Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sanctioned Book Buying!!

The location: the National Mall, Washington, D.C.

The event: the annual Library of Congress National Book Festival. 70 of the most well-respected and widely-read authors, poets, illustrators, and historians, all gathered in one confined area for hours of book-signings and readings -- pure nirvana for book lovers like myself.

It's also one of the rare occasions where book buying is an acceptable indulgence (a.k.a. I can buy books and the missus won't really mind; in fact, she bought some today). I can say that there's nothing more interesting that watching the tens of thousands of folks who come out for this event, lugging their briefcases, suitcases, shopping backs, or purses -- just about anything in which to carry one, two, or ten books -- and the authors that they are so intent on meeting and getting a quick scribbling from. At the same time, you meet some really interesting folks while you're waiting in line for your face time with the author of the moment (today, I waited for signatures from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Robert Remini, and Bob Woodward) and learn a little of what drives their love of books and literature.

It was another great event, although I wasn't able to attend any of the lectures for all of my time in line (the schedule was arranged so that no sooner had I gotten one book signed than I dashed off to get into another line). My wife and daughter spent some quality time with Elmo and about 500 of his friends, enjoyed arts and crafts in the PBS tent, and spent time in line waiting to meet Clifford the Big Red Dog -- only to have the little one curl up in a scared little ball when she realized that Clifford wasn't little like on TV, but rather close to 7 feet tall!

I have to say the biggest disappointment was probably Woodward, although I was glad to get a signed book. He arrived 20 minutes late for his hour-long signing, left before even a quarter of the hundreds who had lined up to see him had a chance to get their books signed, and then held court in a 40-minute moderated discussion in which he couldn't talk about his latest book on the Bush Administration (because of an arrangement with "60 Minutes") -- much to the chagrin of the folks who came because of that specific topic. A friend of mine and I who had gone to hear his lecture gave up and left after about 10 minutes because the crowd in the tent was so large, and the speakers were turned in such a bad direction, that no one could hear him. He was surrounded by nearly a dozen private security officers and mounted police officers as he traveled around the Mall, and really never struck me as being happy to be there with folks who appreciated his writing (in fact, I thought he looked bored with the whole thing as I went through the line, and I only saw him smile the first time as he was leaving after his talk).

The whole day was an overall success and a great joy for me, and I would highly recommend that any of you who might be in D.C. at the end of next September pay a visit to this event. It would make the heart of any book-lover skip a beat.

Friday, September 29, 2006


There's no particular reason for posting this today, other than it's something that's most definitely worth posting. One of Sting's all-time best.....

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Word of God, The Word IS God

In browsing through the many great blogs I read on a regular basis, I came across the latest UPI column from Julie that she has posted on her site. Julie is an amazing individual who shares freely and willingly some of the remarkable episodes from her journey through life -- a life as a wife, mother, business owner, homeschool teacher, and graduate student. It's a real treat visiting her site, and I would encourage you all to drop by for a visit whenever possible.

This column, entitled "A Word-Slinger Writes God," is about the impact of the word of God on her life's journey. It definitely will leave you with a great deal to think about.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

News from My House

Well, I haven't had much time at all to post lately, but did want to make mention of some exciting news that our family got today. We've known for a while that child number two is going to be joining the household in February, but it wasn't until today that we found out what it will be: a second daughter!! That's two little girls who will be running around the house (my wife has already warned me about all of the high school hormones that are going to hit poor daddy at once), and -- for those who know my family and may be keeping track -- that's going to be six granddaughters for my parents.

We're all very happy and excited that things are looking good for her, and are looking forward to a healthy little girl in February. If there is any one thing that's a disappointment, it's probably that my first daughter is not getting the dinosaur that she thought she'd be getting when she saw the last ultrasound image.

In the long run, though, I really do think she'll prefer a little sister to follow in her footsteps and look up to her -- rather than a tyrannosaurus chasing in her footsteps!!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Conversation with Madeleine Albright

Okay, well it wasn't really a conversation -- that would imply 1) that it was just the two of us chatting (there were about 500 of us), and 2) that I actually got to chat with her (outside of the brief time in the book signing line, I wasn't able to say much). It was very reminiscent of when I attended a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Mobile, Alabama, years ago, and Secretary Albright was the keynote speaker; I called my father to say that I was having lunch with the Secretary of State -- followed up by, "Well, actually, Secretary Albright is having lunch with me and about 700 other people."

I plan on discussing her lecture in greater length in the near future (it was extremely fascinating, and I agreed with a great deal of what she had to say -- which is remarkable, given my political affiliation!!), but for the time being will post this photo.....

Friday, September 08, 2006

Five Years Later

Even now, five years later, I still find myself dwelling on it -- trying to imagine what it felt like the moment they realized they wouldn't be going home.

I remember on 9-11 watching the images of the planes slamming into the World Trade Center, the wreckage of the planes in Waashington in Pennsylvania, and the sound of the towers as they fell in on themselves. I remember the frustration at trying to reach friends who lived in midtown Manhattan to make sure they were alright. And I remember the total, utter silence at the downtown Mobile bar where friends had gathered to watch the President's speech that night -- a bar that at any other time would have been a loud jumble of the sounds of the jukebox, pool tables, and beer bottles.

