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Gary and I drove 30 miles Friday night to see the new movie, An American Carol.  We had heard it advertised on the radio and decided to do our patriotic best to support this effort by conservatives in Hollywood.  We enjoyed it immensely.  Having grown up on MAD Magazine humor, I laughed louder than most of those in the audience, many, judging from military haircuts, from nearby Ft. Leonard Wood.

The movie uses Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol as the base for its story.  Kelsey Grammer, as George Patton, is the angel who takes the Scrooge character, one Micheal Malone, to the past, the present, and the future.  Micheal Malone, a greedy, sloppy, fat, self-centered America-hating film producer, is in the midst of a campaign to eliminate Fourth of July celebrations when he is interrupted by General Patton.  (The Fourth of July must be done away with since WHY should anyone celebrate the birth of a horrible country like the United States of America?)

The movie speeds through its polically incorrect humor at a rapid pace.  In the 93 minutes we are sent to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, 1968, a current college classroom, the plotting sessions of an inept group of Muslim terrorists, and a country western concert in Madison Square Gardens.  Though it is funny it is also disturbing as it points out the liberal views of those who would have us hate our own country.

It’s up to us as movie ticket buyers to tell those who made this movie, “THANK YOU” and “We support you!”  Don’t let this opportunity slip by – go see the movie, laugh, and tell others to give up a few dollars to back the efforts of these daring actors and actresses who have taken such a bold step as this – making a CONSERVATIVE movie.

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Blogs are SO immediate.  One is to write what is happening NOW.  One is to add current photos and bring others into one’s thoughts.  But what if one is hampered by no internet access, a broken digital camera, and the need to have a toss-away camera developed?  One tells the story LATER and hopes it will still bring amusement, joy, and insight!  This story is two weeks old now.  ANCIENT in computer times.  But it still tells well and we still are marveling about it.  Let me go back to two, almost three weeks ago…

It had been a difficult week.  Well, actually, it had been a difficult 5 weeks.  When last I wrote, we were in the midst of trying to fix Mighty Whitey, our intrepid cargo van.  Mighty Whitey has had a hard life.  When we bought her in January of 2002 she already had gone 175,000 miles.  MW is a 1999 Chevy Express Cargo van.  WHERE had she gone in those 2 years to get THOSE kind of miles?  However, we’ve been good to her and she has been good to us.  Never before have we had a vehicle for 7 years and never before have we watched an odometer turn past 388,000 miles.  We have a history, Mighty Whitey and BooksBloom!

It was Wednesday, July 16.  We had barely made it to Long Beach from my aunt’s home in Rancho Cucamonga but we finally arrived to camp out in the parking lot of the convention center and wait to unload Thursday morning.  Gary had an appointment at the Chevy dealership in Long Beach Thursday afternoon after we set up our booth.  This would be mechanic #6.  Mechanics #1-#5 were ALL good guys and we would gladly recomment any of them.  But none had ever had enough TIME to really work on MW.  They quickly fixed what seemed to be the problem so we could be on our merry way.  On and on we went, each time getting to the next place where another mechanic would try another repair.  We were frustrated and bewildered.  We had gotten to the point where only a dealership could help us – they alone had the scanning software that was needed.

When Gary left the van at the dealership that afternoon he was assured they would work on it immediately.   He called a few times on Friday and finally reached the service manager who told him the van was fine and he could pick it up with no charges for the negative diagnosis.  (Isn’t that nice??!)  Saturday morning Gary drove MW until MW began exhibiting the symptoms we knew and loved (??).  The mechanic finally acknowledged there were problems and started scanning.  Soon though he told Gary that we had to bring MW back on Monday – it was time for the dealership to close.

Monday morning the mechanic began the scans again and finally discovered the problem.   He came to Gary, “Mr. Bloom, I have some good news and some bad news.”  Gary replied, “Shoot!”  The mechanic then said,  “The good news is that I know what the problem is.  It’s the brains/the computer/the CPU.   The bad news is that it is the brains/computer/cpu…”                                         

The new cpu was ordered for the next day.  On Tuesday when the mechanic took the old computer out he was flabbergasted.  He called Gary into the service bay and showed him the unit.  I wish I had gotten a photo of it – it was U-G-L-Y!!!  Two of the four large connectors were TOTALLY gone.  The mechanic shook his head and wondered HOW we ever even got to Long Beach!  He said MW should not have been able to run for a LONG time with this problem.  A really, really, really long time. 

Instead of new connectors it was determined that an engine wiring harness was called for.  But it was in Lansing, Michigan and wouldn’t arrive until Thursday at the soonest.  How were we going to pay for this?  We had already spent almost $5,000 in the past 4 weeks trying to keep MW going.  Now we had to come up with another $3,000? 

That would make our repairs MORE than we paid for MW 7 years ago!  But there were no options.  We had to keep the repairs going or we would lose MW.  And then, how were we going to get to Phoenix for the next conference if MW had to stay in Long Beach?  We had to leave the next day.  I cried.  A friend asked if I cried in front of the mechanic and said that usually helps.  Nope, I cried in front of Gary who told me to “knock it off, that doesn’t help!”

