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Christós Anésti! Christ is Risen! Happy Easter

To all of you, a blessed and happy Easter. Here are some scenes from last night’s Easter Vigil at St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA, my home parish.

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A room of one’s own: what if your “room” could be portable?

What happens when you get the urge to create?

  • Do you retreat to a music studio to write a song?
  • Do you go to your specially designated study to write?
  • Do you paint your latest masterpiece in a light-filled studio?
  • Do you shut the door when you enter your room?

Why do secret hideaway places draw us like magnets?

I wanted a room of my own when I first discovered Louisa May Alcott as a kid. There was an illustration of Louisa in her special room where it was quiet and she could think. When she had finished writing her latest poem or story, she could indulge in her other favorite passion, running, by racing out the door to her room that led outside.

drawing by Flora Smith from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

drawing by Flora Smith from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

Getting away from the noise

Louisa’s family was noisy; quiet and privacy were hard to come by. Journals were a community affair with the parents writing notes in the margins. Louisa’s father Bronson often encouraged the children to read from their journals during the evening meal. Louisa was criticized by her father for writing too much about herself.

No wonder then that Louisa spent much of her life seeking out rooms of her own.

Finding a separate space

I used to think that a separate space away from everyone was necessary in order to create. A busy household with younger children makes finding quiet time difficult. It’s even more difficult when your home is too small to afford a separate space.

This was when I began to learn that any space could be a room of my own.
The physical space was not the key; it was the rituals you established that created that space.

512 louisa writing in the appletree

illustration by Flora Smith, from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

With that kind of mindset, a room of one’s own can be portable.

You might think it’s a waste of time to explore tools and work routines.

It is time well-invested. In the end, it saves time.

Why?

It took me hours, days, weeks, even months to figure out what worked for me. I searched diligently for those t00ls, those routines that would catapult me away from the world into my creative “zone” in an instant.

Now I snap into my “zone” with no effort at all, wherever I happen to be, so long as I have my tools (which for me are the Nook and my iPhone – see previous post) and routines.

My room is portable.

I can set up anywhere, anytime, in quiet spaces and noisy ones too. The rituals and tools I use act as a trip wire, sending me into my head for a delicious time of writing.

ADDENDUM: I just found this post about other writers and their own “rooms” – check it out at www.penheaven.co.uk/blog/getting-down-to-writing/

What tools do you use to create? What are your rituals that help you to create?
Where is your room?

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A gift from my sister: It’s never too late to live your passion

My older sister is a wonderful painter so I commissioned her to paint the Be As One bridge. Isn’t it beautiful?

My sister has ties to this bridge just as I do. She wrote the following on her website:

“The Wellesley College Bridge is iconic to me as is Wellesley College.  My family and I have a rich history there.  It all started with my mother who attended Wellesley College many years ago.  My husband and I were married there followed by my son Jeff and Amanda, who were married right out on the lawn near to this bridge.  There are photographs of us on the bridge with Azaleas and Dogwood blooming on our wedding day.  My sister captured this image on a beautiful Spring day while she was out in her kayak.”

Christine is like me, acting on her passion after raising a family and helping to run a successful business. In her retirement she is making up for lost time, just like I am with my reading and writing. On her website she writes,

“So now I am becoming the artist I always wanted to be and feel so inspired by it every day!  It is NEVER too late to start and make that change to be who you really are.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Visit Chris’ website at http://christinehoylehoude.fineartstudioonline.com to see the rest of her paintings and to order your print.

 What is your passion? How are you living it? Are you like Christine and me, living your passion after your kids have grown? Share your stories.

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Writing a Book on a Nook – collecting all the pieces together in a compact package

As this blog is about collecting and connecting all the pieces of a life together into one flow, I realized I needed to add another interest to this blog: technology. I love technology and have ever since I started on my first Mac back in the 1980’s. I’m a PC person now but I have the iPhone, 2 iPods and a Barnes & Noble Nook. I was holding my iPod when I heard Steve Jobs passed away and I shed a tear.

nookA great example

As a practical example of collecting pieces together, the Nook is my favorite example. You won’t believe what I require of my Nook and how it delivers!

