Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

I know it’s cliché to say this, but it’s been quite a year. This past year was filled with everything from travel to health crises. I even graduated from graduate school and bought my first home. Traditionally, at this time of year, I not only look towards my goals for the coming year, I also look back and see how the past year has measured up. Although I didn’t accomplish all my goals (it’s hard to lose weight when you’re stress eating while studying for tests), I have to say I’m in an altogether different place than I was this time last year. And, while I’m still catching my breath here, I have to say I’ve been quite content with where I’m at. Until last night, that is.
Last night it occurred to me that my birthday is coming up in a few weeks. Each year, I greet the approach to January and the subsequent birthday with less excitement and more dismay. This year I’m going to be 33. Now, I know this is a heavy thought for New Year’s Eve, but bear with me. Jesus was 33 when He died on a cross to save the world from the consequences of sin. Now, I'll be the first to say that a diploma and a mortgage is big. But this is bigger. Kind of puts a new spin on setting goals for the New Year, doesn’t it? Maybe it will help me stay focused on my goals a little past February this year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Time

Yesterday, I received a half dozen Christmas cards in the mail. The radio station I listen to, KLOVE, is still playing the occasional Christmas song. More than one person has hinted that I can expect a gift in the next couple of weeks. What I lacked in the Christmas spirit in the weeks prior, I seem to be making up for in the last couple of days. I hope the trend continues. I like this idea of Christmas continuing to last beyond one particular day in December.
Last year, I read one of those viral emails about Christmas. This one had some interesting things to say about Christmas decorations. It suggested keeping one Christmas decoration up year round as a reminder of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. Since then, I have kept out a small Nativity, handmade out of clay. This particular Nativity means a lot to me because it was a gift. So I think of it often. I think the fact that is was a gift reminds me of the bigger gift of the real Nativity.
Maybe it’s never too late to get into the Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Circling the Target

So last month I attacked this writing thing full force. My second wave came in strong at the beginning of December when I both wrote and submitted a few articles. Then came the retreat back into the hidey hole.
Now I’m circling the target again. I’m not exactly doing a lot of writing. I am reading plenty, but I just can’t seem to write. I think I’m pre-writing. Right now I have more reading projects going on than I usually do. I’m reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I’m also reading a few books on death and dying for work. I decided to throw in The Red Badge of Courage because I’ve never read it before. And I just finished The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Lee over at Little Nuances just added substantially to my to be read pile with his post on Elisabeth Elliot.
So I’ve reached the point where I am wondering if my preparation for writing is actually procrastination from writing. I think there are a few things in life like that. We have to circle the target to determine what the best way to make our approach is. But sooner or later we need to trust our assessment of the available data on the risk, benefits, and obstacles, and just go for it. Now if I could just do that…

Monday, December 18, 2006

Merry Christmas

As Christians, we are called to show God’s love to others. We’re also asked to tolerate quite a bit. Living in our multicultural society, I accept that others have beliefs and traditions different than my own. And I’m more than OK with this. I wouldn’t force my beliefs on anyone because it wouldn’t be fruitful and I’m just not that kind of girl. Besides, Christians in other parts of the world are called to suffer and be persecuted for their beliefs. So that helps me keep things in perspective as I think about celebrating Christmas.
I’m especially thinking about how it’s become more and more of a taboo to wish someone a Merry Christmas. If one pays attention to the media, it certainly seems like Merry Christmas has gone the way of any number of politically incorrect statements. Yet this has not been my experience, or the experience of many “everyday persons” I’ve informally polled. In fact, I think it would be more offensive to assume someone is so fragile that they couldn’t tolerate a wish of “Merry Christmas.” Sure, if I engage in a more in depth conversation with someone I will inquire about how they celebrate the holidays. Even if my ultimate hope is to share the faith with them, I believe I need to start by honoring their own beliefs. But sometimes all one has time for is a brief greeting. I hope you’ll tolerate my wish that you have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I was doing so well. After NaNoWriMo, my energy was high. I found my voice. I had developed the habit of writing daily. I found ideas coming back to me. Not only did I write stuff, I actually sent it out. To editors. They sent it back.
There’s nothing like a rejection (or a couple of them) to remind one of the difficult and unpleasant parts of writing. The good parts are so good, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that their unfortunate counterparts show up on occasion. What is surprising is that even though re-entry continues to be a struggle, I plan on getting up and working at it all over again tomorrow.
Go figure.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Favorite Christmas Carols

I’m a traditionalist as far as Christmas carols go. I like the classics, and I don’t like them messed with all too often. There are some new Christmas songs I like, but they typically have a classic feel to them. Todd Agnew has some new Christmas offerings and I really like them. Did You Know provides a thought provoking reflection on what life must have been like for Jesus, knowing the purpose for which He came to earth. His music does have a contemporary feel, but the overall tone is still traditional enough for me.
I love all the Christmas/Advent hymns, but I’d have to say two of my favorites are O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and O Come All Ye Faithful. The Nativity features a wonderful, ancient sounding version of the former.
But my all time favorite Christmas carol is The Little Drummer Boy, or The Carol of the Drums. I remember when I was a kid, waiting until the day after Thanksgiving when Mom would let us pull out the Christmas music. (We didn’t start after Halloween like they do now). We’d wrap presents and put up Christmas decorations. I’d always want to listen to this song first. Why do I love it so much?
I love the idea of this little child standing in contrast to the Wise Men. He had no possessions or status to speak of. All he had was this one thing, this thing that he was good at, this thing that made him feel real when he did it. That’s what he offered to Jesus.

more gifts:

melting snow
rain in December
The Little Drummer Boy
my Mickey Mouse watch
warm vanilla sugar chapstick
Culver’s flavor of the day
the library in my backyard
good deeds
The Boar’s Head Festival
hand me downs from mom’s closet

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Nativity

What determines if a life is worth living? For many of us, when suffering significantly decreases our quality of life, we decide not to take measures to prolong the pain and discomfort. But there are some people who seem to live whole lives of immeasurable suffering. We’ve all seen people with physical or environmental or other challenges. We wonder about these people, about how and why they go on in the face of such suffering.
It occurs to me that perhaps the only difference between me and someone devoid of the hope, support, and means to cope with life is that I have a great Mom and Dad. I have parents that accepted and believed in me despite the obvious challenges my disability presents. Sometimes in the face of limitations, people are presented with further rejection and discouragement that robs them of the resources they need to have hope. Some people have distant, rejecting siblings.
I don’t. I have a brother who will loan me money to get my wisdom teeth out, who will drive for an hour to put furniture together for me, and will make that hour long trip in substantially faster time when I’m in the emergency room and need someone to help me home.
So I was thinking a lot about this suffering thing when I saw The Nativity tonight. Seeing the familiar story presented in a different manner gave me some new perspectives to think about. I felt a sense of hope and joy as I watched Jesus’ birth portrayed. Perhaps this touched me because I needed that so much today. The hope was immediately contrasted with the realization that suffering was the entire purpose, the intention, the meaning of Christ’s life. He suffered the ultimate suffering so we would not have to.

today's gifts:

that I do not need to rely on my suffering for redemption
my fireplace
my periwinkle bedroom walls
my dolls from Nell
melting snow
forecasts of rain in Dec
fun co-workers
angels among us
The Princess Bride
Monsters, INC
office supplies
the new Staples opening up down the street
Borders bookstores
Christmas shopping via the internet

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I'm Just Saying...

