Monday, December 31, 2007

Peace on Earth?

What happened to my Christmas village?

I'm not up on all the warring toys, but I think these are either Bionicles or Transformers or maybe both, either fighting in, or attacking, or defending my Christmas village. Ah the joys of having a boy.

Reminds me of Christmas two years ago when Calvin was using the PlayMobile Nativity set as weapons and the Christmas tree as the basis of covert ops.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

All That Glitters Isn't Gold (ha! I wish)

Either I got in a fight with Tinkerbell or my daughter gave me a makeover with her new makeup kit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sharing the Meaning of the Season

We had one of the most memorable Christmases this year, but maybe not for the reasons you'd think. It's been a hard year. I had told the kids not to expect much for Christmas. One of my clients had gone under and didn't pay me. It was a significant amount, money that I was expecting to pay December and January's bills plus Christmas. I could get the kids one gift each and bills still wouldn't be paid. I felt terrible.

The church secretary called me and said someone wanted to adopt a family for Christmas and would we be willing to be adopted. I was a bit surprised. I hadn't shared much of our story with anyone, but a few people knew we'd had a hard year. So I agreed, but I didn't tell the kids. I didn't want to get their hopes up in case it fell through.

When she called back a couple weeks later to ask when I wanted to pick up the gifts, she told me there were eight boxes.

"Oh, that's nice," I thought. "The kids will get four presents each. That's really sweet."

"Eight boxes two feet by two feet," she continued. "The pile is up to my shoulders. Plus they're bringing you food for Christmas dinner."

I was so stunned I couldn't speak.

I told the kids that someone had adopted us for Christmas and that we were going to pick up the gifts at church. When we walked into the room, Sissy's face lit up. "Mom, this is exactly what we prayed for! God took care of us!"

I started to cry.

It took two trips with a hand truck plus several more trips by me carrying food and our little Jetta was overflowing. Food sat on the back window and under the kids' feet. We couldn't have gotten one more thing in that car.

When we unloaded the presents and put them around the tree, they had to be stuffed into every nook and cranny. I'd never seen so many presents in all my life.

What amazed me what how much time and thought was put into the gifts. It wasn't just a matter of spending money. Clearly whoever bought the gifts knew my kids enough to know their tastes. Plus there were homemade cookies and hand-knitted afghans for each of us. They even got gifts for me.

We always hear how it's more blessed to give than receive. But in Blue Like Jazz Donald Miller makes the observation that it can be hard to receive because it implies need, and we don't like to be needy people. We like to be the ones who have the surplus to give from.

I know that's true of me. This year has been very humbling for me. It's hard for me to accept other people's help. It's hard to write this blog post. But the Bible says to tell of the Lord's wonders and faithfulness. Psalm 78:4 says, "We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did."

Because bottom line, this is about God and His faithfulness. He provided for us. Not just for our needs, like He's promised to do. But for some of our wants as well. And abundantly. What a wonderful lesson for my children. And me too.

I don't know who adopted us for Christmas. I do know they will be rewarded in heaven, but I also hope they'll get some little reward here on earth too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent Vespers at Valparaiso University

A couple of weeks ago we (Mich and our kids) attended advent vespers at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University. I told you I was behind on blogging. It was a beautiful experience. As I'd mentioned before, we don't come from a ritual-rich church background but I feel it's important to experience it occasionally as a way of focusing on God's holiness and on the rich traditions of the Church.

I had never attended any services at Valpo's Chapel so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had spent some time poking around their website which explained the meaning behind the different parts of the church, including the stained glass windows, the baptismal font, and the crucifix. I was eager to see them for myself. Also, this advent vespers focused on using a variety of art forms to express the message of the Gospel. If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know this is something that fascinates me. So I was excited to see how this would play out.

Unfortunately, we were late so we didn't get to see the visual arts displayed on the ground floor of the chapel. But the combination of church ritual, candlelight, dancing, classical organ music, university choir, hand bells, and orchestra, along with Scripture readings made for a rich spiritual and sensory experience. Even Calvin remained entranced for the full hour and 45 minutes. I have to admit, when the choir came up to the balcony where we were seated and surrounded us and began singing, I started crying at the beauty of the voices so unique and yet so perfectly on pitch. I was so touched.

Another thing I treasured about the evening was the printed programs. Many of the visual works were reprinted in the Order of Service, along with wonderful quotes about faith and art, and the words to the songs. This is something that I will keep by my desk and refer to often for inspiration.

I think we have found another tradition to add to our Christmas, one that is full of meaning.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

A couple of Saturdays ago we went to Hensler Christmas Tree Farm. Which might seem a bit unusual since we already have our tree up and its fake. And we're allergic to pine.

We didn't go to get a tree.

We went to see Rudy and Angel. Reindeer in case you can't tell. I think they're napping. It was a balmy 25 degrees.

We watched the reindeer a bit, walked through the petting barn where we saw donkeys and peacocks. I took pictures of the kids in a wooden replica train and in front of an old Model T truck which became our Christmas pic. We also took a ride in a wagon pulled by Belgian horses. Those boys were huge!

After watching everyone select and cut their trees, we were pretty chilly, so we went inside to get hot chocolate, hot cider and cookies. They had a pianist playing Christmas carols so as we were eating our snack Sissy and I entertained those nearest us by singing along. Who can resist singing to Christmas carols? Apparently some people but not me.

