Friday, November 30, 2007


I'm generally not that into poetry, but there are a few poems that I do like. This poem is one of my favorites for a number of reasons. For one thing, I like things with multiple meanings or interpretations. It's going to snow/ice/storm or do other generally unpleasant things tomorrow, and while the essence of this poem for me is deeper than the weather, I thought it was appropriate.

Dream Dust
Langston Hughes
Gather out of star dust
Earth dust, cloud dust,
storm dust,
and splinters of hail,
one handful of dream dust
Not for sale.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Study In Contrasts

Last night at this time I was doing yoga by Christmas lights. Tonight I'm about ready to throw my computer out the window.
Doesn't it sometimes seem like as soon as you're resolved to do something the inanimate objects of the world align their forces against you and the goal you are committed to?
I've decided to get my stress under control, and the stress goblins got wind of this information. They've attacked my computer, they've given me insomnia. I'm convinced they are responsible for my increased clumsiness (and therefore increased bruising as of late), as well as for the snow in the weather forecast.
On the other hand, this is the time of year when I look at the goals I made back in January. My credit card is paid off. I'm within 5 pounds of where I want to be by the end of the year. I've survived some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad stuff this year.
So what can I say about something as minor as a few technical glitches and a day planner with not very much white space?
It's the little stuff that gets you. That's what I say.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree

If you've read my 100 Things you know that I only have bears on my Christmas tree. You also know there are only three exceptions. If you don't know what they are, I'm not telling.
I just love putting up my tree each year. Now that I have a tree that's actually taller than I am, I do require assistance with the assembly of the tree itself (yes, it's a fake) and the lights. Even though my collection of ornaments is still fairly small, each one has a special meaning. Virtually all of my ornaments were given to me by friends or family. Funny how when people find out you like teddy bear ornaments they tend to pay attention.
There is a set of 2 ornaments that I bought for myself a few years ago. I was on the lookout for a 4th exception to my "bears only" rule. I wanted the perfect periwinkle round glass ornament seeing as how my tree has a notable lack of that style and periwinkle is my favorite color. So on a random shopping trip with a friend I discovered periwinkle, round, glass ornaments. With bears on them!!
Now I don't believe God is into materialism or commercialism, but that day I do believe I heard Him whisper "Hey, see that? I made it just for you."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Weather or Not

The weather around here has been pretty gray and gloomy. Usually a few days of dreary weather will start to bug me. However, I'm not complaining at the moment for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it's supposed to snow tomorrow. Just in time for the travel rush that I will, of course, be stuck in. So I'm going to suck every last minute of enjoyment from the lack of snow that I possibly can. That means cloudy, rainy weather is just fine, thankyouverymuch.
Secondly, it's foggy tonight. I love fog. You know how sometimes weather is just a bummer, but other times it seems to reflect a certain flavor of your mood? My mood can easily get wrapped in fog. Nothing makes me want to curl up with my journal more than a foggy, chilly night.
I have to fight the weather a lot in the winter. On days like today it's kind of nice to just go with it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Do, Don't, Did

I was going to write about lists today anyway. Then I came across this recent blog of note which has a lot more to say on the subject. As a habitual list maker, I found it quite interesting.
Anyway, I love making my lists, but for various reasons I've become distressed because it's more & more difficult to complete the things on my lists. The more discouraged I get the less likely I am to follow my lists, which creates a horrible cycle.
Somewhere I read about reversing the concept and writing an "I did" list. At the end of the day whatever you accomplished gets to go on this list. If you find yourself at the end of the day marveling at how busy you were while your intended goals remain untouched, this kind of list is for you. It was quite revealing and validating to learn what I was so busy with. Sometimes I get sidetracked with time wasters, but sometimes I get sidetracked with things that are unplanned yet still important to me.
Just last week someone told me about the "not to do list." This is a list of perfectly good things one could easily commit to, but that would divert too much time, energy, and attention from the main things on your real to-do list. In theory, this list could go on forever, but the idea is to think about the kinds of things that tend to spread your resources too thin. Having a hobby is a perfectly good thing, but I need to devote my time to my existing hobbies so I don't go buying new materials that will just sit in the corner collecting dust. So no new hobbies for me for now. Volunteering is a priority for me, but I know if I sign up for another committee, I will have too many meetings to allow me to fully serve any of them adequately. So my "not to do" list includes not signing up for any other long term projects or committees.
I've got to go make my list for the week.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Time Flies

The other day I realized that the last weekend before Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. I know it's cliche, but how did that happen? Each year I seem to observe time differently. Two years ago, I could not wait for Spring because it signaled the end of my internship and the approach of graduation. Last year, as much as I hate Winter, I did not count the days until Spring because someone I loved had a terminal illness and I knew she was seeing her last change of seasons.
This year, I just have no idea where the time has gone. I'm somewhat busier than usual (except for when I was in grad school but that was just a masochistic anomaly). Anyway, each year I put up my Christmas Tree the weekend of Thanksgiving and take it down the weekend after New Year's. I have developed this tradition because if I don't do this at these scheduled times, I may never do one or the other.
Right now, this poses a minor problem because my home needs a little work before it's holiday ready. So I've got to figure out how to make time for all the things I need to do in the next 6 days.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thursday Randomness

  • You may have noticed that I've stopped putting my current read at the bottom of my posts. That's because towards the end of the blog sidebar, I have a Shelfari bookshelf. I recently changed it so it doesn't show graphics; just a list of titles and authors. It's not quite as colorful, but I think I like it better. What do you think?
  • Have you ever had a creative idea that's just waiting to be born? I have these wonderful cedar bookboards, leather, and all sorts of decorative stuff I'm collecting to make a book. I can visualize the book, I just have no idea what it is about.
  • I'm within 5 pounds of the weight I want to be by the end of the year. That's so close it's scary enough for me to want some ice cream.
  • Today someone asked me if I've ever had a 2nd job to supplement the less than abundant income from community mental health. I said I used to be a freelance writer. That's so depressing.
  • Last night I was reflecting on how I've been much busier & socially active in the last several months. First, I felt grateful for this because it's helped me through some deep, dark, ugly stuff. Then I scared myself because as it was, things were not fun. How bad would it have been if I didn't have the kind of involvement & support of others that I had???
  • I'm so far behind on housework and all that kind of stuff. I've actually thought about hiring a housekeeper, just this once. But I really would have to clean the place before I could have the housekeeper come over.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Extra Time

It's no big secret that I hate winter. Besides the snow, it's cold and dark and dreary. Other than Christmas (and maybe my birthday) I don't find much to enjoy about winter.
This weekend marks one of the 1st signs of the change of seasons. We turn our clocks back an hour. So next week, when I leave my office at the end of the day it will be dark. I hate that.
The upside of this crummy little change is that we get an extra hour tonight. Most of us tend to apply that hour towards sleep. After not getting much sleep last night, I am particularly able to see the wisdom in that plan. But really, this is a whole hour we didn't have before. Sleep deprivation aside, I'm not sure I want this hour to disappear while I'm unconscious.
I don't know exactly what I'll do, but I know that recently many needs and wants in my life have not been given the attention I'd like. So what if I spent that hour doing something I don't normally make the time for? Maybe it'll be those household tasks that pile up. Maybe it'll be something fun, like exploring a new hobby. Either way, I'm glad winter at least has the decency to grant this little gift before it arrives and really starts getting on my nerves.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who Do You Think You Are?

