Archive for February, 2013


Slow Reader Thursday: Cross Roads

Cross Roads

A rather large Christian literary uproar was caused by the release of Wm. Paul Young‘s The Shack in 2007. Why? Because Paul Young enjoys stretching our feeble Christian minds with unusual descriptions of the Trinity and forcing us to think in uncomfortable directions. But, The Shack is sheer brilliance and Young writes the way I hope to write someday. My brilliant mother-in-law gave me The Shack (I refer to her as the “Christian Book-of-the-Month Club.”) and I was not sure I had time to read it, but again, the title intrigued me and I undertook it anyway.

I am a stoic Scot by ancestry and so, bursting into tears without explanation is not okay in my family. But, I found myself doing exactly that as I read The ShackWas that a terribly bad thing? Nope. It was something I apparently needed. Paul Young knows how to reach our deepest hurts and reassure us that God knows those hurts and plans on healing them completely. Not only does he do this with his writing, but also with his speaking. I was privileged to be in the audience to hear Paul Young speak about The Shack and he is as warm in person as he is in his writing.

Of course, his sophomore effort, Cross Roadshas been much anticipated. And fortunately, a good friend lent me Cross Roads so I wouldn’t have to budget it into the household account. Let me say, at the outset, that any writer’s sophomore effort is most likely not going to be as surprising and “brilliant” as an inaugural book. Why? Because we are already used to having our minds “bent” in that writer’s particular style. This is also true of Cross Roads

However, any time Paul Young wants to mess with my mind is fine with me. And yes, he messes with your mind once againIn Cross Roads we meet another man who is unwilling to deal with his past, but in a completely different way than in The Shack. About the time you think you cannot be surprised by Young‘s writing, he surprises yet again. And I love how Young weaves another famous writer into his storytelling in such a way that only the well-read reader will discern. It’s like an “inside joke” that only a few of us understand.

Oh, how I wish George Lucas or Steven Spielberg would undertake to make movies of his books. Of course, they would probably make a mockery of the poignancy of such writing, but it would be sure to capture the rich “textures” of Young‘s writing and the incredible imagination of his “world.”

But, until such time, I guess I will have to wait for Young‘s next book.

Or do I?

Paul Young is the featured keynote speaker at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference this coming April in Portland, OR. Guess who has her flight booked to listen to him…for the second time? Yep…that would me. I will be the knee-knocking chick in the audience who is wondering what she’s doing at a writer’s conference. Wanna join me? 🙂

Tomorrow’s Post: You might be a Naturalized Texan Woman If…


Lessons Learned from Star Wars…

Star Wars

Experts are now saying that one way we could prevent meteors from wreaking havoc on our planet is to use…a death star. No, I’m not making this up. Next, they will be telling us that Luke Skywalker is running for President in 2016. I can see it now…Light Sabers at the party convention! And at the convention party. 😉 So, since I came of age in the 1970’s and happened to inflict my kids with the same love of all things Star Wars, here’s a little reprise of a note I wrote on FB upon the re-release of Star Wars in 3D:

1. You only think you know who your father is.

2. Once you allow someone to put your hair in braided concentric circles around your ears, you will be forever labeled a bit of a nut case. Even if your mom and dad are a tad famous.

3. There are cowboys in galactic space warring. Chief among them is Harrison Ford. And I love cowboys.

4. The force is with you…if you can lift a spaceship in a swamp.

5. Talking backward….wise, you will sound.

6. If your name is Jar Jar, you belong in a jar…with the lid tightly screwed, to prevent escape.

7. I would have needed GPS to avoid crashing into trees in those airborne motorcycles in Return of the Jedi. And even then, I’m not promising much.  I would have been Ewok kibble, for sure.

8. If you want to catch all the one-liners in Star Wars, take your childhood best buddy with you. You’ll giggle your head off. Probably because she likes to add a few one-liners of her own.

9. If you want to watch someone’s eyes bug out watching that ship pass right over your head in the theater, take the eldest DS, who now understands why it’s not quite the same on DVD.

10.  George Lucas should be in charge of the U.S. government. If nothing else, he will be able to conjure up enough special effects to make us think something was actually accomplished.

11. The creatures in the bar strangely resemble my memories of…people I met in college. At a bar. And not in a good way. This might be why I don’t go to bars much anymore.

