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, October 30, 2012

Headed for Beauty

The Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico
Photo: Marc Davis
As you read this, I’m en route to a retreat center in Abiquiu, New Mexico called the Ghost Ranch for a writer’s conference. Georgia O’Keeffe found inspiration to paint there for fifty years and it is easy to see how.

It is set far enough off the highway that you cannot hear any traffic. In fact, you rarely hear any noise there. Rooms don’t have phones or televisions or Wi-Fi. Cell phone coverage is nonexistent. The gravel roads on campus are not illuminated by artificial lights at night, which means when it is dark, it is dark.

From the mesa, you might hear a coyote while star gazing into a sky that is so vast it makes you feel small. Trees sport wonderful shades of orange, red, and yellow. A snow flurry occasionally makes a presence this time of year. If you are really quiet, you might here a mouse scurry through the walls of your cabin or mule deer scamper in the field. I’m looking forward to all of this (well, not the mice, but all the rest) more.

I won't be posting again this week. But I'll be back next week.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Plea for Political Passion and Humility

One of my neighbors recently put up a yard sign for the Romney-Ryan ticket. Another neighbor put up a yard sign for a Democratic senate candidate. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with passionate people supporting their candidates.

I’m glad people are passionate about politics because the political process matters. If you don’t believe that, consider how much of your earnings go toward property tax, income tax, automobile tax, gasoline tax, sales tax, communications tax, “sin” taxes, and nearly anything that moves tax. And then there are inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, and the like. Also, consider the regulations your political leaders set: gun regulations, market regulations, banking regulations, insurance regulations, food safety regulations, employment regulations, trade regulations, environmental regulations, rental property regulations, airport regulations, zoning regulations, licenses and permits and there’s no way to include an exhaustive list here, but you get the point.

Taxes and regulations are necessary, and, dare I say good in many cases. We want safe roads, food, and airports and we need tax money to make that happen. But, everyone would agree we have to draw the line on taxes and regulations somewhere. That’s where our political leaders step in. If you choose the wrong ones, they might draw the line somewhere other than where you prefer or somewhere other than where the U.S. or your state constitution allows.

So, yes politics matter.

But for one reason or another, some of us never got involved in the political process. Some of us have become jaded by the political process and checked out. Some of us believe our political party left us, leaving us as political nomads. Some of us only listen to one side of the argument. In fact, too many of us only listen to only one side of the argument. Some of us vote based on sound bites, likability or political advertisements rather than doing the research ourselves. Some of us are new to the political process and have no historical reference points to realize where our political movement came from, so we have no idea if it is heading in the right direction or not. And some of us have never read the U.S. Constitution or our state constitution, so we have no idea what our political leaders are swearing to uphold.

We’re all in different places. I respect passionate, well informed, kind people who are in process, even if I disagree with them politically, but I cringe during the election season when I hear passionate, sometimes informed, sometimes uninformed, vitriolic people who cannot have a dialogue with people on the other side.

It is possible to be confident and firm in your belief without being mean-spirited. Just as a soft answer turns away wrath, a spirit of humility in a political conversation builds bridges and if a bridge exists, both sides have somewhere to meet to continue the conversation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My First 50 Miles

If you haven’t listened to worship music
outside, then you haven’t experienced
its full power
I’ll hit the halfway mark of my 100-mile walking goal this week. I set the goal on August 7 with the intention of hitting it by the end of the year. As I have walked, a number of truths have solidified themselves in my mind.

The power of an extra tenth. I have an app on my phone called Endomondo (that Arthur Fonzarelli must have designed: correctamundo?) that tracks my walking using GPS. I hit the start button the second my feet hit the ground and hit the stop button when I arrive back at my van. The four laps I walk, plus the five tenths of a mile to and from the track usually total 1.10 miles. That extra tenth adds up. Every ten times I walk, I gain an extra mile. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

The power of music. My taste in music has varied over the years. That has led to an eclectic collection of songs on my iPod and it comes in handy when I’m walking. If you haven’t listened to worship music outside, then you haven’t experienced its full power. If you haven’t listened to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” during a workout, then you’ve probably never fully experienced an adrenaline rush. And if you haven’t listened to Metallica’s six-minute minute version of “Turn the Page” while traveling by vehicle or foot, then you are missing the power of shared experience. There is a time to listen to music passively, but when you listen to it in motion, it becomes a soundtrack for your life.

