Newsboys Exercise Playlist

The Newsboys are probably my most favoritest Christian band ever. They are certainly my favorite band to play when I’m exercising. If I were to describe their music in 3 words, I’d say it’s happy, fun, and infectious. Their pop-rock rhythm doesn’t hurt either. (Let me clarify one thing: when I say “Newsboys,” I am referring to the pre-Michael Tait years. Nothing against Michael Tait, I love this new line-up almost as much as the original, but, to me, it’s not really the Newsboys anymore. It’s a new band with a new sound – and I grew up on Peter Furler and John James.)

My Newsboys exercise playlist includes 21 of their best tracks – set to shuffle, it’s almost 80 minutes of pure fun and energy. Crank it up!

  • Beautiful Sound (The title says it all.)
  • Belly of the Whale (Listen carefully to this one – the wordplay is clever and fast.)
  • Breakfast (Another clever song, this fun tune is about my favorite meal of the day.)
  • Entertaining Angels (A bit slower than most of the songs on this list and featuring a vocal solo by guitarist Phil Joel, this one is achingly beautiful.)
  • Good Stuff (The only song on this list that’s not on the Newsboys Ultimate Collection set.)
  • He Reigns (Catchy and fun to sing along to; Newsboys at their finest.)
  • I Fought the La. . . (Hilarious and goofy – but with real meaning behind the crazy lyrics.)
  • I’m Not Ashamed (Every Christian should listen to this song, believe it, and live it.)
  • It Is You (Another slow one, but still an awesome song.)
  • Joy (Absolutely my favoritest Newsboys song ever!)
  • Love Liberty Disco (A celebration of the freedom and love found in being part of the family of God.)
  • Million Pieces (Little kids love to sing along to this one.)
  • Shine (Quintessential Newsboys; possibly their most famous song.)
  • Something Beautiful (The rhythm hooks you, the lyrics hold you.)
  • Spirit Thing (Masters of wordplay, this is another example of the Newsboys’ unsurpassed cleverness.)
  • Step Up to the Microphone (Boldly proclaims what we believe.)
  • Take Me to Your Leader (Perhaps their cleverest and definitely their fastest-sung song of all – listen close.)
  • Wherever We Go (Party song to end all party songs.)
  • Who? (A definitive statement of faith set to an unbeatable rock track.)
  • Woohoo (You have to sing along to this one.)
  • You Are My King (A slower-tempo love song to the One who loved us first.)

P.S. This is also a great soundtrack for cleaning day. Enjoy!

Big City, Country Girl

Dirt Road Princess moves to the big city. Now there’s a headline for you. Or perhaps not – I suppose country girls move to the big city all the time. But it’s kind of a big deal for me. Moving away from home for the first time is always a big deal. More so, perhaps, for a late bloomer such as myself. Particularly when moving from the country to the big city. This experience is certainly stretching me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

The big city is, well, big. There really is no other way to describe it. Everything about it is big. Especially when you’re a lone pedestrian. Fortunately, just about everything I could ever need is right here in my own little corner of the city. Several within walking distance. And this city has a good public transit system so I can get to those places not in walking distance. Exploring my own little corner of the city has been a blast. Finding work was certainly an interesting experience and not half so difficult as I expected. Particularly for a hard-working country girl such as myself.

Living alone felt rather weird for the first couple days, but I very quickly got used to it. Being my own woman is quite an empowering experience. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of independence, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give it up. I can do what I want, when I want, and how I want. I can make my own choices but I am also 100% responsible for the consequences of my choices. It’s a brand-new sensation – and I think I like it. I’m learning new things about myself, about life, and about other people. Just about every day offers a new experience or new information and it’s exhilarating. Makes me wonder “Why didn’t I do this years ago?”

Moon Maid Trilogy

Well, I was wrong. Not all of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books have the same feel – his Moon Maid trilogy is a notable exception. The Moon Maid, first of the set, is kinda like his other books, but not quite; The Moon Men and The Red Hawk are radically different from his usual style. Moon Men, in particular – it’s almost a post-apocalyptic thriller. One of the primary differences from his usual work is that books 2 and 3 are set in North America, albeit reimagined as being under the oppressive rule of savage invaders from the moon.

