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.

Friday, November 30, 2007


  • Where did this week go? I can't believe it is Friday already. Maybe it went so quickly because I didn't get home from my mini-vacation at the cabin until Monday at mid-day. But it seems like life always goes into hyper-speed during the Christmas season, doesn't it?
  • Is it me, or does it seem like more people have decorated their homes for Christmas this year? With my mom still recovering from the stroke she had in July, I go to see her nearly every night and as I drive home I feel like a little kid as I look around at all the beautiful Christmas lights. I love this time of year
  • I haven't even started Christmas shopping yet, and I probably won't for another couple of weeks. If you happen to bump into a rather confused looking male who resembles the guy in my bio picture, please point me in the right direction by giving me some good suggestions about what to purchase. I usually do pretty well until I get to the bottom of my list. That's when I start to feel lost.
  • Want to read a blog post that is guaranteed to bring you to tears? Check out this post, Tough Men and Tender Romance, at Kristy Dykes' blog. Kristy is a novelist and freelance writer who just went through live-threatening surgery to remove a brain tumor and her husband Milton has been keeping her readers up to date with her progress. I don't know the Dykes family personally, but I'm praying for them. Will you join me?
  • I just heard that a church in Pennsylvania is going through The Experience of Christmas this year as a group. The church bought enough copies for every family in the church. How cool is that?
  • We have a winner in the latest Little Nuances drawing for a copy of The Experience of Christmas. Congrats to the winner!
  • Over the past few weeks, I've updated my website to include ordering information for most of the audio CD presentations of classes I've taught at writers conferences around the country. Here's a list of the CD's that are available: So, You Want to Start a Blog?, Advanced Blogging, Let's Talk Blogging, Article Writing 101, Manuscript Formatting 101, Writing for the Christian Sports Market, and Profiting from Profile Articles. If you'd like more information, please click here.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Housekeeping Items

You may have noticed that I tweaked the template here at Little Nuances in recent days. I've been wanting to upgrade my template for quite a while so I could use widgets instead of messing with HTML coding, but I had no idea if I could re-capture the look that I've grown to love.

Turns out that it is quite easy to tweak a template on Blogger these days. In fact, ever since Google took over, making changes to a blog have become easier. You'll probably notice some minor changes, but nothing major. If you notice anything weird on your browser when viewing Little Nuances, leave a comment or drop me an email.

One more housekeeping item; I'm planning to give away one more copy of The Experience of Christmas tomorrow. If you'd like to be eligible to win, then subscribe to Little Nuances by placing your email address in the subscription box in the upper right hand corner. If you are already a subscriber, then you are already eligible to win.

The Experience of Christmas is a 31-day devotional that begins on December 1. If you want to get the full benefit from the book, now would be the time to order it through Amazon.com or some other venue. I know that many of you have already ordered it and I really appreciate that. Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Poetry Isn't for Sissies

I've been anxious to dive into Jan Karon's newest novel, Home to Holly Springs, for a couple of weeks. I had a chance to do so recently and I came across a passage that totally cracked me up. First I have to set the stage. Last week I wrote a post about the trip to a cabin I was about to take with three friends. Here's a little of what I said:

I suggested to one of the guys last night that maybe we could watch a good chick-flick or two and then each of us could read a copy of our favorite poem to the group. My suggestion was a joke since this guy doesn't really read and he despises chick-flicks, but I'm not sure if he realized I was joking.

"And then why don't we put on a dress?" was his response.

Early in the book, the protagonist Timothy Kavanagh, is remembering an incident that happened with his best friend, named Tommy, when he was small. Young Timothy and Tommy decided to carve their initials into a column on the town square. But rather than carving his name or initials, Timothy carved "William," because he admired the work of the poet William Wordsworth. Here's their exchange:

"That ain't yo' name, cootie head."

"Is now, pig brain."

"Who's William?"

"You wouldn't know."

"Not if you don't tell me."

"A poet," he said.

"A poet?"

"'Come forth, and bring with you a heart that watches and receives.'"


"Miz Babcock made us learn poetry," he said, etching the surname.

"I'm glad I didn't git Miz Babcock, I don't want t' be no sissy."

If men wrote poetry, why was it sissy for boys to read it? He could not understand this.

Me either Timothy. Me either.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Roughing It

Three of my friends and I pulled up to a cabin in eastern Nebraska this weekend not knowing what to expect. We knew the basic layout of the place, but we didn't know what we'd find when we got there. We were pleasantly surprised. One of the guys snapped this photo of the place:

We walked in and saw a fire place that was just waiting for us city-folk to throw our duraflame log into it, which we did later:

We raced to the bedrooms next. They were bigger than most hotels I stay in. The beds were king-sized and relatively comfortable. The rooms even had sinks. We met back in the main living area and headed for the screened-in deck on the back of the cabin. If it wasn't so cold, I suspect we would have spent more time there this weekend, but it was a little too nippy for that.