The power of encouragement. Many people have sent me encouraging messages since I set this goal. Most of those people are more confident than I am that I’ll reach my goal, but that type of encouragement fuels the fire. I was sick last week and just didn’t feel like walking, so I’m behind schedule now. And next week I’ll be on the road, so I’m not sure how much walking will happen then. But I have this week, and I can hear people cheering me on.

The power of community. The neighborhood I live in is racially diverse, which means the park I walk in is too. I’m enjoying seeing so many people with different skin colors interacting. Once in a while a group will bring a grill and cook out next to the basketball court. They also bring coolers of pop, condiments, and chips and they make an event out of it. And they invite others to join them. There’s nothing like food to bring people together.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Three Reasons I Dig The American Bible Challenge

My mom is a huge GSN (Game Show Network) fan.

Over the years as I have visited her, we have watched hundreds of episodes of various game shows, including The Pyramid, Whammy, 1 vs. 100, Lingo, Deal or No Deal, Minute to Win It, Family Feud, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and most recently The American Bible Challenge.

I love The American Bible Challenge for several reasons.
  1. It provides a great opportunity to talk about eternal matters. My mom and I have different faith traditions. But the Bible is common ground and watching a TV show in which the Bible is front and center leads to natural conversations about what it says.

  2. The contestants aren’t playing for themselves. Instead they are playing for the charity of their choice. The team that won the first season (Team Judson’s Legacy, which you can read more about here) won $100,000 for an organization that is fighting the disease their child died from in 2007. That made the grand finale emotional to watch.

  3. It is humbling and challenging. During some episodes, from the comfort of a recliner, I get as many as 75% of the answers correct. During other episodes, I get less than half correct. But I love seeing people who are passionate about God’s Word trying to process the correct answers under pressure, since so much of life is lived under pressure.
Have you seen the show?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Glamping, Knork and Suburgatory

Here is what glamping looks like.
Photo: Stephanie Chapman
I heard three more new to me words this past week: glamping, knork and suburgatory.

The in thing is to combine two known words into a new one to more accurately portray a concept as we live it out in the twenty-first century. I’m a word person, so I find this fascinating. Here is a breakdown of the three new to me words.

Glamping. This one isn’t so new. The NY Times did an article about the trend in 2008. Glamping is glamorous camping. Rather than sleeping in a tiny tent in a sleeping bag on the ground in the woods, people who go glamping sleep on a real mattress (often on a real bed) in a huge prepitched tent, tepee or yurt on a resort or campground and the structure contains modern day amenities (e.g. dresser, nightstand, lamps).

As with everything else, there are websites dedicated to glamping, such as Glamping.com, GoGlamping.net and Glamping Girl.

From what I can tell, glamping is expensive – so expensive that I would rather just rent a cabin somewhere. But I do like the idea of glamping since I’m not the most outdoorsy person you’ll ever meet.

Knork. Not to be confused with a spork, a knork is a knife and fork combined into one eating utensil. The premise is, if you buy the product, you can eat with just one hand, cutting and eating your food with the same utensil. About.com goes into detail about why this might be a good invention:
I was pleasantly surprised that the design of the Knork® actually works well, much better than a standard fork. The beveled edge combined with a rocking motion cut smoothly through every cooked food I tried it on. It’s perfect for stand-up parties, when you have to hold your plate in one hand and the utensil in the other. You only have to juggle one utensil, instead of a knife and a fork.

Aside from lazy eaters like me, the Knork® can be a valuable tool for the temporarily-injured or physically-challenged. Those who can only use one hand due to broken bones, strokes, or similar medical conditions will find this utensil quite useful.
Before I read these two paragraphs, I wondered why in the world we needed another eating utensil, but what the writer said makes perfect sense.

Suburgatory. I saw an advertisement over the weekend for an ABC sitcom that goes by this name. I have never heard of it, but it is going into its second season. Obviously, the word is a combination of suburban and purgatory.

The series is about a father who moves his daughter from New York City to the suburbs so she’ll have a better life, but his daughter is creeped out by how perfect everything (and everybody) seems to be in their new location.

Several people online have described the series as “The Stepford Wives” meets “Mean Girls,” which makes me wonder if even the description should be combined as, “The Mean Stepford Wives.”

How about you? Have you heard any new to you words that combine two existing words? Share them in the comments.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Grand Gestures

Clanc-meister turns six today
My mom’s cat, Clanci (whom I affectionately call Clanc-meister), turns six today. I plan to make a big deal out of it, complete with a little cake and a birthday card.

