Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Symphony of Grief and Creativity-by Heidi McLaughlin


Grief is a mysterious monster. It lunges us into deep dark places seeking the once familiar pathway of love. It longs to recapture the beautiful rhythm of shared experiences, intimate conversations and physical touch.

Grief is love with no place to go.

At one time my relationship with my beloved Jack was like listening to an exquisitely tuned symphony on a magical summer evening. Perfectly crafted sounds and rhythms that felt like a touch of Heaven. Grief steals that flawless balanced harmony and now all I wanted to do was hide and cover my ears to drown out the screeching and wretched sounds.  Will that musical masterpiece ever be heard and felt once again? Does grief and pain sabotage our future creativity and ability to craft beautiful lyrics?

Grief has a profound affect on our brain.  Through cortisol chemicals being released in the body, the brain is scrambled and unpredictable. Details are foggy, internal reactions are shifted and concentration is compromised. We lose interest in things, find ourselves unable to smile or laugh, we can’t eat or sleep and we’re emotionally numb.  With all this disruption on our physical, emotional and psychological state, what happens to our creativity for writing, painting or writing a new symphony?

Pain takes us into unfamiliar and unpleasant places.

Yet each time we are thrust into deeper places, our mind expands with greater understanding, priorities and images. Once the fog disappears, images and colours are brighter, notes are clearer and we’re more courageous with our words and descriptions. Pain opens up another world that gives us permission to think and create outside predictable clichés and nuances.  Barbara Lane in her article on “How Grief Affects the Brain” states: Grief provides some of the low notes of our lives that make it a richer symphony overall.”[1]  In fact, we’ll fearlessly embrace new words and notes that synthesize exceptional beauty and harmony.


Some of the greatest cultural masterpieces are the byproduct of pain and grief. Homer’s “lliad” tragedy is among the oldest extant works of Western literature and written around 8th century B.C.  C.S. Lewis ‘ greatest works, one being “The Problem of Pain” was written after the death of his beloved wife. The single mother, billionaire and ninth best-selling fiction author of all time, J.K. Rowling, makes no secret of the fact she deals with depression and pain. Doctor and author Henry Seiden goes even further to say:

“Creativity is the essential response to grief.” [2]

Twelve months after my beloved Jack died I attempted to carve out time to write my next book. Frustration set in and I felt inadequate as I wrote predictable sentences with lack of insight and creativity.  At the time I thought I was ready to write another 60,000 words but my brain knew better. I will still foggy and disjointed.  This year in the month of May I tried writing another chapter and this time excitement seared through my body as words, images and concepts flowed in harmony like the beginning of a new symphony. During my time in the dark and deep, the harsh life and loneliness gave way to the emergence of a magnificent new sonata.  It won’t look like my previous ones, but I believe these will have more depth, colour and harmony. Lord may it be so.

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. Heidi has been widowed twice. She is a mom and step mom of a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 12 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her family and special friends.
Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places (Including a FREE downloadable Study Guide) is now available at Amazon.ca; Amazon.com, Goodreads.com or her website: www.heartconnection.ca









[1] http://barbarafane.com/grief-symptoms-how-grief-affects-the-brain/
[2] http://www.headspace.com/blog /2017/04/18/grief-creativity-together/

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Goofta, anyone? by SUSAN HARRIS

Inspiration hardly strikes on an empty stomach. For this, and other reasons, writers must eat.  

And if you like minced beef (and you do if you like burgers) and chick peas, this recipe is perfect solo or shared.

Goofta is simply fried mince meat and chickpeas. 



Chickpeas are healthy and tasty, high in proteins, and lower on the glycemic index. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods)

 Goofta was introduced in my native country of Trinidad by the settlers from India and the Middle East. (A similar variation of the dish called fallalel omits the meat and is merely chickpea balls.) 

I used the recipe from my absolutely favourite cookbook The Multi-Cultural Cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean. 



This bestseller was created by Naparima Girls High School, a prestigious educational institution in Trinidad, for their Diamond Jubilee decades ago, and remains the most popular cookbook in the country.  (It's available on Amazon.)


 You will need:
½ lb. minced beef or lamb (chicken or turkey would not hurt)
1 can chick peas drained
1½ tsp salt
black pepper to taste 
1 tsp hot pepper (optional)
2 tbsp chopped chives 

1 tsp thyme
1 tsp minced garlic2 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 tsp butter or margarine
1 cup oil

Preparation:
1.   Season meat with 1 tsp salt, black pepper, chive, thyme and hot pepper.
2.   Drain and mince chickpeas in food processor
3.   Combine meat, chickpeas, chickpeas, onion, butter and ½ tsp salt. Mix well.

4.   Shape into balls about 1”-1 ½” in diameter and flatten slightly.
5.   Fry in oil on moderate heat.

Drain on paper towel. Serve with a dip or sauce. 

hope you enjoy goofta this as much as I do. Happy snacking. 




SUSAN HARRIS  grew up on the island of Trinidad. She loves to cook and feels impelled to since her new kitchen is dominated by an island which has endless space for utensils, appliances, food, books, camera and the many non-kitchen items that often grace it. Find more recipes at her blog at www.susanharris.ca

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Heat Goes On--Carolyn R. Wilker



No, not the beat. It’s the heat. Not so long ago we waited for the heat to come. Now we’ve got it in spades. The ground is dry again, the grass is dead, but thank goodness for the rain we had that filled our water barrels and soaked the ground. Our garden plants stood up taller and had a great growth spurt afterwards. It’s as though they were saying "thank you." Even the drought tolerant flowers were showing signs of stress stood up taller.



garden after the good rainfall
  

We could use another good rain shower for the crops and gardens. Then people wanting to picnic and have outdoor events might holler, "No, we want sunshine!" or "Couldn't it come at night instead?" There’s no pleasing us humans. Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it … in between, like me.

 
 granddaughter watering the garden, 2017

 
a good cold drink in the heat

We can be picky, or maybe it’s particular. Many times we just complain, but it seems God is used to that. He’s heard it before—centuries of it. One most notable being the philosopher in Ecclesiastes who felt nothing was right. People worked hard and got nothing for it. He wrote, “the streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full" (v7a), "all things are wearisome, more than one can say" (v 8a). He declares that everything is meaningless (v. 2)  with no new things under the sun. People reading the philosopher now might think he’s a pessimist. Maybe when he wrote it, he was having a bad day, just like us.

Does he change his mournful tune though? By Chapter 3, it seems he is resigned to life as it is, for he declares happy with the sad, though the sad in most lines comes first, "a time to weep and a time to laugh" (v 4),"a time to tear down and a time to mend" (7a). Then wonder of wonders, despite all the trials, he declares that God has set eternity in the human heart. There’s a sign of hope there.

We, too, have hope because God doesn’t give up on us, even when we’re not sure where we stand. As with the philosopher, we have times where things are not so glum, and we accept 'what is' about life and go on. Then there’s the garden, that when we tend it and take care of it, offers up food for our use and sustenance. That, too, is a gift.


 Carolyn Wilker is an author, editor and storyteller from southwestern Ontario. She gardens and loves to spend time with her family.



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