all, I have to say that when I first heard that Russell Crowe was set to play the iconic character, I had two distinct reactions: "Russell Crowe...yummmmmmm" and "Russell Crowe? Really?" To me, casting RC to play RH is kind of like casting a beefsteak to play a green bean. I've always thought of Robin Hood as being light, lithe, sneaky and quick. Russel Crowe is muscle and power. I just couldn't get the image of green tights out of my head, and somehow the thought of that big hairy gorgeous man in green tights wasn't appealing. Go figure.

But there were no green tights in this rendition. Lots of leather, armor, chainmail, more leather, maybe some linen. No tights. Anywhere. This film focuses on creating the origins of the man who would become the myth. An archer in the king's army--tough and disgruntled. A rebel with one cause: his own skin. Disillusioned by the brutality of the Crusades, a trickster in a three-cup hide-and-switch game, noble and honest, but not fun. This is not Errol Flynn winking and swinging through the trees; this is not a red-faced fox with a feather in his cap. This is not a 12th century Bon Jovi video in which our hero sports a perfectly blow-dried mullet. It's raw and gritty, bloody and dark. Great action, good acting, the perfect touch of romance...

So what sat wrong with me? Much the same as what other reviewers have noted. I don't know if I need Robin Hood to so steeped in politics that there's no room for merry men. I don't need him to be the spokesperson for religious tolerance, democracy, socialized medicine, and what--to those not in the know--could be the very first "don't ask, don't tell" military moment. I think I might have enjoyed the movie more had it not been "Robin Hood" ... like, if this were just some other guy. I guess that's my fault for coming in with such expectations, but, really, those expectations come from nearly 800 years of telling and re-telling. I sat waiting for Little John to lift him over his shoulder and drop him in the river. (I don't think this Little John could...), waiting for a show-down between him and the Sherrif of Nottingham (a totally underused character...), waiting for him to triumph in disguise.

Oddly enough, what I'm really waiting for is...the next movie. This one totally sets up for a sequel--but then, maybe we're supposed to look at the plethora of tellings and re-tellings to be the sequel.

All in all, though, it's totally worth robbing your piggy bank to give to the poor guy at the ticket counter. Perfect date movie, safe for the kiddos who won't be freaked out by the violence, (there's actually more blood in the final credits animation than in the film), or even a nice, solitary get-away in the afternoon. Just go and have fun...no need to take this film as seriously as it takes itself.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

worst. bath. ever. sorta

(Due to travel schedule and lack of wi-fi, I didn't get an American Idol rund-down posted. But, let me assure you, I was right!)

Three facts that pretty much sum up my mother: She watches Fox News, she takes pictures of special occasion cakes, and she's the wisest, godliest woman I know. This story tackles two of those three issues.

For the most part, it's pretty cool that my parents have a television in their bathroom. I love to turn on a late-night episode of the Golden Girls, run a bubble bath, and just escape. So, while home to visit the folks and speak at my mother's Christian book club (Chick-Lit--2nd Thursday of the month; there was a cake; Mom took a picutre). I came to the end of a long busy, busy day, and after watching a movie with mumsy (Have You Heard About the Morgans), she was off to bed. Since she was going into the bathroom for one last visit, I asked if she would mind running a bath for me. Even at 40+++, I like a little pampering. A few minutes later, there I was, immersed in deep, thick bubbles, kicked back, ready to fire up the old BlackBerry and catch up on emails that I couldn't get to during the day. Are you sensing the disaster? It's two-fold.

First came the awful, frightening, blathering noise coming from the TV. Mother had left it on, tuned to Fox News. And, not just any Fox News...Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck telling me what Jesus would have to say about global warming and environmental initiatives. I've never spent more than 5 mintues with GooBer invading my brain, and I wasn't about to let him ruin a perfectly good bath. So, I'm getting up to reach for the remote to find a Golden Girls re-run (according to hubby it's always on...), and I hear a sound even worse than the idiotic rantings of Glenn Beck. A splash, then a soft thud. Yep, my BlackBerry hitting the bottom of the tub.

