Sunday, September 28, 2014

Two Wishes

I have a couple of different things I could write about today. Hard to pick between them. We had a great time at our meeting with God's people this morning, in worship and then in Life Group. God spoke through our pastor, Mark Snodgrass, with a spot-on message that spoke to me, and, I think, to many others.

In Life Group we studied the same topic. I did not feel good about it yesterday and this morning as I prepared to teach. I felt that it was going to be a weak lesson. But Pastor Mark's powerful sermon, and our people being ready to talk about it, it turned out to be a good lesson and discussion.

Follow that by a good lunch at Concordia (a retirement place) with Lynda and her mother, now stuffed with ribs and chicken casserole, followed by a short nap to an NFL football game, and I'm reading to write. Rather than go into length about the message and lesson, however, I think instead I'll post a couple of items that have been on my mind the last few days. Wishes, actually; things that I believe will make the world a better place.

I wish we had more people who observed the place where they are, saw needs that needed to be met, and, without thought of compensation or recognition, took it upon themselves to fill those needs.

I wish more people simply did their job, fully and cheerfully; even a job that's mundane or difficult. Strive to find something better, of course, but do the work you have in hand.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Some Very Busy Days

Today is my normal day to blog here at An Arrow Through the Air. Yet, today is the third of four incredibly busy days, and the time to blog just isn't there. We have just completed a major training event at work. I was the facilitator/organizer, not the trainer or trainee. I had much to do to get ready for it, and things to do during it. This was followed by a minor training event this afternoon for some of the same people. Again, I was just the facilitator, and didn't have to sit in on all of it, but I did have some responsibilities for it.

Add to that on Tuesday, near the end of the work day, I had a project dumped on me for quality control checking. It was supposed to go out the end of the day today, and I stayed late last night working on it. Then today I found out that yesterday afternoon they sent out the part I checked last night and today. I still have more of it to do, but, given that it's already gone out, I think I'll back off and check it more leisurely.

So, aside from the prior two paragraphs, I have no blog today. See you all Sunday.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jesus is Lord, Revisited

Our Life Group lessons continue in the series "Jesus Is Lord", from the pastor's sermon series and the book of that name by Dr. Frank Moore. This wasn't my week to teach, but my co-teacher was off picking up continuing educational units this weekend, so I taught.

I must confess, however, that I'm wondering if we'll run out of material before we run out of series, which is supposed to last another three or four weeks. I haven't read ahead in the book. This week we are to read chapters 5 and 6 and base the lesson on them next Sunday. This week I'm not going to wait until the last minute, and maybe I'll be able to put together a better lesson for next week, which will be my regular week to teach.

Today we looked at the New Testament word for lord, which is kyrios. In the Greek Old Testament, the words Yahweh and Adonai are both translated kyrios. In the New Testament, kyrios is used 717 times, the vast majority of them referring to God and Jesus. A few times they refer to the master of the slaves, or the master of the estate. A few other times they are clearly used as a term of respect, such as early mentions of them when Jesus was considered merely a respected rabbi, not the Son of God.

We took time to look at a few instances of when people made a sudden realization of who Jesus was, and how he was something/someone much more than met the eye:

  • Nathaniel's statement that Jesus was the Son of God
  • The people of Nain, when Jesus raised the widow's son out of his coffin
  • Peter's confession of Jesus as Messiah, in Caesarea-Philippi.
  • Mary's various statements or actions that showed her acceptance of Jesus' lordship

Okay, so we didn't have time to get to the last one. But the others we did. It was interesting that in only one of those examples did the word "Lord" appear, and it wasn't stated by the participants in the story, but by Luke as the narrator.

I don't have a lot more to say about this. I felt somewhat unprepared to teach, and I imagine my delivery reflected that. Hopefully next week will be better, especially if I don't get sick the Friday before teaching, and thus feel less than optimum during my main Saturday preparation time.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reading Sherlock Holmes

Somehow, in all my youthful reading, I missed Sherlock Holmes. I read one of the short stories, I think, while I was in high school, but nothing more. In my adult years, perhaps ten years ago, I bought a paperback volume of Sherlock Holmes stories at a used bookstore. Read two short stories in it and laid it aside.

A few years ago I read about the Norton Publishing version of the "Sherlock Holmes Canon", as they called it. It was in three volumes, with the stories extensively collated and footnoted. I believe, though I'm not sure, the stories were put in chronological order in which they would have taken place, not when they were written or published. A. Conan Doyle did a lot of backtracking in the stories. In 1904 he published some of Holmes' cases that were earlier in Holmes' career than were the ones he published in 1894.  Reading about this set got me interested in Holmes. The Norton books were much too expensive, so I waited. Barnes & Noble came out with a two volume hardback set, minus all the footnoting and ordering. When it went on the remainders table, I bought it.

