The Moment of Pure Clarity (or Ultimate Fuzziness)


I am not gifted in the area of mathematics. Ridiculously so.

So when I saw this word problem, my brain melted a bit.

You saw a shirt for $97.
You didn’t have the cash, so you borrowed $50 from your Mom and $50 from your Dad.
$50 + $50 = $100
You bought the shirt, and had $3 change.
You gave your Dad $1 and your Mom $1 and kept the other $1 for yourself.
Now you owe your Mom $49 and your Dad $49.
$49 + $49 = $98 + your $1 = $99.
Where is the missing $1?

Now, you’ll have to suspend disbelief for a minute and imagine that you would actually spend $97 on a shirt, that you would borrow the money for such an expensive shirt, and that the government wouldn’t take tax out of the transaction. Now that that’s done, feel free to be confused by the actual math involved here.

I saw this math problem right before bed. Don’t ask me why I was looking at math problems before bed. Some people like to eat pickles, which I think are gross, but I try not to judge them for it (just kidding, I totally judge them). Anyway, I was mulling over the problem as I lay there, and then, in a moment of complete clarity, I understood it. I knew where the missing the dollar was. I was at complete rest in my knowledge. And then I fell asleep.

In the morning, I started thinking about the problem again, and was again confused. Did I really understand it perfectly right before I fell asleep? Or was my mind so fuzzy that I only thought I understood it? After all, our minds are totally willing to accept things that make absolutely no sense while we dream. Perhaps I was just experiencing a pre-dream-state of acceptance.

But as I thought the problem through again, I remembered my thoughts from the previous night and knew that I had understood things correctly in that pre-dream-state.

Maybe tonight, I’ll think about an actual problem that needs to be solved, like cancer or poverty or something else (maybe some plot holes in my novels), then come up with a great solution. Let’s just hope I remember it in the morning.

Have you ever had a moment of pure clarity?


Recipes for Writers (& Other Busy Folk) | Shredded Pork Soft Tacos

If you are looking for a meal that will taste great AND require almost no prep time, try this. It is honestly the best taco meat recipe I’ve ever tasted.

PrintMy wife and I eat this meal fairly regularly as we both work full-time and have two kids who require attention (not to mention our other interests). It comes from Don’t Panic–Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell & Bonnie Garcia, published by Revell Books, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group.

Shredded Pork Soft Tacos


  • 3 lbs. country-style pork ribs
  • 1 T. oregano
  • 1 T. coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 t. kosher salt


  • flour or corn tortillas, warmed
  • tomatillo salsa (a green salsa that goes great with pork)
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • cheese
  • sliced avocado (optional)

Recipe Yield – 8-10 Servings  |  Prep Time – 5 minutes  |  Total Time – 6-8 Hours


Place ribs in crockpot. Sprinkle seasonings over meat. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until meat is tender and can be shredded with two forks. Remove bones and extra fat from meat.

Assemble soft tacos using tortillas, salsa, and favorite toppings.

Hint – No extra liquid is needed when cooking these ribs!

Nutritional Information (per serving of meat): Calories 406.0; Total Fat 29.3g: Cholesterol 118.3mg; Sodium 545.7mg; Total Carbohydrates 0.7g (Dietary Fiber 0.4g); Protein 32.6g

I am popular.

It happened the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school.

Freshman year found me floundering between social groups. The shift from junior high to high school forced people into more stringently defined cliques, but there were a few of us who were not so easily accepted into one of the established groups (the stoners, the jocks, the honor students, etc.)

But when I walked through the front doors as a tenth-grader, I was firmly planted in the popular crowd. My friends were the kids that other kids wanted to be. The girls of the group were the pretty, smart girls that boys desired. The boys of the group were the sporty (soccer) ones who ranked consistently at the top of the class in grades and future earning potential. And though my grades were not so good, nor my physique so muscular, nor my face so beautiful, I was accepted as one of their own.

I felt a bit like Jane Goodall, only the apes were the cool kids, and I was the older white lady that they accepted into their midst.

So what happened?

Montana happened.

ccbc_logo_highlightI mean, it didn’t come into existence and suddenly cause me to be popular. Rather, I went to Montana on a mission trip with my church and came back with close relationships to the crowd that would become my crowd for the rest of my high school experience.

It was the type of trip that was custom designed to either force people to be close or drive people to cannibalism. We drove in a small church bus from Grand Rapids, Michigan to the southwestern tip of Montana, visiting some National Parks along the way. I remember the trip being hot and the bus quickly smelling of sweat, angst, and hormones.

