Friday, October 27, 2006

Butterfly in the Sky....

...I can go twice as high! Take a look, it's in a book, it's Reading Rainbow!

Thought I'd throw in a nice 80's flashback for those that grew up with the wonderful world of educational TV on PBS. And for those that weren't allowed to watch much TV at a young age maybe that's a good thing. But regardless, this post comes with a special shoutout to all my peops that fondly remember Levar Burton from a kids show as well as roles like Lt. Geordi La Forge or Kunta Kinte.

Really though, this has nothing to do with Reading Rainbow, Levar Burton or the 80's. Rather, I wanted to point out a new blog feature I added. I've been a member and fan of Library Thing for quite some time now and you've probably noticed the "Last Five Books I Read" feature I added to the blog. Well now I added a Search My Library feature as well! If you don't see it to the right of this entry it probably means you're using Internet Explorer which for some reason likes to place my sidebar material at the bottom of the blog - scroll down and it should be there - go figure.

In case anyone wants to trade book recommendations, it's a pretty good way to see if I've read something on a particular topic or by a particular author. Go ahead and try it out. You can enter a title (ex: There Are No Children Here, Brimstone), author (ex: Mikhail Bulgakov, Neil Gaiman), or even a tag (ex: nonfiction, thriller, fantasy, Christmas, genetics, classic, youth, architecture, Italy, Africa, chocolate, pirates, etc) and it should* return a list of books I've read in the past few years. Also, you can run a search on your favorite book and if it doesn't come up, email me if you think I should read it! There's a few books in there tagged "want to own" that are on my watch list of things to read in the near future - and a few books are grouped as collections instead of individually (Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Icewind Dale Trilogy) - but otherwise I'll have something to say about anything that comes up. Enjoy!

*A note on the search feature, feel free to have fun with it. The tags I listed are actual tags I've used but there are plenty other topics, subjects and even characters (try Pendergast, Mallory or Dresden). Also if you enter a multi-word search use quotes or the returns will hit either word - for example historical fiction will return hits for historical and/or fiction where as "historical fiction" will only hit books tagged historical fiction. Similarly with authors a Charles Dickens search will give books by Charles Dickens and Charles DeLint but a "Charles Dickens" search will only return works by Charles Dickens.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Meeting Bob

So by now you all know that I'm a huge nerd. I'm not ashamed of that fact and I'm even proud to admit that I haven't grown out of my teenage obsession with fantasy novels. Partly because a well-written book is just that, regardless of genre or target audience. Over the years I've chosen a favorite fantasy author and I know I've lauded him before but truly R.A. Salvatore is someone I consider a literary genius. What makes this story cooler than my past rants about his new books is that last night I got to meet him at the Borders store in Schaumburg!! Okay, maybe you're not jumping for joy with me but understand a few things - I've been reading his novels for more than a decade; I now can list him as an amazing author and a really nice guy; and I am currently reading not just a brand new copy of Road of the Patriarch, but a brand new signed copy of Road of the Patriarch! The best part was that he had a question and answer session before the signing and shared some information about his current projects - including a new novel to be released next summer rather than in the fall! I thought long and hard about what to ask when he began taking questions - and seriously, I could probably sit through an entire meal with the guy and not run out of things I'd love to ask (like what does the A. stand for?). I whittled down my mental checklist and asked him a question about his trademark dualistic nature of writing (he varies action/adventure sequences with introspective, poignant moments and the balance of these styles bring lots of color and uniqueness to his books - the reader connects more with the characters and is often challenged with unanswered philosophical questions). He replied that he enjoys writing the adventurous parts but that he sees the reflective portions as giving more meaning to his books. I found it exceptionally cool that his response mirrored my own, reader's standpoint, opinion. Anyhoo, it was a really fun evening and now displaces Jim McMahon in my lab and seeing Vince Vaughn at the Museum of Science and Industry as my favorite celebrity experience! Plus my train rides for the rest of the week will be made much more enjoyable by my new book... my new signed book!! :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What the.....???

There's something very surreal (happy, but surreal) about hearing news that your friends from junior high are having babies. What's with this whole "growing up" deal anyway? Jeez! You'd think we were like almost 30 or something....

Monday, October 16, 2006

Playing with a Full Deck

It was a good weekend. It was an interesting weekend. It was an exhausting weekend. It was a God weekend. (Oh come on, don't tune me out just cause I'm gonna talk about God. Bear with me and read the whole post, you might learn a little something about who I am... or at least who I'm trying to be.)

Friday night Tony and I attended a leadership conference at our church. It was appropriately titled the Jump conference and focused on the scripture in which Peter jumps out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus. I've heard this passage used to teach a number of different lessons in the past (keep your eyes fixed on God, don't be afraid of life's storms, God is always with you, etc.) but this time the message was about listening to God and jumping at the opportunity to join Him. The night was really great and filled with energy (especially with an appearance by the Jesse White Tumblers - those kids rock!) but at one point I found myself fighting back tears. All this talk about God calling and here was me, unable to even remember the last time I really heard God's voice.

Sure, He's led me to some amazing things recently with serving opportunities in student ministry, helping on the setup team, and community development projects like teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in East Aurora. But I started to wonder, am I doing too much? Am I spreading myself too thin? I know I've heard the theory repeatedly that taking on a "Jack of All Trades" mentality in ministry can lead to a proverbial "Master of None" result. And yet, that's not me. I have a passion and joy for every area that I'm involved in. Student Community is a way to impact a new generation and help young girls grow in the faith and confidence that I didn't find until my college years. Setup team is a way for me to connect with and serve my local congregation (plus it's very much an under-served, under-appreciated necessity - at 6 am on Sunday morning, you can see why the volunteers aren't pouring in). And the ESL classes are a great way to share my resources (extensive knowledge of English, minimal knowledge of Spanish, and a penchant for cookie baking) with those who can benefit from them.