That whole day, and during the days and weeks that followed, I -- and millions of other people -- watched the events of 9-11 as folks on the outside looking in. But not once in those first hours did I ever try -- I couldn't try -- to see what had happened from the inside looking out. There was something that I knew would tear at me if I tried to put myself in the place of the men and women who knew they weren't going to see their families and friends again.

Even with the fifth anniversary of 9-11 just a few days away, and even with the release in recent months of transcripts and recordings of many off the emergency calls made that day, I still couldn't do -- couldn't make myself think of how I would handle that situation. And then today, while visiting The Questioning Christian, I read a recent column by Peggy Noonan, "I Just Called to Say I Love You."

And suddenly, the feelings that I couldn't and wouldn't comprehend for these few years were there. I saw myself as one of the young fathers and husbands in New York, in Washington, in Pennsylvania -- a father who had kissed his wife and child goodbye thinking he would see them again in a few hours or at the end of the business trip. A father who really loves -- but still, somehow, often takes for granted that I will always get -- the excited hugs from the little girl who yells "Daddy!" as I walk through the door in the afternoon. A husband whose wife is carrying a second child and who has news every day of new kicks and new sensations from the baby inside of her.

I can't help but think that many men and women felt regret that day for taking things for granted in their lives, and finding in their haste to get to their jobs or to the airport that they had missed out on precious moments -- and trying to squeeze a lifetime of love into a few moments of a phone call.

But I also think of the fact that God was with the men and women on those planes, in the Pentagon, in the high floors of the World Trade Center. Yes, I'm one of the ones who sometimes wonders how a loving God could let something like this happen -- but it doesn't mean God isn't there. He was there -- he IS here -- and, even in the midst of a tragedy like September 11, 2001, that should be a comfort to us.

Above all else, we should never hesitate to say the things that are important to us. At the end of her column, Noonan writes, "People are often stronger than they know, bigger, more gallant than they'd guess. And this: We're all lucky to be here today and able to say what deserves saying, and if you say it a lot, it won't make it common and so unheard, but known and absorbed."

There are many tributes to the victims of that day -- memorials, scholarship funds, plaques. I think that one of the greatest tributes we could pay to the nearly 4000 victims of that day -- one of the best things we could do to honor their memory -- is to continue to share and pass on our love in every moment that we are still so fortunate to have in this life, moments that were far too short and fleeting for those we remember five years later.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Answering of Prayers

While reading through postings on other blogs I enjoy visiting, I ran across one that included the following passage about prayer: "I am tired of the response God answers "yes, no, maybe". I think that is just rationalization to make ourselves feel keep believing that God is answering our prayers. God has not made himself/herself knowable by answering prayers, imo. When was the last time you moved mountains?"

I thought about the passage for several days before posting a response. To me, the answering of prayers isn't something that is a firm yes/no/maybe that we can see. In fact, I think that many times prayers are answered at a time and in a way that we're either not expecting or not even looking for. Looking back, they might not necessarily have been answered the way that we would have liked. As St. Teresa of Avila once wrote, "There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers." Lots of folks wonder why the prayers that are asking to move mountains aren't answered with an equally-monumental response -- maybe they are; perhaps, though, the mountain is not being moved all at once, but one pebble or one clump of soil at a time.

And my method of prayer? For me, it is often a conversation during a quiet moment where I "talk out" my problems and offer them up for a solution, rather than a structured, bended-knee type exercise. God as a friend you can ring up whenever you want, rather than God as an Oz-type character where you enter the Emerald Palace and beg for an audience and hope he will give you a few minutes to plead your case.

Looking at the cumulative results of prayer I think are similar to the advice given to a writer once who was looking to write the one big story of his life. He was told that, rather than looking for the one big story, write the little stories along the way -- at the end, you'll find that the little stories make up the big story. Same with prayer -- the big answer you're looking for may be the result of several small answers you get along the way.

I am curious as to what others think about the answering of prayers. Do you see your prayers being answered by what you can see or hear as tangible results, or in the many ways that you don't see or hear the results? And how do you approach prayer?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Can't Seem to Get Away from the Hurricanes

In the ten years my wife and I lived on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, we had our fair share of hurricanes blow through the area: Danny, Georges, Erin, Opal, and I'm sure one or two others that I'm forgetting (and that's not including the hurricanes that blew through the state when my wife was growing up in Selma, including Frederick in 1979). Moving back to northern Virginia seemed to offer that great escape from the threat of annual evacuations, power outages, flooding, and just overall aggravation - but it really didn't. In the three years we've been back, one hurricane blew through the metropolitan-D.C. area -- Isabel -- and it looks we're going to get dumped on by the remnants of Ernesto today and tomorrow.

Apparently, bad weather loves us enough that it's following us around the country -- I guess the meteorological equivalent of the Dead-Heads who followed Garcia and crew from state to state. Maybe I should charge admission to the weather gods; may as well get rich off these things.....