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Books: Final Salute, a review by Bob

July 4, 2008 | Books,Guest post

Bob is one of my favorite readers — and not just of my blog. He won a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 in a caption contest I held last year. He also won an autographed copy of Jim Sheeler’s book, Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives. He just wrote an incredible review, which I’m sharing here. He plans to pass around the book for others to read. Bob is a military musician who lives in Washington, D.C.

Book review: Final Salute tells heart-wrenching stories of loss

It is often hard for anyone outside the military culture (and even for many within it) to understand why a person would voluntarily step into a job in which the prospect of a violent death looms over every minute of the day. In a profession where the vast majority of career fields are far out of harm’s way, those who do the actual fighting and dying define our perception of what the military is all about. Whatever the personal reasons for doing so may be — for God, for country, for family, for politics, for pay and benefits — putting one’s life on the line is part of the job description for anyone in or near a combat zone.

And so the military has its own protocols and traditions for dealing with the reality of death, affirming the value of life and honoring those who volunteer to serve their country in the most dangerous possible way.

In Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives, Jim Sheeler, a former reporter for the Rocky Mountain News in Colorado, narrates a year in the lives of the families of several service members who died in Iraq.

The person who touches all those lives is Marine Maj. Steve Beck, a “casualty assistance calls officer.” Informing families of a loved one’s death is not a job anyone can adequately train for; in the military it is often not even the primary duty of the person who must do it. It is a sad kind of good fortune that Sheeler found in his own journalistic backyard a Marine determined to figure out just how to do this heartbreaking job right — whether it is informing next of kin with compassion and understanding; or making sure the casket is respectfully borne from the airplane and presented to the family; or seeing to it that the body of the deceased is attended by fellow service members at every moment until it is properly buried; or helping spouses and children receive the continuing military benefits to which they’re entitled.

Sheeler does not dwell on examples of what not to do, but it’s clear that the care, sensitivity and long-term devotion that Maj. Beck shows his families cannot be taken for granted. Beck disregards the official scripts and other basic guidance the military provides for death notifications and follow-up care. (“[N]o firm instructions can be given to cover the varied and sometimes difficult situations that may arise … ” the manual states.) Instead Beck relies on his own instincts, and the certainty of how he would want his own family treated in similar circumstances.

Nor does Sheeler get into the politics of the war, other than relating the occasional views of grieving relatives. Instead he focuses on how each “unfinished life” complicates and enriches the lives left in its wake:

  • Marine Lance Cpl. Brett Lee Lundstrom‘s military honors intermingle with the year-long mourning traditions of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe. Army Sgt. Ed Lundstrom goes back to Iraq after his older brother is buried.
  • Marine Sgt. Gregory Edwards, still recovering from an explosion that cost him both his legs, insists on going to Arlington National Cemetery months later for the funeral of Navy Corpsman Christopher “Doc” Anderson, the medic who kept Edwards alive after that explosion.
  • Army Pvt. 1st Class Jesse Givens’ widow, Melissa, speaks of the discomfort casual acquaintances may feel in her presence: “A couple of people were upset that I was at the Christmas party because I remind them of what can happen to their husband.” Her older son Dakota is taunted by other children: “I get mad when kids tell me the wrong things, like ‘Your daddy died for no reason.’ They tell that to me. They even tell that to [younger brother] Carson. Kids are – well, kids are just kids. I know it’s not true. And I make sure Carson knows that, too.” Dakota makes a promise: “I’m going to do everything [with Carson] that my dad did with me. I’m going to take him to the park. I’m going to take him everywhere my dad took me. And if my mom dies, I’m going to take care of him like she takes care of me.”

How can a 10-year-old boy grow up that fast?

The book includes 24 pages of pictures, many of which ran with Sheeler’s original Rocky Mountain News stories, which make up much of the book. Among the most striking of Todd Heisler’s photos is that of a six-man Marine honor guard preparing to remove the casket of 2nd Lt. James Cathey from a commercial airliner, while passengers’ faces can be seen in the plane’s windows.

There is hardly a paragraph or photo in this book that is not heart-wrenching to contemplate, but it is never maudlin or manipulative.

If there’s a message, it might be this simple: These men died doing what their country asked them to do. Their families and communities mourn and grieve and do their best to mend the wounds, fill the gaps and express the meaning of an unfinished life.

