Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back

As we close up shop on the year 2007, take a look back and acknowledge what went well. What are you proud of accomplishing? What gives you pleasure when you think back on it?

For me....

The year went well, creatively speaking. I spent several months working on a novel. Not only fun, but satisfying as well. And just as satisfying was putting the novel away to concentrate on homeschooling Nathan's junior year.

Kites need both the wind and a string to hold them in order to fly. 2007 was a year in which I got to be the string for my family. While they stretched their wings against and with the wind, I tried not to rock the boat. Listen, that's harder than you think. LOL! Especially for someone like me.

There were new challenges in my life and I think I rose to the occasion. I've learned a lot, that's for sure. I hope I'm a stronger, smarter, wiser, kinder, and better person for having lived this year.

Take a quick peek in the rear view mirror at 2007 before it recedes into the night. What memories give you a warm glow of pride? Accomplishments that bring satisfaction? Anything you can carry over into the coming months? List those things in your comment or link to your own blog if you answer there.

Thanks for taking time to read Creative Soul. Your comments and emails make my day!

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Today would have been my mother's 68th birthday.

She's been gone for thirteen years. Hard to believe because I can close my eyes and see her smile and hear her laugh. I worried that I would forget those things after she died.


If your mom is still among the living, give her a hug.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas From Our House To Yours

May your day be merry and bright!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Let's Talk Photography

Christmas is almost here. With it comes numerous opportunities to photo our children and other family members. Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your photos.

1. Get Close. Those precious faces are the main thing you are going to want to see in your print. If you want a photo of your entire living room, do one. Both don't try to get a cute photo of your toddler opening a gift AND the living room. Choose one. I love having a zoom lens on my digital. Wow. I began in photography without the benefit of zoom. For years all that moving around was how I kept fit. If you done any scrapbooking and had to whack three quarters of the print away to get to the image you really wanted, you understand what I'm talking about. While we are at it, when photographing a child, get down on their level.

2. Let Your Subjects Get Close. Cheek to cheek is fun and usually makes folks giggle which makes for great expressions. Hugs, hand-holding, and leaning on each other give warmth and casualness to your photos. Even a slight lean towards each other makes family members look like they like each other. A miracle.

3. Take LOTS. The best part of digital is the delete button. Charge up your batteries and snap, snap, snap away. Then, choose only the best of the best to keep.

4. Watch the Background. Sure it looks funny to have a curtain rod or branch coming out some one's ear, but think about it, what if this is the last time you get to photograph Grandma? Do you really want that thing sticking out her head?

5. Be an Equal Opportunity Photographer. I don't know how many times I've focused too much on one couple or one particular child and not gotten enough of everyone else. Another advantage to digital is being able to take a quiet moment and review what's in the memory.

6. Hand Off. Occasionally hand the camera to someone else so they can photograph you. I don't care if you need to lose twenty pounds, dye your hair, and have cosmetic surgery on the bags under your eyes. Someone in your family loves you and they want photos of you. Besides, none of us are getting any younger or prettier, are we? Fluff your hair, dab on some make-up (as appropriate) and suck in your tummy, but do this now.

7. No Target Practice. Many photographers have the distressing habit of putting their subject's face dead center in the image. Like the center of a bull's-eye target. You aren't there to execute the subject, so allow the faces to be in the upper third of the photo. In fact, imagine a tic-tac-toe board over your screen. Place your point of interest where the lines intersect. This is called the 'Rule of Thirds' and helps your photograph be much more interesting to look at. More on this another day.

8. Book 'em, Danno.. Within a few days of Christmas, upload your images to your computer. Sort into labeled files. Send the chosen ones to the printer for hard copies. Scrapbook them within the month. You'll love yourself if you keep up with this chore in a timely fashion. Others will love you, too, because they get to enjoy the photos.

Photos stir our memories and with it our hearts. Sparkling eyes, the flash of a smile, the baby soft skin of a Grandmother and her newborn grand child. These portrayals are worth so much more than a thousand words. Create lots and lots of memory images this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Little Christmas Tour, 2007

Join me for a little Christmas tour.

The fireplace and Christmas tree
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Every ornament on our tree has been collected over our thirty years of marriage. In fact, we have an ornament from our first year of dating. The Pilot Guy made one for us at a fund-raiser at the college we attended. That blue ball is precious and often the first ornament we hang on the tree.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Naturally, we have an ornament for each son every year, too. Some years have more ornaments representing them than others. During our travels in Europe we collected all sorts of things to use as ornaments from each country we visited. Key chains were pressed into service often, but we also have our ski lift passes from skiing in the French Alps, and an authentic Austrian cow bell.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Ornaments that are hand made are very special.

I made these red fans with my mother. We were outside the isolation chamber my dad was in while in the hospital in Houston.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Popsicle airplanes we made when Kevin was nine and Nathan was four.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

One of my most precious possessions is this Santa face. My mother drew and colored this guy when she was pregnant with me. This Santa is celebrating 51 Christmas's this year.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Thanks for taking a bit of a tour this morning. It is pouring rain out, so no outdoor decor for the moment.

By the way, today Karla over at Karla's Cottage is having a party. If you want to see more holiday blogs, hop on over and check it out.

Thanks again for visiting!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Notecards

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The notecards turned out great! It was such fun to create them.

Need an extra stocking stuffer for someone?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Do It Now

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Daylily 'Congeniality'
The blossoms last from morning until night, then are gone.

I shall pass through this world but once,
Any good therefore that I can do, or any
kindness that I can show,
let me do it now.
Let me not defer, not neglect it,
For I shall not pass this way again

Do it now.

I'm a champion procrastinator. I've made a sport of putting off until tomorrow....or next week....or next year, things I want to do. I'd like to pride myself on being a seize the day kinda gal. But, too often, I'm not.

