Wrapping Up the Week

Blizzard 2013 near the beginningI’m writing this while looking out at piles on piles of snow from what perhaps will be known as the famous blizzard of 2013! In the city we don’t have the luxury of pretty snow for very long, so soon does it bear the marks of the dirt and pollution of our world – but right this moment it’s a white wonderland. As though God took out a paintbrush and painted white across our canvas. Or as though we are in the movie Dr. Zhivago and Omar Sharif is inviting us into the ice palace.

But on to the wrapping up the week.

On Malala Yusufzai: This now well-known Pakistani teenager, Malala, is released from the hospital. Her story is amazing and I look forward to watching how she continues to change her (and our) world. Here is an update on her story.

On Abuse: I wrote a post this week called Out of Darkness, Into Light. I received many private messages and it was shared a good bit through various means of social media. I wrote it with fear and trembling, but more so a prayer that it could be used in some small way to bring healing and hope. Here is a comment from a reader posted on the Communicating Across Boundaries Facebook page.

“I think like all circumstances, the healing is an ongoing process. There are still some people I never want to see again, and some people I have yet to be able to forgive. Perhaps the greatest blessing is that I’ve stopped telling myself I *should* forgive, and just accept that I’m still hurt and angry. If and when all of it heals enough so that I can forgive, I will be grateful.”

Thank you Vivian Monterrosso for these words and for allowing me to share them. If you want to take a look at the Facebook page, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/CommunicatingAcrossBoundariesBlog.

On Women: I haven’t announced this in the blog until now, but last year I had an essay accepted to a book project called What a Woman is Worth. The editor is a gifted writer named Tamara Lunardo. She is in the final editing process at this point so stay tuned for the release of what is sure to be a redemptive set of essays looking at the worth of women in the sight of God. Tamara wrote a beautiful and personal essay on her blog this week called Taking Back Buffet. Reading it will give you a preview into the pain and redemption of this project.

On my beside table: Can we maybe just not talk about how little I’ve been able to read of the books that I want to read?! I did read the first part of the essay Notes From the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky to the delight of my son! I’m still processing this in between shoveling, laundry, and eating homemade bread.

And finally, the view from my window! Enjoy and lend a virtual hand to us as we try and shovel our way out of the snow cave.

Writing the Old Fashioned Way….With Pen and Paper

We’re ending the week with this great piece from Robynn! After you’ve read it, you may be compelled to pick up a quill and a scroll!

writing, blogging, pen, paperOur son Connor was recently inducted into the international honorary society, Quill and Scroll. The society exists to promote scholastic journalistic excellence among high school journalists. It was started in April 1926 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.

I love it that Connor gets to be a part of such a long-standing community of writers committed to good writing but it amuses me to think that it’s called the Quill and Scroll. Connor and most of his cohorts can hardly manage a pen and paper let alone a quill and a scroll.

Last week I was on my way home from Albuquerque and my flight was delayed. Here’s a little something that I penned in my journal:

It’s hard to write anymore with pen and paper. How did I become one of these writers that prefers the computer, the keyboard, the monitor? How did that happen?

I was always a pen and paper girl!

And now here I am stripped of laptop sitting waiting for a delayed plane, inspired to write and yet without my tools—like a knitter without needles or a mechanic without a wrench.

I criticize my own children for being paralyzed without their technology. They’ve developed an insane dependency on their screens. They constantly poke, swipe, tap on screens. They have phones. There’s Facebook and Pinterest and instagram. Games on the laptop. Games on the phone. Games on the Xbox.  Games on the iPod. Even the books they read are imbedded into their technology.

When we lived in India I was “sheltered” from modern devices. We did have a small box television and a VHS video player and eventually even a DVD player. Lowell took our laptop back and forth to his office. When it was at home the kids, considerably smaller then it’s true, had games they played on it…mostly reading games or math puzzles. Lowell had Riven and Mist which provided him some entertainment.

Life was busier there. The children were younger. I was kept occupied meeting their needs and really just living. When I was on the computer it was for the occasional administrative detail. I wrote letters on it, and kept up with our business accounts. I rarely did email–we didn’t have internet in our home in those days.

I remember when new people would arrive in our remote city how shocked they were at the lack of technology we had access to. It frustrated them. They were used to google searching everything. Weather.com had always helped them know how to dress. Allrecipes.com told them what to eat and how to cook it. Google told them where to find things and how to locate them.

