Friday, April 28, 2006

What A Crazy Week!

I've certainly had a crazy week. I don't normally comment on a lot of personal things going on (diary style) but want to make a few comments because it has a lot to do with my life perspective, and besides, it might somehow encourage someone else!

•I found out one of my editors is no longer with a Web publication I wrote for, and I wasn't sure where I would sell my book reviews. The confusion didn't last long, though. I've already had queries for book reviews accepted by another editor who pays 3 times as much, so this is a biggie for which to be thankful. I've been seeing God work in some really amazing ways to show me I'm on the right path with writing and editing. I also picked up some more editing contracts, and have bids out with several others.

•I was asked to co-moderate a writer's group for advanced and professional writers. This was a big blessing to me, because I thought for sure they would ask me to work with their beginner/intermediate writers group. I want to be a blessing to those in the business. And networking is always a good thing, too! For those of you who belong to the TWV, you know why I'm excited! (I don't want to name drop)

•I went to a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor today. He says the fibrosis (scar tissue) I have from my previous back surgery is extensive, and is probably not just wrapped around the nerve/nerve root, but actually is inside of it (intraneural fibrosis). He said he believes this is the source of my pain and he has ordered a transforaminal epidural steroid injection under conscious sedation in the outpatient surgery center of Good Samaritan Hospital. We are hopeful a couple of these a year will "make me all better." They have worked well for me before, but my last one (in February) actually made things worse. If the injections ever stop working, or if they start also causing fibrosis, he told me there is a spinal cord stimulator they could implant like a pacemaker that would really help in my case, and also they could implant a pain pump to administer pain medication to the spinal fluid so I wouldn't have to deal with the side effects or oral pain medication. These options would obviously be last resorts. I'm hopeful this injection will work and I'll be back to my ornery self soon.

•This PM&R doc gave me a "two-fer." He told me the pain I'm having in my right calf isn't from the sciatica, but is from the muscle and tendon that connects to the side and back of the knee. He has ordered an MRI and says I might have tendonitis or torn tissue. I thought it was pretty weird to hear my calf pop like a joint does, and even worse to have the pain that goes with the pop. He said the clicking is a classic signtendonitis. I'm.I'm guessing going up and down these stairs all day carrying the dog wasn't a good thing. Oh well-you do what you have to do!

•Speaking of the dog-Jazzy has had an eventful week too. She started having skinny feces and was chasing her tail. The latter was amusing, but she seemed miserable. Then she started scooting her behind on the carpet. I didn't want a dog develop that nasty habit, but then I realized she might be having a problem "down there." So we took her to the vet. She had fecal sac impaction and infection. She also had some other little problems, so she is actually getting medicated ointment in 3 areas, and is also on oral antibiotics. She certainly has had her share of health problems. Nothing like our other pets.

•She couldn't just "get back to normal" though. She just had her glands expressed yesterday, and today she decided to eat our cat's "indoor grass," which the cat must have knocked over. Worse, she ate the special non-dirt "soil" the grass was growing in. It was some sort of pellets that just has to be watered once, then it expands and has a gel and then never needs watered again, for the life of the grass. Well, Jazzy decided to ingest some of that, and she is delivering little packages of pellet laced poop every so often. Good thing she isn't blocked today! (Still trying to find the positive, so forgive me if I'm "reaching.")

•One of my friends prayed for a pregnancy, and we were all praising God when she found out she was expecting. Well, she is still expecting, but just found out her AFP test is positive, giving her a higher probability of having a Down's Syndrome child. Obviously, she is quite concerned about this. She'll have a special 4-D ultrasound next week for this.

My friend and I were talking today and made two observations.

#1-When we get bad news, we have already made plans to see each other that same day. Our date today has been planned for two weeks, and we had no way to know the doc would call her today with this news about her pregnancy. I'm glad we had some "girl" time and she went home feeling better than when she came. The day I found out I was laid off from The Sunday Challenger due to budget cuts, was the same day we had a date to meet them for dinner and then spend the night at their place. Maybe these are just coincidences, but I think God was preparing us to be with just the right person when we needed them. Another Godincidence sighting!

