Blog

We’re off to See the Wizard, Part 3: The Man Behind the Curtain

We’re off to See the Wizard, Part 3: The Man Behind the Curtain

Would you hire this guy? So....is this guy a wizard or a humbug? Would you hire him? I suppose it depends on what you need. And how you measure success. The thing that L. Frank Baum is best known for---writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz---didn’t occur until he was 44...Read More
We’re off to See the Wizard, Part 2: The Road to All Things Oz

We’re off to See the Wizard, Part 2: The Road to All Things Oz

The small town of Chittenango, New York is proud to embrace their hometown boy, L. Frank Baum. He spent his first five years in Chittenango, his birthplace. Later, he grew accustomed to seeing the yellowed hemlock plank road that carried salt barrels to Salina, possibly the inspiration for Oz’s Yellow...Read More
We’re off to See the Wizard, Part 1: The Wizard of Chittenango & the Magic of Oz

We’re off to See the Wizard, Part 1: The Wizard of Chittenango & the Magic of Oz

Recognize any of these phrases? • “Some people without brains do any awful lot of talking.” • “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” • “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” • “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” • “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” •...Read More
Monday Metaphor Musings #4: Life

Monday Metaphor Musings #4: Life

“Life is like a doughnut. It can be sweet and tasty, but there’s always a hole in the middle.” That’s just one of many ways people have tried to capture the essence of human life on planet Earth, with all its many facets. The challenges of life have been compared...Read More
People Watching #4

People Watching #4

Have you done any people watching lately? The first time we looked at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Then we examined a 1930s Charles Walton photograph. After that, we speculated about the dynamics of two girls and a guy at the dinner table. I loved reading your comments---the ideas evoked by those...Read More
Artist Rita Trickel: Beyond Here There Be Dragons

Artist Rita Trickel: Beyond Here There Be Dragons

Ahoy mateys! Ever see an old sea map where dragons marked dangerous or uncharted waters? Pictures of dragons, sea monsters, or mythological creatures warned sailors to stay away. No telling what’s beyond. Shiver me timbers! If sailors got too close to these areas, trouble abounded. Danger was at hand. All...Read More
Story Worlds: Places I’ve Been, Part 2

Story Worlds: Places I’ve Been, Part 2

What settings have inspired you? What stories do you associate with them? Which stories will you never forget? Earlier, I shared how authors thrust us into their story worlds, by mixing words together in such a way that we’re living and breathing alongside the characters. I’ve discussed where story ideas come...Read More
Elmer Sparks, Part 2: Spreading Happiness through Bluegrass Music

Elmer Sparks, Part 2: Spreading Happiness through Bluegrass Music

Tuesday nights at the Muckwanago Library must be the happiest in all of Wisconsin. It’s the night of the monthly Bluegrass Jam. Even before I stepped foot in the room (April 9, 2018), the twangs, strums, and picking of banjos, guitars, and string bass wafted out to the corridor, compelling...Read More
Elmer Sparks, Part 1: Spreading Happiness through Photography

Elmer Sparks, Part 1: Spreading Happiness through Photography

Only one photographer ever got my husband to smile for a portrait. Just one. And a genuine smile, not a fake smile-through-your-teeth “can we get this over with?” kind of smile. That man is Elmer Sparks. That was the year he took portraits of every family in our church for...Read More
People Watching #3

People Watching #3

Have you done any people watching lately? The first time we looked at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Last time we examined a 1930s Charles Walton photograph. Today’s picture is a different flavor altogether. Aside from knowing that a picture is worth 1000 words, a picture evokes 1000 stories. If I showed...Read More
Monday Metaphor Musings #3

Monday Metaphor Musings #3

What do you think of when you hear the word door? Or when you see a picture of a door? Does it make a difference which kind of door? Time for another word-association exercise. You did this before by brainstorming the word web and by finding the right metaphor to describe...Read More
Master Gardeners: Beautifying the World, One Yard at a Time, Part 2

Master Gardeners: Beautifying the World, One Yard at a Time, Part 2

For years, every time I called my dad, he’d say, “Dave and I weeded this . . .” and “Dave and I built that . . .” and “Dave and I transplanted this . . .” Who is this Dave? I wondered. My siblings and I only knew him by...Read More
Master Gardeners: Beautifying the World, One Yard at a Time, Part 1

