meandering moments and lots of digressing

A magnet–student made one year. Still have it. Still like it.

I have been doing quite a bit of reading lately. Some fiction (Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane–Oh my goodness. Such beauty). Some Bible. Some more fiction (currently Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman). I have grown very picky about fiction. It has to be more than a story. It needs to vibrate with beauty even in the violence. Cormac McCarthy does this well. I was tutoring a girl last week and we were reading a John Updike poem, “Ex-Basketball Player.” At the end of the second or third stanza there was a simple simile that stayed with me because of its beauty: “His hands were like wild birds.” I had to read it over and over again and just let it seep in like poetry does sometimes. Of course, my student thought I was nuts, but she agreed it was lovely.


 A Non Sequitur (I tend to digress…)

I feel a bit guilty for not updating Goodreads. Does anyone else feel badly about not updating their “progress” on Goodreads? I neglect to enter the books I pick up and put down and pick up again later. Like Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. I am pretty sure this is the book that will help me move from short stories to novels. Right now, I am a short story writer. One major conflict. A few characters. Lovely details. Climax and a quick resolution. Done. Freytag’s Pyramid at work. I’m studying the short stories of the magnificent Barbara Kingsolver. She drives me nuts. Just one sentence from Homeland’s story, “Blueprints,” and I am dashed and tortured by insecurity. “As she pads around the cabin in wool socks and skirt and down vest, Lydia develops a bizarre fantasy that they are part of some severe religious order gone into mourning, observing the silence of monks.” One sentence.

 –excuse me–need to switch laundry to dryer. Life. And more life. I had to make the bed. The bathroom and shower needed attention. Which begs the question: how does something you jump in to get clean, get so dirty? If I were a gardener or a farmer or painter, I could see how there might be some significant dirt in the shower. But I am not. I am a tutor. A former public high school English teacher. But I think I would like to be a farmer except for the non-stop work. Sometimes the dream is infinitely more appealing than the reality. My father grew up on a farm. I have heard stories all my life. It is a really hard, dirty, hot job. So maybe raising alpacas in the foothills of the Rockies? How come the Pioneer Woman ( makes it look so easy? Drat her and her French Silk Pie.

I digress again…the dryer is dinging so time to unload…

I had to speak to the dryer. When it starts dinging to tell me the clothes are dry and ready to be retrieved and folded, I tell it that “I am coming…I hear you…” as if to placate the machine so it won’t spew lint everywhere if I don’t respond to the dinging! My dryer is a dictator. Or Dr. Pavlov and I am the drooling, salivating beast.

Meditation Notes: now to the eternal stuff

I choose mornings for Bible reading since I do not have to be at the tutoring center until 9. I can start at 6-ish with my coffee and relax a bit. On my door desk (see previous blogs) I have a journal, my NIV Bible, the Phillip’s translation of the New Testament, the ESV Bible, my very worn copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers translated into modern language by James Reimann. (This devotional guide is marked-up from years of revelations. Again and again, it pushes me to scripture.) I treat my journal like it is a conversation with God and I begin with prayer requests. I get pretty intense and focused on these. That’s all I’ll say. My Abba knows.

I move on to Chambers and see what he says for the day. Today’s devotional was based on Luke 9:57. The cost of following Jesus. No excuses. My notes say “I must be solely guided by my relationship with Christ.” And “My first loyalty is to Jesus.”

Then on to Matthew. I’ve been reading through Matthew as a study, looking at his voice as a writer, what he did differently than Mark, Luke and John. How the Holy Spirit used Matthew’s perspective as a former tax collector to present the life and words and works of his Rabbi and savior. I have also been examining just the words of Jesus–not out of context–but what he is saying in his parables. It has taken me months and months to reach Matthew 21, but it has changed me. Don’t get me wrong here…I’m still the flawed, hyper-sensitive, somewhat agoraphobic, introspective, sometimes gloomy 55-year-old woman I’ve always been, but I’ve learned some things. I’m still learning. I figure it will take a lifetime to learn His Word.