#2-God's grace. Is it just there when we really need it? Or is it there during the waiting period too? Or is the waiting period the time when we are supposed to trust and not worry? Do we really need grace to get through the wait, or just for the strength we need to deal with the "for sures"? Maybe I'm not making sense-it made sense when we were gabbing over Mexican food. We know God doesn't want us to worry and borrow troubles from tomorrow that may never come. So, does His grace help us when we choose to worry anyway (which, we must admit, is sin), or is grace just available in sufficient amounts when something bad has happened and we need it to get through the day? Hmm? I think He always gives us what we need, if we seek it. But if we are worrying, are we really seeking Him? Are we really trusting God? We looked at this from several different perspectives. However it works, we know God is there for us even during the times of uncertainty. Like today for my friend.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What Type of Writer Are You?

You Should Be a Song Writer

You have the ability to evoke emotion, tell a story, and hook someone...
In a very small amount of words, perhaps with some deft rhyming.
Even if you can't write music, you can sure write compelling lyrics.
Lyrics so good, people will have them stuck in their heads!

I just took a writer's quiz, and it says I should be a song writer. I'm surprised, but I shouldn't be, considering music has been my life as long as I remember having breath. I've only written one song, and that was years ago. Maybe I should try again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Family Reunion

Family Reunion

The more homesick a person becomes the sweeter the plans for reuniting with family. I'm not homesick for a place, but for my people. I haven't seen Mom since August of 2004, and for many other family members it's been even longer. Our calendar is filled with dates scratched off for family reunions this year. Some are formal reunions with extended family. Others are more intimate gatherings for just a few. Each event will be special in its own way.

While celebrating Resurrection Sunday this month, I thought about another glad reunion day. How precious it must have been for Jesus to return to His Father. He had suffered many heartaches and afflictions, and had to endure them alone. Jesus' disciples abandoned Him just when He needed them most. Even Christ's Heavenly Father turned His back to Jesus on the cross. Perhaps God the Father had to let Jesus endure it alone, to pay the price for us. Maybe it was just too painful to witness the awful suffering.

Whatever the reason, I'm sure Jesus was elated to return to His Heavenly Home. Christ said He left Earth to prepare a place for us. If it only took God six days to create the universe and everything therein, can you imagine what can be done in two thousand years (and counting...)? Scripture also says that Jesus sits at the right hand of God. But I can't help but wonder if some of the time, since Jesus' ascension, has been spent embracing the Father and enjoying His presence.

I love watching greeting and parting scenes. A lot can be said about a relationship by the body language of a "hello" or a "good-bye." I have a creative imagination, and I can picture in my mind's eye, that when Christ returned to Heaven, He ran into the open arms of His Father. Of course in my mind that happens in slow motion. What a greeting! God shared Christ with us for about thirty-three years, and it must have seemed like an eternity since He had been able to embrace His Son.

And one day, our day will come. When we can run into the arms of God!

What a day of reunion that will be!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Monday Gratitude List

Just when I think it is hard to think of a fresh list, the more I know I NEED
to be thinking about this! Mondays are always rough, so that is why I picked
this day to encourage everyone to think of their own gratitude lists for the
week. I bet Mondays are hard for you too!

So here is my list for the past week:

1. Gas in my tank. Okay, just in my automobile, but SOMETIMES also this means
I had some energy. A power nap almost daily really helps this!
2. A friend who came over to help me do housework on Saturday, and she
wouldn't take payment for it. She plans to come again next week, and she is going to
bring her carpet cleaner too! A big thanks to Marti.
3. I picked up a couple more editing projects this last week. I'm praying God
will help me take in as many of these as I can do well-I enjoy it and it is
good to get paid, too!
4. I got to co-teach with Russ yesterday in Sunday School. We teach a class called HomeBuilders, for ages 35-55 (approximately). We just launched a new series called "Overcoming Overload." I don't always tag-team teach with him, so when we do a series together, it is a privilege to me. Why? Because I absolutely LOVE the chemistry. It gets me all jazzed up to teach together about something with which we are passionate. And I love the connection we make with our class members, too. It was a blessing.
5. I got to sing in a mixed quartet yesterday at church that was phenominal-I'm not saying it as a brag-I'm very HUMBLED to be used in this way-that is why I'm grateful-it was a real GIFT to me! I sang with two of my closest friends, and my husband who IS my closest friend. We sang "Arise My Love" which is a very powerful song. By the last chorus, the entire church was on its feet (over 500 people). And this is a church that is NOT demonstrative during the music, so this was HUGE! It was just that kind of song. And I got to be a part of it. So I'm grateful today!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Decisions, Decisions!

