Friday, January 14, 2011

Travels: Part III - They Bag the Milk

They really do.  If you go to the grocery store and buy a gallon of milk, when you check out, they put it in a bag.  It's one of many things that are different 'round these parts.

Also, there aren't a lot of hills or mountains.  I mean, sometimes the road goes up and down a bit, but it's not like you every look out the window and say "hey, look at those hills." I grew up in Eugene, which is partly framed by the Coburg Hills, which turn purple and misty sometimes in the early morning hours.  I got really excited when we were driving to Little Rocks a few weeks ago, because for the first time in a long time, I looked out the window and saw a hill, a really ill.  It rose out of the ground, beautiful and green.  I turned to Danny (who was driving) to point it out.  We admired it for a moment...then sniffed.

"Yeah..." Danny said.  "That's an old landfill that's been covered over."


It was pretty, though.  For a landfill.

My favorite BBQ place around here, so far, is Corky's on Poplar.  We stepped inside and were immediately gestured forward as if we were not only expected, but late.  We were seated immediately.  Later we realized how lucky we'd been - the entryway was full of people waiting for a table.  The food was delicious, the fries were the best I've had in Memphis, the staff was friendly and attentive, and everyone wandered around humming along with the strains for Elvis and his contemporaries that played over the sound system.

Also, the food was plated very well.  You come to appreciate this after a while.  And the apple BBQ sauce? Amazing.

The BBQ was good.  We tried going out for Mexican, which turned out to be a mistake.  There just aren't enough Mexicans in the area for good Mexican food.  There were peas in the Spanish rice.  Oh, and they managed to put bacon on the menu.  Authentic Mexican, it wasn't.  Ironically, the place was packed; online, it's reviewed as the best Mexican place in town.

It's been very cold lately, but we're looking forward for a touch of warmth.  We walked through the Memphis Zoo before Christmas.  Next up? Walking through Rhodes college.  It's really beautiful, architecturally.  Also, my grandmother had lunch at the Peabody Hotel in 1947 and watched the ducks walk around the lobby.  The ducks "march" in at 11am daily - I'm thinking duck-watching and lunch, one of these days.

We're still looking for a church.  We've tried a couple, but finding a West-Coast style of worship and teaching in the middle of the Bible Belt is a little tricky.  The funny thing is that Danny's co-workers ask, often, if we've found a church yet.

I know a lot of my readers don't hail from the Pacific Northwest, so let me fill you in - this would never, ever happen back home.  The area is so un-churched and largely anti-Christian that you never approach the subject with a stranger without making observations first (stray Bible verse, book from a Christian publisher, a promise to pray about something, t-shirt/bumper-sticker with religious overtones, etc.), then moving on to oblique questions on the subject.

The funny thing is, once two believers realize they're both believers, a certain amount of spiritual chest-beating can ensue.  Years of Sunday School taught, Bible-Study leadership, Christian College attendance...all of this is to prove that you're not an entry-level believer.

Worry not, evangelism is alive and well in the Northwest.  There are lots of people to spread the gospel to.  The method's just different, that's all.

What really cracks me up out here is that there is, I kid you not, a Baptist Rehabilitation Center.

I love it.  I love it much.

On a completely different subject, the Golden Globes are Sunday!  Barring a terrible time-zone related mix-up (which, surprisingly, happened last year), I'll be micro-blogging through the live broadcast here.  Can't wait! In the meantime, here are some red-carpet tips in case you feel like getting into the spirit of Award Season.  I might keep some in mind for this year's ACFW Banquet!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Game Day

Oregon Football, in the city of Eugene, is a Very Big Deal.

There have been good seasons.  There have been bad seasons.  There have been very, very bad seasons, but this wasn't one of them.

You'd have thought it would be.  They previous season marked Coach Chip Kelly's first season as head coach, taking the reins after the much beloved Mike Belotti shifted into the Athletic Director's chair.  The season started poorly with an embarrassing loss to Idaho State that ended in a fist fight.

After that crushing, ugly day, the Ducks came back with a winning season and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

But the off-season months were marked with player arrests, the loss of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli after he plead guilty to charges of felony second-degree burglary, marijuana possession and a traffic citation. Running back LaMichael James and Ron Beard were suspended from the opening game against New Mexico after they both plead guilty to harassment.

It was bad, but again, didn't stay that way.  The Ducks kept winning, game after game.  LaMichael returned to play.  Darren Thomas turned out to be a good quarterback. The wins continued to stack up. Chip Kelly's critics quieted down and remembered episodes like this. His "Win the Day" motto took hold.