This Christmas season, I'm regretful. A friend living in California won't live to see this Christmas, much less the next one. Her health took a sudden, frightening, and unexpected nosedive this fall. For the past two summers, I've thought about visiting, but never quite pulled the trigger on the plans. Now, unexpectedly, it's too late. As final and quiet as a door clicking locked. Too late to make memories together. Too late.

This is but one more incident in a lifetime of missed opportunities. Add to that the death of my sister in law, several acquaintances and a friend or two this year. So many tables will have an empty space this season. Many of them unexpectedly so...but car accidents and sudden health crisis happen all too often.

My advice (and my motto at the moment)Do it now. Especially in this Christmas season. Give the gift. Send the card. Say the words.

Seize the opportunity to tell someone how much they've meant to you. Focus on the positive. Express gratitude. Celebrate the good things. Forgive the hurts. Seek to understand someone else's point of view.

Develop a legacy of laughter, gratefulness, and loving, even in the face of challenge and difficulty.

Do it now. Whatever has popped into your head while reading it now.

After all, next Christmas it may be you who is missing from the feast.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Flashes of Inspiration

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I love dreaming new ideas. This morning, in that lovely drift between sleep and wakefulness, I had a flash of inspiration.


Yes, tapestry. Yesterday, while out shopping for Christmas gifts, I happened upon a display of tapestry fabrics. Since our days in Belgium, I've had a fondness for all things tapestry. Specifically Belgian, of course. I love the designs, the muted colors, the sense of history from a piece of tapestry. And tapestry is not ever frou-frou. I'm rarely a frou-frou person. (My mother tried.)

The collection I saw yesterday didn't qualify as the expensive Belgian stuff, but I pondered whether I could make a new Bible cover from one of the designs. (Which would mean taking apart the cover I currently have in order to use it as a pattern.) Because it is the Christmas season, I passed on buying any, but must have tucked the thought into my mind. This morning I woke to realize how perfect some of that tapestry fabric would look as window treatments in our living room.

I could see them as clear as I see this computer screen. Just the right weight for the space. Good colors. The project is still going to have to wait until the Christmas season winds down,! It was fun to have that flash.

I've done that writing, too. Waking up and knowing something new about my characters or plot.

Or an entirely new story.

It has occasionally happened with photography and business decisions, as well. It's enough to make your heart race or skin sizzle.

Try going to sleep with a project in mind for the next few days. See if your mind comes up with something fresh and amazing while you snooze. At the very least, lay quiet and thoughtful in those first waking moments to see what wisps of inspiration linger from your mind's night's work. Maybe nothing useful, but it is good to practice listening to your heart. Capture any worthy thoughts in your notebook for further consideration. Then, on a day when you feel creatively dry, page through your notebook for ideas.

I hope your days (and nights) are filled with flashes of inspiration and and lightning bolts of creativity.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Jen at The Cottage Nest passed along a challenge to post a photo of ourselves. She did an admirable job of photoing herself and also of describing herself in an frank and funny way.

I thought it curious that I chose this week to post not one, but two photos of myself here. The one in my profile was taken in Gemunden, Germany at the Bible camp where we occasionally cook. The wooden bench is an almost sacred place to me. When I'm there I enjoy the sunshine from this bench and usually spend time praying for my family, specifically my sisters-in-law. I love speaking their names to the Father in that wonderful German air. Very cool for a west Texas girl.

The second was the group of my sisters-in-law at a much loved niece's wedding in Sept. 2006 featured in the previous post.

But the photo, or at least one, doesn't quite capture me. Just like with you, it would take a collage of images. Horses, dogs, flowers, my boys, my husband, extended family, my love for canyon country and for the sights of Paris, my passion for both chocolate and Stargate SG1, my obsession with books, reading and writing them, my love of visual arts, and my total loathing of anything resembling housecleaning would have have a place in the collage. The center and the framework of the piece would be God.

What would be in yours? That might be a terrific project for after the holidays. A collage of images of who I am.

When my mother died, we pulled a bunch of photos together. Some lovely friends with a video production company put them to music for her funeral. I love that we chose images from her childhood and throughout the rest of her life. Lots of funny hairdos and eyeglasses, but lots and lots of brilliant smiles. Too brief, but deeply moving. A snapshot of a life.

In my days as a professional photographer I heard a theory of why we don't like photos of ourselves. Since we see ourselves in mirrors (and backwards because of it) photos look 'off' to us.

True or not, its something to think about as you brush your teeth in the mornings.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Every year my sisters in law and I give each other small personal gifts for Christmas. The items are usually not expensive, but rather sweet, personal, and often home-made. In the last few years, I've gotten in the habit of buying something rather than making it. Usually, I kick myself later.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
I love these women, my sisters. To make this photo more poignant, one of our sisters has gone to be with the Lord since last Christmas. The empty space she leaves in my heart is immense.

This year, I decided I wanted to do something special for them. They deserve something I've created, don't you think? I've had the idea of making notecards out of my flower photos for a long while. Today, I did it. Designed what I wanted, uploaded the photos, and typed in text. Then, I punched order.


Okay, so technically, I'm not *making* these with my own two hands. But I did create the images and put everything together. That's creativity. I'll add some pretty ribbon to wrap them in....or maybe I'll wrap them in raffia in keeping with the natural theme. Next year, I'll learn to do hand-made cards to which to attach the photos.

Back in my days as a professional photographer, an order like this would have taken weeks to complete. And Oh, the expense! Ka-ching.

I'm LIKING the digital age. I'll post photos as soon as I have my greedy little hands on the cards.

My creative soul got fed a treat today. Now feed yours. Go do something visual and artsy today. Even if it is coloring with crayons or markers or playing with holiday ribbon.

Have some fun!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I tried a few new-to-me plants in the garden in the past two years. Some of them worked so well, I'm planning bucket loads of them next year.

