Monday, January 26, 2015

New Things

Here's some recent writing/art projects and endeavors I've been working on along with some recent publications:

My latest collage entitled "Skin."
I just had five poems published in the latest edition of Lost Coast Review.  The new Winter 2015 edition became available online on January 13th.  Here's the link the whole edition with contributor bios:

This edition contains five of my original poems.  Here's a link to my poetry featured in this issue:

The print edition of Lost Coast Review Winter 2015 became available on January 14th.  The issue contains some wonderful pieces from other fiction writers and poets - you can order your own copy on Amazon or Createspace.  Here are the links:


I also have a poem featured in the most recent edition of Really System.  Issue 5 became available online on January 23rd.  Here's the link to the issue:

And here's the link to "The Burial," my poem featured in this issue:

I was finally able to get a library card here and the main branch is WONDERFUL (an understatement).  They have the biggest poetry selection I've ever seen.  These are my current reads (which I HIGHLY suggest):

House of Deer by Sasha Steensen
Bang Ditto by Amber Tamblyn
The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise
On the Other Side, Blue by Collier Nogues

Aside from the usual writing and collage-creating, I've still been doing some freelance work on the side.  Life is good.

I've also been looking to get back into shooting photos; I've put photography on the back burner since the big move.  Here's a link to my photography site:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I am a collector.

If you have ever been in my home, you know how much I appreciate old things.  I have many random collections that I have gathered over the years, but I love my collection of antiques most of all.

It is so intriguing to me that each piece once served a purpose for someone - they bought it new, they used it with their family, it had value to them.  So many things are discarded in this day and age because people think they don't have value, but I love to imagine what these things once meant to someone else when they were new.  I love reminders of the way things used to be.  I love the simplicity of many of these antique pieces that sit in my home.  I love stories. 

Many of the antiques I have in my home have stories that remind me of the joyous, happy moments that took place when I found them, because it's truly like finding a treasure.  A treasure with so much history and a host of stories I will never know.  Treasures that were touched by the hands of someone's grandparent or great grandparent.  People that existed and lived brilliant lives but that I will never know.

So I give these old things, these antiques, the great respect they deserve.  I like to imagine what they meant to the people who owned them.  I like to think about their lives and stories. 

My husband and I moved to Ohio from Indiana.  We were very close to the Michigan border in Indiana, so we spent countless weekends exploring the southern part of Michigan and all of its splendor.  Three Oaks, MI, is one of my favorite places in the whole world, and it is home to many wonderful shops that house antiques and artwork and thrift store finds.  Justin and I also spent quite a bit of time in downtown Niles, MI.  I've never seen so many antique shops.  It would take us an entire Saturday to comb each antique shop in Niles, including the flea markets that often sold antiques, as well.  While Niles may not seem like much, I have so many cherished memories there with my husband - walking through each antique shop, scouring the shelves and touching the old metal and wood of objects made before my time, stopping at the Paris shop for ice cream, sifting through bins of old vinyl records looking for treasures. 

There was also a thrift store in Niles where we found many of the cherished antiques that now sit in various places in my home - old Polaroid cameras, a Super 8 film projector, an antique chess set. 

I have a Royal typewriter that my husband bought for me at an antique shop in downtown Mishawaka where we used to live.  I loved that store and I love my typewriter.  The keys still work, the typewriter just waiting to tell a story. 

And then there's the antiques that mean the most - the ones given to me by members of my family.  As I said in my last post, my great grandfather gave me a 1948 Philco radio phonograph last week that him and my great grandmother bought new.  I also have a stack of old records and a box of cameras that my great grandfather actually used to take photos of him and my great grandmother when they took a 28-day trip around the world back in the 70s.  Each camera has an individual story to tell.

To me, things don't lose value as they age.  The only get better with time. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wonderfully Made

So despite the fact that my husband and I moved from Indiana to Ohio back in November, he is still a graduate student back at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN.  I'm so proud of him - he has worked full time since he started his full time graduate studies back in spring 2012, even through adversity (like breaking his arm and having to be in a full arm cast, etc.).  He has two semesters to go, so he is nearing the end!  His program is non-traditional, so most of his work can be done online, but he has to travel to Mishawaka for a week of class time for every class he takes.  So this week he had an Authentic Leadership class at Bethel, and since I'm still a technically "unemployed" poet-artist-freelance writer-whatever, I decided to go with him.  It has been a great trip so far.

We left Monday after Justin got off of work for the day and headed to Indiana.  Instead of going with him to Mishawaka, he dropped me off at my parents' house so I could spend some time with family, visit my grandfather, and celebrate my best friend's 26th birthday with her.

