I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

More ALF

Anybody in the mood for a few more ALF quotes from season three on DVD? I hope so. I’m at the end of the season now, so you wouldn’t be seeing any more from him for a while:

* * * * *

“Boy, point out one major flaw in someone’s belief system and they take it personally.”

* * * * *

“Have them throw the book at the guy. Preferably something by James Michener.”

* * * * *

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And so do I.”

* * * * *

“On Melmac I never thought much about having kids. You know how it is where you’re in your 220’s. You think you have all the time in the world.”

* * * * *

“The three stages of courtship on Melmac are: exchange left socks, trade belly-button lent, and spit in each other’s soup.”

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Written Word

I wrote about my first road trip a couple of weeks ago and in that post I told you about meeting my dad outside of St. Louis at a hotel called Noah’s Arc. I haven’t driven by that hotel in many years. My sister, who lives in St. Louis, read my post and snapped a few photos of Noah’s Arc and e-mailed them to me a couple of days ago. I think these are photos of the lobby area, and not the hotel itself, but I could be wrong.

I knew that the place closed down, but actually seeing what it looks like now, as compared to that day I met my dad there was unbelievable. Here’s how it looks now (it doesn’t even have the animals poking their heads through the roof!):

I wish I had photos of the way it looked previously, but just imagine it looking clean and virbrant (and with animals). Eventually I’m sure the place will be torn down and something else will be built in its place. I’ve written about the power of place and about how much I struggle when places that mean a lot to me change.

While I still find such situations a bit sad, it gives me more motivation to record such memories with the written word. Written words outlast places, photos, and memories. They live on and on to be read by the generations that follow.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Donald Miller

Today is the first week in our Top Ten Series featuring my favorite authors. The writers on my top ten list may or may not be great writers. Great writing is subjective anyway. The authors I’ll talk about in this series are people who have taught, challenged, inspired, or entertained me.

Feel free to comment about each author I spotlight, or about your own favorite authors. Just be sure to tell us why you enjoy the author you are commenting about.

#10: Donald Miller

I’ve only read two of Donald Miller’s four books, but they were good enough to make him my tenth favorite author (as of this moment). I read Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality over the summer and I was really moved by it. The one thing you’ll hear people say repeatedly about Miller is that they are drawn by his honesty. I am too. He’s not afraid to tell you how he feels about politics (pretty far left), or the church (sometimes he’s too hard on it for my taste), or his own struggle to understand God. I wrote more about this book in June and July. Click here or here if you are interested in reading those posts.

Most recently, I read To Own a Dragon: Reflections of Growing Up Without a Father by Miller. I wrote about it here and here. True to form, Miller is quite relatable in this book about his own experience of growing up without a father. Here is brief glimpse from the book that really hit home with me:

“For me a father is nothing more than a character in a fairy tale. And I know fathers are not like dragons in that fathers actually exist, but I don’t remember feeling that a father existed for me...I don’t say this out of self-pity, because in a way I don’t miss having a father any more than I miss having a dragon. But in another way, I find myself wondering if I missed out on something important.”

How good is that?

Miller has his critics though. Just check out the comments on Amazon.com about Blue Like Jazz. Frankly, I agree with much of what they say. I disagree with most of his theology (or sometimes, lack thereof). And at times, I get the feeling that he doesn’t think that absolute answers actually exist, so consequently, we shouldn’t even be attempting to understand doctrine. If I’m reading him correctly, then I couldn’t disagree more.

So why is he one of my favorite writers? Because his honesty and his desire to live out his faith in the trenches challenges and inspires me. And any author who can do that can count on me purchasing and reading most of what he or she writes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Save the Last Dance

I watched Save the Last Dance for the first time this past weekend. After the movie was over, I watched the deleted scenes in the special features section of the DVD. One particular scene should have been left in the movie. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.

As you probably know, the movie is about a 17 year-old girl named Sara (played by Julia Stiles) who loses her mother in a car accident and ends up moving to another city to live with her dad—a guy she hardly knows. Her main goal in life has been to become a ballerina with the Julliard School. But since her mother was always so supportive, Sara has a hard time even returning to dancing after her mother dies. She feels guilty (for reasons I won’t go into) and she feels like dancing is part of who she used to be, not who she currently is.

