Wednesday, November 06, 2013


Don’t Use Sexy to Sell Me a Pair of Shoes

The actor swirls around in a clingy dress wearing stilettos. Viewers even see her naked calves hanging over the side of a white bathtub, her feet wrapped in stylish heels. In another scene with no seeming inhibitions, the actor dances with allurement. Oh yes, and there’s a man in the commercial. He has a glint in his eye or is that a leer.
            See, there’s the problem. The utmost thing this commercial said was that shoes attract a man. Do they keep your feet dry? Are they supportive? Do they hold up fallen arches? I don’t know because all I really saw was the flashy image of an alluring female and skyscraper shoes.             I’m skeptical. The ad implies that shoes draw a man’s interest. I want proof. I want to see a thick curtain and behind it women’s clad feet shown from the ankle down. I want to see men picking a woman by just seeing her feet. Would any man really point to a set of feet, “Yeah Baby! I choose her.”

            I’m confused. In the current ad on TV, are they selling shoes or sexy?

            I suppose some truth lies in the commercial. Fellows do like high heels. At least mine does. I like to wear them for him since there’s a foot difference in our heights. It’s nice to be nearer to his face for a little impromptu kissing should the urge hit. But then we’re not prone to overt public displays of affection, and, no, I don’t wear heels to bake potatoes at home.

            In the above paragraph, I meant to put “truth” and “lies” right next to each other in the first sentence because that’s what so many television ads do. They serve up a product or brand logo with illusions:  Sunglasses at night will cut headlight glare; cat litter makes your house smell tidy not feline; fake butter tastes like real butter; burn belly fat while eating ice cream.

            Some advertisers do practice some truth in advertising, and look how their taglines have caught on: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” And, plenty of Americans know that “the best part of wakin’ up” is coffee in the cup, whether it’s Folgers or not. Astute advertisers know their audiences. On the old reruns of family safe TV shows and movies, a staggering array of ads geared toward senior citizens fill in the gaps between show scenes: cereals with fiber, burial insurance, and a medicine cabinet full of cures, plus those for motorized scooters and reverse mortgages touted by Fonzie of “Happy Days.”

            Whoa. I’d better stop. You don’t want to hear about the “happy days” of reversing a reverse mortgage. All I can say is when our family paid off a parents’ reverse mortgage the interest rates and fees were stiletto. And it took half of their investments to buy back their home worth five times what the mortgage company had loaned. You get the picture. Don’t believe everything you hear hawked by the makers of a product.

            Now, back to feet and shoes. I long for truth in advertising. I’d rather see a foot with a bunion and then the happy face of a senior woman when she finally gets a comfortable pair of shoes fitted to her feet—granny shoes are good ‘cause at some time most women will have granny feet. I long to see beach shoes covering the soles of young feet keeping them from the burning sand, or even snazzy shoes on teens going to a high school football game. Just give me a real scenario without the sexual innuendoes.

            I’m not naïve, I know that advertisers think if sexy is present at least the males pay attention to the ad. And the feminist notice and other women who are offended by ads using the female body to sell products. But PR firms have also thrown in their share of hunks to lure women: from yogurt to pizza to floor cleaners, they give us glimpses of brawny men along with mops and buckets.  

            One of the newer Skittles candy commercials showed a girl kissing a boy who smiled and had Skittles in place of his teeth. Some of the Skittles were missing after the kiss—the tagline “French the rainbow. Taste the Rainbow.” After complaints Wrigley, makers of Skittles, changed the line to “Kiss the rainbow. Taste the rainbow.” Their change is somewhat admirable (after a parent alarm went off), but their original appeal to sixth grade boys has costs them some longtime purchasers, who say they’ll never buy Skittles again.

            Back to shoes and all other ads, please, tell us about the product. Use humor, jingles, facts, characters, or metaphor but please know we’re not fools who will swallow anything you set before us.

            From Buzzle.comDavid Ogilvy wrote in his book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, ‘The consumer isn't a moron. She is your wife.’ Whenever you take a look at different advertising techniques and those examples that you would like to use in order to design your own advertising strategies, keep in mind this little tip from Mr. Ogilvy. After all he is not called the father of modern advertising for no reason.”

            So really, you want me to buy a pair of women’s shoes because you showed me stilettos and naked calves draped over the side of a bathtub. Do I look like a moron? All I’m asking is for truth in advertising and don’t use sexy to sell me a pair of shoes.