I type little “meditation notes” from my readings pretty often–specially if something hits me right in the gut and I want to ignore it and run away to my safe and selfish little cave. They help me remember what God taught me. Here’s one from this week. It started with a verse study that led to commentary on another verse in the ESV Bible. Clear as mud, right?

“From Matthew 20:16 commentary from ESV Bible”

A disciple of Jesus should not measure her worth by comparing it with the accomplishments of others, but should focus on serving from a heart of gratitude in response to God’s grace. (I added “her” because I get tired of “him”)

My giant sheet of steel magnetic board! All things inspiring and fun.

Really spoke to me and continues to. If you have a meditation note you’d like to share, please do. Now it’s time for my mid-morning snack. I can have raw nuts. I’d rather have ginger snaps. Life is hard; God is good (and so are ginger snaps!)

John Updike, “Ex-Basketball Player” from Collected Poems 1953-1993. Copyright © 1993 by John Updike. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Source: Collected Poems 1953-1993 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1993)

Non-Conformity: Christ-Followers Follow Differently…


Conformity is killer. We are never good enough. Never smart enough. Never hip enough. Never savvy enough. Never “anything” enough. I love the red hat girl in this print that hangs in my office. It’s like she’s saying,”I love my red hat and I’m going to wear it even if everyone else wears grey!” Like the red-hat girl, Ralph Waldo Emerson (not a Christ-follower) recognized the paralysis and fear conformity creates: 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

“God will not have his work made manifest by cowards”  

Then one of my favorite writers ever, Brennan Manning (Ragamuffin Gospel and many others–must reads for those wishing to understand the all-accepting, always forgiving, always loving creator of the universe: we cannot out-sin God’s love.)

“The crowd does not take kindly to nonconformity. It is the scorn of our peers probably more than anything else that hinders our living out of the center. The fear of ridicule paralyzes us more effectively than flat-out opposition. How much good is left undone because of this fear! The irony is that the opinions we fear most are not those of people we really respect, yet these very persons influence our lives more than we want to admit. This desire to stand well with “them” can lead to an appalling mediocrity and a frightening unfreedom…There is nothing more maddening to the mob than a free person.” –Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning, September 13 reading.

Then the actual words of the one person we should truly emulate and obey, Jesus, the son of the living God. 

Matthew 10:28-32 The Message

“Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now. Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life–body and soul–in his hands.

What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you down to the last detail–even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries…Stand up for me against world opinion, and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven.”

There is much, much more to these scriptures. If I were a preacher, I’d draw attention to a couple of things the world thinks that we (Christ-followers) ignore. 


One is the environment. The country has politicized the environment. People cannot be conservative economically and still feel a great desire and responsibility to maintain the earth that God commanded us to take care of. Jesus says in this scripture that God cares about the most common of birds (NIV says “sparrow”). Go sit outside in the morning or evening when it is cool and just listen. Block out the cars, sirens, voices, music, lawn mowers…and listen. The birds call to each other. The squirrels fuss and chase each other from tree to tree. The cicadas hum so loudly it sounds like aliens are attacking. Point: God made these. He expects us to care for them and respect them. The earth does not belong to a political party–it belongs to God and we are it’s caretakers. Consider what he said in Genesis 2:15 (NIV): The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” It wasn’t a suggestion. God never makes suggestions. (Read Job if you want to contradict God’s design and purpose.)

The World’s Opinion

Who is shaping the modern Christ-follower more? The current culture or Christ culture? (We could have a long dialogue on Christ culture and how it looks, but that is for another time and probably not for a blog.