This series is also different in that the 3 stories happen hundreds of years apart, not back-to-back about the same hero as most of his series do. He wrote The Moon Men first, and it wasn’t originally about Lunar, but Communist invaders. First written in 1918, when the Bolshevik Revolution was so recent as to not even be part of history yet, “Under the Red Flag” was rejected by editors 11 times. So he sat down one day and rewrote it, turning Bolshevists into Kalkars from the moon. A few months later, he’d written both a prequel and a sequel and all 3 had been published – in the proper order, of course.

In The Moon Maid, Earth has finally discovered space travel and the first spaceship is sent out with a crew of 5: Julian 5th, Orthis, and 3 others. Through Orthis’s treachery, they crash-land on the moon – or rather inside it, where they find a strange world. A somewhat typical Burroughs story follows; capture and escape; Orthis allies himself with the “evil” race, Julian with the “good;” Julian falls in love with Nah-ee-lah, the maiden of the title; and Julian, Nah-ee-lah, and the 3 other crew members repair the ship and return to earth.

About 100 years later, Julian 9th (Julian 5th’s great-great-grandson) lives in what used to be Chicago under the oppressive rule of the Kalkars. In the introduction to The Moon Men, we learn that Orthis helped his allies the Kalkars build a fleet of spaceships with which to attack earth. Under Kalkar rule, everyone is “equal,” no one owns anything, marriage is illegal, and freedom is a thing of the past. Julian 9th leads a rebellion that ends in the slaughter of those who fight with him and his own death, but not before he gets his pregnant wife to safety. This sets the stage for the 3rd and final installment of the Julian saga.

Another 300 years pass before the events of The Red Hawk occur; Julian 20th is the great chief of the Julian clans and is known as the Red Hawk. During the intervening 300 years, the “Yanks,” as the Kalkars derisively call them, have driven their oppressors ever westward until their backs are to the Pacific Ocean. Here, in California, the Kalkars have held the tribe of the Julians at bay for 100 years. The Julians are a tribe of 100 clans living in the Mojave Desert. What used to be the United States is now a vast wilderness dotted with “ancient” ruins and peopled by various tribes whose social structure and culture is very much like Indian tribal culture. When Julian 19th dies and Red Hawk becomes chief, he determines to drive them into the sea and end this nearly-500-year-long feud. How he goes about this, allying himself to descendants of Orthis and even falling in love with an “Or-Tis” along the way, is the story told in the final book, which I think is my favorite of this awesome trilogy.

Koss Pro4S Headphones – A Review

Let me preface this review by saying that, prior to this purchase, I had never spent more than $20 on a pair of headphones. I am not any sort of expert on audio equipment – I consider myself an “aspiring audiophile.” Also, I bought the Koss Pro4S for casual listening, not for any kind of professional use.

First, the backstory. For several years, I’ve been using the Koss UR23iK headphones. They were my favorites for a number of reasons – a comfortable over-ear design, excellent sound quality (for the price), a relatively sleek profile, and an easily affordable price point. I wear glasses and finding comfortable headphones was a struggle until I discovered Koss and their unique over-ear D profile design. The only thing I didn’t like about the UR23iK was the lack of portability. I really wanted a good pair of headphones with a protective carrying case. My search led me to the Koss Pro4S. Here’s six awesome reasons why they are my new favorite headphones.