Why I love the Nook

I have had a Nook for a few years and I love it. The backlighting and adjustable size of type and line spacing is perfect for my failing eyesight. It’s so convenient having most of my favorite books in one tablet that I can put in my pocketbook and take anywhere. As I have gotten into writing I began to long for the capability to write and save files on it.

With last year’s upgrade, I am not only writing on it, I am writing books on it. And I have all my research on it too.

Write a book on a Nook?

nook1How can that be done? Better yet, why would anyone want to do that?

In my dreams I had several things I wanted a tablet to do for me. Rather than invest a large sum in an iPad (which is rather heavy to carry around), the Nook provided a very affordable alternative along with its lesser  size and weight.

I probably spent around $350 total including the tablet, cover, keyboard and apps.

What do I ask my Nook to do?

  • Provide a word processor that saves Word files so I can write as much as I want and edit too.
  • Provide a means of transferring files easily back and forth between the Nook and my computer.
  • Have every piece of research I have done on the Nook.
  • Give me a light-weight, smaller tablet that I can easily take with me to the library.

How can a Nook do all this, you say?

You’d be surprised …

It begins with the right apps.

office suite professional 7Office Suite Professional 7 provides me with a paired-down Microsoft Word version of a word processor. It is easy to use and gives me the perfect place to jot down notes as I read, journal or actually write chapters for my books. I balked at first at the $14.99 price tag as that seemed high for an app, but it was worth every cent.

ES File ExplorerAnother “must” app is the ES File Explorer. It allows for the easy organization, management and the transfer of files to and from my laptop. Since the Nook has Wi-Fi capability, I can back up files to DropBox on my computer through ES File Explorer (and also from Office Suite Professional 7).

A blue tooth keyboard is a must.

nook with keyboardI bought the Poetic KeyBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case and while it’s small, once you get used to its size, it works very well. The blue tooth connection is easy and the fact that the keyboard is wireless means I can have the keyboard in my lap and the Nook on a tabletop if I want to. This is especially helpful when I visit the library.

The Nook’s capacity to hold a mini SD card (plus knowing how to make PDF files) is the trick to holding all of my research.

I scanned numerous pages out of books into PDF files so that I can have all my notes in one place. When I go to the library, all I need to do is bring my Nook to have all my research available at the press of a button.

The Nook doesn’t weigh much nor does it have a large footprint.

That makes transporting it a breeze. This was important to me as I often travel from Central Massachusetts to Cambridge and the libraries at Harvard University to do my research. This requires travel on the subway and a certain amount of walking. It is much easier to get there without a heavy laptop in a bag banging against my body as I walk!

I can pull out the Nook literally anywhere, sit down and write.

It’s my electronic notebook. Because I’ve learned to associate writing with the Nook, it puts me in the “zone”; I can immediately fixate on the job at hand. Only one app can be open at a time proving to be just enough of a deterrent from checking email and Facebook. I have my iPhone nearby if I want to get at an online dictionary quickly or check out a fact or theory on Google.

A great reminder

The Nook is a wonderful physical reminder of how wonderful life can be when have all the pieces are gathered together into one place and work in harmony.

Now if I could just live my life like that all the time, I’d be all set! It’s a work in progress.

Have any of you used a Nook, Kindle, iPad or other tablet in this way?

Let’s swap stories.

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The rich legacy of a deceased 4-day old kitten, and the foster dad who tried to save him

I never realized how powerful a virtual community can be. Thousands of strangers pulling together because of a single passion.

I never dreamed that one person’s willingness to be generous with his gifts could have such an impact. This weekend I was privy to something extraordinary which made me proud to be a part of this community.

Over a year ago I was introduced by a friend to kitten cams. Any time of the day or night I could indulge in my love of kittens. I’ve watched them being born, nursed, bathed by their mother (we regulars call it “baffing”) and snuggled. They race around the room (aka “zoomies”) and tumble over wrestling with each other. I’ve laughed out loud at their antics, fallen in love and gushed over them with fellow chatters. I’ve cried on adoption day because of all the wonderful people who take them to their hearts. Many of the new owners post Facebook pages with pictures, videos and updates so we can all keep in touch. All have large followings.

from https://www.facebook.com/TheCritterRoom

Happy parents of Critter Room kittens
from https://www.facebook.com/TheCritterRoom

There is nothing on television that beats it because this is real life, playing out uncensored. In the course of nine litters I have witnessed beautiful stories of generosity, healing and friendship, not just towards kittens but towards humans as well. I have witnessed an outpouring of stunning creative efforts from drawings, paintings, photography and anime to quilts to original stories and poetry (even some a la Dr. Seuss!).