Decisions, decisions. What should I fix for supper? Where should I shop for new shoes? Who should I ask to help me with that project? When should I take vacation this year?

Do any of you wish for a decision-free day? Just one! Then you wouldn't have this conversation:

"Where do you want to go for dinner?"

"I don't know. You decide."

"I don't care. You pick."

"I'll narrow it down to Cracker Barrel, Applebees, or Wendy's. Now you decide."

"None of those sound good today."

Round and round they go, where they will eat, no one knows!

Today when selecting my dinner menu it dawned on me that eventually there will be a decision-free day. Oh the inconceivable joy of Heaven! But until then, God gives us a free will to make our own choices. He didn't design us to be marionettes with strings attached. We aren't the scarecrow bemoaning, "If I only had a brain." We get to choose.

Many of our hundreds of choices will have no eternal consequences. But there are a few spiritual decisions that will matter forever. These are the choices we must consider wisely, and not procrastinate.

Where will you eat your first meal after death? Who will you share the gospel with now, so that you might spend eternity with them later? How will you develop your relationship with God now, so that He isn't a stranger when you meet Him after your last heartbeat? These are the decisions that have merit for concern.

Will you choose now?

Joshua 24:15, "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

American Idol

Last night the contestants sang the American Standards. There were positives about each performance.

Chris-looked great (except for that ascot!). Sang a tender melody which spotlighted his vibrato and his range. Who knew he could sing something so outside of his box? The main beef I had with him, when hearing his song back, was that he sang with more nasal intonation that I care for.

Paris-had a much better look tonight. Classy. Others commented on how great her song was, and it was awesome, but to me, it was a bit safe for her. I thought this would be her night to win, and she didn't, in my "ears."

Taylor-sang a split personality song. The first part was a so/so rendition of Sam Cooke's original, and the last part exploded. Simon called it "magic." Was it magical enough to keep him in out of the bottom three? It depends on the callers.

Elliott-had a great sound, and definitely had fun singing it, but does he have the fan base to keep him safe from the bottom three tonight?

Ace-sported a slicked back baby ponytail, and suit-looked nice. Sounded good too, especially the top part of his range. I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure it will be enough to keep him safe. His fan base has not kept him out of the bottom three. It might be his night to go.

Kellie-looked like a Barbie doll I have from the early 60s (even the dress!). I loved the song she picked, and parts of it were beautiful. Unfortunately, she was pitchy in spots and she rushed ahead of the music for a lot of it. In her words, she "butchered it." For that rendition she deserves to be in the bottom three, but I believe her fan base will come through for her and give her enough votes to be safe.

Katharine-looked like a bombshell, and sounded like one too. She sang one of my all-time favorite songs. But, it seemed she was having a love affair with the close-up camera. Simon said she made the others sound like amateurs. I'm not sure I would go that far, but she really has pipes. If she isn't safe tonight, it's only because her fans let her down.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

You Go Girl!

Lou Ellen Dyer was the wrong woman to mess with. Just ask her would-be robber. This 52-year-old grandmother who is more groovy chick than grammy broke all the rules in the book by refusing to hand over her purse. She decided she had worked too hard for her money to hand it over to a no-good lazy thug who would rather rob unsuspecting women at gas stations than get a real job.

The cool thing? I know Lou Ellen personally. She has moxie. We are blessed to have her sing in our choir. Thursday she was causing a new jail bird to sing, and today she was singing "Then Came The Morning" as our spotlighted soloist.

You really must read the rest of the story. I didn't write it, so go to this site to read all about it:

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Favorite Childhood Easter Memories

Here are a few of my favorite Easter memories:

•Dyeing eggs to help the Easter Bunny out. I'll never forget that vinegar smell!

