Monthly Archives: August 2012

Salsa and blue Jell-o

Every year since 1998, Beloit College has published a “Beloit College Mindset List”.  I love it because it reminds me how old I am—well, actually, that isn’t my favorite reason—and how those events and things I believe are part of our culture don’t even appear as a blip in the minds of seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds entering college.

I read this list every year—here’s the link to the latest list

My favorite list came out a few years ago.  I first heard about it in the September 21, 2009, issue of TIME magazine when Nancy Gibbs wrote this:  The Mindset List is a “dictionary of all the deeply ingrained cultural references that will make to sense to students of the incoming class. This year’s freshmen were typically born in 1991.  That means, the authors explain, they have never used a card catalog to find a book; salsa has always outsold ketchup; women have always outnumbered men in college; there has always been blue Jell-O.”

I remember hours spent going through card catalogs when I was in college.  And, when I was in college, men outnumbered women three-to-one.  Of course, that did little for me, a humanities major, because most of these guys majored in agriculture or engineering, fields pretty much closed to women way back then.

Think of the phrases students today don’t really understand:  both dial and hang up the phone, a broken record.   In the future, it may be these will be explained in books that tells us what “the whole nine yards” means. 

Both my husband and I have Kindles and will not return to reading real books.  He also uses salsa on his scrambled eggs.   And I prefer red Jello although I’ll eat any color of M&Ms.

What changes do you see around you?  What do you remember that today’s kids know nothing about?   I’d love to hear from you.



Christopher Robin’s house is for sale!

I grew up with Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Rabbit and his friends and relations.   When I was sick, my mother used to read the stories to me, changing the name of Christopher Robin to Monica Jane (my real and legal names).   My younger sister even put, “How sweet  to be a cloud” to music she made up.    I can still sing it.  In high school, I had a friend who used to quote Milne’s poem, “Now I am six and . . .” while George loves the poem which begins, “King John was not a good man. . .”

The Winnie-the-Pooh stories even influenced my writing.  In The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek, Charley the plumber gets stuck in a cabinet in the same way Pooh bear did in the hole to Rabbit’s house.  Adam thinks he may have to starve Charley until he’s thin enough to pull himself out–as Rabbit had to do with that silly bear.  However, I didn’t allow Adam to hang his wash on Charley’s legs.

The original illustrations are wonderful, line drawings which suggest and define the characters.  Children who grew up on the Disney version have missed out on the delight of the E.H. Shepard drawings.  Here’s a link so you can appreciate them.

I’m writing this because a friend on Facebook posted that the house on Pooh corner is for sale, the one where A.A. Milne wrote the books and Christopher Robin came down the stairs with his bear bumping down behind him.  I emailed the information to my husband.  He says we can’t buy the house but that doesn’t matter.  I love the memories this news evoked and it is a little above our price range.  However, if you’re interested, here’s the link.   Click here: Savills UK | Cotchford Lane, Hartfield, East Sussex, TN7 4DN | Property for sale

Did you read Winnie-the-Pooh when you were young?  Or even when you were old?   What memories do you have?




The Draft Phase by The Husband

A guest blogger joins us today: my husband George.  He’s here to share the highs and lows of living with a writer.    He may exaggerate a little.

My favorite author and dearly beloved wife of 46 years announced yesterday, “I finished the book,” I knew several things.  One, she is still nowhere near her deadline; Jane is a twit who used to do her homework on Friday afternoon.  Two, she is entering the Draft Phase (it could be called Rewrite Time) during which she will do four (or more) complete rewrites of said book.  And three, I’m going to see a lot more of her for a while.

Five years ago we retired to a three bedroom, two bath apartment, and you would think we would see a lot of each other.  But we communicate largely through email and intercom from my study to hers because this is really a one bedroom, two study, two bath apartment.  In Draft Phase, however, Jane will use the Editing Chair, and it is in the living room so I will have to actually see her physical presence from time to time.

