Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Creative Call - Week 3 - The Cat

"In the morning O Lord you hear my voice, in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:3

I am three weeks into a creative writing study from the book, The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer. The book is similar to Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, but the spiritual focus of the exercises is Christian. Like The Artist's Way, the book calls for morning writing. Twenty minutes of writing in your "artist's daybook", first thing in the morning. I tried The Artist's Way years ago, but could never get past the morning pages. Of course, almost every book on writing promotes morning writing, and almost every book on prayer and bible study promotes spending time first thing upon rising in prayer.

I'm not a morning person, but I was determined to take a good stab at this so I took a hard look at my morning routine and how I could rearrange it. See, it's not so much the getting up in the morning to write that I balk at, it's trying to fit that in when I also have to go to work. With a little adjusting to my routine, I've found I only have to get up about 10 mins earlier than I was and I can fit the 20 minutes of writing in. I'm enjoying the quiet time, with morning cup of tea, pouring myself onto paper. It's not quality writing - it alternates from journaling, to prayer, to recording dreams of the previous evening, to dumping out anxieties - but quality writing is not the point of morning pages. Spending time with God, expressed through writing is. The twenty minutes fly by all too quickly.

The first week of writing, much to my chagrin, the entire household seemed to decide to get up earlier as well and I found myself with more company while trying to write. I'm protective of my alone time, so I was a bit resentful of these interruptions and a bit exasperated (how am I going to write if I can't get time to myself?) but thankfully they seemed to have settled back to their usual routine and I once again have quiet.

I am though, only in to week three. And the Lord knows me all too well. It is all too tempting, especially as I near the end of the week, to stay in bed an extra few minutes. Exhaustion always creeps up to me by Friday, so what starts out well on Monday usually falls apart by weeks end. To combat this, the Lord seems to have found a willing ally and partner in none other than my cat. At precisely six each morning, the cat begins to meow and scratch the rug, and meow some more, and jump on the bed and stare into my face, and disturb the dog so that he starts whining until I have no choice but to get up, feed him and let the dog out. Now I know the cat is but a creature of habit and routine, and just expects to be fed at the same time each morning and since I started this three weeks ago, he expects me to keep it up. However, I can't help but imagine God, knowing I'm tempted to keep sleeping, whispering into the cat's ear, "It's time. Wake her up. Do whatever you need to, but keep it up until she gets out of bed." I imagine He's smiling each morning, as I groan and stumble out of bed and downstairs to meet him between the pages of my artist's daybook.

In the morning O Lord you hear my voice. Sometimes that voice is grumpy, sometimes exhausted, sometimes excited to share my dreams with you but always the voice is confident that you are listening. * o

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Embracing Serafina

It's snowing out again, and the wind is howling. But I am warm and cozy and lately have been travelling through Europe.

How so? I've been immersed in a 603 page tome, "Embracing Serafina" by Penny Petrone. It's part memoir, part journey of self-discovery. And a great travelogue of Petrone's adventures.

I, who can find a dozen reasons to not even venture to the city in winter, am in awe of this woman's sense of courage and adventure. She often travelled alone, not something done by most women in the late 1950's.

Last summer I was signed up to take a memoir writing workshop taught by Dr. Penny Petrone. It was evident from the promo material that she was a well known author and teacher in the area. I was, as is common for me, oblivous to this fact and signed up for the workshop because it looked promising.

A few days before the workshop, Penny passed away. Her funeral was the day of the workshop. The class was taught by another excellent writer, and friend of Penny's, but it was evident from the memories and stories shared about her that day that she had indeed been an awesome woman. I found myself wistfully wishing I'd had the chance to meet her.

"Embracing Serafina" was given as a gift to those of us attending the workshop in honor of Penny's memory. This gift has been my opportunity to discover the woman who wrote it. To travel, to journey, to dream, to vicariously share her adventure. Her vivacious eyes sparkle from the photos within the pages. She must have indeed been a fascinating woman.

Fate may have cheated me the opportunity to meet her, but I am ever so grateful for writers who leave pieces of their soul forever bound in black ink between the pages of a book.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Penny and I are off to Egypt. * o

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Writing Contest

My friend Georgia Richardson (aka Queen JawJaw) has a new writing contest going on over at her website, here's the details:

St. Valentine’s Day Writing Contest

Give us your tired, your poor, your best St. Valentine’s Day Funny, Weird, Spooky, or Crazy story (No tear-jerkers, please!)

Visit my homepage at www.queenjawjaw.com for the rules, guidelines, AND a list of prizes.

Remember, you MUST BE SIGNED UP on my homepage (sign up at the ALL THINGS ROYAL button on the front page or the CONTACTS page) to be eligible to enter.