The movie has many other interesting elements—including race relations, but I want to focus on a minor portion of the plot. Sara’s father, Roy, admits to making mistakes in the past and he knows he hasn’t been a good father. He’s just hoping that Sara will find a way to give him another chance now that she’s under his roof. Roy is a jazz musician who plays the horn in jazz clubs at night in order to pay the bills.

In one of the deleted scene that I referred to earlier, Sara, sneaks into a club that he’s playing in one night and she spots Roy on-stage—fully engaged in playing the horn with the rest of his band. His eyes are closed and people all around the club seem quite taken with his music. By seeing him in his “element,” Sara has the chance to see her father doing what he does best, and she seemed to understand him better after that. He became a real person, with real ambitions, and a real desire to create something great.

We can learn so much about people by viewing them in their element. People are more at ease there. They are more creative there. They feel free to be who they are, rather than who they are supposed to be. Everything seems to flow and it’s beautiful to watch.

Most of us don’t just allow anybody to waltz into our most prized, protected areas of life though. We reserve such places for people we want to go deeper with. But at the same time, it’s not hard to find a person’s element. Deep inside, we all have an innate desire to let others in. We continually send out signals to people we care about concerning the things that matter to us. The fun starts when somebody else grasps onto one of those signals and desires to find out more.

But we could all learn something from Sara. She wanted to know more about who her dad really was, so she grasped onto his signals. If all of us spent a little more time grasping, and a little less time sending, we’d feel considerably less lonely.

Friday, November 24, 2006

PDA vs. Paper?

A few years ago, I took the plunge and bought a Palm Pilot m515. Before that I’d used various daytimers to help me keep track of where I was supposed to be. I loved the ability to sync my Palm Pilot with my computer, and I loved having my entire address book at my finger tips no matter where I was. But at the same time, my Palm Pilot failed me when it came to recording thoughts and tidbits of information that really didn’t fit on the calendar. It had a memo pad, but have you ever tried to actually write or punch keys with a stylus?

I’ve continued to carry my Palm Pilot around because it does hold a lot of information in a very small place, but over the past year, I’ve also loved carrying a moleskine notebook around and capturing all the things that won’t easily go into a Palm Pilot. I’ve read and heard about people who are switching back from PDAs to paper and I can totally understand where they are coming from. Something about the freedom that paper brings is still alluring to me, but at the same time, I’ve never been able to make paper totally work for me. I’ve been stuck in digital vs. paper limbo-land and unable to decide between the two.

Recently, I missed a couple of key work-related e-mails when on the road and one of them almost cost me an assignment. Not because I did anything wrong, but simply because timing mattered and I didn’t get the e-mail until after I got back to my hotel that night—but the event had already occurred. So last week I took advantage of the fact that my cell phone contract ran out and I took the carrot they dangle in front of customers every two years to get a free phone (or a credit toward a new one if you get something a little fancier) and I picked up a BlackBerry 8703e.

I’ve only had it a week, but I love it already. I get my e-mail no matter where I am now and I can respond instantly if I so choose. It has a great calendar feature (which syncs with Google Calendar or Outlook), and it has Bluetooth technology so when I’m on the road I’m hands free on the phone. But with all that said, it still lacks the usability of a moleskine notebook for writing down thoughts, tasks to be done, manuscript ideas, etc.

So, I’ve come to a conclusion this past week. I know that most people are either PDA people or a paper people. I’m a PDPA (personal digital paper assistant) person. I need both. My brain doesn’t function on all gears without both. I know we are supposed to be heading for a paperless society, but take a look around the area you do your bills, taxes, and “paperwork.” If your inbox isn’t piled full of paper, then your filing cabinets are probably overflowing with it. So, I’ve finally come to the point where I embrace paper. Whenever I can use a digital device instead, I’ll definitely do it, but I’m not going to set my moleskines aside any time soon.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Saying Thanks

I’m thinking that this will be the last Top Ten Tuesday series based on my all-time favorite moments. I’ve had fun writing them and it sounds like many of you have been able to identify with my experiences and I love hearing that. I have a few all-time favorite moments that I just don’t want to blog about. They are too personal. I’m sure you understand.

