a place that calms my soul

I’m currently working on a reflexive journaling project with my students, and part of the journaling experience, as the professor, is to model what I’m teaching. Over the course of the next ten weeks I’ll be posting my entry here. Some of the topics will be general, like today’s, and others might be a little more academic. I invite you to use the prompts. If you’d like to link here and share your thoughts, that would be cool. I think my students would enjoy seeing how others respond, especially as an enjoyable writing exercise (instead of an assignment in a composition course). And so, without further ado, here’s mine:

Write about a place that calms your soul.

I love the beach. As long as I can remember, I’ve been pulled toward the shore.

If I say beach, it calls to mind a number of things — sand, blue skies, the wide open ocean. Maybe images of colorful umbrellas scattered across the sand. While it’s true that all that and more represent the beach, the part that calls to me and calms my soul is the shore.

That fluid place where the land ends and the water begins mesmerizes me. I am most often found sitting right at that line, digging my toes into the loose wet sand and watching my ankles get engulfed by the water as the waves wash over my feet.

It’s probably not an accident that the force behind those waves, the tide, also has a mesmerizing pull. Few things are more spectacular than sitting along the shoreline at night with a full moon.

I love a calm sea. I love a violent sea even more. I love seeing, feeling, and hearing the sounds of the ocean as waves either lap at the shore or crash into it.

If I sit along the shore long enough, I become a part of that rhythm and it is both soothing and calming. It frees me to empty my mind. In those moments I feel closest to all Creation. To God.

Most of my work week is filled with noise. Man-made noises are always assaulting my ears — the constant onslaught of media, the persistent hum of electronics, and my own continuing need to be in front of a class talking take a toll on my ears. When I can get away to the beach, I do.

I can sit and unwind as the waves wash away the noise. It usually just takes an afternoon to hit that re-set button in my mind. Then I’m ready for real refreshment. It puts me in the mood to reflect. It puts me in the mood to pray, and my soul is calmed.

shore

having failed miserably at G+

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I turn my sights on Linkedin, where I’ve been staring at my profile for hours wondering what I should do.

It was easier on the playground, wasn’t it? A round of One Potato Two Potatoes took care of everything.

my personal reading challenge

read

There was a time in my life when I was reading 2-3 books a week. For pleasure.

That didn’t include the reading I had to do for work or school, which was often pleasurable, but not necessarily.

And then something happened, and I quit reading for pleasure. Other things required my attention, and I still had to read for work, so I kind of let that go. I’m knocking that our right now. I still have a lot of reading to do for work, some of it is good and fun, but most is very dry and academic.

I’m reclaiming my love of literature!

Right here! Right now!

I plan to read 25 books in what remains of 2015. That’s about a book every couple of weeks or so. Very do-able. In fact, some of you might think I’m low-balling based on my previous habits. Nope. I’m setting a goal I can handle, but there’s a twist. I’m going to qualify the books.

1. A totally gratuitous and vapid book that I’ll forget the moment I set it down after finishing it.
2. A biography.
3. A history book. Preferably American history because I’m weak there.
4. A book about music.
5. A book about an artist.
6. A book of poetry.
7. A book about prayer.
8. A science-fiction novel.
9. A book about Catholic theology.
10. A book about writing.
11. A classic.
12. A New York Times best-seller.
13. A book in Spanish.
14. A romance.
15. A murder mystery.
16. A book about a Saint.
17. A book BY a Saint.
18. A book by a friend.
19. A book about photography.
20. A book about science.
21. A book with a pretty cover. Yes, I’m going to judge it.
22. A book with an ugly cover. I’ll stay open minded.
23. A banned book. Hey. It’s me we’re talking about here.
24. A book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for years.
25. A book you recommend.

I’ll come back here and review the book, and cross off it off the list. Let’s see how far I can get. :-)

Don’t forget to leave me recommendations in the comments. And of course, you’re invited to play along with me!

bubbles. bubbly bubbles.

cork

I recently completed the manuscript for a book that will be available in the fall of this year. I can’t wait to share more on this later, but in the meantime, I’m basking in a kind of twilight between absolute and immeasurable joy (part accomplishment, part astonishment) and sheer terror.

