Friday, October 31, 2008

A Free Gift

She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that
Changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness
In everything
She's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside
Of karma,
She travels outside
Of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear the strings
Grace finds beauty
In everything
She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips
Between her fingertips
She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stains
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty
In everything
Grace finds goodness
In everything

Grace, U2

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Investments Part II

Last time I wrote about the intangible investments we make. Today I'm going to try to sort out how that applies with how we invest our financial and material resources.
In the main, I have to say that being good stewards of our possessions means saving and giving are two major priorities. Oddly enough, the big choices are easier for me to make than many of the smaller choices I make with the change in my pocket. Give money to the Red Cross when a disaster hits? I find a way to make it work. Cable? No thank you. That perfect Christmas gift for a loved one? Squeeze it into the budget. Perms, manicures, and an extensive show wardrobe? I'll pass. The piece of furniture I'm in love with is on sale, or a friend invites me on a trip? If I'll regret not having it, & it's in the realm of possibilities, I go for it.
But what about the ice cream that's on sale? Or upgrading to some premium personal care products as a treat? Or spoiling my cat with yet another toy because I have to take her to the vet? For some reason, these choices tend to cause a little more hesitation. I don't think that's a completely bad thing because I believe it's my conscience's way of keeping the indulgences in check.
Still, we have been blessed with many wonderful gifts in this world and we aren't called to live our lives deprived of pleasure. Our lives are meant to be abundant. The little things that provide that abundant joy in each of our lives might be different. I buy all sorts of generic grocery products to try to tame the grocery bill. However, as I told someone the other day, I believe life is too short not to use the good Kleenex. And doing laundry is such a chore that I've decided to go on a mission to find the perfect smelling laundry soap. I already love clean sheet day, but it will be even better with the investment of an extra buck or two for just the right scent.
What do you invest in?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


We're all thinking and talking about investments these days. The stock market and the housing market seem to be the focus of many of the conversations I hear. As of late, these conversations aren't terribly positive either. Some of my recent blog posts have reflected on how disillusioned people can become when they invest in things that are superficial, temporary, or unpredictable.

While I don't think anything will adequately substitute for an investment in a faith based spiritual relationship with God, we are creatures of the earth and can benefit from wisely choosing where to invest our resources.

What does your "investment portfolio" look like? Where do you invest your energy? Where do you invest your time? How do you invest your words; the gift of communication with others? What does your investment in your relationships look like? Does the time & effort you spend with people reflect their importance to you? Does you need to balance your portfolio differently to better reflect your values?

Mostly, this is about how we invest our immaterial and non-financial resources. However, I've also recently started thinking about how to balance investments in the material and monetary world. I think I'll save that for another post.


According to the church calendar we celebrate Reformation Sunday today, even though the actual day is not until October 31st. It just falls that way this year on account of All Saints' Day being right after Reformation and then jumping right into advent.
Anyway, I know Martin Luther wasn't perfect, but I believe he did get quite a few things right in terms of his theology and did, in fact, effect much needed change within the church.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther.

  • Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
  • Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.
  • Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.
  • Forgiveness is God's command.
  • God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.
  • To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can not do otherwise.
  • I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.
  • The man who has the will to undergo all labor may win to any good.
  • You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Funnies

This morning started out peacefully as my kitten, Katerina, curled up next to me enjoying the last few minutes before I had to get up for church. She was the picture of adorable contentment; a purring ball of gray fur. That is, until her tail tickled her nose and woke her up. Her meow effectively communicated her disgruntled state as she grabbed the offending tail and commenced retaliation.
Try as she might, Katerina's tail would not be subdued. She attempted to stalk off haughtily, ostensibly to give her tail some time to think about what it had done. After a few steps, Katerina looked behind her. To her dismay, that disobedient tail was right behind her! The chase was on. Katerina ran through the house wailing and meowing urgently. Her tail never tired of following in hot pursuit. Every time Katerina turned around to see if she'd evaded it, the darn tail was still there!
Yes, I've heard that some people's pets chase their tails. My cat's tail chases her.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Randomness

Next week is going to be another busy and stressful week. I hope to post a couple of times, but I'm not making any promises.
I have added a few blogs to my list of friends in my sidebar. I found these blogs via networking on Facebook. I'm glad social networking utilities can be used for something other than procrastination and cures for insomnia. Anyway, while my posting is sparse, you might want to visit a few of these sites. These ladies are inspirational and insightful.
"My pen" recently went on sale at Levenger, hitting the price I'd targeted for when I'd break down & purchase it. So, I broke down & purchased it. A week later, they knocked another five bucks off the sale price and came out with a new pen that I'm drooling over! The way I see it, Levenger owes me five bucks and the new new pen. Right?
If nothing else, I hope to have some pictures of Katerina over the weekend and get them posted this week. She might even get a Halloween costume this weekend.
I'm currently reading 1984. I think it's very well written, but it certainly is intense & heavy. I'm stalled on it. I sometimes read two books at once. I think I'm going to have to pick something of a totally different flavor, particularly this coming week. It might be weird to read two very different books at once. Anyone got any ideas?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