After our snack we checked our their ornaments, handmade wreaths, and quilting display. It was a fun trip, and I think it will be a regular holiday tradition made perfect by the addition of snow.

Saturday Night Fun

Photo credit

I'm still alive and have a lot to blog about, but between getting snowed in and the Internet going out, I've been playing catch up all week.

A couple of weeks ago Sissy participated in a cheerleading camp hosted by the local high school cheerleaders. The finale of it was that the girls would cheer in the stands at the high school basketball game and do the dance routine they learned at half time at the varsity game. So Calvin and I went to watch and video tape.

I hadn't been to a high school basketball game since I was in high school, and I was pretty much expecting to see what I saw then.

Boy was I wrong. First of all, I'm now old enough to be the players' mother.

Second, we arrived during the girls' game and they were GOOD! They played as aggressively as the boys and were far more talented in shooting and running plays than the girls on my high school basketball team were.

Third, I don't remember basketball being played on Saturday night. Then again, the production they put on was worthy of Saturday night entertainment. The boys' team came in with an introduction and warm-up routine worthy of the pros. Between the cheer routine, the music, and the tossing of t-shirts to the audience, it was quite the event.

The press thought so too. The local radio station covered the game live with two reporters. I also saw three photographers and one print journalist.

However, some things remained solidly Midwestern. Like the guys on the opposing team who thought long white knee socks with baggy basketball shorts were a great fashion statement. Or their coach, a Pat Riley wannabe, complete with the decades-old couture.

But I really can't make any judgments about anyone else's fashion statements when close to home I had issues of my own to deal with. Part way through the game I happened to look down at Calvin and really notice what he was wearing. His thermals. Only his thermals. No pants. Hmm. Luckily they were black. I usually have to remind him to put on a coat and gloves, and sometimes socks. Never thought I'd have to remind him to put on pants. Then again, he's a West Coaster. He's never worn two pairs of pants at the same time before.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Christmas Gift?

This cracked me up, though granted, I have a warped sense of humor. I think I might buy it for myself.

101 Reasons to Stop Writing looks like those inspirational posters or calendars with the glossy photographs but with the reasons we've all thought of to stop writing, printed out for the world to see.

And as contrary as I am, I just might find it good motivation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tackle it Tuesday

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Not a huge tackle today. A low pressure system moved into the area and my knees are killing me.

But my dining room table has been bugging me for awhile. Does anyone else have this problem? Why is it the dining room table attracts all sorts of papers, craft projects and homework? I think in our house it's because it's the largest horizontal surface. Lately we've just been pushing stuff aside to eat. Not any more.

I notice our advent candles are a little bare looking and our candle chimneys need to be cleaned. And I wish the radio could go some place else. But at this time of year, we have to listen to it every morning to hear about school closures and delays. Ah well.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Kind of Music

Who knew Midwesterners had rhythm? This group of guys from Indiana University, Straight No Chaser, sings a capella in cool combo of creativity and tradition. I love it. Credit to Chris Mikesell for the link.

If you prowl around You Tube, they have a couple more videos, including one at Hardees where they serenade the staff.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


To fellow Misfit Angie Poole and writer bud Chris Fisher for being nominated for the Pushcart Prize in short fiction. Way to go, guys!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hey, I Made the Newspaper!

The front page even. Luckily, below the fold. The above-the-fold story was about the Pak-a-Sak getting robbed. That wasn't me. But A-1 below-the-fold coverage is quite nice, thank you very much. Even if it is a small town paper. That's me in the middle if you haven't figured that out yet.

The photographer came to our Tuesday dress rehearsal of our Christmas performance, which is this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I'm actually glad that it's earlier in December rather than later, like I'm used to. It's an hour-long program of all singing, with a bit of narration. Ten songs. Lots of standing. Lots of water. Say a prayer if you think about it. We're supposed to have snow and ice this weekend and I've been fighting a migraine. Tis the season.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Winter Wonderland

We got our first substantial snow last night, as in, the school's were delayed opening two hours, and I got to stay home from work. I think we ended up with six inches of beautiful powder. Makes me want to go skiing, except for the fact that Indiana is so flat.

Our Black Lab, Charlie, was so funny when I let him out this morning. He pranced around the snow in the back yard like a horse, clearing trying to figure out what had happened and what he was supposed to do with this stuff.

For my part, I sat in the parking lot last night with my Starbucks watching these perfect snowflakes fall in the light of the lampposts, looking like glittery sugar and watching their perfect little snowflake selves on my windshield. I know my goal this winter will be to get pictures of snowflakes.

But for now, you get the oak tree in my front yard and some mock cherry bush in my back yard. I was hoping it'd keep it's bright red leaves when it snowed because I think that would look so pretty, but alas it was not to be.

On another note, this is a picture of the tree of boxes that is our Advent calendar. When you pull the box out with the date (and eat the chocolate inside!) you reverse the box and put it back in to make some sort of scene. The kids love it. Me too, actually.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

On the First Day of December I Decorated My Tree

Okay, so that doesn't really work with the meter of the song. Nevertheless, it's true. The kids and I had fun putting the tree up and recalling memories associated with the ornaments.

While we decorated we listened to Nat King Cole, Mannheim Steamroller, Lyndsey Lloyd Wallace, and Take 6. Interesting story behind the Lyndsey Lloyd Wallace CD. She was on the worship team at Saddleback Church and recorded her Christmas album while I was there. I got to sing back up on one of the songs. I was in the local Christian bookstore when I heard the song playing over the speaker system. I kind of stopped in awe for a moment. I always thought that kind of "Hey, that's me" moment in a bookstore would be because of a book, not a CD.