Related DMBR posts
Books: Final Salute ~ winners announced
Books: Final Salute winners coming soon
Memorial Day
Books: Final Salute ~ win an autographed copy

About the book
About the author ~ Jim Sheeler won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for the 2005 Veterans Day special report at the Rocky Mountain News. Sheeler is now a freelance reporter and scholar in residence at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
About the photographer ~ Todd Heisler won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for the 2005 Veterans Day special report at the Rocky Mountain News. Heisler is now a staff photographer for The New York Times.
Rocky Mountain News special report

Related articles, reviews and blog posts
Bylines, University of Colorado at Boulder alumni newsletter
Chattanooga Times Free-Press
Colorado Springs Independent
Columbia Journalism Review
The Daily Item
The Dennis Prager Show
The Digital Journalist
NPR (includes an excerpt of the book)
The New York Times Books
The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Not For Attribution
One-Minute Book Reviews
Paul’s Down-Home Page
A Series Of (Un)Fortunate Reviews
Some Soldier’s Mom
Video/audio links on Jim Sheeler’s site
The Washington Post

Posted by Becky @ 9:07 am | 1 Comment  

Get Your Costumes Ready

January 5, 2008 | Blogging,Friends,Guest blogger,Guest post,Stuff,Weird things

Crawfish costumes on Bourbon StreetGet your costumes ready. It’s nearly Carnival Time — also known as Mardi Gras. Hi folks, I’m guest blogger Laurel — also known as Road Trip Mom — and the editor/owner of MomsMinivan.com. Formerly I also wrote a Katrina Returnee blog, but those days are long behind me now. I prefer to focus on the fun times that still continue at my former home in New Orleans. Like Mardi Gras – my favorite holiday.

That’s right, a real holiday — as in banks are closed, no school, no mail delivery, everyone gets the day off to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s actually more than just a holiday – it’s a whole season. New Orleans really only has two seasons: Summer and Mardi Gras. Just one more day until the debauchery begins. January 6th is Twelfth Night which marks the start of Mardi Gras season which then comes to it’s grand conclusion on Fat Tuesday.

One of my favorite Mardi Gras Day memories was the first Fat Tuesday following Hurricane Katrina. I spent it with my friend Devra. Being that it was the first Mardi Gras after Katrina we weren’t really sure what to expect, but we were not going to miss it, and we were going in full costume, of course. Mardi Gras is infinitely more fun if you are in costume.

Crawfish Et ToupeeWe decided to put a spin on one of our favorite local dishes, Crawfish Etoufée, and wear it as our costume. We found some crazy crawfish hats and added little brown wigs, and covered ourselves from head to toe with rubber crawfish. We wore little signs that said, “Chef Special: Crawfish Et Toupee”.

We started out with a quick breakfast in the outdoor patio at Cafe Dumonde by the river (a popular tourist spot). Beignets and cafe au lait hit the spot and tourists immediately began to swarm us like papparizi wanting our picture. We obliged and then proceeded into the French Quarter for some bizzare people watching and more photo ops. Costumers were basically in two catagories that year: those in traditional “anything goes” costumes, and those in Katrina themed costumes.

We were in the anything goes group, as was this cute couple dressed as Got MILF? and these guys dressed as a fur burger and bearded clam. We also saw a guy dressed as the Yellow Brick Road. He had a whole group of people dressed as Wizard of Oz characters who were ….. following him. The French Quarter swelled with party goers and costumers galore. The overall turnout was huge, which says a lot for the spirit of the people of New Orleans.

Some of our favorite Katrina costumers were these folks wearing rubber inner tubes so they’d be ready for the next flood. We also saw people dressed as duct taped Rotten Refridgerators, Blue Tarped Roofs, and even Mardi Gras Maggots. We laughed out loud at the Ho Depot Ladies, Looters with Hooters, and my all time favorite Blind Levee Inspectors. (I posted all our photos at Mardi Gras Costume Pics.com)

We hit a few parades, listened to some live music, and enjoyed the sights. We eventually stopped in a restaurant for a little lunch — you would think it would be hard to find food on a day so crowded, but it never is. Parking is never a problem either if you know where to go.

After lunch, it was time to wave hello to the Internet Bourbo cam, and then go in for a little karaoke at the Cat’s Meow. I am not exaggerating when I say that we brought down the house with our rendition of “Respect” dressed as crawfish ladies. Gawd, I love singing karaoke. Especially when I’m wearing a mask….. and a score of rubber crustaceans.

