Monday, June 29, 2009
"Why I Hate Twitter" seems to be a popular topic right now. Common Twitter-bashing issues include: (1) People tweet about inane things; (2) People tweet at, not with, each other; (3) People tweet to self-promote.
In spite of these issues (perhaps even because of them!) I still love Twitter.
Technically, though, it's not actually Twitter I love--it's the people I've been able to connect with via Twitter!
So here, in no particular order, are some of the people reasons why I love Twitter:
1. I'm getting to know influential people I wouldn’t have the chance (or the nerve!) to meet in real life. Case in point is Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt), CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Michael shares his experiences, insights, and analysis regarding a variety of topics: presentation tools, customer service, 12 reasons to start twittering, and -- oh yeah! -- the publishing industry.
2. I’m staying in touch with some of the top professionals in my field. I was thrilled when I noticed Jim Burke (@englishcomp) on Twitter. (He's the author of many superb books for English teachers.) I then discovered Jim's blog as well as the thriving English Companion Ning he recently started. Jim regularly tweets useful updates and links that help me grow as a professional and connect with literally thousands of other English teachers.
3. I'm going "behind the scenes" into a world I don't (yet) belong to. Following prolific Christian writers like Mary DeMuth (@mdemuth) and Tricia Goyer (@triciagoyer) I've been blown away by their commitment to their craft and community. These women aren't "wanna be" writers; they are real writers. They write daily, thousands of words per day. House guests. Road trips. Illnesses. Nothing stops these women! I am in awe. (And I am clear that I'm still a "wanna be"!)
4. I'm getting a free education about the world I hope to join some day. With engaging transparency, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) shares her perspective as a Christian literary agent. Her blog serves as an online university for writers, with categories such as Ask the Agent, Marketing-Platform-Branding, Publishing Process, Writer's Life, and the ever popular Q4U (which invites dozens of amazing reader responses!)
5. I'm brainstorming with colleagues. While Tweeting with @iMrsF and @JenAnsbach, I gleaned two great ideas: use Wall-E to introduce dystopian literature and use wrap-around comedy to demonstrate "book-ending" when writing. Brilliant ideas I never woulda come up with on my own!
6. I'm discovering inspiring ministries. Noelle Mena (@TakeRoot) runs a wonderful online Christian Women's magazine, Take Root and Write. Sheila Gregoire (@SheilaGregoire) shares her practical podcasts, columns, blog, and books at To Love Honor and Vacuum.
How about you? If you love Twitter, why? How have you benefited and/or who have you connected with?
Leave a comment, and on Sunday, July 5, I'll draw one name from all contributors to win a $10 Starbucks gift card!
Monday, June 22, 2009
You have to look beyond the messy, crumpled paper. And beyond the messy, sloppy writing.
This document was my masterpiece.
The first week of kindergarten, we were told to write a story. The best writers would read their stories aloud to the entire class. I worked very hard on my story.
"Once there was a flower with glasses."
Not a bad opening line! Especially for a 5-year-old. So, I committed the "there was" crime, but I avoided the "upon a time" cliche. And I introduced a mystery from the get-go: why on earth would a flower wear glasses?
"The flower with glasses was thinking of taking the glasses off."
Okay, so I hadn't mastered action or dialogue. But I had the "soul of wit" -- brevity! (Clearly a skill I've since lost!) And I left my readers with a cliffhanger: what choice did the flower with glasses ultimately make? Glasses on? Glasses off?
Sadly, my flower character chose to remain ambiguous, even ambivalent. Thirty-eight years later, and still no sequel.
But thanks to this crumpled, sloppy piece of paper, I've been a writer for thirty-eight years. I don't remember much about kindergarten, but I well recall the swell of satisfaction I felt when I read my little story -- er, my masterpiece! -- and sat back down amid enthusiastic applause from my classmates and my teacher.
God calls me His masterpiece. Sure, He sees the messes in my life. But he looks beyond them -- far beyond the messes -- to the masterpiece I am becoming. Slowly. Looking rather crumpled and sloppy along the way, I'm afraid. It's kinda discouraging, sometimes.
When I get discouraged, re-reading "The Flower With Glasses" not only makes me smile, it also reminds me that this mess-to-masterpiece transformation is a process.
Now, I understand the writing process. Talking about messy! For me, it usually involves taking one step forward and ten steps back.
But all the messiness, and every one of the steps, is part of the process.
The process of creating a masterpiece.
The process of becoming His masterpiece.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
If a picture really is worth 1000 words, then this blog post is already overdone.
But then I'd miss the chance to share an embarrassing story, and what's the fun of that?
