Friday, October 16, 2009

Support Ethan - Living Out Loud

La la la live out loud... .have you ever heard the Steven Curtis Chapman song? It's about putting words of faith into action, and it's a school project for my 3rd grader Ethan. The assignment is pretty wide open, spend the month of October working and sacrificing to serve others.

Ethan's project? He has decided to raise money to sponsor a child in the Angel Tree ministry at our church. The Angel Tree Ministry is a ministry to support the children of single moms at Christmas time. Kids names are put on on Angel ornaments and put on a tree, taken off to be sponsired to help make their Christmas a little brighter.

E's planning on a bake sale, a lemonade stand and serving at our single mom's auto day. He's also designing some handmade holiday cards for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He's going to draw the pictures and we will print them onto cards to be purchased with all the proceeds going toward the Angel Tree gifts. We hope you'll help but purchasing the cards, I will display them here and you can place your order with us. It's donation based, but we'll ask for a $2 minimum donation, but it's for a good cause so if you're inclined to bid more, you know it will be worth it.

Be watching, E's working on his designs already, I'll be posting them here. And if you see him selling lemonade or brownies, be sure to make a purchase! And please... PASS IT ON!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just One More

Although it isn't actually reflected on the blog at all, I got a decent response and positive feedback on my Facebook page with curiosity about continuing the story. I actually need to go back and read all eight chapters that I've written to stir the creative juices, I'm just not there yet. On the other hand a friend of mine sent me a link today about a writing challenge for the month of November. You write a novel in the month of November, from the 1st to 30th at midnight. But it has to be a whole new project. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. Not sure if I'm up for the challenge, but the concept is intriguing.

But I digress, for now I am offering one more chapter of the "Story in Progress," as it's already been written. This chapter introduces more of the main characters, the "other side of the story," if you will. I'm still interested in feedback, be specific if you're so inclined. Tell me what you like, tell me what you don't like, but again be gentle, it's still my baby.


Chapter 2

“Mama…” Chelsea was vaguely aware of Joshua’s little hand was reaching up and tapping her back. “Mama, breffast peeze.”

Groggily, Chelsea rolled over to greet her son. “Good morning doodle bug.”

She looked up that clock, it said 6:14. She reached down and pulling him up into bed, said, “You’re up early,” she said, pulling him under the covers. “The sun’s not even awake yet, buddy.”

“I hungry mama,” he said wiggling out from underneath the blankets. Clearly, he wasn’t going to be put off.

“Don’t you want to cuddle with Mommy?” she said hoping to entice him into a few more moments of rest before having to face the day. Joshua hopped back off the bed and ran out the bedroom door. Chelsea just laid there a little longer. The laundry basket was still on Jared’s side of the bed. It’s bad enough he’s hardly here and now he isn’t even coming to bed at night.

“Come on Mama! Breffast!” Joshua announced as his head suddenly popped back through the doorway.

Chelsea stood up and grabbed her robe. “OK buddy, come on, let’s get breakfast.”

As she walked down the hallway she noticed the blanket bunched up on the couch. Obviously Jared had woken up at some point during the night. He didn’t even try to come to bed. The least he could have done was fold the blanket back up. He’s so inconsiderate.

Making her way into the kitchen she reached for a box of dry cereal and a bowl. “Pancakes, Mama!” Joshua said.

“Pancakes? Aww, not this morning buddy. How about some Cheerios?”

“No, pancakes! Peeeze.” Joshua begged.

“Did I hear somebody say pancakes?” Erica said as she came into the room. “Yum!”

Chelsea shook her head, “No, nobody said anything about pancakes. Cheerios are on the menu for this morning. What are you doing up so early? It’s only 6:30, you don’t have to be up for school for another half hour.”

“Joshua came in and woke me up. He said ‘Mama pancakes and breffast,” she said imitating her little brothers toddler drawl. “Pancakes sounded better than sleeping in.”

“Well, I’m sorry he misled you. It’s Cheerios, I can add a banana if you’d like, but that’s about as fancy as it’s going to get today.”

“Aww Mom,” Erica whined, “you never make us pancakes anymore.”

“Honey, you know it’s a school day, pancakes are too complicated on a school day. Those are for Saturdays or Sundays before church for a big family breakfast, they’re a treat.”

