Let’s Talk Dinos!

tyrannosaurus-dinosaurLast night I talked poor Sarabeth’s ear off about all the exciting dinosaur movies coming out next year.

The world of movies as we knew it changed forever in 1993 when Steven Spielberg released Jurassic Park. 

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the words “Jurassic Park.”

I was in the third grade, and my teacher, Mrs. Smart, I believe, must have read the book and must have heard about it being filmed from an evening news clip. She had just read us a story and proceeded to tell the class about the movie centered around a theme park with dinosaurs.

Collectively, I don’t think we were very bright, or we were all just deaf, because we didn’t hear her say the word “movie.” So we ambushed her with a load of questions like,

“When does it open?”jurassic park logo

“Will the dinosaurs move?

“Will it be next to Disneyland?”

And for about ten minutes, Mrs. Smart did her best to explain to us that it was a movie about a theme park.

In our seven- and eight-year-old minds, we couldn’t comprehend why anyone would watch a movie about a theme park when we could just go. 

Well, the next summer, I lost count the amount of times I went to see Jurassic Park with my buddies. And each time, I prayed the dinosaurs wouldn’t escape, but deeper still, I prayed that they would so I could experience that spine-tingling chill the movie still gives us all to this day.

man in boxYou’ll even see where Jurassic Park played a role in inspiring certain scenes in my book The Man in the Box. 

There’s no further agenda to this post except to express my excitement for all the dino fun we’re in for in the next 11 months, starting with a Toy Story television special about dinosaurs airing sometimes this holiday season.

 

And then next Father’s Day, we’ll be graced with Jurassic World, the fourth installment in the sharp-toothed franchise.

And later next year, Pixar is giving us an all new animated feature about …dinosaurs, calledRossGellerFriends413 The Good Dinosaur. 

I think I missed my calling as a paleontologist.

 

 

The-Good-Dinosaur-Logo

 

 

Shiny Pennies

us-pennyYou probably do it too.

The cashier says, “That’ll be $16.18.” You dig through your wallet or purse and you pull out a twenty, a dime, a nickel, and three pennies. But as you’re digging through your pennies, you see that you have three dingy, rusty ones, and one brand new, perfectly shiny one, minted in 2012.

Which three do you use to pay for your food?

The three old rusty ones, of course. It’s better to hold onto the shiny one. It’s prettier.

It’s shinier.

That’s what we do with the Gospel, isn’t it? Let’s be honest for a minute.

We want to fit in with our coworkers, so we throw in a few dirty jokes to get their approval. That’s a pretty dingy part of our character we’re spending on them, holding back the best part of us – the Christian part of us.

The part of us that’s supposed to be like Jesus Christ.

We’re slow to show forgiveness to our spouses. We’re a little rusty on being slow to anger, so that’s what they get from us. A rusty, sour attitude. Again, we’re holding back the beauty of forgiveness, keeping it deep in our pocket for our own sake.

Modesty, forgiveness, kindness, love – these are all aspects of the Gospel that we often decide to keep from others, day in, day out. All the while, we offer them the same thing everyone else gives – the worst part of who we are. Anger, selfishness, an unforgiving spirit…

So as you interact with your coworkers and loved ones this week, think about whether you’re giving them dirty, rusty pennies, or the bright shiny ones that everyone likes.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. -Matthew 5:16

So You Want to Write Part 11 – How to AVOID Writer’s Block

Pages and pages of suggested cures and tips for overcoming writer’s block are easily accessible to the afflicted all across the Web. With a quick Google search there’s no end of  advice for overcoming the author’s worst enemy.

Jon-Acuff(A good page I came across recently is on Jon Acuff’s page – he often gives sound advice.)

But rest assured, I’m not going to add to the potpourri of suggested writer’s block cures.

Read on.

 

I appreciate when my GPS warns me of potential roadside construction, traffic jams, and tumblr_mz0tciaEZ11t35jb8o1_400large bodies of water that might obstruct or delay my end goal of reaching my destination.