I don't have much to say today. Here's my list of gifts for today. I guess that says something.

kind nurses
my sisters
eternal life
the muse is back
my computer
my ipod
role models
Christmas lights in the dark
my humidifier

Sunday, December 03, 2006

New Blog Link!

My very talented friend and fellow writer, Teena Stewart has started a blog. Whispers in the Dark is for anyone interested in romantic suspense stories. Teena writes some great stuff, one of her short stories is the most delightfully spooky thing I've read to date.
You also need to check out the links on Teena's blog. She's got a ministry leadership webpage, a yahoo group for fiction writers, and she's probably working on some other surprises we don't know about yet.

Today's list of gifts:

Jars of Clay
de-icing chemicals
books on loan
white elephant gifts
clean laundry
New Year’s resolutions
unexpected help
home ownership
my orange food tray
Kermit the Frog
A God who likes to show off on occasion
people as art
my post-it notes with fun quotes

Friday, December 01, 2006

Works of Art

The other day I spoke with someone who is very artistic. She talked about what her art communicates about her. She expanded on this topic by explaining that she chooses her clothes and hairstyle for the same purpose; to create an artistic impression. Then I got it. When she creates art, she isn’t just asking us to approve of the product. She’s asking us to see her AS art. She wants someone to see that she is beautiful and valuable.
Would we treat the people around us differently if we recognized them as beautiful and valuable works of art?
Would we treat ourselves differently if we recognized ourselves as beautiful and valuable works of art?

Images on the sidewalk speak of dream’s descent
Washed away by storms to graves of cynical lament
Dirty canvases to call my own
Protest limericks carved by the old pay phone
In your picture book I’m trying hard to see
Turning endless pages of this tragedy
Sculpting every move, you compose a symphony
You plead to everyone, “see the art in me”
Broken stained-glass windows, the fragments ramble on
Tales of broken souls, an eternity’s been won
As critics scorn the thoughts and works of mortal men
My eyes are drawn to you in awe once again
In your picture book I’m trying hard to see
Turning endless pages of this tragedy
Sculpting every move you compose a symphony
You plead to everyone, “see the art in me”

Art In Me” Jars of Clay

Continuing my list of 1000 gifts:

snow shovels
people who shovel
Yak Trax
my fridge magnets from LeAnne
snuggling in my down comforter
my garnet ring
my Bible
my bookcase
sacred spaces

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Win

Well, I did it. I finished my 50,000 word novella this month. Nobody else is ever going to read this thing, but it was still useful to me. In fact, I'd recommend NaNoWriMo to just about anyone. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons. Deadlines are quite motivating. If you meet a deadline in one thing, it can inspire confidence in other things as well. It's quite cathartic. If you set out to write 50,000 words in a fairly short period of time, sooner or later, you hit something significant.
So, later this week, I'll get back to a little more substantial blogging. For now, here's a few more things on my list of gifts to be thankful for.

lunch breaks
being a godmother

Sunday, November 26, 2006

More Gifts

Lilacia Park in Lombard
people who comment on blogs
deep fried turkeys
severely beautiful weather
my floral screwdriver from LeAnne
Smokey The Bear
my Nativity from my godmother
mental health days
the bat phone
the balcony
cookie cutters
Jonathan Nathaniel the Bunny Rabbit
wind chimes
air conditioning
days when you don’t need either

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened...

I hope all y’all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. In yet another Nano blog, I want to share something said at our house this weekend. It came up that I sleep with my fan on to drown out train noise. The following conversation between my brother & me ensued.
Brian: You need one of those noise/music/machine thingys.
Me: I have no where to put it.
Brian: Well, a relaxing CD you can put on repeat then.
Me: Yes! I want Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major.
Brian: That’s something I’m going to need you to write down.
Me: (laughing)
Brian: Because with what I got from that, I’m likely to get you a canon full of Taco Bell.
Me: (lots more laughing)

If you are keeping count, ths post brings me up to 101 of my favorite gifts.

chocolate chip pancakes
emails from cousins
Christmas ornaments (esp. those with bears on them)
a brother to see them with
“found” money in winter coats
all the Santas in my life
all the people I’m Santa to
being a godmother
inside jokes
the Salvation Army bells
laughing until I cry
people who say “thank you”
people who say “Merry Christmas”
spell check
my thesaurus from my brother
my dictionary from my aunt

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

What a busy week!! I always love this time of year because the Food Pantry I run is busting with donations and we are able to help so many people. We help people with food all year, but it's particularly gratifying to be able to provide a special meal for people. It's humbling to see people who have so little be so grateful. Here's some more gifts I'm grateful for:

“brain candy” TV shows
people who give to those less fortunate
the ability to read
nice neighbors
a great church
gel pens
braided area rugs
Discipleship Journal
blogs to read
a blog to write
Christmas lights
nail polish
babies laughing
Peanuts cartoons
writers’ conferences
cross stitch kits
camping trips
road trips
my hand made afghans
nature conservatories
that I live steps from the library
people who encourage
farmers’ markets

Sunday, November 19, 2006

1000 Gifts

I’m helping Crystal share this idea (I got it from her site). The goal proposed by Christian Women Online is to come up with a list of 1000 gifts that you have, that you are thankful for. Fair warning to those of you who read my 100’s, this is going to take a while.
Sleeping in till noon (did that today)
birthday cards
Christmas family gatherings
fountain pens
my printer/copier/scanner
my computer
my bed
getting my wisdom teeth out
paper, all kinds of paper
hot chocolate
the ability to listen to music
the color periwinkle
Good Samaritans
George Foreman grill
the people I work with
visiting out of state friends
hand massages
shopping sprees
customer service
unseasonably warm winter days
coloring books
chocolate & the ability to taste it
internet access
my cell phone
acceptance letters
my church
getting the giggles
rocking chairs (I have 2)
brown cows

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Fives

Since I've gotten rid of cable, and since starting NaNoWriMo, I haven't watched much TV. But I do like to get a fix of my favorite shows on a regular basis. My five favorite shows, in no particular order, are:

  • Grey's Anatomy
  • Standoff
  • Veggietales
  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (sadly, this one went away with the cable)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

God Bless VeggieTales

If you haven’t had a chance to catch VeggieTales on Saturday morning cartoons, I highly recommend it. I’ve been a fan of VeggieTales for some time and I was curious to see how the Biblical message would play out on broadcast TV. It’s beautiful. It’s not wishy washy, nor is it preachy. The stories are so creatively and engagingly well done. And the show is just funny.
Where else would you find a Sleepless Knight being defeated in a dual, with true love winning out? I mean, come on. Ok, so this episode hit particularly close to home for me, but they are all that good.
I encourage y’all to check it out. Me, I’m going back to writing as I enter the second half of NaNoWriMo.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now?

