Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scribble and Scrambles - Even Better than Laughing Babies...

Mid-week har, har, har. Haven't figured my sense of humor out yet? Here's a huge clue. This kind of stuff totally cracks me up.

I laughed. I cried. I yodeled.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Trish Ryan HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT

Click on the book cover for more info, and here to visit Trish Ryan's site. Hmm. I tried to match the toad's lipstick. I think I got it.

Here's my review of this engaging book.

HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT is a well-written and engaging memoir along the lines of those penned by Donald Miller, and reminding me very much of Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God.

Trish Ryan lays out her journey from stars and crystals to a tentative step forward, three-step- back, and final two-handed grasp of the truth of Jesus as her source of spiritual fulfillment. The road is winding and full of poetic sarcasm and sweet, struggling surrender.

Miller fans, women who despair of finding that perfect Christian man, those on the brink of a spiritual journey, or ones beaten down by religion and empty promises may find soul-balm in this book. Baby-steppers in Jesus, wheel-spinners, spiritual quicksand dwellers and ditch rollers may find fresh air and relief from the struggle in the truths that Trish discovered while wrestling spirituality.

However, warning to the sensitive. Trish is transparently generous with her thoughts and not all will please more conservative readers. Trish has embraced freedom in Christ and though I highly recommend and sometimes long for that path, my Baptist upbringing cautions me far too often. So, if you are easily offended by the idea of a Christian drinking alcohol or sharing thoughts that wouldn't pass the prim Sunday School teacher appropriateness yourself a favor and don't go there. Because, if you do go there you are going to not glean the truth from the book but get hung up in the details.

Sensitive parents will also want to review the book before allowing OLDER teens to read it because Trish delves into dysfunctional relationships, including her own issues.

The chapters covering Trish's growth into wife material really should be must-reading for all females who love Jesus and want a husband real bad.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Athol Dickson Worth the Wait

Thanks, Athol. These were worth the wait, and you were very generous. I appreciate the time you invested in the Dregs.

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

The protagonist of Patrick O’Brian’s series, Captain Jack Aubrey, comes to mind. O’Brian is a wonderful writer, and I’d be a full-time sailor in another life. It blows my mind that guys really used to do the kinds of things O’Brian describes Aubrey doing.

If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question -- what question would you ask of whom?

How could I possibly narrow this down to one person? “Jesus” is too obvious. So are “Abe Lincoln,” and “Alexander the Great” and so forth.

Maybe I’d go back in time and ask my high school sweetheart why she broke up with me. Sniff.

Some out there in writing land have strange rituals. Share yours.

A fifty-fifty mix of grape and peach juice in a coffee cup, a set of good headphones dialed into Mozart, an easy chair and a laptop. That’s all I need.

If you could change something in any novel, what would you change about it and why?

There was a line in my first novel, WHOM SHALL I FEAR?, that goes something like: “Christians don’t despair.” I’ve lived a little since writing that, and I know it isn’t always true. It would be great if is WAS true, but it’s not. So I’d take it back if I could, and try to be a bit more realistic.

What crayon in the box describes you on a good day? Bad day? Which one do you aspire to be?

These are good questions. I’m not smart enough to answer most of them. Will you be grading on a curve?

Pick one…..Pink iguana, purple cow, periwinkle giraffe. Which one and why? Can be negative or positive.

“Periwinkle giraffe”, for two reasons. “Giraffe” is a strange word if you stop to think about it. There are words that sound normal but look weird, and “giraffe” is one of them.

Plus, I’ve never been quite sure what color “periwinkle” is, so this way I get to find out. Is it kind of like chartreuse?

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.


If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.

Genre, schmenre! I just write, and the marketing guys figure out how to sell it. They say it’s “suspense,” so I say, “okay, it’s suspense.” But mainly I just try to keep the reader interested. One thing you can count on: I’m going to do my best to come up with SOMETHING in the story that I have never seen or heard of anybody else doing before. It’s good to be original!

What period of history intrigues you the most?

I like it all. There are some places and times were I would NOT want to go…it would be a drag to hang with the Aztecs, for example. All those body parts on the dinner table, you know. But other than a few exceptions along those lines, I think it would be wonderful to travel around in time. I’d love to witness a Beethoven premier, or see a Titian or a Monet unveiled. But if I had to narrow it down, I think I’d like to tag along with the Israelites during the Exodus. Can you imagine seeing those walls of water? Wow.

What would you write if there were no rules or barriers? (epic novels about characters in the Bible, poetry, greeting cards, plays, movies, instruction manuals, etc.)

I’m writing it. Seriously, I don’t see rules and barriers as a problem in art. They’re a necessary framework, and art is only good if it works within them. A musician might as well complain that there are too few keys on a piano, or a sculptor that limestone is too heavy. A major part of doing art is working within the world as it is to make it something more.

What makes you feel alive?