So instead of giving you some cures for writer’s block, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to avoid it in the first place. But keep in mind, nothing is a guarantee – and the absolute best tool you can put to use is your own ambition, which is something no one can give you but yourself.

 

HOW TO AVOID WRITER’S BLOCK

1. Keep your story interesting

I’ve found that most of the time I run out of something to writer or get stuck, is not because I’ve lost momentum, but because I’ve lost interest. The book (or story) might still be a great concept, but somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn, or I’ve lingered too long on an anticlimactic scene. Avoid this by always having an ending point in mind for each particular scene. If you’re writing at point A, know the steps you need to take to get to point B, and take them. Remember, if you lose interest, your readers will certainly give up reading.

2. Write different

In X-Men: The Last Stand, there’s a scene where big, tough Wolverine gives this super-Joey-dave-coulier-30111015-300-225cheesy speech about how “we’re X-Men; we stand together.” I mean, seriously? Look kids, it’s Joey Gladstone with claws and sideburns! It’s a painful scene to watch. We’ve all heard the “We are united” speech a million times. Blah, blah, blah. Avoid stuff like that. If you don’t, you’ll read over your work in a week, realize how bad it is, and lose stamina and fall into a permanent writer’s block. Stop copying templates; write your own template.

3. Don’t read too much

e0fc57b64b14ce730c828ca088394c1b_answer_4_xlargeI cannot agree enough with all of the advice for curing writer’s block which says, “Read great books.” Yes, read books of your book’s genre. Read award-winning books. Read! But don’t read, read, read. I struggle with this more than anything else. First off, reading takes time away from writing. Secondly, you might end up with more good ideas or ah-ha moments than you know what to do with. And though that’s better than having no ideas, it can become overwhelming and next thing you know, a block has been dropped in your writing groove.

4. Always, always, ALWAYS have something unpredictable in mind

Whether your outlining your book or writing by the seat of your pants (plotter or pantser), tumblr_m8fcinfzZT1r76lino1_400you should always have some major plot point in the distant future that’s so unpredictable, so unthinkable, so surprising that you just can’t wait to get to that scene and shock the life out of your readers. This makes for great storytelling and plot twists, but it also provides gallons of stamina to keep those fingers flying over your keyboard at 230 wpm. (Tip: resist the urge to write that scene ahead of time; work up to it. It’ll be like a reward when you finally reach it. If it’s shocking enough, you won’t even need to take note of it.)

5. Write multiple books at once

This might not be feasible for most people, since everyone has a good book in them, not “books.” But since my end goal is to be a bestselling author, I’m working on three books right now (all very different genres). If I need a change, I simply switch over to another book just to help keep things fresh.

6. Observe the world as though it’s your book

alien-invasionOne of my books is about a world-wide alien invasion. Quite often I stop and look up at the sky and wonder what the guy walking his dog would do if he were being shot at from an invisible spaceship. Or when I’m watching The Office with my wife, I’ll catch myself wondering what we’d do if everything just went black and things started blowing up around us. This helps me add scenes or thoughts or feelings that otherwise would not have been in the book, thus more material to write.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be that much closer to that coveted “The end.” Happy writing! And remember, it’s the weekend; not the work-end.

Book Rec: The Presidents Club

61iyNBdczoLI’ve been reading through the biographies of our presidents and so far have been enjoying getting to know them. It’s interesting to learn about their accomplishments, what drove them toward their failures, and how history has decided to label them.

But there’s one thing that their biographies tend to overlook.

We may learn about each man’s upbringing, his habits, his fierce run for the top job, what made him tick, etc. But even the most in-depth biography touches very little on the behind the scenes story of how each president interacted with one another before and after their arduous campaign battles against one another.

The Presidents Club by Nany Gibbs and Michael Duffy undertakes this task, with every post-WWII president (beginning with Truman and Hoover).

The wonder of this book is in the telling of how unlikely friendships – and rivalries – formed because of stark differences of ideology and running the White House.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is toward the end when we learn about the unforeseen friendship between Clinton and both Bushes, the iconic polar opposites in the political arena.