Justin said his class has been going great and he's had the opportunity to meet up with lots of old friends after class to catch up.  I plan on heading back to Mishawaka with him for his next class (which is actually on my birthday!) to meet up with friends and celebrate my birthday at some of our favorite places in our old stomping grounds.

On Tuesday, I went with my dad to visit my great grandfather.  He is kind of amazing.  He is almost 96 years old and still lives at home (on his own).  He has lots of people to check in on him, so he's been able to maintain his independence.  My dad is his main caretaker, so I tagged along and we took him lunch and spent the day talking and listening to his infinite stories.  (He was born in 1919, so he has some amazing stories to tell).  My dad told him I love antiques and he asked me what kind of antiques I liked.  To make a long story short, he sent my dad and I into the attic and basically told me to take whatever I wanted.  For an antique lover like me, it was paradise.  I couldn't believe the great things he had kept over the years.  I ended up leaving with a stack of old clay records, a whole bag of antique cameras with old film and flashbulbs, a vintage suitcase, and a 1948 Philco radio phonograph.  A 1948 PHILCO RADIO PHONOGRAPH!  He said him and my great grandmother bought it new (the Philco website says there were roughly 48,000 of them made and they sold for $159.95 in 1948), but that it had been in the attic for 50 years.  I love antiques and I love family heirlooms.  It was a wonderful day and I'm so glad I have these things to remind me of my grandfather and the wonderful life he has lived thus far.

Today was another great day.  Since Justin has our car at school, my dad drove me to Fort Wayne to visit my best friend and have a celebratory birthday lunch with her and her mom.  The four of us met for lunch at Scotty's Brewhouse, Cohen's favorite place.  My brother once took us to the Scotty's in Bloomington, IN, when Cohen and I went to visit him our junior year of college and we've been hooked ever since.  We were both ecstatic when they built new Scotty's restaurants in Mishawaka and then Fort Wayne.  We had a wonderful lunch talking and laughing and being our regular silly selves.  We really do have our own language.  A lot has changed over the years, but Cohen will always be Cohen and we will always be perfect (as our saying goes).  I never thought when I met her on the first day of seventh grade that we would become sisters or that we would go to the same college or that we would be roommates or that we would get our first place together after graduation or that she would be my maid of honor or that she would get sick.  It's been an amazing, wonderful, scary, bittersweet, blessed journey and I'm so glad God has blessed me with her along the way.

Celebrating Cohen's birthday today at Scotty's.
We don't have any big plans for tomorrow, but I'm certain it will be a good day.  I may clean up my old radio and give the wood some shine.  I might try to listen to one of the old records.  I might try to take a look at some of the film that's still in the cameras I found.

And as this week comes to an end, I will celebrate the life of my best friend, Cohen, and what she means to so many people.  And I will remember and celebrate the life of my grandma, who passed away in 2013 but who shared a birthday with Cohen.  They would always call each other on their birthdays each year and we would often celebrate together, and I will smile as I think of those memories this year.  Life is such a precious gift.

So remember to smile.  Life is a wonderful thing.  YOU are wonderful and beautiful!  You are made in God's image and you are fearfully and wonderfully made

God, wonderful are your works and my soul knows it very well

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tips and Tricks for a Healthier Lifestyle

Netflix opened my eyes to new ways of living a healthier lifestyle.

Around this time last year, Justin and I got Netflix.  Amidst the myriad of movies and television shows, there are also tons of documentaries (which Justin and I both enjoy).  And there's a wide variety of food documentaries.  Justin and I watched a few of them including Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead, Food Inc., King Corn, and Forks Over KnivesForks Over Knives probably had the biggest impact on us.  The film discussed the processed foods that Americans eat everyday without even being aware of it.  They discussed the importance of consuming a plant-based diet and created an awareness of the importance of reading ingredient labels.

After doing quite a bit of research, we decided to make a big change.  So on January 1, 2014, we vowed to cut processed foods as much as possible and focus on a plant-based diet.  I wanted my house to be a place where Justin and I could be as healthy as possible - no more processed foods or scary chemicals that often come in our cleaning and beauty products we use everyday.   

I've been a vegetarian for over 15 years now.  I don't eat meat of any kind, so this wasn't as big of a step for me as it was for my carnivore husband.  He started out only doing white meat three times a week.  This included chicken and fish that we got from reliable sources, such as our local farmer's market or Whole Foods back in Indiana (I REALLY miss that Whole Foods now that we are in Ohio).  While he eats meat more than that now, we still only buy meat from local stores or farmers that sustainably farm and don't use hormones or steroids (grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, etc.).  I tried to unsuccessfully go vegan, but now include a few natural dairy products in my diet. 