Butterflies love the pentas. I love the bright red color even through the heat.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Datura-Belle Blanc All parts of this pretty flower and plant are poisonous, but completely beautiful.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Profusion Zinnas Tough, bright, and beautiful.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

There's more, but then for a gardener, there's always more.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Whispers, Echoes, Ideas

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Busy-ness kills creativity.

My life is full of responsibilities right now. Too many responsibilities, it seems, but they are mine to deal with. So I do. I rush from one meeting to the next, from home to a class to the store and back again. At home, I scurry to cross things off my to-do list and make sure N is crossing things off his school to-do list. Everything I do involves an element of creativity and flair, but not in an overt way. Some days I feel very productive and some days I feel like a gerbil in an exercise wheel. Lots of effort with little travel. Drained. Stagnant.

In the rush to get things done, we lose the chance to savor, reflect, and enjoy quiet moments. It is in the quiet moments that I hear myself think and creativity is born.

Whispers of wishes.

Echoes of dreams.

Threads of ideas.

If those whispers aren't heard, if the echoes fade away, and if the threads aren't stitched together I begin to feel frazzled. Empty. Dissatisfied.


A friend once called this feeling a crisis of creativity. When life and responsibilities overwhelm me causing the artistic part of my soul to suffer. Projects I want to complete reproach me as I pass them. Projects I want to start sit impatiently waiting their turn. Time and busy-ness are my enemy. I sigh when I see the holidays approaching because I know my schedule will get worse before it gets better.

Usually clearing my calendar for a few days and a shopping trip to a favorite raw materials store (craft store, an art shop, a fabric store, a garden center, a bookstore) cures me of creatius crisisus. A day or two indulging in hands on work or intense concentration fulfills me.

When I can't clear an entire day or weekend, I try to work in a little bit of creative thought every day. Just now, I spent an hour in the my favorite part of the garden on the pretense of watering pansies. (Check mark the to-do list.) But, as I sat in the swing and listened to the leaves fall, I relaxed. In that moment, I enjoyed the beauty of the little garden we've created. The last of the rose blossoms. The cheerful faces of the white and purple pansies. Birdsong. I savored the mellow sunlight through the thinning trees.

And whispers, echoes, and ideas stirred in my heart.

I'll get to the repainting the shabby garden swing (not the purple one) and I'll get to the quilt I want to make. I'll get to the porch wreath that wants to be redone. I'll get back to the book I'm writing, as well as the photography fine prints I want to do. It'll come.

For the moment, it was nice to take a breather, commune with the Creator, and know that my creativity shimmers within me....a reflection of His.....waiting for the opportunity to burst forth.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Martian Child

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The Pilot Guy and I went to see 'The Martian Child' last night.

If you've ever loved a child, or anyone, who is a little bit *different*, you'll enjoy this movie. If adoption is close to your heart, you'll be touched by this movie. If you've ever tried your hand at writing, you'll get a kick out of the dialogue.

I'm not a big fan of John Cusack, but he was perfectly *wonderful* in this movie as a widowed writer seeking to adopt and getting more than he bargained for. The child actor, Bobby Coleman, was terrific as a lost soul.

'The Martian Child' is not a fast paced thriller, but your heart will be touched. If you are anything like me, you'll be challenged to accept differences in others more. Perhaps you'll be challenged to love more. Not a wimpy 'hearts and flowers' kind of love, but a love with muscle and strength and grit. The kind that never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never quits.

I think Winston Churchill said that.

All good things, if you ask me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

For the Love of Language

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Want to fall in love with words?

Lyrical, magical, and often laugh out loud funny.

Try Shakespeare.

Until lately, I'd never known how much fun old Will could be. In those long ago days when I was in school, we only studied his darker works. "Romeo and Juliet" and "Julius Caesar" are the only two I remember. A neighbor invited me to join them in a viewing of the remake of Macbeth which gave me shivers and nightmares for weeks. Older son loved Hamlet and read him early and often. Unfortunately, it appealed to him because of its dark, depressing story. Not a good thing for that young man. You can imagine my opinion of the bard's works.

A couple of years ago, I channel-surfed my way into Kenneth Branagh's production of "Much Ado About Nothing." After just a few minutes, I'd caught the rhythm of the language and fell into the story.

And enjoyed it.


Sometime later, I found a showing of 'The Merchant of Venice." The same. I enjoyed it. Hmmmm, maybe the Will dude could write after all. I put potential Shakespeare studies on the backburner of my mind. This summer, when Nathan expressed an interest in studying a different sort of literature, the backburner turned to a full boil. Shakespeare fits the historical time period he is studying. Check. A semester long study would teach him necessary literary requirements. Check. Curriculums available. Check.

I found a curriculum, Lightning Literature, which gave us the choice of either comedies or tragedies. Of course, I ordered the comedies because I wanted Nathan's the taste of Shakespeare to be sweeter than mine had been.

What a hoot! We started with the very fun 'Twelfth Night." How many books and movies are written about mistaken identity? About love at first sight? About tricks and deceptions? What a laugh when Nathan said, there's a movie with this story, 'She's The Man.' Sure enough, 'She's The Man' is a modern day, teen-take, on 'Twelfth Night.' Kinda silly, but fun for us to recognize.

Then came 'As You Like It.' Didn't care much for that one. But then, 'A Mid-Summer Night's Dream'......


To study Shakespeare, we start with a reading of the play. Thanks to we are able to find and download full, dramatized versions of the plays. We read along as we listen. We get the rhythm of the language, proper emphasis and expression, and, best of all, we don't have to struggle with pronouncing unfamiliar words. I can't tell you how much this process has helped our comprehension and enjoyment.

Later, we find a version or two on to watch. Interesting and intriguing to see how different directors interpret the same text.

