Thursday, June 5, 2008

House Contest Essay and Contest Announcements

Greetings, Pixels. Our Family Experience with Cancer contest continues, so get those entries to me by tomorrow.

Before I post the single entry into our "Small Town U.S.A." contest for the house, please allow me to announce that I declare both entries last week in "The Arts" contest as winners. Our guest judge seems to have gone AWOL, not sure if she's under a tight deadline, so I am declaring both Amy Barkman and Karri Compton as winners. Ladies, you'll each receive a copy of a book from my own stack of books - I'll get them out to you this weekend. Thank you so much for participating - I loved reading your entries, and glad I didn't have to choose just one!

Now, for a special treat.

As most of you know, Pix-N-Pens tried to give away a house located in Selma, Alabama by holding an essay contest. We required only 1500 entries, with an entry fee of $50. This type of contest is being done all over the country - during the course of ours, I received emails from Oregon, California, Missouri, and one other state I've now forgotten, announcing their own contests with much higher entry fees. I don't yet know the outcome of the others, but ours failed. It was a contest as much for writers, as it was for giving away a house, and would have been a great accomplishment to add to a writer resume - the judges were all published authors through traditional publishing houses, and the final guest judge was the Senior Editor of The Saturday Evening Post.

We had only one entry, and the contestant graciously agreed to be our guest on Pix-N-Pens today, and gave us permission to post her entry.

Please give a hearty welcome to DIANE POPENHAGEN, from Missouri.

I asked Diane to share a brief bio with us, and I also asked her the two questions I'm sure everyone wants to know. I'm going to post her entire answer, because it was so precious.

Diane, WHY did you enter the contest, and WHAT would you have done with the house if you had won?

Diane: It will sound absurd, but I will tell you why I entered. I would have lived in the home while I painted, etc. I thought it might be a wonderful experience for my suburban children to actually talk to neighbors longer than just to give them their misdelivered mail. Then I planned on selling the home for a small amount to bless an underprivileged family, and to pay off the remainder of my student loans. We've been alleviating debt in an attempt to enable my husband to enter the pastorate full time, rather than pastor and have a full time job, as he does now. My student loan is the last "hump," to overcome before we can travel as evangelists or dedicate ourselves full time to ministry at home.

Odd, I know. But, if I weren't odd, I'd be bored.

Diane, you sound like my kind of person!!

Now, Diane's professional bio:

Diane Popenhagen began her career in marketing communications after graduating with honors from University of Central Missouri. She developed her skills to encompass both writing and graphic design. After many successful years in PR and marketing, Diane chose to focus more directly on her growing family.

To keep fresh while at home, Diane Popenhagen began writing a humor column for Family Journal that has enjoyed a loyal readership for 3 years running. She parlayed that success into teaching opportunities at both the high school and junior high levels, as well as private tutoring. Ms. Popenhagen has enjoyed the privilege of writing screenplays, books, manuals, songs and poetry. She now divides her time between her three children, running a ghostwriting business and creating articles and columns for various print publications.

For more information or ghostwriting services, Ms. Popenhagen can be reached at

Diane's Entry:

The Town of My Youth
by Diane Popenhagen

As I drive down the neighborhood streets in my suburban city, I have never seen the demolition of a porch and the razing of a front yard. However, through the years the porches have all disappeared, in favor of decks, and the families have retreated into their back yards, like ants scurrying to avoid detection.

My subdivision still retains remnants of community in the waves and nods between passing cars. Once a year we have a neighborhood barbeque organized by the one woman on the block who refuses the coming tide of isolation. Every subdivision has a woman like her. She is a renegade, armed with friendship and hotdogs, attempting, like a misguided pebble, to hold back the growing waves of separation.

The nearness of the homes is beguiling, though a poor counterfeit for personal connection. Seated at the restaurant booth near me is a family of three. The mother is talking on the phone, her teenage daughter is texting and the young boy is listening to his iPOD. They look like they are gathering for a meal, but they're simply eating near one another, not dining with each other. Instantly, I am reminded of my neighborhood. Our houses are close to each other, but really the street name on our return addresses are all that we share.