And then the Ducks won Civil War.  Oregon had made its way to the number two spot in the BCS; they'll play tonight for the National Championship.

Did I mention this is a Very Big Deal? The Biggest Deal for Duck Football in Duck Football History?

Bigger than than Kenny Wheaton's Touchdown. Bigger than Joey Harrington tripping into the end zone.

And a lot of other really great moments.

We'll be watching the game tonight.  Being a Eugene native, a third generation UO graduate, and very far from home is honestly kind of tough right now...and not just far from home, but in the heart of SEC Territory.

The national attention for the Ducks has been fun.  I mean, Sebastian Bach (of Gilmore Girls and Skid Row) writing a Duck power ballad?

Not to be missed.

Or the music it's inspired?

Also not to be missed. And my parent's dog, Brinkley?

He's so ready.  Me? I've been waiting for this day for a long, long time.

Me, giving the Ducks a thumb's up.
While I'm sad I can't be in Eugene to celebrate with everyone, what makes me happy is seeing the Ducks, and  my hometown, in the national limelight.  It's a great place.  There really is no place like home.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Listening In

We were sitting in a restaurant in Arkansas; the little boy behind me, voice laden with drawl, expounded on how good he was at "ropin'," and how he had his eye on a new Stetson that could be found at "Wahllgreens."

I smiled in delight and leaned forward towards Danny. "Are you hearing all this?" I asked.  "This is fantastic!"

Danny shook his head.  "I try not to listen to other people's conversations."

I didn't know what to say to that.  I live for other people's conversations.  They're one of my great joys in life.  Keeping in tune to others helps me keep my dialogue realistic, and reassures me of the quirkiness of others.  But my husband had spent a lifetime granting privacy to others, which made me feel guilty.

Until I read this and discovered - I'm not alone! And I agree with Connie - y'all are fascinating.  My favorite places to hear things tend to be dressing rooms, where people don't realize that even if you can't see everyone else, it's doesn't mean we're out of earshot.  Whether it's body image confessionals from angsty teens or cries of delight from little girls in dresses ("It's poufy and pink and it twirls!"), it's all insights into human nature.  Same for women's restrooms (as noted here).

And not to be left out, restaurants.  While sitting and working on a book proposal, I can't help but hear a young man speaking with great authority on the subject of breast feeding.  Not only does he spend several minutes expounding on said feeding, but he does so to two other young men and a woman.

Now, another moment's listening clarifies things to the point where I gather that they'r pre-med students.  But that's besides the point.

I write fiction; I make up stuff people say for a living.  But real life? There's no way I could match it.  Fiction is good, but life?

It's grand.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bright Side

It's been a doozy of a year.  Difficult, in many, many ways.  I kicked it off at the start with the release of one book (Plain Jayne) while being waaaaay behind schedule on another (Simply Sara, the little snot). I got my first taste of book signings, radio interviews, and publicity campaigns. Danny had a promising job offer, which was very exciting until it fell through.

We continued by getting Danny done with graduate school, me turning in Sara (she redeemed herself), and flying out to the East Coast so Danny could properly matriculate, which he turned out to be very good at.  I was supposed to be working on galley edits while we were out, which I turned out not to be very good at.

During the summer, Danny and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  I taught at Oregon Christian Writers; Danny recovered from graduate school.  By the end of that week, both my grandfather and Danny's grandfather went home to Jesus.  We traveled to one memorial and wished that we could have been at the other as well.  Simply Sara released, looking a little out of breath. Short weeks later, not only had the previous job offer been placed back on table, but it was backed up by an interview in Memphis while I attended my first ACFW conference.

As the weeks progressed, we prepared ourselves for a move to the Mid-South when the company came back and offered Danny a job in their Richland, Washington office, a move that stunned us both but felt like a grand idea.  We tidied, we donated, we packed, we moved, we relied on the kindness of others and later drove across the country so Danny could do his engineer training in Memphis.

It's been a tricky year.  We've had a lot of loss, change, difficulties, both personal and professional.  It's been hard some times to choose joy, to choose to examine the beautiful parts while giving mourning its due.

During our trip to the East Coast we got to see some of the best-looking ceilings in the country

The Library of Congress


The National Cathedral

 ...and some of it's prettiest architecture.  We've gotten to visit children we love...

...and enjoy the simple beauty of God's creation near our home.

We've had adventures, and we will have more.  We visited 19 states, made new friends, visited old ones.  It's been a big year for us, and I don't have any reason to think next year won't be just as crazy.

So I'm embracing the crazy.  As long as the Father knows what He's doing (and He assures me He does), I eagerly anticipate what the next year has in store for us.