Erica could tell there wasn’t any point in arguing about it. “OK, I’ll take the banana on my Cheerios, but Mom it’s been like a bazillion years since we had a family breakfast. You don’t even get up on Sundays and go to church with us anymore.”

Chelsea turned and picked Joshua up and put him in his high chair. “Mommy’s tired on Sunday mornings honey, it’s my only day to sleep in.” She set bowls down in front of each of the kids, poured the cereal and started slicing up a banana.

“We never do anything together as a family any more Mom,” Erica said as Chelsea dropped the banana slices in her cereal and poured the milk on top of it. “I wish you would go to church with us, my teacher has been asking where you’ve been.”

Chelsea thought it about it. It had been about six weeks since she had been to church. She had picked up a part time job working at Dillie’s, a local coffee shop, a few shifts a week and usually worked Saturday evenings. After the her shifts she usually found herself hanging out and socializing till late night hours in the Promenade. Nothing worth rushing home for anyway. She decided to make Sunday mornings her time for herself. Let Jared deal with the hassles of getting everyone up, dressed, fed and out the door. She’d stay in bed till she heard them leave and then get up and enjoy her coffee and a little time on the computer chatting or catching up on email. There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time for myself she thought.

“Will you come Mama?” she heard Erica ask taking Chelsea back out of her own thoughts.

“What honey?”

“I said my Sunday School class is going to sing in big church next Sunday, will you come?”

“Sure honey, I’ll come,” Chelsea smiled, though in her heart she was disappointed she’d have to give up her time.

Chelsea walked down the hall and knocked on Angie’s door, opening it slowly. “It’s almost 7 Ang, time to get up for school.”

Angie didn’t stir, Chelsea walked into her room. She saw a note on Angie’s desk. It read, “Marriage is unreasonable. 1. Old-fashioned 2. Stifling 3. Unfulfilling.” Hmmm, it’s like she’s reading my mind.

She sat on the edge of Angie’s bed. “Wake up sleepy head.” Angie shifted a little. “Come on girl, you’ve got school,” Chelsea said, tapping her backside.

Angie rolled over to face her mom. Peeking through one sleepily opened eye she asked, “What time is it?”

“Five after seven honey, come on.”

“Mom,” Angie groaned rolling back over, “I told you I have late start today, I don’t have to be at school till 10:30. I was up really late working on my speech project, didn’t Dad tell you?”

“I haven’t seen Dad honey, how would he know you were up late? He was crashed on the couch before ten o’clock last night.” He didn‘t even make it all the way through his football game.

“He came in and checked on me at like 1 something… Mom, please can I just get a little more sleep?” Angie pulled a pillow over her head.

Chelsea pulled the door shut and headed back out into the kitchen. That’s when she noticed she’d left her cell phone out on the coffee table the night before.

She picked it up and saw across the front screen that it said “Six text messages.” She flipped open the phone.

The most recent message was from Jared, she’d just missed it. It read, “Working late this afternoon, don’t hold dinner.” Sigh. It’s not even 8 am and already he’s making excuses about why he can’t be here for dinner. Figures.

The message before that was from Karen, her girlfriend. It said, “Hoping to get a little exercise, let me know if you want to meet me at the park to walk.” She laughed to herself, that Karen, she always has a plan, always on the go. It might be fun to get out of the house with Josh. The sun was up and you could already see it was going to be a nice day. Maybe she’d be willing to walk at the Promenade instead. She texted her back quickly, “I’ll call you after I get Erica off to kindergarten.

The other four messages didn’t have a name, just a number, but she recognized it instantly. The first one was time stamped at 12:45, it read “Hello.” The second four minutes later just said, “You there?” Stamped twenty minutes later the third just said, “Why aren’t you there?” And the fourth said it came through at 1:36, it read simply, “Missing you.”

A wave of guilt wafted over Chelsea. Had Jared seen this? I can’t believe I left my phone out here! She panicked for just a moment, then realized if Jared had read the messages it wouldn’t have still listed them as unread. Phew. The panic subsided a little and she just dismissed the tinge of guilt that remained.

Walking into the kitchen she told Erica, “Hurry up honey, you’ve got to get ready for school.” She grabbed Josh, who now had banana all over his face and in his little blonde tufts of hair; she lifted him up out of his high chair and headed into get him changed and dressed. Exasperated she thought, another day in Mommy world.