The point: non-conformity doesn’t require Bible-thumping, in-your-face condemnation. Jesus never did that except when confronting the top church people–the Pharisees. NOTE: DO NOT ACT LIKE A PHARISEE–THEY WERE NOT HUMBLE, LOVING, ACCEPTING OR FORGIVING! THEY WERE ALL ABOUT LOOKING SPIRITUAL AND CONDEMNING FOLKS FOR NOT FOLLOWING THE MOSAIC LAW (LAW OF MOSES). There will be a time for you to stand up and fight for your beliefs. I believe it is coming quickly. Put your full armor on and study how Jesus acts. Study the red words of Jesus in your Bible. Let them teach you.

Persecution already exists in Eastern, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern countries, and in Africa. It is not the bullying we experience in American culture or the humiliating representations presented by the media. It is death. Torture. Loss of home and loved ones. Read the following report by Reuters — a major news supplier (like the Associated Press). Not a Christian news agency. Just reporting.

About 100 million Christians persecuted around the world

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS | Tue Jan 8, 2013 1:11pm EST

(Reuters) – About 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world, with conditions worsening for them most rapidly in Syria and Ethiopia, according to an annual report by a group supporting oppressed Christians worldwide. (read the entire article at the website below.)

A Reminder

John 17:33 NIV  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

COMMENTS PLEASE! Do you have a favorite Brennan Manning quote? Emerson quote? Any quote about non-conformity? An opinion on Christianity and Environmentalism? What about the article on persecution? Hey, do you LOVE the red hat girl? is very affordable! I bought the print (15) and painted a frame I already owned and voila! Great fun inexpensive art! (I am having a small comma rebellion)

*I am not a preacher or Bible teacher. I do study the Bible regularly and love it dearly. I write these types of blogs after I’ve read something in the Bible that really impacts me and I believe the Holy Spirit impresses me so I have something to write! That’s mercy–giving me something to write about since I ache to be a writer.

**Picture of red-hatted girl is by a wonderful artist on Etsy:

first be thankful…then drink great coffee

After last month’s whiney tone, I figure I should redeem myself by concentrating on things that bring me joy and comfort. Here are a few:

  • my husband, Steve. He is my other half. I’m the kooky, air-headed, high-strung, flake and he’s the even-keeled, pragmatic, never-flustered-by-endless-governmental forms, dry humored, FOX news lovin’, Colorado mountain man.
  • my parents. Always loving. Always praying. Always supporting. Examples of Jesus. Plus funny
    Breakfast of champions: yogurt and Orencia
    Breakfast of champions: yogurt and Orencia

    and my mom is endlessly stylish!

  • my adult kids and their spouses: 
    • David and Renee (Oregon): non-judgmental, brilliant, determined, politically and environmentally active. Can make their own bread, cheese, and yogurt. Taught me all about GOOD coffee.
    • Eric and Lindsey (Kansas City area): loving, playful, best parent award for my wonderful grandson, Sawyer Leo. Blessings to me and bring me joy.
    • Katie and Joshua (Claremore, OK): brilliant and gifted, hard-working, dog-loving, lake swimmers–boaters–fishers, outdoor lovers (clarify: they love the outdoors); Katie is my dear girlfriend. Stylish and gorgeous–even in a hard-hat.
  • my stepdaughter, Laura whose brilliance (not hyperbole) at knitting inspires me to pursue my knitted rectangles with a passion.
  • my stepdaughter, Jenny whose organizational skills and passion for her own kids and for all kids amazes me and I’m sure amazes Jesus sometimes!
  • the folks at Tulsa Oxford Learning Center: they know I’m going to have to have a difficult surgery and they still hired me.
  • my former students for reminding me that I once played a role in their lives
  • the library: free books to take home and read. You can even reserve everything on your Goodreads
    My bike. I miss it. Wonder if I can ride with a neck brace.
    My bike. I miss it. Wonder if I can ride with a neck brace.

    recommendation page!!

