Monthly Archives: June 2015

Little is Much

For the past several weeks, my husband and I have been struggling with the crushing burden of the usual life issues: health insurance companies that won’t pay on claims, medical debt, worry over college tuition, broken down cars, and the thousand and one little things like buying groceries that seem to overwhelm and suck the life force right out of us.

We’ve wallowed in misery and self pity and had fear gnawing at our souls about how are we going to live and get by and when do we start breathing again without wondering if we can pay the next bill.

A simple song posted by our son on Facebook completely changed my perspective and made me realize anew what truly matters.

Last year our little country church built a new sanctuary to replace the termite ridden almost 100-year-old frame building. Before the building was complete, my family gathered in the structure and spent some time just singing hymns acapella. Sounds weird, I know, but throughout the years our family has enjoyed doing weird things to bond—like board games, listening to Prairie Home Companion on long road trips, watching video games together, etc. So spending 30 or so minutes just singing familiar hymns in the almost completed sanctuary was great family time.

Who knew a year later, when our son posted the recording of one of those songs along with our church building on his Facebook page it would encourage his parents so much?   But it did. I mentioned to my husband that the song exemplified our life, our purpose, and our ministry. It could very well have been our family motto, “Little is much when God is in it.”

Listening to the song as our family’s voices blended together in harmony and beauty made me realize that all those things I worried and fretted over really didn’t matter in the long run. What is truly important is the love our family has for each other, the encouragement and support we give each other, and our faith in an eternal God who watches over and cares for us.

Having faith doesn’t mean life will be easy or that we will never experience hardship and trouble. It does mean that we have something to hold on to when the world is crumbling beneath our feet. Keeping my focus on the eternal doesn’t negate what I must deal with in the present, but it does provide a peace that “passes all understanding,” and a grace to deal with life with inexplicable strength and wisdom.

Faith in Christ is the foundation for life. There will always be storms, and tempests, winds and waves, destruction and pestilence. How we endure those situations depends on our foundation. The simple song—and the priceless gift my son gave in recording it—reminded me that I have a sure foundation and that life can never, ever defeat the One who holds me in His hands.

I’ve Got Rhythm

I’m always slightly amused at the way Hollywood portrays musical tastes: good guys like rock ‘n roll, bad guys like classical and all old people are stuck in the mud. As if the over 40 crowd woke up one morning and decided, “Hey, I think I’ll like not-popular music.”

The truth of the matter is bad guys like country, rock, and heavy metal, too. More often than not, they don’t like classical—not even the corporate Big Business types out to crush the little guy; and lots of good guys like classical. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Star Trek is classic—their musical tastes are timeless and not period/decade dependent.

Last, but not least, old people don’t choose a specific type of music (classical or otherwise) just because we’re old guys. Our musical tastes (like 20-somethings and teenagers) developed when we were young and not always was that taste based on our parents’ tastes.

Maybe it was because I grew up in the 70s the first time around (yeah, we’ve been stuck with 70s do-overs and wannabes for a couple of decades now). Rock was making the transition from the Beatles to Iron Butterfly and I was forced to endure the shrieking cacophony in the classroom, friends’ houses and cars, etc. Needless to say I got very good at blocking out the noise and determined that when I was an adult, no one would ever, EVER make me listen to such music again.

Then I grew up and discovered all my friends, coworkers and colleagues were—you guessed it—stuck in the 70s past. Go to a professional workshop, you are forced to listen to 70s music as “inspirational” music. Sit in a restaurant and you can’t hear the waitress over the electric guitars and steel drums, much less hold a conversation with the people you’re eating with. Buy groceries, endure the sick lyrics and panting pounding of something that should have been put out of its misery before seeing the light of day. More than once I’ve been tempted to leave my grocery cart in the aisle and run screaming from the store.

Public music used to be calming—the idea was stores wanted you to spend time there in order to spend more money. Public music used to be background—pleasant and just there so it didn’t distract you from the business at hand. Public music used to be family friendly—you try explaining to a 10 year old what some of those words are.

I’m glad there is variety in music and that we are not all alike. But businesses and public places need to realize that their customers are diverse and music should be muted and a pleasant background. If someone wants to “get down and get funky,” let him do it at home.

Oh, and my musical taste? Everything from movie tracks, jazz and techno, to classical, just as long as it’s instrumental.

 

 

 

 

Happily Ever After

A comment by a student of mine this past year, coupled with our anniversary this weekend, prompts this blog:

“Mrs. Parsons, how long have you been married?”

“Thirty-three years.”

“How can you stay married to someone that long?”

