Archive for February, 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few years ago, in the Fall, my husband and I sat on our boat dock when the moon was at its fullest, its reflection floating on the dark surface of the lake like pieces of a silver puzzle.

On both ends of the dock, where posts held up the metal roof, were spider webs lit up by the moonlight. One of the webs was strong, but delicate-looking, and classically precise; an ever growing circle, attached symmetrically by what must have been a ‘craftsman’ spider. The web was beautiful, in fact, it was perfect.

The other was a ramshackle sort of web, attached in a haphazard way to the post, almost like the run-down house of a derelict drug dealer. Loose strands hung from it, and there was no discernible circle to the web at all.

The spiders spun their webs to catch night bugs attracted to the lights on the boat dock. You might think that the classically perfect web would catch more bugs. No way. Not so. The derelict spider’s web was literally covered in trapped insects, while the craftsman’s web had none for a long while, and then only one or two. Still, night after night, the craftsman spider kept spinning and spinning, while the derelict one chomped on its plentiful catch.

My husband, to whom I’ve been married for many, many years, joked about this, comparing it to my writing. At the time, I was trying to find a literary agent for a book on which I was diligently working, but I hadn’t had any success. My husband grinned and pointed to the untidy web catching all the bugs. “Maybe you ought to take a lesson from that spider. Don’t be so hung up on perfection.”

I admitted that human beings have similar experiences. The most diligent worker isn’t necessarily the one who succeeds first. But if he continues to be persistent, success often comes. Being an born optimist, I fully expected the situation to change for the diligent spider.

Except night after night, the same thing happened. The derelict spider kept catching the bugs, and the diligent one kept spinning, but with no result in the bug department.

Then one day, a tornado hit across the lake. And on our side, trees were felled and boat docks blown about. After it was over, we went to look at any damage done to the dock. There was none. The only thing different was that the derelict web had vanished. Amazingly, the diligent spider’s web still hung, not quite as perfect, but it had survived. And that night, it was filled with bugs.

There are many morals you could attach to this story: A house built with a good foundation will last; or don’t take the quick way. But for me the most relevant is: Be true to yourself. You are a child of God, so never underestimate what He will do in your life if you keep the faith — no matter your age!

Not long afterward the tornado hit, I found a literary agent. She didn’t last long, and my book wasn’t published right then. More waiting. But I’d taken my lesson from the finely crafted web and kept spinning like the diligent spider. And was finally published by a small company, and then a book of short stories by another small press. Just enough to keep me going!

Now, I’ve written more books, and looking for publication.
I am still keeping the faith, hoping my diligence will produce results.

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Most of us don’t like the connotation of the word, ‘struggle.’ It evokes thoughts of difficulty. We don’t like difficulties.

We don’t like bumpy roads that cause us to lose equilibrium.We don’t like to climb mountains that exhaust our strength. We don’t want to swim a channel that seems much too wide for our meager swimming abilities.

Except struggle increases our balance, our muscle, our talents.

Struggle is fire that hardens the clay of our lives, turning an ordinary earthen vessel into something altogether extraordinary.

As parents, we don’t like to see our children struggle. We want to relieve them of difficulty. We like to ‘fix’ them. We want to save them from anything that hurts–even if they’ve concoted their own unsavory situation.

We should let them know we are there for them. But I think there are times when we shouldn’t be too quick to ‘save’ them. We should allow them to ‘save’ themselves, to strengthen their wings from within. Struggle can produce people who are out of the ordinary, simply because they have had to work hard.

The moth in a cocoon struggles to get out of it, and by doing so, it grows stronger—strong enough to fly completely away from the cocoon that once tied and bound it, as a beautiful butterfly.

Isn’t this what God does for us, too? When we think He’s forgotten us, turned His back on us, deaf to our cries and prayers, in His infinite wisdom, He knows that our struggles may be exactly what saves us, too.

What if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healings come through tears?
What if all your trials in life are mercies in disguise?

Attempting a Comeback??

