Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Posts of 2013

In my high school yearbook, someone wrote:

"Life is like a roll of toilet paper.  The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes."

The metaphor is scarily accurate.  Everyone tells you that the older you get, the faster time flies. 

And 2013 has flown by.  Way. Too. Fast.  

I hope that doesn't mean I'm nearing the end of my roll.  Haha. 

Thank you for taking the time to read some of my ramblings this past year.  Having decided in 2012 to make a more concentrated effort toward my blog, I have spit out some things this year a number of people have read. Thank you for that.  Its humbling to say the least that people are even taking the time to click on my links, much less read my stuff. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Blue Christmas

Normally, Christmas is a time of joy, celebration and fun for me.  I get so excited about Christmas shopping that I start in July and finish by November.  I love decorating, putting up lights and baking. 

But this year, I have a heavier heart than normal.

Marla, a woman in my congregation who had been fighting cancer, passed away on Friday, December 13th.  Her daughter is 16.  It was her husband's birthday.

A close family friend, Bill, who was struggling with four brain tumors, had a massive stroke and died on Saturday, December 14th.  He was a grandfather to two of my friends and a close friend of my grandmother.  His death the day after Marla's hit hard.

Christmas is not a happy occasion for everyone.  

Some people are missing loved ones during the holidays.  Some are struggling with the fact that they can't give gifts to their kids.  Others don't know if this will be their last holiday season.

The holidays are dark for many. 

How do you make it okay?

How do you help them to enjoy the season?

How do you help them see the little bits of joy and peace and love in the midst of the tragedy?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This is the God We Serve

I'm not one to toot my own horn.  Well, I used to be, but I'm trying to not do that as much anymore.  (Ironic when I have a personal blog?)  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't want this to be about me.  Because its not.  This whole thing.  The blog, the video, my life.  It's not about me.

Because I serve a great God.

The video above is the message that I gave at my church back in October.  If you haven't already, I would be honored if you would watch it.  It's been on Youtube for awhile now, but I haven't had a chance to really develop my thoughts into something tangible.  What I kept coming back to was simply this phrase:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grace Starts Now

Someone I know well, whom I will call Meryl, has more than once said mean, hurtful things to me.  She's the type of person who, when stressed and under pressure, buckles and starts lashing out because it feels like everything is falling down around her.

Recently, Meryl assumed I had done something to hurt her when it was in fact an oversight.  Well, regardless of what it was, she told me this, and I was angry.  It was an honest mistake.  I wasn't trying to do any harm or disrespect.

So, I got mad. I vented to my husband via text.  I start thinking of all the things I wanted to say but hadn't out of restraint.  I thought of all the ways I was right and all of the ways she was wrong.

The next day, she apologized, saying that she was wrong, that she knew I had just made an honest mistake, and it was poor character for her to say those things.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

5 Tips for a Happier Life

Happiness is what everyone wants.  You don't need to be a genius to see that in today's culture.  Humans long, desire, yearn for satisfaction and contentment.  Lasting happiness.

But feelings come and go.  Emotions are more unstable than radioactive atoms.  We're just not happy all the time.  So we search for new methods to attain what we want.
I don't know much, but there are a few things I've learned so far that might help us live happier lives. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to be Thankful in America

Our 2012 Thanksgiving Table
Holidays are good things.  I love reasons to celebrate, reminders to appreciate blessings in our lives, opportunities to commemorate special events.  Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Thanksgiving are definitely my top three holidays for those reasons.

Remember in elementary school when we made Native American head-dresses and pilgrim collars out of construction paper?  We were taught about that Thanksgiving commemorate a time when two opposing cultures came together to celebrate survival, community and blessings.  We were told to take the opportunity to remember everything we have.

After the turkey and the pumpkin pie, we're told to count our blessings, make lists of what we're thankful for, and to celebrate family.

But is that it?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Everyone Should Work in Retail

You know what the solution is for world peace?  Have everyone work for at least 6 months at a retail or customer service position.

Because there is something powerful that happens when you're paid to serve people.

Oh, the stories I have...

I worked at Mervyn's shoe department for about a year and a half while in college.  I enjoyed my job, but boy, did I encounter some annoying people!  And now I have a bunch of funny stories to tell.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Different Doesn't Mean Success

You may be surprised to know that I'm not out to write the next great American novel.  I don't want to be recognized in the literary community as cutting edge or ground breaking.  That's not what I want.

I just want my novel to tell a story and to tell it well.

