Thursday, June 30, 2005

Home again...and on the radio tonight!

It is SO good to be home. Thoughts are still swirling but I'll post more on that later.

Today's post is to let you know that I will be doing an interview tonight at 6pm Eastern with KGMI in Seattle.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Crazy Day

I'm now in Chicago, changing gears for the American Library Association. I'll share more about the Smart Marriages conference later. But for now, I'll share a bit about my crazy day.

6:00am - woke up to be ready for interfaith chapel service at 7:45am

7:45am - realized that today is Saturday, not Sunday. Oops. The first session doesn't start until 8:30am.

7:50am - filled out order form for CDs of Z author sessions. Found a couple I wanted for myself.

8:00am - realized I forgot my debit card in my room.

8:05am - returned to my room to retrieve card. realized that checkout time was at noon, not 2pm. Oops...haven't packed yet.

8:15am - returned to CD table. Nice man let me get the multi-purchase discount, and pay separately for work and personal selections.

8:30am - decide to take one last tour of the exhibits

9:30am - Oops...a few conversations later I realized I missed the opening season.

9:35am - return to room to start packing

10:00am - back downstairs (27 flights, switch elevators, walk across skywalk to convention center, up the escalator, down the hall).

11:30am - leave session early to finish packing and check out.

12:15am - all checked out! back to the convention center (across the skywalk...) to grab a boxed lunch and say good bye to a few folks.

1:00pm - find a couch to sit, read the last 2 days worth of news, eat lunch and wait for my ride. My ride is my friend (and former roommate) Sue, who lives in Dallas. We haven't seen each other for 6 years.

1:30pm - Sue arrives. She looks exactly the same! Feels like no time has passed. We set up in search of a store to solve a fashion emergency. We take a "scenic" route. All is well, I see the 6th floor book depository. We took a wrong turn. I see the 6th floor book depository again. We suspect we're close to Neiman Marcus. We park in the ramp across the street. We take the wrong stairs down. Old, spider webs everywhere...a bit scary. Back up the stairs and out the other way. Neiman Marcus! $60 later (OY!), all is well.

2:10pm - We decide to hit Starbucks...which closed at 2pm...on a Saturday...downtown Dallas. Go figure. We decide to head to the airport.

2:20pm - Bad accident. 3 miles in 30 minutes.

2:50pm - 3 miles later

3;10pm - What's that? A sign directing us to the airport!!

3:30pm - Our visit is much too short. And very eventful. Some things never change! I check my bags and head to my gate.

3:45pm - Stop for refreshing beverage.

3:55pm - Bumped by passerby. Refreshing beverage refreshing the front of my shirt.

4:10pm - Emerge from ladies room...Looking refreshed.

4:15pm - Find gate. Sit down. Ahhhhh.....

4:30pm - Board plane. Promptly fall asleep.

5:30pm - Wake up, move to an empty row and get a little work done.

6:30pm - battery dies (how did that happen?!). Pull out Blue Like Jazz.

7:30pm - arrive safely in Chicago.

8:00pm - Bond with plane mates. Still wondering if our luggage has arrived. (Made friends with future Generation Ex readers).

8:20pm - Luggage found at different carousel. Change never made on the board. Oops.

8:30pm - Share cab with a few others and head downtown to the Renaissance. It's the first time I'm in a cab with a DVD. Saw a good 30 minutes of Hitch. Still a funny movie.

9:15pm - Arrive at Renaissance. WOW...nice lobby. Approach front desk. "We're sorry, Ms. Abbas. We overbooked. But don't worry. We've made arrangements for you at the Four Seasons on our tab. A cab is waiting to take you there."

9:30pm - Talking to co-worker (who got the last room at the Renaissance. A suite!). BUMP! Another taxi door opens and my cab hits them. We're close to the Four Season so I get out and meet the bell hop. Bye luggage, I sure hope I see you again.

9:35pm - I'm escorted to the 7th floor to check in. I am escorted to my very nice room and my new friend shows me around. "Let me refresh your ice, Ms. Abbas." "May I take your clothes for ironing, Ms. Abbas?" "Would you like to dine in or have the concierge arrange for your reservations on the town, Ms. Abbas?"

10:10am - Enjoying one of the best steaks ever, sitting on my 500-million count sheets in my terry robe. Life is good.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Smart Marriages Conference: Day 2


Okay, now that I have that out of the way. The phrase "drinking water out of a fire hose" seems to be a fitting one to describe the content and structure of this conference. I opted out of the plenary (I'll go back for the CD). Here's why:

8:20a-8:30a - follow up with somone I met yesterday
8:30a-10am - Plenary
10:15a -11:45a - workshop
11:45a - 12p - talk with Z author
12:00p - 1:45p - lunch plenary, sat by Z authors
2:00p - 3:3op - workshop
3:15pm - 3:30p - talked with aspiring Z author
3:30p - 4:00p - met with Z author
4pm - 5:30pm - plenary
5:45p - 6:30p - workshop (on blogging!)
6:30p - 7:00p - meet with Z author
7:00pm - 9:30pm - banquet with Z authors

If i followed my assigned schedule, I would have exactly 45 unscheduled minutes between 8 this morning and 9:30 tonight. Not a lot of time for breaks, nature calls, meeting folks or entering a blog date. So before I head back into the fray, a few more thoughts.