So now, a year later in 2015, Justin and I still stick to the resolution we made in 2014.  I'm proud that we've stuck with it!  It took a lot of work to navigate the whole "healthy lifestyle" process in the midst of all the bad stuff that is available out there, but here are some tips and tricks I learned along the way. 

One thing I figured out really fast is that eating healthy is EXPENSIVE and we were (and still are) on a budget.  But then I learned something else - it doesn't have to be!  When we made the switch, Justin and I were basically only shopping at our local farmer's market and Whole Foods (because all of the healthy options are so readily available and you don't have to go looking for them).  The farmer's market wasn't out of our price range, but our Whole Foods grocery bills were getting out of control.  We tried shopping at Meijer (which has many all-natural and organic options), but our grocery bills were still too high.  So I did some research and found out that Aldi, which is a relative of Trader Joe's, carries many all-natural and organic options at a fraction of the price!  Justin and I started doing the majority of our shopping there and have saved so much money in the process while still eating well!  (Plus, Aldi cuts down on their plastic bag usage by encouraging customers to bring their own reusable grocery bags!)

The key is to look at ingredient labels.  The ingredients they put in our food these days is deplorable.  Peanut butter and microwave popcorn, two foods that should be healthy snack alternatives, are made completely unhealthy by the awful preservatives and additives put into the products.  My health science professor in college said, "If it has more than seven ingredients, you should be skeptical."  I've taken this to heart and ALWAYS read ingredient labels.  If it sounds weird or you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't be eating it. 

So I wanted to share some of my favorite things that help my husband and I stick to our healthy lifestyle plan.

ALL of this stuff was purchased at Aldi!  I'm a big fan of their Simply Nature products which are both all-natural and organic, plus the prices are super low.  Justin and I are both picky eaters, so trying to come up with healthy meals we both like is often a struggle.  I've been told before that I only eat "kid food," which is probably true!  Justin eats a lot of brown rice and he is also a fan of quinoa (I know quinoa is supposed to be a staple for vegetarians, but I'm not a big fan).  I try to stay away from "fake meat" because I want to limit the amount of soy in my diet, so some of my staples include lentils, whole grain pasta (we stick to only whole grains), and lots of fruits and veggies (Aldi has a great selection and they even have organic).  Almonds and other nuts make a great snack, as well.  They are usually expensive, but Aldi has them at a great price.  Justin also doesn't like eating fruits and veggies raw, but he loves the blended fruit pouches.

More stuff from Aldi.  Justin LOVES orange juice, so we always keep a couple cartons on-hand.  We've also cut cow's milk from our diet, so we get all-natural almond milk from Aldi (just make sure you get the unsweetened kind since there's a lot of sugar in the other varieties).  I love the single-serving applesauce and mandarin orange cups...again, I appreciate kid food!

These are some of my Kroger buys.  Kroger has really expanded their all-natural and organic food selection.  Whatever I can't buy at Aldi, I get at Kroger.  Justin loves cereal and oatmeal, so I pick those up for him in the natural section at Kroger.  Their Simple Truth brand is great and they make all kinds of natural soups and sauces.  The Back to Nature brand sweets and snacks are also great if you have a sweet tooth - all the taste but none of the bad ingredients!

Annie's products are my favorite.  I buy most of these at Kroger, as well, but Target has a great selection.  Salad dressings and boxed macaroni and cheese are usually FULL of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, but Annie's brand provides these products naturally and organically (just be aware of the sodium content of some of them!).  These are a few of the Annie's products I have on hand, but we've also had pizza rolls, bagel bites, the Velveeta equivalent of macaroni and cheese, and more from Annie's.  I can eat a lot of the same foods I've always loved but without any of the added nasty stuff.  

These are a few of my favorite all-natural condiment picks.  Annie's ketchup, vegan chipotle mayonnaise (Justin's favorite), all-natural grape jelly (to go with my all-natural peanut butter), and vegan butter (made with vegetable oils).

My drink of choice - unsweetened iced tea.  Go for the Pure Leaf brand; it's the only one I've been able to find that doesn't have any added colors, flavors, or preservatives.  

Justin is a huge tea drinker, as well.  These are from Aldi and Kroger.