I want my book to resonate with readers.  I want them to enjoy reading it.  I want to write something that doesn't necessarily stand the test of time but does connect to readers regardless of time, age, or generation.
“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.”
E.B. White
In my opinion, that is what a good story does.  My aim is not to create a new genre or style.  I'm going to stick to the basics: a compelling plot, strong characters, and vivid descriptions.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Our Mission: Making Disciples of All Nations

In the Christian world, you will hear of members say phrases like, "going on missions" or "supporting missions."  They are most likely be referring to the word meaning a group of people going to a foreign country to preach the Gospel and/or assist with relief.  

Why does the definition have to include the word "foreign"?  

I mean, Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."  In another Gospel, He says it this way, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." 

There is no place in there that I see him implying that you have to travel by plane to get there. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It was a dark and stormy night once upon a time...

I have a writer's confession to make.

I like cliches.

I'm a little ashamed of it.  After all, you're taught pretty much once you leave elementary school that cliches are "sooooo yesterday".  Overused and not creative.

But they once were creative.  Once saying someone's heart thumped in their chest caused someone to nod in approval.  Once wracking one's brain was clever.  At one time, a blanket of snow opened a reader's mind to a new scene.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why Manners Matter

Don't chew with your mouth open.

Don't put your elbows on the table.

Don't belch in public.  If you do burp, say, "Excuse me."  

Bring the food to your mouth, not your mouth to the food.

Don't pick your nose.

Have you ever asked yourself what is the point of manners?

They don't really do anything.  Not anything important anyway.  It's not like The Ten Commandments or the Amendments of the Constitution.  No one is going to get hurt or die if you put your elbows on the table.  Is there really a point to knowing which side of the plate the fork goes on?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Creative Elite

The word for them is snobs.  They would probably prefer to be called aficionados or experts.  But no, the word for them is still snobs. 

They are those people who look down on you for your lack of knowledge about Beethoven and Debussy.  Who judge you because you don't know the difference between pointillism and impressionism.  Who look at your feeble attempts at a novel and laugh out loud.  

Every field has them, and in the creative arts, the opportunities for snobbishness increase exponentially.  Because creativity is often not always a skill taught but sometimes a talent acquired.  Some people are just born with it, and learning all of the extras is the easy part.

On top of that, there is the specialized language.  When you as a classical music person a question, they will answer with words like adagio, diminuendo, and other Italian words that you have no idea what they mean when they could have just said "slow" and you would've understood what they've said.

These elite use the terms of their field to differentiate who is in the know and who isn't.  It's a pretty good litmus test.  A few can pass through the first few uses, but once you keep going through your laundry list of words, pretty soon the intruder will stumble and you'll know them for who they really are: a wannabe. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Deep Questions, Simple Answers

Throughout all the years of my short life, I have never lacked something to do.  Between school, work, my writing, church, relationships, friends, etc. I've always had a goal, something to work toward.  Busy is one of those words that describes me well.

However, even though I always had activity in my life, sometimes I struggled with the point of it all.

Last year in January, I wrote a blog post about struggling with courage.  I was having a hard time at the point, adjusting to being a newlywed, changes at my job, and shifts in family dynamics.  I wanted to know what my purpose was on this earth.  I knew I had purpose; I'm passionate about a lot of things.  But how did that fit in the bigger picture?  Where was the culmination of all my passions supposed toward?

After daily sifting through possible answers to my wonderings, I have discovered when it comes down to it, the answer is simple.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Adult Threshold: Age 25

Winter Formal Picture - I'm 16!
If you're a young adult, you know what new things you can (or cannot) do once you hit certain benchmark ages.

At 16, you can get your license!!!!!!!

At 18, you can drive minors legally, buy cigarettes, buy lottery tickets, go to prison, vote, etc.

At 21, you can drink alcohol and you can drink more alcohol.

And at age 25, you can rent a car without insanely high fees (among other things).  The government considers you "responsible" now.  There is nothing left to look forward to.  This is your last benchmark. Well, until you hit 65.  And that's not something you're looking forward to.

I recently hit my last "young" benchmark.  I no longer have any age-restricted, coming-of-age celebrations to look forward to that aren't decades. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Husband Isn't My Soul Mate Either

This blog post is a response to another blog post I read called My Husband is Not My Soul Mate.  Take time to read it.  It's pretty awesome.  She starts off building a background on the perpetration of the soul mate idea in Christian churches:
Do you remember those awesome Evangelical 90’s/ early 2000’s where Jesus was kind of like our boyfriend and we all kissed dating good-bye because we just knew that God was going to bring us THE ONE and then life would be awesome? ... We would know that he was THE ONE because of his plethora of WWJD bracelets and because (duh) he had also kissed dating goodbye and was waiting for me, strumming Chris Tomlin songs on his guitar as he stared into whatever campfire was nearby. We would get married and it would be awesome FOREVER. If you were like me, in devote preparation for this moment, you wrote letters to your future spouse, preferably in a leather bound journal dotted with your overwhelmed tears.
The fact of the matter is that there is a small part of us that wants to hold on to that idea of a perfect mate, someone who will be so obscenely compatible with us, it will be disgusting. 