But now? How were they to get along? Where could find plastic buckets? And how did they get there? In some ways we became their access to information. We were their search engine. We showed them how to dress, what to wear, how to cook, what to eat. We also encouraged them to engage their neighbours and community for what they needed. Aunties next door knew where to get buckets of every size and colour.

It was hard for me not to roll my eyes at the paralysis these new friends experienced without their technology.

That was before we moved back into the land of instant information! The shock of sudden access was almost as crippling. Almost every question I had was deferred to the internet.

Where do I find school enrollment information? Oh, have you checked the USD 383 website?

Where can I buy a whatchamacallit? You could try online.

How do I get a library card? Go online. Check the website.

How do I cook a turkey? Oh it’s so easy….just look online!

It was astounding. Bank online. Pay bills online. Listen to the radio online. Get news online. Get church newsletters in my inbox. Sign up online. Invitations sent via email. RSVP online.

At first it felt so disconnected and crazy to me. But how quickly I became that same person. I depend on the internet in ways I never did before. I’m used to it. I still have a flash of surprise when someone suggests getting information from there but it’s an “oh yes…I should have thought of that” kind of surprise not a shocking exasperation anymore.  I find recipes there and advice. The girls spilt dark purple nail polish on our light coloured carpet. No need to worry. The internet says apply rubbing alcohol and hairspray and rub like crazy. They did and it worked!! Thanks to the internet my carpet is restored and my anger diffused! I check the weather in far off places before I travel. I book tickets. I make reservations. I check on friends.

Now here I am. I wait for my flight and I’d like to write but I don’t have my computer. I feel the paralysis take hold. Do I even know how to write anymore? Can I still form the letters? Can sentences play out in my brain without a screen to dance on?

I pick up my pen determined. I can do this—

But before I start I better remove the laptop from my own eye before picking out the Xbox from Connor’s eye, or the Kobo and iPod touch from my daughters eyes!

Remembering the power of the narrative – bearing witness to the stories of others.

Marilyn R. Gardner

It is the function of Art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.~ Anais Nin

While living internationally, we rarely went a day without having a story to tell that demonstrated our clumsy negotiations in a country where we were guests. Whether it was wrong translations on birth certificates, getting completely lost in a city of millions, or using the wrong word when communicating, there was always a story. At parties a game favorite was Two Truths and a Lie. While many in the United States may have played this, the responses are totally different when you live overseas. Responses such as “My maid of honor was a Nigerian gentleman”I had dinner with Yasser Arafat’s brother” “My appendix were taken…

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“If You Had the Chance to Change Your Fate, Would You?”

Brave. Pixar. Strong Woman. Pure Magic. Love

These seven words are my “less than 140 character” review of the movie Brave. I loved it. Trust the creative minds at Pixar to develop a plot that combines a strong female character, a mother-daughter relationship and a look at breaking with tradition, churning it all together into the magical movie that is Brave.

We saw the trailer for so many weeks before the movie was released that we had memorized the lines; the more memorable ones being “If you had the chance to change your fate, would ya?” said with a lovely Scottish lilt and “I’m Merida and I’ll shoot for my own hand!”

If you had the chance to change your fate, would ya?

To briefly summarize, the princess Merida is the eldest child of her parents (King Fergus and Queen Elinor) and the time has come for her parents to invite suitors to compete for her hand in marriage. Being a free spirit she’ll have none of it and seeks to find a way to change her mother’s mind. The result is a change she never intended, resulting in consequences that make for a clever plot, an evolution of the mother-daughter relationship, a challenge to the custom of arranged marriages and the “growing-up” of a girl.

Merida is delightful as the strong-willed, red-headed heroine, as skilled at archery as any man, an agile horse rider and full of personality. In true Pixar fashion, the characters are so cute that you want to eat them!

As one who goes to the movies to feel something I was not disappointed – rather I was enveloped in the emotions of the film. It helped that Julie Fowlis, a Scottish musician, took me into another world with her Celtic song “Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird A’ Chuain”.

I realized as the movie drew me further into the plot that I wanted my daughters there with me. Most mom/daughter relationships go through their stages of connection, disconnect, and finally a hope of reconnect that will transform into a unique friendship. The film was a beautiful picture of coming to terms with the differences that can present themselves between mothers and daughters; those that threaten to destroy, particularly when emotions run strong. Yet when worked through, they make the bond more enduring. Coupled with that is the quiet pride that a mom feels when she sees her daughter become a woman in her own right, displaying strength and resolve, those life gifts that take them so far. The part during the film where you know Queen Elinor is feeling this sentiment is captured with great humor but telling you would be a spoiler so I’ll leave it at that.