  • dark chocolate: only chocolate allowed on my diet (I’m on an eternal diet because I’m a naturally fluffy person. Now I’m steroid bloated, pretzel-eating, can’t-bike fluffy!)
  • bike: even though I can’t ride you much right now, you sit there in the garage with your basket and bell just waiting. I’ll be back soon–I hope.
  • spray paint and HGTV–enough said.
  • MacBook Air. I can write anywhere.
  • my favorite pens and notebooks.
  • Etsy: for making all around cool stuff.
  • stores on-line that have nice, classy clothes for fluffy women who don’t want to wear large
    My morning cup of joe–the mug is by a potter in Taos. I collect them–mugs, not potters..


  • COFFEE. Great coffee in the morning makes things look better and promises to be there when you are feeling a bit low. Iced coffee (homemade only) can make those hot Oklahoma afternoons durable.

Now for a few words about COFFEE!!

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”  Dave Berry

I blame my son, David, and his beautiful-barista-soon-to-be-nurse missus. They introduced me to the french press and the power of freshly roasted and ground beans. They had a favorite place when they lived in Tulsa–well, two because Renee was a barista at one of them. Both roasted their own beans. But NOW Tulsa has a company that actually owns its own coffee bean farms (I’m sure they import the Ethiopian blends…) and they roast their beans and they package their coffee and they have a coffee shop! They also distribute to a couple of local coffee shops (I wish I owned one of them…) so I can indulge periodically.

David and Renee now live in Oregon. DUH! Home of all great coffee places (except for Seattle). When I visit, they take me to their favorites and I sample the Americano. I judge all coffee shops by their Americanos. It’s an art form to maintain the richness of the espresso while adding just enough hot water to make the espresso more palatable to American coffee buds (located on the tongue–some on sides and most on mid-front). Thus the name, “americano.” Apparently we are espresso wimps. I take offense at that–I just want more than a couple of sips. I want four shots or five shots or maybe six shots of high quality espresso in my Americano.

Back to french presses (this is my flaky, non-sequitor side coming out). I broke mine this summer. I haven’t bought another one because, well, since I’m not teaching anymore french presses are not high on the priority list. But I have a Mason jar I’m going to paint and use to store the occasional dollar bill in order to eventually get to 17 buckaroos for the small one at Starbucks.

Yes, I am that crazy about coffee…

I’ve even looked at having my own coffee roaster… in my house. I searched the internet (on which virtually every purchasable item can be found) and located a coffee bean distributor. (Step 1)

(Step 2) I can get 50 pounds of green beans (not the vegetable) from El Salvador’s San Emilio Estate for $225. Then a small roaster for $1000.  I need a Mason jar for this one, too. Maybe two Mason jars…Maybe I need a shop with books and knitting…(flakey non-sequitor side again).

The thing about coffee–it’s soothing. There is a rhythm to making it in the morning and waiting for it to brew. The aroma releases endorphins runners never knew existed. And then there is the slow, deliberate enjoyment of a cup of rich, dark, strong coffee with a touch of fat-free half and half.

I can’t drink it fast. I have to drink it slow. It’s a ritual. This morning it was in the 60s (finally) and I sat on the deck and just sipped and let the morning move over me slowly.

Confession: I have a coffee journal…

The journal. Note rubber band. A stylish way to keep it closed.
The journal. Note rubber band. A stylish way to keep it closed
Kansas City. Ok americano. The Roasterie is the bomb.
Kansas City. Ok americano. The Roasterie is the bomb.

Yep. I thought I’d lost it, but when I was cleaning out a closet, I found all of my old journals including my coffee journal. It has coffee sleeves and notes about the best coffee Steve (my hubster) and I have discovered on our travels. I’ve included some pictures just to prove how much of a coffee geek I truly am. A few photos. (I haven’t figure out how to line these up yet. Not as easy as inDesign and Photoshop.) All ratings are based on Americanos. We both get one and then rate it. Then the sleeve or card goes into the journal. YOU TOO can have a coffee journal. It’s a fun hobby.

Best in St. Charles, MO. Uses cone slow drip method. Lush.
Best in St. Charles, MO. Uses cone slow drip method. Lush.
Seattle. Of course.
Seattle. Of course.
Tulsa's best. I wish it was closer to my house.
Tulsa’s best. I wish it was closer to my house.