As the afternoon went on, the streets became more and more crowded. It was a good time to try to find a balcony for a better view. I happen to know that there are several bars that will let people wearing cool costumes use their balconies for free. From our high perch, we danced to the music and taunted tourists below with our supply of beads while they waved and clamoured for us to throw them down. It was like being a rock star for a day.

At one point during our adventure, I took a photo of Devra using a trash can to actually throw away some trash. We wanted to set a good example for others. Maybe start a trend.

Eventually we headed home with our photos and memories of a wonderful day. Everyone should experience Mardi Gras at least once in their life. And you simply MUST wear a costume. You can be anything you want. And if you just can’t come up with a costume, you can always just wear your suitcase. That works too.

Posted by Laurel @ 3:07 am | Comments  

Today, I declare my candidacy

January 3, 2008 | 2008 campaign,Guest blogger,Guest post

My fellow Americans…

Today is the dawn of a new day. A day that offers hope for a troubled nation. A day that, in years to come, will be seen as the turning point in renaissance of the United States of America. Today, dear friends, I declare my candidacy for the office of President of The United States of America.

While I may be slow entering the race, that’s only because I have many of the same problems as you. For instance, my car started making a funny noise last week and I only found time to get it to the mechanic today. The milk in the refrigerator is three days past it’s due date and, because I had no time to stop off at the store, I convinced my kids that the milk tastes funny because it’s Magic Milk that will allow them to become big and strong.

You see, my fellow Americans, I am just like you.

And we need an every day American in the White House! And while I may have missed out on Iowa, New Hampshire voters are sure to take notice as I roll out my platform.

For instance, as the father of twins I pledge to make baby changing tables mandatory in every public restroom from L.A. to New York City. I pledge to make grocery carts seat two kids so a parent no longer has to choose between grocery shopping and chasing after kids.

I pledge to bring back cough syrup – and make it work this time! Every <del>parent</del> child deserves to sleep through the night without coughing up a lung. This is the most technologically advanced society on earth. We made Post-its but we can’t make a safe cough syrup? I know we can do better!

I will be tough on immigration! Dora The Explorer has infiltrated our homes and poses a threat to every man, woman and child in this country. She sets a bad example for our children, cavorting with monkeys and straying far and wide from her parents. We will finally send big-headed kids back where they came from!

I will force all toy companies to face the real issues confronting parents today. Forget lead poisoning, we need to force toy companies to make toys that all operate under one size battery. No more D’s, C’s, AA, AAA, or 9-volt batteries. We demand uniformity and I will make sure we get it!

Health care in this country needs an overhaul. If elected president, I will make sure that all Band-Aids come with smiley faces and rainbows. Every doctor will actually have to listen to a parent’s concern or risk losing their license. No more condescending nods and insincere smiles from our pediatricians!

Finally, I promise to get tough on terror. If elected President I promise to protect every man, woman and child from the evil forces that exist in our country. I will do everything in my power to beat back the infiltration of two of the most terrifying forces our country confronts today. Yes, I promise that we will rid our society from Barney the Purple Dinosaur and Elmo, the red-haired freak with a tickling fetish.

There you are, my fellow Americans. As you can see I represent you, the every day American. I am in touch with what American needs to make this an even better society. Vote for me this year and I promise to make your life better.  You can find more of my values and ideas by visiting my website at www.childsplayx2.com.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:42 pm | 5 Comments  

Gentlemanly Conduct

January 2, 2008 | Daddy bloggers,Ethics,Family,Guest blogger,Guest post,Opinion,Parenting,Politics,Quotes

(Guest Post by Todd, The Bullshit Observer. How I know Becky: I’m just another blog-mirer.) New Years day, My 5 year old and I took a break from watching college football to play wiffle baseball in the back yard. At one point he had a little tantrum and threw his bat. As is my fatherly duty, I scolded him. “OK, not cool. You don’t throw your bat when you’re upset, Nick,” He picked up the bat and hit a few. Then he threw his bat again and I immediately barked, “Nick, that is unsportsman-like conduct,” somehow expecting him to know what that means.  “What does that mean?” he asked.  “It means that it’s….not cool….and….not how you are supposed to behave when you play baseball,” I said, somewhat feebly. “It’s not respectful of the game or your fellow players,” I added.  Then I thought, “Well, what the hell does that mean?”  Then I started thinking. Where has the idea of sportsmanlike conduct gone anyway? I just watched at least a half-dozen college football players get busted for late hits, pushing opponents, and celebrating in their opponent’s face. That kind of behavior seemed normal. Even routine. Then it occurred to me that the ideal of gentlemanly conduct (which “Sportmenship” is based upon and which can be defined as acting with an acute sense of respect and propriety), is one that is in dire need of a revival.When I pledged a fraternity in college, the active members made us “poopies” (pledges) memorize a poem by John Walter Waylen entitled, “The True Gentelman.” It goes like this: 

The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.     

