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