Category Archives: Interesting things

Procrastination

 

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I am notorious, as most writers, at procrastinating. I attend a monthly writing group, and typically write something that afternoon. I regret that because I feel that the time is a precious opportunity to get feedback on my writing — and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

However, month after month the same thing happens. To a point that it is a joke with the group. This past month, when I told my friend Roxanne that I had started my writing for that night on a napkin at lunchtime, she wrote two Haikus for me. (FYI – A Haiku has three lines, with 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second and 5 in the third. They have no title)

A Haiku for Sally #1

Yep, just a napkin

Sally has done it again

That is all she needs

A Haiku for Sally #2

What has she written?

I can hardly wait to see

How does she do it?

 

I loved them. Wonder what I’ll do next month. Thank you, Roxanne Fawley – I don’t know how you did it so succinctly!

The Store is OPEN for business – Christmas ideas?

 

Picture from Recent Trade Show

Picture from Recent Trade Show

My Online shop is now stocked with:

Original encaustic art

Canvas and poster Prints of encaustic art

Calendars – both art and photography

Book Art – by Kayla Rudy (my daughter)  very cool

Books – Smiling Again as well as two other anthologies that I have chapters in.

Please stop by!   Online shop

Life and Soap Operas

 

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Have you noticed that life is quite different from soap operas? Yet in some ways similar? Life is much less predictable. The premise of soap operas is that something will go wrong with every relationship, person, and circumstance. Happiness is built up only to be eroded by plot twists. Life can kind of be like that, but we are also more capable of learning from our life journeys.

The soap opera viewer becomes attached to characters who reach the ultimate in happiness, only to be dropped into a chasm of disappointment. Happy, content characters make the viewer feel like something is missing in life. Tragic, devastated characters make the viewer feel happy to be in real life. Soap operas are up and down. Happy scenes are filmed to provide flashbacks during trials and tribulations.

Life is also full of ups and downs. However, we seem surprised by things we don’t expect. We assume that life is fair and that we’ll always be happy. When that doesn’t happen, we are let down. Disappointment is a familiar, warm blanket of self-pity you can wrap yourself in while pouting on the couch. Burrowed into cushions and pillows kind of pouting. Ice cream out of the carton pouting. Unable to take another bite because of the sobs and tears disappointment. We fail to see that the downs allow us to grow, lessons allow us to learn, and growth allows us to put things in a better perspective.

A door left ajar on a soap opera means that someone will overhear or walk in on something that nobody wants to be known. Merely by seeing “a door ajar”, the viewer can watch the scene knowing someone is right outside that door. Life provides open doors and closed doors. We need to carefully consider the implications of any door we approach. We don’t have the viewer’s advantage of knowing when we should act or speak differently. We sometimes need reminders that God is omnipresent and sees all we do, think, and feel.

Soap opera music is predictive. It tells you, in case you couldn’t figure it out, whether the scene is happy, amorous, or tragic. When the tune changes, you know the mood will too. Life doesn’t provide a sound track. We have to find within ourselves the desire to continue despite adversity. We must reach inside ourselves and out to others at times for joy. We each make a choice to be happy or sad at times. Other times we need to accept what we feel as legitimate and process the truth.

Soap opera stories cycle with each character through similar plots and circumstances. If you watch one long enough, you will most likely find the characters in hot water just like they were five years ago. Relationships start, end, and reignite. Life takes us in cycles. We think soap operas are silly with their repetitive story lines, but we sometimes fail to see cycles in our own lives that should be broken or behaviors that we need to change. We fail to see how our attitude affect us rather than those who possibly don’t even know we’re holding a grudge.

Soap operas have a sometimes ridiculous ability to rewrite history. Characters can change from one actor to another overnight without explanation. You are supposed to not notice that the tall guy is now short; or the blonde is now a brunette. Children grow at an amazing rate. People die and come back a few years later – always with an explanation of how they didn’t really die when the world thought they did.

Life does not allow us to rewrite history. We have one life to live, seeing life’s possibilities or shortfalls. We have one body that may bring joys or trials. We need to cherish relationships and people in our lives. God is the one consistent writer in our lives, knowing that we will get through each step. He has seen the cycles of humanity. He understands them. Through grace, He still loves us and provides a guiding light through our lives. Through grace, He feels our pains and joys. Unlike characters written in a script, He has created us as real, unique, and promising people who live all the days of our lives.

