I am not one to toss around the words “favorite” or “best” lightly or often, so when I say that W. Bruce Cameron’s novel Emory’s Gift is my favorite novel, I mean it quite sincerely.
It is TRULY the best novel I have ever read. Never before have I laughed out loud reading a book, turned away from others lest they see my tears, or just cried boldly on a plane because I no longer cared if anyone saw my tears. I have read lines to strangers who had no idea what I was trying to express because they lacked the context, but I didn’t really care, because I just couldn’t keep that line or paragraph to myself. Cameron’s writing style and insight into the mind of a young boy is truly amazing, insightful, and downright hysterical at times.
Truly, I am Charlie Hall, the main character – a middle schooler, around whom the book revolves. And I miss him now like I lost a childhood friend I’ll never get to see again. So real did the author make him, and so vivid did he paint his memories, his experiences, his deep loves, such as Kate, a teacher he was convinced returned his love. (What boy hasn’t fallen head over heels for a teacher and pretended in his mind that it was mutual, even while he knew he was only kidding himself?) But eventually he found “true love” in Beth, a girl much closer to his age, who both befuddled and enchanted him with her spunk and charm.
Indeed, Cameron has written one of those rare novels where the greatest agony is not that the bear aspect of the story may or not be true, but rather the agony that Charlie Hall isn’t real. In the end, he hints at a conclusion the reader is perhaps to come to without directly telling it to him. It’s genius. I’ve never read a novel twice, but I will put this away only long enough to forget the details so that I can relive it. It might take several years, though, since I remember it as though I lived it. But when the time comes, I will journey with Charlie Hall again down memory lane.
Charlie is a boy who lost his mother to cancer and lives in a home with a nearly silent father who, while not a bad father, is withdrawn and dealing with his own grief while leaving Charlie to cope in his own way. An encounter with a wild grizzly bear in the woods that ends up becoming his best friend becomes central to the story – especially when the bear turns out to be perhaps more than just any bear. But I don’t want to include any spoilers, so I’ll leave the mystery of “Emory’s Gift” to those who are lucky enough to pick up a copy of the book.
Part of my connection to the book is that, like Charlie, I also lost my mother to cancer in 1996. It was also slow and painful. While I was a young adult at the time, my much younger brother was Charlie’s age, and he was still at home with an agonizing father. I saw a lot of my dad and brother in this story and in their journey toward moving on without the most loving mother this world has ever known. I am giving a copy of the book to my brother, an MLB reporter and writer who I think will greatly appreciate Cameron’s gift for storytelling. I believe it might bring some healing to his heart regarding the loss of his mom at that tender age and perhaps help him understand his dad a little better, who is now remarried and happy again. This book helped me heal some too.
I may have read somewhere that this is a book for children; however, I certainly would not recommend it for kids.* I do recommend it for the child in each of us, especially for grown men who remember the struggles of transitioning from childhood to manhood and the awkward inner (and literal!) battles they caused. Charlie’s former best friend Dan becomes a bit of an ‘enemy,’ even culminating in a classic school fight that is described both with heart and humor. It is certain to bring back many memories for men who faced the same coming of age battles in their younger years.
But it was the story of the bear that drew me to the book initially, for I encountered a bear at the age of ten, as well.
My First Yosemite Black Bear as an Adult, 2008
I was camping in Yosemite National Park at the time. I love to sleep outside, and since my nylon sleeping bag kept slipping off the plastic folding cot in the night and I’d awake in the dirt, one night my dad devised a plan to bungee cord my sleeping bag to the cot. I awoke in the middle of the night to gentle nudging in my side. Thinking someone was trying to awaken me, I peeked and discovered a large black bear sniffing me! Terrified, I only stared at my “Emory,” wondering if I was a midnight snack. Unable to speak or move, I just froze and watched (and felt) as he continued to sniff me, gently nudging into me. I remembered Forest Ranger Nina (my Kate of the week) telling us that bears never attacked campers, but that they had mauled people just trying to get food. With that thought came the realization that I had some jolly ranchers in my pocket.