•Dad waiting to cut the grass so that there are some neat tufts of grass to bury the eggs in.

•Waking up Sunday morning to hunt eggs and then to save the eggs for more hunts with friends and family later on. We rarely ate the eggs because we hid them so many times!

•Once or twice I got a store-bought Easter dress and/or bonnet. Often I got hand-me-downs or Mom made my dress. Some years, I'm guessing I just wore a dress already in the closet. Often, the Easter weather did not cooperate and I recall having goose bumps on top of my goose bumps.

•I can't recall any particular foods cooked for Easter. Seems that was usually the first batch of deviled eggs for the year. Maybe Mom used some of our Easter eggs after all!

•Not sure when we "graduated," but in later years, Mom would hide our filled Easter Baskets in the house and we had to find it. I recall under the kitchen sink was a favorite hiding place.

•Dad loved some of the Easter candies so much he was known to "borrow" them from us when we weren't looking. Our folks had their own basket of candies, but his favorite ones (was it the malted milk speckled eggs?) disappeared quickly.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

RECIPE: Amish Potato Rolls

Someone just requested my recipe for rolls, to make for Easter. This is my favorite yeast roll recipe. I try others, but always come back to this one. Enjoy!

Amish Potato Rolls

2 cups scalded milk (I use the microwave)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. salt
1 cup mashed potatoes (just potatoes mashed, not a recipe of mashed potatoes)
1/2 cup shortening
2 pkgs. yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water until it "blooms"
8 cups, maybe more, bread flour (or "better for bread" flour)

Pour scalded milk over shortening, sugar, and salt. Add mashed potatoes. Cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to first mixture. Then add eggs and flour. Knead until smooth. Let rise until doubled. Shape into rolls and let rise again. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

This recipe also makes delicious cinnamon rolls. Follow directions above, then roll out on flat surface, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Re-roll, slice and bake as directed. Frost as desired and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

New Life


Remember the Little Kiddles doll from the 1960s-1970s? I owned a few, plus the vinyl house with yard that snapped up to close the house into a case. I enjoyed pretending these Little Kiddles really lived in that little house, and now when I recall that playtime my heart instantly feels the freedom of innocence at its best.

That dollhouse ended up housing something much more important than a non-breathing plastic doll. One day when I wasn't playing dolls I was outside gathering clover flowers to design my own "nature girl" jewelry. I found a chrysalis and knew from science class that I had found a miracle in the making. My newfound treasure came indoors, and we placed it in the dollhouse to see what would happen. We watched it and watched it. I'm not sure how long we waited, but research now says that butterflies stay in the pupa (chrysalis) stage for one week to two months. Imagine fathers pacing in the waiting room outside of Labor and Delivery during that same time period, and you can sense my anticipation.

One day we were amazed to watch an orange monarch butterfly emerge from the chrysalis. Its wings were wet and dull, but the longer he dried, the brighter his wings became. He took several days to adjust to the shock of his new life, surviving the metamorphosis a better critter than the lowly caterpillar. This was the day, if I were to pinpoint it, that I realized the miracle of life. And later I learned this was actually a miracle of NEW life.

Easter is this Sunday. We celebrate the resurrected Christ. He emerged from the chrysalis of his donated cave a living breathing God. His sacrifice offers us a metamorphosis when we come to Him and admit our need for a Savior. Before Christ, we are merely caterpillars-wormy sinners. Coming to face the reality of the cross, the grave, and the resurrected Christ is our chrysalis. New life is our Easter gift. Just as I reveled in the miracle of life as a child, I glory in the miracle of new life.

Let us celebrate!

Poem to Barb

I'm not poet, and this is not a great poem. But I did share from my heart to Barb-in one of the frequent cards I'm sending her way. It breaks every rule in the book-but who cares?

How is your day today?
I want to know
As you seek joy
While facing this blow.

You're in my thoughts
Prayers lifted to God
For your peace of mind
And your ol' "bod."

Humor is healing
Faith is a plus
Cling on to hope
It's okay to fuss!

These all will help you
As you journey on
With God's sweet embrace
You can face the dawn.

by Kathy Carlton Willis 2006

American Idol

Last night, American Idol contestants sang Queen hits. I never realized all of those were Queen songs. I do have an interesting tidbit about trading singles (single records-old school before 8 track) with Tammy Bokor-she let me have Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." I was in hog heaven! I owned it until 2004.