A big part of my job is vocational rehabilitation; I help people develop job skills and identify their particular strengths and interests. It's always annoyed me that the meaning of "vocation" has gotten watered down to mean "job" or "work skills." It's often even reserved for programs like mine that don't exactly measure up to "real" employment.
The meaning of "vocation" has its origins in religion. It refers to specific "impulses, inclinations, or callings" towards a given area of work ( Even if your work is not particularly spiritual in nature, the essence of vocation is finding out what it is you were designed to do.
For example, on my afternoon commute I found myself studying the bus driver. I've seen him before and know him to be a kind, friendly fellow. He gives a bit of extra attention to older folks who need time to get to their seats safely. He's actually told several teens to stop using filthy language because there are women and children on the bus.
Today, a woman and her two young sons got on the bus. Both shook the driver's hand in the handshake that all the cool kids are using these days. The older boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old, started telling the driver how happy he was to have made the basketball team at school. The bus driver beamed with genuine excitement and pride as if this was his own son. I imagine that perhaps this boy and his brother might not have very many male role models in their lives. The significance of the bus driver's interest was quite evident.
When we approached my destination, the bus driver asked if I wanted to be dropped off a block before the actual bus stop. It was raining and I have a disability. In the past, he'd observed me walking after I got off the bus & wanted to get me closer to home even if it wasn't an official bus stop.
You don't have to be a pastor, teacher, or doctor to have a meaningful vocation that influences others. A lot of people might view driving a bus as a job, and a not so great one at that. This bus driver has made his work his vocation.
What were you designed to do?

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Process of Writing: Counterpoint

A writing friend of mine sent this in response to the video from our agent friend. It provides a different perspective on the process of writing. It's important to be balanced and fair, after all. Again, I hope this is helpful.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Process of Writing

A friend of mine who is an agent sent this clip illustrating the ideal flow of events in the writing and publishing process. I hope you find it useful.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Marketing Lessons

The other day I went to Staples to get a laser pen for my kitten. Naturally, I got home and the thing did not work. So I waited until today when I had some free time to go return it. I was expecting them to try to get me to buy the upgraded model for an extra ten bucks. Of course, having to pay extra for something that actually functions is not a great way to create customer satisfaction, but that's about the only response I expected.
I didn't even get that. They scrutinized the receipt to make sure I was within my rights to even make the return. I've heard of "no questions asked" policies, but these people meant it. They did not even ask what was wrong with the product, or if I needed a replacement, or ask me anything for that matter. In spite of the fact that I told them it was broken, I wonder if they re shelved it anyway.
So I went across the street to CVS for a few things. I didn't expect them to have a laser pen, but I did find one in the office supply aisle. And, instead of being $17.00, it was $3.00. It also functions as a flashlight and a ballpoint pen. Yeah.
Pleased with this discovery, and the extra cash I now had, I accidentally wandered into the pet aisle. I found these cat toys that are designed to look like baby toys. Colorful "teething rings" that are even packaged to convince you that you are aiding your cat through crucial developmental processes. They are called "Petstages." I was completely aware that the whole thing was meant to appeal more to me as a cat owner rather than being particularly better for my cat than the empty toilet paper tubes she chews on. And I bought the darn toys anyway.
Then there's the fact that CVS may be one of the last places to carry Diet Coke Plus in the plastic bottles. Rather than spending $17.00 at Staples, I could have spent $3.00 at CVS. Instead, I spent $11.00 at CVS because they kept impressing me with stuff I didn't realize I needed! If you are going to be in the business of marketing a product or service to people, you need to deliver what you say you will, it needs to work, and it needs to be a good value to the customer. And it doesn't hurt to try to give a little something extra your customer wasn't expecting.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Pianist

I watched The Pianist the other day. (Yes, I know I'm behind the times). If, like me, you've waited to see it, you might not want to read this post due to potential spoilers. Fair warning.