But that isn't reality.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Austenland Movie Review (from someone who has read the book)

First off, you must understand that I have read the Austenland novel more than once, and it has taken its place amongst one of my favorite novels.  It's not a masterpiece of literature by any long shot, but I appreciated the depth of character in what most would consider a chick flick.  On top of that, it is a fun read.

The Austenland movie came out awhile ago with a limited showing, so I wasn't able to see it until recently.  I write this review with the premise that I am judging the book's portrayal in cinematic form, not as a stand-alone film.

I understand that the move from book to movie requires changes.  There is not a way one can accurately translate a reader's imagination and a character's internal dialogue easily to the screen.  So, I go into the movie understanding that there will be changes and it won't be the same as the book.

Disappointment #1: Use of Satire

While the novel definitely has elements of humor, director Jerusha Hess, best known for Napoleon Dynamite, took that element to a new level and made Austenland a satire.

I understand how she could take it that direction.  In the end, Shannon Hale, author of the novel, is poking light fun at our society's view of romance and women's obsession with Mr. Darcy.  However, taking it to the ridiculous level that Hess does in order to emphasize the satire disregarded Hale's subtle empathy for the Darcy-obsessed.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Loving When There is So Much to Lose

Marriage has its moments. Moments of pure, unadulterated contentment. Moments of deep and continual longing. Moments of unthinkable hurt, anger and frustration. Moments of just being sad.

There is so much to lose because is so much to gain. You place everything, practically, in the hands of someone else and tell them, “Take care of these things please.” The challenge is you give them your heart without much of an instruction manual.

There are times in my life when I've had things click, those ah-ha! moments that you feel so stupid for not figuring it out earlier (it was so simple!) but at the same time, so proud that you have attained this new-found perspective.  I like to share those things with you.  I hope that by sharing some of my blood, sweat and tears, you can avoid the same.

Here is one of the moments that someone did that for me.  I heard this on the Air1 radio station and its been gnawing at me ever since.  The host, Brant, was telling about a recent argument with his wife in which she doubted him.  Then he said this:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Birthday Battle

I recently celebrated a birthday, and I have to say that my birthday isn't really something I look forward to.  I don't have that same unbridled excitement I had when I was a kid, just ready to soak in everyone singing to me.

Now, I sit for those 15 seconds while everyone sings Happy Birthday, and in all honesty, it feels a little awkward.  I mean, who do I look at?  I usually end up staring at the cake, sneaking a timid glance up every once in awhile just to see everyone staring at me.

I also don't like the attention while I'm opening gifts either.  I open them and hope I don't react horribly.  I want to show them how much you love the gift, but I'm not that good of an actor.  Not that I get bad gifts, but its just hard to show enthusiasm for the gift card when you just opened a super thoughtful Princess Bride board game from your sister (I'm a Princess Bride fan and the gift was very thoughtful).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why There Are Rules

I like rules.  I like knowing what I can and cannot do.  I like knowing if I break this rule, that bad consequences will follow, but if I follow the rule, positive consequences will follow. 

But sometimes, that is a problem.  I forget the reason why we have rules.  I start following rules for the sake of rules being rules.  Life isn't always black and white, not always so cut and dry.  Sometimes there is gray. 

Without rules, you wouldn't have grace. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Author's Biggest Fears

It's a daunting task to submit your personal work for publication.  Whether art, music, or writing, any human creation gets personal.  It is near impossible to distance yourself from your work.  It's a part of you; it's woven its way through every facet of your being.  Sounds like an exaggeration, but I don't think so.

All of the biggest fears you face as a writer stem from that same fundamental connection:

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Started a Facebook Page!

I feel a little presumptuous starting my own Facebook page.  I'm not a celebrity.  I'm no one "special."  But like all good marketing strategies, you have to be excited about your product and you have to want to tell people about it.

I took some photos this weekend to flesh out my blog, my Twitter, my Facebook page, my Google+ page, etc.  So, I'm going to be tweaking those bit by bit to make it all uniform.

Anyway, I would be most honored if you would "like" me on Facebook.  It doesn't mean the world to me, but it does mean something to know people support an overly self confident person like me who just likes to write whatever is on her mind and publish it on the Internet.

I'm working on my novel, still, which as you all know about my life, is slow in coming.  But its coming!  It will get here someday.  It will.  And then you guys can all read it and let me know what you think.

Anyway, here is the special link: https://www.facebook.com/writercherylchen

I'll be looking forward to our continuing conversations together!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Kissing Dating Goodbye Affected My Marriage

There was a book I read in middle school called I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris.  Harris preludes the book on his website by saying: "I was 21-years old when I wrote my story of giving up the dating game in order to focus on serving God."