My wife. And Jesus, when I’m not too focused on me.

How does something worm its way into your heart? Through tears, truth, humor or other?

A good comedy is fun, but it’s the sad stories I remember.

Book, music, person, food you would take with you on a very long trip.

Bible. Enya. My wife. Ritz crackers.

Where would you most like to travel ----- moon, north pole, deep seas, deserted island, the holy land or back to a place from your childhood, somewhere else? – and why.

The Holy Land would be great. I think the “why” is obvious for a Christian. Other than that, I’ve always wanted to hang out in Scotland. My father’s side of the family comes from there, which is why I was named “Athol”.

Favorite season and why?

Winter is the least favorite. I hate being cold. But favorite…I guess I’ll have to go with Spring, because of the promise of a new beginning and all that.

Favorite book setting and why?

I love Dickens’s England. I love Twain’s Mississippi. I love the high seas in Patrick O’Brian’s novels, as I already mentioned. Really, any well drawn setting is a wonderful place to go in literature.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

Getting a Christy Award made me feel like I really was a writer. I don’t think I had quite allowed myself to believe it before that.

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

An editor once told me I couldn’t save a rough draft, because it was too flawed. I still plan to prove him wrong one of these days.

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

Pray, and hug my wife.

What is your favorite word?


What word annoys you more than any other?

It’s two words, but I find “No problem,” very annoying when it’s substituted for “You’re welcome.” It betrays a self-centeredness that really bothers me.

Superhero you most admire and why?

I was a huge fan of Spiderman in my youth. I think it was because Peter Parker was a regular guy. Also, I thought it would be groovy to spray that web stuff everywhere.

Super power you'd love to borrow for awhile?

The ability to fly.

Favorite chore :

Washing my boat.

Anything you'd do but don't because of fear of pain? What is it? Ex.
Bungee jumping, sky diving, running with scissors.

All of the above. But it’s not fear of pain so much as fear of death.

Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.

There’s that “no problem” thing. Other than that, I get really frustrated by all these improper apostrophes we’re seeing on plural nouns. You see it all the time anymore, like: “No dog’s allowed.” How come people all of a sudden started thinking that you have to hook an “s” onto words with an apostrophe? I don’t get it.

Societal pet peeve…sound off.

Again with the “no problem” thing. It’s really a very serious scourge, which I fear will be the ruin of us all.

CREATIVE CORNER: Pick any of the following and have fun with it.

This is too much like showing off!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Scribble and Scrambles - Nada Post

Just zipping through. We held a honken garage sale today and had loads of fun...if you can call that fun. Our "nephew" Josh came all the way from Minnesota to experience an Iowa garage sale.

There we are.

We are heading out to see the movie Expelled so I'll do a review soon.

And good news, Athol Dickson sent his Dregs answers so I'll post those next week.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Athol Dickson's Winter Haven

I'd love to be able to give you more personally gleaned info. But alas, I've not read the book, though I want to, and Athol had an ugly deadline so he wasn't able to get to the questions.

As per usual, click on the book cover to see more from Amazon. Here to find out more about Athol and here to see what Kim had to say about it all.

Since Athol has the questions he may just pop in and surprise us some day.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Scribble and Scrambles - In Progress

I've decided that my in-progress house reflects me far more than I ever realized.

For starters, the direction you point your gaze is going to give you very different facets of me. You've by now read some of my remodeling stories. One corner of my house holds massive, beautiful oak bookcases full of books. If you look that direction you're going to think the house is pulled together. Of course, to fully see the bookcases, you'll be standing on the unfinished stairs next to the huge one floor drop-off with the two by four safety railing.

This is me. Catch me on a good day and you might think I've got life, God, marriage, and parenting all figured out. That is if you only spend a few minutes with me. : ). Underneath the polished, sturdy surface with multiple eclectic statements, like my bookshelves, are the raw two by four building blocks that just might offer up a sliver.

Come further into my home and you will find the party studs with party globes in happy colors. In the next room is the ceiling with a hole from an unfortunate friend's leg plunge through the drywall the day he came over to help with the second floor. Most of my house contains construction dust that occasionally gets wiped down, and each room, with the exception of one, holds at least one small or large project that is unfinished. Just like me. Except I'm pretty sure I don't even have the one area that is nailed down and presentable.

The part I like best. No, the part I love best is the fingerprints. My house is full of fingerprints. From the generous Christmas gifts from parents and grandparents that have gone into the purchase of windows and flooring and insulation and a furnace, to the hours of investment from friends and family as they come over to lend a hand on a project, I can't turn around in a room without a memory attached to why it looks the way it does. My parents plugging away late into the night when my husband decided to start a project at eleven p.m. makes me smile. My father-in-law inspecting and helping with plumbing joints, especially when the resident carpenter had reached plumbing overload. Before we put the sheetrock (drywall) up, I couldn't help but remember all the hours that our kids spent playing among the rafters. With permanent markers they decorated the studs in their rooms and even penned spiritual blessings. How many people in my life have shaped me, left their marks and been exactly who I needed at exactly that moment? Too many to count. I love the idea that I'm covered in the fingerprints of others.

