Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Once more, the colourful time of year arrives. The trees and hedgerows are blazing with reds and oranges, yellows and golds. We are in awe of nature and sing our praises to the Creator. It is a time of glory and we marvel, as we always do at this time of year, at the magnificence of creation.
However, as thinking human beings, the edge is taken off this season of fall because, in the back of our minds, we know that this astounding beauty is the precursor of winter. We marvel at the beauty of fall while being unable to enjoy it fully, knowing that it heralds trees’ bare limbs, long cold nights, and the short, harsh days of winter’s onset.
We are not fully able to enjoy this amazing autumn season because it is taken up with anxiety and dread of the coming winter—a winter season extended by our fear of unknown and untold possibilities. Unlike our pets who take every moment as it comes, we look ahead into the time of what is not yet and imagine the winter horrors that await us.
This takes a lot of energy away from our delight in the present moment; we spend time worrying about the future thus causing ourselves anxiety long before the actual happening, only to find when the time arrives, the imagined event is often not as bad as we anticipated.
It is good to be prepared for the storms of winter—the hydro outages, accidents and black-outs—but the point of being prepared, I think, is to take away worry because we have done all we can to ready ourselves for any emergency.
So, let us do all that needs to be done to ready ourselves for the unpredictable winter, then put aside worrying and fretting about what might happen and enjoy this present and stunning fall moments.
These moments God has given us and they will not return again, except in photographs, memories and the written word, and in our praise and thanks to the Creator for this wonderful world where we live.
Monday, 28 September 2009
When do the changes stop? I thought that when we took early retirement and settled into our condominium on the lakeshore, working for a non-profit within ten minutes drive, I could just settle down and enjoy a peaceful existence, without having to worry much any more about changes. Now here I am a year and a half later, having been laid off and rehired by another non-profit, in a completely different set of circumstances. At least I am still living in the same condominium, with the same man, with whom I celebrated forty years of marriage this month.
I was secretly rather thrilled when my friend told me she heard my daughter talking about me on a radio interview that she was doing on the CBC morning show in Toronto. Elizabeth, a twice Juno nominated, jazz musician introduced one of her songs, dedicating it to me in honour of the fact that at my age I was willing to go out and look for another job. Changes that make our children proud of us, I can handle.
Working at home is a new experience for me. There are many advantages. My commuting time has been cut from twenty minutes a day to zero. After I clean up from breakfast and brush my teeth, I can be in my office, before my husband has the car out of the underground garage to drive to work. Proximity to my office is convenient, but sometimes makes it difficult to draw clear lines between home life and work life. Discipline keeps me at the desk during working hours, but at times it is difficult to push back the chair and leave the office to attend to the more mundane household tasks at the end of the day, particularly if I am into a project that I want to complete.
I expect other writers understand the conflict that arises when you work where you live. Being able to do more writing was an unexpected benefit of my job layoff. I had prayed, asking for time to write, if it was important that I finish this book project that has been part of my life now for ten years. The summer was mine to write. My job finished in June and although I was offered my current part time job shortly after, it was not scheduled to start until September. Every day, all summer I was able to immerse myself in the book project, writing all day long. It was a writer’s dream.
As well as providing time for writing and rewriting, this summer of change gave me the opportunity to learn about Employment Insurance and the devastation that one feels when your contribution to a company is no longer required. When I felt that I was useless and redundant, the gentle voice I know so well assured me this was not the case. He had a plan for my summer, to write and once again experience the thrill of grappling with ideas that energize and excite me. To provide the extra push I needed to get me going, He provided an Award of Merit at The Word Guild Awards gala.
For the moment, I have settled again into a routine. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays I am working from my home office for a non-profit that I am passionate about, because it helps women in the developing world provide for their families. On Mondays and Fridays, I can write, giving voice to other things I am passionate about like sharing our faith through listening. Right now, I am in a pleasant place and enjoying it. However, I know that this will not last. The trick is to have my running shoes on and be ready to sprint when the next change comes. Now only do I want to adapt to it, but I want to run out and greet it, knowing that the One who holds my hand never changes, is always there and will accompany me to new places, I have not yet dreamed of.
