Monday, December 17, 2012

A Snowball Fight


                The grey clouds rested upon the mountains surrounding the valley of ice keeping in all the warm air.  Corrion looked out to watch the slowly drifting snow fall gracefully to the ground.  The weather difference here amazed her.  In the flatlands of her youth, the wind usually whipped the snow into a frenzy keeping them cooped up in the house and barn with a rope running between the two buildings.  Stories of old told of people getting lost in the blizzards.  She longed to go run and play in the snow.  Instead, she worked on her studies.  Maybe tomorrow the princess would let them out of their comfortable prison. 

                Sarah reached across the table and patted Corrion’s hand.  “I see you would rather be outside.  I wouldn’t mind a bit of fresh air myself.”

                A smile spread over Corrion’s face as a thought popped into her head.

“Would you be a dear and go get the book in our room?” Corrion asked burying her nose back in the book she held trying to look engrossed in the topic.

The other girl looked at her with a bit of mistrust.  She slowly stood and walked across the room.  As soon as she went through the door, Corrion sprinted across the room throwing open the windows that kept distracting her from her work.  On the outside sill, she scooped up a handful of snow forming into a ball.  Pulling her arm back, she threw will all her might as Sarah came back out of the room.  The object hit her in the chest exploding snow flew in her face and against the bedroom door.  She let out a scream of freight.

Within moments the door behind Corrion flew open with Gudrun flying out.  Corrion grinned and grabbed more snow.  She flung snow at her mentor laughing at the look of shock on the older woman’s face.

“What are you doing Corrion?”  Gudrun wiped a clump of snow off of her chin trying to hide the grin behind her hand.

“Getting fresh air,” she fell on the couch laughing uncontrollable. 

Both victims of snow nonchalantly went to the window gathering the rest of the snow from the window.  Together they dumped the icy crystals on top of Corrion.  They joined in her merriment.  The princess may not let them out anytime soon, but they would overcome the obstacle of being held at the monarch’s whim.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Surprise Christmas Gift


                Yesterday instead of my carpooling partner driving the girls to school, I did the job.  Her husband was out of town and she needed to run an errand.  I was happy to help in a small way.  Instead of going straight home, I drove into town to pick up my son’s uniform at the cleaner and pick up a few groceries. 

At the thrift mart, I was greeted by beautiful Christmas music.  I looked around but didn’t see where it came from.  As I headed to the cereal section, the music clashed with the overhead intercom playing 70’s rock.  I wondered where the good melodies resonated from in the store and anticipated finding it.  As I finished up my shopping, I walked down an isle to the deli and there stood a group of young adults from the local middle school.  They were all sharply dressed in black singing Christmas carols.  I stopped to listen for a while.  My eyes scanned the fresh faces.  Two young men from my church helped round out the harmony.  I smiled at one.  I think he saw me and grinned back.  As I listened, I thanked God for the unexpected Christmas gift he gave me in their voices and one smile.

Their music sang me on my way out to the parking lot.  I noticed my lights still on.  I said a quick prayer hoping my cantankerous battery would cooperate.  Grumbling, I grabbed my rubber mallet and opened the hood of my vehicle.  The engine didn’t turn over, so I called my husband to rescue his DID (damsel in distress).  I marveled and chuckled at my morning.  My errands were almost complete with a Christmas present thrown in to create a beautiful morning when a battery tried stealing the glorious thunder.  I didn’t let this obstacle deter me, my music continued. 

I walked to the nearby coffee shop for a cup of brew.  The barista took my order and proceeded to ignore it for the next customer instead.  I thought about being extremely irritated as she took coffee to that customer who she treated as a friend.  I remained the stranger.  Instead I sat down and waited patiently.  I finally received my coffee taking it out to my pickup to wait for my KICA (knight in camouflaged armor).  He is a National Guard soldier and handsome to bootJ

As I sit here writing my little story, I realize this applies to the cup of God’s love discussed at the Advent Tea on Sunday.  The dead battery and slow barista worked at depleting my cup.  Yet, because I recognized and accepted God’s gift of a junior high choir, my cup stayed brimming over with His love.  The choice was mine.  Hum, my advent is turning out to be glorious.  I hope yours is too.

Blessings to you all.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Begins


                Advent is here!  For the past couple of weeks, I have been dreading the coming of Christmas.  Amazingly enough, I have been waiting with joyful expectation for Advent.  Some of you may be asking, what is the difference?  For me, the difference is huge.  Christmas means a lot of work that needs done.  Advent means spending time with God.  Last night I went to an Advent Tea at the church I attend.  I looked forward to a new outlook on advent and hoped for strategies to keep God near my heart during all the work I need to do for Christmas.  A dear friend and I went together.  The theme for the night was a cup full of God’s love.

I have to admit that the reflection given didn’t move me for a season of anticipation.  The message was very nice, but it didn’t give me tips to help me in my journey through Advent this year.  The talk helped me see how God works in our trials through life, but I really was looking for something to guide me through the chaos of Christmas.