It began with the 7kittens cam; when those kittens were adopted I was referred to The Critter Room by chatters on 7kittens (see previous post). It’s been a love affair ever since.

John Bartlett, aka “Foster Dad John” runs the Critter Room and is a volunteer for Purrfect Pals in Arlington, WA. He has fostered an extraordinary forty-one litters, adding some fun by having themes attached to litters (such as names of scientists, Mythbusters characters and now, the Ghostbusters in honor of the late Harold Ramis).

Various litters from the Critter Room from https://www.facebook.com/TheCritterRoom

Various litters from the Critter Room
from https://www.facebook.com/TheCritterRoom

It may all seem to be sweetness and light watching adorable kittens nurse, mew, wrestle, zoom around and play. But as I discovered this weekend (and as Foster Dad John has warned in the past), a 24/7 view is uncensored; you get the bad along with the good.

The Ghostbuster kittens were born on February 25 at the shelter after the mother, Janine, was rescued off the streets. Critter Room fans were delighted to see three creamy white siamese kittens dubbed Ray, Egon and Peter.

Peter in particular was very active for a newborn, taking trips around the kennel cage and being quite vocal about it. He immediately won the hearts of the over one thousand people who tuned in daily to the cam. There were concerns however that he was burning off all the calories he gained because of his constant motion. John was supplementing him with a bottle and created a box for the nest of kittens as a means of confining Peter and keeping him close to his mother.

This past Saturday I tuned in for a peak and saw Peter escape from box. His cry was loud as he moved rapidly around the cage. At first it seemed funny, just another Peter antic and most of us did not suspect any trouble. Janine went to retrieve him and held him close; his cries subsided and we began to relax.

John had been monitoring the situation and came in to feed him. After he removed Peter from the nest he did something unusual: he reset the cam. This would, in effect, wipe out the last twenty four hours of footage. We would soon know the reason.

Several minutes passed and we assumed Peter was nursing from the bottle until John, in his steady quiet voice, announced some bad news: Peter passed away in his hand. The chat room went wild, comments flashing by. Was this a joke?  John’s subsequent reaction to Peter’s death confirmed that this was no joke. Normally calm and self-possessed, this man wept over the death of this little kitten that he tried so hard to save. He knew the little fellow was in trouble the minute he picked him up which was why he reset the cam. Peter’s romp around the cage and his cries had been because he had taken milk into his lungs and was dying.

640 ghostbusters cropped mom and peter

Janine cuddling Peter
from https://www.facebook.com/TheCritterRoom

John was fortunately not seen on the cam but he remained with Peter for a long time. We could hear him softly weeping, hoping against hope that Peter would move. He commented that Peter’s ears had started to darken. He eventually encouraged Janine to come out and sniff the body so that she would know the awful truth.

Over a thousand of us witnessed the episode and we were beside ourselves. I was sobbing, first over the death of this sweet and funny kitten, and then over John’s reaction. This was a man who has been totally professional from the get go. He has never bought into the adulation from his fans; he was there to do a job, saving cats and kittens and giving them good homes. His cam is meant not just to entertain but to educate. He rarely showed overt emotion or favoritism towards particular kittens. And now he was openly weeping.

The outpouring from the community of over 35,000 followers of The Critter Room was immediate and overwhelming. Posts on Facebook appeared in record numbers offering sympathy to John and gratitude for everything he had done. Donations to Purrfect Pals in the memory of Peter poured in. We consoled each other, sharing memories of little Peter and stories of special cats in our lives. Many of the creative people in the community contributed original stories, poetry and paintings.