On to the contestants. Here is how I rate them:

#1-Chris (I would go to one of his concerts!)
#2-Kellie (She looked hot and sounded like Cindy Lauper on steroids)
#3-Paris (she looked way older than her years, and sang with POWER)
#4-Ace (I was actually surprised he pulled this off!)
#5-Bucky (another great surprise-he will be safe this week)
#6-Taylor (I love this dude but he is missing the star quality)
#7-Katharine (others loved her song, but I thought it was pitchy and made me cringe-I love HER and her singing, but not THIS rendition)
#8-Elliott (I love Elliott, but too much vibrato, but he is possibly on the chopping block tonight)

Bottom 3 should be Taylor, Katharine, and Elliott. But others say Ace should be the one to go. Not yet. Not this week. (But I'm not America!)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Now I "Get It"

Another conversation came up on the listserve for those with Sjogren's Syndrome. Someone was saying they are tired of people not understanding, and how hard it is to have an invisble illness, not feeling like we look. It really is a grieving process to lose such a quality life and getting hit in the prime of life. But I wanted to offer hope. So this is what I wrote back:

I know it is easy for all of us to say, I look fine, and I feel awful, and no one understands. And this is all a part of grieving for the loss of life we used to have.

But I want to encourage you all to be able to find a way past that stage. Don't allow yourself to get stuck there for too long, or too often.

Let me tell you about me:

The first year of my illness, I gave in to it. I moped around, felt terrible, and just surrendered to the fact that I was going to feel miserable the rest of my life. "No one understands, so I might as well go outside and eat worms! "(Not really, but you know...)

I declined invitations everywhere except church, and lived (if you can call it that) hanging out on the bed or couch watching television or reading books.

But then a lightbulb went on and I realized I could feel miserable at home by myself living a life I despised, or I could allow myself to be reinvented into a new stage of my life. Yes, the old life is gone. I wasn't able to workout two hours a day or weight lift over 300 pounds ready for lifting competitions. I couldn't work hour upon hour at work. I couldn't stand or sit for long periods of time, and I had to be near a restroom. But I didn't have to give in to the pain, the fatigue and the suffering. The more I determined to get back into the game of life, the more I realized I could live at home suffering, or enjoy my life suffering. The suffering somehow didn't seem quite so intense when I started enjoying life. I developed a sense of humor about things (granted-sometimes a sick sense of humor!).

I had a new life. Different. And I knew this new life could teach me many things and equip me in ways to prepare me for what was ahead.

I also found out that knowledge is power. I researched my illness and knew what questions to ask at the doctors. The more I studied, the more I could also help others with their illnesses. Sort of a patient liaison. I couldn't have done that if I hadn't lived it. I have a close friend right now battling serious cancer issues, and I think because I've walked the road of suffering she is free to be herself around me. No fake face trying to entertain me and tell me it's all going to be okay.

Also-one more thing to keep in mind. We might feel invisible. Wonder why no one understands what we deal with, or bemoan that we don't look sick. (I'm GLAD I don't look how I feel! I don't want pity, and when I feel like I look good, it gives me a little more bounce in my step). We need to realize how many times we have talked to or walked by a perfectly "normal" human being who is suffering from something. We don't understand-we don't even acknowledge their condition. So we can't blame others who miss the fact that we are chronically ill. We do the same thing to others every day.

The difference is, I hope, that when they tell us they are sick, we DO understand, and we can be there for them. Not telling them how much worse WE have it, but just listening to them and letting them lean on us. Why? Because we GET it, and we care. Really care.

Did we care quite so much before we got sick? Maybe not.

So, this thing we call Sjogren's Syndrome really CAN be a good thing.

Just a thought.

Monday, April 10, 2006


My friend has cancer. The BAD kind (if there is such a thing as a good kind). Having been down this road with Russ's Mom and Dad, and with others, I hurt for Barb. She is only 50. She was doing everything right in her life. Yes, I know, Life isn't fair! The good news is she has hope in the Lord for her strength and His grace has really provided that peace she has needed. But still, we are human and with humanity their are fears and their is suffering. No matter how spiritual a person is, they are also real, and they feel. I hurt for her.