* I wish this conference had a bit more spacing to allow time for conversations with the people you meet in your sessions.

* Last night: Dave & Claudia Arp were awarded an Impact Award for their 10 Great Dates program, which Diane Sollee (the director) introduced as "the most widely used marriage education program." This is not only a great program for marriage ed, but it's also a wonderful outreach tool for churches, not only within the lcoal body but also within the community. Within the church, the program offers an opportunity to bring generations together when teens, singles and "more mature" adults offer free babysitting, which is a great service to young families in the community.

* Last night: Linda Waite, author of The Case for Marriage, offered more research to show how married people are healthier and live longer than singles, widowed and especially divorced (who fared worse in every measureable category). The interesting wrinkle is the new data that compared always married (one marriage) v. remarried (via divorce). The research showed a significant health benefit (physical and emotional) when couple stayed married to their first spouse. I was able to meet Linda after her session, an honored as I quote work in Generation Ex.

* Last night: Terry Hargrave issued "The Challenge of the Decade." Terry is the author of Loving Your Parents When they Can No Longer Love You. So what is the challenge of the decade? Caring for aging parents. Terry offers so sobering information about what's ahead as baby boomers enter retirement to start their new job as primary caregivers to their aging parents. He proposed a new model of caregiving: one caregiver for efficiency, and one caregiver support team to care for the caregiver. Sobering stuff.

Oy...gotta run again...more later. People of faith, prayers for endurance are appreciated!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Smart Marriages Conference: Day 1

It's nearly midnight, so just a few jumbled thought before I retire...

* It is SO cool to be with 1800 or so like-minded people!

* I had a nice conversation with Ernie, who works with military couples. What important work he does. (Hi Ernie!)

* The first session kicked off at 6:3o. I sat next to Steve, an associate Dean at a Southern university. He's also an author and working on a proposal for his next one. Ironic that we should meet. (Hi Steve!)

* Diane Sollee, the brain of this brainchild of a conference, welcomed us and gave an overview and history of Smart Marriages. I was impressed to hear that the presenters pay their own way to be here. It's very clear that this group of people is committed to the cause. Listening to the conversations of people around me, this is like a family reunion of folks passionate about building strongs families.

* Priorites for Smart Marriages: use the internet to get the word out about marriage enrichment resources, influence legislation, use media to promote marriage, develop community marriage policies and initiatives, create programming for marriage enrichment ("this MUST be formatted on DVD for couples to use.")

* Bill Doherty has been on the news lately as a result of his launch of the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapist. Great idea, check out the link.

* Speaking of great ideas, I met Leanne who is doing research for a book for/on mother-in-laws. Take her online survey at (Very cool sidebar, she recognized my name...turns out she's reading my book and has it with her this week. Hi Leanne!)

I have more to say about Dave & Claudia Arp, Terry Hargrave and Linda Waite...but you'll have

Greetings from Dallas!

I arrived safely at the Adams Mark hotel this afternoon for the Smart Marriages conference. Thanks to SK and kids for the ride to the airport, and Bailey's adopted family for taken care of her while I'm gone.

My flight went by pretty quickly. I finally started reading Blue Like Jazz after more people than I can count recommended it to me. I remember reading an advanced copy of Don Miller's first book, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance 5-6 years ago. His writing has definitely improved. I'll try to remember to share some of my thoughts later because I'm starving!

My first impression of Dallas was, "GOD LORD! WHERE AM I!" Dry heat or no, 98 degrees is NOT heaven!

On the shuttle to the hotel, I met a few fellow attendees. Greetings to Randy from Utah and Reba from Indiana. Thanks to Jennifer B, I found the registration table. I'm now showered (did I mention that it is 98 degrees!?!), unpacked, logged on and ready to find dinner...and my first session.

If you're here at the conference and checking out the blog, leave a comment so we can meet!

Email from Reader

I think the most gratifying aspect of being a writer is the fact that no matter what kind of day you might be having in "real time," your book is out there in a timeless state of your best thoughts presented in your best way. The payoff then, is receiving emails from readers at just the right time.

A week or so ago I was having one of those days and received an email from a reader with this headline:

FINALLY! I'm NOT crazy...

She went on to share how Generation Ex resonated with her and helped her to make some important choices. This reader made my day. I connected with her, and a really cool way, she connected with me.