That was a year or two ago. Recently Lynda and I finished our the series we were reading aloud in and were ready for something else. I suggested Holmes, and she agreed. She's always liked crime books and mysteries. We are now well into the series. Of the four Holmes novels, we've read the first three: A Study in Scarlett, The Sign of the Four, and Hound of the Baskervilles, and two volumes of the short stories and are well into the third. The B&N books are arranged chronologically by date of publication.

So how am I enjoying them? Hmmm, perhaps not as much as I'd hoped, but that's mainly due to the language use. These stories are only 120 years old, yet the English language has changed, as has practice of writing. Some things that readers would turn away from in disgust these days are practiced regularly by Doyle. For example, he constantly repeats the first and last names of people in dialog and speaker tags. That's a no-no drilled into us by writing instructors. He tends to fixate on words. One example is "singular," a word that has gone out of fashion today. He will say, "He was a singular man." Meaning, I guess, he was unique. Actually, in the context it's not always clear exactly what the word singular means. I can see why it's gone out of fashion. One use of it wouldn't be too bad, but when you read three stories in three days and "singular" is in them six or eight times, you notice.

We find we can't read these every day, as we did with our previous series. We read a story one day, and take a day or two break. The writing style is what slows us down, not the story contents. The plots show Doyle's genius. Each of the stories we've read so far is quite unique—dare I say singular? Doyle mixes up the kind of cases. They aren't all murder mysteries. Sometimes they turn out not to be crimes at all, but instead an accident, or something unintentional.

We will persevere in this. Only six more stories in this volume, two more volumes of short stories (as originally published), and one more novel to go—a short-ish one at that. I suspect I'll have another post or two on Sherlock Holmes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Paper, Paper Everywhere

Last Friday, faced with a weekend, and wondering what to do, I weighed my options. Writing was high on the list. I had just taken five days off from writing. Maybe it was time to get back to it. Or, with the weather forecast to be nice, and with my knee somewhat improved, perhaps I should go outside on Saturday and get back to cutting up the wood from the late spring tree topping. That would be both exercise and productivity. It would depend, of course, on how well my knee felt Saturday morning.

Then I thought about the piles and piles of paper I have seemingly everywhere in the house. Most of it is downstairs, in The Dungeon, or perhaps tucked away in file cabinets—out is sight, but in mind as a drawer full of paper. On the floor of The Dungeon were several piles of unfinished projects. In a tray on the work table were months and months of financial papers to be filed. Elsewhere on the work table were lots of writing papers, crying out for attention.

So Friday I made the decision that the weekend would primarily be one of tending to long-neglected papers. A little wood sawing if possible, but mainly papers. Saturday morning dawned with the temperature at 49, and cloudy, but no rain. Perfect for outside work. Except my knee seemed much worse than the last couple of days. I made the command decision to forego outside work. I went to my reading chair and fell asleep. An hour later I woke up when Lynda got up. Before long I was heading downstairs to The Dungeon.

I decided to tackle the bills filing first. I hadn't done much filing at all in 2014, and what I had done was quite random. Enough bills had piled up that I first took an hour to sort them and put them chronologically. Then I began filing. The utilities were easy, so I started with them. I decided that, since this was a major filing effort, I would take the time to make sure everything was in the right order, and to cull through the files to get rid of some of the older items, say more than three years old. From the utilities I went to the mortgage, then to miscellaneous repairs, then to a few oddball items. I was then ready to tackle medical records.

I've never been satisfied with the filing of medical records. It's becoming more critical now that we're older and have more records to keep track of. So I took a little time to brainstorm and think about how to file them. I decided on a way to change them up a bit, and did so for 2014. Whether I go back and reorganize prior years I'm not sure. The medical records took a long time, especially since my file drawer was over-stuffed, and I needed to move some things to archive storage. I did that, and the medical records were complete and back where they belonged. Somewhere along the way I took a quick break for lunch.

That left our stock trading papers, writing papers, and some tax papers of ours and of my mother-in-law. The stock papers were most important. I took a lot of time with those, as they must be sorted into three accounts, and then filed under three or four different tabs. Keeping them in correct chronological order is important. So that all took some time, but I finished it. Well, except for later when I found a few that were in a place I hadn't seen. They are now resting in the filing tray, waiting on my next time. I shifted to the tax papers. I really only had a few of mine, and took care of them quickly. For my m-i-l's, I decided to do a major culling of older ones to free up file drawer space. So anything older than 2009 I threw a lot of stuff out.