Why do I even know when Clanci’s birthday is and why go to so much trouble for an animal that won’t have a clue why we are singing “Happy Birthday”?

Because making a grand gesture toward Clanci – the cat who keeps my mom company during her routines – will make Mom smile, and laugh.

She will say we are both nuts, and that Clanci is spoiled. And I’ll agree. We’ll enjoy some cake, take a few photos, talk about our favorite Clanci moments and cement another shared memory.

We’ve gone through this routine in the past, but I never really saw it as a grand gesture until I watched the movie Due Date (see the previous post). Peter, who wasn’t all that fond of Ethan early in the storyline, convinces Ethan to toss his father’s ashes into the Grand Canyon by saying, “He deserves a grand gesture.”

Peter didn’t mean Ethan’s father had done anything special to merit a grand gesture, even though he probably had. Instead, he was saying Ethan’s father deserved a grand gesture simply because he was Ethan’s father.

Grand gestures are rooted in love, in the verb sense of the word. It is easy to use the word “love” as a noun – a strong emotional feeling toward someone or something. But using the word as a verb is much more powerful because it shows us what that strong emotional feeling looks like.

Romans 12:10 is a great example.The writer says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” In context, the writer is referring to fellow believers in Rome, but the principle still applies – one way of loving one another with brotherly affection is to outdo one another in showing honor.

We can honor one another in hundred different ways – birthday celebrations, anniversary celebrations, cards and letters, a phone call on the anniversary of the death of a loved one, flowers, gifts, plaques, certificates, toasts, an invitation to meet for coffee to celebrate an accomplishment and yes, sometimes even buying someone’s cat a birthday cake.

Most grand gestures are simple to pull off. Sometimes though, I get so caught up in my own life that I forget to do the little thing for someone else. Maybe you do too. But God’s mercies are new every morning.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Amazing Grace, Rod Stewart and Bubbly

Usually Latte will pose with the bottle of wine, but this
time she was more interested in the wine than posing
On my quest to find good red wine (and by good I mean somewhere between Kool-Aid sweet and Merlot), I picked up a bottle called Bella Bolle’, Sweet Red.

Bella Bolle’ is an Italian bubbly. I didn’t know it was a bubbly when I bought it, but maybe the design on the bottle should have given it away. Unfortunately, I’m just not that astute.

It looks like Bella Bolle’ only makes Sweet Red and Moscato d’Asti.

Less is more sometimes.

On Sunday night, I poured a glass of the Sweet Red and sat down to watch the movie “Due Date.” Synopsis from IMDB: “High-strung father-to-be Peter Highman is forced to hitch a ride with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay on a road trip in order to make it to his child’s birth on time.”

I took a sip of wine as the movie started and was reminded of Wild Cherry Pepsi, which makes sense since it is a bubbly and has a combination of ripe cherries and raspberries flavoring. It’s not over-bubbly though, like a champagne. Instead it’s more like a hybrid.

Toward the end of Due Date, Peter and Ethan pull up to the Grand Canyon where Ethan wants to spread his father’s ashes. These two men could not be more different. Peter is a by-the-book kind of guy who doesn’t stray to the fringes of life. Ethan lives in the fringes.

Peter can’t stand Ethan and the way he lives, but he has softened toward Ethan by this point of the movie. Ethan is a loner who is looking for solace after his father died, and while he knows Peter isn’t fond of him, he is hoping Peter will just listen to him to help him get past a difficult time in his life.

They get out of their vehicle at the Grand Canyon and Ethan approaches the edge. “Amazing Grace” plays softly in the background while Ethan eulogizes his father (you can watch the scene here).

Wait a minute – is that Rod Stewart singing “Amazing Grace”? Wow, that is unexpected, but it works.

Ethan tosses his father’s ashes into the canyon as the song winds to a close. And it hits me – this scene is like the wine I’m drinking. I found beauty in the unexpected in both cases.

If you are looking for a unique sweet red wine that isn’t over the top sweet, Bella Bolle’ is a nice choice. And If you are looking for a dramedy that is so silly it is serious, Due Date is a nice choice.

Friday, October 05, 2012

A Bizarre Licensing Agreement

Photo Credit
For several years, I’ve been using a free software program called WordWeb. It’s a dictionary that sits in your system tray and it comes in quite handy for someone who writes and edits every day.