The idea of this passage was clearly too good for the fellows that made me memorize it in the back of a station-wagon at 80 miles per hour with a hood over my head and then recite it while a match burned down to the tips of my fingers. Oh precious irony. Oh precious Neosporin.  As we hop back into our lives this January 2nd, let us take a moment to absorb this ideal. Ladies too, for this is surely a gender generic idea with a gender specific name. Unlikely though it may seem, especially during an election cycle, it is possible for this true gentleman/gentlewoman ideal to make a comeback. Let us resolve ourselves to expect nothing less that this. Because if we start expecting dirty, underhanded behavior from those around us, above us or in the spotlight, then we will have accepted it and we will have succumbed to it and then the new ideal will more closely resemble Machiavelli’s The Prince. In a sense, that’s really what this blog, Deep Muck Big Rake, is all about. Isn’t it?

Posted by Todd @ 2:43 pm | 3 Comments  

Have A Very Bloggy 2008

December 31, 2007 | Blogging,Guest blogger,Guest post,Journalism

Adam TinworthHello and a Happy Hogmanay to all readers of Deep Muck Big Rake. I’m Adam Tinworth of One Man & His Blog, and I’m another one of those blogging journalists that’s doing the rounds right now. And you’re stuck with me for your final post here of 2007. And I’m stuck with writing a post that no-one will read, because they’re too busy getting drunk, or recovering from a hangover, to be bothered with the interwebs. Ah, well. Never mind. Writing stuff nobody reads is what journalists are used to, goddamit! It’s a tradition!

So, let’s be traditional about this. Let’s do a “look back at the year” post. It’s what most publications do at this time of the year, after all. Why? Well, they’re easy, and you can knock them off in a morning before heading off to a boozy pre-Christmas lunch and an extended Christmas holiday while the sub-editors try and turn it into something readable during your holidays.

And what a year 2007’s been. I’ve been blogging since 2001, and blogging seriously since 2003. In those early days, a blogging journalist was a pretty rare creature. In the year just gone, they’re everywhere. And I mean everywhere. You can barely go to a magazine or newspaper website these days without being invited to read some hack or other’s latest musings on the day’s events.

Now, let’s be honest. Not all of these blogs are created equal. Some of them are pretty clearly done under duress. (“Write a blog post this morning, or we’ll take your whisky away from you.” “Noooooo! Anything but that!”) And some of them are just plain crap. No two ways about it, some hacks just can’t write without subs to pick up their backs. But it’s a start. And the more the journos blog, the more they get the hang of a conversation, rather than just talking at people. Hey, the sheer fact that there are various of us here writing guest posts on Becky’s blog shows that some of us have learned to do the conversation thing.

And it’s not before time.


Posted by Adam @ 2:23 pm | 7 Comments  

A Little Talk About Guns

December 30, 2007 | Guest post

Gunfighter & his ElfHi… My name is Gunfighter, and I’l be your guest-blogger for the day.

Alright, my name ISN’T really Gunfighter… my parents call me something else, but you get the idea.

Anyway, Becky has asked me to be one of her guest bloggers while she is away, and since I think Becky is pretty cool, what could I say other than yes?

I’m not a journalist, or any sort of professional writer.  As a matter of fact, my field requires very little writing… except for the odd well-crafted memo for when I am trying to ply more money for my programs from the bosses… many of whom can only be called literate if you are very generous with the term.  I make my living as a tactical firearms instructor for one of Uncle Sam’s three-lettered law enforcement agencies in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. What that means, in plain English, is that I teach Uncle Sam’s agents how to fight with a  guns. 

Normally, I don’t blog much about guns… my blog, The View From Here, is mostly about the random stuff that goes through my mind on a given day. Whether the subject is politics, race, music, books, fatherhood, history, food, or The Church, is subject to my whim. Please feel free to visit sometime.