Friday, 25 September 2009
On The Word Guild discussion forum a question was posed about whether, as writers, we preferred to type or handwrite our first drafts. I prefer to write on lined paper in a three-ring binder, then transcribe onto computer and edit as I type.
Carolyn Wilker agrees, “I still often write an early draft by hand, for poetry and prose, as thoughts come to me. Sometimes my typing fingers just cannot keep up with the words that come. Then I go to the computer to finish writing and revising.”
However, Benjamin Collier prefers typing over handwriting. “Ever since I discovered my gift of writing I've been doing it all on computer. The development of my stories takes a lot of editing, organizing and rearranging that would just turn into a big mess of scribbles on paper. I even had to start journaling on the computer instead of writing my journal by hand, not because of organizing but because my knuckles started to ache whenever I spent too much time handwriting.”
Darlene Oakley does not share this same problem. “I find I still have that attachment to paper. My ideas feel more real when I've written them down. I may add to them later, on-screen, but I need the physicality of writing them down.”
Like me, Audrey Dorsch can type faster than she can write by longhand. “For me, it's easier to get my thoughts out by keyboarding them right into the computer. Also, I hate doing things twice, and transcribing my written work seems like duplication of effort.”
Aimee Reid shared, “I find writing and editing to be somewhat different processes. When I am gathering ideas and organizing my thoughts I tend to jot notes down longhand. My creative juices flow better. When I'm in front of a computer screen my brain can too easily switch into editing mode. Like Audrey, though, I don't like to duplicate my efforts. I only write longhand to prime my pump. Then I go to the computer to draft. And I revise as I go. Of course, then I let the writing cool and come back to it again . . . and again . . . and still again as many times as I need to. I've learned when I need to move away from the keyboard and then back to it. “
Kathie Chiu prefers typing over hand-writing, but she misses the process of writing in longhand. She wrote, “There's something much more creative about pencil/pen and paper. I imagine some of the greatest classics of all time... written longhand. I cannot imagine how Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice on sheets of paper using a quill and ink! We take our conveniences for granted.”
There is certainly nothing right or wrong about longhand versus keyboarding. So, tell us, what is your preference?
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
During this gesture of goodwill, I look out the kitchen window and immediately see three large gaps in my solid 60 ft flowerbed and gasp aloud. “What happened?” I walk outside and logically see what he has done, and at the same time, I watch my tall, gangly purple Flocks gradually begin to lean and one by one, sink almost to the ground. I realize the equally long, rather thin Flocks had grown dependant on those weeds to hold them secure as the wind battered them back and forth.
This left me thinking about how easy it is to lean on something, anything. This can be positive or sometimes it can limit development of strong character, personality or faith. I began to think how this applies to my writing. How often to I lean on excuses, procrastination or weak reasons not to write, not to make that contact or not to think about that outline. Sometimes, the jolt for me is when that false thinking simply doesn’t hold me up and I have to face the winds of deadlines or the panic of unfinished work alone.
Everyday illustrations can be honest teachers. Oh, to be like my Humming Bird Plant that can stand against the strongest wind. But, considering the Flocks struggling to find it's legs, I compare this to the actions and attiudes in my life that help me stand tall such as daily devotions, writing a blog, doing my morning pages and chatting on Messenger with my grandgirls. And yes, hubby and I still garden together and manage to care for God’s Green Acres here in this place.
We’re fast approaching the threshold of completing the third quarter of the year, and what changes 2009 so far has brought to many of our lives, even in our relatively sheltered Canadian context! Our experiences differ as do our faces. Economic hardship and loss of jobs or reduced employment knocked on many a door bringing uncertainty and stress. Chilling winds blew in spring and summer for some folk in the unwelcome visitation of illness, and in certain family circles, the icy finger of death.
Myriad families recently farewelled their young adult sophomores and freshmen heading off to higher educational institutions - often further afield, drawing a tear and leaving an ache in many a mother’s heart. Some couples entertained the spark of a renewed freedom as they anticipated their first empty nest experience in twenty or more years.