Now, I don't know many people more attached to their phone than I am. It's more than my phone...it's my connection to so many people, so many ideas and things and...I'm without words. Literally. I realized--I couldn't call anybody on any other phone, because their numbers exist in my phonebook, not in my head. I have people I ONLY communicate with through text. I had a million insanely clever facebook updates left un-posted due to the dismal computer situation at my parents' house. Oh, sure, have a TV in the bathroom, but NOT wireless internet? Who does that? Yeah. People who take pictures of cakes.

So...here starts a new little chapter, because bopping down to the phone store to get a new one just isn't do-able right now, and genious here (I'm pretty sure) declined the warranty.

But, here's the upside. I'm driving back home with my parents, which means 12 hours down I-10. Normally, I'd be glued to that little screen, texting and updating and emailing. But, instead, I was listening. I learned my great-grandmother's first name was Zenobia. I learned back-stage Peyton Place secrets of my growing-up church. I didn't have one buzz, one ring, one anything to tear my attention away. It was a sweet and glorious day. Maybe I needed it? I dunno...but there's still no excuse for Glenn Beck.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name...(some thoughts on Betty White on SNL)

It was a great idea, a great honor, a great movement...all of that. I was among the throng eager to have Betty White host on SNL. Excited enough to set my DVR. Got myself all set up with my post-shower ice water and wet-to-dry straightener and make a night of it. And the monologue was hilarious--funny send-up of the facebook campaign (back in my day we used to "poke" each other, but it was something you did on a hayride under a blanket). See? That's the kind of just-under-the-radar sweet-n-slightly-dirty persona.

Then came the first sketch. A too-long rundown of a baked-good vulgarity. A little later a strange piece with a mononym punchline ("Lesbian") repeated over and over. The MacGruber pieces were clever, until she dropped a bleeped-out F-bomb. The digital short featuring the cast singing "Thank You for Being a Friend" showed some promise, until Betty put on a mask and screamed and, well, got disgusting.

The census-taker skit with Tina Fey was old-school hilarious, though. And it was dead last. Almost worth wading through the rest. Almost. At least I got my hair done.

I think the writers (and, sadly, Betty) forgot the words of Anthony from the latest season of Project Runway: "Being a lady never goes out of style."

Really--I hope all the facebook users who supported this appearance need to settle down and watch a Golden Girls marathon (or Netflix some Mary Tyler Moore) and see this woman at her finest, with dead-on delivery and a wicked-dimpled grin. I've seen her on episodes of Password where she was more engaging, and Humane Society PSA's that were funnier.

I still loves my Betty, but I think I'll stick with Rose.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Flat Pack

So, I have to admit I was a bit distracted during last night's Idol...packing for a trip to Chicaco...and I'm writing this Wednesday morning in the airport trying desperately to remember any of the performances in any detail. I remember Aaron being lost and overwhelmed, Casey being (sorry) terrible, Crystal being beautiful, Big Mike being obnoxious, and Lee just making the previous 50 minutes all worthwhile. I'm still maintaining that this is the weakest group ever--gone are the days of looking at the final 4 and thinking "Wow, you all deserve this equally..." If it's not Crystal or Lee in the final 2, then I'm moving to Denmark. I will not live in a country who would claim Casey James as its idol.

Actually, my favorite moment of the night came when the Sinatras gave Simon one of "Daddy's" monogrammed hankies. I loved how Simon couldn't wait to open it! I think that's the most human we've ever seen...

OK--not that it's nearly as much fun anymore, buy my desire for bottom 3 is--Aaron, Casey and Mike, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a shocker and Crystal's there, too. We are a fickle people.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Country Night--Yee Haw? or Hee-Yawn?

Country night is traditionally my least favorite of the Idol theme nights, because usually there's this odd parade of acts better suited for Knotts Berry Farm than the national stage. I'll never forget the moment Mandissa walked out wearing denim capris and a ratty straw hat. For the life of me, I can't remember what she sang, but I knew the minute she wore that hat she was a goner. Weeks later, I was at a teacher conference waiting for the session to begin, and two women in front of me were having a conversation in the row in front of me. I wasn't paying a lot of attention, but when one of them said, "Gurrrrl, she didn't have no business wearin' that hat," I knew exactly what they were talking about. See? American Idol makes you instant friends.
But I think tonight was a little more successful as far as the genre goes, because instead of letting our contestants run wild in fields of corn, they were corralled into the songbook of Shania Twain. Great songs from a great writer, and much like Dolly Parton week a couple of seasons back, everybody really did well. Hard to go wrong with good songs, and for me, this is the hardest night so far to pick a winner. Or, as the case may be, not-so-much-a-winner.
At the risk of waxing stereotypical, I shal rate the contestants according to iconic country music video images. Feel free to agree or disagree--it ain't no thing.