The bear’s nose went under my cot, and as its massive head vanished, so did my hope of survival. I figured my final memory would be the shadow of its body without the head, when suddenly the bear lurched up, flipping my cot. At that point I figured it was “flip and slash” so I broke my silence and screamed like a girl. No offense to girls, I mean it actually as a compliment! (Did I mention I was bungee corded to the cot?) As I landed face down in the dirt, the cot on my back, my dad came out of the Winnebago Camper to save some screaming girl and saw the bear lumbering back into the woods, jolly-rancher-less, and discovered the screaming girl was actually his ten-year-old son.
Like a grown Charlie Hall, I have become a bear hunter in Yosemite ever since. You can read of my first bear discovery here: A Prayer BEARly Answered (Bear pictured above.)
The Black Bear I spotted last year, 2011
There are only 400 bears in Yosemite and over 5 million visitors annually, and every year God has blessed me with a bear sighting and the opportunity to photograph them. I have a series of photos now. I wonder, like grown Charlie Hall, if one of them is “my bear.” Of course, thirty years later, they can’t be…but its fun to wonder.
The Black Bear I spotted in 2010
So you can imagine the special connection I had to Charlie Hall reading Cameron’s novel.
Yosemite Black Bear from 2009
I hope Emory’s Gift causes many to pause and consider ‘mystery’ (for the book allows for mystery) and that the message that the book delivers (that I’m keeping from you to not spoil it) will open hearts to God. For parents, I hope that it will help them to connect better with their kids in difficult times, and for others, that it will encourage them to seize life and not allow hurt and pain to hold them back from enjoying what is next in life, to not let their Beth get away, because there may not be a second chance for everyone. (slight spoiler, but it ends well!)
WANT A FREE COPY?
The author mailed me a stack of hard cover copies to sponsor my podcast where I talk about the book, and I’ll be giving several copies away there, but I’ll give away a THREE FREE COPIES here on my blog as well! All you have to do is COMMENT ON THIS REVIEW and tell me a story about YOU and an ANIMAL. I will choose three people at random and contact you for your address!
It doesn’t have to be as dangerous or exciting as mine – you fed your cat this morning is fine! Just tell me a true animal story and you will be entered to win!
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you pick up a copy of Emory’s Gift as a gift for someone you love, especially men, for birthdays, Christmas and this upcoming Father’s Day! They will thoroughly enjoy it!
*Why don’t I recommend the book for children? While I found nothing offensive in the book at all, as an adult, it is a book that reflects on life as a young boy becoming a man. Therefore, there are a few references to girls and women in that context from the perspective of a grown man reflecting back on his discovery of girls, their development, the beauty of women, and relating to both. There is one mild reference to sex that while a child might miss it, is there nonetheless. It is a reference to his dad having sex with a woman that he didn’t figure out until ‘years later’ but the reader puts it together because the reader is assumed to also now be older than Charlie and also reflecting on the situation. (The whispering and giggling in the other room when the women spends the night. They eventually marry.) I’m curious how a child reading a few of these passages would process them, being in the middle of those life changes and discoveries. It was delightful and fun, never really offensive, but read like a book for adults reminiscing over those difficult years of discovery.
Wondering how to deleting all photos and videos from your iPhone?
In Summary: If you’re running low on space, use this technique to clean out your iPhone quick
If you are like me (and I know I am!) I am shooting pics and video on my iPhone daily. People are often shocked when they spot that I have 4000+ photos on my iPhone in the Camera Roll, not counting the ones in albums.
The other day I was at Walt Disney World shooting family memories like I normally do, when my iPhone suddenly alerted me to the fact that I was out of space. I was shocked considering that I have the iPhone 4S with 32GB of space! So that I could finish recording what I wanted, I did some emergency deleting of large apps I hardly use, (the iPhone kindly gives you a quick button the place to remove files and apps to get space fast).
I know the culprit of my space problem is photos and videos. Nearly half my space is taken up with all these pictures and videos! The problem is, when you import pics/vids to your iPhoto, while it gives you the opportunity after import to “keep or delete” if you opt to keep them (as I do) you are then stuck with them. I’ve tried going back and deleting bad or unwanted pictures, but what to do NOW that I have over 4000 pictures? That would take a VERY LONG TIME!
I have found the solution!