Popcorn is my all-time favorite snack, but after reading about the "chemicals" in microwave popcorn, we make our own with a popcorn maker.  It's a wonderful whole grain snack!  We make it with coconut oil.  Coconut oil is an amazing and healthy substitute for butter - plus you can even use it as conditioner for your hair!

Whole grain wheat flour from Kroger and organic cane sugar from Aldi for baking.

All-natural frozen fruits (Justin loves to make smoothies) and veggies from Aldi.

I love these all-natural frozen pizzas from Aldi for a quick dinner night.

This is whole wheat bread from the Simple Truth line at Kroger.  No high fructose corn syrup or preservatives!  Eat it fast or stick it in the freezer since it will go bad quicker. 

I tried VERY hard to go vegan at the beginning of last year, but I couldn't give up my ice cream.  At least I found this all-natural Turkey Hill brand at Kroger.  It makes for a tasty treat every once in awhile. 

Van's brand waffles were always one of my favorite things to get at Whole Foods, and now Kroger has them!  Pair these with pure maple syrup from Aldi!  (Note:  I'm not into the whole "gluten free" fad.  I accidentally picked up the gluten free version of these waffles).

In an effort to rid our house of unnecessary chemicals and to be more environmentally aware, I've also tried to switch to all-natural cleaning and beauty products.  Here are a few of my favorites.

I have read WAY too many studies about the links between breast cancer and parabens in deodorants and aluminum in antiperspirants.  About six months ago, I made the switch to Tom's of Maine deodorant.  It smells great and I can rest easy knowing that I'm not putting unnecessary toxins into my body. 

Dishwasher tabs I get at Walmart and Method brand cleaning products from Target.  I also love Meyer's Clean Day products from Target, but Method's products are a bit cheaper.  

This is my favorite dish soap in the whole world.  It's plant derived and radish scented.  I LOVE the smell.

Over the past year, I've tried to find a way to enjoy exercising more since going to a gym isn't my favorite thing.  I love biking, but it's hard to do that in the winter in the Midwest, so I bought a yoga mat and started learning yoga at home (I use  I've had four surgeries on my hand and now have a titanium plate, three screws, and a rod fusing my joint together, so yoga isn't always the easiest thing for me (downward facing dog is a NO).  But I adapt the yoga sessions for my physical restrictions and I always feel great afterward.

I also talked with my doctor about vitamin supplements since there are so many out there and it's hard to know which ones to choose, if any.  My doctor suggested a daily multivitamin, a B vitamin complex, and Vitamin C during cold and flu season.  (Getting my husband to take vitamins isn't always easy, but I try my best!)  Walmart is usually my go-to store for vitamins.

So these are a few of the changes Justin and I have implemented over the past year.  If you haven't seen any of those Netflix documentaries I mentioned earlier, you should!  And do your own research, as well.  Our grocery stores are full of refined sugars, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, and more.  Making positive changes doesn't have to be expensive or difficult!

I'm also in the process of learning about doTerra essential oils.  It's one of my goals for 2015!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What I've been working on lately

It's a new year.

As a now-unemployed-former-teacher-of-college-students, I've been able to focus quite a bit on my art and writing since the move from Indiana to Ohio.

I've been filling my time with writing, reading, and creating collage art.

So here's what I've been working on lately.

My husband got me LOTS of wonderful books for Christmas.  This is what I'm currently reading:

The book goes back and forth between the perspective of a killer and the detective trying to solve the case.  It's an interesting change of pace for all you Stephen King lovers out there.  
 Up next on my list of reads:

More Stephen King - his most recent releases.  Need I say more?
A collection of Hemingway's works.  I've read The Old Man and the Sea and attempted A Farewell to Arms.  Time to give the novel another try and then dive into The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Yes, I've already read this.  Yes, I know it's insanely popular right now.  But I love this book.  Love it.  Plus, John Green is a native Hoosier like me. 
I'm also simultaneously feeding my love for learning anatomy:

Isn't the front cover glorious!?
Who doesn't want to brush up on their bone knowledge?
And I also found something that I thought was lost in the move.  My beloved anatomy coloring book:

Seriously...who comes up with this stuff!?  They know people like me can't resist!
So when I'm writing or painting, I also have new music to listen to.  Hubby got me Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication album and Foster the People's new album, Supermodel.  On vinyl.  And they sound wonderful on my record player.

I might be slightly obsessed with the Chili Peppers.
Loving the follow-up album to Torches.
I've also been working on some artwork, painting, collage, and all that good stuff.  Here's my most recent piece.  It's dedicated to Stephen King's short story, "Everything's Eventual," from the collection, Everything's Eventual.  It's called "Maybe the Cleaners."

