Recent Posts

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The 40-Year-Old Coffee Virgin

I've spent the past couple of months on a quest for coffee. I've never liked coffee, but this past year as I have frequented the quiet seclusion of my new writing life, I have begun to desire a coffee-like substance. Something with an energy kick that will keep my fingers moving no matter how exhausted I am. Being a middle-aged mother of two vivacious young boys, I'm almost always exhausted. And since cocaine doesn't fit into my budget, coffee just seems to make the most sense. 0:)

My problem with coffee is the flavor. Put some dirty dishwater in a cup and add a few dashes of bitters and some rust extract. Now take a sip - YES, that's it - that's how coffee tastes in my mouth.

If coffee tasted like its aroma there'd be no dilemma. I would have been chuggin' the stuff at age five - I've always loved the smell of brewing coffee. But that taste...

I decided to lean on some coffee-drinking friends for some advice. "How does a flavor-challenged individual embark upon a quest for coffee?" I said.

I received many responses: "Use lots and lots of creamer." "Use less coffee than the directions call for." "Add some water to the pot before it brews." "Add sugar." "Add flavoring." One friend said she never liked coffee, but when she became an adult she decided to start drinking it anyway because... well... that's what mature adults do.

Suddenly my quest for coffee wasn't just about coffee. Now it was about maturity as well. Almost forty and I'd never had coffee. I was about to be the 40-year-old coffee virgin. Could people look at me and tell I wasn't partaking in a sacred act of adulthood - that despite my graying hair, I was not yet mature?

And I'm supposed to be a writer. Can I even call myself a writer if I don't drink coffee? It's on the job description, I think. Maybe that's why I get so many rejections.

I decided the best way to become experienced at coffee was to start exploring the coffee field.

Rich creams, mouth-watering sugars, different measurements, exciting flavors, watered-down weak, in-your-face bold - I tried a variety of coffee personalities. I discovered that each person's perfect cup of coffee is as individual as their own fingerprint, and my goal was to find the cup of coffee that was just right for me - the one I would look forward to enjoying each and every writing day.

In the end my perfect cup of coffee is 1 1/2 Tbsp. of caramel truffle coffee, 12 ozs. water, 1 Tbsp of vanilla caramel creamer, and a large dollop of whipped cream topped with a pinch of chocolate powder.

What do you mean that's not coffee? It is, too, coffee! I admit it's kind of pretty and fluffy, but it IS coffee.

Just because the girl's drinking coffee doesn't mean she has to grow up.

What is your perfect cup of coffee?

Friday, December 25, 2009

KaNoWriYear or Picking Up the "Pace"

As 2009 draws to a close, I am beginning to dwell on my writing future. In the past twelve months, I have gone from hobby writer to student writer to published writer and have even placed in a couple of writing contests along the way. I do not mean to imply any grand success --in the beginner's writing world, "published" and "contest winner" does not necessarily mean there's cash rolling in. But what it has meant for me is a start, and for someone who has never had a high degree of confidence, "a start" is a huge step.

Lingering right here at "a start" would be so easy to do. I'm writing, afterall, and I love to write. I'm comfortable here -- I turn in my Christian Writers Guild lessons every two weeks, write an occassional short story, study writing, dabble with my couple of half-written novels, blog, submit an article or a short story once in a while. Yeah, writing life is good right now.

But God doesn't like for me to get too comfortable. Through the guilt I experience over not writing harder for Him, His message is bold and burns in my gut: I've given you "a start." Now show me what you can do with it. Let's pick up the pace. And I realize that's exactly what I need. A pace.

So I am declaring 2010 my "pace" year. My foot is in the door, and now I need to get the rest of my body in there. How do I go about doing that, you ask?

My (gasp, choke, hack)... left brain. I know that's a dirty phrase to many fiction writers. Most fiction writers aren't wired to be (gasp)... left-brain... people. We're right-brain people by nature, artistic and creative -- at least with words (please don't ever ask me to draw a picture). Writing, yes even fiction writing, requires both sides of the brain to be successful. Read here to find why writers have to have both right- and left-brain strength to be good writers.

As I prepare for 2010, my "pace" year, I will be setting writing goals, creating action plans, and developing a schedule. You know, all that left brain stuff. So you can all hold me accountable, here is a sneak peek at a couple of my goals:

KaNoWriYear - Those of you who are familiar with NaNoWriMo will understand this play on the acronym. 2010 is Karen's Novel Writing Year. I will write a novel this year and have the final draft ready for CWG/Tyndale Publishers Operation First Novel on Oct. 1. I probably won't win, so I'll also take it to the CWG Writing for the Soul Conference in 2011.

