Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cracked Laptop Screen - Headache or Opportunity?

 I opened up the lid on my laptop computer, planning to get some work done. I was quite disturbed to find the picture at the left on my screen. No matter what I did, nothing else happened.I thought the problem might be a weird virus or a failed video driver.
At the time, Rachel and I were on a ferry trip between our island and the next one to visit some co-workers. When we arrived, I showed the screen to my friend and she immediately saw the problem. The screen was cracked. I have a pretty good idea how it happened. Rachel probably leaned on the cover when she stood up from the mat where we were sitting on the ferry. 
I checked into getting the screen repaired. It can be done, but I am told (by someone who wasn't trying to sell me something) that with the old model I have, if this happened in America, I would probably be advised to give up on this machine and get a new one.

Argh! Just what I DIDN'T need. Having to buy a new computer. Unfortunately, in this day and age, computer access is almost a necessity...especially if writing is a part of what a person does. So, I bit the bullet and got a new one.

Now, I have the frustrating task of re-installing all the software I had installed, and restoring all my backed-up files. The last time I had to restore these files from my online back-up, it took four or five months. (Yes, I did say MONTHS, not days or weeks.) I have a lot of data, an my connection here is S---L---O---W. At least, it is slow compared to connections in the States.

This isn't how I planned to be spending my time this week. There is a lot of work to do, and this mishap is certainly slowing things down.
  • I need to research some possible locations for a youth camp in June. Some of my prior research is on the other computer...the one I can't get into right now.
  • I need to contact several people via email, but their addresses are all in a file that is yet to be restored to the new computer.
  • I have some church secretarial tasks to complete which, by the way, require a computer.
  • I need to send out a newsletter. It is written and ready to go, but where is it? On the broken laptop, of course.
  • I have a kids' ebook that I want to publish on Amazon within the next couple days. I fortunately had saved the manuscript on a flash drive, but the program I was using to create the cover is... you guessed it...on the broken computer.
I could fuss about the inconvenience and waste a lot of energy moaning about everything being harder than it needed to be. OR, I could choose to trust that my Heavenly Father has a way for me through this mess. I can complain that the laptop doesn't work like a laptop anymore. OR I can be thankful that if I can locate an unused desktop monitor, I can still access my important data and programs using the broken machine as a CPU. 

You know what? I think it just might be better to be thankful. First of all, I can be thankful that I actually was able to buy a new laptop. God provides. Tomorrow, I'll check at the children's home where I work to see if, among all their donated equipment, there is a working monitor that doesn't, for now, have a CPU to go with it. If I can borrow that until everything is restored to my new laptop, I can then donate my old machine to the home and voila! They will have an extra station for the kids to work at in the computer lab. 

I had my plans, but just maybe God has plans to use this mishap to bring about something good. I just need to keep looking for it, and be content as I wait, and be ready to rejoice when I see it happen.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
 Isaiah 55:8

Friday, February 22, 2013

First Katie Grace eBook is Coming Soon - Advice Needed on Cover

In early January, I wrote a post about a new series of children's books that is in the works. These books are about a first-grader named Katie Grace. You can read more about the idea behind this series here. The first one is almost ready to publish as an ebook. Two others are still in the editing stage with a fourth still being written.


I've been working on a cover for the first book. The teenager who is doing the illustrations does a nice job with the black and white drawings inside the book. The cover illustration, though needs to be in color. We are both learning how to work with that. 

I realize none of these covers are professional quality, but I frankly don't have the money to have a cover professionally made. Even so, I want to put together the best non-professionally made cover I can come up with.

I have been experimenting with Photoshop, and I know I have only scratched the surface of what the program can do. I'd like to find a way to eliminate totally the white area around the girls. For those of you who know how to use Photoshop, I tried using the magnetic lasso tool to do that, and have almost been successful. Unfortunately, the lasso keeps cutting off Katie Grace's braids, so for the time being, I have to let go of that idea.
Here are three possibilities that I have worked up so far. Keep in mind that I already know the illustrator needs to do more with the picture of the girls to brighten it up. Aside from that and assuming the picture is brightened,... 
  • Which cover do you like best?
  • Is there one you like if a few changes were made? 
  • Perhaps you like a certain element from one cover and a different element from another cover. 

Or should I scrap them all and start over? 

Please leave any feedback you may have in a comment. I gladly welcome ... and really need ... any suggestions you may have.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Right Balance

I just finished baking a dump cake about an hour ago. I know, I know. That doesn't sound very inviting unless you already know what a dump cake is. Don't let the name fool you. It is really good. A good friend of mine posted this recipe on Facebook a couple weeks ago. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. A lot of something else. Mix it up and bake it. So very easy, not to mention delicious.

Rachel's "baking soda cake"
Rachel played the part of an aspiring cook as well. I think she is going to be the kind of cook who likes to create her own innovative dishes rather than strictly follow someone else's recipes. In any case, she had a very definite idea of what she wanted to make. I decided to let her experiment.

She, too, added a little bit of this and a little bit of that. She, too, put a lot of something else into the batter. Unfortunately, one of the things she added in a small amount was sugar. Far worse, the "something else" that she added in a large quantity was baking soda. I didn't realize just how much she had put in until I asked her to pass the baking soda to me so I could add it to my batter. 
"It's all gone," she said. "I used it all."
"You used ALL of it!?!" (There had been about 1/4 cup of baking soda in the container.)
"Uh-huh," Rachel answered as she contentedly used a teaspoon to measure out the flour.
Needless to say, I used this teachable moment to share with her which ingredients get measured by the cupfuls and which baking soda...get measured with a teaspoon.