After reading, then watching, 'A Mid-Summer Night's Dream' the other day, I went about the rest of my day in iambic pentameter. The rhythm was in my head and heart like a song without words. Imagine--not only does Will Shakespeare tell a story with plot twists and turns--he does much of the storytelling in rhythm and rhyme with sly puns and cleverly disguised digs included.


My newest favorite author is William Shakespeare. Try him. You might like him, too.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Perspectives, Part Three, I Dare You.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Have you ever watched The Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds perform their high flying feats?

Speed, agility, daring, skill, and flair.

We love watching them. The Pilot Guy and I saw the Thunderbirds on one of our very first dates. Jet engines are so romantic--at our house, at least. We've seen the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels a few dozen times since.

Last weekend, the Blue Angels performed at a nearby airport. So close, in fact, that one of their wide swings brought a five man delta formation right over our property line. Very fun. And loud. (I love the sound of jet engines.)

While I watched them cavort in the sky, I marveled at the power, and wanted to feel that same power in my creative life. While I watched them fling themselves upward, I wanted that same daring. As they separated, re-formed, and rolled, I wanted to share the same kind of agility in my work. As they trailed smoke to improve the audience's ability to see them, I wanted that same kind of flair.

Recently, someone remarked to me that we have ideas, but often our ideas are suppressed. Real artists have the courage and conviction to follow through with their gut feelings.

Read that again.

Real artists have the courage and conviction to follow through with their gut feelings.

Courage and conviction. Listening to the distant drummer Thoreau wrote about. Dancing to our own music. Seeing our own visions.

What is your gut telling you to do creatively? What impulses are you ignoring?

Whatever it is, rev up your engines and blast off!

Do it.

Do it with flair, panache and daring. Forget for a while, the rules of your craft, and do what makes your heart sing. The only rule is that you must find the project fascinating. Be passionate.

Create for yourself first, then for others. If you find the results beautiful or powerful, you have been successful. Last spring, in a fit of boldness, I painted my porch swing a rich, royal purple. The entire time I was painting, part of me was worried about what others would think. But the color was so wonderful, I just kept on painting. You know what? We've enjoyed the purple porch swing all summer long. The color is a surprising jolt of fun. It goes well with the various pink blooms and green foliage around it. Think of the fun I would have missed if I'd allowed a 'what will people think' mindset to limit my creativity. That same negative voice critisizes my writing, too. In fact, that nasty voice questions every creative impulse I have.

Go on. Create something daring, a little bit wild, or just plain fun.

Shut that voice up.

I dare you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Perspectives, Part Two: A Different Point of View

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
We writers love point of view. We wrangle endlessly about whose eyes the scene is being seen from and whether the author has shifted view points or not. Photographers fret over proper angles to tell a story or bring out the character of our subject.

In fiction, unrestrained view point shifts are not a good thing, but in your creative life, well, that's different story. Sometimes seeing life from a new perspective gives you fresh inspiration and outlook.

Last week, I was invited to fly along with The Pilot Guy as he moved an airplane from the maintenence airport to it's new home airport. While he was busy flying, I had a wonderful opportunity to gaze out the window. We weren't too high--just a few thousand feet. High enough to be able to see miles, but low enough to pick out landmarks. Fortunately, we flew over an area I'm very familiar with. In fact, I was able to pick out my own neighborhood and house.

The tiny cars jostling for position on the overloaded freeways. The freeways themselves snaking across and through the landscape. Thousands of new houses being built in a neighboring sub-division. I knew it was big, but didn't realize how big until I saw it from the air. No wonder our local highways and streets seem more crowded. There's a lot of people out here.

We flew over several lakes, still overflowing their bounds from the early summer rains. Trees lush and green. Pools glinting from backyards.

From above, the air seemed very clean and clear. The challenges of traffic, shopping, and lawn mowing, unimportant. It was a lovely landscape tinged with golden late afternoon sun.

As a teenaged photographer, I remember an instructor at a week-long workshop telling us that if we can back from an assignment and our knees were not dirty, he'd send us out again. As he put it, unless you've photographed your subject from a flat on your belly perspective and climbed a tree and photo'd from that angle, you had not fully covered your task.

Even as a portrait photographer, I climbed stairs and ladders to give a new look to a bridal portraits. Getting on my knees and laying out flat to get a ground-eye's view added flair to a child's portrait.

Getting a new perspective can be a challenge, but it adds so much to your creative output. There are two ways to cover any subject. For example, if you are studying a mountain, you might take a helicopter flight over and around it. You can get the big picture that way.

The other way is to mark off a three foot by three foot section of that same mountain and go over that area with a magnifying glass.

Think of the different things you'd see. The emphasis would be different in both cases, but you are still researching and learning from the same source.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Sweet Autumn Clematis-detail
What ever you are doing, can you see it from a new perspective? A writer could view a murder scene from the viewpoint of a small mouse in the corner. Or what did the person on the top floor of an office building see when the cars crashed below? A quilter can swap lights and darks in a pattern to achieve a new look. An artist can feature a broad landscape or tiny details. Imagine a photographic study of baby toes or hands. So sweet.

What ever you do today, get your knees dirty. Then, climb to a new vantage point and see it from that angle.

I hope you'll be rewarded with an 'a-ha' moment of fresh perspective.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Sweet Autumn Clematis-full view

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Perspectives, Part One. The Strength Within

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Last week was all about flying at our house. The Monarch migration started the theme. Later, The Pilot Guy got to fly a new (to him) aircraft and I got to go with him. The week finished with a thrilling display from the Blue Angels at a nearby airport.

As I posted last week about the Monarchs, I'm inspired by their journey. So small and the distance they travel is immense. Fueled by two small sets of wings and nectar, they travel hundreds of miles. Incredible. It gives me a new picture of the phrase 'a wing and a prayer.' I'm reminded that so much of what we need to be, we already have inside ourselves, whether we are caterpillars just starting out or transformed butterflies. No new fancy equipment needed.

Just do it.

