Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

Standard

Choose between the middle and the outer biscuits.

“Time is the longest distance between two places.” Tennessee Williams

Biscuits, though close together on the pan, are very different depending on the proximity.  My mother makes the best homemade biscuits, and in return requests the middle biscuit.  She likes its texture, I guess.

I have wonderful memories associated with biscuits.  Christmas with the family will mean biscuits and gravy during some part of the day.

Like biscuits on a pan, families, though very similar in look, surely have differences.   Some are the middle biscuits–soft and mushy.  Others have a kind of outer shell.  They’re harder to break into.

This Christmas, I’m on one continent and my son, my parents, and my sisters are on another.  I’m used to this distance, but It’s not always easy.  Though we are all connected in many ways, there is a great distance between us today.

Merry Christmas to you all.  I miss our time together.

Day 358: Merry Christmas From The Land Of Smiles

Standard

Even the plants are displaying their Christmas colors.

“A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles.” William Hazlitt

Being in Thailand on Christmas is always a highlight.  The weather is nice. The Christmas lights are beautiful, and walking downtown puts a smile on my face.  Here, we get to celebrate with family and friends, and we have a chance to tell the meaning of Christmas to many who want to know.

A few nights ago, we met with a group of friends we call family along with our two daughters.  We missed our son, but it was a cozy time as we each shared what God has done to encourage us this year.

Christmas is not white in Thailand, but I love the tenacity of our Thai brothers and sisters.  We’ve been through a lot together with the severe flooding this year, the Tsunami that came the day after Christmas several years ago, and the political troubles we had last year.  Through it all, the Thai people remain kind, patient, and full of smiles.

Whether we sing near an open fire or with palm trees swaying, we’ll remember the importance of family and friends.  May the Lord speak personally to each of us today as we prepare our hearts for celebrating the coming of the Christ child.

Day 357: Honesty Can Be An Interesting Policy

Standard

Don't expect a lot from the coffee. After all, they share a garden cafe with Starbucks!

“Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” George Burns

There are several signs around town that amuse me.  This one is quite honest.  Basically, if you want coffee, they have it, but it’s not their specialty.

Sometimes I like honesty.  I’ve found it interesting to listen to stories told by different people.  When I was about 30, a friend of mine died, and his wife, a great story-teller, began to give me the details.  Each time she told the story, it was different.  I found myself completely frustrated, because she was still working out how to tell the story in the best light, and I wanted the real facts of how my friend died.

Stories, though believed to be true by the teller, are usually told in one of these ways.

1. An Honest Story – I’m not a great story-teller, probably because I tell them as true to the fact as possible.  Facts are important to me, and I suppose I don’t like hearing a story that leaves me wondering about its truth.  Inspirational true stories, like the story of Helen Keller, tend to motivate me.

2. An Embellished Story – The great story-tellers tend to stretch the truth.  For some, it’s not that they mean to stretch the truth, it’s just that if the story keeps to the heart of the truth, the details don’t matter to them. That’s fine for me, as long as I know it’s embellished–and I usually do.  I’m closely related to a great story-teller, and it works for me when I know how to separate my emotions from the story.  When I listen to these kinds of  stories, I try to think about the purpose.  Often the story-teller wants to play on our emotions in order to help us see our need for change.  If these stories help us to make needed changes, I can agree they are needed “truth” in our lives.

3. An Honestly Detailed Story – Some people cannot tell stories because they give so many details that they have forgotten the story part.  In essence, we never hear the meaningful part of the story because we lost interest when the story-teller and the spouse got into an argument about a detail.  Yet there are times, like when someone dies, that the correctly presented details are very important.  In these cases, the more honestly detailed the story, the more it is appreciated.

So what kind of honesty will it be?  I guess it’s a matter of mood or need.  If we want to hear a heart warming story, we’ll choose a different kind of person than if we’ve been diagnosed with a dreaded disease.  Children instinctively know who to go to for fun and who to go to for truth. Many stories seem to have truth, but the kind of truth we need might change based on our situation.

What kind of honest story do you tell?

Day 356: I Hope You Dance – A Christmas Wish

Standard

In a sea of flowers, we may not notice this beautiful, quickly wilting rose.

“The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses.” Ovid

She finds herself in a hopeless situation.  She asked me, “What can I do?”  The words rang in my brain this morning.  After all, what can she do?  She no longer has parents. She’s overstayed her visa. She can’t work.  She is locked in a temporary prison. This is one of hundreds of people, all with a desperate story.  Yet, she is so fragile–looking sick, frail, and perhaps anorexic.  Who knows how long she will call this existence her life?

As I sit here sipping coffee and eating a slice of pecan pie, I’m trying to make sense of this daily life I lead.  Sure, I get to rub noses with people who have real problems, but what is this hope I have to offer them?

