Inspire. July.

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Original art. kbwriting. (c)2020

“There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical

Throughout this pandemic, I have written and arted and journaled and prayed, usually with no rhyme or reason, letting the time at home and the mood of the day take the lead.

Last week, I volunteered, but was also asked and encouraged to write something for our weekly Cursillo newsletter. Our lay director decided to start it during the pandemic to keep everyone in touch.

I was happy to do it, but it took forever to start it. I had three drafts about online retreats; just a paragraph each. I skipped two lines to try again, and then it was July 3rd.

Our day revolved around watching Hamilton on Disney+. It was the premiere and for those of us unable to see the Tony Awared winning Broadway or the traveling shows, it would be the first time to view its magnificence.

I woke my family with shouts of “It’s Hamiltime!

And that began the piece that would eventually make it into the newsletter.

It was inspired in subtle ways, and then it just came to me while sitting at the keyboard.

Inspiration is everywhere.

Let it catch you when you’re least expecting it.

Inspire. December.

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Deep Snow. But thanks to my husband and son, my driveway is clear, and thanks to our local DPW, the roads are clear. The day is mine. (c)2019

“To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.”

 –  Philip Andrew Adams

How will I make tomorrow better?

By tomorrow, I don’t mean December 4th, but tomorrow in the extisential sense. During the weekend before Thanksgiving, I attended a retreat with the theme of joy. I went into it with a low mood hanging over my head, and left a bit better. Today is even better, and tomorrow can be too. 2020 is just around the corner, and putting aside politics for mere moments (it’s hard, I know), but putting it aside a moment, there is so much that can go right in 2020, and every moment is an opportunity; every failure or perceived failure, another chance. Learn from everything. Blog. Journal. Share. We are together; never alone.

Have a blessed December whatever your beliefs are.

30 Day De-Clutter Challenge

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By the time the holidays are over, we are all in need of a good de-cluttering, whether it’s our surroundings or the inside of our heads. Last year I began to attend a workshop on organizing, downsizing, and letting go of clutter. It began for me with a weekend retreat on the same thing. It was a spiritual retreat and it really focused some things for me. I’ve committed to going to at least four to six of the monthly workshops and keep the momentum going despite not doing so well at the end of the year.

The first thing on my list is my closet and getting rid of my professional/teaching clothes that I won’t be using (not that any of them fit anymore).

One rule of thumb and piece of advice – fifteen minutes is all it takes. Take fifteen minutes and do one thing. And then do another fifteen minutes. Don’t overwhelm yourself. I started by not letting  things come into the house in the first place. One example is mail. As soon as the mail is in my hands, all of the junk goes right into the garbage.

Good luck.

I’ll check in with you in fifteen days.

Click picture to link to the source (The Hearty Soul dot com). Copyright belongs to them and the author. (c)2019

Tea Kettles

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​Our stainless steel tea kettle, which we loved, kept retaining sediment on the bottom as well as the inside flaking off. It was also really difficult to get it properly cleaned. Our municipal water tastes good, but it has crap in it. Once we decided to stop using it, we had been bolling our water in a saucepan for instant coffee and tea. We did this for more than a year. It’s doable, but without a lip for pouring it was sometimes messy. We finally decided this past winter to make the investment in an electric kettle. It’s not terribly expensive, but even thirty dollars just after Christmas is a budgetary stretch. My husband had been eyeing a Hamilton Beach brand; the kids thought I bought it because of my love for Lin-Manuel Miranda, but honestly, my husband picked it.

I liked it.

 I mean it worked well.

Fill it to the line with water, press the switch and wait until it flips back. No whistle, but when it was on there was a blue light. It seemed faster than the saucepan and even the stainless steel whistle blowing kettle, and he made his coffee and I steeped my tea. It lived on the counter next to the toaster as it made morning waffles or toast easier. Kind of like a breakfast nook or space like in those shelter magazines for home decor.

One day, a few weeks ago, I had a writing assignment. I knew if I left the house, I’d spend money and if I sat in my office chair, I’d play a game on my kindle, check Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and then fall asleep, so I moved the kettle to the dining room table and turned off my wifi, and in a final act of defiance, set up my keyboard.

The kettle plus, like slow cookers, is very short, so I moved the table closer to the outlet. I make this point to show my determination to accomplish my writing task. I am a professional after all.

I flipped the switch and the blue light glowed. Like an inspirational candle light. My loose tea was already in my strainer of infuser, resting on the rim of my Ireland mug. When the blue light and the switch went off, I poured the boiling water over the tea leaves.