Have you ever discovered something about yourself that was a complete surprise to you? Sometimes we put forth a lot of effort to make a change in who we are or what we do. Other times, the change occurs without our awareness.
For example, you know those people who workout several times a week? I'm one of them. How weird is that? I'm not sure how it happened. I wish I knew because I'd like to make it happen again if I need to in the future. I've been trying to analyze what led me to this bizarre turn of events, and the truth is I have no idea. I can't connect it to anything else about how I usually behave. But there you go.
And you know that person who is able to prioritize what tasks need her attention? That person who is able to let go of problems that don't belong to her, even when others try to solicit her ownership of the crisis? That person we are all jealous of because she knows she can only do one thing at a time & sometimes needs to say "No?" I think that person might be me. Or at least I think I'm figuring out how to be that person.
Lately, I've also found myself taking some risks with creative activities. I'm less afraid to "waste" art supplies because I don't know what I'm doing or I might make a mistake. I'm not that artsy person who can make something stunning with a couple crayons and some old napkins. I am the person who takes the time to play with the process of art no matter what the outcome is. Because it's fun.
I never used to be any of these people. But as I began to review this past year (and it was a doozy), I realized all these changes have taken place.
What would happen if we could let go of all our predetermined assumptions about who we are and simply be? Who would you be?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Chances are, you did not need me to tell you that. Most of us have had our lives touched in some way by this disease. I know survivors, and people who narrowly escaped the scary diagnosis because of a routine check-up.
Even if you haven't been personally affected by breast cancer, this month you can hardly avoid hearing about it. The media is doing a wonderful job of reporting the medical advances that have been made in fighting breast cancer. All month, people are walking, running, and donating to contribute to awareness, support, and hope. Pink is everywhere. Survivors share their stories of strength, courage, and second chances.
I think it's so valuable that these positive messages are spread to people who need encouragement. People need to know that there is hope, and that physical, emotional, and spiritual resources are available.
I also know people who didn't survive breast cancer. These people didn't get to see hope come to fruition. The the detection was too late, the advances not soon enough. While we move forward in fighting this disease, it's important to focus on what we can do, the reasons we have to keep holding hope. We also need to remember that breast cancer is deadly. It kills people every day. Those people need to have a voice.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Down Memory Lane

Cris has tagged me yet again with an interesting question, in 3 parts. She got them from Mary at relevantblog, who requested that anyone who picks up this "viral" blog post links back to her.
On to the question.

What were you doing ten, twenty, and thirty years ago?

Ten years ago I had just entered my last year of undergraduate school. As a fifth year senior, I was placed with a freshman roommate. Oh my. At the tender age of 23, this was the first time I felt old.
Around this time, I became part of wonderful group of writing friends through online discussion. We have critiqued, commiserated, and celebrated everything writing related over the years.
By the time I finished this last year in school, I had landed a job as a community mental health therapist and moved out into my first apartment.

Twenty years ago I officially entered my teenage years. My father finally painted my bedroom walls light blue. They had been 70's mustard yellow ever since I could remember. I think I had been asking for the room to be painted on a consistent basis ever since I learned to talk.
This was my last year of Jr. HS. I remember I got perfect scores in vocabulary that year, and above 100% in math because of all the extra credit the teacher made available. That was the last time I ever did well in math. I think I won our school's science fair this year as well. I was a nerd.

Thirty years ago, unbeknownst to me, I was enjoying my last few months as an only child. My brother was born when I was 4 years old. According to my baby book, thirty years ago I'd entered preschool and had begun to master walking. My walking was delayed a bit by the need to get fitted for braces, which had to wait until I'd finished a major growth spurt.
I'm trying to recall some things from this time & I know I have memories that go back this far. I just can't think of any at the moment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


It's the little things that are most likely to send me over the deep end. Really.
I haven't been able to post because of computer problems.
I haven't been able to watch movies because Netflix has been holding out on me and/or sending me damaged discs.
Once a week, I reward myself for working out with a small candy bar from the vending machine at the rec center. The vending machine didn't work today. Let's not talk about the irony of a candy machine at a rec center focused on health & fitness.
Despite working out several times a week, I haven't been able to lose much weight. I refuse to believe the one candy bar a week is a problem.
And, because I've been working out, I have not done much else. I want to make sure I get this into my routine as a priority. So other stuff (like dusting and laundry and blogging) is less of a priority.
Hmmm. It seems the bulk of my problems at this point are caused by working out. Something to think about.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

DVD Extras

Over at Little Nuances, Lee recently discussed how he doesn't like to watch the commentaries and extra stuff on DVDs. I can understand his unwillingness to spoil the movie magic. I completely agree with him that the alternate ending of Rocky Balboa was totally unsatisfying. I wish Stallone had never even contemplated filming it that way. But he did.
However, I still find myself drawn to the special features on DVDs. I like hearing about how other artists approach their craft. On the recent live action version of Charlotte's Web, the commentaries gave some wonderful insights into the film. The opening is not the same as it is in the book. Instead, the director researched E.B. White's early writings on the book and selected one of about 17 alternative openings the author himself had considered. The director thought this opening played out better on film. Maybe, maybe not, but I can certainly respect the effort he went to in remaining true to the story.
As for spoiling the movie magic, I've watched the extra stuff on the Lord of the Rings trilogy almost as many times as I've watched the movies themselves. At one point, the commentary delves into how they computer animated some of the horses so the real ones wouldn't get hurt during the intense battle scenes. I suddenly realized that the honest question in my mind was "how did the Nazgul know to only swoop down on the computer generated horses?"
If you know anything about the story, you know the Nazgul are fictional and therefore also computer generated.
I guess the magic is still intact for me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Top Ten Random Thoughts

  • I got a new catalog from Levenger today. I just promised myself I'd stop spending money. I need some more reasons not to get the new fountain pen on the 1st page.
  • I also just updated my Shelfari widget. Let me know what you think.
  • I just got a new coffee table. Upon placing it in front of my sofa and putting the remote & some coasters on it, my friend Kathe & I sat down to admire it. She said "it needs a bear." She knows me too well.
  • I've started working out on the treadmill at the local rec center. I can comfortably walk 1/3 of a mile. My goal is to walk 3 miles by next Mother's Day. It's cheating to move the decimal place, isn't it?
  • I asked Kathe if a different color paint would help my ugly kitchen counter. She told me nothing will help the ugly kitchen counter. Good friends are honest like that.
  • I recently discovered chocolate covered sunflower seeds. Yum.
  • My computer is running really slowly and that is going to impact how much work I get done tonight.
  • I know 2 people who are done with their Christmas shopping already.
  • It's hard for me to enjoy Fall because it basically just means that winter is coming. But the weather is good for sleeping.
  • I'm on the hunt for some good pillar candles and I haven't found anything I like at this point. Good candles are harder to find than I thought.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I've Been Writing

The main reason I haven't written on the blog recently is because I've been caught up in other writerly pursuits. I've been writing an article. An actual article, on a publishable subject. Although, the article has a way to go before it will be publishable.
I've also written some promotional material for our church's Spiritual Gifts program.
The writing group I belong to has been reading and discussing Girl Meets God, by Lauren Winner.
So you see, I've been writing. Just not on the blog. However, I have added a new link or two that you might want to check out. I hope to be adding more soon. Old Fashioned Girl's blog is interesting. I like a lot of her insights. Stop by and take a look.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Some Minor Observations