The fact that his passion for the piano in fact saved the main character's life got me thinking about how people survived concentration camps. Viktor Frankl wrote about this very phenomenon in his book Man's Search for Meaning. He said that people who were able to find some spiritual significance, some reason to persevere despite the horrors they faced, these people were the ones who had the strength to survive.
I've been thinking about that in relation to self perception and identity. Many people identify their spouses or their careers as primary purposes for their existence. The passion for who or what they love keeps them going. For other people, it might be a pet, or a hobby, or the pursuit of knowledge.
If your resources are many and/or your trials are few, perhaps nearly anything you select will be able to bear the weight of providing meaning to your life. Even money might be enough to get you out of bed in the morning. But if your supports are few and your troubles are severe, whatever you select as the reason to get up out of bed in the morning had better be able to hold up to some intense stretching and pulling. What will you do when you wake up and the money is gone, the spouse is gone, and the job is gone?
I don't often talk about my faith outright on this blog. This is one of those rare exceptions. I have to say I'm glad that my primary Source of identity and motivation is changeless, doesn't depend on my own good behavior or success, and is big enough to carry the weight of my troubles.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Lost In Translation

I just finished the book The Princess Bride. Of course, I've seen the movie dozens of times. Normally, I like to read the book before I see the movie. But I started watching The Princess Bride in college when I didn't have much time to read for fun.
At any rate I was very impressed with how well the story translated between the two mediums. Even elements of the narrator's voice seemed to be portrayed to some extent both in the book and the movie. The humor, tone, and style did not suffer in either method of telling the story.
Contrast that with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hilarious book. Mildly entertaining BBC TV depiction from what I saw. The movie released a couple of years ago was simply awful. It was just not funny. So much of what made the book work was the voice of the narrator and the movie version just wasn't able to convey the same nuances. Sure, they changed elements of the story but that wasn't the problem. It just didn't feel like the same story without the voice of the author.
Words convey information and tell stories. But it's more than that. Who is telling the words and in what context is important. How the words are shared is also important. Tone and style really make a difference in effective storytelling, and effective communication for that matter.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tossed Salad

My friend LeAnne recently featured singer Micheal Card on her blog. It was a really inspiring interview so I encourage you to go check it out. Several of the themes from that interview are tossing themselves with the salad in my brain. At some point, I'm hoping the whole thing comes together into something meaningful and conclusive regarding my own creative pursuits. Have you ever felt like that? Like you have a dash of something here, and a pinch of something there, and if you could just get the ingredients right you would have this fabulous recipe full of great flavor and nutrients?
This is the time of year I usually get organized and do a major housecleaning. Something about the school year triggers my love of office and organizational supplies. In fact, I tend to like organizing in general when I have a lot on my mind. Given that, I really ought to have a spotless house at this point. But the organizing thing hasn't been working for me as much recently. Perhaps that's part of why my tossed salad isn't coming together. I'm looking for the right combination of the familiar and the new to accommodate the changes. I'm also looking for tricks, rewards, and outright bribes to convince my creativity and organizational skills to get back into gear and start working together.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thirteen Things About Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Having lost a loved one to this disease a year and a half ago I couldn't not write something about this topic. I guess if you want to be technical some of the things on my list relate to cancer in general & not specifically breast cancer. I hope it is useful for anyone with cancer.

  1. According to the American Cancer Society, the chances of a woman developing breast cancer are 1 in 8.
  2. If you know someone with cancer or any serious illness, is a great resource. It offers a free "homepage" with a blog like feature. You, or someone you elect, updates the page & friends and family can be notified when there is news. This cuts down on miscommunication & keeps everyone "in the loop."
  3. I've recently re-discovered how wonderful it is to have people on your "team" who take initiative & make those logistical arrangements for appointments & referrals. If you haven't had to repeat everything from your diagnosis to your biopsy date to the results of your last labs to a half dozen people in 15 minutes, you have no idea how frustrating it can be. Yes, I'm perfectly capable of making my own phone calls. And yes, it's wonderful to not have to rehash the details of my illness over and over again. If you can be this kind of liaison for someone, do it.
  4. I've recently shared about the free video game available from Hope Lab. It's a great tool for young people with cancer.
  5. Schedule something fun for right after tests or treatment. It helps to have something to look forward to. Heck, this is useful for dentist appointments.
  6. These days, many forms of cancer are treated as a chronic illness. Even if your cancer does not go into remission, in some cases it can be managed successfully for quite a long time.
  7. The chance that breast cancer will be the cause of a woman's death is 1 in 35, according to the American Cancer Society.
  8. There are DVDs like this one that teach guided imagery specifically for people going through radiation or chemotherapy. General relaxation techniques are helpful, but why not do something tailored to your exact needs?
  9. In my experience, and mind you this is only my experience, chocolate helps with mild to moderate nausea. Hey, if you need to deal with cancer, you should get to eat chocolate.
  10. Do something creative. Even if you don't consider yourself artistic engaging in a creative activity helps counter the destructive, negative impact of cancer.
  11. There are many well known resources for support and research for all kinds of cancer. When you choose to participate in a fundraiser or other activity, be aware of what the money goes for, is it for research, treatment, or support?
  12. Also, be diligent about researching smaller, more local organizations. Many times these groups offer specialized volunteer services that the larger groups do not.
  13. There are people who will send cards and tell you to call them. Then there are the people who will write their phone number in the cards and tell you to call them. Those are the people you can call if you need someone to go to an appointment with, or to help with errands and chores.