Thank you, my friend.

Not What Father's Day is Meant to Be

This is a bit on the depressing side, but effective, I think. There are so many social issues in the world that it's easy to escape but ignoring them all. The debt in Third World countries. Human Rights violations in Asia and Africa. AIDS...even the poor and homeless in our cities. We can't deal with the pain so we don't deal with the problem. And the problem with divorce is that when we divorce--or don't help couples headed that way--WE create victims. The family dies and and the parents, the kids, the families, friends and loved ones all mourn the loss. Some never this guy.

Where's Dad?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

How Cool is This?

CHRISTIAN AUTHORS NETWORK SUPPORTS RETAILERS. Responding to retailers’ concerns about increased competition, Cyndy Salzmann and Carol Umberger will launch the Christian Authors Network at the International Christian Retail Show. To increase store traffic, CAN will use talents of 34 authors for special store events and promotions at no cost to retailers.

Checking In...

It's been a crazy couple of days offline as I'm preparing for back to back conferences and sort through a few exciting developments.

It may be quiet around here until Thursday, but then check back for posts about the Smart Marriages conference.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Upcoming Radio Interview...

Mark your calendars!

On Thursday, June 30, at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific, I will be a guest on "The Connection" program on KGMI, a news/talk station in Seattle, WA to talk about Generation Ex.

Thanks to Gary for recommending me!

It's good to be back in the promotional saddle again. Stay tuned for more news on that...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Book Notes: Fame & Celebrity

Overall, my reading preferences lean heavily to the non-fiction side. But in the summer, when I can't get away from home, I escape into fiction.

I just finished Fame the first in the followup series by Karen Kingsbury. I loved the Baxter family in the Redemption Series (Redemption, Remember, Return, Rejoice, Reunion). Karen does a fantastic job with character development. They have their quirks, they make mistakes, and they deal with the consequences in realistic ways. The Baxter family is real enough to be a model for those of us looking for better family of how a family can relate, warts and all. I was sad to finish the series.

But then came Fame. The new series (Firstborn) builds on one of the characters introduced in Reunion. The Baxters are still part of the story, though more so in the background. I think I may even like this series better because Karen predicts it will involve more storylines from singles who weren't raised in families like the Baxters.

The book I just started is totally unrelated, depite the titles. I first heard of Celebrity because it shares a publisher with my book. One of the main characters is recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and so far I've been impressed with author Robert Elmer's ability to "get into the head" (pun intended) of a head-injured person. Best of all, it's been encouraging to see how far I've come!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Smart Marriages Spotlight 2

Just received this from the Smart Marriages list (I'll be in Dallas a week from today!) I'm looking forward to meeting other bloggers.

Marriage Education in the Digital Age!!!
Join Ed Gray & brainstorm about:
Internet Courses
....and beyond

Friday 5:45 - 6:45pm - in A-2
Open to all

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Let's Leave Rebounds to the Pistons

This is the kind of article that raises my ire. I quote:

It has been more than five months since the official announcement that Aniston, 36, and Pitt, 41, split after nearly five years of marriage, and we think it's time for Jen to move on.

Do we really have to question why the divorce rate for second marriages is 60% (and it only goes up from there)?

When "The Nation's Newspaper" perpetuates the myth that the best way to mend a broken heart is fall "in love" again, the media is (I hope, unconsciously) contributing to a whole lotta personal pain, not only the for the new couple, who will more than likely break up with a brand new set of emotional baggage that they'll take to the next relationship, but also for any children who become the undeserving recipients of the tension their parents couldn't resolve.

My heart hurts for Jennifer Aniston. Knowing that she is a child of divorce, I respect the great courage it took for her to enter marriage herself, especially with the intense scrutiny of an international spotlight. I'm glad that there has not any mention of a new romance for Jennifer right now. I hope that she is allowing herself the time to reflect and heal and learn...and who knows, maybe that ember of friendship she and Brad both affirm can be fanned back into a flame of reconciled love.

I hope that the media will be able to appreciate the grace and maturity she is demonstrating and consider promoting the wisdom of waiting.

Coming Soon

In my previous job I conducted 200 or so interviews with different artists and authors. I'm pleased to announced that in the upcoming weeks, I'll be conducting interviews again with some of my favorite folks. Stay tuned...


Happy Gotcha Day, Mia!

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary Dad & Carole!!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Miss Buffalo

Congratulations to the new Miss Buffalo (MN), my youngest sister (and new HS grad), Liz Abbas!

I'm proud of you, Liz!

Remembering Ken Taylor

The first Bible I ever read--as opposed to using as a dust collector--was The Living Bible paraphrase. I remember the day it came from Christian Book Distributors. The thing got pretty beat up as I devoured God's word for the first time. I marked up pages, wrote all over the margins and end pages, and gave it great weathered look as I lugged to countless InterVarsity meetings and retreats. I gave a copy to a friend when he (after many late night conversations) made the decision to be a Christ-follower.