After agreeing that we made the right choice to finally get away the city for a while, we unpacked the SUV and one of the guys started the grill. As you can see, we had all sorts of "dead animal flesh" as he would call it:

While we were cooking, a couple of deer wandered close to our cabin. It was dusk though and they were just far enough away that we couldn't get a decent picture, but it was quite a scene. We enjoyed a fantastic meal and then attempted to set up the DVD player. Unfortunately, the remote control for our TV was missing and we couldn't figure out how to change the video output without a remote. I was so hoping to get to see Serendipity, but I'll probably watch it this coming weekend instead.

So, we broke out the board game Scattergories. After three games I was starting to feel the pressure because I was the only one who hadn't won a game, but I should say that I was playing under protest. During one round we had to come up with something that is sold in a souvenir shop that starts with the letter "P." If you've never played this game, the pressure can be pretty intense. You have three minutes to come up with twelve answers to twelve different scenarios and when the timer nears the end the ticking noise increases and so does your heart rate as you furiously attempt to complete your sheet.

Anyway, I wrote down "pickles" because I remember canned homemade pickles being sold in a souvenir shop in Arkansas when I was a kid. My grandparents used to take my sister and I to a little town in Arkansas every summer since they were from the area. We always stopped in this one particular souvenir shop. Maybe the pickle thing is something that you only find in souvenir shops in the south, I don't know, but my friends vetoed my answer.

But during that same round, one of them gave this as an answer (that was allowed!): "Platypus Man." You don't really need to know the question with an answer like that, but if you are curious, we were supposed to name a hero that starts with the letter "P." See what I mean about playing under protest? Oh, I'm just kidding. But that gives you an idea about the type of fun we had for the evening. We laughed, we protested, we laughed some more, we totaled our scores, and I never did end up winning a game. I'm just not quick enough on my feet to win at something like that.

We played Scattergories the entire evening and then we hit the sack. After we got up and got ready, we sipped our coffee while gathered around a huge dining table. One of the guys looked out a window and said something that I thought was quite profound. He said he wished he could look out his window at home and see such beautiful changing scenery.

It reminded me of a verse I'd read that morning: "The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world." (Psalm 19:1-4, NLT)

I love city life, but I have found that if I don't get out of the city once in a while I miss so much of what God is saying through the divine silence of a countryside, the whisper of the trees, and the surefootedness of a deer (as Psalm 18:33 mentions). I don't want to do that anymore. Thankfully, the four of us have decided to make this an annual pilgrimage and I'm already looking forward to next year.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I've been doing a Friday Free-for-All for a while now and I'm enjoying it. Thought it might be time to revamp the name though and simply call it tidbits.

  • The Omaha area had our first snow of the year on Wednesday. It was beautiful. I stood at the window with a cup of coffee in my hand before work just watching the snow dance it's way down to earth. I'm sure at some point this winter I'll say, "enough already" but it's going to take a lot of snow for that to happen.
  • I'm off to my cabin exertion this weekend with three guy friends. We are planning to get together this afternoon to do a little shopping for the trip. Even the shopping trip should be interesting since we're all so different. But I'm really looking forward to some downtime. It's been a while since I've had any. I won't be back until Monday afternoon, so I probably won't be posting again until Tuesday.
  • Have you seen the previews for August Rush yet? I can't wait to see it! I know, I know. The critics are saying it's unrealistic, far-fetched, syrupy, and "too silly for adults to take seriously." They probably said the same things about Serendipity and it's one of my favorite movies of all-time. I know a guy who went to see a sneak preview of August Rush with his wife, and he's giving it rave reviews. Check it out.
  • A few days ago, I used the word "hamster" in a conversation when I meant to say "hamper." I said, "Wasn't this my grandma's hamster?" How funny is that? Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.
  • I've never seen a professional tennis match, but now I have a chance. On December 14, Andy Roddick is going to play Sam Querrey and Serena Williams is going to play Ashley Harkleroad in exhibition play in Omaha. Roddick was born in Omaha and he's never played a professional match here, so he wanted to make it happen. I so need to go see this event.
  • Today is black Friday and if it's your thing, I can absolutely guarantee that I won't be in your way. Except for a brief run to the grocery store, you couldn't pay me to fight the crowds.

Have a great weekend everybody. See you Tuesday.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for...

  • God. The One from Whom all blessings flow.
  • Christ. For his finished work on the cross.
  • Grace. Because I have so many flaws.
  • Freedom. Which is never free.
  • Bravery. Which gave us freedom and keeps us free.
  • Family. I can't imagine life without it.
  • Friends. The people who love us because they choose to.
  • Work. Can you tell I work for myself?
  • Seasons. It snowed here yesterday.
  • History. Which keeps legacies alive.
  • Books. They comfort, inform, and challenge me.
  • Laughter. Which is medicine for the soul.
  • Home. There's nothing like it.
  • Holidays. Because we need to remember.
  • Computers. My, how they've changed the world.
  • Letters. Because you can enjoy them again and again.
  • Memories. They add such a richness to life.
  • Photos. They help us remember.
  • Dreams. They motivate us to continue on.
  • Midnight. My beloved cat who still brings me joy at 17 years of age.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I just finished reading The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. Wow, what a book. If you liked The Notebook, or Message in a Bottle, then this is a book you'll want to pick up. I'm not going to do a review here. As I've said before, I don't really do reviews as much as I find insight in books that makes me think and then I comment about it.