I have to back up to 1974 to set the stage for this particular all-time favorite moment. That’s the year my parents divorced. For the next fourteen years my mom never dated anybody and she limited her social activity at night to bowling once a week. I can never remember a time when she wasn’t available for my sister and I. We ate meals together. We watched sitcoms together. And we played board games together.

My mom was a rock. She provided the most stable environment possible in an otherwise bad situation, but of course, I had no idea how much she was sacrificing for my sister and I. She must have endured many lonely times—just thinking about it now gets me a little misty-eyed.

Fast forward fourteen years. My sister was out of the house. I was 21 or 22 and ready to be on my own. And my mom was about to get remarried. How do you tell somebody that you have the ultimate amount of respect for that you understand what he or she has done for you and that you love that person immensely? I had no idea, but I wanted to try.

So, I bought a wedding card and I wrote down all of my thoughts. I thanked her for putting my sister and I ahead of her own desires. I told her how much I loved her. And I told that her that this was her time. She deserved it and I wished her all the happiness in the world. I gave it to her shortly before the wedding and she cried. And then I almost cried. It was a unforgettable moment between mother and son.


Next week, I’ll start a new Top Ten Series. A number of you wanted me to do a series about my favorite authors and that sounds like fun, so I’ll give that a shot. I haven’t ranked them yet, but I’ll have it order by next Tuesday.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

I went to see Stranger Than Fiction this past weekend expecting to see a comedy that would make me laugh, but then I thought it would quickly fade into the blurry part of my mind where such movies usually go to die—never to be recalled, referenced, or viewed again. I was wrong.

Oh, I laughed as Harold Crick heard voices—especially in the beginning of the movie when he had no idea who the voice was (it’s a narrator who is telling his life story, although the narrator—who is an author—has no idea that her protagonist is a real person). But then the movie got more serious. The narrator/author plans to kill off Harold in her novel—just as she’s done with all her protagonists in previous books—but she can’t figure out to kill Harold because she has writer’s block.

I won’t get into the entire plot because I don’t want to spoil it for you if you are planning to see the movie, but I was moved by the ending. Not because it was brilliant or original. I have no idea if it falls into either category—mostly because I’m so close to the message: little things matter, and they enrich life as long as a person recognizes and appreciates them. 

Of course, big things matter too…and they are covered quite well in this movie. But once the big decisions are made, the small things fill in the gaps and become our life. These small things aren’t like “filler” songs though that bridge the gap on CDs between hit songs. And the person or people who wrote this script so understands that.

At the end of the movie, the narrator pointed to a string of small things (referred to as “nuances”) that added meaning to people’s lives and some of those things would seem inconsequential if mentioned without any context. But of course, everything and every moment has context and that’s one of the things that makes life so marvelous.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What Are You Reading? Friday

Unfortunately, I’ve done very little reading this past week. Work is picking up for me and I’ve put in a ton of hours this week—with quite a few more to go before I’ve hit all my deadlines. So, I haven’t made much progress on the book I told you about last week, State of Emergency by Pat Buchanan.

But that didn’t stop me from picking up another new book called The Good Nearby by one of my favorite authors, Nancy Moser. I won’t get to this one for a while though because I’m still planning to read Nicholas Sparks’ newest novel Dear John first. In fact, I look at my “to be read” pile and just sort of smile. It continues to get bigger, but that’s okay with me. I love the anticipation.

What about you? What are you reading this week?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Life Imitating Art?

I’ve never understood why people enjoy Larry King’s interviews so much. He seems to take pride in not doing any research about his guests and that often leads to some of the most senseless questions I’ve ever heard. During the U.S. Open tennis tournament a couple of months ago, he asked Andre Agassi if playing on different tennis surfaces mattered, and if so, how? Wow.

To some degree, I’m a lot like Larry King when it comes to my knowledge about the lives of celebrities. I know next to nothing about most of them, and I don’t have an insatiable appetite to go exploring. It just doesn’t interest me. But when a friend e-mailed me yesterday to ask me if I’d heard that Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were dating (my friend knows I’m a huge fan of The Notebook—in which Gosling and McAdams acted), I had a desire to know more, I just didn’t have a lot of time to go looking for it.

