Sunday, March 30, 2008

To Have and To Hold

Many people don't understand the emotional and mental intimacy virtual reality relationships can create. When SL only offered text it was still an incredibly close experience but once voice became available, oh my that changed everything! The avatar you were hanging out with, sharing your thoughts and dreams suddenly became real. This may have changed some relationships, I suppose-- some for the worse or some became even closer. Once the voice was there it with all the nuances of every day life, where you could hear their joy, frustration, annoyance and adoration (one hopes) all of us took a giant leap from fantasy to reality.

One of the by products of all this mingling is love. Yes, even avatars fall in love! And because we are creatures grounded in our other world rituals, we bring carry this over to our virtual lives. Viola, the virtual wedding!

Now, don't you go rolling your eyes! Weddings are big business in SL. Sure, avis could all live together in moral anarchy but most of us don't. We like commitment just as well as our flesh and blood counterparts! Some things aren't quite the same--the food isn't eaten but it's still purchased and displayed. That's one of the oddities of Second Life. Can't eat it, but you are a bad hostess and a major virtual faux pas if you don't have it for your guests. Go figure. Same goes with the virtual bar. Some guests even fall down drunk if they have the right script. Mostly people just have fun, dance, chat in text, speak to one another in voice IM or public voice.
Let's not forget all the planning! There is a reception place to reserve, music to consider (DJ or stream?), bridesmaids & dresses---oh yes, wedding gowns, flowers and invitations, even marriage certificates. All of this costs serious lindens (money), too!
Linden Labs, the creators of our wonderful world, hasn't offered the ability for their citizens to change their name after marriage. many people resort to posting a group title over their head, ie: Jane's husband, Jim's wife for all the world to know they are an official couple just in case one hasn't taken a peek at their profile. There is such a thing as "partnering" in SL. It's their version of "we are together." It's in the profile but nothing says married like a wedding!
So far there aren't wedding announcements yet in SL newspapers but it's only a matter of time, I think. How long do SL marriages last? Well, the divorce rate is probably equal to real life but that doesn't stop anyone from giving it a try. I do know several couples planning on meeting in real life with the hope that their real world compatability will equal their SL experience. If it is, they all say they will continue in real life with the intention of marrying! Now, that's cool. After months and months of sharing online will the real world transition be any easier?

I'll be following some of these meetings and let you all know :)

All Work and No Play

After working so hard it was time to play. Of course in order to play we first needed to build our playground: our new dance club.

Our SL lives revolve around building, redesigning, tearing down and building again. It's the cycle of SL life, at least with those who own "land." Owning virtual land affords the owner the opportunity to have their own sandbox; a place to experiment with terraforming and creating, with which we've done plenty.
But, this week we rebuilt the dance club we dismantled when we rented out some of our land. The club is now in the sky, high above the world and amongst the stars. Something you can't do in real life!

So, we had our grand reopening Friday night. Of course, SL is SL and there were glitches. We take it in stride in our virtual world but it's still frustrating. Early on, as soon as our guests arrived, SL went "down for maintenance." Code, for "oops folks we'ze in trouble." And, we were all unceremoniously bounced one by one, until only I remained.
Eventually we all got back on SL but it was late for our European friends so many did not return. However, the following night we tried a grand-reopening re-enactment and this time SL cooperated! Many of our friends came again and we partied late into the night!
Just another night in SL for millions but for us, it was a time to relax at long last with friends. No work, just all play. And that's perfectly all right to do, even for workaholics!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Wall

I was working at my desk today, totally immersed in my project when I suddenly hear it. From the other side of the wall came a wail so heart wrenching you could feel the pain of its owner. The deep sobs and mournful cries made me want to reach through the wall that separated my office from the Intensive Care Unit and offer comfort.

But, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't just walk into ICU to track who was emitting those pitiful sounds. So, I stopped what I was doing and prayed for that anonymous person. It's my guess their loved one was dying or had just died. It's a scene that is repeated hour after hour, day after day in a hospital but when you don't work in the clinical areas, sometimes you forget that this is the place of life...and death. It is the place of healing as well, but not always.

On the other side of my office wall there are patients struggling to live. From time to time I hear beeps of machines, moans and unidentifiable noises but never in my 8 years there have I heard this kind of weeping and despair before. So, I prayed for courage and strength for them. I prayed for that unknown person with the broken heart. I prayed for the Lord to wrap His arms around them in comfort. The sobs did not last long. Within a few minutes they faded and once again I was aware of the ordinary noises of my office setting.

But, I don't want to ever become so focused on my work again that I forget that just on the other side of my office wall are real people, with real souls trying to live...or preparing to die. Each and every morning from now on I will offer a prayer for them.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He is Risen!

