Not so much.

Last weekend I attended a writing retreat. Three days of prayer and a choose your own writing adventure retreat.

It was wonderful.

This was the second year of a January weekend writing retreat, although I’ve gone to two other retreats with this director, and they are all special in their own ways. Last weekend was also very unusual. It was entirely on Zoom, and while that sounds daunting, it was nothing but fantastic all around. I think we’ve all adapted nicely to our technological advancements during these pandemic times.

On the very last morning, our subject was inspirational writing.

As it happened, prior to the weekend, I had been trying to write a reflection on the insurrection at the Capitol the week before, and it just wouldn’t come out. I’ve been told in previous writing classes that for the free write, if you can’t think of anything, just start writing. Something will come.

So that’s what I did, and I thought I would share it with you as we begin another weekend in a new era of this new full-of-potential year.

Inspiration writing is hard.

How do I conjure just the right balance of motivation, spirituality, and reflection on any given topic?

Am I supposed to inspire you?

Tell you what I find inspirational?

Be more subtle than that?

Johnny-on-the-spot and the spot is quicksand.

I made breakfast. It was terrible. Except the tea. The tea was good.

It’s cold now.

Nano Update


I took a field trip today and went to my first write-in, met another writer, a lovely woman working on her novel. She led me in twenty minute writing spurts over an hour and a half, which was great; I got a lot done: over 1700 words!

My total for this year’s Nano so far is 2334, which isn’t good, but it’s two thousand more words than I had on November 1st, so tally ho!

Every day is a new day to start again.



This was in response to a free write for the prompt scent in the theme of comfort. In other words, write about a scent that gives you comfort.

​I would not have expected to be writing about incense being a comforting scent. I was never a fan of incense. Perhaps, it was the specific scents that I was exposed to. Perhaps, it was Allan, who lived across the hall from me in my first year in college who used it to mask his pot smoking. At the time, I was so naive that I didn’t realize that’s what it was for. I thought he was just kind of dopey and laid back, and the incense was just him being a late blooming hippie.

Either way, the smell of it was enough to put me off both pot and incense.

When I visited church for the first time that they used incense was probably around Advent, maybe Christmas Eve. I remember the sounds of that day more than I remember the smells. Our music director is an amazing musician, and it is a joy to listen to his carols before the Christmas Eve Mass. I don’t know if there was incense that night, but I know that it’s been there as the liturgical season warranted.

Every Tuesday, the Host is incensed and a hymn is sung before adoration. I try to watch the smoke rise until it dissipates on its way to the skylight. I try ot make sense of the shapes it makes and the directions it flows in, but usually it just goes, and I continue to meditate on it.

After the Mass of Christian burial, the casket is incensed on its way out of the church to the burial or interment. 

The incense is carried in a bowl through the church during the Sunday procession during Lent. I know it is offered up with a solemn hymn that just touches me deeply. The whole process of the incense rising, the low singing of the prayer, the hush that falls over everything. It is very similar at Advent.

During one of the RCIA rites, I was standing in the back with the other catechumens while we waited together for our time to bring our oils to the altar. It may have been the rite of welcome, or perhaps, during the Holy Thursday Mass. I can’t remember at the moment, but I do remember looking to the front of the church where the incense was being carried, and i distinctly saw the smoke rise and form the shape of a Jewish Star of David. It was one of many signs that I received that I was making the right decision to go down the path of conversion.

While at first, the smell bothered me, the more I became engrossed in the Catholic liturgy and ritual, the more comfortable I became with the scents and the smells of the church and the incense.

I would not expect it during a service, and then I would smell it, and a warmth would come over me, a comfort, and it reminded me of what I found in the church, but not so much in the building but in the pews.

As we are often told, we are the church, and I find a small part of myself floating through the air along with the incense.



It’s a little bit funny that joy is the first prompt of this season’s memoir writing free-write. I am in  the middle of reading both James Martin’s book, Between Heaven & Mirth and Pope Francis’ most recent exhortation, The Joy of Love. I swear if he uses the word conjugal one more time, I will throw my Kindle from a window.

Joy is one of those words that I look at as somewhat old-fashioned. I can be happy, fun, excited, well, good, but joy sounds like it means harp-playing angels and arrow-twanging cupids.

There are also certain words that I hear in certain voices and joy is one of them. Whenever I hear the word joy in my head, it is in Mira Furlan’s voice. She is a Czech actress who played the Minbari ambassador in the Babylon 5 television series. There’s nothing particularly special about the way she says it, but it’s been the way I hear that word since her narration of the opening. Without knowing it, she layers it with context, emotion, and meaning. My priest always welcomes new people with “great joy” and the first time he said it I flashed to the sound of Mira’s voice from twenty-five or so years ago.

Despite my current readings, I am neither joyful nor mirthful. I’m subdued, and joy is not subdued. I think joy happens in retrospect; as a memory of something too wonderful for mere words.

Joy is substance, joy is flavor, joy is the smell of rain, and the tweet of the 5am birdies. It’s the glow of the moon on my face or my hand when I reach towards the window in the night. Joy is your sleeping child or running unexpectedly into a friend during errands. Joy is my lilac tree in the yard and the smell of hyacinth.

Where do you find your joy?

Prompt – Joy


This was supposed to be posted on Friday, but with Prince’s unexpected death and the beginning of Passover, I delayed it until this morning. Future prompts will appear on Fridays.

Now that my writing class has started up again, I’m going to share our prompts with you and hopefully encourage you to do your own free writes. Remember that free writes are ten to fifteen minutes of stream of consciousness writing related to the prompt. I sometimes call it spewing. We all have our words for things.