Lee: A perfect pair of faded jeans--I can't help it, this guy does it for me. Maybe it's the little sideways mouth thing, the way he can make a song almost unrecognizable in the first few measures before you realize you can't even remember the original arrangement. Flawed, yet perfect.

Michael: The rumpled bed in the middle of a room with lots of open window and fluttering curtains with the seascape outside--This is the most I've liked Mike in a while. Really nice vibe, nice tone. But I totally got Simon's "wet" comment, though. He's always just a bit much for me.

Casey James: Standing in an open field, sunshine in his hair, band somewhere out in the weeds--I think what I liked most about Casey tonight was his humble spirit, how he acknowledged and took ownership of the judges comments from last week. Still didn't blow me away, but good. Best vocal of his run so far.

Crystal: cute girl in shorts an boots--oh, wait, she was wearing a short skirt and boots, but still. It wasn't everybody's favorite, nor mine. I'm not a big bluegrass girl. So, not my favorite, but everybody has an off night. Remember Carrie Underwood singing "MacArthur Park?" yeah.

Aaron: dude standing in the doorway watching the woman in his life get dressed up for a night out--but then the woman turns out to be his mother. So that's creepy.

Siobhan: the beautiful singer posing as a cutesy, misunderstood comic weirdo who gets all glammed up at the end of the video--I was way off on this one, according to the judges. I thought it was kind of a twainwreck. A twainwreck in the wain with a dog. But there ya go.

So...toughest bottom three to call, but I'm going on history and bottoming--Mike, Aaron and Siobhan. Going home? ummmmmmmmmmmm Aaron

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Inspiration in Spurts

So, this is Idol Gives Back week, and I think if I could choose exactly what Idol was to give back, it would be the hour of my life spent watching this week's show. OK, 36 minutes thanks to the DVR (only because I watched Crystal 3 times). During the live broadcast I was riding around various unpopulated streets giving a driving lesson to my fifteen-year-old twin sons. But, really, no matter how little attention J gave to the on-coming traffic, or how often I had to tell R that he was drifting to the left, I still don't know if I'm more grateful for having come home alive, or for being able to fastforward through the torture known as Timanilow.

Maybe I exaggerate a bit. It wasn't all bad. Even those who were bad weren't, you know, all bad. But, did you feel inspired? Were you moved? Let's see...

Casey--now, he inspired me...to seek out Fleetwood Mac's original, joyful, infectious original. Like, I can get that this show is sponsored by ATT, because Casey was beyond phoning...he was texting it.

Lee--my Lee-love is nothing new, but I think he was a bit over-praised tonight. Arrangement was perfect, beautiful, but he had some bum notes at the beginning (and throughout) that sounded like they'd gone through a few rounds. Still, inspiring? Yes. Plus, I got to watch my sons listen to that song for the first time and we got to talk about the beauty of a simple lyric.

Tim--Somewhere, Katie Stevens is inspired to say, "I lost to this guy?" and throw her over-accesorized Hello Kitty at the screen.

Aaron--I'm inspired to Give Back to AI any amount of money that would ensure that I never have to hear that song again.

Siobhan--wondering why none of the judges are inspired to comment on the nasal tones of her lower register. But, beyond that--I thought her performance was really beautiful and haunting. And I loved her outfit. (inspired by Mariah)

Big Mike--inspired me to lose a bet because I thought the song was from Avatar. So I guess I'll do dishes as soon as I post this.

Crystal--inspired awed, hushed silence. Which --you might can tell-- is rare for me. This is my favorite performance, and her interaction with Ryan's pocket square might be my all-time favorite moment with her so far!

