Banishing Routine – Sometimes

My Adidas

I recently read a blog post by Katherine Valdez  called Cross-Training for Writers, and it got me to re-think my writing routine.
While I thrive on routine in most areas of my life, writing is the one thing that sets me free from routine that can suffocate living.

Creating stories is an escape from the real world of routine and from keeping all things on a schedule.  Not that the real world is bad.  On the contrary.  But my need to control the real world around me isn’t healthy.  And, in essence, creating a routine, making sure all things fall into place, is a means of control.

Writing gives me an escape from that control, because once I start a story, outline or not, it seems to take off with a mind of its own.  My characters develop their own stubborn personalities and develop as they want to rather than how I had planned.  Or My favorite pen runs out of ink and I have to use another.  Or my computer battery isn’t charged and I need to sit at my desk near the charger rather than camp out on the sofa or floor like I had planned.  Yes, I realize I could move the charger, but that would be too logical. 🙂

But I digress…

Katherine’s blog post made me think about how my writing life can even become mundane and a chore, rather than a joy and an escape, if I make it routine.  By feeling like I haven’t really written if I haven’t put a set number of words on the page or clocked a certain number of minutes at my computer.

Or telling myself I can’t really count it as writing if I’m not working on a piece in order to get it published.

What I’ve come to realize in exploring this area is there are so many creative ways to create.  Why try lock oneself in a box of expectations we place on ourselves?

Doodling/sketching is a creative outlet.  And that sketching exercises an area of the brain that is different from writing.

Mentally creating story lines, character traits, scenes, etc., while watching a movie or reading a book exercises the thought process part of the brain.

creativity

Listening to conversations on public transportation, in cafes or coffee shops, at work or in the park,  catching snippets of conversation, the tone of a voice, etc., teaches us to be attentive to our surroundings.  To listen like a writer, exercising yet another part of the creative process.

Reading books/blogs/articles/magazines/websites on writing teaches us what works and doesn’t work.  However, just because something didn’t work for one person doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  One thing that does work for the majority, however, and would be wise to follow, is the advice to be persistent and never give up.

Never stop trying. Never stop believing. Never...

Just as cross-training in exercise works different muscle groups and keeps the interest alive, cross-training in writing exercises different muscles and keeps the excitement of the process alive.

All is Grace.

Thankful Thursday – Golden Silence

Silence
Silence – the absence of sound, chaos, noise. That moment that lends all consuming peace and serenity.

 There was a time in my life when silence was anything but pleasant. It was anything but peaceful and serene. In fact, it was equal to the most obnoxious pounding. Pounding which was probably the reflection of my heart pounding from fear. Fear of being alone.
As I’ve gotten older and have learned to grow more comfortable within my own mind–a place that has become a little less scary :-), silence began to change from fear to peace. A reprieve from the busyness of the life around me.

 I found myself looking for ways to incorporate more silence into my daily routine of living.

 I used to listen to my Ipod when I ran. When I was on vacation and didn’t have my Ipod, I was forced to listen to nothing but the sound of my feet on the pavement with each stride, the rhythm of my breathing, and nature’s sounds. It didn’t take long for me to prefer that to the constant chatter of talk radio from my ear buds or even music, as much as I love music.

 I ended my run feeling much more refreshed, energized and alive.

 While I used to love driving in my car with the windows down and the radio up, that has changed to my sunroof open and the radio off. I still love the fresh air, but without the constant voices from the radio. There are still times that I turn the volume up on my radio while I sail down the highway, but more often than not I’m reveling in the solitude of silence. Especially after a day at work when I’ve heard nothing but chatter all day. That silence within the confines of my car is golden.

 While I used to have the television on while I was home, for background noise, if nothing else, now I find myself content to read in silence or cook while giving my full attention to the easy sounds, feel, and smells of what I’m cooking or baking.

 Silence encourages my mind to seek God in prayer or explore ideas for my next writing endeavor, mentally creating characters and story lines.  My mind drinks it in, my soul absorbing it as a beautiful rain quenches the thirst of a parched land.

meditation

Practicing meditation has taught my mind to even find silence in the middle of chaos and noise. To find that peacefulness and serenity when my head feels like it might explode from sensory overload.

Silence really is golden. It’s not lonely anymore because I’ve found peace within myself.

Silence is golden and fluffy

I have discovered that silence is not only the absence of sound, but the presence of stillness. With or without external noise. Simply stillness within.

