July: Sum Sum Summer: Quotations

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​The first two really spoke to me during my weekend retreat. The subject was losing the clutter in order to be closer to G-d. I’ve realized a lot of my mental clutter, and physical, is unintentional procrastination and leaving things aside creates this weariness that is much more than too-little-sleep tiredness. These three quotations give me something to ponder and hopefully begin to break out of the suffocation of clutter, both in my physical world and my mental.

“Our greatest weariness comes from work not done.”

-Eric Hoffer

“Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.”

-John Ruskin

“Fear stops a lot of people. Fear of failure, of the unknown, of risk. And it masks itself as procrastination.”

-Lisa Anderson

Sundays in Lent – 5th Saturday

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​Bless my continued Lent;

I give thanks for my community.

Bless my travel;

I give thanks for my safety and well being.

Bless my family as I leave

and keep them safe.

Bless my baby off to work.

Bless my others off to play.

I give thanks for their safety and well being.

Bless my communion,

fraternity, my peace, my muse;

I give thanks for camaraderie.

Bless my meditation;

I give thanks for the time to discern.

Bless my sacred space;

I give thanks for that space.

Bless my writing and

bless my co-retreatants.

I give thanks for each and

pray for both the solitude and 

the communion.

Thank you, G-d for the opportunity.

I am eternally in your debt.

Amen.

March: Blustery, Green, Wet: Reflection

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A Self-Retreat

​Right about now, the middle to end of March, I begin to feel the heaviness. The clouds are fat with moisture, lumbering across a grey sky. When the sky is blue, the air is wintry cold. yesterday was grey, but I didn’t wear a jacket. I did, however have on my snood and gloves. That was enough to trick my body into thinking it was warmer than it was.

It’s not just the weather that’s heavy. Things are picking up for school assignments. Drama club has finally ended, but it’s been replaced by notes to parents for help on those end of year assignments, and how can it be the end of the year already? There’s Easter upcoming, full weekends, bills to pay, taxes to do, and nowhere to escape.

I’ve kept busy with my kids, our weekly television viewing, a church breakfast, reading Chernow’s Grant, tagging along to find The Lost Book of Moses, two days of reflection that were everything I’d hoped they would be, and more, and still not enough.

One or two times a year I try to give myself a retreat. A self-guided retreat, some planned out and some spontaneous, encompassing both spiritual and writerly things and if I’m lucky a tiny bit of travel, too.

I am lucky this weekend to be heading out on a spiritual-slash-writing retreat and I hope to bookend the weekend with two days of my own guidance.

If you don’t have a retreat center nearby, I would highly recommend giving yourself a self-retreat.

Begin by blocking out a few days in a row. I would suggest a minimum of three days. If that’s not possible, try and arrange your regular work days off to be two consecutive days.

Choose a theme. What are you trying to get out of this time “away”? Are you looking to get something done? Are you looking to get nothing done? Quiet time? Or contemplation? Meditation and prayer? Silence and solitude?

Will you bring music along?

Will you bring food or eat out?

Will you return home at times or is one of the objects to get away from home except for sleeping?

Be flexible, but plan your itinerary. You don’t want to spend most of your limited time trying to figure out what to do.

Have a map and/or a GPS.

Have a fully charged cell phone and keep the charger in your car in case you run out of battery power.

Even if you don’t normally use one, bring a journal. You can record where you went, the weather, what you saw, what you ate, what stood out to you, what you were thinking.

If you draw, bring a sketchbook and a pencil.

Dress in layers and bring a sweater or shawl. Wherever you are, you will either be too hot or too cold, I guarantee it.

Unless your phone functions as one, bring a camera. Looking at pictures later can highlight a memory.

Most importantly, know what you hope to get out of it before you go.

For awhile last year, I would take myself out to lunch once a month to “write”, and after awhile, it was rote, and I was getting nothing new out of it; nothing helpful. This kind of self-retreat is a good way to jump-start your creativity, your motivation, but also to jump-start your SELF.

[The above photo is from my first self-retreat. On that one, I had a little guidance from Father Jim Martin’s enhanced ebook, Together on Retreat, which can be found on Amazon.]

12/52 – Brother Mickey McGrath

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Brother Mickey McGrath is an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales.

I was fortunate to meet Brother Mickey on my very first weekend retreat at the Dominican Retreat Center I go to. There was so much that I didn’t understand or know about the whole retreat experience. I was slightly withdrawn; I knew no one. I took my meals with people, but I was still alone. Now, that I’ve gone to more events, I recognize some of the people, I’m a little more comfortable in the physical place, but things are still new. I just discovered that there is a refrigerator for the retreatants to use. I’d say it’s taken me three years to find that out.

This first retreat, though was also an art experience. I do not art. I know after following me for as long as some of you have, you wonder why I say that, but I really don’t believe I have any talent. I’m too linear. I’m too much a writer.

This retreat changed all of that.

It was titled Drawing Closer to G-d, and its focus was on mandalas. Mickey had beautiful ones. I learned some art techniques, including to color outside the lines, to draw beyond the mandala border.Art is pictures and symbols and color, but it is also words, and I really enjoy the word art that I’ve done this year, especially my political and my scriptural.

Every time Brother Mickey directs a retreat in my area, I do my best to attend. That has given me the opportunity to become friends with him, enjoying warm greetings when we see each other. I’m a bit more talkative now, and I ask questions if I have any. I add to the discussion, and I art.

And I enjoy it so much that I do it at home. I find the coloring very calming, contemplative and prayerful.

Brother Mickey was and is my inspiration for stepping out of my comfort zone, for drawing a bit and coloring a bit, and truly moving closer to G-d as well as myself.

Brother Mickey’s works are available through his website.