At the time (circa 1997), the book took the Christian world by storm.  I read it along with some of my girlfriends and soaked it up as an impressionable thirteen-year-old.  I wanted to be pure, and I wanted to be good in God's eyes.

Following that book, I was inundated with messages encouraging me to save myself for marriage, to dress modestly, to be wary of dating, thinking of my future husband.  While I know all of the messages (as well as their senders) were well-intentioned and earnest, at my age and with my little experience in the world of boys and girls, not much of it translated in a healthy way.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why I Go to the Movies

Dear friend,

If I ever go to the movies with you, I'm going because I want to spend time with you.

Granted, going to the movies is arguably one of THE worst ways to spend time with someone.  You are sitting in a dark room with a whole bunch of other strangers, eating high calorie foods, and staring at a screen together.  There is little interaction.  In fact, most wise people warn against the whole classic dinner and a movie date as a way to get to know anyone.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Problem with Christians

I love God.  I love Jesus.  But sometimes, I have a really hard time loving His followers.

As a Christian myself, I look at our American church with a mix of admiration and disgust and disappointment.  In the end, when my passionate anger dies away, what is left is that lingering sadness.

I don't want to sound like I have all the answers because I don't.  But I think we're doing it wrong, guys.  Our focus is all off.  Even our well-intentioned efforts are only making it harder for us in the end.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Slippery Slope of Tolerance

When I was in middle school, the faculty installed big banners that promoted positive thinking on the beams above the common areas.  They had words like Integrity, Respect, and Tolerance.  I remember some teachers start discussing what each of those words meant in class, probably some all-school program that I wasn't fully aware of.

In class, one of my teachers defined tolerance as accepting everyone's beliefs, even if they disagreed with you.  I remember her stressing this point, and even at the young age, I sensed that this word was an issue.  At the time, I couldn't understand why anyone would have a problem being tolerant.  If someone disagreed that handball wasn't the best playground sport, I wasn't going to hate him for saying that (even though handball IS the best playground sport).  Simple enough, right?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Call for Christian Artists!

Dear Christian Artist,

For the purpose of this post, I am going to define "artist" as anyone who produces any creative work, such as a painter, a musician, a writer, a songwriter, a movie producer, an actor/actress, a photographer, etc.

You are rare! Did you know that? You are a rare gem in the Christian world. Why? Because in the creative field, there is more freedom. You know this. Your ability to create and to twist and to pull anything you feel like. That is the freedom I'm talking about. And, of course, the world has taken that opportunity, that freedom and used creative works to demonstrate perverted and vile things. Sex, immorality, rudeness, a blurring of the truth, etc. The world has taken the expression of the human self and used it to portray ungodly material. So, the Christians left that world, that creative sector.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reality Check

My husband and I were having an intellectual discussion the other day, and he coined the term "cognitive dissonance."  He may not be the first person to use the term, but he thought of it himself.  He used the term to mean when someone acts contrary to what they say their beliefs are.

That brought to mind the statement I heard when going through the Truth Project:

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Misconceptions of Marriage

During my time as a single person, I looked at marriage from a very different angle than someone who is actually married.  For the most part, I only saw the public face of marriage.  Not often, even from my own parents, did I see the private side.

From that perspective, I formed a lot of assumptions on what marriage was, how it functioned, why it existed.  Many of those assumptions were not entirely accurate. 

One misconception that I believed was that in marriage you learn more about your spouse. Sounds logical, right?  You're departing your life as an individual and becoming a unit. But I found that I was wrong. In marriage, you learn more about yourself.

Our marriage counselors from Between Two Trees told us in premarital counseling that marriage holds a mirror up in front of yourself.  You are forced to confront, in a new and more intimate way than before, the best and worst parts of yourself.

It's true.  You do learn about your spouse, but I think I've learned more about who I am, what my needs/likes/dislikes/foundations/beliefs are than I have learned about my husband.  I've come face-to-face with my state of internal growth.  Sometimes, its not pleasant.  It hurts to realize your inner desires and admit that they are selfish.  But that step is necessary, important, and vital to the strength and lasting of your marriage, to your personal growth.

This process, though, is extremely important to your marriage.  Your spouse is that mirror.  Sometimes, you don't want to look, but it is important that you do.  You take a good look.  You study what you see.  Then you turn to your spouse and say, "I want to make myself better.  And I want to do it for you and for me."

The process of making yourself a better, more perfect fit for your spouse is invaluable.

I'm new to this whole marriage thing, so beyond the realization that this process needs to happen, I have little experience.  What I do anticipate though is only good: a stronger and richer marriage.   