In Luke 2:6, we read how Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem to be taxed.  He traveled this route because he was fulfilling his right as a citizen of his country.  Yet, more than a thousand years before the birth of Jesus, it had been foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Joseph may have questioned God about why he was to travel all of this distance when it was time for the birth of the baby– as he probably didn’t know about the foretelling of the birth.  Yet, it wasn’t necessary.  In this story, we can see clearly that God’s divine appointments happen in His time, as a result of what we might call circumstances.  The bottom line is that He knows them all and well in advance.

Since God cared so deeply about the place where Jesus should be born, doesn’t it make sense that He also cares that each of these people I met are in a seemingly hopeless situation?  Does He hear their prayers and answer them?

Yesterday, I met a delicate rose.  It seems she is wilting quickly.  My prayer for her this Christmas is that somehow she will dance in the hope of a living God.  I believe He cares that she is far away from her home in a situation that I deem as hopeless.

Is it possible that He has a purpose in her long distance travel?

Day 355: 7 Kinds of Patterns That Spur Us To Create

Standard

A beautiful pattern, even with its flaws, can inspire.

“A palindrome is a word or pattern that instead of developing in different directions it folds in on itself so that the beginning and end mirror each other, that they are the same.” Todd Solondz

The word ISUZU irritates me every time I get stuck behind it in a traffic jam.  I’m sure it has a memorable meaning for its market, but I see it as a word falling short of its potential.   You see that the S and the Z can be written backwards, and the U in the middle is fine.  However, the I and the U are not balanced.  Had the owners looked artistically at the potential of the word, they might have called it ISUZI  or USUZU or something that could potentially be flipped forming a palindrome.  Instead, it simply annoys me.

Creative people don’t like to follow patterns, but they do look for patterns that inspire.  We are often spurred onward when we are not bound.

While working through my new resolutions, I’ve been looking at patterns to inspire me for 2012.  Here are a few pattern types that motivate me to create.

1. Patterns that puzzle – Tessellations, made famous by the artist M.C. Eschler, are interesting creations.  Like puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly, making a nice tessellation requires a creative jolt in the brain. When forced to find a new way to make a repeating pattern, we might come up with amazing combinations.  Check out the tessellations.org website and start creating your own tessellation today.

2. Patterns that work – My relative is obsessed with football.  When he watches it, he believes that the way he holds his head, the position of his arm, and various other superstitions has some sort of impact on the game’s outcome.  It’s a bit funny to watch except for the scary fact that he seems to believe it is real.  On the positive side, though, I find that when a certain pattern causes a positive end result, we should probably give it some attention.  For example, last year, I was able to complete two of my New Year resolutions for 365 days (almost there).  Now, I’m focusing on what pattern made those resolutions work and how to repeat the pattern for my new resolutions.

3. Patterns that guide – I find that I often want to create something but simply have no idea how to start.  This is a time when a pattern really helps guide me.  Had I never used a clothes pattern, I may have never been able to produce things when they come into my head.  Those basic patterns give my brain some structure and guidance.  These basics allow me to build ideas and to create beyond the guides.

4. Patterns that limit – I like a project that limits me by time or by resource.  Honestly, when lots of ideas are floating around in my head, it’s hard to  pin one down and focus.  Sometimes I love a contest that gives specific parameters.  Within these limits, I can create let my brain go wild.  Here’s an example where a basic pattern can explode into creative genius.

5. Patterns that break – Last night, I found that one of our nice dishes had broken.  Here’s an opportunity to make something interesting.  I wouldn’t want to break the dish on purpose, but now that it’s broken, I’ll be able to try a mosaic. Sometimes, we find a break in a pattern that draws our attention.  That’s where our creative juices start to flow.

6. Patterns that continue – I’m a science lover because since is so often about looking for patterns.  It interests me to no end that we can find a huge model like the universe and see its repetition in a tiny model like an atom.  It’s amazing how nature mimics us and how we mimic nature.  Patterns that continue can give us the “stuff” we need to start a new creation.

7. Patterns that are memorable – A good thing about patterns is that they often help our memory.  Think of a great poem from childhood.  We likely remember it because the pattern was predictable enough that our brain enjoyed keeping it around.  Of course we often have to take the time to store it in our brains and then bring it out to rehearse it from time to time, but the joy of its pattern often keeps it there.  Good advertising seems to base its plan around a memorable pattern.  Connecting creations with a positive and memorable experience can spur us onward.

What are some new creations you are cooking up for this new year?  I’d love to know.  Are there patterns you’d like to use to encourage your creative juices to flow?

“I like rhyme because it is memorable, I like form because having to work to a pattern gives me original ideas.” Anne Stevenson

Strange Things We Do For Peace

Standard

...our Prince of Peace...

