Thanksgiving Top 10

Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. There’s something very pure about a day devoted to expressing gratitude, a day you don’t have to buy any presents for, a day that people from all strata of society can participate in.

I spend much of November thinking about the hundreds of things I’m thankful for. This Thanksgiving blog will focus on freelance projects from the past year that I am particularly grateful for. Let’s call it,

Top 10 Projects I was Thankful to Work On This Year

(I apologize in advance if your project is not specifically listed—it’s been a full year, and I couldn’t list them all!)

GeertsemaChronicles721. The Geertsema Chronicles

This book is a wonderful example of how an ordinary person can write a meaningful memoir that will bless his family for generations. It’s also an example of how the process is just as rich as the product. John Geertsema worked on this memoir for 15 years, beginning in 1994 when his children gave him a book in which to jot down his memories of growing up in Holland. Because he was in no particular hurry to “finish” the book, Mr. Geertsema spent a lot of time adding vivid details, historic documents, and plenty of photographs, which really brought his stories to life. He worked with his daughter, Nancy Buis, to finally organize all the stories and images, and she cherishes the time they spent together. I don’t think he had originally planned to turn it into a published book, but when Nancy saw a book I had helped a friend of hers with, she wanted something similar for her dad. Although the book is a personal history, I honestly think the stories Mr. Geertsema has captured would fascinate a broader audience. Either way, The Geertsema Chronicles developed into a beautiful keepsake, and because it’s a print-on-demand publication, family members here in the States as well as in the Netherlands are able to order copies one at a time, as they desire. It was a wonderful project to work on. (UPDATE: John Geertsema passed away in August of 2010. With his family’s permission, in honor of his memory I’ve posted a more detailed look at his autobiography: “The Geertsema Chronicles: a well-written memoir, an enduring legacy.”)


2. The VitaMinute

The VitaMinute e-newsletter was my first experience with email marketing leader Constant Contact, and Shaklee Distributors Ann Schenkel and Dori Dykstra were gracious about learning right along with me! We sent a “short and sweet” newsletter once a month to their contacts, and Constant Contact provided a lot of quick help and useful data. I’m thankful for the fun meetings we had at Panera, and for the good information we were able to share in an efficient format. (UPDATE: Ann Schenkel has now transformed her e-newsletter into a weekly VitaMinute blog!)

3. Chris Klein’s book

How many of you know Chris Klein? He’s a guy who won’t let cerebral palsy keep him from learning, teaching, and enjoying life. After starting a ministry called Clay Vessel, Chris decided it would be helpful to have a book about his life. So he and I have been working on that project off and on for the past several months. I have never met Chris in person, but the beauty of technology is, we can communicate and collaborate quite efficiently and effectively using keyboards, email attachments, and internet connections! I’m thankful for Chris’ sense of humor, his unique perspective, and his passion for helping people. If you are eager to see his book in print, send Chris an email or write on his Facebook wall.

VredeveldRichard_090803memorialservice724. Memorial folders

When the father of my best friend passed away this summer, I had the honor of working with the family to prepare a customized memorial folder, using photos they provided, favorite memories, and meaningful Scriptures woven into the order of service. (Click the image to view the PDF.) Not only did this unique program become a keepsake for family and friends, it gave me a way to help the family and pay tribute to a wonderful man. Since then I’ve had other opportunities to serve families who have suffered loss. This kind of work is sensitive and time-consuming, but the gratitude from the families is overwhelming, and I’m thankful to be entrusted with their memories in this unique way.

5. LifeLines

This blog is a new project for me this year, and it’s another one I’m grateful for. I appreciate the discipline of posting new, worthwhile content weekly. I enjoy being able to feed this content to my other web locations. And I value the different kinds of comments I get from different kinds of people in these different locations.

6. The Mexi-Can

Mexi-CanA friend of mine from church, Al Villarreal, is a skilled handyman with a big heart. He hired me to design business cards for him, and he asked me to put a Bible verse on the back, so he could witness to people each time he hands out a card. His evangelism program must be working, because a few weeks ago he asked me to print more cards for him! I’m thankful for Al’s skills (he’s helped with a couple projects at my house) and his compassion.

7. Archer’s Arrows

I haven’t actually worked on this book this year, but George Griffiths, who originally hired me for the project in 2008, did order some additional copies last month, and that got me to thinking about the enduring nature of old-fashioned, printed books, and how technology today can really enhance the best qualities of the books we love. You see, Archer’s Arrows is an updated version of a book originally called ArrowsArrows was a book of poetry by Judge William Archer: his daughters collected 38 of his poems and presented them to him as a hardcover book published by J. J. Little & Ives Company (New York). This was back in 1931, for Judge Archer’s 60th birthday. George Griffiths (Archer’s grandson) has a copy of that original book, and he wanted to share it with other members of the family. He re-published the collection as part of an expanded volume that also includes rare photographs, newspaper clippings, papers, and certificates that are all part of the family history. I suppose if George were a little more comfortable with his computer, he would be sharing this family history via Facebook or something, but somehow that kind of convenience and efficiency still can’t quite replace the presence of an actual printed book.