Soli Deo Gloria

Related posts:
The Transition from My to Our
'Til Death Do Us Part
525,949 Minutes of Marriage

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Identity of Home

My husband and I embarked on shopping for our first home purchase together earlier this year.  I have often been forewarned about how stressful the process is.  And being first-time home buyers, it was even more daunting. 

In the beginning, there was a lot of learning taking place.  The market is pretty aggressive, we didn't know that much about escrows, mortgages, or offers.  We also didn't really know what we were looking for in a house, what we liked and dislike about the structure itself.  Not to mention it was hard to look past the current occupant's decorating and really see the house for its true potential.

Something I discovered was how strong of a word home is to me.  You know how the word love is indefinable to poets?  The word home is very similar for me.  It has such a profound connotation, so much wealth of history.  I grew up in a home that I adored, loved and found security in.  To search for another structure to provide that same thing for my future family is both exciting and nerve-wracking.  I feel like I'm choosing my college all over again.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Finding Security: A tribute to Fathers

It always seems like Mother's Day outshines Father's Day.  Maybe its because it comes first and we run out of steam by June.  Perhaps it is because in our society, many people find pain associated with their fathers.

I am often reminded at Father's Day of the oft-used saying: Anyone can become a father, but it takes a real man to be a Dad.

Cliche but true.  Dads are so important.  The nurturing love of a mother should not be forgotten, but there is something special about the way a man loves. And that love is so desperately needed in today's society. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Gift of Giving

"You're changing that boy's life."
"No, he's changing mine." 
Sandra Bullock as Leigh Ann Touhy 
The Blind Side (2009)

Late 2012, my husband began praying, asking God to really bless our efforts to reach out to others.  He started taking some of the guys in our college group out to dinner.  The first one he hung out with was Michael.

At the time, Michael was living at a friend’s house and was faced with the possibility that he might not be able to stay there much longer.  Jon told me, in the future, Michael might need a place to live and approached me about offering our extra room for him if the opportunity arose.  It seemed God was being very clear.

I have to admit that I had a lot of reservations.  Being newlyweds, I had become attached to our easy privacy at home. Selfishly, that was my first worry.  How would the presence of a third person in the house affect our marriage?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why Men Matter, Why You Should Care

Digging through some old online archives, I stumbled upon gem from 2010.  My husband was going to The Art Institute of Orange County, and I read this article in their school newspaper.  I was drawn to it, saved it, and even today, still feel like it deserves a larger spot light.  Men deserve it.

The author of this article, Lindsey Newman, is currently a copywriter in the Los Angeles area.  You can find out more about her at her website: lindseynewmanwrites.com.  Besides copywriter, she's also a blogger, designer, artist, photographer, and wannabe chef.  We also both live off of caffeine! Lindsey can be contacted via email at

Why Men Matter, Why You Should Care
by Lindsey Newman

For the past century we have been a nation focused on gender and race equality. Starting with women's suffrage in the early 1900s and 60s, to the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s (not to mention the current election of our first African-American president), we have made great strides in our development as a country. However, it seems that as of late we may be reversing our progress by ignoring the differences inherent to what we were originally created to be: men and women.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Novel Update: Day 1169

On March 16, 2010, I began writing my first novel as an adult.  I had just graduated college with my bachelors in English and an emphasis in Creative Writing, Fiction, and I wasn't going to waste any time.  Just as my professor Ron Carlson told me, I was going to set a precedent for my working life.  The first thing I did after finishing my last college class was start my novel. 

Five days later, I wrote my first blog post on this blog, sending it out into the void.  After 373 days, I finished my first draft.  Now, 3 years, 2 months and 12 days after that day in March, I'm still working on that same novel.

It's been a long and tedious process, mainly because of life.  In those 3 years, I've gotten engaged, then married.  I moved to my first new home since I was 8 years old.  And I've been working full-time 50 miles from my home.  So, really I should be a lot further along.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Name is Not Amy Tan

When I write, I always hesitate putting in my character's ethnicity.  Sometimes, I've specifically imagined my character being white, Asian, etc., but I never include that information in the story.  I tend to keep the hair and eye color pretty generic; they vary between different shades of brown. They never have a last name.

I am American-born Chinese, and though I've never specifically had someone tell me this, I feel like if I do mention a character's ethnicity in my story, then its automatically about race.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Making Time for Fun

I've been asked the question by more than one person: "Cheryl, what do you do for fun?"

I have to pause and think about it.

They are asking the question seriously, and I guess its a serious problem that they have to ask that.  Most people have a hobby.  And I do have hobbies, things I enjoy doing.  It just seems like there is always something more important that my hobbies.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Behind the Scenes: A tribute to Moms

For the first part of my childhood, I grew up in a single-story home on a cul-de-sac.  I have many fond memories of going from house to house on the street, asking various parents if Katie or Emily could come out and play.  Our house was the headquarters for fun.  We would bring the neighborhood kids over all the time to play in the backyard, play cave in our garage, ride bikes and roller skate, or even just to eat Otter Pops. 