Later in the day John came back on the cam to explain what had happened to Peter. He and the Purrfect Pals staff had known Peter was at risk, possibly because he was born prematurely and did not have mature lungs (explaining why he aspirated on his mother’s milk). His frantic behavior most likely was a demonstration of his trouble (although John commented that Peter was one of the most vibrant and energetic kittens he had ever seen, making his passing all the more inexplicable). John went on to say that he and the staff don’t always share their concerns with the viewers to prevent needless worry and speculation. Out of forty-one litters, Peter was the first kitten John ever lost.

His calm voice and clear explanations were like a balm on the community. We knew he was okay. Nature had to take her course but not before Peter left his indelible mark on the hearts of thousands around the world. As did his foster dad.

I mourned with this community, haunted by what I had seen. I also shared in the comfort provided by the foster dad who, although he was hurting the most, maintained the courage to share his grief with strangers. The time he gave in explaining Peter’s passing and the risks of fostering gave me great solace as I am sure it did for many others.

Foster Dad John Bartlett from https://www.facebook.com/TheCritterRoom

Foster Dad John Bartlett
from https://www.facebook.com/TheCritterRoom

John is a wonderful example of generosity. People balk at the idea of spending so much time saving animals, thinking that perhaps the efforts and monies raised should go towards people. I have witnessed the effects of John’s gifts of time, wisdom and love on members who are sick, homebound, out of work, or who have lost loved ones. Many have lost their own beloved cats and find comfort in the antics of growing kittens, and in the caring community. Members comment that their faith in people has been restored through being a part of the kitten cams.

The chatters’ humorous reactions to the kittens and their antics have brought much needed laughter into my life. I start each morning at the crack of dawn checking Facebook updates, smiling at the posts from owners of Critter Room alumnae. I sneak peaks at the cam during my work day. I think of a volunteer out in Arlington, WA who because he dared to share his gift with the world, has brought joy, solace, profoundly moving moments and a slice of real life to the virtual world.

We should all be that daring. Think of the world would be like if we were.

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A simple prayer reflection for Good Friday

This is from my latest column on Catholicmom.com. It is taken from the Mary, Queen of Peace Meditation Guide & Sung Rosary booklet.

5th-sorrowful-betania-II-for-web-294x400

photo taken at Betania II, Medway, MA – from the Mary, Queen of Peace Meditation Guide & Sung Rosary

Much has been said by wiser minds on all that took place on Good Friday. As I cannot add anything to enhance these insights, I thought instead to offer you a simple meditation on the crucifix as a way of honoring and learning from our Lord’s great suffering for us.

Gazing upon the crucifix, begin by reciting or chanting “Lord, have mercy” five times (you can chant the phrase by just singing the same note for each word). Each time it is recited, focus on a wound on Christ’s body.

For example, recite “Lord, have mercy” and meditate on Christ’s feet. Recite it again and focus on the left hand. Recite it a third time and meditate on the right hand. Recite it again and gaze on the wound in his side. Then recite it a fifth time and focus on the head.

Repeat this cycle eight times, thus reciting or chanting the prayer forty times in total.

In my meditations I found, for example, that as I focused on the nail marks in His feet, I thought about where those feet had traveled. I studied the wounded hands and wondered whom they had healed. I thought about his heart, pierced and yet so full of love. I thought about the head and the emotional and mental agony he went through, and yet also marveled at all the wisdom and knowledge that resided in that head. I recalled his teachings, exhortations, and words of comfort.

These are just some of the places where this meditation can take you. May the Spirit of the Living Lord guide you as you gaze upon his wounds and contemplate his love.

For a further Good Friday meditation in video and song, click here.

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Taking advantage of the season of Lent through a notebook and a chunk of time

For many Christians, the late winter/early spring signifies a time of stepping back and examining how we are practicing our faith. It is a time of assessing our failings and sins: how have we strayed from God as the center of our lives? How have we forgotten the needs of family members, friends and strangers? How can we come back home to God?

The season of Lent

In my Roman Catholic tradition, this time of assessment is known as Lent. In my childhood I recall purple cloth (signifying penance or, being sorry for your sins) all over the church, covering the statues. It was a time to give up chocolate or some other treat as a symbol of penance.

lent statues covered in purple

Lent is so much more

As an adult, Lent can offer so many wonderful opportunities if we can get beyond our preconceived childish notions and misunderstandings. The words “penance” and “sacrifice” and even the color purple can denote negative thoughts and feelings when in fact, they offer chances for healing and purification. The word “repent,” often misunderstood, brings reconciliation and wholeness. Just as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

The true meaning

I like to think of the Prodigal Son, despairing and destitute, falling into the loving arms of his Father. Coming back home prompted merrymaking on the part of his father rather than judgment. This is such a beautiful illustration of turning around and coming home, the true meaning of repentance. It is a moment of sorrow that leads to celebration.

