Thursday, July 28, 2016

Write Letters for Fun and Writing Fitness

My kids are home! It was so nice to have them blessed and tucked into their own beds last night. Just like old times. They have some letters to write now, but I'm letting them take it easy today, adjust to the heat and humidity.

Earlier this year, I discontinued my website because I much prefer the Blogger platform, but I had useful articles and links that are now lost. Partially. I had the good sense to back up some of the stuff and since people still ask me about particular articles, I'm going to start putting them here along with a permanent link under Tips and Links. Such is internetty housekeeping. I've already noticed that some of my articles have two spaces after a period.  LOL.  So you'll know which ones are the older articles, when I was still in my typewriter mode. I'm tagging these under archives.

From the web archives: Write Letters for Fun and Writing Fitness

Dear Friends, 

How are you?  Chances are that you do not have much time to spare.  But I propose that you make time for writing letters.  Letters will keep you connected to those you love and will keep you writing. 

Thanks to a fractured home, I began writing letters at the tender age of six.  There was no telephone and no television.  Papers and pencils, rationed by my mother, were one of our prized possessions.  Every time I missed my father, I wrote a letter to him.  It was the next best thing to a visit.  Every time I had a secret that I couldn’t bear to keep, I wrote to my brother. 

I love writing and receiving letters.  They are the life-line to my family and friends.  Nothing compares to the joy of opening a letter from my best friend and reading it for the first time.  Later, I savor it.  I’ve traveled to many places and letters bind me to the people I miss.
My husband and I had a long-distance relationship for eight years.  I do not recommend it.  We were young and foolish and too independent.  But we wrote a great deal.  Letters kept us close.  I have all those letters in a binder and even now, after twenty years of being together, I’ll take one letter out and read it and feel happy over how everything has turned out.
Writers write.  Write a letter to your beloved husband or wife.  Write a letter to your child or grandchild, a letter to your friend, a letter to your editor.  You will feel good, and when your recipient reads your letter, he or she will feel special.  You can even write a letter to yourself.  It will help you to clarify your thinking.  Sometimes I let my characters write letters to me or to each other.  It is amazing what they reveal.
Letter-writing is becoming a dying art.  Some of my nieces and nephews do not acknowledge gifts.  Some of my friends write haphazard e-mails in which not a single thought is expressed coherently.  We are in the age of fast and furious living.  I say, “Slow down.”  Write a letter.  Read it.  Revise it.  Ponder while you write.  It is a time to collect your thoughts and articulate them.  And it IS the next best thing to a visit.
You don’t have to be Nick Bantock, the author of Sabine and Griffin trilogy books, to write letters.  But you can look to his books for inspiration.  You can write on a postcard if you’re on a holiday, or if you want to share a particularly beautiful picture.  You can use scented paper, colored paper,  paper with designs.  Or you can write on a plain piece of paper.  You can also type it, if you feel that your penmanship is not the greatest.  I prefer hand-written letters (my hand-writing is not great, but it’s legible chicken-scratch) because the style of writing also reflects the mood.  I recently bought some calligraphy pens and often use them to address the envelopes.  It’s time consuming but the result is worth it.  And the entire time I am thinking of that person.  The very act of writing a letter is all about that – thinking about a person with whom you want to share some of your thoughts.  What greater gift is there?
Even now, I write a letter to my husband, sometimes for a special occasion or sometimes because there are things on my mind that need clarification.  Sometimes I keep the letters to myself.  But more often, I put them next to his backpack.  And he says that it is wonderful, because he can read the letter, tuck it away, and read it again.  And again.  A telephone conversation is great because of the instantaneous feedback, but unless you record your dialogue, it is lost forever.  Though modern technology is wonderful and has its uses, it cannot replace the beauty of the old-fashioned paper and pen.
Salutation:  Salute the reader.  Dear Mom.  My Darling Husband.  My dear, sweet baby.  Don’t jump right into the letter.  Take the time to greet the reader.
Body:  Express yourself.  Share your thoughts.  Tell a story.  My mother wrote the most beautiful letters about the mundane.  She even wrote about laundry, but it’s the way she wrote about it that made it enjoyable to read.  The summer I spent with my husband (then boyfriend), my mother wrote to me how much she missed me.  She realized it while she was folding clothes, when she didn’t have me around to tell me how to fold shirts properly (I still don’t do a good job of folding clothes)!  So go ahead.  If it’s laundry that’s on your mind, write about that.
Ask about the reader.  Let him or her know that you have their health and well-being on your mind.  You should care enough to ask.  Then sit back and enjoy the response.
Closing: Don’t end abruptly.  Recapitulate something important, like when you may next meet or what you feel.  Always end with a positive emotion.
So, what are you waiting for?  Write a letter to your favorite person NOW.
Yours truly,
"Write Letters for Fun and Writing Fitness" was first published in Once Upon A Time (Winter 2003) and next in The Chinook (Spring 2004).