The second part of my childhood, we moved to a two-story home on a semi-busy residential street in a more well-to-do neighborhood.  Because we lived on a hill, kids didn't come out of their houses to play, but parents would drive their kids over.  For the first time in my life, I had my own room, and I always though it was so cool to live in a two-story house.  Again, our house was the location for activity.  A request to have people over was rarely declined.  We would do crafts, play dolls, bake, or as we got older, just sit and talk.  There would always be snacks: freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, homemade strawberry smoothies, cartons and cartons of ice cream. 

I cherish all of these fond memories with a more mature appreciation than I have before.  Now, when I recall those times, I see my mother's hand prints all over it.  She was the one baking the cookies.  She was the one cleaning up after us.  She was the one always giving us activities to do.  She was the one creating a welcoming home for our friends to enjoy.  And always behind the scenes. 

My mom has specifically told me that they wanted to get to know our friends.  My dad and she made conscious decisions to make our house the popular place to hang out. 

It's these types decisions that I've grown to appreciate more and more as I get older.   Just one more reason to appreciate my mothers.  (I've got two now!) 

So, thank you, Mom, for always thinking of us.  Happy Mother's Day.  I love you. :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writer's Block Doesn't Exist

Sometimes I think we writers like to use "writer's block" as an excuse to explain why they were less productive than they should have been.

I'm not quite sure that writer's block really exists.  True, there are times where the words fly naturally and fluidly off my fingers, and there are times (more often) that I stare at the computer screen and retype the same sentence over and over.

But isn't that how it is with everything?  There are on days and there are off days.

There isn't some mystical force that spreads writer's block germs around.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It Takes Two

As an English major, writer, and human being, I am acutely aware that what you say usually isn't what is heard.

That's usually a problem.

Anyone who's dated know this firsthand.  You say one thing, he hears another.  That's the issue with communication is that there are TWO people involved.  Two very different people with different sets of vocabulary, connotations, backgrounds, upbringings, and slang.

We're not even getting into body language here, just words for the moment.

My belief is that it is the responsibility of the communicator to do their best to ensure that the listener is understanding what is being communicated in the intended way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When Two Are Better Than One

Awhile ago, I tackled the question "To Date or Not To Date" in a past blog post.  My answer: "Are you better together than you are individually?"

I believe you should only continue to date someone if you are better as a team, function better as a unit, than you do as individuals.

However, it remains to be said: relationships are tough and you must fight for them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Porn or Pr0n: What's the Difference?!

There are certain "faux pas" words in our English language that are socially unacceptable to write or say.  I'm sure you can think of a few off the top of your head.

One of my friends used to always use the word "pr0n" instead of "pornography" or "porn," and it always struck me as odd.  Does switching the letters around and substituting a zero for the "o" really changing anything?  People who read what you typed understand that pr0n = porn so there is no difference in meaning.  Are there people who really are less offended because one attempted to "hide" the word?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

To Date or Not to Date

Disclaimer: I married my high school sweetheart and the only boyfriend I ever had.

I feel obligated to start with that statement for a post about dating.  People tend to throw that back at my face, saying, "I don't know what it feels like to have my heart broken," or something of the sort.  Yes, I know.  I have limited experience, and I don't know what it feels like.  Yes, I've got it pretty good, even great.

But that doesn't mean my experiences haven't taught me anything.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

You know you're an adult when...

Adulthood comes at different times in people's lives.  Sometimes its when you're 18, sometimes when you're 15 or sometimes when you're 55.  Some people never reach adulthood.

I believe being a "grown-up" demands a certain level of maturity.  It's not just owning a house or having a job.  Every adult may not be at the same level of maturity in each area of their lives.  Some adults are better at dealing with rude people; others better at standing up for justice.  But what is the common denominator in all adult behavior?

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Good Friday

On Good Friday, the day we commemorate Jesus' death and honor His sacrifice, I often think of Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene before he was taken.  I feel like this shows the heart of Jesus so well.  Enjoy.

John 17 (New International Version)

Jesus Prays to Be Glorified
 1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
   “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus Prays for His Disciples
    6 “I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of[b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[c] that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
   13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus Prays for All Believers
    20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
   24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
   25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Never Ever Ever Ever Enough Time

If you really delve into this American society, one thing is pretty certain: you will never have enough time.

There are a million and one things demanding your time.  Exercise, self-improvement, hobbies, kids, church, work, work, and more work, family, friends, alone time, spouse time, music, Internet, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, your phone, games, this blog, your blog, your hopes and your dreams.  Everything wants a piece of your precious time.