Once a year, a question will pop up when I open the software asking if I have flown in the past twelve months. I check no, and move on. But when it happened again this week, I was curious enough to find out why that would matter.

I ended up on the licensing page and found the most bizarre licensing agreement I’ve ever read. It says that if a person takes more than two commercial flights a year, he or she is not eligible to use this software. Their reasoning?
Global greenhouse gas emissions are currently around 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, and probably need to be reduced by at least 80% have a good chance of avoiding dangerous warming. Most computer users are responsible for far more emissions than is sustainable. For example two short-medium distance return flights can be equivalent to over 1 tonne of emissions1: more than an average person can safely emit over an entire year.
This doesn’t make sense for a couple of reasons.

First, what does being a “computer user” have to do with emissions on flights? I don’t understand the connection. Maybe one of you can help me.

Second, if computer usage is so evil from this company’s perspective, why in the world are they in the business of producing software?

It gets better, or worse, depending on your perspective. The agreement goes on to say:
The licensing model is designed to allow relatively non-wealthy people to use the program free of charge, and to provide a small incentive for other people who fly a lot to cut down.
So, the implication is, only wealthy people fly. That is ridiculous.

Look, WordWeb Software has every right to charge for its product, but to impose a charge that can only be seen as a penalty for people who fly (I don’t) is bizarre. And you get the feeling that they don’t have any idea what they are talking about.

Here’s the footnote to the agreement:
Flights are particularly bad because of additional non-carbon emissions and cloud formation at high altitude: the short-term warming effect is estimated to be many times worse than the same CO2 emission at ground level, perhaps a factor of two worse on a twenty-year timescale, but it could be worse than this – the science is not well understood.
The science is not well understood? Then how can WordWeb Software make any of the claims it makes? And who wrote this agreement?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

If Someone's Love Can Make Us Better ...

The plot for the movie “One Day” intrigued me when I first heard it. Still does.

Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) meet on July 15 – the day of their college graduation, and then reconnect every July 15 for twenty years to talk about where they are in life before finally realizing they should be together.

A few years ago, I went to see the play, “Same Time, Next Year,” (based on the 1978 movie of the same name) and it had the same premise (which a blog called Movie Smackdown explores). It had a fatal plot twist though in my mind since both George and Doris were married and were renewing their affair on the same day every year.

I watched “One Day” over the weekend. Unfortunately, it was a bit disjointed. But it is still the better of the two productions.

One particular scene in the movie stands out. But it’ll take a minute to set up. Stop reading here if you don’t want me to spoil the ending. Okay, you’ve been warned.

Emma is more likable than Dexter. You feel her wandering pains more. And you get the feeling that she’s just going through the motions without Dexter. She takes a job as a waitress and settles for a man (Ian) she doesn’t love.

Dexter has his own demons – all the usual suspects. And the truth is, he doesn’t show Emma the respect she deserves.

At times, it’s hard to understand what Emma sees in him, other than twenty years worth of history. With history comes familiarity though, so I can see why she pines for Dexter. He’s the only one who really knows her.

Finally, they realize they are better together, so they get married. But then, she dies. After Emma’s death, Dexter is lost. He provokes a fight in which he gets beaten severely. And he ends up at his father’s (Steven) place, where they have this conversation.

“So, is this going to be an annual festival, do you think?” Steven says. “Every year, fifteenth of July?

“Well, I hope not.”

“I don’t want a heart-to-heart. Do you?”

“No. No. I’d rather not,” Dexter says.

“Except to say that I think the best thing that you could do would be to try to live your life as if Emma were still here. Don’t you?”

“I don’t know if I can.”

“Of course you can,” Steven says. “What do you think I’ve been doing for the past ten years?” [His wife died of cancer.]

Dexter glances over at his dad who has his face buried in a bowl of soup. He nods a couple of times knowing his dad has found a way to go on.

Later, Ian visits Dexter and he is gracious. He tells Dexter that Emma made Dexter decent while Dexter made her happy. There’s a certain sadness in this admission from Ian. He knew Emma’s heart was never his, but he has moved on and found someone else.

Steven’s wisdom, combined with Ian’s observation, provide clarity.

If someone’s love can make us better, then it has the power to keep making us better ... even beyond the grave. Maybe that’s why reminders of people after they are gone help us heal, transforming our tears to smiles of recognition.


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