Master Gardeners: Beautifying the World, One Yard at a Time, Part 1

Last time I shared my own gardening tip: live next door to neighbors with gorgeous landscaping. Today you’ll meet one of the reasons for this tip. Over the years, my dad, Don DeNooyer, raised the landscaping bar so high, it’s beyond my reach. Though I don’t live next door to...Read More
My Gardening Tip: Live next door to Neighbors with Gorgeous Landscaping

My Gardening Tip: Live next door to Neighbors with Gorgeous Landscaping

I grew up spoiled by beautiful lawns surrounding me. Both of my parents had gardens, but Dad also landscaped and diligently tended each tree. The care he gave to our one-acre property rivaled the tedious care that strict English teachers give to marking grammar errors, or that car buffs give...Read More
Get out that Club

Get out that Club

A pastor once said that when he’s stuck on writing his sermon, he cleans out his garage. Yup, that’s it. That’s the cure for his writer’s block. I can totally relate! When I’m stuck on what to do next in my own writing, I start organizing piles, files, and boxes....Read More
Lisa Doyle–Beauty in the world, Part 2: Leaving people better than how you find them–through Chosen, Inc.

Lisa Doyle–Beauty in the world, Part 2: Leaving people better than how you find them–through Chosen, Inc.

Last time I introduced you to Lisa Doyle, and the story within a story: the book Dear Lois. This book plays a vital role in the formation of the non-profit Chosen, Inc. which supports adoptive and foster families in the greater Milwaukee area. As a board member, Lisa aided the...Read More
Lisa Doyle–Beauty in the world, Part 1: Leaving people better than you find them

Lisa Doyle–Beauty in the world, Part 1: Leaving people better than you find them

Lisa Doyle embraces a mantra she’s had since age twelve. She found this quote on a decoupaged piece of cardboard in 1983: ******* “One day I would like to teach a few people many and beautiful things that will help them teach a few people.” --unknown, A Teacher’s Prayer ******...Read More
Accidental Art & Inventions: Popsicles, Post-it Notes, & Parisian filmmaking

Accidental Art & Inventions: Popsicles, Post-it Notes, & Parisian filmmaking

What happens when cooked wheat sits too long? Or when the movie camera jams? When you run out of ice cream cups or baker’s chocolate for your recipe? When your science experiment turns out the opposite of what you expected? Or when your cleaning product becomes obsolete? Sometimes these mistakes...Read More
Monday Metaphor Musings, #2: Are you a Tiger or a Turtle? A Hammer or a Nail? A Piano or a Piccolo?

Monday Metaphor Musings, #2: Are you a Tiger or a Turtle? A Hammer or a Nail? A Piano or a Piccolo?

Have you ever found yourself describing people with these cliches? Do you know individuals like this? “That kid’s a tornado. He leaves a mess in every room he passes through.” “She’s as busy as a beaver.” “She’s the queen bee.” “He’s as relentless as a jackhammer.” “He works like a...Read More
Briscoe Darling says, “Got time to breathe, got time for music.” . . . A Celebration of Mayberry’s Mirth & Music, Part 2

Briscoe Darling says, “Got time to breathe, got time for music.” . . . A Celebration of Mayberry’s Mirth & Music, Part 2

[caption id="attachment_1042" align="aligncenter" width="574"] Via Classic Film on Flickr[/caption] The popular 1960s Andy Griffith Show (ranked 5th) was responsible for introducing genuine mountain bluegrass music to suburban America. The Darling family from the Appalachian mountains show up in Mayberry for only six episodes, for one crisis or another, yet each time...Read More
Barney Fife says Aunt Bee’s Pickles Taste Like Kerosene . . . A Celebration of Mayberry’s Mirth & Music, Part 1

Barney Fife says Aunt Bee’s Pickles Taste Like Kerosene . . . A Celebration of Mayberry’s Mirth & Music, Part 1

How big of an Andy Griffith Show fan are you? Take this quiz and find out. Can you identify who says each of the following, to whom, or the context? NOTE: Whether you’re a fan or not, or if you don’t want to take the quiz, read on to see...Read More
Artist Marie Scott: Painting Glimmers of Hope for this Broken World

Artist Marie Scott: Painting Glimmers of Hope for this Broken World

******************** “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” --Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887 ******************** Two weeks ago, I discussed how the starving artist is not so hungry. I referenced impassioned honeysuckles and tulips. Here’s Mirriam-Webster’s definition of...Read More
Deputy Barney Fife says to Nip it in the Bud!

