Saturday, December 27, 2008

Life 101>> an unillustrated guide

In my Christmas stocking, there was a gift that I had been looking forward to receiving. A couple of months back, I was in a store and saw a book titled, "Life 101 >> an illustrated guide." It intrigued me, so I flipped through the pages. The words of advice paired with often ironic pictures made me laugh. Most of what makes this book so humorous is the image portion; however, if you don't take the words at face value with nothing attached, it offers some nice advice.

Below are some of my favorite lines.

#1 Be Yourself.
#2 Don't blow with the wind.
#3 Try to be positive.
#6 Never be too proud to ask for help.
#7 Think outside the box.
#8 Do one thing at a time.
#9 Life isn't always fair.
#10 Sometimes it takes just one good idea.
#11 Always try to make a good impression.
#17 Keep an open mind.
#18 Beauty is all around you.
#19 Seek and ye shall find.
#20 Preparation is the key to success.
#22 Don't be envious.
#27 Don't be afraid to speak up.
#28 Never interrupt when you are being flattered.
#29 Plan ahead.
#30 Don't get carried away.
#31 You can if you think you can.
#32 If at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again.
#33 Forget insults, remember compliments.
#35 Be a good listener.
#36-69 Respect your elders.
#70 Exercise regularly.
#71 The key to life is balance.
#72 An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
#75 Take an interest in the arts.
#76 Don't lose your head.
#78 Stay in touch with your friends.
#79 Be a team player.
#80 Remember to dance.
#83 Expect the unexpected.
#85 Honesty is the best policy.
#87 It is better to give than to receive.
#88 Do one good deed everyday.
#89 Love thy neighbor.
#91 Take time out for yourself.
#92 Be observant.
#93 Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can.
#95 Be a communicator.
#96 Learn to follow instructions.
#89 Always give it your best shot.
#101 Above all, just be yourself.


As a believer, my ultimate "Life 101" book is the Bible. I couldn't help but notice how many biblical themes jumped out at me in this list of advice.

Pick one or maybe several that jumped out at you and share your thoughts.

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, but one area that I need to work on is #92. The image paired with this quote in the book is the picture of a man holding a tray of drinks, walking and headed straight into the deep end of a pool because he is looking elsewhere. My mind tends to race and race and race, and take me several different directions in the course of a moment. I can be in a conversation with an individual but also across the room, solving a problem, eating a snack, checking off my mental to-do list, and planning for tomorrow's event all at the same time. Another knock against me is my terrible memory. I cannot remember names, dates, or details to save my life.

I met a lady once who had a little notebook with her, and as I introduced myself and told her what I was doing, she wrote it all down. I'm beginning to think that such measures aren't such a bad idea for someone like me. It's not that I don't care or don't have a genuine interest in someone or what they are doing; it's just that I allow my mind to be on overdrive so much of my life that too much information is taken in at once and then none of it is retained. So perhaps my problem is not #92, but rather, #35. If I practice both more often and even record some of my findings, I can be a bit more aware.

It's interesting, because most of my friends are highly detailed-oriented people who, when asked, could recount a night's entire events by person, outfit, decoration, sensation, surrounding, and environment. Such an individual would score a high mark on the preference "Sensing," in the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. It speaks of those who are in tune to sensory experiences, details, and the "here and the now"... what is realistically happening at this moment.

I possess the opposite preference, also known as iNtuition. If you tend toward the intuitive end of the spectrum, you are a bit more imaginative and "head-in-the clouds" with your thinking. You see the forest rather than the trees, and the "big picture" rather than the nitty gritty particulars. Correlations, patterns, and connections come easily, and your "big ideas" may be good but may also leave out important pieces of information such as pitfalls, bottlenecks, and deadlines. If you were asked to sum up an evening, instead of listing off a detailed account, you would tend to remember meanings, moods, and the overall picture.

S0, #92 comes naturally for Sensors. In fact, I was recently talking to my friend who is an "S" and she was telling me that she doesn't even have to try to remember details; she just sees them and they are there as information whenever she needs to access them. I marvelled at this concept. To me, I would have to write down the specifics or at least make an effort to assign some sort of meaning to them in my mind in order to ever remember. As an "N," I have to make more of a conscious effort at this, so it is my goal for 2009.

What about you?

I will be posting about personality types soon, so stay posted. It remains to be a fascinating concept and important part of my dealings with people in my life, and it's been awhile since I've posted about it. Stay tuned!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Vintage Memories

Today in church, the minister pointed out, "Today is the first day of winter, believe it or not. The good news is, the days get longer from here on out."

