Archive for October, 2011

Curtiss Ann's front porch chair

Order me one of those! This is author CurtissAnn Matlock’s chair. Curtiss Ann is a lot of things — vibrant woman, mother, grandmother, passionate gardener, but first and foremost, she is a writer — everyday, all days. And surely she is as she puts out book after published book with boatloads of characters, fictionalized towns and settings and puts numerous scenarios into action every day. she doesn’t spend the majority of her time in this chair — but what a luxury!

So her “just sittin'” time is pretty limited, I would guess. But I’d love to be just sittin beside her. When I saw that photo on her blog, my heart just went pitty-pat, Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. We’d have only one rule between us. We would share the just sittin’ time in silence and well……….just sit!

All the other times, we are so busy in action or in our head, we don’t allow the just sittin’ experience to grace our life very often. Curtiss Ann describes the challenge, itself, to make ourselves “just sit.” And I share that with you below.

Author Brenda Ueland calls this time “moodling”. My workshop participants loved the concept and loved doing it and took it home with them as a new breast plate — a right they had that they could freely exercise without guilt.

Ueland says she used to imagine inspiration came like a lightening bolt and at once “a rapt flashing of the eyes, tossing of the hair, feverish excitement followed by the poet or artist beginning furiously to write or paint”… and that she didn’t experience anything like that.

She says it comes slowly and quietly. She says it can be dreamy time before you begin to write anything. And to know, you are going to at some time write -tell something on paper. You have to dare to be idle, for the letting in of ideas. You cannot will them in. This quiet looking and thinking is the imagination. Good ideas come from this. Big ideas come from this. Wait for them.

So she says to dare to be idle, not to be pressed and duty-driven all the time. So, here from CurtissAnn’s blog is her take  on this subject. When you connect to her website, you find many more fun and inspiring ideas to tinker with.


 Taking Time

“One day last week, by the time the sun had come up over the trees, I had gone through my morning rituals, cleaned the bathroom, started a load of laundry and set off on a bike ride. By the time I returned from the bike ride that I normally enjoy, I realized little joy had been involved. I had done it because I thought I should. I had done all I did because I thought I should, and with little thought but by habit and faint voices of generations in back of me.

Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.  ~Carl Sandburg

Yesterday afternoon–by a determined decision to look away from pages that I’d been struggling to write, the messy kitchen, the gardenia bush wanting planting, oh, and all those ragged bushes that need trimming, what would people think!– I made a glass of sweet tea and sat in the porch chair.

Then I found myself looking at email and Twitter on my phone. Purposely, and like some alcoholic with a drink, I sat the phone aside and just looked around me.

Oh, how hard it has become for me to just sit!

Sitting and praying is acceptable, sitting and studying, planning with pen and paper, writing something, reading something–all of that producing something tangible is highly valued because of production. But just sitting? Taking time to really look at the scenery around me, let my body relax, let my true self have a chance to catch her breath and begin to wonder and imagine and speak wisdom. Such a concept was not something practiced in my family growing up. Nor is it valued in today’s fast-paced striving world. Today we want to see produce from every minute.

I learned… that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” ~Brenda Ueland

There is value in just sitting. Immense value, and if we really believed this, we would do it. The treasure we seek and need is inside, but it has to have time to come out. To be let out. We have to take time for sitting in idleness, and we have to deliberately take the time, because the world is not going to hand it to us.

Eventually yesterday I did get quiet, and my mind bubbled up with interesting thoughts on a number of things. I saw the chapter I had been working on with new insight. And I ended up later having energy, and time, to plant the gardenia.

Today I mark on my calendar: Take time to sit.”


I end Napkinwriter today with a beautiful photo from Brenda Horton taken at their summer home on Mackinac Island where she captured her husband, Ted, looking like he has not one bit of trouble “just sittin” with his dog, Maddie. 

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Buzz Lightyear had it right in Toy Story, the original movie. With total enthusiasm for life, he shot forward into any challenge, shouting the phrase that became a catchword, “To Infinity and Beyond”. 

I don’t know if Irish writer and poet, John O’Donohue, would have seen that movie or not, but I had to chuckle when I read the blog of Suzanne Murray, creator, writer, creativity and inspiration coach, and EFT practitioner, and she revealed what she saw on his gravestone.  Check out her work and her writing on www.creativitygoeswild.com.

I have received personal help from her and always await her next blog topic. As well, I have come to love John O’Donohue’s writings and I’m only in his first book, “Anam Cara”. This is the Gaelic word for soul-friend. That is my current aspiration in life. To be among soul friends. Suzanne is one and O’Donohue’s words touch me as soul-friend.

