Archive for February, 2011

 I knew about as much as Eunice Scarfe did regarding the International Womens Writers Guild, (IWWG) when I, like her, made a call to the executive director, Hannelore Hahn to get the particulars on their summer writers’ conference. At that time, it was held each August at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Eunice knew it was for women and it was for writers.

That’s what I knew too when I made the call. I also knew, from the ad in the women’s magazine I was holding in my hand, that a “portfolio” was not a requirement to attend.

So I made the call.

The differences between Scarfe and me were gigantuan, to say the least. At the time of her call in 1995, she was affiliated with the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada where she had been teaching for the Women’s Words program which she, herself, designed. She was enlarging the program and wanted to spread the information on the dates of the conference to her students and collegues.  

Me? I believe I made my call around the same time but my status was quite different. I had just been downsized from a “make-shift” office job not necessarily my calling but I brought one-fourth of the pound of bacon to the home setting, which included two college-age daughters. I was in an “in-between” state, not knowing for sure what the next step was but that I wanted to help steer it in some direction which had more to do with writing as a regular part of my life.

I took a housecleaning break, fished my daughter’s magazine from the mailbox and was intrigued by this tiny, tiny (second tiny is very necessary) ad about a writer’s  conference with a contact number in it and not much other information.

Why? Because like Eunice — bottomline, I am a woman and a writer too.  And I would find out later, in her classes, I was at the exact ripe stage of both woman and writer that Eunice Scarfe focused upon in her workshops   — ready, willing and sometimes able, many times not able to tell my feminine, family and worldly story on paper.

My writing had not yet been given shape, substance and purpose, but I knew inwardly it was an important part of who I was.  I made the telephone call in the middle of the afternoon to the director’s office (which I later found out to be her home). A politely worded message greeted me on the phone to please leave my name and number and she would call back — she promised.

I took the promise lightly, imagining my phone call to disappear into the fiber optic world of New York City. Then, after 7 pm that night, Hannelore Hahn called me back and she talked to me as if she had known me all her life. “I was just wondering,” I picked my way along in the conversation, “if I should come to the Skidmore Conference.”

Her assurance was so solid and convincing, (and she was oh, so right), that when I hung up the phone I knew my next task was to drum up a loan to make a plane flight and week-long conference attendance possible for me. I believe I made a case for it with my husband and daughter and found my way winging to Albany, NY for the adventure of my writing life.

Eunice Scarfe says “The art of writing might be chosen only be a few, but the act of writing as a daily practice is open to all women everywhere.”

That is such an amazing, critical truth to me and it is lived out everyday by millions of women and men who are not afraid to write as a routine reality in their life, whether or not they are published. When Eunice distinguished between the act and the art of writing, I believe she nailed the bulls-eye of the writer’s life.

Most writers, I believe develop their acts of writing into an art – one that peculiarly suits them; both require commitment, purpose, desire, and being willing to satisfy self.

Two summers ago, I met a wondrous woman, Bree,  on our northern Mackinac Island, who was blogging a story about us taking the horse taxi to the ferry; she does this blog as an act of writing, but she has turned it into pure art for the island with daily stories and photographs that light up the lives of the residents and her readers as well.

I went on to attend the summer Skidmore Conference for more than 12 consecutive years, teaching a workshop there as well for a few of those years. “In the Silence is Your Source”, was deeply enriching for me to facilitate and most of the my workshop prompts and settings stimulated and “readied” the participants to experience the act of immediate writing after a time of silence.

The act of writing produced three particular responses in participants that I remember today. One sculpturist came to me after class and said, “I have to leave early. I have a commissioned scupture due at the post office tomorrow, and when I came to this class, only the words to engrave on it were needed. I got them in the silence of this class and I’m leaving now to finish it.”

Another woman caught up to me outside the cafeteria, and called, “You are the Quiet Lady, right?” (Not often described like that!) I acknowledged that I was. “Right,” she said. “I was in your class yesterday and I won’t be back this week.” 

Oh, oh, I thought.

“I’ve never been able to sit by myself in meditation, quiet, or alone -ever,” she confessessed enthusiastically. “No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t, it was too frightening for me. I did it yesterday in your class with the others and it was kinda nice. I will remember that and come back to see you next year. Ohh, I wrote something pretty special too.”