Because He lives

I can face tomorrow,

Because He lives

All fear is gone,

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living

Because He lives!**


Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Plan It and They Will Come

Wings of Hope Magazine's first Networking Business Conference was today, March 22, 2008. It was a smashing success! Puglet Dancer, Alliance Library System and Sioban McMahon, West of ireland were dynamic speakers who offered details about their highly successful business models in Second Life. Nearly 25 vendors displayed their wares and services, showing the incredible creative diversity that Second Life offers.

The stores ranged from a virtual animal shelter to sim management gadgets to lovely antique replicas to motorcycles. There were even pets that sat upon customers shoulders for sale! Everyone's displays were eye catching, informative and inspiring. It is obvious that many people are hard at work in Second Life. Which, when you consider that SL is usually considered a time for relaxation and diversion from "real life," is pretty amazing. Instead of finding respite from the rigors of daily life, people all over the world log into SL to work.
Readers outside of SL think that is pretty strange and I would probably agree if I weren't one of those enterpreneurs myself. My partner and I manage 3 businesses, are opening up a 2nd store location and also work on staff of the magazine all at the same time. One might wonder why. Isn't SL for escape?

Well, yes and no. For me and my many businesses friends, SL affords us a chance to create without limitation, for little or no startup capital and to explore a creative and business part of ourselves we may not be able to tap into our real lives because of responsibilities, age or finances. And, if something doesn't work or goes belly up, nothing was really "lost." There are no bankruptcies in SL and nothing is repossessed. The only thing "lost" may be pride, time or energy but you usually dust yourself off and try again. Or, at least Peter and I did--over and over until we found something that "stuck."

We first tried a sphere first. It was a pretty cool idea of Peter's. Once you stepped inside the sphere, you were in a 360 degree immersion of whatever theme was put in there, but we weren't quite sure what to do with them. Then, we created a beautiful place of romance. It was for people to go and have a private talk and cuddle, maybe even propose. Despite our best adverstising best efforts, the only customers were ourselves enjoying the breathtaking ambiance. Next we became landlords. And, that went rather well for the first few months but we made no profit and were left with few prims of our own. There were more startups that didn't go very far beyond idea stage or a few hours of trial and error. Eventually we found our niche: designing a clothing line and photography.
There were lessons learned, mostly that SL marketing and business does not exactly model real life. Still, while we were learning skills, we were growing and enjoying the process of acquiring our new skill sets. As many in SL dance or explore their time away in SL, Peter and I design, create and push the boundaries within our minds on a daily basis. This isn't the lifestyle for everyone and I am fortunate to have partnered with someone who equally enjoys the challenge of innovative creation.

However, as he will tell you, it wasn't always easy. There was the time he forced me to learn terraforming. I kicked and screamed and whined and stamped my virtual foot. No! I did not want to do it! No,no no! But, he chuckled and told me I was going to do it and must, since he could not do it all himself and we had tenants moving in that day. So, I reluctantly tried my hand at it. What was the worst that could happen he said? Ha! He found out within a few minutes. I wasn't paying attention to where I was pointing and something lead to another and long story short, I managed to wipe out the entire island in one click! When he didn't get upset with me nor yell, I knew I had found my perfect love :) He calmly said, "Try again, darling" in that lovely British accent of his. I did and I succeeded eventually. Not that day, not the next but now I am pretty good at terraforming. Just don't ask me to build a box! The answer will be no. Not because I can't, but because I don't want to. And, isn't the beauty of having a second life that I can pick and choose?

Yep :)

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Soul

Today is Good Friday. It is the story of the ultimate act of love by our Savior.

On this day Jesus gave his life,

for my soul, for my soul.

On this day his flesh was ripped open and he was beaten beyond imagination,

for my soul, for my soul.

On this day his blood rained down upon the earth,

for my soul, for my soul.

On this day nails were driven into his hands and feet,

for my soul for my soul.

On this day Our Lord offered us salvation through death,

for my soul, my soul.

And, on the third day he rose again,

for my soul, for my soul!
**picture taken at church in Somerset County, New Jersey 2007

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Looking Glass

Second Life is a global village in a fishbowl. Others are observing us from the physical world, the residents in SL are looking at what the other is up to and then there are those who are observing from all angles. I happen to be on all 3 levels which sometimes jiggles my synapses and rattles my soul.

