"I can't think without a pen in my hand!" - Me

"I can't think without a pen in my hand!" - Me

A Friendly Guide to Navigating this BLOG

If you have visited this blog before, you will notice I've made some changes. A Pen in My Hand is going to be dedicated to lighthearted anecdotes and whatever else I feel like writing. I have started another blog for topics that are more serious/spiritual in nature. See the link in the sidebar to visit that blog.

I sincerely hope you find something here worth reading; but if not, take heart. There are about six billion other blogs out there to choose from.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Blast from the Past

Recently I was sorting boxes and I came across a bunch of my old college papers. I wrote this essay in 1989, when I took Freshman Composition at NHTI. I have typed it here exactly as it was written, resisting the temptation to edit.

Personal Narrative Essay: "An Awkward Moment"

We were drawing closer and closer to the clinic. My mind was already conjuring up images of the huge needle that would be stuck deep into my arm, sucking out my blood – my blood! I had never had a blood test from my arm before. If this were anything other than a pregnancy test I would have insisted on the finger prick method.

It was late. The parking lot was dark. I could see a woman vacuuming the vacant lobby. I wanted to go home. I felt a tug on my arm. Tom. He'd help me through this – even hold my hand. I was sure.

Suddenly the smell of plastic and disinfectant swept over me. We were in the lab. It was quiet. Too quiet. The only person in the lab hadn't looked up yet. There was still time to slip out unnoticed. No, I had to speak. I tried. No use. I coughed instead. She looked up.

Next the forms. First my fear of pain, now humiliation! I had to give my doctor's name – my pediatrician's name. I am married, possibly pregnant, and my doctor is a pediatrician. I felt eight, not eighteen.

Back to reality. It was time to sit in the little chair next to the table where the instruments of torture lay neatly in a row. First the elastic band to cut of my circulation above the elbow; then the alcohol swab to hopefully prevent infection; the test tube, soon to be full of my blood; and, last but not least, the needle.

Tom! Where was Tom? Still there, holding my hand. So far I was OK. But wait, who was this young man entering the lab? A custodian, I hope? Alas, no! He took his seat at the ominous table. He was reaching for the elastic band. Don't tell me this long-haired college boy is going to take my blood! This can't be happening! It was. He glanced at the form. I could sense the name "Dr. Deuger" leaping up at him from the page. I felt as conspicuous as Hester Prynne with her scarlet "A" flashing on her breast – except that my "A" stood for "Adolescent"!

Suddenly the needle was coming toward me. It was huge and menacing, of course. All pride aside, I squeezed Tom's hand. My knuckles were white. I couldn't look. Finally the needle was out. I could breathe again. My arm was still bleeding. As the young man put the bandaid on my gaping wound, I had but one consolation: he didn't draw a smiley face on it with his red magic marker. Tom helped me up. We were leaving. It was over!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Today, I Love Technology!

Some days I hate the Internet. Today is not one of those days.
This morning my iPhone was working perfectly. Then, for some reason, it simply decided to play dead. I could not get it to turn on or off or respond in any way. After the initial panic wore off, I took a deep cleansing breath and sat down at my computer. I typed the following into my Google browser bar: "iPhone 4 won't turn on." Bam! The first hit was an article on some guy's blog talking about how his phone froze up. He described just my experience: "I pressed the home button. Nothing. I pressed the power button. Nothing. I plugged it in. Nothing. I connected it to my computer. Nothing."
"YES!" I thought. "This guy has been down my road. He feels my pain." Nothing was solved yet, but I felt better already.
Next he explained how HE Googled the problem and came up with the solution, which he proceeded to describe. I ran for my phone, tried his solution, and it worked! My phone was back and fully functional. Sweet!
But the real triumph of the World Wide Web came this evening when my son Curtis called me from his cell phone in North Carolina in a fit of frustration because he was having trouble finding a pizza place where he was supposed to meet some people. First he called for the phone number. Two seconds online yielded the number for Papa John's in Jacksonville. I texted Curtis the number so he could call for directions. We hung up.
Several minutes later, Curtis called me back to vent his frustration that he was still having trouble finding the place. Can you find a map? He asked. I found a map online, but it didn't have enough detail to help because I didn't know where he was starting out. Next I tried a satellite photo of the area. It had landmarks marked with labeled pins. I was able to scroll around, viewing a satellite photo of the entire area Curtis was driving in. Finally I found the landmarks he was seeing on the picture. Suddenly, it was like I was Air Traffic Control and he was my little twin engine plane in a pea-soup fog.
"You're OK," I said, "I've got ya. I'm going to fly you in. Do you see an Applebees?" I asked.
"No, but there's a Ruby Tuesdays," he answered.
"Is it on your right or your left?"
"Then you need to turn around. You're going the wrong direction."
He turned around. "OK, it's on my right now."
"Keep going straight."
"I'm at a red light."
"I know, I can see it. There should be an Applebees on your left across the street."
"Yep, there it is."
The conversation went on like this for another minute or two until he spotted Papa John's on his right. "I'm here. Thanks!" he said.
"No problem. Enjoy your pizza!" I replied.
I hung up my phone with a flourish, visualizing myself in a glass tower, pulling off my headset and wiping my brow. "He's there," I said dramatically to my husband. "He made it."
Tom spun his office chair to face me. "That was the most stressful phone call I've ever listened to," he said.
"Well, yeah, I guess that's true," I conceded. "But you have to admit, it's kind of amazing that it was possible!"
Now that it's over, I'm trying to remember how we handled these types of situations before we had cell phones at our ears and computers at our fingertips 24-7. I'm trying to remember…Wait! …Nope, I got nothing.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Writing Story

OLAS I LOVE YOU Vary moch.
you do sed the prinses yes sed the prints.
the prints and the prinses got mared.
and the prints and the prinses livd happole.
until the prints went to ormy and left the printses all alown.
the printses wept as if her hort had broc.
but the next day the prints cam back.
and the printses sang with joy.
the end.

