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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Howard Books (June 2, 2009)
Charlene Ann Baumbich is an award-winning journalist, author of the Dearest Dorothy series of novels, author of the nonfiction titles The Book of DUH! and How To Eat Humble Pie and Not Get Indigestion, and a motivational speaker who makes frequent media appearances across the country.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (June 2, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
It’s Better Than You Think
By Charlene Ann Baumbich
CHAPTER ONE – REMEMBER WHEN?
What We Already Know
MEMORY PORTFOLIO (MP): Your invisible, utterly personal, wholly
accessible, always readied for new entries, combination diary and scrapbook of
sensory loaded captured moments. Properly honored, added to, mined, evaluated,
sifted and sometimes even edited, gentle examination of said captured moments
can become the key—the very path—to your success in not missing your life.
When I was a child, I loved playing spaceship and building worm forts with the
Cook brothers. They lived just up the path through the weeds—the path we’d
created by endlessly running through them. (Cook brothers, if you’re out there, please contact me! My maiden name was Brown.) We once left this earth (for real)
on an abandoned hot water heater rigged with a control panel made of half-melted
camera flash cubes and pieces of wood which we wired and taped to its side. Of
course this was back in the pre-Wii days when our only option was to engage in
real-life hands-on play, like sifting through the remnants of the garbage our folks
burned in a rusty barrel out back. Where else could we discover a once common
flash cube transformed by fire into a crystal launch button?
During our space explorations, I was always Flash Gordon1. I mean to tell
you I was Flash Gordon, neither a pretend Flash nor one of those froo-froo tight clothed girls in the old black-and-white television show of my youth. Nope, I was
Flash, who was also tight clothed, but not in “that" way. As for the worm forts,
they were exquisite—although I do not recommend putting a swimming pool in
your complex. Don’t ask me how I know.
Over time, I became a gypsy (inspired by the exotic Sophia Loren), Annie
Oakley2 (sharp shooter), Calamity Jane3 (rough and tumble), Crazy Googenheim (I
loved making my mother laugh while pretending to be that wonderful character
brought to life by Frank Fontaine on The Jackie Gleason Show) and Doris Day,
that quirky fanny-swinging dame of a movie star with whom men always fell in
love. A comparative cast for today’s youth—or, on a bad day at the office or with
the kids, perhaps you—might be made up of an actual astronaut (we didn’t yet
have them back in the fifties), Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore or, say, Jim Carrey. Although I wasn’t doing typical childhood writerly things like reading stacks
of books or writing, not even in a diary, I always had a story running in my head. I
was too busy “living” in another world, or paying attention to the fine, wondrous,
confounding and startling details of my own life to sit down and write about it. At
the time, little did I know that my natural childhood inclination to live in “otherly"
skin was setting the stage for my all-growed-up, as my Grandma used to say,
“accidental” fiction writing career. Never did I suspect that my youthful God-given
instinct to pay close attention to the physical and emotional nuances of my own
life, as well as the lives of those around me, was preparing me for one of the most
fulfilling and rewarding joys of my entire life: writing this book.
However, during an astute memory portfolio (MP) review, my writerly path and this burning message became as clear as a bell. When we give our MPs a chance to work for us, what obvious and meaningful threads we discover woven throughout them! Not only that, but what might the patterns of our frayed threads teach us—spare us from in the future—if we learned to recognize and heed their warning stitches? Turns out I am best fed, educated and ministered to by the magical, mystical power unleashed through stories, and hugely blessed by passing them along. I’m also often a complete doofus, a “qualification” God uses to make sure I don’t run out of fun and wholly relatable, so I’m told time and again, material. Thank you,God—I think. That is why I’m offering you this easy-going pluck-and-play opportunity to pluck what you want from this book of stories and play theirimplications and possibilities into your life as needed. Be advised that along with a full exploration of your MP, a strong Play! thread will weave its way throughout these pages. Doesn’t this approach add up to more fun than a scary “self-help” theme?