To top it all off, it snowed today. The kids went out and played in the snow then came in and had hot chocolate and watched a movie.

We also began Advent tonight. I know it doesn't really begin until tomorrow but we got this adorable Advent tree made of boxes of chocolate at Starbucks and it starts on the first. Our church tradition doesn't have a lot of rituals, and most of the time I appreciate that. However, we've been in the habit of celebrating Advent with candles, carols, and Scripture readings. I think some rituals can be meaningful and build memories. So tonight we said an Advent prayer for children, discussed John the Baptist's call to repentance and fruit (and what that means), and sang "Come O Come Emmanuel."

Hopefully the traditions and rituals will help us all to remember the real reason for Christmas.

What Kind of Writer Am I Anyway?

I got this fun quiz from Georgiana.

What kind of writer are you?

You're a Narrative writer!
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code


Hmm, kinda funny really. It's a fun quiz with a few saucy options in the answer section. Take it and tell us what kind of writer you are.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Little Behind

I'm doing some cyberspace cleaning. I have lots of things I've bookmarked that I'm slowly getting to. Like this nice award Mich gave to me. Back in AUGUST!

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world."

Aw, isn't that sweet?

So I in turn nominate
I'd nominate Mike but I think the whole pink and flowery thing is too girly.

And feel free to take up to three months to accept your award. Just like me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Me Multiplied

I took this picture at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day. Turned out rather interesting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Warning: Sitting Can Be Dangerous to Your Health

I found this interesting article via the Thinklings.

Given that those of us who are writers sit a lot in front of our computers, this study should cause us to do some thinking. I know for me, I have a lot of back and neck pain from being in front of the computer, and I have to take frequent breaks and work out with weights and do yoga to counteract the effects of sitting and computer use (I've been bad about doing it lately and paying the price).

And of course many of us through talking have shared how we've gotten out of shape and gained weight when we've taken office jobs.

But this article takes it to another level, seeming to imply from the study that sitting can contribute to the disease process. This is interesting, and not far fetched when you realize the body uses a combination of gravity and muscle contraction to move blood, oxygen, and waste throughout the body and so movement would facilitate all of that.

Now one thing the article didn't address was sitting on an exercise ball, which I often do when I'm working on the computer. That necessitates movement and muscle contraction and I think would be better than sitting in a chair. Whether it's as good as movement, who knows?

I also thought the article was in many ways encouraging. For me, I need to think of ways to stand more during the day. That shouldn't be too hard once it becomes more of a habit. Certainly easier than trying to figure out how to add more workout hours in my day.

And I can relabel housecleaning "exercise."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Video for Writers

This is a funny video I found about writers on Terry Whalin's blog. Makes typewriters seem so romantic.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey in the Snow

On Thanksgiving Day even.

And, by the way, the kids got to see their first snow and they were enthralled.

I got to drive in it. I was less enthralled.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another Installment in Home Remodeling on a Budget

When we moved to Indiana, we downsized by over 50%, which meant giving up my office. And the bedrooms were too small for me to put my computer desk in. And you saw in yesterday's Tackle it Tuesday what happened to the small secretary's desk in my room. I tried to use it for my computer but the height was wrong and it hurt my wrists. Which meant I was relegated to the living room.

But that ended up driving me crazy. The chair, while comfortable, wasn't great for my back and I needed a space of my own. I was contemplating the garage for awhile but it was either too hot or too cold, and frankly too dark and dreary.

As with most houses, especially older ones, there are spaces that make no sense. For example, the one bathroom in our house has two doors. One goes to the laundry room. I don't know why. There's another perfectly good access point to the laundry room. So this second door to the laundry room has a shallow closet with a door but no rod or shelves. While my cat was alive, it was her room. Once she passed on to kitty heaven, I saw potential for it to be my room.

It started out looking like this. I took the closet door off the hinges and I found a quart of "oops" paint at Lowes for $3 in a nice sage green. I'm standing in the bathroom taking the picture and the laundry is just out of sight to the right.

I bought a 10" laminate shelf ($9) and braced it with some scrap wood and that became my desk surface. I had some shelves already that I trimmed to fit and added above.

I found an old curtain and hung it so I couldn't see the laundry while I was in my office. Once I brought in a bookcase, my white board, a lamp, and all my fun office stuff it looked like this.

This is the furnace which I make good use of as a magnetic board, posting pictures the kids have done for me and those inspirational magnets.

This is a close-up of the desk. I put self-stick cork tile below the shelf so I could pin up reminders and fun things. And you can see the desk top is just wide enough for my lap top. I made sure to install it at the right height for me to use comfortably.

So for $12 and a weekend's worth of work, I found a room of my own. I'm liking it very much and getting a lot more work done in my "office."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tackle it Tuesday

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

I'm happy to be doing my first Tackle it Tuesday. This is the desk in my bedroom. It has become the catch-all for stuff I need to file or put somewhere else but I don't want to get lost, ruined, or messed up by the kids. But now that I have created my office out of a unusable closet (more on that later this week hopefully) and cleaned out the garage so I can get to my filing cabinets, this desk needs to be cleaned up!

And here it is clean!

