Sunday, July 14, 2013

Clancy Robert

The more time that passes, the more daunted I become with picking up this blog thing again!
I hear there are still some people out there who have not completely given up on me and my inconsistent ways (Hi, Nanny!).

Since the last time I wrote, our house has become alive with colour, babble-speak and drool..lots of drool. A little butterball boy has landed among us and, for the last 6.5 months, he's been stretching out our hearts and wearing down our public inhibitions. I will pretty much do anything for this kid.

Hopefully, I've given myself a little room to write more artfully about our Clancy Robert now that I've introduced this little person to you. Here's to hoping.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Sacredness of Repetition

Here is a little something I wrote for the B.C. Catholic several weeks ago about the wisdom of repetition and the importance of Holy Leisure. If I could condense these thoughts neatly into one sentence, said sentence would make my gravestone (I'm sure a poet somewhere has me beat...). In any case, here it is:

A little early this year, but here she be.
(Thanks to Gladys and Stuart for winning this tree and sending it our way!)

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo (And a few of my favourite things...)

Birch Books in upstate NY

Sometimes, I need a little extra push on Mondays. And there's nothing wrong with enlisting a little caffeine help, some brunch pampering and the help of our "favourite things" to get us back on the road to creativity.

As you can see from the logo on the right, I 'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Really, I've used it as an opportunity to formulate some kind of writing routine and to hold me accountable, creatively.

If all goes well, I should be touting a 50,000 word piece of work by the end of November. Though this barrel-ahead approach goes against my personal philosophies surrounding the creative process (in some ways), it forces me to sit down despite any dryness and put thoughts on the page.

Here are some recent occurrences that have greatly contributed to my devotion/ inspiration lately (in no particular order):

1. A recent visit to a massive used book store (Birch books) in upstate NY. There is nothing like shelves and shelves of someone's work to put the wind in my sails again. Each work on the shelf, after all, represents a conscious decision to pour energy into something wild and untamed; each artist threw their caution to the wind and dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to the birth of a work. They deemed said work worthy of their time and effort though it, quite possibly, may not have ever seen the light of day.

2. Breakfast. Don't underestimate the power of a good brunch (eggs, toast, coffee, fruit) served on beautiful platters. Don't short-change the power of the "first fuel" of the day. The day's early light and the freshness of the mind need to be relished and exploited for their creative worth. And as we should with every seemingly mundane task, why not infuse it with beauty? Add a Fall arrangement to the table, invite a friend, pull out un-matching teacups and china. Make your life beautiful! After all, LIFE is a special occasion.

3. Prayer. Writing, just like all things artistic, is mysterious. Creative energies often feel like they come from a place outside of us. This is partially true; they come from the source of Life, the Fount of Blessing, the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in our soul. The more we take the time to connect ourselves with the Creative Power of God, the more He can avail us to the Creative Action of the Holy Spirit. His choicest blessings (inspirations) are reserved for the pure of heart and the truly humble. I know the difference as a reader (inspired writing fosters inspiration in others) and as a writer, the flood gates of creativity are tangibly flung open when prayer is the cornerstone of a work.

4. Music/ Art for the soul. Much like fast food for our bodies, the most available art and music for our senses is full of empty calories and does nothing for the soul. If we want to be nourished through our senses, we have to be prepared to "fast" from "fast food"/ "pop culture" versions of arts and culture and dig for meaningful sources of beauty. Like fostering healthy diets, it takes commitment and perseverance to seek out meaningful artists and sources of inspiration. If our senses become accustomed to goodness, truth and beauty, our interior lives will benefit. As a priest at Madonna House once said in a homily, if one person feeds themselves on true Beauty, we are *all* made better for it. Propagate Beauty in all things that is: connect yourself to the Source; the Author of Beauty.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Poet for the Fall

This piece is long overdue. Sometimes, I am so inspired by a situation or by a person that I feel overwhelmed with the urge to write about them, as if I could somehow capture their spirit (or the spirit of the moment) in words. It can't be done, yet I still try.

Tim Turney is one such person- and meeting him was one such moment. In fact, he is one of the few people (Abbas Jahangheri of Serving Charity is another) whose first impression fades in comparison to the rest of his life. Tim's character is so rich, so textured, that not only can I not get a read on him, but his way of life preoccupies my mind long after our parting.

Before I knew Tim, I knew his poems. He is, after all a bit of a folk legend throughout the Seaway Valley. One of the local newspapers, The Seaway News, features him in their storefront window display highlighting local authors.

Tim, for his part, writes about anything and everything though, most of his poems are focused on the local personalities he encounters, the kindness of others (especially of his neighbours), comedic everyday events or the beauty of the seasons. Tim is a romantic soul; he finds love and beauty in everything he sees and in everyone he meets. So, naturally, when my mother-in-law showed me his poetry over a cup of tea one day on a sunny winter morning, I knew that I had to meet him!