That Darned Need to Know Basis

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Can you recall a time in your life when you had a “call-in” time window? Perhaps for jury duty or an appointment time you were told to call at a specific time. You find yourself waiting for the clock to move, or staying awake speculating on possible outcomes. There is no answer until the time window opens. You can have your pencil poised over your calendar, but you can’t write or plan or move forward. You have been given a time and you must wait.

I experienced that at Mayo Clinic the night before my brain surgery. I wanted to get to bed to have a good night’s sleep. Well, what I should say is that I wanted to get to bed to toss and turn. I couldn’t relax or set my alarm clock until I called a number at nine pm to find out when to report for surgery in the morning. Did it really matter given that I was having brain surgery at some time the next day? Not really, but the clock didn’t move and I was frustrated to know exactly what the plan was. I tried to call earlier, but there was no cheating. There was no answer until the appointed time, when I finally got an answer with the exact time to show up in the morning. I then set my alarm and tried to get some sleep.

Like those time windows in life, God knows the plan, but doesn’t share it until the time is right. One of the things that I personally struggle with most is God’s “need to know” basis. However, I have learned that fretting and worrying about future days only interferes with the quality of today.

As I worry, I find myself drifting away from God. I find myself focusing on issues and not my relationship with Him. I find myself drifting away from the joy of life in this moment and the people around me. However, as much as I’m sorry for the way I drift away, I am grateful for the way He pulls me back. Being pulled back reminds me of His love.

Oh, just for the record, what happens when the answer does come? I frequently find myself thinking, why was I worried?

Muscle Memory

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A friend recently drove my car, and asked how the cruise control worked. From the passenger side of the car, I told her clearly and confidently. However, after following my precise instructions, we both felt the car slow down. “Hmm, I don’t know what’s wrong, but it works for me and I do the same thing.” After repeatedly speeding up, following my instructions, and slowing down, I both put on my reading glasses and looked at the clearly marked buttons. “Oh yea, I guess that’s what I do — push down instead of up.” Sheepishly, I mumbled, “I do it so automatically that I couldn’t tell you! Sorry about that.”

I’m in awe how unconsciously we do certain things. Muscle memory is created as a result of movements being repeated so many times that we perform them without conscious effort. I find, like with cruise control, I frequently can’t verbalize a series of motions because I’m so used to doing without thinking.

Passwords provide a great example of muscle memory. I was reminded of that when my bank recently updated their website. I sat and looked at my computer screen dumbfounded because with the three passwords required were now in different spots on two consecutive screens. I could no longer remember any of them. I had to close my eyes at each new spot and think through the old order so that I could pull out the portion I needed for the new screen format and sequence.

We also build up “spiritual muscle memory” by spending time in prayer, meditation, and Bible study. The more we repeat a motion, the more ingrained it becomes. The more we fill our minds with the right information, the more automatically we return to it. So, if we find ourselves fallen by the side of life, bleeding and bruised, it’s kind of like riding a bike. After climbing back on, we quickly find a comforting familiarity and focus. How do you develop your “muscles?”

Tomorrow

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Tomorrow will be a busy day because I don’t seem to be making progress on my to-do list. Of course, I understand prioritization, but tell that to life, right? I’ve become a victim of daylong excursions. No, not a walk through peaceful woods. Not a drive along the colorful frozen Lake Michigan shore. Instead, I keep having appointments requiring a full day of travel, and sometimes overnight. I will admit that I’m more than a bit frustrated because I get a high from checking things off my list as complete. Things that instead get put off because of another “can you be here tomorrow” phone call.

Tomorrow I’ll clean my desk. I’ll no longer sit here typing between piles of paper. Stacks that become more disorganized every time my half-Siamese calico cat decides to walk across my keyboard, gaze out the window, and jump down with papers cascading behind her. As I reach to catch the falling pile, she’ll pause to look at me with disgust and disinterest before padding of the room with a meow of protest. “Gabby!” I complain every time.

Tomorrow I’ll clean my closet. Tomorrow is when I’ll have neat and orderly dresser drawers. You know, the kind where everything has its place and you don’t have to push things down as you close. I’ll will love my new closet with clothes arranged by color and type. I’ll be taking all excess directly to a charity.

One thing I’ve learned to not put off until tomorrow is love. I love my family and they know. I’ve told them how much I appreciate them. If I can spend time with any of them rather than spend time cleaning Gabby’s path to the window, I pick family. If I can travel to see a new part of the world, I pick travel. If I can spend time appreciating God’s incredible earth, I pick nature.

Since having brain surgery, I’ve learned to listen to my body. If I need to lay down to rest my head, it’s not an option and I’ve accepted it. I listen to quietness for guidance with the loudness of life. We all live today not really knowing if there is a tomorrow. Living time that we can’t accurately calculate fractions of because we don’t know the total sum that will be given us. So, when I think about it, I’m even grateful for unplanned daylong trips. Because I’m here to take them.