So, I’m not even sure if they are still together, but their on-screen chemistry was amazing in The Notebook. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but the romantic in me can’t help but wonder if their apparent true-life romance is mirroring art. The two characters they portrayed, Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton, were so devoted to each other in marriage, in sickness and in health, that they moved movie-goers all across the country to tears. The final scene is so moving that I struggle for words for several minutes every time I see it.

Sometimes a movie, book, painting, or some other work of art becomes bigger than its creator ever imagined. He or she found a way to capture a small, identifiable, relatable snapshot of humanity that moves people so much that the work of art becomes a point of reference. The Notebook was one of those movies (and novels) on the subject of true love. And now that Gosling and McAdams are together, it makes me wonder if they weren’t just as moved as we were by the story’s powerful portrayal of selfless, sacrificial love that overcame everything.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ALF Quotes

I haven’t included any ALF quotes here for several months. I popped in Season Three on DVD a couple of nights ago and almost died laughing at the following things he said:

“The turkey is gone. I can’t bring it back. Wait! Maybe I can—if I can remember which stomach it’s in [Melmacians have eight stomachs]. Hack. Hack. Hack. It’s not in number eight.”

* * * * *

“What is it?” ALF said to Lynn as he wondered what type of food she was about to serve him.


“Rubber vomit.”

“Pumpkin Jello.”

“I can’t eat that. Hey, I’ve never heard myself say that before.”

* * * * *

“Picture if you will an ordinary flowerpot—empty to the human eye, but one tap with my magic want and the flowerpot becomes…big jaggedy pieces of clay [it broke when he hit it with his wand]. Ta-da!”

* * * * *

“Being no good at something is no reason to quit. Ask anyone at the Fox network.”

* * * * *

“Yes! Yes! I came, I saw, I demolecularized.”

* * * * *

“Hocus-pocus, go for broke-us.”

* * * * *

If you want more (and how could you not!?), here you go:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My First Road Trip

Continuing with our Top Ten Tuesday series, here’s another one of my favorite all-time moments. This one occurred in 1984, just like the post from last week—only this event occurred a few months earlier—shortly before I started college. At the age of 17, I filled a cooler full of pop, and stuffed my duffel bag with a few days worth of clothes, and I carefully studied the road atlas before embarking on my first ever solo road trip. I was about to drive from Omaha to St. Louis to visit my dad, sister and stepmother.

The route looked easy enough. I only had to take three interstates to get there. Rather than trying to find my dad’s house, he told me to meet him in the parking lot at a hotel called Noah’s Arc in St. Charles, Missouri, just off Interstate 70. I think it was a Best Western. He told me that I couldn’t miss it because it had fake giraffes and various other animals sticking out of the roof.

I pounded the pops on the way there and simply enjoyed my freedom. If there’s anything like a 17 year-old on his first road trip, I don’t know what it is. As I got close to the eastern edge of the state, I knew I should be entering St. Charles soon. Sure enough, I did, and shortly thereafter I saw Noah’s Arc on my right. I exited and drove into the parking lot to look for my dad. I was a tad bit early, and I didn’t see his car, but I figured I take a peek inside to see if he was there. I walked through the hotel lobby and I didn’t see him. I tried calling him a few times from a pay phone in the hotel but he didn’t answer.

I went back to the car and accidentally drifted off to sleep. I don’t know how long I slept, but I woke up when I heard somebody tapping on my window—which just about scared me to death. I looked up and there was Dad. Turns out, he was parked on the other side of the hotel and had been waiting for me over there. Don’t ask me why I didn’t look over there or what took him so long to find me, I have no idea. I was just happy to see him and even happier that my first road trip was a success.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Podcast Interview

Jill Hart interviewed me about The Experience of Christmas recently for her Christian Work at Home Moment blog. If you are interested in hearing about how your family can truly experience the season rather than just watching it go by in a blur, listen to Jill’s November 13 podcast.

She also has some good information available for those interested in working at home as well as a lot of interviews you can hear on previous podcasts.

