Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Story

In The House at Pooh Corner, there is a chapter “In which Eeyore finds the Wolery.” Which is to say that he finds a home for Owl because Owl’s previous home has been destroyed. The trouble is, what Eeyore found was actually Piglet’s home, though he did not realize this at the time. Piglet feels bad for Owl and doesn’t quite know how to tell him it is his house.
I think I can relate to that. Piglet feels a pang of loss at the possibility of not having his home. But he knows this is the very hurt that Owl is suffering at the moment, so he does not wish to cause him further pain. Have you ever felt like your sanctuary was crumbling before you, or being pulled right out from under you? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s hard, but it gives you empathy for others experiencing the same thing.
The story continues. Being the only one of the bunch who didn’t have fuzz for brains, Christopher Robin was smart enough to know Piglet was really in danger of losing his home, his sanctuary. Christopher Robin asks Piglet, what he would do if, in theory, his own house was blown down.
Before Piglet can speak, Winnie the Pooh answers for him. “He’d come and live with me.”
I’m happy to say I’m ridiculously blessed with people like Winnie the Pooh in my life. (Yes, people, that’s a compliment).

Sunday, February 25, 2007


I’m one of those people who like the special features on DVD’s. I especially like the extras on movies with a sci-fi bent or some other kinds of special effects. Today, I watched the special features on The Dark Crystal, directed by one of my favorite people, Jim Henson. I just love the insights into the creative process of genius at work.
In this “making of” feature, and in a few other interviews, Jim talked about what it takes to be a good puppeteer. He said it isn’t enough to move your hands in time with the words you’re saying. You must push the words through your arm and out your hand. You must be able to communicate the full range of emotions and actions through your hand.
In the DVD's of my favorite movie, The Lord of the Rings, there are hours and hours of special features. In an interview, Sean Astin reveals a secret to his method for playing Sam Gamgee. He says that throughout the filming process, he, Sean, became Sam to Elijah Wood. He took on the role of caregiver, keeper, guardian.
There’s something awe-inspiring about this kind of dedication to one’s craft. Without this focus on the details, the work would still be creative genius. But could my passion for these works exist were it not for the passion of these artists? The absence of passion doesn’t necessarily diminish the quality of the work. But the addition of passion sure does contribute to it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I Need

I’ve been known to have some trouble asking for help. I’ve got this stubborn, independent, “me do it” thing going on. I’m working on it though. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that it’s OK to sometimes ask for help. In the first place, people often don’t mind helping. In the second place, just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should. Sometimes it’s a better idea to save your energy for something more important. So, I started learning to ask for what I need.
Asking for what you need can be a risk. People might say no, or think there’s something wrong with you for having those needs. But it also opens up the possibility of experiencing grace when someone reaches out to meet that need. I’ve mentioned before that people who are there when you need to ask for help are fantastic.
Do you know what’s even better? People who know that sometimes what you need is to not to have to ask.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


I’ve been on vacation for the last few days. If you haven’t done this lately, I highly recommend it. At first you might wonder about the wisdom of taking a vacation (the kind where you don't go anywhere) right in the middle of February, particularly when six inches of snow has just fallen on the ground. Most people who stay in their homes in this situation do so pretty much against their will. But for me, it’s the beginning of the formula for a great vacation.
I get to sleep in, because I’m not going anywhere if I can help it.
My errand list is edited down to absolute essentials.
I feel good about getting those errands done because the weather increases the challenge.
I catch up on stuff around the house.
I catch up on reading and movies.
The only other places I go are places I really, really want to go.
In this case, that place was a local Nature Conservatory. Again, this is the ideal place to be when it’s the middle of February and there is six inches of snow on the ground. I still have a bit of sunburn from sitting in a glass house for several hours, wearing short sleeves.

I was there 2 days ago. Today, there are 31 days left until Spring. Tomorrow, it is supposed to rain.
I think I’ll make it.

Current Read: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Current Music: A Day Without Rain, Enya

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Would You Like A Cookie?

I just discovered a new favorite quote:

“An extravagance is something your spirit thinks is a necessity.” - Bern Williams

Sometimes we can be rather selfish and demanding about our wants. We come up with reasons to justify them, often resorting to claiming those wants as needs. I think this has diminished the true meaning of extravagance. We hardly know what that is when it’s no longer anything special. There’s a difference between filling the needs of greed and jealousy, versus filling the needs of the soul.
To illustrate- When one of my friends accomplishes something ordinary but pleasing, we joke “would you like a cookie?” We’re poking fun at the desire for reward (and acknowledging the achievement at the same time). As adults, we realize we don’t need a cookie every time we complete a task or follow the rules. Feeding pride is not feeding the soul.
In contrast, here’s an example that hopefully shows how an ordinary cookie can be about feeding the soul and not just the chocolate craving.

