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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Beautiful Acts of Mercy

Photo: Alex Proimos
The woman shuffled her feet, allowing the cane in her left hand and the Village Inn employee on her right side to help her get from the lobby of the restaurant to her car.

“You got a great spot today,” the male employee said to her. He looked to be 24 or 25. “Right up front.”

She spoke in such a hushed tone that I couldn’t hear anything she said.

Once she got outside, the employee stayed with her, helping her into her car that was parked at a 45-degree angle. I slid into my van, which was parked close by. I couldn’t help but watch.

They chatted for a couple of minutes and then he placed one of his hands on her shoulder as they said goodbye. It made me want to go shake his hand, or go tell his manager about this tender act of mercy. But I got the feeling that this was a common occurrence. Apparently she is a regular. And why wouldn’t she be with service like that?

My mind raced to fill in the gaps of her story.

Is she a widow whose only regular contact with people is at Village Inn? Is she stressed out, thinking about the day she will no longer be able to drive to the restaurant, church or the grocery store? Who will be there for her when that day comes? Are her days of independent living coming to an end, causing her to savor Saturdays like this one in which she can still drive to her favorite restaurant to enjoy her favorite meal that always ends with a nice chat with the employee who goes the extra mile with her?

Two nights later, I was in a different Village Inn with my mom. When we walked in, a woman was seated in the lobby with a walker in front of her. She was waiting for a ride.

“Your cab is here,” said a female employee who has worked at the restaurant for 10 years.

The woman began the laborious process of gathering her things.

“Take your time,” the employee said. “I’ll go tell the driver that you are on your way.”

She came back in and the rustling behind me said she was helping the woman gather her things.

Two beautiful acts of mercy in two restaurants in the same chain across town from one another. Who says chain restaurants can’t have a homey, personal touch?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Weeping with Those Who Weep

The Porter family in 2005
It’s a fallacy to think we always have tomorrow.

Last Thursday, Pat Porter, a two-time Olympian distance runner was piloting a twin-engine Cessna that crashed, killing everyone on board, including Pat, his 15-year-old son Connor and Connor’s friend Connor Mantsch.

I’ve known Pat’s wife, Trish, for a number of years. She too has competed in the Olympics – in fact, that is how she met Pat. I wrote a story for Christianity Today, International about her journey as an Olympian and about how she continues to compete at high levels. I also played a small role in helping her with her book, Rekindle Your Dreams, that was released in 2010.

The USA Today reports that just before the crash, Pat and Trish exchanged a series of humorous text messages. Her last text to Pat asked him when he was coming home.

When I heard about Trish’s loss on Thursday night, it felt like somebody punched me in the stomach. I ached for her and her 11-year-old daughter Shannon. I still do. She wrote this heartbreaking message on her Facebook page:

Thank you everyone for your thoughts, prayers, and kind words. This has been the most difficult time in my life and my heart is broken. I am so thankful that Pat and Connor loved the Lord and had a personal relationship with Jesus. God's strength and your prayers are what is keeping me going. I can't neglect Shannon is too! I wish I could respond to each of you personally but I am just not able to. Know that I will read each message and you are part of my healing process. Thank you. I have included the link to the local t.v. station Ch. 4 that aired a very nice tribute to Pat and Connor.

Here’s the video she linked to. I could barely get through it.

None of us know when we will breathe our last breath. Don’t wait to live deeply or to love genuinely. Say everything you need to say now and do everything you need to do. We are not promised tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2012

We Need Each Other

Today is going to be crazy.

I need to get my driver’s license renewed, renew my license plates on my van, take care of some legal paperwork and I have a couple of work projects I need to complete. Those projects are dependent on me having access to my email, which is normally not a problem. But Yahoo! email has been down all morning. 

Yeah, I know. I should use an email address from my own domain. But even those aren’t foolproof. And using an email address from my own domain doesn’t work well for me. I have my hands in too many cookie jars.