“Peace begins with a smile.” Mother Teresa 

Yesterday, I found myself “sewing” peace but not in a usual way (hence the word “sew”).  We had a Christmas celebration, and I wanted to wear my stage dress.  It’s simple, modest, and black.  Because it has slits up the side, I wanted to lower the slits so as not to call attention to them at a school function.  Of course this was the day I couldn’t find my needle and thread, and the safely pins weren’t doing the trick.  I’ve seen people use staples in these situations, but I chose double-sided sticky tape for the side seams.  As I worked, I had to admit that I’d never be doing this if it weren’t to keep peace at a very conservative school.

When I was younger, I’d say that I really enjoyed creating war.  I could fuss or rebel against most anything that came along.  In my old age though, it seems I’ve mellowed.  Peace is a good thing in my mind, and many times I find myself working hard for it.

I began to think about all of the crazy things people do to keep peace.

Apologize – Though it’s not often easy to apologize, many times it is needed.  The longer we avoid an issue, the more difficult it will be to repair the damage.  The other day, a couple of my friends were looking grumpy, and I started teasing around with them.  Within a few minutes, I realized that something serious was wrong.  I was so embarrassed about my being so insensitive.  Needless to say, my apology was in order.

Avoiding the situation –  Not many psychologists would agree that we should run away from our problems in order to keep peace, but the bottom line is that there are times when avoiding the situation can keep things more peaceful than confronting it.

Move – A friend of mine said that her mother is moving to a new house.  It’s not just because of the bad neighbor, but it does make the move more exciting.  It’s hard to believe that someone might move to a new house to keep peace, but I’ve heard it happens often.

Quit your job – It’s sad to say that quitting a job often leads to peace. Keeping peace is actually a lot of hard work, and when work is bringing no peace, some people find it easier to quit than to work harder for it.

Perhaps, if there was less controversy, there wouldn’t be such a need to work so hard at keeping peace.  Jesus came into this world in a time of turmoil and is called the Prince of Peace.  Knowing Him can bring us a peace that our world doesn’t understand.

In what crazy or unusual ways have you had to work for peace?

Day 353: Resolving 2012 – Making A Good Plan

Standard

The plan didn't go as we expected.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso

My husband and I thought we had a great plan.  We went early to the wedding which was several hours away.  We stopped and successfully found supplies that have been missing in Bangkok since the flood.  What could pass the remaining time more perfectly than a relaxing meal on the beach?  The food arrived and was made with some old crab.  Having experience to draw on, we knew that we needed to pay and leave.  Though it was an expensive mistake, at least we didn’t add to it a trip to the hospital with food poisoning.

With 2012 right around the corner, I’m trying to make a new plan.  This year, I had several resolutions, two of which I’ve kept.  This PostaDay 2011 was one of the challenges I kept, and now I’d like something new and exciting to start 2012.

Here are some things I hope to consider when making my plan.

1. Something that stretches me: A plan I consider good is one that I know will be good for me.  This PostaDay challenge was perfect, and I took it on because writing is not my forte.  It forced me to be vulnerable and stretched me in many other ways too.  (I’ll share more about this in my final post this year.)

2. Something that’s doable: A good plan will be one that I know I can do if I set my mind to it.  The PostaDay challenge was measurable, and WordPress gave us good support.  Having other people doing the challenge gave me courage to continue.

3. Something that allows me to create: I find I’m happiest when I’m making something new.  This year, I was able to make a new post every day.  Some days I was very unhappy with my entry, but I was able to be creative in a different way than ever before.

4. Something that helps me learn:  Besides creating, my plan should include learning something new.  I’m thinking of getting back to my computer languages.  My plans aren’t complete, but I know they’ll include learning.

The time is ticking, and I could start the year without a plan. I know, however, that I tend to accomplish what I plan to do.  What kind of plans are you making for the new year?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Self-Portrait

Standard

Say "Cheese!"

“Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.” Samuel Butler

This week’s photo challenge was quite a stretch, and I thought I wouldn’t participate. Thanks to Photoshop, I came up with something.

This year, I’ve snapped pictures more than ever trying to find something original for my daily posts.  These pictures do represent me.  I like art, hence the Marc Chagall handbag, and I like having fun.  The portrait is from my night out with a bunch of girls at the Hairspray Sing-along.

What would you include in your own self-portrait?

Day 351: Congratulations To You Versatile Bloggers!

Standard

Thank you for your encouragement!

“Life is the most versatile thing under the sun; and in the pursuit of life and character the author who works in a groove works in blinkers.” Laurence Housman

Thank you so much to Ms. Christiner at Part of My World for the Versatile Blogger Award nomination.  I love globe-trotting with her to all of the wonderful places in the world.   I love that she seems to have fun wherever she goes!