12. Darth has a really bad allergist. Anyone who can’t control their asthma better than that should be kicked out of the AMA.

13. Never give your two DS‘s light sabers. I learned to move all the lamps out of the living room.

14. You can be around your brother for years…and not know it. See # 1.

15. Karate suits look better with boots.

16. You never know when you might not actually be in a cave.

17. In the future, all cities will have dirt streets again.  Maybe because we’re all racing around voluminous rocky “mountains” in midair.  But people still walk on these dirt streets. Hmmmm…..

18. A huge mechanical-looking orb will be called a star. What? (And will now defend our planet against those nasty invaders called meteors.)

19. Never fight on a narrow walkway with asthma patients. See # 12.

20. The mean guy you know today will be a piece of cake to defeat tomorrow. Because…tomorrow you meet the next mean guy and he looks way crazier than the last guy.  And he has a red face with horns.

With you, the force will be…if you go to the movies this weekend. 🙂

Point to Ponder Challenge: What idea is lurking in your head that you think is a little preposterous, at least in the eyes of the world? Is it really that preposterous or does it just need some tweaking? What would need to happen to find out how to tweak it? Put those steps on paper or in your planner and make at least one happen this week!

Tomorrow’s Post: A Slow Reader at the Cross Roads…


26 Tuesday: Josephine Gay


Last week’s Sandy Hook honoree was Olivia Engel. With the previous honorees, I had no difficulty thinking of something that I could do to honor each of them. But, Olivia was so involved in the short time she was on the planet, that it was difficult to choose how I could do something on her behalf. But, Olivia was “into” soccer and since all 3 of my kids were soccer players and we have quite an active soccer association in our little town, I decided to try to locate the current President of this association and send him a donation that would allow a child to play soccer for one season “on me.”  I remember that paying for 3 registration fees, 3 sets of shin guards, and soccer fund raisers used to be a rather large expense. And since we are still recovering from a recession, I’m sure there are some talented young athletes whose parents just can’t afford that fee anymore. And for those of you still doing the “soccer chauffeur runs,” don’t forget your folding chair, the water bottle, your warm blanket, and a loud, happily-cheering voice!

So, our 26 Acts of Kindness MIP count stands at 11! And here is a little bit about today’s honoree:

Josephine Gay, 7

Josephine had just celebrated her seventh birthday Tuesday (before the Sandy Hook shooting). There’s a picture of her on the Web, published in various news stories, that shows her smiling with glasses on the tip of her nose. Josephine liked to ride her bike and sell lemonade in her neighborhood in the summer, The Wall Street Journal reported. The little girl loved the color purple.

What did you do for your Act of Kindness? Remember–it’s okay to simply say you participated, but it’s also okay to elaborate if you’d like.

Tomorrow’s Post: We’re now fighting meteors…with a Death Star?


Word of the Week 5: kanban

Dictionary --Word of the Week

Last week’s Word of the Week was heliacal. The PH said that he thought it had something to do with helicopters. Well, at least he’s thinking in the right direction. Heliacal means “relating to or near the sun.” Based on the weather we typically have in Texas, I think we could describe the Lone Star State as heliacal. And my three definitions were completely off the mark!

Today’s Word of the Week is: kanban. Just the mere potential pronunciation of this word causes me to think in some very weird directions! No fair cheating and looking words up in the dictionary! And yes, that means you, PH.

kanban: (ˈkän-ˌbän)1. The restriction of beverage containers in Ketchikan, AK. 2. The lack of canned vegetables at a kangaroo convention 3. The elimination of the University of Kansas in the NCAA Division I basketball tournament (which generally makes Duke University feel better)

Just to be sure I don’t cheat, I don’t look up the pronunciation of the Word of the Week until after I have taken a stab at the definitions (It is way too easy to see the definition when I’m looking up the pronunciation.). Therefore, my definitions may be way off once you see the pronunciation!

So, what’s your definition of kanban? Put it in the comment box below and submit your guess! “Points” for extra creative definitions!

Tomorrow’s Post: What did you do for your 26 Acts of Kindness this week?