I found a passage in The Choice that I loved. Travis Parker is having a conversation with his neighbor named Gabby. He is interested in her and she is interested in him, but things are complicated because she's already in a relationship with someone else.

So, they get to the point in their conversation in which they are talking about upbringing and family life. Here's what Travis says: "I remember going fishing with my dad every Saturday morning, and even though my dad was just about the worst fisherman who ever baited a hook, I found it thrilling. Now I understand that for my dad, at least, it was all about spending time with me, and I can't tell you how grateful I am for that. I like thinking that I can give my kids the same kinds of experiences someday."

I'm not sure when I first came to this realization, but life is about relationships--with God first, and then with each other. It's not about careers, hobbies, to-do lists, or anything else. All of those things are what we do, but they aren't the essence of life, nor do they bring any lasting fulfillment. They can however become a means for building relationships.

Years ago, I began taking my niece (her mom is a single mom) out to eat once a week. She likes going to Buffalo Wild Wings, so that's where we go. When we first started, we'd spend hours there, playing trivia games, talking about her life, and laughing our fool heads off. As she grew older, trivia gave way to getting her home early so she could hang out with friends. She isn't near as open about her life as she used to be (which is expected since she is 17), and I'm learning to deal with that.

With all of these adjustments came the desire to just spend time with her and to let her talk if she wants to. I don't want her to see our time together as therapy and I don't want her to dread our time together. Many years from now, I just want her to look back at our weekly meals as a time in which she spent time with someone who loved her exactly as she was.

I doubt that I pull that off successfully very often. I have a tendency to ask too many questions about school, and friends, and everything else. And I'm guessing that her friends view me as one of those odd uncles that every family seems to have, but I'm willing to risk being viewed as odd if it means that my niece is able to look back someday with the same type of fondness that Travis felt.

Ironically, as I sit here writing this post in a coffee shop, I just got a text message from my niece asking, "What r u doing?" That led to a flurry of text messages in which we discussed the common things of life. But I felt good knowing that our relationship is more than common. How many 17 year-old nieces spend time texting their uncles when they could be texting a hundred other people?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid

Crystal Miller over at the Chat N’ Chew Cafe’ started a new blog recently and I love visiting it. It's called When I Was Just A Kid.

Crystal knows all sorts of different people since she reviewed books for so long and she's interviewing many of them to find out what life was like when they were kids. It leads to all sorts of tasty bits of nostalgia. I subscribed to her blog and would encourage you to do the same. Her subscription box is underneath her bio.

I’ve known Crystal for several years, first through an online e-mail writer’s group, and then we met at a writer’s conference a few years ago in Denver. We share the same last name (her maiden name is Warren), and have many other things in common, so she started referring to us as cousins—which I found to be quite funny—and it stuck.

She interviewed me recently via email and if you read her latest post, you'll probably find out more about my childhood than you ever wanted to know.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Renting a Cabin, Part 2

Almost a year ago, I told you that several of my guy friends and I were kicking the idea around of renting a cabin on a lake about 30 miles from Omaha (the city we live in). Little did we know that cabins are booked up for many months in advance. But we finally found an open date and are planning our excursion this coming weekend.

As I said before, these particular cabins aren't really cabins. They have heat, four bedrooms, nice kitchens, living rooms that are nicer than the one in my own house, and indoor plumbing (an absolute must!). So, we're beginning to plot and plan for our time away. We're already committed to bringing a DVD player, a couple of movies, some board games, and lots of food and drink.

I suggested to one of the guys last night that maybe we could watch a good chick-flick or two and then each of us could read a copy of our favorite poem to the group. My suggestion was a joke since this guy doesn't really read and he despises chick-flicks, but I'm not sure if he realized I was joking.

"And then why don't we put on a dress?" was his response.

I burst out laughing, feeling like I was getting a small taste of what's to come this weekend. So, I'm guessing that we'll grill some burgers and steaks. Then we'll settle down to watch a movie in which everything in sight gets blown up. Then we'll transition to a board game. And by then, at least one of us will be nodding off. And that'll be the end of the night.

Unless you count the incessant snoring that is sure to penetrate the bedroom walls. In which case, somebody will probably attempt to stop the snoring (and if I had to guess, I'll be the one they will be trying to stop), but it won't work and it'll be the topic of conversation at breakfast the next morning--which I'm hoping consists of more than Pop-tarts.

But all in all, it'll be a great weekend, and I'm already excited about it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Free-for-All

--I had to get a new battery for my car this week, which wasn't so bad, expect that I had to also replace my printer. Well, actually I replaced my printer a few weeks ago with one of those $20.00 jobbies hoping it would see me through for a while, but it does such a horrible job, that I had to get another, better printer.