Good Luck, and may the best brib---ahh...I mean story win!

Somehow, I don't think she's looking for sweet and syrupy, do you?? * o

Discovering Rachmaninov

A few years ago someone commented to me that Rachmaninov was their favorite composer. I buried that comment in my subconscious until recently when I came across a CD of his Piano Concerto No. 2 and 3 and decided to buy it.

I thought I'd never heard his music before, but it was about halfway through Piano Concerto No. 2 that it became hauntingly familiar. I started humming to the music and then I recognized it and out came the words "when I was young, I never needed anyone, and makin' love was just for fun, those days are gone"....yup, it was "All by Myself" by Eric Carmen. As a teenager, I wore that eight-track out (I know, dating myself here - eight-track???). I loved that song. The words were sappy but the melody stuck. There was a piano solo in there that was my favorite part. Little did I know, I was loving Rachmaninov back then.

Of course, the original concerto is so much better and richer. I can't play piano, but if I could I would want to play this. I could get lost in it's sweet melancholy erupting into passionate chords for hours.

Now, if I could just Eric Carmen's voice out of my head! * o

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Cats Do it Better

I love cats, I confess (sorry, Trixie). Which is why I'm thrilled that this month's free book giveaway at Pink Jasper, is a copy of "Cats Do it Better Than People", an anthology compiled by Theresa Mancuso. Cat's do what better, you ask? You'll have to check out the book for the answer to that!

Entering the draw is easy - send an email to pinkjasper@mac.com, and put "Contest Entry" in the subject line. Presto - you're entered! Along with a copy of the book, you can win some delightful souvenirs from Yorkshire, England courtesy of my friend and fellow writer, Jackie Brooks.

Mention my tabby cat, Salem, in your email and you'll get two entries in the draw - doubling your chances to win!

Meow and good luck!

(Shameless plug - while you are checking out the contest details at the Pink Jasper website, why not check out our book "Pink Jasper - Gems from the Journey"? Stories of faith, hope, love, grief and healing - there's something in this book everyone can relate to) * o

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Year in Review - Journal Entries - Part 2

..more gleanings from the journal...sort of like mini-blogs I never got around to posting..

August 4/05
Cool and rainy this morning. Scripture verse from this morning's reading: "my grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness". Problems don't go away but God gives us the grace to deal with any situation. I feel I need this verse to help me sort out the direction I want to go in my spiritual journey and to give me strength to stay the course.

August 15/05
Had a weird dream last night about an empty house that no one wanted to go in because there was a cougar in it. I walked in and picked up the cougar and was holding it in my arms. I knew it wasn't wild and had actually been raised in captivity.

August 27/05
I'm sitting in Gargoyle's restaurant at the moment having just completed the first workshop of the writers conference - the journaling workshop. It was great. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the writing exercises and the experience of reading some of my writing aloud. It was easier to do then I thought and very freeing.

September 4/05
I often find myself fighting jealousy when I see someone else published or saying they write. I think sometimes that comes from a lack of self-confidence. I feel my writing is inferior or I'm never going to write anything good. I'm finding I work best through my envy by becoming more supportive of a fellow writer - buy their book, encourage and promote, share info. I'm realizing we all have our own stories, talents and gifts and we need to encourage each other, especially in a small town.

October 10/05
A beautiful Monday morning - sunny, clear blue skies, cool, but the perfect fall day. I'm just having my second cup of tea before starting my routine and tidying things up before the boys get home.

October 23/05
In the videotaped sermon at church today, the Episcopal Bishop whose name I can't remember said that we come to church to give ourselves as an offering at the altar and this pleases God. We don't come to church for what we get out of it but to have relationship with God and offer ourselves to Him. And God, who has everything He needs, is pleased by this.

November 13/05
It's dark, wet, windy and rainy this morning. John and the boys are in Stratton this weekend and supposed to be coming home today. There is a winter storm warning out, and the rain here is supposed to turn to snow, so I am filled with worry today as I pray they will arrive safely home. I barely slept last night, listening to the wind and rain. Charlie has called me each night.

November 24/05
An extremely windy, blustery crappy day today. TJ's bus was stuck behind transports that were lined up on the highway because of the closure. Charlie's had a cold all week and we've been getting up every night to steam. I'm so exhausted.

November 27/05
Friday afternoon I left work early and went to the church and did my Altar Guild. I like when I'm alone in the church and I always hope when I'm there that no one will come in so I can just have the time alone. I usually go there a little harassed and resentful, but I always leave feeling peaceful. It's like I work out all my anxieties in the polishing of the brass.

