Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sad Day

This weekend, in a burst of creative energy, John and I converted a brass electric chandelier we found by the side of the road into a candelabra for our back porch.

A little black spray paint and some elbow grease and I was really pleased with the results.

Though you can't see it in this photo, the chain goes all the way up to the roofline and hangs from a lovely wrought iron bar creating a really dramatic fixture.

Today when I came home, this is what I found.

Apparently our screws on the wrought iron bar were too short.

Sigh.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Flinging Teenagers off Buildings

Well, Bethany finally got to cash in on her birthday present from Chase tonight.

He took her bungee jumping.

Shudder.

She did survive. As evidenced by this post-jump photo.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Acoustic Cafe, Transcendence, and Other Stuff

So, here is where I should have a brilliant photo of the wonderful Acoustic Cafe service we had at church yesterday, but I can't. They are at work. In fact, most of my day has been just like that. Almost. And not quites.

David-the-Artist-Pastor has been talking about transcendence. (Yes, a deep topic, even for me and I sincerely hope I'm spelling it right.)

Transcendence is the feeling in the heart of all of us that there is something more. Something more than almost and not quites.

The big, epic movies tap into it. In the Lord of the Rings, when Frodo is climbing the big ugly mountain you don't for one moment think he shouldn't do it. You know he should. (And something in you tells you that you would do it too.)

Switchfoot sang about it. We were meant to live for so much more. Again, true on some deep connecting level.

The thing is that you don't have to be Christian or even religious to feel it. Everyone knows at some core level that we were made for more than the nuts and bolts of our everyday lives.

Transcendence. Reaching out from our limited existance to touch the God who made us.

It's overwhelming to me that such a thing is even possible.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mythbusters

Just for the record, Chase went to the beach for Spring Break and learned something significant.

You know how they say that if you are stung by a Jellyfish that pee will take away the sting?


This is not true.

End of story.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Paying Attention to the Amazing

Last night, I wanted to go for a walk. It was sprinkling a bit and I knew thunderstorms were reported for later, but I wasn't going far so I decided to do it anyway.

There is something amazing about the world when it just begins to rain. The colors are different. The air that surrounds you is different.

I've been reading recently about the Eastern concept of awareness. Without going too deep it is mostly about just paying attention. Living in the moment that you are currently in.

This is a really hard thing to do.

But last night, on my walk, that was my focus. On God's presence in the very moment I was in.

Funny that His presence is there all the time, and though I'm aware of Him, I'm not always aware of Him.

It was a really, really wonderful walk.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Power of a Compliment

In researching social networking apps for my churchproduction.com blog, I decided to update my LinkedIn profile. One of the features of LinkedIn allows you to write recommendations for the people you are connected to. I did that yesterday afternooon for a few of the people in my network.

What astonished me was reading what they wound up writing about me. It is both a humbling and an empowering experience to read what someone else thinks of you.

Earlier this year, I read the book, How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath. The book opens with the story of a research project regarding a POW camp that was able to make prisoners lose the will to live without ever touching them. I leave it to you to read the book for the details, but essentially, the study impacted the researcher to the point that he became very depressed. How could the tactics of a POW camp in a war long past continue their destruction by impacting the person researching it? After that project, Donald O. Clifton devoted his life's work to studying positive, or strengths, psychology -- work that led the American Psychological Association to cite him as both the Father of Strengths Psychology and the Grandfather of Positive Psychology.

In the book, the metaphor of the dipper and the bucket is a great framework for looking at what adds to us and what drains us. I think one of the most powerful "bucket adds" is a well-stated compliment.

Though "you look nice today" is always a lift, the more powerful gift is when someone states something that reveals what you didn't know before. In writing this post, I began thinking about the compliments (some of them long past) that continue to produce positive energy for me when I remember them:

"You are all the good stuff in my life." --My husband.

"You are pretty
because you smile." --My daughter. (at age 6)

"You are really good at
what you do." --My boss.

"You are a catalytic person that I like to be
around." --A guru friend.

"You are a very elegant woman."
--Elsa-the-Poet (remember that Elsa sees me with poet's eyes. Smile.)


