Tag Archives: THEBLOGPILE

The Boot…and Our Life “Boot”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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.

I am an Artist

 

wood framed

It took me a long time to say the words, “I am a writer” but once I did I was empowered. I am now experiencing the same thing with art. I recently discovered Encaustic Painting, which is working with wax. I’ve been guilty of saying, “I’m not an artist, and can’t draw, but love encaustic.” I’ve decided to correct myself. I am an artist. A beginner at the encaustic art form, but merely the act of “doing” it makes me an artist. I’m not required to be “Professional.” It isn’t necessary to be perfect to create beauty.

Encaustic painting is something I discovered last summer when visiting a friend in Rhode Island. We were wandering around art studios and a picture called out to me. No, I didn’t buy it given the huge size and price, but I was enthralled. The lady at the gallery explained to us that the artist used wax and a blow torch to melt the colors into what was a beautiful picture of frothy waves on the ocean. We wrote down the word “encaustic” because I had never heard of it and wanted to learn.

There is a perfectly good workbench in my basement I don’t do any “work” at, so I repurposed it as my encaustic bench. I ordered supplies and dove in. Encaustic is a form of art that ranges from abstract to detailed and intricate. I’m still on the abstract level and okay with that. As accomplished as I feel after completing a painting, I’m aware there is still more I don’t know than I do. I feel stretched to learn and grow; although I feel productive at the level I am at. I lose myself when I go downstairs to “paint”, which technically means melting wax in strange patterns on paper or wood. I now get what painting therapy gives to one’s soul.

I now own a couple of books, have watched numerous YouTube videos, and am in a Facebook Encaustic Art group. I am in awe of many of the paintings shared by talented and accomplished artists. I’ve even found myself brave enough – and proud enough — to share some of my fledgling pieces. The group is supportive to all skill levels and I feel welcome in the community.

I’ve learned through my painting is that a piece is never done. If I don’t like it, I merely take heat to the painting and remold the wax into a new shape. The parallel to our lives and God’s influence on who we become has not been lost on me. Once the wax is changed, it cannot go back to a previous version but is beautiful in new ways.

A picture is never completed until the artist decides it’s done — me in the case of wax and God in the case of me. Even as we are learning and growing in life, we can produce beauty at whatever skill level we find ourselves. We can know that God, as our artist, takes pride in the shape our lives take.

Polishing Memories

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cologne, Germany

I was listening to a speaker this week who talked about how stress, negative emotions, and bad memories can affect our physical health. A term he used was to “polish your memories.”  We have a lifetime of memories filling our heads. It’s worth taking some time to think about what thoughts and memories get the majority of our awareness.

Are we remembering life with regret over poor decisions?  Are we wallowing in self-pity because of painful experiences?

Or are we focusing our hearts and minds toward the good in our lives and pasts? Not to deny negative experiences, but what can we do to let them go and give them less power in our minds? Are we treasuring and taking out precious memories and polishing them, fondling them like precious gems that they are?

How can we polish and find peace for the poor experiences in a way that doesn’t bury them but puts them away? Life isn’t fair – I assume you’ve figured that out by now. I sure have. However, our minds can be fair in the judgment of experiences and balance of our thoughts and memories.

I have to ask myself, “How will my day be shaped?” Will I focus on what I can’t do or will I put energy into what I can and will do?

Life is also precious. We need to make memories and polish those that we treasure. Other memories should be pushed away like a stone being skipped across a lake leaving smaller and smaller rings until it sinks to the bottom.

I have some precious moments that I pull out to polish when I’m having a rough day. What’s interesting is that I sometimes have a dilemma – which life moment should I polish today? I inhale, exhale, and feel the problem that seemed so daunting to be shrinking.

I visited my daughter in Germany recently. I had an incredible time. We walked miles and I snapped a lot of pictures. Oh, and by the way, I broke my kneecap and had to take a nap every day for my head. Yes, ouch, but as I heal, I’m polishing the memories of Kendra’s company and care – right up to the point where she handed me off to wheelchair people at the airport. I look forward to my return sometime in the future. Maybe I’ll pack kneepads?

When my older daughter Kayla broke her kneecap last winter (yes, both of us in one year), what I recall was the time I was able to spend helping her while she healed. Lunch on Thursdays, playing with my grandson, and sometimes falling fast asleep on her couch for a nap.

When I have a bad head day, I breathe and pull out a few memories. Maybe I’ll return to tropical beaches where I’ve relaxed with friends. In my mind, I see the bright sun, feel the warm breeze, and remember dipping my toes in ocean water.