Since my gift is words, I have give her a card every time I visit, and I send cards with others when I know they are stopping by. Today, we brought a crate filled with gifts from our Sunday School class. We told her she could open one a day, or if she was having a really bad day, she could open two. I also had a card for her, but it wasn't that big a deal, I thought, compared to the gifts, so just held it behind my back and talked with her. Before long she said, "I see you have another card for me!" And she had a look of anticipation in her eyes. She was having an especially hard day today, and I had no idea what those cards meant to her. She looked like a little kid looking forward to a piece of candy or something.

Some days I write something silly and lighthearted because Barb likes to laugh. Some days I write something inspirational or serious. I hope whatever I write shows compassion and empathy. I want to be sensitive to what is best for her. Words are healing. But words can hurt when they aren't in the right timing.

So now, I guess I have a new ministry-a card ministry with Barb. I wrote my Uncle Bill about 3 times a month when he battled cancer. I wrote Russ's Mom as well. She saved every card and I found them when we went to her deathbed. In fact, Mom Willis showed me she had saved one note in her Bible. It was a note I wrote when she said she bet God hated her crying all the time. I told her God knew her tears were precious, and He saved all of them in a bottle. I showed her the Bible verse, and commented on how I interpreted it. It meant a lot to her.

Words really CAN be healing-if not the physical, the emotional-and that is half the battle!

Grateful Gratitudes

My gratitude list for the week (of course just a partial list-paper could not
contain my entire list):

1. I'm so excited about this-I made plane reservations to go visit my Mom for Mother's Day. I haven't seen her since August of 2004. That was good enough, but...

2. She wrote back and said that was a good time to come because we can go to a Family Reunion together-so I get to see family I haven't seen in ages, some I've NEVER seen! This will be so exciting.

3. My back pain is getting a bit better. I remembered a special traction table from way back when I worked for a chiropractor in 1987-88. It is sometimes called closed reduction traction or flexion-distraction. It moves up and down and side to side while the doctor isolates each vertebra/disc space with his hand and opens up the space. It really helps, and makes it not feel like bone on bone so much. So, I had a treatment Friday, and saw some improvement, compared to other types of chiropractic treatments I have had.

4. The sunshine-I can't say enough good about it. The grass here in Kentucky is so green-no wonder we are known for our "bluegrass." Not the music. Even the dandelions are pretty! haha!

5. Our puppy, Jazzy is doing much better. We are working harder on a consistent schedule, and also keeping her occupied while we are gone so she doesn't get bored. Whew! And she is so entertaining!

A Delicate Balance

I belong to a listserve for patients who have Sjogren's Syndrome. One of the new members blamed the fact that she was self-less on why she has symptoms. She notices that her family members who are self-centered seem to be symptom free. She was struggling between being jealous of them, and wondering if she should have said "no" more to doing stuff for others. I wrote back and said it is a delicate balance-we should be a little bit of both-not because we have Sjogren's Syndrome, but just because we live. Here is what I wrote:

I think I take care of myself, know my limitations, AND care for others in such a way that no one would EVER think to call me self-centered. My whole life is built on what I can do to glorify God, and minister to others He brings in my path. I believe God has allowed me to deal with the trials in my life (I didn't say He caused them) because He knew I would have the opportunity to use that experience to help others in their time of need. My illnesses and other trials have equipped me to have better insights and even practical wisdom to help others.

I think by keeping my eyes off of self, and on God and others, I have a better balanced perspective on life. I have a life filled with hope rather than despair. I look forward to each day. Yes, that day will come with symptoms, but it also comes with gift-wrapped packages of joy everywhere I look.

BUT-I also know how to make boundaries and not over commit or allow myself to be used by others. I draw the line at what I know I can do and do not try to attempt more than that. Some days I'll do more, some days I'll bite off more than I can chew, and some days I'll do less. But I'm in control of that choice-not motivated by guilt or comparisons.

I feel deeply. I live life fully. I don't give in to my illness. It does not define me. But it is a part of who I am because it has educated and equipped me. In fact, I can't imagine my life without it.