In the most relaxing, amusing, yet thought provoking ways possible, I want to remind you, (and me, too) of an incredible asset you’ve been given. I’m talking a mega asset that is so easy to forget. Ready? Here it is: your one and only,
true-self—not someone else’s version/vision—God-breathed life. I don’t know how we can forget such an easy-to-remember asset, but we do. So, if you feel like you’ve lost your way, or like you might need an emotional laxative for your fun-impaired, spiritually-constipated, fear-laden self, this message is just the painless ticket (well, mostly) to help you get your life back to YOUR LIFE!
Then the Lord God formed man of
dust from the ground, and
breathed into his nostrils the
breath of life; and man became a
Genesis 2:7 NASB
‘Tis my quest to help you learn the lively and releasing arts of listening to,
mining, and then sharing your own stories. Yes, even that story which you hoped
you’d never have to think about again, since maybe, just maybe, you can at long
last learn to laugh about it, or at least unknot the emotional ties that feed its lifenabbing virility.
If you explore your happiest childhood memories of times at play with your
friends, I believe you will discover they reveal the same keys that can infuse you
with satisfaction today. This is one of the best features of a MP, demonstrated by
the fact that when I say something like “explore your happiest childhood memories
. . . ,” you can. Your MP is already up and running and contains everything you
need. Although it might require an occasional reboot or memory tickler—and I’m
going to deliver tons of them—no new software is required. Just dive in! In fact, do
it right now! Shine a light around in the alcoves of your childhood when you were
playing with your favorite playmates.
You are searching, remembering, rediscovering, reawakening . . .
What did you find? Did you spend the majority of your youthful play time
with your imaginary friend? Well that counts. If you thought, perhaps still think,
that imaginary friends are completely weird and unheard of in your land of play,
well that counts, too. After all, it is your brain, your life.
But the universal truth is this: whether our true friends were born of our
imaginations or our childhoods, or we cultivated them as adults, they can serve as
mirrors and stabilizers, partners and butt-kickers, examples and lessons in our
lives. Those voices from the past, trusted friends in the present, and conversations
regarding our futures can often guide us back to our personal north-star course
which we might have long ago lost in the shuffle. Please consider me one of your
new friends, for that is the spirit I bring to this book.
Are you unhappy in your current vocation? Perhaps something as easy as
perusing your MP and pondering your natural gifts, attributes and leanings can
point you toward a new, more satisfying career, or at least flush out a fresh,
rejuvenating and fulfilling avocation or hobby. Later, I’m going to help you
examine the “way" you used to play before someone encouraged you to start
“applying" yourself, which often implied you should knuckle down and leave your
natural-bent “fun and frivolous"—HA!—inclinations behind. Your MP is a great
place to search for the gifts you’ve lost or set aside, to lift them to the light and
What if you don’t even know if you have any gifts? Suggestion: Listen,
mouth zipped, to the way your friends, both old and new, can lay out your
strengths. If you don’t believe me, ask them. It’s time you shore up and reclaim
your uniqueness, if, somewhere along the line, you handed it over to the blandness of other people’s expectations for you. It’s time to reignite the Godgiven hope you already harbor within.
Hope is perhaps the first key that can enable you to wake up, then open up, to your life. Without hope, we are left only with despair. As I heard—and forever remembered—Marilla Cuthbert say to Anne Shirley in the 1985 made-for-TV adaption of Anne of Green Gables, “To despair is to turn your back on God.” Now who’s gutsy enough to do
that?! Not I!
Maybe you derailed (hey, you picked up this book, so something must have
happened!) when you began assuming your life is worse than its actuality. Our
assumptions can get us into whole heaps of trouble, not to mention waste big
blocks of our valuable time here on this earth. How often have you stood in the line
you assumed to be the correct line, only to learn upon finally arriving at the clerk
that you’ve wasted your time in the wrong line? How many times have you
assumed something about your spouse, say that she’d like a can opener for her
birthday, or that he’d welcome a subscription to Communicating 101 as a good
change of pace, only to learn you were wrong—by a gazillion miles? And not only
that, you’re now in deep doo-doo, buck-o or buckette. How often do you set a
course for your career, project or parenting skills based on assumptions that one of
those well-known and respected gurus, including the ones on television, is actually
correct about your individual situation? And surely they wouldn’t let people have
their own TV shows if they didn’t know what they were talking about! Would they?