I have many many more pages of coffee sleeves and business cards. One from Friday Harbor, Washington and one from Anacortes (where you get the ferry to go to the San Juan Islands).

your turn pretty please…

I’ve been reading about “blogging” and how to get readership. I don’t have many readers and rarely do I get a comment so obviously, I’m not “in the know.” Part of it involves my inability to sit down at the computer regularly and give some serious time to writing. The nerve pain in my left arm (see earlier blog for completely depressing discussion) develops fatigue when I type for a long period of time (namely, 20 minutes) and then it starts burning. So I can’t put a check mark in the box that asks: Do you publish weekly or biweekly? No box for haphazardly.

.The other thing the expert-blogger-advice-giver-people give is to ask questions so folks have something to respond to. I can do that…seriously…I need some responses!
  1. When did you lose your coffee virginity?
  2. Do you admit to going to Starbucks? Why are coffeeologists so snooty about Starbucks? Their bags are so pretty!
  3. Best coffee shop in the US? Show your loyalty!! (and give me someplace to visit on vacation–yes–I travel for coffee)
  4. Dark roast–medium roast–light roast? AND what does each say about your personality? Hmmm?

Ok, that’s enough. Let’s get some answers here! Might be interesting.

isolation and identity: the lone nut rides again

photo credit: <a href="">an untrained eye</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>
Not me. Looks fun, though

*Some clarification on the title and this writing: I liked that “isolation” and “identity” both started with “I” which is the point of this blog–if I am too “I” focused, I forget to be Christ focused. 

Isolation. Rapunzel in her tower. Tom Hanks trapped on an island with only a basketball for company. A girl in a padded room for her own protection. Or a woman sitting at small table outside a coffee shop. I like the last one best. I like to think that one of these days I will be the woman who goes to the indie coffee shop with her Apple laptop and orders an Americano then sits quietly and comfortably alone typing away. Creating the next great story. Another Flannery O’Conner or Ursula Le Guin or Barbara Kingsolver.

I keep thinking that with my newly enforced isolation I’ll hit Double Shots (a local indie coffee shop that roasts their own beans–very important in indie coffee shops) and sit at one of their long wooden tables sipping my “Americano with room, please” while I type a story. Ahhh. Sounds wonderfully idealistic.

Reality check: I’m not doing the coffee shop thing. I work in the mornings and sometimes the afternoons and evenings, so my schedule is wonky. And I am stinking tired due to my illness and pain (sorry to bring it up!). My hair hurts most days. The follicles ache and complain. How boring. I bore myself.

Loneliness and the Lost Tribe

Isolation is strange. You see I’ve lost my tribe. I had a tribe of teachers when I was a teacher, too. We shared our woes between class hours. We laughed at the lengths our students would go in order to avoid working. We bemoaned administration’s latest memo requiring more things for us to do other than our jobs.

I don’t have my tribe anymore. And that is perfectly normal and to be expected. When one leaves a place of employment, a new tribe must be formed. This new tribe emails, texts, calls, bemoans, laughs, cries together.

What did I expect? I expected…more. I was wrong and unreasonable.

I need a new tribe but I don’t know how to find one. 

One reason I have trouble finding a tribe is because I am a physical mess. If your surgeon (or 1st opinion surgeon) tells you that you are a mess and the necessary operation will be difficult and has only a 50% success rate of alleviating the pain and numbness in your left arm, then you find yourself occupied with your fears and concerns and aches and pains and medication and doctor’s appointments. What tribe would want to talk about that? Even my husband is afraid of asking me how I feel in the morning. It’s pathetic. I’m whining. I hate it. Stop it right now, Cindy Lou.

Verbal slaps sometimes help. Back to isolation. I am having trouble with it. I never have made friends easily. Truthfully, I’m a bit of a flake. I grew into my flakiness. It started with shyness and developed into fully formed flakiness. I think that this personality “quirk” may make people not take me seriously. They might not think that I can…well, think.