I think the bedroom should be a place that's restful so it's been good to get that cleaned off. And now I can actually shut the lid like it's supposed to!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Laugh for Thursday

If you want to had a little humor to your day, check out two of my Misfit friends. Having a wacko sense of humor is definitely a requirement to be a Misfit.

Heather's blog about the frustration of writing.

Mike's interesting interview. And don't forget to vote.

And, here's a warning. Keep your coffee or beverage of choice far from your computer when you're at these sites. Oh my.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Manage Your Time

Mad Writer Genius Randy Ingermanson is talking about time management on his blog. I plan to implement some of his suggestions over the next couple of weeks, and I'll let you know how it goes. Because we can always manage our time better. Or at least I can.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

If you do it unto the least of these...

I read a few business blogs, always trying to learn more. So I was a bit surprised to see an article on Internet Business 101 challenging readers to buy packages of athletic socks and hand them out to the homeless and listen to their stories. You can read about it here.

When we lived in California we ran into the homeless quite often, bought them food, worked in shelters with our small groups. But in Arizona, and now out in the Midwest, they've sort of fallen off my radar screen. Granted, I'm in a pretty small town. I'm sure if I were in Indy or Chicago it would be a totally different story.

What I learned from James Brausch's blog wasn't what I expected. But I learned something else: the power of a pair of white socks and a listening ear.

I'd encourage all of you to take up James's challenge too.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

History for 100, Alex

I saw this on Georgiana's blog and it cracked me up. Since I have a Bachelor's in history I had to take it.

You Passed 8th Grade US History

Congratulations, you got 7/8 correct!

Whew! It'd be kind of embarrassing if I didn't pass. Of course now I'm wondering which question I missed. I have a suspicion it was one of their questions that I thought was wrong anyway!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Deja vu?

I had an interesting experience this morning. I woke up to check the news feeds of the fires in Southern California since I'm still a California girl at heart and have all my family there. And I saw my current book playing out on one of the screens. Well, not exactly, but I wrote about it over on the Misfits blog. Go check it out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Informed Consent by Sandra Glahn

Informed Consent is a fast-paced medical thriller with an intriguing plot. While the CBA has embraced legal thrillers as much as the ABA, I haven't seen nearly as many medical thrillers, though they are as equally as popular. So I was happy to see Sandra filling that slot.

And now, here's an interview with Sandra.

What’'s Informed Consent about?
Jeremy Cramer, the next Einstein of research, is a medical resident specializing in infectious diseases. While working on a way to revive water submersion victims, he makes surprising discoveries, while also living with massive guilt over incidental infections that occur (which he could have prevented). Even as his marriage teeters, his career continues to skyrocket. Then, with a few twists along the way, he finds everything he has fought for threatened by the most personal, most heart-wrenching, choices of all.

I love exploring bioethics, and this book allowed me to consider end-of-life issues, patient rights, a compassionate response to HIV-AIDS…lots of edutainment.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?
The story had a thousand or more “what if” moments. I'’m pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies, and I worked on the setting, characters, a lot of the plot, as well as my narrative voice during three novel-writing classes taught by a novelist who writes fiction reviews for Publishers Weekly. And I got some great feedback from fellow students who don’'t believe in Christ about ways to address faith issues more naturally. I also took a Dante class, which influenced my choice to give my characters five of the seven deadly sins. (I'’m saving the other two for a future work.)

But the elements in the plot designed to keep readers up at night came through a brainstorming session with medical doctor, William Cutrer, with whom I’'ve coauthored three medical novels.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you or was when you first started on your writing journey?
I still struggle with expressing character emotion. I feel like I’'ll insult the reader if I stop to say “the shock of the news hit like a two-by-four in the back of the head.” I figure if I tell the horrible circumstance, the reader has enough imagination to feel what any normal soul would feel. I want to say simply “His dad died in a plane crash,” and let the reader fill in the emotional blanks. Yet everybody experiences shock and grief differently. For some the room spins. For others it shrinks. For some it grabs in the pit of the stomach. Or it feels like a physical jolt. It’'s part of my job as a developer of character to choose how this character will react and respond. When the emotions get intense, I need to slow down and let the reader enter the character’s head. But I’d rather get on with the plot.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly— from conception to revision.
Once I have a germ idea, I come up with the beginning, middle, and end. Then I figure out the in-between points. Next, I create the main characters. I have four pages of questions I answer for each. About thirty percent of novel-crafting for me is the pre-writing imaginative work on the plot and character sketches. Then I choose a setting. I ask myself how I can use setting to communicate something. Where was Jezebel when she stole the vineyard? In Jezreel. Where was she years later when dogs ate her? Jezreel. The setting tells more than a place. It says something about the character of God. So I try to choose a setting that communicates on a deeper level. All the time I’m making these choices, I deliberate about the best way to tell the story. First-person? Third-person? Who will be the main POV character? Why?

After that I craft a proposal. It starts with a one-paragraph synopsis. While my agent shops it around, I develop the summary into a chapter-by-chapter outline. And then I make a file for each chapter and start dumping in ideas.

