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Saturday, August 30, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 29: Chrysallises Count

Today's inspirational quote was: "There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you its going to turn into a butterfly." by Buckminster Fuller

What a great reminder that wonderful and creative  things--books, works of art, children, even,
start with or go through unattractive, apparently inactive periods, but all the while growth and transformation are taking place.  To disturb or look to closely during that time could mean spoiling the result before it even happens.

This is a metaphor for my so-called 'fears' of the writing life, vis a vis hopes for what my work might become.

Question is, will I exercise the patience and the inner work to allow the writing to show me its own completion?  Now I'm getting into the enigmatic sort of statement that I really do not appreciate...but I think I know what I mean, and the implication I draw from it is to fuss less, stay on task, and trust things will be complete in due time.

So let me do. (May this be today's mantra reminding me to claim positives, to look for miracles and transformations every day, and to believe that they will come.)

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 28: Pooh-Poohing perfection and its downside, discouragement


"Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it," attributed to Salvador Dali, opens up a window on possible sources of my procrastination...fear of closure, lest the product or producer be found wanting, fear of failing so why try, fear of criticism which, considered thoughtfully, could actually help refine a person, or his or her work. Fear of not having the right stuff, fear of making mistakes, fear of losing a train of thought, fear of falling, fear of going on too long or its opposite, of not being able to fill up the time or space.  Fear of interruptions, of misunderstanding and/or being misunderstood. Fear of being too early or too late or on the wrong date, and more, for the most part illegitimate fears.  Nobody probably fears the things I fear that fit in those  particular categories more than I. ORl might they?

Curious, though, that I began the list as a dispassionate narrator, but ended up claiming absolute ownership of the 'fears' listed, which case is obviously not possibly true.  The fears themselves are not even realistic, One thing that's true is that these are shadowy, imagined fears, nearby but rarely acknowledged, or acknowledged as 'excuses.'

"If I didn't fear perfection, then I..." (= the prompt) would probably be further ahead, more confident and poised than I am about my writing and writing life now. All of which I desire. So then why not   re-write fears and shortfalls as positive goals!

I have a plethora of resources in fact, in friends, in classes and in writer support groups available to me.

I have electronic spell checkers and writer peers who would (and even my husband could) look over my work for errors.  I say I can take critiques, so should be able to relax and attend to criticism, right or wrong, warranted or unwarranted, for what it's worth.

I can decide at a certain point that I just have to say this is enough, and let the work stand and deliver on its own.

I acknowledge having made more mistakes than I am aware of, that everybody makes mistakes, and that the best way is to deal with them in the moment and move on, not to dwell (or recite) on them.

I can trust God to keep in mind any thoughts and words that I need for the time and place that I need them...I can also make, save, and file notes in an organized writing environment.

I can be faithful to exercises and routines that strengthen both mind and body, and be careful how and where I step.

I can speak or write what I am given to say, and recognize whether and when it's time to go on, to revise, and/or stop.

I can recognize, not fear, audience as an ally, a necessary component for my work to be able to convey meaning.

I can look back over this list as a confidence boosting exercise.  Hooray for exercise!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 27: To think or not to think?

Today I find myself looking forward to the end of this challenge, of letting the spirit speak and soar in its own way...I think that, to a great extent, I have been working on the same tasks for a number of years.  It's good, however, to be reminded (prompted) to attend to the spirit, to keeping it (To the extent possible) on track, nourished, tuned in.  And I haven't always exercised the discipline to allow that to happen. Yes, discipline/common sense, can be freeing....  You can probably tell that the spirit flagged somewhere in them middle of the month.  Why was that?  Pain, lack of sleep, lack of 'productivity,' failure to recognize and honor the process of being on the back burner..perhaps all of the above.

Today's inspiration:

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” -- Pablo Picasso

Prosaic, perhaps, but 'seems to me we need a healthy dose of each.  Our thoughts and spirits may soar, but we still need to walk on the earth with others, and that requires some disciplines of its own, which may or more likely may not mean having anything to do with writing.

So, let me tend to the dishes and get to bed, for tonight!


30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 26: What keeps the soul aloft.

Lisa quotes Flaubert in another one of those sayings that sounds grand and echoes the emptiness of man's efforts to the the 'end-all' of wisdom and spirit. "The principal thing in this world is to keep one's soul aloft.'  Sounds as though, by dint of one's own efforts, one could free oneself. Try as one may, I believe we are endowed, by the creator, with a spiritual nature that only the creator can enliven, and that only if we can 'stay out of the way.'  Perhaps we/I try too hard.