Deputy Barney Fife says to Nip it in the Bud!

[caption id="attachment_1025" align="alignright" width="231"] Via classic_film on Visual Hunt[/caption] With his zeal for combatting crime in Mayberry, Deputy Barney Fife considers jaywalking as serious as theft. Of course this fits with his philosophy to nip crime in the bud, especially when there’s a new boy in town causing trouble for...Read More
Sheriff Andy Taylor recommends the Snappy Lunch in Mayberry

Sheriff Andy Taylor recommends the Snappy Lunch in Mayberry

At my house, on any given weeknight, I’m caught watching The Andy Griffith Show reruns. Invariably, my son walks by and says, “You know, Mom, that’s not real life.” “That’s why I like it,” I say. Conflicts are all neatly wrapped up in thirty minutes. Problems run the gamut from...Read More
The starving artist is not so hungry

The starving artist is not so hungry

[caption id="attachment_752" align="alignleft" width="231"] Via picksnoz on Visual Hunt[/caption] How long could you live in a sterile environment devoid of color, surrounded by stark whites or drab grays? What if your only food was rice, cream of wheat, fish, oatmeal, or bananas (without the peel)? Could any of us survive...Read More
People Watching, #2

People Watching, #2

Have you done any people watching lately? Last time we looked at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. [caption id="attachment_745" align="aligncenter" width="456"] Via State Library of New South Wales[/caption] Aside from knowing that a picture is worth 1000 words, a picture evokes 1000 stories. If I showed a picture to a dozen students...Read More
Should kids get trophies for participation?

Should kids get trophies for participation?

When my kids were in elementary school, they received little trophies each year just for running in the jog-a-thon fund-raiser. Speed or agility didn’t matter. The number of sponsors and the amount you raised didn’t matter. You could get a trophy just for the fact that you showed up and...Read More
Are you Celebrating or Lamenting?

Are you Celebrating or Lamenting?

Did you ever read a book and wish you’d written it? Have you walked through a gallery and wished you had a better eye and camera for your own photography exploits? Have you found yourself envying the singer with the beautiful voice or the musician with such mastery of his...Read More
Revision: When is it good enough? Finished or abandoned?

Revision: When is it good enough? Finished or abandoned?

How do you know when you’re done revising a poem, essay, or novel? Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” He obviously wasn’t completely satisfied with the final product. French poet Paul Valery concurred by saying, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” Such is the case...Read More
Barbara Britton: Perfume Pics, Coloring Pencils, and Records: An Author’s Unconventional Tool Box

Barbara Britton: Perfume Pics, Coloring Pencils, and Records: An Author’s Unconventional Tool Box

Have you wondered what it would be like living in Biblical Old Testament times? So has author Barbara Britton. In fact, she digs into O.T. history to create story worlds from 1000s of years ago. Her wanderings start with map-making and music. Last year I read the first book from...Read More
The Compulsion to Tell A Story: The Dog Ate My Glasses

The Compulsion to Tell A Story: The Dog Ate My Glasses

My husband Tim tells the story of when he was in 4th grade playing baseball with the neighbors. He had brand new glasses and was afraid of breaking them. He set them in a “safe place” in the grass nearby. A dog was snooping around. After he got up to...Read More
Risk-taking & Art, Part 3: The Hot Air Balloon Quilt

Risk-taking & Art, Part 3: The Hot Air Balloon Quilt

How do you handle Art that doesn’t measure up? Recently I attended a play that was well done but the backdrop was nothing but a poorly drawn tree standing in a poorly painted field. It filled the entire stage. It did nothing for the production. Fortunately, the actors were good...Read More
Risk-taking & Art, Part 2: Birds in the Woods

Risk-taking & Art, Part 2: Birds in the Woods

When my husband Tim coached middle school girls basketball, one of his players ran the wrong way down the court and made a basket for the other team. Sure, this kind of mishap happens regularly with inexperienced players, but Tim can recite foibles from teams of various calibers. His coaching...Read More
Risk-taking & Art: Not everyone thinks your baby is beautiful