I keep adding more to my “to-do” list than I’ve checked as complete. Pushing to tomorrow what I just don’t fit in today. Yes, tomorrow will be busy. Did I mention the great American novel that I’m working on? Well, tomorrow.

Gilbert Goat

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One life lesson I’ve learned from my father is the value of listening. As I grew up, he always had time for me. If I knocked on his office door, he would tell me to come in, setting a book aside. If I approached him as he worked around the house, he would stop what he was doing. I always knew I had his full attention. By asking a question here or there, he would help me come to the right answer for whatever my dilemma was that day. Not by telling me what to do, but by sharing insights, asking questions, and applying logic. I would then continue with my day, feeling settled and confident with my decision. He would pick up his book or tool and continue his task at hand.

I’ve been trying to focus more on listening to people in my life. Too frequently, I haven’t. I’ve missed questions or conversation because I was distracted by my phone, a book, or a task. If I really want to hear a need, a question, or a statement, I’ve come to accept that multi-tasking doesn’t work. In order to really hear, I have to put my distractions aside.

As I continue to work on my listening skills, one instance of successful listening comes to mind. My father loves to tell stories and one was about wanting a goat as a small boy. Through his words, I pictured a chain attached to their garage with a little collar ready. A water bowl was prepared to be filled religiously. However, his folks explained to him that a goat was not an option. Why had he wanted a goat? Why couldn’t he have one? I have no idea, but I heard his story. I had listened.

One Father’s Day, when I was an adult and he was a grandfather, I got him a baby goat. Dad was surprised when I told him my plan – confirming that he still had a goat desire before actually picking one up. I had read that goats calm horses, which we had five of at the time. Dad agreed, and we brought Gilbert home. Tawny brown, Gilbert was adorable with floppy ears and a dark stripe painted from nose to tail.

The kids had fun helping Grampa care for Gilbert. We learned that not all was perfect when Gilbert ate our horses’ tails off. Ragged and stringy, the poor horses’ tails lacked enough substance to swat flies from their faces. After preparing a separate pasture for him, Gilbert cried to the point that we got a second goat, Nanita, to keep him company. Nanita calmed Gilbert down and they thrived in their separate pasture, allowing the horses to grow tails again. We all had fun with the goats, and my father was pleased.

The gift of a goat was one that came from listening. I heard and responded. I have learned from my father that you have to listen to hear.

The Boot…and Our Life “Boot”

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The well-worn boot had settled into an artistic display with layers of cobwebs connecting it to a nearby picture and walls. How long had it been on the shelf of the Genoa Bar, Nevada’s oldest thirst station, established in 1853? Cobwebs stretched from the boot to a poster dated 1964. Really? It had to only have been “growing” for fifty-one years of the drinking station’s one hundred sixty two year history!

A brown broken bottle sat beside it, grey with years of undisturbed dust coating it. How long had this little display been uninterrupted? With customers in and out of the business for year after year, with the tables and bar regularly wiped clean. The cobwebs been left to grow and build upon each other. How had it been viewed but never disturbed? When someone set that boot on the shelf did they know that it would sit undisturbed for over fifty years?

Who had worn that boot? Who worked hard to purchase what were perhaps their only new shoes in life? Boots that spent hours in the dust and heat of the nearby ranches? Where was its mate? What boots had followed for that cowboy; and were they as comfortable? How had that one lone boot ended up as part of a display in a western bar? And one that wasn’t a traditional cowboy boot?

How often do we leave parts of our lives, hearts, and relationships on the shelf for years without attention? How often do we become separated by those who seemed to be the other shoe? How many people have had to learn to live with one boot – symbolically in life? How many lives have been re-purposed from a hard working ranch boot to a display in a bar? That seems to be a pretty dramatic re-purpose, in my opinion.

Like that old, frozen-in-time boot, how many parts of life do we leave on the shelf for later? How often do we postpone change; avoid things that need attention; procrastinate reading a book – but instead choose to spend our time on meaningless activities? (TV or Candy Crush)

How often do we leave our relationship with God on the shelf? How often do we say, “Someday I will get around to spending more time with God and more time in His word? But tonight I’m too tired and I’ll be too rushed in the morning.”

How often do we live in our own boot without recognizing that God is in a perfectly matched boot right at our side?

On the other hand, how often do we leave things on the shelf to accumulate dust and cobwebs when they are past their useful life? What is a useful life? When should we let go of things in our lives that we continue to cling to?