December 02/05
What a week. I've had a wicked cold. Tuesday afternoon I was sneezing so much I didn't know if I would make it through the "Author" night. Fortunately the sneezing held off during that time. I was so nervous and just feeling so inferior but I think it went well. In the van on the way there I told Charlie how nervous I was and hoped that not too many would be there, and he said "I'm there Mom" and he leaned over, patted my arm and said "and you know, Jesus will be there".

Dec 21/05
In light of everything, 2006 does not look promising and yet I feel God is asking me, "do you trust me?" Woke up the other night with this phrase going over and over in my head - "Mary said Yes, would you?" Truth is, I doubt I would have, I doubt my faith is that strong and I know that God is convicting me of that. Thankfully he is also a God of grace who will allow me to grow in that faith, to develop that strength should I choose that path. * o

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Year in Review - Journal Entries - Part 1

Here are some gleanings of the year from my journals.

Jan 2/05
TJ, after I quipped to him "Man does not live by bread alone but by every word of God", replied "God's Word is like Chinese food, you need more of it in an hour".

Jan 23/05
My baby, first born is 16 today - wow!

Feb 15/05
Prayer vigil tonight. My scripture verse was: "God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:24. While praying this image popped into my head - a raging torrent of water, a river flowing right through the middle of the church starting from the altar and going right out the door.

Feb 27/05
As I sit and write and reflect tonight I have Puccini's operas on the CD. Across the hall from me TJ is practicing guitar trying to master a ZZ Top piece and down the hall, Charlie has Hillary Duff blasting on his CD.

June 3/05
In my devotion this morning I read "the purpose of brokenness is to bring us to the point where we can say to God "Not only do I need You, but You are all I need", generally it is some area of pride in life that needs to be broken. I have felt spiritually broken lately but have I leaned on God enough? trusted Him?

July 13/05
Need I even mention it's hot again today? You can smell the heat in the air. 20th anniversary today. At supper there was a beautiful bouquet of carnations from John as well as a lovely silver Italian charm bracelet with our birthstones as charms, and my name engraved on it was well as "July 13 - 1985-2005". I have the sweetest hubby.

July 16/05
Reading "Queen Power" last night, struck by the comments on being an "authentic" Queen. An authentic Queen is truthful - no lies, no gossip, no judging, no "excuses". She also knows her talents and is a good steward of them. I am struck by how often I am not authentic, especially in relationships.

More "Year in Review" tomorrow! * o

Monday, January 02, 2006

Year in Review - Books

I keep a list of the books I read throughout the year. Not sure why, other than as I get older I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday let alone all year! The book list is fun to review and ponder - I thought it might be interesting to post it here, especially if you are the type of person that is curious about what other people read. So, here's what caught my interest in 2005:

The DaVinci Code - Fact or Fiction? Hank Hanegraaff and Paul Maier
This Present Darkness - Frank Peretti
The Shy Writer - C. Hope Clark
Travels with My Lovers - Erica Miner
The Haunted Bookshop - Christoper Morley
The Habit of Hope in a Changing and Uncertain World - Bishop William Hockin
Myself When Young - Daphne DuMaurier
The China Conspiracy - p.m.terrell
It's Time to End Church Splits - Francis Frangipane
Hana's Suitcase - Karen Levine
Whence Came a Prince - Liz Curtis Higgs
Unveiling Mary Magdalene - Liz Curtis Higgs
Ear of the Wolf - James Demers
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Throne - Georgia Richardson
Grab the Queen Power - Allyn Evans
Our Father Who Art in a Tree - Judy Pascoe
The Trouble with Tulip - Mindy Starns Clark
Eagle Born to Fly - Sharon Matthies
Circus at the Edge of the Earth - Charlie Wilkins
This is the Place - Carolyn Howard Johnson
Defying Gravity - A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women - Prill Boyle
In Search of...The Real Spirit of Christmas - Dan Schaeffer

hmmm...I think there are just as many books on this list, as there are sitting in my "book basket" waiting to be read! * o

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hogmanay 2005

A salute to my Scottish roots!

From "Hogmanay.net":

What is the symbolism of fire at Hogmanay?
The flame and fire at Hogmanay symbolises many things. The bringing of the light of knowledge from one year to the next, lighting the way into the next uncharted century, putting behind you the darkness past, but carrying forward its sacred flame of hope and enlightenment to a better parish, and in this day, world.

Our New Year's Eve bonfire, pictured above. It was a beautiful evening - warm and snowy. Children and adults alike slid down the hill behind our house, or warmed up around the bonfire. The New Year was rung in with the melodic tones of a cell phone, and afterwards celebrated with a few fireworks. We said goodbye to the "old" with the burning of our Christmas tree (in hindsight, not the best idea unless you like greeting the new year with a smudge). In the flames, in our wishes, we carried forward the hope that 2006 will be a good year.

* o