  • The same D profile as the UR23iK only with softer cushions and a padded headband. The comfort level is unbelievable.
  • With a combination of metal and plastic parts, this is one sturdy pair of headphones. The metal components add a bit more weight than I’m used to, but it is more than worth it for the durability. I have gone through half a dozen pairs of all-plastic headphones in the past 15 years.
  • I love the coiled cable (no tangles!) and the dual choice entry. The pass-through feature is pretty cool too. The cable is thick and sturdy, not flimsy like some. And, if I want, I can use a different cable – longer, shorter, straight, whatever I need.
  • They look good too – sleek and clean, classic yet edgy and modern. The black and silver is very sharp.
  • The sturdy padded case is awesome. I can toss them in a bag or backpack and take them with me when I’m traveling or on the go.
  • Most importantly, the sound quality is phenomenal. Music is crisp, clear, and beautiful. I feel like I’m sitting in the middle of a live performance. The headphones don’t get in the way of the music – they just carry it. Being studio headphones, they are designed to give the most accurate sound, not to enhance the bass or anything else. I know some people don’t like that feature but it was a major selling point for me.

In conclusion, the Koss Pro4S is hands-down the best pair of headphones I have ever used. Worth every penny and more. My search for the perfect pair of headphones has ended for good.

The Mark of Zorro

The Mark of Zorro

Written in ink, etched in stone, or carved in a man’s flesh, the letter “Z” can mean only one thing: Zorro has struck again. Wonderfully portrayed by Tyrone Power in 1940’s black and white classic The Mark of Zorro, the Mexican vigilante is a hero for the ages. Playing the role of the fop, the fool, the coward, Diego Vega is never suspected of being the masked swordsman fighting for justice. Son of Alejandro Vega, former alcalde of the district of Los Angeles, Diego returns home after an extended stay in Spain to find his hometown greatly changed.

Forced out of office by the avaricious yet bumbling Luis Quintero and his dastardly henchman Capitan Esteban Pasquale, the elder Vega still refuses to lead a revolt against them. His son holds no such scruples. Dressed all in black, complete with black mask, he aids the weak and oppressed and opposes those who abuse their power. The weak and cowardly Quintero soon fears for his life and decides to flee the country. Pasquale, being made of firmer stuff, is determined to destroy Zorro.

The Mark of Zorro

Diego’s act fools his own parents and even Friar Felipe, his boyhood mentor. In between terrorizing Quintero and robbing the rich to aid the poor, he still finds time to romance the current alcalde’s wife Inez – with 2 ulterior motives. First, it allows him to dazzle her with stories of the Spanish court’s grandeur and she in turn begs her husband to take her away from this provincial life and back to civilization. Secondly, it brings him closer to the true object of his affections: Quintero’s niece Lolita. Lolita, being smitten with Zorro’s courage and heroism, has no time for the foppish Diego Vega. How he wins her heart, defeats the villainous tyrants, and proves himself to his father is classic Hollywood at its best. Filled with adventure, humor, and romance, and capped off with a rousing ending, The Mark of Zorro is a classic the whole family will enjoy.

(P. S. If you can find it, watch the colorized version. The color brings out details that are easy to miss in the black and white original.)

Birthday Musings

Another birthday has come and gone. Seems like that happens more and more frequently. It’s fitting, I think, that this particular birthday should come right at this particular juncture in my life. Right at the crossroads of my past and my future. Caught in the middle of who I am and who I will be. Straddling the fence that separates the familiar from the unknown. I’ve put in my time and paid my dues, yet somehow there is still a shadow of guilt and a specter of anxiety lurking in the dark corners of my mind. But there are other emotions crowding and pushing to the front of my mind so that I hardly notice the phantom twins.

I am both excited and slightly petrified when I consider the future. But isn’t that how all the best experiences make us feel? Anything worth doing is going to call out a strong emotional response. Whenever I am doing or contemplating doing something important, I get both butterflies and a nauseated feeling. And that’s how this crossroads is making me feel. I’m learning that that’s how life goes. Change is inevitable, as are the emotions that accompany it. The only thing we control is which emotions are dominant. I’ve pushed the negative ones to the back and allowed the positives to take center stage, but it could very easily have gone the other way. Of course, since this change is of my own making, it was easier than it could have been. Some days, it’s still a struggle.