A colleague of mine a few years back became one of my very good friends, even though we had completely different political views – he a Carter supporter, and me a Bush man. Thing is, we never had a fight or argument. We explained our views and we listened to the other with respect and understanding – understanding that we each want what’s best for our families and the country. But, as he often said, we just have different ways of getting there.

Here is an eye-opening excerpt from The Presidents Club that I think every American can learn from.

“…George W. Bush did me one of the great favors of my life,” Clinton [said]. “He asked me not once, but twice, to work with his father. We took 7 trips together. This man who’d I’d always liked and respected and run against … I literally came to love … and I realize all over again how much energy we waste fighting with each other over things that don’t matter … He can virtually do no wrong in my eyes …” 

The Bush family paid Clinton back at this particular gathering, “conferring on him the highest possible honor: a family nickname … Laura Bush asked all twenty-seven Bushes in attendance to gather for a family picture … Clinton [was] standing quietly off to the side backstage, watching the big family take its places for a photographer when the call came from Neil Bush rang out: “Bill, Bill! Brother of Another Mother! Get in here!” 

And so he did, taking his place in the back row, near some grandchildren. “Yeah,” Clinton mused, recalling the moment a few months later, “the family’s black sheep. Every family’s got one.”

Even in this party-split nation we can still live as one country, in unity and love for one another.

US-POLITICS-PRESIDENTS

Bad Neighbor?

Every summer our neighbor – we’ll call her Paddington – tries to grow tomatoes on herIMG_8378 front porch. And every summer she only gets about two or three successful tomatoes because slugs and worms and critters vandalize her efforts.

Throughout the years you can see the evolution of her defensive tactics. One year she put a ring of salt around her pots. The next year she put eggshells in her soil. Then she started putting plastic bags of vinegar water in her pots.

But this year, she’s taking her tomato-preserving strategies to a whole new level.

havahartezsetracoonShe’s taken to setting up animal traps.

Now, if anybody is an advocate for more tomatoes in this world, it’s me. In fact, I say we don’t need any other fruit or root but tomatoes. Tomatoes are like cheese – they make everything better. (I think I inherited my unusual love of tomatoes from my father: he was a successful tomato planter and he would bring his own tomatoes with him when we went out to restaurants. I can’t blame him, to this day I’ve never had better tomatoes.)

Do you see this picture of the tomato? Just looking at it makes me salivate, and it’s only 8:40 in the morning!tumblr_mfsxqiD18k1re461do1_500

So my love of tomatoes is clear. But, thought I’m no tree hugger, I also love animals. Not in the way a twelve-year-old girl does. I don’t doodle glittery ponies on my notebooks or anything, but I get a sense of sadness if I see them in trouble.

I always pull my car over to check for tags if I see a lost dog. If it wouldn’t be so dangerous, I’d shoo deer off the side of the road so they don’t get hit.

But anyway, our neighbor, Paddington, set these traps out and every day since I’ve found squirrels trapped in the cages. They just look so scared and helpless; they just wanted a bite of that darn Fig Newton.

I don’t know. Maybe I still feel guilty for hitting a baby squirrel with my car a while ago, or shooting suirells with my BB gun in the backyard when I was a kid…

So I look all around to make sure the coast is clear and release the squirrels . Sarabeth told me that they’re going to see me as their savior now. (Maybe I’ll grow some tomatoes and they’ll leave them alone as a thank you, then I can give some to Paddington as a peace offering.)

PussInBoots1Today I went outside with the dogs and it wasn’t a squirrel, but a raccoon. The poor guy wasn’t even struggling, probably because he was exhausted from panicking all night. He didn’t even flinch when I approached. He just looked up at me with those big tear-filled eyes…

So of course I let the big guy out.

This probably makes me an incredibly bad neighbor, but there’s no proof that the squirrels and raccoons are the ones destroying Paddington’s tomato plants. Innocent until proven guilty, right?

