Advent: First Sunday

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The theme and, I suppose the objective also, of Advent is waiting in joyful hope. This is often the titles of books marketed to Catholics for their Advent reading. And that is really what it is. Becoming Catholic taught me that the Christmas season begins on Christmas Day, and the season of Advent is a special time in its own right. Last year, I was given a set of four candles for my Advent wreath and this year I have coupled those candles with my daily reflection book, my daily readings, and beginning on Tuesday, the Novena of the Immaculate Conception. However, this Advent, while I am in joyful hope and I am waiting for the birth of Christ, I am also struggling with parts of my faith and parts of my life.

I’ve spent this entire month writing for Nanowrimo, just stream of consciousing my way through my book about my travels to Wales, and I’ve made great progress. I am very pleased. I have almost reached the 50,000 word goal and I anticipate that I will complete it before the 30th.

Nanowrimo Kick-Off at the Library.
(c)2022

My personal update on the Home page explained my accident, and I believe I am in the must get worse before it gets better stage of recovery. My ankle is much better, and I am driving a little, but not far, staying in our small town when I am able. My husband has been doing everything. While I can cook, I can’t do any lifting and standing for a long period of time is difficult. Thanksgiving actually was the least stressful I have ever had. I gave a lot of directions and stirred one dish and added marshmallows to another on my own, but I had to rely on everyone else to do the heavy lifting. There were hardly any of the usual arguments, we put the turkey in the oven around 10:30am, and then everyone was free until about 4:30 when the sides would need to be prepared. I couldn’t believe how well it went.

I was even able to go to church for Thanksgiving mass. I wasn’t sure how it would go; it’s been just over a year since we lost our priest, and while our new priest is a joy, I do not like change. I wondered if we’d keep the traditions that we’ve had, that I’ve gotten used to over the last few years, and I was happy to see that most traditions held.

Our church gives all the parishioners a loaf of bread and a short prayer for our Thanksgiving table. It is one of the things I love about our church – those seemingly little things that are so personal.

Right before Thanksgiving, my husband was driving my daughter home from work when they were rear-ended. Hard. No one was hurt, PBTG, but because of the holiday we won’t know about the car until tomorrow or Tuesday. It needed to be towed from the accident. This is a struggle, and a sadness, and it is hard to get past the awfulness of possibly losing the car, something that was so important to our family. Of course, we are so relieved and grateful that no one was hurt, and it was only materials that may be lost.

Last weekend, I returned from my annual retreat. The theme was Change. And I have gone through so many changes, and many more continue to happen, whether I like it or not. I had to laugh when I found out the theme. I discovered it soon after my first reconciliation with our new priest, and after giving him the litany of things that are bothering me, and frustrating me, he commented, “Boy, you’re going through a lot of changes.” Yes. Yes, I am! In addition to the new priest, my therapist is retiring (soon!) among other things.

And I shouldn’t forget the good changes. I taught for the first time in a long time. This was for adults and it was a writing class. Next semester, I’m teaching two, so that is both exciting and terrifying. This one went well (I think), and I hope the next ones go as well and better (crosses fingers). As with all teachers, I spent more than I made, but such is the life of the classroom. I’ll hope to downsize my affinity (obsession) with handouts and maybe lower my overhead.

I’m hoping that with this Advent, I can slow down. I can focus. I can focus on my faith, and also on how I’m approaching the things in my life. It is a good time to reevaluate and reassess and wonder about the changes that will inevitably be coming, whether I like it or not.

Through it all, I’m trying to keep my perspective and my faith. This is the first day of the Advent journey which will ultimately end with the Birth of Christ. But of course, that is only the beginning, isn’t it?

Some photos that I wanted to share: The first two are works-in-progress sketches on I did on my retreat from things that I saw around me in the dining and the conference rooms. The third photo is the statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward outside the library where the Nanowrimo Kick-Off was held on November 1st. I was also there when they dedicated the statue. I love history.

Statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward.
(c)2022

Inspire. November.

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I have three inspirationals to share with you this month:

The first is, of course, VOTE. Election Day is tomorrow in the US and it is the most consequential of our lifetimes, especially if those lives are female. VOTE BLUE for DEMOCRACY. I will have a post tomorrow of some races to watch, and will try to update at the end of the night or early the next morning. Despite not being able to drive yet [see my personal update on the home page], I will be going to the polls with my son, who is a first time voter. He understands the responsibility of voting, but I still think we’re more excited than he is. My offer to drive locals to the polls still stands; I will just need to find a substitute driver if the need arises.


The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer.

Harlan Ellison

The second is Nanowrimo! Even if you’re not officially participating, take some moments today and write something. Write for ten minutes without stopping and then write for ten minutes more. I have been meeting my writing goals of Nano [1667/day to meet the thirty day deadline] so far. Some days are better than others, but I’m surprising myself with how much useful writing is coming out for my book. In fact, I was just inspired by a book I’m reading [rec below] to look again at one of the places I will be writing about, and describe it in more detail. I may share that excerpt later in the week.


Third, I’m only halfway through this book, but I highly recommend it. I feel that he’s in my head with his side comments and irreverance, and then doubling back and doubling down on the incredible faithful journey he’s experiencing in the Holy Land. As I said before, reading his very detailed description of his visit one Sunday afternoon has made me want to revisit one of my wanderings and see what I can come up with this eveniing for today’s Nano writing session.