Ok… Becky asked me to give some biographical data, so here goes:  I’m 44, married, with two children, both girls, ages 18 & 9.  I like to read, I have tattoos, and I teach Sunday School.  I’m also very social. 

Anyway, I want to give you a little talking to about guns.

If you are thinking about gun ownership, think about it long and hard. The first thing that you need to consider is your reason(s) for wanting to have a gun or guns. If you have decided to become a hunter and to keep guns for that purpose, you have some things to consider.

 If you want to own a gun for self-protection, you have some very different things to consider. In either event, get some advice… feel free to email me… I’ll give you said advice for free.

If you are in the market for a firearm, I would be happy to advise you… but honestly, I may just tell you to get a dog that barks instead of a gun.

Having made the decision to own firearms, get some professional advice, and that DOESN’T mean from the people that work at gun stores… those guys, most of whom are really good people. are trying to make a buck. They, like car salespeople will usually sell you all sorts of crap you don’t need.

If you do decide to get a gun. Get the gun that is right for you. YOU. Not your-friend-the-local-cop who will try and tell you all sorts of things… that he usually doesn’t know much about. Once you find the gun for you, make the investment in training. Seek and find PROFESSIONAL training.If you decide to carry concealed, do so correctly. If other people can see that you are armed, you will lose a lot of the advantage that concealed carry can afford.

I was at our local Border’s books store recently, when some idiot, clearly carrying a gun in one of those fanny pack holsters, got upset when I asked him what he would do if someone grabbed his gun from behind. He told me with what little dignity he could muster, that it was none of my business. He was right, of course… it isn’t my business… unless the person who could easily steal his gun decided he was going to go on a shooting spree with it. What’s my point? Don’t be stupid when carrying a gun. It’s not a cross or talisman to ward off evil. To bad guys it says: “Shoot me first!”

If you ever have to shoot someone, don’t shoot once and wait to see what happens. Shoot him/her, and keep shooting until such time as you can tell that your subject has been shot effectively.

If your intended target is more than six feet away from you, and you are using a handgun, use both hands when you shoot. If you use both hands. your odds of an incapacitating hit or hits will increase by an order of magnitude. That one-handed crap is just that. Crap. Unless you are using the other hand to attempt a reload or starring in an action film, use both hands.

Effectively shooting someone means hitting them enough times or deeply enough to incapacitate… in other words, if you shoot someone and they are still in the fight, capable of hurting or killing you, you haven’t shot them effectively.

Lastly, if you decide to buy a gun, please, learn the applicable laws about using them, even in self-defense.



PS:  Becky, thanks for letting me talk to your readers, I really appreciate it.  I’m sorry I missed the party last time you were in town, I heard that it was a good time, but you know how that goes… I had to take my youngest to Brownies.

Posted by Gunfighter @ 1:59 am | 10 Comments  

Accepting the quiet, by Wendy Hoke

December 29, 2007 | Books,Guest blogger,Guest post,Journalism

What an honor and a thrill to be asked to guest blog here at Deep Muck Big Rake. I’m a freelance journalist who also writes at Creative Ink and I’m happy to count Becky among my regular readers. I’ve not written there lately because I’m attempting a vacation.

Problem is, I’m a needy writer and so when things get quiet, I get nervous. Makes no sense, you see, because I’m working on several ongoing projects and have another story due next Friday and got an e-mail this morning about doing some editing on another book project. So I should really just learn to accept and enjoy the quiet.

This may not be true for every writer, but I need to unplug from time to time to recharge the creative batteries. For inspiration, I’ve turned this week to “The Gay Talese Reader: Portraits & Encounters.” Last March, I had the privilege of meeting him at a storytelling workshop in Anniston, Ala.

With the exception of “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” I hadn’t really read any of his work. I mean, I was familiar with all the titles, “The Kingdom and the Power,” “Honor Thy Father,” and his notable profiles of boxers and baseball players. But I hadn’t really read his work.

I still believe that the Frank Sinatra/Esquire piece has tremendous resonance and stands as a model for reporting. Not all of his pieces in this book struck me the same way. However, the piece about Floyd Patterson (“The Loser”) was heartrending in its simplicity.

As a nonfiction writer, I find his reporting astounding, asking myself what questions he asked to get certain information, or wondering where he was standing in a room when he observed certain things, or what he’s looking for when he scans a room or a place and what particular details of a person fill his notebooks.