Before I tell my tale of woe, though, I want to give you a chance to take your best shot at guessing the real story behind this photo. (Hint: If you're Sanguine, go with your instinct; if you're Melancholy, think of the least logical explanation.)
You could even win a prize! Leave a comment with your best explanation for this photo -- sane or silly -- and on Sunday, June 21, at 9:00 PM, I'll randomly select the winner of a $10 Starbucks gift card from all contributors.
I'll close with a reminder: check the expiration date on your kitchen fire extinguisher. (If you're Sanguine, get a kitchen fire extinguisher!)
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I want out of the water.
It's Thursday morning in Cancun, and I'm desperately trying to talk myself into keeping my head under the water in the "2 ft" area of the pool. It's not like I'm taking the Advanced SCUBA class -- just the featherweight "Resort SCUBA."
I've promised Daniel (who is an enthusiastic multi-certified Master Diver) for six years, now, that I'll get certified so I can dive with him (he gets so bored with the snorkel tours!)
And to make matters worse, just this morning I leveraged my goal to the max by saying, "You do realize that I'm doing this only to show you the extent of my incredible, undying love for you!" (Me and my big mouth!)
Now, here I am, five minutes after donning fins, mask, tank, and BCD (and fifteen minutes after shelling out almost $150 for the lesson and ocean dive!):
I want out of the water.
It doesn't help any that the man to whom I'm proving my incredible, undying love is standing by the dive tank "helping" me with "experienced advice." Anxiety joins forces with irritation, and I gently suggest that Daniel find a nice lounge chair and spent some time darkening his tan. (Others present report it sounds more like, "Go away and leave me alone!")
My mask fogs with tears I'm fighting to restrain. I haven't been this scared in so long, I can't remember when. And yet I have to do this. Not because I don't want to waste the money. Not because I promised Daniel, not any more. Now, I have to do it for me, to prove to myself that I am stronger than my fear.
I want out of the water. I want out of the water. I want out of the water!
Panic swirls around me, circling in for the kill. All I have to do is surface, take off the equipment, and say, "This just isn't for me."
There's an easy out . . . out . . . out of the water.
I want out of the water!
My instructor interrupts my thoughts by motioning for me to demonstrate the skils he taught us on land. Somehow, awkwardly practicing this series of motions has a calming effect. I find myself at the rope, descending two feet at a time, reaching bottom twelve feet down.
Piece of cake! Diving is easy!
But later in the afternoon, with black storm clouds overhead and choppy waves all around, once again:
I want out of the water.
I put my face under for a moment, and to my horror I can see absolutely nothing. Nothing but murky green water. In the practice pool, at least, I could see the sides, see the bottom. Here, I see nothing.
I really want out of the water.
My guide reaches for my hand; I swim away.
"What is wrong, Lady?" he asks. "What are you afraid of? Please come down the rope!"
I shake my head and point toward the boat.
"Come," he reaches for my hand and pulls me back toward the rope. "I be your angel today."
I am not putting my head under. I am not going down there. I want out of the water. Out, out, out, out, OUT!
But somehow, I find myself a few inches under, face-to-face with my guide. He motions for me to clear my ears. Instinctively obeying, I once again practice this new skill. My hands move a few inches down the rope, and I clear again. Inches, clear. Inches, clear. Inches -- I see someone! Relief floods as I recognize Daniel. And then I see the bottom. I can make it to the bottom. I am on the bottom.
I look around, taking in my surroundings. And now, words utterly fail me.
I am in a completely different world, a universe set apart. For years, Daniel has tried to tell me, tried to explain why he loves to dive. But not until now do I understand.
I do not want out of the water. I may never get out of the water again.
Later, back on dry land, I ponder: I can't believe I came so close to getting out! I would have missed so much, but never known! I would have been so sure I'd made the right choice; but I would have been so very wrong.
A few life lessons I learned that day:
1) Recognize that experiences can be scary! Fortunately, fear isn't fatal.
2) Learn and practice new skills; they'll keep you focused.
3) Find an "angel" who will take you by the hand when you need guidance!
4) Stick close to your "guide" -- (s)he's been there before and knows the way!
5) STAY IN THE WATER -- truly the only way to fail is to "get out."
And, of course, never ever use the phrase, "You do realize that I'm doing this only to show you the extent of my incredible, undying love for you!"
Friday, June 5, 2009
Imagine that you have $10,000 to spend immediately on a fabulous shopping spree at your favorite mall. Eagerly, you walk into the first store.