There will be those whose review at the year’s three-quarter mark registers overall gains in life. We certainly rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Those who suffered loss, and yet maintain their trust in the faithfulness of God and the redemption provided through Christ, find comfort in knowing they have a wealth factor that transcends their present hardship.
Uncertain weather abounded. Our local cemetery decoration day service was besieged by an overcast sky and a bone-chilling wind from the northwest, despite which the musicians did an admirable job (I was amazed that they could even move their fingers). Yours Truly shivered and shook from the cold. However, my mental marbles and mouth moved sufficiently in sync for me to share the homily - despite chill-tightened jaw muscles. Then naughty Nature capped her trick an hour or so later after we’d all gone home, when the wind dropped, and early evening saw the clouds move out and a cheery sun peek a sassy wink at us all!
A verse I quoted at that service (Psalm 90:12): Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Let us value our days and make them count. May we give honour where due and encourage respect for others. And let us give thanks for the mercy and grace of God, while embracing His Son, our Saviour, Redeemer, and Friend.
Words to Bless: May the falling leaves of autumn around you and their musical swish beneath your feet be gentle reminders that even when the summertime of life begins drawing to a close, you can still gladden hearts by the rustle of a life well-lived while in the sun.Peter Black writes a weekly inspirational column in the Watford Guide-Advocate.
His book, "Parables from the Pond" ("written for children, read and enjoyed by all ages") is published by Word Alive Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.freewebs.com/authorpeterablack
Monday, 21 September 2009
I’ve never run a marathon but I know several people who do. Even great athletes with superb conditioning face two or three times in every marathon when sheer stubborn will is the only thing that keeps them going. The shouts of the crowd stimulate but exhaustion doesn’t fade away. The “Why?” questions don’t suddenly resolve themselves. But they find some reserve of strength to keep running.
As writers most of us have put years of effort into manuscripts. We have ached when “Thank you for submitting, but. . .” responses have appeared in our mailboxes. We have browsed bookstore shelves and read best-sellers and thought, “I like my own story better than this.” We have also read some of those brilliant works and wondered, “How do I dare call myself a writer?” Sometimes we’ve slowed to a dull, plodding pace and wondered why we keep trying. “What’s the point?” is a question that has plagued us more than once on our journey.
Short-Listed! There is something affirming and encouraging, but no publishing contract in those words. There is the challenge to stay in the race but the finish line is not yet in sight. “What’s the point?” questions clamour loudly. Other interests and distractions acquire a strangely powerful draw.
It is at this point in the race – with so many miles already behind – that many people drop out of marathons. It is at this point too that many writers call it quits. They have stuck it out for mile after mile. The crowd is shouting encouragement but someone else has already crossed the finish line. They won’t be first.
It is the feet slapping the gravel behind you, the voice almost sobbing in exhaustion, “Don’t you dare quit!” that keeps you going. Strangely, your longing for that one coming behind to finish well is almost as intense as your own desire to win. Somehow you know that if you quit others are going to quit as well. You are running for them as much as for yourself now. Your mind can’t find logic in that but it gives you just enough reason to keep going.
Short-Listed! It is a milestone and a wonderful milestone but the race is not over. The finish line is not even in sight. There is no guarantee of that elusive contract with a royalty publisher if you finish this race.
For reasons I do not understand the temptation to quit has been strong since all the congratulations have poured in. But what if my quitting causes the one running just behind to also quit? What if that one has written the book that will tip the balance in a life I have tried so hard to reach? Maybe just completing the race; maybe just doing the very best I can do and stimulating someone else to have to be a little bit better is enough to raise the standard, push excellence up one notch. It’s not the goal I’m running for but just maybe, it’s an achievement as honourable in God’s sight. So – I’m still running, however slow my pace – and for the rest of you – “Don’t you dare quit either!”
Friday, 18 September 2009
This week I received a large package in the mail. I opened it to find the 352-page volume I Am Here And Not Not-There: An Autobiography. It is the autobiography of Margaret Avison — the exceptional Canadian poet who passed away on July 31, 2007. Not only is Margaret Avison one of the most celebrated poets Canada has ever had — having won the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1960 and 1990, and the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2003 — but she participated with The Word Guild by twice contributing to the Write! Toronto conference, and by being the winner of the Leslie K. Tarr Career Achievement Award in 2005.