If you’re not familiar with the process (I wasn’t), you use the application Image Capture on your Mac. The nice thing about this process is that it uses a program that ships on your Mac from the start–in other words, FREE!
Here’s what you do:
Plug your iPhone into your computer
Open Image Capture
Created a new folder for the photos to go into
Check the box “Delete after import”
Click “Import All”
You will have a copy on your harddrive of ALL your pics/vids and your iPhone will be empty. You can then import that folder into iPhoto to make sure you aren’t missing any (checking “ignore any duplicates”) and then burn that folder to a CD for a backup and then delete it. (They are all in iPhoto after all!)
It’s good to have a fresh start after all.
If there are pics you want to have on your iPhone, simply put them in albums and sync those albums on your iPhone, and you’ll have them with you. No need to carry all of them with you all the time.
I plan to do this again about every six months now.
This is part of a series called 24 Days of Thankfulness. These posts are in RANDOM order, NOT priority order. Each is something I am thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving.
DAY #4: Photography
I am thankful for the gift of photography. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I love worshiping through my lens and post pictures all the time on this site. (often wallpapers and videos) I can’t imagine a world where we could not capture life and memories to look at later. Imagine all that we would forget if we didn’t have pictures to look to bring back the buried memories?
I am so thankful that we can now carry camera on our phones (even video cameras!) so that in a mere moment we can capture memories, beauty and fun moments to treasure for the rest of our life and then pass down to our family’s future generations. While it can be a lot to manage – it is a treasure.
If you are not on a Mac, it’s a lot harder to manage all your pictures!
If you are on a Mac and iPhoto is getting a little overstuffed with photos, did you know you can have multiple libraries? This is often not known! And it makes organizing your pictures even easier, as you can have separate libraries for different categories of life, and albums within those libraries and switch between them to keep it manageable.
On older OS, you just hold down ‘option’ while clicking iPhoto until it stops bouncing, let go of option, and then click iPhoto icon again, a pop up will appear asking you if you want to create a new library, or asking you which library you want to open. Yes, you can have libraries on external drives. Once you have multiple libraries, Lion will even allow you to switch between libraries.
Why would you want multiple libraries? For example, when I go to Yosemite, I might have over 5000 pictures from 8 guys! I don’t want my own iPhoto clogged up with all those pics, so I make a library named iPhoto Yosemite Summit 2011 and it is just those pictures, and have one each trip, and another for all the years combined. (There is an app for combining libraries too! But I don’t want to get too detailed here.)
Just wanted to pass on something practical in this post!
It’s really just something I need to DO MYSELF – but I thought maybe others might want to join me, and I’d enjoy reading/seeing what others are thankful for. So you are welcome to use the Word doc, or just post in the forum what YOU are thankful for! So let me begin today, with my first post. These are NOT going to be in priority order, otherwise I’d have to go God, Family, etc. and then later on, people might judge me for putting one thing “above” or “before” another – so right out of the gate let me say, these posts will be in RANDOM ORDER of things I am THANKFUL FOR!
Mommy is off on a women’s retreat, so daddy and boy can either stay home and watch TV and eat whatever food we can find, or…. head out on an ADVENTURE.
We chose the latter, and headed out to Castlewood Canyon State Park!
We had a great time, and without mommy, of course, we were free to roam “off the trail” a little more than usual. (hehe)
And boy oh boy does this boy love to climb! Of course, I have a knack for taking pictures that look a lot higher than they really are!
Both of these above, Luke is about five feet off the ground. (LOL)
I would never let Luke climb up anywhere high!
I get such a kick out of him stopping every now, turning around and saying, “Take my picture daddy!” I can’t imagine where he got that!
At one point, Luke decided to show me how strong he was! I was pretty impressed! He was going to roll it all the way the down the hill, but I made him put the rock back where he found it.
But what is a hike without bringing some cars to play with? Hiking with Luke is unique, it involves stopping every so often to play with cars, especially if a great spot is discovered…
For example, this was a cool “car cave” we found!
This was my favorite picture of the day – if you click it to enlarge it, you’ll see he is splashing water. (It’s my Macbook Air wallpaper now!) We found this mini pool on the top of a ridge overlooking a beautiful vista and spend quite a while there just hanging out, playing cars and relaxing.