Whatever *it* is. Use what you have and already know. Which means I don't need another book on how to write a novel, design a garden or sew a quilt. I have a shelves full of writing, gardening, and quilting books. In fact, because I've studied these subjects for the last few years, I have enough knowledge in my head to do them well. Just doing it, that's the key. Do I still have things to learn? Of course. But, for now, I can create with what is within me. I need to trust myself.

Once, at a small photography workshop, a man expressed dissatisfaction with the teachings of our mentor. While M. N. was out of the room, the photographer said that he had hoped M.N. would tell us about a new lens or a new gadget for our cameras that would make our photography better. Creativity as something we can buy seemed to be what he wanted. I, a wide-eyed 23 year old, knew he was off the mark, but didn't know how to articulate it. A later mentor, the terrific Charles J. Lewis, reaffirmed that it is not the camera, but the photographer who makes the difference in the work. Study. Learn your craft. Learn the rules. Once learned, break them. And break them with flair and pizzaz.

But the key to the art is your own heart.

Our work, our creativity, is within us. Our task is to mine it out of our hearts the way diamond hunters unearth gems. From the sweat, dirt, and even blood, comes beauty. When artists of any medium display temperment, I believe it is because what we feel in our hearts and see in our minds cannot be fully translated onto paper or fabric, canvas or glass.

Be kind to the artist within you. Be alert to the nuances of your craft. Feel the passion in your art, whatever your art medium may be. Grow with it. Try something, ANYTHING, new.

Stretch your wings on the breeze, gather a sip of nectar, and fly.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, October 15, 2007

Garden Jewels

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
They're back!

Saturday morning, I went out to Amy's Garden to putter around. Although I did pull a few weeds and harvest some seeds, I ended up sitting in the swing for a bit. Sun glistened on the grass and flowers like jewels. Cool fall air felt crisp on my face. The happy chirping of birds, the quiet squeak of the swing and the occasional drop of a leaf were the only sounds. A lovely morning.

Only when I raised my voice to call the dog did the air explode with butterflies. They'd been quietly sleeping in the trees less than three feet away. My voice startled them into a cloud of orange flutters. Imagine my delight in being caught in the middle of the storm.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Two years in a row, our place has been a Monarch Rest Stop. Last year a hundred butterflies rested in our trees for a week while waiting for the next cold front to help them on their way to Mexico. This year, September's ninety degree heat has kept the monarchs from migrating. You see, they travel when the temps are in the eighties or lower. Plus, they love to ride the wave of a cold front to push them toward Mexico. When the weather is too hot, they find some trees to hang out in and rest.

I love it when they visit. We've filled the yard with all kinds of butterfly blooms; lantana, penta, salvia, Mexican bush sage for them to feed on. Trees provide shelter and we are always watering something so water is available for them.

Seeing those monarchs inspires me. When I see them hanging in the trees I'm reminded of perserverance. They are so small and their journey very long. They don't look strong enough to make the trip. I wonder if they doubt their strength as I do mine sometimes. I wonder what untold stores of energy, drive, and passion I have to fuel my pursuit of dreams, creative and otherwise.

The butterfly's beauty makes my fingers itch to photograph them. If I could paint or draw what my mind sees, I'd put brush to canvas. Seeing the intricate patterns edged in black makes me want to take up stained glass design.

Their hunt for nectar reminds me to seek the sweet in my life. Look for the pretty and indulge in the best. I have a talk I give to women's groups about the choice we have to be a hummingbird or a buzzard. What do we *look* for in our lives? You find what you seek most of the time.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
I also love the way monarchs float, flutter, and fly from place to place. How graceful. How relaxed they look.

And when I startle the group, I love how they flutter over my head. I want to fly with them. At the very least, I want to dance.

Since Saturday, thunderstorms have rolled through our area, powered by a cold front that finally brought us fall temperatures. The monarchs have moved on, riding the wave of cool air further south.

Pursuing their goals and, hopefully, enjoying the journey.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Witness to a Miracle

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Ever been witness to a miracle?

Last week a friend's husband got a call. After decades of diabetes and after many, many months of dialysis, my friend's husband was getting a transplant. The two organs he needed, kidney and pancreas, had come available.

All through the night, various medical tests were done. Lab work to determine if the organs were viable and suitable for him. Blood work and fever checks hour after hour to determine to state of his health. A fever would mean an infection and an infection would mean someone else would receive these organs.

A long drive in the dark to the transplant hospital. Anti-rejection drugs administered. Surgery at 8 a.m.

By two in the afternoon, the surgery was done. A man who had lived nearly forty years as a diabetic was no longer in need of insulin. A healthy kidney did the work of the two damaged ones.

Renewed health. What a blessing.

In less than seven days, the patient went home. There is still a lot of recovery left to do, as well as tweaking the various medications involved, but there is great rejoicing in their household.

Fantastic as that is, that's not the real miracle.

The real miracle comes from the person who signed an organ donation card and the family who followed through. Despite their heartbreak, they remembered the bigger picture.

They gave someone the gift of health and longer life.

Miracle gift.

Does your family know you want to be an organ donor?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

According to the paper, today is National Punctuation Day! Take an exclamation point out for a spin!!!!!!!!! Over-use commas. Be definite with periods. Celebrate all things punctual.

Try reading some older books. I find it challenging to read aloud books from the 1800's or even the early 1900's. Too many semi-colons and loooooonnnnnnnggg sentences and not enough periods. I don't know when to breathe!

The very earliest manuscripts of the Bible have no punctuation, from what I understand. No paragraph or chapter breaks. No periods, commas, or semi-colons. Imagine reading with no stop or yield signs on the page. Different.

One of my all time favorite traffic signs in Europe is the exclamation point. Designed to be multi-lingual, the exclamation point sign gets across its message of 'Pay ATTENTION' without using words at all.

Write poetry without punctuation today. Or prose for that matter. Put an exclamation mark on the refrigerator as a reminder to pay attention or create a bit of excitement in your life. Pretend there's a comma in front of you and pause for a creative moment. Quote someone and make little quote marks in the air with your fingers. Have fun.

Speaking of fun and punctuation (and believe me, Mrs. K, my high school English teacher wouldn't believe *I* would put such words together...) a terrific book about punctuation is 'Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.' While I live by 'Shrunk and White's Elements of Style,' Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is funny. Lots of British wit involved.

Have fun today.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Writer's Block

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Don't you hate it when a creative project slams to a halt? Like being stuck in the mud, wheels spin but no progress is made. Arrrrggghhh. I hate it when that happens.

It is even harder when it is the ds who is going splat on the wall.

For two weeks, he has been working on a short paper about music in Elizabethian theater. After turning in a rough draft last week, he has agonized over revising the final draft. Mostly his agony has been full of smoke and dust, lots of dramatic hand tossing and angst, but little actual progress. The mud puddle he is stuck in at the moment? The introduction.

I recommend to all my students that the introduction be roughed out in the beginning, but actually written last. Which is opposite of how I write magazine articles, but work with me here.

With experience, often the 'hook' comes first, setting the tone and direction for the rest of the piece. But for a teen or a new writer, getting the facts is the easy part, despite what they say. Being creative takes more effort. That's what an introduction is, after all, creating an interesting tidbit that draws the reader in. Kind of like tossing bait and a hook into lake water. The bait draws the interest of the fish, the hook compels them the rest of the way. Hopefully, during the process of searching out facts, the writer finds a tasty morsel so enticing or exciting it can be used to draw the reader's attention.

Being stuck is no fun.

Here's a few suggestions for getting out of the mud on a creative project.

1. Take a walk. Get some freshly oxygenated blood into your brain cells. Stephen King often goes for long rambles before sitting down to write. At the very least, you get some fresh air and exercise. Sunshine is a definite mood enhancer.

2. Brainstorm the craziest ideas you can think of. The impossible and improbable ones. Don't hold back. None of these are going to work anyway (so you tell yourself) and you just need to move them out of the way. Write them on the biggest sheet of white board you can find. (We use shower board from Home Depot.) I also call this housecleaning my mind. There are times when I sit down to write or plan a project that other scattered ideas keep popping up. Gotta deal with them. Dump the thoughts into a list of things to be done. Once while writing a script for another church, some off-the-wall ideas kept getting in the way. Finally, I opened a new document and wrote the silly stuff until I went dry. Satisfied, I went back to the original script and finished in no time at all.

3. Do something else. Go shopping (a very right brain and creative activity.) You do NOT have to purchase anything. Just fill yourself with a new sensory experiences. Pull weeds. Clean out a drawer or a closet. Groom the dog. Play the piano. Walk off and the leave the writing for five minutes or an entire day, depending on deadlines.

4. Call a creative buddy and outline your dilemma. Sometimes they can offer a different point of view. If nothing else you know you've kept them from accomplishing anything, too. Kinda evens things out, don't you think?

5. Work on a new project. I like to keep several writing projects going at once. If you run out of gas on one, you can shift to another. That's something that would have benefitted ds this week. Because he was stuck on one writing assignment, he didn't pick up the other which was in the research phase. The shift can give you a mental break. Even if you aren't activitily working on a problem, your brain continues to mull and process.

6. Choose a new medium. If you are a writer, pick up a paint brush. If you are an artist, write some poetry. If you quilt, plant a pot with flowers. Cook something new. Plan an event for your church. Sing out loud. Take a photograph. The mental refreshment and satisfaction can help you get traction on your original project.

7. Do it anyway. Sit down and start working. Even if what you write (or paint or compose) is simply the words I don't know what to write over and over and over. That magnificent brain of yours will finally get fed up with the boredom and kick in. Professionals (and students) with deadlines slog through, building their stamina as they go.

Mud puddles don't last forever. Neither does writer's block. Bust through the walls and create.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hot Diggity Dog!!!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Lafter Rose (because I feel like laughing with joy!)

After weeks of frustration, I finally figured out the problems with the blog. Boy was it annoying not to be able to accept comments, especially since I had been able to in the beginning. Who knew that each post had an option for turning off comments? Not me until tonight. Why or how they got turned off in the first place is still a mystery, but, yay!, it is great to find the problem.

And I finally figured out the pop-up blocker I use was keeping me from adding the Amazon links. Now, I can place a set of links to favorite books I recommend.

All is happy in my blogging world tonight.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Thirty Years and Counting....

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Today The Pilot Guy and I celebrate thirty years of marriage.

Thirty YEARS? How did that happen?

One day at a time.

Choosing every day to be together. Not a hard choice for us, since we love being with each other.

Choosing to see the best in each other. Never speaking ill of each other to someone else.

Choosing to like the other's interests.

Sharing a common love for God and a common committment to our marriage vows.

Enjoying each other.

One of our favorite quotes is:

You don't stop playing when you get old,
You grow old when you stop playing.

We still like playing together.

We can't wait until we are celebrating our sixtieth anniversary together.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

School's started!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

How did it get to be N's junior year?

He was just going into third grade when we started our homeschool adventure. In a little over two years, he will be in college full time and I'll be.....what? Someone asked me the other day what I would do after we were done homeschooling. I don't know the answer, but I will in a couple of years. The list of things I want to do is long and varied. Plus, I know God will be opening doors I haven't even considered. In the meantime, I want to enjoy what's left of our journey...which, this year, includes Bible, astronomy, the Renaissance, American history, geometry (sigh), personal finance, and a study of Shakespeare's comedies.

I'm really looking forward to the Shakespeare study. After being fed a diet of tragedies in high school, I was well into my forties before I realized how much FUN good ole Will could be.