During her talk, she showed us four different cups of hers which represent who she is.  So I started thinking of my cups.  Right now I am drinking out of a cup I received from my Grandfather.  He cleaned out his cupboards and offered me things he wanted to give away, so I took the big mug off his hands.  Come to find out, my two beautiful cousins gave it to him for Christmas years prior.  Thus, every day I am blessed as I think of these three relatives I love so much.  My cup is full.  This didn’t bring me any closer to waiting joyfully for the arrival of baby Jesus.

I started thinking of the cups I have for Christmas.  My boss one year gave me a gingerbread mug which reminds me of all the baking I need to do.  I received a set of snowmen mugs one year for a gift exchange game at work.  All these cups are sitting in my craft room waiting to appear on a shelf somewhere in my house to make the area more festive.  They are empty.  I realized I don’t have one cup that represents the coming of our Savior’s birth.  And this tends to be the problem.  My cups are representative of a consumer Christmas not a faith filled Christmas.  All Christmas we run around shopping for gifts that people don’t need, take piles of boxes to ship out, bake tons of goodies, decorate our homes until they are ready to explode, and a million other tasks that deplete our cup of God’s love.  We stress and stress some more. 

What can we do to actively help God keep our cups replenishing?  Over the years, I do daily meditations out of the “Little Blue Book” if I receive one.  This year I received it at the Advent Tea and am very thankful for the six minute devotions that will help fill my cup.  My daughter and I will read an advent story book.  Each day we read about a young girl and her journey towards the event of Jesus’ birth.  I will light my advent wreath.  This all helps while I make all the preparations for the joyful arrival of Christmas.

I am going to add something new this year.  God has placed on my heart to meditate on Mary these next four weeks.  What did Mary do the last days before her precious baby boy arrived?  As I go shopping for gifts, I will think of her going to the marketplace to buy material for Jesus’ diapers and sleepers.  As I clean house, I will think of her going through the nesting phase.  When I start to stress because we know that will happen, I will think of her riding a donkey to Bethlehem.  I am confident my cup is going to be overflowing this year everyday of advent.  I hope your cup does as well.

Blessings to you all.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Focus


                A new book I am reading is called Talent is Never Enough by John C. Maxwell.  My son mentioned the author to me last spring when his band teacher talked about different aspects Maxwell promoted that could help the students become better musicians.  Clay shared the techniques with me to help me with my writing.  I have finally started reading the authors work.  Today I read a chapter dedicated to focusing on your talent.  The idea sparked a lot of thoughts in me that I thought I would share.

                In our world we have so many shiny things that distract our focus.  My kids and I have a running joke.  When we lose our train of thought we call out “Squirrel.”  Of course, we also say the word when we see a squirrel.  The quote comes from the movie Up.  The dog Doug says this when he sees a squirrel and loses his focus on the task at hand to chase the animal.  We do that as well.  Instead of doing housework, we watch the television.  The lawn continues to grow creating a mini jungle because we go play at the lake.  I lose focus on my writing project because a new idea comes to mind that distracts me.  In fact, with my writing, I feel pulled in the areas of history, fantasy, science fiction, and religion, lot of squirrels.  For years I have thought, why can’t I write for all the genres?  In the last year though, I feel very torn and what I just realized is I am feeling torn because I am not focused on just one.  I need to pick.  I need to focus.

                Our faith life can be just as unfocused.  I am a prime example.  I love learning everything about my faith.  I am always on the lookout for a new saint to study.  For months I have wanted to learn about Padre Pio.  But I keep getting distracted.  Two weeks ago, I finally bought a book about him.  I have read about twenty pages, but the book sits on an end table unopened because I have been doing different reading.  Tomorrow Advent starts, so my focus will switch.  Padre Pio will continue to sit unattended.  My focus has been lost.  This happens for me during prayer as well.  Fortunately, my focus to attend church is strong, but my focus in other areas does waver.

                To succeed in our faith life and all aspects of our life, we need to focus.  Starting tomorrow, I will concentrate on Advent.  Hopefully no squirrels will be jumping in my path, but I think they will in the form of holiday baking, shopping, decorating, shipping, and activities.  In my writing, I am focusing on my fantasy novel, still, forever.  I am sure as I go, squirrels will leap up here as well.  Yet, the further I get in this journey the stronger my focus becomes.  As beginners, focus is hard.  Hours of practice needs happen to become a strong focused individual.  Squirrels jump in our path sending us into the brush, but we can always make our way back to the path and continue on in our faith journey or any journey.  Stay focused my friends.

                Blessings to you all.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thankfulness


The NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) is over for me.  I am so thankful.  I hit the 50,000 words on Saturday, but I wanted to cushion it by about 1500 which I did slowly the last couple of days.  I uploaded my work today and won.  My project still needs to be completed.  I have about three more chapters to write and a couple more to finish up.  Oh, and then the dreaded editing begins.  After 50,000 words, I am a bit burnt out.  The funny thing is though; I can’t imagine doing anything but writing.  Of course, a thousand words are much easier to face in a day as opposed to two to three thousand.  So, running around town today, I kept thinking of what to write for my next blog post. 