Posted: February 8, 2017 in World On The Edge

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What is it that binds us? What ties us down to a less than joyful life? Are we, ourselves the cause of it? What will it take for us to change?

Remember the words of the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz?

Cowardly Lion: What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?

Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman: Courage!

Yes, it takes courage to change, and sometimes it’s hard to come by. Why? Because it starts with fear.

Courage is about overcoming fear for the sake of achieving something good.

Courage is intangible within us. It is part of our human spirit. We cannot touch it. We can only see the result of it–just as we are unable to see the wind, yet its active result is apparent, in swaying trees, or even violent bursts of air that turn things upside down during a storm.

The human spirit can be amazingly courageous, allowing a person to shake off, and rise from, the worst of situations.

Some of these situations are out of our control, like an illness, or losing someone we love, but courage helps us to adjust, to trust, and to go on.

Some situations are self-imposed, such as addictions to drugs, sex, violence, and abuse of family members. But all are known by God, and thank goodness, He is a God of second chances.

But the spur to our second chance is that we must change in some way. I don’t know about you, but I’m often hesitant to change, in fact I  fear it. Except, in our human personalities is the virtue of Courage, a gift that, with our cooperation, God will increase in us. Will we always succeed in changing those things we want to change? Maybe not, but even the trying  is a positive action, a desire to please God in bettering ourselves.

Even trying takes Courage. Trying again, and again, increases our resolve as we inch, closer and closer, to our goal of change.

Part of  Thomas Merton’s prayer: I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

God is truly a God of Second Chances. Muster the courage and see.

kaye and Mary

Having a sister is being able to keep a childhood that you will never lose.

To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. ~Clara Ortega

Today is my sister’s birthday. She will be…..well, I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you she means the world to me and always has.

In the picture, my sister, Mary, is on my right. She’s the one with the less dainty, dark shoes–Mary’s big shoes, as they were referred to, not only by our parents (who would never call them orthopedic), but by Mary herself, as in… “I’m gonna kick you with my big shoes!” Yes, the shoes were a weapon! Thank God, she only had to wear them for a little over a year.

Also in the picture, you will notice that Mary’s hair is cropped very short, while mine is much longer. This is not because her hair did not grow. It is because she was enthralled with her kindergarten scissors and how they snipped off hair so easily–and quickly. In five minutes, the scissors took her from loads of natural curls to the same receding hairline as our grandfather.

Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize. Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks. Borrow. Break. Monopolize the bathroom. Are always underfoot. But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there. Defending you against all comers. – Pam Brown

My sister, Mary, has long legs and arms. She played junior high basketball, twisted her knee and for weeks sat nightly on our kitchen table doing lifts with weights on her ankle to make it better, which she did. And afterwards, she was a force to reckon with on the basketball court, and in sisterly fights. Oh yes, we fought! But I rarely got in a punch because I could never seem to get past her long, long arms. She still has those arms–so wonderful, now, for hugs.
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If you don’t understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child. – Linda Sunshine.

Sisters never quite forgive each other for what happened when they were five. ~Pam Brown

Mary was always, always first to the swing!

See how she sits there so…superior?

 

This picture, of course, is First Communion. Mary First CommunionIt was taken on the church grounds and insisted upon by my mother who had to demand that Mary take a break from chasing (and catching) all the boys in the First Communion class so the photo could be taken. What does she hold in those hands behind her back? Can’t tell you that either, but can you see how she is soooo ready to run after the boys again?

 

My sister was the Maid of Honor in my wedding, and has remained by my side ever since. I love her and wish her a very Happy Birthday today.  See you soon, Mary, for some more good times!

