Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas, and a Contest (sort of)

Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! My daughter ended up with a broken leg a few days before! But she's got a nice bright pink cast now, which my wife stenciled with daisies and hearts, so she's all good.

This year, my wife and I did our "stocking game" again. It really is the best event of the holiday season. Spending limit: $20. But this year we had 7 Christmas words, and we each drew one out from a box and threw away the rest. Then, we had to buy presents that spelled the Christmas word for the other person. When it came time to open them, we had to try to figure out the word.

My wife had ANGELS, meaning, she had to buy gifts for me spelling the word ANGELS. I did the same for her with the word SHEPHERD. A lot of fun, and tricky, since we only had about an hour to find all the gifts. (I kind of cheated, though. I had trouble finding another H, so I had to pick Hazelnut Cappuccino Coolers, but Hazelnut really was the flavor, not the name of the product.)

Last thing. As I mentioned in my last entry, I was going to post my children's short story to my website. Well, it is now available. Go check out The Tri-Country Airplane Throwing Contest and let me know what you think. Better yet, print it out and give it to one of your children and let me know what they think of it! It is, after all, for kids.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Upcoming News

I'm not yet listing this news on my website because it is a bit early, but I figured I'd mentioned it here.

First of all, a few months ago I had a short story accepted for publication in Beyond Centauri, which is a science fiction/fantasy print magazine for young adults. My story, The Dreammaker, will appear in the January issue. I'll post when the magazine is available officially, but I'm excited because it is my first print publication credit, as well as my first young-adult credit.

Second, I had written a children's story (amazingly, involving absolutely nothing supernatural!), which I have shopped around to a couple major kid's publications. Neither accepted it, so I'm going to place it up on my stories section. Since it is for kids, I'll welcome anyone to print it out and give it to their children to read. In the next week or so, it should be up.

And, since we are approaching Christmas, I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas now, in case I don't get a chance to post again before then!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Diabetic Role Model

When I was just a sprig in Tennessee (err, a kid in a middle school in Michigan...but I just watched one of the Christmas episodes of Little House on the Prairie last night), I was quickly turned into a diabetic role model.

See, I wasn't the only diabetic in my middle school. In fact, there were four of us...which, statistically speaking, is rather impressive. Anyhow, the school nurse thought it was important for us diabetics to form this special club or something, meeting once a month to discuss all the trials and tribulations of having the disease. She would also use it as a way to sneak in lessons on nutrition, but I was on to her about that.

Anyhow, the thing is, by the time I was in middle school, I was well versed in my disease, and was pretty much over any "issues" that might come along with it.

But there was another boy with diabetes who wasn't over it. He had been recently diagnosed and was bitter about it, to the point of trying to pretend he didn't have the disease at all. Given he was likely still experiencing a bit of honeymoon period (time when the body hadn't fully quit producing insulin), he would try to go days at a time without taking his insulin, and ultimately end up in the hospital.

So, I was elected (by way of an anarchy, was the single vote of the school nurse that mattered) to be this other boy's role model. I was to befriend him, talk to him about dealing with diabetes, etc. And I did just that.

I'm not sure how much of a role model I actually was, though, because mostly I thought he was kind of a whiny baby. I mean, get over it already. You're a diabetic! All your bemoaning isn't gonna change that!

But, regardless, he did confide in me, and I helped him through a few rough times over the course of about two years.

I've always been somewhat of a loner when it comes to my diabetes. I pretty much take care of it myself, only relying on my endocrinologist to write me prescriptions and run my A1c tests. But looking back in hindsight, having dealt with a great many more diabetics, I can see how important it is for some to have such a role model...someone to inspire them to push through the emotional turmoil it apparently brings. Someone to teach them. Someone who will listen and understand. And then I realize how even I, the loner, find myself drawn into diabetic-exclusive conversations when I meet with a fellow diabetic.

We are a club. We have something in common that those without the disease can't ever completely understand. For some, like myself, it isn't a big deal. For others, it is a major life-changing event. Regardless, there is an instant comradery among diabetics that seems to transcend other differences in personality and beliefs.

Like it or not, I'm a role model. I always have been. And those of you who have lived with diabetes for years are role models as well. You see it in the Diabetes "OC". You see it in such on-line groups as And if you have a child with diabetes, you just might want to encourage them to become a diabetic role model as well. Because there is something amazingly transforming when you realize that you have something to offer to others that they can't get anywhere else. Becoming a role model empowers that person by helping others.

I don't know whatever happened to the boy I helped back in my middle school days. We went to different high schools and never saw him again. But I can't help but believe that I made a difference in his life.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

O Christmas Tree

Have you heard about the airport in Seattle that removed the Christmas trees?

The whole situation is kind of sad. Apparently, in response to the fact that there were Christmas trees, a Jewish Rabbi requested that menorahs be placed in the airport as well. Of course, the airport, now fearing that if they placed a menorah, would then have to follow with other holiday decorations, decided to just take down all the Christmas trees instead.

This wasn't what the Rabbi had wanted, nor the airport workers. The workers pooled their money and bought Christmas trees of their own and put them up.

