Josh’s New Book, on blurb.com

I’m really excited to be announcing the release of my first book! Yeah! My first book is called Josh’s Blog. Spirituality, Tech and Life Overseas and as the name suggests this book is a collection of blog posts and thoughts I wrote during my time overseas in Indonesia. It covers five years of blogging and is 158 pages long. Quite a monster!  It also showcases some of my photography and every entry includes a photo from the same month.

I’m happy to have a hard copy of my blog. It will be nice keepsake and record of my experiences while overseas.

For those that are curious and want to follow in my footsteps, I used Blurb to put my book together. It’s a pretty straightforward process. You download their software called BookSmart, import your blog into the software, and then edit and layout the book. The hardest and longest part for me was the last step, editing and layout. Their software took some getting used to. It’s not quite as easy to use as Shutterfly or Apple. It was kind of fussy at times. But once I got used to it it wasn’t that hard. When you’re done editing you upload the book to their website and place your order. The book took about for days to arrive and I’m very impressed with the results.

The last thing Blurb does for you (which was a little unexpected) is create an online book store for you. So I can promote and sell my book online if I want to. This is a nice additional feature that they offer, and if I was serious about selling my book or other books in the future I would make use of this. You can go online and preview or buy the book if you want, but for now I’m happy just having a copy of myself.

So I encourage all those bloggers out there to give Blurb a try. The results are pretty stunning. It’s fun to turn your thoughts into a book that can be easily shared with friends and family. It’s a fun way to invite people into your world.

I’m happy to have my first book in hand, a collection of blog posts and thoughts from my life while overseas.

A Million Scary Things in my Bathroom

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 (Here’s a poem I wrote today. It’s not entirely descriptive of our bathroom, but comes pretty close!)

 

A Million Scary Things in my Bathroom

Spiders behind my towel
Leeches on the floor
Lizards in the rafters
Termites in the door

Ant nest on the wall
Water that is brown
Critters on the rooftop
Mosquitoes all around

A million scary things
In my bathroom all day long
It’s okay, don’t worry
It’s only different, not wrong

Lack of water pressure
Cold water from the tap
Lack of toilet paper
Moldy towels on the rack

Soap is hard to find
Dirty diapers in a pot
Toilet on the floor
Hanging smelly mop

New things to adjust to
In a foreign land
Time will help you through it
Patience is in demand

Cobwebs in the corners
Towels hung by nails
dust on the bathtub
creepy crawly snails

Mirror hung from rafters
Two year old shampoo
Dishes on the floor
Temperature one-o-two

A millions scary things
Yes it’s true, trust me
How does one survive like that?
Attitude is key

While I know it’s pretty crazy
To accommodate so much
You get used to it eventually
Later you do adjust

At first it’s pretty shocking
You’re confused, and scared and mad
But to live without the excess
Well, it’s really not so bad

You start to see the value
In your gifts from God above
Most important is your family
And friends and faith and love

 

Childhood Memories, Neighborhood Games.

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One of the most vivid childhood memories that I have is what I’ll call ‘neighborhood games.’ This is actually not one single memory, but a collection of several memories I have about my neighborhood and the games we used to play.

I grew up in a small town, and like a lot of small towns there were plenty of kids nearby. Our house stood on the corner of a city block. We had streets on either side of our house and a larger than average yard to play on. When I was little one thing we liked to do was be creative with our bikes, wagons, and riding toys. We used to tie them all together in train fashion using bungee cords and ropes, and then circle the block in grand parade fashion. It was quite a site to see! We had quite a hodgepodge of ‘cars’ in our train and the trick, especially with the wagons, was to keep them in line. If one car got off center the cars behind would follow suite and before you knew it the whole party would end up in the grass. The challenge was also increased by an over-excited leader of the pack, usually riding a bike up front. Because we were tied together by bungee cords, each cord had to stretch before it could start pulling. But with all the weight, the cord would overstretch, be pulled too fast, and you’d hit the bike or tractor in front of you, causing all sorts of havoc. It’s pretty easy to peddle a bike all by yourself. It’s another matter completely when you have a whole line of vehicles behind you all attached by bungee cords! So we learned to start slow, let the tension between each cord spread itself out, and after several attempts we could finally make it around the block.