It’s the waiting that’s starting to get under my skin now. I’ve never been very good at waiting for anything and this seems particularly hard. Probably because it is such a big deal. My current stress levels are considerably higher than they probably should be. As it happens, there are a couple other big things happening in my life right now and it looks like they are all on a collision trajectory. My whole life is going to explode with big things happening in the very near future – probably all in the same week. And for now, all I can do is watch. And try not to get too stressed out. So far, I am keeping things in control. I pray I can manage that for just a few more weeks.

Clive Cussler

Another of my most favorite authors, Clive Cussler is one of the hottest fiction writers today. He consistently and frequently makes the bestseller list, the quality of his books matched only by their quantity. I buy every Clive Cussler book published, no questions asked. Every single one is good enough to read and reread. Some I like better than others of course, but they all are good. That’s pretty impressive. I like the Fargo Adventures, the Isaac Bell Detective Series, and the Oregon Files the best of all.

All of Cussler’s books share a few common features – plenty of action, a connection between the story and some event in history, a protagonist who is flawed yet heroic, a comedic sidekick, and a drop-dead gorgeous heroine. It’s a classic story-writing formula – injected with a fresh, exciting plot each time, it’s a surefire winner.

The Fargo Adventures is a series of stories about husband and wife team Sam and Remi Fargo, archaeologists and philanthropists. Treasure-hunters, to use a more everyday term. Their adventures take them all around the world, finding rare treasures, solving ancient mysteries, and usually having one action-packed adventure after another. It’s non-stop adventure at its finest; I love every minute of it.

Clive Cussler’s only historical fiction series, the Isaac Bell Mysteries are detective stories that rank with the very best. In the early twentieth century, Isaac Bell is a tall, lean detective working for the Van Dorn Detective Agency. No thief, killer, or even criminal mastermind can long escape justice with Isaac Bell on their tail. The intricacy of Cussler’s plots is mind-boggling; it’s often not till near the very end that I know who the villain is or what’s going on. Marion Morgan, Bell’s romantic interest, plays a prominent role in both his cases and the series.

The Oregon Files differ from his other novels in that they are not about the adventures of a few individuals. They are, essentially, the chronicles of a ship. The Oregon appears to be a worn-out rusty derelict, but this is only a façade to conceal the state-of-art equipment and weaponry she is carrying. Housing a band of mercenaries with ties to the US government, the “Corporation,” as they style themselves, can go where the arm of the law cannot. Led by their dashing, one-legged leader, Juan Cabrillo, they consistently get in and out of dangerous situations around the globe.

And lastly, a few words about the Dirk Pitt Adventures and the NUMA Files, Cussler’s first 2 series. Dirk Pitt, ex-Air Force officer, now works for NUMA, the underwater counterpart to NASA. The NUMA Files relates the adventures of Kurt Austin, head of the NUMA Special Assignments Team. In these roles, both men and their associates find themselves in adventures both under and on top of the waves, and occasionally on land as well. Both storylines are awesome, but get me just a half-notch less excited than his other three. I still devour – and love – every single one.

True Calling – How I Found Mine

Last week I talked about finally admitting to my true calling. Today I’d like to talk about the process that got me to that point. It was a long, slow, at times painful process and I didn’t understand what was happening. In hindsight, I can now see how everything that happened has led me to this point in my life. And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

The seed of my passion for writing was planted before I could even read. I learned to love books from an early age due to my Mama reading great books to me – both picture books and otherwise. Playing pretend as a kid caused that seed to germinate. It blossomed when I read my first “real” book. As in, a book with chapters and no pictures. I even remember what that book was – a biography of Helen Keller. Her story, and the way Mama was proud of seven-year-old me, sparked a fire inside that has never gone out. The gift of my first journal for my 8th birthday sealed the deal.

The path of my true calling took a dark, but necessary, turn during my early teen years. I was never the typical overtly rebellious teenager. Instead I poured the frustration and angst of those years into words on paper. I still turn to writing when I am frustrated or upset. As I came out of that phase, my writing became something more. Lighter and more optimistic, but also more real and honest. I had found my voice. I also began to delve more into writing fiction. Looking back, some of those early efforts were cringe-worthy, but I am slowly improving. I still have not created a story that is fit to publish yet. Someday perhaps.