Risk-taking & Art: Not everyone thinks your baby is beautiful

The baby who is beautiful to you might not be beautiful to everyone else. You take a risk when you share your art with others. It’s wearing your heart on your sleeve. It’s like putting your baby on display. It’s not safe. How much are you willing to risk to...Read More
Interior Designer Kaysie Strickland: Home as a Haven of Healing, Part 2

Interior Designer Kaysie Strickland: Home as a Haven of Healing, Part 2

How has your home or your art been a healing place for you? Kaysie Strickland, founder and president of Homes & Havens, is an interior designer who has mastered the art of creating healing home environments for wounded women. Last time, she shared her philosophy of home as a healing...Read More
Interior Designer Kaysie Strickland: Home as a Haven of Healing, Part 1

Interior Designer Kaysie Strickland: Home as a Haven of Healing, Part 1

Have you ever thought about the most healing features of your home? What in your environment brings you comfort and peace and reminds you to focus on the right things? These are questions that interior designer Kaysie Strickland might ask if you hired her. My daughter Kaia introduced me to...Read More
My Pitiful Venture into Interior Design

My Pitiful Venture into Interior Design

I call my decorating style eclectic. That’s mainly because I can never decide which route to take. My daughters, who have very good taste, probably laugh at me behind my back. Not in a mean way. Just something like, “Mom and her crazy decorating ideas. It just never goes well...Read More
Monday Metaphor Musings #1: Web

Monday Metaphor Musings #1: Web

What comes to mind when you think of the word web? I teach writing students how to brainstorm ideas on paper, using a webbing technique that some call clustering. Many teachers use this. The rules are simple: start with a word, phrase, or concept in the middle of the page,...Read More
Artist/Teacher Laura Fesser, Part 2: Inspiring students

Artist/Teacher Laura Fesser, Part 2: Inspiring students

Artist Laura Fesser not only creates art but teaches art. My four children had the privilege of being in her elementary art classroom. In fact, I was thrilled because she had the uncanny ability to bring out the best in them. Because of her, for the first time ever, my two...Read More
Artist Laura Fesser, Part 1: Inspired by Polymer, Playable Guitars, & Portraits

Artist Laura Fesser, Part 1: Inspired by Polymer, Playable Guitars, & Portraits

Laura Fesser wears two creative hats: artist and teacher. Her lively artwork brightens our community at the local hospital, library, and gallery, as well as numerous homes. Laura teaches elementary art at Heritage Christian School where I started the secondary art program years earlier. Later, she taught my four children,...Read More
A Different Kind of People Watching, Master Painting #1

A Different Kind of People Watching, Master Painting #1

Are you a people watcher? Are you entertained by the family dynamics of people in museums, restaurants, and airports? Do you sit in public places and make predictions about the passers-by, or develop their life histories? What occupations and hobbies they have? What personality types they exhibit? A variation of...Read More
Ode to Broken Crayons: Some do’s and don’ts

Ode to Broken Crayons: Some do’s and don’ts

We’ve all been there with a huge sigh, staring at a pile of old crayons. Ready to throw them out. Or staring in disbelief as our child peels the paper right off brand new crayons! How dare he! And if he snaps a crayon in half, oh my! Call in...Read More
Let it Go to Let it Grow

Let it Go to Let it Grow

“What a great job you’re doing on that tower!” I said to my three-year-old son, my enthusiasm rivaling a rock concert crowd. CRASH! In an instant, he sent blocks flying across the room. Not for fun, but in a rage. What was his message to me? Hmm. He wasn’t able...Read More
Backyard Art Fairs & Tie Dye Parties

Backyard Art Fairs & Tie Dye Parties

Tie dye, anyone? When my kids were little, we had the neighbors over for tie dye parties. In the backyard, we dunked T-shirts, pillow cases, and socks into big buckets of dye. My husband Tim monitored the garden hose as we rinsed the colors out. The alley flowed with turquoise,...Read More
Alison Sherwood, Part 2: Memory Maker, Memory Finder, & Memory Keeper

Alison Sherwood, Part 2: Memory Maker, Memory Finder, & Memory Keeper

As a mom of small children, Alison Sherwood says YES to Mess and Mayhem. Not only does she enjoy creating and capturing memories for friends, she makes art for, about, and with her kids. She doesn’t dictate the outcome but engages them in the process, even working alongside them. Their...Read More
Alison Sherwood, Part 1: Memory Maker, Memory Finder, & Memory Keeper