As I was plugging away at my “novel,” which is really nothing more than a catharsis of the last three years, I kept batting around this idea of finding myself. I keep muttering to myself that if I keep at the process, I will find my way to the content. I’ve begun to consider that perhaps I’m not looking for someone I left behind three years ago. Maybe I need to discover someone entirely new.
Last night, 22,000 words into this thing, something happened. A sentence and a half into a new scene I scared myself half to death. Something new, but vaguely familiar was there. Perhaps it wasn’t entirely plausible or coherent, but it was there. Even after I got up, walked around the room for 20 minutes, and came back to check, it was still there. It might need a little more coaxing to come out again, but now I know it’s there.
I found my voice.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Fives

I'm trying out something new here. A list of 5 things each Friday. To be honest, this idea came about because I can't think of anything orginal to write. Today's Friday Five is "Peeves"

  1. People who enter a room speaking, oblivious to the fact that conversation may have actually been taking place before they entered
  2. People who don't let eldery folks have their seat on the bus
  3. Power struggles
  4. Poor customer service
  5. People who tell you how they feel without first asking how you feel

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Process & Content

Point of clarification regarding my last post- I don’t think writing is about choosing either process or content over the other option. The writer needs both, of course.
I have simply observed that usually I can get a jumpstart via content as my inspiration. That hasn’t been working for me since I returned to freelance writing after graduate school. I don’t think I have enough confidence in my content yet to create the momentum I need to reach past the obstacles to publication.
So I’ve taken a step back and getting reacquainted with the habit of writing itself. Writers write, consistently. If I write enough, eventually the content will come around. Maybe when it shows up it will bring my confidence with it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Writing & Counseling, Part II

A couple conversations I’ve had lately have sort of melded together to help me sort out where I am with regards to writing. I mentioned to someone the other day that I have a lot of “noise” in my head that’s keeping me from really getting back to where I was in my writing. As I wade ankle deep into NaNoWriMo, I realize I’m not where I was, I am where I am.
This “novel” I’m writing is awful. It’s myopic, navel gazing, cheap therapy, filled with clichés and excessive adverbs. But another “light bulb” from the world of counseling clicked on tonight.
It’s not about content, it’s about process. What I mean by that is, when someone says something absurd, like vampires are chasing after them, a content response would be to argue the facts. “Vampires are not chasing you.” “Are too.” “Are not.” “Are too.” Doesn’t get you very far.
But a process response addresses the feeling behind the statement.
“It must feel really frightening and unsafe to experience that.” Hopefully, that’ll get your foot in the door.
So even though this novel has pointless drivel for content, tonight I discovered that the process is spectacular. The sensory experience of banging out 1,700 words a day, the sound of the keyboard, the feel of the keys, the rhythmic movement of my hands, the thoughts flowing from my head to my hands to the screen - it feels good and right and healing.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nano Blog

It’s fitting that NaNoWriMo can be shortened to NaNo because that’s the kind of blogs I’m going to be posting for November- nano blogs. As in small, teeny tiny blogs. So here you go.
Yesterday I went to the nursing home to visit a client. On my way out, I was feeling a little preoccupied, so I decided to stop in the chapel. I got about 7 feet from the doors and they both swung wide open.
For several seconds I literally looked right, left, up, & down thinking “God?” Then it occurred to me that they had a speedier version of the automatic door openers you usually see, so residents in wheelchairs would have easy access to the chapel.
My reaction was probably pretty funny to anyone watching. I couldn’t see what opened the door. But seriously, do the doors of all our churches swing open to welcome people so freely? What if what we really need to see is what keeps the door from opening?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Writing & Counseling

As counselor and freelance writer, I have often been asked about the connection between my two careers. On the outside the answer isn’t obvious because, among other things, I don’t write self-help books geared toward improving emotional wellness or other “mental health’ topics. So how are they related?
The short answer is that both fields are about communication and I’m all about communication. The neat thing I’ve discovered is that each field informs the other. Just as I consider the “felt needs” of my readers when I write, I have learned to address the felt needs of those I counsel. The issues they consider important might not be the ones I’d choose to address. However, it builds trust quicker and the relationship becomes more effective. In the same way that I listen attentively to my clients, I must also “listen” to my readers. Writing isn’t just about me sharing for my own benefit. My goal is to create interactive relationships, to participate meaningfully in the lives of my readers.
I was just thinking about a client who doesn’t believe she has anything useful or meaningful to contribute to those around her. She blocked any attempt to brainstorm volunteer opportunities because she doesn’t buy the premise that she is capable of helping someone. The writing phrase “show, don’t tell” occurred to me. She she’s not going to hear me tell her what her strengths are, she needs someone to show her.
There have been times I’ve felt torn between my two passions. Now I’m seeing how they can coexist and strengthen each other. Kinda cool.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Music Therapy

A couple weeks ago I was listening to the most depressing music I own. I was already in pretty rough shape, and the music intensified the experience. Although I found this therapeutic at the time, I also wasn't sure I'd ever be happy again. I sank deeper & deeper into the music.
Today, I tried listening to the same music and observed that it was indeed sad. The music is sad. I am not sad. The music has a power of its own to communicate. This got me thinking about the power of words, especially when set to music.
My favorite song is "More" by Matthew West. I think it ought to be at the top of everyone's wishlist and in every MP3 player. This is one powerful song.
Imagine being woken up by a love song from God. That's this song. It's God telling you "I love you more than the sun & the stars." You smile because you needed to hear it. You think you get it. But the song continues "you are one in a million and you belong to me." He loves you more. OK, now you get it.
Umm, nope. You still don't quite get the height, the width, and the length of the love we're talking about here. "I'm not letting go even when you come undone. I love you more." He really belts this out, so you think you finally get the message.
"I love you more than you can imagine. More than you can fathom." You realize you have no idea...
Now you're getting somewhere.

Friday, October 27, 2006


It’s been quite a week. I’ll spare you the ugly details and just leave it at that. Yet throughout the week I’ve seen evidence of God’s grace all over the place. I didn’t fully see it until I shared some of the ugly details with a few friends this week. Despite facing several challenging, draining interactions each day was surprised to note that I kept coming back for more. My emotional well never ran dry. That’s because before or after each of the challenges I faced, someone was there to support me. Compassion was being restored to me as fast as I could give it out.
Thinking about all this led me to the Bible verse I chose for this year:
“And the Angel of God, the one who went before the camp of Israel, moved. And he went to the rear of them. And the pillar of the cloud went from in front of their face and it stood behind them.” (Exodus 14:19)
Nearly 11 months later, and God is still illustrating His faithfulness in showing me the meaning behind these words. Even though I may have felt empty and unprepared entering a situation, I knew I could trust that when I was done, someone would be there to encourage and nurture me.
So just remember, if you can’t see God in front of you, turn around. He might be right behind you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Bibiliotherapy