By Diana DePriest © 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feedback Please - Be Gentle

Years ago I started writing a story. I wrote four chapters and then life got busy. I let a friend read it and she was unhappy with me at the time, so she kind of annihilated me with criticism. It was unfortunate, because if you're a writer, you know sharing your work is like putting your baby on display. It's hard to take criticism, and if it's given harshly, it can be down right painful. The book got put aside never to be picked up again.

Becoming a published writer would be a fulfillment of a dream for me. I really love to write and feel it's actually a gift from the Lord more than a talent. Back in April I felt inspired to start a new story. I'll be honest, it's been since August since I've done more than look at it, but I did get 8 chapters written this time, albeit short ones. I don't know, how do you write a book?

Anyway, I've been contemplating getting back to the task and have had mostly positive feedback from the few friends I have had read it, but for some reason today I am feeling really bold and ready to throw it out there for a larger consumption, but I'd like to actually hear back your thoughts. So, check it out, read chapter 1 and let me know what you think. But be gentle... it's my baby and all.


Chapter 1

Jared was in a deep sleep on the couch as he heard the vibration on the coffee table. Rubbing his eyes he reached across and tried to make out the caller I.D. on Chelsea’s cell phone. Who in the world could be calling at this hour?

He flipped open the cell phone, “Hello?” He could hear noises in the background but no one answered. “Hello?” he said again the phone went dead on the other end.

He set the phone back down on the coffee table and uprighted himself on the couch. The clock on the VCR said 12:38. He’d dozed off a couple hours before while watching TV. Now the lights and TV were off. Chelsea must have headed to bed, he thought. Why does she just leave me out here?

He wandered into the kitchen for a glass of water. Who in the world could be calling her phone at this hour? he wondered. Maybe it was just a wrong number. Although he hoped it was the case, something in his gut told him it wasn’t.

Chelsea had seemed more and more distant lately. He knew she was probably angry with him for falling asleep on the couch in front of the
TV again. He was just so exhausted. The new project at work was requiring so many late hours. It wasn’t just physically exhausting, his brain was tired. He actually hadn’t been sleeping very well at night. When he tried to go to bed his mind would just start reeling. The thoughts would keep him up till all hours of the night, falling asleep in front of the TV seemed to be his only reprieve from the constant battle with insomnia.

Now the brief benefit of the nap was spoiled by the sudden late night disruption. Now he was wide awake and it was a good five hours before he should be up to start his day.


He walked quietly down the hall and looked into the bedroom where Chelsea was sleeping. She had left the basket of clean, folded laundry just sitting on his side of the bed. He wondered if there wasn’t a message she was trying to send that even if he did manage to find his way back to their bed, maybe he wasn’t really wanted there anyway.

No sense in getting into bed, he’d probably just toss and turn, then neither of them would get any sleep. He pulled the door quietly shut behind him as he headed back into the hall.

He decided to peek in on the kids. First he looked into Erica’s room. His 5-year-old was sprawled out, all her covers kicked down into a pile at the foot of the bed. She looked pretty adorable. He pulled her blankets back up over her and quietly moved into Joshua’s room.

Josh was two and a half. He’d just moved into his “big boy bed” a couple weeks before. Unlike his big sister he was curled up tight into a ball with his blankets pulled all the way up under his chin. He thought to himself how much their sleeping positions mirrored their personalities. Erica was open and outgoing, free and relaxed, Josh was shy and quiet, often keeping to himself. Funny how you could see it even when they were sound asleep.

Jared continued down the hall when he noticed the light shining out from underneath Angie’s door. Quietly he tapped on the door, not sure if she was awake or had fallen asleep doing her homework.

“Yeah?” her voice whispered out, sounding a little surprised by the disruption.

As he opened the door he could see her sitting at her desk, working at the computer. “It’s really late kiddo, don’t you think you ought to get to bed?”

“I know Dad, I’m just finishing up with this assignment. Then I’ll get to bed.’

