Thursday, February 18, 2016

Soup on a Sunny Day

Hi everyone!

Over the past several days, though life has had me slow down a bit to deal with this cold, I have found that the result has been a wave of new material for my books.  It is exciting, yet a tad bit overwhelming at times.  

I have come to the conclusion that often times writers aren’t born, life just makes us that way.  

Literally during some of the most unpleasant times in my life I have had friends like Sarah Bernard tell me, “WAIT, WAIT – like I know what you are going through is really horrible, but I can only think about your books.  YOU HAVE TO WRITE THIS DOWN!!  I’m sorry, but when I talk to you I just always think of how you need to put this into your books.  Your life is like this tragic comedy, but you have to write it down because no matter what you go through, you always come out okay.”  

Yes, there have been times when we have laughed through the tears and the pain that I have reminded her, “BELIEVE me – I WILL NOT FORGET THESE DETAILS!”
So I guess not only do I now have a creative tribe of friends, but I also have an incredible group of friends that have become by surrogate family tribe as well.  My friend Kathy has been rock and has walked with me through one of the scariest times in my life.  Yet we filled notebook after notebook with the tails of this unfortunate adventure, because some things are so unbelievable I just can’t make them up.  My Cajun friend Kim has spent many years on this journey with me and she knows me better than almost anyone.  The list could go on and on and I don’t want to leave anyone out, but that really isn’t my point tonight.

As I made tortellini soup, a favorite at my house when we aren’t feeling well, I couldn’t help but think of how much our lives are like the things we cook.  Sometimes we have to put things that might not seem appetizing at first into our recipes, but when we are done we have created a culinary master piece.

Aren’t our lives like that too?  Sometimes we have to go through times that may seem wonderful at first, yet turn into a disaster, or unpleasant at first - may be hot to the touch, or cold in terms of how we are treated, but isn’t it this combination of hot and cold, sour and sweet, that in the end can lead to the most delectable of creations that becomes out life?

Yes, sometimes life has us slow down a bit so that we can celebrate the aroma of what is around us and what we have been given.  So we can tell what needs to be added to our life and what we need to take away, so that in the end, like food, we feel, warm, comforted, and loved.

Until tomorrow…. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

We Put the FUN is Dysfunction

Hi everyone!
I decided this morning to listen to my doctor and go home and rest after class, but by the time I finished the things I had to get done my morning turned into 2:30 PM.  Oh well…such is life.  One of the items on my agenda was going by to check on my stepfather.  I promised mom 4 ½ years ago I would take care of him and though at times he plucks my last nerve, I have honored her request.  But leaving there this afternoon several things seemed to hit me at once. 

For as long as I can remember I have always been more emotional than normal when I didn’t feel well.  And since I am the Queen of the Hallmark channel and when commercials come on my kids will say, “Now mom, it’s just a commercial, don’t cry,” it’s been a pretty draining afternoon.  My mom use to say that no matter how old we got, when we were sick we just wanted our momma.  Yes, that is true and thus it makes the grief kind of run over me like a Mac truck today.  It’s funny, no matter how old we get, when we don’t feel well we just want mom.  So to deal with the grief I write. 

Raising kids is tough, but taking care of our family members when we are older is not something anyone ever told us about when we were in our 20s.  Why do I do it?  Why do I take care of a stepfather that really never had to accept me as his own?  Well I do it because he did just that.  He stepped in and became the dad that I didn’t have and that I needed.  None of us who are parents are perfect.  We all make mistakes; all wish we could do things over; but we do the best we can with the cards life gives us at the time.

If I got nothing else from my crazy teenage years in this blended family I did get my sense of adventure.  And many of you who went through this time in my life with me also got a taste of Jane & Clyde’s Big Adventures as well.  Some of you are reading this, shaking your heads saying, “I can’t believe we did that!!”  I did get my ability to learn to put the fun in dysfunction from these times.  After all, there isn’t a family around that doesn’t have some level of dysfunction.  It’s how you choose to handle it that makes all the difference in the world.

In college I worked for International Paper here in town and the men under him would always ask me, “Does he smile at home.”  I guess not letting his sometimes gruff nature get to me prepared me to deal with many gruff people in my life.  It also taught me that under every gruff exterior there is a teddy bear that just needs a hug – I was saying “Whatever” through my actions long before the teens of today put it into words.

So on days when I don’t feel well and I am missing my mom; on days when he is plucking my last nerve; I smile through the tears and simply say, “Whatever” because I hope and pray that one day when I am plucking on one of my kids last nerves that they too will be there to look after their momma. 