For example, when I’m working on an editing project for a publishing house or a manuscript critique company, it would look odd if I sent an email to the client from an email address that ended with @christianmanuscriptediting.com. It would be similar to working as a consultant for McDonald's and then sending a client an email from a Burger King email account.

Putting all of that aside, I’m reminded of how dependent we are on one another. I have two clients who are waiting to hear from me today regarding their respective projects. I am waiting to access their projects that are stored in my email that I cannot get into. Since I have already made other appointments today, my window of time to handle these projects is dwindling. If I were to push any of those other appointments back, it affects other people’s schedules. And so it goes.

This isn’t a knock against Yahoo! I rarely have email issues with them. But it does make me wonder about the ripple effect. How many times have I dropped the ball regarding another person, which caused him or her to make adjustments I was oblivious to?

Sometimes it can’t be helped. But I would like to limit those instances on my end.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Red Wall of Support

Sometimes you stumble into something and you learn about its significance later. That’s what happened to me on Saturday.

My brother-in-law turned right onto a street in Columbia, Missouri that was lined with Harley Davidsons as I looked on from the passenger seat. The motorcycles had signage that identified their owners as the Patriot Guard Riders.

Everywhere we looked, we saw the American flag. Every motorcycle displayed one and many people who were milling around had one in their hands. One person draped a huge flag across his or her truck’s tailgate.

My brother-in-law and I kicked around ideas about what might be going on – a patriotism parade of some sort or annual festival? Neither one of us is from Columbia, so we had no idea. We were there from my niece’s soccer tournament.

The mood wasn’t festive. It was somber, determined.

I shot a few photos with my cell phone from inside the vehicle and figured I would look up the event later. Once I was back in my hotel room, I found this article in the Columbia Tribune: ‘Red Wall’ of supporters comfort fallen soldier’s family.

Turns out that Columbia native Sterling Wyatt, 21, was killed while serving in Afghanistan on July 11 and when an acquaintance found at that the hatemongers from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka planned to protest Wyatt’s funeral, she decided to organize a small gathering to show Wyatt’s family their support.

She had no idea that thousands of people would show up.

They wore red shirts, forming a red shield to protect Wyatt’s family as they entered First Baptist Church to mourn the loss of their loved one. The line of support also ran along Broadway Street and on the route to the funeral home.

The event occurred after the Boone County Fair parade. Apparently, my brother-in-law and I arrived after the parade and the funeral, because, like I said, the mood was somber and the supporters seemed to be breaking up.

The good news is, the red wall worked. The newspaper reported that “About six people from the Westboro group held signs at College and Broadway, although most of the messages were blocked by American flags that Patriot Guard members waved nearby.”

Several times, Wyatt’s family came out of the church to thank the supporters. I imagine the tears flowed both ways.

I wasn’t wearing red that day, but as I wrote this after learning about what took place, I envisioned myself wearing a red shirt.


As I was about to post this, I found this video on YouTube about the Patriot Guard Riders. They have been showing up at funerals of fallen soldiers for years. God bless this group for mourning with those who mourn. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Yellow Tail Sweet Red Roo Wine

My cat Latte, posing with a bottle of
Yellow Tail Sweet Red Roo
I poured a glass of Yellow Tail Sweet Red Roo wine to enjoy with an episode of Friday Night Lights (FNL) from Season 3 called, “How the Other Half Lives,” which seemed fitting, given that I was drinking a bottle of wine that only cost $5.99.

I’m working my way through FNL for the second time and I’m realizing, as I always do when I see a movie or television series for the second time, that I missed so much the first time.

I don’t remember Landry and Tyra breaking up before the season started, and I certainly don’t remember either character not giving a reason, but it feels totally unsatisfying. As viewers, we’ve been through too much with them without being given an explanation for their break up.

