Tag Archives: Arts

Beauty of a Woman Blogfest: Skin Deep

boaw-2013A couple of days ago, I let you all know I would be participating in the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest, sponsored by August McLaughlin, and inspired by the Sam Levinson poem (click the link to go to her site and check out all the entries, which will be posted Friday.  I promise it will totally be worth your reading time).  Here is mine:

Most of you have heard the term, “Beauty is only skin deep”.  Probably someone used this statement to console you at one point or other in your life, when you felt intimidated or inferior to someone who used their physical beauty to belittle you.  At the very least, you heard it in passing.  But is it?  Is beauty only skin deep?

Like many women, I have struggled with body image since I was a little girl, and first heard someone tell me I was fat.  I have dieted, exercised, cried, lamented, criticized, rationalized, judged, and binged my way thru the last 45 years.  I once described myself as a “Big, Beautiful Dutch Woman”, as a tongue in cheek way of trying to accept myself for who I was.  It was mostly a bravado filled, fake it till you make it statement.  But I think I am finally ready to own it.

And it’s about time, I guess.  I am one year away from my 50th birthday, and I don’t think I want to waste any more of my precious time or energy worrying about measuring up to someone else’s idea of beauty.  I have better things to do, and frankly Society, I just don’t give a damn anymore.

I’m tired of worrying if someone will notice my size 11 feet, my man hands, or my jiggly belly.  Tired of wondering if someone disapproves of my loud laugh or inappropriately placed comment.  Tired of feeling exposed and vulnerable just because I am a size 16 and not a 10.

At the top of my blog, I reference a scripture about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit.  I originally chose that as a way to remind myself to feed my body and spirit with healthy things, to keep it prepared to be God’s servant.  But now – now I see it as the defining start to beauty.  It begins with God’s accepting and loving Spirit entwined with mine.    Fearfully and wonderfully made.  Oh hell yes.  Because He is the Author of this piece of work I have held in judgement and loathing for so long, and He sees His creation as beautiful.  Who am I to argue?

So I will embrace the goofy German woman – unconventional and glorious – who hams it up for the camera, loves the spotlight and relishes the laughter from her audience.  Who giggles at off-color jokes and makes funny faces.  Who sings “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz” loud and joyously in the bathroom and whistles her way thru life.

But I will also embrace and accept the judgmental side of this woman, who can be quick to criticize and use shame as misguided motivation, and I won’t beat myself up anymore for having these traits.  I will continue to ask God to help me channel them into constructive behaviors, to use them to problem solve and organize, love and accept.  To use them to fuel my determination and spirit, to reach my goals and God’s.

I will embrace the Belgian woman, who loves puns and word play, and really, really dumb jokes.  Who loves a good fluffy book and a bag of chips with her butt plopped on a sandy beach and nothing but blue sky above.  Who is nurturing and gentle, kind and encouraging.  Who comes thru the door at the end of the day, and can’t wait to see her family.

But I will also embrace and accept the lost, passive side of this woman, who can spend too much time as a wallflower and go unnoticed in a crowded room.  Who is uncomfortable with people she thinks may be above her and not assertive enough to claim what is hers.  I will ask God to give me strength to believe in myself, to step forward and accept a compliment, and to recognize my worth in any situation, among any group of people.

And finally.  The big, beautiful Dutch woman.  I will embrace this woman most of all, as she is the one I have had the biggest love/hate relationship with.  Her big hands, breasts and feet have been the prime source of contention and ridicule in my life.  She is the one I see in the mirror when I get out of the shower, that I cover as much as possible to avoid having her be seen.  She is the one I have been ashamed of.

But this woman is also the one who has brought me the greatest joys.  She gave me the strong legs that pedaled 100 miles and ran 13.2…twice!  The strong arms that carried my babies and helped my husband with chores.  A body that at 49 can keep up with the 20 year olds in the gym (well, maybe the 30 year olds).  A body that nurtured, grew, and birthed the two greatest gifts God has ever given me – my kids.


