Saturday, January 16, 2010

Praying for Haiti

It's been a busy week, and the news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday has taken a while to sink in. My brother was visiting from New York City when the news broke. Then it was off to a two-day staff seminar, and I was out of my NPR-listening, TV-watching routine. Even so, the earthquake was on all of our minds--one of my colleagues has family living in Haiti, and while he knew that his parents were safe, he had yet to hear from his brother.

Until last night, I hadn't seen any coverage of the aftermath. What I saw last night broke my heart.

I traveled to Haiti with a group from my church in December 2002, and rang in 2003 to the accompaniment of the distant beat of voodoo drums in the eastern wilds of that country. It's hard to put into words the experience of Haiti, or to explain to those who have not been there how this earthquake only brings a more extreme version of chaos to what is already indescribably chaotic. The poverty is staggering. But the joy and hope of the people I met was humbling and inspiring.

In this video from our trip, shot and edited by Jeff VanderMolen, friend, team leader and co-founder of Haiti H2O (that's Hope 2 Opportunity), the single quote from me is, embarrassingly, "I haven't cried once, have I?" I've cried plenty for Haiti this week. And I continue to hold on to the hope that God can deliver the suffering people of Haiti from this most recent, and most extreme, tragedy.

Lord have mercy.

***If you are wondering where you might donate money to help the people of Haiti, I strongly encourage you to consider giving to Haiti H2O. Jeff will be leading a small team to Haiti later this month, after the initial response has passed. Click here to find out more. I can vouch for the integrity of this organization and the way they will use these funds. Their overhead is very low, so almost every dollar you give will go directly to helping the earthquake relief effort.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

True stories

Tomorrow morning, instead of heading straight to the office, I will detour to my local coffee shop for Book Group. 

Four of us meet every week, at 8am on Friday mornings. We drink coffee, or lattes, mochas, or tea. We eat bagels, or donuts or chocolate chip cookies, or whatever food item we might smuggle in from home to eat with the beverage we purchase. For me, that might be a banana or a granola bar. For others, it might be a hard-boiled egg.

We spend an hour or more catching up with each other, and at least a quarter of the time, we talk about whatever book we've decided to read together. Depending on how much we are enjoying said book, or how far along the slowest reader among us may be in the agreed-upon reading assignment, we may actually talk about it for half, or even three quarters of the time. 

The ratio of book discussion time to overall gathering time depends on several variables, from what other topics of conversation might be more interesting than the book in question to how many friends and acquaintances who are not part of the book group happen to drop by for their respective caffeine fixes. (Who needs Cheers when you can have a cool neighborhood coffee shop?)

Our reading list is very fluid, and very subjective. Over the past few months, we have read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller, Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose, and Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. (Confession time: that last one? I didn't finish.)

Tomorrow, we'll be talking about Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. I pretty much read this book, which is marketed primarily to a young adult audience, in 24 hours. I loved it. It's based on a true story, it won a Newbery Honor, and it made me cry.

One of the running jokes among the book group members is my proclivity for memoirs. Whenever it's time for us to figure out what we'll read next, it's a good bet that my wish list will include at least one memoir.

But even if a novel, a "made-up" story, isn't based on a true story, sometimes it rings truer than a so-called non-fiction book. And a memoir may be filled with half-truths and self-delusion.

Something to bring up tomorrow morning at Book Group.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The delinquent blogger

So, I know I used to have a few faithful readers out there in cyberspace. I know this because some of you have pointed out, in one way or another, my blogging delinquency. I wonder if you check in any more? I have been delinquent for a long time.

I’ve been feeling the itch to change that, but as with most things, I’m not really sure where to begin. I need help.

If you are still out there, faithful readers, could you answer a few questions for me?

   1. Why did you, once upon a time, check in here so faithfully?
   2. If you still do, why? 
   3. What is it you’d like me to write about?
As you can see, I’m looking for a new starting place—a jumping-off point, as it were. Thanks in advance for your help! If you’re still out there… 

(So yeah. This is also an excuse for a social experiment. Is anybody out there? Anyone? Bueller?)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Writing our stories

My book group is currently reading Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. It's the first of his books since Blue Like Jazz that I've picked up, and I'm enjoying it a lot.

When Don spoke a couple of years ago at the CCO's Jubilee conference, he was working on this book. I remember him talking about what makes a good story, and wondering what kinds of stories we are all living. If someone approached you and wanted to make a movie about your life, what would your story look like? Would it be compelling enough to bother making the movie?

That's partly what the new book is about. Last night, I was surfing around online, reading and listening to interviews with Don about his writing. In the process, I found this cool video of Don Miller and Steve Taylor, the filmmaker who approached Don about making a movie based on Blue Like Jazz:

From the Director from Blue Like Jazz The Movie on Vimeo.

I love it. (And I'm also now reminiscing about all of those great 1980s Steve Taylor songs. "This Disco Used to Be a Cute Cathedral"? "
Meltdown (at Madame Tussaud's)"? Anyone?)

So, this book is sending me on another memoir-reading binge. Seeing Steve Taylor again is making me nostalgic for my Walkman and my old cassette tapes.

And now I am thinking a lot more about what makes a good story. And how I want to continue, as my blog title suggests, to ask "what must I do to make my life a true story?"

Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bending Time

I'm checking in after another long absence to share a few links with my faitfhful readers. (Are you still out there?) First of all, here is a link to a fun video shot a little over a week ago, celebrating the 10th anniversary of a local coffeeshop, Tazza D'Oro, where my little book group meets every Friday morning. Representing said book group in the video is my friend Ginger, and you can see my back in a few of the shots (I'm wearing a dark pink shirt).

My friend Katie is now sharing her writing with the world at her new blog, Bending Time. I encourage you to check it out!

And lastly, in light of recent events, is a blog entry by Walt Mueller, President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, reflecting on the recent deaths of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I appreciate the perspective Walt offers in his post entitled When Celebrity Dies.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Joel's take on Jubilee

My friend Joel's video from Jubilee 2009, with a cameo appearance by yours truly. Enjoy!

Jubilee took place February 13-15, 2009 at the Westin Hotel and Convention Center, Downtown Pittsburgh.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Your Word is "Peace"

You see life as precious, and you wish everyone was safe, happy, and taken care of.

Social justice, human rights, and peace for all nations are all important to you.

While you can't stop war, you try to be as calm and compassionate as possible in your everyday life.

You promote harmony and cooperation. You're always willing to meet someone a little more than halfway.