                 

           

    

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Article Featured at Heartlight.org

"Pool of Mercy" article featured at Heartlight.org To read and/or share. Thanks, friends.

 

Friday, October 04, 2013




An interview and book drawing with Anita Higman author of Winter in Full Bloom  (Leave a comment to enter book drawing)

Welcome my guest, Anita Higman, prolific author and communicator. I've read Winter in Full Bloom and here's my review: Sincerity and sparkly humor in a well-told story describes Anita Higman's latest offering, Winter in Full Bloom. Set in Australia and Texas, the author expertly melds the lives of a widow, a daughter, a sister, a reluctant mother, and a man estranged from his family. A romance blossoms as characters find their way out of life scrapes. The twist-and-turn story kept me wondering what would happen next, and thanks to Anita's imagination, rarely was anything predictable. One of my favorite things about this book was that Anita wove the characters' faith into the story in a compelling and natural way. That way, I too could grow as the story moved along. Thank you, Anita Higman, keep writing.

 
Cathy: Winter in Full Bloom is set in Texas as well as Australia. What made you want to set the novel in these two places?
Anita: Well, I live in Texas, and so I wanted to make use of my home state. After living here for about thirty years I have a soft spot for Texas now. Also, I’d visited Melbourne, Australia for about three weeks and had taken notes, and since it was such an exotic place and I’d had such an amazing time there, I wanted to share some of my experiences with readers.
Cathy: The cover is beautiful. Did you have any input in this cover?

Anita: Yes, actually, I did. The publisher sent me a few samples to look at, and I chose this one. But the cover you see now was tweaked a number of times. One of the changes was the addition of the red tulips all along the snowy path. I’m so glad the publisher was open to changes. I’m very happy with the final cover. It reflects the story even better than before, and I think that bit of unexpected intrigue along the road will be eye-catching to the bookstore browser. 
Cathy: That title is unique. How did you come up with Winter in Full Bloom?
Anita: Sometimes I brainstorm titles, and then sometimes I use a phrase I find within the manuscript that works well as a title. Winter in Full Bloom was created during one of my brainstorming sessions. As a side note, there are a couple of meanings to this title. The heroine’s name is Lily Winter. Also, half of the book takes place in Houston at the advent of winter, but when she flies to Melbourne at the same time of the year, Australians are experiencing the beginning of spring. So, even though Lily has begun getting ready for winter, she suddenly enters into a season of springtime—literally and in her personal life.
Cathy: Are the characters from your imagination, or do they come from real life?
Anita: My characters are a mixture of both. I’ll be watching someone at the airport or the mall or at church, and I’ll think, “Wow, that gesture or laugh or walk is perfect for my character.” Then some of my character’s traits will come straight from my imagination. Usually, it’s a fun brew of all the above. 

Cathy: Do you and your husband travel a lot?
Anita: We travel much more now that we have empty nest. Last year we went to Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada. This year we’ve been to Mexico, California, and right now as I type this answer, my husband and I are waiting at the airport to fly to Ireland. Can’t wait. I’m hoping to set one of my future novels in Ireland. 
Cathy: Why do you write?
Anita: I have a real need to express myself creatively—guess I was born that way—and writing and I fit well together. 

Cathy: Your heroine, Lily Winter, is experiencing empty nest. Why did you add that element to the story?
Anita: I was going through this same rough phase of motherhood, and I thought it would be good to add this to the story. I hope it added an element of authenticity to the tale. And too, forcing myself to write about the pain surely helped me deal with it better.
Cathy: How long have you been writing?
Anita: I’ve been in this profession for about thirty years. It’s been a long, stumbly kind of journey. I’ve had some dark hours—those moments when I really didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it. Moments when rejection swept me under like a scary undertow. Moments when getting published seemed pretty much impossible. But I never gave up, and I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve had thirty-four books published in many genres, and even though it’s been a rough ride, it’s also been deeply satisfying.
Cathy: This story is about twin sisters? Are you a twin and do you have a sister?
Anita: I’m afraid I have to say no to both of those questions, but I’ve always wanted to have a sister. And that desire I suppose fueled the dialogue and some of this story.  