All you had to do was stare wide eyed at the approaching column of boxes and hang on for dear life!

Another vivid memory I have, also involving toy vehicles, was ‘demolition derby’. Basically, my brothers and I (or anybody else for that matter) would set up a whole bunch of cardboard boxes on the driveway. These would range from the big ones like washing machine boxes, to littler ones like microwaves and kitchen appliances. We’d stack them one on top of the other until a cardboard box tower was created. Then we’d pull out various ramming vehicles, anything from tricycles to full sized bikes, put on our little crash helmet (aka a football helmet), and take turns plowing into the boxes. The faster you crashed into the boxes, the farther they’d fly and the more destruction you’d create. However once you hit the boxes it was pretty hard to control where you were going and so inevitably you’d fall off as well. The trick was to hit the boxes hard AND stay on your ride. We tested this combination out with all the vehicles we could get our hands on. I think the most fun was with the red Radio Flyer wagon. The way this worked was someone else pushed you from behind (usually as fast as they could go) and all you had to do was stare wide eyed at the approaching column of boxes and hang on for dear life! Of course when you hit the boxes you’d loose your grip on the handle, the wheels would skew, the wagon would spill over, and we’d land on a pile of boxes. The red wagon was definitely the most fun for these reasons.

You could probably imagine the startled look on the driver’s face. . .

One other very vivid memory from my neighborhood was playing ‘cops and robbers’. This was a bigger kid game because it involved bicycles, high speed chases, and a larger playing field. We’d designate a 3×3 block radius, nine city blocks, to play on. Half of the kids were robbers, trying to hide, and other half were the cops, trying to catch them. I liked being the robbers the best. I always had some pretty good hiding places to sneak into. Once somebody was found we’d hop on our bike and a high speed bike chase would ensue. I remember a few times we had several close calls as we routinely darted out in front of cars. You could probably imagine the startled look on the driver’s face- two bikes, one after the other, darting out from behind some bush or alley. On top were two kids straining as hard as they could at the peddles, tongues hanging out the side of their mouths, completely oblivious to yard boundaries or the difference between roads and sidewalks! There was one other element to the game other than chase or be chased. Once a robber was caught he had to go to jail. This was designated as the area in front of someone’s front porch or a driveway. The robbers had to sit in the jail area until another robber tagged them back in. Then both robbers had to make a break for it, usually in hot pursuit by two or more cops, because if you’re a cop there’s nothing worse than seeing your prisoners get away. So the cops took turns guarding the jail. It wasn’t so bad at the jail because it gave you time to swap stories with the ‘inmates’ or discuss where so-and-so could be hiding.

I’m glad I have such fun memories from my childhood to treasure for a lifetime.

 

A Horse in My Backyard

One day I came home from work and discovered a horse tied to a tree in my backyard. “Holy Molly”, I said, “what is a horse DOING in my backyard? Who could’ve left their horse in my backyard?”

Living in a large metropolitan area, I realized my house was not an ideal place for a horse. My backyard is quite small. Really, it’s just a small grassy plot of land sandwiched between two fairly tall houses. Behind me stands a blank factory wall (not much to look at), and in front a road. The neighborhood isn’t much different, and for that matter, all of town is an unbroken concrete jungle. It’s the very definition of urban. There are shops, and malls, the business district, and all the typical trappings of a modern city. We do have a few parks, but they appear only as an after-thought; as if someone had to run ahead of the galloping bulldozer, spread out their arms, and push the sprawl to either side of the cramped swing sets.

My lot does, however, have a little patch of grass. Somehow I got the luck of the draw. Most people in the city get a single plot, but me, no sir, I got the plot-and-a-half. The ‘half’ indicates that there’s just enough grass to catch a few earthworms after it rains. But today I wasn’t catching earthworms. I seemed to have caught a horse!

Approaching the animal from the side gate I peered over to get a closer look. It was a brown horse, tall, and from the look of it pretty healthy. His muscles were strong and his skin taut over the big bungling legs. He had a broad back and a long silky mane. A single strip of white ran from his bulbous nostrils to the place right between the eyes- the only alteration of color.

Somebody loves this horse, I thought. That was the only way to explain his up-kept appearance. But why? Why would such a magnificent animal be tied to a tree in my backyard? And how do you even get a horse this far in the city anyway?