And for that I am thankful.

All is Grace.

Truly Admirable People

1. Jesus – Even though He was faced with every imaginable trial, the least of which would break the strongest among us, He persevered sinless. He performed miracles and gave of Himself endlessly, showing compassion equally for all, regardless of financial status, gender, race, or background. He gave the ultimate gift of Himself for those who criticized, condemned, and persecuted Him. Many do not do that for those they love.

Jesus on the wall of the senior Home

2. Mother Teresa – She selflessly gave of herself to the poor and needy. While most of us are happy with new shoes or sweet treats, Mother Teresa was happy giving those shoes and basic, need-it-to-live food to people who had none . While many of us read about faith and the life of Christ, Mother Teresa went out of her way to truly live it. And while we tell our friends and family we love them, Mother Teresa lived out her love not only to her friends and family, but to strangers, with her kind and gentle spirit.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26.8.1919-5.9.1997)...

3. Pope John Paul II – Other than the awesomeness that he was Polish (yeah, I’m half Polish), Pope John Paul represented so much more than the Catholic Church. He was a Pope for people everywhere, no matter their religious denomination, or even none at all, not only the Catholic people. Gentle and kind, yet strong in his work for the betterment of humanity, and his teaching the importance of being saved by Christ as a person, not from a formula.

English: Pope John Paul II on 12 August 1993 i...

4. Katie Davis – At a young age Katie Davis knew that she wanted to live a life following Jesus. While most high school girls were focused on dating, dances, and clothes, Katie was focused on helping the poor. And when other high school girls were enjoying Christmas break in their senior year, Katie went to volunteer at an orphanage in Uganda. And further, while her schoolmates were planning a life of college, Katie was planning a life of service to the poor in Uganda. That desire to serve led to Katie adopting 14 girls who needed a family, and to Amazima Ministries, a child sponsorship program, which has grown to sponsor over 600 children. Katie is also talented with words, penning the book Kisses From Katie, a highly suggested read, as well as a blog.

Katie Davis2

5. Maya Angelou – Dr. Angelou is a picture of strength, grace and beauty, who has overcome the brutality of racial discrimination to become a well-known poet, memoirist, and novelist, multifaceted author, among other accomplishments. She took an unfortunate situation and living a life of faith, made it good. Her way with words encourage minds to explore and hearts to heal, as well as meld racial lines.

Maya Angelou

6. Kathryn Stockett – Author of the bestselling novel, The Help. It took her five years to find a literary agent and The Help received 60 rejections before a publisher finally picked it up. And yet she soldiered on and didn’t give up. We can learn a lesson from Kathryn Stockett about how perseverance leads to success, and about staying real in the middle of success.

7. My late grandfather – My “Grandpa Cielinski” was the kindest, gentlest man, Polish accent, and always smiling. He was a man of few words, but what he did say was always kind and with a smile. I never once heard him say a negative word about anyone. He had set prayer times during the day when he would retreat to his bedroom, and we knew not to bother grandpa when he was praying. He was such a strong man of faith and the cornerstone of our family.

The one common thread all of these people have is amazing humility. Maybe that should be my One Word for 2014.

All is Grace.

Thankful Thursday – Nature’s Beauty

 “The earth has music for those who listen.”  ― George Santayana

English: George Santayana, a Spanish American ...

 Nothing helps lift my spirits quite as high or more quickly than a walk in nature, surrounded by God’s abundant gifts. Simple yet breathtaking. Serene yet powerful.  I enjoy looking for what God is teaching me through this magnificent beauty He provides.

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These trees growing and thriving in rock is amazing.  We, as well, would do well to build our “house” upon the Rock.

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Splashes of color amidst brown and green show us how we, too, can be beautiful while radiating the colors of God amidst the “rocks” and “weeds” in the world.

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The fountain in the middle of the a pond littered with debris and coated with algae is beautiful and peaceful, firm on its foundation.  We can be beautiful and peaceful in the middle of chaos and people acting less than beautiful, as long as we stand firm on a foundation of Him.

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“So why do you worry about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you…  Matthew 6:28, 30 (NKJV)

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All is Grace.

The Power Behind a Thought

English: Engraving of American philosopher and...

Watch your thoughts for they become words,
watch your words for they become actions,
watch your actions, for they become habits,
watch your habits for they become your character,
watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first thought in the morning can be the driving force behind the entire day.