He reveals some of his trade secrets in a piece called, “Origins of a Nonfiction Writer,” and some of the details written here about being a boy in his mother’s dress shop in New Jersey, he shared with journalists in Anniston last March.

“The shop was a kind of talk show that flowed around the engaging manner and well-timed questions of my mother; and as a boy not much taller than the counters behind which I used to pause and eavesdrop. I learned much that would be useful to me years later when I began interviewing people for articles and books.

“I learned to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments (as the listening skills of my patient mother taught me) people often are very revealing—what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them. Their pauses, their evasions, their sudden shifts in subject matter are likely indicators of what embarrasses them, or irritates them, or what they regard as too private or imprudent to be disclosed to another person at that particular time. However, I also overheard many people discussing candidly with my mother what they had earlier avoided—a reaction that I think had less to do with her inquiring nature or sensitively posed questions than with their gradual acceptance of her as a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide. My mother’s best customers were women less in need of new dresses than the need to communicate.”

Too often, Talese is credited with founding, “The New Journalism,” so labeled by Tom Wolfe. But Talese steadfastly rejects such labels, maintaining now—and then–that what he was doing didn’t involved any new style. It was simply storytelling as we all know it (using scenes, dialogue, description, etc.) in a nonfiction format.

What interests me most about Talese, and frankly when I find his work most moving, is not those celebrated profiles of notable personalities, but his portraits of the ordinary people. His “unnoticed things” of New York City, his decision to talk about the Selma riots with white members of a local country club, his decision to write about losers more often than winners.

I turned to Talese for quiet inspiration this week and did not fail to deliver.

Posted by Wendy @ 12:37 pm | 2 Comments  

Writing From The Heart – Guest Post by Rebecca Laffar-Smith

December 27, 2007 | Guest blogger,Guest post,Words

Wow! It sure is a trip to be connecting with readers across the web in realms I tread with caution. I’m Rebecca Laffar-Smith from over at The Writer’s Round-About and when Becky asked if I’d help out by writing a guest post I thought it was a great idea. She’s off exploring the world and all her readers have an opportunity to hear from so many different voices while she’s away.

You should read the email she left us all with. A lengthy list of topics we could wander into along with free reign to do whatever we wanted instead. Becky, you’re a very brave person. I’m not particularly brave so I’m going to stick with a topic I know well.

Writing From The Heart

You don’t have to be a professional writer to experience the joy and wonder of written expression. Writing often feels like an enforced part of our daily lives. We rarely make time to write for ourselves. Do you keep a journal? Write about your dreams? List your ideas? Or is your writing limited to shopping lists, work reports and financial statements?

Taking up a pen and notebook is a simple way to create inspiration in your life. Write down what you are thankful for or what you’ve accomplished today. Reignite your life by exploring who you really are. By committing your thoughts to paper you create a record you can reflect on in years to come.

One advantage of writing only for yourself is that you don’t have to write well. The most important key to developing writing skills is to dig deep into your heart. We all begin with the basic understanding of sentence structure and composition. Developing the skills of a professional writer is not something those who write for themselves have to do. So long as you can read your own writing you can write in any way you like, about anything you like. Explore the topics that interest you and weave yourself with the language and words that fire your emotions.

You do not have to fear censorship or ridicule. What you write in your personal journal is for your eyes only. There is an amazing freedom when we permit ourselves to commit the significance of our thoughts to paper and the privacy to hold these words close to our hearts.

Explore your mind and emotions. Discover your inner being and the wealth of your subconscious intelligence. All it takes is a few minutes a day to open yourself to new ideas and a form of relaxation that gives your creative voice the freedom to sing its own song.

Write from your heart today and visit The Writer’s Round-About if you’d like to read more about writing.

Posted by Rebecca Laffar-Smith @ 2:06 am | 7 Comments  

Where should I begin…

December 26, 2007 | Blogging,Dad2twins,Daddy bloggers,Guest blogger,Guest post,Norway

Hello to the world through Becky’s blog. I’m Lance from Dad2twins.com. As with many of the guest bloggers that Becky bestowed with the high honor and privilege to be a stand in blogger, I have never actually met Becky in person. If, and when I meet her someday, I will make sure I bring a nice bottle of good Irish Whiskey or maybe even a few pints of Guinness with me so we can have long discussions about almost anything. I have been an admirer of Becky and her blog for sometime. Becky and I have had great conversations through email and blog entries and mutual comments on each other’s blogs for over a year. I do hope, before I finish my blog life, I know I will stay in touch with Becky because I have already decided she will be my editor when I finish writing a couple of the books I have started and threaten to finish in my lifetime.