I am not writing of this book, so much, to encourage you to buy it — unless you are a long-time fan of Avison — but primarily to point out the weight of her contribution. Sarah Klassen once wrote in Prairie Fire, “It is Avison’s unique accomplishment to write, in and for a secular world, about faith and God, with intelligence and without becoming either sentimental or preachy.” Surprisingly, it is the secular literary community — not the church — that has most valued Avison’s legacy.
I think it’s high time that we begin to celebrate Margaret Avison! I admit that her poetry is difficult to access, but for good readers it is within reach. I have written of her final collection, Listening (McClelland & Stewart), in an essay that will appear in the Winter issue of Arc — Canada’s National Poetry Magazine. I would encourage you to buy a copy of Listening or her second-last collection Momentary Dark, as a great starting point for an appreciation of this “national treasure”.
I am pleased to say that the interview I did with Margaret Avison at the Write! Toronto conference in 2004, which appeared in the American journal Image, has been included in this book.
I Am Here And Not Not-There is published by The Porcupine’s Quill
D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
What is Love, said one anonymous blogger? “It is a wildly misunderstood although highly desirable malfunction of the heart which weakens the brain, causes eyes to sparkle, cheeks to glow, blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker.” Shakespeare wrote: “Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs. Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers eyes. Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers tears. What is it else? A madness most discreet, a choking gall and a preserving sweet.”
The famous Pirate Captain Blackbeard was a firm believer in marriage. Some say that he had fourteen wives in different ports. Howard Hughes as a modern-day pirate reportedly had over 250 partners/girlfriends stashed in different locations, many which falsely believed that they were married to Hughes. Perhaps this is why Marilyn Monroe sadly commented: “A wise girl kisses but doesn't love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.”
Despite all the cynicism and marital meltdown, North Americans still spend $13 billion on Valentines Day gifts, including 200 million roses, 40 million heart-shaped candy boxes, and $3 billion on jewelry.
We live in an age when many couples wake up with each other, and then try to figure out whether or not they want a commitment. Given the ambivalent procrastination of our post-modern culture, it is not surprising that some couples are still stuck on the way to the altar even after their second child. Some want to be completely financially secure first, even to the point of having all the money for their dream Hawaii honeymoon. Without that, they say, marital commitment is just unthinkable.
The biblical position is that ‘true love waits’. The confusion of our culture does make true love wait, not for sex, but for marriage. When God’s standards for intimacy are disregarded, the look-alike solutions become more and more ambivalent. Even living together is now seen as too committed by some young couples. All this leaves many young people jaded and detached, with ever higher standards of who might ever qualify as their future marital partner. In the movie Romancing the Stone, Joan Wilder a romance writer meets Jack Colton who violates every one of her imaginary ideas of what a real man will act like. Romancing the Stone reminds us that real romance involves the messiness and disappointments of everyday life. Dr Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, said: “Love cures people, both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.”
Eighteen years ago, I wrote a Deep Cove Crier article about Marriage Encounter in which I wrote the following words: “Inside the heart of each and every one of us there is a longing to be understood by someone who really cares. When a person is understood, he or she can put up with almost anything in the world.” Recently I discovered that those words have now been posted on hundreds of Romance websites http://bit.ly/35E4or Why would so many Romance websites be posting my words?
My hunch, as Dr Gil Steiglitz puts it, is that one of the deepest needs of wives is to be truly understood by their husbands. Many men mistakenly think that this is impossible. It is our job as husbands to carefully study our wives that we know them even better than they may know themselves.
Dr Gil Steiglitz tells us in his video series ‘The Five Problems of Marriage’ that one of the top needs of wives is for romance, to be nurtured and pursued. Some husbands don’t realize that they still need to date their wives, even after they are finally married to them. To some men, dating their wives is unthinkable. It would be like trying to get on a bus that they are already on.
