Book sales bottom out against boxer shorts

Writers are shameless when it comes to book promotion. The length they will go to is one notch shy of standing curbside with a cardboard sign that says, “Will Work for Book Sales.”

I know such behavior is rampant because I recently engaged in it. I agreed to sell my latest humor book, “My Memory is Shot, All I Retain Now is Water,” at a huge Christmas Gift and Hobby show. This mammoth event ran for five days at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in the large pavilion where 4-H kids show cattle during the fair, which explained the faint parfum de manure that lingered before the crowd arrived.

This Gift and Hobby Show was three parts gifts and hobbies and two parts “As Seen on TV.” Garnering attention for books is impossible when you’re competing with Stick It! (a pet hair removal system) and Pocket Hose, the 50-foot expandable garden hose.

And, please, what vendor can compete with the guy demonstrating the Sham WOW!? He spills pop, mops it up and wrings it out with the cloth that “Works like a sponge! Works like a towel! Holds 20 times its own weight!” The shammy is a crowd pleaser that sings and dances. A book is a wallflower.

There were five of us at a time in the book booth, and we each had a draw. The romance author had beauty, the dog author had a dog, the sports author had an NFL jersey and a big personality, the TV celebrity had his face and I had a bowl full of Hershey’s Kisses.

To heighten the pain, the authors booth was across the aisle from a massive wall of colorful boxer shorts bearing animal characters and what some might consider witty sayings.

When the chocolate kisses weren’t drawing attention, I amped up my game and tried making conversation. People would stroll by and I’d say, “Do you like to read?”

“I don’t read,” came the answer. The first time, I thought it was a fluke. Over and over, hour after hour, “I don’t read. I don’t read. I don’t read.” If the Gift and Hobby show is an accurate barometer, we have an alarming illiteracy rate. And yet, I clearly saw the same people reading the boxer shorts.

A mother, a daughter and a grandmother shuffled by single file.

“Do you like to read?”

“No,” said the mother. “No,” said the daughter. “No,” said the grandmother.

A dislike for reading—the gift that keeps on giving.

I stopped asking people if they liked to read and started asking if they liked to watch television.

Finally, a positive response. It didn’t translate into a lot of book sales, but it was a positive response.

If I ever do another show, I’m dumping a soft drink on my book table, sopping it up with one of my books, wringing out a few pages and yelling, “Look how 210 pages of well-written humor absorbs an entire soft drink!”

I’m finally going to have a bestseller.

See, taste, hear the beauty of common grace

Many of us will say grace before a Thanksgiving meal this year. Perhaps as lovely as saying grace is seeing grace. Common grace is before our eyes every day of the year, every moment of the day.

GooseWe see it on the table in the sweet potatoes, buttered rolls, green beans, corn, fruit salad and pumpkin pie. They sit there, enticing and inviting, because the Hand of Heaven caused the sun to shine and the rain to fall and the crops to grow.

Common grace parades before us with each changing season as well. The frost of fall gives way to the glistening snow of winter, which will yield to a thousand shades of green in spring, which will fan out into the long, warm rays of summer. We grow weary near the end of each season, tired of the familiar, ready for something new. So we anticipate the next season, never doubting that it will arrive with the usual beauty, splash, charm and change.

You need only look out a window to appreciate common grace in the creatures. Take the black-capped chickadee with his round body, black cap and white cheeks. He is no bigger than a plum and weighs about the same as four pennies. A plum would freeze solid within minutes when the temperature dips to zero. Not the chickadee. He was designed with thousands of downy appendages called afterfeathers. These afterfeathers, tucked beneath his outerfeathers, form myriads of air pockets that trap warm, dry air, protecting him from the bitter cold and keeping him quite alive. Common grace is even in the details.

In the creative realm, common grace can be enjoyed in the painter’s masterpiece, a garden bouquet, the strands of Bach and Vivaldi, or the voice of Adele. It can be seen in the beauty of a spectacular football interception or a child’s dance recital.

The Psalmist said, “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” God’s common grace showers everyone, just as the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

We experience the goodness of common grace every time we pass through the doors of a doctor’s office or a hospital. God’s gift of intellect to every man, some of whom have unlocked the mysteries of physics, science and medicine, is a blessing to us all.

We reap the benefits of common grace in the intellectual realm every time we throw in a load of laundry, send a text, flip on a light switch, pick up a prescription, read a newspaper online, run hot water in the kitchen sink, start a car, buy gasoline, swipe a credit card, Skype with family far away, use GPS and step on a plane.

Why such magnificent, marvelous, wonderful goodness across the board?

Perhaps so that we might take a moment to humbly bow and simply say thanks.

