It Takes Crap to Make Beauty

Something I’m trying to teach myself as a writer is that you have to write some shitty first drafts before you can come with anything close to good.

That’s an easy lesson to learn when you’re writing something short like a review or a blog entry or an article. An hour or two of shitty drafts is no big deal. You’ll find a nugget or two of gold from that few hours of work and it’s all worthwhile.

The problem comes when you’re trying to write something longer. Spending 60 hours writing a shitty first draft of a novel is a lot of work. And the prospect of having to throw away 90 percent of that work is unthinkable. But that’s just the way it is. Amazing stories don’t come out of your head fully formed and breathing and wonderful. They take a lot of work.

In the early drafts of Back to the Future the time machine wasn’t a Delorean, it was a refrigerator, and it wasn’t lightning that was going to send Marty back to the future, it was an atomic blast (let’s see Doc Brown model that one!). It sounds stupid and that’s because it is. But the beauty and simplicity of the Delorean and the lightning didn’t come out until the writers had tried a few other things and worked their way into the brilliant idea of a car as a time machine.

Every great work of fiction was birthed in a sea of crappy ideas. Without the crap, no beauty.

Adoption is not Horror

You may have heard about a creepy new horror flick from Warner Bros. called Orphan. I’m not a fan of horror flicks in general, but this one seemed kind of dumb and insensitive. Really? An adopted child is going to be your psycho villain?

I’m not off the wall outraged at this. Just because Jason wears a hockey mask in Friday the 13th doesn’t mean hockey players should be up in arms. But still. When you take an innocent child, even worse an orphan, with no parents to love and protect them, and make that unprotected group the center of your evil plot line… well, that may not be evil itself, but it’s not doing orphans any good.

Tom Davis is encouraging people to respond to this film with their own stories of how orphans have changed their lives. Stories to counter the creepy trailer where parents adopt a child only to discover how scary that kid can be and how their family becomes threatened from an adopted child (the movie’s tagline: “There’s something wrong with Esther”). I’m trying not to take that personally and realize it’s just a movie, but yikes. Sheesh, let’s promote some misconcpetions about adoption, shall we?

Tom launched the Orphans Deserve Better campaign where you can share your stories of how orphans have changed your life (like  this one from a mother of three). They have a much better tagline: “There’s something wrong with millions of children having no family.” I love that this is all about a positive response. Let’s not rag on Warner Bros. (I’ve yet to see the word boycott thrown around), instead let’s focus on the positive.

I love it. You can’t read anything I do online without realizing how Milo has changed my life. My favorite story might be the way Milo and Lexi go to sleep. They share a room and at first we thought they’d wake each other up and it’d be a horrible mess. But Milo actually goes to sleep better when Lexi stands at his crib and talks to him, the two laughing and giggling, sometimes shrieking, long after bedtime. It lasts half an hour, sometimes 45 minutes, and then the two drift off to sleep. The strict parent in me wants to step in and yell and tell them to go to sleep, but they do eventually, so I let it go. Milo seems to sleep better this way. The same thing is starting to happen in the morning when they wake up. I haven’t heard Milo crying in the morning for a few days now. Instead it’s all giggles. That’s awesome. (Right now Lexi is repeating “Eth-io-pia!” and Milo is laughing.)

And if you want further proof of how a child can change your life, look no further than the Palmer family, who uprooted their four children to move from Oklahoma to Uganda to finalize the adoption of the newest member of their family. They have an incredible story. Just recently they shared the tragic story of a child recently adopted by a Uganda family who soon died in a terrible accident. It’s a heart-breaking story. But beneath the pain and horror (there’s a real horror story for you) there is a measure of hope. That child, Jonathan, was loved. Even though his life was cut horribly short, he died with a family.

School Loans & Audio Adrenaline

I just received a statement from Wells Fargo showing a breakdown of interest, principal and total paid on our school loans over the past 8+ years. And the current balance, of course. Horribly depressing. Even more depressing when I consider that’s only one of our student loans (and let’s not talk about a mortgage).