So to Annie and Stefanie – My brave girls-turned-women – When we’re all together in a few weeks we’ll go see Brave. And I am convinced that both of you, like Merida, will “Shoot for your own hand!” and hit the target.

Finding My Summer Book

Every summer one book emerges as “the book” of the summer. Last year it was The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and the year before it was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. These books cut through the ordinary and take me to a world where I sit, grow, laugh, cry and emerge wishing they would last longer.

It’s not that these are the only books I read during the summer, rather they mix in with several, but while others may fly past my eyes and through my head with a laugh, blink and smile, these captivate my mind and capture my heart.

And this summer, without reading a page, I think I may have already found “the book”.  Called Novel Destinations, this book looks like a reader and traveler’s delight. It promises to take me through the homes, places and spaces of authors like Mark Twain and Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway and the Bronte sisters. It sounds like the perfect marriage for those who love both travel and literature.

The web site gives this invitation: Embark on the literary grand tour of a lifetime with Novel Destinations as your guide to the famed haunts, homes, and watering holes where beloved authors, from Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters to John Steinbeck and Mark Twain, sought solace and found inspiration. Sure to spark the imaginations of armchair bibliophiles and seasoned travelers alike are the hundreds of literary-themed activities featured in the pages of Novel Destinations,

I’ve ordered mine so stay tuned for a review. I look forward to immersing myself in Novel Destinations and dreaming of my next trip while basking in a space where it is always ten minutes before two in the afternoon.

So….during a season where we can traditionally kick off our shoes and sit awhile, what’s on your reading list? Do you have “a summer book” or do you fly through books, one after the other without needing to settle on a favorite? Would love to hear through the comments!

For more information on this book, take a look at the blog http://noveldestinations.wordpress.com/

A note about So.Many.Stories – if you have submitted an article to So.Many.Stories – please forgive my delay. I’ve received some great submissions and will be in touch with people as to when they will post. Thank you for your patience!

thoughts on spring from a lower case poet

Deutsch: violette Krokusse mit verschlossener ...

Spring in Boston deserves a post every year, for no matter what the winter has held, be it a snow fall of 85 inches or dreary rain and cold grey, spring in all its glory casts a spell on the city. Yesterday was a balmy 70 degrees with hardly a cloud in the sky and today promises more of the same.

Forsythia and crocuses are the first to bring the promise of warmer weather and are a welcome color against the dead of grass and limb. Soon after come leaves of hedges and other perennials, added to the landscape the way an artist dips their paintbrush into colors of paint and with broad strokes creates color out of nothing. The banks of the Charles River enjoy foot and bike traffic, as people emerge from the cocoons of their dorm rooms and homes to breathe deeply and feel the warmth of spring. Everyone thaws.

Who better to bring us thoughts of spring than the poet e.e. cummings, native to this area. e.e. cummings was born in Cambridge and we have driven past his house many times. He went to Cambridge public schools, graduating from the same high school that my two youngest children have attended. Author of thousands of poems as well as novels, essays and plays, e.e. cummings had a magical way of weaving words and creating poetry. As temperatures rise and spring becomes official I’ll leave you with the magic of spring as expressed by this lower-case poet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

[in Just-]

bY e.e.cummings

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles          far          and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
it’s
spring
and
         the
                  goat-footed
balloonMan          whistles
far
and
wee

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Blogging – Graffiti with Punctuation or Real Writing?

In the recently released movie “Contagion”, a researcher is being harassed by a blogger who wants a story. The researcher turns to the blogger and says “Alan, blogging is not writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation!” And there the conversation ends.

It’s a fair point. To those who have had formal training (and informal struggle) with writing, taking courses and perfecting a craft, writing and then rewriting sentences, forming ideas and then tearing them apart, it is galling to have bloggers throw up a 500 word post with little thought.

But what if the blogger does think carefully about it? What if the blogger gets that idea, ponders it, forms a post, rethinks it, restructures, finds a picture, hears more information, adds another paragraph, and so on? Even if the blogger hasn’t had much formal training in writing, they are working hard at developing their craft – it’s just a different sort of craft. It’s a soundbite craft of sorts – give people a couple short paragraphs with hopes that they will think about it and go find out more.

So readers, what do you think? Is blogging real writing? Or is graffiti with punctuation an apt description? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. And I promise – your views are welcome, whether you like blogs or not!

Lastly – a Happy Saturday to you – may your weekend be a weekend of rest and peace.

Check out these photos taken by my daughter of graffiti near our house! Makes me want to blog :)