Since we didn’t have mommy, we missed out on her usual great picture taking, so there are no pics of daddy, so I had to get creative – and settle for one of my shadow pictures!
It was a great day! Next was ice cream and then off to pick out a pumpkin and carve it, but that’s tomorrow’s blog post!
For Luke’s Fall Break, we came up to Breckenridge and on Monday we headed out for what we thought would be a 2-4 hour tour of the area to see the changing leaves… it turned into a twelve hour tour of Colorado! But we had a great time!
It was great having a convertible at a time like this!
We had driven past this scene and a mile past I ended up doing a U-Turn to go back and took about twenty amazing amazing pictures here…
It ended up being one of the most beautiful stops of the entire day…
The horses kept posing for me in different arrangements!
But Luke’s favorite was when we spotted a UFO back in the hills that had just landed! We got a picture and then got out of there before they abducted us!
Here is a close up zoomed in:
That had to be the highlight of Luke’s day! For me, it was just being out with the family, cruzin’ with the top down in the PK Cruiser:
Later, Sara said her favorite stop was by this old tractor and wooden barn, and I must say, I did enjoy photographing my favorite subject here:
And he was a great sport as daddy made him pose this way and that… but then, he was getting to climb all over a tractor, so it was a pretty cool deal for both of us!
Even peeking into a mysterious old shed has it’s appeal! (I found my way in, but didn’t tell him, there were too many ways to get hurt… but it was cool!)
I dread the day the cooperation with the camera will cease… but right now he puts up with it, knowing it is our love that drives the click, click, click. Perhaps there is a little vanity in him that enjoys looking at the pictures later? I’ll take it! I want to remember these days.
The barrel was filled with spools of old string. Letting him keep one was the deal that got him to climb in for a picture, though later I realized he probably would have climbed in anyway… it was kinda fun!
Even Sara agreed to pose for a few pictures for me!
Now there’s a facebook profile pic!
I thought it funny that we both got pictures of ourselves in the car mirrors:
That’s the road up the Continental Divide she is taking… which I took up at the top:
and then from the other side of the Divide as well, looking the other way:
It turned out to be a pretty crazy day, though fun. We chose a route on the Lodge “Activity Guide” and charted it out on the map, thinking it was perhaps a 3-4 hour drive and it turned out to be a nearly TWELVE HOUR drive! We went over the Continental Divide a total of FOUR times by the end of the day. We were laughing that they would give guests a “leaf viewing tour” that was a 400 mile tour of Colorado and not tell them it takes 10-12 hours. We only stopped for one meal and one store and to take pictures a few times, so it wasn’t like we lengthened the trip by much. We were just glad we had left around 10a.m. and not after lunch!
Of course, as the driver, I was getting most of the blame from my weary passengers, but I kept blaming the piece of paper we were following. But in the end, we mostly laughed it off and just enjoyed the day together.
I did end up deciding there were some lessons from the day, and you can hear all about that in my Kidmin Talk Podcast #3 which I recorded earlier today. There were really quite a few fun applications to the Adventures of the day to ministry, but I won’t go into that here, it’s best told on the podcast already.
But it was a great day with the family! Fall is definitely here – and God did a spectacular job showing off His creative abilities with splendor. He didn’t have to make the changing seasons beautiful you know. He could have just been practical. But He chose to do it with class and color and have a little fun with it, just for our enjoyment. The same opportunity is given to us. Why be practical all the time? When you can, do things with class and splash a little color and fun into life too. Not because you have to, but just because you can. That’s how God operates. And guess what? You were created in His Image! So stop being so practical and waste some time and be creative and unpractical for a change!
Do something beautiful and unnecessary, before you forget how.
That will make God’s day – just like He made mine this week.
As I already blogged, Friday I went on an all day hike with a friend in the mountains near Idaho Springs to see three beautiful lakes in preparation for the Men’s Advance for my church. (Note, “Advance” – real men don’t retreat) That was sorta my “pre-retreat,” er, Advance – for what God had in store for me this past weekend. It was a good time. It was a weekend spent with God.
The aspens were simply amazing and it was like God painted the entire place a masterpiece for us.
