Friday, December 15, 2017

Launching a New Personal Venture

Since I first held a camera in my 8 year old hands, I've been a photo bug. I love color, textures, shapes most of all, and I still try to capture those things today.

I'm excited to announce the launch of an Etsy shop - TMPix - featuring some of my photography in prints and canvas. This will be a continual work in progress, so I'll be adding photos and products regularly. If you have time, I'd love for you to come take a peek and favorite my shop if you are so inclined.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Resources for the Mental Health Journey

In our quest to find help for our loved one dealing with mental illness, I've been provided
with lists of resources. I thought it might be helpful to compile them into one blog post in case others might need access to these resources, too. Some of the resources are located in Georgia, and may be for Georgia residents only, but others are national. If you find something helpful located in GA, I recommend contacting that office to see if someone there knows of anything similar in your own state.


National Alliance for Mental Health - NAMI -

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - SAMHSA -

Treatment Facilities & Resources:

Georgia Association of Recovery Residences - GARR -
          substance abuse will be primary problem but often mental

24/7 Gateway Center (affiliated with St. Jude’s Mercy Care)


Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

The Setting Boundaries series of books by Allison Bottke

Finding Your Way After the Suicide of Someone You Love by David Biebel and Suzanne Foster


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
24/7 suicide prevention number that connects users with a trained counselor at a local crisis center

Crisis TextLine
Text START to 741-741
24/7 volunteer led text support for people in crisis

The Trevor Project
(866) 488-7386
Text: Trevor to 202-304-1200 Thurs-Fri (4-8pm)
24/7 suicide prevention hotline for LGTBQ young people from 13-24


Georgia Crisis & Access Line (operated by Behavioral Health Link)
For Georgia residents wanting access to suicide prevention care

Cobb County & Douglass County Access Center
(770) 422-0202 (M-F 7am-5pm)
A call center for information regarding intake appointments and referrals to mental health services

Dekalb Community Service Board Central Access Line
(404) 892-4646
Crisis line for referrals to the 24/7 Dekalb Regional Crisis Center or other psychiatric services such as outpatient therapy, counseling, and housing

Fulton County Behavioral Access & Information Line
(404) 612-1211 (M-F 8:30-5pm)
Access line to learn how to handle mental health situations and get referrals to mental health services

Gwinnett County Suicide Prevention Hotline
(770) 985-2494
24/7 emergency mental health phone line

VA Mental Health Services
(404) 321-6111 Ext. 7620 (M-F 8am-4:30pm)
Atlanta VA Medical Center's mental health help line for veterans

United Way 211
Access line that connects people to local mental health assistance


Behavioral Health Crisis Center (Cobb County & Douglas County Community Service Board)
(404) 794-4857
Short term crisis stabilization for those dealing with psychiatric problems

DeKalb Regional Crisis Center
(404) 294-0499
Psychiatric emergency room for individuals experiencing psychiatric instability

Project Interconnections, Inc.
2198 Dresden Drive
Chamblee, GA 30341
(404) 325-4572
Supportive housing for individuals who are mentally ill and homeless

Skyland Trail
1961 North Druid Hills Road NE Atlanta, GA 30329 (404) 315-8333
Residential treatment and day treatment to help individuals recover from severe mental illness

St. Jude Recovery Center
(404) 874-2224 (M-F 8am-5pm)
Residential support for those needing mental health and addiction treatment


Cobb Outpatient Services (Bright Changes)
(770) 514-2422
Day services for individuals with persistent mental health problems

Douglas Outpatient Services
(770) 949-8082
Day services for individuals with persistent mental health problems and suicide hotline coordination

North DeKalb Mental Health Center
(770) 457-5867
Day services for adults and children with mental health needs

Fulton County Oak Hill Child, Adolescent & Family Center
(404) 612-4111
Mental health support and children's services

ViewPoint Total Health
Lawrenceville: (678) 209-2411 Norcross: (678) 209-2745
Outpatient services at Gwinnett County locations


Chris Kids
(404) 486-9034
Counseling services for children, adolescent, parents, and families

Heartwork Counseling Center
990 Edgewood Avenue NE Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 658-1222
Counseling services with some offered on a sliding scale basis