Overall, the episode inspired me to wish I could fast-forward through the whole season so I can just get to where Lee and Crystal each try to look like they don't care about winning.

So...who's going home? In the past, the show didn't send anybody home on IGB week...just two the next, but really, if Tim survives, I'll be ready to hop on that train Crystal was singing about. Have I inspired you to leave a comment? And a vote?

I almost skipped...

...my quiet time today, and I don't mean that I got caught up in the flurry of morning routine (as happens). I mean, I was on the brink of saying: Gym? or Bible? And as fantastical as that may seem, gym was about to win.
Then I thought, No--I can give my reading passage a quick skim, say a quick prayer, and still make the 8:30 water aerobics class. So, I sat down with Bible and coffee, flipped to my passage (in my One Year Bible, as I'm between studies) and started to skim.
That's when the Holy Spirit said--STOP.
I don't often pray out loud when I'm alone, but today I did, and in my best self-chastising voice, I prayed: "Lord, I am going to sit right here, slow down, and read. Really, really read." And I did. Got a whole new series idea from the book of Joshua--from something with which, until today, I was totally unfamiliar. An entire series in one thought. It was like God had grabbed me by the collar (or swimsuit, in this case) yanked me back and said--I HAVE A WORD FOR YOU TODAY. READ IT.
And all I could think was--how many Words have I missed out on? All those mornings when I say I'll get to it later, and I never do. Or, more common, those days when I have to stop and think about when was the last time I truly sat and sought His Word? I envy those who have the spiritual discipline to read their Bible daily--but envy is such a waste of time.
That was an hour ago. I won't always have a full hour to spend with my Bible. Wait--I'll always have it, but I won't always take it. And I may not even need to. But today I did. And there's another class at 9:45. And I'm already in my suit, so...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Second Place Silver-tongued Sages

So, what does a guy have to do to be counted among such musical recording greats as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Barry Manilow, Randy Travis, Dolly Parton, Elton John, Lionel Richie, and -- oh, what the heck--Miley Cyrus? Apparently, you need to lose a singing contest. Ladies and gentlemen, Adam Lambert!!!

Now, I know a couple of weeks ago, I likened Miley's mentoring capabilities to that of a duck, and I just want to qualify something: I love ducks. So, it's not automatically an insult. To her, or to ducks. There's just something about the girl--her voice, her face, her lips--that makes me want to sit on a bench with old men and throw bread at her. Is that such a bad thing?

That said, I really think Adam did a good job. He set forth some challenges, gave some good advice, had something specific to offer each contestant. Spot-on mentoring, Mr. Lambert! Mayhaps the AI producers know what they're doing after all. Still, I can't help but think they're missing out on a few great opportunities. If they can trot Adam Lambert out, why not all the AI also-sang? No need for mentor-sharing, they could pair up! Imagine...(as DavidA once sang...)

Justin Gurarini could teach Tim Urban how to capitalize on a winning smile and great hair to compensate for what might be lacking in singing and/or dancing. Of course, with Crystal's inevitable win, we'd have a super-awkward "From Tim to Crystal" bad beach movie follow-up.

Clay Aiken, having lost to the original Velvet Teddy Bear could give Big Mike a few pointers about how to use his massive circumference to charm the lady voters.

Diana DeGarmo could join forces with Katie Stevens to create the facebook page: I Missed My Prom to Be on American Idol. (11 fans)

Bo Bice and Casey James could do each other' shair.

Catherine McPhee could just stand in Lee's room and look pretty. I don't think he'd ask for much more.

Blake Lewis could come back and do an awesome beat box behind Andrew Garcia's send-up of the Paula Abdul classic "Opposites Attract" -- actually that would be kind of awesome!

Crystal Bowersox could smile patiently and pretend to need to hear whatever whoever has to say.

David Archuleta and Aaron Kelly could join forces for the ultimate back-stage Pokemon showdown, then it's time for snack.

And Adam Lambert...seriously, weren't you hoping for an Adam/Siobhan scream clinic?

In keep with the theme, tonight the lowest and second-lowest vote getters go home. Who's it going to be? Vote and leave a comment, and TWO books get added to the Idle Summer Reading basket!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Here Come the Bridegrooms!