Cathy: Winter in Full Bloom is a love story but also a story of family reconciliation. Have you experienced that last part in your own life?
Anita: Yes, I have known the miracle of family reconciliation, and it has brought me great joy!
Cathy: Any final words for your readers?

Anita: If you have ever taken the time to read one of my novels, I thank you with all my heart. I sincerely hope that Winter in Full Bloom inspires you and makes you laugh, and when you come to the last page and close the book, I hope your heart and your step feels just a little lighter.
Cathy: Oh, Anita, our hearts feel better knowing that God has placed authors like you in the market place. Thank you this interview and for giving us a glimpse into the process of writing Winter in Full Bloom  Available in paperback or Kindle version. (Don't forget: leave a comment to enter book drawing. Drawing ends on Monday Oct. 7, midnight).

Friday, December 28, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Newspaper Readers

As the end of 2012 nears, I close by sharing Jeremy Taylor’s (1613-1667) nineteenth tip for humble living. I am also saying goodbye to all dear readers of this column. First, let’s consider Taylor’s final guideline for seeking humility.
            Taylor says, “Humility teaches us to submit ourselves and all our faculties to God.” He asks followers to recall the previous eighteen rules for humble living, and he encourages seekers of humility to adore God, submit to superiors “in all things, according to godliness, and to be meek and gentle in conversations toward others.”
            Because I’ve written fifty-two columns on humble living, I now have more knowledge about humility. Attaining humility is difficult, so God and I continue to move my stubborn will into better habits of humble living. The thing that most stood out in my study this year was author Randy Harris’ suggestion that whenever we walk into any rooms to consider ourselves the least in the room. Then to ask a mental question, “Who may I serve?” That’s powerful.
           Two special scriptures about humility took up residence in my heart. They contain both directives and a promise from our gracious Father: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), and “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). I know without doubt that as we honor God and others, God meets our needs.
            This will be my last column. After eleven years plus a few months, I find that the time has come to close out this phase of writing. Several family needs brought me to this decision, as well as offers to write for other venues. I can’t do it all. Even though I would love to write day and night, home duties call, and my dishes have not learned to wash themselves.
            First, thank you to “The Courier,” to Jim Fredricks, Andy Dubois, Bob Borders, Nancy Flake, Mike Jones, and Sondra Hernandez, who have guided, edited, and headlined. Some of you are no longer with “The Courier,” sort of ghosts of columns past. However, each of you shined your skills on my writing making it better. Any grammar mistakes were mine. I seem to be the queen of split infinitives. I’m indebted to Jim Fredricks for taking a chance on a very green writer in the summer of 2001 when I phoned and asked if I could write a column. I especially thank “Houston Community Newspapers” affiliate editors for publishing some of the columns.  
            Thank you, readers. Many of you have let me know through phone calls, emails, or in person when a certain column encouraged you at just the right moment. You have gently let me know when I made a scripture stumble, by misusing or misapplying. Sometimes, I had general information wrong, such as the time I mistakenly said morning glories have tendrils. A kindhearted horticulturist from Huntsville sent an email. We are friends to this day. I’ve grown because of the knowledge many of you shared with me.
           I also treasure those of you who introduced yourselves in aisles of stores or in restaurants. A few of you, when I pushed my cart by, got that I-know-her look on your faces. When you braved asking who I was, you gave me hugs, handshakes, and personal thank yous for the columns. You were wonderful, and your enthusiasm and appreciation kept me writing.
            I apologize for any preachiness, poor writing, and hurried writing of columns. I’ve done all three at times. When I began this column, my mission was to help readers love God because he first loved us. By faith, I knew that God could multiply any seeds of information about him. I trusted God to take the messages and use them any way he wanted. Readers, you have mailed them to prisoners, relatives, and even government officials. You told me you have them on your refrigerators and tucked in your Bibles. Aren’t you wonderful to receive and to pass on messages about God?
            “Goodbye” comes from the 1570’s word “godbwye,” a contraction of “God be with ye.” Today, I reach back several hundred years and borrow that sentiment: May God bless your journey. May God carry out the plans he has for you. May God be with you.
                  Hunger for Humility (Week 52): “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas and Tragedy: Poor Bedfellows