Intellectually I knew God would take care of us.  I was feeling a bit sad and lonely, and I doubted our calling and wondered if we should quit this gypsy life and get jobs at Walmart or The Marketplace.  Let me say here that we were NOT angry at God.  We didn’t wonder “why us?” We shrugged our shoulders and philosophically said, “It’s about time for a new brain and wires!”  (Gary wondered if HE could get a new brain too…) 

In order to get to Phoenix we rented a Penske truck.  We THOUGHT we were renting a cute box van that would pull our trailer.  Nope.  The van did not have the correct size hitch for our trailer nor could we put our books in the van- it couldn’t carry that much weight.

This is a BIG truck!
This is a BIG truck!

Instead we got ourselves a 26 foot diesel truck!!!  Yee Haw!  Let’s move this dawg down the road!!!  BUT FIRST let’s transfer the books from the trailer to the truck.  Down one ramp and up another many times occupied Gary’s time.  I had to figure out how to pack.  MW is our huge suitcase.  Everything is in a bin, a crate, a box, or a bag.  WHAT was needed for THIS particular few days?  Oh – the decisions, the decisions!

We made it to Phoenix with our hearing still working.  Diesel trucks are NOISY!!!  We set up our booth and told the story of Mighty Whitey being left behind.  It was a sad, sad story.  But we were fine.  We were glad it was taking a long time to fix her – gave us more time to make the $$$’s we would need.   We had a great time in Phoenix.  Everyone there was kind, interested and concerned about our predicament.  The Phoenix convention staff and crew is amazing- energetic, sweet, helpful, and fun. Our sales were 12% higher than last year.  We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend with vendors, customers, and our hosts, Keith and Kathy Shull.  Life was looking good!
    
On Saturday evening, after the vendor hall closed, I heard an announcement, “All those involved in the love offering please meet at Miller Pads and Paper.”  Gary and I are SO different.  Gary heard the announcement and became irritated!  He wondered WHY Curt (from Miller Pads and Paper) hadn’t asked US for a contribution.  We didn’t have much but we would have given SOMETHING!!  Boy!  Did he feel out of the loop!  My fleeting thought was, “wow, wouldn’t that be neat if it was for US?”  But I immediately dismissed it.  WHY would anyone do THAT for US??!!! 
 
A few minutes later, as I was chatting with some vendor friends, I saw a large group of people moving down the aisle towards our booth.  They stopped.  Gus, from Lifetime Books and Gifts, said, “Gary, get over by your wife.”  Curt, in front with Gus and grinning from ear to ear, handed Gary a bright, red, shiny gift bag and said, “this is from the vendors.  It’s a love offering for you guys.  We know you’ve had a tough time lately.”
 
This is another picture I wish I had to share with you.  Forty, maybe fifty vendors standing in front of us with happy smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes.  The bright, red, shiny bag.  Our look of disbelief.  The tears in our eyes!  After prayer, hugs, and laughter, we finished packing up, enjoyed a pizza with some good friends, and went “home.”  We fell asleep that night, happy and feeling loved.  We also felt totally undeserving and totally unworthy.  We had NO idea what was in the bag.  It didn’t matter.   God was at work. 
 
Sunday morning brought words from the LORD from the pastor and from the Sunday School videos with Pastor John Piper.  About love.  And giving.  And giving to those who cannot pay back.  And how faith grows with love and visa versa.  We sat in the pew and knew that God was affirming us. This life IS the life He wants us to live!
 
Later that day, as we were heading back to Phoenix, I opened the bright, red, shiny bag.  Inside was a manilla envelope on which was written, LOVE OFFERING.  I opened the envelope.  It was stuffed with cash.  STUFFED. 
 
As I sat there looking at all this money, I reflected on our lives the past 9 years.  God has changed Gary so much.  I think that this gift is an acknowledgement of Gary’s Gary-ness.  He is called GOOFY GARY for a reason;  he makes every convention a carnival and every vendor hall a place of fun, laughter, and crazy shenanigans.  He also helps everyone who needs help.  He is the “go-to man”, always ready to fix booths, cars, or situations.  He is Mr. Organizer, figuring out the best ways to unload, pack up, and keep all the vendors happy.  I stay in the booth so it is certainly not because of ME that people gave so lavishly!  Whatever the reason, we were BLESSED!!
 
On Monday we were back at the dealership bright and early.  Our plans were to pull the trailer out onto the street  (it was stored inside the gates over the weekend), and return the Penske.  We were there a bit TOO early, so we decided to put our stuff on the street.  After all, we were told MW would be ready Monday morning.  We’d hitch her up to the trailer, load up, and be out of there in no time.
In the meantime, while I sat in a lawn chair on the street and read a book, Gary paid for the Penske rental – in cash. 
 
At 8 AM, when the dealership opened, Gary bounded up to the service manager who told him MIGHTY WHITEY WAS NOT FIXED YET!!!  Not only that, there was no vehicle there that could bring the trailer out into the street.  We’d have to wait.
 