Releasing today! Unbelievable...my fifth novel. I say unbelievable, because it wasn't long ago I had no idea I wanted to pursue a life writing Christian fiction. No idea. I knew I wanted to write...something...but the only Christian novel I'd ever read was Christy--a book that is almost required reading for Christian girls, and rightly so. And now--what a difference a decade makes!

So, with a new book comes all of the other fun "new" things. Walking into bookstore after bookstores to see it on the shelves, interviews and give-aways to promote, forcing copies on your oh-so-understanding writers group friends--especially those sweet guys who don't happen to read historical Christian fiction, but buy copies for their wives. But, with this new book came another "new" thing.


Now, I have other books that have been released on Kindle, and I guess I've never really thought about it...but my friend Virginia sent me a message on facebook saying she'd pre-ordered The Bridegrooms on Kindle, and it would "appear" on Tuesday, April 13. And it just seems weird to me to think of all the hundreds (maybe that's optimistic...) of people who pre-ordered to Kindle, and all those words, all those pages, all those hours of work will just "appear" on Kindle screens everywhere. All at once. It reminds me of those nature documentaries where they show a bunch of flowers blooming in time-lapse photography. Just...poof...and in one cybernatural moment, there they are. My friend Virginia says the drawback is that she won't be able to have a signed copy. I offered to get a Sharpie and scrawl my name on her Kindle. She hasn't messaged me back yet.

I don't know that I'd ever be able to go Kindle. I'm a super-slow reader, takes me forever to finish a book. Having the cover staring at me from my nightstand is sometimes my only motivation--just to get it read and returned/put away/donated. I'm afraid if I were looking at the same unchanging device day in and out, I'd never finish anything. I'd just pay my 9.99 over and over and over, filling it up. Hubby, on the other hand, goes through 2-3 books a week. He was made for e-reading.

So, how about you? E-reader, bookstore browser, library lover, on-line orderer? Say, for example, a great new story about four sisters looking for love in the void left from their mother's abandonment? How would you go about pursuing such a story?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Diridgedudes and Babepipes

A song for Timanilow
(in honor of Lennon/McCartney week)

Hey, dude, don't make it bad,
Take a bland song, and make it blander.
Remember, Randy and Ellen are smart,
And you can ignore Simon and Kara
Hey dude, don't be afraid
You were made to guest-star on Disney
The minute your texting votes don't come in
You can begin to be a guest star
Enter: Bagpipes
I remember this them from 2 seasons ago, and it was a fantastic night. I can still hear Carly Smithson singing "Come Together" and Michael Johns singing "Across the Universe." And David Cook's amazing Eleanor Rigby. That was a great night for music, because it's a night of great music, and I think the contestants always do better when, really, there can't be too many bad song choices. Oh, had DiDi hung around, she might have tried to show us a new dimension of her by treating us to a ride in a yellow submarine, but other than that...
So, we had diridgedoos and bagpipes, guitars, guitars, guitars, dreadlocks, and a nearly lethal use of a flatiron. Andrew took us to Saturday morning Bandstand, Crystal took us to a really cool Blues club about 40 minutes into her set. Siobhan and Aaron gave us just a taste of what we might hear in-between reassurances that our call is important to somebody. Casey rocked the Leif Garret look (thanks, A.J.), while Timanilow brought the Leif Garret vibe. ALERT! Quite possibly the first time "Leif" "Garret" and "vibe" have been used in a single sentence. Mike frightened lonely people everywhere with the knowledge that he's looking at them (and when he finds them, he will pick them up in his massive hulk-like arms), Katie made me remember why I love that song (and her father made me remember why grown men should wear pants if they're going to be on TV). And Lee--quote of the night:
LEE: (when he saw the bagpipe guy backstage) Is he here for me?
But I thought that was totally cool.
So...this'll be a tough week to call, because nobody was terrible; but here goes:
Bottom 3 = Andrew, Tim, Aaron (oh, so torn between Aaron and Katie...)
Going home? Andrew
So, what think you! Leave a comment and cast a vote. We got it right last week (yay!!), making my new release, The Bridegrooms the first book in the Idle Summer Reading Give-Away!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Idol Time--Rhythm and Ooohs (and a few Ewwws)