I hope that I have taught them to always chase the sun and to always look for the fun in the dysfunction.  Most of all, I just hope they always know that their momma will always be here to give them a hug whenever they need it and when my time here on this earth is through that they will feel my hugs from heaven like I feel my mom’s.

Until tomorrow…  

Creative Chaos

Hi everyone!

Yes, at 1:20 AM I should soooo be asleep since I have so much to accomplish in a few hours, but this is what happens when a doctor gives you 2 shots at 3 PM to try and help you get well.  I had said earlier on Facebook that I knew this would mean lots of writing for me and wow has that been the truth.

As I sat here trying to fall asleep, without much success, I couldn’t help but think of all of my different projects.  Creatives are often known for taking on too much and finishing very little.  On more than one occasion I have had people ask me how I juggle the many hats that I wear and I think I have found the answer.

I have always been a multitasker, hey I was an Army wife for 18 years – I was taught this from the moment I stepped of the plane in Germany.  You hear me say over and over how blessed I am, but I have an amazing career that lets me teach young adults how they CAN come to like and even LOVE computers because we can use them to make incredible things and literally change the world.  I have a friend that for 14 years has laughed and said, “Do you still love your job?”  And I can honestly tell her yes.  There aren’t many people that can do this.

So over the weekend I embroidered; today I was writing; and tonight I posted a picture of my Garden Glitter.  How do I decide what I want to do?  How do I get it done? 

In July we celebrate Independence Day and for me July 2015 was not only a real life Independence Day, but it also marked a time in my life when God opened doors for me I never thought I would have the chance to walk through again.  It was literally like the butterfly finally getting free from the cocoon and being told, it’s all yours - go for it – it’s time. 

So I did, I swam with the Sharks and went back to school.  I wrote research and chapters for my books at a feverish pace.  And then the funniest thing happen, then I started to see pieces of the puzzle of my life that I only dreamed of in my writings take shape.  The girl/The woman who had been told her whole life she had a bad habit of not finishing things was doing it with every ounce of her being.  I dreamed, planned, and brought to fruition THE Curiosity Cottage that had always been in my heart, but now was a place I could show the world.  One by one, person by person, and detail by detail God let it all fall into place – in a way that I had only dreamed of.  But once again it so beautifully illustrated that His timing is ALWAYS better than ours and when He is behind it the results are truly breath taking.

So now what, how do I keep this constructive creative journey going since my life is now free from chaos?  Well it starts by first becoming comfortable enough with me, finally after 50 years, that I realize I love to do things and explore – after all from the very beginning I have said Curiosity Cottage was “a place to explore my curiosity of life” – and if I am not comfortable exploring the world in my own little space, then how could I possible do this anywhere else?  Yes it is time to simplify and get rid of things that I don’t need.  That will come over the next several months.  With each new step; with each new accomplishment; and each time that I try out these new wings, I will get there.

I have come to the conclusion that it is okay if I embroidery sometimes, and write sometimes.  There is nothing wrong with making Garden Glitter in the spring so people can put it in their gardens, but lamps in the summer out of tea pots when people don’t want to go outside.  It’s OK to learn new things and go on new adventures. 

In other words, there is no right or wrong way to be a creative.  We don’t have to pick one certain craft, hobby, or passion and do that forever.  For me personally I would die of boredom. 

When our community started Maker Mornings with Todd Henry as the first speaker, I don’t think anyone fully realized the impact that this was going to have.  Just yesterday someone in our Maker Morning Tribe commented on how we are not competing with each other.  Instead, our creative energy is actually having a snowball effect.  I was being an accidental creative before I ever heard about the book.  I wanted to die empty before anyone every told me I should.  And I was combing art with technology before I ever knew that LSU was turning this into a whole degree program.  I just thought I was out in left field, never knowing there was actually a tribe out there doing this same thing.

Being a creative can often be a lonely life.  Often times some of the people closest to us just don’t get us.  If we aren’t careful they can inadvertently crush out spirit.  But having a group of like minded creatives – well I think there are a lot more butterflies in Central Louisiana finding their way out of their cocoons than any of us could even imagine just yet!

Until tomorrow or later today…

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rest & Rejuvenate

Hi everyone!

Having felt under the weather for the past several days, I'm taking life at a little slower pace.  What's funny though is that sick or not, sometimes the words just hit me and I have to write.  And this can happen at any time of the day or night; so write I have done. 