Monday, July 25, 2016

While the Kids are Away ...

...the parents play :) We've been enjoying a temporary empty nest while our kids visit family in WA. I've been writing and cleaning and tidying up, hanging up some new curtains and not tripping over a slew of shoes, lacrosse sticks, and balls :) Michael and I have been cooking some gourmet meals, watching movies, taking walks, and praying the rosary in Latin.* And here's Michael indulging our cat -- she's 18 years old and dying, so if she asks for anything, she gets it, including his water. LOL. Naughty cat. Good dog!  

* If you have an hour, praying the rosary in Gregorian chant is incredibly meditative.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Facebook: Crossing Over to the Dark Side

Ummm, I never thought I'd join Facebook (I said the same about blogging many years ago), but this week, when the chapter I was revising was driving me nutty, I decided that I'll make a Facebook account so that I can keep in better touch with many of my family and friends. Is this the height of procrastination or what?

It is an easier way to stay in touch and I can see why so many people prefer it to writing letters. But I could never give that up. I'm just too old-fashioned. 

I have a lot to learn about using Facebook. I'm not sure I will ever get used to the busy platform and it's too early to tell whether it is a blessing or a burden. I have enjoyed seeing lovely photographs and funny family moments. It's been great to connect with some of my old friends. I even discovered a group of parents here who swap textbooks and such. I suppose, like anything we do on the computer, I'll need to watch how much time I spend *connecting* and not doing the work I need to be doing. We shall see. Even if I'm not active, I'll probably still keep my account to catch up on my family and friends' lives.

Oh, that chapter I was revising ... I did finish ... two days later :) It's funny how I resolved to not procrastinate the month of June. Look at the backlash! Oy! Pray for me.

This is my page.
It's a lot easier going to people's pages.
You can catch up on all their news.
This is my feed page.
It's a constant stream of information,
not organized in any way, just by the time it was posted.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Storms and Migraines

I love summer -- the slower pace, time to go to the beach, naps, iced tea and just sitting on the porch, catching the breeze. My cat likes it too! But the pop-up storms that shower us every afternoon and the bigger storms play havoc on my head. My poor head. It seems that all the progress I make, the resolve not to take any pain killers because I do not want to be comatose with antihistamines fall by the wayside. I'm detoxing all over again because I get dependent so very quickly on the triptans.

Anyway, here's a screenshot of a chart showing daily pain since Oct. 2015 through June 2016. I've had three sets of Botox treatments since the beginning of Nov. '15 You can see the trend. I am getting better slowly. There are clusters of blue diamonds at zero, which is what I'd like to see more of. Yeah, pain-free days!  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a re-imagining of the Taming of the Shrew in modern times. Kate is stuck taking care of her father’s household, a scientist relegated to the corners of academia, on the verge of a breakthrough, who relies on his brilliant lab assistant Pyotr. Kate works at a preschool during the day and in the evenings tends to the garden as well as making sure her younger sister is studying at least somewhat instead of just mooning over the neighbor boy.
When Pyotr is slated to be deported (visa expiration), her father suggests the unthinkable in this day and age – marriage – to keep him here. The two men try to win her over and Kate ultimately ties the knot, as we know she would. And now the fun really begins.
I liked the setup but isn’t quite faithful to Shakespeare. Kate isn’t a shrew by any means; she is brusque and forthright in her manner, extremely dependable and competent; and the clash between Pyotr and Kate isn’t really about male dominance or the husband being the head of household, rather a culture clash. Tyler takes too long to get going with the main plot; the preschool bit bogs the book down. Once Kate’s marriage is imminent, the pace picks up and rollicks right along. The ending is superb.
Thanks to Blogging for Books for a review copy. I'm crossposting this on Amazon.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Road Trips and Summer Camps



 Ever since Max went to the wonderful FSSP camp, I've been searching for something similar for Dagny. And that answer came through the Monfort Retreat Center and traditional Benedictine sisters: Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There's daily Mass, rosary, sports, lectures and time to rest and reflect in these beautiful woods/lake in NH. Dagny enjoyed it so very much, she wants to return next year! Here is the Sisters' FB page and they are posting some photos. And this little video is about who they are and what their apostolate is so very beautiful. Have a look!