This was the first story I ever wrote. I was four years old and too young to write legibly by hand, so I composed this little story on my mother's typewriter. She saved it in a cardboard box labeled "Krista-Memories." Over the years that box filled up with a great deal more writing. There was my poetry phase when I was ten or eleven, my fiction phase throughout middle school, and finally my nonfiction phase which began at age fourteen and continues to the present. Regardless of the genres I dabbled in, two types of writing remained constant: letters and journals. Writing these has helped me cultivate relationships, formulate ideas, develop my personality, focus my perspective, and process my experiences. If I had not been inclined (or encouraged) to write throughout the years, I believe I would be an entirely different person today.

I grew up in New Hampshire, but my grandparents lived in New Jersey. We only saw them once or twice a year, so our primary contact was through letters. I distinctly remember when I started writing letters to my grandfather. It was just before my eleventh birthday. He had sent me a card with a check for ten dollars in it the previous year, and I had high hopes that he might do the same again. My only concern was that he might forget about my birthday altogether. (After all, he was at least sixty-five!) I decided to send him a letter a couple weeks early, working in a casual reference to my upcoming birthday. He wrote back, so I wrote back. Before long we were signing our letters "Pen Pal Krista" and "Pen Pal Pop" – which we eventually shortened to PPK and PPP. My grandfather was a Cornell graduate and an excellent writer. I believe my writing style first began to take shape during our ten years of regular correspondence. But more importantly, because of our letters we developed a close bond in spite of our rare face-to-face visits. (And the birthday checks kept coming!) When my grandfather passed away, he had very few possessions; but my father gave me his Cross pen-and-pencil set. I could not have been more pleased had I inherited a fortune!

In addition to letter writing, journaling has played a prominent role in my development as a writer. I kept journals during my teen years partly to help me cope with the drama of growing up, but also in order to preserve my memory of being a teenager and provide proof for my future children that I was indeed their age once. In fact, when I was fourteen years old I sat down and wrote a letter addressed, "To my firstborn daughter on her 13th birthday." What follows are half a dozen pages of loopy handwriting in purple ink, pouring out all the wisdom my fourteen years had to offer. I still have that letter, taped inside the cover of one of my many journals. I have enjoyed sharing excerpts of my journals with my five children, reading them accounts of my experiences that parallel their own – such as breaking up with a boyfriend or learning to drive.

In recent years, I have become more serious about my writing. I have found myself writing for a broader audience, dabbling with blogging, self-publishing, and publishing online. Having reached this point, I find myself in need of further education. I have two goals. First, I would like to write for publication. Second, I would like to teach writing at the upper high school or college level – including the class most of us know as "Freshman Comp." This may not seem like setting my sites very high. After all, who aspires to teach freshman composition? I know that many students see this class as the necessary evil of college education, but I see it as one final opportunity to inspire students to become life-long writers. I can't imagine anything more challenging or worthwhile.

In conclusion, I'd like to share the incredible irony of my life as a writer thus far. My first bit of prose was the story of the "prinses" whose "prints" went away with the "ormy." The following is an excerpt from my most recent writing project. It is taken from the first of a series of articles published weekly on the National Guard Facebook page, "Granite Thunder":

On Tuesday, September 14, at 5:00 a.m., I stood facing my husband in the parking lot of the National Guard armory. We had known for about nine months that this moment would come; but now that it was here, I didn’t feel ready. In the pre-dawn darkness, I looked at my husband, wearing his uniform, holding his computer carry-on bag and his army duffle. It was time for final words and last goodbyes. I wanted above all to reassure him that I would be alright. I tried to conjure up a bit of the Spartan spirit. I embraced him and said, “Come back with your laptop or on it!” With that, we parted.

Blogging Changes for 2012

I have decided to branch out and have two separate blogs for my random personal writing and my writing about the Christian life.

In doing this, I don't want to imply that my Christian life and my day-to-day life are two separate entities. If that were the case, I'd have a serious problem! I just think I will write more frequently and more honestly if I am not distracted by the incongruity of my posts, thinking how poorly one follows the other when I try to lump too many themes and genres under one heading.

A Pen in My Hand will be the place where I post writing on life in general -- family, anecdotes, whatever!! Over the next few days I'll be deleting old posts and re-organizing "A Pen in My Hand" to make its layout better suited to its new purpose.

For anyone who is interested, I have started a new blog called "The Spirit-Born Life" (spiritbornlife.blogspot.com). Visit that page for a complete description of what the new blog is all about.

Thanks for reading! Happy 2012 !!