And guess what?  Time is the one of the few things you have that you cannot change.  You can improve your health.  You can earn more money.  You can get an education to gain more knowledge.  You can move up (or down) the social ladder, the economic ladder.  You can even change your gender if you want.  

But you cannot change how much time you have.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Learning from Lent (Part 2)

A few days ago, I started telling of my journey through Lent.  Check it out here!  It was the first time I've given up anything for Lent, and I chose coffee.

So, Lent is not quite over yet, but you're probably wondering with my overly dramatic intro in part 1 how I've been doing without caffeine.

I started off Ash Wednesday in Hawaii, the capitol of the decedent Kona coffee.  We arrived at the resort and for breakfast, the server offered us coffee.  We smiled and said, "Tea please."  The server seemed startled that we wouldn't want coffee. 

We returned from Hawaii and got back into the swing of things at work.  I missed walking in and making my trip to the Keurig maker for my cup of hazelnut or vanilla coffee.  The first few weeks continued similarly; I was always thinking about coffee.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Learning from Lent (Part 1)

This year was the first time I've ever given up something for Lent.  I gave up coffee.

Lent, the 40-day time of preparation for Easter, is a period celebrated by Christians.  The tradition of giving up something for that period of time is often observed by Catholics and some Protestants as a way of showing penitence or to symbolize Jesus' sacrifice (in some small way) in their own lives.

Giving something up, now, is supposed to somewhat difficult for you.  If I gave up mountain biking or going to the gym, the sacrifice would not be the same.  I don't mountain bike, and I don't enjoy going to the gym.  So, coffee.  Why was that a big deal for me?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Soap Box Booster Seats

A few weeks ago, I discussed a teenager's common search for identity...complete with a picture from my high school graduation! (Check it out here.) 

That post sparked a walk down memory lane.  I hope I never forget what it felt like to be a teenager.  There is something so valuable about that time in our lives, even if we are a bit embarrassed (okay, a lot embarrassed) by some of the things we did.

For instance, remember when you were so passionate about EVERYTHING?  And not only were you passionate about saving the whales or proper treatment of teenage workers, you wanted the ideal.  You worked toward how things should be and you did not stand for how things were.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Words for the Indescribable

As a writer, I've never been good at writing scene (describing the setting).  I find it difficult to build not only the objects in the room but also the mood simultaneously.  Its a difficult task, and those who do it well, I envy you.  However, I do find that building a room is easier than describing nature scenery.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Bad Books Have That Good Books Don't

What sells books?  

Its the question that haunts writers of all kinds.  Loads of great writing never gets published.  Loads of great published writing never gets popular.  And loads of horrible published writing becomes popular and turns into movies and the like.

Not fair, yes, but that's how it works.

What I have noticed, however, is that a lot of mediocre fiction gets published and gets fairly popular.  Us writers read said book and go, "Ugh!  The writing is horrible!", yet there are still millions of readers (many of whom don't read that much) that have picked up that same story and read it.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Things I Learned from Being Burglarized

My husband's and my home was burglarized twice in a period 6 months during our first year of marriage.

There were many valuable things taken, but probably one of the most valuable things taken was my external hard drive.

The burglars had stolen my laptop too, and the hard drive was a back up of all my photos, stories, music, documents, etc. that were on my laptop.

It was all gone. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Who I Was In High School

My high school graduation!  Do I look the same?
I've often heard the phrase, "High school years are the best ones of your life," but I've never heard anyone pipe up and say, "Yep!  That was true for me!"

I don't hate my memories from high school (there are definitely many fond ones), but there are many memories that, as a young adult, I wish I could hide in a box with a lock.  We do some ridiculous things in those years when many of us are searching for an identity. 

Don't you remember that time?  You wanted to be like something.  Everyone was categorized and typecasted to make it easier to become that role.  Some people changed their identities overnight; some even changed their entire circle of friends just as fast.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to Make Boring Editing Fun

Admit it.  99.99999% of writers hate editing our work.  But its necessary 100% of the time.

If you follow my Twitter, I recently bemoaned the fact that I realized I needed to change my entire novel to first person POV. 

I was dreading the work.  It was enough brain-numbing work to sit down and just edit my old chapters for consistency, plot, character, big picture questions, etc. etc.  Now I would have to go through and recheck/change every single pronoun and verb TOO?! 

Needless to say, I was doing my writer whining.  I tried the "Find and Replace" feature (word to the wise, it doesn't work).  I tried just skimming and changing each pronoun and verb.  That didn't work either.  I would miss ones and some sentences would just not sound right.