Be that as it may, let me respond to the prompt, what makes my spirit soar? Oh, so many things:

a pleased, confident, triumphant, joyful, and or meditative song
sunshine on a newly rainwashed world
fresh, growing greenery...from grass to tree
flowers, whether graceful or fanciful in form
their fragrance...this season,  breathing in the short-lived divinity of a profusion of slender and      unexpected acidanthera blossoms, new to my garden and vocabulary
any unexpected pleasure
granchildren's hug, smile, or spontaneous expession of emotion, art, movement , achievement, yes, even creativity, in response to the world
a gentle, kind word, look, or touch
patterns in nature
a unique invention
a good story
a wry joke
eye hugs
joys expressed
unstructured time
reading in peace
fresh air
chocolate
satisfaction, that CLOSURE which, in my writing, seems to elude me
unhurried, uncritical time with children, family, dear friends, insightful conversants
worship

My second grade teacher did well to instill appreciation for beauty, poetry, well-being. Miss Narvarud rehearsed "The world is so full of a number of things, it's a wonder that all of us shouldn't be kings" until it was ingrained in our hearts as we lined up near the classroom door to go to recess or home.  When I quoted the poem to our almost eight year old granddaughter, she exclaimed, "But we couldn't be kings, we're girls!"  LOL and changing times, attitudes.  She did, however, appreciate the sentiment when I explained it was just a convention, 'we' and 'kings' representing everybody, male and female.  That sort of little clarifying exchange makes my spirit soar. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 25:: What am I afraid of?

Lisa's pep talk today is about resolutely facing and working through, or despite, one's fears.  Her own words are a good prompt:

It’s ok to be scared. Terrified even.  What if this was a sign you were headed in the right direction.  
       Now that's a new thought.  Hmmm.  Given that nothing is really preventing or warning me otherwise, going ahead anyway might just help still my fears.  "You'll never know unless you try." Like jumping into the water at the beach or the pool.  Most of us do eventually learn to swim.
     Our eight year old granddaughter sets a fine example of confronting her fears, assigning herself, step by step, to overcome:...recently, being new at her school this year, going to sleep in a room by herself at grandparents' house.  I admire that purposefulness.  She and her mother, my marathon-running daughter, inspire me anew, to take the leap, to persist, to review, revise, finalize and offer my writing for publication as opposed to just obsessing over it,  inspire me   to follow through.  Which reflects a root of my procrastination, a fear of closure, of being done,  and/or of not being well done, of missing something.  Like that sentence...I really should be able to articulate that ' 
       The question remains: What AM I afraid of in regards to 'taking my writing to the next level'?  Is it as simple as fear of being interrupted, of having another thought intrude on another very good one which is begging to be written down?  Is it fear of criticism or disparagement, esp. by spouse?  Is it worry that I'm spending precious time on work that doesn't seem to be serving any 'useful' purpose when there are household and relationship tasks I 'should' be working on?  Maybe it's just fear of the dark, reluctance to 'put myself out there.'
     At any rate, I am working on the 'resolute' part of it.  Taking at least one small step a day, and chocolate, are good incentives to go farther...Assigning myself this 30 day journal writing challenge at least results in practice, habituating myself to discipline, lack of which I have spent far too much time lamenting and little enough time battling.

Monday, August 25, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 24: Surrender in two senses of the word.

Day 24's 'inspiration ' quotes Rilke on the rootedness that would occur should we 'surrender to earth's intelligence.'  Do we allow ourselves to be rooted in/harmonious with, nature, the physical world outside us, attend to the food and chemical balance inside us?  How many of our ills would not even occur, were we so in tune.
Then LIsa suggests thinking of the effects of surrendering, in the sense of giving up, something. and imagining the result.  Not the same story as para. one, but a good thought to think, nonetheless! If I gave up procrastination, that ought to be the key to getting places on time.  No excuse, you will say, but I lack the 'wiring' to plan and participate in periods of transition.  When I think of 'the next thing,' I visualize already being into whatever it is, rather than the simple concrete steps I need, or I need/need to request help with, to get there, almost as if I expect those steps to take care of themselves. If I 'gave up" lateness, (oops, stated as a desired result, though: learned to be prompt ) I would be more grounded in groups and the agenda of whatever was going on with them/it at a given time and place...conversations, movies, church service (where the confession of sins, for instance, a central practice in our worship, comes fairly near the beginning of the order of worship)...
So let me do, by the grace of God!

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 23:

Dazzle...what dazzles me?  Why am I, this day, not particularly interested in dazzle?  ' Recently read an admonition for those who just want a little break and not really to stay up: not to turn on too much light when getting up in the middle of the night, because it triggers an awakeness.  Razzle.dazzle?!

'Reminds me of Emily Dickenson's poem, "Tell all the truth."  (Is it about writing, or communication in general?  Literally or figuratively?)  It speaks for me as well as itself:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind. 

                   -Emily DIckenson

Dazzle enough for this wee hours writing break...It's back to bed for me now, have a great day!-

30 Day Journal Challenge, Days 21 and 22: Returning to the nitty gritty


For 'inspiration' Lisa today shares a message seen painted on a wall in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico:
     Ricuerda quien eres - Remember who you are.