Here are some sharings from www.creativitygoeswild.com

Irish Burren

“On a recent visit to Ireland, I was staying in Doolin, County Clare when I had the inspiration to catch a ride up to Fanore a village in the extraordinary limestone region known as the Burren where Irish poet, philosopher, former priest had been born and raised. John did much to awaken an modern interest in Celtic Spirituality and I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with him on the Celtic Imagination some years before.

I had seen on the website devoted to his work www.johnodonohue.com that John was buried in Creggagh graveyard, about two miles south of the village along the coast road, just beyond O’Donohue’s pub. I got out in front of the pub and walked down the road warmed by the rare February sunshine. Stepping into the graveyard I scanned the headstones and caught sight of a handmade wooden slab at the head of what looked like a small garden.

It was the only site like that in the cemetery and sensed it must be John’s. On the front of the wooden headstone was a small handmade stone cross and a picture frame with a photo of John and an inscription that read:

John O’Donohue 1954 to 2008. . .and beyond.

I burst out laughing because it so much caught the spirit of John and my sense that his big presence lives on still in his work and in the heart of all those who he touched…Others had obviously visited the leaving letters in plastic bags, rosaries and flowers that had been placed amid the bed of living plants including primroses and a small shrub of camillia I left my gratitude for all the ways John has influenced my life and then walked back to village where I was staying across the gray limestone of the Burren that John loved and worked so hard to preserve”.

Wisdom from Suzanne Murray – Writer, Creator, Creativity Coach, EFT Practitioner, InspirationalIrelandTravel Guide

From Suzanne’s blog at www.creativitygoeswild.com

Writing or Creating in the Middle of Things  – April 4

“In order to show up for our creativity or the work of our life I think it helps to lower our standards on what we can accomplish on a daily basis while still keeping our focus on what we ultimately desire or want to achieve. Develop the practice of showing up everyday and taking some action, however small, toward your goal. If you are a writer be happy that you have drafted a poem or a page. You can start by showing up for 15 minutes rather than thinking you have to find two hours of free time before you begin. If you are moving toward a new career or expanding your work be happy that you have made one phone call to connect with someone you might be able to help you. By taking one small step a day you can cover a lot of ground and it has the added advantage of allowing you to sneak in under the radar of the part of you that is resistant to change. Carve moments out of your day for doing what brings you heart and meaning or gives you a sense of momentum.”

Accessing Creative Inspiration  – May 7

“Matthew Fox, the former Catholic Priest who was censured for espousing the doctrine of original sin, has written a beautiful book titled, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet, where he suggests that when we are creative we become co-creators with creation. I clearly remember the first time in my writing when I got on a roll and knew I was writing something good. I paused and looked around the room, wondering “where is this coming from” because I knew it wasn’t coming from “me”. After a while I began to understand that I was tapping into an expanded state that I could access on a regular basis when I stopped thinking and let what wanted to come through me flow into the work.”

Living Your Creative Potential  – September 4th, 2011    

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
What if your life where a blank piece of paper or a bare canvas? What new story would you write for yourself, what picture would you paint? What if each small step you take toward what you really desire is like a brush stroke on the canvas where you are creating that life? What life do you want to create for your self? What creation do you want to live into?”

Embracing Your Inner Weirdo – October 2nd, 2011    

“Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from. – Jody Foster

It is never too late to be who you might have been. – George Eliot

Being creative shakes up the norm. It adds spice, color and joy to the world. I’ve come to feel that that is the job of the artist or those who express their creativity in any way. If each of us is going to bring these unique gifts to the world, we have to be willing to be a little weird. We need to accept and embrace the ways we are different even as we know we are part of the whole. We need to claim our own callings that come as the still small voice within us that may suggest a course of action that our mind and the people around us will think is weird but our spirit knows is the right thing to do.

What if a willingness to be seen as little weird is what is required to be on your destined path. What if weird could be the new normal?”

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The end of this month marks thirty-two years I’ve been “steppin’along” with the teachings, graces, and experiences of the AA Twelve Step Program influencing my life, indeed, giving me a chance to have a life.

And I have been “having a life”. One full of constant changes, one with many surprises, one which I truly wouldn’t have any other way. Although I don’t frequent the meetings as much as I did in the “old days”, it was the fellowship and the steps of AA that helped me grow up and accept the nicks and scrapes, the outright disasters, and the boatloads of good that came into my life a day at a time as I kept “steppin’ along”.