I don’t remember Lyla completely abandoning her newfound Christian faith from Season 2 without any explanation. She simply slips back into her old ways without any apparent thought or struggle. That’s disconcerting and it leaves viewers wondering who she is and what she believes.

In fairness to the show, Season 2 was supposed to be longer, but it was cut short. So, at the beginning of Season 3, the writers were left to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, they didn’t do it well enough to be convincing.

As a viewer who is willing to get lost in the fictional world of Dillon, Texas, I am being jarred out of that world, wondering why the writers didn’t create enough convincing backstory before moving on.

As I sipped my glass of Yellow Tail Sweet Red Roo wine, it tasted a lot like the unsatisfying gaps between Seasons 2 and 3 of FNL. Something just seemed off.

Yellow Tail had good intentions, trying to capture a piece of the growing market that favors red wine. According to Nielsen data, “the sweet wine category has seen a 246 percent increase in dollar value sales in 2011 versus the previous year and IRI Syndicated reported more than half a million cases of sweet red wine were sold in the U.S. in 2011.”

The problem is the back of the bottle doesn’t tell the entire story. Yellow Tail packaging says the wine’s flavors are “sweet red berries, vanilla & chocolate.” With the first sip, I knew it was a blended wine. My mouth was confused though. The back of the bottle did not mention any blends. But the wine was both sweet and dry.

That sent me to Google where I learned that it is a blend of “Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other red varietals.” I’m not a wine expert. I don’t even play one on the Internet. But why in the world would someone who wants a sweet red wine want a blend that includes dry wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz?

Maybe this wine is for real wine drinkers and that’s why I don’t like it. But if it is supposed to be sweet, then it needs to be sweet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Three Ear Worms, Plus One

A $3.00 adapter has allowed me to begin listening to my iPod in my vehicle again. Having that ability has led to three ear worms (a song that is stuck in your head), plus one. One of them is ridiculous, two are thought-provoking, and one … well, it just is.

The ridiculous comes from Jana Kramer’s self-titled debut album – which is quite good. There isn’t a bad song on it. But one particular song, called “Goodbye California,” contains this line, “I like your mustang, your sexy hot twang, country fried chicken is a beautiful thing.” She finds a way to rhyme “twang” with “thing” (pronounced “thang”) and I think that is what causes the worm. I could listen to her sing that line a hundred times in a row.

One of the thought-provoking ear worms comes from a Kim Taylor song called, “Days Like This.” In it she sings, “Days like this. Yeah you think about the ones that love you,” and later in the song, “Days like this. Yeah you think about the ones that went before you.” The editor in me wants to change the word “that” in both lines to “who,” but once I get past it, I identify with what Taylor is saying because I find myself doing both lately. I see my loved ones everywhere I look. [Here's the video for the song. If you are reading this via email, you'll need to click through to the blog to view the video.]

Another thought-provoking lyric comes from the new album by LA Guns, “Hollywood Forever.” The song “You Better Not Love Me” contains this line, “Girlfriend, take some advice. Opportunity, rarely strikes twice.” Does opportunity rarely strike twice? That does seem to be the case, doesn’t it? And if it does, what does that say about not hesitating when the opportunity does strike?

The final worm comes from the radio. I don’t own any music by Little Big Town, but they have a hit on the air right now called “Pontoon.” The chorus starts with these three little words, “On the pontoon” and they are completely stuck in my head. If you haven’t heard the song, YouTube it.

How about you? Do you have any ear worms?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

#72 Comfortable Clothing

Here I am bucking the trend and dressing
down at a writer's conference in Kansas City
Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series …

Ties are for funerals. Dress clothes are for weddings and work days in which I will either be meeting clients or presenting to them. And every other occasion is made for comfortable clothing.

That is my philosophy.

I dress down one or two levels from the norm. Many men wear suits to church. I wear jeans during the cool months and shorts during the summer – exceptions occur, especially when I’m behind on laundry. When I’m invited to speak at writer’s conferences or seminars, I politely tell coordinators that I’ll be there in a polo shirt and dress pants. Most sports journalists wear dress pants or jeans to cover sporting events in the summer. I wear shorts.