Who is Brielle? Is she the part of me who wanted to be the enterpreneur and never took the risk? But wait, the real me always wanted to be a writer, never a store owner. So, what is that? Perhaps SL opens a window in our psyche and allows us to explore sides of ourselves we never knew existed or were too afraid to try in real life. And, what happens once we seize that opportunity? Does the virtual affect the physical? Do the skills I'm learning and cultivating in SL sneak into my real life professional toolbox?

But, SL also affords me opportunities I'd probably never have in real life, such as writing for CNN and a magazine! How totally cool is that? CNN is based in the real world and in SL it is every bit as "real." Wings of Hope Magazine is based in virtual reality and it's now crossing over into the physical world. Both are real in every sense of the word.

Is SL a total illusion... or does the real world hide behind curtains? Are both worlds merging to form a new sense of reality, overlapping and morphing into a new matrix like version of life?
I wonder if these experiences will cause us to redefine who we are and what is "reality"?
"...Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?"

Moody Blues, Late Lament

Monday, March 17, 2008

Not Just Going Through the Motions

I don't wanna go through the motions

I don't wanna go one more day without Your all consuming passion inside of me

I don't wanna spend my whole life asking, "What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?"

Matthew West, The Motions

We all lead busy lives. We all have bad days but, what if we made a conscious decision to give "everything" from our hearts? Let's remember our lives glorify God, not any individual --so to that end, let's give everything in energy, spirit and commitment. Let's see where God puts us after we've done just that.

God's opened the door---are we willing to step through it: mind, body, spirit and soul?Let's not just go through the motions: let's give our everything to Him!


I love win-win arrangements. It 's like you've gotten something of worth for free and gives you that "feel good" state of mind. And, it should. In yester year bartering was the norm. I give you corn, you give me hay or whatever but you get the idea. Win-win is the same concept.

Wings of Hope is just launching into a print format. It's a labor of love but there is a whole business side that writers normally don't usually manage. However, with a small staff, we have to wear many hats.

It's not often a business can find a refreshing, upcoming band to promote--and have them return the favor. But, as we get shown over and over and over, God opens doors and says, "come on in."

So, we did. And, we didn't just walk over the threshold, we danced! We're going to keep on dancing, too. We dare you to sit still when you hear the rocking sounds of Justpassingthru!

Justpassingthru is a local band from New Jersey. They are one of the warmup bands for Switchfoot at Spring Blaze next month and have shared the stage with Mandisa, Sanctus Real and others. None of this has gone to their heads though. They are still the most grounded, humble, nicest group of guys you could meet. They work hard, their songs are creative and they keep their faith front and center without apology.

Hooking our wagons together is truly a win-win for all but sometimes I think we've gotten the better end of the deal since we are the ones who get to dance while they are busy playing the music!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More SL Life Snippets

There is a whole SL life going on: working, partying, thinking, building, socializing...You can be as busy as you want, as carefree as you want. It's really all up to you. But, sometimes we need to be do nothing, not create, not think, not work, not just be still. If you have a partner, even better. Two still hearts are better than one...dreaming and free floating on that silent onderstroom...

Life on Inishmore

Friday, March 14, 2008

St. Patrick's Day Party SL Style

The Friday Night Gang got together at the Cove, dressed in our Irish greens, drank absynthe and frolicked with leprachauns! Of course we did--It's St. patrick's Day (well almost)!

Party on Albi, Cirrus, Cough, Simon, Apache, Kayla, Peter and me :) Next holiday we'll all come as bunnies and hop along the bunny trail for goodies. SL can have its fun, down times. Good friends, good music, an Irish jig and leprachauns--you couldn't ask for more!

Second Life Health Tour March 2008

I took a few educators, librarians and others on a tour of Second Life to showcase some fine examples of healthcare research and librarianship.

First stop was Info Island where the group toured via a sky car. We did lose a few from the group when they fell off but quickly rounded them up again!
From there we went to Health Info Island where Carolina Keats and Namro Orman conducted a tour of their areas, including Path of Support and the medical library, as well as Ivy Tech's nursing site. Then it was off to Ann Myers Medical Center where several docs, including Vladimir and Austin showed us their virtual ER. Here you can see Brielle listening to lung sounds. I think the patient had pneumonia for the demo. AMMC is a wonderful facility that trains RL medical students, residents and nurses. There is also a great women's clinic on site. Be sure to visit it!
It was a great morning and everyone learned that SL is more than just pretty clothes, great hair and dancing!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

If you blog in the woods...