The Poetry of Dave Mattson


Remember writing haikus in school? That 5 syllable-7 syllable-5 syllable exercise that we all undertook to better understand poetry? I have to confess that my haikus are not very worthy of posting. But fortunately, someone else’s is.

Having married into the Arnold family, I can tell you that Dave Mattson is “legendary.” He was first introduced to our family as a youth director at the local church. Later, he became a missionary to the native peoples of Alaska, where churches are often sparse. His ability to craft and fix problematic situations in people’s houses is also the stuff of legends. Regrettably, I have never met “Mattson,” as my in-laws refer to him. But, my mother-in-law suggested that I friend him on FB for his unique writing style and unusual status statements (Recently, he seems “bent” on drafting elaborate fiction about the impending royal birth in London.).  Each day he also greets FB with his thought-provoking haikus. And Mattson is decidedly better at haiku construction than your MIP author. So, today’s Poetry Saturday features some of my favorite haikus from Mattson and I hope they inspire you to move forward in your life. Thanks, Mattson, for sharing with my MIP readers. And if you like these, there are plenty more to come:

Your better future
Will be prevented if you
Hoard your bitter past

Suicide removes
What could have been the best and
Leaves only the worst behind

You can be free from
What won’t let you go when you
Look it in the eye

The future won’t wait
For you to decide how long you’ll
Remain in the past

If you do not leave
The past behind the future
Will leave without you

Do not listen to
Anyone who believes in
You less than you do

Real love believes in
What’s best in you and wants you
To overcome the worst

Succeed is what you’ll
Do despite those who would keep
You as a failure

Never be content
With less than trying something
That’s impossible

When you can take strength
From pain and faith from fear, you’ll
Be happy again

The future won’t keep
You from the past but the past
Can block your future

Monday’s Post: Word of the Week: What did you think heliacal meant?


Love Letter To…Myself???



In reading Quitter (that I now have at the top of my best sellers’ list), I learned of a web site called At you can write yourself an email and schedule it to arrive pretty much whenever you want, in the future. (You do have to send it to yourself at least 30 days out.)

So, this gives you an opportunity to do many things:

  1. Hug yourself. In fact this is the kind of message I hope you send yourself today and every day. Tell your “future self” what you did today that you thought was really awesome. Why? Because we tear ourselves down way too often and unfortunately, people do not always notice when we overcome our bad or self-defeating habits, moment-by-moment, day-by-day.
  2. Give yourself a goal and then set a reasonable date to achieve said goal. This provides a measure of accountability and if you find that you didn’t meet the goal, it gives you a chance to cheer your future self up about it. In addition, it gives you an opportunity to ask yourself why you didn’t make it—was the goal really reasonable? Was I lazy? Was I fearful? Did I not take into account all of my tendencies and scheduling issues to meet this goal? If so, then send another email further out to see if you can achieve that goal with more self-exploration and most important, more time!
  3. Dream a little. Tell your future self what you’d like to do with the future and then see if merely stating it to your future self helps you achieve a little piece of the dream.
  4. Take a “temperature reading.” Sometimes it’s good to just see where we were in the past, emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally. Are you happier in the future or sadder? Why? What needs to change to improve things? No self-loathing allowed…this is merely a measuring stick so you can “adjust your sails” to take full advantage of the “prevailing winds.”
  5. Wish yourself a happy birthday or a Happy Easter or a Merry Christmas. Why rely on others to give you the wishes you want to hear? Give them to yourself.
  6. Tell a story. What was in the news on the day you wrote the email? Sometimes it’s just fun to see what was so “all-fire important” on a day in the past and then realize it wasn’t quite the emergency the world thought it was.
  7. Define “enough.” What if future opportunities sidetrack you from what you really want to have and accomplish? Prevent that by deciding, now, what you would like to ideally have when you consider yourself a “success.” Perhaps you’ve already attained that? Great! Remind yourself of that!


And finally, you can make your emails public! So, after you post an email to yourself, take a moment to read what others have written. In fact I invite you to do that on 3/10/13. If so, you might find an email just for you. 😉

Tomorrow’s Post: Meet “Mattson.”


Slow Reader Thursday: Quitter



In case you had not noticed, I’m gradually working towards writing certain things on certain days of the week. Today I introduce you to “Slow Reader Thursdays.”