It’s a good thing I’m not in this alone — I have a kind and generous editor, a supportive and understanding husband and family that’s put up with too many leftovers, and a bunch of friends who have prayed me through tens of thousands of words.

I am one blessed woman. And bubbly, too.

One of those amazing friends showed up with a special bottle of champagne to toast this milestone, and I gotta say this: never has anything tickled my nose and brought tears to my eyes like this surprise. Well, maybe the tears weren’t entirely from the champagne, but let’s be real — it was a right tasty toast. And then some.

I tried to be gentle with the bottle so I could open it without incident, but just as soon as I released the wire cage and positioned the bottle to loosen the cork, it flew off madly, hitting one of the paddles on the ceiling fan and bouncing off the wall. A minor scramble to save the champagne followed: we only spilled a little bit (that we wore behind our ears). And the rest was a delightful evening of sharing, and laughter, and maybe a few more tears. There’s something about champagne, a rare treat, that really tickles my nose.

We drank to the completed manuscript — but there was so much more in the process than just the few months I took to write it. This book has been a long time coming, and not just because I’ve been working at being a writer since I could hold a pencil. Everything has had to reach a certain level of readiness — of maturity. The obvious, of course, is my ability to string words together in a way that makes sense and speaks to others. But there’s been more growth. In my confidence. In my discipline (still a mess there), and in the maturing of my faith, too. It’s all there, wrapped up in a digital file.

It was good to celebrate.

The vintage 2004 champagne matured beautifully. When the grapes from that year were being gathered and prepared, I was in the midst of my own “fields” in my vocations of wife, mother, and teacher. I was scrambling from carpool to after school event, from class to class, and trying to keep my sanity taking care of a household. In the midst of all that chaos, I was scribbling notes and penning poems that were stuffed away in boxes and in the pages of unfinished journals.

Like the champagne, I’d like to think I have matured well, too. Enough to be bubbly about my book. Enough to be bubbly about the projects that may come next — because the real toast that night was for more than the book. I feel like I’ve finally taken this gift that came from God and I can put it to good use, for Him.

That bottle of champagne waited patiently to be uncorked, and then it let loose. I feel the same way.

Serenity — a quiet afternoon

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I love this week’s photo challenge at The Daily Post. It’s just in time, too. I’ve needed a little serenity after a very busy fall and Christmas holiday. So here I am, seeking a little peace in my afternoon.

One of my favorite places to visit is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. If you’ve visited this blog often enough, you’ve certainly seen some pictures from there, especially in the Abbey Church. I like to go there and walk across the grounds — sometimes to a gazebo hidden by a closed road, other times to a little duck pond next to the retreat house.

I always end up inside the church, and every time, I am delighted by the colors from the stained glass windows. They usually cast a blue or violet light that illuminates the space. Even though most people would say that creates a cool feeling, I always think it’s warm.

Today’s retreat took me to new places as I played a little with a new camera. Of course, I ended up in the church. There’s nothing like the wide open space to lift my eyes and my prayers upward to heaven. I took many intentions with me today, and I left full of peace. Contentment.

Serenity.

ew. just…ew.

If you’re a coffee drinker, then you know there’s something magical about that first cup of coffee in the morning.

And how messing that up can ruin Christmas.

This morning, I ran a pot of coffee while I did a few other chores, and then prepared two cups. One for me in my favorite The Little Prince cup that holds just enough for me to get a little extra in before it starts to cool, and a giant cup for my honey.

In goes the half-n-half for the master of the house. In goes the delicious coffee, swirling into a lovely caramel color in his cup, and black as night into mine.

Then, in what I can only describe as a moment of horror reserved for late-night B movies, I watch myself, in black and white slo-mo, put…not one, but TWO heaping teaspoons of sugar into MY cup.

Dammit.

So I poured the unsweetened but lightened coffee into a new mug, and fixed my Love his cup, the guy who likes a little coffee in his sugar. And I traded The Little Prince for Spider-Man.

My feng shui is shot.