This past month I read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  I came upon the book in a roundabout way.  Last month I had an editor tell me my writing was choppy.  My dear friend cheered me forward not only suggesting I read this book but also lending me her copy.  She wanted me to read Ann’s style because of the choppiness to see I can also publish even if I am a little broken up.  Well, her style is definitely choppy.  However, the reason behind the style is her poetic use of words.  I felt like it was one huge poem beautifully written from the heart.  I loved the book.

The premise of her story is creating a stronger faith life after living through the struggles faced in life.  Her mission was to write down her gifts received from God one by one until she listed 1000.  That is a huge number.  Now, every night I say my prayer of thanks to God.  I rattle off everything until I either fall asleep or start daydreaming.  But, Ann poetically captured the beauty in all the gifts she is given.  I was captivated by her use of words.  I would like to say I have started to do this, but alas, I still simply list my gifts.

I thought of the book this morning as I woke to achy shoulders and other body parts.  The shoulders were the worst.  I sat down at my desk to work a little on my suffering project.  Today’s assignment was to write about thankfulness.  I talked about how I could wallow in my pain today, but instead would be thankful. 

I am thankful for the opportunity to rest.  I am thankful for an activity today that will get me out of the house.  I am thankful to be able to hang out with my daughter and her friends.  I am thankful for my cat who will keep me company as I rest.  I am thankful for a new entertaining book I get to read.  I am thankful to be able to write and edit to sweep out the cobwebs from my mind as it wants to retreat into the pain.  I helped my son with homework for his advanced government class.  I am thankful he is taking the class and I am thankful for being able to help.

My simple list helped me smile and conquer my morning.  By this afternoon, I lay in bed exhausted.  My cat joined me.  I kept growling at her because she continued getting between me and my book.  I realized that I was supposed to be thankful for her company.  I gave her the attention she wanted for about five minutes.  She finally curled up at my feet and fell asleep.  I was thankful.

                Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Aunt LaVerne


                Last night my dad called to tell me the news that my great aunt Laverne passed away.  This morning my thoughts are with her.  Her kind smile that lit up a room, her marvelous hosting skills, and the pounds and pounds of lefse she provided for all the family gathers make me smile.  When I pulled out my lefse from the freezer this morning, she filled my vision.

                My clearest memory of her is when I was a teenager.  Aunt Erma and Uncle Paul were in town visiting from California.  I stood on the opposite side of the tall counter that surrounded Aunt LaVerne’s kitchen.  Others were around and we were all talking.  Aunt Erma started looking at my profile.  Aunt LaVerne joined her in the scrutiny.  The two aunts discussed my nose.  Back and forth they went until they agreed that I had the Hedahl nose just like my grandfather’s.  Well, I have always been a grandpa’s girl and this just clinched it.  These two aunts were the best great aunts in the world.  I grinned a little bigger and stood a little taller the rest of the visit.

                The last time I saw Aunt LaVerne was bitter sweet.  When her health began to decline, she went to live with her daughter in Virginia.  I was fortunate to be able to take a weekend off of military training while in D.C. about four years ago and drove down to stay with them.  Aunt LaVerne didn’t remember me.  But that didn’t matter.  I loved being in her presence.  Her calm peaceful company draped over us as Bevin, William, and I chatted for hours on end.

                Dear Lord, please bless my beautiful aunt.  And give her a big hug from me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Busy Times

                Busy, busy, busy.  That has been my life this month.  My poor blog has been pushed to the side because of everything that has been going on.  But, I don’t want to stop the blogging, so I thought I would take you on a little tour of what is going on in my life.
                First, this is the month of the NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.  This event takes place every November.  Crazy people from all over the world join a website and write a 50,000 word novel.  Two years ago I succeeded in the endeavor.  I took last year off and regretted it, so I am back at the process again this year.  I am not writing a novel per say, but I am writing a number of stories that will go into a book about suffering and persevering.  So far I have 19,150 words.  Of course, writing this post I keep thinking of the words I need to write today.  Uff da! 
                Another project for the month is a football memory book for the seniors.  I compile all the football articles in our local newspaper as a scrapbook for the boys.  Really it doesn’t take a ton of time, but it is a distraction from all other things.  All I have left is one more look at the formatting and then sending it on to the printer.  Yay, almost done!
                Finally, this month our Catholic community puts on two retreat weekends, one for the men and one for the women.  I help with the women’s in a couple of areas and I am helping sponsor a friend for the men’s weekend.  The wonderful part of this is the extra times I get to spend in prayer with so many amazing people.  I also take time out for extra Masses.  I love that.
                Of course, I still have all my duties as mom and attempting those of “domestic engineer” or the old fashioned housewife.  Both my son and daughter have their birthdays.  I am still trying to be a helpful leader for girl scouts.  So, blogging is going to be slow this month.  I am very thankful though for all the busy areas of my life.
                Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hannah