Searching your soul

The Prodigal had to do a lot of soul searching to humble himself and come back home to his father. After all, in essence, he told his father to “drop dead” by taking his inheritance money early. We can learn from his example.

Tools for soul searching

Keeping a journal, whether you are a writer or not, is a wonderful way to search your soul. I took up the practice again a couple of years ago and find it especially helpful for sorting out confusing times in my life. A block of quiet time and a notebook can help you connect the past with the present in powerful ways. It can even be life-changing.

Tough times make for good soul searching

Since writing things down was not done in the Prodigal Son’s time, he had sort out his life without that tool. He had the other essential tool however: time. As he was feeding pigs and longing to eat his fill, he had plenty of time to recall his past life (which he realized had been quite good), his past behavior (taking his inheritance and squandering it) and his current situation. He realized in the end it was worth the price of killing his pride to come back home to his father.

My soul searching

We are lucky because we can write things down. Of late I have been exploring in my journal why I feel the way I do about losing my singing voice and music in general (a series of posts for another day) and have made some important discoveries about how I have treated (or mistreated) this special gift that God gave to me. It has shone a glaring spotlight on past sins which I am now bringing before God, asking for forgiveness.

I am using my Lenten journey to focus on how I can too return home to my heavenly Father, make peace with past actions, and learn again to embrace my gift for his people and his glory. Through taking the time to be quiet and write down my thoughts, I have been able to navigate through murky waters and come to understand what I did, how I feel, and how everything can be made right again.

Connections and healing

More than one author I know has told me they see writing as a spiritual experience, even as prayer. I am beginning to see this too. I do know it helps me connect the fragments of my life, bring them together and make sense of them. This is the beginning of wholeness and healing.

How are you taking advantage of Lent this year?

Share with us what you are doing.

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Reconsidering the purpose of my Be As One blog: from Me to You

Eighteen months ago I started Be As One with the idea of chronicling my life in my attempt to pull all the various pieces together and live as a whole and integrated person. It has occurred to me that I used a flawed approach. As a result what I see is a random collection of posts about things I am interested in but that are not connected to each other in any obvious way.

I am wondering if you see that too.

I thought I was doing the work by sharing these various posts but in fact I was asking you to do the work:

  • I expected you to know what was going on in my head.
  • I expected you to do the work of connecting all these random pieces together.
  • I expected you to put aside what you care about in deference to what I care about.
from tap4him.blogspot.com

from tap4him.blogspot.com

In the end, I have a blog that may not be terribly hospitable to you.

If I want to demonstrate living life in a single flow rather than in a bunch of fragments or compartments, then I need to show connections.

  • Connections between the civilized world and the natural world
  • Connections between the earth below and heaven above
  • Connections to what is outside of us and what is inside of us
  • Connections between each of us

rainbow over 2 churches

My last post about the little kitten’s demise and the foster dad who tried to save him went viral. Obviously I wrote that post for a community I love and the community is active and large. Posts about pets are bound to do well.

For me, this post was an eye-opener about the necessity of stepping outside of myself and writing about what I see around me. Writing about you. Making you feel welcome in my little corner of the virtual world. Considering things that both you and I feel are important.

I won’t hit the mark every time, I am sure. I hope you will let me know when I have hit it or not. This blog has been evolving and will continue to evolve. But I want you to know that I will consider you every time I write a post. This will no longer be a dumping ground for things that concern just me.

I’ve changed my tag line from “Living life in a single flow …” to “It’s all about connections.” Because it is! We are not meant to live as little islands; we are created to be social beings. This, coming from a notorious introvert who jealously guards her solitude. But I understand the need to stay connected even as I pursue my solitary interests.

People are important. You are important. Be As One will no longer just be about me. It will be about you, too.

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