Me and my “babies”

She has cellulite and scars.  Saggy skin (not to mention the direction the ‘girls’ are headed) and stretch marks.  Age spots, moles and wrinkles.  Bunions and cracking knees.  Her feet hurt, she can’t remember where she put her car keys much less the name of the person she just met, and she has some old-fashioned values her kids don’t always appreciate.  But she is beautiful and lovely and gets up every single day and does what I ask her to.  So, from this day forward, I will love, accept and cherish every single square inch of her.

Several years ago, I started trying to see other people – family, friends, enemies and strangers – as God saw them.  I tried to picture them thru His eyes, and it truly has helped me grow as a person, to be more loving and accepting of others, to be kinder and more forgiving.  But I left someone out of that equation.  Me.  Today I will begin a new journey, of remembering to see myself as God sees me – fearfully and wonderfully made, a home to His Spirit.  I will truly believe I am His temple, that my beauty starts in my core where His Spirit resides and engulfs mine, bubbling joyously to the surface.

Beauty is not skin deep.  It is Spirit deep.



Mom and Dad

The beginning – my parents wedding – German on the right, Belgian and Dutch on the left.

Driving Forces

“Never, never, never quit!” – Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

What inspires you? I ask this because I wonder if you are like me, in that you need almost daily motivation to keep you moving towards whatever goals you have in front of you.

A friend of mine once told me that I inspire her. While she was not specific I assume she meant it regarding exercise, and not something like blurting inappropriate comments at work (which I have done) or burning down the building with microwave popcorn (something I almost did). It made me pause because we have been friends for a long time and frankly she knows what a dumb ass I can be. But it also had the reciprocal effect of inspiring me back. I mean, if I am someone’s inspiration, then it motivates me to keep trying.


Finish line with Shari – Fox Cities Half Marathon, September 2009

In turn, I have been inspired by a lot of people in my life-mostly friends and family. Like my dad who began running in his late 40’s or my mom who used to walk six miles a day. My friend Dawn who helps me to be more accepting of myself or my friend Amanda who gave me the courage to go after a job I was afraid to reach for. Or my friend Shari, who asked me to run a half marathon with her, planting the seeds of belief and confidence in my ability.

My second half marathon, the Cellcom, I ran as a member of Team In Training for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, as a way of giving back for the research that saved my daughter’s life (she is a survivor). I had to fundraise, and for every donation I received, I asked if the donor had someone they would like me to run for. As the list grew, I became inspired by people who couldn’t run for themselves, and every step in every training run became a prayer for loved ones on my list. For my friend Lee, who was dying of pancreatic cancer (Miss you, Lee!), a co-workers sister newly diagnosed with liver cancer, a co-worker’s niece, a friend of my sister’s, a friend’s daughter who had already passed…the list was long. But each person on it kept me training, thru injuries, discouragement, and fatigue, until the day of the race.

Cellcom 2011

My shirt with all the names on it from the Cellcom Half thru Team in Training in 2011

My friend Vicki was recently diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS, for which there is basically no treatment nor cure. But instead of giving up, she has done her research and now uses a specific food plan, exercise, and natural supplements to help her keep moving forward. I am sure she has down days, but it’s not evident in her daily Facebook posts or in the positive way she greets these new challenges in her life. Reading about her journey (you can read about it too, here- Kickin’ MS) reminds me that each day is a gift and an opportunity for me to choose a healthy lifestyle.

Last November my good friend’s differently-abled nephew asked me to be part of his running team in the 2013 Bellin, through the My Team Triumph organization. This organization places differently-abled Captains with a team of Angels, who do the physical running while pushing their Captain in a myTEAM TRIUMPHspecially designed stroller. However, it is the Captain who provides the heart and spirit that fuels the legs of the angels, and I can already tell that Joey is high-octane! I want to be in the best shape I can for this event, not only to make it fun and memorable for Joey, a courageous young man who has faced more obstacles in his 26 years than most of us will face in a lifetime, but to have a physical body that can match the joy and determination he brings to the table.