Alfred Lord Tennyson romantically wrote: “If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.” Romance is not an option. It is fundamental in any healthy marriage. If we have not been romancing our wife lately, she may be suspicious of our initial efforts. It may feel like we are romancing a stone, a stony heart. That is where perseverance and gentleness are so vital in the pursuit. My wife finds it very romantic when I take out the garbage and do the dishes. Your wife needs to know that she is the most beautiful woman on earth, that she is a precious gift of God to you. Romance is saying, like Robert Browning, to your wife: “Grow old along with me the best is yet to be.”
The Great Physician of our souls said: “This is my commandment that you love one another. No greater love has anyone than to lay your life down for your friends. The Good Book says that he that does not love doesn’t know God, because God is love. Pearl Buck the famous novelist wrote: “Love alone could waken love.”
Why are women spending so many billions of dollars each year on romance novels? Largely because there is an unmet need in their life that only you as their husband can fully meet. Your wife is waiting for you to romance her, to win her, to woo her. What are you waiting for?
The Rev. Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-for publication in the Deep Cove Crier
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
There is something about September that gears us up to start new things. There is a feeling of change in the autumn air; a time of harvest and gathering-in for the winter to come; a time of doing things in groups—church groups, writers’ groups, book groups, school groups—the list is limitless.
This group of authors who are professional members of The Word Guild is starting its fall blogging with renewed vigor. We are getting back into the familiar routine of sharing thoughts and happenings with one another and our followers from across Canada and, indeed, around the world.
I, personally, will look forward to writing a post in my turn over the coming months and know I will be blessed by the diverse and varied contributions written by others of our group.
© Judith Lawrence
Friday, 4 September 2009
Now if the habit of sitting came with a reduced appetite, that might help. But as far as I'm concerned the opposite seems to be true. I like to have something to nibble on while at my computer. Preferably something involving chocolate.
Unfortunately, I know that sitting all day isn't going to help me lead a long, healthy life. I know I need to get up and move. I just wish there was a little switch I could turn on that would make me feel I need to jump up and do things.
You see, I know people who have the mindset of athletes. And they seem to have a different outlook.
My husband, for example, has been swimming three or four times a week since he was in university. And I don't mean splashing in the pool. I mean swimming hard - an hour of laps - including butterfly. He still goes to some Masters Swimming competitions and does quite well. And he's now doing weights and walking, even some running.
Three of my four sons are also athletes. One made it to the Olympic Trials in swimming. Another is on one of Canada's elite ultimate frisbee men's tour teams. The third manages to squeeze volleyball, basketball, and workouts in between coaching his kids' soccer and basketball and his job.
It's as though something in them drives them to be active. They don't mind the sweat. They don't mind running around in pouring rain. Or getting up at six to hit the pool. I remember when my oldest son (the one with the kids) was fourteen years old and getting up at four AM to swim. He was born a nightowl and still has trouble thinking before ten AM. But nine times out of ten, he was up on his own and ready to go. At four AM! (The tenth time there was a loud banging noise at our front door and then a hurried exit to join his car pool.)
What drives people to physical activity like that, I honestly have no idea. It's never been the case with me.
Of course, I grew up with three strikes against me:
1. An overprotective mother who was always worrying I'd get hurt and telling me to be careful.
2. Young male phys ed teachers who had no idea what to do with people who weren't athletically minded.
3. The feeling that I wasn't at all athletic and therefore couldn't be good at any sports activities.
There wasn't much I could do about any of those things.
But here's the funny thing. When I got to university, I somehow ended up on the badminton team. All because I ended up with a very athletic roommate who was on four teams and dragged me with her to badminton because they were short of players. Not only did I make the team, but I loved playing badminton and did reasonably well - especially in doubles. Who knew I'd have such a wicked serve!
In the following years, I managed to stay reasonably healthy by having four very active sons to keep up with, as well as houses with lots of stairs, and the odd activity. Unfortunately, an arm injury when I was forty kept me from playing anything that involved my arm (badminton, golf, bowling, curling, etc. etc. )
The result was that I eventually did what most sedentary people do - I gained weight.