After three minutes (or so, I don’t keep count; I check the color), I removed the strainer, added the sugar, and got down to work.

Soon after, my cup was empty but my writing wasn’t finished.

I didn’t even hesitate or think about; it was pure muscle memory: I pressed the switch. In about two minutes, maybe three I had a second boiling hot cup of tea.

Then I did it again.

And then one more time.

I could not have done this so easily standing at the stove waiting for the saucepan of water to boil.

This could completely change my writing ritual.

Not only that, using half the dining room table kept it from getting cluttered, so it was already half cleaned off for dinner. Win-win.

The point, though, is that tea makes the work possible. I mean, it makes all the things possible, right?

Tea makes the world go round, and should be thanked in every book dedication as far as I’m concerned.

January: New Year, New Beginnings: Reflection

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What small thing can you do when you wake up in the morning to tap into that sense of marvel before you start your day? [365 Health and Happiness Boosters by M.J. Ryan]

I really want to be a morning person.

I also really want to be a nite-owl.

I’m naturally more of the latter, although I can stay up until 2am, and still get up at 7 if I need to. If I don’t need to, I tend to stay in bed, whether it’s sleeping or reading or writing. I actually get a lot done in my pajamas. I think that works for wintertime. It’s cold and it’s grey, and I don’t want to go anywhere, including out of my cocoon.

At the moment, the sun is shining, and it’s deceiving me into thinking it’s not quite so cold out, and enticing me to leave the house, which I will almost certainly regret.

Spring mornings just have that sense of marvel. It’s the same sun, the same window, the same temperature on the inside, but what is it about spring mornings that feel differently? Perhaps it’s the angle of the sun, the way it peers in the window, the glow from behind the bare trees. The glow begins a little earlier each day, and it can be not only inspirational, but motivational.

It urges me to rise, to grasp everything.

I read two books every morning before I check facebookagram and my email. The first is the one where that initial question/prompt came from. MJ Ryan’s book of health and happiness boosters. Some i ignore – they don’t quite work for me, and that is what I like about the book; take it or leave it. Take what works, and leave the rest. So far, there are questions to ponder, breathing techniques, quotations, and we’ll see what else as the year progresses. One page, or half a page really each day.

The second book is a year long devotional study dedicated to the women of the Bible. Each week, I’m introduced to a new Biblical woman, and each day a different thought about her to read and meditate on. It’s a Monday through Friday, which leaves Saturday and Sunday for regular worship or reviewing what I’ve read. So far, Sarah and Hagar. Up next: Lot’s Wife and then Rebekkah, and so on.

Those are the two that get me started and my mind moving, getting ready for whatever the day brings: reading, errands, writing, phone calls.

I know it’s not quite enough; there is something missing from my morning ritual, and I’m still not sure what it is, but I continue looking for it. However, those two books are small ways to start my day when I wake up in the morning. It takes little time, and so I can fit it in almost every morning before anything else no matter how structured the rest of the day is, and it carries through the weekend to give me the stability that often falls apart once school and work are over for the week and everyone wants to control the day.

I’ll keep you updated.

What small thing can you change or add to your morning?

Intentions

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Last year, or maybe it was the year before, I gave up the word resolutions. The connotation of New Year’s Resolutions is the assumption that they won’t be kept. We go in thinking pessimistically and so our resolutions tend to be grandiose and next to impossible to accomplish. Then, as predicted, like clockwork or a calendar page turning, we give them up and go back to our bad habits.

I settled on goals for awhile, which was a little more proactive, and a little more doable, but for me, goals set a finite destination to what I want to acocmplish and goals wasn’t quite the word I was looking for.

My new word (third if you’re counting) for 2018 is Intention [s], either singular or plural, whichever one fits at the moment. I can wholeheartedly thank Gen Padalecki for the inspiration and the introduction to that word in this context. I must confess that I did not watch her entire vlog or read her blog for that day. As soon as I heard the word intention, I was off to the races. It hit me, inside and out, mentally and physically. That was my word, the word I’d been searching for.

So, now that we are here between the end of the third week and the end of the fourth week, not only of January, but of our new year, what are the intentions you’ve been keeping? Have you added any more since your initial goal-making or resolution claiming or habit-making or -breaking in the last three weeks?

Where do you stand? And where are you venturing? Give your intentions a thought or two, and get back to me. As this morning’s quote reminds us, writing down our goals makes them a little more tangible, and if they’re tangible, they’re doable.