I have this framed Erma Bombeck quote on my desk from the year I ran the Cellcom:

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say “I used everything You gave me”.

It was a Christmas gift from Shari, and I refer to it often when I want to quit. It reminds me of why I am here, why I try, why I keep fighting. I want my life to count. I don’t want to look back on time spent frittered away, but on a life where I have invested the gifts given to me by God, and turned a profit for His glory.

My final request in this post is to ask that if you found inspiration in my words, that you would return the favor and tell me what inspires you! What drives you? What are your talents? How are you using them or how do you wish to use them? Hopes and dreams will remain hopes and dreams unless you speak them into being. Let me hear from you!


Wild and Crazy Inspiration

“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending…” – Kermit the Frog, Rainbow Connection


What inspires you?  What drives you?  What motivates you?  What keeps you going when you want to quit?


Different things have inspired me at different times in my life.  When I was a teenager, I learned to play the banjo because of Kermit the Frog and Steve Martin.  True story!


My friends and I were huge Steve Martin fans, and listened to his comedy albums all the time.  Regardless of what you may think of his sense of humor, you have to give the man props for being a phenomenal musician.  I can remember playing the part of his album where he plays “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” over and over – I loved it made my heart pound a little faster and put a smile on my face.  Like Steve said: “The banjo is such a happy instrument – you can’t play a sad song on a banjo”.

And, of course, Kermit plays the banjo in the Muppet Movie.  It was like a sign – learn to play the banjo, then go to Hollywood to become famous.  Three of us did learn to play the banjo.  We found an instructor (Barb!) at Mecca Music on the corner of Baird and Main in Green Bay (anyone remember that old music store?) and we would schedule our lessons all in a row so we could all go together – probably much to Barb’s dismay, although she seemed to genuinely like us.  While one of us was in the lesson, the others would be across the street getting malts – real chocolate malts, mind you.  Superbly delicious chocolate malts, the likes of which I have never had since.  I would love to tell you the name of the malt shop but time has worn it from my memory.  It might have been Dehns?


While we didn’t become famous (although we may be legends in our own minds), I don’t think any of us regret buying our banjos and the time and money spent in lessons and practice.  Or the malts, for that matter (if I shut my eyes and concentrate, I can still remember how they tasted.  THEY WERE SO GOOD!!)  We played our banjos for school projects, in talent shows (I think), around the camp fire, and later,  to entertain our children.  We used them to make up limerick songs at parties and to get out of doing dishes (I have to practice, Mom!).  One of us, I know, still owns hers.  I’m pretty sure she plays it in her garage bar now and then!


I stupidly sold mine in a rummage sale.   A RUMMAGE SALE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD  – WHAT WAS I THINKING?  It’s not so much that I want to buy another one.  I just want my old one back.  So many memories!


This post has totally taken on a life of it’s own.  My main point, though, is this:


Don’t sell your banjo!  Maybe you don’t play it anymore or maybe you think you’ve outgrown it or maybe your goals are polar opposite of what they were when you bought it.  However, that banjo is a reminder of the driving force that made you make a change in your life.  It’s like framing the first dollar a business earns – a symbol of the spirit and inspiration that brought you to where you are. And while maybe the results weren’t exactly as you planned, they certainly weren’t a waste of time.  Maybe you just need to write another ending.




PS – Steve Martin is STILL a phenomenal musician and STILL a very funny guy.  You should check out his latest CD’s – The Crow and Rare Bird Alert.


PPS – While Jim Henson may have gone home, his Muppet legacy lives on, and continues to bring joy to many.  What is your legacy?  What are you leaving behind to give others hope and joy?  Food for thought!