Sounds like music to my ears, for two reasons. One, it means we are halfway through the brutal weather, and two, the days will continue to get lighter longer rather than darker sooner, and as a victim of SAD my mood meter will point towards "chipper" more often. There is something about the dark night that puts my spirits under-- when the skies are cloudy all day long and to top it off, it starts to really dim around 4pm, it's hard not to become a bit down. I live for bright, sunshiny days. But then I am also of the belief that we must experience the dark and the dim to truly appreciate the bright sunny bliss (and I am speaking literally and figuratively), so it all works for me.

Tonight was the "Kaiser Christmas." Man, our family is big and growing. Over the past 5 years, we have increased drastically in number due to bringing more spouses and children into the mix. It's a wonderful thing to see how blessed a family becomes in this way over time. I looked over at the "kid's section" tonight while biting into my pizza and noted that it wasn't too long ago that I was sitting over in that area with my first cousins, although there were only about 8 of us and now there is around 15-20 of them.

How time flies, and there is no way to stop it. While at my Grandma's tonight, Kelly and I dug out some old photo albums and began flipping through them. This became a popular activity all at once, and we had huddles of aunts and cousins thumbing through the pages and reminiscing about old times, looking at the aged photographs, and comparing the looks of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to the current generation. I love looking at pictures, and I especially love it when it becomes such a nostalgic activity for those involved. It's so neat to see how times have changed and fun to hear about old memories.

I read a verse in Ecclesiastes 7 the other night that stumped me a bit at the time. I happened upon this verse very shortly after looking back on the "old days" and smiling at how wonderful they seemed to be. Letters in the mail, horse & buggies, bonnets and baskets. Then I read Ecclesiastes 7:10 which says, "Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions." I was guilty of that very thing. I often look back on the "old days" with too high a smile, and I credit those times with an idealistic perspective of wonder.

After looking into the verse a bit and studying the context around it, I have a new-found understanding of the application. The chapter talks about wisdom. I could write several posts centered around this chapter, but tonight we will just look at verse 10 and the surrounding verses.

I found a commentary explanation that seems to sum up the meaning of v.7-10 nicely:

"The event of our trials and difficulties is often better than at first we thought. Surely it is better to be patient in spirit, than to be proud and hasty. Be not soon angry, nor quick in resenting an affront. Be not long angry; though anger may come into the bosom of a wise man, it passes through it as a way-faring man; it dwells only in the bosom of fools. It is folly to cry out upon the badness of our times, when we have more reason to cry out for the badness of our own hearts; and even in these times we enjoy many mercies. It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times; as if former ages had not the like things to complain of that we have: this arises from discontent, and aptness to quarrel with God himself."

I put the ending sentences in bold as I would like to pay special attention to those thoughts. Those words popped out to me. Today, we might say the times are not the greatest. Daily, we see evidence of continual corruption in our society, as well as an economic downfall that sheds a very dim light at the end of the tunnel. However, Ecclesiastes 7 points out that it is folly to "cry out upon the badness of our times, when we have more reason to cry out for the badness of our own hearts." Convicting? It made me think. Yes, times my be tough, but then, they aren't terrible. And even if we were huddling together in a box on the street without job or food, at that point, what still counts is our hearts. Our current conditions and the state of the "times" is less important than what is going on in our hearts. If all crumbles away around us, yet our mortal bodies survive, what is left? A human with a heart, mind and soul. And where is our heart? Where is it when we are prosperous?

This brings us to the next thought, "It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times; as if former ages had not the like things to complain of that we have: this arises from discontent..." What Ecclesiastes 7:10 is trying to say is that when we look back on the "good old days" with too high a prescription of rose-colored shades, it's a symptom of a discontent heart. Why? The truth is that the former days had its fill of tough times, as well, and should not be viewed as the "ideal" when we have been dealt the present. Furthermore, looking at the previous verses discussed, ultimately, it's not entirely about "the times" but about the condition of our heart during these times. It is not wise to dwell on what we did have or what we could have, but to live for what we do have, and in that, serve Christ fully with our heart focused on Him.

With all of that being said, I do not think it is so wrong to thumb through old photo albums or talk about timeless memories with grandparents and friends. This is a part of sharing and connecting, and I don't believe Ecclesiastes 7:10 is trying to shy us away from such fellowship. It's talking about the ideas discussed above, and how we should have a wise perspective about our lives in order to effectively serve the Lord.

Enjoy the ice land pictures-- water is such a fascinating concept. It's a vapor when heated, capable of absolutely beautiful formation when frozen, and in liquid form it is what keeps our hearts beating.

Love you all!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas TrEAT

I can tell it's nearing Christmas.