I meant to post last night. I was all impressed with myself and motivated after last week's streak of 3 posts on the days I actually intended them. Then I had a workshop yesterday on "The Grieving Therapist." So when I got home, I was a bit drained. A little too incoherent to post.
I did want to point out that I learned a few things. In the first place, just because I have a PaperSource near me is no reason to keep me from visiting the PaperSource out in Evanston, because, after all, when do I get out to Evanston? And what if they have something at that store they don't have here? As it turns out, they did have some gel medium I need for a few transfer techniques I've been wanting to try. They also had some ribbon I needed for a gift I'm working on.
Oh, wait, what did I learn at the workshop? Well, it was nice to be in a room with no judgement. No one was saying "gees, it's been 6 months, aren't you better yet? You're supposed to be a therapist you know." I came away with a few tips and tricks for taking care of myself while staying focused on my responsibilities and not backing away from the commitments I've made at work.
Sometimes the validation at this sort of thing is worth the price of admission. We talked about how as women and as therapists, we tend to be, umm, flexible with scheduling time for ourselves. The thing is, when the depletion reaches a critical level it's like a survival reflex kicks in. And suddenly, manicures become a matter of survival. You'd think a manicure lasts about a week, right? That's what I always used to think. But that manicure I gave myself yesterday, that was for yesterday. What about today? I need something for today.
It used to be that if I filled up "the well" I could live on that for a while. This whole idea of daily "me-ness" is driving me up a wall. I'm all for a bit of self indulgence, but I've got stuff to do! Reading, socializing, and manicures have become as essential to my daily routine as showering and eating. Everything I put into the well yesterday has been consumed, evaporated. So even though my nails are just lovely, I need another manicure.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I've Been Interviewed!

My friend Crystal over at the Chat & Chew Cafe has this great series of interviews going called "When I Was Just a Kid." She just posted an interview she did with me. Thanks Crystal!
And hello to all of you new visitors who are likely stopping by as a result of Crystal's interview. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Madeline L'Engle

Madeline L'Engle recently died. I've written about her book Walking on Water several times. It's one of my favorite books. I thought for my Top Ten today, I share some of my favorite quotes from this book in memory of Madeline.
  • The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver.
  • Until I have worked through self, I will not be enabled to get out of the way.
  • Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give an name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.
  • There is much that we cannot understand, but our lack of comprehension neither negates nor eliminates it.
  • God understands that part of us which is more than we think we are.
  • Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as through the work had been still-born.
  • I want to be open to God, not to what man says about God.
  • Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear.
  • The greater the radius of light, the wider the perimeter of darkness.
  • I must have more faith in the work than I have in myself.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chicago Cubs

Growing up a Cubs fan had quite an impact on my development. I think I just realized this about an hour and a half ago. Let me tell you what the Cubs have taught me.
Loyalty Sometimes people disappoint you. People are human. Believe in them and come back to them anyway.
Persistence It's OK to be discouraged, but not for long. By the time you've showered & wiped the dust off your clothes you need to be telling yourself "there's always next year."
Have Fun I don't remember how old I was when I found out that not everyone sings "Take Me Out to The Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch, but I do remember I was appalled. How do the rest of you have any fun at a ballgame at all? Seriously.
Sometimes Small is Good They call it "The Friendly Confines" for a reason; it's small. But that's OK. And by the way, we don't need a bunch of cheerleaders or a half time show either.
Support Cubs players, fans, announcers, etc all make an effort to acknowledge the people who help them do their jobs. Remember the people who had your back, the hands that pulled you up, and the shoulders you stood on.
One more thing. It doesn't hurt that the Cubs' mascot is a bear.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


A couple of days ago I mentioned I'd like to work on outsourcing tasks that take up a disproportionate amount of my time and energy. While I was brainstorming a list of potential things to outsource, I came to the conclusion that I would love to outsource all the networking and excess small chatty socializing that seems to go along with being a successful writer.
The problem is, I'm an introvert. If I were any more of an introvert, I might just be a hobbit. And my day job is professional counseling. Now before you go making faces, introverts can make good counselors because we are good listeners. It's just that by the end of the day, I'm done with the whole talking to people thing.
My friend Cris is really good at connecting with other people. And my friend LeAnne also has a blog built entirely around interacting with other people in the arts. I just have a hard time finding the energy & time to make & keep those connections on top of my day job, and making writing a priority itself.
So if you visit and/or give me feedback, I appreciate it. I wish I could say I'll be better about responding and adding more links to my blog. Part of my problem is that I don't want to ask someone to exchange links unless I'm truly able to say I read their blog on a somewhat regular basis. There are a few blogs I do read, I just don't want to imply that I read & network more than I do.
There was recently an article in a writing magazine about a writer who succeeds as an introvert. I'm glad it's possible. I'm glad it worked for him. But the article didn't tell me "how" to make that work. I need some solid ways to work with my strengths in this area.
Anyone want to be a surrogate extrovert?

Friday, September 14, 2007


A fellow writer recently commented that it seems we spend too much of our time trying to overcome our weaknesses instead of playing to our strengths. I think that's true of people in general. We are uncomfortable with what we are not good at, so we work at getting better at it. To a certain extent, this is a good thing. But at what point is it better to invest our resources in the things we are equipped to excel at, and forfeit that self-improvement in favor of outsourcing?
For me, hiring someone to do my taxes is one of those out-sourcing opportunities. I may cringe at the thought of cleaning my house, but I cringe even more at the thought of someone else doing it. The time, effort, and emotional trauma of doing taxes, however, makes outsourcing the task a worthy investment.
Some tasks are a little harder to delegate. There are things I "can" do; they may not even be all that unpleasant. But are they a good investment of my time? It can be hard for me to ask for help, so I'm working on developing a set of criteria for determining what tasks I need to make a priority and which ones I can outsource. My hope is that having an objective measure of what I need to spend my time on will make asking for help a little easier.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Colors, Man....

I'm about to get my place painted. I'm quite excited about this. I've recently had cause to do everything I can to improve my mood. I've always known that my mood is particularly affected by color so this change couldn't have come at a better time. Right now I'm surrounded by a bold yellow that I find stress inducing. Normally I don't notice this much. But lately I find myself retreating from the main living space to read or otherwise occupy myself in my bedroom, which is the only room I've had painted so far.
The bedroom is my favorite color, a periwinkle blue. This is, IMHO, an ideal, restful color for a bedroom. And get this, the color of the paint is called "Beautiful Dream." How cool is that for a bedroom? Soon the rest of my home will have colors that are equally as enjoyable.
So maybe this post falls into the "too much information" category. Or maybe you think it's just pointless information. But if your life lacks energy, or peace, or creativity, you might be able to add a dose of it through the colors you surround yourself with. It certainly couldn't hurt.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Bloggie Birthday!