Happy learning!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reading List

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Summer's almost done but my reading list is not. How did that happen? In fact, the list is getting longer. A sale at a bookstore will do that.

Years ago, while running my photography business, I would rise before the sun to spend an hour reading, studying, and thinking. I like getting up early. I love thinking and creating new ideas. Why am I not doing this now?

Bad habits. Things like hitting the computer message boards before breakfast or watching re-runs of JAG. Or just plain piddling.

If it were quality things like spending time with The Pilot Guy or exercise that would be different. Both of those things deserve their own catagory of time devotion. But I'm just not getting things done.

Time to do better. Dust off those old habits and get back into them. Hopefully, they'll fit like well worn and comfortable shoes.

Look for reviews of these books in coming posts.


What's that you're asking?

Oh, you want to know the titles and author names of the books on the reading lists? Why? Will there be a test? No? Yes? Maybe?

Well, okay, here they are in no particular order:

Homeschooling High School by Jeanne Gowen Dennis

Designing Effective Women's Minstries by Jill Briscoe, Laurie Katz McIntyre, and Beth Seversen

Eat Smart, Walk Strong by Leslie Sansone

A Strong West Wind by Gail Caldwell

The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry

The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

A Garden Path to Mentoring by Esther Burroughs

Writer Mama by Christina Katz

The First Five Pages byt Noah Lukeman

My Heart's At Home by Jill Savage

Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden by Emily Whaley in conversations with William Baldwin

Happy reading!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Scuba Gear, anyone?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I've taken on a number of challenges and projects in the past few weeks. Most notably becoming the new women's ministry leader at my small church. Lots of time sensitive things that need to be handled sooner rather than later. Coupled with the need to finish preparing curriculum for Nathan's junior year, I find myself so over my head I need scuba gear to survive the day.

That's on top of all the gardening that needs to be done. The rains of June have turned into rampant weeds in August. There's one or two closets that need to be cleaned out, but they've been messy for a while. They'll be all right until I get to them. There are stacks of books that need to be listed for sale. A wreath for the back porch is waiting for re-do. Normal stuff like what we are going to eat or wear nag at me, too.

And writing. I really hate leaving characters hanging while I tend to other things.

Organization is the only way to survive feeling overwhelmed and organization takes creativity for me. Using my time well and writing things down so I don't forget is part of the skill set I'm using. These things do not come easily or naturally to me. Working from lists, I'm tackling parts of each project every day. I love the satisfaction of crossing things off my lists.

If I'm writing the lists on a purple notebook with a purple pen, well, that's just for me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Home Based Writing Retreat

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Vacations are supposed to be lazy, right? Laying around the pool, sipping a cold drink, and paging through a fat book. Well, I haven't been doing it right this week.
I'm having a working vacation. And for me, it has been grand.

Normally, I'm a homeschool mom. Which means there is someone in my house ALL the time. Since I love to write in privacy and silence....well, you get the idea.

But for the past week, no one has been home but me, the cat, and the dog.

Ds is overseas on a mission trip. Dh was away on business for several days.

The last few days were all about me and my creative work. (What a concept!) I wrote like a fiend. I considered and sorted through several projects, both writing and non-writing related. Having the uninterrupted time to think has been such a blessing.

Artists enjoy the chance to get away from the rut of their daily life. Carving out extended time to write, quilt, scrapbook, or paint allows greater expression. You simply have the time to think more thoughts more deeply. But you don't have to leave home to do it.

Some tips for a home-based retreat.

1. Send the kiddoes to a friend's or grandma's for the weekend. Trade off with another artistic-minded parent. You keep all the children one weekend, then she keeps everyone another time.

2. Plan yummy food. Eating is a sensory experience for me. I stopped at a gourmet grocery store and picked up a few entrees and sides for my retreat. Not having to worry about cooking or eating out enhanced my pleasure. Not living on PB&J was important. If you want, cook in advance and pop things in the freezer.

3. Assemble supplies. Gather your supplies and ideas several days ahead of time. That way when you do have the time, you can dive in. I like have several projects to work on. If I hit a roadblock on one, I can move to another. It keeps me fresh.

4.Work on your projects! Do not use this time to vacuum the carpet, mow the lawn, play on the internet, or clean out the garage. Create! At the end of the day, make notes on what you accomplished. It adds up, doesn't it?

5. Turn off the phone, TV, and internet. Pretend you have traveled several hours to get to this place. Be unavailable to your normal life, except for an emergency.

6. If you have several days, plan a creative date with yourself. If you had traveled to another city for a retreat you would make time to visit a great restaurant, art museum, or local shops or sites. Shopping and touring can be a right brained creative activity. We forget to play tourist in our own backyards sometimes. Fill up your senses with local color and experiences.

My private week is done. Dear Hubby is back and we will shift gears to have a few days of mini-honeymoon while the teen is away. I feel refreshed. Invigorated by what I've accomplished. Five new scenes for the book, several thousand words written, writing classes designed for fall, a new business idea explored, women's ministry thoughts outlined. I've indulged in some photography time,and spent time on my porch swing enjoying my gardens and warm summer nights.

It has been a wonderful experience.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Only echoes in the gas tank.

I was running on empty. The energy tank on my current work in progress was dry. Ideas for the story are here in my head, but there was no power to find the words to express them.

So I took one short scene to read to my writer's group last night. Wow, what a boost. The critique pointed out what worked in the scene and what didn't. My new character was well received. And people got how my main character is feeling. Always valuable information. Even knowing what doesn't work within the piece is refreshing. I mean, I knew it in my gut. Now I really know it. And I have specific things to fix and polish.

More than that was the chance to rub elbows with like minded folks. A conversation with a friend whose writing is going well, words flowing out of her like a river. The chance to hear of a newly published author's book signing adventures. The chance to hear fiction in progress from others with the opportunity to flex my own creative critique muscles to aid them as they've have helped me.

