Where Does The Road Lead?

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“…the road that we seek is often the road we have already found.”

 – Fr. James Martin, SJ, My Life with the Saints

I sometimes find that I need to get away, but I still want some familiarity. It’s less running away and more running to. Or strolling. It’s not always hurrying along, but slowing, not sloth-like but cautious optimism, observant, and taking it all in.

In those familiar places, taking it all in comes in spurts, a little at a time. At first, we see the big things, the vibrant colors, the loud sounds, the people’s clothes, and then each time after, we pick up something new. The running water of a stream, the steepness of a hill, the beep of the French fry fryer, the cheek’s freckles, the light that won’t stop flickering.

For some, familiarity breeds contempt; for others, comfort.

We have two nearby shrines – four saints that I’ve tried to visit each year. I’ve heard talk that it may be sold. That would make me sad.

While I was in Ireland, the chapel was unfamiliar but the shrines, while different in saint and location was familiar enough. I lie a candle fort the first time in prayer.

In Wales (and Ireland) I gathered my own holy water. The feel of the water was familiar as was the air I breathed and yet, still new.

My three favorite eateries are familiar even when I travel away from my regular joints.

Our habits can make the places familiar and they are different, changed enough to make the experience e, the visit, the meditation something new.

A breeze in a community park can feel the same as at a shrine or at St. Patrick’s Park in Dublin.

The feeling conjured by the 9/11 memorial in Belfast can be just as moving as others away from New York City.

Signing a condolence book as I did as an American in Belfast for Barcelona joined me with the prayers of others across the world and across City Hall.

When I’m not seeking I often feel that I should have just stayed home, made a pot of tea, lit a candle and sat in my office that I modeled so carefully. Easy chair and ottoman, tea mug, and flickering candle guiding the reading or the writing or the praying.

The candle doesn’t light the darkness, but guides the holy spirit to where it is needed, requested, its purpose unknown until it arrives.

Visit a few of your familiar places: the shopping mall, the library, your church in the off hours, a porch chair on a quiet morning, the sun glimmering through bare branches or glowing through full green ones.

Where is that road that you seek?

Where does it lead?

Is it rough or easy terrain?

Is it new yet familiar? Or so new it sets your heart pounding, your breath quickening?

Have you found what you’ve been looking for?

Are you still continuing to look?

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?

Finding Mary

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Finding Mary on my UK trip: Mary, Untier of Knots medal. Ballintoy, NI. Our Lady of Lourdes replica, Dublin. Mary, Mother of G-d, Dublin. Our Lady of Dublin, Dublin. Praying the rosary at Ballintoy, NI. Tiny Saints, Mary, the Blessed Mother. Mary statue at Cranfield Church, NI. Mary, Untier of Knots color charm. (c)2017-2018

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New Beginnings

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​New year, new beginnings. For some of us this is our second or even third new year. I’ve always made my resolutions or goals list in the fall at the Rosh Hashanah holiday – the Jewish New Year.
Last year, I did a reassessment of those resolutions and goals just before Advent at the “Catholic New Year,” the beginning of the liturgical year.

And then another reassessment on January 1st.

Overkill, I know. But I  like the idea of a new start during Back to School. That could be my Jewish heritage or that I was a teacher or that I have kids i n school for the last sixteen years and there is so much focus on starting the new year for school, buying new supplies, meeting new people. After all of that, January 1st seems to be forced reconciliation of the year’s failures and how we can do better. We all go ahead with some sort of resolution and then we guess how long before we break it.

On Friday, I mentioned some goals I wanted to work on, and I’ll be starting today with two books (see resources posted this coming Wednesday).

I also plan on scheduling specific writing and planning days. That doesn’t mean I can’t make changes or miss a few for various reasons, but it’s good to see on paper where  my focus is so I can adjust and adapt along the way.

Part of new beginnings are new attitudes.

Self-care will take a higher priority.

Taking quiet time for prayer and reflection as well as recharging the writing batteries.

On a professional note, this is the month I want to get my CV in order and redo my business cards.

I’m really excited for this year.

I mentioned last week that I’m looking for a mantra – something to take me through the year and motivate and inspire me. That hasn’t come to me yet, but I did find a word. I’ll share that tomorrow.

51/52 – 2017 Writing Reflection

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​Looking back on 2017 and how much I’ve advanced in my writing and motivation needs to start before the year even began. For Halloween 2016, I dressed as a journalist, complete with reporter’s notebook and 1950s fedora. The election year had been a difficult one for journalists and the press in general, moreso than the usual kidnappings and murders that they face yearly all across the globe. Theirs is not an easy job, but where would we be as a society without them? The maligning they received at the hands of Candidate Trump, and continues with him as President is horrifying, not only to this country’s First Amendment, but also to this country’s value we put on knowledge and information; checks and balances.

I have always been a fan of journalists and news reporters, and my choice for two Halloweens ago was a reminder of that love, but also of what was at stake at the following week’s election. We can see how prescient that choice was.

It’s been a long year. L–O–N–G.

I’ve had a few missteps and missed deadlines on the blog, but I’m happy with how far i’ve come, the changes I’ve made, and confident in the changes still to come in the new year.

I’m grateful and appreciative for every follower, every like, and every comment. Each one helps me to grow just a little bit more as a writer.

I now also consider my attempts at art and photography as part of my writing and my writing life.

I participated in Nanowrimo, and I was very satisfied with how much was written in those thirty days: over 35,000 words. As I’ve said before, I didn’t make it to the 50,000 word goal, but I do have 35,000+ words more than I had on November 1st. I’m looking forward to creating outlines and editing and more research in the early parts of the new year to get my book on its way.

I have also decided to send a letter of intent to a local continuing education department and teach a six week class on writing. The workshops, and my contributions to them, not to mention this blog, have given me the confidence to believe that this is a next step in my writing life.

In reading too many books that I feel I could have written, not so much better, but differently and valued, I believe I have another book in me, this one specifically on journaling. Or writing. Or inspiration. It’s still in flux.

This looking back will have me looking forward by the end of the week. Stay tuned.