You know how when you're watching a lava lamp? And there's that great gloopy moment when one glob sinks to the bottom and the other gloop bloops up? I feel like that's what happened tonight. We saw Siobhan take the glob-dive of her career thus far, and Lee just bloopy-bloop-bloop up to the top. It was, in some ways, a nod back to the old days (think, pre-Jordin Sparks), because those who did well did so because of their ability to sing. Not because of funky red lighting, or giant staircases, or slick package mentality. Just like those old R&B records had a groove, tonight a few people fell into their groove, and a few, well let's just say, their parents probably never owned a record, either.
A few general notes: Ryan Seacrest takes awkward banter to an entirely new level. Like, painful. Like when you're driving your 9th grade son on his first "real" date and trying to make conversation in the car. "So, Ginnifer, would you ever wear an off-the-shoulder dress?" Just do what you're paid gabillions of dollars to do, or I swear I'll mount the campaign to bring back that other guy.
Usher as mentor--hey! Great idea having somebody with experience, clout, talent, knowledge...well, everything Miley doesn't. Last week was like watching a figure skater being coached by a duck. This week was like...well, better. (some metaphors deserve a quiet death)
Ellen's tie--did anyone else feel like it was 4 a.m. and the urge to get to a phone and call in to pledge to MDA? Way to channel your inner Jerry Lewis. (but I thought the joke about Tim Urban "creeping" was funny!)

So, to sum up my commentary, I'm going to lump performances into shades of blue:
Like perfect wash on your favorite jeans--Lee, Crystal, Casey, Andrew
Like a harmless crayon you'll pass over for a cooler color in the box--Katie, Michael, Aaron
Like mold you wish you hadn't noticed--Siobhan, Didi, Tim

Bottom Three? (should be) Siobhan, Didi, Tim
(will be) Didi, Tim, Katie

My pick to go home...Didi.

What do you think? Leave a comment, leave a vote, and be in the drawing to spend your idle time reading a bunch of free books!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 "Top" Ten... What went wrong?

It's going to be a long summer for all those Idol fans packing themselves into outdoor venues and theme parks, county fairs--whever this year's crop can find a place to rest their weary voices. Compared to last year's line-up (Kris! Adam! Allison! Danny! Anoop! Lil! Matt!--not bad...7/10 from memory!), this year's looks a little, um, thin? Pitchy? (zzzzzzz Crystal! zzzzzzz Siobhan! zzzzzzzz Tim Urban! Finally, a potty break).
So, what went wrong this season? Because critics, bloggers, face-bookers, my agent, pretty much everybody who matters agrees that something's gone terribly wrong. Here's my thought. This is Idol's 9th season. That makes it...old. Like that moment when you hug your 9-year-old and realize it's time for him to start using deodarant. It's sweet, but not pleasant.
Now, I am a die-hard fan. I remember what Kelly Clarkson was wearing when she sang R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Check out the clip. The contestants were having fun. They performed with a piano--not a full band (until later in the competition). Lately, they take these contestants--some with no performing experience at all, some already dropped from record labels, some clearly headed for HSM 4--Revenge of the Underclassmen (I'm looking at you, Timanilow). The judges say over and over that this is a "singing" competition, but it's not. It's child stardom in a microcosm. How does a 17-year-old know how to make a song "his own?" How do you expect someone who came of age under the influence of Britney Spears to make intelligent song choices from the vast array of Pop music? Most of these kids were born with only 2 living Beatles. Yet they're given back-up singers (who over-power them), a band (that indulges them), and a panel of 3 industry experts (plus an Ellen) to ping-pong them around.
Last season was lightning in a bottle. A wide variety of music--all delivered by genuinely good singers. I think they tried to hard to capture that again. That explains Siobhan. Katie is still a head-scratcher...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Idol Time...Top of the List