A recent article in U.S. News and World Report revealed that we are more creative in groups. Especially groups where ideas can flow without censor. The best thing about my writer's group is that whatever I bring to read is taken seriously. Whether it is fiction, fanfiction, poetry, a magazine article, or an opinionated essay, the words are treated with respect. Everyone tries to offer advice that improves the work. Effort is applauded. Our mutual goal is creating writing that sells.

One thing is for sure, going to those meetings, hanging out with other writers, and bouncing words and ideas off them certainly fills up my creative gas tank.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just For Fun

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Creativity has an element of fun for me. Or maybe that's fun has an element of creativity. It goes both ways.

At any rate, multi-colored toe nails are a summer tradition for me. I get looks and great comments from total strangers such as a lady in Boston who stopped me at a tourist site to ask where I got the idea or the lady on the subway in New York who took notes on the colors I used. (Purple, green, crimson, yellow, and hot pink) Who says New Yorkers aren't friendly? Even male friends notice and smile.

And that's what those bright colors are all about...making me smile. If it makes others smile, then so much the better.

Who would have thought a few cheap bottles of nail polish would bring happiness every summer day?

Doing something fun, even silly, always generates some creative ideas. Maybe it is because to have fun a person has to let loose a bit. Letting loose of our boundaries or restraints can help our artistic endeavors reach new heights. Do something silly - a new hat? clown glasses? multi-colored toenails? Just keep it harmless. Add some just plain fun to your day with a bike ride or a snow cone.

When you are ready, create. Let me know what results.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Pressed down, shaken together, overflowing. This Bible verse expresses well the abundant ideas flowing today. More than I can keep up with….exciting. Character thoughts, an idea for a writing seminar, thoughts on making the porch prettier, blogging ideas….

Time to capture them in my notebook or here on the computer. If these ideas are captured, they can often be tamed. It takes persistence, good care, kindness, firmness and love to win their hearts, but the process is so worth it. Once tamed, an idea becomes your friend, a guide, an inspiration.

What ideas are running wild through your mind and heart? Corral them in your notebook for future consideration. Give them time to settle, grow, and mature, then explode them into your life. At the very least, tag them so you can follow and observe them in their natural habitat. Observe, remember, compare…you never know when one idea will bounce into another to create something totally different.

I love new ideas. They are like bright blooming flowers in my heart, full of potential, magic, and charm.

Which ones shall I work on first?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Meditative Activities

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Most people don't think of mowing the lawn as a creative encounter. However, I've noticed a meditative quality to the time spent with my mower. For example, there is no hard thinking involved, I can do the work by habit. We live on an acre, so it takes more than a few minutes to finish the job. The loud motor dulls all other sounds. Very few people bother me while I'm mowing. For entertainment, I'm forced to chew thoughts from my own brain. That's almost always a good thing.

Several times I've come in from mowing with ideas bursting to get on paper. That's fun! A couple of times, I've come in knowing how I'm going to handle a specific situation or challenge. Sometimes I even figure out what we are going to have for supper.

There are times I forget to shut off the noise and activity in my life. In the case of mowing, I'm simply drowning out everything else. Add to that a healthy helping of sunshine and fresh air and I have good recipe for stewing creative thoughts.

Anything bubbling or brewing in your head? Can you do something mundane and repetitive to help it ferment more?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that the stuff life is made of. Benjamin Franklin

For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven...
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Just this week I was chatting with some friends. Both were complaining of a malady common to many people. Not enough time. Demands of job, demands of family, the stuff of life was interfering in who they wanted to be and what they wanted to accomplish creatively. I've felt that way myself recently. As if life's responsibilities were erasing me.

The answer, of course, when life is pushing you around is to shove back. But we are too nice to shove sometimes. Ask yourself is my (insert creative endeavor) important to *me*? If it is, push!

Carve an hour or two out of the twenty-four at your disposal. Want to write, paint, or quilt? Make an appointment with yourself. Put it on your calendar. Don't let anyone or anything come between you and your appointment. (Common sense note here: sick children always come first. Nothing, no matter how brillant, is worth losing my children or marriage over.)

A speaker, whose name I'm not sure I remember, said at a writer's conference that between her full time job, her marriage, and her children, she thought she never had time to write. Until she realized she could live on less sleep. She began to write between 2am and 4am each morning. Yikes! However, it worked for her. She has a number of novels published.

I've done the four a.m. thing when I've been under a writing deadline. It works. One thing about it is that the house is pretty darn quiet that time of morning. No one interrupts my train of thought.

Daily, mundane activities pile up on us. Schedule those things, too. Clean the kitchen for a set amount of time daily. When that time is up, walk away and do something else. In the past, I've had one day a week that I worried about how the house looked. On that day, I cleaned like a mad woman, music blaring, and mop aswingin'. Lately, I've let the nagging house chores creep into to every part of my life. Starting today, I'm ignoring them except for half days on Friday and Monday.

Learn to enjoy saying no. "No, I can't be there at that time, I have another appointment." And you do. It is right there on your calendar.

Take a knife to your schedule and carve out a piece of time just for you and your creative endeavors. Go ahead, do it now. It will get easier with practice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What's a Creative Soul?

A creative soul is one who loves to experience the world in a fresh way. They see the beauty and potential in everyday objects or scenes. Whether you paint, cook, scrapbook, write, craft, dance, photograph, garden, quilt, dream or any of a thousand different pursuits, you are creating joy in your own life and in the lives of others.

A creative life is not always an easy one. A creative soul is often more sensitive to stimuli than other souls. We feel hurts more deeply, but, thankfully, we also experience joy to the fullest. Our greatest pleasure in life comes from our desire to bring life to our dreams. Our greatest frustrations happen when we can't quite make our dreams reality.

Welcome to my blog. Walk with me as we explore the challenges and joys of living creatively.