                A couple of days ago, I started reading 1st and 2nd Samuel in the Old Testament.  I want to use King David in my perseverance through story project.  Hannah’s story is at the beginning of the first book.  The story will not leave my thoughts.  I couldn’t get past the thought that she asked God to give her a baby even though she knew she would give that baby up at the age of about three.  I couldn’t wrap my head around that.  Three is when my children became more interesting.  Yes, I loved them as babies, but each new age they reached, I would have more and more fun with them.  And yes, I love the teen years.
                Finally, I blurted out the question to my husband.  Why would Hannah ask for a baby only to give the baby away? 
My ever patient husband said, “I gave our children to God when they were born.”
                “Well, I did too, but I still kept them.”  Years after our last child was born we talked about how the first Sunday after they came home from the hospital each of us dedicated our children to God silently without ever telling the other.  Yes, later we baptized them, but we dedicated the earlier.
                “But I will be very happy if they become priests.”  His logical approach was killing me.
                “Yes, but not give them to a priest when they are three.”
                We continued to discuss the fact that Hannah lived in a different time and place.  The honor she would receive from having a son study under a priest would be phenomenal.  I went back and read the story again and paid special attention to her prayer to God.  Hannah suffered at the hands of the other wife.  She had many children while Hannah had none.  I can imagine the undermining words the other wife would say to her.  Hannah’s status in the family would be so much lower because she didn’t have children.  Even in today’s society, people are looked at differently for not having children.  Mean things are said.  By God giving Hannah a child, her life would indeed get better even when she gave the baby to the priest Eli. 
                As I continued to read the story, I learned Hannah did go visit her son as he grew up.  She was also given three more sons and two daughters for her honoring God.  I love the story.  I now understand better why she gave up her son.  I would love it if my children became priests and nuns.  I also thank God that I get to keep them until they are young adults.  I am not so sure I would be as strong as Hannah and give them up any sooner.
                Blessings to you all.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Music Heals

                I am not sure when I fell in love with music.  As a child, I remember listening to my uncle play his guitar and singing.  My grandparents and parents had organs with numbered keys that I played.  My aunt played the piano as did my cousins.  I loved all of it.  In fourth grade, I took guitar lessons and in fifth grade I started my band education with the clarinet.  After that, I played bass clarinet, oboe, trumpet, baritone, and piano.  I sang in the choir for school and for church.  I love attending concerts and listening to my iPod at various levels of sound.
                When I am in a bad mood, the best thing to do is to put on my music and sing like I am a rock star!  All my life I have had a theme song.  The song changes with the years, but there is usually one.  I have been wondering what it is at the moment.  It is a bit fuzzy.  I think it is a combo of Abba’s “I Have a Dream” and Francesca Battistelli’s “This is the Stuff.”  When I doubt my writing, I listen to Abba and if things are going wrong, I listen to Francesca.  I mean really, how can you be in a bad mood if words are pouring out of you, your head is bopping, and your body is swaying?  I definitely can’t.
                Music helps me through my pain from fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.  I am working on a writing project about how to persevere while suffering either from mental or physical pain.  Music doesn’t take away pain, but it can distract you to give you blissful moments of peace.  I haven’t done any research yet, but I have come across articles about music helping the elderly and using it for therapy.  I love the idea.
                Last night as I was reading about King David for a writing project, I came across an exciting section.  King Saul hadn’t been listening to God so “The spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and he was tormented by an evil spirit sent by the Lord” 1 Samuel 16:14.  Saul was going through some serious self-induced suffering.  One of Saul’s servants recommended he send for a harpist.  He took the suggestion.  “Whenever the spirit from God seized Saul, David would take the harp and play, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, for the evil spirit would leave him” 1 Samuel 16:23.
                I do have to mention that it is a bit disturbing that God sent the evil spirit which really is a topic for a different blog.  But for thousands of years, people have used music to heal.  Before King David became King, he healed King Saul with his music.  Today I know I will have a great day even with my daughter going into surgery (simple tooth stuff).  I have listened to my music and this evening I get the pleasure of attending a concert at our local high school.  Of course, my son will be my favorite of all the musicians playing.  He plays a wicked (I mean this in the good sense) tenor and baritone saxophones.  So go out and listen to some music.  Right now I have Toby Mac playing.
                Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rejection