First, mad props to my friend Allison who compared Tim Urban's performance to Barry Manilow, thus bringing me to christen him "Timanilow." Patent pending. Just saying.
So, nothing like a nice, specific genre for the contestants to choose from: Top Songs. I guess it's a chance for us to see what kind of music the contestants gravitate toward--what kind of artist they want to be. If that's the case, then their future is just a bit too bland to be truly frightening. But when it's the night of the vote that will determine whether or not you'll be part of the summer tour, there's just no reason to sing "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."
Open note to Andrew (like he'll read it, but hey...) "Straight Up" was brilliant because it had a cool Latin vibe to it. That's what we loved and, to some extent, your back story plays into that vibe. Where'd it go? And, more importantly, why aren't the judges bringing up that very specific point? Making me crazy, crazy, crazy. It's like he's constantly borrowing somebody else's song.
This week might make it tough to choose who's gonna go--so many truly awful performances (Paige, Timanilow, Didi, Andrew)--but leave your vote anyway! Unfortunately, I think Timanilow is on his way out, and just when I got the perfect nickname, too. So, I have to take advantage and use it as often as possible.
Timanilow, Timanilow, Timanilow
My pick for bottom three: Paige, Andrew, Timanilow. Who's going home? Timanilow.
And, if you're a facebook friend, stop by my page for a song-by-song commentary!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ticket Stub--Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I had a lovely afternoon "date" with my youngest son as we went to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Now, I went into this movie at a total disadvantage--I hadn't read a single one of the books (written by Jeff Kinney), and my Charlie had read them all. Still, it was my "turn," as hubby took the boy to see Percy Jackson, Lightning Thief a few weeks ago.

I think I got the better deal!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid was a fun, fun movie. OK, there was the usual amount of potty humor, booger humor (which I actually couldn't watch...), and generally juvenile chuckles, but the film had a certain little charm to it--genuine laugh-out-loud moments and a refusal to let the adult characters come in and take over to save the day. In true kid-movie fashion, the grown-ups are marginalized while the kids duke out the plot points, and the cast here does a marvelous job. The movie maintains innocence despite opportunities to swing otherwise, keeps you giggling without totally grossing you out, and refuses to pander to the big, emotional aaaaawwwwww moment that always seems so contrived in the typical Disney channel fare.

Great cinema? No. Harmless entertainment? Definately. I'm now a huge believer in the "cheese touch," and wanted to jump up and cheer when I heard the first few notes of this Bonnie Tyler classic.

I think what I enjoyed most, though, strangely enough, was the audience experience. The theater was packed (opening day for the movie), and the average age of the audience member was probably 9. Yet, they were all enthralled. I loved all the little whispers of (I remember that in the book), or (I love this part!). But none of their participatory remarks were rude or distracting. In short, give me a movie theater full of 9-year-olds over a theater with 9 teen-agers any day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Idol On...2010

Apparently nothing can bring me out of blog darkness like American Idol. And, no, I didn't post during the auditions, during Hollywood week, or even the semi-finals, because during those early weeks, getting attached to a contestant is kind of like making eye contact with a puppy in a pet store. Much as you might want to take that puppy home, chances are it'll never be a part of your life, because face it--you're just there to buy cat food. So, it's best to hold your head high and just keep a-walkin'. But now that we're down to the 12, it's on. This is the first season with Ellen and the last season with Simon, and so far it's been a bit of a snooze. Here's hoping a narrow focus and some pretty good singers will make it a season worth watching! And worth voting.

So...Rolling Stones week? Relatively harmless. I thought Siobhan was over-praised (in pre-Adam Lambert days, she would have been raked over the coals for being "too dramatic,") and I thought Lee was really under-praised. In fact, I've been voting for him for an hour, and have yet to get a busy signal. Not a good sign...

Anyway, here's what I'm doing this season. I'm going to keep a running poll on my blog here, and I'm inviting visitors to vote for who you think will be going home week by week. Not necessarily who you want to go home (Lacey...), but who you predict will get the least number of votes (Andrew...). Every week that my blog voters get it right, I'm adding a book to a ginormous Idle-Time Summer Reading Basket. I'll reveal and review the week's book after the results show. Just think, that could mean a prize of 12 books total going to one lucky winner. I'll draw a name from the comments. So...join in!

By the way--my pick for bottom 3: Andrew, Lacey, and Paige. My pick to go home...Andrew.