The Editing Chair. Jane has lower back problems (Duh! She’s a writer!) But she is also horribly cheap, after years of her pain I convinced her that a good chair, although expensive, would be worth it. And we bought a Scandinavian objet d’art that is the most comfortable thing ever sat upon and has table attached which holds the draft copy at a perfect height.  With its ottoman and its kitty furniture and red pen table next to it, this whole configuration occupies most of one end of our living room.

Her Cheapness also allowed me to buy her a laser printer a few years ago because it prints so quickly, but I know she still uses the ink-jet printer because she believes it is cheaper.  And she will run a complete draft of the book, three-hole punch it, and place it in a binder.  The electric hole puncher keeps me out of the loop at this point.  This used to be my odious duty because Jane insists on reusing her paper for different drafts and it was really really hard to keep the drafts straight.

So picture the great author: in her nightie, feet up on the ottoman, back comfortable in her big chair, cat on its stand providing a Muse, binder on the table, red pen in hand—she’s editing up a storm as long as she doesn’t have to go potty.  It’s nearly impossible to get out of that chair!

Review of For Such a Time as This by Ginny Aiken

Ginny Aiken has written more books than I can count.  On top of that, she’s written all kinds of books:   short  and long, humorous and wrenchingly moving as well as filled with suspense.   She amazes me because at any length or any depth of emotion, whatever she writes is terrific.  

Her first book in the THE WOMEN OF HOPE series, For Such a Time as This, was released Tuesday.   In her books in this series, Ginny takes a story from the Bible and set it in more modern times.  For Such a Time as This takes place in Oregon in the year 1879.   My favorite books by Ginny have always been the short, humorous ones. so I approached this novel with some misgiving which turned out to be misplaced.   This longer and deeply touching novel fascinated me and it also had Ginny’s trademark humor sprinkled throughout. 

The setting of  the small  town is beautifully described with historical details that made me feel as if I, too, were in Bountiful, experiencing the struggle of the farmers against drought and insects.   The characters are artfully and clearly drawn.     I loved Olivia’s rambunctious family and the children she cares for as well.  Elijah and Olivia come across as strong but flawed, often stubborn but loving people.   They grow, both as people and together as husband and wife although they can’t admit that–until the twist that tests them but not Olivia’s faith.   

I look forward to the next novels in this series.

Ginny Aiken: Where do you get your amazing idea?

Today I’m delighted to welcome my friend and marvelous writer Ginny Aiken to my blog.  Her latest book, For Such a Time as This, the first in her Women of Hope Series, is available now from FaithWords!  It’s a great book which I’ll review that on Thursday.  Thanks for stopping by, Ginny.  You’re on!

I used to be stumped when asked where I got my ideas. Recently, I’ve accepted a simple fact. Yes, I’m a sponge, soaking up random stuff around me. That includes TV news, overheard snippets at fast-food restaurants, and my secret source. What’s that, you ask? 

My crazy-weird life! 

I’m the mother of four sons. Imagine the wacko scenarios over the years. Also, imagine the parade of teen-aged boys that trooped through our home. You might also figure things have settled down now that the nest is empty. You’d figure wrong. Things are as insane as ever. 

A couple of years ago, my agent said, “Please don’t send me a memoir. No editor would consider it. They’d say all that can’t happen to one human.” He was right. No one would believe it. But it’s true. 

Starting with the rabid-dog bite when I was three (Yes, I do remember, in a blur, the doctors, pain, and Mom’s tears), followed by the start of ballet training, and winding up with our family’s risky flight from Castro’s Cuba very early after his takeover, all before my sixth birthday, and you can see where the madness began. 

Then came the parenting-four-boys years, including sports teams’ worth of friends, the marching band that crashed at our house, the drum corps years…more hair-raising adventures. Guess when my writing career solidified?  