Rachel was far enough along with her batter that I let her finish up and bake it, even though I knew the result would not be what she hoped for. Before popping it in the oven, we added more sugar and some cinnamon in an attempt to doctor it up a bit. 

I must say that her cake looks good. It rose nicely. It seems to have a pretty good texture. But the TASTE! Um...I don't think either of us will be eating much of it.

The problem, of course, is that she did not use the right balance of ingredients in her cake. She used too much of something that should have been added in small amounts, and not enough of an ingredient that should have been added in a larger quantity. Her balance was off, and it had a negative effect on the outcome.

We need balance in our lives, too. How are we doing with that? Many "ingredients" make up our lives.
  • Work, play, rest
  • Time with family, time with friends, time with God
  • Church commitments, social commitments, service commitments
  • Cooking and cleaning
  • Yard work and maintenance
  • Social networking, blogging, other computer-related activities
  • Music and reading 
  • Sports and fitness
  • TV and games
  • The list goes on
Which of these "ingredients" should rightfully be added in small amounts, like baking soda? Which, like sugar, should get a more generous portion in the recipe? Which are essential? Which are optional? What is the right balance?

A life out-of-balance is not enjoyed by anyone. Not the person living it. Not the people who are impacted by the imbalance. This kind of life may look good to those who don't get too close. To those who interact with it every day, however, it is a bitter experience.

A life in balance is a life that can be enjoyed. The person living such a life enjoys a life of peace. Others enjoy being around a person who lives a balanced life. It is attractive. It is delicious (so to speak).  It is a sweet experience.

I wonder...what kind of a life do I live? Is it a delicious dump cake life or a bitter baking soda cake life?

I know which kind of life I want to live. What about you?

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness... 
Matthew 6:33b (NASB)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Harley Junior Story Revisited

As Rachel and I read a devotional and Bible passage before bedtime tonight, we were asked to reflect on a time when we experienced God's protection. The story I shared was an obvious choice.

Harley Junior and I on a ministry trip in the mountains.
Back in August of last year, I wrote a post about a hair-raising experience I had on my motorbike several years earlier. As I reflected on that experience, I saw a parallel to situations we face in everyday life when temptation speeds our way, and we think we have no way out.

I think....hope...I have more readers now than I did back in August, so I will share the story again.

You can find the story by clicking this link.  Harley Junior and I Find a Way of Escape.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Let Us Go With You"

Early last month, I had to make a trip to Singapore. I got out my smallest suitcase and began packing.  Rachel removed the things I had already put in and climbed into the suitcase herself. 

"Mommy, let me go with you," she said. "When can I ever go to Singapore?" Needless to say, Rachel knows she cannot possibly pack herself in my suitcase and go along. She just wanted to be with her Mom.

Her words, though, remind me of a verse in Zechariah that leapt off the page at me a number of years ago.
In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.  (Zechariah 8:23b NASB)

Monday, February 11, 2013

So Sweet Blogger Award

Last month, a fellow blogger, Amber-Lee Dibble of Alaska Chick’s Blog nominated me for a “Sweet Blogger” award. I saw just today that Sandy Sandmeyer from the "Uncompromising" blog named me for the same award. Having been nominated twice, I guess I ought to get busy and pass on the nomination.

According to the “rules” I am supposed to answer five sweet questions, and then name a baker’s dozen (13) other bloggers for the So Sweet Blogger Award. This award doesn’t involve any contest or judging. It’s just a way to pass around a bit of love for other bloggers who we enjoy reading.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I NEED to Sleep

I love reading books aloud to my daughter. The home school curriculum we use has a lot of read-alouds in it. 

I have been a book lover from the time I was able to make sense of written words, so I thoroughly enjoy this part of the program. I enjoy curling up with Rachel over a good book and making it come alive as I read it.

That "coming alive" fun, however, doesn't always happen. One day earlier this week, I was reading one of these books to Rachel, and my habit of working until way too late at night caught up with me. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

I Don't Like That Mask

When Rachel was about three years old, she was very sensitive to certain parts of the culture here that do not come from God. One of these things is the barong masks that you see in many places around the island of Bali.

The barong is quite an ugly, fanged creature with bulging eyes that is supposed to be one of the “good guys” in Balinese folklore, as opposed to Rangda the witch, a creature who is even uglier. Whenever we passed one of these barong figures, Rachel would hide her face. "I don't like that mask!" she would cry.

Most Balinese children have become so used to seeing this character that they don’t think twice about it. But Rachel had not yet lost her sensitivity to it. 

Of course, I reassured her that it is OK not to like the mask, but she doesn’t need to be afraid of it. By now, at age seven, she has figured that out. She still doesn't like it, but it doesn't terrify her.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Just Published a New eBook

"What will we do for Easter?"

At this time of the year, many churches are making plans for special services For Good Friday and Easter. Large churches are probably already in the process of organizing a major event. There may be some churches, youth groups, or church-based dance ministries that are still asking themselves that question. "What will we do for Easter?"

Find on Amazon and Smashwords

If you belong to a group that is asking that very question, my new ebook, Winning Back My Beloved, may be just what you are looking for.

What is this story about? Here it is in a nutshell.
This is a love story. You have a King. You have his Beloved. You have an Enemy. The Enemy entices the Beloved away from the King. The King will do anything, even sacrifice himself, to win her back.
The dance/drama described in this ebook does not require a large budget. It does not require a large cast. It is performed by three dancers. The music can be in whatever genre best fits your group. It can be original or compiled from selections of already-recorded music. This ebook lists the music I am currently using as an example.
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