Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Writing Fiction After a Long Hiatus

It's been a while since I worked on fiction and am discovering how hard it actually is to put down on paper what I see in my head. Nonfiction is so much easier. For the past few years I've only been scribbling story ideas without developing them but with choir winding down (we'll take a summer break after the Feast of the Sacred Heart) I thought it's high time to get back to the stories that burn within my heart, really spend the time with them. So what a disappointment to discover that the writing isn't coming easily. I feel like I'm starting all over again, learning to set the scene, write dialogue, and not have the characters merely think about stuff but do stuff. I'm so grateful for my family who continue to encourage me and give me the necessary time to devote to writing.

So imagine my delight at discovering this website: The Official Written? Kitten! ( I actually wrote that first bit and was rewarded with a picture of a kitten. Do I need it? Nope. Writing is its own reward. But it's fun. So I've decided to bookmark the site until I get back into the fiction groove. I hope it doesn't take too long. And I'll appreciate any advice or tips that you can share.

I came across Helpful Advice from History’s Fastest, Most Prolific Authors ( (and yes, all of this is procrastination) and what fun to see this quote from Muriel Spark: 

If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, I explained, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp. The light from a lamp, I explained, gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Our First Sweet Adelines Contest

I'm so stoked--we were in Orlando for regional competition and we have worked so hard on the music, the choreography, even the stage make-up! And it was all worth it to win 2nd place in small chorus division and 5th overall. I hope next year we can be the most improved chorus! Here's the link:  We were the last chorus to compete and come on at the 2:55:30 mark. There's an interview with David and Bonnie at 3:07.

You can't see me in this picture because I'm right behind Dagny (lower left corner) and she's wearing heels! It's been such fun to sing together. She sings tenor with me (we are the cherry on top!). We have two more mother-daughter pairs. And I'm confident this artform will continue...  

After the competition, we were a lot more relaxed and celebrated our accomplishment. We received a lot of constructive criticism and eager to put it into our practices. David knighted us with our two medals. And the young kids in the group were busy taking pictures and making memes.

I am so thankful to God for making it possible for me to sing with Charleston Sound Chorus. What a delight and privilege to sing with such talented women under David's direction. He pushes us to be our best. All glory to God! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Spring in DC

A couple of weeks ago, we drove up to DC to visit with Max and his friends. And on the road trip, I got my first taste of Buc-ee's.  Excellent beef brisket! Friendly staff! Clean bathrooms with art on the wall. Very Texas! I'm so grateful Michael enjoys driving and is happy to make the long drive without my help. My job was to pick music, audio dramas, and navigate once we got closer to DC. I'd forgotten how horrendous the traffic is. Michael was glad to relinquish the keys to Max when we got there. He knows DC well given he takes the metro and rides his bike everywhere. It makes me happy to see him happy, but how I wish he were just a wee bit dissatisfied so that he could be thinking of working his way down to Charleston. I'm so grateful he takes the time to nurture all his relationships.   

We had such a good time sight-seeing. Went to Meridian Park. Loved the statue of Dante and St. Joan of Arc (she makes an appearance in my historical)! Later that evening Michael and Max had a nice smoke out on the porch. It got chilly so I stayed indoors to finish By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho. Such a beautiful story of young people discerning their vocation.

It was so moving to visit Arlington National Cemetery. Just thinking about how many people have died to secure the freedoms we enjoy makes my heart overflow with gratitude. I didn't realize that Arlington house was that of Robert E. Lee. Michael is reading his biography and he reads snippets aloud to me so it was doubly interesting to visit the house and gardens and know of the beginning of a national cemetery.

We had a picnic lunch at the arboretum and enjoyed walking about on the trails, admiring all the beautiful flowers. So many azaleas in bloom! I also loved the bonsai exhibit--I've always loved miniatures and the bonsai is no exception. Some were over 100 years old! 

Sunday was lovely. We heard Mass at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. Such a simple and beautiful Gregorian chant Mass and in such a sacred space. Reminded me of this lovely quote of St. Augustine:  
Augustine of Hippo

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

The mosaics depicted all the mysteries of the rosary as well as many saints and scenes from the Bible. Ave Maria was shown in many different languages. I still haven't deciphered the heiroglyphics! The gardens and grottos were such a delight. To have this in the middle of the city is such a blessing to the residents. In this monastery we can never forget the roots of our Christian faith. It is Jewish. I'm especially reminded of this every time I sing the psalms--many of the chants date back to Jewish times. Pope St. Gregory only formalized what was already a practice. The monastery was having a garden sale--we brought home a banana plant! 

Finally, the main event: celebrating 25 years of the monks of Norcia. We were first introduced to them Michaelmas 2015 and how beautifully the community has grown! The brew-meister is a native of SC. He was a postulant when we first met, now a priest--Fr. Augustine. I know Michael would love to make a retreat there; maybe he will when he retires. I've known a few people who've gone there for a month and it is very difficult re-entering the world. I remember that the monks have a transition to make too, when they return to their quiet life in the monastery. They must decontaminate, if you will, from the worldly pleasures. I am so grateful that they do come out into the world to give us a taste of heaven. Ross Douthat spoke about his friendship with the monks, how chronic Lyme changed his life, how he became the beneficiary of the monks' prayers--he, along with his wife, Abigail Tucker, and their children were able to make a retreat at Norcia. The monastery is a lighthouse--it both points to the heavenly way, as well as being a beacon that draws people toward them. So many people are building their families in the shadow of what the monks have built, given the chaos of living in a post-Christian society. There's a renewal of religious life because we long for the transcendent. When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith? Yes! Perhaps it's only a remnant, but it's enough. Come, Lord Jesus!