"Eeeeewwwwww! That's hideous! I don't want that!" you react to the first lamp you see, a truly grotesque thing. Yet the more you stare at it, the more you analyze and continue to critique it, you find yourself handing over $2,500 and having this dreadful -- and overpriced! -- lamp delivered to your home.
"Ugh!" If that isn't the ugliest dress I've ever seen!" you shudder as you walk into the next store. But you find yourself staring at it, trying it on, grimacing at it from all angles. And, sure enough, you fork over $3,00 and take home a dress that "nobody would ever want to wear!"
"Gross! Disgusting! Unthinkable!" you groan when you see the completely tasteless sofa in the furniture section. After pondering it for hours, sitting on it, laying on it, and concluding that it's the most uncomfortable, poorly-designed, and truly unattractive sofa you've ever seen, you plunk down your last $4,500 and have it, too, delivered to your home.
And when you arrive home that night, you are aghast to find yourself in a home filled with over-priced ugly furniture and hideous clothes, all of which you can't stand but which you carefully selected and paid for yourself.
Absurd? Could never happen to you?
Perhaps not in the real of money and material goods. But what about the most valuable "currency" you possess: your thoughts?
When you spend your precious mental energy focused on what you don't want, don't like, can't stand, it is 100% predictable that your life will be filled with these very thing.
Because what you focus on is what you're going to get. Intuitively, we know this to be true. And we also know that the more mental energy we invest in something, the larger it grows.
And yet we look around at our lives and wonder why they're filled with the very things we claim we don't want, don't like, and can't stand.
Invest your priceless thoughts wisely today. Spend your mental energy only on thoughts of value, thoughts worthy of your life's purpose. Screen everything that goes through your mind through these questions:
1) Do I really want to spend myself on this?
2) Do I want to take this home and decorate my life with it?
3) Does this really fit who I am becoming?
Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about these things! Philippians 4:8
Monday, June 1, 2009
This will prove, once and for all, that I do more around here than he does!
I put down my pencil, paper, and calculator. My list is done, and I know my numbers are true. Daniel -- the Melancholy -- is still hard at work. But I've spent at least a solid half hour, myself, checking and double checking.
Does it really take 2 hours to do the grocery shopping? Cut that down to 1.75, just in case.
I want to know, in my heart of hearts, that my numbers are neither inflated nor deflated.
Taking the cats to the vet takes longer than 45 minutes. Bump that up to a full hour.
Today, of all days, my Sanguine penchant for exaggeration has no place.
How did we come to be sitting in the living room, furiously scribbling lists and assigning numbers?
Daniel and I married between our junior and senior years of college. So our first year of marriage was an amazing time of familiar, cocooned, easy bliss. We lived in married student housing together -- just $100 per month to live in the gorgeous mountains above St. Helena, California!
We giddily adopted a puppy and two kittens together. We joyfully cooked all of our meals together in our phone booth sized kitchen. Oh yeah -- and we went to classes together, studied together, and graduated together.
And then, reality hit.
Daniel was called to assist an evangelist in Southern California, and I was hired to teach 7th and 8th grade at small Christian school. We moved into a quaint 2-bedroom house, complete with front and back yards, and quickly added a second dog and third cat to our brood. Our togetherness became a fond memory: his work hours were noon 'til midnight, while mine were 6:00 AM 'til 6:00 PM.
Half way into this busy year of new jobs and new responsibilities, we were at each other's throats: "You have no idea how much time I spend... You don't put nearly as much effort into... You have no clue how much work it takes to..."
Finally, we hit on the idea of writing it all down. Nervousness over who will "win" is at least somewhat neutralized by relief that we'll have some objective data to work with.
As Daniel re-checks his numbers and alphabetizes his list (!), I wrack my brain to see if I've forgotten anything that I do for the common good of the household.
It's time for the grand unveiling. We've agreed to go through our lists item-by-item but save our total number of hours for last.
Daniel listens attentively as I go through my list. He is surprised by some of the things I do; other things he knows I do, but he never realized the time they take. The flip side is true when he shares his list. It becomes clear that we both work hard for "us."
But do we work equally hard?
We're actually reluctant to share our total hours, now. We both feel like we've already learned so much -- why ruin it by finding out who actually does spend more time? Trusting the process, we uncover our final numbers . . .
. . . and laugh uproariously! . . .
. . . at 44 1/2 hours.
44 1/2 hours is what Daniel has calculated. And 44 1/2 hours is what I've come up with. We do completely different things, but over the course of a month, we both invest 44 1/2 hours.
The lessons of that day have lasted for two decades. Trust each other. Trust in the balance built by our differences.
And trust God's impeccable sense of humor!