Never mind that he or she knows none of the details about your personal life. So
you follow their advice to the letter, only to receive a gut-punch to your psyche
when your leap of assumption dumps you and your loved ones down the proverbial
But even if my examples of errant assumptions did feel like personal
excerpts out of your past year (doink!), be of good cheer since you, you smart
smart person, are reading this book. I’m going to deliver handles and stories that
can help you learn the vital art of questioning your assumptions.
[MOMENT OF TRUTH: You’re on your own with those store lines.] Together, we will tame a few shrewish thoughts and ignite more noble ones. And if that’s not already a deal for the price, I’m even going to help you question your questions! For instance, in your valiant attempts to find out why your life’s trolley has slipped off its happy track, perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Why can’t I be more like [fill in the blank]?”
BZZZZZZZZZZ! Wrong question! God and I are here to meet you exactly
where, how and who you are, which reminds me of a story logged in my MP that
well illustrates my point. See how this is going to work?
I love to attend stockcar races held on half-mile dirt tracks. My favorite part? The
glorious crescendo of rumbling thunder that comes rippin’ ‘round turn four when
the drivers see the track lights turn green. Previous to that moment, perhaps
they’ve had to circle the track once or twice, arranging and rearranging themselves
until they jostle into the track official’s liking, but then . . . GO! As opposed to the
“cleanliness” of NASCAR races, I adore the remarkable demonstration of energy
when, depending on track conditions, either dust or mud kicks out from behind the
tires as the metal-to-metal mass—or perhaps only two cars that have broken away
from the pack—makes its way past the roar of the crazed crowd. Heart pounding, I
sit in awe of each driver who dives into the turns (Man, I wish I was him!),
exploding the back end of his or her car into a wider skidding arc than that of the
curb hugging front end. Centrifugal poetry set to motion by wild childs! Oh, baby!
Although I feel badly for those who, on their own accord, spin out, I also secretly
revel in their courage, since it means they held nothing back. Full bore. Head on.
Havin’ at it! No put-puttin’for them! Isn’t that the way you want to go through life?
Years ago, the grand finale race at a track not too far from us held a “Run
What You Brung" event. (No doubt insurance eventually shut it down.) In other
words, if you’re revved up from watching the night’s action (Let me at it!) and
want to give it a whirl yourself, go ahead and line up your street car—the one you
drove to the races—for the “Run What You Brung." To be fair, you probably had
to prepare for this before the actual event since your car needed to be in the pits,
and there were no doubt indemnity waivers. But nonetheless, you “raced" your
street-drivin’ vehicle. [MOMENT OF TRUTH: Most nights for this event, the
word “race" was a gross exaggeration since gutsy racing appears easier than it is,
but buddy, by golly they were in it!]
So, too, all you need to begin this journey into not missing your life is to run
what you brung. You need no further preparation other than to show up, which
you’ve already done. If you’re happy and you know it, drive yer happy self right
on up to the starting line. If you’re lost and you show it, you, too, are on the right
track since you’re seeking a better way. So you see, you don’t need to be more like
somebody else; you just need to be whoever—and however—you are at this very
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him
sing praises. James 5:13. Notice that doesn’t say snap out of it, shut up or go away.
Kinda sounds like God’s “Run what ya brung!" permission slip to me. Amen!
When I first started coming to grips with the fact that I’d “accidentally" (more on
this later) become a professional speaker, a professional writer (Stand back!
Professional words at work here!), I couldn’t for the life of me believe it.