One must make friends with the quiet both in the act of writing and the art of writing.

Another participant told me she had to attend her brother’s wedding next week, and she promised him a poem — it had not come; I said don’t worry, you have a whole week! She composed it on the final day of class when I dismissed them to go outside, find a nurturing spot in the quiet and write.

Eunice Scarfe is just one of many IWWG inspiring, whole, vibrant, realistic, joyful artists who share their act of writing, their art of writing, their knowledge and experiences that allow the dreams of many other actors and artists to take shape by developing the discipline and acting upon the desire to sit down and come to the open page — again and again and again. Page after page after page.

(To be continued) each day of our lives.

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Let Your Eye Be Single

Sometime around 1977, a very special one-of-a-kind best forever friend, Martha,  gave me the wondrous gift of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea. Though we have been geographically separated by many states since that time, our friendship has continued — more than continued — it has grown, matured, supported, and celebrated the many stages, challenges and accomplishments of our individual lives.

Our friendship is like the rare gem that grows both in value and brilliance and the appraised value of this friendship keeps rising in each other’s eyesight. Within this friendship, there is mostly a lot of quiet time and solitude, for now we are rarely with each other in person, and we speak only occasionally on the phone.

But when we do share time with each other, we seem to truly share the essence of open, honest and loving communication and each of us feels renewed and replenished by just knowing the other is in this world.

I suspect this value comes from the solitude that is within our friendship….the lasting over time quality through many life change stages, growing and learning. Other friendships where I am free to see the person at will sometimes take this value of quietness for granted. We “talk away” our time, many times missing some of the things we had really hoped to communicate.

I’ve been drawing to quietness in many ways for a very long time now in my own life. But I am not a recluse or an anti-social person. I really enjoy people and I believe other people receive a gift when I am with them.  But being alone is not something I fear, it is something I crave.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author and highly educated as a gratuate from Smith College in 1928, led a very full, vibrant, people-filled life. As the daughter of an international diplomat who became the wife of the famous and popular airman Charles Lindbergh, she filled her life with numerous trips abroad, the meeting of high society, her eventual love-affair with learning to pilot herself, and her coming to grips with the demands of motherhood and living life as a famous family. This stripped her, in many ways, of the privacy and quietness she so dearly felt was necessary.

In college, she majored in English and creative writing, so when her life took on this venturesome swirl where the world  actually “was her oyster”, she had all the grist she needed to fill piles of journals and papers to publish, from her own experiences. This was a  rare occurance for a woman in her times.

When the heartbreak of their kidnapped son nearly overcame her physically and emotionally, she wrote in one of her diaries, that it was the act of writing, itself, that kept her sane. Otherwise, she states she would certainly not have been strong enough to withstand the invitation into which her deep, deep grief invited her — to complete and utter insanity

I feel deeply interested in Anne Morrow Lindberg’s continual attempts to forge a union between the individual person she felt herself to be with the public persona and images that were put upon her in her socially elite class.  How she wrestled with the grey areas of the individual and the persona that take on a life of their own.  She constantly struggled and really fretted about her need to “look inward” and settle the score — which is it that I am?

But then being neither socialite nor elite, I find myself breathing in the truth of her words — words that fit me as well. I am probably as different from Anne as a woman could be. But her words and issues of the past fit me in my world today. I would think the world was so different in her time than it is in this present time. Still this theme of being inwardly attentive is the glue that holds both her world in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s together — and mine in 2011.

She finds an incredible need to be alone. “The world today,” (in 1955) she says, “does not understand the need to be alone.”  In Gift From The Sea,  she uses the setting of an island and the symbols of shells to examine the relationship between her need for quietness and the various aspects of life she is contemplating:

                        the restlessness, the unending pressures
                        demands on her personally and professionally,
                        the denial of leisure and silence, the threat
                        to inner peace and integration

Sounds familiar to me. And she doesn’t even have an IPhone, Facebook or electronic planner!

As she examines the Atlantic Moon shell, she finds the circular pattern leading ever inward revealing. She follows the perfect spiral line inward to the pinpoint center of the shell, a tiny dark core of an apex, the pupil of the eye, a mysterious single eye.