If you think the madness ended when the last kiddo left for college, then you’re mistaken. My latest situation, in no way offspring-related, includes un-sought and unwanted hands-on research into identity theft and checking-account-hacking.

Plenty of as-you-go writing ideas. Think I’m going to squander them? No way!  I’ve been writing too long to tolerate such waste. Someday, you’ll see a Ginny Aiken book that features checking-account-theft. But please wait. I have to see how our case—ahem…my research turns out.

Writing is my budget-wise mental-health plan. Who needs a shrink when you can resolve any situation however you want on paper? That’s the beauty of being a writer. You can edit anything you put on paper, even kill off the cyber-thieves—er…the wrong-doers. Thank goodness! I’d be a neurotic mess, in solitary confinement, in a white room, tied into a lovely white jacket, humming in monotone, otherwise.

That’s the secret source of ideas for my books.











My friend Ginny Aiken

The writing world is odd and small.   We run into some authors over and never meet others.  However, I’ve been fortunate to bump into Ginny several times.

We both wrote for Love Inspired and Ginny still does.   While we were writing for Love Inspired, another author confessed  she was dyslexic and had always been embarrassed about this.  About ten of us writers for Love Inspired said we were dyslexic as well and we weren’t a bit ashamed of that.    Ginny and I have learning disabilities and–together with three other Love Inspired writers–told our stories of how faith helped us overcome our problems.  The title of that book is–not unexpectedly–The Overcomers.  We self-published that book, available at

THEN, shortly after I signed my three-book contract with FaithWords, I discovered Ginny had, too.   Yes, we keep bumping into each other.  In Ginny’s three book series, each book will place a story about a woman in the Bible in a much more modern setting.    Here’s a list of the book in her THE WOMEN OF HOPE series:

For Such a Time as This, available now! 
Remember Me When,  June 2013
She Shall Be Praised,  2014

I’ve read FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS  and loved it.   Look for a review here Thursday.

Tomorrow Ginny will blog on her fantastic and incredibly busy life.  I’m so glad she found time to drop in here.    

Goodbye, dear friends

Our beloved minister of eleven years has been called to serve another congregation.  It is a wonderful opportunity for him, a blessing for the new church.  For us, there is sorrow and hope.  We will miss Tim, Amy, Ben, and Mary-Austin but we also know a new minister will challenge us and lead us down new roads.  Soon we will love him or her very much because they are welcome in our open and affirming family.

Yes, we will miss Tim.  Life changes but God is eternal.


Soccer or badminton: you have a choice

When the Olympics began, I had every event taped which pretty much cut down on watching anything else.  When I culled the huge number of hours I’d saved, I looked at the description of each.  If the information described a sport I didn’t have much interest in, I erased it without even viewing.  I mean, so many events, so little time! 

Then I discovered most of the information about what was on at a specific time was wrong.  I’d erased events I wanted to see because, instead of women’s soccer they were labeled badminton  Please, all you fans of badminton, I apologize for insulting your favorite sport.  We used to play it all the time in our backyard but we looked nothing like those who play it on an Olympic level.  However, it is not an exciting sport to watch.  The only exciting part was that eight players were kicked out for cheating and did it so badly that the spectators booed them.   But, due to the incorrect information, I had hours of that and little of the first soccer games.

This mislabeling turn me to a more philosophical frame of mind:  the way we expect certain behavior or talents or attitudes  by the way we label people.  We often don’t give them a chance because of how we’ve labeled them.   One of the most  exciting part of the Olympics to me was watching women from countries that had never sent a woman to the Olympic compete.   None of them moved up so some might say this proved nothing other than they couldn’t compete.  To me, the important and exciting part was that those countries allowed them to be there.  The same is true of women’s boxing.  I truly have difficulty with women hitting other women, especially now that we know so much about brain damage, but if men are allowed to inflict injury on each other, don’t the athletes deserve that choice? 

What’s your opinion about labeling?  And what’s your favorite sport?  Did you get to watch as much of it as you wanted?