This is long before I knew about the difference between paraphrases and translations. I didn't know that Ken Taylor created The Living Bible for folks like me. I didn't know that as a result of all the publishers turning him down, he founded his own publishing house, named after William Tyndale. I didn't know about all the brouhaha about the paraphrase that later led to the creation of the New Living Translation. All I know is that God's word was easy to understand and I had a hunger to know what God had to say to me.

Years later, I was at CBA (Christian publishing's annual convention, now called the International Christian Retail Show) and had the privilege of meeting Ken Taylor and sharing with him how his work helped this baby Christian fall in love with God's word.

On Friday, June 10th, Ken Taylor was called Home.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Weekend in Review

Another good weekend.

Friday night a friend and I donned our booties and hit 20 or stops on the Parade of Homes. I've been in my condo for four years and figure it's about time to personalize a bit. I have a list of ideas that I'll have to add to my budget list (gotta have the funds before I have the fun). The most memorable moment of the evening was walking into a house not on the Parade list. Oops! The homeowner was very gracious as we blushed and backed our way out.

Saturday morning I stopped by the community garage sale hosted by my church. I really love that our church looks not only to serve those who attend or are members, but also the neighborhood in which we're located. It was great seeing folks from church offering free water (a necessity in the bazillion degree heat) and food to the sellers. One seller recognized me from one of my speaking gigs and introduced me to her daughter, to whom she had just given the CD version of my book. It's always odd but cool to meet readers in random places.

I was able to find a few treasures. I love board games, so was pleased to pick up Pictionary and a new game, Thinkblot. I'm looking forward to breaking them in. I also picked up a tennis racket as part of my ongoing goal to learn new things. So...anyone around here willing to teach me to play?

Saturday night after church, we had our first girls only Catan night. The guys were down the street. We definitely had the better eats. It was a great night (even if Sara did sweep Catan and both rounds of Apples to Apples!)

Friday, June 10, 2005

God's Irony

A big welcome to Smart Marriages list readers and a big thanks to Diane for directing you all here!

Those who've been here before have heard me talk about the Smart Marriages list. In a few weeks I'll be heading down to Dallas for my first Smart Marriages conference. The official description of the conference is the that it is the "Who's Who" and the "What's What" of the marriage-strengthening, marriage education field convening 200 of the nation's top marriage experts and 1500 or so attendees from all backgrounds coming for both professional and personal enrichment.

I first heard of Smart Marriages when I was researching for my book. I wasn't able to go that year because I learned of it too late. The next year I was up to my eyeballs in revisions. Last year my health kept me home. But this year, I'm finally in! I'm pretty excited to meet and learn from all the folks I quoted and sourced in Generation Ex. Since my company is sending me (LOVE when God works like that), I'm also looking forward to meeting with some of our authors.

On a more personal note, I'm hoping God provides a few answers to a gnawing question I have. (And those attendees reading this, please feel free to chime in any time!). Just today the question came up again. I'm going through Seven Habits training at work, and we were asked, "If money were no object, what would you most like to do?"

About a decade (gulp!) ago, I went on a retreat of silence (like the one described in my book) and came away with a life vision:

To establish a godly heritage
To make an eternal difference
To find joy in life, regardless of my circumstances

I review the list each year to see discern if I'm being directed any differently. And every year I've come away feeling affirmed that this is still it.

A decade ago, I thought that first part would involve establishing a godly heritage with a husband and kids. And while that hasn't happened (yet?), I am stunned each time I receive a letter from a reader who tells me that my book was used as a pre-marriage study with their spouse, or they share how the marriage retreat in the appendix got them back from the edge, or...well, I could go on.

It would seem, that as a single, never-married lay person, I don't have much to offer married couples, and yet that's where my heart longs to minister. Would you believe some guys are intimidated by this dream? (And I suppose this post won't help me in that regard!) But I've heard enough stories of how God has used my book and my friend that I believe I don't have to wait until "someday." What a load of pressure off me (and my potential dates!).

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Smart Marriages is hosting a Singles event on Thursday. I can't wait to hear about the experiences of other singles. So here's hoping that in a few weeks I'll be better able to answer the question: In what capacity, as a single, can I be used to build better marriages around me?

On a more serious note

USA Today recently ran an article about the alarming rise in military divorces. I wrote a blog post for work, a link to the article, and some ways we can support the military families around us.

Give a Little

I have some interesting friends. I use the term in them most general possible sense of the word. I have an odd (interesting?) attraction to people with quirky charactertics. I've crushed on not one, but two accordian players. I have friends with off-the-beaten path collections...and I have friends just-off-the-beaten path in general. But as a writer, I crave creative, imaginative kindred spirits. But beyond the quirks, I love my friends because they have tender hearts toward God and pure desire to use the totality of themselves to serve God.