She becomes convinced that “we must re-learn how to be alone.” She expands this thought to say we are so frightened of it, we never let it happen. (not even in pre-techno hand-held gadget days).  Instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, she observes that we fill the space with continuous music, chatter and I would add, nowadays texting,  blogging, and I-podding.

Like Anne, I experience and deal with the centrifugal forces that seem to pull me, sometimes willingly, other times reluctantly, away from this “single eye center” within me; purposeless occupations, possessions I don’t need nor have the will to appreciate, diversions to fill the void.

Feverish pursuit of these lead to fragmentation, not integration and being at one with my purpose.

Her answer was to consciously encourage the pursuits which oppose these centrifugal forces. And when she lists them, I see that, in my experience, I was led to these as well. They truly are no secret. Voices from the past from Plotinus to St. Catherine of Sienna point out the way to self-knowlege and fulfillment is


Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading. It can be something physical or intellectual; some creative life proceding from itself. It need not be enormous. One could arrange a bowl of flowers, giving a sense of quiet to a hectic day.

What matters is ‘one be for a time inwardly attentive’.

Being inwardly attentive happens for me when I am appreciative and grateful in my current conditions. Being inwardly attentive becomes my focal point when I pray for acceptance, change and wisdom. I am inwardly attentive when I feel the joy of another person’s or my own accomplishment that is gift to the world.  I am inwardly attentive as a compassionate person.

It is grace to realize that being  a  solitary being can heighten my ability to be a peaceful, uniting  presence in my world. I can possibly make a positive difference not only in my own world,  but in my family relationships , organizational growth , city, state and world healing. This is made possible from my refusal to fear my “inner space”. 

In the words of Startrek, “to go where no one has gone before” just might not be outerspace.  Discovery lies within.

For her part, Anne Morrow Lindbergh decides she will take her moon shell home, set it on her writing desk where it will fasten its single eye on her. It will remind her of her island solitude and how she desires to be alone for a part of each day back in her own busy, multi-tasking world. She will depend upon the moon shell to help her keep her core — her center– her island quality intact somewhere within her in her day to day life off the island.

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I am a little afraid to step up to the blogging post because I fell out of its rhythm as we moved last week. But I am more afraid to stay away from it for longer than necessary because I have found this is very enjoyable writing to do. So here I am again.

The second reason I am afraid to do this now is I am not quite certain what idea I want to write upon for just a short while, having barely come out of the foggy haze of moving. Then I found some words of Eckhart Tolle, in “Stillness Speaks” .  I do not take them out of context and I am sure he was not speaking of moving but they sum up my feelings of the past week.

                      “Paradoxically, things are getting worse
                       and better at the same time, although the
                       worse is more apparent because it makes
                       so much ‘noise’.”

While Tolle ascribed this to his belief that the disfunction of the old consciousness and the arising of the new are both accelerating, I feel it applies also to my tiny personal world — in the singular activity of moving a household.

Letting go and “letting it be” and moving into the move actually reduced the “noise” of the move, and made all parts of it more harmonious that I have experienced previously.

The upheaval of shredding and reducing the amount of old papers and materials and the replacement of unused items to thrift stores took on the appearance of things getting worse when in actuality what was moved, had greater value to either Tom or me and therefore were more gratefully placed in our new dwelling.

We spent a lot of time and effort preparing for our move and a lot of energy in moving what we could to save on cost. That was physically exhausting. But keeping at it at a healthy pace for people of a certain age made us ready for the two men and a truck that arrived on Monday morning.

And what men they were! Young, strong, athletic, ambitious, careful, curteous and caring. They had our heavy furniture up and down stairs and upstairs again in a very short amount of time. Gracious men they were.

Behind them, we cleaned out our old townhome and left it spotless for the landlord and the new residents.

Then in one glance when we took stock of how our piled-in and perhaps non-comforming large furniture and stuffed boxes sat in our new home, we looked at one another and could have said the same thing Tolle said: “Things are worse and better at the same time.”

For a week now, we have worked on establishing “better” within our home and as one area becomes better, another area becomes worse because items have been stuffed into it that made the other place better. It’s like getting a wrinkle out — if you can push it far enough, maybe it won’t pop up someplace else.

And things are getting better. I say this as I sit with my computer functioning in its new space, my journal on a surface cleared for it, and tubs and boxes and unfilled bookcases surrounding me. But I have walking space into this place where I do my work and for me that is — good, getting better.