Today my blog is a year old. It's been quite a year. I think the blog essentially keeps to the theme I intended when I started it, although the focus has perhaps shifted a bit. Then again, I knew that would happen when I started.
I know of at least 2 other blogs celebrating birthdays/anniversaries in this first part of September. I wonder when most blogs are started, and I wonder why?
If there's anything you'd like to read more about in the next year, I'd love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Labor Day

Everybody's doing something this weekend. Some people mark the end of summer with barbecues and parties. Others travel for one last long summer weekend away, or stay at home to try to complete all those home improvement tasks they never got around to over the summer. I will be in the last category this weekend.
Labor Day is one of the times of year that I check in with how I'm doing on my New Year's resolutions. As the seasons change I like to think about how my year has gone thus far, and what I can do to stay focused on my goals for the rest of the year. Sometimes I do this formally, with journaling, reading, and other reflective activities. This year I will spend most of my time mentally reviewing my year while I go about cleaning, organizing, and decluttering my condo.
Something about creating order in my environment helps me order my thoughts. Maybe that's why I like to have a certain amount of untidiness in my space. It's not enough for things to be clean, the benefit is in the act of cleaning itself. It'd be awful to need to clean something for the benefit of thinking through a problem and find myself with a home so tidy that nothing needed organizing.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An Aged Top Ten

Some of you are going to think I have no reason to write a list of the top ten things that make me feel old. But I think that only proves my point. If I'm surprised that something makes me feel old, that just goes to show I am not yet old enough to be that old. That probably only made sense if you know me fairly well. Anyway, here's the top ten things that make me feel old.

  1. Someone recently asked me what kind of anti-wrinkle cream I use. I don't. Maybe it was a compliment in that I don't really have wrinkles, but it still sounds fishy.
  2. The discounted matinee price for movies is more than the full price was when I was a kid.
  3. Getting ma'am-ed. Unless I'm visiting the South, or being addressed by someone under the age of ten, I am not at all prepared to be called ma'am.
  4. The fact that I can no longer stay up late. Anything that requires coordination or cognitive functioning requires a full night's sleep.
  5. I recently realized that anything that happened up to 15 years ago still happened in my adult lifetime.
  6. My peers have children entering the 2nd grade.
  7. I've moved up a category in the age bracket demographic.
  8. Instead of getting trendy fashion catalogs, I've started getting catalogs for sensible shoes and clothes that specialize in "coverage and support."
  9. My younger brother is going to be 29. Once he hits 30, I'm going to have to admit that I have too.
  10. Music I grew up with is now being played on classic and oldies radio stations. I thought that was my parents' music that was supposed to be on those stations.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Shelfari Bookshelf

Once again Cris has come to the rescue. Or is that, has come to lead me into temptation? She introduced me to Shelfari, which is a way to keep track of the books you've read, communicate with others about them, and of course, share this info on your blog. I'd been wanting to track all the books I read, but I didn't want to get expensive software to do it, and I'm too lazy to do it without some sort of tool to help me.
If you scroll down a bit, in my sidebar you will see an item called "My Bookshelf." Your computer may tell you that you need to download Flashplayer to see my shelf. Go ahead and do that. You should be able to see the books I'm currently reading. At present, this means the books I've read so far this year.
Earlier, I'd estimated that I read about 25 books in a year. Well, it's August and I'm up to 27, and just about to go get books 28 & 29 at the library. Granted, it's been an unusual year for me. I've been a bit of a compulsive reader. What's even more alarming is that over 2/3 of these books have something to do with someone dying. Seriously.
Anyone got any happy books?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Back to School

I'm not in school anymore, and I don't have kids of my own. Still, this is always a bittersweet time of year for me. My friends and I have all been talking about memories of school. The sights, the sounds, the smells. I love the feel and the smell of those little pink erasers, how perfect they looked before you had to use them for the first time. I love notebooks and filler paper. As sad as it is to say goodbye to summer, the school year is its own promising season filled with potential and possibilities.
My love for school supplies has grown up into a love for office supplies. I keep thinking that if I have enough three-ring binders and index cards, my life will somehow become organized. Of course, I know that's not the solution, but it sure is fun to play with the grown up version of my school supplies. Who knows, maybe I'll even dig around and see if I can find my box of 64 crayons.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gratitude Top Ten

I almost made this top ten about things I feel like whining about today. I think that would have been easier. But I stopped myself and decided to make an effort to get out of my funk by trying to list 10 things I'm grateful for today.

  1. Air conditioning
  2. Chocolate
  3. That 5PM arrived, eventually
  4. The Muppet Show, Season 2 DVD (it's four discs, but I think skipping ahead to the 8th slot would be cheating)
  5. Books
  6. Bubble baths
  7. Impromptu work field trips
  8. Empathy
  9. Nail polish
  10. Thunderstorms

Friday, August 10, 2007

Good Eats in Chicago

I'm finally getting around to responding to Cris' last tag. I think she knows I've been having trouble coming up with things to write and time in which to write them. I'm being a rule breaker here because I just haven't done the networking to know other people to tag.
Anyway, for the record, I live in the Chicago suburbs (IL, in the good old USA). There, I've at least followed a few of the rules.

  1. So as not to disappoint Cris or anyone else, my favorite resturant is Giordano's Pizzeria. Our local joint recently redecorated to fit the chain brand more closely. They were closed for some time and let me tell you, it wasn't pleasant. I'm not sure if I like the outcome either. Our old one was more unique, less contemporary. The stuffed pizza is what they are famous for, but I also love their thin crust. It's not too thin, which I find important. Cold Giordano's thin crust pizza is the best. People have asked me what is so fabulous about it. All I can say is, come to Chicago & I'll take you out for pizza.
  2. Not to be all about junk food, but we have this great hot dog place that I grew up on. Gene & Jude's has the best hot dogs ever. They are literally just a hot dog stand that has been, well, standing since my dad grew up in this area. I'll take you here too, but you have to promise not to ask for ketchup. Gene & Jude's does not serve ketchup with their hot dogs.
  3. I've only been to Reza's in the city a few times, but I love it. They have wonderful Middle Eastern/Mediteranean food. I could eat their hummus all day long.
  4. I've come to the conclusion that at pizza places, the other food options aren't usually that great. And at your basic Italian place, if the general fare is good the pizza might not be all that great. I think this is the case with Leona's, one of my family's favorite Italian places. Wonderful pasta, yummy salmon, and great homemade bread. One of the trademarks of Leona's is that the staff is a little, ummm, rude. They are fairly direct & kind of crass. You still get good service & the lack of formalities & abundance of attitude makes it seem that much more like home.
  5. If you want real rudeness, you need to go to Ed Debevic's. These guys are world class rude. The 50's diner style is entertaining, as are the waitstaff dance performances which often occur on the tables. Their burgers are pretty famous too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Top 10 Relaxing Activities

Cris went & tagged me again, but she's going to have to wait because it's Tuesday, and that means another Top Ten list.
I'm feeling a little stressed today, so my Top Ten list is of things that I intend to do over the next few days to help me relax. Some of these things might seem like you hear about them all the time. But the question is when is the last time you actually did more than one of them, intentionally, in a week?
  • Read. I recently picked up Girl Meets God & I'm enjoying it quite a bit.
  • Take a bubble bath. Probably more than one.
  • Make a book. I made one the other night in an hour. I self imposed the deadline and it worked. If you have a creative project you've been hedging around at, allow yourself the ability to just rush through it. Then go back & clean it up if you want or need to.
  • Do something spiritual. For me, this means something not already in my routine. I'm not usually a midweek worship service attendee, but I'm going to go tomorrow night.
  • Breathe. Yes, we all do that. Doing it intentionally is different though. Try deep breathing while meditating on the creation of man & the word inspire. Seriously.
  • Get or give yourself a manicure. This is my beauty pampering ritual of choice because as a writer I like making my hands feel good. I also get the most compliments on my hands, so there's that added bonus.
  • Write something. Do you know how often I find myself getting kinda crabby & then realize it's been a while since I journaled?
  • Sleep. Need I say more?
  • Add something healthy to my life. When I'm stressed, I work on adding something like exercise, more water, or some more healthy food to my diet. Even just changing one thing can make a big improvement in my immune system & energy level.
  • Something yummy, preferably chocolate. OK, most of the stuff on this list is good or neutral as far as health. But a little comfort food isn't such a bad thing.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Few Questions

Crystal tagged me a few days ago and I'm just now getting around to answering her questions. Since she's already tagged the other bloggers I know, I don't have anyone else to tag. Sigh. I'm not very good at this sort of thing.