Everywhere I went, it was like God was there with me. Last year, when I went, it was wet and raining and depressing and I didn’t know anyone (it was literally my first week at the church) – and no one talked to me hardly, and while I went with a friend (thanks buddy) it just wasn’t the same. This year the weather was beautiful.
I found an empty outdoor auditorium. Pretty symbolic of my life right now. I miss being a pastor. While I know Kidology.org impacts and helps a lot of people, I spend the bulk of my time in front of a computer. Not as fulfilling compared to when I was in front of kids every Sunday. I have this idea of what I’d like to being doing and how I’d like to be serving God, but I have to release that and trust that God has a plan, and right now it is to do what I am doing now, and be where I am now, and simply wait to see what He has in store for me, on His schedule, not mine. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I love serving those I serve, but I miss shepherding a group of children that I know by name every Sunday. And I long for the day when I will have that again. All in His time.
This weekend there were some things I needed to let go of. Plans, ideas, needs, hopes… things I’ve been clinging to… and just trust God’s timing and plans for me. It’s not like I didn’t already know all this – pastor’s know a lot of things in their heads… but it can take the heart awhile to catch up.
I am learning so much about resting and walking and being instead of doing and achieving and producing. God has been completely re-wiring me over the past several years. Moving to Colorado has been a huge part of this process. But I’m a slow learner. Am I alone in this struggle?
I have to constantly remind myself, even as I tell others… to be content. To focus on the blessings, the positive, the good things, the many ways that I am making a difference… even though I am not currently a children’s pastor… that that is not my identity… I know it in my head… but my heart needs reminders sometimes.
So I walked with God and released a lot of things that I have been longing for and wanting and hoping for and wishing for… and He gave me a spirit of contentment that just overwhelmed me.
I gave up trying to figure some things out. And a peace overcame me. It was incredible. I stood on the side of a very high hill that I had climbed without a path to get me there…
And I sang “I surrender all.” (Plus a bunch of my favorite Newsboys songs!) Later that night, after the “hot tub baptism service” was over (which I thought was a little goofy, God bless ‘em anyway) I decided it wasn’t so goofy after all. I changed into my suit and went down to the hot tub and baptized myself, which is even goofier – since there was no one there to witness it! But since I was a pastor, I figured I could do it myself, I know what to say and all. And I just went in by myself, rededicated myself to the Lord, and dunked myself with no witnesses other than God Himself, and then floated for awhile listening to the men singing in chapel nearby. It was pretty powerful actually. Until some teenagers from a separate group came by and thought there was a dead man in the hot tub and freaked out. That brought my spiritual bliss to a pretty humorous ending. God does have a sense of humor! So I got out, went and got dry, and no one knew about my self-baptism until now. Now you know!
May God continue to use this goofy servant of His and I continue to seek his blessing and serve Him with contentment wherever He has me and whatever He has me doing for His glory.
Friday, I ditched work (something that’s a little easier to do when yer da boss!) and headed out to the mountains for a day hike with a friend to check out a hike to three lakes up in the mountains east of Idaho Springs. And it turned out to be a beautiful way to spend the day. Dinner on Friday was the beginning of our church’s “Men’s Advance” (real men don’t ‘retreat’) in Fraser, CO, so I decided to spend the day hiking to get into the right frame of mind to the men’s retreat… ooops, advance.
It was a beautiful day and the aspens were in full yellow changing!
The first lake, Chinns, had an old cabin on it that we had lunch in it. It was pretty awesome wondering the history of this settlement.
The next lake, Sherman, was less exciting, but it did have a cool tree out in it that we posed for some pictures out on.
Another view of Chinns Lake from up above on our way to Slater Lake.
Here is Craig Wilson checking out Slater Lake, and as you can see, there was snow still on the hillside belong the lake… where we would soon be heading…
Can you find Craig up on the hill? (on the snow?)
The view back down to Slater Lake from the top of the snow pack! See all the mountains in the distance? They were as far as the eye could see! (And we never saw another hiker the entire time we were there.)
I “skied” down the snow on my rear end! (and pretty fast too!) Until I hit the rocks! Craig caught a pic when I hit the rocks at the bottom:
Everyone worships God differently. The Bible says those who don’t worship God, arefools. (Creation indeed leaves them without excuse.) But how they worship God, varies based on personality and interests. Some sing. Some paint. Some build. Some create. Some meditate. Some think. Some write. Some serve.