As I sit here on this beautiful evening and listen to the squirrels call to each other and the water run in the creek after yesterday's rain I am reminded how as a writer I tend to see the little things. I notice the sound of the neighbor's geese in the distance; I can treasure the beauty of the woods while the cars pass by so hurriedly on the highway. The moment when the squirrels stop conversing among themselves and the crickets take over is like the strings in the symphony. It's kind of like life really, though sometimes life may swirl around us, it's up to us to stop and enjoy the view.

There are times when we are forced to slow down and then there are times when we must carve out time in our busy schedule to stop and take it all in. If there is one thing I have learned in my 50 years on this earth, life does go by in the blink of an eye.  When I have had to slow down, through no fault of my own, I always try see how I can use the experience.  Sometimes this isn't easy; sometimes it isn't fun; but ALWAYS it can make us stronger and often times wiser.

So while I rest, I write, and plan the next phases for my Curiosity Cottage - waiting with great anticipation the arrival of the lightening bugs, the wild jasmine, honey suckle & magnolias. I also pray I don't come across a coyote or bear, but hey, anything is possible in my little corner of the world. And as Helen Keller once said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." I'll take the adventure any day!

Until tomorrow...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What's Your Word??

Hi everyone!

This is one Valentine's Day that I couldn't wait to get here!!!  Not because I have any earth shattering news or new love in my life, but because this holiday just seems to totally embody the whole essence of my little cottage.

For years I dreamed of her; for months I wrote of her; and then the pieces of the puzzle all fell into place YEARS sooner than I ever dreamed possible.

As I went about writing my favorite bible verses on the studs of her walls I felt such peace. I wanted this to be a place where when I create I am just wrapped in God's Word.  After I got the tin ceiling home, I also learned that it was approximately 100 years old and came out of a friend's great-grandfather's barn. If that tin could talk, oh the stories it could share with me as I write my own.

So in the middle of the entire process of finishing off the inside I took a break one night to watch Eat, Pray, Love for probably the 20th time.  Hey, what can I say, I love chick flicks!!  However, in the movie they ask Liz what word would she use to represent herself - not what she did for a living, but word embodied her as a person.

For weeks I had been gathering things to go inside my cottage and one of the elements included three little signs that had the saying my kids told me related to love.  I have always collected hearts an signs that say love over the years too. After watch that movie though it hit me - my word is LOVE.

This isn't just romantic love, it's the love I feel toward my children & friends; toward my colleagues & my students;  toward the things I create & the gifts I give to other people.

No, my life has not been easy, but NO matter what is thrown at me, I ALWAYS have LOVE.

So why some singles despise Valentine's Day, I embrace her, cherish her, and use the day to create things of love that I can share with the world.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lunch with Leneil

Hi everyone!

It’s not just the sunshine in the sky that can brighten our lives, but the people that bring sunshine into our lives as well.  I have been so abundantly blessed with the most amazing friends & colleagues!  We all have struggles, we all fight to do what is right and walk down the narrow path, but it is through the people that just illuminate in all that He has done in their lives and in doing so help us work on the light in our own lives that makes all the difference.

Last spring our college welcomed a new president, Dr. Rick Brewer.  Now being born a Cajun & Catholic and being raised where music was such a big part to all family gatherings – having a president that could play the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis was a God wink from the get go!  Through the weeks and months our little college community has gotten to witness what a true ray of sunshine that he is to us all. 

In chapel today he spoke of “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” something that I think we all struggle with at times.  Today though, not only is the weather beautiful outside, but the SON was shining as bright as ever inside the auditorium as well.  

How many people go to work each week, counting the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until Friday?  How many people dream of doing something that makes them happy instead of feeling like each day they drive to work is a death march, slowly killing their soul?

On the other hand, how many people get to take an hour out of their Thursday each week to go into an auditorium, lift their voices in worship – not worrying what their neighbor thinks their voice sounds like - and just sing like no one is listening?  How many people get to take an hour out of their Thursday morning and just lay all their struggles & troubles down at a cross – and walk out feeling the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders?  Yes, I know.  I know what an incredible gift and opportunity I have the privilege of being a part of.  

Now I know some people reading this might say, “Wait a minute…you mean you go to church on Sunday & Wednesday AND to chapel on Thursday at work too?  That’s too much Jesus for me.”  But the thing is, I don’t go to church and chapel out of obligation; it doesn’t feel like just another box I need to check in my life so that I have “done the right things” for the week.  I go because I have a relationship with the Lord and I love to sing and hang out with Him and watch for His God winks because I know He has a sense of humor and I know sometimes He winks at me with both eyes and His hands waiving frantically.