New Year’s Intentions – Resources

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The Weekly Prayer Project – this is a book that my husband got me for Christmas. I’ve only just started reading it this morning. It’s divided into seven sections, and can be used in order or jumped from one to the other. My intention is to read the week’s pages on a Wednesday, and then contemplate what it’s asking me to journal. I will probably do the journaling before the weekend, and then read what i’ve written in the days before the next Wednesday. I have decided that I will read from each section for seven weeks, and then go back to the first. For example, today I read week 1. Next Wednesday (1/10) I’ll read week 8. On 1/17, I’ll read week 15, and so on. On 2/21, I’ll go back to week 2, and begin the format again.

365 Days to Happiness – These are nice, short blurbs offering suggestions to finding happiness. They are little things to do or not to do. Again, as I keep coming back to this week, choose what works for you. When I skimmed through the first couple of pages, I read on Day 2 to fill in your planner. I laughed because I do that literally at midnight on the first. When yesterday arrived, and I actually read day 2, I discovered that in addition to filliing in my calendar, there was a surprise suggestion that I thought was wonderful, and so I did that yesterday. My point is, even the most mundane, seemingly routine thing can surprise you.

Grace by Max Lucado – another daily prayer book with prayers for both the morning and the evening. The version I have has room for a few lines of journaling. I have such a hard time writing in books that I usually just read this one. It is still filled with inspiration and time for mindfulness.
The Word Among Us – this is a worship aid that my church gives out every month. It lists all the daily prayers, and has a few articles for the cover topic that are usually very interesting. I have had a digital subscription for about three years now, and I enjoy it very  much. Since I would take the paper copy from my church, I thought this was a way to go paperless.

Give Us This Day – Similar to The Word Among Us. This has a daily reflection as well as a daily introduction to a person of faith. There is also an app that can be used to read your subscription. I’m trying out the first thirty days free for this month to see how it fits into my other meditations.

The Writer – This is my professional go-to, and the only writing magazine that I subscribe to. Like the planner below, it has taken me years to figure out what works, and this magazine is the most comprehensive, covering every writing topic imaginable and of use.

Mead Day Planner – this link take you directly to Mead’s website. The photo is similar to the planner that I have and have been using for a couple of years now. I got mine at Target. I use the monthly for whatever needs to be on my calendar, and I use the weekly for writing and blog planning. It’s taken me years to figure out this system and discover that it works for me.

[Editor’s Note: When I’m including links, I usually will use Amazon, mainly because I use them for most of my online shopping. I receive no compensation from them. That is true of all recommendations unless otherwise stated.]

Choose

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Choose.

We can be lazy. Or we can be motivated.

We can lead. Or we can follow.

We can be visible. Or we can hide.

We can create. Or we can destroy.

We can do. Or we can watch.

We can cry. Or we can laugh.

We can be everything. Or we can be nothing.

Whatever it is, whatever’s at stake, whatever it takes, we must choose.

Choose to be compliant. Or defiant.

Choose to believe lies. Or facts.

Choose to lie down. Or rise up.

Choose to be cruel. Or kind.

Choose to wait. Or begin.

There could be so much good in this year, so much returned, so much shared, so much recovered, if only we choose it.

I’m still looking for my mantra, but my word for 2018 is CHOOSE.

Create, build, write, do, be, rise, lead, vote…CHOOSE.

47/52 – Yvette Nicole Brown

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Picture used from Yvette Nicole Brown’s website. Picture Credit: Tina B. Henderson (c)2017


The first time I saw Yvette Nicole Brown was on AMC’s Talking Dead. She was a guest, invited on to talk about AMC’s hit TV show, The Walking Dead. When she pulled out her Walking Dead notebook that she kept notes in, I grinned. I also had a Walking Dead notebook. After I agreed with her show theories about three times, she became a favorite of mine. I looked forward to her appearances on the show.
During one episode about Fear the Walking Dead, she referred to her Instagram, and I followed. I had only intended to follow for a few weeks. I mean I didn’t watch any of her shows despite liking her as a person on the talk show.

At some point during those few weeks, I got to see her as a person. She posted honestly, about everything. She posted links to organizations that do good. She posted graphics with encouragement. She posted politics.

If I had to pick two words to describe Yvette Nicole Brown, I would choose Honest and Encouraging. And Kind. And lovely. And supportive. Her Instagram was a breath of fresh air, and not only that, it gave me some moments of clarity and showed me how to stop and take a deep breath.

Her website has the title: Actress, Host, Champion of Kindness, and that pretty much sums up this lady born in Cleveland in 1971. She holds a Bachelor’s in Communication, and was cast in her first role from sending a postcard to the casting director. She has done numerous commercials and small roles, moving to series regular on The Odd Couple and most recently co-starring on The Mayor on ABC. She voices Amanda Waller on DC’s Super Hero Girls and Luna on Elena of Avalor. She is currently also the host of Syfy’s Cosplay Melee. Her CV is too long to list here, but visit her website; you won’t regret it.

