inspiration…to idea…to reality.

I know this blog is bordering on being a fan blog for another blog, but hey, this project is near and dear to my heart for a variety of reasons that I’ve documented here and here.

Remember this? Well, the book actually exists now. I’ve read along as The Beauty of Different went from inspiration, to idea, to a goal, to a commitment, to a reality. And, frankly, I’m just darn proud and inspired by Karen’s commitment to making this worthy project a very real and tangible thing that I will soon be able to hold in my own two hands. I wasn’t kidding when I said that you should go buy two copies… one for yourself and another for a friend who needs to be reminded that she or he is beautiful. I plan to buy one for myself and a copy for each of my girls for when they are older.

Because, honestly, I work every day among girls who change their hair, and heavily line their eyes, and gloss their lips, and try so hard to look like…[sigh]…everybody else. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against chi’s or MAX-Lash, or Clinique. There are others who work very hard to look different from everybody else. Sometimes their different is contrived; sometimes it is delightful. Their hair is a vivid crayola shade, their clothes are layered and unconventional. But there are some who simply look comfortable in their own skin. And, oh my, are they ever so lovely. I don’t know if they are even aware of the light that they shine.

I want them to see it. To know it.

And I want the others who can’t see their own light… or don’t know it… or fear it… or don’t value it…

to embrace it right now–today!



I am breaking this blog silence to make a confession.

When I was in the fourth grade, I read a book. Wait! That’s not the confession. I read a book for the purpose of giving an oral book report. In this book was the word hors d’oeuvres. I had never heard this word before, and I had certainly never seen it in writing, so I pronounced it whores-devores throughout my entire book report. I’m sure Mrs. Lawton was laughing her you-know-what off. If she was even paying attention. She may have been too preoccupied with trying to figure out which muumuu to wear to school the next day.

I thought you should know.

Please have a happy and blessed Independence Day.

Today’s recommended listening: “I’m Free” by the Soup Dragons, and as they say, “Don’t be afraid of your freedom.”

Love Thursday: On beauty and worth.

In January, on a whim, I flew down to Houston, Texas, to do something that I felt compelled to do. You see, I had fallen in love with this little blog called Chookooloonks. I don’t even remember now how I found it… but oh, am I ever-so-glad that I did. Though the photography is just beautiful, it was the spirit of the blog that just kept me going back day after day, without fail. It felt like a comfy space. A beautiful, comfy space.

It was months before I got up the nerve to e-mail Karen, the woman behind chookooloonks, personally and tell her how much I appreciated her words and admired her photography. When she responded, she was, of course, lovely and gracious and just as sweet as she could be. Her frequent message to her readers is, quite simply, that the beauty of our lives is worth celebrating and that we are all worthy to be considered beautiful. Worthy… it’s not a word she uses frequently, but it is infused in every bit of encouragement or uplifting post she writes. It was a feeling I consistently felt when I visited her blog.

And it is something that I have struggled with all my life. Feeling worthy. Now, I don’t want to get all creepy-like and say something really crazy like “Chookooloonks saved my life!” No, but chookooloonks was an open door. A warm, sunny, beautiful (albeit virtual) space where I was not preached at, but gently encouraged to think of myself and my life as worthy and beautiful, and this is important, to see worth and beauty on my own terms. It’s really difficult to describe how it all unfolded, but for lack of a better way of putting it– it just created a space in my own thinking. Just a bit of quiet space that, in time, drew me to prayer, and reflection, and contentment, and allowed me to reconnect with myself, my Lord, and my own spirit. I so desperately needed it at that time.

As time went on I secretly wished that I was a more serious writer/blogger/writing professional so I could justify going to one of these huge BlogHer conferences where Karen sometimes speaks and perhaps meet her or some of these other cool women who are such excellent writers and do such wonderful things to build a network and community among all people, but particularly women on the web. Smart, cosmopolitan, cutting-edge types that are managing to have damn-near it all in terms of career, and a family, and talent, and notoriety, and fabulous shoes. I just didn’t see myself and my worn out Clark sandals as being a part of that crowd. I’d feel uncomfortable and out of place.

So when Karen announced that she was going to take pictures of ordinary folks for her upcoming book The Beauty of Different, and that she was seeking volunteers for anybody who would or could be in the Houston area during MLK weekend, I felt compelled, compelled I say, to do it. 1. Because I was dying to meet this woman. 2. Because I relished the opportunity to tell her face-to-face that her vision of what she wants to do in the world through her blog is working. 3. Because I finally felt like I could be worthy of being considered for such a project even though, I am convinced, I have the most ordinary looking face in the world. Didn’t matter. Karen, I thought, will make me look beautiful because I’ve never seen a not-beautiful person in her pictures.

So I flew to Houston with my niece Leslie and I did it.