I’ve mentioned Madeline L’Engle’s book, Walking on Water before. In it, she writes about how art, and writing in particular participates in naming the artist and the reader/viewer. The creative process is one of love, where we identify our selves more wholly with others and allow them to more wholly identify with us.
What are the books that have become part of your identity, that have helped name you? Rather than think about it in a continuum, consider taking a “snapshot” approach. Pick one time period in your life and ask yourself what books (or music, or art) were important in naming you.
The first time period that came to me was my first experience with books. What books named me before I could read them myself? In no particular order:

The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
The Little Engine that Could, Watty Piper
The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
The Selfish Giant, Oscar Wilde
Harold and The Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
The Monster at the End of This Book, Jon Stone
The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I've been needing a kickstart to get back into writing. The slow & easy re-entry wasn't cutting it. So I started toying with the idea of signing up for
NaNoWriMo. If you don't know, that stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is you try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, Nov 1-30th.
Orginally, I was thinking I'd just try to log 50,ooo words of anything, articles, blogs, journaling (hey- I get article ideas from journaling). Then
Cris went & told me she signed up for it again this year. So, due to the wonders of peer pressure, I've gone & officially signed up for NaNoWriMo.
Here's the thing, I don't even write fiction! Help!! I have nine days to come up with a fiction, or mostly fiction idea significant enough to allow me to write 50,000 words.
Maybe this will be good. Maybe since I don't write fiction, I won't have the pressure to make it a marketable piece. Maybe that's what I need.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I've Been Tagged!

Crystal over at the Chat n Chew Cafe tagged me for my 1st meme a few days ago. I had to do some thinking on these, so it took me some time.

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Mental Health Counselor
2. Writer
3. Telemarketer
4. Painter

Four movies I could watch over and over:
1. The Lord of the Rings
2. The Muppet Movie
3. The Polar Express (if Mom is watching with me)
4. Monsters Inc

Four places I have lived:
1. Franklin Park, IL
2. My dorm room.
3. My current place

4. What can I say, I’m a creature of habit.

Four things I like to do:
1. Write
2. Read
3. Listen to music
4. Create book art

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Dark chocolate
2. Giordano’s pizza
3. Granny Smith apples
4. homemade bread

Four places I would like to be right now:
1. Tucson, AZ
2. Mississippi
3 The Shire
4. a 5-star hotel with luxury spa

Four websites I visit daily (or often):
1.Chat ‘n’ Chew Café
2. itunes
Little Nuances
4. Paper Source

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Mississippi
2. Bavaria
3. Florida
4. California

Four books I could read again:
1. Lord of the Rings
2. The Last Battle
Ransom’s Mark
4. Max Lucado’s books

Four friends I think might respond to being tagged (but only if you want to:)
1. LeAnne
2. Karen
3. Cris tagged me
4. I don’t have any other blog friends:( (shameless begging for friends).

Thursday, October 19, 2006


If I did this right, you oughta be able to see a picture of a journal I made for an Expressive Arts class about a year ago. This is when I was introduced to and fell in love with book art. In addition to taking the class, I was working full time and beginning an internship in counseling. I am forever indebted to the professor who assigned us an actual creative project for Expressive Arts. I was not only given permission to journal, I was expected to- my grade depended on it! The process was so therapeutic I’d recommend it to anyone working on anything as masochistic as graduate school.
One of the concepts behind the therapeutic use of book art is that the materials chosen serve as a metaphor. I’m not going to tell you all the secrets behind the journal here, but I’ll share a little. This first project used almost exclusively found objects, a trend I’ve followed for my subsequent books. I like the serendipity of it and I like that the results aren’t always neat and tidy art. I guess there’s less pressure to create “perfect” stuff that way too.
The idea for the handmade journal started when I got a new stereo & salvaged the box flaps inscribed with “please read the instruction manual.” As much as I liked the quirkiness of the cover, it needed color. So I collected paint chips with names I felt drawn to, letting the colors end up how they ended up. I bound the book with 2 colors of wire. I used ribbon at the corners opposite the spine to create a closure.
So there’s the introduction to my interest in bibiliotherapy. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Monday, October 16, 2006


1. Not all who wander are lost. JRR Tolkien
2. There are two ways to live our life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein
3. Explore daily the will of God. Carl Jung
4. To one who waits, all things reveal themselves, so long as you have the courage not to deny in the darkness what you have seen in the light. Courtney Patmore
5. God writes through us, and however imperfect instruments we may be, He writes beautifully. Mother Teresa
6. And where there is not love, put love, and there you will draw out love. St. John of the Cross
7. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Steven Covey (& Mr. Block)
8. Become willing to see the hand of God and accept it as a friend’s offer to help you with what you are doing. Julia Cameron
9. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. Nelson Mandela
10. Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound. Melville
11. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased. CS Lewis
The Weight of Glory
12. My business is not to remake myself, but to make the absolute best of what God made. Robert Browning
13. Our vocation is not to simply be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity. Thomas Merton
14. Not all people are called to success, some are called to service. Mother Teresa
15. We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time. T.S. Eliot
16. Behold God beholding you… and smiling. Anthony de Mello
17. Preach the Gospel to all the world, and if necessary, use words. St. Francis of Assisi
18. The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. Richard Bach
19. When your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme. Jiminy Cricket
20. The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. Empedocles
21. We can do no great things, only small things with great love. Mother Teresa.
22. Discouragement is not from God. St. Ignatius
23. Your life may be the only Bible some people read. Anonymous
24. Sometimes what seems like surrender isn't surrender at all. It's about what's going on in our hearts. About seeing clearly the way life is and accepting it and being true to it, whatever the pain, because the pain of not being true to it is far, far greater." Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer
25. God does not love us because we are valuable; we are valuable because He loves us. Martin Luther
26. I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day. Abraham Lincoln
27. God is at His greatest when I am at my least Meister Eckhart
28. It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from. CS Lewis, Till We Have Faces
29. The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. Brennan Manning
30. In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus
31. You can shine no matter what you’re made of. Bigweld Robot
32. It’s not that easy being green. Kermit the Frog
33. What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. Oliver Wendell Holmes
34. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service. Mahatma Gandhi
35. Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are. Ralph Waldo Emerson
36. I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards. Abraham Lincoln
37. The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. Carl Jung
38. Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. Martin Luther King, Jr.
39. All know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know the ocean merges into the drop. Kabir
40. Before you can do something, first you must be something. Goethe
41. I guess I was wrong when I said I never promised anyone, I promised me. Kermit the Frog
42. It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. e.e. cummings
43. You are destined to fly, but that cocoon has to go. Nelle Morton
44. Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive. Anna Barton
45. It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end Ursula K. LeGuin
46. Self conquest is really self surrender. Yet before we can surrender ourselves we must become ourselves. For no one can give up what he does not possess. Thomas Merton
47. I wish that life should not be cheap, but sacred. I wish the days to be as centuries, loaded, fragrant. Ralph Waldo Emerson
48. Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. Nikos Kazantzakis
49. He that would be a leader must also be a bridge. Welsh Proverb
50. Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression. Dodie Smith
51. What I do is me; for that I came. Gerald Manley Hopkins
52. It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. Margery Williams
53. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. Ray Bradbury
54. People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. Elizabeth Kubler Ross
55. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. Martin Luther
56. Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter, don't mind. Dr. Seuss
57. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom Anais Nin
58. It does not do you good to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
59. Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. my strength lies solely in my tenacity.
Louis Pasteur
60. You must do the thing you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt
61. The important thing is that creation is God’s, and that we are part of it, and being part of creation is for us to be co-creators with him in the continuing joy of new creation. Madeline L’Engle
62. Each one of us has a fire in our heart for something. It’s our goal to find it and keep it lit. Mary Lou Retton
63. The purpose of discipline is to promote freedom. But freedom leads to infinity and infinity is terrifying. Henry Miller
64. That which does not kill me, makes me stronger. Nietzsche
65. The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance than their simplicity might suggest. Thomas Moore
66. Art, as far as it is able, follows nature, as a pupil imitates his master; thus your art must be, as it were, God's grandchild. Dante
67. Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent. Marilyn vos Savant
68. It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God. Mary Daly
69. Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can. Ralph Waldo Emerson
70. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker. Helen Keller
71. Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments. Jim Rohn
72. Bloom where you’re planted. Mary Engelbright
73. Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up Chinese Proverb
74. The work of art which I do not make, none other will ever make. Simone Weil
75. Discipline is remembering what you want. David Campbell
76. Write so heaven will be different. Author Unknown
77. Only a life lived in the service of others is worth living. Albert Einstein
78. It is a writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart. William Faulkner
79. I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die. Isaac Asimov
80. When I don't write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in prison. If feel I lose my fire and color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing. Anais Nin
81. Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain. Mark Twain.
82. The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning. Ivy Baker Priest
83. I write with intensity, discipline and constancy, because this is the work that calls me, the vocation of my heart. bell hooks
84. Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose. Leonardo Da Vinci
85. The writer is an explorer. Every step is an advance into a new land. Ralph Waldo Emerson
86. I’d miss this old swamp, but gee, millions of people happy… Kermit the Frog
87. There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. Willa Cather
88. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle
89. I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. Yeats
90.. She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. Louisa May Alcott
91. This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Overrated if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it. Eeyore
92. It’s a dangerous business going out your front door. JRR Tolkien
93. Consider the postage stamp. Its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing until it gets there. Josh Billings
94. Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. Jerry Seinfeld
95. Be silly. Be honest. Be kind. Ralph Waldo Emerson
96. There are two great rules of life; never tell everything at once. Ken Venturi
97. There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith
98. A half-baked idea is okay as long as it’s in the oven. Anonymous
99. It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to. W.C. Fields
100. Quid quid latine dictum sit, altum videtur. Anonymous