I was one of the four guys on the trip (there were two Joshes and two Steves) among the twelve or so girls on the trip. Naturally, each guy came home with three girlfriends apiece. Okay, no, but I’m sure none of the guys would have minded.

Anyway, our crew bonded well on the road. In the absence of our normal cliques, we were allowed to show our true personalities. Senses of humor emerged. People spoke to each other who would never have spoken previously. And all it took was a bit of heat and a few days of close quarters without access to regular showers.

When we got back home, miraculously, the relationships stuck, and I was invited to join the group of cool kids at school. There was no formal ceremony or anything, and probably most of it was in my head, but I felt accepted for who I was by people who had seen me at my smelliest. That was a good feeling.

Thinking back now, I am inclined to think that the difference between my social scene from freshman year to sophomore year had only a bit to do with other kids accepting me and everything to do with me accepting that I could be liked for who I am. And so, popularity is not something that is dependent on others, but a mindset that make it possible for you to accept yourself.

20 ways to inspire your writing


A while back I gave you 20 things to blog about when you don’t know what to blog about. Today, I’m going to help you come up with your own ideas. These are just a few things that have helped me brainstorm. Maybe they can help you too.

  1. Take a shower.
  2. Take a long walk.
  3. Listen to an educational podcast.
  4. Visit a museum.
  5. Make some coffee (or tea).
  6. Eavesdrop on a conversation.
  7. Do a monotonous, repetitive task (really, your mind will be forced to think about something else).
  8. Call an old friend.
  9. Play a game with young children (ones you know, not strangers).
  10. Attend a class.
  11. Follow some links on Wikipedia until you’ve learned something new.
  12. Watch people at the mall.
  13. Bake something to share.
  14. Check out a movie from the library (that way if it is terrible, you didn’t have to pay for it).
  15. Volunteer some time at the non-profit organization of your choice.
  16. Practice speaking with a foriegn accent (and see how people respond to you).
  17. Do a small craft project.
  18. Throw a ball.
  19. Look through old photo albums.
  20. Reread a favorite book.

Remember to bring a notebook along so you can write down ideas as they come to you. You may tell yourself that you will remember them later, BUT YOU WON’T. Maybe you should grab a camera too.

Happy writing!

The Elliptical Path to Success

DSC01189My wife and I bought an elliptical workout machine last weekend. We’ve been looking at them for a while, but only recently found one in our price range. Retrieving it was quite a workout in itself, as it was in a basement with a low ceiling and tight hallways. But now, it sits in our living room (the only place in our house where it would fit), just waiting for its next victim to cover in sweat.

Before we bought it, DeAnne expressed some  concerns about whether we would actually use it or not. She had a good point. Why waste money on a piece of exercise equipment that we will never use (as anything other than a coat rack)? And it isn’t a small machine. Owning it would mean moving things around in our smallish house AND having to use it.

A few years ago, I might not have been so confident about our commitment working out and being healthy. And even now, I might not be so sure but for the success that we’ve already had over the last couple months. My wife is back down to pre-pregnancy weight and I’m within five pounds of two hundred (not my goal, but a milestone nonetheless), all without having any exercise equipment in the house.

But that isn’t the only thing that gives me confidence. I’ve never been one to stick with a project. My four or five unfinished novels bear me out in this. But my blog says otherwise. I’ve been posting every weekday (and I just started Saturday posts) for over a year now, a feat that I would have believed impossible not long ago. Of course, this has only been possible because I have the support of my wonderful wife, not to mention a great writers’ group that spurs me on.

And so, why couldn’t I apply the same determination to working out?

And what more fitting piece of equipment could there be but an elliptical? Why is it fitting? Because although the exercise machine is named for the path made by the part on which you stand, the word “elliptical” comes from the Greek word ” elleiptikos”, which means defective, or a falling short, like an imperfect circle. So even if I struggle on my path to perseverance, even if I feel defective or that I’ve fallen short, I know that I’m not perfect but I have a great support team to help me get back on track.

P.S. – I worked out last night and the machine kicked my butt. But already, I’m looking forward to the next workout session.

More Innermost Secrets

rose_scentedMany people act as though their fecal matter is rose-scented. Mine actually is.

By that, I mean “well-fertilized” roses. Seriously, those roses smell terrible.

I am a technical Grease virgin.