Freelance - It's time to make a few bucks, and I will be actively seeking freelance writing opportunities. I'd love to find a newspaper or magazine looking for a parenting humor columnist. I have a binder filled with writing that would really embarass my kids and family, but if I got some cash for it, I think they'd forgive me. I would also enjoy doing devotionals, greeting cards, newsletters - anything really.

I won't tell you the rest of my writing goals because I'm not sure I want to be that accountable.

Dig into your left brains, Writers, and tell me what your 2010 writing goals are.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Finding Jesus in Santa Claus

I didn’t want to attend the Christmas event at my son’s school. The event would be held on a Saturday and would include crafts, story time, snacks, and a visit with Santa Claus. We had already visited with Santa Claus once that season, and I was trying to minimize the commercialism of Christmas in our family. Christmas wasn’t about trees and toys and lights and men in red suits. Jesus, not Santa Claus, was the real reason for Christmas, and I wanted my children to focus on Jesus.

Despite my feelings about our Christmas focus, I found myself at the school sitting on a rug surrounded by children anxiously awaiting a Christmas story. I dreaded the story – it would be just another secularized version of all of the wrong reasons for Christmas, and I would have to find a way to repair the damage done to my kids’ Christian minds.

A jolly looking man with a fluffy, salt-and-pepper beard entered the room and greeted us. He sat on a stool at the front of the room and asked the kids some questions to warm up the crowd. He pulled a ceramic statue out of a box, and I instantly recognized Santa Claus. But there was something else there. Wrapped in a blanket and cradled in Santa’s arms was a newborn baby. I thought it was odd that Santa would be cradling an infant instead of embracing a child.

Our storyteller asked us about the statue. Who was the man in red? What did we know about him? There was plenty of dialogue from and among his young audience. Everyone had something to offer about Santa Claus. Then the storyteller said, “Why is Santa Claus holding this baby and who is the baby?” No one knew.

Baby Jesus never crossed my mind because I had never associated Santa Claus with baby Jesus. So when the storyteller said “This is baby Jesus” I began to pay closer attention. In those few minutes, as the storyteller spoke, I learned that in my attempt to remove all things that didn’t directly display Jesus, I had removed love from Christmas. Love, the most important thing Jesus asks us to share, I trampled, because in my mind it didn’t seem Christian-like to focus on others when we should be honoring Jesus’ birthday.

The best way to transform ourselves into the likeness of Jesus is to love others, and Christmas provides us with an opportune time to share Jesus’ love. What good does it do us to display a nativity scene in our front yard if we are not pouring into others what baby Jesus in the manger stands for?

Santa Claus was created in the likeness and character of a man named Nicholas who was born in the third century. Nicholas was a devout Christian who dedicated his life to serving God. He helped the needy and loved and protected children. Nicholas obeyed Jesus and reflected His love and compassion so boldly in his life that Nicholas was honored as a Saint. It is believed that God worked through Saint Nicholas performing miracles and accomplishing extraordinary deeds here on Earth. Saint Nicholas obeyed and adored Jesus. Saint Nicholas allowed Jesus to shine through him, and that is Saint Nicholas’s connection to Jesus. Although Saint Nicholas never actually cradled baby Jesus in his arms, the symbolism is of Saint Nicholas protecting all that Jesus was and all that Jesus came here to do.

Has Santa Claus replaced Jesus? Only in the minds of those who have allowed it to. In my house, Santa Claus is Jesus’ helper. I no longer seek to eliminate the things that don’t directly display Jesus during Christmas. I simply share the love of Jesus in all of the beautiful things that surround us. Blinking lights are Jesus’ birthday candles or stars on that sacred Christmas night. Christmas trees are the wood used to build the manger. Santa Claus reminds us of Saint Nicholas and how he lived his life for God. Presents symbolize the gifts presented to the newborn King. Delivering food and presents to needy families show how Saint Nicholas pleased God and allow us to demonstrate the love of Jesus.

If we are slathering our houses in lights and inflatable Santas and snowmen, does it make us any less Christian? If we are sharing the love, joy, and celebration of Christmas, we are reflecting the character of Jesus and honoring God’s arrival on Earth no matter what decorations we use in our celebrations.