Friday, October 13, 2006

100 Favorites

1. Teddy Bears
2. rainbows
3. dark chocolate
4. lilacs
5. periwinkle
6. the song “More” by Matthew West
7. Kermit the Frog
8. My dog Nika
9. my condo
10. writing
11. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
12. tanzanite
13. The Lord of the Rings books
14. The Lord of the Rings movies
15. The Lord of the Rings musical score
16. 2 Cor 12:6-10
17. Giordano’s pizza
18. Gene & Jude’s hot dogs
19. listening
20. Going to the zoo with Kathe & her kids
21. fountain pens
22. bubble baths
23. fog
24. the word “discombobulated”
25. my ipod
26. my aunt’s greeting cards
27. giving to charity
28. catalogs
29. cranberry juice
30. Discipleship Journal
31. nail polish
32. metaphors
33. The Bavarian Alps
34. office products
35. Ephesians
36. Art Institute of Chicago
37. paper
38. interior decorating
39. Hi-Q
40. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
41. Granny Smith apples
42. tigers
43. used book stores
44. fireflies
45. Warm Vanilla Sugar lotion
46. my AlphaSmart
47. naps
48. Stuff from Levenger
49. Winnie the Pooh
51. Writer’s conferences
52. shabby chic
53. Impressionist art
54. hourglasses
55. journaling
56. homemade bread
57. Crayola Crayons
58. Reformation
59. The Chronicles of Narnia
60. butterflies
61. “y’all,” “yonder,” & “fixin’”
62. reading
63. lemon poppy seed muffins
64. Sweet Honesty perfume
65. CCM
66. My Isaiah 49:16 figurine
67. lists
68. stained glass windows
69. bubble wrap
70. The Muppet Show
71. twilight
72. The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
73. thunderstorms
74. West Wing
75. treehouses
76. spearmint gum
77. “B.C.” comic strip
78. maps
79. Swiffer
80. Chicago sports teams
81. solitude
82. Underdog cartoons
83. Springtime
84. Job 19:23-26
85. analogies
86. window shopping
87. the word “onomatopoeia”
88. Thomas Kinkade
89. Les Mis
90. snow days
91. white gold
92. camping
93. cloud gazing
94. organizing stuff
95. road trips
96. silver picture frames
97. my mom’s pearl ring
98. sleeping in
99. giving presents
100. my Bible

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

100 Things

1. I am a mental health counselor
2. I am a freelance writer
3. I write for the Christian market
4. I can’t type properly
5. I am single
6. I just bought my 1st condo
7. I just finished my Master’s Degree in counseling
8. I went to the same school for undergrad
9. As an undergrad, I triple majored
10. I’ve been to Germany
11. I climbed to the top of Neuschwanstein Castle
12. I am a godmother
13. I just had 13 inches of hair chopped off
14. My hair still touches my shoulders
15. I am an older sister
16. I am 30-something
17. I have a disability
18. I walk with a cane
19. I can do the Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana yoga pose
20. I am the Spiritual Gifts Director at my church
21. I sponsor a child through WorldVision
22. I collect quotes
23. I have 20/20 vision
24. I hate cherries
25. I am left handed
26. I do not smoke
27. I do not drink
28. Michael W. Smith was the 1st artist I saw in concert
29. I wanted to be a gymnast when I was little
30. I am part German
31. I am part Cherokee
32. I’ve published under a pen name
33. I love the bonus material on DVD’s
34. I collect teddy bears
35. I have well over 50
36. I used to have twice that many
37. I can’t swim
38. I am a MO Synod Lutheran
39. I was on the Student Council in high school
40. I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs
41. I sneeze in 3’s
42. I have a mission statement
43. I am afraid of heights.
44. I won 3rd place in an 8th grade spelling bee
45. I love to fly.
46. I don’t like escalators
47. I’ve played wheelchair football with the Chicago Bears
48. They lost.
49. I like wheelchair tennis better
50. I received the American Legion Award in Jr. High
51. I don’t like to dance
52. My parents are still married
53 I wear braces on my legs
54. But never had them on my teeth
55. I won a science fair in Jr. HS
56. I’ve never used illegal substances
57. I’ve written a children’s book
58. I haven’t published it yet
59. I usually don’t wear make-up
60. I am a book artist
61. I’ve been to the CSO
62. Only teddy bears are allowed on my Christmas Tree
63. There are 3 exceptions
64. A Kermit ornament
65. An angel Nell made me
66. A bell
67. I write like my mother
68. I print like my father
69. I’ve been to Disney World
70. I don’t eat Gummi Bears
71. I was on the Donahue Show as a baby with my mom
72. I didn’t go to prom
73. I am a member of Psi Chi
74. My 1st words were “Me do!”
75. I like to cross stitch
76. My ears are not pierced
77. Neither is anything else
78. I was on yearbook committee in HS
79. I’ve been to the top of the St Louis Arch
80. And the Sears Tower
81. My writing has won awards
82. I do not like snow
83. I do like snowflakes
84. I did a 10K hunger walk once
85. In a wheelchair
86. I’ve been in our local newspaper
87. My hands and nails get a lot of compliments
88. I go to movies alone
89. I’ve been to CA, AZ, CO, FL, GA
90. And most of the Heartland & Southern States
91. I don’t drink coffee
92. I student directed plays in HS
93. I once quit a job after 3 hours
94. My birthstone is garnet
95. I’m a bit of a Trekkie
96. I read books before seeing the movie
97. I don’t play an instrument
98. but I want to
99. the harp
100. I can sign the alphabet