When my agent has some success, he calls. Here’'s what happens from there…

Editorial person really likes it
He or she takes it to the marketing meeting
I wait forever for that meeting to happen
Marketing approves it
I wait for them to agree on an offer
They issue an offer
I reel from the shock of how low it is
I negotiate
I wait for them to draw up the contract
I receive and sign the contract
I write the book
I send the book to the publisher.
They send the first half of the advance
I spend it all in one place
I wait for them to edit it
I wait a while longer for them to edit it
They send back the manuscript with lots of changes needed immediately
I edit it again
I wait
And wait
They send a galley proof, which they need back immediately
I edit it yet again
I watch helplessly as the release date gets delayed--again
I wait forever for my progeny to arrive in the mail
Finally, I hold my masterpiece in my hands
I find a typo

What made you decide to write a book that deals with AIDS?
The church in Africa is doing a fantastic job dealing with HIV-AIDS. The North American church— not so much. So I wanted to tackle some of our misconceptions, challenge some of our stereotypes, and hopefully help readers consider their own involvement with AIDS patients.

Favorite dessert?
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Chocolate gets better with age (mine). (So does Advil, but it’s not a dessert.)

Sandra Glahn, ThM, teaches in the media arts program at Dallas Theological Seminary, where she edits the award-winning magazine Kindred Spirit. The author of six books and co-author of seven others, she is pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies (Arts and Humanities) at the University of Texas at Dallas . She recently released her first solo medical suspense novel, Informed Consent (Cook). She is the co-author of three other such novels, which include the Christy Award finalist, Lethal Harvest.

You can find Sandra at her blog or her website.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tag! I'm it!

Georgiana tagged me with the 10-20-30 meme. You have to say what you were doing 10, 20, and 30 years ago. Let's hope I can remember!

Um, ten years ago I was seven-months pregnant with my daughter. That I remember. Living in the OC, just a few miles from the beach. Sigh.

Twenty years ago I was in college at the University of California, Riverside. I'm guessing at that point my major was still English. I don't think I'd switched it to Business Administration yet. I can't remember if I was working for IBM then or the local newspaper. I do remember I was living in a cute art deco bungalow and drove a 66 Mustang.

Thirty years ago I was in third grade and Mrs. Bunch was my teacher. I liked her a lot. She had a daughter my age (we ended up in the same class in high school). I had a blue bike with a banana seat and got to ride it to school, about a mile away, through some empty fields and orange groves.

Whew! I think that used up my brain cells for the day.

I tag Michelle, Jenny, Diana (who's always looking for memes), Mike (who needs to update his blog and it's fun to see what he can't remember), Angie, and Chris. It's really sad that I know people too young for this meme!

Monday, October 08, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 5 (finally!)

I bet you were wondering if I’d ever get back to it, huh? Sure you were. Well it ends on a good note.

In August I got a call from a woman at my church whom I’d never met who said she’d heard I was interested in starting my own web site design business, and she had a business proposition for me. I was a little confused and a little intrigued. I didn’t remember saying I really wanted to start my own business, more that I was doing web sites. I guess that’s a fine point of distinction. Anyhow, we agreed to meet at the park because we both have kids, and we started talking.

Turns out she’s a graphic artist and is friends with a photographer. Both of them wanted to go out on their own and start a design studio but felt they needed a third person: me. Sarah, the graphic designer, had already come up with a logo and a name. Think Studios.
I went on line and found that was already taken so we ended up with ThinkStudio3, which I think is way cool anyway.

Angela and Sarah know everybody. Through their connections we got our first job photographing a pilots’ reunion. I happened to bring my video camera and decided to make a movie. You can see it here (let it load before trying to play it). It’s not great, because I ended up having that gall bladder issue in the middle of it, but it helped us realize that we wanted to do video along with photos for any events we do.

As it turns out, one of the couples at our church just bought a building downtown and turned part of it into an art gallery. Through some bartering, they’re leasing us a really cool office space in it. So we will be part of the artistic community.

The past couple of months we have had to make a lot of decisions. We’ve met with some business consultants who were so impressed with our little video and web site that not only have they recommended us to their clients, they’ve asked us to do some work for them. We’ve generated a lot of interest while trying to build the proper foundations of the business at the same time. Feels a bit like trying to build an airplane while it’s flying.

At this point, we’ve decided we don’t want to do run-of-the-mill stuff. We want to do unique and creative things. We’re doing web sites, marketing plans, events, and something unique called a Legacy Project. Think of what Ken Burns did for the Civil War, baseball, and jazz. We’re hoping to bring that combination of photos, history, and technology to individuals and families. We want to record their history the way Ken Burns recorded America’s history. I should have a sample online soon to show you.

So, that’s what’s keeping me up and nights and keeping me from my writing. I just absolutely love it. I never could have articulated it before but it is my dream job. I’m getting to use both of my degrees (history and business administration) and all my widely varied artistic experience. Only God could have orchestrated that. And he brought me together with two amazingly talented women who I’d love to hang out with, regardless if we were business partners or not. Every time we’ve had a business meeting people have remarked at how much fun our meetings are.

Our website’s not completely done yet. It keeps getting interrupted by potentially-paying work. But you can check it out at

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Check Me Out

I'm over at the Misfits blog today.

Tomorrow (I hope) I'll have the final installment on my summer vacation saga. At least it ends on a good note.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 4

Continuing with the theme of loss...

I ended up losing my gall bladder too. I had no idea my gall bladder had issues, but apparently it had been bothering me for awhile and I just thought it was acid. It started out with my suddenly having severe pain directly under my ribs. I broke out in a cold sweat and called the doctor, certain I had a bleeding ulcer or something.