Five years ago, I attended a speaking seminar in which all of us gave five minute presentations within our group on the last day. Staying true to my clothing philosophy, I wore dress pants and a polo short. We critiqued each other, anonymously, judging delivery, content and appearance. I received relatively good marks on delivery and content, but not so much on appearance. One person suggested I would look better when presenting if I were to wear a loose fitting suit. Others at least wanted to see a dress shirt and tie. I appreciated their honesty, even if I didn’t agree with their opinions.

For me, it’s not about looking better. I’m fighting a losing battle there anyway. Instead, it’s about feeling comfortable physically, so I can be at my best. When I’m speaking to a group or to an individual, my goal is to get to past the externals so I can get to the matters of the heart. I’m a co-struggler who simply wants to learn and to teach.  

This past Sunday, my pastor read Isaiah 53:1-3 and he asked us to take in the verses anew, especially in relation to the appearance of the Messiah. Here is what those verses say:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
     and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Jesus would have no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He would be one from whom men would hide their faces.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry points out that, “Those who saw him could not see that there was any beauty in him that they should desire him ...”

In context, there doesn’t seem to be any hint that people hid their faces in reverence for the Messiah. Instead, the verses say he was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.

Maybe the weight of our sins and his coming rejection reflected in Jesus’ countenance. And maybe God, in his eternal wisdom, had no desire to adorn the gospel with a picturesque Messiah because he wanted to draw people with truth, not physical beauty.

If that is true, then outward appearance would seem to be a secondary matter.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Before and After

Photo: AudreyJM529
July 3 was the five-year anniversary of my mom’s stroke.

I always dread that date. What do you say to someone on such an awful anniversary date?

“Happy recovery day, Mom,” seemed to work best, even though the recovery took much longer than one day. It just feels more redemptive to talk about the recovery than it does the stroke – it’s a way of taking the date back.

As I thought about how I would acknowledge the date to my mom, it made me realize something. Most of us, myself included, can point to a date (or an event) in our lives in which the natural course of events changed so much that we refer to a before and after. Sometimes it is health-related, sometimes it’s not.

Before I ruptured my right Achilles tendon in 1997, I had never experienced physical rehab, or heard of a Pulmonary embolism, or been totally dependent on other people. I never had to worry about blood clots forming in my leg when I rode in an airplane or drove long distances in a car. And I never dreamed that I would spend portions of every afternoon since then sneaking away from whatever I’m doing to elevate my leg to keep it from swelling.

After I ruptured my right Achilles tendon in 1997, I longed to play tennis the way I used to, but my side-to-side mobility was limited. My internal anticipation on the court was the same, but my body would not cooperate. In hindsight, I should have kept playing anyway, but it was frustrating to be a shell of the player I was before the accident. In more ways than one, I was struggling to process the after of my injury, and in some ways, I still am.

Many people face health challenges that are far more severe than mine. I recently followed Olympic swimmer Kaitlin Sandeno as she visited ill children at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center here in Omaha (here’s a link to the story I wrote for the US Olympic Committee website about the events of the day -- Kaitlin Sandeno: Joy by the Jar). Seeing what those kids are facing put my after into perspective.

But this isn’t a competition. It’s reality, and we all have realities to face.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but personally, I like it when people ask me about my before and after. Not because I need or want anyone to feel sorry for me, but because it tells me they care enough to ask and then genuinely want to hear my answer. Somehow, having someone else acknowledge my before and after makes it feel like they are sharing my burden, and that makes it lighter.

This makes me want to ask other people about their before and after. I feel like I need permission to do this though. The before might be too painful to think about and the after might be too depressing. But I think I’ll gently broach the subject with people in the future because if it helps me to tell my story, it might help them too.


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