All I really need to know, I learned in the Drumstick Dash

The Drumstick Dash is a 5K Thanksgiving morning run/walk in which thousands of slightly deranged people brave the bitter cold and nearly freeze to death thereby demonstrating solidarity with the Pilgrims. All I really needed to know, I learned in the Drumstick Dash:

Running turkeyPeople are more jovial when their heads are stuffed into plush turkey cavities, with artificial wings flapping beside their ears and two large furry drumsticks jutting into the air.

If everyone else wore artificial turkeys on their heads, you might want to, too.

People drag themselves from bed, then force their sleepy bodies into the freezing cold to run and walk on Thanksgiving morning so that they can stuff themselves guilt free the rest of the day.

If you miscalculate as to where you place yourself in a crowd of runners and walkers, you may wind up running with a fast crowd.

The euphoria of mistakenly being caught up in a fast crowd—people who wear tank tops in 32-degree weather, do not huff and puff when they run as though their lungs are on fire and pad softly instead of thunder with their feet—can lead to serious delusions.

Never believe that you can run an entire 5K when you have not adequately trained for a 5K.

Once you start running with a fast crowd, it is nearly impossible to get out of a fast crowd.

If you attempt slow your pace in a fast crowd, others, maybe even your 20-something daughter who has never felt a quake or pain in her youthful body, may yell embarrassing things at you like, “Don’t slow down. Look behind you! If you slow down now, you will be killed. Keep running!”

When you run with a fast crowd, there is the real possibility that you will become the filling in a very flat Thanksgiving Day Panini with Nike-tread imprint.

If you again attempt to slow your pace and separate from a fast crowd, the same beloved daughter may yell, “RUN, FORREST, RUN!”

You can always get even with your children later.

If you face the prospect of expiring on Thanksgiving, steel yourself to do it after the stuffing, mashed potatoes, hot rolls and pumpkin pie, not before.

It is humiliating to approach the finish line and nearly be passed by a 7-year-old.

You can easily distract a 7-year-old at holiday time by yelling, “Look, over there – it’s Santa handing out candy!”

Two hours after completing a 5K you did not adequately train for, every muscle in your body will contract so severely that you will not be able to do “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” You may be able to do the head and shoulders part, in which case you can dull the pain by lifting your fork to your mouth.

Don’t let the War on Christmas (which is starting early this year) get you down. Plan ahead!

Speak now, regret it forever

Nearly 25 years ago, Mike Royko wrote a sharp-edged column on the first roster of banned words, a list of potentially offensive words issued by a panel from my alma mater, the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

The original list included barracuda, airhead, burly, buxom, dear, dingbat, Eskimo kiss, Dutch treat, fried chicken, gorgeous, gyp, housewife, illegal alien, lazy, jock, john, pert, petite, senior citizen, shiftless, sweetie, ugh, watermelon and a short list of ethnic and racial slurs no civilized person would use.

Since that time, the list of insensitive words has grown exponentially. The word police were in Seattle recently ordering the words “illegal” and “brown bag” stricken from city documents. The word “illegal” could make illegals feel uncomfortable. And apparently there was once something called the brown bag test in which a brown paper bag was placed against a black person’s skin. If skin color was as light or lighter than the bag, the person was deemed socially acceptable. This “test” was used primarily by black social institutions more than 100 years ago, but nevertheless.

In some circles, penmanship is being changed to handwriting, freshman to first-year-student and watchman to security guard. The word bum is out as is criminal, Founding Fathers, psycho, factory and, of course, Christmas. Oh yes, please add terrorist, jihad and Islam.

We are not merely a softer, gentler, more sensitive people; we have become borderline crazy people. (By the way, crazy is on the list, too.)

Royko would shred each addendum to the list with his bare teeth were he alive today. So much sensitivity, so little sensibility.

At the Air Force Academy, cadets may now opt out of saying “so help me God” when they take the oath. Just curious, when you’re pinned down by enemy fire who else are you going to ask for help? It is doubtful Joe Biden’s wife will be bringing the family shotgun.

Not to be left out, Hallmark has released a tacky Christmas sweater ornament with the words, “Don we now our FUN apparel.”

In the spirit of thin skin and heightened sensitivity everywhere, I’d like to add a few of my own to the list: Twerk: Offensive. Lose the word and maybe I can lose the awful video clip in my mind. OMG: Whether initials or said in full, it is patently offensive, each and every time. Baby Momma: A slur to both the role of motherhood and fatherhood. Ho: Degrading. Acceptable only as a tool used to weed the garden or when said in rapid succession by Santa.

Now then, once we couple all your sensitivities with all my sensitivities, it should be no time at all before we omit words entirely and communicate strictly by hand gestures.

Until then, I will remain a proud member of the human race, respectful toward my fellow man, a petite woman with lousy penmanship, a party gal who sings about donning gay apparel in December and is married to a man on the verge of becoming a senior citizen, a man who often calls me Sweetie and sometimes takes his lunch in a brown paper bag. So help me God.