I once read something TD Jakes wrote (I wish I could remember where to find it to quote it accurately, but here is the paraphrase.) Essentially, the thought was that the ability to see people's unique strengths also sees their unique faults. He goes on to say that many people with that gift are only using it in the negative.

Each of us has the great power within us to create this positive "filling of buckets". The assignment? From the checkout clerk to your spouse to your connections on LinkedIn, pick up a ladle and start filling!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Evening with the Beans

We had the Beans--Clifton, Katya, Vadim and Natalie over for fondue tonight.

Clifton is one of John's oldest friends. In fact, he and Scott Johnson were John's roommates during his first apartment after college, so I've known "Cliffy" since John and I started dating.

About 14 years ago, Clifton took a contract assignment in Russia where he met Katya.

Katya is one of the bravest women I know. She is ALWAYS up for adventure. When she first married Clifton and moved here it didn't matter what I asked her to go do, she was totally in for any new experience.

Katya--who now goes by the more American, Kathryn--just successfully presented her Ph.D. proposal and now gets to take a bit of a break from all of her research. (Katya already holds multiple masters in computer science and statistics.)

We were reminiscing last night about when Vadim and Chase first met at the age of 5. Chase complained that Vadim was always talking Russian.

(That was because at the time, Vadim, also 5, only spoke Russian.)

Vadim heads to UT this summer. In fact, the Beans stopped by our house on their way home from Austin--where they had been all weekend for orientation and to find Vadim an apartment.

Katya and I couldn't help but be amazed at how much the "boys" had grown. New apartments, jobs, colleges....a different world from back when their conversation centered on the Power Rangers.

Natalie had a stuffed longhorn, "Cooper" which she purchased while in Austin. It was fun to see that Natalie is still bright and bubbly full of love and joy for everyone.

I love serving fondue because it is usually a long meal and one that is conducive for conversation. After the Bean's weekend in Austin and John's and my busy weekend, we all got tired at about 9pm and the guitar hero concert was cut short. (Have to say I wasn't disappointed about that. I'm dreadful at GH.)

After they left, I baked homemade dog biscuits for our four-legged crew because I was simply so happy that Casey was home. It meant I was up a bit late, but it was totally worth it.


Casey Found

This morning during church I received a call (silent-mode on) from a number I didn't recognize. About 20 minutes later I got a second call from a number I didn't recognize--an unusual occurance--so I stepped outside to listen to the voice mail.

Plano Animal Control had our dog!

I ran back into the service to grab John. (Sorry to leave so abruptly, Crosspointe, but our DOG WAS FOUND!!!)

When I googled where he was found, it was a straight line due east (10 miles) which means he had been walking for four days in the wrong direction. I should also mention that he had on Lucky's tags. I must have put the wrong collar on him when we went disc golfing. Which was the reason his were still here at the house.

He was very happy to see us. And has bitten John's beard and my hair (his sign of affection) constantly.

We got him a hamburger on the way home and he has slept almost all afternoon.

I love it when stories have a happy ending.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Floyd-the-Sidekick and Robin-the-Artist

We went to dinner tonight--at the fabulous Spiral Diner--with Floyd-the-Sidekick and Robin-the-Artist. Floyd is an incredible writer. His writing voice is unique and there is an emotive quality to his work that gets delivered in a wry, conversational sort of way. Actually, Floyd got his nickname from a piece he wrote for my brother-in-law, Troy's, 40th birthday party. (Long live Chicken Woman!)

They live in a quirky artistic neighborhood--actually the same one the Spiral Diner is in, so we picked them up at their house.

I always love walking into Robin's house. She has a style that is reflective of her art and it is almost as if she lives in one of her pieces. Last night, the newest piece of work I noticed was her remote control holder which was a collaged box with the HOLLYWOOD sign worked into the piece. Then of course, in the bathroom I discovered a really cool lotion with an interesting black tea, jasmine and sandalwood smell, and--best of all--Robin sent me home with art toys to play with because she was cleaning out stuff and decided to share.