Finally, this house is a labor of love. My husband has built me a home. Not only has he built me a home, but he has made sure that he has invested the best of himself into it. Has it always come first? He'd be the first to laugh. Often it comes last. But it's always from his core. Who he is and how much he loves his family is reflected in the artistry, the time, the sturdiness of this home. What a picture of God. He has given the most precious parts of Himself to me. He has invested His blood, sweat and tears into my life.

Thank you, God, for building projects and for grace.

Thanks to you, too, since you have scribbled on my walls and left fingerprints on my life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scribble and Scrambles - Randomness to the Third Power

A cousin/nephew/friend sporting his sweet stache which over a long weekend was grown, embraced and shaved.
The shaved is a very, very good thing.

Some sicko sent this in a forward memo....apparently its the next big toy recall. Ewww.

I thought the wicked "bite" from my trike pedal was the worst.

And here are the gas prices in our neck of the woods.
Nah. Another e-mail forward...but funny in a completely unfunny sort of way.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Scribbles and Scrambles - Party Globe Pat

Grandma turned 90. That's pretty huge, even though she's not old enough to be on whichever morning show celebrates centenarians.

What do you do for a 90 year old who has either had everything she's ever wanted, or doesn't want to go there at this point in her life?
You have a party.

Since Rob tore down our kitchen wall turning our kitchen area into a KITCHEN AREA, we decided that we were the likely place to be able to tuck 40-plus people into a cozy atmosphere.

Pat came to decorate. It's been awhile since I picked on Pat. So you may have forgotten that he has a flair all his own, and a certain way to do things. However, I wasn't surprised to see my dad, (Pat) hauling in large plastic bags three nights before the party.

"Whatcha got?" I asked.

Now not only is Pat full of flair, he can't pass up a screamingly good bargain. He grinned. "Well, all the Christmas stuff is dirt cheap and look what I found." He reached into a bag and pulled out a set of three orbs in red, green and blue, each the size of a mammoth grapefruit.

"Cool." I said. "Maybe we could put them on the studs in front of the window." I've grown used to the bare stud look. I actually find it attractive in a primitive way.

Pat grinned. "Oh, I have a few of them. I thought we could put them on the ceiling."

Pat is precise, and our outlets were limited. But after two hours my ceiling looked an awful lot like a really anal-retentive prom decorating committee had come through and left their mark.

So, that was a full three months ago. Guess what's still hanging in my kitchen? And guess who still plugs them in on occasion? Ya know, sometimes life just demands party globes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Super Cinema Saturday ~ Lars and the Real Girl

Watch Lars once to marvel at the storytelling, the acting and the heart of this film. Watch it over and over again to absorb the charm, the quirk and life-altering love. At least that's my plan.

I adore films where ordinary and slightly broken people stretch and grow into someone inspiring and beautiful. This is that story, and not just one character inspires, several rise to the opportunity to become better versions of themselves.

Lars is damaged. His childhood was a shadow of what it should have been. Instead of love and nurture, he received a grieving husk of a parent. But the adult Lars is okay as a loner. Functional even. Until circumstances invade his tranquility and suddenly he's forced back into some of those dark places, back into grief and fear. But instead of dealing with those issues like most of us do, he comes up with a creative way to reach out to his arm's length friends and family. He invents a soul mate. Unfortunately, she's not invisible like a child might conjure up. "Bianca" is bigger than life in most definitions of the word.

Lars' quirky support system rallies around, choosing to make his delusion theirs. Bianca, a missionary from Brazil, here to meet Lars, her Internet love, is embraced and becomes a popular citizen. Gosling gives a stellar performance as he runs through the emotional gamut of a stunted man who has tucked life away into a spot where he is not going to be hurt and where he will not find love, the thing he needs the most.

The story unfolds as the townspeople reach out to Lars and Bianca while Lars tries to find his way out of his self-imposed prison cell.

One warning -- Bianca is a "doll" from an adult website and her original purpose isn't to help a young man find emotional healing. There are some sex/anatomy jokes, a little sophomoric humor, and "build your own girl" visuals from the website. Surprisingly, the ick factor is low and Lars and his brother are very respectful of Bianca and its obvious that Lars and Biancas' relationship is "chaste." But if you are sensitive, keep that in mind.

Others may not like the open ending. Several details are not explained. We are given clues to the reason for Lars' brokenness and why he is breaking at this point in his life. The ending is open, too. The pace is also slow. We're talking a character piece and most of those don't have a lot of intense action. I'm drawn to British/Irish films, and Lars feels very much like a Brit film. About a Boy is one of my favorites. I Am Sam is another film that comes to mind because of the complex, and real characters.