The best part about that?  We have the power within us to make every day a good day.  We have the ability to practice turning a negative thought, no matter how quickly it appears, into a positive one before it has time to germinate and fester.  Before it gathers forceful speed as a snowball rolling downhill, gathering more “stuff” along the way.

And the more we practice at something the better we become.  Until it becomes somewhat second nature.

One of the most powerful antidotes to negative thoughts, intentional or not, is by cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  Rather than seeing the darkness of a situation, see the light that is shining through the cracks.  No matter how tiny those cracks may be, the light can, and will, shine through. Look for it and you will see its beauty.

It’s easy to be positive when things are going in your direction.  It’s when one’s back is against the wall and on our third strike, or the 8th life of a cat, that practicing positive thoughts seems nearly impossible.  But pushing through the tide, weathering the storm, brings security and strength and a life truly lived well.

Luke 1:37

To start off the day on a positive note, before your feet touch the floor beside your bed, think of one thing to be grateful for and give credit where credit is due.  Give thanks to God.

Pay attention to your thoughts throughout the day and as soon as a negative one begins to form, turn it into a positive.  Before turning out the lights at night, think of three things to be grateful for that happened during the day.  Mentally reviewing your day to develop your grateful items is better than not doing it at all, but I find if I write them down I can go back and look at them many times over, feeling grateful all over again each time I look at them.  An instant pick-me-up for the heart and soul.

Suggestions:

When someone cuts you off in traffic, halt the impulse to cuss and give them “the look.”  Instead say a prayer that they get to where they are going safely and without hurting anyone.

When you’ve put your name in the hat for a job promotion and you don’t get it, stop yourself from the negative thoughts that can feed off of  self-pity and hurt feelings by congratulating the person who did get the position and offer them your assistance if they need it.

When someone pushes ahead of you in a line that you’ve been waiting in, rather than curse and let the anger take hold, force yourself to smile.  And think, “I’ve waited this long, what’s one more?”

Our actions follow our thoughts.  If our thoughts are positive and loving, our actions will be as well.

And with that, it’s time for me to get some practicing in.  I have a ways to go.

All is Grace.

Thankful Thursday – My Sponsor Kiddos

Compassion International

As far back as I can remember, volunteering in some capacity has played an important role in my life.  The latest is one that has enlarged my heart’s capacity to truly love, empathize, and want to give in a way I’ve never known was possible.

Several years ago I felt a stirring in my heart to sponsor a child from a third world country.  My love of children and desire to make a difference, even to just one, and to step outside of my “circle” and comfort zone, fueled that desire even more.

Having a tendency to be somewhat of a skeptic–not always a bad thing–led me to do some thorough research on organizations available.  That research led me to sponsor through Compassion International whose focus is on the spiritual, physical, social and educational needs of a child.

I could speak volumes on how wonderful the program is, but what I want to focus on here, on Thankful Thursday, is how grateful I am to participate in this program and in the lives of these precious children. What began as sponsoring one child has progressed into sponsoring three.

The financial contributions each month are a very small price to pay for what I get in return.  And it makes my heart swell with gratitude to have the means to be able to reach out and help others.   However, it is the written correspondence with the kids that enriches my life beyond my wildest dreams.

To receive a letter with a school report card enclosed, the pictures their little hands took the time to draw for me, to hear how they spent their birthday and receive a photo of them with the presents they bought with their birthday money  (usually beans, rice, flour, and shoes or pants) makes me realize not only how financially blessed we are here, but how spiritually rich these children are.

And when they tell me what they’re learning through their Compassion studies, their favorite Bible verse and that they are praying for me… Wow!  They’re praying for me?!  It brings tears to my eyes.  And I close my eyes and give them a hug in my mind.  Circling them in arms of love and joy. And immense gratitude.

Here is a brief overview of the children who have changed not only my life, but my heart. Who have taught me the meaning of true richness.

The first child I sponsored is Amede from Togo, Africa.  This sweet boy is now 7 years old and in first grade.  Homes in his vicinity are typically made with dirt floors, mud/earth/clay/adobe walls, and roofs of leaves, grass or thatch.  Amede loves to play soccer.  39% of the families in Togo live on less than $1.25/day.

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The second child I added to our family is Alex who lives in Tanzania, Africa.  Alex is 13 years old and in 6th grade.  He lives only with his mother, as his father has died.  Life expectancy is low due to HIV/AIDS and malaria. Homes in Alex’s area have floors made from brick, block, or cement, walls of mud, and roofs of tin or corrugated iron. Alex loves to play soccer and draw cars.  Here, 58% of the population live below $1.00/day.

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Then there is my latest addition, my sweet Mamounata from Burkina Faso, Africa, who is 8 years old, in second grade, and loves to draw.  Homes where this precious child is from typically have floors of dirt, walls of mud, and roofs of tin or corrugated iron.  57% of the families live on less than $1.25/day. Every 30 seconds a child in Burkina Faso dies of malaria.

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I truly believe God led me to these beautiful children not only to help them get the food and water, medical help and vaccinations, and education I can help provide, but to teach me the real meaning of love and wealth. Of what it means to truly give of oneself.  Because these children give me more than I could have ever imagined.

I truly am so thankful.  And beyond blessed.

All is Grace.

My Ten Favorite Memories

1.            Lying in the fishing boat we kept anchored to the old wooden dock on the lake at the house I grew up in.  I would lay there for hours, sometimes still in my pajamas, writing poetry, dreaming about becoming a journalist in New York City, or sometimes just laying doing nothing at all except listening to the waves lap against the shore and stare into the clouds.Sunset on a lake north of Brainerd, Minnesota.

2.            In the wintertime, on that very same lake, ice skating in circles and dips, my big green pom-poms bouncing on my ice skates, enjoying the stillness, the solitude, and quiet that comes with early morning.

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3.            Midnight sliding on New Year’s Eve with my boys, my sisters, my nieces and nephews.  My parent’s house was on a hill, and we had many sleds of all shapes and sizes–toboggans, round saucers, and wooden sleighs with runners.  After we all brought in the new year together we went outside and enjoyed the thrill of the hill.  Sliding with the kids, everyone bundled up so nothing was exposed except faces with bright eyes, rosy cheeks from the cold, and the widest smiles I have ever seen.

4.            Road trips with my boys from Colorado to Minnesota, the music we listened to–everything from Grover Levy and DC Talk to Colin Ray–the games we played–like trying to find license plates from all 50 states and “I Spy”–to the cherished conversations we had.  They would tell me about their deepest secrets in the confines of that little black Chevy Prizm.  Time I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

5.            Sitting around a bonfire by the lake, the fire glowing orange,  blue in the deepest, hottest areas at the center, the crackling of the flames and sparkling light of the fireflies down below the hill from where we sat roasting the perfect marshmallows for the s’mores we devoured.  Then we would catch some fireflies and keep them in a jar so we could watch them throughout the night as we were tucked safely in bed.

Roasted Marshmallow

6.            Christmas Eve as a child, my parents, my sisters and me sitting around the Christmas tree that was decorated every year with multi-colored lights and ornaments we made in school, reading the story of Jesus’s birth from the book of Luke in the Bible before we were allowed to open one carefully wrapped present.  From there we went to my grandparents house where we gathered with aunts, uncles and cousins, ate a festive Christmas meal, followed by presents and playing with our new toys before going to Midnight Mass.

7.            At fourteen years of age, cleaning cabins at a lakeside resort.  I would get up early Saturday morning, walk down the country road to Fishin’ Mission Resort and clean cabins, enjoying the time spent with one of my sister’s who also worked there, as well as a couple of our friends.  We met so many fun people at that resort and made so many memories.

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8.            After high school I lived with my grandparents for a few months while I went to college and worked at a local business, getting home between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.  My grandma would either be waiting up for me or would wake up and sit with me at the kitchen table and we would talk about so many things.  Sometimes just about the evening.  My grandma wanting to hear about my night at work.  Treasured moments indeed.

9.            We had a wood-burning barrel stove in the house I grew up in.  So many fun times revolved around that stove.  Like my whole family going deep into the woods to cut wood in the fall, the smell of the freshly cut pine or oak, the smell and sound of the chainsaw, working hard and taking breaks to walk and explore in the woods.  On winter evenings my sisters and I would carry wood from the woodpile outside, the pure whiteness of the snow making it look anything but nighttime, each carrying in our five armloads before we could stop.  And after sliding and ice skating, throwing the hard wet snow that collected on the bottom of my snow pants and my mittens onto the barrel stove, listening to it sizzle.

10.          And the best memory of all, the day each of my boys were born.  Little did I know at that time, that that day would change every day of the rest of my life.  The memories collected in my life’s journey from that day forward is indescribable and could fill a multi-volume set of books. And I do love to write.

Writing journal

  All is Grace.