About 10 years ago I interviewed Bob Herdman, keyboardist and guitar player for the Christian band Audio Adrenaline. At the time I was an intern, working my first real writing job and doing one of my first real interviews. I had no idea what I was doing and the fact that a “rock star” would just call me up like that for a phone interview was incredible. Little did I realize how mundane that is.

Anyway, the article would cover Audio Adrenaline’s college years and what Herdman learned from college, a fairly interesting piece for the Christian college guide it would appear in. (Reality check: It never appeared. The college guide was never published, due to all sorts of insanity I didn’t understand at the time, nor will I get into here.)

At one point in the interview Herdman mentioned that he still had school loans he hadn’t paid off. He said something about paying $50 a month for 10 years now. He could have been exaggerating, I have no idea, but I remember being horrified at the thought. Imagine it, a successful rock star with outstanding college loans. Granted Audio Adrenaline was never a mainstream success. But they had plenty of success in the Christian market, at that time were releasing their fifth album (Underdog) and were still riding high from their 1996 hit album Bloom (certified Gold).

I knew Christian rock band wasn’t exactly a lucrative career path. I knew Herdman may have had other spending priorities (my own financial advisor talks about student loans as “good debt,” a concept I understand but still bristle at). But still. I couldn’t fathom the concept of a successful rock star not having paid off their college loans yet.

And here I sit, 10 years later, looking at a loan statement and beginning to feel sympathy instead of bewilderment. I wonder if Herdman finished paying off his school loans?

Adoption and Abortion

If the practice of abortion ended the world would have to deal with 42 million unwanted children every year. How can anti-abortion advocates respond to that when there are already 148 million orphans in the world? How can we ask for more unwanted children when we’re not taking care of the already orphaned children in the world?

I ask this question not to defend abortion. I don’t like abortion. The numbers are staggering—42 million abortions worldwide every year? That’s nearly as high as the annual worldwide death rate (approximately 56 million people die ever year).

I ask this question because I don’t think anti-abortion advocates focus enough on solutions. Adoption is one solution, and while churches and Christians are very supportive of adoption (I should know), they’re not supportive enough (to the tune of 148 million children without families).

For many Christians, adoption is a “good thing.” It’s a good deed you did and we’ll applaud you for it, but it’s not a normal practice. It’s what you do when you can’t have kids. It’s what you do when you’ve already had a few kids “of your own.” But it’s rarely a first choice. It’s rarely promoted as something all families should consider (I was ecstatic to see Rick Warren talking about promoting adoption in his church).

I know adoption isn’t for everyone. There are inherent challenges and if you’re not prepared you have no business adopting. But it just seems inconsistent to me that Christians are so against abortion but don’t seem truly prepared to end abortion.

When a pregnant mother considers abortion, would you step forward to adopt her baby? And why would she believe that you’d adopt her baby when she sees the 148 million orphans we haven’t adopted?

Abortion is a difficult issue and I hate talking about it because it’s so divisive. But this question has been nagging at me for a while. Why isn’t adoption standard practice in the church? It’s definitely supported and encouraged when it happens, and I’d wager that it’s more widespread in the church, but it’s still far from the norm. If adoption were the norm it would change the abortion debate. For that matter if adoption were the norm it would change the world.

Harry Potter & The Half-Hearted Movie

OK, need to get this off my chest. Here comes the fan-boy movie rant, complete with spoilers and incoherence. You might want to just move along.

We went to see the new Harry Potter flick last night, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As the sixth and penultimate book, this one had a tricky position: Needing to tell its own story but also set things up for the finale. I thought the book did that pretty well, though it was packed with flashbacks and lacking in action. At least until the last quarter of the book when things pick up like gangbusters. Like all the Potter books, turning that into a movie is no easy task.

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The Civilized Church

We talked about gays in church yesterday, so how about gays at Christian rock festivals today? Po-mo emergent guy and fellow Twin Citizen Tony Jones offers an interesting recap of a panel discussion held at the recent Cornerstone festival titled “Gay Rights or Wrongs.”