So what do you think? Bad neighbor or rodent savior? Is growing a few tomatoes worth trapping animals for? You be the jury. You decide.

In the meantime, I’m going to run to the grocery store and pick up some produce.

 

Movies as Good as Pixar Movies

It doesn’t take much browsing on my blog to figure out that I’m a devout Pixar enthusiast (Disney included). But there are some movies made by competitors that come awfully close, if not hit right on target, to Pixar’s standards of excellence. Here are my favorite non-Pixar/Disney animated movies that you’re sure to have a good time with.

Shrek-2-card-2004-12Shrek 2 (Dreamworks)

I love the second installment of the Shrek movies. It’s hip, it’s fun, and the soundtrack is awesome. It’s a fairytale within a fairytale, and it doesn’t bash all the other fairytales like its predecessor does. And the pouty Prince Charming is just hilarious.

surfs_up_620x348_0Surf’s Up (Sony Pictures Animation/Columbia)

This one didn’t sit too well with critics and audiences far as I know, and I can’t understand why. It’s a very original animated flick told in the style of a documentary. Sarabeth says you’ve got to have a love for the beach and surfing to enjoy this movie, so she might be right. At any rate, I’ve always said it’s as good as a Pixar movie, if for anything, its originality.

1_0_2008_07_09_05_16_25_65625Horton Hears a Who (Blue Sky Studios/Fox)

This is a fun little movie based off of the Dr. Seuss classic storybook, which I hadn’t read before seeing it. It’s not as sophisticated as other movies, but it’s big, bright, and colorful. Definitely pulls out the child in me, and it’s no chore to sit down and watch it on a rainy weekend.

despicable-me-2-22543-1280x800Despicable Me (Illumination Entertainment/Universal)

There’s nothing truly awe-inspiring about this movie, but it’s fun – just flat-out fun, with a few quotable moments throughout. Another good one for rainy weekends. I think what draws me in so much is the adoption theme. That’ll get me every time.

81AjuXCw9UL._SL1500_How to Train Your Dragon (Dreamworks)

This one probably comes the closest to being on par with Pixar standards. It’s got everything you need to make an animated movie go from really good to exceptional – fast action, witty dialogue, no potty humor, emotional content, and the protagonists lose something dear in the end. I haven’t seen the sequel yet, but I’m sure excited to whenever we get around to it.

What are your favorite non-Pixar/Disney animated movies? 

Why You Should be Glad When You Have No Reason to Be

photo-119We’ve been extremely fortunate in our foster-to-adopt situation with Baby A.

More fortunate than most people.

In a few weeks the State will change Baby A’s permanency goal from reunification with her birth parents to adoption.

We’re hoping Baby A will officially be a Toy by Christmas, which is feasible as long as there are no surprises.

We also just found ourselves in a situation where we are ready to take in another baby if the State calls us. So we’re looking forward to an addition to our family of five (two dogs) in the next couple of months.

Right now, things can’t seem to get much better, but we recognize that things could change in a heartbeat, so we live with that reminder and walk cautiously, yet graciously.

We owe our happiness to God, for He has graciously provided us with Baby A after years of praying, waiting, crying, and longing for her. The wait was worth it.

I was not a good Christian during that waiting period. I grew resentful toward God, and even hated Him for not giving us a child when I wanted. But looking back, I can see that the timing was absolutely perfect.

I just wish that while we were waiting for a child that I had acted better. I wish I had prayed more and taken the opportunity to grow in my relationship with God.

So, if you’re in a waiting period, or things are difficult, or you’re at your wit’s end, or life just seems to be falling apart around you, I can’t promise that it will get better, but the odds are definitely in your favor.

Just don’t wait for things to get better and then praise God for what He’s done, because then you’ll end up like me and feel like a hypocrite (or something… I haven’t quite figured it out yet), and you’ll feel a little out of place when you do thank God for the turnaround in your life circumstances.

So even in your mourning and your crying and your despair, God is to be praised, so that when things do look up for you, you can confidently point to Him and say, “It’s because of Him that this happened,” and not feel so out of place.

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