Here's a great example:

It’s the “Night Crawler” challenge

Check it out...and give a little.

...If I knew how to post a footer, it'd read, "banter about this blog."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Random Thoughts on A Good Day

It's been a very good 24 hours. Nothing major but a lot of cool little things.

A few random thoughts:

* Every wondered about how an idea become a book? Brandilyn Collins shows why she's a best-selling suspense writer as she reveals her process to publication. Start here for the beginning of the "how I got here" string of posts.

* I love my writers guild! Tracy, Ann, Julie and Shelly: I had a blast with you guys last night. Thanks for coming over. I am inspired to write again!! Tracy, I'm eating Lime chips and smiling. (you need to blog!). Shelly, have a great conference! Lorilee, you were missed (cute girl!!). Julie, you WILL be missed. God go with you, my friend.

* I like Uzbek food better than Ethiopian. Thanks for dinner, Melissa. It's an honor to be part of your team.

* A site to discover your Myers-Brigg personality type, and how different types approach career, romance, parenting, etc. In case you're curious, I'm an INTJ.

* I'm looking forward to another fun weekend: Parade of Homes tomorrow (for the first will either inspire my home decor or tempt discontent). And a first-time girls-only Catan night on Saturday.

* As a reader, I stick almost exclusively to non-fiction. However, I LOVE Karen Kingsbury. I'm signing off now so I can finish Fame tonight.

...if I knew how to make a footer, it'd read, "banter about this blog"

Family fight continues over child's remains

Further evidence the impact of divorce last a lifetime...and beyond. Sadly, this is the second case I've heard of divorced parents disagreeing about remains. The other involved a 15-year-old girl who died in a car accident. The parents (who lived in different states) couldn't agree on a burial site so she was cremated and they divided her ashes.

I don't want to lose the story, so you can either click here:

Family fight continues over child's remains

Or read the text below from the 6/1/05 issue of the Dallas County News.

The ashes of 14-month-old Christina Rater, who died 32 years ago last week after she drank poison on the family farm, are likely to stay in the mausoleum at Oakdale Cemetery in Adel forever. Steve McCalley of McCalley Funeral Home believes he is unable to release the girl's remains to either side of the family because of the family's bitter divide. He says he will release the ashes to the family only if both parents can agree what to do with them. But the child's divorced parents, Maja and Otho Rater, are not speaking. Otho Rater was one of the first parents in the state of Iowa to be labeled a "deadbeat dad" for failure to pay child support. Maja convinced Polk County Attorney John Sarcone to file criminal charges against her ex-husband for failure to pay child support. He spent time in prison for failure to support the children. At this point, the father owes $87,000 in back child support, plus $100,000 in interest. The youngest child is now 21. Otho Rater now lives in Hays, Kan., and did not return calls. Maja Rater lives in Casey and believes Christina's seven surviving brothers and sisters should be allowed to decide what to do with her ashes. The extended Rater family in Dallas County would like to include the child in the family plot, but the Maja Rater is not interested. "We wouldn't be caught dead in the family plot," she says. Her extended relatives are all in Denmark. McCalley held a public ceremony in May to inter the unclaimed cremains of Christina and three other people whose families could not be found. The ashes were placed in the mausoleum in case relatives might want to claim them later. Maja Rater says she was shocked last week to find Christina in the news after all these years. "Memories are coming back," she says. Christina was taken to a hospital after she drank poison, but she was brain-dead before anything could be done. "I keep on seeing her lying on the hospital bed, and me having to tell the doctors, 'No, no more.' I said the best thing for Christina was to let her go." Maja Rater says she doesn't know why her little girl wasn't buried when she died back in 1973. "I was pretty much a mess for a long time," the mother says. "When it happened, I was pretty much wiped out. It took me years to get over it." Maya Rater says that when a child dies, the trauma never totally goes away. "Some days are worse than others," she says. "It's part of your life forever."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


My friends over at posted this excerpt from Generation Ex. provides a wealth of information on relationships: on dating, engagement, marriage adjustment and enrichment, and crisis marriages--all from a Christian perspective. I was first contacted by the editors there when they sought permission to post an interview I did with Chris Tomlin a few years back and have followed the site regularly since then.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What My Mom Did Right

Tonight I'm going to the Dragon Boat Festival my GR family. The Dragon Boat Festival celebrates the arrival of summer and honors the memory of Chinese poet and stateman, Qu Yuan. More than 2600 years ago Qu Yan tried to introduce fair policies in the state of Chu. His fellow ministers plotted against him and he was sent away in disgrace. For 67 years, Qu Yuan lived in exile writing beautiful poetry that told of his passion and love for his country. The Dragon Boats are long, sleek boats with ornate dragon heads attached to their bows, and dragon tails attached to their sterns. Each boat has a leader who sits at the bow beating a huge drum to set the pace for the team. The races symbolize the Chinese desire to save their beloved poet-patriot. (For more on Chinese festivals)

I grew up with an interest in different cultures. In fact, as a new Christian, I studied at the Summer of Institute of Linguistics, with hopes of becoming a Bible translator. Ironically, it seems that God has led me to support missionaries abroad and stay here to meet the needs of broken families in my own culture.