[MOMENT OF TRUTH: To this day, only God can truly explain how I got so
“lucky!"] For years, every stumbling step of the writerly/speakerly way, I kept
thinking, “When are they going to discover I don’t know what I’m doing? When
will someone finally check my report cards and learn I received average grades in
all things English? How is it that editors at publishing houses, newspapers and
magazines have chosen to publish my articles and books instead of many others
written by people who’ve spent their lives doing all the right things to become
published writers, like write-write-writing stories from the time they were little,
keeping a diary or journaling every day, attending journalism school . . . none
which are in my history? How is it that kind folks pay me to come speak at their
events when I have no degrees in anything? Other than a couple miscellaneous
writing classes, an unending passion to share what I’ve learned, and more guts than
brains, I have no certifiable qualifications to do what I do. Oh, and that “mostly
Irish" thing, which not only honors Story, but believes in Story’s innate power to
But when I examine my childhood adventures with my friends, the writing
(hahahaha) was on the wall. Or rather it was lurking in the gifts God gave to me—
none which I earned or deserved—along with an unignorable lure to play with
them. (Ah, we’re back to the pluck-and-play mantra of this book. Nice!) Of course
when I was a child, I had no inkling about “gifts," nor did anyone pressure me to
use them. Thank you Mom, Dad! I had no drive to find a career path; my mom was
so happy in her homemaker role that all I wanted was to one day get married and
have kids too, which is what I did. My parents weren’t channeling all their energies
into pushing me down the “fast track" so I could attend the “right" college. Thank
you and bless you, Mom and Dad. (Don’t get me started on the topic of parental
pressuring!) Aside from school, household chores, horses to feed and stalls to
shovel, I had no demands. I simply had time to play at whatever floated my boat,
whispered to my creative brain, delighted my unstressed heart. I had leisure time
(which overbooked kids do not have—okay, I started anyway, but I promise that
I’m done now—I hope!) to explore my natural bents using the crude “tools" of
childhood that would one day help hone my happiness and ability to fully live.
In that last paragraph, you likely noticed that I tried not to get started on something
that launches me up on a soapbox—and not in a good way. (If you didn’t notice,
wake up, people! Thankfully, the next chapter is about wakefulness, but at least
flutter your eyes to let me know you’re still with me—and yourself.) Sadly, I failed
at my attempt to stifle myself since only three sentences later, I started! Is that kind
of lack-of-self-disciplined failure familiar to you? At least this time, even though I
sorrily started, I was able to quickly stop myself. [MOMENT OF TRUTH: I’m
getting better at catching myself. Just not always.] The encouraging part for all
of us is this: as opposed to the negativity of my soapbox , I also possess, and later
will share, many positive, productive antidotes and inspirations on the topic of
overbooked anyone, especially ourselves.
As with all of us, we possess our good sides, as well as our shadowy
soapboxy-y [or fill-in-the-blank] sides. Again, here’s where our MPs usher forth
yet another great incentive to explore them: I don’t want to one day open mine and
discover that every page is filled with me ranting. I feel assured you don’t want
that type of overriding vibe in your MP either. But here’s one of the truly great
things about life: right this moment, God is with us. Because God is with us and
holds us close, we therefore each possess the power—God’s power—to make our
new MP entries more positive. Wonderful! I’d much rather remember, and be
remembered for, my helpful attributes than my negative, harmful or sarcastic ones,
So, even though we mess up, we’re here to run what we brung with the hope
that we can, and will, get better, especially if and when we let our MPs tutor us
while God holds our hands and hearts.
Summing it all up, friends [emphasis mine], I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and
meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the
worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what
you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes
everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Phillipians 4:8, 9 MES
We find what we look for, so let’s look for what’s right—including in ourselves.
How can we move forward in our lives if we’re using all of our energy pounding
ourselves and others downward?
Throughout these pages, I’m going to share many stories from my journey. They
will run the gambit between hysterical (both Ha-ha! and Oh, no!), pristine,
tormenting, profound, Duh! and beautiful. I have no doubt that within them, you
will connect with the good, bad and dubious shades of yourself. As you read,
pluck, and play along, you’ll be able to apply some order, meaning and a tad of
funk-tionality to your memory portfolio, and discover that your days are, or soon
can be, indeed better than you think.
God called his creation and everything in it—which includes us—good.
Even when we behave badly and fall short and say stupid stuff, we are loved by
God. Put that in your memory portfolio and bring it along. It will be the most
important thing you need to remember. But do yourself a favor: stop every few
pages and pray for your own stories, memories and joys to rise to the surface. Be
willing to put the book down when they do, close your eyes, and allow yourself to
sink into them. When you read about me second-thinking things or questioning an
assumption, you do the same. Sometimes those double-clutch discoveries are both
startling and illuminating. Perhaps they’ll even be life transforming.
In fact, let’s practice. Stop and pray right now. Pray that God illuminates
everything—all the lessons, options, goodness and choices—you need to extract,
then trust his grace to help you pray and play it into your life.
(You’re supposed to be praying!)