I’m very interested in this conversation as it relates to Christianity because it’s so difficult. But that also makes it dangerous. It’s easy to stick your foot in your mouth (or in someone else’s) and easily offend. That’s not my intention. And I’ll be honest and admit that it’s an issue I don’t have a solid stand on. I’m swayed by arguments on both sides and see positives and negatives to both cases.

At any rate, I thought one particular comment in Tony’s piece was interesting:

What, I asked, does the church do to a boy who is born with undescended testicles? Is Jesus’ day, he would have been thrown into a field to die of exposure, but we would consider that inhumane. However, where does that person fit in our communities of faith?

The first century response is shocking. But if we harbor prejudice or worse, outright hostility, to someone in that situation, are we any less inhumane? If we’re not willing to welcome a hermaphrodite (or anyone else for that matter) into our congregation with open arms then we’re just as inhumane as the first century people who toss that infant into the elements. We think we’re civilized because we’ll save that child. But if we give that child a cold shoulder or a strange look when we encounter them as an an adult then we’re just as uncivilized.

Come Watch Us Argue Over Gay People

I just blogged about an exciting new slogan for the Episcopal Church over at Church Marketing Sucks: “Come Watch Us Argue Over Gay People.”

Considering I attend an Episcopal church, the process of writing the blog entry and the article it links to (an NPR story on the continuing battle over gay bishops) hit close to home. The point I made over at Church Marketing Sucks is that theology comes before marketing.

That’s not exactly what the Episcopal Church is doing (I was writing to warn of that danger in general, not pointing to an explicit example of it). But I think they may be putting procedure before marketing. Granted, I’m not as familiar with all the ins and outs of this debate as I should be (but I’m more familiar than I’d like to be), but here’s what I mean:

The gay bishop debate is all about procedure. At no point did the Episcopal Church sit down and decide theology (that I’m aware of). Instead, they began debating theology through procedure. Should we or should we not ordain gay priests? How about gay bishops? What about blessing same sex marriages? What underlies all these procedural arguments is theology.

So why not just debate the theology? It seems a lot simpler to me to just get to the root of the problem.

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Dependence Day

Today we celebrate our independence.

But our strength is in our dependence.

We depend on one another. We depend on our armed forces to keep us safe. We depend on family and friends for love, sanity and good times. We depend on employers and clients and customers for our paychecks and livelihood.

The loner is the great American archetype. Personal freedom, personal responsibility, personal choice seems to be our national mantra. It’s so often about me, myself and I. The consumerism that drives our capitalism is all about self.

But independence was only achieved by depending on one another. Freedom is not about selfish gain but what we can have and achieve together. Right now Iranians are flexing their democratic muscle by relying on one another. No man is an island.

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Putting Dora’s Mexican Restaurant Online

Dora's Mexican RestaurantDeciding what to make for dinner is always a little tough in my house because when I look out my kitchen window I can see Dora’s Mexican Restaurant (formerly Los Cabos; new name, same folks). So tempting. It’s the first time in my life I can remember being a regular somewhere (OK, growing up the waitress at Pizza Hut knew us, but that was my parents, not me personally).

Since we’re in there all the time (they’ll often start cooking Lexi’s quesadilla when we walk in) we know the owner, Dora, and I’ve talked with her a bit over the past nine months or so as the economy has tanked. Like many small businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, business has been hurting. I know a little bit about online marketing and social networking, and I thought maybe I could help.

So long story short, Dora’s became a Monkey Outta Nowhere client. Today we launched, as well as an accompanying Twitter feed (@EatAtDoras) and a Facebook page. It’s all extremely basic and low budget. We’re talking shoestrings here people. The plan is to post daily lunch and dinner specials to Twitter, which will also push to the web site and Facebook, as well as coupons, special offers and fun updates (I hear rumors about a salsa bar). The site still has additions and tweaks coming (Espanol, a menu, etc.), but the plan is the epitome of fast and simple. When I mentioned the site on Twitter today someone even asked if the CSS file wasn’t loading properly. CSS?! Ha! We don’t need no stinkin’ CSS. (I actually coded the site by hand, something I haven’t done in a decade. True story.)

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