I recently heard a study estimate that, through multi-tasking and technology, Americans can get 31 hours worth of work done in the 24 hours we are given in a day. If we are getting over 30 hours worth of work done, when are we to sit and appreciate our accomplishments? Perhaps our technology –laden, over-achieving natures have made us able only to acquire, but left us unprepared to enjoy. We can buy a home, but to sit on its porch and linger is no longer within our capabilities.

My nostalgic heart remembers the small town of my youth. We'd sit for hours on our porches sharing. We shared lemonade, laughter and jars of lightening bugs. We sat long and lingered until the day gave up its fight with the night. Our land lots weren't just in close proximity; our homes were intertwined.

It is not by mistake that as we get more tech-savvy and more productive, that the pharmacists are reaping unprecedented incomes from the staggering number of antidepressants prescribed for the nomadic and isolated. We are crowded, yet lonely. We are out of space, but still alone. Small towns everywhere are preferring togetherness over nearness. They are choosing to enjoy, rather than simply acquire.

There are communities dotting America that are putting forth a collective hotdog-toting voice, rallying for genuine compassion and connection. There are small towns everywhere urging all of us to sit on the porch, to play in the front yard and to belong. Let us listen to the clarion call for a global barbeque, as it were. Let us not only hear the cry for authentic union, but bring the buns. That's the neighborly thing to do!

Tracy here: Thanks Diane, for a beautiful reminder of days gone by. And thank you for entering our contest. May God bless your efforts in abundant measure.

Pixels, please welcome Diane with your comments.


Mary DeMuth said...

What a lovely essay!!! And such inspired words, too. We are a world out of touch with each other...

Jessica said...

Wow, that was awesome. I am so NOT an essay person, but that kept my interest the entire way through. It made me wish for something that existed before me. So beautiful! said...

Thanks so much for this beautiful essay....a great reminder of what we still have but are quickly losing. I'm blessed for the reminder.

Amy Barkman said...

Dear Diane,

What a beautiful article about community life as it should still be. And what a wonderful motive and goal for your entry. I’m so sorry the contest could not be completed. I can’t imagine that you would not have won.

I am going to add you to my daily prayer list - that the Lord meets your needs and goals in another way. And also that He sells the house for Tracy, Tim, and the family, and meets their needs too.

God bless us every one as Jesus fulfills His present day ministry through us.

Amy Barkman

Debra Ullrick said...

Absolutely wonderful, Diane. And so true!

Boy can I relate to the missing porches and their swings. My mom and I talked about that yesterday. We miss the porch swing that my aunt used to have. Many quiet hours spent there, listening to family, friends, and children's laughter.

Isolation is indeed a problem. Seems everyone is too busy to get together with their neighbor. This is so ironic, because my husband and I talked about that today. He said back in Iowa the town folks used to get together at the town square every Friday night. They did their marketing, visited with the town folk, bought ice cream and candy, and just had fun. You sure don't see that anymore. Well, you might see a town get together, but it is mostly with strangers now...unfortunately.

And you are so right. You see families sitting together at the same table, or in the same room, but they're a million miles apart. Conversation is non-existent.

We moved down from the mountains a year ago in July. Not one person or neighbor in our new town has bothered to introduce themselves to us. I understand that things have changed and that you can't trust everyone, but surely there are still people out there who are willing to take a risk to meet a new neighbor. *smiling*

There's a book I'm reading that is teaching me to enjoy the simple things in life. Instead of walking by a bouquet of flowers, I now stop and enjoy each one and their unique beauty. I now enjoy the sound of the birds singing in perfect harmony. When I pet my cat, I'm now aware of how soft her fur is and how blessed I am to have a pet. When I kiss my husband, I don't just kiss him and walk away. I cherish the feel of his lips on mine and the warmth of him. His voice, I'm aware of more now than ever. So many things that I never stopped to take the time to notice before, I'm now doing. What would happen if we all did that?
We can change this world, one person at a time. And the change starts with us.

Thanks for the memory.

Fabulous essay, Diane.
Debra Ullrick
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