The Link Counseling Center
Sandy Springs Office and The House Next Door
(404) 256-9797 (M-Thurs 10am-9pm Fri 10am-5pm)
Cobb County Office
(770) 541-1114 (M-W 10am-9pm Tues-Thurs 10am-5pm Fri 10am-4pm)
Non-profit community counseling center that offers suicide prevention and aftercare including grief consultations and survivors of suicide support groups

Ser Familia (Cobb County) (678) 363 3079
Counseling for youth, couples, individuals, and families with the focus on strengthening Latino families


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Georgia
(770) 843-3836
Survivor support events and mental health education programs

DBSA Metro Atlanta
(800) 826-3632
Support groups for those dealing with depression and bipolar disorder

NAMI Georgia
(770) 234-0855
Provides comprehensive listing of all Atlanta area NAMI programs

Neighborhood Union Health Center (Fulton County)
(404) 612-9330
Depression & co-occuring issues group therapy programs as well as mental health screening/treatment planning

Recovery International
Atlanta: Fay (404) 292-4291
Support groups for people with suicidal ideation and other mental illnesses

Viewpoint Health Community Rehabilitation
Five Points 595-D Old Norcross Road Lawrenceville, GA 30046 (770) 995-6901
Peer led groups and activities to encourage independence and advocacy


Mental Health America of Georgia
100 Edgewood Avenue
Suite 502
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 527-7175
Mental health screening, mental health first aid training, project healthy moms, and respect institute

Perimeter Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Ministry (Fulton County)
(678) 405-2277
Marti Vogt:
Mental health first aid training, support groups, and faith coalition around mental health

Mental Health Phone Numbers

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (800) 826-3632
NAMI Georgia (770) 234-0855
National Mental Health Information Center (800) 789-2647
Partnership for Prescription Assistance (888) 477-2669
United Way First Call 2-1-1
Medicare (800) 633-4227
Social Security Administration (800) 772-1213
Georgia Crisis and Access Line (800) 715-4225
National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (800) 273-TALK
Mercer Family Therapy (Lower-Cost Counseling) (678) 547-6789

Mental Health Links

CenterWatch Clinical Trials Listing Service
Emory Child and Adolescent Mood Program
Emory Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program
Emory Psychological Center (Lower-Cost Counseling)
Georgia Advocacy Office

Georgia Certified Peer Specialist Program
Georgia Crisis and Access Line/Resources
Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network
GSU Psychology Clinic (Lower-Cost Counseling)
MEDLINEplus Health Information
Mental Health America
NAMI Georgia
Partnership for Rx Assistance
Project Interconnections, Inc.
Recovery International
Skyland Trail
The Link Counseling Center
(Lower-Cost Counseling)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Along the Mental Health Journey

Our loved one has only had a mental illness diagnosis a short time, so we've only just begun navigating on this journey toward wellness and functionality.

But we've already learned some things that might help others on the same journey.

1) You are not alone. There are others - many others - who have loved ones who suffer from mental health issues - you just may have to open yourself up and share a little of your story to encourage others to speak out.

2) Extended family and friends cannot actually understand what you are going through if they themselves don't have an immediate family member going through the same thing. I'm sorry - they just can't and don't understand. And that's okay. Most of the time.

3) As extended family, they're probably not actively involved in the treatment plans, so most of the time, it's okay that they don't understand. But this can become a problem - as I've recently discovered - when extended family or friends try to intervene in the treatment plan or try to circumvent the treatment plans in place because they don't know what's going on or they don't like what's going on. That's when you - the first line of defense - need to take action and set boundaries with those people, for you and for your love one.

4) Boundaries are a good thing. Yes, I learned that years ago, but apparently, I've needed a refresher course. It's okay - and healthy - to set boundaries.

5) Take the time you need to take care of yourself in the midst of crisis. A lengthy shower or bath, a walk in the woods, a long drive, extended prayer, scheduled naps - it's okay to decompress.

Related Articles:

Resources for the Mental Health Journey
Never Give Up Hope
Hope and Tough Love

Other Articles of Interest:

Love Letters from the Heart Re-Released
A Pixel Perfect Christmas Re-Released

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Never Give Up Hope

Last night Tim and I had the honor/privilege/opportunity/blessing to attend a weekly family support group affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The funny thing is: I'd NEVER heard of NAMI before this week, even though we've dealt with mental illness for a very long time.

From one of their brochures:

"NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1,100 affiliates in communities across the country who engage in advocacy, research, support, and education. Members of NAMI are families, friends, and people living with mental illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder."