1. What's the one book or writing project you haven't yet written but still hope to?

I’m not much of a fiction writer, so I’d have to say that the one project I want to write is the nonfiction equivalent to The Great American Novel. In my mind, this book is impossibly wide in scope, and equally overwhelming in its depth. I’m not there yet, I’m still collecting ingredients. What I know so far is that it’s part memoir, both inspirational and instructional, has a lot to do with creativity and relationships, and would speak about faith in a way that would attract both believers and nonbelievers.
Of course, this is all subject to change and various forms of reality checks as time progresses.

2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with?

If you’d asked me this question a couple weeks ago, the answer would have been Harry Potter. Actually, Crystal did ask this question a couple weeks ago, and one of the reasons it took me so long to respond was that I was busy reading Harry Potter.
Now that I’m done with that, and I’ve had a few days to recover (hey, I like to read, but 750+ pages in two days is a lot), I’m mulling over my next options. I’m a very mood dependent reader, but once I start reading a book I’m usually compelled to finish it. So I have to be careful about what books I choose to read and when. If I’m not careful I can end up reading too many depressing books in a row and that’s just not good.
Anything by Tolkien is probably a safe bet. Right now I’m wanting to get my hands on The Children of Hurin. In fact, I think I have a Border’s coupon that expires soon. Now I have to go to Borders and it’s all Crystal’s fault.

3. What was your first writing "instrument" (besides pen and paper)?

Does crayon count?
I don’t remember the name of the brand, but it was a word processor. When I entered college, computers were still too expensive for me to invest in my own. So we went a step above typewriter and got a word processor. The thing used floppy disks of a unique size so you could not transfer files from the word processor to a PC. And it required a complex set of maneuvers to save a document. My roommate found out that these maneuvers seem even more complex at 3AM. That was not fun.

4. What's your best guess as to how many books you read in a month?

Hmmm, good question. I’ve been wanting to keep better track, but I just haven’t gotten around to that. I’d say I read probably a couple books a month. Some months I just read one book. Some months I might read 3-4. I’ve been wanting to try this software that catalogs all the books you read, but that seems rather frivolous at the moment. I think I’d use it, but who knows?

5. What's your most favorite writing "machine" you've ever owned?

I use my PC most often. I like MS Office 2003. I use Publisher for some things, and I like the way Word, Powerpoint, and Publisher work together. But my favorite writing machine is my AlphaSmart. I’ve always liked to journal when I’m away from home. However, some writing is better done, accessed, if you will, through typing. There’s nothing better than being able to sit outside and type on my AlphaSmart, then come in and easily transfer the file to my computer.

6. Think historical fiction: what's your favorite time period in which to read? (And if you don't read historical fiction--shame on you.)

I’d have to say pioneer/turn of the century stuff. It’s a nostalgia thing not only for the time period itself, but for the books I read as a kid. Who wasn’t inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder?

7. What's the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?

Definitely The Hobbit. This was the book that made me want to be a writer. What more can I say?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Money Management

You'd think with a single income, money management would be a big challenge for me. Sometimes things are a little tighter than I'd like, but often it's a simple matter of math. When I'm done with my expenses for the month the money is gone, so there's not really anything left over to worry about budgeting.
This is the reason I have rules about windfalls. The first rule of windfalls is that a big chunk of it has to go into savings. That way, when a minor disaster occurs, I've got some funds available. Then I put the rest towards a project of appropriate size. These are the kinds of projects that sit around on a waiting list until I have the money.
Using this method, I feel I have the best of both worlds. I have some money in savings, that's untouchable unless something in my home or my body needs repairs. But I also get to do something tangible that holds off the feelings of deprivation for a while.
However, I think I'm going to try something different. I have a little bit of money waiting for me to decide what to do with it. I've already put some of it into savings. Truthfully, this is not the kind of money that would allow me to do something substantial like make over a room in the house. So rather than spending it all at once, I think it might be fun to see how long I can make it last. It's kind of nice to have a few extra bucks for little things that come up each week. Instead of picking one big project to spend it on, I'm going to enjoy getting a number of the "little things" on my list week after week. I wonder if I can make this last until the next windfall.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

At Last, A Top Ten

I've been sick for quite a while and unable to post. As I told my friends, I hate it when I get a game plan together and then I get sidelined. One of my last posts was on books for writers. Here's a list of tools for writers that I find useful. These are especially helpful when I need to arm myself to get back into the game.
  • My Alphasmart. I love that it's a no-frills portable word processor. No danger of Freecell or web surfing. I can type anywhere.
  • While I try to avoid excess surfing, I can't do without my favorite writing groups, blogs, and sites. Maybe they'll be featured in a future top ten.
  • Gel pens or fountain pens. I love these for journaling and brainstorming.
  • Write Again software. It's a great all in one organizing, tracking, and planning program.
  • Notebooks. My new favorites are the smaller size from CVS. They've got great plastic covers, but they aren't too expensive.
  • My ipod. Sometimes I write with music, sometimes not. But I often use my ipod to at least mask noise in my immediate surroundings.
  • The basics: my PC, my desk. I love being able to customize my environment to stimulate creativity.
  • I know I mentioned e-sword before, but I'm mentioning them again. They have bibles and so many bible study tools.
  • A handful of tools from Levenger. Required? No. Fun? Yes. They make these notepads shaped to fit in front of my monitor. No more saving emails forever because I never write down the info.
  • Chocolate. It's good for celebration, consolation, encouragement, reward. It's an incredibly versatile tool.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Not Much To Say

I don't have much to say today. I've been doing a lot of cleaning and organizing over the last few days. I love doing this sort of thing when there's something on my mind. Putting order in my physical surroundings helps me put my thoughts together.
Another thing that helps is working on puzzles. Often by the time I've solved the puzzle, I've come up with a solution to my dilemma.
Sometimes talking helps, but sometimes it's not easy to put thoughts into words. Even journaling can be difficult at those times. It's not that the problem itself is complicated, it's that it needs to percolate a little before you can express it in words. That's when I find book art helpful. Playing with images and structures helps give form to whatever thoughts you are trying to work through.
This can even be used as a transitional means to writing an article or book. If you're struggling with writers' block, go back to the "pre-writing" techniques of creating a book. Often what we need to express comes out in colors, patterns, and symbols before we can put it to words.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What Will Heaven Be Like?