What memories do you like to polish?

 

Fear

p IMG_0985

Laguna Beach, California

Some people like the charge they get from a “good” horror movie or scary Halloween costume. I am not one of them. Others love the thrill of a roller coaster. No, not that either. After going on numerous rides with my daughters years ago, one day I decided that it wasn’t a good thrill that I got when my stomach flipped while rapidly dropping dramatic distances. That was my last roller coaster ride. Whether you are a thrill seeker or a find life itself enough of a thrill, it’s okay.

Fear can be lighthearted fear at Halloween but also heart wrenching from life events. Fear fills our minds instantly and churns our insides when we get a hint that something is wrong. Fear triggers our autonomic nervous system – what controls our bodies below the level of consciousness. This effects our heart rate, breathing, digestion and even perspiration. Autonomic functions are involuntary but work with voluntary control in the somatic nervous system.

That was technical and I don’t fully understand what I just said. However, it means is that we are frustratingly not totally in control when facing fear. We each experience fear in our individual way, even when faced with the same situation. For some that means dry humor. For others it means prayer and meditation. For some it means curling up in a ball and for others it’s angry screaming.

Fear can take over our bodies such that we spend energy trying to control our physical reactions. We try to not shake, or cry, or stammer, but it happens. We may want to speak but words do not come. Everyone is different, but we all fight a balance of voluntary and involuntary when facing fear. Ranging from controlled worry to the desire to escape our bodies, fear is jarring.

I’ve faced fear in my life. As a kid I was cautiously fearful at Halloween. As an adult, I’ve experienced fear that was physically debilitating. What I learned is that when all is taken away, it is myself and God. I had to choose between the option of trusting my faith in God or giving in to theories of randomness.

I chose faith. Prayer calms me. Asking for guidance from God lightens the weight of my burden. I stepped out in faith believing verses like “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV) and “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

Only when I learned to accept that I’m truly not alone was I able to gain the gift of living and not fearing. Only with the gift of hindsight have I been able to see that I’ve never been alone.

Ghosts and goblins are not for me, but I’ll help with the Halloween candy. . .

Life’s Balance: Actually is a Balance

Life (Simplified)

Life (Simplified)

Yes, I really do spend time drawing these silly pictures.  I am obviously NOT talented in this particular area, but it hasn’t stopped me from expressing myself.

Think of the many interviews of someone who lost a dream of being an athlete, actor, entrepreneur, or whatever? Disappointed, some struggle but find new passion. Disappointment still remains in hindsight, but a new perspective is gained over time for the importance of one lost dream. Countless other stories tell of people who lose their dream and become entangled in pain and fail to move forward, sometimes for years.

Acceptance of unwanted change is sticky and gooey. Anyone who has found success at something then lost it, churns for period of time. Risking full disclosure, I’ve found felt quite sorry for myself at times. I wake in the morning and find myself laying still, making an analysis of my options. Will I wallow over where I am, or move forward to seek an achievable goal for that specific day? Breaking down obstacles allows me to find joy in each step toward a new dream.

When making the decision to spiral down or up:

On my down pajama days, laying horizontal, staring out the window:

– I allow the loss of a dream to loom over all other dreams and accomplishments.
– I exaggerate to myself how lost and alone I am in the big, bad world.
– I chaff at not being able to control everything in my life.
– I compare myself/my life/my circumstance to others and minimize my own accomplishments.
– I dislike being on a need to know basis with God.

On other, better days, I’m more balanced (admittedly maybe still a pajama day):

– I allow myself time to regenerate if needed. I sleep a little more, read a book, or spend time in thought without allowing thought of misusing time.
– I let my disappointment go, even if for a moment. Life is a series of days we must live.
– Some will, frankly, be better than others. Each day takes us somewhere. No day takes us nowhere, even if we are still.
– I think about God. Not how short I find myself in actions, but, quite simply, how big He is even while guiding my little life in the huge scheme of things.
– I focus on others. How can I reach out to someone? What can I write to brighten someone else’s day?
– I recognize the value in nature of a safe cocoon. How it provides protection to delicacy. I recognize how God puts us in a cocoon, kept from knowledge at times. A hedge of protection until we are stronger than we thought possible.

I’ve found it to be an interesting journey to transition from the corporate world with strategic plans, performance evaluations, and service level agreements to embracing the world of art. Touching someone’s day by writing a paragraph is as rewarding as achieving a corporate objective used to be. If I hadn’t had downward spirals mixed with some incredible upward ones, throughout my entire life, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t appreciate what I dream today. I wonder who I’m yet to be.