From the time I learned to read and up to the present day, I have been a slow reader. No, I do not have some sort of learning disability that causes me to read slowly. It’s that I choose to read Every Single Word on the written page. If an author took the time to write a book, it is most likely something very important to them. And as a fledgling writer, I try to respect that.

Yes, there are times in my life when I scan. How do you live in the 21st century without scanning?? But, when I receive or buy an actual book to read, I chew on every word deliberately. There’s only one problem.

It takes me forever to finish a book. This means I may be reading books published decades ago as opposed to the “latest best seller.” This seems lost on a world that can read fast. And it used to bother me and my elementary school reading teachers, but not anymore. I enjoy taking my time with a book and digesting the poignant nuggets of truth and fiction written just for me to discover. Okay, so it was written for others to discover, too. But, that’s the way it seems to me.

So, today I am happy to discuss my first “Slow Reader” book. I first learned of Jon Acuff while taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University last fall at my church. Dave introduced him as, “the author of Quitter” and since unusual book titles have always fascinated me, I was instantly intrigued. And then I heard Jon speak. Jon is all about people pursuing their dream jobs. And so, it felt like Jon was talking right to my heart, since writing full-time is my dream job.

Jon (I talk about him as if he’s my buddy or something and that just is not true!) quit a pile of jobs because he always felt like he was not in the job he was meant to be doing. Gee, that sounds familiar. My resume looks like the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, minus the numerical codes.  And that was because he was trying to figure out what he was supposed to be doing. Same for me. Jon just figured it out much sooner than I did.

But, even if you’re not into writing and your dream job is something far different, I recommend reading Quitter. Because Jon has taken the time to chock the book full of useful questionnaires, inspirational thoughts and checklists that will help the reader discover what their passion or dream job is, when to leave the day job to pursue it, and how to know when you have “arrived.” The latter is something we seldom see tackled in a book on pursuing your passion and achieving it…to actually define what is “enough” now, before one is forced to make some very enticing choices when success starts to appear on the horizon. For instance, Jon recognized that he needed to ensure that he spent time with his family on a regular basis, despite many offers to speak publicly. And because he defined his “enough” early on, he scaled back his speaking schedule to make more time for his family.  If more successful people did this, perhaps we would not be reading about their devastating declines in the press.

So, if you’re ready to identify your passion, if you’re ready to figure out when it’s time to take a “leap of faith” and jump into that passion full-time, or if you’re wondering what you need to work on as you pursue that passion full-time, read Quitter. Even a slow reader like me can read it very quickly and it’s worth that amount of time for the tips and quotes alone. In fact, get ready for Jon’s quotes to appear on my Quotes page very, very soon.

There’s only one thing errantly stated in Quitter. He says I will forget all the advice he gave in the book. I plan on surrounding myself with his wisdom (literally—I have his quotes and thoughts on my office bulletin board.) until I reach my definition of “enough.” That may make Jon Acuff and his book a little difficult to forget.

Tomorrow’s Post: Love Letter to Myself…Yes, Myself


“The Type” meets “Perfection”…

King Tut

You’re going to be here for a while today. War and Peace was shorter.  

At this time of year most couples rejoice in romantic love. Instead, I contend with one of the most persistent memories of my life…the day I ditched the LSH, which just happened to occur in February. What led to such a “lovely,”  “rational” decision?

Prior to meeting the LSH I had a “type” that I dated. They tended to be engineering majors and were tall, thin, and brainy. I would swoon when they deigned to spend time with me, instantly losing 10 lbs. because of a lack of interest in food. I would lose sleep fawning over them in my dreams. In other words I would be a nervous wreck.

Not so with the LSH. When he arrived in my life, I gained 10 lbs. and slept like a log. So, of course, in my feeble mind, I thought of him as just a passing interest until the next tall, thin wannabe engineer appeared. Seeing that he was getting serious, I felt I was being unfair to him. So, I broke up with him and felt very good about the decision. The LSH, on the other hand, reluctantly let go of his claim on me romantically and wound up deeply wounded. Let’s just say he got emotional and I’ve only seen that twice in 30 years.