It's About the Journey

I’m not crazy about endings of any sort. I don’t like movies to end after I’ve spend two hours rooting for a character(s) to overcome his or her trials because I’ve invested so much emotional energy that it just doesn’t feel right to disengage. I feel the same way about novels and television shows. And if I feel that way about endings in the land of make believe, you can imagine what I think about them in real life.

I’m not real fond of beginnings either. I’m not inquisitive by nature, so beginnings are hard for me, regardless of whether it’s a new job, or a new relationship, or a new novel. I’d much rather move past the awkward stage and get to the journey. I love reaching a point where I’ve grown fond of something or someone and then seeing what happens as life progresses.

The journey isn’t as concerned about false pretenses as beginnings are and generally the journey isn’t overly concerned about the ending. Instead it’s about the excitement generated from experiencing the important things with people you love—good company, good food, good music, anniversaries, birthdays, milestones, and all points in between.

Give me journey and I’m a happy man.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

2006 Weblog Awards

The 2006 Weblog Awards

Starting tomorrow, the 2006 Weblog Awards will be accepting nominations for the best blogs in many different categories. If you really enjoy somebody's blog, then click on the graphic above and nominate it for an award. It'll mean a lot to the blogger.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Road Trip

I’m on the road again. This time I’m at the Heart of America Christian Writers’ Conference in Kansas City and I’m having a great time seeing old friends I haven’t seen since the conference last year. On the way down to Kansas City, I took an alternative route because I was picking up a friend in Topeka to bring to the conference.

The route I took was an old highway. I usually travel by interstate, which obviously is much easier to navigate, but I really enjoyed this trip. As I crossed the Nebraska-Kansas border, I started to see hints of clay and rock formations that are so prevalent in the Ozarks. It reminded me of the days when my grandparents took my sister I to Arkansas during the summer to visit extended family. Those are great memories.

I also drove by a lot of small lakes and fishing ponds. Something about being around water calms my nerves. This time was no exception. And during long stretches of my drive, I didn’t see a single car in either direction. I do some of my best thinking during times like these. I didn’t come to any life-changing decisions, but I felt like I was able to clear my head for a day—and that is a good thing.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What Are You Reading? Friday

I started reading a new book this week called State of Emergency by Pat Buchanan. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you find yourself on, little doubt exists that we have a huge illegal immigration problem in the United States. Here’s one paragraph from the first chapter called “How Civilizations Perish” that captures the essence of the problem:

“No one knows how many illegal aliens are here. The estimates run from 12 to 20 million. This is not immigration as America knew it, when men and women made a conscious choice to turn their backs on their native lands and cross the ocean to become Americans. This is an invasion, the greatest invasion in history. Nothing of this magnitute has ever happened in so short a span of time. There are 36 million immigrants and their children in the United States today, almost as many as came to America between Jamestown in 1607 and the Kennedy election of 1960. Nearly 90 percent of all immigrants now come from continents and countries whose peoples have never been assimilated fully into any Western country.”

I’m not anti-immigration. Our nation was founded by immigrants, but once it was founded, it established a rule a law—including certain parameters on how people become citizens. Without such parameters and without assimilation, we aren’t a united nation with commons goals and a common way of life. And without common universal goals, I don’t see how a nation can prosper.

What are you reading this week? I picked up the latest Nicholas Sparks’ novel a few days ago and I’m hoping to get to it in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Experience of Christmas

If you are here because you clicked on a link in the PCA News and Information e-newsletter, you can order a copy of my new book, The Experience of Christmas by clicking here.

If you'd like to know more about the book, just scroll down and look for the picture of the book cover in the right hand column of the page.

Thanks for your interest! I'd love to hear that families are using it around the dinner table each night during the Christmas season to assist them in experiencing the wonder of the season.

The Power of Place

My family recently had a small unplanned mini-family reunion. A couple of relatives from out of town (one was from out of country) decided to visit at the same time. I went to the airport to pick up one of those relatives and as I sat down to wait for her to walk up the ramp from her gate, I was struck by the number of people who were either hugging somebody good-bye or hugging somebody after not seeing him or her for a long time.

That one little area I was seated in must see hundreds of such emotional moments on a daily basis because loved ones are separated by many miles. And the process is repeated in airports throughout the world every single day.