The conversation at dinner included the adoption process. Robin and Floyd are going through the very long process of adopting a baby. The organization they are using allows birth mothers to choose the parents. I'm bummed as I'm typing this because I realize I forgot to ask Robin last night to show me the book she put together to tell prospective birth mothers about their family. I saw the cover and a few pages as she was working on it. It was an art piece--like everything Robin touches.

After Spiral Diner, John and I ran to pick something up at Troy and Rhonda's (aka Chicken Woman) house, then went to the bookstore where I was able to find exactly what I was looking for. We then came home, and Casey's distinctive greeting bark was missing and the sadness settled over us again.

Each time, it seems a little more final.

Sigh.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Life as it unfolds...

One of my favorite parts of blogging is the real-time aspect of it. Events, friends, thoughts--especially things I'm grappling with--captured in time and space as it unfolds.

Today, my thoughts are on Casey (our main dog). He got out on Wednesday night when I left the gate open and hasn't returned. At lunch I went to the shelter to see if he'd been picked up. (He hasn't been.)

And so I'm wondering where he is and what he is thinking. I want to know if someone took him in. (He got out without his collar which we removed because of the jingling tags the other night.) I wonder if everything smells funny to him where he is at. Or (this part is hard to think about) if he is anywhere at all.

I'm very glad that we took him disc golfing last weekend (his favorite)...

Most of all, I just want him to be home.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Daunting World of Pharmeceudicals

It is the wee hours of the morning and I'm awake because I can't breathe. I have athsma. Have had it since I was a little kid.

Back in the day, I had a big, green oxygen tank in my room. Over the years, the drugs got better and the real estate taken up in my bedroom by the disease was reduced down to a little purple disc inhaler called Advair.

We recently changed insurance plans to one where you pay cash for prescriptions. I learned that my $40 copay (which I actually thought was outrageous) was standing in for a $225 drug for which there is no generic. Consequently, I stopped purchasing the inhaler. Now I'm going through the cheaper rescue inhaler like crazy (which my doctor is soon to get wise to and stop soon). And, it doesn't carry me through the night.

Which brings me to the point of the post...

Something in me resents having to pay $225 a month to breathe. I know pharmeceudical companies spend billions in research and that it takes a lot of cash to earn that back, but really? $225?

I just ordered an herbal formula I've had some success with--but, it too is expensive. $80 a month and you take 6 capsules a day. Still, it beats the alternative...up at 5am on the internet wishing my rescue inhaler would deliver.

Sigh.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bethany turns 16

Bethany turned 16 today.

There is something about the milestone events that make you pause and reflect. I feel very blessed at the woman Bethany has become. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is outside with a spirit that is truly amazing.

I've mentioned before that now that Chase is almost 20, we have to schedule family events. Last night at III Forks (who happened to actually have a really delicious vegetarian plate) the four of us got to have some rare family time with just the four of us.

We tried to think of what to get Bethany that would be really special. Erin-the-Marketing-Diva told me about her dad giving her a ring on her 16th birthday that was really special to her. John and I picked out a blue topaz one for Bethany that was similar to one she liked one random day walking through the mall at a jewelry store.

This weekend we bought a pinata for Bethany to take to her Spanish class. (A very fun idea by Bethany.) We went to a store in our neighborhood that sells Mexican candy to make sure there were some chili suckers in the mix. (If you've never heard of them, imagine watermelon or mango candy covered by lime-chili powder. Interesting and actually pretty good.)

I texted her to ask how it went and she replied, "It was short." (The first girl that hit it took it out!)

Bethany starts driver's ed today, so last night was a scramble to find all of the official documents for her license. Good stuff, this. She can't wait.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mindshifts

I read a review of Speed of Trust written by Rex Miller (author of the Millenium Matrix) this morning. Miller states, "If you think TRUST is a squishy concept, something you either have or don't or nothing a CFO can add up at the bottom of a spread sheet - read Covey's book The Speed of Trust. Miller goes on to say, "Trust is the mindshift." (If you haven't picked it up yet, do so. It is a read with high epiphany potential.)