Thankfully, God intervened. One should understand that when God intervenes in MaryAnn’s life, He has a rather sick sense of humor. Within 24 hours of this “good decision,” I came down with the worst case of hives ever seen. I was one massive, red, itchy welt from head to toe (I know what you’re thinking–great, attractive “package” to use to find the next engineer). I would eventually fall asleep after nonstop itching, only to find the welt even larger, because I had apparently been itching in my sleep. Unfortunately, the university clinic wasn’t open in the middle of the night and I knew I needed help right away. The closest ER was on the opposite side of town and I had no car on campus. Neither did a lot of my friends–parking was a nightmare at our university. The only person I could think of with a car? You guessed it…the LSH…the very guy I had ditched only a few days beforehand. I couldn’t possibly ask him to take me to the ER! But, I knew I had no choice.

The “wrong guy” graciously, quietly, quickly picked me up and carted me to the ER. While at the ER, the doctors and nurses were bewildered as to how I had contracted hives, since I couldn’t provide any possible new allergen in my current life. Finally, they said, “Has anything unusual happened in your life recently?” And my mind instantly flashed to the “break-up.” Really, God? My mind wandered to the interesting “plagues” God gave the Egyptians when Moses and “crew” decided to leave town. I guess I “walk” like an Egyptian.

Then, the LSH graciously, quietly, and quickly brought me back to my dorm and stayed with me to make sure I was okay. In that moment, I saw him as a compassionate, loving man who only wanted the best for me. I thought, “I am an idiot to let him go!” and finally said the three words he so wanted to hear–“I love you.”

A few weeks later he proposed, much to my surprise. The sick, twisted lesson from God taught me something pretty important–I was letting my vision of perfection get in the way of His vision of perfection. And, His vision of perfection doesn’t have a “type.” In fact God often chooses those who appear to be the opposite of perfection to the world to become His vision of perfection. Indeed, I am a reflection of that plan (or at least on a good day)!

The LSH has been one mighty good partner in life, endlessly saving my rear end from one near disaster to the next, because it has taken me a very long time to figure out my health adventures and what I am meant to do in this world. And he has done so with patience, calmness, quietness and love each and every time. In fact, he’s been flawless in doing that–he’s been perfect. So much so that I’m tearing up just thinking about it. And despite my many flaws, he views me the same way. In fact his first quiet criticism of my blog? I pick on myself too much. 🙂 Yep, that would be my honey. His second? “Quit calling me the LSH. I don’t consider myself ‘long-suffering.'”

What are we missing out on because we fail to see that someone is perfect for us or for the situation? What are we missing out on by not seeing a potential or present job as “good enough”? What are we missing out on when we fail to realize that everyone is a “work in progress” that God has designed specifically to help us become His own eventual perfection? Are we asking too much of our children and demanding that they be perfect, when we should be admiring all of their strengths, talents and beauty? Are we missing a potential new best friend because someone has far different qualities and views than we do?

Now, the counselor part of me has one caution here! There are people in the world that need some help in becoming God’s eventual perfection. And part of the reason they need help is because they have been a victim of someone’s abuse at some point in their lives. Because they often know no other pattern, they too, can become abusers. I am NOT suggesting, for one nanosecond, that one should stay in an abusive relationship AT ALL. Relationships should not chronically bring someone physical, emotional or sexual abuse/pain! In those situations I hope the abused escape for good, find their own healing with the help of others, and that the abuser(s) find(s) help as well and change(s) PERMANENTLY. We must stop this pattern…all of us.

But if you are wondering if you’re meant to be where you currently are in life, I hope God does not intervene with one massive welt! (And that you don’t walk like an Egyptian, because honestly, their walking style is a little uncomfortable.) I hope you are smart and figure that out and enjoy God’s definition of perfection. So, since the hubby has told me he doesn’t consider himself long-suffering, forever after in my blog, he will simply be known as the PH (the Perfect Husband). This should appeal to his love of all things “science,” but I will probably hear about this one, too. 🙂

Point to Ponder Challenge # 1: Who, in your life are you underestimating? What could you do to show that person they are more than what they appear to be? 

Point to Ponder Challenge # 2: Looking for a new job? Not sure if the current job is right for you? What experiences could you pick up or are picking up by being in your present situation? What would change if YOU became the “perfect employee”? (Ouch!)

Point to Ponder Challenge # 3: Think you are being a little too tough on your children? What are their strengths and talents? Go find them and tell them that!