Bottom line, you won't like this film if you don't want to think. You won't like it if you have to have a lot of fast-moving action. But if you delight in characters and stories of humanity in its messiest and most beautiful moments, you owe it to yourself to check out Lars. As for me, Lars will be added to my all-time favorite movie list.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Well, Melanie!

Sarcasm is a highly appreciated at the dregs. Start shoveling it, Melanie. And thanks for visiting.

If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question -- what question would you ask of whom?

I’d love to know what Elvis was thinking with the big sideburns and the white jumpsuit and all that fried-peanut-butter-and-banana weight he put on. I mean, really. Do you think he foresaw that he’d be immortalized if only he dressed like that and topped it off with a pair of gold-framed sunglasses and sang in VEGAS of all places? The man was a ground-breaking musician. I mean, before the Beatles, there was Elvis and before Elvis, there was… nothing. How could he let himself become a cartoon? I intend to ask him that when I get to heaven. He’s probably eating fried chicken and playing poker with my grandmother right now. She can’t bluff, though. He’ll win.

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.

So many to choose from…

There’s a scene in Apollo 13 where the astronauts are up in LEM (that’s the little vehicle that was supposed to land on the moon, for you Apollo 13 rookies) because Odyssey (the one they’re supposed to be in while they’re flying around in space) has had an explosion. They’re running out of oxygen because their carbon dioxide filters are saturated. So they have to create a new filter out of the stuff they have with them in space. The engineers on the ground come up with a procedure (that’s a great scene, too, by the way - all engineers love this movie because for once they get to be the heroes) and they build the thing and tape it onto the dealy whopper and then watch the gauge to see if the filter is working. If it doesn’t, of course, they’re going to run out of air and die.

Tom Hanks, who plays Jim Lovell, turns to the other two astronauts, who are both unconsciously holding their breath. He laughs and says, “Just breathe normal, guys.” Which is a GREAT line, because of course, there’s no point in their holding their breath. They have to breathe – to take up a certain amount of oxygen – just because they’re alive.

It’s a great metaphor. I use it all the time to explain to women – who have a tendency to shrink and disappear in a relationship – that they’re entitled to the same amount of oxygen as anyone else in the room. In fact, they really can’t hold their breath forever anyway. So why not just exhale and take in some air?

If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.

Um, I think I just did. My Soul to Keep? If your readers will just get on the stick, I’ll be in New York Times heaven in no time…

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

My friend Kenny Cook – Kenny-baby to me, K.L. Cook in the literary world - who is an award-winning author of literary fiction and also teaches creative writing at a college in Arizona, has blurbed all my books for me. It’s a big fat favor since he’s such a big shot and I write commercial fiction.

I’ve known Kenny forever – we were in the same high school English class. (My grades were WAY better, by the way). He’s got four kids (I have none) and is an extraordinary writer. His prose is gripping. He wrote this blurb for My Soul to Keep:

My Soul to Keep, the third and best Dylan Foster thriller, again demonstrates Melanie Wells’s wit, intelligence, and knack for telling a swiftly paced, complex story. Through a wonderful network of plots and subplots—and the ruminations of the ever-complicated Dr. Foster—the novel reveals the helplessness and fierce love at the heart of parenting, as well as the way that each of us is responsible for children, our own and others. Wells takes kids seriously—their fears, their vulnerabilities, their spiritual wisdom and resiliency. Written with passion, a good dose of humor and, dare I say it, soul, this novel reminds us that we all, with grace and good fortune, bumble our way towards salvation.

I called him about it – I loved what he wrote so much, because he really GOT what I was doing. He said, “Melanie, honey, my belief is that, as writers, we may think we want praise or criticism, but what we really want is to be understood.”

He is absolutely right. When someone understands your writing, really gets it – there’s nothing like it.

What is your favorite word?

I’m partial to “no” these days. Don’t ask me why, because of course I won’t tell you.

What word annoys you more than any other?

I get irritated when people spiritualize their email signatures. I don’t know why that bugs me so much, but it does. “Because He came near,” is a real winner. I saw that one recently and wanted to smack someone. I should probably go to therapy.

Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.

Misuse of apostrophe’s

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Do Hard Things

Adults! Do you feel ambivalent or frightened about the generation of youth that will be managing and steering our country over the next several decades? Keep reading. You will be challenged and encouraged. Wisdom and courage aren't attached to an age. Callie, my fabulous "niece," has written a short review after the summary. (Click on the book cover to go to Amazon. Their website.)


With over 10 million hits to their website, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.

Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins’ revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential. Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of revolution already in progress challenges the next generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.
Callie's Thoughts:
Most books we read are for entertainment, to hear a nice story, or to pass some time.
That’s not the case with Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris. It’s conviction, encouraging, and challenging. One thing that caught my attention was their emphasis on avoiding complacency. Throughout the book they stress the importance of not being satisfied with how things are, but to always, always reach higher. They blatantly state that when they say, “A commitment to growth kills complacency.”
They do a stellar job describing tough subjects for a younger audience. Use of stories and analogies help a young person get a grasp of what’s being said.
Overall, I loved Do Hard Things. It gives practical application, which, if carried out, would severely change our generation for the better.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - My Soul to Keep

Click on the book cover to visit Amazon's My Soul to Keep page for more reviews. Click on Melanie's cute little face to visit her website.

Here's my review. Come back Friday for Melanie's answers to the dreg questions. Fans of sarcasm will find much to enjoy....

My Soul to Keep

Melanie Wells grabbed me with the unique voice and kept me riveted as she drove me through a story that couldn't possibly end well. A primarily first-person dive into broken hearts, love lost and never found, hope, healing and horror, a plunge that kept me turning pages until the satisfying end.

I've not read her previous works so this was my first visit into Dylan Foster's head and Peter Terry's bizarre antics.

The subject matter is tough. An abducted child and another child traumatized, more sensitive readers may not be able to handle some of the intensity though there is a surprising and clean resolution.

Wells covers some obscure teaching on guardian angels in an engaging manner. Once again, a warning, those who don't do speculative fiction with Biblical stretching might want to pass, as well as those readers who struggle with characters who are working toward holiness but haven't progressed to looking like they've attained it. So what I'm saying is, her characters are as real as those you might go to church or work with, you know, the ones will all the warts and issues. I'm not even going to mention that I may see something of Wells' characters in my own mirror.

When I wasn't struggling with the horror of child abduction and clues with dead ends, I found myself cheering Dylan on in her secondary battle, the one with faith.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Someday, Karen Kingsbury Drops In.

Karen Kingsbury dropped by the Dregs recently. Thanks, Karen, for the visit and your thought provoking words. Visit her website by clicking on her picture and the Amazon page by clicking on Someday, and here to read my review.

What makes you feel alive?

I feel alive when I'm with my family, when I'm outside playing Frisbee with my boys or in our boat on the lake, in awe of God's beauty all around us.

How does something worm its way into your heart?
Through tears, truth, humor or other?

Tears are often the way God conveys a story to me. I'll be reading an article or watching a film, and find myself moved to tears. That'll start me thinking . . . what was it about that story that so touched me? And how could that same emotion play a part in a story? And often at that point God will make a storyline very vividly clear to me.

Book, music, person, food you would take with you on a very long trip.

On a long trip, I'd take the Bible, and a CD mix with Chris Tomlin and Casting Crowns. I'd take my husband and kids, flax-seed bars, salmon, and green iced tea.

Where would you most like to travel ----- moon, north pole, deep seas, deserted island, the holy land or back to a place from your childhood, somewhere else? – and why.

The beach. A long stretch of white sand, clear blue-green water, a notepad so I can capture what God is placing on my heart, my family around me, and a glass of green iced tea.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

I hear on a regular basis that my books have changed peoples lives. That's why I trademarked my fiction Life-Changing Fiction (TM). No matter how many times I hear that, I never get tired of it. It's unbelievable to think that God is so creative, giving me a story and then using it to change someone's heart, to help them have a stronger marriage or a closer walk with the Lord. That is always my favorite reader comment.

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

I once had a reader write to me and say that she was no longer a fan, because I've taken to writing too many books, and sacrificed my love for God and my family. That letter left me in tears, literally, because it isn't true. My family and faith will always come first. The letter was still on the screen when my daughter walked by and saw me crying. She read the letter, and later - without my permission - she wrote back to the woman and told her basically, "How dare you criticize my mom. You don't know her or us, and she's the most amazing mom ever." I told her she shouldn't have written back to the woman. But at the same time, her love for me and her response that day was something I'll never, ever forget.

What is your favorite word?

Redemption. I love the sound of it, the meaning of it, and the fact that all of life hinges on it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Scribble and Scrambles - Flying Toasters

You know how it wake up early in the morning planning on going about your business and getting your ducks in a row. Only one more step before you slip out the door and head to work.

You slide two Pop-tarts into the slots.

The LAST Pop-tarts.

Now this particular toaster has maybe been in the family for a few years. Occasionally there is a little flare-up within the workings of the toaster.

One could consider it temperamental, others might just call it acting up.

A new toaster rests in a cupboard awaiting the iffy toaster's imminent demise.

But certain family members can't quite bring it upon themselves to get rid of a perfectly good toaster. The issues are rare, really, and what's a burnt piece of toast in the scheme of things? Especially when there are two hounds who would consider overly browned bread a treat.

Enter the Pop-tarts. Did I mention they were strawberry?

So, have you ever seen a toaster fly?

The new one is working great.