Myriad varieties of food are showing up around this house hold. Party mix, puppy chow, chicken chowder soup, fudge, cheese cake, and the list goes on. I count this as one of many blessing in my life currently. Those of you who don't know me so well may not realize my adoration for food. I really enjoy the art of eating, and tend to do so frequently rather than infrequently. I'm one of those types that eats about every 2-3 hours on average during the day, or at least ideally so. When I get busy and concentrate hard, sometimes I forget or just don't make time. Yet it is among my favored activities, and I almost always look at the dessert menu when I'm eating out (just to see.)

Don't get me wrong- I highly honor healthy eating and feel it is so important to treat the body as a vessel to be respected. My take on diets is that I don't believe in them. Let me revise that statement... in some cases, a diet program is necessary to lose the needed weight for some individuals, especially for health reasons. However, in general, I don't go for the "I'm going on a diet to lose 5 lbs" concept. I hold strong to the truth that if we eat what will do our bodies good, such as fruits and vegetables, and pair that with appropriate entrees as well as regular exercise, then we can be healthy. It's about sustaining a healthy lifestyle, not temporary starvation or a cutting off of all carbs or an over-strenuous work-out schedule. The goal is to live within the lifestyle that will keep you healthy, and stay there. Otherwise, after a 3-month diet program, once you finish it, what keeps you from falling back into your old ways? If it's not about changing your lifestyle, then it won't be nearly as effective in the long run.

This may be a poor illustration but let me make a spiritual analogy. If we have someone lost in sin and he decides to go on a "diet" from these activities to become "better" for a few months, but then goes off of this "diet," he may be feeling better, looking better, and acting better, but what if he starts introducing some of those "old habits" back into his life? He may be good for a time, but what keeps him from "gaining back the weight?" However, if he instead makes an entire lifestyle change and allows that to shape who he is and become healthy, then it's a commitment. It is a long-lasting covenant to honor his life with good things.

Let me make one thing clear, though: As I stated before, I always check out the dessert menu. Living a healthy lifestyle does not mean restricting everything that tastes good. It just means having a balanced perspective about what you eat and when, and the phrase "everything in moderation" is a great one to keep in mind.

All in all, food was made available to us on this Earth and must be consumed to survive, so it must be important. I truly believe it is something to be enjoyed, and when it is used and not abused, it can be a wonderful thing!

It's interesting how I will come to write a post and end up in these tangents if only because of my opening thought. Anyway, since tonight's writing session has stolen the topic of food, let me ask you a question:

What is your favorite Christmas-time treat?

It can be anything from hot chocolate, candy canes, egg nog, and fudge to chili or chocolate-covered pretzels. You tell me what you crave most around the holidays.

Love you all!


Sunday, December 07, 2008


It has been quite the weekend.

I headed up to Chicago with Holly on Friday morning. We decided to take my car because her new car was not available to her yet, and taking a rental up to the windy city didn't seem like the best idea. After fixing a "low coolant" situation, we headed north.

It was bitter cold. That type of freeze that grips your entire self and makes it almost impossible to breathe. All that you want to do is scream. Anyway, we toughed out the wind tunnel, into and out of a few different stores, after grabbing a late-afternoon lunch at a newly discovered corner Italian cafe.

I love Chicago in the winter. It dawned on me, while there, that I have rarely attended Chicago in the summer time. I always go up in the winter, when lights are twinkling on every corner, people are scurrying to and fro, and the snow is falling softly from the sky, adding a sparkling touch to the city's already-charming nature. It's so festive and fun, lively and musical. Every block introduces a new song, whether pounded out on a bucket with sticks or emitted as a melodic Christmas tune from a department store's speakers.

Holly's brother and sister-in-law live just blocks away from N. Michigan Ave., easily accessible by way of the El. (The title heading above the conveniently placed maps that try to somehow explain this very intricate transportation system call it the "Loop," but I learned this weekend that it is called the "El" because it is "elevated," contrasting the subway system.)

Anyway, their apartment is above a restaurant, more famously known as the location where "Return to Me," was filmed. We met up with her family and enjoyed some Nonna's pizza on the top. Then, we made the 4-block walk in the dark but festive cold to Moody Bible Church. It is such a beautiful church.

Among entry, we saw dozens of familiar faces from my church, including my parents. Our seats were on the side balcony, and we packed in to view the annual Christmas Program that takes place every year. This year's theme was "Jesus- A Savior to All." It may sound generic until you think about it. The program executed this concept by way of display of many different countries and cultures, and illustrated it musically accordingly. We heard a wonderful orchestra, mens' and womens' choirs, bells, the entire chorale, and saw touching drama. Moving picture visuals and narration was also incorporated.