                Walking into my meeting with agent Jeff, I didn’t know what to expect.  The times I pitched before, the agent only knew my name.  A month ago, I sent my material to Jeff.  He read my entire proposal and first two chapters of my project.  I was also nervous.  Imagine!  Shaking hands, we introduced ourselves.  He leafed through a pile of papers and pushed them towards me.  “Please pull your material out.”  He wasn’t even organized.  At least I could blame my hesitation on nerves and being an armature writer.  He has decades of experience.  I pulled out my pages and handed them to him.
                “What makes you an expert on suffering?  What are your qualifications?” His ton of disapproval enveloped the room.
                I listed my “qualifications” in my proposal but I humored him.  “I have watched those around me suffer as I myself have suffered.”
                “Are you a psychologist?” 
                “No.”  This completely threw me because I listed my degree. 
                “You don’t have the authority to write a project like this.  You can’t compete with someone with a PHD.”
                I have never intended to compete with doctors.  My goal is to write about stories and how through these stories we can learn skills to apply to our lives helping us still lead lives of purpose while in great amounts of physical, mental, or emotional pain.  I have always believed we can learn from literature.  Now I want to connect the dots.
                As we continued to talk, I felt smaller and less significant because I have no big initials behind my name.  Yet, I sat taller because I knew he was not the agent for me.  He seemed highly offended I pitched to him a piece with Christian stories in them.  He shook his head in disbelief at my idea of discussing that Eve and Adam suffered.  (Yes, there is a huge debate on if there even was an Adam and Eve, but remember I am working with story.)  Of course they suffered.  They physically were torn away from God.  They lost both their sons.  They most definitely suffered.
                Once we started talking about my autoimmune diseases, he said I am qualified to write about my experiences of suffering and the process I went through to turn my situation into something positive.  I needed to write a personal narrative, but I had to stay away from family topics.  He also stated I needed to find a Christian publisher.  Hum, why did he have religion as a category on his web-site then?
                I will admit that he did say one thing useful.  He stated my writing was choppy.  I most certainly agree.  Transitions have always been a downfall for me.  I also struggle to express exactly what I am trying to say with topics that are so close to my heart.  I also rush at times when I feel the need to just get it done.  I know these things.  In actuality, I shouldn’t have pitched this project, but at the time, I really had no other options.  I damned the torpedoes and I now know his publishing company is not for me.
                My aunt asked if his life has been “sunshine and roses.”  I actually think he suffers.  He mentioned that he believed some people are unable to be happy due to genes.  I don’t buy that.  Yes, chemical imbalances can cause depression.  I had this happen to me after two pregnancies.  I also think the way we are raised can play a part in how we deal with suffering, but with all of this, we can learn to overcome the obstacles of suffering.  He made a comment that if a person is happy they won’t strive for anything.  I disagree.  I am very happy; yet, I strive everyday to become a better writer.  So, really, I think his belief system is about as different as one can be from mine.  In fact, I suspect he may enjoy suffering to use it as a catalyst to propel him further.  At any rate, he is not the agent for me. 
Amazingly, I was quite humored by the entire meeting.  I came out of the classroom feeling good with myself for trying.  However, though I didn’t really like Jeff or think all he said had merit, I am still left with the typical doubts I have when being rejected.  Will anyone ever say I have what it takes to publish?  Am I wasting my time?  A college student just left my house.  He was here to have me edit his paper and I fear that I did it wrong.  Writing is such a fickle undertaking.  As one agent said, “I hate dogs.  If you have dog in your story, I will reject it.”  How do you stay sane with that kind of rejection? 
God is standing over my shoulder cheering me on.  He knows Jeff isn’t the right person to partner up with for this project.  I can stay sane with Him helping me along the way.  When I start to feel blocked, He will give my husband or one of my readers (family and friends) the right words to keep me working.  In fact, one suggested I put some Bailey’s in my coffee.  I think I will do just that.
While thinking about this small event in my life and the project, a new direction for my story unfolded.  I had named the book The Positive in Suffering.  I didn’t like it, but that is what came to me when I sent the proposal.  The new idea is Finding Perseverance through Story.  I love this so much better.  Instead of concentrating on the negativity of suffering, I will focus on perseverance despite suffering.  Yes, this had always been the plan, but the focus of the title is so much clearer.  Thank you Lord!!!
Blessing to you all.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quote from Merlyn

                Last night, as I was reading myself to sleep, I came across this quote.  “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something.  That is the only thing that never fails.” By T.H. White, The Once and Future King, page 171.  The reason Merlyn says this is to help young Arthur get over his moping that his friend Kay is becoming a knight and leaving him behind.  I think Merlyn is spot on.
                When I medically retired from the military, losing my job, and needing to recuperate, I knew if I didn’t do something new I would become depressed or sad.  I loved my job.  I loved my life.  I was being left behind by my colleagues.  I didn’t want to be at home 24/7, but I also knew home is exactly where I needed to be to start feeling better and be able to be the mom I used to be before my health problems entered my life.  I turned to music.  Growing up, I loved choir and band.  I played five different instruments.  For years I had talked about learning the piano, so I found an instructor and started learning.  Lessons not only taught me a new skill (well, not quite a skill) but it also gave me a place to go every week and a goal to work towards.  I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy my first ten months of retirement.  Learning can help us through the rough times.
                Blessings to you all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Politics