Hope you have a perfect Pop-tart day.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Super Cinema Saturday ~ The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club - 4 of 5 stars or a B.

Jane Austen's books overwhelm me with the number of characters. I have to be exposed to her stories more than once to fully feel like I get her world. "Book Club" is a movie not unlike Jane's books in that way. It's a movie that needs to be watched more than once to begin to see the inner workings within the characters.

I read several reviews before renting Book Club and decided I needed to see it for myself. I understand what the issues are with the folks who didn't care for the movie. For starters, this isn't a G-rated historical romance like Austen's beloved novels. It's set in modern day and the movie actually opens with scenes of chaos in the busyness of daily living. Ringing cellphones, automated transactions and traffic. Then it moves into a funeral scene. The characters begin to plan something to help the bereaved and suddenly there is another crisis -- a death of a marriage. The characters, a group of old and new friends, need something good to focus on.

So they choose to meet for six months and cover a different Jane Austen title each month, hoping to bring romance and genteelity back into some hurting lives.

These are the complaints I picked up in other reviews.

The sexuality aspects of the movie are moderately strong. If you are a concerned parent, by all means watch it first. The major sexual themes -- a teacher with an emotionally, borderline physically inappropriate relationship with a student, a marriage suffering from an affair, another marriage on the verge, a young lesbian with more than one partner throughout the film, a woman married six times and still looking for lucky number seven.

The second complaint about the movie seems to be the lack of Jane Austen's works in the film. Yes and no. The "book" discussions are short and there is very little actual Jane Austen prose shared with the audience. Instead you are given glimpses of each character devouring a different book each month. Interestingly the book club members' and their relationships end up looking like little slivers of Austen's characters. For example, Emma surfaces in 3-D when Jocelyn tries to fix her broken friend's life by finding the perfect man. Jocelyn doesn't need a man, of course, until he seems to be looking elsewhere. Young Allegra who gives her heart away and receives it back crushed and yet enters rapidly into another relationship not unlike Marianne and Willoughby. Or maybe Allegra and Corrine are the modern version of Mr. Wickham and Lydia Bennet.

The third issue with the negative reviews was the lack of character development and/or the miracle changes of heart. Two marriages, one with an affair, another with an emotional affair that could ruin a career as well, a woman in her forties who has never been in love, a young man in love with a woman a decade or so older, a lesbian who loves with all her heart one day and hates her lover the next.

True, these are huge issues, but this movie takes place over months as they meet to discuss the books and we are given only glimpses of time throughout that month. So what seems fast, unbelievable and overnight is not fully the case. And having been married for twenty-six years, I can completely believe that one person who begins to think differently can change the whole flavor of the marriage overnight, if the thinking truly changes. That's what crisis does, changes people. And there are plenty of crises.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. The characters were rich and interesting and I ended up caring about them. It encouraged me that both marriages seemed to flourish once they got beyond the pain and made better choices. I think "Book Club" could be a great girls night movie, or a date movie if you have realistic expectations.

Next week I'm hoping to be able to review Lars and the Real Girl. Of all the movies I want to see this year...Lars is at the top of the pile.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Nicole Seitz's Trouble the Waters

Click on the beautiful book cover to visit the Amazon page. Nicole's website is here, and her Dregs interview, here.

My Review:

Nicole Seitz is an artist. Literary fiction lovers might want to check into her further.

Through a group of Gullah women, Seitz reveals the fascinating spirit, superstitions and cultural richness as she revisits the Low Country once again. Though Trouble the Water is not a sequel to Spirit of Sweetgrass Seitz revisits settings that are obviously as fascinating to her as to her readers.

This is the type of novel I love to curl up with and savor. Seitz brought three first-person point of view characters to life as they relived sorrow and shame, choices and consequences. Honor, Alice, Duchess and The Nannies live and breath through Seitz's words. And what stories they tell.

This is not an easy read. Christian fiction, yes, traditional, no. Seitz writes with realism including sin and consequences, hypocrisy and the damage done through it. There is no salvation prayer at the end and very subtle gospel sharing, so those who expect a strong gospel message within their Christian fiction may be disappointed. In addition, the superstitions and beliefs of the characters may stomp on some toes. However, those who are hungry for honest, transparent stories about tragedy and sorrow, and hope and restoration need to look further into Seitz's novels.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Brandilyn Collins' Amber Morn

Click on the book cover to visit Amazon. Click here to read Brandilyn's previous Dregs interview and here to visit her place.

My Review:

Amber Morn is a big departure from the previous books in the series. Far more of a character compilation and focused heavily at the Java Joint. When I cracked the cover and read the first few pages I was uncertain how I'd end up feeling when it was all said and done. A group of gunmen and a public place full of innocents is ripped from way too many newspapers in way too many cities. I was far more horrified than if a minor character had shown up dead and I got to watch the mystery and horror unfold. This time I was forced to walk through the unfolding horror with no clue who might come out alive and who might not. Chickens beware, Amber Morn is intense.