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Value Added

As a new homeowner, my budget has shrunk considerably in the last few months. Even before that, I was careful to measure the value of my purchases. It often seems like the value of things doesn’t match up with the price tag we put on them.
During my trip, I wanted to relax a bit, and thought about ordering the newest X-Men movie to watch in my hotel room. I quickly changed my mind when I saw the price tag was $12.00. How can one justify paying more than twice the price of the average rental simply because you’re in a nice hotel room? The value of the hotel luxuries is reflected in the price of the room itself. Fair enough. There’s no value added in the movie itself. For that price I’d expect to be able to take the movie home, or have popcorn & soda delivered and hand fed to me.
Conversely, I arrived at the airport and breezed through security, leaving nearly the entire requisite 2 hours to spare. Eager to be home, I discovered that a flight to my same destination was leaving in 15 minutes. A quick check with the desk, a silent prayer of thanks, and I was on the plane, headed for home delightfully ahead of schedule. Free of charge. Now, I’m not about to suggest that the airlines institute charges for this. I’m just saying I’d had a rough morning and I really wanted to be home. Given the degree to which I valued getting home as quickly as possible, I could hardly believe that such a wonderful transaction had no monetary value placed on it.
So then I started thinking, which I admit, can be dangerous. What if things were really priced at the level of their value? A favorite example is chocolate. It’s priced so that I can eat it every day. But that’s not necessarily a good idea. What if chocolate were priced to reflect the idea that it’s supposed to be an occasional treat? It could make healthier eating a lot easier. Again, I’m not really suggesting that happen, I’m just speaking hypothetically. Really.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Meeting Patty Duke

This past weekend, mental health professionals from around the country gathered to celebrate the innovative programs we developed and the subsequent benefits to the lives of the people we serve, people with severe and persistent mental illness. Patty Duke, who has bipolar disorder, spoke at the event. We were filled with admiration and appreciation towards her for lending us her time and her voice.
Something unexpected happened when she spoke. She mirrored that admiration and appreciation back to us, the professional helpers. What she shared only indirectly referred to her own experience. Her message to us was, “This isn’t about me. It’s about you.” Her genuine warmth and gratitude was humbling. Her commitment was not to merely sharing her story or using her influence to raise dollars for mental health. What I saw was her commitment to improving the lives of people with mental illness, and respect for those of us who support that goal.
That kind of respect is hard to come by. The stigma that affects our clients trickles over to us mental health workers. Compare state funding and salaries for education vs. state funding and salaries for mental health and you will see what I mean.
She said “I believe each one of us in this room was made exactly how God intended.”
Go back and read that again. Yes, I mean it. I’ll wait.
What an empowering declaration. As a person with a physical disability, and one who is dedicated to helping people with mental illness, it reaches to my core. I pray that the truth of Patty Duke’s statement will soon be reflected in the reality of reintegration, community, and opportunities for all people struggling to find acceptance and meaning in their lives.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Grief & Loss

I’ve spent much of my time these days with the grieving, the dying, and those awaiting test results to confirm or deny their fit into one of those categories. I suppose what I have observed has been written about before, but I can’t help trying to express it, hoping some improvement in our language has occurred so my musings won’t sound so pitifully trite. I guess that also means this might come across a little morbid.
To be with one who is near death or one who has experienced a loss is to walk on sacred ground. What can you say? I think all phrases beginning with “at least” should be prohibited in such circumstances. “At least it happened quickly.” “At least you got to say goodbye.” “At least she lived a full life.” “At least you were together for 60 years.”
How do you tell a man widowed after 60 years of marriage, “at least” anything? The only way he knows how to live is over. While we are still left in this world, there can be no consolation in that. So what is left for us to do?
While we have the promise of heaven to comfort us, I believe God doesn’t need us to make it OK. It’s not OK. The greatest gift we may be able to offer someone facing loss is to acknowledge its terribleness. If we can’t do that, we diminish the meaning of the experience. If we can, we may just be able to open the door for someone, and show them the amazing conclusion on the other side.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tea & Sympathy

I know I've missed a day or two posting here. In my defense, I was feeling a little sick and then I had to go out of town.
During the "I think I'm sick" phase, (I hate not quite being ill- just get it over with) I made myself numerous cups of tea. My favorite tea certainly serves its function, it's soothing, warm, and yummy. Yet it always seems like something is missing.
I found that something while visiting my family this weekend. My brother made me a magnificent milkshake. I'm not just talking about the chocolate here, people. He didn't even know I was feeling crummy and stressed out. The fact is medicinal food (soup, shakes, tea, etc) always tastes better when someone else makes it for you.
I know that's not the most enlightening thought to leave you with. Consider it a public service announcement. Perhaps it's a prelude to something I'll share more about later in the week.
Be happy, be healthy. And if you can't, get someone to make you some tea.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Purpose of Writing

Dave Dravecky was born to play baseball. He pursued that dream and played for the San Francisco Giants. Then cancer struck his left arm, his pitching arm. He had surgery to repair it and made a much publicized comeback only to break his arm in his second game following the surgery. Cancer had returned. Dave Dravecky had his pitching arm amputated.
It didn’t kill him. It didn’t spread to other parts of his body. It didn’t affect any major organs. Cancer merely separated Dave from his lifelong sense of identity and purpose. How do you begin to have a conversation with God about that? Sure, terrible things happen in life, but this time the devastation hit with dreadful precision.
Dave is now a Christian author and speaker who shares his faith story, like he did at our Ablaze Rally. He tells of finding his true worth not in his sports record, but in His value to God. (He also has some great fishing stories).
What a reality check. The purpose of serving God is not so I can find identity in writing (or insert your own talent/gift). The purpose of writing (or insert your own talent/gift) is to find identity in serving God.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Groups Ablaze!