In between all the hugs, I glanced over at the food court and remembered some of my own bittersweet moments—one of which included the last meal I ever ate with my dad before he died in 2000. We each had a mini-pizza. We were there to drop my brother off so he could fly home. Of course, I had no idea that my dad would die just a couple of weeks later. 

Isn’t it funny how a place can trigger such powerful memories? I love and hate that about places. I love it because it’s so much fun to remember and I hate it because memories can never replace the real thing. And places change and that makes the memories get fuzzier because you can’t sit down in the exact seat that a loved one sat in. Or you can’t walk on the same floor, or look out the same window. 

Thankfully, the food court at my local airport still looks the same, but I suspect that I’ll show up there one day and it’ll be remodeled. And it will bum me out for a while, but I’ll get over it because I have so many other great memories of spending time with Dad in places that still exist. I know that my memories shouldn’t be so tied to specific places, but for some reason, they are.

How about you? Are you memories tied to specific places?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Thoughts

How prophetic was this magazine cover that came out a few days before the election? And this isn't a magazine that comes from the left side of the aisle. It's the magazine that Pat Buchanan started several years ago after the neoconservative movement, namely President Bush, embraced empire building.

Twelve years ago, the Republicans had a night that looked much like the one the Democrats had last night. When the Republicans had the Congress, they hardly governed as conservatives. They started out well enough, but fizzled quickly, and they morphed into a movement I don't even recognize. And one that most American voters were apparently not in agreement with because they tossed them out of office last night.

Gridlock, here we come. In my mind that is a good thing because it'll keep both major parties from being able to force unwanted agendas upon us without a little consensus building.

Spears Files for Divorce

A couple of years ago, I signed up for a service through a local television station that sends an alert to the toolbar on my computer whenever news breaks in the world. I like the service because I can’t work with the radio or television on—it’s too distracting, but with this service I’m never fearful that I’m going to miss something big. But at the same time, I hate the noise it makes because it means that something has happened—and it is rarely good news.

Yesterday, toward the end of my workday, the alert sounded and I clicked on it. It said this: “Breaking News Alert / Report: Britney Spears Files for Divorce.” My first thought was, come on…if I got an alert for every celebrity who got a divorce, my computer would sound like a symphony of alert notices. While that is indeed true, my second thought was about her two children; Sean Preston (1) and Jayden James (2 months old). 

I went over to MSNBC.com and of course, it was the lead story. I’m not sure what that says about our country, but it what it is. MSNBC already had a live poll up and 12,475 people had responded. As of the time of this writing, 72% of the respondents clicked on “what took her so long?” and 16% clicked on “feel sorry for their sons,” and 11% clicked on “won’t be long before marriage #3.” Finally, 1.1% clicked on “shocked, I really thought they’d last.” That fact that only 16% felt sorry for her sons was amazing to me.

This post isn’t written to bash Britney Spears, or Kevin Federline, or our culture in general. It’s written more out of sadness for two more kids who will not have their father to love and guide them on a daily basis. And indeed that is cause for alarm.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Inspired Tennis

Continuing with our Top Ten Tuesday series, here’s another one of my favorite all-time moments. In 1984, I was a freshman in college and I had a dream of making the tennis team. I worked hard the preceding summer and I was probably in the best shape I’d ever been in. Unfortunately, the team had a slew of guys who were better than I was and I was never ranked higher than number 12 (the top 8 traveled and played in meets).

After the initial rankings were set, we had an opportunity to move up on a weekly basis. We could play the guy ranked just ahead of us and if we beat him, we moved up. And of course, we had to play the guy ranked one below us if he wanted to play, and we dropped one spot if we lost. In the middle of all this competition, the school had an intramural tennis tournament. My memory fails me a bit here, but this tournament was either closed to the top eight guys on the tennis team or it was held during a tennis meet. I just remember that it included a bunch of guys who weren’t in the top eight. Sort of a “best of the rest” tournament.

I got a bye in the first round and I won my match in the second round. I think I won by forfeit in the third round, and that put me in the final against a guy who was ranked higher than I was on the team. He had a killer serve and solid ground strokes. Couple those facts with a lightening fast playing surface, and I had little shot at winning.