Several posts ago I facetiously said I hope we'll be able to read all the books in our "to be read" piles once we get to heaven. I also implied that whatever heaven will be like, I don't think cherries will be there. At least not in my little corner of the kingdom.
The point I was trying to make is that our finite little brains can't begin to conceptualize how wonderful heaven will be. Except...
There's this song that Geoff Moore recently covered called "When I Get Where I'm Going." It's about what things will be like when we get to heaven. I must confess I have not always liked this song. I thought of it as just another rather "fluffy" image of eternal life.
On closer listening, I heard the line "I will leave my heart wide open. I will love and have no fear."
Even the best relationships here on earth are imperfect. We disappoint each other. We get rejected. We disagree. Imagine what it would be like to not be afraid to love and be loved. Never having to wonder if someone thinks you're not good enough. Never feeling ignored or let down. Never having to wonder if your opinion will be accepted. Never being afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. Imagine knowing it's always safe to interrupt, always safe to ask, and safe to love because you know the risk that you won't be loved in return simply doesn't exist.
Sounds heavenly, doesn't it?

Current Read: Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankel
Current Music: Happy, Matthew West

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Top 10 Books for Writers

These are the books I think you simply must have if you plan on writing, particularly in the Christian market. These books are all useful no matter what kind of writing you do, fiction or nonfiction, and any audience you might write for.

  1. A dictionary- Preferably a good hardbound one your aunt got you for 8th grade graduation, the kind where she wrote affirming things about you & your love of words on the inside cover.
  2. A thesaurus- Preferably a good hardbound one your brother got you because he's supportive, even if he doesn't write nice things on the inside cover.
  3. The Elements of Style, Strunk & White- You need this book. It's the grammar book. Just go get it.
  4. The Christian Writer's Market Guide, compiled by Sally Stuart- You can write all you want, but if you wanna know who's gonna buy your stuff, you need this book.
  5. Bibles- It's good to have lots of these. I like comparing translations and study notes in different versions, as well as the extra features like maps & concordances. Take a look at
  6. Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller- Not strictly a book on writing, but if you are going to write for the Christian market, you are going need to read the opening paragraph of the chapter "Money: Thoughts on Paying Rent." You're probably going to want to read it several times.
  7. You Can Market Your Book, Carmen Leal- Let's face it, we want to not only write books, we want to sell them. Carmen has lots of great ideas for how to do that.
  8. Writing From the Inside Out, Dennis Palumbo- This book covers so many of the internal and external obstacles for writing. Don't read it unless you are ready to part with the reasons you can't write.
  9. Walking On Water, Madeline L'Engle- I love this book. Pure creative, spiritual inspiration. This book really fills that creative well back up.
  10. An Introduction to Christian Writing, Ethel Herr- Just what it says. This book is a nice introduction to the basic protocols for the process of writing. There's some great tools to help you get organized in this book.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


My coworkers and I recently had the luxury of spending some surplus funds on reference books for our mental health agency. One of the books was on the subject of co-dependence. I couldn't help but note the contrast between our perception of co-dependence as a negative state of being and the celebration of independence that we celebrate not only as individuals, but on a national level as well.
One of my colleagues observed that we've come to cherish independence so much that we've developed intolerance of dependence in any form. Thus, if people care for each other, especially if they make sacrifices to provide that care, we label the relationship codependent.
Certainly, destructive co-dependence can and does exist. But I wonder if we've become so protective of our own rights and abilities that we forget that we're made to depend on each other. Not co-dependence. Not independence. Interdependence. Maybe we should celebrate Interdependence Day.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Have you ever woken up and discovered you had no idea who you were? More to the point, maybe you know who you were, but you have no idea who you are?
Sometimes we change so slowly that we don't even realize it's happened until we reflect on what life was like 4 years ago, before the Master's degree. Or that a mere 13 months ago, I'd never owned a home before.
Other times, change happens so fast, you freeze up, holding your breath while you try to catch up with what just happened. Like when I needed to take some time away from people to take care of myself after some difficult experiences. The part of my brain that could connect meaningfully with other people was closed for repairs. Until 11:30 AM on May 30th. I was in the middle of a conversation and I couldn't figure out why I felt like crying. Finally, I caught up with the idea that I was emotionally connecting and responding to what the person was telling me. Being reintroduced to the experience of relationships that suddenly can catch one off guard a bit.
Life is disorienting sometimes. We prepare ourselves for what we think will be an emotional experience, and find we didn't react at all like we expected. Then we get overwhelmed when we least expect it. We do things we never thought we'd be able to do, only to then find we can't do things we always thought we could or should.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Top 10 Writing Tricks

Over the weekend I found myself writing. Nothing spectacular, some stuff for church, which led to some updating of promotional material, which led to even more writing. Who knew?
That very question is of some concern. Since I don't know what sparked this sudden interest in writing, I'm not terribly confident in my ability to recreate it. So here's my top ten techniques for writing consistently.
  1. Tell someone what I'm going to write & when. There's no substitute for accountability.
  2. Set a time related goal. Write for 20 minutes, 3 hours, whatever. Just write for a set length of time.
  3. Set a quantitative goal. Three pages, or 1,000 words. Set a number and write until you hit it, even if you write garbage.
  4. Get jealous. Not usually a good thing, but if a little of the green-eyed monster inspires some good-natured competition, maybe it's not so bad.
  5. For me, it helps to take off my shoes at night. Since my mobility is limited this removes the temptation to get up and put laundry away, etc. Of course, there's still Freecell.
  6. Create rewards. We all know this one. But it's true that reward works better than punishment. Try encouraging yourself to write instead of beating yourself up about it.
  7. Go someplace else. I love my Alphasmart. With my Alphasmart & my journal, I can go anywhere and just write.
  8. Turn off your internal editor. This is a big roadblock for me. My editor is very critical these days. For some reason having stuff like cooking and home & garden shows on helps shut the editor up. I think the background noise distracts him without anything exciting like plot to distract me.
  9. Or turn off the TV. Get rid of all distractions. I've found that a day or weekend retreat of sorts can jump start my writing productivity.
  10. Try reverse psychology. Tell yourself you are not allowed to write until you clean out the closet or garage.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Good Things

It's been one year today since I bought my condo. I haven't starved or foreclosed yet, so I must be doing something right.
Last night I watched a public television special about Sesame Street. The documentary chronicled the birth of the series in Bangladesh. I found it quite moving to see how they re-conceptualize the show to address the cultural needs of each country they hope to broadcast in. It's comforting to know that Sesame Street is still around.
I treated myself to a few art supplies yesterday. I still cringe a little at spending money on something I'm not very good at, but I'm working on it. With any luck, I'll soon be able to post a photo of my latest handmade book.
The weather here is fabulous. Free air conditioning, anyone?