This morning, in my quiet prayer time, the echoes of Step 3 came floating into my soul:

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  The bolded part of that sentence is the only part of the sentence that is italicized on page 59 of the Big Book, in Chapter 5, How It Works. This is read frequently at the start of AA meetings, so if you go frequently to meetings you hear over and over again the beginning sentence of the chapter: “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.”

Now that’s what I like, a promise and a recipe for success at the very beginning! And it has held true for me. There are several reasons why part of that sentence is italicized, I think, but the main one is many of us in the recovering fellowship had trouble with the very word — God — and Bill Wilson, the founder knew it.

I was not one of those. I had grown up with and learned to depend upon a loving God, but also a God with many “sharp edges” and doctrine strings hanging all over him — and there was another problem for many — they didn’t want to give God a gender, and God was always referred to as him, most often with a capital H.

So my steppin’ along with God evolved from a soul-searching dependency upon God to an all-out daily trust in God and the Divine. And the location of God in my life changed from “out there” (although God is there too) to an eternal Presence within me.  An Eternal One who just loves me all the time.

The first three words can trip a person up as well. MADE A DECISION. My goodness, yes…..I made a decision, and then I forgot and made a decision over again, and then I despaired and went back on my decision, and then I learned to live my decision, to turn it over, in the big and the small of my life, and THAT! is the best decision I ever made. The need to drink over any decision has been long removed, by the grace of God, from my life.

Halloween has never been something “I do” very well. I enjoy the children, costumes and sugar-fun of the time. But at the root of many my own and most addict’s problems I guess is the inability to think we are acceptable without disguise. In AA and many other spiritual paths of life, we learn to discard those disguises and just show up as the infinitely beautiful creature God made us to be.

Now that’s a Big Step!

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ALIVE - Wall Photo by Calming Your Inner Storm

And WHY should people use….their creative powers and write or paint or play music or whatever it tells them to do? “Because there is nothing that makes people go generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. Because the best way to know Truth or Beauty is to try and express it, i.e, share it with others.” That’s the reason author and teacher of writing, Brenda Ueland, gives in her classic book first published in 1938, “If You Want To Write, a Book about Art, Independence and Spirit”.

And she adds, “Whenever I say ‘writing’ in this book, I also mean anything that you love and want to do or to make….You must be sure imagination and love are behind it…”

Besides cookbooks, I think I heard that the category on HOW TO write books is the biggest in volume.  So it is probably better to just get going on your own writing than to read everyone’s how to book. You are sure to stumble upon something original in your own writing sooner that way I think.

But Brenda Ueland’s book is more than about writing. It is encouragement to find and be the truth of yourself even as you put your pen to paper. Probably one of the most often quoted phrases of hers is ….”Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” 

Right there is a big wad to chew on for many creative people (which is all of us)….think of it, how many of us know early on, with no reservation we are indeed talented and original and….important. The sooner we get that, and get it straight, the sooner creativity’s potentials and possibilities open before our very own eyes.

Ueland had it pretty straight. She wrote a book about writing that said it is really about having values, about belief (in the imagination and its relation to personal integrity), and about the bravery of coming to understand yourself and of putting marks down on paper.

She was the author of two books, many articles and short stories and a long-time teacher of writing. Born in Minneapolis in 1891, her father was a lawyer and judge and her mother a suffrage leader.  She spent many years living in New York, where she was part of the Greenwich Village bohemian crowd.  After her return to Minnesota she earned her living as a writer, editor and teacher of writing for many years.

In her active and vital life of 93 years, she published six million words, was knighted by the king of Norway, and set an international swimming record (for over 80 year olds).

She had two rules she followed absolutely: to tell the truth, and not do anything she didn’t want to do. Her sassy and wonderful spirit of independence and joy made her writing and teaching all the more compelling. Yet the quest is the same for all of us:

                “But we must try to find our True Conscience,
                  our True Self, the very Center, for this is the only
                  first-rate choice-making center. Here lies all
                  originality, talent, honor, truthfulness, courage
                 and cheerfulness.”                   

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sculpture (not title) by Mary Southard CSJ

                          “I place on the altar of dawn:
                            The quiet loyalty of breath, 
                            The tent of thought where I shelter,
                             Wave of desire I am shore to
                             And all beauty drawn to the eye.”

                                       …..from A Morning Offering
                                                by John O’Donohue
                                      (Irish poet and philosopher)

 Two inspirations for me today; one a sculpturist, found through Jan Phillips’ latest Museletter, and a second from a line in a poem I keep on my writing table. I just love the whole notion of dawn as an altar. So I put it in a visual with Mary Southard CSJ’ creation.

So, Jan Phillips tells us in her Museletter she has discovered in her cross-country travels to her speaking and artistic engagements this summer, the formula for how to stay inspired. Ready? Drumroll….