Early on, I tried to out-slug him from the baseline, which was a mistake because I never had the best ground strokes. I was always more of a serve and volley player. But this guy’s ground strokes were so good that he was able to get the ball by me at the net nearly every time I did serve and volley. So, I did the only thing I could do, and that was to become a counter-puncher. I was always good at putting top-spin and under-spin on the ball and I began to do both which threw him off his game.

He started to make a lot of errors and he got frustrated. So, I did more of the same and won the first set in a tie-breaker. I knew that I couldn’t win in any other fashion, so I decided to stay patient and play the same way in the second set. I glanced up at the walking track above the courts (we played inside) after the first set and I could see that he had a small contingency that came to root him on. I don’t think I even told anybody that I was in the final of a tournament, but I should have because it meant a lot me.

As the second set opened, I can still remember what song was playing over the gym’s sound system: Hello by Lionel Richie. I loved that song because it reminded me of a girl I was interested in at the time. Sometimes that’s all the inspiration a guy needs to overcome the odds. But I think I drew even more inspiration from something else. If I could win the tournament, no matter how small or inconsequential it might be, I would feel like I belonged somewhere—a feeling that I didn’t often experience early in my life because I was so shy.

I went on to win the second set, either 6–4 or 7–5 (I can’t remember which), and that gave me the tournament—the only tournament I ever won. All I got was a shirt, and I have no idea where it is today, but here’s a picture of me wearing it:

The guy I beat in the final beat me the following week—rather handily, and he passed me on the team’s depth chart. He was flat better than me, and I was never able to climb any higher in the team rankings after that, but I’ll always have that one tournament win.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Adapting to Change

I used to think a lot about how much change has occurred over the course of my grandparents’ lifetime. One set of my grandparents were born in 1913 and 1915—before the roaring twenties, before the depression, long before World War II (actually they were born during World War I), and before television.

By the time my grandma died in 2002, the United States had gone to war many more times—using technology that probably wasn’t even dreamed about when she was born. And not only did she come to love her television, but she also learned how to work a VCR and for a while, she even had a cell phone. In her lifetime, she went from living in a small town in the country—and being virtually cut off from the outside world except for a radio, to having information at her fingertips on demand and being able to talk to anybody she chose to on the telephone whenever she wanted.

I’ve often thought that I’m glad that I wasn’t born during that era because I’m not so sure I would have adapted very well. But over the weekend, my friends and I had an interesting conversation. One of my friends recounted the story of being roughed up by a nun for lying about having his homework done when he was in grade school. I added that I could remember when our gym teacher in junior high school used to bring out (and use!) the big wooden paddle any time somebody skipped a shower. I can’t imagine either circumstance being allowed or tolerated today.

The world has changed a lot since I was born. I was born before cable television, before cell phones, before CDs, before the Internet became available to the public, and long before nearly every household had a personal computer. I was also born before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and right in the middle of the civil rights and “free love” movements. I was born when it was relatively safe to allow your children to play with friends in the neighborhood park for hours on end, unsupervised, until the street lights came on.

Even though the world may have experienced more change during my grandparents’ lifetimes than in my own, the conversation I had with friends over the weekend helped me to see that each generation faces their own huge changes. And somehow, most of the people in each respective generation finds a way to adapt, cope, and sometimes even thrive. God made humans to be resilient creatures, didn’t he?

Friday, November 03, 2006

What are you Reading? Friday

I finished To Own a Dragon yesterday by Donald Miller and I’d highly recommend the book to people who grew up without a father present.

In one chapter called “Education: Jordan and Mindy’s Dog,” Miller deals with the fact that without a father around, he was never really pushed acedemically as a young boy when in school, so he developed a “just get by” attitude. He had no idea that anything else existed. At the age of 20, he got turned on to poetry by a friend and it opened up the world to him.

Here’s what he said:

“Something important happened to me when I read Emily Dickinson. I fell in love with books. Some people find beauty in music, some in painting, and some in landscape, but I find it in words. By beauty, I mean the feeling you have suddenly glimpsed another world, or looked into a portal that reveals a kind of magic or romance out of which the world has been constructed, a feeling there is something more than the mundane, and a reason for our plodding.”

He went on to make this observation:

“All leaders read, and there are almost no exceptions.”

And finally this:

“The latest statistic is that the average American watches 1,456 hours of television a year but only reads three books. So if it’s true that readers are leaders, and the more you read the further you advance, then there isn’t a lot of competition.”

I’m not one to look down my nose at a culture that seems to be becoming more aliterate by the day. We have more options for entertainment and more visual stimulation than at any other point in human history—so of course our attentions are divided. I suspect that if you gave any other generation such options, they would have been just as distracted as we are.

All the more reason to be gently nuding the next generation to read, and not only nudging, but showing them the benefits. The reading bug is caught when aliterate people see readers engrossed in books or when  they hear us talking about the joy or wisdom we received from a particular book. If the next generation never sees us reading, then the chance of them becoming readers isn’t high.

So do tell—what are you reading this week? 

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Little Nuances Drawing

I just held an unscheduled drawing for Little Nuances subscribers, and Pam K. won an autographed copy of my latest book, The Experience of Christmas. Congrats Pam!

If you’d like to be eligible for similar drawings in the future, then subscribe to Little Nuances by providing your e-mail address in the box in the upper right hand corner of the page. Your e-mail address will never be sold. To be eligible to win, you’ll need to be willing to provide a mailing address if/when your name is chosen. I won’t ask for a mailing address before then. And just like with your e-mail address, your mailing address will be kept completely private.

If you are already on the Little Nuances e-mail update list, you don’t need to do anything. You are already eligible for the prizes.

The next scheduled drawing is December 1 and it’ll be for another autographed copy of The Experience of Christmas. But you never know when I’ll do another unscheduled drawing.

Watching Movies Alone

On Monday night, I did something I've never done before. I went to a movie theater to watch a movie by myself. I write a sports column for a local newspaper and I’m writing my next article about a movie called Facing the Giants. I decided to write about the movie at the last minute (shortly before my deadline), so I didn’t have a chance to invite anybody to see the movie with me.

The movie started at 9:55 pm and I pretty much expected to be the only one in the theater. Right before the movie started, a couple walked in and sat down several rows in front of me. So, the three of us watched the movie (it was quite moving by the way—maybe I’ll post my column here after it runs in the newspaper) and I definitely felt out of place since I was there by myself.

I’ve gone to restaurants and coffee shops by myself many times. In fact, I don’t think much about it anymore. But something about seeing a movie by myself has never been appealing. Maybe it’s because I attend a lot of movies with friends and I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I’ve seen a person watching a movie alone.

Nothing monumental happened at this particular movie to make me want to run out and do it again, but by the end of the movie, I didn’t feel quite so out of place. I can’t really tell you why, but I think it was because the three of us saw a great movie and that gave us a common experience.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Deleted Blogs

I've written a number of posts in the past year about my growing distaste for political debate on both the right and the left today. Beyond the uncomely arrogance on both sides, the debate isn't broad enough in my opinion for people who don't fit into either major political party. I certainly don't fit either mold.

That's why I always appreciated a blog called The Boileryard. I blogged about it back in February. A guy who took on the persona of a dead-ball era baseball player named Boileryard Clarke started it. He had several other writers--all from various different political philosophies, and I really enjoyed reading perspectives that weren't regurgitated from talk radio or other political commentators.

I've known for some time that The Boileryard might not always be online. The last time I clicked on the blog, nothing had been posted there since May and I figured that Boileryard would eventually delete the blog because in one of his posts about a year ago, he came to this conclusion: 

"In the last two years netpilot [another writer on the site] and I have found what is important, really. The faces of our grandchildren are important. Their hugs are important. Friends are important. Our wives. Our own children. Music in the morning. Making other people smile is important. Life, minus the fist-shaking and anger and suspicion of others we don't understand, is important."

He wasn't saying that politics aren't important. He just found a few things that he'd rather focus on, so he started a blog called Chasing Vincenzo to write about those things. And sadly, he did indeed delete The Boileryard from the blogosphere. Part of me wishes it was still operational, but I don't blame him at all. I made a similar move by shutting down my own political blog over a year ago. I just miss The Boileryard. That's all.

How about you? Do you miss a particular blog that no longer exists? Share you story with us.


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