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.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Traveler's Gift: Part I

                The last couple of months have just flown by for me with one trip after another and the constant running here and there for my kids.  With the start of school, I hoped for quiet time to write and edit.  Though I have had more time for these tasks, I still find myself running.  My daughter just had braces put on yesterday, so we had a couple extra appointments to get to.  Girl Scouts is starting for the year.  This adds a treat schedule and study on my part as I am taking a more active role in leading.  Finally, football dominates with games on Friday, Quarterback Club on Tuesday, and food to be made for the tailgate barbecue each home pregame.  Oh, and I also have Cursillo meetings and soon more work for this activity.  But with all this going on, I am forever reading with amazing ideas that I have wanted to share with you.
                One book I have wanted to talk about I read in early June.  For going away gifts for my boys, a friend gave them The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews.  One of the books sat on the table for a couple of days until I decided to read it before the oldest left.  What a delightful story.  I recommend it for people who want to grow.  The protagonist journeys through different experiences in history.  The people he meets give him the seven decisions for success.  I would love to discuss these decisions with you, but you really need to buy the book and discover them for yourself.  Having the desire to sell my writing, I have to support my fellow writers, so go buy the book.  Both boys read the book and recommend it as well.
There are some quotes that struck a chord that I would like to share.  When asked if Christopher Columbus was bothered by being the only one to believe the world is round he stated, “…that bothers me not in the least.  Truth is truth.  If a thousand people believed something foolish, it is still foolish!  Truth is never dependent upon consensus of opinion.  I have found that it is better to be alone and acting upon the truth in my heart than to follow a gaggle of silly geese doomed to mediocrity” page 80. 
I so love this attitude.  I couldn’t have written it better.  I see thousands of people following the secular trends of our time buying into the fashion industry, “keeping up with the Jones,” and the list could go on for pages.  Follow silly geese, I think not.  I believe in God, marriage, discipline, independence, patriotism, and hard work.  Yes, standing alone can be extremely lonely, but at the end of the day I can still look myself in the mirror and know I am living the life God wants for me.  Do I sin and crash and burn at times?  Definitely!  But I am not a goose.
                My children are not geese either.  Where many young adults are seeking to find themselves, my boys know they are children of God and soldiers to boot.  I could go more into how they don’t follow the crowd, but the examples are more personal in nature and not mine to tell.  My daughter is learning not to be a goose.  This last year the girls in her class campaigned against boys as is typical to this age group.  Madelle stood her ground and defended all boys of the world using the argument that she loved her brothers and dad; thus, boys are good.  Standing up for ones beliefs can be very hard, hurtful, and lonely, but my children have that strength of spirit. 
                “Truth is never dependent upon consensus of opinion.”  I very much need to look at this as I tread the waters of my writing goals.  Columbus conquered the untruth of what people said in his day about the world.  I have to overcome the lack of enthusiasm that will surely hit once I start turning my writing into agents and editors.  I will get a lot of rejections that will include my inner critic (I named him Larry).  Yet, those geese will have to step aside because I know the truth of my writing.  Granted, my work may never be published in the traditional manner, but to listen to the denial of my work would be foolish.  I am called to follow my heart and God’s voice through the written word.  That is my truth.
                Are you a goose?  I hope not.  They chase people trying to snap at them.  Frankly, they scare me.
                Blessings to you all.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Writing Journey

                In the last seven days, I have been on an adventure.  Really, the journey began with the assigned writing paper I was given in grade school when I began to love to write.  However, the last episode ended yesterday.  I have no idea what God has in store for me, but I am a bit excited.
                Early this summer, I signed up for a writer’s conference and to submit my novel.  With only twelve openings for written work, I was excited that I was selected.  I proceeded to ignore all the work I needed to do because well it was summer.  I love to play and travel during the summer not sit behind a desk writing.  Lame excuse, but I am what I am as Popeye says. 
While in Atlanta, I received an e-mail stating the editor who was going to read my work canceled, did I want to withdraw?  No, I procrastinate enough.  I was determined to send the material.  Last week, I looked over the letter and decided I should see what genre the new editor preferred.  Non-fiction.  Oh, no.  I was in trouble.  I went out to look at the publishing house.  Very small and they only represent non-fiction.  With less than a week to submit, I didn’t have a clue what I would do.  I would love to say this will teach me to stop procrastinating, but I highly doubt it.  I think I thrive under the pressure. 
I thought and I thought some more for about a total of eighteen hours.  The idea to put a few of my blog posts together caused a little excitement.  I didn’t have to come up with a new non-fiction idea let alone write the fifteen pages to go with a two page book proposal.  About thirty minutes later, the realization of not having first publishing rights with my blog material made me realize this idea stunk! 
While looking through my writing folders, I spotted the one entitled Suffering.  The little envelope design on my computer popped into my head.  I could work with this project.  My heart started to race.  Could I pull it off?  Not being able to sit still, I took a walk by the irrigation ditch, up the road, through the field, and back home.  I prayed, I daydreamed, I smiled, and I prayed some more.  I really felt God tugging me in this direction.  Once back in front of the computer, the research of how to write a book proposal began in all haste.
Yesterday, I successfully sent off the proposal and first fifteen pages of the book.  First reader number one doesn’t like the Creation Story which I use, but he said the description was good.  He also helped me tweak a couple of areas.  First reader number two started out not liking the topic, but began to become interested the more she read.  I am encouraged by both viewpoints.  As always, I was a bundle of nerves as I sent the files to the conference director.  Will the publisher like it enough to invest?  Will he have good things to say?  Now I have a month to wait for an outcome.  I so hate waiting!
I will admit that every step I have taken with this project, I feel God’s hand stirring the flames.  I really believe He wants me to write this book.  Do I believe that it will get published?  Not necessarily.  The project may merely be a tool for me to learn more about myself.  My prayer is that He is with me the entire time.
Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Southern Travel: Day 4 and 5

                The last two days of our travel, we didn’t do much in the line of touristy things.  We did find a wonderful local barbecue spot for lunch.  We drove by it a couple of times because it was truly that little hole in the wall.  My, of my, was it good.  We also went to the Front Porch.  All of us agreed that driving to Georgia in a big moving van would be a ton of fun if we could fill it up with all the antiques we saw in this huge warehouse.  I bought a tin sign of Gone With the Wind to round out my little collection.  Jerry bought a couple of comic books for a friend who collects them. 
                The main item of business was going to our son’s changing blue ceremony on day four and spending time with him and going to his graduation from infantry school on day five.  The changing blue ceremony went quickly, but held some difficulty.  They fired a cannon three times.  My poor husband almost lost his control.  Why they didn’t warn the veterans in the audience who are plagued with PTSD is beyond my understanding.  Fortunately, he composed himself enjoying the main part of the festivities.

Jerry putting on Michel's blue braid which stands
for the infantry.
Me and my amazing son.
                I was very impressed with the graduate on the fifth day.  They used smoke, the Army band, and infantry maneuvers and demonstrations.  This momma was very proud as her son marched by the stands.

Michel marching.

Me, Michel, and Jerry
                Our trip back into Atlanta went very well.  We dropped off Michel but didn’t have to be at the airport ourselves for about six more hours.  We drove into the city looking for a sign of entertainment when I saw one for the zoo.  We stopped by to visit some of the animals.

My favorite at this zoo, the orangutan


Who doesn't love an elephant.


                God blesses us so much.  Every day on our vacation, we saw signs of His goodness in the beauty of the land, the friendliness of the people, the delicious tastes of Southern cooking, the preservation of our history, and the joys of our son and his successes.  Thank you God!
                Blessings to you all.