The same is happening in the kitchen, laundry room, dining and sitting room. Yet the light we thought we saw at the end of the tunnel was not a light; it was an incredible Michigan ice-storm, one week from the day we moved, that put 39,500 Kalamazoo residents and businesses out of power.

Included in that number was our daughter’s family — the one we were trying to avoid moving far from because we help each other a lot. Today is a fine example. They are able to stay with us until their power is returned which could be a couple of days.

Better is going in the right direction.


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A Bedtime Story

It was Sunday night when I thought about what I wanted my Monday blog to be. I wanted to write about my writing desk and the special location it has for me that I will soon be leaving when we move. Writing Intersection became a piece I then wrote for the blog.

A small problem was that it was midnight and I was on my way to bed when I thought of it and became convinced quickly I wanted to write it. I thought it would be a short, light and quick expression I would quickly blog, post and return to the bedroom.

Famous last words, “I’m going downstairs to write something, this won’t take long. I’ll be right back,” spoken to Tom as I descended the stairs.

Only — wrong! As I was writing, I ran into a feeling that was riding under the radar and it had plenty of substance. It was the discovery that I was actually grieving this part of our current home and all that had occurred in this spot over the course of the past two years, and with great momentum and meaning the last year in particular. 

So it wasn’t light, it wasn’t easy, and there were long pauses to get to the words that touched at least a little bit on this good-bye I had to say. I did say it and it helped bring it above ground for me to acknowledge, respect and release. So there’s a thank you in there for you blog readers.

Now it was 2 AM in the morning when I returned back up the stairs and into bed. It was very, very quiet in bed — so quiet that I knew Tom wasn’t sleeping either. We talked a bit; I admitted my new discovery of grief to him. He said he was sorry I was going to miss it, but could look forward to new creations at my new writing intersection.

I told him I knew that, it just seemed important to say it out loud. It was. I asked why he wasn’t asleep. He said many things were running around in his head too, he just didn’t need to write about them.

“How about a peanut butter and honey sandwich, honey?” I asked. I offered to make them. He said, “OK.”

So there we sat, quietly and calmly at 2 AM in the morning, sharing love and companionship and wonderings of the new in our lives, with our sticky sandwiches and the Sandman near-by. We returned to bed and Tom beat me into slumberland just by a split-second.

PS We’re in actual move mode now, so there may be one post by late week next week, or none until the following Monday. Thank you all for being here.

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You Have Mattered in my Life

Writer Intersection – where my buddy teaches me balance
My Writing Desk

I have two places I connect and work with my creative writing. The second place is this computer where I work long hours on both writing and workshop projects and neatly catagorize plans, writings and photo creations into files and folders and then back them up on another drive, hoping that if needed I will remember them and where I’ve put them.

Writing on the computer is a different sensation and method than where I write in my first place — which is my writing desk. It may also be called a writing altar. I’ve had one of these places in my home where ever I lived since I came back from my first IWWG (International Womens Writers Guild) summer week-long conferences at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY almost twenty years ago.

My writer’s desk-altar is the place where I sit down and write long-hand, usually early in the morning, but also anytime during the day when I feel particularly in touch with my Source. There is an open journal that awaits me on this table. There are spiritual inspirations placed on it like a holy card, always a candle which is lighted when I arrive, sometimes a flower, a meaningful quote from scripture, or from something that has caught my inner attention and has lingered long enough for me to either listen to or dialogue with for awhile.

I don’t care about correct grammar in this open book. I only care about getting the “download” that is coming to me. This writing table is a teaching place for me, a listening place, a settling place, a place for my own questions to go out into the universe, a place for answers that find their way back to my heart.

This writing desk-altar is why I have so many heavy boxes to transport this week to our new place to live. I have spent many, many hours at my writing tables I have created in the homes I have had. These pages do not read like complete, finished pieces, but they all contain clues, seeds and treasures uncovered in the conscious and unconscious mind of my spiritual and writer’s life.

They are not a one-time read. They need to be cultivated and harvested in time. They speak deeply to me when the season is right. It is amazing that I can randomly pick one up and find something written five years ago that helps me immensely with what I am trying to express at the present time.

I love these journals and I really hate feeling apologetic for the volume of them and the heavy weight of them. Yet I do. So I am trying to do all the lugging of them until I get them in their new place, with the sincere hope that we don’t have to move again for a long, long while this time.