8. Social Media

At the same, there’s a lot to be said for social media, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had this year to learn tweeting, blogging, Linking, Facebooking, and more! I’m thankful for the excellent, helpful seminars and webinars I’ve attended this year, and for the vast resources available online. If you are getting ready to wade into Web 2.0 waters yourself, let me know, and I’ll be happy to recommend some helpful sites.

9. Humorous devotional

I recently had an opportunity to submit an entry to Creative Enterprises, a publisher working on a one-year devotional of humorous/inspirational stories. I submitted a story from an experience I had on a Bible League trip to China a few years ago, and writing about it again made me thankful for the wonderful people I worked with, the powerful mission we shared, and the enlarged sense of “church” we developed.

10. Cancer Freedom

Cancer Freedom, as told by Melanie JongsmaCancer Freedom is actually an old book, the first one I ever had published (by Baker Book House in 1995, under the title Surrender or Fight). I’m thankful that this old book has seen new life this year. Having the rights reverted back to myself and co-author Bea Hoek has given us the freedom to update the text, title, and cover, and to make the book available in print through Lulu and as an ebook through Smashwords. I’m also exploring the possibility of releasing an audio version, so that might be in my Top 10 list next Thanksgiving! (See “Cancer Freedom: a living memoir,” for the story behind the book.)

I love that Thanksgiving gives me an opportunity to review my year, count my blessings, and thank my God. And I hope this holiday gives you a chance to do the same. In fact, if you’d like to start your own Thanksgiving Top 10, feel free to post a comment below and get your list started!

Thanks again, friends and colleagues. It’s been a wonderful year.

Review: I love my Canon ELPH digital camera!

I bought a new Canon PowerShot SD1200IS Digital ELPH camera in preparation for my family vacation this week, and I have to tell you, I love it!

I am by no stretch of the imagination a professional photographer, so this review will not include any technical jargon. I’m sure there are many advanced features of this camera that are very helpful and impressive, but I didn’t need any of them to take fabulous action shots, gorgeous scenics, and flattering portraits this week. The ELPH is that easy to use.

Through the windshield
Through the windshield

I inaugurated my ELPH in the car the morning we left. My first vacation photo was taken through the windshield of my moving Honda. Although I was traveling at highway speeds, the clarity of the shot was excellent, capturing not only the cottony clouds and azure sky, but also the large bug splat on the windshield.

Swans at dusk
Geese at dusk

This second photo was taken later that evening, just before sunset. The geese shown are similar in color to the water, and low light could have made this a muddy, indiscernible image. But the ELPH handled it beautifully and artistically. A few minutes later, it also rendered the Traverse City sunset (below) in all its glowing glory. Although there were no clouds that night to add visual interest and color variations, the ELPH captured the vibrancy that was there. And all I needed to do was push a button.

Sunset on the bay
Sunset on the bay

Throughout the week we dealt with sunny weather, rain, and wind, and I took photos standing still, riding my bike, and kneeling in the sand. They all turned out bright and crisp. Those of you who are familiar with print production realize that a photo that looks nice in a blog post may not be high enough quality or resolution to reproduce as the cover of a coffee table book, and I haven’t tested any of my recent photos as print projects yet, so I can’t speak to that. But I can tell you that my camera was set at the second highest setting—2816 x 2112—and the JPEGs it created are all about 1.5–2.0mb. The highest camera setting is 3648 x 2736, and I would have used that setting, but I wasn’t sure how many images of that size I could fit on my 8gb memory card. (I hadn’t brought my laptop with and would not have been able to offload images to free up space if needed.)

Note the variations of color in sky and sea
Note the variations of color in sky and sea
Clear enough to read the sign

My only dissatisfaction with my new ELPH camera is that I’m required to use Canon’s Image Browser software (included) to download my photos to my computer. My previous camera was a Sony CyberShot, and I liked being able to just plug it into my Mac and have it show up as a disk on my desktop, where I could simply drag the photos I wanted to the appropriate folder. This is a minor complaint, to be sure, but it’s worth mentioning because everything else about the ELPH is so streamlined and simple. UPDATE: I now use iPhoto to organize and store all my photos, and I’ve set my Mac to use iPhoto as the default program whenever I plug in my ELPH.

Interesting lighting captured beautifully
Interesting lighting captured beautifully

The ELPH is conveniently sized to fit in a pocket or purse. Theoretically, you could whip it out, turn it on, and take a shot—all with one hand.

So if you’re looking for a digital camera that’s easy to use and produces beautiful images, take a look at the Canon ELPH. I love mine!

UPDATE: I took my ELPH again in 2010 when I vacationed with my family on Florida’s gulf coast. The blog I posted of that trip is not a review of the camera, but it does show more of what the ELPH can do.