Ooh, now this could mean to look at the positives or the negatives. Could one just be the yin of the other's yang?  Okay, now we're getting around to another view of 'root.'  What is/are the roots of my procrastination, tendency toward impulsiveness, frequent failures to recognize how I would, could, and 'should' come across to others--visually, aurally, and in print, and failures to follow through?

This question is parallel to today's prompt:  to name and let go of a limiting self-definition,  turn it around by asserting something I want to do and/or be. Teacher/mother/self, I seem to have been both endowed with and intentional about having a positive attitude.  Looking back over the years, however, I've noticed this attitude eroding in how I view myself and my abilities, self-doubts arising from complaints and criticisms of and by me gradually taking over.  

But having recognized a problem is the first step toward 'solving' it.  By the grace of God, time and space open up in a new way after retirement from a career of teaching and years of child-raising and family responsibilities.  On the one hand, there's never enough time.  The nitty gritty of daily tasks remain: self care, meals, dishes, laundry.  On the other hand, these can be moments of stillness and awareness where one has to/is allowed to take a step back and look at what's happened, what's happening.  Even the simple act of washing one's hands, or the dishes, can be calming times of meditation.

"State desired results," I admonish others in distress.  Renewed positive thinking, the desired result. "Every day is a new beginning," I tell my children and friends seeking a shoulder to lean on. I realize anew that the same is true for me.

My own process of renewal is inevitably energized by returning to the roots of my faith journey. Chronic lateness is pulled up short by the need to join worship in a community that meets at a certain time and place, a community that begins its weekly meeting with a joint confession of shortcomings by nature and by intention, along with an affirmation of the unwavering love and forgiveness of God.

What poetry, what truth, comfort, relief, actually, in uttering those familiar words in corporate admission to our common humanity:  "We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.  We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  We have not loved You with our whole heart.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.  Amen.

...and the 'comfortable words' of the pastor's statement of God's forgiveness:  

Almighty God, in His mercy, has given His Son to die for us, and for His sake forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


My desire is to tap into that love and forgiveness, to receive, celebrate, anew, every day.  Familiar verses from scripture and a lifetime of hymn-singing rise up to reinforce me when desire or attention flag. Today:  "New every morning is Thy love, my waking and uprising prove." 

My prayer is that what I write will reflect that.  Strength and confidence in everyday terms.  Peace.

These thoughts seem inevitably tied to the prompt of the 22nd:  Stillness...  We need it.  
Scripture puts it in even stronger terms:  "In returning and rest ye shall be saved..."  Isaiah 30:16.
I wonder whether this speaks to the reader as it does to me.  Or is the meaning only clear when and for whom it is the right time. And/or willing.  Never mind the negatives, I am a beloved child of God.  And so are you.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 20: I'm glad that I am me.

"I'm glad that I am me, that's who I want to be;
though there are changes I must make,
I'm glad that I am me..." So goes verse one of a kindergarten social studies song, which goes on to say that acting like someone else is foolish.

Today's challenge, a greeting card verse by Lisa herself, is to "Enjoy your presence."
One of the prompts is to tell what I enjoy of my 'gifts.'
...
Still fussing over Lisa Sonora's 30-day journal exercise as being excessively self-serving, I remember that that was the point...getting at the root of what is freeing and creative; I suppose it makes sense that, if I am going to be rooted, the root needs to reside in and with me. I recall old Shakespeare's line, "To thine own self be true'  Thence it follows, sure as night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.*  "Physician heal thyself." The airlines' admonition to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.   And the 'gifts' idea, of course, is very Biblical, so I am familiar with that.

OK, Lisa, I'm 'in.' Vis: Health limitations notwithstanding (and I work on renewing that, too) I am:

Music, singing, speaking, reading aloud, reading poetry aloud esp., cooking, washing dishes, laundry, listening to someone who needs/craves an ear, speaking a word of peace, driving for clarification of meaning, writing, reading to/talking with little children, teaching little children to read and /or write/journal..."These are a few of my favorite things."  Oh, and did I say potatoes?  I eschew the 'faves' question, but I really like spuds.
;-).

In terms of freeing the creative spirit, the intention of this month of journal challenges, I do deal with it from time to time, have done for years, sometimes for a dedicated time and space, solo or with others,  most recently a study group of the book EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY, by Peter Scazzero.  A tour de force of spiritual practices, good for anybody, but requiring truth and 'grit' to do that kind of work.

______________
*(LOL; to another man-term maxim I share with my seven year-old granddaughter today, she immediately responds, "But we're not men, we're girls." Gotta love it! How times have changed.  I explain to her about the archaic usage, where 'men' is used to refer to all humans.  She is nonplussed.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Days 18-19 Sorry

Here we are on the 20th, working on the entry for the 19th...a not uncommon delay...but hey, I'm working on it!

A flash storm swept through town, suddenly all the appliances shut down, and writing time got swallowed up in the panic and drama (isn't that what sturm and drang means?) of getting the circuit boxes checked, flipped and flipped again until everything was back on, relieving anxious moments imagining what might have to be done with thawing food in the event that things did not work out.

But the frig was evidently the (or part of the) culprit.  It took more tries, and "Just one more try" by an ever helpful neighbor, to get it going.  So the fix is only temporary..we've been knowing for some time that the frig is singing its swan song (the freezer actually chirps when overloaded, and the light is irreparably defunct). So this is a wake-up call to get busy and look for a new frig again ('went through this last year and abandoned it for other pursuits when the chosen model didn't fit the space), this time concluding with a purchase that works for us...in both senses of the term.

And then there will be bonding time with whoever is willing to accept wilted/wilting food when we empty this one out in anticipation of the new one.  Affirmation of neighborliness, frig re-started, determination to follow through on search for much needed replacement frig, reminder of need for plan B for food have been brought to mind, in all, not a bad record of results for one brief storm. Thank God for all!

Not that I'm a 'pollyanna' (one of my bff's is a real Polly), but I do believe good comes out of difficulty, if we can recognize it, and an attitude of gratitude beats dwelling on the struggle that eventually led to the good.  It may come later and in a way we don't even recognize; may God give us the grace of retrospective recognition.  'Ah, that's why that happened,' or 'If that would not have happened we may never have _____________." You fill in the blank.

All of which in a way addresses yesterday's prompt and 'inspiration' nicely, vis:

Day 18's  Inspiration:
Storms make trees take deeper roots. - Dolly Parton ,,,
The 18th's Journal Prompts: (do one, some, all, or none, as you wish)
The storm that made me stronger was…
     Because…
          I learned that…
               The gift I possess as a result is…

Admittedly, my example is simplistic compared to the nitty gritty introspection Lisa may be prompting.  But it addresses the basic attitude, which is to expect good things.  Examine things for the good.  Adknowledge them when they happen.  And be thankful. As an evangelist named Oral Roberts was fond of saying, "Expect a miracle."  And (was it?) one of the many co-queens in "The King and I" sings, "A Hundred Thousand Miracles are happening every day."  Where will I, where will you, find ours today??



Sunday, August 17, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 17: Changing the Meaning

Today’s Journal Prompts: (do one, some, all, or none, as you wish)
Think about something in your creative life that bugs you.
The thing that is bugging me about my creative life is:
The meaning I am attaching to this issue is:
What is a new meaning you could pick, that feels good? Something to try on, even just for today?
My new, feel good meaning is:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Now this is getting interesting.  Lisa suggests taking something about the creative life that bugs me,
and turning the meaning of it around.  Ok, easy: procrastination.  So much to do, so little time, and I while it away when I could be more productive, even in little snippets of time.  Turning it around:  I recall a verse learned in childhood, in Sunday School?

                                  ...only a little minute,  (actually, it's "...just a tiny, little minute.")
                                  but eternity is in it.

I looked it up on the 'net and found it's part of a longer poem by Dr. Benjamin Mays exhorting one to
make the most of life.  Really, so simple.  Tend to the minutes and the hours, the tasks, will take care
of themselves.  So I must.

And one other thing that bugs me in my so called (intended) creative life is the mound of files, notes, papers that need to be sorted before I can make sense of them, or sorted through to find the one I
need for a specific project.  Nobody else can do this, because nobody else knows all the intentions.
But, by the grace of God, just today I found someone willing to help regularize my word processing document files, another long intended task, which will be a great incentive for me to get in there and sort--one day, one minute at time, and conquer those piles so I can write without the guilty feeling
that it still has to be done 'some day.'

The meaning I seem to be attaching to this pair of issues is, I am using piles-to-be-sorted as an excuse for procrastination in developing (and completing!) old and new writing ideas and projects.

Here's my meaning-makeover for that:  Wow, I have so many wonderful ideas waiting to be used in the wonderful things I have yet to write.  What a  resource! There must be some real gems in there:
Let me at'em! A few pages every time I pass my desk will get the job done, like the tortoise...Mother gave me a Finnish glass snail once, as a joke referring to my habit of procrastination, but I will cast
the snail's lot in with the turtle, with the mantra, and add this new one:  little by little wins the race.  Turtles, snails, here I come.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

30 Day Journal Project, Day 15: "Independence Day," and Day 16, A Fond Memory

Indian Independence Day...you could say I observed it by being independent of the journal project. By the time I get around to addressing Day 16 in the wee hours of the 16th,  a painful bout of bursitis that preoccupied me on the 15th has, lordwilling,had begun to recede.

A typically both-clumsy-and-profound quotation from Rumi is Lisa's 'inspiration for today,' to the effect that, even in winter, when the tree seems 'dead,' the root is still at work.  This sentiment is repeated in a short poem by (I seem to remember it was Eve Merriam) and another one I wrote myself, to this day unsure of whether and how much I was quoting hers (or whosever it was)...but I am unable to find it or anything like it on the 'net.  Could I have written the sentiment all by myself? Now what did I name it...a frequent quandary when looking for the file of a certain poem, remembered from the text but not the title!