Christmas and tragedy are poor bedfellows.
           In this season of Advent, when we remember the coming of Christ, we long for surrounding events to reflect the joyous mood. Then an unthinkable act of inhumanity happens and we shudder to remember that all is not well in the world.
            At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, a slaughter took place. Adults died.  They expected to return home that evening. Children’s souls lifted from this earth and passed into the hands of God. Without a doubt, we know the Evil One instigated this catastrophe.
            As I’ve read the Bible over the years, I’ve learned that God reigns supreme over all happenings on earth. He alone has the power to allow or forestall any happening, good or bad.  Questions occupy our thoughts and conversations. Why didn’t God step in and prevent this?    God alone understands all the intricacies of this devastation. Opinions about how to prevent evil are as numerous as grains of sand. We strive for solutions, for reasonable answers, to fix things.
            We want to draw boundaries around evil. We long to be in control of our lives, to make sure that our loved ones stay safe. We want good to penetrate hearts, as we long to expel evil out of every corner. That day is coming, however it’s not here, yet.
            Where are we capable of banning evil? Where do we have dominion over powers of darkness? We have power over our own heart and soul. We cannot force other humans to turn to God, to seek his will, to welcome a holy invasion of God into their hearts. We have willpower to invite God to saturate us with his goodness, to lead us not “into temptation” but to “deliver us from evil.”
           God, the origin of life set up a perfect plan: love him and love your neighbor and your enemy.
            When people lose sight of God, the creator of life, they begin to lose their way. In addition, as they stray from God, they lose respect for life. When power hungry dictators seek control through invasion and bloodshed—evil gains momentum. When selfish parents prefer mind-altering drugs to parenting children—evil laughs at their folly and tallies its rewards. When we cheat in the smallest way, have lustful thoughts, slay unborn children—evil wins victories. Life becomes cheap. When polls show that seventy-five per cent of married people cheat on their spouses, the Evil One sneers at God’s call for fidelity in marriage.   
            It’s Christmas. We want to gather with family, hug our children. We want to hear bells ringing, choirs singing, we want to be merry and happy. We want dark valleys to go away. We want shadows of death to disappear. We long for streams of living water to purify peoples and societies.
             Wholesome streams of water always have a fountainhead, a beginning place. Christians know that fountainhead as Jesus Christ. He spoke to his followers and said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
            Every moment we make choices. We either live in God’s camp or take up with the thief, whom God also calls a roaring lion, his purpose to steal, kill, and destroy. In God’s camp, he first purposes to give love, restore life, and make whole.
            Someday, all tears will cease. God will triumph over evil, sickness (mind and body), and death. In the end, God wins. Even now, a victory occurs each time we make a conscious decision to obey the Good Shepherd, who can lead us into paths of right thinking and living.
            This Christmas, may you receive the blessing of peace that comes from the hand of God. Only he can gift what we really need.          
            Hunger for Humility (Week 51): “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 5:24-27
 
 

 

               

           

           

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Story with a Good Ending


A homeless man pictured on the cover of a book looks skyward as snow drifts down. He looks as if he’s hoping for a better day. The title of the book is “Unexpected Christmas Hero” by Kathi Macias. I downloaded the book onto my Kindle reader, and since the book contained a fictional work, I assumed that the cover featured a model for the photo, but that’s when I heard more about the cover.

            A photographer, who currently works with Christian publisher New Hope’s cover design team, found a homeless man in Ashville, North Carolina and asked if he would allow him to take pictures of him for possible use on a book cover. The homeless man Willard Parker agreed. As the photographer Michael Lê and his wife Christine took pictures, Mr. Parker told some of his story.

            He has acute leukemia and is not in good health. He lost his home and eventually ended up homeless. On the streets, his constant search is for a place to pillow his head at night and looking for food to eat. He lost touch with his two daughters and grandchildren, and later told someone, "When I had my picture taken for the book cover, all I wanted was for it to help me get back with my family. It worked, and I'm really grateful." He signed a release for the company to use his photo, and when the author heard the story, she wanted to assist him in reuniting with his family and set up a financial fund to help with travel expenses.

            “Unexpected Christmas Hero” released in mid-October, and a copy eventually fell into the hands of someone who knew one of Willard Parker’s daughters, 26-year-old Amber. Looking online, she found the book cover and wept. It was her daddy.