Nearing the end I began to think there was no way this could turn out pretty or even be resolved. Collins is a masterful writer. She pulled it off and it was believable. Interestingly, I'm glad she has closed the Kanner Lake series. I care enough about the characters that I want Collins to leave them alone and let them get on with the activities of living, in all meanings of the word. I'm glad a sneak peek at her next series shows up at the end of the book. I'm ready to follow her where she's headed next. If you are a Collins fan, you will be, too.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Scribble and Scrambles - A Mother's Sigh

I find the picture of baby porcupines to be the perfect accompaniment to a post about mother pain.

A mother sees the tiny exposed tender underbelly of her child and does what she can to protect it. While the child, especially when reaching a certain age, embraces the quills and doesn't hesitate to use them.

One mother I know struggles with a child who is ill. Very ill. Tender underbelly. The same mom is fending off quills from another child who doesn't quite know how to express fear and sorrow appropriately.

Another mother has raised her family and has opened her home to foster children. After three not-so-wonderful situations she is the unpaid babysitter for a child who was returned to an unhealthy home environment. Did I mention my friend got the baby at mere days of age and had to return the child the day before the first birthday. Now, my friend is willing to do what she can to give this baby a glimpse of love and hope. The few words the child knows are crass and four letter.

Another mother just let go of a little birdie, er...porcupine, who really has no business leaving the nest. This mom envisions a whole season of hard-earned lessons for her baby.

I see this in my own set of two parents. Good grief, I have gray hair (yes, X-ta, more than 25%) yet my parents, and my husband's parents have come to our rescue, given us advice, bandaged us up and sent us out the door again. More often than not, they've nursed a quill wound before the crisis is over.

I want my children to grow up and become the potential that lurks inside of them, begging to get out. But I know that they have to find their own way to that place of wisdom and contentment.

My respect level towards the generation before mine has grown by leaps and bounds. I hope my parents can see a glimpse of wisdom and grace within me.

Pass me the bandages and quill snippers, would ya?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Super Cinema Saturday ~ Juno

I'm going to drop by with some movie reviews now and again. I think I'll pick Saturdays so I can call them Super Cinema Saturday. How's that for clever. And speaking of is the first offical SCS review.

click on the picture to visit Amazon's Juno page.

Description: Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) is a cool, confident teenager who takes a nine-month detour into adulthood when she's faced with an unplanned pregnancy-and sets out to find the perfect parents for her baby. With the help of her charmingly unassuming boyfriend (Michael Cera), supportive dad (J.K Simmons) and no-nonsense stepmom (Allison Janney), Juno sets her sights on an affluent couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) longing to adopt their first child.

My Review:

Juno is one of the most talked about movies of the year, hailed by some, scorned by others. I had the chance to watch it a couple of days ago. Sometimes I feel the need to write a review right away, other experiences compel me to stew over what I read or watched. Juno is a stew movie.

For starters, I'm going to warn cautious parents of young teenagers and tweens to view it before letting their kids loose with Juno. This film is a typical coming of age movie in that sexuality is a very strong theme. Several sexual comments, body part comments and situations that feel inappropriate and seem headed toward a creepy place, pepper the film. There is no overt sexual activity, but there are scenes with clothing being removed and obviously naked, strategically placed persons. Though the cussing is less than I expected, some coarse comments are made in some unexpected scenes. I believe the f-bomb appeared once as a non-verbal and once as a verbal. There are other smatterings of language that are pretty low-key. The screenwriters apparently believe the statement..."cussing shows you lack creativity."

That said, I can now tell you what I loved about the film. The characters are quirky, engaging and people I would likely grow to call friends. Juno plays fragile/tough/transparent and naive all in the typical adolescent roller coaster. She's creative, cynical and fresh. I loved Juno's sarcastic, dry dad and her off-the-wall stepmother. The family, dysfunctional in a loving and bizarrely respectful way, works and radiates a borderline healthy relationship. Juno's confidence and convictions are innocent and sweet and make her character multi-dimensional in all the right ways. Her support system is a delight to watch as they help her through things that are, as stated by Juno, way beyond her maturity level.

Juno's opening credits are creative, a blend of reality and animation that gives a hint that the filmmakers will deliver a visually satisfying film. They do. The dialogue is fabulous. Fans of Napoleon Dynamite might want to check out this meatier, edgier slice of cinema. Fans of Dan in Real Life will probably find much to like in the characters interactions. If you like to laugh and tear up within the same movie, check out Juno.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Scribbles and Scrambles - A Year of Forwards in Review

I'm hard at work cleaning out my e-mail. I have saved some frightening things. I alternate between scratching my head in confusion and laughing out loud at the stuff I've forgotten.

Here are some highlights.