                “When joy is elusive, we must actively seek it out.  We must put ourselves with people and things that bring us delight,” Julia Cameron, Finding Water, page 131.  I read this section while in a very bad mood.  “Joy is elusive.”  Really, I had a great day.  I finally finished my paragraph outline for a book proposal, a friend volunteered to be interviewed for said book, and another friend offered to introduce me to three writer friends of hers.  A very good day.  Why the bad mood?  My husband kept snapping at me and my son sported the “I know that mom” attitude.  Oh, and did I mention the presidential debate and all the fallout?
                Politics do not bring me joy.  They drive me crazy.  Yesterday afternoon I watched an hour of the debate.  My nerves started stretching taunt.  I went onto facebook and my nerves started snapping at the disparaging posts about both Mitt Romney and President Obama.  (At first I just saw the ones against Romney.  I am very sensitive to this for some reason.  Looking at it logically, both sides were being bashed.)  My patience snapped when the family started their negativity as well.
                Where does this fit into the path to holiness?  One comment I read talked something about how frightening Romney’s facial expressions were.  Really?  We are not to judge others by their looks but by their heart.  During the debate, I saw two men who are standing by their ideals to make the United States a better place.  Another post claimed Romney lied 38 times in 28 minutes.  (This could have been a news article but please don’t get me started on the press.)  Again all the negativity?  If people actually stated the good ideas either candidate has for the next 4 years, I might start listening with an open heart instead of frustration.
                I am not the most politically minded, but I didn’t hear Romney lie.  Granted, the stats he spoke of, I don’t know if they are correct, but I don’t know that Obama’s are either.  Instead, I listened to each man’s plans to bring to the table.  Yes, I like what Romney said better, but that doesn’t mean I am going to trash talk Obama.  He has been our Commander in Chief for almost 4 years.  Romney served as a governor.  Both men deserve our respect not our bashing.
                In my state, we have two men running for the same political office.  I can’t stand either of them.  Why?  All they do is throw punches at their opponent.  Neither of them address the issues because they are too busy pointing fingers.  I think I will vote for myself instead.
                I am a conservative Republican.  I still try to listen to the issues, but I almost always vote the party line.  I didn’t vote for President Obama, but I still hoped and prayed for him when he entered office.  As a Republican woman who paid her own way through college by joining the military and working three jobs, I didn’t have money.  We lived paycheck to paycheck.  Those were miserable days and solidified my belief in hard work.  Unfortunately, I forget the days growing up poor.  I have harsh thoughts about government assistance. 
A couple of weeks ago, I listened to the video of Romney going off about the 47% who don’t pay taxes.  I thought it spot on.  My democratic friend was horrified at his attitude bringing up her days as a child.  Wow, that was a blow to me.  We grew up together.  Our families received commodity cheese.  How could I forget that in those 47% are struggling families, senior citizens, and the disabled?  Granted, I do believe there are also the lazy slackers.  I do know they exist because I am related to some of them who go off about how they shouldn’t have to pay taxes ….  The system isn’t perfect.  Neither are our politicians. 
My political beliefs tend to be very harsh.  I need my liberal Democratic friends to remind me to be softer.  I don’t need them to be negative.  People, we need to come together as United States citizens.  Both sides need to work together bringing all the ideas to the table.  We need to treat each other as Jesus would with respect, love, dignity, and forgiveness.  We are the body of Christ.  I see the Democrats as the right hand and the Republicans as the left hand.  It takes both to build a strong product.
So, what brings me joy after a politically emotional day?  Writing.  I wrote most of this free hand last night to let off steam.  I also traveled about ten miles to another community to join my sisters as we prepare for our retreat weekend.  I find joy in them.  I also enjoy scripture.  We read from Colossians.  The last verse brought tears to my eyes.  “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col 3:17.  And yes, this also means on facebook.
Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beautiful Gifts

                Life brings forth beautiful gifts.  Daily tasks turn into meaningful adventures that only God’s hands can divine.  Traveling down His path I am so very blessed every moment of the day, but special moments ring a truth stronger than any bell crafted on earth. 
I have thus been blessed on one simple trip to the public library.  My daughter’s Girl Scout troop has been given the opportunity to work with a potter in our small community.  When I heard about the place, I was very excited.  I have always wanted to learn how to do this art form.  We have a school which I looked into years ago, but the price is very expensive, too expensive for a mere hobby.  In fact, they may not even let regular people learn at their establishment.  A few years ago, I learned a friend from church threw clay and decided to open a business.  She put out feelers to have a class, but due to time restraints the idea fell to the wayside.  Recently, I learned of another area which is willing to teach the girls a little about pottery.  Secretly in my heart, I am hoping I can work with some clay as well. 
As Juniors, there is no pottery badge for the girls to earn, but we can make our own badge.  Going to the potters’ guild is not enough for the badge, so I started working on finding things the girls could learn.  At the library I found a number of books with beautiful pictures that they can peruse through.  I found a kids book about different simple items they can make in a short amount of time.  They can draw out a couple of ideas before we go.  I also happened upon a children’s book to read to them.  With my treasures in hand, I came home and forgot about them. 
While cleaning up and organizing, I saw the children’s book and thought I should probably read it to myself before I read it to the girls.  The story is quite deceptive in the simple words that float along the page.  By the time I finished, excitement raced through my heart.  The story is true.  The potter Dave lived in the 1800’s in the Carolina’s.  He had no last name.  Amazingly, he not only knew the trade of pottery but he also knew how to read and write.  Why is this so amazing?  He was a slave.  At some point in his life, he lost his leg.  One of the other slaves than ran the pottery wheel pedal as he made the pots.  Balancing on one leg, he threw 60 pounds of clay to make the pots larger than 20 gallons, sometimes as big as 40 gallons.  He truly was a master of his trade.  If this was not enough, he engraved his own poetry onto the pots.  All of this knowledge leaves me breathless just to be a part of it for one short story which I can share with little girls.
Many people may think I am “geeking” out about a minor event.  This could be true.  Anything historical pre Civil War can do this to me.  Add art and an underdog and I am hooked almost breaking out in a cold sweat.  But look at the beauty in the events: first, the opportunity to expose the girls to pottery; second, finding a children’s book to read from the public library; and third, having the main character be from my favorite era in history.  I did a quick look at Amazon.  I stopped after 60 titles popped up with the search words pottery, children.  God lined all of this up for me to be blessed by beauty.  Many people may see this as random events, but I will continue to feel the love of God’s arms wrapping around me in this small occurrence in my life.
Blessing to you all.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Traveler's Gift: Part III