Angie, such a bright young girl, Jared couldn’t believe she was almost 17. She wasn’t his daughter biologically, she was Chelsea’s daughter from a relationship before they met. It didn’t matter though, he loved her as much as he did the two children he and Chelsea had together. Really, Jared was the only father Angie had ever known. In the 14 years Chelsea and Jared had been together Angie’s dad had breezed through their lives maybe six or seven times. Jared couldn’t understand how any father could be so casual in his relationship with his child. Actually, casual was too generous a word, irresponsible was more accurate. It was Tom’s loss though, Jared was honored to fill the void he left, and that’s why when he and Chelsea got married ten years ago, he made the promise to love and care for both his wife and her daughter, their daughter now.

“Whatcha workin’ on?” Jared asked, peeking over her shoulder at the computer screen.

Angie turned her chair toward him with a smile, “It’s a presentation for my speech class. We’re doing a series of debates in class on different topics in the news.”

“And your topic…?”

“I’m debating marriage.”

Jared chuckled, “Really? I didn’t even know there was any special guy in your life.”

“Oh Dad!” Angie laughed, “I’m not debating the prospect personally! I’m debating the ‘logic’ of marriage. A lot of people consider it to be an antiquated concept. A lot of people don’t consider it to be feasible these days. They say it’s too much to ask of a person to make a lifetime commitment to just one person. So one of us is debating against the institution of marriage and the other one of us is debating that marriage does still work and is still important.”

“Sounds interesting, and which opinion do you find yourself holding?”

Angie smiled, “Well actually the assignment requires us to both prepare for both sides of the debate. We have to be prepared to persuade either viewpoint, you know, all in the name of having an open mind. I won’t know which side I have to argue until moments before the actual debate, which isn’t until the end of the semester. It’s going to count as 40% of our final grade.”

“Really? I’m fascinated. So is everyone preparing for this same debate?”

“No, there are 26 of us in the class and there are four different topics. There’s my topic, a debate on keeping abortion ‘safe and legal’; a debate on euthanasia and the fourth topic is prayer in schools.”

“Wow, those are some pretty heavy subjects. Did you get to choose or were you assigned the topics?” Jared asked.

“No, it was all by drawing, we actually pulled our topics out of a coffee can. There are six of us for each topic, except euthanasia, there are eight people on that topic. We don’t even know who we’ll be debating yet, we may not even know until the actual day of the debate in like late May or June.”

Jared stood up, “Well honey, it’s only January and the semester has just started, your debate is a long way off, I think you can afford to put the topic aside for the night and get a good night’s rest.” He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “You need to get to bed.”

“OK Daddy, five more minutes, I promise. Tomorrow is ‘late start’ because the teachers have a meeting, so I’ll be OK.” She turned back towards her computer monitor as Jared slipped out of the room.

As he came back into the living room Jared saw Chelsea’s phone face light up in the dimly lit room. He picked it up and saw it said “Four text messages.” He looked over at the clock that now read 1:36. What in the world? He resisted temptation to read the messages and set the phone back down. Finally feeling tired enough to doze back off he grabbed a blanket out of the cupboard and made himself comfortable back on the couch. He grabbed his own cell phone setting its alarm clock for 5:30am. He laid back trying hard to dismiss the uneasy feeling he felt beginning deep down inside himelf. A few minutes later he was back to sleep.

By Diana DePriest © 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Disengaged - Redux

I've been pondering this post a lot lately, remembering back to when I wrote it. I am actually a little concerned I have become guilty of it myself... a little too much Facebook, a new phone that enables me to log on and check out anywhere I go. I need to chew on it, perhaps reevaluate my priorities. Maybe I'm not the only one, so here's a little food for thought. Originally posted October 1st of last year. For your consideration...


It means "released or detached: WITHDRAWN"

You've heard the saying "a picture is worth a 1,000 words"? Have you had the experience where you have observed something in your daily life that spoke such volumes, you wish you had a camera to snap a picture to share? Well, I had that experience yesterday.

Tuesdays are my late morning to come into work, so it was probably about 11:30 and I was driving down the main street behind my house. As I was stopped at the stoplight a family of four was entering the crosswalk to cross the street in front of my car. It was a mom and a dad and two little girls I would guess were probably about 4 and 2 years old. It had the potential to be a precious picture, this little family out on a walk, but instead what I saw hurt my heart.