Here it is:

I discovered a formula for staying inspired. It takes 3 equal parts of the following: immerse yourself in creation, share your creative gifts, and spend time with people who are dedicated to their creative work”

                                     Mary Southard CSJ

Jan says, “Being in communion with people who are actively creating and giving expression to the great mysteries of life is an important part of sustaining your own inspiration. We need that infusion of vital energy, passionate questioning, shared awe. It’s the soul sharing part that matters–the conversations of consequence that lead to deeper, more vivid and robust imaginings.”

These words from Jan’s poetry cannot fail to inspire anyone in love with creating:

“We who are alive today are creating tomorrow
with our thoughts and words.
We are shaping ourselves and our cultures 
by what we do and fail to do.
Justice and mercy are the works of our hands.” 

               The Unfurling Self by Paula Matthew Brown, CSJ

And the next time you’re feeling a bit on the low side, take these words to heart from

Jan Phillips’ poem, “We Who Are Alive Today”  2011

 “We are made of starlight and clay, minerals and meteor dust.
We are the Infinite Wave concentrated into finite particles,
light years compressed into the speck of a lifetime”

We are who we are, photo by Jan Phillips.

Besides becoming inspired, Jan Phillips had another reason for travelling across the country this summer, coast to coast. People wanted her to share what she has revealed in her latest book, “No Ordinary Time, The Rise of Spiritual Intelligence and Evolutionary Creataivity”.

For informative, fascinating and inspiring reading, buy a copy of the book at her website   http://www.janphillips.com/workshopdates.htm .

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My Little Love

                                              My Little Love                              

                                                               Susan H Hajec       

 My little love for you my God
            is so tiny, it is like the life of the atom of the
                           first cell of my soul that you 
                                             breathed into existence.

 My little love for you my God is so tiny that
           I discount it and you use it as
                        the spark of the uncounted galaxies
                                        you create.                                                           

My little love for you my God is harder to count
            than the pebbles of sand on 
                        all the beaches of the world.

 My little love for you my God
            flies faster from the words of my prayer than
                        the speed of light to the ends
                                    of the earth. 

My little love for you, my God, is so tiny
            that it surpasses the magnificence of
                        the early architects whose  basilica
                      spires reached ever taller into  
                                        the heavenly skies you created.

 My little love for you, my God, is so tiny it lights 
            the lives of all those around me
                        as your spotlight in their soul.

 My little love for you my God
            is all that I Am.

 *Dedicated to Veronique Jewell who said “My little love for Jesus is so little compared to His love for me.”   January 2010

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Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.”
                                   Proverbs 4:23

I’ve been living my heart’s desire for quite a while now. For me, that means there has been more than the usual amount of time I allow myself for quiet reflection, for prayer, and for writing both in my journal and on projects and to other writers.

Service to others seems to flow naturally from this but there is not a lot of volunteering or championing a cause. There is just a pretty small circle of friends and family members I touch where I am grateful to play a part of some facet of enrichment in their lives.

Other times it is as simple as completing a fresh load of laundry and a general light house-keeping sweep to make our surroundings comfortable to Tom and me. So by world-standards, this is not Nobel Peace Prize winning performance.

But to me — I have joy in my heart and peace in my soul. Pretty good stuff. In “One World, One Home, One Heart,” Christine Whitelaw talks about Oneness being a true and wonderful message for World Heart Day, recently celebrated on September 29. She explains the heart is recognized in Traditional Chinese Medicine as the Empress of the body, the whole health of the body being dependent on the heart.

Further the heart rules peaceably our body of One with its many intricate systems, organs and cells. Ancient traditions believed the heart was the center of intelligence and personality. More recent studies in science have discovered neurones in the heart gives the heart intelligence to guide what happens harmoniously throughout the body.

John O’Donohue, in “Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom” draws attention to the importance of the heart in both the Christian and Jewish tradition. The holy sacrament of Baptism of the infant includes a special anointing of the baby’s heart. Baptism comes from the Jewish tradition which believes the heart is the center of all emotions. The blessing in Baptism intends that the infant may flow freely in the world and gather from the world peace and joy.

Then O’Donohue talks about another part of our humanity — two parts actually — one you see, one you don’t. The outer face, he says, is our “icon of intimacy”. This is what we present to the world as ourselves. But he says everyone has an inner face also, unseen by all.

The heart, he says, is the inner face of your life. We strive to make this face beautiful in our journey of life. It is here, in the inner face, that love gathers within you. Love is absolutely vital for human life. 