By the end of the day, I felt really good about what I had accomplished. My back hurt, probably more than if I'd spent the time sawing logs. The Dungeon didn't look all that much better, because of the writing papers. That would be a Sunday task, I decided, and called it quits.

Sunday, after church, eating with Lynda's mom, and a short nap (not more than 1/2 hour), I get after the writing papers. It was a major task. Some time ago I was in a writing seminar with David Morrell (author of First Blood, creator of Rambo). He said to save all your drafts of you books, box them up along with research papers, correspondence, whatever, and set them aside for eventual donation to wherever you donate your writing papers in the future. I had done this with Doctor Luke's Assistant, my first novel, and had a file drawer full of them. With later books I had been less careful at saving drafts, because I saw exactly how much space DLA drafts had taken.

I made the decision that most likely no institution is going to want my donated papers, and the drafts would have to go. So I got to work with sorting, bagging for recycling, and filing. Three hours later I was amazed at what I had accomplished. Four plastic grocery bags sat on the stairs, full of old office paper, waiting to be carried up and put in the garage for recycling. Forty of fifty pounds of paper. A stack 18 inches high. And almost all other writing papers were in a file somewhere. Some of those may find themselves part of a future culling, but for now they are out of the way.

I don't know that The Dungeon looks a whole lot better. Maybe a little. I still have a couple of piles of things I didn't get to. These are, I think, mostly printouts of books/articles for reference, or maybe something I critiqued for someone. I think half of it is for discards, and half is for filing in a retrievable manner. I also have a pile of file folders and manila envelopes on the floor of the storage room, freed up for other use now that they no longer hold the DLA drafts. Tonight I'll have to sort them and do the discard/storage thing again.

All in all, this was a good effort. A couple of more hours on the last piles, putting the tax forms back in the drawer, and a little rearranging, and I'll have a more efficient and more usable work space. I don't know when I'll get back to writing, but for now, I think the time spent away from it has been well spent.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Moments Weigh Against a Lifetime

It’s one of my favorite quotes, probably because I know it to be true. Pamela Tudsbury, troubled daughter of a media star, says that to Victor Henry in Herman Wouk’s wonderful novel The Winds of War. She’s in love with Victor, though he’s a married man and twenty years older than her. She tells him of her love, and offers to settle on being his mistress. He refuses. But she is undaunted, and bides her time.

They are in London, during the Blitz, when Pamela declares herself. She is in the British military at that time, and almost goes AWOL just to be with Henry while he’s there on special assignment. Finally, over the phone, he tells her she has a job to do and go do it. She agrees. They chat for a few minutes about their couple of weeks of casually being together. Finally Pamela says, “Some moments weight against a lifetime, don’t they?” That may be an approximate quote, as I’m writing this at work and don’t have the book with me.

Yes, some moments weight against a lifetime. The deaths of my parents, marriage, birth of children. The major news events I’ve lived through. Other special events, good or bad. The day I met my Lord and Savior. One such day was September 1, 2014. Not because that was the 75th anniversary of the start of World War 2, but because it was the day it was confirmed that I have a previously unknown half-sister.

Yes, you read that right. This has been brewing in my life since August 11. I’m not going to go into full details here, but as a result of DNA testing that some New York cousins had done a few years ago, and that this half-sister had done more recently, this has all come about.

It turns out my mother had her in 1945, four plus years before she and my dad were married, about five years before my other sister was born. Mom was unwed and pregnant. She had moved back to Providence RI from Boston MA and probably found out there, but went to Worcester MA to have the baby. The information on the birth certificate matched my mother’s info, except for a bogus last name—but it was a last name of her step-grandfather and grandmother. I was contacted about this by the cousin (who I already knew), and then my half-sister and I talked. I agreed to DNA tests. The results of those tests came back on September 1, confirming that we are half-siblings.
Her name is Deborah Burnham Harris (Burnham being her adopted name). She has two children, four (almost five) grandchildren. But except for those, her only close family was two adopted brothers, neither of whom had children, from whom she’s somewhat drifted away in her adult years. Now, she’s part of a larger sibling group, her children are part of a first cousin group, and her grandchildren are part of a second cousin group.

We have made plans to meet soon, sooner than we might have expected at first. The photo shows my mother on the left and Deb on the right, at a similar age. I see a strong resemblance, as do most people I’ve shown it to, though others have told me they don’t see it. Judge for yourself.