The youngest girl was in a stroller, one of those umbrella styles with a little canopy over the top to guard her from the son. The older girl was walking holding her daddy's hand, he had her sort of back and slightly behind him. Mom, pushing the stroller was on her cell phone, in fact she was pushing with one hand and using the elbow on the side that held the phone to guide her off the sidewalk. Dad had earplugs in his ears I assume attached to an iPod or MP3 player piping music into his ears. The littlest girl was trying to lean forward to peak up and around to see her parents and the older girl seemed just to be trying to keep up, looking at Daddy who other than his hand holding hers seemed oblivious to her presence.

It speaks volumes about the state of our society today. 10 years ago when my husband and I were youth workers, teenagers were a challenge, but the key was being able to touch their hearts. If you could reach them, reveal to them your sincere interest and care, you laid a stone to build the foundation of a relationship. We used to have dozens of kids come over and just hang out. We'd play games, barbecue carne asada, have sleepovers, parties. We'd connect. 10 years later, these young people are getting married, having babies, starting careers, and Neal and I are blessed to still have connections with these kids. IT varies in degree, some remain very close, others more casually, some we don't see except at weddings and baby showers, but when we do, there is a connection, one that was built a decade ago, but was built to last.

This past June my teenage son Jacob had a party for his junior high friends at the end of the school year. We brought them over to my parents big wonderful "party house" and we barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs and we had games, all the same tools. But touching their hearts, making a "connection" was harder than it used to be. The teens themselves seem harder to reach, distant, more jaded. Now granted in the course of the last ten years I may have lost a few cool points because instead of helping the youth escape from their own parents, I am now the parent myself, but I think there is more to consider.

At that party as we were playing games and hanging out, those cell phones and MP3 players were present. You could be in the midst of a conversation with a young person and they would be half listening to you and busy sending text messages to someone else at the same time. Another young person would sit off in a corner listening to their music and never entering in to the group or activity, or quitting if it becomes any kind of challenge and just retreat back into solitude. I've seen it with my own children, we'll all be together as a family, headed out to lunch or to church and Jake would be test messaging a friend, Ethan is playing his gameboy, Victoria has her CD player playing in her ear. We're all together, it's family time, and yet each of my children has disengaged from each other and from me and Neal.

Cell phones have gone from the status of luxury to necessity. Everyone has one. I've stood in grocery lines where the customer doesn't even interact with the teller beyond handing them cash because they are in the midst of a telephone conversation. Have you ever been walking through a store or such and thought someone said something to you only to realize they have a bluetooth in their ear? Suddenly you're embarrassed and uncomfortable because you've interrupted them? Where has common courtesy and the art of niceties and polite conversation gone? No wonder more and more stores seem to be moving towards self-checkout lines. We complain customer service has gone by the wayside, but what about the courtesy of the customer?

Don't get me wrong, I see the value of something like a cell phone. We gave Jake one the Christmas he was in 7th grade. At an age where he is growing in freedoms in a world that simply is not as safe as it used to be (especially in Southern California), there is benefit to being able to reach him. He walks a couple miles home from school each day, I want to know he's on his way and made it safe. It has it's purpose. But my daughter told me the other day about her classmate who has a cell phone - she's in the first grade! What purpose could that have?

I think back to that family on the street. They were completely together in the physical sense, and completely separated in every way that mattered. How can we touch hearts and impact lives if face to face communication is completely hindered by modern technology. How can we capture the hearts of our young people if we can't even fully capture their attention? I think whenever Jake has another party, I'll collect cell phones at the door the way they used to collect keys at parties where alcohol was served.

I think first and foremost we have to set an example ourselves. I challenge you, next time your cell phone rings while you're in line at the store or while you're talking to one of your children, push the "ignore" button, complete your conversation or transaction, and thereby relaying to that person, they matter, they are valuable to you. Next time you're chatting with a girlfriend and that text message tone comes along, let it sit, wait for a moment and don't immediately disengage from the conversation to respond. Show people they matter.

I'm guilty too, but I saw what I saw and it made me stop and think. Let's put down the cell phones, turn them off at home, leave them in the car at the store. Let's have our kids put them away for the night when they get home. Isn't that the beauty of voice mail? And not just the cell phones, but the iPods and the gameboys, instead of disengaging, let's unplug! Stop and think next time, am I invested, in the people and situation around me? If I'm not, what message am I sending? And I don't mean a text.

Can you hear me now?