Tweet: Did you know 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. has a mental health condition? Find support at #mentalhealth #mentalillness #NAMI

We have a precious loved one who has recently been diagnosed with psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression, and PTSD. He suffers from delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, and psychotic episodes. All different kinds of things set off triggers for him - triggers we are just now learning about. Life with him is a roller coaster, yet I can't and won't ever, ever, ever give up on him. We know the Ultimate Healer, the Great Physician, and we pray for his healing. But if God chooses not to heal him here on earth, we pray for wisdom in navigating this journey, wisdom to know how to help him best so that he can lead a functional, healthy, happy, productive life once again.

Last night, we gained more knowledge about this journey we're on, and we gained some new friends. We learned that - just like alcoholism - this is a disease we're dealing with, this is an illness. They stressed the importance of not labeling the person AS mentally ill, but rather as HAVING a mental illness. There's only a slight difference in the words, but a huge difference in concept.

Tweet: Mental illness doesn't discriminate based on race, gender, identity or age. Be #StigmaFree #mentalhealth #mentalillness

The group is similar to other support groups like AA, Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous. The meetings are conducted with an order, sharing stories, providing hope and encouragement for everyone else with great respect and camaraderie.

Tim said the thing that surprised him most was to hear story after story that reflected our own. We are not alone on this journey, and although it's heart-breaking to know so many are affected by mental illness, it's a comfort to know that there are others on the same path who have already learned how to cope and handle the day-to-day issues that come up.

Tweet: I'm inspired to build better lives for those affected by mental illness. I'm #StigmaFree. Are you? #mentalhealth #mentalillness

Mental illness doesn't go away with a simple prescription. Mental illness is a life-long journey of trials and errors, medication and treatment "dances" as one of my new friends put it last night. What works for one patient or one family may not work for another.

Yesterday, I had my first glimmer of hope in this ordeal. The caseworker began to talk long-term goals. Long-term. This is the first time anyone has talked the long-term, because for years, everyone else has just been concerned about getting us out of the current crisis. But to hear that someone is advocating now for long term goals - looking at the future instead of just slapping a bandage on temporarily - the news gave me such hope.

I know the battle isn't over. But we're more equipped with knowledge and support than we've ever been.

If you have loved ones who suffer from mental illness, I encourage you to hunt for your nearest NAMI group and GO to their meetings. Get involved. Help end the stigma associated with mental illness and help our loved ones get the help they need to function again.

Over the coming days and weeks, I'll write more about our journey and about NAMI's role in our lives.

I'd love to hear from you if you're walking this road, too. Know you're not alone. And that there is HOPE.

Related articles:

Hope and Tough Love

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Pixel Perfect Christmas - Re-Released

One of my favorite compilations has been re-released.

A Pixel-Perfect Christmas is now available in print and on Kindle.

Stories of fun, faith, fact, and fiction ...

Put another log on the fire, grab a cup of cocoa, and snuggle in to read the eclectic collection of Christmas stories included in A Pixel-Perfect Christmas.

The stories were originally written by the readers and team of the Pix-N-Pens blog, as the result of a contest held during November 2009. Finalists for the contests were chosen and placed in this book.

The stories within are a mixture of fiction and nonfiction, serious and silly—and we’re sure you’ll love them all. Some may even become favorites to read again year after year.

Recent posts:

Love Letters from the Heart Re-Released
Hope and Tough Love

From TMP Books:

Crush the Rush: Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale Going on NOW!
Call for Submissions: Love Letters from the Heart 2

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Love Letters from the Heart - Re-Released!

I'm excited to announce the re-release of this special little book, Love Letters from the Heart.

Have you ever felt unloved?

Friends, family, perhaps even strangers, have messages within their hearts they want to share with you, but never found the right time or the right place to speak them. Here, within these pages, you'll find messages of hope, forgiveness, direction, and even prayers – written from caring, loving hearts directly to you and for you.

Know this – you are not forgotten or abandoned. You are not alone. You are loved – more than you can possibly imagine.

Who could love any of us that much? Turn the pages – we hope you'll soon discover the answer.

Available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Reviewers say:

I'd never read a book like this before and had to ponder the letters and think about their writers for a while. Then I realized the letters speak to everyone. You will find yourself somewhere in at least one of the letters. But, perhaps more importantly, the letters bring hope and inspiration. Tracy Ruckman wonderfully used a great writing technique. Each letter is so well written and meaningful and speaks from the heart. This is a book worth reading.

This is a wonderful book to read if you're looking for a variety of encouraging stories from those who have been there, done it, and can offer hope. It's edited in such a way that you can read the book all the way through in one sitting or you can pick a topic and read the chapter relating to it. It would also be a welcome gift for anyone needing a little inspiration or a ready pick-me-up.

Love Letters from the Heart 2 is now accepting submissions.  The book will be published in February 2018.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hope and Tough Love

Scrolling through Facebook this morning, I realized that other people may be in the same
kind of boat I’m currently in, so I decided to write this blog post in hopes of offering a word of encouragement and to let you know you’re not alone. I also wanted to write this blog post to just be real. To let everyone know that although life may be hard at times, the Lord is still on the throne, and our Hope is in HIM, not our present circumstances.

I love the holiday season. Love the Reason for the season, love the time of Thanksgiving for all we’re so richly blessed with, love the sparkly lights and the jingly bells. Love the sights, the sounds, the smells (oh, my, the delightful smells of cloves, sage, evergreens, gingerbread, wood-burning fires, fresh snow).

But for many years, I’ve let my holiday season be controlled by a dear, precious loved one who suffers from mental illness, but was only recently diagnosed.

We hear mental illness tossed around all the time, and we recognize the symptoms and behaviors. But what does mental illness look like on the home front?

For us, this year, it once again involves:

  • Law enforcement – while I have great appreciation and respect for LEOs and the work they do, I despise the sounds of sirens and the flash of blue and red lights
  • Mental health facilities (some great, some not so great)
  • Medications (some that work, others that do not; some that are taken as directed, others that are not, some legal and prescribed, others prescribed but not legal)
  • Manipulation
  • Erratic eating and sleeping and work schedules
  • Waiting for the next shoe to drop; waiting for the outcome of each day’s actions
  • Waiting for answers to questions you don’t know to ask
  • Waiting for some sign of a breakthrough – yes, always hopeful for one, even if everyone else is convinced there won’t be one because we’ve been down this path many times before
  • Taking away when you really want to keep giving, but knowing that the giving is enabling
  • Taking away even when the need is so great
  • Pain, heartbreak, tears
  • Tough love

We hear that last one tossed around frequently, too. Most think tough love is tough because a parent is being hard/strict on her kids. And that’s part of it, sure. But the really tough part means the parent’s heart is breaking, because she has to implement rules, guidelines, boundaries to hopefully help the child once and forever, but also to help all the other loved ones involved, including herself.

She has to be tough so the wayward child will learn and grow. And hopefully get well.

She has to be tough to bring sanity back to her family.

All while her heart aches and breaks.

All while her brain tries to make reason of it all.

All while her spirit questions whether she’s doing what Jesus would do.

All while she second guesses herself, argues with herself, beats up on herself – because whatever decision she makes, she has no guarantee it’s the RIGHT one. No guarantee that this time will be any different than before. No guarantee that this time won’t send the child off a ledge from which he cannot return.

But she has HOPE because she KNOWS God is in control. She knows that HE can make sense of all this. That HE has all our best interests in mind. She KNOWS and CLINGS to this promise in Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” She knows this verse is true not only for herself, but for her sick child, too.

She prays verses over her entire family, knowing God’s promises are greater than the world’s trials.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds,  
because you know that 
the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 
Let perseverance finish its work 
so that you may be mature and complete, 
not lacking anything. 
If any of you lacks wisdom, 
you should ask God, 
who gives generously to all without finding fault, 
and it will be given to you. 
~ James 1:2-5

She prays. She trusts God for the outcome, regardless of whatever it may be. And she hopes. She reminds herself to count it all joy.

She never gives up. She never stops hoping. She never stops hoping that one day, her child will be well and that we’ll all look back at this season and see how God was working in the midst of all the pain, working to get us all to the place He needed us to be to minister to others traveling that same hard road.

May God be glorified through it all.

Related Articles:

Never Give Up Hope

Monday, October 2, 2017

Change Brings Results

After seven years of battling anemia, I am finally in recovery mode and beginning to feel alive again. But other health issues were making me sluggish and sleepy, so Tim and I decided to make some permanent lifestyle changes.

Last Monday, we joined our local aquatic center and began going daily to the pool. I researched how to get the most benefit out of pool exercise, so we do calisthenics, walk and swim laps, use pool noodles and water weights, and basically never stop moving the moment our feet touches water. We spend a full hour in the water four days a week.

We also joined Emeals and Instacart (if you use the Instacart link, we'll both get a $10 discount coupon).

We've used Emeals in the past, and really liked the way it works. We didn't like their Low Carb plan, so this time, I checked other options to see if they had something that would work better for us. I know that the way Tim and I eat, shop, and cook, that a low-carb plan works best for us overall, and I discovered Emeals' Paleo Plan is great for us. We don't follow the strictness of Paleo (I can't afford the grass-fed meats), but these meal plans are low-carb and adaptable so they're working well for us. We did the breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans, but sometimes we'll make the breakfast or lunch meals for dinner, or eat the leftovers from dinner for breakfast or lunch.

The best thing about all of it: Emeals provides a grocery list that I just add to Instacart, and voila, my groceries and meal planning for an entire week are done. I put together the shopping list in about 15 minutes last night, and scheduled the Instacart delivery for this afternoon. Such an easy and convenient time-saver!

We're already reaping physical benefits from all the changes, too.

I've lost 8.4 pounds the first week, and Tim has lost 3.8 pounds. I still have so much to lose that those lost pounds aren't noticeable yet, but I can feel it from within. Overall, I'm feeling better, moving better, and sleeping better.

One small step toward health, one giant leap toward a living life more abundantly.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

When Anniversaries Roll Around

Anniversary dates of events in our lives - good or bad - always trigger memories and emotions, and today is one of those dates.

Twenty-five years ago, my now-ex-husband and I launched a small weekly newspaper in a dying town.

The residents rallied around us, supported us, and cheered us on until we became the town’s cheerleader. We worked around the clock to provide the town with the latest news, all the events and happenings, and recording the day to day history of the town.

Being owners, publishers, editors, advertising salesmen, writers, graphic designers (before there was much in the way of graphic design), and janitors was hard work. It was proud work. The people were so beautiful. So kind. So loving and accepting. But it was also sacrificial work.

We sacrificed our time, our marriage, our finances to grow the business.

Regrettably, I also stupidly sacrificed my children.

I allowed someone else to help raise my children, and three years into this dream of building our future, I learned that the children were being abused. Physically, mentally, and verbally abused.

At first, I only suspected it. I had no proof. I talked to counselors. I talked to friends. I tried to make changes to prevent the abuse, but resistance was greater than I.

When all options failed to protect my children, we ran away.

I took the boys, filled our car with what possessions would fit, and we fled. Over the coming days, weeks, and months, I learned the severity of the abuse. She whipped them with electrical cords. She put pennies in their mouths and duct taped their mouths shut. She told them they weren’t “real” children – that I would one day take them away to kill them, so I could return to have “real” children.

Years of counseling helped all of us a little. But those three years changed our lives forever. Those three years changed who we were, who we are today. And only one family in that whole town knows what really happened. Everyone else got his version, because he was the one left to face the public. And all these years, I've been okay with that, because I got my kids out of there and that's all that honestly mattered.

Twenty-five years later the paper still stands. My ex-husband has a beautiful family of his own, and the town continues to thrive. The abuser passed away, and not by my own hand, although the thoughts were there.

I have a new life, with an adorable, loving husband, a thriving business, a stable home, and grown sons who make me so proud.

Those three years took their toll. And I’m tired of being silent. I don’t dwell on the past – the present and future are so much better than I ever imagined they could be. But when an anniversary rolls around, I can’t help reflect on that time.

Remembering our past helps us learn from our mistakes, and it helps us see how far we’ve (hopefully) come in our life’s journey. Our past is only a glance in the rearview mirror. We just have to remember to keep our eyes on the road and keep moving forward one day, one step, at a time, treasuring our present as we move toward the future.

Celebrate the successes. Forgive those who hurt us. Keep exploring, growing, and learning every single day.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Plans, Agendas, Schedules

We've all been there. Life coasting along, going about our business, keeping up with all our plans, creating our agendas, checking off our schedules.

Then suddenly ...

Life happens.

One twist and turn after another, right in the middle of all our plans.

This week, one life happening event was named Hurricane Harvey. Houston and surrounding areas along the Gulf Coast are still dealing with its aftermath. Reading news reports and my Facebook feed of dear friends who are living right in the midst of all the devastation - it just makes my heart hurt.

This week, a cherished family member received a diagnosis none of us were expecting.

This week, a loved one's relationship ended.

This week, a friend died.

We want to take time to just absorb all that's happening - we need just a moment or two so we can process the emotions that flood our souls.

Sometimes, the images from these disasters are too much. Sometimes, the pain our loved ones are suffering is too much. Sometimes, the loss is too much.

Yet ... life ... goes ... on.

Sometimes, I just feel like screaming to life, "STOP! SLOW DOWN! LET ME CATCH UP!"

Instead, I take a few moments when I need it. I crawl into bed with my Bible, and I pray. And cry. And pray.

God's got all of this. None of these disasters, diagnoses, losses are a surprise to Him. Not a single moment.

He has a purpose for all of this. For every bit of it. For every tear shed. He has a purpose. And His purpose is good, regardless of how bad and how dark things might seem at the moment.

So how do we reconcile all of this? How do we cope?

We take that moment to absorb the devastation, the changes, the losses. We take that moment to breathe.

We take that moment to allow God to breathe life back into us.

We trust. Not in the world, but in Him. We trust that He remains in control. That He has our best interests in mind. That He has a glorious, eternal purpose for all this suffering.

And we praise Him in the midst of it all.

For the past few weeks, the Lord keeps pointing me to Isaiah 43. That chapter is speaking life to me in so many ways. I encourage to read it for yourself.

And more of God's Word to comfort and strengthen you during these turbulent times:

The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding. ~ Proverbs 3:5

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you." ~ Isaiah 43:2

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. ~ James 1:2-5

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. ~ James 5:13

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What is Your Calling?

If you know me, or if you've read my bio, you'll know that I am an "upside-down, inside-out" kind of creature. My dad used to say I did things "bass-ackwards." I haven't yet decided if his words were prophetic or directional.

For most of my adult life, I've been a Christian (you can read my testimony here) and have heard people talk about their calling. Although I've followed a particular career path since 2005, it wasn't until a few years ago that I actually identified my calling.

My calling is to be a CONDUIT.

Does that sound as weird to you as it did to me the first time I realized it?

The idea takes a little getting used to. I thought I was called to be a writer and yes, I do write, but God gave me certain skill sets that propelled me to begin publishing other people's books. He's called me to help others in this manner and each day my work gives me incredible joy. The authors I work with bless me beyond measure, and I'm as excited as they are when their books come to life.

Like the image above, my publishing company TMP Books serves as the conduit to lead and guide others toward publication. Each of the wires inside the conduit represents a different author - each one is different, and each one has their own purpose, goals, dreams. My role is to get those writers from Point A to Point B - from a blank document to a published book, or from whatever stage they arrive.

One writer, a beautiful, intelligent, 75-year-old with an incredibly painful past, handwrote her whole book on legal pads. Another wrote a children's book when her son was small but did nothing about it until he was in college, and by that time, she'd written another experience in story form, too, so we published both books at once. Others wanted to have a tangible book to record family history or family memories, so they could pass them onto the next generation. Some of our writers teach valuable lessons to children through their illustrated picture books. Some have compiled their heartfelt poetry so that it could be published in book format.

Each book unique as its author. Each one with a different purpose.

And I'm honored to serve each one of them to make it happen.

I love being called as a conduit.

What is your calling? How are you using it?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dialogue Diamonds: The Finder

I come across lines of dialogue on a regular basis and have found myself wanting to "collect" them. I'm not sure why - I'm not much of a collector of anything, except books and dust. But when I read or hear a line of dialogue that strikes me, I want to remember it because I feel like I've just uncovered a rare gem. So I've decided this blog will be a great place to share these little dialogue diamonds - and maybe you'll feel compelled to share some of your favorites with us, too.

A disclaimer - these dialogue diamonds I share may not be deep or profound or extraordinary. But for whatever reason, they caught my attention, and that's enough for me.

Today's diamond is from a short-lived but delightful TV series, The Finder, starring Geoff Stults, that's currently available on Netflix.

In this particular episode, someone had committed suicide, and Stults' character, Walter, says,

"I can think of at least 10 people I'd kill before I killed myself."