Point to Ponder Challenge # 4: Wondering if you’re in an abusive relationship? Here’s a telltale sign: If the abuser is isolating you from your family, friends, job, and educational opportunities, then it’s possible that you are in an abusive relationship. The statistics emphatically state that this will not change until the abused person leaves the situation for at least a very long time. Even in our small community, there are resources and organizations standing ready to help. Please don’t wait–get the assistance you need and leave! It’s often the first step in the abuser finding help and changing permanently. It’s actually the best thing you could do for everyone involved. Difficult to do? Absolutely. But, your life is at stake, my friend, and possibly the lives of others. I applaud YOU for your “20 seconds of courage.” Get going. And for the record, I care about you…a lot. 

Point to Ponder Challenge # 5: Think you might be abusive in your relationships? I applaud you–you recognize this and that’s an excellent, awesome beginning to becoming a much happier, healthier YOU! Again, even in our small community, there are resources and organizations standing ready to help you overcome this pattern and change it forever. Please get help immediately so that you no longer have to regret or worry about past and future abusive actions. Please get help immediately so that your family or significant others are no longer in harm’s way. It’s the only way to succeed at this. Seldom can one change this pattern without help. So, please do it today! Be the miracle by admitting you need help from a professional and seek that person out NOW. And for the record, I care about you…a lot. 

Tomorrow’s Post: The very first MIP “Slow Reader Thursday”…




26 Tuesdays: Olivia Engel


Last week we honored Rachel D’Avino, a staff member at Sandy Hook Elementary. Rachel loved animals. Since I am in the process of converting the DD’s bedroom into a writing office, she and I are slowly sifting through her girlhood items and deciding what to keep and what to donate, etc. As with most girls growing up, the DD wound up with a fair number of stuffed animals in her room. She and I talked Super Bowl weekend and surveyed her collection and she was okay with letting go of the big teddy bears in her room. As a counseling intern I did a fair number of counseling sessions at a family therapy center in a nearby town. I asked one of the partners if she might be able to use the teddy bears in the therapy playroom.  She said, “Yes!” So 3 rather large bears and a few miscellaneous smaller animals are going off to a new home this afternoon! Today that puts our total of Acts of Kindness at 9! What did you do for your Act of Kindness? Please submit a comment below to let me know if you participated, so I can “up” our count for MIP. Thanks in advance. As always, you don’t have to say what you did…just that you participated.

Here is this week’s honoree. Olivia was one of the students at Sandy Hook.

Olivia Engel, 6
Her favorite stuffed animal was a lamb; pink and purple were her favorite colors. Olivia’s family posted a statement on Facebook with those and other details about their beloved daughter. “She was insightful for her age and had a great sense of humor. She laughed a lot and always lit up a room including the people around her. She was very creative and was always drawing and designing things,” her family said.Olivia took art and dance lessons, played tennis, soccer and swam. She was involved in Girl Scouts and musical theater. She loved school and did well in math and reading. Her family described her as a “grateful child … never greedy.” Olivia led grace each night at the dinner table.
What will you do to honor Ms. Engel this week? Let grace lead you. 🙂
Tomorrow’s Post: What’s wrong with having a “type”?

Word of the Week: heliacal

Dictionary --Word of the Week


Last week we were deciding on the meaning of campestral. The LSH gave his thoughts: “Is that the cholesterol you get when you eat s’mores around a campfire? He’s actually not too far off, literally. Campestral means rural or of the fields or open country. This means we could use it to refer to the LSH, since he’s pretty fond of all things “country.” This has been a small bone of humorous contention throughout our marriage, since I’m most decidedly a suburban mall rat by upbringing. And we could use it to refer to our little town in Texas, although if you saw us play football at our local high school, you might think otherwise.

Today’s Word of the Week is heliacal. So here’s my attempt at a definition:

heliacal: (hi-ˈlī-ə-kəl) 1. of, or related to, a helix. 2. the mania that results from inhaling too much helium 3. the stress disorder common to flight attendants that greet too many airliner passengers

What’s your guess for heliacal? Submit it below (Some day I’m going to have to come up with a prize for correct definitions!) in the comment box.

Tomorrow’s Post: What did you do to honor Rachel D’Avino?