Sometimes He has me give God wink books to complete strangers or surprise hurting people with gift baskets that look like they came off of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list.  Sometimes I struggle and try to reason with Him – “you want me to do what???  For real???”  Because sometimes it makes no sense WHAT SO EVER!!  It use to scare me, but I guess having done this for over 9 years, now when it happens I just tell Him, “Ok, let’s roll with this!”

Time with Him is like having lunch with my friend Leneil.  She is such a ray of sunshine – even when she does take me to THE scariest places in town to see a house she thinks “I should buy.”  Leniel makes me laugh until I cry and she is one of those rays of sunshine that makes you want to roll down the windows of the car and let the Christian radio station play for all of the world to hear.  

I laughed on our adventure today and I also had to remind her that she HAS to  be a character in my book – there is just no way around that.  As she drove me to see my “dream” house by the cemetery I couldn’t help but laugh, since she is also the school counselor – “Leniel, Dr. Brewer said leave the past behind.  No more cemetery angel pictures or homes anywhere need a cemetery!!”  

I think when we can reach the point that we find humor in the sorrow we have truly left it behind.  I think that when we have a relationship with the Lord that let's us honestly just tell Him, "you know...I messed up today.  But on the bright side it was a better day than yesterday," it puts a peace and a freedom into our lives that money cannot buy.

No one is perfect, my own kids aren't perfect - and even when they mess up I wouldn't trade them for the world.  So just think about it for a minute.  Yes, there are times when my kids could make a preacher cuss, but it would not stop me from loving them.  If I can love these 3 kids so very much and laugh and joke with them - then just think - God sent His ONLY Son to die for our sins.  

He didn't have 3 kids like me - He had ONE, but He loved me; He loved you; He loved my kids, and everyone else in this world SO much that He was willing to sacrifice His only child for all of us.

No matter what you have been through in your life, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS remember that their is an AMAZING God out there who can bring sunshine into your soul everyday of the week AND who loves us all to the point of giving His only son for us.  

With a father like that, with a sacrifice like that - it doesn't make you want to get too far off of the narrow road.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Love What You Do

Hi everyone!

After a 4 day weekend I was soooo ready to get back to work.  I know that might sound strange to some, but it’s not just a job for me – it is truly an adventure!!  

I have been very blessed to have now been on this journey for 14 years.  Yes, I know my friends in industry make a lot more money than me.  Yes, I know that they say “those that can do – those that can’t teach,” but I look at this from a little bit different perspective.  

For me it isn’t just a paycheck, it’s a calling.  The way I see it, I get to come to a job I love, help young people find themselves and learn that technology can be used to accentuate any career.  I have the privilege of getting to show them how they can combine creativity with technology and make incredible things!!  I have colleagues that are like my family and they are like aunts & uncles to my kids.  

My boys literally learned to walk within the halls of Cavanaugh – and now, 14 years later my Samuel wants to sit down with Dr. Warren and talk about what it would take to become a cardiologist.  Going to college is just second nature for my kids and it is never something that they even questioned because they literally grew up here.

When I moved in my office I wanted it to be a place where the kids would feel like it was home.  I know that this was a bit different from the usual “standard office decor,” but most would agree I am pretty much not the "usual."  I wanted to create a space so that when my students walked into my office they would feel like they were at home.

Teaching at a Christian college gives me the freedom to tell my students about God winks, to show them through my life and by example how blessed I am.  My stories of my Curiosity Cottage lets me also show them by example how they can take a degree and live outside the box.  

What I always encourage them to do is take the time to find their gifts and talents that God has given them - yes, and put down the technology so that they can really grasp what it is for them - combine their talents with their degree, and do what they love, then God will provide for their needs.  It’s not about the money.  If you are using your life in a way that lets people see His light in you, then He will provide. 

I may live in a humble little abode with a writing cottage in the woods, but I am able to go home at the end of my day and enjoy life.  My kids and I decided years ago that they would rather have me at home when they got off the bus in the afternoon then for me to be bringing in big bucks.  They know if they need me, no matter how old they get, that mom will be there.  

So as I go back to the hustle and bustle of the semester I can't help but count my blessings - each and every one that walks through the door of my classroom.

Until tomorrow...


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