So what does this mean for me as some sort of ministry profile? Do my multiple passions act against each other driving me towards inevitable burn out? Surprisingly, no. (Although as my disclaimer: taking thirty hours of classwork on top of this has made things a smidge more stressful.) I thrive on the variety. I could no more pick a single area to serve than a card shark could choose a single suit. Give me clubs, diamonds, spades and hearts - I don't want to play without a full deck. I love the opportunities available before me and not using various gifts and resources leaves me feeling hollow and bored. I mentioned earlier that I felt sad at not hearing God lately but I think my simple acknowledgement of that fact opened my eyes and ears to hear Him more. Yesterday morning in a message about focusing on being a Christ follower rather than being culturally Christian a verse jumped out at me that I memorized on the spot:
"I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life away" ~Matthew 20:28
Maybe I'm crazy, but to me that was God speaking. Someone once told me that I was doing too much church and community service and I needed to get a life. What they didn't realize was that my purpose in doing so much is to try to give mine away.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Yay! Blogger Arrow is officially one year old today!! Oddly enough, this also marks my 100th post! How's that for special occasions? In case that's not momentous enough, I've also made the switch from Blogger to Blogger Beta - which means little other than quicker posting on my part and hopefully some template improvements. Thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

High School and Naked Mole Rats

I felt really weird when I got to the train station this morning. It wasn't the start of a stomach flu or late season allergies. This was a weird feeling of the mental sort - one that I'm rarely, if ever, prone to feeling. I felt old.

See, as I walked up to the platform past the familiar three-piece-suits and Starbucks junkies, there was a new crowd waiting for my 7:40: twenty to thirty high schoolers - from my old high school - taking a field trip. Their jackets and sweatshirts were proudly bearing the bright orange N that flooded me with a rush of teenage nostalgia. And sure, they seemed much younger and much less cool than I remember thinking myself to be, when as a junior or senior certain classes got the privilege of train-to-Chicago field trips, but that's not what made me feel old. Rather as I watched them gathering around their teacher, eagerly calling out "here" as he took attendance, I recognized the teacher. I didn't say hello because he wasn't a teacher that I ever had, but he was certainly a teacher that all students knew, or at least knew of. He was The Cool Teacher. The hip, young, ponytail-sporting social-studies teacher that was talked about in all the hallways in sentences usually consisting of little more than "He's SOOO cool!!!" But today he didn't have his trademark ponytail. His hair was shorter with gray strands around the temples. His characteristic John Lennon glasses were replaced with larger frames, likely bifocals. Not to say that there's anything wrong with these outward signs of aging, but the largest contrast between "The Cool Teacher" I remember and this authoritative leader of high school students at the train station was a lack of fun. No smile graced his goateed face, no laughter echoed from the crowd around him. Perhaps there was just a certain element of field trip stress that tuned down a normally jovial attitude, but maybe it was something else. And what was worse, I saw the same drudgerous lack of joy in my own morning. That's what made me feel old more than anything. I'm reminded of a quote that says "We don't stop playing because we grow up, we grow up because we stop playing."

As I got on the train I was pondering this all and I couldn't help but think about the whole idea of growing up and aging in general. It made me stop and think about naked mole rats. Random, right? I'll explain. Let's look at two things that as a culture or society Americans are generally obsessed with - Youth and Beauty. If anyone wants to doubt the truth of that overly generalized claim, go down to your local drug store and peruse the aisles upon aisles of anti-aging and anti-wrinkle creams, masks, supplements, etc. etc. etc. If that doesn't convince you, all I have to say is Botox - the fact that in the name of beauty and less wrinkles Americans will go so far as to have someone subcutaneously inject them with the world's deadliest toxin is saying something for sure.

But back to the mole rats. Ugly little suckers aren't they? A biology friend of mine from college used to say "Awww, they're so ugly, they're cute!!" That's debatable, but I digress. Naked mole rats are one of the animals most commonly used in studies of aging and age related illnesses. They're from the rodent family, just as the common mouse is, but unlike the three year life-span of the mouse, naked mole rats live for an average of 28 years. So perhaps as Americans we fear our similarity to these critters and would rather have three beautiful years as a cute fuzzy little mouse than 28 years growing into a wrinkly naked mole rat.

But seriously, what's so bad about aging? Like the quote above says, we don't have to "grow up" just because our prime numbered birthdays get farther and farther apart. Heck with wrinkle-creams and Botox, you want an anti-aging solution? Have fun! Enjoy each day for all it's worth! Every year that passes doesn't have to mean fear of gray hairs and dreading the need for reading glasses, rather every new year is an opportunity to learn more, see more, do more, play more and be more. Perhaps the last two in the list are the hardest yet most important of the bunch.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Alpha to Zulu

The tradition of Stupid Holidays I love to Celebrate continues:

Happy Over-And-Out Day!

I couldn't tell you who originally invented this one but I always credit it to my friend Lauren cause I'm pretty sure she's the one who first told me about it. For anyone who's a little bit slow, it's Over-And-Out Day because it's October 4th so when you write the date in numbers it's 10/4, as in the radio command "10-4, Over and Out" (which makes me wonder if we were in Europe if we would celebrate this on April 10th instead...) Some argue that "10-4 Over and Out" is just a hollywoodized interpretation of radio language (in CB speak since Over is "message received" and Out is "ending communication", they are typically not used together), it's still fun to use the day as an excuse to insert some alphas, bravos, and niners into your everyday conversation. Enjoy!

lima india sierra alpha :)