Ok if you blog in the woods and there is no one around to read it, did you really blog at all? Ok not exactly the same as that old tree falling conundrum but my blog is feeling awfully lonely, unread and unnoticed. How do people get their blogs read by people other than their friends, family or team members? hmmmmm
Methinks there is a social network pecking order I don't know about. It's like being the last person to know about a party. I tag, I post pics, I try catchy titles and still...nothing. Big why do I blog? Well, why did I write "dear diary" when I was 13? To be heard, if only by me, myself and I :)
Long live the blog!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thought for the Day

There is a song on the radio right now that sings, "in the end it's not about what you did, it's not about what you had, it's how you lived." I think that goes along with what the bible says about not earning your way into heaven with good works/deeds. Some people think they can buy their way into God's grace but nothing opens those pearly gates like the way you conducted your life. Now, none of us are perfect. Some of us come to God late in life, broken and so full of history that we might wonder how God could ever love us---but He does! The first time you ask for forgiveness it is given. You don't have beg for it or keep asking repeatedly for it, it's given the first moment you ask.
We know that but do we believe that? Or do we hold onto our guilt, thinking on some subsconscious level we are unlovable? If we do, we may indeed try to earn our way into heaven. If we still don't understand what Calvary was all about we may try to buy our way there. None of that will work of course. In the end we will be judged by our hearts and how we lived our short lives on earth no matter when our salvation began. Whether we were saved at 5, 20, 35, 50 or 70 our living the Word begins the day we asked Jesus into our lives as our Lord and Savior.
So, each day let's go about our lives, living them each moment as if it may be our last and all the while basking in God's love for us.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


God sends us angels when we need them. Sometimes we don't know we need them but they are sent nonetheless. Like, the time my daughter nearly walked into the path of an oncoming truck and she felt a "shove" that sent her backwards, a shove hard enough to make her fall on her butt as the truck whizzed by. She was only about 7 when this happened and remembers that day as if it were yesterday. Then, zoom ahead 14 years. This time she survived a horrible car accident, the kind even cops marvel that she wasn't severely injured by hitting the steering wheel. The next day she showed me something incredible on her thigh: a handprint. Not hers, but there it was. An angel holding her back from hitting the steering wheel? Nonbelievers say impossible, believers smile and accept that God sends his angels to help us here on earth.

Sometimes God sends us angels in the form of friends and helpers. We never know why people cross our path. Some stay, some leave, some fade away and come back. But always we have to trust why God brings them our way.

I thank God for all the times angels helped me and my family, watching over us and doing God's work. And, I thank God for all my earthly friends who are angels to me as well.

God bless you all! You know who you are!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

It's a Lonely SL Life Sometimes....

When your partner and best friend isn't there because of RL, SL can be such a lonely, big virtual world. Everyone has something to do, somewhere to go and it can be alot like RL. So, what do I do when I find myself unexpectedly alone in SL? I work lol....spent a number of hours setting up our second store, went shopping, did more work, did some marketing for our upcoming conference, went shopping, bought new hair (I needed that like a hole in the proverbial head!) and worked some another account, voted for a friend who is trying to be voted most handsome in SL or something...and felt lonely. I missed my partner...very much.

So,I watched a movie on demand. Elizabeth I:The Golden Years. Wow, great movie. I loved how she rallied the troops on the horse while staring down the Spanish armada. She had the stuff heros are made of. What a shame she never found love---or love never found her. I think she had alot of love to give. Instead she gave it to her country. Rock on, Elizabeth I, even if you did live in 500 years ago!

A Day at the Beach wearing Enraptured Designs!

Here's Serena, a Venus fashion model wearing one of my summer beach outfits designs. Cute, sexy without being obvious! Come see more at our store, located on Wings of Hope Sim and now Idiot Rich too!
Photo taken at Venus Photography Studios

more photos from Second Life (Venus Photography Studios)

Samples of My Second Life Photography (Venus Photography Studios)

Second Life Fashionista

The Christian woman also wants style! That may come as a surprise to some but we do! However, Second Life fashions tend to be uh-hem, well rather revealing, whether you want them to be or not. I recently enrolled in a class from Univ of Illinois which would be held in SL. What to wear, what to wear!

Oh, the dilemma! I ransacked my virtual closet. Nada! Not a single top looked professional. Everything was too tight, too low, too...hoochie mama. So, what was an overacheiver to do?
Design her own clothing line!

And, that's how Enraptured Designs was born. That reawakened my lost love of photography. It's fun using SL lighting and backdrops, like painting a canvass. The photos of my clothes are a bit on the artsy side but I think visually they are fun and creative. Most of all, my clothes are for the budget minded and for the person who wants to look cute and stylish without sacrificing her dignity. Perfect for casual wear or the SL class or office!

In addition, I decided I wanted to create beautiful portraits using only SL tools. None of my photographs are re-touched by PhotoShop or any other software program. The challenge is to produce beautiful photos that are all natural and not doctored up. I'm into realism, not phoney picture "perfect" results. And so, another business was born: Venus Photography Studio!