I laughed when he said it, and it's still cracking me up this morning.

Do you have a favorite line of dialogue? Care to share?

UPDATE: We finished watching THE FINDER, and were very disappointed in the final episode, which seemed more like the writers were angry and getting revenge, rather than tidying up a story line. So viewer beware - the end is rather disturbing.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Speaking Truth is Not Always Popular

Decades ago, a counselor taught me about the importance of speaking truth in love. Over the years, I've pondered this many times and have learned some important lessons.

When we speak the truth, people tend to react one of three ways:

  1. they accept what we're saying and, if necessary, take any necessary actions; 
  2. they deny what we're saying, sometimes by a flat-out denial, sometimes by avoidance of the issue or avoidance of the person speaking truth;
  3. they justify their version of the truth in an attempt to make you think the truth you speak isn't correct. 

When we speak truth, even when doing it with the utmost love and respect, it may still hurt.

When we speak the truth in love, it sometimes makes us an outcast - folks don't want to hear the truth, so they avoid people who speak it.

People want honesty - until they don't. They want honesty, until it forces them to face the truth about themselves, their situation, or their loved ones.

Sometimes I feel like God has made me the way I am so that I can speak truth to people. I don't like it at times - most of the time, in fact. Not because I don't want to speak truth, but because I don't want to cause pain or trouble. And most of the time, when I feel God nudging me to speak the truth to someone about something - I know it's going to cause pain for that person and strife between us in the relationship.

I recently found myself in a difficult situation. In a group setting, I became aware of some things that weren't very positive. Instead of speaking out and causing problems for those involved - and those I care about, I bottled my emotions inside, and when bedtime rolled around, I was so bottled up, I couldn't sleep. But I continued to keep my mouth shut the next day as things continued to happen. When everyone had gone on their merry way, I finally had a discussion with someone, alerting them to what was happening. The tension was palpable, and my speaking the truth in love was not received very well.

But I said what had to be said.

Speaking the truth is not always easy.

"We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." ~ Ephesians 4:14-16 (NASB)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Uniquely You

My hubby and I like to watch some reality shows. (I know they're the bane of a writer's existence, so my apologies if I offend anyone.)

If you watch enough reality TV, you pick up on patterns from season to season with the cast members: the hunky one, the bombshell, the geeky one, the awkward one, etc.

Recently, I commented that one particular cast member was quite an odd duck. Hubby made a silly comment, which made me re-examine my words, and something struck home.

We all are made to be unique and original, yet culture lumps us into categories just like casting does on these reality shows. I don't like cookie-cutter houses or cookie-cutter cars - why would I like cookie-cutter people?

I realized I don't. My family and friends are all unique and different, in their own special way. And I love them for their uniqueness. I tend to pull for the unique and different on the reality shows, too. (Tim always roots for the cowboy!)

I'm unique and different too - I'm one of those "quite odd ducks." Sometimes, it's hard to like myself because of those oddities.

Over the years, I've tried to embrace my uniqueness, but today, I recognized that I haven't been lately. As I'm getting older, I'm harder on myself than ever - and I need to stop.

We need to embrace our uniqueness - let our lights shine from within. Be weird. Be creative. Be you. And I'll be me. The best me I know how to be.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Update, Refresh, Restart

Whew! These last three years have flown by. When I entered grad school, I "planned" to blog my journey here, sharing books and insights as I earned my MFA in screenwriting.

But life had other plans for me, and the blog sat idle.

I'm now in the final stretches of my degree - the end is finally in sight. I've completed all my class work and am currently working on my final portfolio. This project lasts for two semesters - this first semester I must write and defend the proposal, then next semester I must write and defend my script, and will graduate in December of this year.

The proposal defense is scheduled less than a month away, and I've set a personal deadline to have it written by the end of next week so there will be time for edits and rewrites before turning it in to the committee overseeing my project.

As busy as that sounds, I feel my time isn't as crunched as it has been for the past 7 years, since I started the whole back-to-school journey. I seem to now have the time to create - time to think - time to write, and it feels freeing.

Summer is a great time to start something new, don't you think? Have you started something new lately? Feel free to share with us!

Hitting a Milestone

As 2022 ended, I had plans. Nothing extravagant, but perhaps a couple of adventures and a fall conference to prepare for and attend. But I q...