Current Read: Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore
Current Music: River of Dreams, Billy Joel

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More About Time

On Tuesday, I mentioned that summer is half over. How is this even possible? And how is it possible that I've hardly done anything I wanted to do this summer? I did have a much needed vacation, but that's about it.
Time seems to escape me these days. Some things take a lot of time. Some things (like slow computers) waste a lot of time. I once heard that we make the time for the things that are important to us. I think I think that's true. But I also think I spend time doing some things because they are easy to cross off my list, and they are a convenient way to avoid doing the more difficult, time consuming, and important things on the list.
What's up with that?
I think people draw a lot of conclusions about us by observing the way we spend our time. I wonder what I would think about what conclusions people make about me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Top Ten Tuesday

I struggled with what to write about for today's top 10. I have a lot to do this week, and all that "stuff" was blocking me from coming up with a creative idea for my top 10 list. So, guess what y'all get? A top 10 list of the stuff on my to do list. Perhaps not the most inspiring thing ever. But maybe one of you has some ideas that could help me get some of this stuff accomplished.
  1. Come up with some written material and projects for our church's spiritual gifts program.
  2. Restructure my whole program at work to meet the new state guidelines and increase our funding.
  3. Create about 5 handmade books, some as therapy, some as gifts.
  4. Prioritize and implement the home improvement projects I need to get to this summer, (which is nearly half over- yikes!).
  5. Laundry
  6. Figure out a way to get back into freelance writing. Seriously.
  7. Read the 13 books I got for 15 bucks at the library sale. Hey, something fun has to make it on the list.
  8. Clean up this house. Any volunteers?
  9. Develop some speaking topics and materials.
  10. Decide if & how I can maintain the other commitments I have that aren't on this list because they didn't make the top 10 cut.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Sometimes we think of sharing as something that will divide and diminish the object or experience we are sharing. But some things just aren't any fun unless they are shared. As I previously mentioned, I have started watching movies on a regular basis. Since I live alone, this is generally a solitary experience. I don't mind this at all. I get to decide what I want to watch, when I want to watch it.
But some movies need to be shared to be fully experienced. I took my mom to see Evan Almighty this weekend. Nice movie, great themes I completely support seeing on the big screen, maybe not quite as funny as Bruce Almighty. Even though it was a good movie, I would not have spent the time & money to go see it were it not for the fact that I knew Mom would enjoy watching it as well.
Relationships are like that, I might not particularly like something, but I like that you like it. And that makes the experience worthwhile. Mom & I both happened to like this movie, but there have been plenty of times I have seen movies with my brother that I wasn't really fond of, but I did appreciate that he enjoyed the experience. He might even tell you the same thing is true for him.

Current Read: The Old Man and The Sea, Ernest Hemingway
Current Music: Lord of the Rings Soundtrack

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Top Ten Tuesday

Well, I don't usually stick with any one routine for very long, but I figure I might as well play with this Tuesday top ten idea for a while. Last week I shared the movies on my Netflix queue. In thouroughly modern fashion, I suppose I should follow up with the top 10 songs on my iPod.
Keep in mind these are the top 10 most played songs on my iPod, and the last several months were a little on the dark & difficult side. My song list isn't usually this monochromatic, nor this depressing. It'll be interesting to see what the top 10 most played songs on my iPod are six months from now.
  1. How to Save A Life, The Fray
  2. Something Beautiful, Jars of Clay
  3. Silence, Jars of Clay
  4. These Ordinary Days, Jars of Clay
  5. Window in the Skies, U2
  6. Hands, Jewel
  7. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, U2
  8. Pride (In the Name of Love), U2
  9. Home, Rich Mullins
  10. Because of This, MercyMe

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Questions & Cicadas

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find myself with a lot of questions I'd like God to answer. Some of them are quite serious, and some of them are more for the sake of curiosity.
For example, our finite brains have a hard time conceptualizing what heaven will be like. Recently, I read something on this subject in a collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson's letters and essays. He was lamenting the fact that his "to be read pile" of books never seems to get smaller. So he wondered if, when when we get to heaven, we will have access to all the material we hadn't read in our lifetimes. I think this question goes to the top of my list of questions for God.
One of my longstanding questions is about cherries. I understand that part of the magnificence of God's creation is the variety. And I understand that he made each of us different, so that the things you enjoy might not be the things I enjoy. So if you like palm trees or lima beans, I can appreciate that even if palm trees or lima beans don't thrill me. What I can't understand is cherries. I know there are plenty of you out there who think cherries are perfectly lovely. But I don't get it. The whole concept of cherries being something other than a consequence of original sin and the fall of man is a mystery to me. So my next question is about cherries.
Then there's the cicadas. Have you seen these things? They are ugly. Some of the creatures on this earth are a little odd. Some, like perhaps the cockroach, are downright unattractive. But the cicada is hideous. And they only get to come out from underground every 17 years so they can... ummm... mate. These poor bugs have it worse than the penguins. Yeah, I need to ask God about what's up with the cicadas.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Tuesday Top Ten

I recently subscribed to Netflix. I was looking for a solution to this entertainment challenge I've had for the last few years. For most of the last four years, I've been, ummm, a little busy. Until just now, I haven't had much free time for entertainment. At this point, it's become a little bit more of a priority.
Most of my current entertainment is in the form of reading, which is easy enough because I live absurdly close to a library. But since I don't have cable, I've been wanting to branch out into multimedia entertainment options.
Enter Netflix. So far, I really like it. I don't need 50 movie and TV show options 24/7. I just need the movies I want when I have time to watch them. So here's a list of the top 10 movies on my Netflix queue.

  1. Mean Girls
  2. Amelie
  3. Amelie: Bonus material
  4. Chronos
  5. End of the Spear
  6. Best of the Muppet Show, George Burns
  7. Half Nelson
  8. Shine
  9. The Queen
  10. The Fountain

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Do You See What I See? Pt. 2

Last time I asked you readers to do an assignment. If you did your homework, you should have a sheet of paper with your name written all over it. It should be written with your non-dominant hand and overlapping in several directions so that you can hardly tell it's your name. If you haven't done that yet, you have one last chance. Go ahead, I'll wait.

OK, now I need you to go find your markers, colored pencils, or whatever you have. Steal your kids' crayons. Gather up different kinds of pens if that's what you have, blue, black, gel, ballpoint, highlighters. Now color in your art. Seriously. Any way you want. You don't need to color the whole thing. You don't need to stay in the lines. And you can use either hand for this part.

What do you see? Chances are you felt signing your name with the wrong hand was awkward and unattractive. Do you feel any differently looking at it now?
I've done this exercise with several groups of people and two main points come up. One is that your name represents you. And there it is, a work of art right in front of you. The second thing is that people often assume their non-dominant hand is less functional, less capable than the one they normally use. What makes this powerful is the process of creating something appealing and interesting with a part of ourselves we think of as inferior.
I bet you really wish you'd actually done the assignment.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Do You See What I See?

Degas said "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." But not everyone will have the same experience of a given work of art. So is art (including writing, music, cooking, or any other creative form of expression) process based or outcome based? I keep coming back to that question about what defines art.
I think the creative process needs more than just beauty behind it. In fact, my virtual writer's "editing room floor" is littered with many a lovely turn of phrase because, while lovely, they didn't do enough work in communicating the meaning of the piece I was working on. I've heard soloists sing in church who were technically flawless, but there was something missing. For one reason or another, the passion was missing. The meaning of the work as an act of worship was lost, perhaps because the singer was distracted. There are certain photographers and painters I like because they see something I don't see, and when I see their work, I get a glimpse of that.
I bet at one time or another (maybe even right now) you've doubted your own creative potential. Maybe you instinctively knew that art is more than a bunch of notes, colors, or words together just because they're pretty. Well, I have an assignment for you.
Grab a sheet of paper. Seriously. And I know most of you reading are friends and family, so I will check up on you! Now grab a writing utensil. Using your non-dominant hand (the opposite of the one you usually write with), write your name nice & big in the middle of the paper. Now write it again somewhere else on the page. Use your full name, your nickname, any form of your name you want. Keep writing all over the page. Turn the page sideways, upside down, any way you want. It's OK if you overlap signatures. Get your page nice & full & then you can stop.
Now, I know some of you gentle readers are slackers. So I'm going to give y'all a couple days to do this first part and then I will tell you what to do next.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What Is Art?