I have my mom to thank for this love of cultures. There's a part of my book that was edited out for space, a bit of a tribute to my mom. This seems a good place to share it:

Look For Opportunities to Connect (from an unpublished chapter of Generation Ex)

I love my mom. She is energetic, fun, beautiful and very intelligent. We share many traits. We are both goal-oriented, but have very different goals. We are both organized, but have different priorities. We both love to read and listen to music, but have very different tastes. We are both spiritual, but have very different faiths...

...No one would ever accuse my mom of being a June Cleaver-wannabe. She was right up there with the pioneer women of the 1970's, blazing new trails of opportunity for the women of my generation. I have much to be grateful for, especially as a single woman. However, I'm not convinced that society's problem was so much a problem of devaluing women as much as it was devaluing the importance of the home, and the ultimate importance of the homemaker role. Mom and I could argue into eternity on this one, as we could on many issues. But the important thing is that we can share our views. I doubt we'll ever convince each other to change positions, but we both use our intelligence to seek information to form the convictions we hold.

My memories of Mom don't involve her in the kitchen cooking fancy meals or folding laundry or any traditional "mom" activities. But she taught me to enjoy life, to find activities I love and to do them often. I have fond memories of lazy days fishing on the lakes of northern Minnesota, cruising across America in our motorhome, and Sunday afternoons eating Red Baron pizza and Doritos, drinking Diet Coke, and cheering on Studwell, Millard, and the rest of our beloved, hapless Vikes. Mom taught me that it was never okay to judge someone on the basis of their skin color, or anything else that made them different from me. She looked for ways to celebrate cultural differences and made a point of giving me opportunities to experience life from other perspectives.

She wanted me to feel good about myself. As a health teacher, she was always bringing home books on self-esteem for me to read, even when she wouldn’t talk to me about these issues. Mom reflected on the things she didn't want to pass down from her family, and worked passionately to make things better for me. For that I am grateful. And I laugh when I think how exasperated she must be when she sees that her liberal pendulum has swung right back with my conservative convictions.

It has taken my mom and I a long time to find a balance in our relationship with each other because we are so different. During an election season, I picked up a flyer and of course, Mom and I planned to vote for different candidates. She said, "How can you vote for him? Just look at where he stands on the issues." So we went down the list, and his stand on the issues were exactly the reason I voted for him. I think Mom has a lot of faith in this world—if people would just pull together, they could right the world's wrongs. I don't have a lot of faith in this world. I put my faith in the One who made this world. I think Mom has experienced too much of what is wrong with Christianity to believe that it has exclusive access to the truth. I believe Christianity--or more accurately, Christ--sets the standard of Truth. I wish more than anything that Mom would share my beliefs. But I have to respect her own spiritual journey.

If your parents don't share your faith, then the way you choose to relate to them is the best way you can allow them to experience it. If they can see a change in your behavior towards them, they will be compelled to ask about the difference. Mom knows that the reason we have a relationship at all is because of my faith. I have been able to share why I have come to believe what I do, and my hope is that someday she will believe it too.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

To Touch and Laugh

Nothing like a Sunday afternoon to catch up on email. Here's an excerpt from another article from my Generation Ex In box. For a generation looking for affirmation of a good spousal choice, read on:

Everything I have learned about brides and grooms.

By Marc Gellman
June 2, 2005

Since the author of The Spiritual State in June is overscheduled with weddings, this seems to me an appropriate time to tell you everything I know about brides and grooms. I have watched a parade of them enter my office, enter the holy state of matrimony and enter the world as its newest family. Marrying these people (and naming babies) has made every fractious and interminable committee meeting I have ever attended seem to be merely a minor annoyance.

At first, 33 years ago, I used to ask everything and listen to everything brides and grooms said as they gurgled out their love for each other. Now I ask less and listen and watch more. This is what I have learned. I am sure that other preacher folk have learned the same things from touching other springtime loves. Do they touch and do they laugh? This is the single most important question I ask about people in love who want to get married. They are all I look for now.