So, I printed out my old draft and began retyping into a new Word document.  I would see the sentence, "She ran through the castle," and type, "I ran through the castle."  It seems the long-way to do it, but it was much better.  Here are the reasons why:

Friday, January 25, 2013

To Party Or Not To Party (Part 2)

A few days ago, I wrote a post on stepping outside of one's comfort zones in social situations and the importance of spending time with people.  You can check that out here!

Now, there is a caveat to my advice:

Remember to rest.

Its seems the older we get, the busier we get, and the busier we get, the less rest we get.  Sometimes I get caught up in all of the attempts to be socially active, and I get burnt out.  I'm just tired.  My brain doesn't work, I'm forgetful, I say stupid things, I'm short-tempered.  So, its important to set aside time for yourself to recuperate from life.

Rest comes in many different forms:

Sometimes, that's being alone and doing things you love.

Sometimes, that means spending time with people who are easy to hang out with.  Let's be honest.  Its relaxing to hang out with some people; its NOT relaxing to hang out with others, no matter what you do together!

Sometimes, it means taking yourself out of society for awhile.  Turn off your phone.  Go to someplace that brings you peace and just sit.

Whatever it may be for you, schedule time to rest.  If you don't schedule it, life won't give you an opportunity.  You have to be proactive. 

Soli Deo Gloria. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To Party Or Not To Party (Part 1)

From one "I'd rather be at home than out in with large group of people" person to another, I have one thing to say to you:

Your company is valuable. 

I write this to all of those people who would much rather spend an intimate evening with a small group of friends or one-on-one with someone rather than be in a huge group.  I'm like you.  I'd much rather spend my evening home with my husband than out at a bar.  Claustrophobia, anyone? 

However, I've had to come to grips with the fact that being out in the world socially is important.  God's given each person unique and wonderful personality traits that are meant to be USED for others.  If we selfishly stay at home all the time because its more comfortable for us, we're not exploring the many ways that God can use our gifts to bless others.

I struggled with this over the holidays when there are a myriad of Christmas parties to go to.  As a result, I'd go to social events cranky because I kept concentrating on where I'd rather be than where I was.

I'm not saying every person needs to make themselves into a social butterfly; all I'm saying is I need to make more of an effort to touch other people's lives.  And that often requires you to be in uncomfortable social situations. Will you join me?

There is always that awkward person in the crowd.  Hang out with them.  Find that wallflower and go talk to them.  Spend a little bit of time talking to people you don't know.  Stay away from the cliques.  Notice the group that's always ostracized and be there.  Ostracize yourself for the sake of others.

You never know how valuable your company might be to someone else's day...or even their life. And guess what? You might just get something out of it too.

Soli Deo Gloria. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Top Posts of 2012

Dear Blog Readers,

The magnitude of this little thing called an online blog sometimes escapes me.  I post my own two cents on this website, and the whole world can read it.  Wow.  Does that strike you as a little scary and super exciting?

I was looking at my blog stats today a noticed a common theme among my most read-posts of 2012.  Not only did these blog posts receive the most "hits", but they received three to four times more reads than my average hit count per post. 

Top Blog Posts of 2012

It was interesting to see what really resonated with people, and I found a common theme: authentic relationships.  It gives me some hope knowing that my Internet audience, whoever that may be, thinks authenticity, bravery, and relationships important. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my little thoughts.  I appreciate it, and I'd love to interact with you.  Feel free to comment! 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Transition from My to Our

My writing professor in college, Ron Carlson, told me not to go toward my MFA right away; he told me to get some life experience first.  Now, two years after graduation, I understand a little more about what he wanted me to learn.

I guess that is what my blog is about: my experiences, things I've learned, things I'm thinking about and digesting.  To me, portraying life is what writing is all about.

With that being said, recently I've been making the transition in my life from "my" to "our".  After you get married, you are expected for "two to become one flesh".  It's a concept that I hadn't truly began to understand until recently.  In no other time in my life have I really been asked to share truly everything that I have.

Any decision I make is now our decision.  Any purchase my husband makes is now our purchase.  Any choice that my husband makes is now my choice too.  Our house.  Our car.  Our clothes.  Our laundry.  Our dirty dishes.  Our family.  Our life.

I was writing thank you notes today for Christmas gifts.  I had to remind myself to say, "We are so excited about this gift," instead of "I loved your gift!".

Coming at life with this understanding that everything is shared changes everything.  Your life is not the only one on the line; both parties will suffer whatever consequences you make.

What can sound ominous and scary actually brings comfort too.  Our burdens.  Our problems.  They are no longer something that I need to handle on my own.  We're in this together.

My understanding of marriage as a symbol of God's relationship with Him deepens and grows every day.  This transition, though difficult at times, is yet another blessing God has given me, given us.

Soli Deo Gloria.