The doctor's office got me in. The receptionist said it was because she was afraid I had appendicitis. I didn't tell her I'd lost that disposable part of my anatomy over 30 years ago. But as soon as the nurse looked at me, she said, "Classic gall bladder." Huh? I never would have guessed. The doctor agreed and ordered an ultrasound and told me to go on a low fat diet. I supposed the low fat diet helped somewhat, but the pain was still so intense, I couldn't walk more than a few steps.

Two things happened. One, because my insurance is still based in Arizona, I couldn't find an ultrasound place closer than 3 hours away that would be covered. Two, I kept passing out because I wasn't eating enough protein in my attempt to eliminate fat. One day when the pain and the passing out collided, Michelle insisted on driving me to the ER. The good thing was sometime in the seven hours there, that I don't remember because of the drugs, I got an ultrasound. The bad thing was I promptly threw up in Michelle's car when they released me. Luckily I had a barf bag with me.

The ultrasound showed I didn't have any gall stones, which was good because it meant I wasn't in any danger of one of them blocking my bile ducts and putting my life in danger. But it did mean I had to do a nuclear scan to see if my gall bladder was functioning properly.

It wasn't. When I saw the surgeon four days later, he scheduled me for surgery before even sending me to the lab for the nuclear test. He was that convinced. The test proved him right. The only thing I regret was that I felt bad enough that I didn't think to make any glowing in the dark jokes the day I was radioactive from the test.

So, six days later I was having my gall bladder out in an outpatient surgery. I couldn't believe how quick it was and how much better I felt after I had it removed. Recovery was better than I expected. I'm still on a low fat diet, trying to discover what I can safely eat. It hasn't been a radical change, because I've generally had a good diet. But it does mean I have to eat smaller, more frequent meals and have to do some advance planning. What's interesting is that I lost my taste for Diet Coke and other sodas (except root beer, oddly enough) and most fatty foods. They really don't taste good. I do have to make sure that I get enough protein, which can be a challenge but I make a lot of smoothies boosted with protein powder.

We really don't know why my gall bladder decided to bail on me. I don't have a lot of the risk factors for it, nobody in my family has had gall bladder issues. It was just one of those random things. Ultimately, though, everything is turning out okay.

Tomorrow, the conclusion of this tale, with some really good news that came out of this summer.

Monday, October 01, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 3

Something else died this summer. My beloved Mac. If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you’ll know I’ve had issues with my Mac, really the first time I’ve ever had a Mac act up and I’ve owned one since 1986.

This would make the fourth time in a year my Mac would have to go in for repairs. After the last time, I was told by the technician that if anything else happened, to let him know and he would make sure I got a replacement machine. So when the hard drive went out AGAIN I called Apple. (Note: normally I don’t buy extended warranties, but in this case, buying the three-year Apple Care warranty has been a very good investment. With all the beatings laptops are subject to, I think it’s practically a requirement).

While the technician on the phone couldn’t authorize a new machine, she referred me to Customer Relations. There I was able to convince them that being without my computer, which is my only way of making a living at this point, was extremely detrimental to my cash flow, and given how much time Apple had already had this computer, it was time to give me a new one. They agreed and within two days I had a brand new MacBook Pro. Top of the line. Now, my G4 Powerbook was three years old and they don’t make it anymore. So to give me a machine with the equivalent screen size (17”) and backlit keyboard, I had to get a brand new one. Needless to say, kudos to Apple for doing the right thing.

The downside was, even though I tried to back up everything as much as possible, I still lost some data. Mostly pictures as far as I can tell. The good news is, the newer, faster machine would come in handy in ways I couldn’t imagine at the time. Which I’ll talk about in Part 5. Even in the midst of something that was hugely frustrating, God was working in ways I couldn’t see.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 2

Part 2 isn’t as happy. After surviving the long trip from Arizona to Indiana (which I really wondered if she would) my cat, Duchess, died. It’s weird because Chloe, my other cat, died last year in same month. I blogged about it here.

I think Duchess’s death hit me particularly hard for several reasons. One, even though I knew she was sick and didn’t expect her to make it through the night it was still a shock to find her dead the next morning. Also it was the first time I had to deal with one of my dead pets by myself. And I just couldn’t. So Michelle’s Phil had to come bury her for me.

The kids and I went and got donuts and then we went to see Underdog. I figured Duchess would appreciate the irony. We then went to Wal-Mart and got three baby rose bushes to put in a planter out front. We also got some scrapbooking supplies to make a memory book of both Duchess and Chloe. Of course I haven’t gotten to that yet.

Duchess was the first cat I got when I was out of college and on my own sixteen years ago. She survived something like 13 moves, 8 states, and 3 days in close proximity to the dog. She represented a whole segment of my adulthood.

I have a couple of prominent memories of her. She was the most agile and acrobatic of any cat I’ve owned. She could jump to the top of a six-foot bookcase by ricocheting off the wall. In one townhome I lived in the second story railing was visible from the entry way and she loved to prance and pirouette along its two-inch width. Once when the little neighbor girl was visiting she asked me if my cat was training for the circus. I had no idea what she meant until she pointed above my head. Duchess was on the railing, leaning over looking at us, and balancing some how.

However, for all her agility she really was a scaredy cat. When I got her as a kitten, I had to drag her out from underneath the couch at the house she was at. I had to drag her out from under the car when I got home, drag her out from under my desk, my bed, the couch. When we had the big Northridge earthquake she hid so far in my closet I couldn’t find her for hours. Most people never even knew I had her because they never saw her. I knew Malia was an animal person when Duchess made an appearance for her.