It was during this performance that I realized a truth that I have known for quite some time, but it seemed to affect me differently. Music paired with visuals moves me. Really moves me. So much so that it is not past me to get choked up during a television commercial. There is something so powerful about what we hear that plays on what we see, and we you can easily make an emotional connection with the two (and you happen to be a highly "feeling" individual such as myself), you are moved. It makes logical sense. In some ways, it goes back to my "personality type" fetish- those of a more, "objective, thinking nature," may not be so affected, because their ties to reality grounds them enough not to be come emotional over a simple performance. Such an individual may instead consider the historical data that was relayed in this particular production, or marvel at the details and structure of execution. Yet whenever I see music put with picture, tears come to my eyes. Inspiration fills my heart, and at that very moment I want to go running fast to the "creating board" to construct my own message to the world.

Needless to say, it was an awe-inspiring performance that told the story of Jesus in a fantastic way.

Saturday morning welcomed us with a soft blanket of snow, and somehow, a warmer day. It came and went, and after a quick trip to Macy's, the group plus another couple ate lunch at Weber Grill. Holly and I split a burger, and then we were on our way back to Central Illinois.

I spent my Saturday evening in Bloomington outside of a Walmart, right behind a red Salvation Army bucket with a bell and a group of singers. The ISU Young Group huddled together from 6-8 pm and sang many, many carols. I brought some coffee with me, and started out in the front. It was very cold, but it was a nice view. It was touching to see how many gave. The little mittened hands of a child all the way up to the limping elderly dug in their pockets for change or inserted a crisp $5 bill. The feedback for our singing was wonderful. At one point I ended up in the very back so that those in front could be a "wall" of warmth. The only problem was that my view was blocked, so I had a tall friend nudge me whenever someone contributed. It was neat to see so many giving hearts.

I don't often watch television, as I see it as a waste of good time. However, a few weeks ago I had the News on as I worked, and the Salvation Army commercial came on. I love how it was put together, and all night I thought about it. This would be an example of a commercial that brings tears to my eyes.

The evening was topped off by a warm fire, lots of cookies and baked goods, and a viewing of Miracle on 34th Street in black & white. I have something to say about b/w films. I have never been a fan. I have always felt as though I am missing out when I don't see something in color. To the contrary, I feel as though at times, a black & white photograph is more effective than in color. Yet last night, after viewing the entire film in b/w, I had a change in heart. The altogether vintage nature of this movie, paired with its wholesome themes and Christmas-time message showed me a new way to enjoy the moving picture. It was a wonderful time.

I awoke this morning feeling a bit feverish. Also, my throat was very sore. It was as if I could not swallow. The thermometer confirmed a low-grade temperature, and my swollen glands and raw throat to boot kept me home from church today. It was funny, because I was not the least bit tired, and I should have been. With mind over matter, I went back to sleep for a couple of hours and then awoke feeling quite fantastic, as the 3 Advil had set in. Yet at the same time, I felt as though I was missing out. I don't like "missing" out, and I kept thinking about everyone at church.

Tonight is my favorite Christmas event that our church does, which is Christmas caroling. We go around and sing at several locations, and then enjoy a wonderful chili dinner afterwards.

Tomorrow marks the start of another predictablly busy week with Imagine Artists. Christmas Card Rush is still at high speed, but I think that after these next 5 days, we may be past the best of it. I am going to go chug some Gatorade now, and possibly take a little rest. Being under the weather can hardly keep me away from "work," and I have put in a few hours this afternoon, so I best be off to rest.

Love you all!


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Point (ment)s

Today I had two appointments.

Appointment #1 was a perm. Some of you may gasp, I know. It's not naturally curly. Never has been. I have pictures of myself when I was 5 years old, sitting at the barber chair with rollers in my hair getting my first perm. Since then, my hair has not lived without curls. Oh, I can straighten it if I want. But it's not that shiny, glossy "straight" that others can achieve. It's okay. I have come to accept the fact that my hair is curly and forever more will be curly.

Anyway, that was a nice chance to relax for a little bit.

Appointment #2 was a dentist appointment. I do not like going to the dentist one little bit. In fact, it is likely my least favorite doctor that I visit. First of all, the dental hygienists always try to make small talk while they are operating on your mouth, which is nice and all, but it is very difficult to answer any of their questions. I have yet to meet a dental hygienist who is either a) quiet, or b) talks the whole time, deleting any questions that need to be asked. Either way would suit well in such a situation.