I also send a thanks out to one of my recent favorite finds, Lost in Town.  What I love about this blog is that every time I read the posts, I want to be in Rome!  Thanks for the nomination from Italy.

7 Random things about myself:

  • I once lived in a country called Bophuthatswana in Africa.  It’s no longer a country.  The people there were kind and generous. I would still love to eat one of their milk tarts.
  • A hotdog with cheese, chilli and sauerkraut really makes my day.  You might think I’m easy to please, but I’m actually picky about my hotdogs.
  • If I could work anywhere in the world, I’d like to work with the production team at The Jim Henson Company.  I can’t think of anything more fun to do.
  • I love creating something new and excellent.  That’s why the stage is a fun place for me.  When I make something new and different, I’m energized.
  • I love a challenge which is why I started this blog.  Last year about this time, I knew nothing about blogging and WordPress put out the PostaDay Challenge in 2011, which I couldn’t resist!
  • Christmas is may favorite time of the year.  The weather here in Thailand is nice, and I get to spend time with my family.
  • I like to set goals for learning, for creating, and for knowing more about God.

My Versatile Blogger Nominations:

Now, I get to bestow this award to some of my favorite blogging friends.  Here is my list in no specific order.

Fruitful Words: You are a rock, and I love knowing that when I get to your posts, I’ll be inspired.

Julia’s Place: Julia continues to inspire me every day.  She is retired and yet has several blogs going, mentors teachers, and uses Twitter.  I’m impressed!

Oregon College of Art and Craft Library: Thanks to Kevin for promoting the arts on so many levels.  Artists sacrifice their time and money with often little payback.  I appreciate how you encourage and inspire them.

The Flatpickin’ Pilgrim’s Progress: Even if he weren’t my relative, I’d be impressed with these fun posts about life in general and how we can learn from them.  Gary and I both married into a wonderful family who manages to put up with our desires to learn new things.  We are the fortunate.

A Tree Grows in Bklyn:  I love where the blog takes me.  I get to visit places in Brooklyn while learning new things.  Thanks for taking me on a virtual tour.

Wolke’s Welt: I love her random thoughts and outstanding photos.  I wish I knew her heart language so that I could read some of the posts which are not in English, but nevertheless, I get the jist of those too.  Thanks for sharing yourself with us!

Art Stormer: Betsy at the Art Stormer keeps us visually stimulated with many different kinds of visual arts.  Thanks for promoting these artists.

Eric Murtaugh:  Eric encourages all of us to live a life of adventure.  I’ve recently come across his blog and appreciate his interesting stories and great photos.

Nissi Knows!:  I love this young girl who shares about life.  She seems to be beautiful both inside and out.  Keep up the great posts, Nissi.

J-Dog Whitney’s:  I found this blog recently and wanted to commend Justin.  I like that he is a young artist who also uses appropriate grammar.  Justin has a new blog going as well.  Please give him a visit.

Random Thoughts: Another new post I’m following helps give me insights into the perspectives of different people.  I look forward to reading more of these posts.

Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:                                                                           

  1. Nominate 10-15 fellow bloggers
  2. Inform the bloggers of their nomination
  3. Share 7 random things about yourself
  4. Thank the blogger who nominated you
  5. Add the Versatile Blogger Award Pic on your blog post.

What makes you versatile?

Coffee: Foe or Friend?

Standard

A coffee and computer picture from a happier post...

“I judge a restaurant by the bread and by the coffee.” Burt Lancaster

Don’t you love it when you wake up extra early, start getting ahead, and then, it hits?  This morning it hit big time. I was blogging away on a post about the funny things we often do to keep peace.  All of a sudden, I knocked my whole cup of coffee onto my adorable Apple computer.  Can I tell you how much peace I was feeling at that moment?

That’s how my day started.  I drove extra careful to work, miraculously managed to get the contacts in my eyes, and tried to find all of my best words to say to the students on our last day of school before Christmas break.  I returned to find out the state of Apple, i.e., my Apple.

It could be worse.  My computer seems to be working, though it doesn’t know I have an airport.  Thankfully, I’m posting from a nearby house which still has the old-timey land line.

So I ask you, is coffee all it’s cracked up to be?  It wakes me up well in the mornings, soothes my mood, and gives me warm fuzzies.  On the other hand, it provides slightly tarnished teeth, bad breath, and occasional spills that can sabotage.  (Let’s not forget the hot coffee case at McDonald’s.)

Do you have acquaintances like that?  You’d like to trust them, and they do seem really sound on the outside.  When you get closer, however, you may find yourself getting burned?  I am blessed with some wonderful close friends.  I always love the Bible verse which sums up what true friendship should be like, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” 1 John 4:18a

Coffee–my friend and foe, I shall continue to drink you.  Though tomorrow, I’ll change the location of my mug!