This writing table-altar isn’t a fancy piece of furniture. When I first returned from the writer’s convention, with the emphasis to make “my space” set apart from the rest of my home and activity, it was suggested it is best to as Jesus said of prayer, “Go into a room and shut the door”… so my first writing table-altar was in my daughter gone-to-college room.

We brought up an old desk my father-in-law had made for my husband from the basement, and it had a top compartment I could put lots of inspirational figurines in. It was there, I became used to the discipline of “going apart and being in privacy” so I could listen and begin the practice of writing. Prayer is a natural companion to my writing time.

The surprising thing is I was just on the other side of the door from the living room, yet in a small amount of time, I came to feel that the space I was in while I was writing was the only space that there was.  I think it was Erma Bombeck who told her family that unless someone was dying, they were not to open the door to her room when she had the sign hung on the doorknob, “Mother is writing.”

The whole space around this table takes on a special “aire”. It is not the same as being at the computer. I feel invited into it by a nurturing presence; if I come to it troubled, I feel comforted and encouraged to tell my story — spill it out in words, and then the most amazing thing happens….words that don’t seem my own, and have a wisdom voice about them start spilling back on the paper to me….sometimes, the writing even looks different.

This is what is in my twenty years of heavy journals. These are my writer-intersections, the dialogues that influence something later that becomes a written assignment. I realize I am sitting frequently for shorter periods of time at this table-altar now because I will be moving away from it.

I even have a window view of an intersection below — a high horizon view of the roads below, a fitting metaphor for my life.  Roads I have traveled. From the intersection I watch as I am at my table-altar. One direction goes to my daughter’s home, family; one to my church and retreat center, spirituality; one to the highway to places of business, work and earning a living; the fourth road heads to the big box food & merchandise stores, dentist, doctor, and pharmacy, fitness center, the nuts and bolts of physical life.

The four directions of a life I live.

I will miss this western hilly view of the intersection with the surrounding trees that brought me much information about myself and also stunning views of the sunsets over the Kalamazoo valley horizon without even going to the beach. 

This same table will not even be my writer’s altar in our next place. It will be used for something else. I will create “my space” in the second upstairs bedroom and my writing table-altar will be formed on a longer mahagony table placed by a window that looks out on our new townhome community street.

It’s not Sesame Street. It’s not Mr. Rogers neighborhood, but it is my new sacred space for writing and I look forward to laying my open journal on the table under the window, and setting some fresh flowers and a new candle near it.

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Thrift Store Saints - a very good read

Jane Knuth, author & volunteer


I want to tell you a story today. The story is true so names have been changed. All the names except for Jane’s. Because Jane wrote all the stories that come from this good story and published them in a book which I have loved reading. The story starts out with how Jane came to “volunteer” her time to serve the poor and reveals how the poor became her teachers. 


This is not the kind of match the professional human resources manager would come up with. The candidate, in this case is a reluctant volunteer, forty years or more younger than the rest of the team who reside somewhere in the 70 – 94 age range.

 She will not be working in an “uptown” office window suite, but she will have a pretty good look at her inner-city surroundings just across the railroad tracks and not far from the county jail where the thrift shop location resides.

 Jane Knuth, author of “Thrift Store Saints, Meeting Jesus 25 cents at a Time”, is inside St. Vincent de Paul Thrift shop, where she spies the homeless shelter across the street, and two vacant boarded up houses next door and a funeral parlor kitty-corner across the intersection. She is there to buy a rosary for her daughter’s First Communion, a religious item available nowhere else in town.

Intimidated somewhat and admitting to herself she is not a fearless soul, she considers leaving her selected merchandise on the counter and splitting, — as in, –making a fast exit. But then…..the first saint comes marching in.

Well, not exactly marching. She describes him as being small of manners and cleanliness and big of voice and beard and he proclaims loudly, “I need shoes to wear to church,” in a loud, slurring voice, that gives off a thick smell of recently consumed alcohol. “These here you gave me yesterday ain’t nice enough for church going.”