What makes this situation odd to me is that idea that Christmas trees are a Christian symbol. They aren't, actually. Despite having become associated with Christmas, the Christmas tree is not originally grounded in Christian tradition. It has nothing to do with Christ or his birth. And, actually, the time of year we celebrate Christmas really has nothing to do with the Bible. It was originally chosen to coincide with some pagan celebration.

Perhaps I'm odd. When I see a Christmas tree, I don't think of Jesus. I think of the holiday season. Now, I suppose if the airport had put up a nativity, it is a different issue, as that is clearly religious in nature. But Christmas trees?

Not that I blame the Rabbi in this, either. I certainly would have no issue about there being a menorah. The festival of lights and the event that the menorah represents demonstrates the power of God in a time before Christ. Problem is, if you put up a menorah, you definitely are placing a religious symbol up...which could lead to Christians insisting on putting up a nativity.

Rather circular problem I think. And, as I understand it, up until this past century, the festival of lights was a rather minor holiday as Jewish holidays go.

Whether people think the Rabbi was wrong for asking to put up the menorahs, or the airport was wrong for taking down the Christmas tree, or the airport workers were wrong for putting up their own trees in protest...I think it demonstrates something sad. People seem to forget that these holidays are meaningful to individuals. The public display of such symbols are in response to individuals wanting them there. Isn't this supposed to be a world of "tolerance"? (Which, actually, I take issue with...but I won't get into that here.) Yet, rather than tolerating anything, we say, "Hey, they got their way...I should get my way, too!"

That's not exactly tolerance.

Well, really...I think everyone should stop worrying about who wants to display their Christmas tree or menorah and get back to the real reason for the holiday season: shopping!

(Uh, that's a joke, by the way. Sarcasm. You know?)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Getting It All Wrong

I was rather irritated with last night's episode of ER.

Actually, this entire season hasn't been all that great, but I've been watching the show since it's inception, so it is hard to give up, you know? Anyhow, if you don't watch, they introduced this character this season who is supposed to be a Bible-believing Christian. And, of course, they decided to cast this character as a stereotypical dumb-blonde. I've tried to tolerate that, because it is, after all, ER.

But last night made me mad. Because we got to "sit in" on a Bible study.

Apparently, the writer's of ER have never actually been to a Bible study. Because generally speaking, a Bible is involved. Here, it was more like a group therapy session. And while there isn't anything wrong with that...there is when the supposed leader of the Bible study is offering advice that is counter what the Bible says.

And then further, it is most frustrating when the one character who is sitting in who doesn't believe any of it sort of lies, making up a bunch of stuff about "purity of spirit", and suddenly everyone in the Bible study is swayed to his way of thinking, accepting the fact that everything they have been studying (presumably, even though they didn't really show it) is "antiquated".

I felt a bit ill at that moment. I mean, it was a blow to Christians who truly believe, who turn to the Bible, and yet have this show that just tried to imply that everything they believe is antiquated and irrelevant, etc.

One major flaw I saw was when the leader went around the room to talk about how you should deal with various sins. So, for the sin of pride, offer up humility, etc. Good. Fine. Then comes the issue of "lust". This is where, of course, the non-believing character says to offer up "purity."

Okay. Except the leader said, "Well, I was looking for chastity..."

Right there. That's where things went bad. Because, guess what? Chastity isn't the Bible's answer to lust. Chastity and "sexual purity" are not the same thing. (Oh, and when the guy said "purity", he wasn't talking "sexual purity", but this ambiguous "purity of spirit", which was meaningless, but apparently everything in the room loved because it meant they could go and have as much sex as they wanted or something.)

Anyhow, believe it or not, the Bible encourages sex. It celebrates it (Song of Solomon) in fact, and Paul actually instructs the church that they should get married and have sex! Why? Because of lust!

Sex is the answer to lust, not chastity. Of course, the Bible expects sexual purity, meaning that sex is kept within the marriage. But within that marriage, you're supposed to be having a grand old time in bed!

You know, I don't really have a problem if people don't want to believe that. What I have a problem with is ER making fun of the Christian belief, and even goes so far to get that belief wrong. Yeah. It's easy to poke holes at a belief that isn't actually accurate.

In the end, the Bible-believing Christian doctor decides that it is okay to have sex any old time as long as there is "purity of spirit", and the non-believing doctor decides, for the first time in his life, not to have sex. (Which is a portrayal I don't necessarily have an issue with, since that happens. Plenty of Christians fail to live up to sexual purity. It is one of the reasons, in fact, we believe...because we fail!)

Next time, get it right, ER. Why not actually show Christianity, for once, how it actually is rather than trying to insult us with misrepresentation? I don't know. Maybe it wasn't intentional. Regardless, count me as one who found the whole thing offensive.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Family That's Sick Together...

Bronchitis. Fever. Sore Throat. Coughing. Runny Nose. Ear infection.

These are just some of the things in our house right now. Six people in our family, and six people with some degree of illness.

'Tis the season to be sick, I guess. I was sick a month ago, and got over it. But in the past day, my cough is returning. My oldest boy had avoided any signs of illness until two days ago, when he started complaining of a sore throat.