Forgot To Mention…

Hammered dulcimer

Hammered dulcimer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On my last post, “Weekend Update”, I forgot to mention Ted Yoder.  Ted plays the hammered dulcimer, and he played during our church services on Sunday.  I wanted to mention him, because I thought he was pretty awesome.  So awesome that I bought all 4 of his CD’s.  I listened to three so far, and haven’t been sorry.  I am saving the Christmas one for the day after Thanksgiving.  I just can’t bring myself to put up decorations or listen to Christmas music until then, even though I know the stores are already bombarding us with it.


I just finished up a book study on Francis Chan’s “Forgotten God“, and our group had a discussion a couple of weeks ago about the time King David danced in his priestly underwear in front of the Ark, and his wife was embarrassed and basically told him he was nuts.  We talked about what would have to happen for one of us to ‘dance before the Lord’ in such a manner – I mean, it’s kind of ‘out there’ for most midwesterners to dance in church.  Actually, to dance at all, even at a wedding, unless they have imbibed in several ounces of liquid courage.


Kermit the Frog

I used to have the Muppet Movie soundtrack but it was on cassette from my high school years and who knows where it is. I do, however, own “Muppets: The Green Album” thanks to my home girl, the divine Miss J.


Well, listening to Ted play on Sunday put me in a ‘dance before the Lord’ frame of mind.  Others too – you could see it on their faces – everyone was animated and on the edges of their seats.  And maybe it’s because he was in person – music has more of an effect on me when I hear it live than on a CD or the radio, and maybe you won’t feel the Holy Spirit move in you when you listen to it.  But I invite you to visit his website and check it out.  He’s very down to earth, and plays other music besides Christian.  One of his CD’s has his “Yoder-ized” version of “Rainbow Connection” that I love (from the Muppet Movie – yes, I am a Muppet fan.  I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you).


I’m always open to new musical experiences so would love to try your recommendations too if you are willing to share – what kinds of music or songs or specific artists do you listen to that you connect with on a spiritual level?



PS – tomorrow, I am back at the workout posts – I have a few things to share!


The Summer Of George….er….Sue

Have you ever seen the Seinfeld episode where George proclaims it the “Summer of George“?  Earlier this summer, I determined I was going to proclaim it the “Summer of Sue”, only unlike George, I actually did have a great summer.

It started back in May when I decided to finally get my butt down to Florida to visit my friend Donna.  Donna and I have been friends since we were 12 and 13 – a long freaking time considering that now we are both old bags.  While Donna generally gets to Wisconsin at least once a year because her family is here, I have only gotten to Florida a few of times.  I wanted to see her house, maybe hit the beach and just get back in touch with her and her life.

And I did.  We did.  Just hang out and get back in touch, I mean.  I stayed at her house, got to meet some of her friends, chill with her and Tom in front of the TV, rub Shitheads stomach…  Shithead is the dog.  He has a real name, but for the life of me, I can’t remember.  It begins with a “B” – Brightling?  Breitling?  Something.  Her mom’s dog was there too – I can’t remember her nickname much less her real name, but I can tell you she was a husky that really enjoyed table scraps.

I wanted to buy one of these chairs.

We went to Ikea one day, because I had never been there.   No Ikeas in Wisconsin.  Seriously.  It was pretty cool I have to say.  It was fun to sit in the funky chairs and check out the “houses” they had set up using all Ikea items – it was like walking thru life sized doll houses.  It almost made me want to live in a big city in a tiny apartment just to decorate the entire thing in Ikea.  Almost.


We took one day to go kayaking on the Wekiva river.  We packed a couple coolers with some snacks and a few brewskis and headed out.  Her husband Tom and I were in their double kayak and Donna was in a rented kayak from the park where we put in.  It was a beautiful day – hot with clear skies and not too humid.  We kayaked up and down the river, and swam afterward.  I was pretty nervous at first, because I thought if the kayak tipped I would get trapped inside, but most recreational kayaks have larger cockpits and if you did tip, you would fall right out.  Of course, we were paddling in gator infested waters, so while I wouldn’t have drowned, I may have gotten eaten.