The class is six weeks, but with homework this prompt exercise should go on for about twelve weeks.

Share your writings by linking them in the comments.

Our theme for these next few weeks is Emotions.

Today’s prompt begins with Joy.

Have fun!




This is a rock from Dolwyddelan Castle and a leaf from Colonial Williamsburg.

My favorite flower is the Daffodil. I don’t have it so much anymore, but my living room used to be decorated with all kinds of daffodils, pictures, paintings, live flowers in the spring. When we moved, it turned out that we decorated with pictures of our kids. Now that I’m typing it out, maybe I can add some of those pictures.

In four weeks is one of my annual ‘pilgrimages’. We have a garden and flower show. I try to take the Friday as my day and spend it at the flower show. Friday is usually the least crowded of the days, although they’ve started having some school groups visit on Friday. The admission benefits a local developmental disability organization for kids.

There’s always a theme and I usually post pictures afterwards, sometimes from my phone in the bleachers of the show. They’ve had themes of fairy tales, Harry Potter, water, English garden, and different landscape businesses show off their talents. It’s a good way for them to get some added business; gardeners get some ideas for their home gardens. They have workshops to help the amateur gardener get their house and gardens summer ready. In recent years, the Cornell Cooperative Extension has had cooking demonstrations using freshly grown vegetables and fruits. It’s all about the gardens.

I usually wander through the vendor area, picking up freebies, trying jams and dips, sauces and oils, getting ideas for cooking. I try to avoid buying anything because other than admission and lunch if I don’t bring it, I try to have a no/low-cost day.

After my time through the vendor area, I take my first look at the flower displays. It is always cool in the gym and all of the flowers’ scents blend to create this wonderful outdoorsy feeling. I take a few pictures and take a quick look through, and then I climb into the bleachers with a drink and a snack and write.

I journal, I do prompts, I make lists. Sometimes, I make a couple of phone calls if I want to share my day with people, but more likely I enjoy my quiet time and plan out other writing assignments. This year, the show falls right in the middle of Lent, so I won’t be able to have my favorite Diet Coke. I’ll try to manage on water. It’s also Friday, so McDonald’s cheeseburgers will be out of the question. That’s okay. There’s a little café at the show, and they sell salads. I imagine that I’ll be thinking a lot on my upcoming sacraments. Pretty sure the weekend is almost exactly halfway between my Rite of the Elect and the Easter Vigil. I do plan on writing a bit more about faith and my faith journey in particular. I’ve been asked to write a guest piece for my church’s blog about my studies on the way to becoming Catholic. And really nothing helps a faith journey like a visit to nature, even if it’s manufactured in the gym of the community college.

There is a feeling of otherworldliness and faith in nature, even in this display of climate controlled nature. The sights and the smells are the same and when you close your eyes, the coolness of the circulating air is a breeze through the leaves and when they flutter down, they are magic until they land on the damp, dewy ground and if you pick it up, you can take a little bit of that magic with you.

Free Write: Prompt: A Footprint You Find in an Odd Spot


My eight year old son has been a little crazy for Bigfoot lately. Every Sunday, he stays up until 11pm to watch the Animal Planet show, Finding Bigfoot. He has a notebook, and he takes notes on their expeditions, takes photos off of the TV with his camera, and has a team meeting in school with the other Bigfoot enthusiasts during lunch recess. They think there’s a Bigfoot hiding/living in the woods adjacent to their school.

The other day, well, let me say that I am a mythology fan-girl. My favorite animal is a griffin, and I’ve stopped apologizing for it. I do get strange looks, but I can’t help it. I love them. They’re strong and elegant and beautiful.

I also have a thing for Celts. Any and all, so when my son thought he was being very scientific when he stated what was obvious to him, he never expected Mom’s reaction which was pure disbelief that I’d raised such a heathen.

His statement?

He said (and keep in mind, he said this in an incredulous condescending, how could they be so stupid as to think way) that while Bigfoot was real – there were pictures and expeditions and look at the evidence – the Loch Ness Monster wasn’t real.

For one thing, it was a monster. For another thing, there were no pictures. For a third thing, as he turned up his nose, there’s no such thing. But Bigfoot….well, they were everywhere.

Sasquatch in Canada.

Yowie in Australia.

They didn’t eat cows, though. Do you know why? Cows belong to people and if they ate people’s cows, people would notice and hunt them. Makes sense.

There were no applicable legends or sightings related to the Loch Ness Monster.

I was appalled to say the least.

Every Sunday, he takes out his notebook; he adds the episode title to his list of episodes. I believe there are also numbers and dates, and he does this during the day with the onscreen cable guide so he doesn’t waste any time while the episode is on.

He is very organized.

I love to see his excitement. I was reminded this morning of my own ‘obsessions’ from my childhood. I loved detective stories and television shows. I used to watch Remington Steele, Moonlighting and when I was very young, The Rockford Files.

I wanted to be a detective. In the case of Jim Rockford, I wanted to drive a Camaro and live in a trailer, just not on the beach. I kept notebooks, and notes and quotations, and more than anything I think that is what influenced my longing to be a writer more than anything else. Those detective stories were the best and pushed my imagination further and further out and the notebooks gave me a place to store all of those dreams even if they weren’t called dreams.

And I see so much of that in my son. The enjoyment he gets from the show, from the mystery, from the note-taking and the investigation, the excitement of being part of something that is both on television, in real life and at school as he researches and discusses and extrapolates with his friends.