There is a positive to the family that's sick together...I just don't know what that positive is yet. I'm sure I'll think of something eventually.

It's a bad time for it, too. (Not that there's ever a good time to be sick.) I have a choir Christmas program this weekend. Three performances. Plus, Saturday, my family (well, those here in Michigan) is having the annual Christmas get-together where we over-eat and hand out gifts to our nieces and nephews. So, we'll probably end up contaminating their families in the process, just in time for Christmas!

And speaking of choir programs...I'm very excited about this year's program. See, it's not just a choir program. It is an entire drama. And this year, I wrote the script. Well, not all of it. See, our Worship Minister had these comedy "sketches" (apparently, no longer called skits) he found in this book. They were short, unrelated sketches. And then we had a choir program with a bunch of Christmas songs of various styles, but again, unrelated.

So, he called upon me to write a funny script to tie it all together. And so, in two months time, I had done just that. It was rather fun, because I'd never really written comedy before until this past summer. And that script was only about seven pages. This script was considerably longer, written for four main characters instead of one. The promo for the program (which I also wrote) goes like this:
It's Christmas Eve, you're trapped in an elevator with four strangers, and the mall just closed leaving no hope of rescue.

No, it's not a promo for Die Hard 10 - it's a hilarious peek into the peculiar lives of Randy, Martha, Stephen, and Mel. Can they learn to recapture their Christmas spirit? Or will the elevator music get to them first?
On Monday, we had our first full rehearsal...and it was my first chance to see my script acted out. What a feeling, to see something you worked hard on come alive like that. I've done other choir programs before, written narrations, even wrote a complete choir program, music and all...yet, this was the first time I wrote of this caliber something outside my usual comfort zone.

So, if you're in Southeast Michigan this weekend and want to come see something funny, let me know and I'll tell you where to go!

Monday, December 04, 2006

If They Could Just Stay Little...

So, my boys have outgrown their Carter's outfits. They are into Spiderman and Jedis, and have even taken a fascination with basketball.

And it seems my oldest boy is moving into a new stage of maturity. *Sniffle*

It seems, without consulting us (his parents) first, he has decided to become...responsible! It is a scary thing, because it means we (his parents) have to loosen our grip a bit more than we're ready to do.

But he's ready. He's all for it. A few days ago, I even assigned him his first home-improvement project: replacing an outlet cover in his bedroom. It had one of those child safety ones where you have to press a button to access the outlet. But, such a cover prevented the ability to plug certain things in. So, I handed him a screwdriver and outlet cover and let him at it.

Of course, I did this without telling my wife until after he was done, at which point she said, "But, he could have electrocuted himself!"

But she is handling it all quite well, having discussed with him how hard it will be for us to give him more responsibility, but how we know he's ready, so be patient with us. (My wife is always so incredibly perceptive of our kids, and actually, you know, talks to them about things like this, which they, of course, love. Weird.)

And so I have to wonder what's next. This is just a small precursor to such big events in his life, from ordering his own food at Burger King, going through puberty, to eventually learning to drive a car (eek!), falling in love, getting married, having children...

Uh. I'm getting ahead of myself. I can't take it in all at once. Thankfully, children don't grow up quite that fast...though it seems close to it. Still, I can't help but wish if they could just stay little until their Carter's wear out. Because this whole giving them responsibilities thing is hard.

I guess it's time to have that Spiderman talk. "With great power comes great responsibility." We'll tackle the birds and the bees later. *Gulp*

Friday, December 01, 2006

Great book, for teens, kids, and grown-ups, too!

Right now, I'm in the process of finishing reading my first book by author Scott Westerfeld.

Uglies is a story set in a future where being ugly (that is, normal looking) is practically a crime, where everyone, on their sixteenth birthday, is turned pretty. The main character, Tally, can't wait to be pretty so she can be with her best friend...who was already turned pretty three months earlier.

Generally, I haven't made many book recommendations here, but I felt Mr. Westerfeld's work deserves some recognition. It really is fantastic. The book is targeted as the young adult/teen, but it is written in a way that can appear to younger kids, as well as adults. In fact, since I was "reading" it in audiobook format, my older boys were really enjoying hearing parts of it. So much so, that my oldest said to me, "You'd better not listen to this without us!" (I think they were drawn in by the concept of the hoverboard, which plays a prevalent role in the book.)

I've really enjoyed every minute of the book, and am excited to finish it. (Only a couple chapters to go.) Mr. Westerfeld has a way of really capturing the thoughts and feelings of the 16-year-old protagonist, Tally. She is an imperfect character, whose flaws go beyond being "ugly". Yet she is a character you care about, and see her struggling with knowing just what the right thing to do is.

On top of this, Mr. Westerfeld paints a believable, albeit far-fetched, future.

One bit of irony in this is that my short story, "Buyer's Remorse", which can be found in the stories section of my website, has a very similar extrapolation of the future. When I first read a blurb about Uglies, in fact, I was a bit taken aback.

Fabulous book, however. Part one of a trilogy. If there is a young adult in your life who enjoys to read, you might consider this for them! Or, for yourself!