I am glad Duchess didn’t suffer. She declined in just a few days and went quickly. It’s odd for me not having a cat in the house. There’s been very few times in my life when I haven’t had a cat. Charlie now has run of the house, I don’t think he’s figured out entirely why. I am glad for him though. With the kids gone at school all day, the house would feel awfully empty without some animal of some sort in it.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 1

Since fall is here, it seems appropriate to talk about summer. Go figure that logic. There’s a small thread of it, trust me. I am excitedly waiting to experience my first fall. I’ve never lived any place that had seasons. Already the leaves are beginning to change, the corn fields are being harvested. I even changed my blog banner to reflect one of local fields I drove by the other day.

At the same time, I can’t help but reflect on the season that just ended. It seems odd to have summer ending in September. Normally, where I’ve lived we don’t get cooler weather until November. But it’s been quite a summer. And since I didn’t often have time to blog about it, bear with me while we do a little retrospective…

End of May, beginning of June

The day after Memorial Day, Michelle flew into Phoenix to drive a moving truck containing all our worldly possessions and towing my Jetta to Indiana. Jenny came with me to meet Mich at the airport and to give us hugs and prayers for the journey.

Mich and I got a late start because we had to finish packing the truck in 90 degree heat. It was probably 110 inside the truck. The Jetta had the pet supplies and an ice chest, in addition to every piece of electronic equipment and anything else that we could stuff in there. The cat was in her carrier under the truck seat, and Charlie was supposed to sit on the floor. Supposed to being the operative word. The 85-pould Lab thought he should be a lap dog instead. I had the claw marks on my thighs to prove it. In between Mich and me was a box that held Red Vines, Sun Chips, trail mix, and a small cooler of Diet Coke and water.

Finally we hit the road and made the long drive up the grade to Flagstaff. This was the slowest leg of the journey because we couldn’t make good time going up that grade. We had hoped to get to Alburquerque that night but didn’t even make it out of Arizona before crashing in the little town of Holbrook. We made about 300 miles in 8 hours. Ugh! Doesn’t this look like something that inspired Cars?

The next day was better. After we finally got Charlie to sit on the floor on his bed and look out the little wing window life was a lot more comfortable for me. We were basically doing Route 66 backwards. I tried to sing the song backwards but couldn't manage it. However, we did pass through every town mentioned in the lyrics, with the exception of Kingman, Barstow (been there lots), and San Bernardino (the town next to the one I grew up in).

Mich and I listened to Jeremy Camp and some other CDs, singing along. We talked about writing and God and listened to Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story. We also managed to stop somewhere in every state to get souvenirs for the kids. Other than the fact that Mich had a hard time reaching the pedals and I had to keep my feet propped up on the dash because the seat was so close there was no room for my legs, it was a fun, if tiring day.

Around 11 PM we pulled into Oklahoma City to get coffee, snacks, and gas before pressing on to Tulsa to spend the night. Mich got in a “discussion” with a truck driver about how far it was to Tulsa. Mich used to be a truck driver herself, so she had some issues with the fact that the guy didn’t know miles, just time and some other things. She muttered most of the way about how wrong he was. And she was right. She showed him!

The next day was the longest, 17 hours in the truck, but the final stretch home. We crossed the Mississippi. Did I mention Mich doesn’t like bridges over water? I think the last 5 hours came close to torture for both of us as our backs were hurting from the truck seat and we were sick of the junk food we’d bought. We pulled into her yard at 3 AM. After letting the dog go pee, I fell into the sleeper sofa--fully clothed and sweaty--next to my kids, who, even in their sleep, cuddled up next to me.

I was home.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Congrats to the Misfits!

At the ACFW Genesis award banquet last night Angie, Chris, and Jenny each took second place in their respective categories. Whoo hoo! More details and a pic on the Misfit blog.

Way to go, guys. I'm so proud of you. Wish I could have been there.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

If You Love Books...

. . .then you might find these things fascinating.

First of all, Crossway is coming out with the Literary Study Bible.

I love this idea. When I was in college and learning critical theory of literature, and we studied parts of the Bible in that way, it opened up a whole new way of looking at God's Word and I was just fascinated by it. So I was thrilled to hear about this version of the Bible. Plus, it's an ESV translation, which is even cooler.

And on a whole other coolness scale is a Bible you'll never be able to own.

A scribe bends intently over a worktable in his scriptorium in Monmouth, Wales. The page before him is vellum—calfskin sanded to a velvety smoothness. His goose quill pen has been hardened in hot sand and cut with a knife to hold ink and to create a precise line. He dips the end into vermilion pigment mixed with egg yolk for luminosity and begins to shape the first capital letter of a new chapter of the Bible he is copying.

Finishing this page will take a day. If he makes a mistake, he will have to scrape the vellum and write the word or line over again. The pressure is greater because the other side has already been illuminated—biblical themes spun into a visual tapestry of brilliant colors, evocative imagery, and radiant gold.

But the scribe's hand is guided by long experience and a clear idea of the words' pattern on the page. The line length has already been worked out by computer to ensure a perfect fit. The accompanying illustrations are the result of months of e-mail messages between the scribe and those who have commissioned him, discussing theological interpretation and symbolism. Medieval artistry with a modern twist: That's the achievement and the challenge of the Saint John's Bible, the first handwritten, illuminated Bible in 500 years.