Serendipitously, a devotional message that I read next quotes a personal 'root' memory of my own, a golden oldie hymn I haven't heard in years: "God be with you til we meet again."  It  brings up such a palpable response that I want to share  it right away with my family, vis the following email message:

[When I see/hear/sing this song I can almost  feel warm hugs and "'bye"s
after we had all sung it at the conclusion of a get together with  friends and elders 
who made up my childhood church. Not so much reveling as just feeling that 
everything was good, everything was right with the world, for this time and place 
and would be, lord willing, until next time. 
The writer's comment at the end is a reminder not to just enjoy the blessing
(in this case, of a fond memory, the blessing of fellowship), but to pray for others (and, in
opportunities that present themselves, to play it forward...to practice and
share the hospitality and kindness we have experienced.)

Maybe that's stating the obvious.  Maybe not.  It's an affirmation of the lifestyle 
to which  we are committed. 

'Just wanted to share that -- and the love -- with you today!

Hugs, 
Mom (S)]

Roots.  Even on the difficult days, they remain.  Remembered, they give us wings.

Friday, August 15, 2014

30 Day Journal Project, Day 14: The Equivalent of "Just Do It"?

Today LIsa quotes Henry Miller, "Paint as you like and die happy."  (He painted and wrote about painting, in his journals )  Lisa's prompt challenges us/me to make my own parallel statement, i.e. _____________as I like and die happy. That 'die' part makes it look kind of stark...I find myself thinking up a list of some things and their logical results...or consequences...instead.

I'd rather simply focus on things I might do as a lark, spontaneous bit and bursts of happiness, many of which could be enumerated in the previous post about happiness (plus picking up a new and fascinating, page-turner of a book, calling a dear friend or, in contrast, someone who appears to be in need of a cheery call, baking something...which usually defaults to chocolate chip cookies, and playing hymns, children's songs, and simple versions of classical music). And then... my thoughts turn to the practice of art itself.

In high school and college, I would draw or doodle, flowers and simple designs, in the margins of a paper during  lecture.  Even now, I occasionally draw, in a burst of joy or as an intentional self-assignment in the midst of malaise, with pencil, pen, or colored markers, usually in a random journal that may or may not be the regular one...In fact, these days none is 'regular,' I seem to be in the random mode, making journal entries here and there, in whichever asynchronous journal happens to be handy.  (If an entry is put away into a random journal, will it ever surface meaningfully again? In the grand scheme of things, does it matter what I answer?)  For whom do I journal, anyway...years of sporadic or regular recitation of facts, celebrations and complaints, only now and then opening a window into the heart...)

I've been thinking lately about how I tend to skip over the instruction (i.e. study) and preparation of things, but rather tend to jum right into process itself, often with substandard or inconclusive results.  This may be something help me get 'unstuck:' I'll try making more intentional approaches to my writing through art.  Could it be the key to working through to a more thorough and satisfying conclusion? I may have been missing making a habit of what looks (!) like a very sensible practice, but it's never too late to start.

Drawing is fun.  So are a number of other art forms, but drawing is so accessible, easily begun with whatever pencil or paper are at hand.  (Deja vu:  skipping the preparation part, when you have to assemble and prepare materials for other art forms.) And the practice of letting myself go,  unconcerned about the so-called 'quality' of the writing or artistic result, can be freeing.  Lisa (and Henry and Lynn Fisher)'s idea of art to get the creative writing juices going is a good idea. Editing can come later.  ('ve heard it again and again, even believed it.  But do I let myself practice it?!

Lisa's prompt includes making a second statement: "If I gave myself permission to _____________ as I like, then _________________."  Okay, so I"ll say, "If I gave myself permission to practice art just for fun, then maybe I might become more focused, intentional, and well-polished in my writing." The latter of which is, but ever so slowly, already becoming a reality...best on days when I practice my quiet time, Bible study and reading, first thing in the morning.  Hm...let's see about adding art to that!



30 Day Journal Project, Day 13: "Recipe" for Happiness

There's a great deal beiong said, copied, told about happiness these days.  There's even a movie named "Happiness" (that I have yet to see), and the current issue of Minnesota Monthly magazine is dedicated to it.
It's not something to be defined in 25 words or less, or perhaps at all.  But here are some thoughts....
A little child.
It's that moment of satisfaction, the good feeling of knowing you are loved, willingly cared for by family, friends, caregivers, God.
It's accepting those life lessons that may be sad or hard but somehow you see that they are training sessions for helping yourself or another in times yet unseen, yet to come.
It's an ongoing discovery that life is wonder-ful, that God is good, that you are here for a purpose, that you can be the light for another person along the way.
Recipe?  I don't think so.  Recipes, perhaps. Countless.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 12: Returning and Rest


Today’s Inspiration:
"Rest is a weapon. "
— Jason Bourne said that (in A Bourne Ultimatum, by Robert Ludlum)
Today's prompt is the simplest yet, vis: what is my idea of 'rest.'  Although the quotation puts it in a rather abrasive tone, I see it as something softer,  like release, or peace.  in any case, once again, I respond with a list of some things that, for me, could be or signal rest:

The color of ripenng rice fields green
trees outside my study window, refreshing themselves in a pleasant breeze and sunshine
mini-breaks:  washing hands, sighting a butter- or dragonfly, noticing its coloration
watching distinctive flight of a bird
laughing with friend, adult or child
deep breathing
relaxing the jaw
silence
familiar noises
moonlit night
focusing on a melody
the memory of a song
isometrics and a stretch just before I sleep
a smile: mine or another's, esp a smile exchanged
remembering
caring
song
art
remembering loved ones, happy times, being loved
knowing that I am loved, blessed
a task done
a job well done
a problem solved, worry resolved
a comfortable chair
grace before meals
someone else in charge of the kitchen
the company of friends and loved ones
stopping in thought while reading a good book
a rocking chair
sitting on the porch or deck
greetings neighbors as they walk by
long end of a hug
hope
"May I help you..." when my answer is yes
Closure
      ........I could go on
knowing that

Monday, August 11, 2014

30 Day Journal Project, Day 11: What, a mess?!

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” 
 Friedrich Nietzsche

I understand the 'mess' stage of the creative process, and am sometimes flummoxed by a spouse who does not appreciate it when a project at that stage spills over (to his point, I do have a room, desk, and some counter space dedicated to me and my projects)  onto the daily schedule and the dining room table...or when company necessitates clearing that table, no matter what.

But I also know that delaying and/or allowing 'the mess' to accumulate and/or spill over, something like these sentences, can become counterproductive, the search for buried notes and the endless sifting of
notes and papers into genre and categories become overwhelming, leading to repetition of the cycle which is toss, clump, pile, sift, intend...but never getting around to closure unless a deadline looms, and even then falling prey to a glitch or failure of organization grounding the project or submission on the cusp of success.

My granddaughter just showed me a picture of her imagination, but one which might be a reminder and inspiration for me to get on with the organization necessary for being able to enjoy the satisfaction of closure.  A seamstress (unbeknownst to her, my mother was one, par excellence) is flanked by a dress form bearing a dress complete with varicolored scallops, and a towering golden heart.  A golden word
balloon says what she is thinking:  "All done!"

Lord, help me overcome my over disorganization, by your grace, lead me to a place close to my heart, where my work can enjoy completion...and let me recognize when and what that will be!

30 Day Journal Project, Day 10, What makes for 'happy'?

Today's theme is consideration of what it is that makes one happy, or what IS happiness.  Lists would be appropriate, because it depends...and because there are so many things (again, "The world is so full of a number of things..." etc.)

But I will focus on one thing that makes me happy:  Grandchildren.  More specifically at the moment, our seven year old granddaughter.  A refreshing repeat of her mother, our eldest, exponentially so. Caring, chatty, competent, purposeful, assertive, cheerful, considerate, active, athletic, artistic, musical, an all around joy.

And it looks like granddaughter number two will be the same...to watch the two of them, one six and one one year old, last summer was funniest home video material.  The six year old failed at blowing up a balloon, projecting it to fall a few feet away, instead, and provoking the baby to break out in deep throated, hearty laughter which was then shared by both.

Not to ignore our grandson, watching him mature and grow, flexing his spirit as well as mind and body.

It's a joy to see our own children grown up, productive members of society, with spouses who share their space and children and purposeful and basically happy lives.  To know them and be able to see and speak with them, to enjoy their joys and accomplishments, to spend time with them, to be able to listen to their disappointments and and be able to tell them, in faith, that this too shall pass.

"I count it all joy."  Happy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 9: Jump-starting a sense of beauty

Today Lisa issues another 'Inspiration' to get our creative juices flowing. 
First Lisa quotes Goethe:

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” 

Doesn't that seem a bit simplistic?  Or maybe it's just the start of a list of some things that inspire...but Where is relationship to at least one other person? experience of at least one hearty laugh? sit tn or go out to be part of a fine sunshiny day, ,communicate/receive  love and caring  to/from at least one other another person?
Other inspirations...a flower in a castoff kitchen jar, a short burst of rain, first glimpse of morning sunshine,
overheard conversation, call, card, or one's own thought of a long neglected friend.
A sauna, or a nursing or other nurturing , person to person relationship ,a story or poem that rings true, song of a bird, or yourself, in uninhibited song.
My second grade teacher coached our class to learn Robert Lewis Stevenson's poem,  "The world is so full of a number of things; it's a wonder that all of us shouldn't be kings.," a poem displayed on the bulletin board at the front of the room, next to the door at which  we lined up for recess, an assembly, or going home.
There's inspiration all around, if we but look.