I subscribed to Prevention magazine. Then I joined Weight Watchers. I started walking and eating less. And I did manage to get rid of thirty pounds. But then I started to yo-yo, putting on five pounds and losing it again, and so forth.
And I realized what I needed was a complete lifestyle change. I needed something to make me want to get off the chair and actually move. But what? I tried walking outside. Good for a while but then pretty boring. I got a tread mill and watched TV while walking. Better, but... I bought weights. So so. I even tried swimming. I'm allergic to the chlorine. Nothing really motivated me - everything I tries was more or less of a chore. Nothing I did was fun!
And then Nintendo came out with Wii Fit, Active Sports, Sports Challenge, Sports Resort, and now My Fitness Coach. And I am soooo pumped! I love them all. There are mornings when I wake up at 7:00 AM and can't wait to run downstairs and turn on the Wii!
In the past four months, I've done three-30 day challenges with Active Sports. I use Wii Fit aerobics, balance games, and yoga on "rest" days. I play Outdoor Challenge and Sports Resort in the late afternoon or evening when I need something fun to do. I just did my first workout in My Fitness Coach, and I'm happy with it and ready for more.
After all these years, I've found something "athletic" that I enjoy. And I've realized a couple of things that may apply to other people like me:
1. There were two things I hated about phys ed. One was the militant attitude of the teachers who were themselves athletic and didn't understand what it was like to be someone who had no athletic drive, and had very little patience or sympathy for those of us who felt klutzlike, or felt forced to do things we hated. But the second thing is that I don't like to do things with a group. I'm an introvert. I like to be alone. Being with other people puts additional stress on me that I just don't need. I don't like writing in a group either. With my Wii games, no one is looking over my shoulder. I'm competing against myself, and that's enough for me.
2. There are ways to keep fit that don't involve organized sports. And the Wii Fit programs suit me to a T. They are composed of different elements. I can do them at my own pace. I can customize my program. And at the same time, they make me try new things and stretch my abilities. I push myself harder because of the programs, yet it's always my choice.
3. The best way to be active is to do something you love. So don't give up until you find it. It doesn't have to be the "normal thing." Try walking, dancing, canoeing, bowling, or doing a Wii activity. Don't give up. We all need to be healthy and that means we need to move so our muscles stay in shape and we don't become overweight. Writers are definitely at risk here, as are most office workers. So look for something you will love doing.
My current goal is to be active for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. That involves four 45-minute sessions with upper and lower body weight training, a lot of cardio aerobics, Wii Fit balance games, walking outside while it's warm, stair-climbing (we have a three-story house), and other Wii games. I figure anything that gets me up from a seating position is a good thing. :)
N. J. Lindquist is the co-editor and publisher of Hot Apple Cider, which was recently chosen as the "one book" for the Church Library Association of Ontario's "One Book / One Conference" October 3rd at Tyndale University College and Seminary. N. J. blogs at Blue Collar Writer.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
At the end of July my 23 year-old son fell 20 feet from a roof onto concrete (he's a roofer). In a minute his life was changed. Fortunately his mobility and brain function were spared, but his arm is still in a cast, his face still numb from surgery and he may never regain the formerly perfect vision of one eye (though he can see out of it - iffy at first).
Then about a week ago I got an email from the son of former neighbors. His mother, my friend, whom I lived next to for 24 years and was getting treatments for cancer had taken a sudden turn for the worse. In fact, I discovered when I visited her in hospital, she had nearly died a few days earlier and was now facing an uncertain future with an inoperable tumor that hadn't shrunk with radiation and another one that was interfering with her breathing.
These glimpses of the valley of the shadow are sobering. They remind me that tomorrow may not turn out as I expect. In fact, there are no guarantees that I'll even have a tomorrow... though I most likely will - and you probably will too. But we won't have forever.
So let's do our best to live each day to the full, letting God do whatever He wants in and through us, so that when our time is up, when it's our life that disappears like a fog, we will have no regrets.
Personal blog promptings
Writerly blog Line upon line
Kids' daily devotions Bible Drive-Thru
And just for fun -- Murals!