While I find many means of worship enjoyable and meaningful, one that I find most pleasing and satisfying I call “worshiping through my lens.” It is simply enjoying and attempting to capture God’s Creation through the lens of my camera, and then taking some time to edit with iPhoto.
I enjoy the compliments I get and people are often surprised I’m not a “Photoshop” expert and do everything I do to my photos with only iPhoto. So I thought this time, instead of just posting photos from my Father’s Day outing to the Denver Botanic Gardens (where we have a membership) I’d go ahead and give you my “before and after” pics to show you the difference between the pics I took and the way they look after I had some fun on the computer with them.
NOTE: All pics can be clicked to be viewed larger.
White Daisies (BEFORE)
White Daisies (AFTER) See the bug?
Hungry Bee (BEFORE)
Hungry Bee (AFTER)
Lonely Flower (BEFORE)
Lonely Flower (AFTER)
Red Rose (BEFORE)
Red Rose (AFTER)
Purple Fields (BEFORE)
Purple Fields (AFTER)
Busy Ants (BEFORE)
Busy Ants (AFTER)
Fire Flower (BEFORE)
Fire Flower (AFTER)
Waves of Grain (BEFORE)
Waves of Grain (AFTER)
And then, of course, I shoot pictures of my favorite subjects: (no ‘before’ on these)
I often do this… it is relaxing and my own personal form of worship to sit and edit photos of nature on my Mac. I don’t post them often, because I don’t assume they would make for a very interesting blog if I did it often. At times I think I should start a photo-blog, but then that would be another website to maintain andIhaveenoughwebsitesalready!
So this year, we asked Luke what he would like to do, and he chose The Denver Zoo! It ended up being a treat because his next store neighbor friend was able to come along for the fun!
Up close and personal with a lion!
I got up close to a cheetah... with a zoom lens anyway!
But Luke loves gorillas, so we had to head over the Primate Area!
Beware of Dangerous Primates on the loose!
I spotted two primates lurking right at the entrance to the area! They must have escaped from their cages! Oh No!
In case you are wondering what a “Primate” is… here are some sample:
First, some little primates…
Reminds me of a relative... not saying which!
And even littler ones..
Looks like an Ant Eater to me!
But finally, we got to the GORILLAS!
The Boys and the Gorillas
Luke admiring the Gorillas
Luke’s favorite non-domestic animal (he loves dogs) is Gorillas! He loves to play with them, had a t-shirt, discovered Gorilla snacks at the grocery store, and I’ve screened a few old-time King Kong YouTube videos for him! And of course, Casa Bonita here in Denver has a kid-friendly Gorilla he loves!
Luke even got within ONE FOOT of a Great Ape and lived to tell about it!
Hope that glass is thick!
But then came MY favorite part of the day… the Bears! (and I’m not referring to the lousy team from Chicago either.) I love bears! I am a Yosemite Bear Chaser, having been veryclose to them every year in Yosemite.
First, I spotted this beautiful Black Bear about to eat a tasty little twig and I wondered if he might be the same bear from my oft told joke about the “Christian Bear” (pastors all know the joke, so I won’t tell it here – if you don’t, ask in comments, and I’ll tell it there!) when what to my amazement…
The Famous Christian Bear!
He folded his massive paws, bowed his head and prayed! Why, this IS the famous Christian Bear!
Then, his buddy came out to join him, another massive black bear… don’t let the brown fur fool ya!
Here’s a good way to see just how BIG these guys are! Scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours!
Such amazing creatures! Though I much prefer to see them in the wild, it was fun to be able to see them up close and so active today!
I love bears! So I decided to see what the Bible has to say about bears…
Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly. Proverbs 17:12
It was a fun day – and of course, it’s so hard to believe we’ve had Luke for FIVE years! Time sure goes by FAST! That’s one of the reasons I started BeTheDadToday.com – to help ME and other dads make every day count as a dad. I’m actually recruiting a TEAM of dads to help me with the site, so the content on the Facebook Page and Twitter feed is going to be increasing.
I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.
~ Stephen R. Covey