In the meantime, writing is both my lifeline and my outlet. It is the one thing I turn to in every situation. When I’m sad or joyful, depressed or content, angry or excited, when I feel broken inside and when I am ready to take on the world. Writing is always there for me and it is always my first reaction. That is how I know that it is my true calling. And that is how I know that I will never stop writing.

Career Choices, Career Changes

Some people seem to have it all figured out. From a young age, they know exactly who and what they are going to be and by golly that’s what they do. I am jealous of those people. By the time I graduated high school, I had emphatically decided on a career 20 different times, no two choices alike. When I was five, I wanted to be a firefighter. Then a police officer. At six I was gonna run an orphanage when I grew up. Seven-year-old me was a future politician. And so on. Lawyer, bodyguard, journalist, truck driver, cowgirl made more than one appearance, restaurateur, a secret agent phase of course, DJ – and the list goes on. I never could settle on just one.

I think there are two reasons for that. The first is equal parts personality and upbringing. My dad made no fewer than 8 career changes just in my memory span. I always thought that was normal, but I guess most people stick with the same one forever. I honestly don’t know if I could do that. There is something to be said for security, I suppose. But is security worth sacrificing adventure? Should I trade an unpredictable life of freedom for safe drudgery? Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying. But do I really wanna tie myself down – even to something I love – and potentially miss the next great opportunity? I want to grab life by the tail and see where it takes me.

The other reason for my inability to pick a single career is denial. All those years and all those varied careers I said I wanted, I never once admitted what I really wanted. Even to myself. Other than as a pipe dream. An “if-a-genie-gave-me-three-wishes” kinda dream. I have finally admitted to myself and to others what I truly want to be more than anything else in the world. I want to be a writer. Actually, I am a writer – I want to be a successful, published author. I believe that writing is my true calling. Some even say I’m good at it. Whether my work will be a success or not remains to be seen. Whether I can make a living off it also remains to be seen. But whether I make millions as a writer or a few bucks or nothing at all; whether I find a successful second career or work a string of jobs or quit working altogether; whatever else I may do, wherever my life may take me, one thing I know for absolute certain. I will never stop writing.

Introducing Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes and Return of Tarzan, for all intents and purposes, are one book. A single narrative, the first part ends in a cliffhanger where the second novel begins and then wraps up the story. So this article is about both novels. At the beginning of the tale, we are introduced to newlyweds Lord and Lady Greystoke, who are en route to Africa. John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, has been appointed by her majesty to a post in one of the British Empire’s African colonies. They never reach their destination. Mutiny leaves them stranded on the west coast of Africa.

John does his best to protect and care for Alice, building a stout log cabin and foraging for food. All his care, however, cannot save her from the dangers of the jungle. Shortly after bringing a son into the world, she dies of a fever. Her husband soon follows her to the grave at the hands of an ape. The ape would have killed the infant in the cradle as well, but for the intervention of a young female ape whose own son has just died. She names him Tarzan and raises him as her own.

Remarkably, he survives to manhood. As he grows, so do his intellect and emotions. With little in common with his ape “family,” he eventually forsakes them for a life of solitude. While still a boy he had discovered the cabin where he was born. He did not know nor care who the 2 skeletons within those stout walls had formerly been. But the cabin and the curious things in it intrigued him. He quickly mastered the use of a hunting knife, but it took a little longer to discover the secret of the little black “bugs” covering the pages of the books and diary he also found. In time, however, he taught himself to read and write English, in spite of not speaking a word of it.

His life is forever changed by the arrival of another group of stranded castaways, also the victims of mutiny. Professor Porter, his daughter Jane, his assistant Mr. Philander, Jane’s maid Esmerelda, and William Cecil Clayton, young Lord Greystoke. Their arrival sets in motion a chain of events that will forever change both their lives and the jungle life of Tarzan. Both Tarzan of the Apes and Return of Tarzan are gripping and suspenseful; holding a reader captive until the tale is told.