Dagny flew up to Boston by herself from Charlotte, NC and Michael and Max had an opportunity to visit Belmont Abbey. Later in the week they drove up to NH to pick her up because on the way back they'd drop off Max at Christendom College. He had a taste of college life there (thanks to a generous scholarship) and he loved it because they studied all his favorite classes -- Literature, Theology, History and Philosophy. No math!!! LOL. After classes, they went to daily Mass,  had lunch, and then had some fun activities. He enjoyed his time very much there and it's going to be tough deciding between Ave Maria, Belmont Abbey, Christendom. We ask for your prayers as he discerns. It's sooooo good to have everybody home safe and sound. Thanks be to God for all these wonderful opportunities. Michael is exhausted but we're staying put in July.




More photos at Christendom's FB page

Thursday, July 7, 2016


We like going to the beach in the evenings, when it isn't scorching hot. And it's a lot quieter too. Peaceful. The water is warm as a bath. Love watching the patterns the waves make in the sand.

My left foot :)
And thanks to Google Assist, I have this! So fun!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Learning to Swear in America

Learning to Swear in America! What a great title! Someday I want to steal it. I'm sure my friend Katie would not mind. Today is book birthday and look what finally came in the mail!!! Don't you just love that cover!?! 

I've only read the first chapter because there's a dinner to prepare, a dog to walk, and a kitchen to clean up but unlike Yuri, I have time to savor this. Congratulations Katie!!!

Here's what the flap copy says:
A Summer/Fall 2016 Indies Introduce selection
An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Maybe not kill-all-the-dinosaurs bad, but at least kill-everyone-in-California-and-wipe-out-Japan-with-a-tsunami bad. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been recruited to aid NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster.
The good news is Yuri knows how to stop the asteroid--his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But the trouble is, even though NASA asked for his help, no one there will listen to him. He's seventeen, and they've been studying physics longer than he's been alive.
Then he meets (pretty, wild, unpredictable) Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and live a life worth saving.
Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with the questions of the universe.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

On Freedom

I love America! This is my adopted country; I call it home. And so I pray fervently for her to return to her roots. I didn't appreciate the Constitution to the degree I do now when I became a naturalized American citizen at the age of 19. It's a lot like being married. I didn't fully appreciate what it was but the longer Michael and I are married, the more deeply we are in love with one another. And so it is with these great United States, even though the country is moving towards a self-destructive path. We aren't free; we are enslaved in sin. The measure of the greatness comes from how well a society cares for the least -- the young, the old, the infirm, the poor.

We are failing miserably. What kind of freedom is this where we kill our babies and we kill our elderly instead of walking with them through their suffering? Lord knows I've wanted to die a hundred times because of pain I cannot bear. It would be the easy thing to do. But not courageous. Courage is living with pain, doing your duty, loving. But in our weak moments we need others who can stand by us and defend us. Not kill us. 

Every successful society is governed by laws that evoke a Creator. Our moral code is based upon a Judeo-Christian understanding of life. But increasingly, people are departing from it. We are our own gods. The self is the highest good. Descartes "I think therefore I am" has been taken to absurd heights with no basis in reality. Moral relativism is all the rage. People think there is no absolute truth, just mine and yours and his and hers. But there is a thing as objective reality and we ignore it.

Will God bless America? Or will He chastise us for not living by His precepts, for spitting in His face? We see over and over how the Jewish people were punished when they followed false gods. Reading Monsignor Pope's reflection on the prophet Amos was sobering. He writes, "Amos reminds us that our sins and injustices cannot go on forever. God hears the cries of the poor, the aborted, the victims of the sexual revolution, the children who suffer from their parents’ misbehavior, those who suffer on account of our greed, and many others.

I am not able to see the future in detail, but it is biblically and historically true that indulged evil and sin cannot last. They carry the seeds of destruction because they are rooted in selfishness. And selfishness does not build families, nations, or cultures. While evil has its day, it also has its end, which is destruction."

It is time to repent and turn to the Lord. He is merciful and just. And let us mean when we sing America the Beautiful: America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.  Mary, pray for us. Help us to choose our leaders wisely, those who will uphold life and true liberty.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!