I’m different. I’ve been told this in dozens of ways for dozens of reasons.
I have a disability. Spina bifida makes me walk funny. That’s hard for people to understand. (“She doesn’t use a wheelchair. It doesn’t look like cerebral palsy. No other problems that make it look like she was in an accident. I don’t get it.”)
I’m single. I’m not working terribly hard to change this fact. (“Now that’s just plain weird. Maybe there’s something wrong with her. Doesn’t she know she’s unhappy?”)
I work as a counselor with adults who have serious & persistent mental illness. I like my job. (“So is that with retarded kids? Doesn’t she know she could get paid lots more to do something else? Aren’t ‘those people’ violent?”) FYI, the answers to those are no, it’s not about the money, and no.
So I’m pretty used to being different. It’s become almost a trademark of mine.
Today at the
Ablaze Rally, we were instructed to turn to our neighbors and say “You are different.” Not that hard to do. Get into a room with 3,000 other people, and the differences stand out. Physical impairments, widows, various languages and ethnicities, and even character flaws. I questioned how we could accomplish our goal of winning others to the church. Did we as a group make an appealing argument for someone considering joining our ranks? Then I realized that it felt complimentary, even affirming to be called different in this context.
The answer to my earlier doubts was obvious. Everybody has something about them that makes them different. That’s the result of sin in our lives and our world. Who wouldn’t want to belong to a group of misfits who understand and accept each other’s differences, even the unpleasant ones? The flipside of being different is that as Christians it is precisely what we are called to be. We need to be intentional and bold about living differently.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Artist Unblocked

I should have known. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block tonight (and some tornados that kept me away from the computer). The gap between all the interests that I want to write about seems too large to bridge. While my main avocation is writing, I also want to share other hobbies and ministries that interest me.
One of those interests is book art, the art of making unique books by hand. I especially like how this activity blends with so many of my other passions. In addition to the literary and artistic self expression, there are many therapeutic uses for book art, including allowing the artist to address spiritual issues. I’m hoping to have some good links on this topic in the future.
There are two blogs I want to tell y’all about. My friend LeAnne Benfield Martin has begun a
blog on Christians in the arts. I’m so excited about this blog. LeAnne is an excellent writer and has some wonderful things to share about how Christians impact the world using art.
My friend
Karen Wingate is also a fantastic writer and expert on curriculum material. Her post from yesterday delightfully explores the purpose and process of art in the classroom.
I should have known I could count on these ladies to inspire me tonight.
Friday Factoid: I really have a taste for fresh spinach.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I’ve been trying to decide what to write in my blog today. Still wrestling with those questions of who I am and how I want to use this blog to present myself as a Christian, a writer, a counselor, and any other facets of my life that I may or may not want to disclose.
I kind of wanted to share about how frustrating it was to have 3 people compete for my attention at the bus stop the other day. But telling you how I feel when strangers find out I’m a counselor and race to tell me their problems louder & faster than everyone else (and before the bus comes), well, that might not sound very Christian. So I’d better not tell you that.
I was thinking of starting up one of those blog quizzes or polls or letting you in on what’s on my ipod. I’ve seen some interesting questions and such posed out there. But I’m still not sure that’s how I want to present myself on my blog. It might not be very writerly. Besides, I really don’t know enough bloggers yet to share it with & make it fun. So I’d better not do that.
Then I had this great idea based on some things that happened recently involving screwdrivers, lilacs, and radio morning shows. However, I’m thinking that might actually make a good article, so I should save the material for that. I know, I feel kind of bad withholding that from y’all. But a girl’s got to pay the bills. So I’d better not write about that either.
A random surf of blogs out there will easily show that not much is censored. But all this got me thinking about what we censor before we let it “out there.” I wish some people’s internal censors were in better working order. Mine goes on the fritz more than I like. When you communicate something, you can’t take it back. Sometimes it’s hard to consider the long term consequences of our words.
Other people censor themselves more generously. We get scared that others won’t like what we’ve expressed. So we leave “the good things we ought to have done, undone.” Being real involves risk. I can’t feed the person who doesn’t come to our food pantry because he won’t admit he’s hungry. God can’t sort out and heal my anger and impatience if I deny feeling any such unpleasantness. I can’t help but wonder about the depth and breadth of relationships that are overlooked because of censorship.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Writing & Time Management

I just completed what may have been the 3 busiest years of my life thus far. I went to graduate school fulltime (including 2 internships) while working fulltime. It’s quite an interesting feeling to get used to free time again. Suddenly, rather than having every moment of my schedule micro-organized simply because I always had deadlines and appointments looming, I have choices. This is a dangerous thing.
I learned a lot about myself in school. For example, if I could get through the last 3 years, I can do anything. Still, there are bad weeks, like the one I had a couple of weeks ago. It left me incapable of anything but vegging in front of the TV and daydreaming for the whole weekend. So I wonder how I could possibly have coped with the bad weeks I had when I was in school, without the luxury of a 48 hour time out for recovery. I really need to know the answer to this question. Nobody will tell me.
I also know a little more about time management. As they say, if you want something done, ask a busy person. Mind you, I don’t really want to be that busy again. Ever. Still, I thrive on deadlines & structure. At the end of the day, I like knowing I’ve been productive.
Blogging has helped me ease back into the writing world. It’s helped form the BIC habit. It’s a marketing and creativity tool. Still, it takes an investment of time, especially in the beginning, to get ahead of the learning curve. That’s where the dangerous choices come in. Do I need to write a query letter, or do I need to tweak the fonts and formats on my blog? This useful tool can easily become an instrument of procrastination. I can either let the force pull me to the dark side, or I can use it for good.
This week I’m going to choose to use it for good.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Logo

Ok, I think the logo is finally here, blending about as close as possible into the background. In the end, all the professionals I consulted were at a loss. It was a 16 year old techie who helped me figure it out. Naturally.
Now I just need to get it up as the main photo. But not tonight.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I'm a Blog of the Day!

Many thanks to the folks at for making my blog a blog of the day. You can either use the link in this post or the icon in the sidebar to visit their site.


Tags & Codes & Pages

Oh my. I’m feeling inept with this blogging thing. I have my “100 things” and “100 favorites” I’d like to share with y’all. I just can’t figure out how to make a separate page within my blog. And despite my best efforts and those of the graphics artist who designed my logo, I can’t get it to post with a transparent background, which is fine for now because I originally wanted it to be the main photo on the front page. However, I can’t get it to upload to that part of the page even after I post it in a message & go from there. Don’t even get me started on tags & Technorati. It feels like high school all over again. All the cool kids have cool stuff on their blogs. Am I going to succumb to letting this be a popularity contest?
Writing is about felt needs. Whose felt needs does this blog address? Lee Warren has some great things to say about having a voice & using it to tell your story
here. So even though writing for public consumption isn’t about cheap therapy, it does meet a need in the author.
What about the reader? There’s value in having unique slants and fresh angles to the stuff we write about. Admittedly, that kind of newness is hard to come by in the blogosphere.
So, what could you possibly have to gain by reading my complaints about technology angst? Hopefully, a grin of recognition that we’ve all “been there.” But maybe adding my voice to the masses will contribute to someone’s sense of community. If I can express empathy for a shared experience that diminishes the “aloneness” that often accompanies life’s challenges, perhaps that’s enough. If I can inspire someone else to use their voice, even better.
The lady at the phone company reminded me of this today. Through a series of phone company errors, I didn’t get a phone bill, didn’t get previous charges applied until they were past due, and ended up with a huge, late, bill. Being the good Lutheran girl that I am, I would never do such a thing by my own error. I’m just not that kind of girl. Through a series of phone calls regarding the series of errors, I got a reduction in my bill to compensate for my troubles. I expressed my relief at the final resolution to the phone lady. She reassured me that this was no problem because I was an outstanding customer with an excellent payment history.
She didn’t need to say that, but I needed to hear it. More than applying a credit to my account, she met my felt need. I’m not a lazy, awful, immature idiot who can’t figure out a phone bill. I’m outstanding.
People who meet felt needs are outstanding.
You are outstanding.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hide & Seek