Here's a slide show of the process and some of the pages.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Over at the Misfits

Come join me over at the Misfits blog where I talk about the season of loss and how it's impacted my writing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm Still Alive

I realized that I kinda left you all hanging, mentioning I was having surgery and then not saying anything for over a week. Guess I'm a suspense writer.

The surgery went well. I felt better immediately after the surgery, which I guess means they took the right thing out. I was tempted to write on my side with Sharpie "here" and make an X. But I wasn't exactly sure where my gallbladder was and didn't want to mark my spleen or liver by mistake.

Apparently along with my gallbladder, they removed my Diet Coke taste buds. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I've admitted to an addiction to Diet Coke. Well, guess I went cold turkey. It doesn't taste good at all. Neither does another favorite, Diet Dr. Pepper. Not sure why. But anyhow, the only thing carbonated I'm drinking is Perrier.

It's taken some getting used to, not having something cold and caffeinated to grab out of the fridge and sip on throughout the day. Not sure if iced tea will give me enough caffeine. Guess we'll find out.

Later this week I'll be posting a series of blogs on what I did on my summer vacation. I'm sure you all can't wait.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Not so Wordless Wednesday

I'm up over at the Misfits blog with my Wordless Wednesday post.

Sorry things have been so thin around here lately. That will continue for a bit more as I'm having surgery on my gallbladder tomorrow. Prayers are appreciated.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

We're not in Arizona anymore, Charlie!

We had our first brush with a tornado Wednesday night. Two of them touched down 25 miles southeast of here. We had severe winds and rain, and the tornado alarms went off. From a little after 9 to almost midnight we had 50-60 mph winds, gusting up to 80 or 90 mph with heavy rain and a lot of lightning.

Michelle put up her own map and pics of the destruction. I agree with her assessment of how close it came to our houses based on the damage.

When the tornado sirens went off I was on the computer and the kids had just gone to bed. Now, remember, my only experience with tornadoes comes from watching Twister. I haven't even seen Wizard of Oz. Yeah, yeah, I know. So I go to the weather sites and see the tornado warning and the weather service advisory for
high winds, large hail, flooding.

Then the power went out. I managed to bang my knee pretty good on a chair in the dark. Rain was coming in the windows where I have the AC units. So I had to cover things up with towels. Then I remembered I should probably light some candles. Though the lightning was coming so fast and furious I felt like I was at a disco. Finally got the candle lighter to light. Then got the kids settled in the bathroom with pillows and blankets. I left them a candle on the sink and found the flashlight.

My main concern was that with all the trees around us we were going to end up with branches through the windows and the only place without windows was the bathroom and hallway. I closed all the bedroom doors, dumped my purse and computer bag in the bathtub with a couple bottles of water and dragged the dog and his cage into the hallway with me. He was panting, and continued to do so for the next three hours. I thought he was going to hyperventilate. About midnight the wind and lightning stopped so we all crawled into my bed. It was hot and sticky without the AC and way too quiet.

The main problem was the lack of information. With no TV or Internet, I had no idea what was going on outside. The next day I bought a radio with a weather station.

We were without power for 8 hours (better than the nearly 24 Michelle suffered). Schools were closed, thus the second day of school never happened. I also was without cell service for some time last night. Roads were shut down all around as the crews tried to cut up and remove trees that had fallen across the road.

My first thought this morning after a generally sleepless night was, where am I going to get coffee? Considering power was out in a 50-mile swath, that was going to be no easy feat. Luckily the power came back on just as I got up so I could pretend to be somewhat human.

I've had some other adventures in the past ten days that I haven't blogged about, but I'll get caught up soon.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I'm over at the Misfits blog today talking about the artistic temperament. Check it out.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Christian Art?

I listened to an excellent sermon this weekend from Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee called "A Christian World View of Culture and the Arts." And since I was suffering from a migraine and still enjoyed it, you can take that as a high recommendation.

I liked that questions such as what is our responsibility as artists who are Christians? Is "Christian" a genre? And other similar topics that have been subjects of discussion among my artist friends and me. I highly recommend it, so go check it out.

A related article in the Washington Post on evangelicals embracing the arts.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I'm Not Here

I'm over at the Misfits blog asking where is Snyderman and talking about critique groups. Come check it out.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bowling Alley Blues

There’s a small bowling alley in our town. Twelve lanes. Smoking still allowed. Furnishings from that great decade of design, the seventies. Formica with built in stainless steel cup holders and ashtrays. Molded plastic seats. But my kids wanted to go and on Fridays from 6-10 PM you can bowl two games, get a hot dog and a “pop” and shoes for $5. Now that’s a deal I can afford.

My kids then proceeded to kick my butt in bowling. I haven’t bowled since junior high so I scored in the um, 60s. My son’s unusual method of taking the ball in both hands, heaving it down the lane like a shot put, and then walking away still scored him in the 80s and a strike. My daughter won with a score of 113 and three strikes. Oh, and did I mention we were playing with those bumpers they put up so you don’t get gutter balls? Um, yeah. Obviously bowling is not my sport.

However, I rallied in the second game when I switched to bowling left handed. Never got any strikes but I managed a few spares and scored 110. My son lost interest during the second game and wandered around checking out the video games and pinball (yes, pinball) machines. So Sissy and I took turns playing his frames.

Two hours later we walked out reeking of cigarette smoke, not quite filled by our hot dogs and "pop," but still pretty happy. We’ll do it again, so anyone have any bowling tips for me?