The dusty boot on the shelf gave me quite a few things to think about. . . how about you? It raised more questions than it provided answers. I’ll keep pondering.

The Identity Crisis of Blogging: What is our purpose?

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How does a blog (technically the blogger) identify its audience? When is the target scope too broad or too narrow? How does each blog find its audience in the blogosphere? Some are by writers who write for other writers. Some are specific to a disease, a cause, or a population. Some are content-driven based on the mood of the writer. Some are inspirational with the blogger sharing a bit of wisdom and an observation about the world or their beliefs. I have two blogs and guest post on TheBlogPile each month. Sometimes I take a moment – or five – to think about what and why I am writing.

The first blog I established was www.smilingagainbook.com. When publishing a book, I learned the importance of social media. I learned that I needed to establish a “platform” for book exposure. So, when my book, Smiling Again: Coming Back to Life and Faith After Brain Surgery, was published, I became a reluctant blogger. Of course, it isn’t popular to write entry after entry that says “buy my book,” so I had to figure out why anyone would want to read anything I wrote. At first it was short little blips from my book, or a few lines of what I had experienced. However, after posting for a while I have established loyal readers in the Acoustic neuroma brain tumor world. I’ve found my posts keep getting longer and longer. I feel that, for this blog I have found my voice even though technically I’m breaking blog length rules. I know my purpose is contributing to the acoustic neuroma community.

My entries have gotten numerous comments from people who seemed to really benefit from what I wrote. Really? I’m blown away that anyone wants to read my writing, let alone what I, at times, consider redundant points. However, the brain tumor club welcomes unwilling members daily. There, unfortunately, is a continual flow of newly diagnosed people with questions. There are also recently treated and longtime survivors with chronic health issues. I’m not fixing anything in anyone’s life, but I’m giving people a feeling of not being alone on a tough journey.

Occasionally, people will take a bit of exception to the focus of one of my posts. It has been pointed out that what I write about isn’t limited to one type of brain tumor patient, or even to brain tumors at all. While I agree, does that mean that I should broaden my writing to more general health and life issues? My decision has been no, and hope that anyone who finds my blog and benefits from it will return regardless of their situation. If someone buys a book, that’s great, but that’s a one-time purchase. What I have gained is more than a book sale, but a connection with another person in this very impersonal and electronic world.

My second blog is www.sallystap.com, a blog I established to be “non-brain tumor stuff.” Well, okay, that is pretty broad! I write observations about life. I write about my faith in God on this more personal blog. I am not disciplined about new posts because I write when I feel like it, which is never a good deadline to give a writer. At the same time, I wonder who will find it, benefit, and why. What is my purpose in building a readership? I could say future books, but it’s actually my desire for community. When someone reads something that I wrote and gives me feedback, it makes me feel connected. If someone says, “You wrote what I feel but haven’t ever been able to put words into,” I feel accomplished. What will my voice be on this blog? Only time will tell what my purpose is with this blog.

TheBlogPile, which this post was actually written for, is “An anthology blog of Christian authors.” Several individuals post monthly, unless a month slips by here or there. We have been discussing the readership of this blog and are trying to determine a direction. Are we writing to promote writing? Are we writing to share our Christian beliefs? Or are we writing something in the hopes it will draw people to our individual blogs? We have Christian in the title but have agreed we don’t want to sound preachy – which is a word that I’m continually struggling with when determining what and how to write. What is our purpose? Which direction should we take if any different from the current one?

In the blog world we measure success by the number of subscribers and frequency of comments. There are statistics that tell us how many times a page was clicked. We get caught up in questions of value and purpose. We get more spam comments that need to be discarded than valid ones. We are willing to sort through the junk to get a few gems and affirmation back. Comments that tell us what we are writing is making a difference for even one person.

Sometimes when I get caught up in the definition of “success” as a blogger, I focus more on our purpose in life. We are here to honor God and to seek his wisdom. We are here to commune with each other and not to count statistics.

God is the blogger of the universe. He knows each one of us. He is focused on an individual relationship with each “reader.” I’m guessing he isn’t checking statistics. He’s measuring the closeness with which we hold our beliefs. He is not measuring how many trials we each face, but how we traverse them. He isn’t measuring the number of worries we have, but how well we hand them over to Him. Can you imagine how many “spam” prayers He gets? He listens for our individual heartfelt voice in the crowd, ready to make a difference in our lives.

NOTE: THEBLOGPILE is currently on hiatus, so I’ve moved the posts to here.