About 11 AM, when the police officer pulled over by the bookcases, stopped, and got out of her car, Gary (who was now the one sitting in the lawn chair on the street), knew there might be a problem.  Their conversation ran like a bad comedy act..
Officer: “sir, we’ve received a report that you are selling books on the street.”      
Gary: “I sell books, but I’m not selling them HERE!”
Officer:  “these books should not be here”
Gary: “I’d rather they weren’t here!”
Officer:”Why are these books here?  They shouldn’t be!”
Gary: “I took them out of the truck”
Officer: “where’s the truck?”
Gary:’I returned it.  It was a rental.”
Officer: “Why are these books here?  They shouldn’t be here!”
Gary: “I KNOW they shouldn’t be here.  I’m waiting to load them in my trailer!”
Officer:  “where is your trailer?”
Gary:  “It’s behind that wall.  I can’t get it out”
Officer:  “Why not?
Gary:  “I’m waiting for my van so I can get it out.”
Officer: “Where’s the van?”
Gary “It’s inside too.  The mechanic says it is ALMOST done.”
Officer:  “You can’t have these books here.”
Gary:  “I don’t WANT to have the books here!  I’m waiting for my van to be finished so I can get the trailer and get these books OUT OF HERE!”
Officer:  “I’m going to have to give you a ticket.”
Gary:  “I’ll go see when the van will be fixed.  But I can’t leave this stuff here alone – can you watch it while I go in to the dealership to get my wife (I was trying to get on the computer) and talk to the mechanic?”
Officer:  “I can’t watch your stuff!   It shouldn’t even be here!”
Gary: “Well, if you’re going to write me a ticket, that means you’ll have to be here to get the information, right?”
And on and on it went!  She finally consented to wait for me and wrote a warning ticket.  Gary asked for 2 hours and FINALLY Mighty Whitey was good to go.  Before she came back we were out of there!
 
While Gary loaded the trailer, I went inside the dealership to settle the bill.  We told the mechanic, the service manager, and the cashier at the dealership about the LOVE OFFERING in the bright, shiny, red bag.  We explained that when we left MW there the previous week, we didn’t know HOW we were going to pay for the repairs.  But we were ready to pay now – in cash!!!
The bill for repairs and THE MANILLA ENVELOPE
The bill for repairs and THE MANILLA ENVELOPE

The cashier responded that stories like that reminded her that people are good.  She added her theory that WE must be good too, since people did this for us.  I looked at her in disbelief and said, “it’s not THEM, it’s not US, it is GOD who is good! ”  I failed to ask her if anyone else has ever paid a $3000+ repair bill with hundreds, fifties, and twenties – I wonder what her answer would have been.  Maybe NEVER??!!

The odd/hard/curious thing about this is that we cannot thank most of the givers.  We have NO idea who all gave or how much they gave.  It was truly a free gift.  We have never been the recipients of a gift like this.  I think that in God’s economy it is not the size of the gift that even matters – it is the giving.  God multiplies what we give out of love.  And we felt LOVED!!!  

We would have been fine without the gift – we would have been totally broke, but we would have been fine.  I would not have doubted God’s goodness.  Yet He chose to bless us through all these people.  And we get to tell this wonderful story of how God moved Mighty Whitey down the freeway and over the mountains.  I imagine that His angels were whistling LONG compositions to provide the air power to get us up over them hills!  And we get to share about people (some we didn’t even know!) who gave wildly and hilariously and anonymously.  People, like us, who have their own expenses, repairs, commitments, and bills.  People, like us, who trust that God will take care of THEM, too!

I hope this long, long story reminds you that God DOES care.  Even when it seems He does NOT.  Even when you feel like a whiner and complainer.  Even when you doubt that you are doing what you are called to do.  It sure has been a delight to be part of His working in the lives of our friends and in our lives.  AND in the “life” of Mighty Whitey.  What fun!

 

 

 

Almost ten years ago I published Who Should We Then Read?  a book that focuses on the lives and the books of more than 150 authors who wrote wonderful books for children, young adults, and grown-ups.  It has been well-received.  Just the other day someone called it “the blue book of books”.  THAT was a fun thing to hear!

About six years ago I began work on a second volume of the book, a NEW collection of authors and their books.  Every year I thought it would be finished by the NEXT year and would tell my customers that.  Oh!  Such misguided speaking! 

I really hoped to have it finished THIS year.  I worked diligently on it last fall when we were home in Minnesota, hoping for a Spring printing.  It didn’t happen.  HOWEVER, it is ALMOST finished.  One friend is editing it, another is doing covers, and I am cleaning up the formating and making it ready to go.  It’s an arduous task!  Self-publishing is tedious!  But we are excited about the book.  Same format as the first book, but SUCH wonderful new authors!  Many I did not even know when I wrote the first book.  Some were suggested by readers of WSWTR, others I learned about as we spent time in books and bookstores. 

We have a projected print date of October, 2008.  Stay tuned to my blog for the announcement.  And please pray for me!  Traveling is not condusive to writing (at least for me) so the finishing touches will have to wait until we get home in September.  We know that the new authors will open doors that will take readers into wonderful territories.  I LOVE my job!

I am unsure of this whole blogging scene!  I have recently added 2 new pages – one about the Living Books Retreat, another our Christmas letter for 2007.  They can be found on the page directory.