My quality of life is even better because of it, in the sense that I have a better perspective than before.

We are in charge of our own lives and bodies. We make the choices. What will we do with our time? How will I get the medical help I need? Do I want to choose that treatment or try something else? Do I need a nap right now, or should I read a book or call a friend in need? If I have more energy and less pain, how can I best use that time? Should I do housework, other chores, take a walk outdoors, go grocery shopping, volunteer somewhere, or encourage a friend?

We should be stewards-meaning we take care of what has been entrusted to us-our very own lives. We should not waste that time, but neither should we abuse it by ignoring symptoms.

It is a delicate balance, as one writer has said!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Japanese Steak House

We went to a brand new Japanese Steak House on their opening day. It does not appear to be a chain, and everyone on staff was Japanese. Some barely knew English. We were the first customers to request their Hibachi grill. It is our favorite because you get a free show as they cook your meal in front of you. We were not disappointed. Even the other staff gathered around the chef as he entertained us with his quick-handed antics. We counted the Hibachi stations, and there are plenty to invite our entire Sunday School class for a fun outing. The meal was excellent. For lunch, we were served soup, stir-fried rice, stir-fried vegetables, and our choice of meat, and a drink. We both ate for about $24.00 if I recall correctly. Our drinks were not allowed to go down about 1/3 empty before someone graciously refilled them.

There were only chopsticks at the place settings. Russ struggled with his, but I seemed to do okay. After we spent about five minutes eating, one of the staff came by to offer Russ silverware. They said they could tell he was having a hard time with the chopsticks. He declined the offer and said he wanted to learn. They turned to me and said they had been watching me as well, and I was using the chopsticks perfectly. That made my day! Of course, they were probably just being kind.

We look forward to returning to try something else, very soon.

RECIPE: Bagel Cheese Spread

Okay, I'm almost addicted to this, and wanted to share the recipe-I've combined two or three into one excellent recipe!

2 jars Old English processed cheese spread (about 5 oz. each)
1 brick of Cream Cheese (about 8 oz.)
1 stick of real butter (about 4 oz.)
a little bit of worchestershire sauce and garlic powder (not much!)

The key is to use your mixer and mix it until the spread is creamy smooth.

Enjoy on bagels, or spread on anything else in sight.

Someone reported this as a snack that goes straight to fat cells. Can't win them all!

Friday, April 07, 2006

LOL Biz Report-First Week of April

Living Out Loud Communications
Business Report for Week 1 of April

>Trouble’s Brewing Review up at Truetunes

>Blessed Lady featured my article entitled “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”

>Answered questions about my LOL manuscript editorial services for a potential client.

>Queried Today’s Christian Woman and did some research for the proposed article.

>Queried The Lookout about an article idea.

>Wrote and submitted my weekly inspirational column to The Paris News (TX) and my mailing list.

>Mentored Carmen.

>Worked with the FCW Critique Groups.

>Wrote and submitted monthly column, Grammar ‘N Style, for

>Worked on article “Let’s Do Lunch” and interviewed women for article.

>Brainstormed about a writing contest.

>Researched other writing contests and critique services.

>My article about the new critique groups appeared in The Ready Writer for The Fellowship of Christian Writers.

>Brainstormed new book proposal, and researched market for comps.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Palm Sunday Worshipper

Hosanna! He is our King! We lift up palms in praise to Your name. The Son of David is here with us today.

Can you imagine the sounds and sights of that first Palm Sunday? Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey. The disciples walking as a parade behind Him. Crowds parting to let Jesus pass. A make-shift "red carpet" of garments and palm leaves for his path. Worshippers enjoying a moment of sweet abandon, living solely in the moment of this glorious triumphal entry.

Often, in our Passion Week celebrations, we skip right over Palm Sunday to get to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But if you think about it, the spirit of Palm Sunday is the very worship we should offer our King on a weekly, yea daily basis. Do we see in Jesus what the worshippers of Palm Sunday saw as He passed their way? They knew Who He was, risked being mocked for worshipping Him in public, and even gave up earthly possessions to give Jesus an entrance fit for a King.