The answers I sought weren’t coming. Perhaps a closer inspection would reveal more. Lifting the lock on the gate I nudged the gate open and stepped into the backyard. The gate clicked shut quietly behind me. The horses ears perked and he turned toward me. I froze. I didn’t want to startle him. The horse turned his head toward me. The white stripe on his nose caught my attention and I followed it up to where our eyes met. There was kindness in his eyes. Almost familiarity- a gesturing look as if to say, “It’s okay. Come on.” There was no alarm as I took more steps towards him. A slight stammering of the feet. Was it impatience?

Finally I was right next to him. Again, I marveled what a beautiful beast he was. Somehow I got the words to speak, “Hey there big fella, how’re we doin’ today?” My new friend just snorted back at me. I reached out and touched his velvety skin. He turned his head toward me and I could see his big black eyes were measuring me as well. He seemed to be waiting. “This is impossible!” I thought. “What is a big horse like this doing in MY backyard?” Well, one thing was for sure- he certainly couldn’t stay. A horse like this belongs in the wild.

Just then I knew what to do. “I can’t let him stay here. He must be free.” Filled with sudden resolve, I began untying the rope from around the tree. All of a sudden the horse came alive. He started pawing the ground, his feet clamoring for a new place to step. I threw the rope up and over his head, and in response he bucked his long neck up and down. “It’s you and me, buddy” I said. “I don’t know who put you here. And I don’t know if they’ll ever come back. But today, we’re going for a ride! Today I will call you ‘Derelict'”.

Derelict had on a harness. I put my foot into the first stirrup and swung my leg over the other side. Up in the air a feeling of power came over me. I felt like royalty. I could see over the fences, into the yards, and the whole neighborhood. Off in the distance the sun was just starting to set. Never in my life had I commanded such a view before. I never realized how small our neighborhood was. Never mind. We turned around, facing the street, and with a single ‘heeya’ we bounded off. Leaping over the fence we hit the road in stride, took a quick shuffle, and then were galloping along. Neighbors’ heads turned. Cars honked and swerved as we sprinted along. The feeling of the wind through my hair spurred us on, faster and faster. We passed by buildings, billboards, and stop signs. We billowed through intersections, speeding our way past startled onlookers.

We finally hit our stride. Galloping as fast as the wind would take us, the sound of hooves was only a faint echo. My mind was fully engaged in our flight. The sidewalks and building facades started to blur together into a kaleidoscope of color. In the distance I could vaguely see the edge of town. We were so close.

Then with one final lunge we were there. We slowed to take in our new surroundings. The buildings turned into fields. The road narrowed into a single lane. And the grass! I had never noticed it before. We were free!

Back in town someone closed the hatch of an empty circus trailer, and drove off.

The Fireplace

The fireplace sits like a solitary figure in the middle of the room. Burning with fiery intensity, it’s flames cast shadows on the distant walls. Heat streams from the berth. Logs piled neatly in the middle, perfectly still despite the dancing flames around them. Soldiers at their post.

A man walks in. It’s been snowing and he is cold from the outside. Snow is flecked on his long black trench coat. Brushing off the cold and moisture, the man hangs up his coat. His boots, heavy and caked with ice, are removed. His hat and scarf too are hung nicely on a hook.  Rubbing his hands together, he makes his way over to the burning inferno. Taking his place in front he lets his eyes go unfocussed as the flames dance back and forth. The day is over. There’s nothing left to do.

The warmth of the flames gives the man a shiver, not from cold, but as if the last traces of the outdoors are making their final protest before they disappear for good. Then the warmth sets in and he’s finally home.

Quiet

back in America
and how do I know?
a hundred million little things
it’s look, sound, smell
I awaken in the morning
and all I hear is quiet
shelter, warmth and family
a blanket for my soul
the biggest noise is silence
quiet fills the room
I’m looking for the roosters
the cars and neighbors, vendors
where are all the markets?
the honking of the horns
the little kids in uniforms
the call to prayer no more
look at all the people!
my white skin blends me in
I understand the language
i can talk to people again
i love the fact that i am home
it’s so nourishing to my heart
an opportunity God has given me
to tell everyone I know!