“Love begins with paying attention to others, with an act of gracious self-forgetting. This is the condition in which we grow. Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back,” says O’Donohue.  And we must, he warns, remain attentive to be able to receive love, for it is not only self-forgetting but learning to take care of oneself and be given to, wherein love is truly learned.

It turns out, I feel pretty harmonious when I follow my heart in my thoughts and actions. When I follow my heart, I cannot most of the time explain either scientifically or logically, why I am doing what I do. But then I realize, in many cases, I don’t have to. I trust the set of intentions I have laid down for how I live my life and now I’ve begun the adventure of stepping out more and more often into following my heart.

And it is an adventure. On the outside looking in, things look pretty normal. But this inner face of mine increasingly seems to have an agenda I need to listen in on, attend to its still, small voice, and discern how I am going to get on with my day without disregarding its guidance. This sounds pretty general but it sometimes makes for pretty specific changes in how I thought my day was going to go.  Another word of disguise for this is I am living by my intuition.

Anyway, I agree on the love part. It is of the utmost importance. In fact, I think if there ever is a judgment day where questions will be asked by the Divine, there may be only one question:

“Did you learn to love and be loved.”


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 “There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found…..”

The Circle of Love from the Lion King. One of my all-time favorite songs. One of the easiest meditations ever offered to me. Tom and I are going to see one of my favorite movies this afternoon, The Lion King in 3-D.

We must be in our second phase of grandparenting because we are not taking soon-to-be-four granddaughter Amy with us. Her mom and I determined there are scarey concepts for her young mind to take in and she’ll have to wait. Her dad thinks she would be fine.

Funny, but with Devon and Andrew, now ages 16 and 12, we couldn’t wait to take them to these Disney films, to sit in the theater, munch on popcorn, and watch the movie together. Guess it was more about us and the grandparenting experience than them? But we had fun and they did ok. I remember Kathleen protecting Andrew’s eyes from some scenes of animated violence.

Last night we got to enjoy an evening with Amy. We watched her in swim class and the previous weeks we had just gotten the nicest invite from her as she came out of the pool, “Would you like to come over to my house for awhile tonight?” So we arranged with mom to be able to say yes when she asked us this week and so we went over to their house and had pizza together.

Afterwards, Amy “hoop-a-looped” for us and when I asked her if she knew any new songs, she performed two and took deep bows after them. I said I had a song for her too, and tried to do my new little “Happy Cell” song, when I lost the simple rhymn pattern, and she says, “Now Grandma, just close your eyes and practice a little and it will come to you.”

Amy arrived in our lives as all life does — as pure gift — but in her case after a series of crushing, heart-breaking miscarriages suffered. When I see Amy and her parents playing together all I see is this pure gift that arrived after such deep doubt and dispair.

I was invited to help in her bathtime and it is my daughter’s biggest delight I believe of the day, to rolick, tickle, laugh, touch and caress this pure gift of life given to them. Amy is in her Hakuna Matata! time of life — “ain’t no passing craze” — “got no worries for the rest of our days” “Hakuna Matata!”

When Amy was getting her pajamas on, we got talking about a “sleep-over” for Grandma and Dziadzia when mom and dad could go out on a date and the Trio of us could play together like Simba and his pals in the movie. Her mom mentioned we could do that pretty soon as their anniversary was coming up. Then Amy got all excited about telling me about mom and dad’s wedding where they said to each other, “I’ll love you forever!” I said, “I know, Amy I was there.”  A time warp her young mind cannot understand yet.

So down the stairs we went right to the picture. She pulled Dziadzia in to see it also…”Close your eyes, I will guide you,” and proudly stood before the wedding picture and said,  “open now” with awe and admiration written all over her face. Then we asked her who this was in the picture next to her mom and dad (a younger us)….she wasn’t quite convinced, studied it a bit and then pronounced, “Ohhhhh, a different grandma and dziadzia.”

I remember getting Amy ready for her Baptism day, and Carl picking her up and saying, “Amy, this is the day we are giving you to God.”  Well, we surely do and this lively little human-spirit does much to fill in many holes in our lives and it’s a wonder and privledge to know God’s love for us through her.

                  Baby Amy with 1st Granddaughter Devon

I said to her, “Oh Amy, you have the best mom and dad ever!” She said “Yes, I do.”  And even though I forgot the little rhyme, I know that Amy knows this about her mom in every little cell in her body that’s happy….and every little cell in her body that’s free. Now we can watch her work her exquisite wonders on the world she lives in.

Amy’s bathtime — “Can You Feel the Love Tonight…  it is where we are, the world’s a huge kalaidascope, can you see this far?” This is far enough.

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