Brides and grooms who do not touch each other, hold hands, sneak a kiss, touch the other’s cheek or brush away a stray lock of hair, but instead sit apart as if they were riding on a bus alone, they have no chance. Of course I cannot know this for sure, but I am sure nevertheless. They may stay married for 60 years but they have no chance of ever having even a single day of true passion and true love. I am not looking for physical lust. What I am looking for is the sheer joy of touching the one you love. You can learn this lesson in death as well. We bury our loved one in the ground and put a marker stone on top of the grave so that we can touch the stone that touches the earth that touches the one we love. Touching is the way love begins and it is the way we try to keep it from ending even in the face of death. Once, at a funeral I was told by a couple’s children that they used to walk in on their mom and dad slow dancing together in the living room. I was entranced by that image because I know that in dancing with the one you love, it is never the music that matters, it is always the touching.

I also watch to see if the brides and grooms sitting across from me laugh at anything. I am definitely funny enough to deliver some sure-fire laugh lines, but even in the absence of my own humor, I watch to see if they find certain things about their wedding, or their relationship or the world in general so silly, so amusing, so ironic, so joyous that they just cannot hold back a giggle or a laugh. Unlike touching, which is an obvious consequent of physical passion, laughter is not. Laughter can be caused by many things, love is but one of them. But for me, laughter reveals trust and joyousness, humility and helplessness in the face of love. In older people who have not been Botoxed, I read their wrinkles for signs of laughter. A life of laughter puts laughter wrinkles at the corners of your eyes (crow’s feet be damned--they are laughter wrinkles). Conversely, a life of frowning imprints itself on your face with frown wrinkles between your eyebrows. You can pretend to be an optimist or a cynic, but your wrinkles will always give your real self away. When brides and grooms giggle and laugh it shows me that they are genuinely happy to be with each other, and that they are similar enough to find the same things funny.
I will marry people who do not touch, and I will marry people who do not laugh, but if they don’t touch or laugh I try to talk up the virtues of the other rabbi down the street or I tell them that on the day of their proposed wedding I suddenly realized that I will be in Patagonia herding penguins. If you are in love, or if you are watching your child or grandchild or friend fall in love, take my advice: don’t listen to anything they say about their love for each other. Just watch and listen and ask the only questions I ask: “Do they touch and do they laugh?” It really is all that matters.

One final thing. I always ask brides and grooms what they love about each other, and then I listen to their lists. If the list is filled with qualities that will not fade in time, I know they are OK. If the list is filled with self absorbed or outward attributes, I use the penguin line. And if anyone dares borrow the line from the movie Jerry Maguire, “he completes me,” I threaten them with bodily harm. Mostly, all brides know what they love about their fianc├ęs. Mostly, all grooms know what they love but have no real ability to put it into words. That’s OK with me. Men are limited creatures. Except for David and Dana. When I asked them what they loved about each other, Dana said, “Once we were driving over the Triborough Bridge on a blazing hot summer Sunday. There was a guy at the approach to the toll booths selling newspapers. David bought all the guy’s newspapers and told him to go get out of the sun.” Then David said, “Dana teaches kindergarten, and one morning she was sitting on the bed naked working out some project with little stick-on letters for the kids. She would not go out for breakfast until she finished her lesson for her kids. When she was finally finished, she got out of bed and walked away from me to the bathroom. I saw that a little silver 'A' was stuck to her butt.” They both asked me why I was crying, and I just could not explain that in my line of work you just don’t hear perfect answers that often.

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Adult Children of Divorce: Opportunity to Speak Up

Adult children of divorce, listen up. Here's an opportunity to speak up.

From the Smart Marriages e-list:

Elizabeth Marquardt's book, Between Two Worlds, on the inner lives of children of divorce will be published in September by Crown. This is a landmark book with a crucial message. Divorce is so often presented solely from the parents' point of view. This is a chance for the adult children to show that even if they have been quite successful in life they were nevertheless shaped in deep and lasting ways by their parents' divorce. It is in our interest to do everything we can to help get thisbook/message/perspective to the public.

The PR is gearing up. Journalists require real people with real stories.

Anyone who experienced childhood divorce, who stayed in touch with both parents, and who is now 18 - to roughly 40 years old and is willing to be interviewed can help.

The producers of 20/20 are looking for adult children willing to be interviewed for their show (cut off June 17). But there will be many opportunities for radio, magazine, newspaper and additional TVshows.

Please contact Elizabeth so she build a list of adult children for future interviews -- for print and broadcast media.

New book for Adult Children of Divorce

The community of folks writing about the long term effects of divorce is pretty small, as I discovered when researching for Generation Ex. And within that pool, the number who have experienced parental divorce themselves is even smaller. One such writer/researcher is Elizabeth Marquardt.

Elizabeth has written several articles on the long term effects of divorce as part of her work as an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values. Her article, "We're Successful and Hurt," which was first published in The Washington Times, is referenced early on in my book. Elizabeth and I have emailed a few times and I'm appreciative of her inclusion of my book on the AFI site.

I'll be the first to admit that Elizabeth is much smarter and more articulate than I am. She is a talented researcher and wordsmith and at last, her own book is releasing this September from Crown. Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce explores the moral and spiritual development of children of divorce.