"Maybe the cleaners are a little afraid of me, too."  Acrylic paint on canvas with Harter's images and paper.   

 Here's some other recent collage work I've done. 

"Look forward."
Photo collage of hubby with acrylic paints.
Combining the stories of St. Jude and Job.
And I always keep a collage journal:

Mix media.
I know I've posted this before, but who doesn't love Sylvia Plath?
And I've been working on my writing as usual.  My most recent publication is an ekphrastic poem I wrote called "Autumn Rhythm" after Jackson Pollock's painting, Autumn Rhythm.  It was featured in the Montucky Review.  You can read it here:

Justin and I also got to go to the Toledo Museum of Art last weekend.  So much awesome-ness.  So much to see. 

Life is good.

Friday, January 2, 2015


My husband and I were talking over dinner tonight about people who have made big impacts in our lives and it got me thinking.  Investing time and love in other human beings is so important not only for their growth, but for ours.  There are a few people who have greatly invested in me over the years, so much so that I don't think I would be who I am today without them or their guidance, wisdom, faith, and love.

I can't say this enough - I think it is so important to invest our time and effort into others, especially the youth.  And it's important to share our faith.  You never know how you could change someone's life.

I didn't grow up in a church-going family, so I know I wouldn't be where I am today without the close friends I had growing up that had families that invested in me.  I grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and had a wonderful friend named Connie.  Connie's family cared about me enough to take me to church with them on many Wednesday evenings.  When we were young, I would often join Connie for Awanas on Wednesday nights where I would learn about God and memorize Bible verses.  These are some of my favorite memories as a child.

When we moved back to Indiana, I met Jeannie.  Jeannie's family also started taking me to church on Wednesday nights along with our friend, Stephanie.  Each Wednesday, we would all go to dinner together and then head to the church for youth group.  This is where I was saved and came to know God on a more intimate level.  I loved spending that time with Jeannie and Stephanie.  Jeannie's family made huge impact in my life, more than they probably will ever know.

In high school, I had a softball coach that really challenged me to grow in my faith.  We became close friends and she invested so much into my life.  When my dad had his accident, she was there every single day for me, offering up prayer and asking if I needed her to come to the hospital to get my mind off of things.  She sent me care packages, cards, encouraging notes, and Bible verses every day.  She led a prayer group that prayed for my dad.  She was an amazing friend.  Autumn died in a car accident in 2009, but I smile knowing that I will see her again someday.  I hope she knows the difference she made in my life.

Then there is my grandma, Nancy.  My grandma has loved and encouraged me in more ways than I can say.  I could always talk to her about anything, especially my faith.  I have so many cherished memories of her, especially when I was in college since I lived so close to her.  We would stay up all night talking and she would tell me stories about when she was growing up.  She would talk through problems with me, encourage me, and tell me what the Bible would say about a particular issue.  She was the best.  My grandmother passed away in 2013, but I love telling people about her and the great impact she made in my life.  I miss her every single day.

And then there's Cohen.  I could say so much about Cohen, but the bottom line is this - she encourages me daily to live my life to the fullest and take things one day at a time.  She teaches me about strong faith.  She teaches me about love.  She teaches me to trust God.  Cohen is an amazingly loyal friend and still is to this day despite her illness.  When my dad had his accident, she not only picked up my homework for me every day, but she would go to my brother's elementary school and pick up his homework.  She left little surprises and notes in my car to encourage me when I got home from the hospital.  She left Halloween candy for my little brother since she knew he would be at the hospital with my dad instead of trick-or-treating.  She gives me a Care Bear every year on the anniversary of my dad's accident to let me know she's thinking of me.  I could go on and on, but Cohen has taught me about love, compassion, generosity, and friendship.  Cohen has invested in my life.

So I think we have a big responsibility.  There are young people out there without a Connie or an Autumn or a Cohen who need someone to care about them.  They need someone to invest in their lives and teach them about love and friendship and faith.  With so many problems in the world today, our youth need to know that they are LOVED.

My husband has a huge responsibility as a youth director at our church and I hold myself to the same standard as I walk alongside him in this journey.  With so much bullying and hate in our schools leading to depression, anxiety, and teen suicide, just a smile can make such a big difference.  The youth need us.  They need to know that they are important.  They need to know that they are ENOUGH.

Who else is going to do this if we don't?

We need a revolution.  I want to be the Connie, the Jeannie, the Autumn, the Nancy, and the Cohen to someone who needs it.  I want to INVEST. 


I had a poem published this week by The Montucky Review that I wrote about my dad.  Check it out here: