Sunday, June 29, 2008


I am still pretty brain dead. I'm not doing a Sunday Scribblings post today because I'm thinking about switching up the weekly challenges I take part in. I've come up with a couple of sites that have links to weekly art challenges. Nostalgic Collage has links to challenges for every day of the week. Thank God It's Friday also has an extensive collection of links to sites with art challenges. I also like the name of the blog.
Most of the blogs I've found post challenges along certain themes. Do a piece of art on birds. Make an ATC about summertime. My problem is that the subject matter isn't always where I need the inspiration. I need something to help me with techniques and trying new media. There used to be a site that had "Technique Tuesday," but the blog has since shut down. I'm going to keep looking for that sort of thing.
I did find that Google has a site called Google Trends. You can find out what people are googling, updated on an hourly basis. You can also search key terms you might use in your blog to measure their popularity and thereby increase traffic to your site.
So, I accomplished something this week. Next week is another story. Posting might be light as I'm anticipating a busy week.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Moo Shoo

It's been a brutal week. I'm tired. I'm incoherent. So instead of blathering on, I'm doing the only thing that makes sense in my condition. I'm posting a Youtube video of Harry Potter with a voice over dub of the VeggieTales Chicken song.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Muppets!

Last week, someone had their favorite Muppets as their Thursday Thirteen. I wish I could remember who it was. Anyway, it was a brilliant idea, which I'm borrowing for my own Thursday Thirteen this week on account of how much I love the Muppets.
FYI, I tried uploading images of Thog, The Muppaphones, and Sweetums, but that didn't work. So you'll just have to do a google image search on those characters if you are not familiar.
  • Kermit
  • Fozzie
  • Beaker
  • Animal
  • Thog
  • Gonzo
  • Sam the Eagle
  • The Swedish Chef
  • Robin the Frog
  • Scooter
  • Rowlf
  • The Muppaphones
  • Sweetums

Monday, June 23, 2008


Lately my weekends have been just peachy. The only problem is the Mondays have to show up and they have a way of ruining the whole weekend vibe.
So, my philosophical musing for today is about weekends. If we could just find a way to make a little more of that weekend magic last into the week, I'm convinced things would work so much better. I would work so much better. I'm not even asking for the whole week, just maybe until Wednesday. And not even all the weekend magic; just a little of it. Ideas, anyone?
Nevertheless, today is Monday, which means things did not go well. Which is why this is all I'm writing as far as the blog posting goes today. Blogger decided to give me some grief about adding some blog links on handmade books. It took some doing, but I won that war. So I hope you enjoy the new links.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Writing Process

Remember being taught how to outline a paper when you where in school? You had to write a thesis statement that identified the key purpose of your paper. You then outlined an introduction and developed carefully constructed supporting statements listed with roman numerals that led to the all important conclusion.
Oh, how my creative process has changed. There are occasions where I may begin at the beginning. Sometimes I begin right in the middle with something I want to explore. I won't have a sense of it's significance yet, or the direction I will take in writing about it. It's just an idea that needs a thesis and a conclusion, among other things, to turn it into a useful piece of writing. Other times, I begin at the end. My conclusion isn't just a recapitulation of the thesis; it's "point B" in the task of "getting from point A to point B." Beginning at the end requires that I work backwards and discover the material my creative process has unconsciously been working on.
If I'm having trouble writing something, often it's because I'm trying to start in the wrong place.
Sometimes a section of a piece is elusive. An introduction that doesn't start off nicely, a transition that won't flow, or a conclusion that isn't conclusive. The middle or the conclusion is often a better place to start in these situations. Even if I don't know the end when I begin writing, paying attention to the order in which I write things makes for happier endings. At least for the writer.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Word Art

A friend sent me a link to a new website that looks promising for more than just diversionary efforts. Wordle is a site that takes a block of text that you supply and turns it into word art. Colors, sizes, fonts, and varied direction of the words combine to transform the words into an artistic rendering of your text. You can select the number of words you want Wordle to display.
You really have to experience this to understand what I mean. Try googling a poem or a well-known piece of text and playing with it in Wordle. You'll see what I mean.
My first thought was that this would be useful in creating cards or gifts. Imagine creating this kind of word art with something like a Scripture passage or an essay as a wedding, birthday, or baby gift.
My next thought was Wordle could be an interesting brainstorming tool. Let's say you want to write about something- musical instruments, for example. You type up a couple pages of your thoughts on musical instruments, what you know on the subject, what you'd like to know, what you think about when you think of musical instruments. Wordle highlights key concepts and can put them together in ways that you might not have thought of. This could create some fresh angles for your next writing project.
My last thought, and the one I'm still thinking about, is that Wordle has to have implications for book art. I don't have a fancy letterpress, or graphics editing program. So my options for creating text in interesting formats are limited. My options for editioning books of this nature are even further limited. If I want to create something with elaborate text it's going to be unique and it's going to take a lot of time. With Wordle, the text is adjustable, easily formatted, and there are several ways to transfer it into my book.
Yes, Wordle is my new toy. Did I mention it's free?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How To Get Through A Bad Day

Sometimes it’s all we can do to get through a bad day. Don’t try to think about it, change it, or accomplish something in spite of it. Just survive. On some days that’s the best defense we have, but maybe there’s a way we can use those bad days to redeem some of the other bad days we all encounter from time to time. Remember that series of bad days you went through a few months ago? What couldn't you process at the time? Is there anything you’re perhaps more prepared to acknowledge now, some insight that might be useful as you face another patch of bad days?
Here are thirteen things I’ve learned or found useful in bad days. I hope they will get me through some more.

  • Music is healing. Listen to music.
  • Psalm 121
  • Art being what it is, it is beautiful and valuable. Treat people like art.
  • This is important.
  • Sometimes you just need a Kleenex.
  • Chocolate given by others in times of stress tastes better.
  • Books are healing. Read books.
  • Helping someone else with a bad day helps you with your own.
  • There’s no such thing as “at least” when it comes to loss.
  • There’s stuff inside you that you don’t know is there. When you need it, you’ll find it.
  • If you can’t find it, go watch Rocky Balboa.
  • This is also important.
  • Creativity counters the destructive things in our lives. Go be creative.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Writing Prompts

I noticed that after my last post or two, several people happened upon my blog while searching for "writing prompts." I got to wondering what prompts us to write. If you write for publication, there's the whole money, fame, food-on-the-table thing. But what prompts us to write on a deeper level?
Some published writers will call blogging or journaling cheap therapy. And maybe these kinds of writing are. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Writing is a form of communication. It can help internalize the positives of life and externalize the negatives. Shared writing creates community. Private writing facilitates the development of personal space and that ever important "sense of self."
Even with all the reasons I am motivated to write, it still takes a certain something to prompt me to write on any given day. The general motivations are not enough. They can be countered with the promise of a movie and a bubble bath. A prompt has to help me overcome all the reasons not to write. An external prompt like the Thursday Thirteen or Sunday Scribblings can help with some of those reasons. You know, the "I'm not creative. I don't know what to write" reasons. External prompts also come in the form of books and other resources with sentence starters and other creative material.
Believe it or not, prompts can also come from yourself. When I take a moment to write down something a coworker said, or make a note of something I saw that inspired me, that becomes a writing prompt. Routines are a writing prompt. I write three pages in my journal a day. Some of it makes its way into material that will be published or otherwise productive. Some of it is just a brain dump that helps me sleep. Both purposes serve as writing prompts.
Some prompts focus on inspiration for writing. Some focus on the responsibility to write. What writing prompts do you use?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Scribblings

I found a new blog, Awareness. Already, I think it's going to become a favorite. I like the random, thoughtful comments on the experience of life. I've only been reading for a few days and I've found lots to think about. Today, she wrote about a subject prompted from another site that I've already grown fond of, Sunday Scribblings. This is another meme site that posts a writing prompt each week. I looked into their archive of topics and I liked what I saw. The prompts leave a lot of room for imagination and interpretation. They are short, usually one word; but it's a word that begs to have it's meaning, or multiple meanings explored. The connotative and denotative layers are deep and intense. I love that. I'm still going to have original, unprompted blog entries, but I'm going to experiment with adding this meme to my blogging schedule on occasion. Hope you like it.
All I have on this week's subject are a few loose associations, and maybe a couple of questions. Here they are anyway.
  • We can only guide someone as far as we've gone ourselves. Don't we then have a responsibility to push ourselves as far as we can? How do we do that?
  • I like the mentoring concept of Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas. Each of us should strive to be in relationships with people a bit further along, a bit behind, and right alongside us. This method of providing balance works in professional, spiritual, and other contexts.
  • This is really a loose association... my brother & dad play World of Warcraft. When you just start out in that game, about 95% of the mini-map that shows where you are in relation to the rest of the world is blank. You haven't been there yet, so you don't get to see what's there. You are guided by the map only as far as you can see in front of you.
  • Our dads (and moms, but it is Father's Day) guide us in a lot of ways, some intentional, and some not. Like I said, they can only guide us to where and what they know. We place a lot of meaning on the guiding role of parents. If you had a "good enough" parent that probably worked out fairly well for you, even if it's not perfect. If you didn't have a good enough parent, you had to find that guidance in other ways. How were you guided to where you are?

Friday, June 13, 2008


Why is it that when we are too busy to find a spare moment, all we crave is the "white space" of a peaceful time-out, a day off, a few hours of rest and relaxation? And why is it that when we finally happen upon some unstructured, unscheduled time the worries and the "shoulds" immediately prey upon the wide open space of the very quietness our souls needs?

The other day I was watching some ants working on their little ant hills. If you've ever seen an ant farm, you know that beneath that little pile of dirt is a terribly complex structure the ants call home. The ants are famous for working together as a team. What struck me is that they perform these sophisticated tasks together, these tasks that require much cooperation. And they do it without a spoken language. As a writer and a therapist, I'm quite fond of the whole communcation thing. But this week I couldn't help being a little jealous of the ants who can accomplish quite a bit and not have to bother with words at all.

Today I was out & about observing that summer is really getting underway. You can tell this is true in the city because people roll down their windows and turn up their radios, treating the rest of us to their music. The trouble is, I don't want to hear your music. I like my music. My music doesn't objectify women or threaten violence to others. If I can hear your music above my music, generally I'm not very happy. But today the car that pulled up to the stoplight was playing Something Beautiful by the Newsboys. Not a song you typically hear on the streets of Chicago. And it was fitting for my mood today. I wish most people would turn their music down. The guy with the Newsboys can keep his up.
If you want to hear the song it's in the playlist on my sidebar to the left. Just make sure you are listening to Something Beautiful by the Newsboys, not by Jars of Clay. That's a totally different song.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thirteen Quotes

I know this is only my third Thursday Thirteen, but I just had to post a collection of my favorite quotes. I know, it's awfully soon to be resorting to the subject of quotes. I just really love them. So much so that as an extra bonus, I'm including 3 additional quotes- all free of cost to you, the reader.
Furthermore, in my sidebar, there is a list of 100's and it includes 100 of my favorite quotes. Again, no extra charge to you.
  • We can do no great things, only small things, with great love. Mother Teresa.
  • In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus
  • It’s not that easy being green. Kermit the Frog
  • I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards. Abraham Lincoln
  • You are destined to fly, but that cocoon has to go. Nelle Morton
  • Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive. Anna Barton
  • He that would be a leader must also be a bridge. Welsh Proverb
  • Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. Martin Luther
  • We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. Ray Bradbury
  • People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. Elizabeth Kubler Ross
  • It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God. Mary Daly
  • Do not assume that she who seeks to comfort you now lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. Her life may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours. Were it otherwise, she would never have been able to find these words. Rainer Maria Rilke
  • I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. Yeats
  • She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. Louisa May Alcott
  • This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Overrated if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it. Eeyore
  • It’s a dangerous business going out your front door. JRR Tolkien

Monday, June 09, 2008

Worth 1,000 Words

This is a do-it-yourself blog post. Take time to stop and smell the flowers. Then go write about it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Self Care

The topic of self care has come up a lot this week. Of course, when I hear the same theme pop up in various contexts, I start to pay attention. I guess that's a good thing because I've been having a bit of trouble in this area this week. Come to think of it, my usual rule is to pay attention when I hear something three times, and I've heard about self care at least three times three times this week!
Suggestions for managing stress have ranged from jumping off a building, to ignoring the stressors, to making an artist date for refilling the creative well. While I think I'll skip the first idea, I have come to the conclusion that intentionality is key in self care, no matter what route you take. It used to be that I could just unwind by vegging in front of the TV or putzing around at anything in general. It's not that easy anymore. When did relaxing start to be so much work?
Part of the problem is that I can't take much vacation these days, and as of late my time off is not as sacred to others as it is to me.
So on the one hand, intentionality takes more effort, especially since I really want my down time to be quality time. On the other hand, I've learned that intentionality can turn a lot of every day things into acts of self care. It's not that much more effort to take a bath than it is to take a shower, and catching up on emails is not so much a chore as it is a chance to communicate with friends. As I was telling some friends the other day, "We all have dinner pretty much every day. It's the candles and flowers that help turn it into a date."
If all that fails to work, buy books. Lots and lots of books.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Thirteen Goals

I decided to start posting my Thursday Thirteens on Wednesdays because I post in the evenings and by the time I get to it on Thursday, many people have already made the rounds. I could get up & do it before work on Thursdays, but knowing me that ain't likely to happen.
Anyway, I haven't finished my list of 100 goals, but I thought I'd share 13 of the goals I have on my list. These are goals I want to achieve and haven't yet accomplished. Maybe in a future 13, I'll write about 13 things I've already accomplished.

  1. publish a book
  2. publish academically
  3. visit the Holy Lands
  4. learn to play the harp
  5. learn sign language
  6. ride in a hot air balloon
  7. see the eagles at Starved Rock
  8. visit all 50 states
  9. sell my handmade books
  10. fly 1st class
  11. learn to play Heart & Soul on the piano
  12. write a column
  13. learn to draw

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What's Your Instrument?

A while ago, I posted a blog on What's Your Art? I'm too lazy to link it, but you can search it from my sidebar if you like.
Anyway, I'm currently reading this book on creativity and spirituality. At one point the book talks about being an instrument for your art. Singers consider their voices an instrument, and sculptors treat their hands like instruments. Carrying the metaphor further, the author of the book asks us to consider what kind of instruments we would be in a musical performance. If your art had a musical sound to it, what would it be?
Now, you are just going to have to take my word for this, but in the last couple of years, I've wanted to learn to play the harp. Yes, that obscure, expensive, not-very-portable instrument that few people play and even fewer teach. What would I do with a harp? Where would I put it? I don't know. I just want to learn to play the harp. So when the book asked these questions, I started thinking about what playing the harp says about my other creative endeavors. I don't have many answers yet, but inspired by Wendy's research on periwinkle, I did some searching of my own and came up with this. Honest and for real.

You Should Play the Harp

You are a sensitive soul, with a great admiration for beauty.

You definitely have what it takes to make beautiful music, but most instruments are too harsh for you.

You are subtle, shy, and even a bit spoiled. You're very picky about most aspects of your life.

It's just your style to play an eccentric, hard to transport instrument like the harp that few people consider.

Overall, you have the relaxed demeanor of a leisurely upper class person, and your music would reflect that.

Your calm yet soulful harp playing would be sure to help people forget their troubles for a while.

Your dominant personality characteristic: your zen-ness

Your secondary personality characteristic: your quiet independence

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A History of Color

This weekend I asked some friends for help on a writing project. My task was to explore the idea of my favorite color for myself and my art. As I recently mentioned, periwinkle is my favorite color and it has been ever since I can remember. But I was at a loss for how to describe the color or why I like it.
My friend Wendy did a little research. According to the Wiki on periwinkle (there's a Wiki on periwinkle?), it is a desaturated color. Wendy says that means it's subtle and nuanced.
Crayola says periwinkle is #7 on their list of favorite colors. Personality traits associated with periwinkle blue are serenity, purity, and infinity. (Infinitely what?) In China, periwinkle blue is symbolic of immortality. (Oh.) Philosophy graduates' tassels are this color because it represents deliberation, introspection, and conservatism.
Blue, particularly periwinkle blue, rarely occurs in nature. It does occur in two of my favorite things, certain varieties of lilacs, and certain varieties of twilight sky. Honeybees are known to prefer flowers with blue hues.
There is a site for The Periwinkle Foundation, which is dedicated to helping children with cancer. They explain that the flower that shares the name and color periwinkle contains components used to fight cancer.
I've always loved color, and I know certain colors are symbolic of certain meanings. Red can mean anger or passion, purple is used to indicate royalty. That sort of thing. I had no idea this history and meaning behind a color could be so rich, and personal. Seriously, if you know me, this is a little creepy.