Do we spend enough time focusing on the kingly virtues of our Savior? My desire is to meditate on why I worship Him. It's not just about being thankful for all He's done for me, but more about praising Him for Who He is. His attributes are perfection personified. His heart is compassion made alive. And His desire is obedience exemplified. What a God! What a Savior! What a KING!

"And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." ~Matthew 21:8-9

American Idol-Country Week

No one can ever say country music is easy, and our nine American Idol finalists realized that this week!

There were several surprises, but not all of them were positive surprises.

Taylor started out singing, "Take Me Home, Country Roads." It was Taylor's WORST performance. Enough to possibly land him in the bottom three if callers look at this single performance with their vote. I'm not sure what Taylor was thinking. He seemed to just call it in. He comes from the South and has a southern accent, and country singing, especially if he picked a bluesy-type ballad, should have worked for him. This song didn't help his chances. Let's hope folks don't just call in votes based on this week alone, or Taylor should rightly be out of here. I would miss him if he left the performance this early. I told my husband last night, as much as Taylor called in his performance, perhaps he just wants to go home. Maybe he misses the gigs he was doing before the AI contest, or thinks he doesn't like where things are going. Who knows? Just very un-Taylor like of him.

Mandisa's outfit choice was not the best thing, especially with the camera angles. I love Mandisa, and want her to shine every time so she can come down to the finals! Her song, "Every Man of Mine" was believable and definitely not "boring." (Simon mentioned almost every song was boring, but not this one!) There were a few pitch problems, but she "worked it out" to use Randy's phrase. She should be safe this week.

Paris struggled with singing "How Do I Live Without You" in the low end of her range. She had some pitch problems in the beginning and end. The middle of the song was much better because it was in the comfort zone part of her range. Simon told her she did well, but I think when he watches the show ever he will see she wasn't as spot-on as he thought. If people vote JUST on this performance, she might be in the bottom three.

Chris was out of his element, but STILL put on a good show, and convinced me he meant what he was singing in "Making Memories of Us." I couldn't help but wonder if he had dedicated the song to his wife, and his heart was singing out to her. His eyes are soooo intense when he sings. He confessed that he dug down into his country roots to get the inspiration for this song, since he is more comfortable singing rock.

Elliott sang "If Tomorrow Never Comes" with so much heart that I believed he meant every word. He was smart to pick a soft ballad to show off his vibrato. But he changed it up enough to make it his own. I loved his version of the song. Elliott should be safe from the bottom 3 this week.

Bucky-I thought should have been #2 best this week, in the country category, but after hearing him, I won't go that far with my brags. He was told by the judges last week to work on his enuncication. I understood his words last week. But this week, it sounded like he had marbles in his mouth. Kenny Rogers even warned him to over enunciate, because people aren't familiar with the song. He also has trouble singing the ends of his song phrases, partly due to range problems, but mostly due to running out of air. He did a good job interpreting the song ("The Best I Ever Had"), and he seemed much more comfortable with this type of song. I'm just not sure it was good enough to keep him out of the bottom three.

Ace was one of the positive surprises tonight. He has been in the bottom three, but should not be there this week. He completely expressed the emotions (emoted) in the song "I Wanna Cry." He was convincing and tender. He was smart to show his ability to go into his falsetto. And his vibratto shined.

Kellie was no surprise. She was back on track with her vocals as well as her stage presence. And her outfit was perfect for her. She just got it all right this week! She struggled a little on the low notes, but I think they sometimes have to start lower than their best range so that they can reach to those high notes later in the song and be comfortable. If they start out higher, the high notes would be in the ionosphere. I have a feeling Kellie had personal experience living the life of the song, "Fancy."

Katharine was gorgeous as always, but more important, she is the one who totally convinced me she was having FUN on stage, as she sang "Bringing Out The Elvis." This should NOT have been her category, since she has a trained voice and typically they train you NOT to sing with the nasal intonation and twang of a country song. But she picked a soulful, bluesy country song and made it her own (this is what Taylor should have done). Katharine's performance was another pleasant surprise for me. She didn't like being in the bottom 3 last week, and she made sure she gave 100% this week.

I have a feeling we might lose the wrong person this week, if people vote solely on this week's performance.