Why is it that when I make observations regarding goals, any progress I made is scared back into hiding?
I lost 7 pounds. You might hate me for this, but I wasn’t trying that hard. But don’t hate me too much because I’m sure to find them again. I don’t mind finding my keys, or last year’s mittens, but those pounds don’t seem to understand that I’d be perfectly happy if they stayed lost. Now that I’ve noticed my progress, they are sure to find their way back to me.
Same thing happens with writing. I’ve been hiatus for a while & I’m working on getting back into the flow. The initial burst of energy thrilled me. Now that I’ve observed how much I can accomplish in just a couple weeks, my initiative has practically vanished. Just getting a query letter out has become a multi-round prize fight. The email address is no good, the printer runs out of ink, the stamps go into hiding (maybe they’ve seen my goals somewhere).
So I find what I want to lose & I lose what I want to find. Sometimes it seems like progress is just an elusive kid playing hide & seek. Other times, progress runs for dear life, grabbing initiative and goals & taking them into a mysterious cave to escape the evil one who would dare notice anything resembling growth or improvement.
Despite this backwards state of affairs, the only strategy I’ve come up with is to employ further observation. Maybe if I can scare it into hiding, I can scare it back out again.
Perhaps I should just take solace in knowing that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


How do I begin writing about 9-11? I know the blogging world is writing about this topic from just about every angle possible. I hesitate not because I fear I have nothing new to say on the subject, but because I fear I will be misunderstood.
I find myself beginning again with the power of words. It’s painful to keep referring to “the attacks.” It takes longer to say the “terrorist attacks on 9-11-01.” There is no simple, neat & clean way to refer to the tragedy of that day. But we’ve done our best, knowing that when we say 9-11 we mean one infamous day one particular September that we will never forget.
For me, 9-11 means something entirely different than it does to most of the rest of the world. On September 11th, an undisclosed number of years ago, my brother was born. Yet on the day September 11th became terribly important to the rest of the world, he quietly decided it was just another day.
Is it possible that by reducing the horrible events of that day to a number we diminish the loss, the violation, and the anguish of what happened? At the same time, we increase the power the terrorists’ actions with our sanitary shorthand. The terrorist attacks of 9-11-01 caused immeasurable suffering to those who lost loved ones, as well as our whole country. Should we let it take away the meaning of the everyday events, the birthdays, the anniversaries, and celebrations of our lives? It just doesn’t seem right to let the terrorists take anything more from us.

Current Read: The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey
Current Music: Lifesong, Casting Crowns

Friday, September 08, 2006

What's Your Name?

The news around town is all about Marshall Fields changing its name over to Macy’s. Opponents believe Frango mints from Macy’s just aren’t going to be the same. Marshall Fields is a part of Chicago history as they say. The names of ballparks, stadiums, & events are being named after their corporate sponsors. Chicago’s Comisky Park becoming US Cellular Field is just another local example. Yet, changing a name is more than a superficial, cosmetic alteration.
Yesterday I heard a conversation that gave me further pause to consider our carelessness regarding names:
"Thanks, Billy.”
“It’s William.”
“OK, whatever."

Whatever? When did a person’s name stop mattering? I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that we are so flippant about people’s names. After all, we can change criteria for identifying a planet. Deciding to un-name something as big as a planet is, um, big.
Names were so important in the Bible that God often intentionally renamed people at significant times of change in their lives. God didn’t decide that “Paul” would roll off the tongue easier than “Saul” or perform market research on Abram vs. Abraham. One’s name had to match one’s identity. The change in their lives happened first. Many other cultures today continue the tradition of naming or renaming individuals as a rite of passage. Your name describes who you are. Not exactly something to be taken lightly.
One of my favorite passages in The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien explains it well,
“Real names tell you the story of the thing they belong to in my language... it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”

In her book “Walking On Water,” Madeline L’Engle talks about naming as a process. Every experience that touches us, art we view, songs we hear, what we read, it all contributes to the process of understanding our true identity. We are named, truly named in our hearts, by the things that resonate with our souls, the things that call us home.
In our arrogance, we humans have the power to change the name of someone or something. But it seems the names themselves might have more power.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Ethical Blogger

I’m slowly figuring out how to add things to my blog. I can’t get my logo to load properly. So that will have to wait.
I’m hoping that my 1st official imbedded link to my friend
Crystal’s blog works. If you haven’t checked hers out, you really should. I still need to add a link list of notable blogs. Any suggestions?
About the links I do have listed. These are just a few of my favorite things, so far. I guess if you click on them, you’ll see what they are about, so they don’t require too much information. Mostly they are things that I find make life and the writing life in particular, easier and more enjoyable. All the software listed has trial or full versions as donateware.
I’m realizing that the decisions of what to add to the blog are more complicated than I thought. I came across this software that allows you to add music to your blog. This has triggered a serious ethical dilemma.
On the one hand, I think it would be lovely to feature personalized music on the blog. It could tie into the theme nicely & contribute to the reader’s sensory experience.
However, as I am writing this, I am listening to my own music. I am aware that you are probably listening to your own music as well. Occasionally other music intrudes on my own music of choice. Often, it’s from a car driving by, whose owner is “sharing” his music with everyone in a 5 block radius. Sometimes, a neighbor lets the parties get a little out of control. It could even be the owner of an MP3 player who is singing along at full tilt because they forgot that the point of headphones is so that you hear your music and we don’t. Forced musical invasion of my space has become a pet peeve of mine.
Can I ethically ask my readers to listen to my music when, although I’m sure you have extraordinary taste, I don’t necessarily prefer to listen to yours?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Exploring The Path Home

As a writer, my job is to discover new portions of the landscape of life and add them to my map. I came up with the tagline “Exploring the Path Home” to identify the theme that weaves through my freelance writing. Actually, the phrase now serves as a focal point for my whole life.
You see, my real home is a place I haven’t been to yet. I look forward to getting there, but truthfully, I hope it doesn’t happen for some time. As a Christian, life is something like one of those labyrinths made out of hedges. You know you are trying to get to the castle in the center, but the stuff that’s between the beginning and the end is pretty much a mystery. (I know quite a few writers whose writing process is similar. They know where they are starting & where they want the piece to end- getting there is a series of discoveries).
So that’s what I hope this blog will be about. Whether offering a signpost for direction, an anchor of support & encouragement, or just wandering around for the fun of it, I’m Exploring the Path Home. Sure does give me a lot of freedom in what to write, doesn’t it?