With a foreword by my sociological hero, Judith Wallerstein, Elizabeth's book will reach a broader audience than mine. Where my book has a very personal, "I'm walking through it right with you" tone, Elizabeth is a bit farther ahead on the journey and offers a more detached, yet still inclusive tone, as she meets the needs of both the academic world and adult children of divorce.

From the publisher:

Based on a pioneering new national study, Between Two Worlds offers a profound look at how the emotional and spiritual lives of children change after divorce. One quarter of adults between the ages of 18 and 35 have grown up in divorced families. Now this generation is coming of age, and Elizabeth Marquardt's book, which interweaves her own story of growing up as the child of divorce with the findings of a groundbreaking study, will speak to them like no other. Marquardt challenges the idea of the "good" divorce, the notion that divorce itself is less important than the way parents handle it. Using new evidence from her study, which includes interviews with young adults from both divorced and intact families, Marquardt shows that even amicable divorces have lasting effects on children. The truth is that divorce restructures childhood itself as children grow up traveling between two worlds, each with distinct moral values, traditions, and messages. With a foreword by bestselling divorce expert Judith Wallerstein, Between Two Worlds is a book of transforming power for the adult children of divorce whose true experience has for too long gone unrecognized.

I want to be the first to jump on the Elizabeth Marquardt bandwagon because I realize she has a better opportunity than I do to get the word about the message we share. I hope that if you've read my book--or even if you haven't!--please pre-order a copy of Between Two Worlds. As someone who works in the publishing industry, I can tell you that pre-orders play a vital role in how a book isperceivedd by the media. I hope you support Elizabeth Marquardt's important work.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Chop Chop

How do you rate in chopstick proficiency? If you could use a little help, check out Funchops. Funchops attach to any set of chopsticks for instant use. A friend of mine, a proud adoptive dad, is selling Funchops for $1.50 each. Proceeds benefit Chinese adoptions. For more on well as Chinese adoption, check out

By the way, even my friend's 27-month-old daughter can use Funchops!

Memory Lane

This week at our Bible in 90 Days lunch, we talked about song lyrics taken from Scripture. Whether direct quotes or in concept, we're likely to miss the connection if our Bible reading doesn't include reading longer passages in context. From out of the deep recesses of my mind I recalled a song from a RECORD my dad bought me when I was a kid.

My dad used to sell book through a company called Successful Living (which I believe is now part of Cook Ministries). You may have seen their racks of Christian books in grocery stores. In fact, I realized a few years ago that the trips my dad took my brother and I on to DC and Colorado were the same Christian bookseller conventions I've attended as an adult in the Christian publishing world.

While Dad was learning all the latest and greatest in publishing, I was on the kid's track, entertained by the pre-cursors of Bob and Larry. The names are fuzzy, but I remember the album, "Sir Oliver's Song." An internationally-flavored ode to the 10 Commandments. The song that popped into my head was "Just One God is He," an Egyptian number based on commandment #2.

Thanks to the world wide web and the power of Froogle, I discover that the album is available on CD for $3.25! Oh happy day!

Thanks, Dad...See, I do remember some things :-)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

It's Spring!

Here in Michigan, good things come to those who wait...and wait...and...

It's finally spring! Tonight I'm going to celebrate with a friend by playing disc golf at a local park. I was introduced to the "sport" last year. It's basically golf with a frisbee. Like golf--and unlike Ultimate Frisbee--there's not a whole lot of exercise happening. More like a guided walk. Unlike golf, and best of all, it's FREE! I went enough times last year that I picked up my own set of frisbees (believe it or not, they are different ones for different uses, just like golf).

So if you're in the GR area--and you know how to contact me--let's play!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

New Use for Candles

A few years back a friend mentioned that she made a list of traditions and rituals she wanted to incorporate into her marriage and family if/when she married. (And she just did!) Prior to our conversations, I had thought I was the only one with that particular quirk It actually came up quite often as I interviewed other children of divorce. In the absence of continuity with our families, we crave to create our own traditions. Those I interviewed talked about file folders, binders, Word documents saved with secret names, pictures, knicknacks and facts boxed and buried...a dizzying array of ways these ideas were duly noted for future reference.

I heard a new one yesterday and thought I'd post it here. The idea is that a parent (the dad in this case) had a certain place in the house with candle for each child. Each morning for the children got up, the dad lit the candle as he prayed for that child. When we was done, he blew out the candle. When the child passed the candle area, he or she saw a tangible picture of their father's love and concern.

Happy 80th Anniversary

Today, June 1, 2005, marks the 80th wedding anniversary of Percy, 105, and Florence, 100, Arrowsmith. The British couple revealed their secrets:
  • don't sleep on an argument,
  • always share a kiss and
  • hold hands before going to bed.
This is the kind of news I love to hear.