Becky and I have something else in common. Norway. The Norwegian blood runs strong through my my family. I am of Norwegian decent. My people come from near the Arctic Circle. We are from Lesjaskog Norway. We even have some Sami in our family. As Becky spends Christmas among my people I am reminded of our heritage and how we still have a Norwegian breakfast every Christmas morning in our household. We have Rulepulse for breakfast along with Lefse. I won’t link to those, you have to discover those treats on your own. After that longwinded introduction, I don’t even think I will write about the actual topic I was going to write about. The Christmas meals sit heavy in my stomach and I am ready to sleep the next few days away. Our twins will not let that happen so I continue to dream of the lazy days after Christmas.

As I leave you, I invite you to discover this speech for yourself and the history behind it. It will give you some history into the name of Becky’s blog and how the term came about.I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I thank the two Jews for giving the Christians a break on Christmas day. I hope you all have a wonderful boxing day? Oh, and I wish Becky safe travels and I thanks for letting me sit in.

Come visit me if you get a chance.

Posted by Lance @ 12:48 am | 2 Comments  

Oy To The World, the Chinese Is Come, Let Jews Receive Their Food!

December 25, 2007 | Books,Family,Friends,Guest blogger,Guest post,Middle East,Movies,My neighborhood,Opinion,Research,Stuff,Weird things,Working Mother

Aviva and Devra are in da house!  Merry Christmas Ya’ll!   Maybe you aren’t expecting a holiday greeting from the Two Jew Crew, but when Becky asked if we would guest blog, we requested Christmas. Why? Because we know You People our Christian mishpuka should be able to spend time with their families, so we shall work today so you don’t have to!  (So when Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur roll around return the fave. K?)

Jews and Chinese Food.  Add Christmas to the mix and you get a Holy Trinity  representing a Trifecta of Treyf. Why is this night different from any other night? Why on this night do Jews eat at Shun Lee instead of at home?  From Christmas Eve to Christmas Day Jews are making their Kung Pao pilgrimages.  Even Working Mother Magazine  Jews can’t tell you where this longstanding holiday observance originated, we only know it’s tradition. It’s how we roll.   Everyone should  know more about Jewish holiday observances beyond, “They tried to annihilate us. We survived. Let’s Eat!”  If Becky where here, she would no doubt be calling out the people striving to be our nation’s leader to tell us why Jews eat Chinese food On Christmas. 

 Hillary should know.  Fred Thompson may have the secret.  Is Barack is just one consonant away from unlocking the mystery?  Oh hell. Move over politics! Let’s dish…

Believe it or not, the combination of Jews and Chinese food is an ancient custom – OK, not biblical ancient nor is it an Ancient Chinese Secret, but it does appear to go back to the late 1800’s – no putzing around!

In lower Manhattan, immigrant Jews opened delicatessens for other Jews,Italians ran restaurants for other Italians, and Germans had many places serving primarily Germans. But Chinese restaurants welcomed everyone. As a result, even in the 1890s both Jews and Italians usually felt more at home in Chinese restaurants than they did in each other’s eateries.” (Originally published; “New York Jews and Chinese Food: The Social Construction of an Ethnic Pattern” by Gaye Tuchman and Harry G. Levine) 

Fast forward a few hundred years and it is still generally true.  Chinese food does not include dairy products. The fear of mixing a little dairy with your meat isn’t an issue. (You say, “Pork!” We say, “Kosher house, not Kosher stomach.”)  Look, Chinese food  became a status symbol for our people during The Depression – immigrant Jews who ate out at Chinese restaurants identified themselves and others as being chic and sophisticated-why should we want to change that practice?  Is it so terrible? Who does it hurt? Don’t you want your mother to be happy? 

Nowadays, you can find many eateries willing to open their doors to make a buck on Christmas, and you can find quite a few folks  who would rather buy a meal instead of cook one.  However, it wasn’t so long ago, Chinese restaurants were about the only option for eating out on Christmas day.  Another bonus to Chinese food on Christmas is the holiday repast is available before or after the matinee. Just because Christmas is not a Jewish holiday, does this mean no Jewish observance? Feh. Whatever your observance, we wish you Good Fortune and a very Merry Christmas!

Posted by Devra and Aviva @ 8:43 pm | 1 Comment  


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