“If you do it right, it’s easy.”

At first I was a bit disturbed by the student’s assumption that marriages don’t last long; then I realized that according to movies and television, relationships are as changeable as shirts; and most of these students have blended parents—sometimes multiple times over. I have lived long enough to see long term, stable marriages become the exception rather than the rule, and the faerytale principle of “and they lived happily ever after” diminish from an assumed expectation to something that only happens in books.

Thirty-three years and four children later, we’ve fallen under the “happily ever after” category. Unlike the movies, however, “happily ever after” takes a lot of hard work, teamwork, and sacrifice.   I’m not saying those three things always spell a happy marriage because life tends to take a toll on even the most resilient folks. Yet there are a few sure fire ways to do it right.

I married my best friend. Contrary to the current American belief that relationships are formed based on looks, the best ones start with looking for character. Bruce and I spent a lot of time getting to know each other before deciding to get married. Since our courtship was pre-cell phone days while living in two different states, we wrote a lot of letters (daily, seven days a week for two years). We spent a lot of time finding out our common interests, likes, dislikes, what we thought of children, marriage, work roles, and whether we laughed at the same jokes. By the time Bruce proposed, he was my best friend.

We share the same faith. I know it sounds trite and corny and definitely not PC; however, a shared faith becomes a stable foundation for any relationship. We followed the same code of right and wrong, had the same source of strength and support, and came closer together through worship of the same God. Instead of dividing our household, our faith undergirded and protected our relationship.

We laugh together. From the very start of our relationship, laughter has seasoned and cemented our love. Bruce wanted someone to appreciate his sense of humor and I needed someone to keep me from being a dour and too serious person. Together we can laugh and share jokes even when everyone around us doesn’t get it. And after 33 years, we’ll see something, shoot each other a glance and burst into giggles without a word as if we’re reading each other’s mind.

In today’s world with the hateful rhetoric of women’s rights, male bashing, and hatred of marriage, I’d like to state “for the record,” that marriage can be delightful. I am my own person and Bruce is his own person. We didn’t “give up” our personalities and one doesn’t dominate the other. We have a shared partnership that grows sweeter and more wonderful each year we are together.

We hold hands and we’d rather spend time with each other than anybody else. We definitely don’t fit the stereotype of married couples in today’s society and that’s okay. Maybe that’s why we are still married and living “happily ever after.”

To Play or Not to Play the Numbers Game

When is a story done? At what word count? Is longer better? Can a good story be told in less than 80,000 words or is that a sign of someone who can’t “go the distance?” It’s amazing that during the Golden Age of science fiction, some of my favorite novels wouldn’t even be considered by publishing companies today due to length—or lack there of.

A story is finished when the tale is told. Adding tens of thousands of words just to make up a word count is pointless. In fact, I’m one of those notorious readers with a penchant for skipping over large portions of boring description. If you can’t describe something in a sentence or two, I’m not going to waste my time reading 10 pages describing the sequence for a bomb detonation. I don’t care how famous the writer.

For me the story is all about the action and dialogue. Move it forward or lose me as a reader. My time is valuable and I have so many other things going on that I don’t want to spend seven or eight hours on one book. I’d rather read seven or eight books.

I have an imagination and I know how to use it. Tell me the character is a greasy thug and I can see what he looks like without the specific details—unless the dreadlocks, ACDC T-shirt, and scraggly beard have a purpose to the story….say identifying the perp in a particular crime for a detective novel.

Maybe it’s my journalistic background. I remember in college getting my first C on a paper—with no red marks. When pressed, the professor told me my paragraphs were too short. If I can clearly state my objective in 25 words or less, why would I want to waste my time (and the reader’s) by adding “wordiness?”

Let’s face it: not every story is going to be “literary.” Not every literary story is good, nor is every non-literary story bad.  Andre Norton’s description of scenery and character in The Beast Master still resonates in my memory even though I first read her novel more than 30 years ago. She didn’t waste any words in her 192-page novel and the story is a classic.

I also grew up with the Hardy Boys, Tom Corbett, and Rick Brant, all excellent adventure stories that were less than a two hour read and didn’t waste a lot of time on description. Yet I can see Spindrift Island and I know how to find my way from the flight deck to the power deck on the Polaris.

So don’t expect my novels to have cumbersome word counts or drag out over several books like some Borg collective. If the story can be told in 40,000 words, that’s what I’ll write. If it takes 80,000, be prepared to spend some time in my story world. At the end of the day, my goal is not a specific word count, but did I make you forget your problems for a little while and did I bring a smile to your face?

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