Come see us inworld! Enraptured Designs and Photography Studio is located on Wings of Hope sim.

PS we just opened up our 2nd store location on Rich Idiot!

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Yesterday I got handed an amazing opportunity--to interview a real life Dove award winning, number 1 best selling Christian musical artist! I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before but strangely enough I was pretty calm in the morning.

Then Mr X came into the radio station's lounge where I was seated. He's a young man, well dressed in a very expensive looking suit and he looks a little weary. I wondered if he even knew what city he was in. He signed some promotional cd's and then finally it was my moment. And, literally it was a moment! Between his manager, the radio station DJs and the station manager competing forhis attention, I barely had time to utter 2 short questions and have a picture taken.

And you know what? Instead of taking in this incredible moment, I mentally fussed. Was my hair ok, would the picture angle add more pounds, had I picked the "right" outfit...all that was going through my head as I smiled for the camera. I was even self-conscious of the camera! I had never gotten around to replacing my very expensive professional camera that was stolen. So here I was with this famous artist and all I had to hand over to the radio station manager was a disposable camera purchased at CVS.

It was all over in a few minutes; the picture, the interview and the anticipation. But, later on I remembered we are all made in God's image. I had fussed for naught. God loves us as we are---whether our picture is taken by an expensive camera or one purchased by CVS, whether our hair is perfect or the camera adds a few pounds.

None of that matters, ever.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Silence is Golden

I heard this on the radio this morning: "you can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips."
That is so true. How many people say "yes" to God then go and do what they want, thinking He doesn't look and hold us accountable? It's a type of mental game. For instance, the cookie crumbs don't "count" as calories, if you are tired and don't want to go to church God will understand and if you feel entitled to fudge a bit on your resume or taxes, well God surely must be supportive because you deserve that job, that refund...right?
But for those around us who are not yet saved, remember we are held to a higher standard. And we should be! If we are walking with Christ, we need to do it every day, every hour not just on Sunday. If we are quoting His word then we need to live it, breathe, feel it and shine it in our hearts and souls. Remember, the unsaved world looks at us through critical eyes.
So, next time you think something you do doesn't matter, try to remember it does matter. And, not because we are measured by our works or deeds. We all know that won't get us into heaven---but simply because we have chosen to be Christians and follow the Way.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Don't Put Off Things

Last night was the season finale of the new Terminator series on tv and I may be the only person in the USA watching it but I really wanted to see it. However, my time was needed for other things. Yea, I have a DVR but it's not the same as watching it as it happens, not a day or two later. I was torn. Do I do the "right thing" and use my time like a good steward or do I make an excuse to myself (and other people) and cave in to my "need" to see the tv show? hmmm therein lie the cux of the matter. Ok, I know (and we all know) that good deeds do not earn us a place in heaven, still the book of James advises us not to put off doing good to help someone in need. So, what did I do in the end?
What do you think I did?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Blogging is Good for Your Health

and I have it in writing!

Ode to Wood Paneling

According to one website, wood paneling was named as one of the top 10 worst decorating trends of all time. It bloomed in the 50's, was popularized in the 70's and was "perfected" in the 80's. In fact few homes have escaped the horrors of wood paneling. I bet more than a few of us still have dens sporting ye olde wood on the walls. But even so, why is wood paneling is so popular in the SL housing market? Have SL home designers tapped into a need from their childhood psyche? Last night as I stood in my pre-fab beach house, I suddenly realized I was in a Brady Bunch retread! Still, it brought about a certain level of comfort. So much so, I had to ask myself: is wood paneling really so bad? It's warm, it's rustic and low maintenance. Surely, it should gather more respect than say, that awful 80's Laura Ashley "country" phase! Well, no matter if wood paneling has been maligned, I love my SL wood paneling. It's so...Second Life!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Say Yes!

Have you ever prayed for God to bring you opportunities to use your spiritual gifts, then when the doors began to open you...were too busy, too insecure to try, too rigid in what you thought was the "right" opportunity for you, etc etc? What if you said, yes! What if the next time God threw something your way, you said, "use me, Lord"? Can you imagine how your world might change? Maybe you'd learn a new skill from not saying no from God's call to develop a skill outside your usual gifted area! Can you just imagine if you said yes every time God nudged you in His chosen direction? God would rock your world! So, try saying yes the next time God whispers into your ear and see where it leads you, even if seems off the wall or out of your usual skill base. C'mon, humor God and see what happens!

A new life has begun! II Cor 5:17

A new life has begun! II Cor 5:17
God's GPS