I finished another book this weekend which has the power of mindshift on the spiritual side. Static, by Ron Martoia tackles some pretty tough theological issues. I love Ron's phrase "point of sale" Christianity. He talks about the message of Jesus way beyond the "saved vs. lost" conversation.

In both the case of Rex Miller and Ron Martoia, it is an interesting thing to read the books of people you know. I read Ron's book against the backdrop of a conversation we had at dinner one night four years ago with Nancy-the-Insightful and David-the-Artist-Pastor where I got to explore some of my own theological views that my seminary-trained friends would be horrified to know I believe in deeply.

The reason I got to explore those ideas was because none of the people at the table treated me like I was falling from grace for believing what I believe. We actually got to talk and for the very first time, I was able to ask questions openly about the things I was wondering about without being sold a party line. Which--in many aspects--is what Static is all about. It is hard to process what God is doing in an environment where someone is trying to sell you something or "close the deal."

That, I'm afraid is an American concept--not a Christian one. (Don't take that as a slam to America. I love being American. We are innovative. Creative. We aren't afraid to take risks. But, we also grew up with infomercials, vestiges of the temperance movement and televangelists and that influences how we interpret scripture...at least a little. My thought, not a quote from the book, so don't e-mail Ron with flak about it.)

Static is well worth reading and the concepts worth grappling with. Best of all, it is written in conversational language. After all, if the concepts are difficult, the language shouldn't be.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Of Creativity and Criticism

I posted earlier about flow. For me, creative flow is an energy. I don't know how to generate it. It just happens.

However, I do know what stops it. Criticism.

Criticism is an odd thing. If we didn't have it, nothing would ever get better--even creative endeavors. However, it does have the power to shut down creative flow.

Anne Lamot, in her book Bird by Bird, encourages people to stop writing as if their mom were looking over their shoulder. (Until Anne pointed this out, I didn't even realize I did this.) The point of writing is that it needs to be authentic--and you can't do that if you listen to voices that might be judging you. (Reading Bird by Bird seven years ago unlocked a writers block that I thought was never going to go away.)

One of the challenges with criticism is that most of the time, it comes in a form that there is nothing you can do with it. The statement "that isn't very good" isn't something you can act on. More sophisticated versions are "you over-designed it" or "that looks dated."

There are ways to criticize so that it adds to a piece rather than stopping it, but it takes serious thought on the part of the critic. What is it you are really reacting to? Is it objective or subjective? Can you break it down in a way that is actionable?

Recently a friend sent me an article to give feedback on. I struggled with the text. I could have written back and said, "It doesn't flow." Instead, I took the time to figure out why it didn't flow. The main thoughts were really insightful. And, I couldn't find a single paragraph that wasn't well written. The challenge turned out to be the organization of the paragraphs and the lack of subheaders. He had written "stream of consciousness." Telling my friend that he needed to come up with subheaders and arrange the paragraphs under them is an actionable thing. "It needs better flow" isn't.

Here's another thought...I've found that many people who can't create, criticize. (My personal theory is that they've listened to their own internal critics for so long that their natural creative flow has stopped and criticism is the only way they can participate.)

We have a saying in our office, "No critique without contribution." If you can't put a live, viable alternative on the table, don't whittle away what's there. Because at the end of the day, a Grade B idea with Grade A execution is worth far more than the other way around. (To quote Stephen Covey.)

My advice? If you are in the critic position, analyze until you get to the actionable. If you are in the creative position, find the criticism that stopped the flow and throw it out.

And, if you feel you are not creative whatsoever...ask yourself, do you have an internal critic that stops you? Because, my friend, deep down, we were all designed to be creative. Maybe not painters or writers, but something. Find the something where you feel the flow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Scary weather

I was woken up by John this morning at 4AM and pulled sleepily into the closet with Chase, Bethany and our three dogs.

The tornado sirens were going and Bethany heard a sizzling sound outside her window. (We later learned that it was a live powerline.)

This morning, there were downed trees, blocked streets, broken signs, torn roofs and flattened fences. Repair crews were everywhere.

The two nights before we were pelted by hail. It was really scary as they hit the windows and pounded the roof.