I had so much fun kayaking with Donna and her husband that when I got home from my trip, I convinced my husband to purchase a couple of them for ourselves to use at home, which we did.  And thus started the Summer of Sue.  And a great summer it was.  I will post a few more of my summer activities in the coming weeks, as fall kicks in and the days get shorter.  I hope you enjoy coming along!



Step By Step


Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So if I stand let me stand on the promise

that You will pull me through.

And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace

that first brought me to You.  – Rich Mullins

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Rich Mullins, a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter who died 15 years ago in a tragic car accident.  I love his music, and often listen to it when I need a spiritual shot in the arm.  Selfishly, I mourn the loss of music he could have written had he lived to be an old man.

I heard my first Rich Mullins song about 20 years ago.  It was his song, Awesome God, and I remember being so excited because I didn’t know Christian music like that existed.  Perhaps I am easily impressed (a definite possibility) but his music had a huge impact on my faith journey.  I bought one of his albums, Songs, which is still in my top ten.  My favorite track is the one I quoted above, If I Stand.  I can be in a black mood, and eager for some ‘angry girl music’ and this song will pop on instead, and my world suddenly lightens.  (On a side note – do people still call songs on a CD “tracks” or is that a left over from my 8-track days?)

I have a lot of songs on my Ipod like that – songs that when I hear them, my mood changes.  Or that I listen to purposefully to support how I am feeling at the moment.  When I feel rebellious, I like to listen to Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation.  When I feel mellow it’s Dream by Priscilla Ahn.  When I am joyful, it’s Big House by Audio Adrenaline.  You get the picture.

The problem comes when I listen to music on purpose to support a negative, damaging mood.  It’s almost like having a mob mentality at the controls of my Ipod.  Bad day at work?  Let’s add some Limp Bizket and shake vigorously.  Feeling sorry for myself?  Just add Adele and tissue.  It serves no purpose other than to indulge myself to feed negative feelings.  And over all, what good does it do me or the people around me?

God tells us there is the power of life or death in the tongue.  Our words can build up or tear down, and I think this applies to what and who we listen to as well.  While I do try to practice “thinking before speaking” with the idea to speak words that build others up, I can’t say I follow it when listening to music.  I generally pick music that fits my mood.  If life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to that, I think that from now on I will try to choose a positive, uplifting music when dealing with the lemons life hands out.

I do have a list of my current favorite albums and singles – songs that get my feet tapping and my face smiling.  And sometimes belting out the lyrics in the car, much to the amusement (or horror) of the cars around me (thank you REO Speedwagon).  I have them listed below.  You will notice that the majority of them are secular, which is fine I guess.  But I can’t help but think that I am missing some good new Christian musicians too.  I just haven’t found a favorite to top Rich Mullins.

SUE’S TOP 10 ARTISTS/BANDS (the ones I would pay to see in concert):

1. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

2. Avett Brothers

3. The Lumineers

4. Rich Mullins

5. Earl and Scruggs

6. Toby Keith

7. Queen

8. Boston

9. Mumford and Sons

10. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

SUE’S TOP 10 SINGLES (songs I NEVER switch past on my Ipod):

1.  Bad Reputation by Joan Jett

2.  What I Like About You by The Romantics

3.  Big House by Audio Adrenaline

4.  If I Stand by Rich Mullins

5.  Dream by Priscilla Ahn

6.  Annie’s Song by John Denver

7.  Foggy Mountain Breakdown by Earl and Scruggs (and Steve Martin!)

8.  Shipping Up To Boston by the Drop Kick Murphy’s

9.  Time For Me to Fly by REO Speedwagon

10.  A Little Less Conversation by Elvis Presley (Remix)

Who are some of your favorite artists?  What are some of your favorite singles?  If you listen to contemporary Christian music, who do you like?

I would love your input – simply hit the “Leave a Reply” link below and a reply box should pop up.   Thanks!!