--I finally finished reading Lay of the Land by Richard Ford and I'm half way through The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. Sparks doesn't break any new ground with this book, but to be honest, I'm kind of glad he doesn't. I know that when I pick up one of his novels I'm going to read about two people in North Carolina who fall in love and that one of them is always going to be faced with a difficult choice.

--I'm hoping to get my Christmas tree up this coming weekend. I always say I want to get it up before Thanksgiving, but I rarely do. I always figure that you might as well enjoy it for as long as possible because the Christmas season comes and goes so quickly each year. For the record, I will not be one of those people who is out Christmas shopping next Friday.

--Watched the movie The Good German this week with a friend. The movie is set in Berlin shortly after WWII. It depicted mostly cold characters who were only looking out for themselves--which may be an accurate portrayal of the way things were, but I had a difficult time getting into the movie because I really didn't have anyone to cheer for. Maybe I should have just enjoyed it for its historical content. I don't know.

--Watched Reign Over Me last weekend with another friend. It's about a man named Charlie who reverts back to his teen years after losing his wife and three girls in the 9/11 attacks. Adam Sandler plays Charlie and in my opinion he does a great job in such a serious role, but the movie has some rather odd moments--including Charlie's best friend being sexually harassed by a woman and she ends up playing a major role in the film later. The movie just felt out of balance to me.

--Two signs that I'm getting older: First, I fell asleep this week during a movie. I hardly ever do that. Second, I left my keys in the lock in the front door yesterday and they were there for several hours. And it's not the first time I've done that.

--I called 911 the other night. I was exiting the interstate by my home when I saw a car turn onto the exit ramp and toward the flow of traffic. Yikes! I have no idea what happened after that, but I'm hoping nobody got hurt (including the driver).

--The final NASCAR race of 2007 happens this weekend. I'll be glued to my television to see who wins the Nextel Cup and in hopes that maybe I'll finally get to see my favorite driver, Mark Martin, win a race.

Have a great weekend everybody.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Do Men Read?

And finally, here's one more repost that I thought you might enjoy. I'm planning to be back tomorrow with a new post.


I read an article in the August 2006 edition of Writer's Digest magazine yesterday that confirmed what I've heard time and time again in the publishing industry. The title is, "Do Men Read?" written by Maria Schneider. It's "a look at the curious reading (and book-buying) habits of guys." The gist of the article is this…"Men account for only 20 percent of novel sales—and we all know that Tom Clancy has taken that measly 20 percent hostage…Whether by cause or effect, most novels are published with women in mind."

Schneider then goes on to quote Steve Almond, an author and fiction aficionado, about why men don't read fiction: "Men don't read fiction because they don't want to deal with complicated, painful internal conflicts," he says. "They're in retreat from that, which is why they watch 'SportsCenter,' instead. I suspect this has to do with how the genders are socialized. Women are allowed to live closer to their emotions, to have quiet time, and men are pushed to externalize and not admit they're in pain."

Put me in the tiny percent of men who read fiction, who don't read Clancy, but who benefits from examining the complicated, painful internal conflicts of life. All of us are a walking contradiction of sorts. We hold to a belief system, and then routinely violate it. We say we want to chase our dreams, but often settle for simply walking behind the convenient. We long for acceptance and community, but rarely leave our couches long enough to make it happen. I'm just as guilty as the next guy.

But fiction challenges me. And it empowers me. And once it a while it shames me. When a character, who is full of flaws and contradictions (much like I am), faces his demons, I'm right there with him, rooting him on. And while I'm rooting, I'm continually thinking about my own cowardices, my own failings, and my own desire to overcome them.

Sometimes self-examination via fiction can be a bit much and I like to flip on Sports Center or a baseball game. In the end, I always forget the scores. Instead I remember certain situations in which players rise to the occasion to lead his team to victory and I remember when players fail miserably. But more than their actions, I remember their reactions—the triumphant look, the wincing look, or the nonchalant look (the only look I don't understand).

So, ultimately, even when I'm attempting to tune out, I'm never really disengaged. I can't speak for other men regarding their fiction buying habits because it appears that I'm quite different than the vast majority of them, but I have a hard time believing that anybody likes to live in a world of continual disengagement.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Greatest Generation

Here's another repost that you might enjoy:

A couple of nights ago I had a long conversation with a friend that covered many topics, but they were all related; the war in Iraq, generations, American culture, and the future of our nation. The common theme that wove these topics together was hardship, and more specifically, whether or not the current generation (the one in which I am part of) and the one that follows me is too soft to maintain our nation for the generations that will follow us.

My friend, who is about 15 years older than I am, didn't raise the question. I did. I'm well aware of the fact that the generation before me made huge sacrifices in Vietnam, and the one before that made them in Korea, and the one before that made them in WWII. My appreciation for the people who have died in uniform defending our country deepens by the day. But, as many others have noted, something about the WWII generation made them special--some call them "The Greatest Generation."

Tom Brokaw wrote a book by that title. Here's what he has to say about the WWII generation in a blurb on the Random House website: "As I walked the beaches with the American veterans who had returned for this [40th] anniversary, men in their sixties and seventies, and listened to their stories, I was deeply moved and profoundly grateful for all they had done. Ten years later, I returned to Normandy for the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion, and by then I had come to understand what this generation of Americans meant to history. It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced."

I agree with him, but not just because the men who fought there had the courage to fight the war. (Click here to listen to a 13 minute speech that President Reagan gave in Normandy in 1984 and see if you can keep from getting misty eyed by their courage.) But also because nearly everybody in that generation contained that same courage. Not long ago, as I was going through things in my basement, I came across ration cards that my grandparents used during WWII. Ration cards were issued to civilians and limited the amount of meat, sugar, coffee, gasoline, and other items they could purchase. A slogan that could be heard again and again during that era was: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

This is the same generation that endured the Great Depression, so they understood what "doing without" meant. They were tough. And after the war was over, they were even tougher. I'm of the opinion that generations are made tough through trials. And I'd like to think that if our generation was called upon to make such sacrifices, that we could. Leaving aside the argument about whether we ought to be in Iraq or not right, our current generation in America has certainly shown the ability and courage it takes to fight when called upon. But what about the rest of us?

We've had so many things handed to us. Parents who didn't push us hard. A government that hands out checks which fosters a sense of entitlement. A fascination with pop culture and a nearly total disregard for history. According to statistics released by the National Endowment for the Humanities a little over a year ago, 51 percent of American high-school students think Germany, Japan, or Italy was an ally of the United States during WWII.

What will it take to make younger generations tougher or even more appreciative of older generations? I have no idea. Perhaps the aftermath of the current war will bring us face to face with soldiers and their families who have indeed made huge sacrifices. And maybe our leaders will one day call upon us to make sacrifices rather than promising us a better lifestyle.

Thinking about the big picture is just too overwhelming though. Thankfully, much of life happens in the small picture, which means, all of us can do something. We can teach our kids to respect elders. We can make sure they understand the sacrifices previous generations made. We can read history books to increase our own appreciation. And we can still talk to members of the greatest generation. Some of them are still alive and would love nothing more than to have one person ask them, "So what was it like…"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Private Victory

I'm buried under work this week and probably won't have much time for new posts until next week. So, I thought I'd pick out a few of my favorite posts (many of which appeared on this blog long before many of you stumbled across it) and repost them this week. Hope you enjoy them.


I'm probably a lot like most other people who love to read or watch movies. I find characters I can identify with and for a brief period, I live vicariously through them. These characters are often willing to act, rather than sitting around waiting for life to come to them. They are willing to say things that need to be said, rather than holding their tongue and hoping things work out. They pursue their own dreams, rather than pursuing the dreams others try to impose upon them.

Real life isn't always that easy, and it requires more tact than fiction, but fiction draws us because we see the raw, unadulterated, realness of the characters and we long to live that way. In a way, fiction allows us to entire a private world in which we are freer to feel the exhilarating triumphs, and the gut-wrenching pains, and thrills of living life they way we'd really like to.

With all of this in mind, I came across a passage recently in a book called Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain that really spoke to me. The book is about how to write and sell novels. It was published in 1965, so most of the anecdotal information is so outdated that I'm not even familiar with the movies and books that Swain references, but his instruction is the best I've ever read or heard—part of which advises readers about how to make characters seem more real.

Swain makes the case that novelists must be observers of people if they expect to portray humanity properly. In his mind, novelists must understand what motivates humans and their subsequent actions. In one particular section, under the sub-heading How do you give a character direction? Swain says this:

"Each of us wants to feel adequate to his world…in control of his situation and, thus, of his destiny.

"Anything that endangers a character's sense of control indicates a lack in him…an inadequacy. If my wife nags, or my jokes fall flat, or the promotions I seek go to other men, I may eventually come to doubt myself.

"When a man becomes aware of such a lack, and even if he can't figure out precisely what disturbs him, he grows tense and restless: unhappy, discontented, ill at ease.

"To relieve this tension, he takes some sort of action…escapes from the nagging wife in work, abandons humor for books, eases the sting of disappointment at failure to get ahead by taking refuge in gossip or sullenness or hobbies. Defeated, emotionally speaking, he substitutes one kind of behavior for another, in order to achieve a private victory. He pays for what he lacks, his inadequacies, with conduct designed to make up for them."

I love his phrase, "a private victory" because it captures the essence of what we long for--even, and maybe especially, in public defeat. All of us have places we retreat to in search of our own private victory when public victory is elusive. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Private victory can give us courage to attempt public victory and it can infuse us with hope when our circumstances in real life look bleak, but private victory ought to never become a substitute for real life. That's the struggle that we face, but for me, just being aware of the battle, gives me more courage to fight.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Love Thy Neighbor

Back in early July, I hinted that I had a family situation to deal with and I said I'd be away for a while. I can't go into a lot of details, but I can tell you that the family issue was my mom's health. She had a light stroke on July 3rd. The term "light stroke" seems ridiculously under-named when you see your mom unable to walk or even sit up under her own power. But Mom responded better than anybody might have imagined.

She was in the hospital for nearly a month, during which she underwent a ton of physical therapy to help her rebuild her strength--mostly on the left side of her body. She worked hard and by the time she came home in late July, she was much better. She still needed a lot of physical therapy, but she responded well to it and thankfully she's on the road to recovery.

She would tell you that it's been a group effort. My sister and I helped her. Some of her friends from work have called or sent cards and that lifted her spirits. People from my church brought over meals. And her neighbors have been unbelievable.

During Mom's hospital stay, several of them came over an introduced themselves while my sister and I took care of things at the house. Since Mom came home, they've done things that I have never seen neighbors do. One guy, who lives across the street, installed a garage door opener for her. Another neighbor is taking Mom to church on Saturday nights. Another plans to fix her car. Another calls, visits, and watches her house. On and on it goes.

She subscribed to one of those services that provides a button she wears around her neck that she can push in case she falls. They needed three names of people they could call who live within 15 minutes as sort of a first line of defense. She asked three of her neighbors and they were all willing to help.

And now that I think about it, this goes back further than when she had a stroke. In March, as she was returning home from work during a snowstorm, she got stuck on the street she lives in. One of her neighbors came out and dug her car out of the snow and helped her get it into the garage.

Imagine how many problems would disappear if all of us had such neighbors. And maybe more importantly...imagine how many problems would disappear if all of us were such neighbors.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Free-for-All

--Thanks to everybody who took the time to vote for Little Nuances in the 2007 Weblog Awards. Last time I checked, the voting wasn't finalized, but I was pleased with the way things turned out--especially given the number of great blogs in the Best Diarist category.

--I received several very nice, heart-felt emails from people this past week saying that they are enjoying Little Nuances. Some even shared their own common experiences with me--which I just love, by the way. Thank you for taking the time to do so.

--So, I have had this huge pile of paperwork (mostly junk mail) that I've needed to sort through for a long time, but just haven't gotten around to it. I sort it out on Wednesday night and found four twenty dollar bills in the middle of the pile. Talk about incentive for cleaning! Actually I knew it was around here somewhere, but it was nice to finally find it.

--Baptist Press Sports published an article I wrote this week about Tom Osborne returning to Nebraska as the interim athletic director. I interviewed him a week ago for the story. If you'd like to read it, click here: Osborne returns to familiar surroundings at Nebraska as interim AD.

--Went to see Dan in Real Life with my 17-year old niece the other night. I identified with so much of the movie, and more specifically with Dan, that it was a little scary. Dan is a middle-aged widower who is raising three girls. He's a columnist and author. And as the movie opens, he's beginning to think about love again. It's been four years since his wife died. He uses the word "peeps," much like I do, to my niece's chagrin. He plays the guitar, like I used to--well, sort of. He loves bookstores, and that's so me. I'm not a widower, and I'm not raising three girls, but so much of his life looked like mine that my niece commented about it.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Last Chance

Today is the last day you can vote in the 2007 Weblog Awards. Little Nuance is currently seventh in the Best Diarist category and I'd be thrilled if you'd help to keep it there. Click here to vote. I appreciate all of the e-mails of support I received this week. It's nice to know that people are reading the blog and care enough about it to say so.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Drowning in Nostalgia

"You should be warned that it becomes increasingly easy, as you get older, to drown in nostalgia. In fact, you can almost measure where you are in life by the degree to which you have begun looking back rather than ahead." --Ted Koppel, in a commencement speech to St. Mary's (MD) graduates in May 2006

It's funny how the smallest event in the present can make you yearn for yesteryear. Hearing about Martina Hingis' retirement this week did that for me. I'm not going to get into the scandal that led to her retirement. It's not pertinent to this post. Instead, her leaving the game is but another reminder for me about the continuity of life.

In the abstract, continuity is a beautiful concept. It offers hope and imagination. But in reality, it often contains disappointment and the thought that nothing is as it should be. Yeah, I know. Sounds a bit overly dramatic--especially when speaking about the retirement of a tennis player. But I don't see it that way.

As I've said here before, for a shy, overweight kid who rarely felt like he fit in anywhere, the tennis courts became like home to me. I was never great, but good enough to be respected, and respect can carry a person a long way. As I got older and was faced with the reality that tennis is never going to be more than a hobby that I'm extremely passionate about, I sort of refocused my energy on watching the professional game--namely the US Open every August/September. I tuned in to feel at home.

I remember the late 80's as people like Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, and Boris Becker captured the title. I watched as Andre Agassi won it for the first time in 1994. And then as Steffi Graf and Pete Sampras won in 1995 and 1996. I enjoyed the Patrick Rafter run in 1997 and Martina Hingis' first and only US Open championship that same year. And well...you get the idea. I watched them all and all of them are gone now that Hingis has retired.

That doesn't mean I don't enjoy the current players or appreciate Roger Federer. I do. And I'll keep watching. But the feeling of nostalgia sweeps over me when I think about the in between period--that time in my life when I transitioned from my wannabe tennis player phase to hey-I-can-still-enjoy-this-game-by-watching-others-play-it phase.

In the big scheme of things, none of this is that big a deal. I'm a sap when it comes to nostalgia. I realize that "the good ole' days weren't always good." And I'm certain that I'll loose too much sleep when the Australian Open begins in January. I'll cheer and jeer and will my favorite players on to victory (or maybe defeat), and I'll enjoy myself. But part of me will still be thinking about the in between period.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Perfect Strangers

Yesterday afternoon I decided to do some work at Starbucks, so I packed up my laptop and headed for the intoxicating aroma of java. I ordered my standard skinny vanilla latte and yes I know most men would never order such a drink, but I don't care. I love the way they taste.

I fired up my laptop and as it was booting up I saw a woman sitting by herself. She was pounding away on her own laptop and I couldn't help but wonder what she was working on. Maybe it was NaNoWriMo. Maybe it was a book. Or maybe she was working on a report of some sort. She finished what she was doing and then moved across the store into a more comfy seat behind me. She pulled out a book and began to read.

Another woman came into the store after I started working. She smiled at me briefly and sat down at the same table the previous woman occupied. I love the fact that she was willing to smile at me. I didn't take it as an overt come on. It was more just one human acknowledging another. Anyway, she fired up her laptop and dove into whatever she was working on and just like with the first woman, I wondered what the second woman was working on too.

Something struck me as I thought about the three of us. All of us were there by ourselves and none of us seemed to mind it one bit. I've always been one who didn't mind going to a restaurant, bookstore, or coffee shop by myself, but I know that some people are uncomfortable flying solo. Maybe our culture has finally reached a point in which we are more comfortable in our own skin and we aren't afraid to take on life by ourselves.

But the interesting thing is, even though we are by ourselves, we still crave the company of other humans. We want to hear the dull buzz of conversation, even if we aren't included in it. We want to hear laughter, and passion, and every other range of emotion, even if we aren't involved in the experience. We want to take in the background music, sip our lattes, and write our email in the presence of others, even if we never interact with each other directly because humans desperately need each other.

We need to know we aren't alone. That's what it comes down to. Because the thought of music and coffee and laptops that are void of humanity seems to somehow empty such things of their meaning. There is a time to enjoy such things alone. But how much better does a cup of coffee taste when sipped in the presence of a friend or a loved one? And when that's not possible, even a perfect stranger will do.

Monday, November 05, 2007

500 Words

I went through some photos this weekend for a family member and it made me think about the old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Being a person who loves words, I decided to put the saying to the test--at least partially. One thousand words seems a bit long for a post, so I decided to see if I could write exactly 500 words about a photo instead.

I chose this one from my collection:

This photo shows my late father holding my niece, Brooke, in 1990, shortly after she'd been born. So many things come to mind as I study it.

Let's start with their faces. It's hard not to notice Dad's wrinkles in contrast to my niece's smooth, new skin. Dad lived a hard life and you can almost see each struggle in the crevices of his face. Brooke's life was just beginning, and while she would know hardship early (she was born with Cerebral Palsy in her lower extremities and would undergo many surgeries), her face shows no evidence yet.

They both have a look in their eyes that seems to be saying, "I don't really know who you are yet, but I'm comfortable enough to hang out with you for a while to learn more about you." And look at their mouths. Both are in a similar position--sort of like the shape that would hold a set of those goofy wax teeth that probably nobody under 35 remembers. And it sort of adds to the case that they were searching to understand each other.

Dad is gently supporting Brooke's head with his left hand--which is a good indication that he knew how to handle an infant. And like all babies do, Brooke seems quite content to let him hold her head up. It's a beautiful picture of the way older generations understand the vulnerability of younger generations and just naturally do what needs to be done to protect them. And it also depicts the way the youngest generation innocently depends upon and trusts older generations.

Their hair tells a story too. Dad's hair is still jet black even though he was 54 in this photo. (My hair on the other hand is speckled with gray on the sides and I'm just 41.) Brooke has new-born hair. It's not all the way filled in yet. In a sense, both of them have hair that is untouched by the ravages of time.

Brooke's hands appear to be on the verge of lunging out at Dad's face to grab his glasses, or one of his lips, or maybe she was thinking about sticking her fingers inside his mouth. She liked to do that. And if she did it during this particular instance, I'm sure Dad was quick to tuck his lips over his teeth and pretend to gum her fingers. I can just hear her giggle as he does it. It would have filled the entire room with joy.

Finally, I can tell a lot from the background of the photo. It was taken at my grandmother's house--the same house I spent so much time in growing up. I can see a portion of her old familiar clock on the wall. And I can see her exercise bike, which she was probably still using during this point in her life while she recovered from quintuple heart bypass surgery in 1989.

So much family history in one snapshot. So many great memories.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Little Nuances Drawings

Just held two drawings for a free copy of my book, The Experience of Christmas: Family Devotions and Activities to Prepare the Heart, published by Barbour Publishing. If you are a subscriber to Little Nuances, check your email inbox. You may have won a copy. If you didn't, but would like to be eligible for future giveaways, you can subscribe by placing your email address in the subscription box in the top right hand side of the page.

And even if you didn't win a copy of the book, it's only $4.97 right now on Amazon.com. Pick up a copy and use it around your dinner table this Christmas season. And then email me to tell me about your experience. I wrote the book hoping that it would enrich the season for families and maybe even bring them closer together.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Free-for-All

--For those who are interested in casting a vote for Little Nuances in the 2007 Weblog Awards in the Best Diarist category, the polls are open. Here's a link. You can vote one time every 24 hours up until polls close on November 8. As I said yesterday, when I look at the other finalists in the category I know that I'm way out of my league and have no chance to win the award. But that's okay. Knowing that it is a finalist means a lot to me.

--Thanks to the folks over at the Blog of the Day Awards blog for giving Little Nuances a Blog of the Day Award on Wednesday. It's much appreciated.

--I received a letter in the mail from the county jury commission yesterday telling me to complete a prospective jury form and return it within 10 days. In other words, I may be headed for jury duty in mid-December. And if it happens, I'm fine with that. I absolutely believe in our system of due process and the court system needs jurors to make that happen. So if I'm called, I'll happily serve.

--I saw Elizabeth: The Golden Age this week with a friend one night. I love historical plot lines in which a country is fighting to defend its freedom. Such times make heroes out of ordinary people and fools out blowhards. Unfortunately I don't know my English history well enough to know whether this movie accurately portrays events as they happened, but it was inspiriting nonetheless.

--I'm still slowly reading a novel called The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford. I'm underlining all sorts of great insights by protagonist Frank Bascombe. Here's one: "I've stood at that window, my breathing shallowed, my feet heavy, my hands cold and hardened. I've calculated my fate on the slates of the neighbors' roofs, their mirroring windowpanes, roof copings and short jaunty front walks." I've done the same thing many times as I stare out my home office window contemplating both big and small decisions and it's amazing how much the process seems to be tied to the roof on the house across the street. 

That's it for this week. Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

2007 Weblog Awards

Just found out that Little Nuances has been named as a finalist in the 2007 Weblog Awards in the Best Diarist category. Voting is scheduled to begin on Thursday evening and I'll post a link when one becomes available.

When I look at the other finalists in this category, I realize that I'm way out of my league. Dooce is one of those blogs. If you haven't heard about it, it is a blog that became so famous after Heather Armstrong lost her job for writing posts that included people in her workplace that the term "dooced" is now routinely used in the media when a blogger gets fired for doing the same thing Armstrong did.

But, as I said last year, I really do count it an honor to be a finalist in the 2007 Weblog Awards. Thanks to Doc Bear for the nomination, and thanks to all of you who come back day after day to read about my take on the world. I hope you find a little piece of yourself in each post.

You are much appreciated.


You hear a lot about passion these days. I just came from a writer's conference and the question everybody seemed to be asking was, "What is your passion?" And the theory is, that if you write about your passion, then your writing will ring true. I buy that. But I'm sort of new to this passion thing. Like everybody else, I've always had pursuits in my life that I've been passionate about, but until recent years, I've never really chased hard after my passions.

I think I always felt like I needed permission to do so. My first real passion was probably tennis. My parents bought me racquets. My high school coach taught me how to improve. But I never really immersed myself into the game, meaning I didn't buy a lot of books about the proper techniques, or I didn't take any lessons. I basically hit a lot of tennis balls with friends, learned what worked for me, and then I competed. Sometimes successfully, but usually not.

When I started playing guitar in the late 80's and early 90's, I went a little deeper, in that I took lessons, but I never truly immersed myself into the guitar. Partly because I was shy and reserved, partially because throwing myself into such a thing meant that many other areas of interest would suffer, and partially because I felt like I needed someone to get behind me to push me over the hump. Someone who saw my "talent" (which wasn't much, believe me) and then admonished me to go all out.

Now, as a writer, things are different. I've sat under some great teaching over the years and I've learned how novelists construct scenes, and I've learned how non-fiction writers use fiction techniques in their writing to bring it to life, and I've learned how to craft an article in such a way that it compels people to continue reading--all of these things have made me a better writer.

But I also know that I can dive so much deeper. And I love that. The deeper you dive the better you become. In fact, I don't think you can become great at something until you've truly uncovered the little nuances that most aren't willing to look for. Natural talent is nice to have, but it only takes a person so far if he or she is unwilling to strive for excellence.

If you find yourself stuck in a rut today, hoping that somebody will give you permission to pursue something you already know that you should be chasing, then I hope you'll hear what I'm saying and just do it.


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