Luckily, we got power back in the afternoon, but in some areas they are still waiting.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Flow

John and I were up to the wee hours of the morning talking the other night. (This happens sometimes.)

One of the things we talked about is flow.

There is something that happens when you are operating at your best. A certain magic that takes over. In the movie, Chariots of Fire, Olympic gold medalist, Eric Liddell, says, "God made me fast, and when I run, I can feel His pleasure."

The whole "flow" thing is sort of like that.

I wish I knew the secret to being able to consistently operate out of a sense of flow. (Because when there isn't, I'm disappointed with almost everything I produce.) At the moment it seems random. Sometimes it happens and everything clicks. Other times I feel like I'm in conflict with the world around me.

One thing is for sure. I am way more creative when there is flow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kylie's Surprise Party

Nikki-the-Lurker, Dan Schoedel and David Knight pulled off a great surprise tonight for Kylie. Nikki did an amazing job planning something special for our Aussie friend.

First off, they had a full Outback set and hats for all of us. We also decorated boomerangs with birthday messages that we posted everywhere. Nic made a run to Outback steakhouse and picked up a couple of Bloomin' Onions and David's dad brought a cake with a kangaroo on it.

Nikki even found an Australian flag courtesy of e-bay.

I stood by the front door to catch Kylie's face on film. (She hid, I didn't get it.) But, I can truly say she was surprised. Those are little tears in the corners of her eyes.

Random fun Tuesday nights are a given with David and Kylie. (They have a history with the whole TA DA Tuesday thing.) Plus, as if the Cobalt group wasn't fun enough, they have other interesting friends. I got to meet Jason--a real Chinese acrobat. You know the masks of the lions with all of the brightly colored fabrics? He does that in real life! (Though he wouldn't do it for us tonight. Still disappointed about that.)

Other fun people--SUCH AS ELISA AND BETHANY--were there. (It wouldn't be right if I didn't include my daughter in this post. She looked so cute in the hat!) When they discovered the lack of teenagers, they made a quick call to Travis who rode over on his bike.

John was very anti-vegan in this picture wolfing down a hot wing. (Eeeew. I think he got dead chicken juice on me.)

One of the best parts of the night was sitting out on Dan's deck talking about big thoughts with John and David-the-Artist-Pastor. It was cold, so Dan lit the firepit and brought me a blanket. (I so want to be invited over more!) And David was telling me about the new Pine & Gilmore book on authenticity. (Quit yawning. I'm wrapping up.) I also discovered something about Courtney starring in a Spice Girls video. (Hoping I can find this on YouTube.)

And for my closing number, I leave you with this song. "A, B, C, D, E, F, Cheetos. H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, Cheetos." Hilarious if you are two (like Erin-the-Marketing-Diva's son who wrote the piece) or riding in a car with John, Bethany, and Nancy-the-Insightful when you are very, very tired.

The Green Article

In researching my article for this month's issue of Technologies for Worship, I found it to be really challenging. After all, my industry has come late to the environmental conversation.

Can Church Tech Teams Really Go Green? grapples with issues of trying to be environmentally concerned in an arena where the concept is a relatively new idea. Not only was the article the cover story, it will also be the issue released at NAB which means the topic will have tremendous exposure. (Love it when my editors are interested in content that intersects with my personal passion!)

For me, the best part of the article was that my issue of TFWM just came to me in a very sustainable way. It was electronic!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Your Daily Dose of YouTube

Brian Elwell just brought me this. Not bad for a Monday morning. The video is 5:21 minutes and is for anyone who has had to listen to excruciating hours of Radio Disney.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bethany's first wrestling tournament

Bethany had her very first wrestling tournament today and took 2nd in her weight class.

This was John's and my first tournament, too. I have to confess that I had always pictured a bit more "Hulk Hogan" and a bit less "Olympics" but as we spent the day watching the matches, I started to understand what was going on. I'm actually pretty impressed that Bethany chose it as a sport. Her school is waffling over whether or not to have a girl's team and she may just help to make that happen.

Beth's friends, Katie and Elisa, came to cheer her on. The first match was a blur, but by the time Beth wrestled again at the end of the day, I knew just when to cheer.