            However, she didn’t know how to contact him or where to find him. Mr. Parker’s ex-wife was driving near Ashville one day, spotted Willard Parker, and picked him up. Since then he has spoken to both his daughters by phone, Amber and Rebecca, but they haven’t had the miracle of a reunion. Mr. Parker is presently in Toledo, Ohio, according to Christian News Service.

            Author Kathi Macias and I have corresponded about Mr. Parker. From her, I found that Michael Lê and his wife Christine treated Mr. Parker with respect and as an equal during and after the photo session. Their respect helps introduce the eighteenth rule of humble living written by Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667). In the language of his day, Taylor wrote, “Upbraid no man’s weakness to him to discomfort him, neither report it to disparage him, neither delight to remember it to lessen him or to set thyself above him.”

            The respect involved in reuniting Mr. Parker with his family warms me all the way down to my tiptoes. I found out from the photographer that he was about to give up hunting for an appropriate subject for the book cover when his wife felt strongly that they should drive to a specific part of town. That’s where they discovered Mr. Parker.

            All involved felt that God put them on a specific path, so he could reunite a father with his children and grandchildren. God remains faithful in his work today as he breaches gaps in families and capably reunites sons and daughters to himself. After all, isn’t that what Wonderful, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace came to do.

            In the next two weeks, we’ll wrap up this series on humble living. I continue to pray that the words of God and suggestions of Jeremy Taylor have caused you to consider how you might further embrace humility in the context of your life.

            May God continue to bless the Parker family as they find their way back to each other.

            Hunger for Humility (Week 50): “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" I Corinthians 10:24”

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments at writecat@consolidated.net

Friday, December 07, 2012



            During the 1989 winter, Louise Gore and I drove our two high school seniors to Searcy, Arkansas to Harding Christian University’s campus. I phoned Arkansas relatives for a weather report, and my 90-year-old grandmother, who hadn’t been outdoors in weeks, answered, “Hon, the weather’s fine.”

By the time we reached Searcy, thick ice had formed everywhere. On a very steep decline, we inched into town taking a suggested shortcut. We later heard from the locals that we had come into town on the worst choice road. We made our icy descent into town from a steep road that had a winter name of “Suicide Hill.” One day later, travel was still treacherous, the highways glazed like a doughnut. As we traveled homeward on “black ice,” we passed numerous cars in ditches. With all of us having tense shoulders, we didn’t even make it to the Arkansas state line. We stopped our trip, and a clerk rented us her last motel room in Prescott, Ark.

Every two hours, night and day, I started my vehicle to keep the weak battery charged. We’d already had to jump it off one morning of the trip. No. It wasn’t a Die Hard brand. 

Meanwhile, back at our South Texas home, outdoor temperatures hovered around six degrees. Weighted by ice, tree limbs broke. Electric power ceased. Warm houses grew cold. With no electricity, my husband and teen daughter had the fireplace roaring and camped out nearby.

Our fireplace had a swing arm to hold a cooking pot. After many cold PB & J sandwiches, they wanted to eat something hot, so they combined culinary skills and cooked dried beans. They couldn’t find my all-metal cooking pot, so they used a teakettle that didn’t have any plastic parts. Never having cooked pintos before, they washed a two-pound-bag of beans, added water and salt, and shoved the lid onto the medium sized kettle.

As the blazing fireplace heated the metal bottom, the beans began to absorb water and swell. For about four hours, the growing beans pulsed out the spout of the teakettle. They formed a sort of cooking brigade. Add water. Catch beans. Add water. Catch beans. 

When the weather began to warm and folk began to stir, neighbors Myra and Elton invited hubby and daughter to dinner. They didn’t go empty handed. They had plenty of fresh mesquite-smoked beans. We still laugh about the miracle multiplying beans.

During another South Texas ice storm, temperatures skidded beneath the 32 mark. I was at home for that freeze, and the view out my kitchen window fascinated me. Six-inch icicles hung from the roofline, but pressed against the window panes were three red roses, the climbing kind.

The disparity of the icicles and red roses prompted thoughts about a Bible passage. God said through the prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).  

During Advent, we once again enact awaiting a Savior. One, who can scrub the darkness from a soul and turn it white as snow. We await the arrival of one who delivers on all his promises.

God’s reaches through any kind of inclement weather or stained life to provide care and healing. He sometimes sends fresh reminders in icicles and roses.

Hunger for Humility (Week 49): “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18).

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments at writecat@consolidated.net