As I was perusing an artists' magazine for inspiration, I asked myself what defines art. Actually, the question has come up quite a bit recently. Sometimes what the viewer perceives is entirely different than what the creator intended. My friend LeAnne has a wonderful blog on art. One of the main principles she discusses is that as a creative process, art connects us all to our Creator. So even if it's never seen by another person, the act of creating art has some value for the artist.
But if I create something and if fails to convey what I wanted to express, does it fail as art on that level? Or is the artistic expression dependent on some sort of background knowledge of the artist's perspective, an understanding that would share vital information on the meaning of the work?
It's a question writers also need to ask in writing for publication. The story of how my brother & I had fun putting a puzzle together last Christmas is significant to me. But unless you know me & Brian, there really isn't any meaning behind it worth sharing. It has it's place in the pages of my journal, but if I were to try to publish it the editor or reader would wonder "what's your point?"
I sometimes have a similar experience when I look at the altered books or handmade books of others. The meaning isn't clear. It's pretty. The colors work well together. The technique is admirable. But it doesn't do anything for me. The artist may have an emotional connection to a trip they took, or a conversation they had, or whatever. But it isn't communicated to me in a way that makes me care. In contrast, some altered books or handmade books clearly tell a story. I may not know the people and places in the work, but it resonates with me. As a writer, being able to bridge this gap where artistic license is used for the purpose of enhancing the story is important to me.
As writers and artists, we need to be able to discern between "cheap therapy" and a message that needs to be shared. And we need to hone our craft so that we can communicate that message effectively with others.

Current Read: The Peacemaker, Ken Sande
Current Music: American IV, Johnny Cash

Thursday, May 31, 2007


For the last several years, I have started my summer by spending at least some of Memorial Day weekend in a sort of "writing intensive." I almost didn't do it this year, but I was inspired at the last minute. I wrote a plan for my writing this summer. (Hey, if you're having a hard time writing, might as well write about writing). It was helpful in both practical and emotional ways to keep with the tradition of visiting my writing goals at the beginning of the summer. And I discovered a couple of interesting things.
I have many more styles, approaches, and forms of writing in my toolbox than I thought I did. I use each of them differently depending on how I'm feeling and what I'm trying to communicate.
  • For journaling personal stuff, brain dumps, rants, and introspective stuff, I need my spiral bound notebook and my fountain pen.
  • I use loose leaf paper and gel pens for brainstorming works for publication. The freedom to shuffle papers around is important here.
  • When I get down to serious writing for publication, I need to be at the computer or my AlphaSmart. I think differently when I write than when I type.
  • Sometimes I have something I want to write about that I'm having a hard time putting into words. I have discovered that making handmade books is quite useful for this. The creative process bypasses my verbal barrier, helping me find the words I've lost.

If I haven't written in a while, I get this restless feeling. I know that's common among writers. What I find interesting is that when I need to write in one form or style, writing in one of the other ones is only minimally effective. If I need to do some book art and I've only got my journal, that's only a bit helpful. If I need to write an article for publication and I'm not near my PC, that's not so great either. So I'm learning to ask myself why I need to write and what I need to write instead of just "writing something."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Altered Books

Altered books is a form of art whereby paint, collage, and just about any other media is used to to alter pages in a book. Sometimes pages or whole sections of pages in the book are glued together or cut out to further modify the book. Some people have a problem with this because they don't like seeing a book "destroyed." Personally, I think it's a neat way to keep a garage sale special from ending up the the garbage can.
Last week, while visiting my friend Karen in Ohio, we stopped by the local art museum. We happened upon an exhibit that included several altered books, or book sculptures by Clare Murray Adams. Karen and I had fun interpreting this series of books. Although it wasn't exactly what the artist intended, we saw the books as reflecting a writer's thoughts and feelings throughout the process of writing. Some of the books were wired shut, some had the spines ripped from the bindings, some had shredded paper spilling out from the covers.
If you struggle with writing, especially writing for publication, perhaps you can identify with either wanting to physically and dramatically alter the book or the conflicting emotions that arise when others view and possibly alter our work. Seeing this book sculpture series makes me want to keep a few old books on hand for when I feel the need to rip out some spines- umm, I mean, express my feelings on the struggles of writing.
BTW, we know our interpretation of the book series wasn't what the author intended because shortly after we arrived, she came in to brief the docents on her work. So we got to hear her lecture on her materials and process. Too cool.

Friday, May 25, 2007


If I did this correctly, My 100's should be back up on the sidebar.
I know there are some other links I still want to add, but I haven't quite gotten around to it yet.
For the record, I don't like the available formats for my post archives, but I'm not sure there's much I can do about that.
I'm in the mood to redecorate, but I'm not sure what else I want to change on the blog.
I'm just saying...

Current Read: Miracles, CS Lewis
Current Music: KLOVE

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spending Time

I know, I know. I haven't updated the blog for a few days. As a result, more than one of you has accused me of wasting time. But I wasn't wasting time, I was spending time.
Spending time is an investment. It's an intentional act. When we say we are going to spend some time doing something, we reflect the value of that on which we choose to spend the time.
For the last few days, I have spent time with a dear friend and her family. I've spent time healing. I've spent time thinking and brainstorming. I've spent time in Amish country. If you want an interesting perspective on how we invest our time, visit the Amish.
If we could spend time like we spend money, how much would it cost? Freelance professionals often calculate the value of their time by coming up with a desired income level and charging an hourly rate that reflects the work they do and the income goals they set.
There are those that say that every moment is precious, and in a sense I don't disagree with that. However, I wonder if the currency of time is more fluid than a standard hourly rate. I won't stay up late to wash dishes or other household chores. But I will stay up late to write, or update my blog, or help a friend.
Time well spent is priceless.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wasting Time

Seen in a junk mail catalog: "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
I just love adding a good new quote to my collection.
Of course, this truism can potentially be abused, much like anything. I'd rather waste time than pay my bills, but eventually the electric company will turn off my TV. This will severely impair my ability to waste time watching it. So at some point I need to stop wasting time and pay the bills.
However, maybe it's the Lutheran in me, but I have a hard time with the concept of wasting time. Even when I deliberately set aside time for a special treat, there's that nagging voice in the back of my head. The one that worries about productivity. The one that has the "to do" list memorized. The one that usually starts out "you should."
I think the quote means to say that if you are going to waste some time, waste it. I mean really waste it. And enjoy it. Otherwise, what's the point? Wasting a little time, with no guilt, might just make us more productive. Maybe we should waste a little time. I might even put it on my "to do" list.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What I Learned From My Mother

Today my mom invited someone over to our Mother's Day celebration. Without her invitation, this person would have spent the day alone. This got me thinking about how I learned that sort of thing from her. I learned how even if you are just stopping by to pick someone up, if you walk into our house at Christmas time, you get a gift. I learned how to pay attention to what people love but never get for themselves, and how they take their coffee so you are prepared if you ever need to get them a cup.
In light of recent events, I found this poem that highlights the things my mom taught me.

What I Learned From My Mother
Julia Kasdorf
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look into their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.