I'm really proud of my daughter.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Seth Godin's Blog

I've recently been tracking a marketing blog that is well worth reading. Seth Godin.

Seth is one of those guys who "gets it."

My favorite "SG" quote is from his book, The Purple Cow. "Be remarkable or be invisible."

Seth's blog is remarkable.Check it out.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Guest Blog: Nancy the Insightful

Note: Nancy doesn't actually know she's a guest blogger. I lifted this from something she posted elsewhere, then found a perfect picture in my AD archives. Shh... Let's see if she finds it. Grin.

At Copper this week we studied the story of a sleeping Jesus and the distraught disciples in a boat during a bad storm (Mark 4).

It made me think of my childhood in Missouri. We had a basement in which we kept a big bed at the ready for use during the many middle-of-the-night tornado and storm warnings.

I have no memory of any emotion or question or fear at all during these storms. My only memory is of my dad picking me up out of bed, carrying me to the basement, and then my going back to sleep in the basement bed. My father provided all the love, care and action...to the point that it didn't even occur to me to think about it. I didn't have to make a decision about whether or not to trust him for my provision in the storm...I just did.

So...the obvious ramification of the Copper study is - in my adult life "storms", do I as readily and simply trust God for my care as I did my dad? And...if the disciples in the boat had done so, how would they have acted differently?

NJ, you earned your name. Smile.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Feeling blessed...

In addition to the wonderful birthday wishes posted to my Facebook wall and left on my voice mail today, the doorbell rang and a delivery man brought flowers sent to me by my mother-in-law.

Like every year, I took the day off from work to spend in reflection and prayer. (A practice I've really enjoyed over the years.)

In the afternoon, I found Chase had brought me this incredible Gerber daisy. (The colors are really intricate.)Though the box was just supposed to hold it, I kind of liked the look with the pink tissue paper poking out of the cardboard like some quickly crafted surprise.

John and I went out for a very romantic dinner at Avanti in Addison Circle courtesy of a gift card AD gave me at Christmas. (Translation: delicious expensive dinner I didn't have to feel one bit of guilt about!)

On the way, we got to test drive the NEW GPS HE BOUGHT ME! Now, if you don't know me, never was there a more perfect gift. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the GPS was invented for me. (Or at the very least people like me.)

When we got home, Bethany had made me a wonderful vegan vanilla cake. (It was delicious! Thank you, baby.)

Anyway, I feel very, very blessed to have such an amazing family and friends. Thanks for making my day really special.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Birthday Eve

I have to confess. I LOVE birthdays! Especially when they last longer than the actual day.

Though tomorrow is technically my birthday--in case you are wondering, I'm turning 42--John, Chase, Bethany and I went out tonight to Los Lupes to celebrate. Los Lupes is a great neighborhood restaurant. Affordable Tex-Mex food and really great margaritas and guacamole. But the very best part are the cantares that are there on Tuesday nights.

The cantares sang Happy Birthday--of course, but they also handed me a pair of maracas for Guantanamera (como no, como no, como no). Bethany wasn't as thilled as I was about playing them. (But I thought it was REALLY fun!)

They also sang two really romantic songs in Spanish.

Something I didn't blog about earlier is that I lost my new wedding ring about a month ago. The one with the star. I was cooking and left them on the counter.

When I went back to get them, only the diamond ring was there. The special one--the band--was gone. We looked everywhere, but haven't been able to find it. My fear was that it was swept up with the trash and thrown away.

Tonight, John had Bethany ride with Chase to the restaurant, and when I got into the car, there was a small box on the dash. The new ring is exactly like the old one. John had the same artist carve the shooting star into it. The one I wear hidden in my palm. It feels great to have it back on my hand.

I had such a wonderful night tonight with the ring, the cantares and our whole family at dinner together, that I can't believe that my real birthday hasn't even started yet!

Geeky, but cool

We often laugh that almost everyone in our company is an odd mix of right-brained and left-brained. Today, our audio engineers were passing around this YouTube video. It is an experiment with the affect of sound waves on rice on a membrane. Interesting that science and art intersect. (Much like the people I work with.)

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