Friday, August 8, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 8: The Root of the Matter



Lisa says she periodically asks herself , and now challenges us, to consider the meaning, the substance, the source of our rootedness.  Her journaling prompts include this one:

Tending my roots, right now looks / feels / sounds like…

Well, this week the question is particularly pertinent, because both brothers are in town to go along to the now annual "FinnFest" celebration of Finnishness, this year being held in downtown Minneapolis (among several dispersed special exhibit lsocations...museums, etc.).  Displays, performances and a 'tori' (marketplace) are all designed to connect us to our Finnish roots. 

So, tending my roots right now looks/feels/and sounds like the sounds of grandmother and childhood, music and conviviality ranging from subtle to boisterous, confident women and creative types of every genre, easy going camaraderie, creativity and variable degrees of organization (heard it said today that this, the fifteenth, is the least organized FinnFest yet, and indeed it's taken me hours to navigate the information I need to make informed program choices from the official fest booklet), people that look familiar (The women are strong...I see only one person with a walker, comparable to my arthritis ridden sisterinlaw and me, and many of the men are good looking in a sturdy and relaxed Scandinavian sort of way) and speak in familiar accents, rushing memories of visits to grandmother (both grandmothers, really, though only one was Finnish), recollections of mother and how eagerly she shepherded us to a FinnFest over a decade ago. 

We learned a brief history about Finnish immigration, were reminded of the world                                  widely acknowledged high  quality of life in several areas, heard a folk singer-songwriter who also played home made kanteles of various sizes, a concertina- and accordian-playing humorist (Finnish humor is often so subtle one might miss it altogether...a sort of self-deprecating, bogus mix of running commentary and one-offs), singing groups and eclectic bands maximizing the use of scales in minor key,, and began checking out the Tori (Marketplace) booths.

I met writers...a poet on a grant for creative book arts, a painter thrilled at having her own new gallery in a suburb, the editor of a Finnish-American newspaper, a bookseller of
Finnish literature for all ages, a promoter of the Finnish Foundation, among other artists
artisans and craftspeople.  I'm eager to go back tomorrow, to extend these conversations and meet still other fellow (and GAL) Finns. 

The Finns are a creative people, and I'm proud to call myself one of them. This exposure reminds me of my roots in this culture (both maternal grandparents were Finnish immigrants), and the high standard to which I rightfully aspire, inspires me to re-connect with my FInnish heritage, connect and continue to explore my art (writing, singing) alone and in the company of peers, today's new friends, perhaps. the.possibilities.that continue to invite me, luota = TRUST (the 'touchstone' word I grab, not looking, from the artist's basket of small, blue and white painted stones.)  I trust that this is where I need to be, and what I need to nourish my spirit, this week, now, now, now....

What does this all say about me, about Shirley's identity.  I will continue to explore. 
 Another hour, and did I even get to the heart of the matter...will I ever?!  Good night.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 7, What does this mean?

Lisa's inspirational quote today is simple:  Go gently. 

I choose the simplest one of her prompts on that theme: 'Going gently, for me, means...'

My immediate thought is, someone famous has said something intriguing on that subject, and I look it up.  It's a Dylan Thomas poem that begins:

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."  (
quoted in the spirit of fair use)

It is Dylan Thomas, who reportedly wrote this in a villanelle, written as his father lay dying, a poem that says to me it's ok to be angry about faculties declining as one nears the end of life.  An exhortation to push back against death...an analogy, at least in my mind, to the way outdoor flowers seem to bloom their hearts out as the summer ends, and fall sets in in earnest.  Or is it an intense, urgent encouragement -- to give it your all, not give up, never say die?

While that's not exactlyl what going gently for me means, I could definitely imagine a gentler way of dying, of helping a person live through their last minutes.  Gently asking about pain, about soothing, about kind memories and soft singing, favorite songs, happy, peaceful memories shared, scripture, song...a hug or a chip of ice...the presence of someone who cares...

Or going gently might simply mean tiptoeing around a nearly-sleeping baby, turning the radio or tv down when others are otherwise engaged nearby.  Saying, Let me help you with that, or presenting flowers or an unexpected gift, thinking before speaking, slipping into a seat at church in the last minute, walking back to the pew after communion...Sitting still to listen, look, be mindful of whatever is nearby in time of space: silence, people, art, music, wind in trees, shadows on buildings, shapes and colors of plant and flower, song and swoop of bird.. Thinking before speaking.  Going gently....



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 6, Oh, well, hm, I guess I can do THAAAT....

By now we (I-me? Distraction number one, thinking about doing instead of doing! I should use an 'I', really) can see that this month is about motivating one's writer self to 'move off the dime.'  Yep, by yesterday I was telling myself, 'You know, Shirley, probably the biggest problem is procrastination.  So instead of wringing hands over it, you need to name and tame it, and the things that distract, and get over it/them (or, most probably, the right phrasing is, get over yourself.)

The inspiration Lisa quotes today is by Leonard Cohen:

“Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.”

 Hm, why am I referring to myself with the editorial 'we' so often these days. Instead of over analyzing (distraction number one again), what's interesting about that, let me rather make a plan and move forward.