Yes, I’ve played the songs from Grease in marching band. And yes, I sang the songs from Grease in choir. And yes, I know some of the details of the film. But I’ve never crossed the important line. I’ve never seen the movie. Nor do I plan to. I’d like to keep my Grease virginity until I die.

speedy_freezeI believe that one day, we will all have to answer for how many Frozen Cokes we have consumed while alive. I only hope I’ve had enough.

I mean, I’ve had quite a few. In fact, one summer I had so many that I got kidney stones. That was no fun. I was on quite a water kick after that. Well, until Frozen Cokes started sounding really good again, which was probably about two weeks later. But I started drinking them in moderation after that. And then after the second round of kidney stones, I cut down on them again. Basically, your body needs water. But still, I hope that when the final judgement comes, I’ve had enough.

I can turn lights on with my mind.

First my mind sends a signal to my hand. Then, my hand flips the light switch. Just like magic.

I was such an ugly baby, my folks showed pictures of my brother and told people it was me.

True story. I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, so I came out all purple and nasty. I mean, most babies are pretty gross when they’ve just been born. My oldest looked so swollen, it was like she was stung by some a swarm of womb bees. But I was worse off, all peely and splotchy and nasty. So my parents did the only sane thing. They showed pictures of my brother when he was just born. All babies look pretty much the same at that point anyway. I don’t blame them, but I do tease them about it whenever I can.

The Perks of Being 31

I’ll be turning 31 in less than a month. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s good.

Here are a few reasons why:

– I am well beyond the college years, and don’t have to worry about things like partying or staying up all hours of the night. I can go to bed when I want to. No regrets.

– I’m old enough to worry more about others than myself. In grade school and below, kids have no idea what empathy is. In high school and college, you are a too worried about your appearance/schoolwork to think about other people. After college, you have to worry about finding a job and paying rent/mortgages. Everything is in crisis mode. But by 31, you have a career. Maybe even kids. And you have time to start putting others first.

BR– 31 seems to work pretty well for Baskin Robbins, and everyone likes ice cream. Ergo, 31 must be good.

– No milestone this year. You don’t have to worry about the heavy weight of entering your 30’s. You are already here. And the next milestone (40) is still a long way off. Enjoy it!

– Age restrictions mean nothing to you. You’ve been able to drink (legally) for ten years now. It’s old-hat. You know what the next age-restriction is? Retirement, which is a pretty laughable concept anyway if you are just now turning 31, because Social Security is going to be long gone by the time you qualify.

– You can comfortably mingle with people of all ages. You probably work with people both older and younger than you. You are not too old to relate to college folk. You may have young kids of your own, so you feel pretty comfortable around the younger crowd. And by now, you’ve entered a new phase of relationship with your parents and people of similar age. There is no one you can’t talk to.

I’m sure there are a lot of things that I am missing. I couldn’t possibly know them all, since I am not yet 31. But I am looking forward to experiencing a birthday with no emotional rollercoasters. It’s been a couple of years (29=last year of your 20’s, 30=whole new decade).

What are some of the perks of your age?

I am sure that you are in the wrong house.

About a year ago, my neighbors were having a party of some kind. Burgers on the grill, beverages chilling in a child-sized pool filled with ice, a fire in the fire pit. It seemed like a pretty nice get-together. My street was full of unfamiliar cars, their inhabitants either walking toward or already at the party next door.

Except for one guy.

“Hey honey,” my wife called. “There’s a guy walking around our backyard looking kind of confused.”

“That’s strange,” I said. “How can he miss the fact that everyone else is just on the other side of the fence?”

Since when did knocking before entering fall out of vogue?

Since when did knocking before entering fall out of vogue?

My wife and I were just about to leave our house for the store. Since it was warm out and we avoid using air conditioning when possible, we were just getting on the final layers of our clothing so as to be publicly appropriate when our back door opened. No knock. Just opened.

There was a man in my house. A man who I did not know. The same man who my wife had seen just moments before walking around our backyard.

As the protector of my family faced with a stranger in my house, I was suddenly angry.

“You are in the wrong house,” I said.

The stranger eyed me, swaying slightly.

“Whose house is this?” he asked, suspiciously. I think he thought I was lying.

“This is not the house you are looking for. You are in the wrong house.”

I stepped forward to remove the man and close the door. He turned around and left. And after another trip through out backyard, he found the loud party filled with people next door.

My wife and I looked at each other, both reeling slightly by the intrusion. We now leave our door locked, pretty much all of the time. But especially when our neighbors are having parties.