Yeah, hook this clumsy chick up with some of those bad boys.

Very creative. Hey, is that my van?

Happy Spring!!!!!

I'm sure there will be more of these little gems...stay tuned.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Scribble and Scrambles - Let Them Eat Toast

We are conditioned to think that LITTLE kids are the ones with all the cute phraseology and har, har moments. But my big kids still have it.

I tend to like character studies and intricate detail in my books, movies and music. Simple is key, so no dissertations on the complexities of the tsetse fly mating ritual. But I also crave depth on some level.

The Body Farm at the University of Tennessee fascinates me. I don't think I ever want to go on a field trip and give it a look-see or scratch and sniff test but the idea, the details, wow. It's kind of a spiritual zing for me. How cool is my God Who created blood that pools a certain way in certain conditions telling a story about what happened?

I didn't care for my psychology professor so much, but he assigned the book, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." Full of amazing brain malfunctions in still functioning people, and I became amazed with the idea that left could disappear completely, or that proper word choices don't necessarily make it to the mouth. (Ah. So that's my problem.)

My taste in books, movies and music reflects this. Hmmm ,I think I'll call this quality, curiosity, or maybe the sense of absurd. You can call me Abby. As in Abbynormal.

We rented the movie Once a few weeks ago. I watched it first, and then tried to describe it to the others. My family peppered me with questions and finally came out and asked, "Will I like it?" I found myself recommending it to each of them, and yet at the same time warning them away. The obvious issue was the extremely F-word-inated dialogue. Not my favorite word and it shares top billing with the music. However, if you can overlook it, the story is great.

My twenty-one-year-old finally said. "Okay. Is this one of those watch them make toast movies?"

Ha. That's it.

I love the dailiness of life when I connect with characters.
Make all the toast you want, guys, as long as you are doing something else that fascinates me! This sums up my appetite. No, not so much toast, though I do homemade oatmeal toasted with a smear of butter. But my appetite in what I devour in the arts. Give me a fascinating quirk to unearth and I'll watch you make toast for hours.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Generation Next Marriage

Visit Tricia's blog where she chooses a comment a week to win a free book of winner's choice. So if Generation NeXt Marriage looks fab, but the funds are limited, get really wordy at Tricia's place and who knows, you may hold it in your hot little hands in no time. Click on the book cover to visit the Amazon page.

Book Description:

Do you still find yourself humming the love songs of the 80s and 90s?

Do you still believe that every marriage should be between soul mates? you wonder how you can succeed at love and marriage when the generation you grew up in didn’t?

Marriage isn’t what it used to be–it can be better than ever.If you are a Gen Xer, your marriage has challenges and potentials that no other generation has known. A Gen Xer herself, Tricia Goyer offers realistic help to achieve the God-honoring marriage you long for. She includes…

•Ways to protect your marriage despite the broken relationships modeled in your youth

•Stories, suggestions, and confessions from fellow Gen Xers facing the “What now?” question of real-life marriage

•Advice from the ultimate marriage survival guide: the Bible

•Stats, quizzes, sidebars, and study questions related to this “relationally challenged” time in history

•Practical helps for negotiating kids, work, sex, money, and dirty laundry–sometimes all in the same evening

If you are part of a generation of adults who don’t want to bow to their culture or live and love like their parents did . . . this book is for you.

My Review:

Tricia Goyer is back to talk the the Gen X'ers on her most important topic yet. She does an excellent job of getting the message across. Her format is sound bite easy to read. A perfect book for the uber-involved who read in snippets while escaping into the bathroom for some peace and quiet, or while waiting for soccer practice to end.

Being on the early, early edge of Generation X, some of what she shared didn't quite hit the mark with me, especially some of the music she quoted. But during the beginning years of my marriage and child raising, I became aware of the soundtrack for the Gen X'ers and the heartbeat of the generation sounds loud and clear throughout the book. Many of the issues that Tricia covered apply to most generations. So don't let a lack of immersion in the 80's/ 90's culture become a reason to avoid reading what Tricia shared, or for ignoring the truth that needs to be considered.

I appreciate Tricia's honesty. In Generation NeXt Parenting I considered Tricia an expert. Good grief, she homeschools and writes books and... well, you get the picture. But Tricia paints some not so flattering self-portraits in Generation NeXt Marriage that should endear her to an entire generation of wives. Thanks for your transparency, Tricia. And thank John for his willingness to allow your marriage to be placed under a microscope.

I am a firm believer in investing your money into your marriage since marriage is the framework you build on the foundation of Christ. What are you building, a ranch, a modular, a mansion or a shack? Don't buy the book if you have no intention of using it to guide your own growth and change. Don't buy it for your spouse, either. After all, you may be the only book your spouse chooses to read, so without your change, the message is lost.

If you are tired of doing the same old and getting the same old results, you might find it very useful to look at how culture and your early years have shaped you.