So yes, Pamela, I agree. Some moment do weigh against a lifetime. I've experienced another one.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Jesus is Lord

Well, I'm a day late with this post. Had a good afternoon of writing on my current non-fiction work-in-progress yesterday, and didn't feel like stopping. Then, when I was done with that and still had some time left in The Dungeon, I decided to do some genealogy work rather than fulfill my blog obligations.

Yesterday our pastor started a new sermon series with Life Groups studying the same material. Titled "Jesus is Lord", this looks at exactly what that phrase means for Christians today. It was the earliest of the Christian creeds, as told in Romans 10:9:
That if you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

So as early as 20 years after Jesus died, this is what the church was saying. The study we're doing is based on a book with the title Jesus Is Lord, by Dr. Frank Moore. Lynda and I knew him in Kansas City close to 40 years ago, when we lived there and he attended seminary. We haven't seen him in all these years, so it was good to come across a book by him. It was also good to see him in he video that accompanied the study.

 I find that I've run out of time for writing this morning, in my pre-work, personal hour in my office. I'll have to continue and add to this. Or, maybe this post will have to suffice for this week, and I'll just add to it week by week. We'll see.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Living In The Past

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I spend much of my time in the past. Reading history will do that. Studying genealogy will expand it. Reading Romantic and Victorian Era writers will exacerbate it. When I get home at night my mind is geared towards times no closer than 50 years ago.

Last night I hosted an on-line, back-to-school party for my high school class. This was held at our class Facebook page (which I created). 25 people showed up, with about 15 of those contributing posts. That's out of a group membership of 106 out of a class of 725. So not a great attendance, but I think all who posted had a good time. We came from two different junior high schools to the same high school, so there was lots of cross-town rivalry stuff going on. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the eve of our starting junior high (not really; we started the Wednesday after Labor Day, which in 1964 was Sept 8; but seeing as how today is the Wednesday after Labor Day, it was an anniversary of sorts).

That took a lot of time last night. As group creator and host, I felt I had to be there and contribute. By the end of the evening we had over 300 posts. Those who didn't contribute will some day stop in the page and see what we all said.

Then, I've been beta-reading/editing the memoir of a cousin of mine—a memoir of childhood. At least the first part is. I've read up to the teen years. I believe the latter half moves into the adult years, but for now it's all about events more than 50 years in the past. I know the people mentioned. I know some of the circumstances which this cousin has shared with me. But the details are new. I'm enjoying my reading; and I enjoy editing. Tonight I can spend enough time on it that I'll either finish it or get close.

My current reading has been of old works. I just finished my second reading of Thomas Carlyle's Chartism, in preparation for a publishing a book on the subject. Lynda and I, in our reading aloud, are reading through the Sherlock Holmes canon. So my reading is of things old. When I'm not reading those, I'm reading my Bible. Talk about old. Next, however, is a couple of magazines I bought last time I was in Barnes & Noble, so I'll be shifting to reading something modern. Plus I have some articles to read in a back-issue of a literary magazine, from several years back. Maybe this reading will tug me into the future.

The other thing that causes me to dwell in the past is my genealogy work. Ever since I've been writing creatively, genealogy has taken a backseat. Every now and then, when a relative contacts me, or I sense an urge, I do a little work on it. That's what's happened recently. Yesterday I took time to prepare two new family group sheets, based on new information, and to edit the one for my family. Two of these three are to present accurate information to a newly found relative; the other information about that relative. This reminded me of how much work I have to do. My genealogy notebooks are a mess. I have unproven information in them that is speculative enough that I need to trash it. I have trial family charts that I later updated, but haven't discarded the older versions. I need to spend hours doing nothing but that.

Then, the last month or so I've spent time with old photographs. I may have mentioned before that my house has become the accumulation point for old photographs from both my and my wife's families. We have them in boxes and bins. Some are labeled, some are not. None are inventoried. These go back to our great-grandparents, in some cases older than that. They are for five or six family branches. Some I know I have, but haven't seen them for years. Add to this are all the photographs Lynda and I have taken over the years. They are scattered throughout the house: in dresser drawers, in boxes, in albums that are incomplete and mostly not labeled.

Oh how I want to inventory our photos! Put them in a database that will: identify the photo and who or what is in it; identify who took it; indicate if a negative is available, and if so where the negative is; indicate the family branch it came from; identify or speculate on the date the photo was taken; state where the photo is in the house, including which album if it's in an album. Unfortunately, that task is so huge I don't think I'll get there this side of retirement, and perhaps not for twenty years into retirement, should I live so long.

So, right now I have my feet firmly planted in the past. Writing tasks await me. Writing is a current activity, though of course my Civil War book is of a past activity. Hopefully I'll come back to the present sometime soon. But for now, I'm enjoying my time machine.