Here is my last installment of The Travelers Gift.  “My life-my personality, my habits, even my speech-is a combination of the books I choose to read, the people I choose to listen to, and the thoughts I choose to tolerate in my mind”  page 103.  Again, the character Anne Frank speaks such wise words for someone so very young.  All of these areas can affect how positive or negative we are and how much we wallow in suffering.  If we surround ourselves with happy ideas, people, books and thoughts, we will be happy.  If we don’t, well, you get the idea.
Many years ago, I joined Oprah Winfrey’s book club.  One of the women I worked with encouraged me to join.  This gave us a common ground of chit chat that was positive.  Besides, I love to read so it was a win/win in my thoughts.  I read her hand me down books and I read one classic with the internet group.  I love doing that because to discuss people’s ideas of literature is a ton of fun for me.  Naturally, I started reading A Million Little Pieces by James Frey before all the controversy.  I became so depressed.  This guy was messed up.  Finally after making it about halfway through, I put the book down.  My mood had plummeted and the reading was not worth it. 
One author has a huge affect on me.  I still read his material from time to time because he is good and a master: Stephen King.  Every time I pick up his books, I delight in them.  However, I start dreaming horrible dreams.  About two years ago, I read his book on writing.  I thought it would be safe since the topic wasn’t horror.  Wrong.  At the end of the book, he gave a writing assignment.  My words started quite innocent and calm.  As is usual, the content took the twist of fantasy.  The next thing I knew, I started writing a scene which scared me to death.  I had to rein it in to keep myself “safe.”  Thinking about it, Poe can do the same thing.
Obviously, books, people, and thoughts can make our journey to holiness more difficult.  I would never even consider banning books because the freedom of press is far too important to me.  Also, within our capabilities we can’t ban people completely either because we are to witness and love them.  However, do be cautious in your dealings with them.  I will continue to read edgy material and I can’t avoid all people, but I can set up defenses by praying.  And with all things, moderation is the key.
Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Blossoms

                Yesterday I looked at my list of to do’s and my blog flashed out at me.  Hum, what was I going to write about this week?  I have been very busy preparing the house for a retirement party for a friend.  This has entailed doing all those summer projects I put off for having fun instead: cleaning the garage, painting outside trim and porch, and cleaning out some gardens.  I am far from done, but with all the smoke and the impending inside of my house, the outside is now resting.  I marvel at my ability to put off until tomorrow.  I have to get an A+ in this.  But, writing about fixing cupboard doors, cleaning out the craft room, and washing windows makes for a pretty boring read.  I have also been working on editing, but alas not great blog material.  As always, I found inspiration in my studies.
                Artists need a ton of encouragement.  Being a writer I can well attest to this statement.  The critic that lives in our head constantly rattles off all the reasons we suck at our passions.  With three rejections, a messy novel, unfinished projects, criticisms from old English teachers, and never publishing a word of my work, I love encouragement.  Because of this, I try to read books of inspiration in the realm of writing, faith, and hero conquers all stories.  Lately, I have been comparing my writing life with my faith life.  They have become so intertwined that many times I can’t tell one from the other. 
                Christians need a ton of encouragement.  The world tries to sell us riches, parties, self pleasure, and powerful careers as our road to success.  Yes, as Christians we can have some of this, but it shouldn’t rule our lives as it seems to do with many people.  Family member can add to the critic by ridiculing our faith choices.  I know with all the negativity, I need encouragement.  Fortunately, I have church, Bible study, and like minded friends to help me along the way as well as my readings.
                “Like the fruit trees, we are intended to blossom.  The trees put forth their froth whether there will be admiring eyes or not” page 107, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron.  Maybe I should wait to post this in the spring, but I think not.  We have all blossomed.  Some of the flowers may have blown away in the wind, but most of them remained and have produced fruit.  Now is the time to harvest the fruit.  What fruit have your produced?  I have the fruit of a novel that I am consistently editing which has been rejected twice, but with each new word I add, I hope for acceptance.  I have the fruit of my faith in action by volunteering as Eucharistic Minister and helper of our next retreat weekend.  With the help of my husband and community, I have not only produced strong faithful children but artists as well.  My oldest son carves and paints, my younger son plays amazing music with his sax, and my baby girl paints and makes all types of creations.  The icing on the cake is two of them like to write.
                We may never be famous from our journey to holiness or artistic endeavors, but we can produce fruit whether our blossoms are seen or not.  We can also encourage each others along the way.  Go out and produce!
                Blessings to you all.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Traveler's Gift Part II