Not true!! And what is so bad about being flaky? A croissant is flaky deliciousness. Good pie crusts are flaky. When a fish is cooked properly, it flakes. Snow is wonderful in flakes–not so much in huge bundles of flakes, though…and…that’s it. I can’t think of anymore “good” flakes.

croissants are deliciously flaky!

I checked Amazon. Nothing on “flakiness.” Apparently psychologists prefer different personality types for elucidation in large tomes of pop-py knowledge. After finding nada on Amazon, I opted for Roget’s Thesaurus. Not the baby one–the heavy-duty one. Huge. Great for toning arms.

According to Roget, a flaky person is, “capricious, changeable, impulsive, whimsical, fanciful, flighty, skittish giddy, featherbrained, idiosyncratic, eccentric, quirky, odd (see also Insanity).*Note: I did not see insanity. Quirks don’t qualify one as insane. I function well in society. I just don’t make friends easily. So lock me up! Wait! Please don’t–slight claustrophobia…

Well, maybe I’m just a tad flaky. A small croissant. I remember when I won an award at my former tribe headquarters. The letter a co-worker wrote described me as “quirky and eccentric” in the classroom. Point made.

My point in this flaky discussion is this: is this my identity? Am I a flaky friend? Am I a capricious grandmother? Was I a whimsical mother? A fanciful child? A skittish teen? A featherbrained teacher? An impulsive, changeable wife? 

If this is my identity–then is that why I have such a difficult time making friends? Real friends who prefer face-to-face rather than Facebook? Friends that listen to my pains without getting sick of them or even tell me, “Ok, enough negative! Let’s pray and move on.” My sister is like that. She is not flaky. She is an anchor for me, as is my hubster. Both are the opposite of flaky.

Decision made: I need a new tribe. One that accepts my flakiness. One that allows me to listen and engage in the lives of its members face-to-face and not just via technology.

 Being Worthy of a New Tribe

I read a very convicting devotional from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It’s from a modern translation–but not too modern. August 19. This entire blog entry is a lesson in what not to do regarding self-awareness and introspection.

“God intends for us to live a well-rounded life in Christ Jesus, but there are times when that life is attacked from the outside. Then we tend to fall back into self-examination…Self-awareness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of our life in God, and self-awareness continually produces a sense of struggling and turmoil in our lives. Self-awareness is not sin, and it can be produced by nervous emotions or by suddenly being dropped into a totally new set of circumstances . . Anything that disturbs our rest in Him must be rectified at once…If we come to Him, asking Him to produce Christ-awareness in us, He will always do it, until we fully learn to abide in Him.”

I’ve definitely been dropped into a new set of circumstances that have shaken my belief in myself. I’m questioning my ability to be a part of a new tribe. I question whether I have anything to offer a new tribe. I worry that I will continue this isolation and loneliness, depending on my family for friendship and love. I worry that my flakiness will scare people away from me. photo credit: <a href="">sara biljana (vacation)</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Then I read Chambers. I even photocopied this entry and glued it into my journal. My self-awareness must shift to Christ-awareness. I’ll still be flaky, but I will not dwell on it and instead will learn to see through Christ eyes. Prayerfully I will try.

 *I still think that fireflies were once fairies. I think that gnomes visit with each other when we go to bed. I think books contain magical abilities to transport. New t-shirt: Flaky for Jesus! And it has a picture of a croissant! In a dark heather grey. Organic bamboo (Is there non-organic bamboo? and how does one make a t-shirt out of a large stick?)

Grace and peace to all. Forgive the rambling. I’m a bit capricious…


photo credit: <a href=”“>an untrained eye</a> via <a href=”“>photopin</a> <a href=”“>cc</a>


photo credit: <a href=”“>sara biljana (vacation) via“>photopin</a> <a href=”“>cc</a>