This is a large man and Jane takes two voluntary steps backward, giving him plenty of room. Then she witnesses the tiny, elderly clerk work patiently and politely with the large drunken man who becomes, on the spot, a large, drunken, angry man when he cannot get a new pair of shoes. Dorothy, the clerk, allows him the chance to return tomorrow when he demands to see a manager.  (Hint: There is no manager at this store.)

 While Jane and other customers in the store are looking for a handy exit aisle, the man waves his hands some more, grumbles, swears, but gives up in this instant, to Jane’s utter astonishment. Dorothy’s unshakeable kindness is too much for him. He turns and shuffles out of the store.

 Jane returns to the counter, asks if the door should be locked. “Maybe, just for a little while,” says diminutive Dorothy, the grandmotherly clerk who is eighty-two years old, and will volunteer twice a week for another thirteen years.

 Technically, Jane didn’t apply for the job, but was “invited” by Dorothy to join them if she had a little “spare time” on her hands. Dorothy would become one of Jane’s closest friends in the years to come, but at the time of the invitation, she is only trying to think how she can gracefully get out of helping in this crazy place with rosary beads, free shoes, drunken street people, no manager and white haired hundred pound saints.

Jane agrees to attend a meeting the next week. That’s all. She has joined no organization, signed no papers, taken no vows and she adds, “exchanged no recipes”, revealing a humor that is highly entertaining and continues throughout the real-life stories and challenges she writes about in each story chapter.

She is sitting in a circle of nine elderly women and asks where are the others (which is rather Biblical, I must say, referring to the ten Jesus healed with only one returning to him in gratitude). “Why aren’t there any people my age?” she wonders aloud. They all have jobs, she is told, no time for volunteering. What about the Gen Xers and college and high school students? Not there at this time.

 Her concern soon starts to mount for these elderly volunteers all alone running a thrift store on the seedy side of town. How could this possibly work? There seems to be a lack of leadership, and she envisions them dumping more than her share of organizational responsibilities upon her because she is the younger one. Then they openly discuss the financial problem they have to the tune of $50,000.

At this point Jane is dumbfounded. Because it is not $50,000 in the red. They have $50,000 cash in donated support that they have been unable to give out fast enough to draw it down to a more reasonable amount to distribute to the needy. The St. Vincent dePaul Society not only sells recycled clothing, appliances, household goods, and new religious articles, but actually gives out money to the poor to help prevent a heating or electric service from being shut off. They also stave off evictions, help with medical expenses and necessary prescription costs, and many other unique needs and services.

So as she sits there, Jane hears these nine ladies fuss over their inability to spend the amount of money they have generated, when they know there is great need in the poor community for these funds. They just want to “give it away as fast as we can”, stating the main problem is a lack of volunteers. They need  to be able to keep the store open more hours and visit in the neighborhoods, even when dark, to find out what they need.  Virginia, who is “ninety-something”, explains this to Jane.

 Jane winces, appalled at the idea of Virginia driving at all, let alone at night in the inner city. They continue the discussion and bring up the option to stop taking donations at all. Nobody likes this idea. Bernie says, “We really should visit them in their own homes. That’s how the Society is supposed to function. It gives people more dignity to have us come to them.”

 While they continue to talk about how they can give away money faster, Jane, who now seems moved in the Spirit, imagines she has more to give this group than a pair of hands to sort clothes. She can organize….the shelves, the merchandise, the tiny office with files piled skyhigh on every cubic inch, the paperwork with a computer system, efficient service for the customers to even pay with credit cards, something which is not possible now.

Their response to this? “That’s nice, dear,” Virginia says. “But what we could really use is someone who would take out the trash every night and clean the bathroom.”  Dorothy adds that they really need someone to order the religious gifts they sell, because it is one of the major income sources of the store. This becomes Jane’s job, among other things, like meeting saints.

On the way out of the meeting, they show Jane where the toilet brush is kept. These lessons in correct perspective will keep happening to Jane.

 Jane Knuth has been volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the last 15 years. She is also an eighth grade math teacher. This is Jane’s first book. She, in her middle-class, suburban, church-going background, experiences a soul-stirring transformation in this volunteer service, as she begins to see the poor, one at a time – in a completely different light – as saints who can lead us straight to the heart of Christ.

Each chapter introduces the reader to new “saints” and reveals Jesus to her in the poorest people in town. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” She began writing down the individual stories because she wanted to remember the people and the lessons they taught her.