Furthermore, it is extremely uncomfortable to keep your mouth open for such a long period of time while they use those drills to inject flavored paste into your mouth in order to polish your teeth. It's a nice deed they are doing, but it is just plain rowdy. I feel as though my mouth has run a marathon by the time it is all over. Before any of this happens, they ask my favorite question: "What flavor of paste would you like today?" And before I have a chance to answer, they list off about 5,000 flavors. I have always wondered why anyone would want the dentist cleaning their mouth with choices such as cookie dough, bubble gum, or passion fruit. I always opt for mint, as I feel it's the safest option and the only way my mouth will walk away feeling clean.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts on that particular activity. Now before you get me all wrong and think that I absolutely despise all dentists, let me light up the truth: that's false. Dentists do a wonderful and important thing, and in fact, I think my dentist is great. It's just the activities that I endure along the way that I don't enjoy so much. But God bless the dentists for all their hard work, and the dental hygienists for being such skilled "people" people.

Today was also one of those days where my phone would not stop ringing. Do you ever have those days? It's as if everyone decided today would be a great day to call. Not so. I was in public a greater portion of it, and by my second appointment I was finally smart enough to turn my phone on vibrate. I counted, and today was a total of 33 incoming/outgoing calls. Yikes. It's safe to say that 75% of those were business calls, but still. It was a social day for me. Now watch. Tomorrow no one will call, and actually, that would be really nice.

It was also very productive today, especially in the latter parts. From 8 o'clock until I began writing this post, I edited a slew of pictures. And maybe I talked to a few friends online, but really, other than the occasional chat session, I stayed on task. My friends joke that I will be the "old cat lady" some day, and I grab that title gladly, but that just to say that my cat hung out with me tonight. Her name is Belle, and she's a calico. She's great. She'd rather be in here than out in the cold, so it's a pretty good deal for her.

Well, I am hungry and it's WAY past my bedtime. I will be getting up in less than 8 hours to walk with my walking buddy, Heather. I best be off!

Love you all!


Monday, December 01, 2008

This Time

As I awoke this morning, a shocking realization hit me: when you work for yourself at home, there are no snow days.

Oh, well. At least it gives me something pretty to look at. And I might also note that it makes for very fun pictures. Check the Imagine Artists blog in the next few days for some fun family snow pictures.

I am making time now to write. Sometimes I don't give myself the "time" allotted to write. Whenever I get super busy, it's really hard for me to spend large amounts of creative energy on anything other than what needs to get done. This is actually how I view naps. Let me be the rare person who says: I despise naps. I truly do. First of all, I can never bring myself to take one. There is always too much to do in a day. In the event that I am actually bored or out of ideas, napping is usually not on the list. Naps always make me feel worse when I take them. I wake up disoriented, moody, and sick. Then that night, I can't sleep. So what's the point? There are nights when I get very little sleep and a nap sounds oh so nice, and if my tank really is on extreme low, I can't say I'm against a "catch-up" nap just to survive the rest of the day. But trust me that it is not a common occurrence in my world. Sleeping is for night time; the day is for productivity. I love sunlight and daytime, it makes me feel alive. So why would I waste it sleeping? Anyway, all of this to say, I have real difficulty letting myself relax or wind down with creative activities when I am busy, but nonetheless, I need to allow time for such ventures.

You may wonder why I am so busy. Imagine Artists is in the thick of the "Christmas Card Season," and it's no understatement to say we are fully immersed. I count our preoccupation as a blessing; we could not ask for more business. The snow outside adds a nice touch.

Speaking of blessings... we have many of them. Sometimes I wish I had less material possession because I feel like it would simplify my life. The less you have the option of "having," the closer you are to true joy. Stuff clutters your physical life and your spiritual walk... the more you have, the easier it is to trip over it. As the Christmas season approaches, people often ask me, "What do you want?" Honestly? ...really, nothing. Sure, there is stuff that I "want." Who doesn't want this or that, an ipod touch, an iphone, 6 boxes of chocolate, and that really cool CD. But all that stuff does is take up my time, and does it really make me happy? Or does it make me want more?

I have been thinking a lot about time lately, and how I use it. There are daily necessities that must be met, and often, lifelong necessities that follow suit. And those take time. But when we look beyond what we must do to live as humans, we find a whole bunch of time in space that is a gift of ours. The Lord has entrusted us with this time to do as we please. So are we pleasing Him with it? Does the glory go to Him in all that we do? It's a real challenge. If you ask yourself that question daily, it changes your perspective and your attitude.

With all of that being said, I am going to continue to honor time and close up... I have to make "time" for my bedtime snack. :)

Love you all! T