Distraction number two, a close relative of number one:  perfectionism.  Come on, admit it, how many of us can be first, best, every time?  And who is going to notice the little flaws and scratches one tries so desperately to hide or deny? Get over it!  Move ahead!

Let us, okay, let me let some light in:  I choose to answer today's challenge to
Make a list of 10 things that you can offer right now, imperfectly. 
Yeaaaah, I guess I can do that!  Things I can do imperfectly include:

meet my husband's expectations
bolster the self concept and attitude of my children and Grandchildren
make chocolate chip cookies
remember family and close friend's birthdays.
speak Telugu
publish my writings online.
walk comfortably
keep in touch with friends
visit or gift someone with time, food, a book, companionship for an hour or two
wake up on time
get enough sleep
papercutting art

Ohhh, can I ever do that!!?!  I could go on and on.  But I"ll stop for now, and make an imperfect attempt to do some of today's cooking before family come for a five day visit, and be thankful.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 5, Turning It Outward

Hmmm, all of this so far seems rather self-serving.  Today's inspiration and prompts by Lisa ask what I am committed to,  As I look at who and what feed my spirit, I see an embarrassment of riches.This week I came across a note from a study I did several years ago, using Julia Cameron's book THE ARTIST'S WAY, in which note I shared some of the things that inspire and delight me: (to be added here)

And of course people have especially enriched, empowered, encouraged, and enabled me along the way.  At the risk of omitting a great many of them, notable are my parents, my grandmothers, Sister Placid, a Latin teacher, a missionary met at Bible Camp, my high school music teacher, bff girl friends in high school, college and among my teacher (career) friends, a pianist, a social worker, Mother Theresa, Jesus and his friends, a retired school principal, students, neighbors and friends at church, parents' friends. international friends, a nephew, my husband and children and grandchildren,  a volunteer counselor, a change mentor, writing instructors, mentors and peers.  From time to time I have listed these friends and encouragers in more detail, sometimes in a prayer list, often naming them in meditating on the formative influences in my life, always thankful to God for them.

And now Lisa suggests enlisting an 'advisory' group composed mostly of artists, musicians, and _____  This I have done, several years ago.  Although only a few consider themselves creatives, they all possess a certain appreciation and zest for life as it is lived, and actively relate to and encourage others.  We do not meet as a formal entity, and few of them know each other.  But they hold me to the intentions I have expressed to them
with listening ears, periodic checks on whether/how I am working on goals, and/or showing an interest in my process and/or 'products.'

I am truly blessed, and thankful for each of these people and more.  As I said, an embarrassment of riches of friendship and encouragement along life's way.  Recalling them requires examining myself.  Do my efforts deserve all this affirmation. Do I give them feedback. Do I do my part in response. THAT's what my mission in life appears to be:  to encourage, affirm, and model a positive attitude toward life and people. In regard to journalling (and hundreds of poems, a handful of essays, and nascent play and memoir), the big question is, does my writing do that???  Let me re-examine and turn outward (shape and share) what I can.

And am I overdoing this journalling...this page has taken over an hour...Is it the best use of my time?  I hope it has at least refreshed my mind and my thinking...

Monday, August 4, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 4: Where am I going and how do I get there?

Hmm, I thought Lisa would ease us into 'practice' by tossing out situational anecdote starters, and we would be off on a storytelling lark.  Journal.  Storytelling.  What's the difference?  One could tell stories in a journal, if those stories are the thoughts-of-the day, but the focus of a journal, if one can generalize--given what follows in this sentence--is more of, like, what-I-think-today, right?

Today's prompt starts with an Inspirational quotation:
“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”  (Kurt Vonnegut said that.)  followed by several prompts, of which I choose the sentence starter, "It makes my soul grow by…"
which pretty much answers my questions, where am I going and how do I get there?  I never thought of it in Vonnegut's terms, but I do know that writing makes my spirit soar...even when I'm writing schlock or drang (I think that's the word, for woe).  I always 'get into it', and time disappears (as my spouse and children will no doubt vouch.)  So, yes, I aim to feed or debrief my spirit, and I must agree, despite my irregular practice of it, that the practice of writing is one important way of accomplishing that. (Other ways that work for me are song, time with family, helping others, reading, walking and talking with good friends, and, most importantly, worship.) (and even the mundane, when it 'clicks': cooking, and laundry )

And so yes to spirit, yes to writing, yes to the practice of writing.  Even badly...which I think my babbling in these first four days of the challenge has been.  Skills and routines can become rusty; I know mine have.
On the one hand these four days seem like a spinning of wheels, i.e. going over and over the same, in fact a priori, discussion about the value of , and my intentions for, keeping a daily journal.  On the other hand, I acknowledge that  stating one's intentions, especially when sharing that statement with others, provides a stronger motivation to keep on going.  Momentum. Keeping this blog alive. And having done it every day proves that it has, and can be done.  All of which feeds the spirit,  Yes, I can.

So let me do.