Alison Sherwood, Part 1: Memory Maker, Memory Finder, & Memory Keeper

Need inspiration? Need ideas for a party or craft? Look no further. This woman is overflowing with them! Non-stop. Alison Sherwood is a journalist turned stay-at-home-mom to three kids (Corban, 6, Mara, 4, and Haddon, 3). For nine years, she was a writer, videographer, blogger, and digital jack-of-all-trades for the...Read More
Process vs. Product: the Sizzle or the Steak?

Process vs. Product: the Sizzle or the Steak?

We all love shortcuts. From dishwashers to washing machines, from cars to planes, from texting to email, from Google to apps for anything you can imagine, the modern world is all about convenience and finding the easiest and fastest way to do something. But that’s not how creativity usually works....Read More
Say YES to MESS & Mayhem – the Joy is in the Journey – right?

Say YES to MESS & Mayhem – the Joy is in the Journey – right?

Is the joy really in the journey? [caption id="attachment_408" align="aligncenter" width="759"] Photo credit: cogdogblog on VisualHunt / CC BY[/caption] What price are you willing to pay for letting creativity flow? In other words, what messes are you willing to put up with? This is an ode to my mother. I...Read More
Author Liz Tolsma: Story Worlds steeped in WWII history

Author Liz Tolsma: Story Worlds steeped in WWII history

Unlike my friend Cathy, I cannot read and cook at the same time without drastic consequences. Spaghetti boiling over. Overcooked Chicken Divan. Burned biscuits. Have you ever been so engrossed in a novel that you forgot you were reading? Or didn’t hear the oven timer? And your smoke alarm went...Read More
We Need Fairy Tale Dragons

We Need Fairy Tale Dragons

We need Fairy Tale Dragons. [caption id="attachment_365" align="aligncenter" width="650"] CC BY-SA 3.0[/caption] We need the bad guys, the villains. Jack’s Giant. Cinderella’s and Snow White’s evil step-mothers. The Troll who bullied the Three Billy Goats Gruff. The witch in Hansel and Gretel. The Big Bad Wolf. Not to mention Captain...Read More
Why was Einstein so brilliant?

Why was Einstein so brilliant?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Albert Einstein? The theory of relativity? The atomic bomb? An image of a wild-haired genius? How about fairy tales? Seriously. He was a huge fan. Here’s what he said . . . ************************** "If you want your children...Read More
The Ruby Slippers

The Ruby Slippers

“Today the ruby slippers went on auction,” I wrote to my college-aged daughter in November, 2011. “They’re expected to be sold for 2 or 3 million dollars!” [caption id="attachment_334" align="aligncenter" width="720"] Photo credit: twm1340 on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA[/caption] Audrey and I share a love of old movies, including The...Read More
In the schoolyard: R.I.P. Here lies imagination

In the schoolyard: R.I.P. Here lies imagination

“My legs have hiccups.” That’s how my daughter described muscle twitches at age three. “There a melted rainbow on that truck.” That’s her four-year-old description of a colorful array of fuzzy, blended images. “It’s the same sky over Milwaukee as in Michigan. God just spreads it over us all like...Read More
Creativity: Popcorn Popper vs. Slow Cooker?

Creativity: Popcorn Popper vs. Slow Cooker?

Ever been on a committee that had to come up with ideas for the next best thing? It could be great fun, depending on what has to be made: --a Super Bowl commercial --a plot twist for a TV show --a name for a new doodad --a catchy slogan or...Read More
Creativity is not just for Artists

Creativity is not just for Artists

    Brad and Joyce, my in-laws, would never call themselves artists, but they are two of the most creative people I know. Give Joyce the high school play title along with yards of fabric and accessories, and she’ll whip out a bevy of fantastic stage-ready costumes that will leave...Read More
Chickens at the State Fair

Chickens at the State Fair

Every summer at the State Fair, you can bet I’ll visit the chickens. They compel me. Their antics make me laugh. And they amaze me with their variety. From the Belgian Bearded d’Uccle Bantam to the Golden Laced Wyandotte, no two chickens are alike. I marvel at splotches of color,...Read More