Do you remember before Jane joined the thrift shop, there were no younger people helping at the store? Over the years, that became remedied as Jane recruited both high school and college volunteers, which enabled them to work and deliver goods into the neighborhoods with their young, strong muscles. Their volunteered time also keeps the store open extended hours which now includes a Saturday morning.

In the preface of the book, Jane recalls how most of us meet Jesus on Sunday and recognize him in the bread and wine, the scriptures and the hymns. That is the seventh day of Creation, the day the Lord made holy. Jane’s book is about how we can recognize Jesus on the other six days of the week; the days he called good. He is there in the person in front of us in old clothes; he is there in the belligerent one; he is there in the tired, lonely and hopeless one. He is there in the one who is only waiting to be recognized.

Knuth introduces you to Jesus in these people in nineteen short chapters – one at a time. You will love meeting them. 

 Thrift Store Saints, Meeting Jesus 25 cents at a Time – Jane Knuth –  Loyola Press


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Photo by Susan H. Hajec

I am a day late and maybe a dollar short in making this post. In the midst of being “boxed in” by preparatory work for moving, I can’t seem to hold onto a thought long enough to develop it into a full sentence.

“An Interrupted Life” is a classic book written  by a Jewish woman author whose name I can’t pull from my memory library. It is about her imprisonment by the Germans in the 1940s and the robbery they took from the world in this one single life that was lost among hundreds of thousands because human life was so devalued and maliciously destroyed.

On a very teeny-tiny scale, not to be compared at all with the holocaust where so many innocent lives were completely interrupted from the life they planned to live — these frequent moves we have made seem to carry the same theme — Interruption.

Not only do the moves seem like interruption, but in packing up , I see and reread so many of my writing materials, publications, and projects not completed, but outlined and started, and I wonder where and how I interrupted myself and did not stay with them. The stimulation for these ideas bounce back into my being in incomplete and run-on sentences, and the will to pick them up returns once again. 

Ann Murray recorded a song that didn’t make the hit parade but it was one of my favorites and I used it in the “Write Now” workshops I facilitated.

She sang: “Won’t somebody listen to me please, it won’t take long, it won’t take long. Won’t somebody listen to the things that make me strong….before the children of my mind become the orphans of my soul”.

So what I am packing now are the children of my mind and I have given many birth in prose and poetry. I still feel like their protective, loving mother. Yet, I also am discovering some of the orphans of my soul. They still call to me and my commitment to them is becoming ever stronger. I will tend to them through my daily attention and the time and space they need so they may evolve into their destiny — even if their destiny is to reside inside my family after I’m gone.

Because they have been with me, I will be faithful to them. 

A verse of Anne Murray’s song says:

“The writer —ain’t a rich man, he’s got problems of his own,
But he keeps writing, songs he knows no one may ever hear, because he know that if he stops…..
he’ll disappear.” 
“Won’t somebody listen to me please, it won’t take long, it won’t take long. Won’t somebody listen to the things that make me WHOLE…before the Children of my Mind become the Orphans of my Soul.”  

So from my Writing Well, I offer up one of my Children of my Mind that was in one of my workshop booklets I gave out for “In the Silence Is Your Source.”

Quiet, Please

   It is not quiet enough in my life to hear the things I want to say. There is a level of quietness when words, thoughts and ideas rush in like unending ocean waves rolling onto the sandy beach.  Yet before I can catch them in my pail or collect them like unique and individual sea shells left upon the sand, the tide of daytime with its noise, duties and distractions sends the messages swirling back out to sea.

   And I get trapped in the undertow, fearing once more that what is mine to co-create is lost in the vast ocean with only a little hope that, perhaps, it may visit me again at another time, in another place, on some distant stretch of quiet seashore.

I wrote this many years ago, but this is how I feel today.

Feb. 25, 2011 ADDENDUM: An Interrupted Life by E. Hillesum is the diaries of a Dutch-Jewish woman Memoirs of Auschwitz. I just found this information in my 1997 journal of the IWWG Skidmore Writing Conference. I knew I learned it from there. I just happened upon it as I leafed through the journal before putting it back on the shelf. 1997 may have been my first IWWG conference. I think it was. The conference and the women at the conference provided a huge turning point for me in my whole life as a person and defined and supported my life as a “real writer.” I am forever grateful.




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