And it was grand because… because… well… for lots of reasons. Because I got to run down an airport terminal to board the plane at the very last minute before take off, just like in the movies! Because I got to have drinks at 1 p.m. in the afternoon… and then I got to have more that evening. Because I got to hang with the coolest niece in the world. Because I got to go to a new city. Because I flew in a plane and didn’t cry (I don’t much like flying). I got to stay in a swanky hotel. But the best part, without a doubt, was meeting Karen because, well… she is the real deal. She was so warm, and kind, and encouraging, and real. Two years ago I never would have had the nerve to put myself in a situation to meet her because I would have been intimidated by the fact that she is so well-educated, had traveled so widely, has such ability. A woman like her must have, like, a gazillion friends and I would just be a waste of her time. I’d have been too self-conscious. But see, that’s what’s changed over the past two years… with a daily, little, gentle nudge of encouragement from her blog. So, you see, I had to go and tell her so.

So I went, and just the whole experience of doing this for myself, it happened at the right time for the right reasons. And I have to tell you that I so wholeheartedly agree with Karen’s perspective on beauty. I know that I am not the only woman who has struggled with feeling beautiful or worthy or deserving or good enough. But she is absolutely right when she says that we are ALL beautiful. Her book, The Beauty of Different, celebrates this truth, and I encourage you to buy two copies: one for yourself and one for someone who needs to be reminded that he/she is beautiful.

This is the photo that Karen took of me that day.

When I look at this, I don’t necessarily see beauty, but I see worth. And I see strength. Two things that, for a long time, I had been feeling a lack of, but I do not any longer. So to my friends, to my family, to Karen @ chookooloonks, and especially to my husband and children, and Jesus… I say thank you. Thank you.

Little nuggets of golden fried happiness

I have to admit, that I’m a bit nervous about the post, because the last time I criticized a major corporation, they totally called me out on it, and I fah-REEKED about it. The issue was, however, resolved in a satisfactory manner.

For that reason, though, I’m going to avoid using proper nouns or slogans, but I’m sure you might recognize this packaging and/or logo.

I’m equal parts amused and disturbed by this. Have you seen this?

According to this package, the reason why this product is an “excellent source of happiness” is NOT just because “your mouth…gets to taste” this delicious, crispy product. Oh, nooooo… It’s because that cute, little, not-at-all-realistic, TOY chicken gets to be “all wrapped in a crispy, golden coat.” See? Everybody wins!

[Just never you worry your pretty little head how the actual nugget gets that crispy, golden coat.]

One has to wonder why they even felt the need to broach the subject of how this particular food product is made, particularly since the product and portion is geared specifically toward young children. But if you ask me, this packaging is hilarious. That toy chicken is so darn cute. And the fact that its back is turned to the sack of flour, to me, is a sure sign of either: denial-“They’d never do that to me. I am made of wood after all”; or unsuspecting naivete-“They’d never actually feed questionable substances to people on a massive scale. I am made of wood after all.”

I can’t help but wonder if this is why my three year-old is under the mistaken impression that “Only real chickens live in barns, not [she says emphatically] the ones that we eat.”

I teach the novel Animal Farm to my freshman classes, and I teach it as political/historical allegory to the Russian Revolution. One of my favorite lessons to teach all year is the 3 day mini-lesson on propaganda. We first focus on wartime propaganda, and then, to make the point that we are all susceptible to influence, we spend a day talking about present-day advertising and marketing. This little sample never fails to bring the point home.

I sat, I read, I thought.

Tuesday night I took some much needed time out of the house, went to the coffee shop and did some reading for a paper I’m writing. I’ve recently finished Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured by Susan C. Jarratt. A professor recommended it. It’s a good read if you’re interested in philosophy, rhetoric, and how just a few individual men have shaped and influenced the way we think, and how we perceive logic and validity. Anyway, at the coffee shop I took several pages of notes, and I’m not even close to being done yet. I love mental productivity, and I think that was really the root of what was bothering me earlier this week. Unlike a situation in which there’s work to do that I don’t want to do and therefore willingly avoid, I’d been wanting to dig into this research. That’s the student/teacher/scholar in me begging to be let out to do what she loves after three weeks of all mommy-work. I really need to get serious about outlining the topics for my exit papers. I’m on track to finish my master’s degree in December, but it’s time to start really digging into the research. I’ve got some ideas, but it’s time to start in earnest to get this going.

In other news, yesterday we went to Chuck E. Cheese and I was happily surprised to see that our local restaurant has been expanded and upgraded. It used to be the cruddiest C.E.C that I’d ever seen (but we had no choice as the next closest one was over an hour away), now it is bigger, brighter, newer, cleaner, and everything works! woot!

Today, we’re having friends over to play on our new slip ‘n slide. Which means that I need to go get the dern thing set up. I’m still in my jammies and haven’t even finished my morning coffee yet. Check back later for pics of our day.