I was annoyed when I had to specifically make a trip to grad school just to hand deliver a document. The prof refused to make any arrangements to accommodate anyone’s schedule. It just wasn’t a factor in his decision making process. So, of course, on the day I set aside to leave work early (ticking off my boss significantly), it snowed. Snowed all day, and made walking challenging enough to fuel my aggravation.
So I’m walking down the hall to his office and I see a sign on the Academic Advising office.
“Hey, you! Come in here! I have something for you!”
So I’m standing in the hall, breathless, covered in snow, cold, and weighted down with crutches, coat, bag, etc. I was trying to figure out this sign because it had taken me off guard and I must admit I was a bit slow on the uptake at this point. Just then, this lady opens the door and smiles.
“You look like you need a cookie.”
I don’t think I said anything. I don’t think I could.
“Hang on, I’ll bring them out to you so you can choose.”
Seconds later, she reappeared with a platter of cookies. As I selected a chocolate chocolate chip variety, she explained that they had decided to offer them as treats to all the students because it was finals week. By then I found my voice, and I hope I successfully communicated to her my gratitude and some sense of the degree to which I did, in fact, need a cookie.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Writerly Things

I recently discovered the blog of Chip MacGregor, a Christian writer and agent. There’s tons of information on this blog, marketing trends, answers to readers’ questions, and other tips from a professional. All this good stuff is presented clearly, candidly, and with a certain sense of humor.
The other link I’ve added is Levenger. This store is about as indulgent as it gets for anyone who loves reading and writing. It’s a rare treat, but it’s fun to just window shop too. Fountain pen, anyone?

Current Read: I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Margaret Craven
Current Music: Freedom, Michael W. Smith

Friday, February 09, 2007


I’m still trying to get in touch with my inner writer. I say that specifically because my writing identity is still very much on the inside instead of something I am able to overtly express at this time.
In the movie “Wit” the main character relates how she came to love poetry and words. She explains that as she journeys through cancer the love of words she developed as a child became all the more useful. She says regarding how to cope with this new reality, “My only defense is the acquisition of vocabulary.”
This got me thinking of the origin of my own love of words. I’m always trying to define how my two vocations, writing and counseling, came to be and how they relate.
I don’t remember my mom directly discussing my disability with me, or deliberately talking about attitudes and values she wanted to instill in me; attitudes and values that would influence how I adjusted to life with a disability and life in general. But I do remember her reading me The Little Engine That Could, and The Selfish Giant, and The Giving Tree, and dozens of other books that communicated the meaning of life itself to me. I grew up in awe of the impact of words, words that challenge, words that encourage, words that heal. I wanted to be able to make the words do the same thing for other people that my mom made the words do for me.
I still don’t know how or when this colossal writer’s block will crack. But I do know that every time I accomplish something I didn’t think I could do I ask myself how I managed to do it. And the answer is always because I have a great mom.

Current Read: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling
Current Music: Sticks and Stones, The 77’s

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Random Thoughts

I’m not liking this switch to the new version of Blogger. In my experience, the new template gives me far fewer gains than what I lose. I lose the ability to make the font choice I want. I have to reformat everything. I lose the work I’ve already put into recreating a layout I was perfectly pleased with thankyouverymuch. I don’t like it when “new & improved” actually means “bigger hassle, less benefit.” Maybe it’s just the learning curve. Maybe it’s just me.
I’m going to try to update my blog some more in the next couple days, so expect some new links and such.

Over the weekend, I was watching VeggieTales. These 2 guys were eating donuts as they got shrunk Alice in Wonderland style by someone blasting their egos to make them feel small. As they got physically smaller, one said “Oh, our donuts are growing!”
Suddenly micro-sized in midair, they plopped into the box of donuts.
“Umm. Is this heaven?”
“No, it’s a jelly-filled.”
Cracked me up.

On Sunday, the high temperature here in Chicagoland was 1. I would like to officially go on record as saying that “1” should never be a “high” of anything.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Death Shall Be No More, (comma)

I just got done watching “Wit.” It’s about a professor of metaphysical poetry who is diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. There are many reasons why I would recommend it to those of you reading. There are many more idiosyncratic reasons why I enjoyed the film myself. But the best explanation comes from Dr. Bearing’s own teacher as she explains the significance of the poem. In modern literature, the last line contains a semicolon. It is argued that originally, the semicolon was a comma, presenting a different meaning. Just now, I can’t say anything more meaningful about it than to quote the movie and the poem here.
“Nothing but a breath--a comma--separates life from life everlasting. It is very simple really. With the original punctuation restored, death is no longer something to act out on a stage, with exclamation points. It's a comma, a pause.... Life, death. Soul, God. Past, present. Not insuperable barriers, not semicolons, just a comma."

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee;
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou'art slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sickness dwell,
And poppie,' or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then they stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die.
-John Donne