Yvette Nicole Brown is uplifting and inspirational. She shares her faith readily, and through that helps me explore my own continuing to grow faith, and helps make me a better person. Just simply by her being a better person. She also doesn’t roll over, she doesn’t pull her punches, and she does it all in a way that she doesn’t regret. I really do admire and try ot emulate her. It is a privilege to read her on a daily basis. I thougth it appropriate to showcase her today, on Thanksgiving, when she gives so much to be thankful for, but not only that, reminds me, and her fans, of what’s important and not to forget what we should be thankful for.

26/52 – Misha Collins

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​Each month I have tried to use one of my new 52 weeks to talk about a person or personality who has been an influence on my life. In past weeks, I’ve talked about the Blessed Mother, Mary, journalist Ezra Klein, artist and author Brother Mickey McGrath, writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer and actress Carrie Fisher, and St. Elen of Caernarfon.

With Gishwhes beginning at the end of this week, I thought that I would briefly introduce this audience to Misha Collins. 

I became aware of Misha through a friend of mine who convinced me to join his gishwhes team, which ended up being all full up. That’s another story, though. Gishwhes is the acronym for its description: the greatest international scavenger hunt the world has ever seen. Misha pronounces it gish-ways; I pronounce it gish-weeeessss.

In addition to Gishwhes being a scavenger hunt, it is also an opportunity to move out of your comfort zone by being creative, artistic, and kind. Part of the fun of gishwhes is trying new things, meeting new people, working together as a team even if you never meet them, and connecting through art and kindness.

Misha’s an actor who I’ve seen several times before although I don’t remember any of the ones before Supernatural.

He’s married and he and his wife, Dr. Victoria Vantoch have two children. They live primarily in California, but also spend a large chunk of the year in Vancouver where Supernatural films.

Misha began the charity, Random Acts in 2009, showing his fans how to direct their energy to  make lives better by doing small, seemingly insignificant things, but that were huge things for the families involved, and of course, as anyone who does any kind of volunteer work knows, it gives great joy for the person on the giving end of things.

Some of the bigger things that Random Acts has done over the years has been bringing hope to Jacmel, Haiti after the island’s devastating earthquake, building a free high school in Nicaragua. Last year, they helped two Syrian refugee families, and this year they began a crisis support network to help those in danger of suicide and self-harm. Sometimes, all you need is someone to talk to at the right time. it doesn’t make it all better, but it does help.

Recently, he’s been involved in political issues like resisting the current Administration’s and Congress’ rollback of civil rights and environmental protections, and encouraging petitions and supporting candidates across the country. Many would say that this isn’t the role of a mere actor, but this is not out of the realm of his skill set. Of course, any member of society can and should involve themselves in politics and political causes, but in his case for the many naysayers out there, he went to the University of Chicago for public policy, and was an intern at the White House during the Clinton years.

I attribute what I did yesterday with my kids directly or indirectly to Misha’s influence as well as my experiences in Gishwhes. I saw a friend’s post on Facebook about something going on in the capital. I thought that it would be fun to visit, and maybe I’d take the kids on Friday or sometime next week. I looked at the clock, pretty much decided to miss church, and go back to sleep when I was jolted. It wasn’t anything paranormal or a voice in my head, but suddenly, I was bolting out of bed, waking my two youngest kids, telling them they had ten minutes to be ready: we were going to church, breakfast at McDonald’s, and then a huge surprise.

They were not terribly put off, although they don’t usually go with me to church, and they really don’t like it very much, but they didn’t argue, they didn’t badger me about what the surprise was, and to be honest, they were extraordinarily well behaved and cooperative all throughout the day, never once complaining about the heat or that they were hungry.

I’m not sure i would have had the energy or the wherewithal to just get up and go like that if I hadn’t been participating in Gishwhes for the past five years. It wasn’t as though I was doing anything crazy; just a little out of the ordinary.

And that’s what I should be teaching my kids. There are times for order, and there are times for spontaneity and surprises. Except for breakfast (and the subsequent parking ticket), this was a free day. And it was so inexpensive that I treated them to another surprise on the way home: 50c Frosties at Wendy’s.

Misha Collins is that bee in your bonnet, Mona Lisa smile, Jiminy Cricket, and he’s the friend who pushes you just a little, but holds on so you don’t fall. And he’ll bring the band-aids.