Then it happened! One day after Kevin and I had been married a few months, my mother -in-law called me and told me that Tim was visiting! I gathered my notebook and camera and I huffed it over there as fast as I could.

It was one of those cozy moments where your socks seem a little warmer than usual, the day seems a little bit brighter and your mood a little bit more hopeful and chipper. I listened contentedly as he told me about his deep love for meeting strangers wherever he went and about how his joy was doubled when inspiration descended and he could capture the encounter in verse.

He spoke of the mystery of poetry; about how it could lift you up and carry you away before you noticed its arrival; he spoke too, of its elusiveness. "I couldn't force a good poem if my life depended on it. If I'm not writing in the spirit, it's not worth writing!" Mind you, the Spirit seems to visit Tim a lot more than most writers and poets; in the last few years, he has pumped out several books of poetry that are passed from hand to hand within this small community where "Tim Turney" is quickly becoming a household name.

When happiness was doled out, Tim certainly got a few more portions than most of us. Throughout our visit, He could not stop thanking God for his wonderful life which included heavy manual labour as a carpenter ever since the time he was old enough to pound a nail. But, he says, this labour was always complemented by the composing of poetry. An interesting combination, to be sure.

Among many other things, Tim got me thinking about my perception of my own life. If gratitude were my daily bread, would I be starving? My conclusion was that I would be a lot less plump than I would care to admit. Tim encouraged me most of all, though, to do what I love and to love what I do. "So many people are unhappy. I say, if you can control it, make the changes to be happy! It's more of a decision than people realize." I sensed that there was some regret in his own life that he was only now addressing. So I asked him about it. "I wish I hadn't worked so much," he said. "I was away for much of our young marriage." Tim then went on to tell me that he lost the love of his life (his wife, Anna) when she was just a young woman to a freakishly swift illness. Tim was left with small children to raise all alone, the youngest of which was merely 4 years old. He still speaks of her as though he met her yesterday; "I can't believe she chose me," he said with a wistful smile, "I'm a nobody!". He still, quite obviously, lives in the bliss of the newlywed stage in his heart. Maybe this is the secret to his effervescent outlook on life: a heavy dose of heartbreak. When you glimpse beauty and then lose it, I suppose a part of you rejoices that you saw it in the first place and that you will see it again, it's only just. Our friendship has spanned just under a year now and I can't wait to glean more wisdom from this special soul throughout the years (please, God) to come.

I'm confident that Tim will be featured in many future posts ...

Friday, October 19, 2012

High Risk, High Hopes!

29 weeks with a new 'do and a newly-painted purple bedroom!
I am so happy to announce to all my blogging friends that today, I was told that my IGF-1 levels are  WELL-WITHIN normal range! Praise God!

The nurse gladly informed me today that my IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) tested at 218. Sounds GOOD TO ME! Especially considering that normal range is 110-420 ng/mL. This is actually kind of miraculous. I've been on meds for about 12 years (with a 2-year hiatus) and some of my best bloodwork didn't come close to this reading. I have not a single hormone blocker in my blood stream and I have a happy little babe growing my womb (kicking as I type, actually)!

But, in case you need some background...

As you many of you know by now, I'm sure, I have a rare disease called Acromegaly. Acromegaly is caused by a growth-hormone secreting tumour on the pituitary gland (the "master" gland in the brain). After two only partially-successful surgeries (one in 1999 and one in 2000) I was left to take a hormone needle each month to keep my levels in normal range.

When I became pregnant, we were concerned that coming off of the drug would mean complications for my IGF-1 levels and ultimately my well-being. In pregnancy, my already stressed-out little gland would be operating at FULL swing, swelling to (I'm told) nearly 4 times its regular size. There is no room, therefore, for any tumour bulk in the tiny little cave within which that precarious little gland hangs! Thank GOD for modern medicine and for, of course, Mercy.

So small, yet apparently, so significant!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Think (Pray), Do and THEN structure.

This for me, is the magic formula! Once an idea comes I need to think about it/ pray about it/ assess my feelings and then act upon it...the structure (habit-virtue) will follow after the "acting upon it". In order to turn good behaviour into habits and then hopefully into virtues, this is the formula for ME.

And where am I getting all of this? I learned this rubric today at a business lunch of all places! I learned that once we discover our own personal formula, it will almost always work in moving us forward in progress. Discouragement and disillusionment comes, I think, when we are working in ways that are more appealing to us BUT not necessarily efficient (in line with our personalities).

This idea to which I was subjected over lunch has really taken root in me! I now see it at play everywhere I look. No two saints in the Church attained sanctity in the same way, yet they all got there with the personalities (tendencies, weaknesses, strengths) that they had been naturally given.

So where do you fit in? How do you approach projects? There are three components to consider (obviously these are loose concepts and no two people are the same in the degree to which they adhere to certain formulas of action). But, here are the three components:

-Perception : our ideas, feelings, urges, inspirations, judgements
-Behaviour: actually doing it! (Carrying out an action, project)
-Structure: the lay-out of a project, the organization of our physical surroundings, scheduling, timing

The order in which I've listed the above is the order in which I approach things. I'm forever getting hung up on "structure" if I start with that one. I would never get anything done (believe me, I know!) But, conversely, if I start with an idea that brings me life- I take it and pray about it, think about it, examine my feelings, approve it in my spirit then I do it. The scheduling/ structure then flows naturally from that.

What about you? When you are faced with a problem do you dig right in and start moving things around (jump right in?) and then learn/ discern as you go? If so, that would mean that you put behaviour first. Or, do you schedule first and that puts things into motion for you? Put the three in YOUR order and try to stick to that order. It's a formula not necessarily for success everytime but it will certainly (I'm told AND I've experienced) keep discouragement and disillusionment at bay.

So, think about a concrete example in your life where you succeeded with a project/ relationship/ a task.
Got one?
Now think about the three components I've listed. What was the order in which you approached the task at hand which then led to success?

This was an interesting dose of reality for me today! I feel like I've unlocked a secret in myself and it will be seriously helpful in my relationship with my husband, with God and at the onset of new personal goals and projects.


Example: each one of my blog posts begins with an idea. BUT my mistake has been trying to schedule time and the aesthetics of the blog first. Usually, when I do this, I put off writing! But, if I think about an idea and I harvest it until the point it gets bigger than my head can contain, it has no choice but to spill over onto the page (screen). Then, the schedule/ structure takes care of itself.

I've learned a lot over a bowl of butternut squash soup today. Each person is an island unto themselves! I've always celebrated that, but today I do so a little more intensely. Find your groove (not the one you wish you had) and let your life flow out of it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Marine Nurseries, Financial Planning and the Year of Faith

@ 28 weeks
A bit of a mixed kettle of fish this morning but it's a bit of a reflection of my mind, these days!

As of this past weekend, when Kevin and I walk down the hall headed toward our room, our heads automatically turn to the left to take in the nursery's new underwater-shade-of-marine or, as I was more hoping to capture, the deep enfolding blue of Our Lady of Guadalupe's mantle. It was my first time painting without "adult supervision" ( I still feel like that kid, feet dangling off of my dresser, watching my father meticulously roll some shade of pink or another flower pastel onto our childhood room walls). I can now say I've done it and I'm ready for the next painting challenge!

Here I am at 28-weeks to tell you that not only is baby brain a real phenomenon (I've triple booked myself more times this week than I'd care to mention) but that pregnancy is such an immense blessing in my life.  I know I'm making myself a cyber-bullying target by saying this but: I'm actually enjoying it! My mom said she never felt happier and/or more beautiful than when she was pregnant and I think I'm taking a page from her book.

I've been thinking about the Privilege of Being a Woman and about how our sex was chosen out of the two to cradle and sustain life within our bodies and I can only summarize the immensity of emotion and awe with a pregnancy tear-welling session and, on a good day, maybe even with a chortle. Seriously, I can't look at a newborn as I did before at least not through un-crying eyes. I am sitting here, thinking about what to make for dinner and about the writing I've been putting off, meanwhile, my body is making a baby.

All of this "making our house a home" business has me thinking seriously about stewardship, as well. I'm acutely aware of how blessed we are to have a warm home, food in our fridge and money in the bank. And with that, I've started to think about how we can manage our money in order to make it do the most good for the most people. Kevin has always been all about scrimping and saving (to a pretty radical degree, actually; it used to be a real access point for my teasing) but I see now that it frees him to give his money generously to those in need. When we decide to do without, we are allowing others to have things (comforts) they couldn't otherwise have. It is more of a reward for us, I'm sure, than it is for these people. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to give (thank you, The Wealthy Barber, he he!) I know that this is what our parents did for us and I am so happy to be learning this lesson young.

Finally (for the purposes of this post), I've been struck by Pope Benedict's proclaiming this year as the Year of Faith. It perfectly coincides with the 50th anniversary of the massively influential Second Vatican Council and its timing could not be better. We are at a real crossroads right now and though I am not part of the school that believes society has "never been worse off", I do believe that we are at a crucial time in the life of the Church where all of us are being asked to be sincere, clear and convicted in our beliefs. Such times have come and gone before now and such times will come again.We need to be so convinced of the Truths of our Faith that we are willing to be ridiculed and perhaps dismissed by popular thought. The clincher is this: waves of thought and intellectual fads have come and gone. But the Church, the Rock of Peter, has been here for over 2000 years. We're not going anywhere so, we can either give way to the popular opinion of the day and essentially join the empires that have inevitably fallen before us, or we can assert the Truths we have come to know and stand bravely in the face of change, unwavering in our Faith. I look forward to the gifts that are to come. The Holy Spirit is with us in every age and I'm not about to take this one laying down.