HashtagNANO, 1+ Weeks Out

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Looking back on this year’s Nano I can’t say that it was successful for me, but I also can’t say the opposite. I went in with goals, most of which were not met, and I am still okay. After October, there was much weighing on my mind. November also fed my obsession with a book series (I will write more about that in the coming days). This book series held my attention and fed me intellectually and in its own way, spiritually.

I have renewed focus for my two main book projects and hope to begin them in the new year. I would begin immediately, but I don’t need that kind of pressure. Also, I have a few books that I’d like to finish reading before the end of December. I have really taken advantage of my online NY Public Library card for ebooks, finding several that I could not acquire through my local account. Reading isn’t just fundamental; it is also inspirational. My end of year review will include my books read since January.

However you spent your Nanowrimo, it is always the beginning; not the end. When Nano ends, there is more work to be done, and this is probably the first Nano that I’ve “participated” in that has left me in a better frame of mind than previous ones. Once I was able to accept that I would have nothing written for the Nano projects, I was able to release all the Nano tensions that I build up for myself.

I look forward to the new year and to the writing to come.

HashtagNANO, Day 13

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What can you do if you just can’t write? This has been my struggle this Nano. I usually have a time getting started, but this year is different. I have no doubt that part of it stems from our October difficulties.

However, there are other things that can be done to keep your project (I say project rather than novel because my work is primarily non-fiction) moving forward. Here are five.

  1. Outline. What do you have? What do you need? Is there research that needs to be done for your project?
  2. Write vignettes. Get the scene out of your head. No transitions, no history, just stream of consciousness that can be incorporated later on in your project.
  3. Study the history of your subject. My particular book offers some historical perspective and learning the history of the place can give you ideas for storylines in both fiction and non-fiction.
  4. Edit. Re-read. Revise. I know that Nano is for writing and not editing, but if you can’t write…re-read. Something may come to you.
  5. Take a Break. Light a candle, have a cup of tea, read a book. Set a timer for ten minutes and just sit with eyes closed and mind open. Or twenty minutes.

Take the pressure off of yourself. What are some of your suggestions when you’re blocked?

HashtagNANO, Day 9

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While this is Day 9 of National Novel Writing Month, for me it is more like Day 1. To begin, get any information at the Nanowrimo link. It will introduce you to the organization, its philosophy, and how to sign up and keep track of your word counts, daily as well as in totality.


While Nanowrimo focuses on novel writing, I think its pep talks, write-ins, and exercises work with any writing project, and I do use it extensively for my non-fiction writing.
Currently, I am working on four books, in various stages of writing.


The two big ones are (the simply known as) the Wales book and a Labyrinth prayer book.

While both have some bits written, they are really in need of outlining and focus. That is what I plan to do this week. Sometimes writing the goal down leads to its completion; or at least its beginning.


What projects (writing or otherwise) are you working on at the moment? How’s it going?

Writing Resources

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We all have those things, those tools that keep us on task or inspire us or help us in the mundane, every day editing and revision process. And of course, there’s the writing.

As I was writing the Back to School Resource Guide last week, I realized that many of those same items can be used as resources for our writing process.

Currently, my first go-to is a Thesaurus. I use the online one in the previous link. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it has all the words.

Next is a new addition to anyone’s resource list: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. I also have his Day-by-Day Calendar which gives you hints and copyediting advice all through the year that you didn’t know you needed until you read it. Both are excellent resources. He is coming out with a children’s version and a second edition is on the way.

My go-to online dictionary is Merriam-Webster, partly because of their longevity and willingness to modernize, but also their sense of humor. Follow them on Twitter.

Need to know what day someone was born on in 1873? Sunrise or sunset? Time and Date is for you.

Need a quotation? BrainyQuote.

When is National Crepe Day? Well, National Crepe Suzette Day is May 6th! Today, in fact is National Noodle Day! How do I know this? National Day Archives.

Need help jump starting your novel? Nanowrimo is for you! It runs November 1st through November 30th and gives you the resources and motivation to write 50,000 words in thirty days.

The only magazine I subscribe to is The Writer. I’ve been getting it for at least two decades, although I have more recently switched to digital only. Saves trees and space in my house.

Drawing Interior Scenes. Even as a young writer, I always drew the apartments where my characters lived. I found it a useful way to assist in the descriptive prose. This manga artist takes it to a whole new level: Manga artist [Haru Amake] shares a genius-level trick to take the headache out of drawing interior scenes

Chromebook Shortcuts

Two of my very favorite organizing tools are Evernote and Business Calendar 2. My links go to the Amazon store since I use my Kindle more than anything else, but both are available in the Google Store and if you have i-products you can check the Apple Store. Both come in a free and a paid version.

Evernote lets you keep information organized in separate “books”. A few of mine are: Quotations, Writing Prompts, A Book of Days (to track holidays), and Travel Notes for on the go.

Business Calendar 2 is the best calendar app I have ever used, and I have used more than a few. I’ve been using it for about two weeks, and it took me a couple of days to see how beneficial this calendar app is to my life!

The free version lets me do everything I absolutely need to do with a calendar/organizer with a minimum of ads. There are a few advanced features that I would like, and I plan to eventually purchase the paid version. In addition to no ads, it will let me multi-pick for deleting agenda items at the end of the day. But realistically, that’s only for my preference. It is completely usable and useful with just the free download.

Is This the End of Writing in Cafés? by Emily Temple. Full Disclosure: I’m writing this right now in a cafe, so I think you know my answer to that question.

I leave you with some inspiring words from Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner, Lin-Manuel Miranda:

Then chase a moment, not a plot.

If a moment’s too big, chase a sentence.

You just need an inch to start. GO WRITE.

Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter, circa 2016 (when you can’t find the words)