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A Sister is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities.
She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway.
She is your partner in crime,
Your midnight companion,

Someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark.
She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink.
Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child. — Barbara Alpert

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There are three infallible ways of pleasing an author, and the three form a rising scale of compliment:

1. To tell him you have read one of his books;

2. To tell him you have read all of his books;

3. To ask him to let you read the manuscripts of his forthcoming book.

No. 1 admits you to his respect; No. 2 admits you to his admiration; No. 3 carries you clear into his heart.– Mark Twain

I’ve been writing this blog since 2013, just before the publication of my first novel, A Hunger in the Heart. Many of you have read it, along with my short story collection, Birds of a Feather, published in 2014, and my novelette, Mary’s Mountain, 2015. Last week, my new novel was published, “The Wind that Shakes the Corn: Memoirs of a Scots Irish Woman.”

I’m asking a favor of those who have read any of my books: Please write a review for me on Amazon?

If you are a follower of this blog, you know I’m a native Southerner who loves the South and writes stories about her people. You know, too, that I’m a cradle Catholic who loves the Faith and aspires to be worthy of it. But you may not know the thought process of behind my work…..and perhaps you are interested?

My stories usually center around a person who is, in one way or another wounded by life. Sometimes this is of his/her own accord, other times he is the victim of someone else’s cruelty. Real life has its ways of doing that to us all, doesn’t it?

So, my characters need to be healed in sometimes deeply personal ways. They come to a crossroad, and a choice, then find that healing in a grace-filled moment—a moment that, on first look, may not seem filled with grace because it is an unsavory, or violent, moment. And not every one my characters will find it—-because not all of them allow it–just as in our own lives, when we’re not open to the grace of God.

My characters choose between love and hatred, disruptiveness or peace, vindictiveness or compassion. And some choose either to stay with, or part from, the most evil circumstances of our society. It’s their choice. Free will. But whatever they choose, their choice will cost them something.

Like you, I’m an earthly traveler through a world that seems more and more on edge, yet aren’t we striving to find and increase within ourselves, Faith, Hope, and especially Love–even when Love Hurts?

I thank you for following my blog. Please do me the favor of writing a review for me on any, or all books, if you’ve read them. Here are the books and links:
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Tuscany Press Artwork

Tuscany Press Artwork

Why do we need Catholic Fiction?

First of all, because the soul of Catholic Fiction is that God exists and works in the lives of sinful, fallen people who have totally rejected Him–and that He does this out of love, regardless of how forcefully a character tries try to shut Him out. And we need to know that.

Secondly, because Catholic Fiction points to our true identity as human beings, which is that we are not just happenstance entities placed on Earth. We are God’s children, created by Him and made in His image and likeness, and that we have a greater purpose here. And hopefully, Catholic Fiction does this through stories in which we can see ourselves, and with language and imagery that points to the divine in each one of us.

And then, thirdly, Catholic Fiction attracts us to what we lack on Earth, something larger and more beautiful than what this material world can give. And honestly I think in their hearts most people know this. It may not be the underpinning of a lot of fiction as much as other subjects are, but the yearning is definitely in every person though they may have crusted it over with ‘stuff’ that our culture says we ought to have. And this is an innate yearning that only the divine can satisfy. People are seeking the beauty of God, whether they classify it as such or not.

What is the key characteristic of Catholic Fiction?

The Sacramental aspect of the Catholic Church. We are bound by the Sacraments of the church and believe that they are instruments of grace. Think of our definition of grace—an outward sign instituted by God to give grace. Then go to a quote from Flannery O’Connor about making belief believable:

From the Sign to the thing Signified
From the Visible to the Invisible
From the Sacrament to the Mystery

The power of literature is sanctified by Jesus Christ through His parables— through Fiction. The prodigal son was a figment of God’s imagination—a work of art, a story told by Jesus to illuminate certain truths. Love over Hate. Forgiveness over Retribution. Gratitude and Humility over Ingratitude and Self-importance. The Prodigal son, as a character in the story, embodies much more than just a self-centered person who did wrong. He is an example of humanity. He was self-centered, and he choose wrong things. Yet God continued to love him. One theme in the story is that continuing love. It is the theme of the books we write, and it is the theme of a Christian life as well.

The Catholic sacramental view of life is one that sustains and supports at every turn the vision that the story teller must have if he is going to write fiction of any depth.