                Another quote I really like came from the historical character in the book, Anne Frank.  When asked in The Traveler’s Gift if she is always in a good mood, she responds “Of course not, silly?  But if I ever find myself in a bad mood, I immediately make a choice to be happy.  In fact, it is the first choice I make every day.  I say out loud to my mirror, ‘Today, I will choose to be happy!’  I smile into the mirror and laugh even if I am sad.  I just say, ‘Ha, ha, ha, ha!’  And soon, I am happy, exactly as I have chosen to be” page 102.  The “choice to be happy.”  What a wonderful concept.  Here was a girl caged in a small space with seven or so people not being able to go outside and living in the fear of being captured by the Nazi.  She chooses to be happy.
                Last month when my son, daughter, and I were in Missoula looking for an apartment for him, the trailblazer wouldn’t start.  I called my husband 121 miles away.  As if there was anything he could do.  We called other friends and family that actually lived in town.  The heat poured down on us.  I took the daughter into the shade to read her book as we waited for someone to rescue us.  About an hour later, Sarah came and they jumped the vehicle.  I feared of a dead battery, so asking my cousin where to go, we drove to the location, another hour or two to wait with a very bored nine-year-old.  I was grumpy.  My son lovingly reminded me of these words from the book trying to cheer me up.  I would love to say it worked instantly, but it didn’t.  Nazi Germany seemed too far removed to touch my emotions.  We walked across the street to Hastings to shop and have a drink.  The entire time, Anne’s words followed me around the book stacks.  Finally with a little caffeine, a new book, and a new battery, we went to another apartment and I was doing better.  I was choosing to be happy.
                Choosing to be happy is very hard.  Yet, the happier we are the further pain and suffering is to affect us.  Anne didn’t wallow in her misery of being in her situation.  We shouldn’t either.  We need to choose to do productive things even in the midst of great peril.  We also need to pray.  I did a lot of that while dealing with the dead battery.  Choose to be happy and choose to pray.  With these two actions, life is so much more rewarding.
                Blessings to you all.
                Okay, I have to have a side note on this one.  In The Lion King, young Simba announces, “I laugh in the face of danger.  Ha ha ha ha!”  Keep laughing!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Take Action

                About four years ago, I found a rock with the word synchronicity written on it at a local gift store.  I bought the small item as a gift for myself.  Julia Cameron used the word a lot in the book I was studying and I liked the concept of it.  Synchronicity is an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated.  The word applies today because the readings I am doing for my suffering project and my writing just collided into the concept of TAKE ACTION.
                Whether from physical or emotional pain, when people are in the midst of suffering, they begin to alleviate the situation if they can become distracted.  On Tuesday, I ached first thing upon waking up.  I did my stretches, drank some coffee, and slowly started prepping to paint trim on a few outside windows.  Periodically the pain would lash out at me, but before I knew it, my husband came home reminding me I had a meeting.  I was exhausted but took a shower to limber up my muscles.  The next thing I realized, I was getting ready for bed with a very successful day behind me.  I kept myself distracted.  My pain didn’t rule the day.  Philip Yancy’s book, Where Is God When It Hurts?, promotes distraction, work, and purpose to help us or others through suffering.  TAKE ACTION.
                Writers go through extended periods of suffering also known as the dreaded writer’s block or the new one I have come up with, the editing block.  I am hopefully soon to discover a publishing block when the editing is done, but that is for another day.  Julia Cameron in her book Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance tells the writer to take small steps.  During these times of “suffering”, the writer needs to distract themselves by taking little movements forward.  There are many ways of doing this.  But it is imperative they do something to distract themselves or the block will only become more pronounced.  They could even turn the block into the emotional suffering of depression if no action is taken.  Earlier this year, I discussed being in the middle of a dry spell with my faith and writing.  I distracted myself by reading/researching one small thing at a time also writing letters to my sons, and writing about my life instead of just about faith.  The next thing I knew, my faith began to feel strong and I am writing again.  TAKE ACTION.
                Julia Cameron places quotes in the margins of her book.  A couple of the quotes amply apply.  “Everyone needs to work.  Even a lion cannot sleep, expecting a deer to enter his mouth.” Hitopadesha page 62.  While we suffer, are blocked, or feeling dry, we need to work/distract ourselves.  This helps pick us up and reduces our pain or problem.  It may not change our circumstances but we become productive which leads to positive outcomes.  In other words, “the shortest answer is doing” English Proverb page 65.  TAKE ACTION.
                I am resting today because I am hurting from a weekend of painting.  Will I sit and wallow in the pain.  Heck no.  I will do some laundry, make the bed, watch an episode of Doctor Who, and rest.  Will the pain go away?  No.  Will it lessen?  Yes.  Will I feel productive at the end of the day?  Yes.  Best of all the pain won’t be running my life.  So go out today and take some action. 
                Blessings to you all.