Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where Are All the Ugly People?

In a culture obsessed with body image we do a fair amount of criticizing the fashion, modeling and magazine industries. We rail at them for perpetuating the unrealistic characteristics of the “perfect body”. These are the most visible offenders but I’ve begun to notice culprits with a more subtle approach.

These transgressors are television shows with a main character surrounded by a few secondary characters. The subtle offense is the people in the background, the crowds that make up a scene. A good example is Burn Notice.

The location for the show Burn Notice is Miami, Florida. No big stretch that most of the background scenes have people in bathing suits but if this show is reality there is not an ugly person walking around Miami. There are no overweight people, no one who doesn’t look great in a bikini or Speedo. Girls and guys making up the ‘crowd’ fall into the perfect body image parameters. Where are all the ugly people?

Other shows that don’t need to support a continuously attractive back-crowd encourage the body image fallacy in their bar and party scenes. When the detectives, police or other principles walk into a nightclub or party the girls are all beautiful, the guys are all handsome and their bodies conform to the perfect body image parameters. If this is reality no ugly people go out to nightclubs or parties. Where are all the ugly people?

One show that has bucked this trend is Memphis Beat. While Dwight Hendricks (male lead) is no slouch he is definitely no; Sonny Crockett, Michael Westin or Derek Shepherd. I like that Dwight’s partner has some age and grizzle on him. The female lead, played by Alfre Woodard, is 57 years old. She looks like, and portrays, an average 57 year old woman, not a ‘cougar’ on the prowl. The requisite “sexy girl” is Dwight’s ex-wife who is a minor character. The back-crowd here leans much more toward reality.

I’m the first to admit that good-looking people are pleasing to the eye but I have no problem with ordinary looking people, everyday people, people who look like me.

Google Images:
Burn Notice
Dwight Hendricks
Sonny Crockett
New York crosswalk

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Good Will of Goodwill

I am a Goodwill Industries shopper.  I like that they help provide jobs and services for the disadvantaged and in the process, I can find great stuff for VERY reasonable prices.  I am such a fan that it is common for my family to visit the local Goodwill store when we are vacationing or visiting out of town.  While visiting Hawaii we found some great shirts for $1.50 limiting our need to buy the tourist shirts for $15.00.

It is understandable not everyone shares my enthusiasm but those who do understand me completely.  With this in mind when I discover a store that is run well I can't say enough good things about it.  My favorite store is in Wisconsin where my parents live.  Pants (jeans) are sized and sorted accordingly.  This may seem negligible but it can save much time, each visit, being able to locate a specific size.  Shirts are sorted by color, another time saving advantage.  They also put regional items, i.e. UW and Packer merchandise in a separate area.

All this work is called MERCHANDISING and is paid for through higher prices.  (You may have noticed in outlet stores, true outlets, the merchandising is left behind and all goods are chaotically placed on racks to sift through.)  Goodwill proves a store can do decent merchandising and still keep costs down.  I believe it has more to do with good management.

On our summer travels I found another Goodwill store that rivals my Wisconsin favorite.  It is located in Galveston, Texas within sight of the sea wall.  This store exhibited the aforementioned qualities and more.  It was a larger store with more goods, clean, organized and a bargain shoppers mecca. 

I didn't have the space to carry home as much as I would like to have purchased but I want to give a shout out (I found a clerk and gushed my admiration on site) to the management of that store and the region, if the credit is due that far up the management chain. 

In these economic hard times Goodwill Industries provides an opportunity for everyone to benefit and those stores that provide a wonderful atmosphere in which to shop only makes the economic hard times a bit more bearable.  I would like to encourage you to shop at Goodwill to find a bargain, save a buck and help those less fortunate than yourself.  It's just good business.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Make Me an Instrument

If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:21 (NIV)

It has been my experience that God helps me to mature spiritually by calling me to specific tasks. These tasks require me to behave with love towards others. He asks me to act like a believer. 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 2 Timothy 2:22-26.

This can be a multi-fold lesson. 1) God is calling me to obedience. If I am obedient in the small tasks, which He uses to teach me, then I am better prepared for His larger tasks. 2) My obedience could be a small part, of a larger picture, that has meaning to someone else. I am not aware of them and their needs and they are not aware of me and my actions. 3) He could also be revealing Himself to me, which encourages me to grow and continue seeking His will in my life.

In hindsight (always 20/20) I can pick out some of these tasks. I see myself as an instrument that God is using for his purposes. You may know the song based on the Prayer of St. Francis; Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. I count it a special blessing when God allows me to glimpse His workings through my obedience.

At the time in my personal prayers when I was asking for strength and diligence in becoming a prayer warrior, I felt compelled to pray when I heard emergency sirens. The prompting was subtle but strong enough that when I would hear a siren I would pray something like, “Lord be with those involved in this emergency. Let everyone be okay, but if not, prepare their hearts for the journey ahead.” I believed this to be a part of my own growth and development.

I was a member of the PTA when my son was in elementary school. I led Teacher Appreciation but often volunteered to help with the annual book sale. The woman in charge of the book sale and I knew each other only through the PTA and this event. The second year of our service together her youngest son needed a kidney transplant. The situation was dire and in our PTA meetings, we always lifted her and her family up in prayer. When a kidney became available they rushed to a larger city where he received a successful transplant.

Months into his recovery she and I were working on the book sale. She shared with me. “It’s funny the things you see and think at odd moments. On the day we were rushing my son to the hospital for his transplant I was in the ambulance with him. As we were coming onto the highway, I looked over and saw your van and thought, ‘There’s Sally’. Why that stuck out in my mind, at that time, I’m not sure.”

The LORD flooded my heart at her words. I followed His request and was there to pray for another of His saints at a time of particular need. What was the fruit of my obedience? Did my praying for an ambulance, not knowing who was inside, make any difference? I don’t know. What I do know is that I felt God’s blessing that I had been obedient to his prompting. Did it further my spiritual growth? Yes! Did it influence her situation? Only God knows.

In your journey allow yourself to be God’s instrument. Be prepared for every good work.
Share a blessing you’ve experienced when given a glimpse of how God is using you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It Is Finished

The end.  Done.  Finished.  Completed.  All such satisfying words.  This weekend I polished, tweaked and dotted the final i, paid the fee and sent off my 64,600 word manuscript, The Boulangerie, to be judged.  Any of you who have completed; an arduous task, a thesis, a quilt, graduated, know how light I'm feeling.  After all the work my first thought, "What next?"

So, what next?  Stored in the writing file is a finished, unpolished manuscript (not even a working title) that is a lead-in to The Boulangerie.  That seems to be the next logical step but for the rest of the weekend I am going to bask in this light and airy feeling of a big job done.

The contest deadline is September, 2010 and results are expected in January, 2011.  I'll post any results.

Thanks so much for your readership, it's what keeps this writer going.