~Greeting Card Request Alert~

What fun! We have a request from one of our followers. Do you have a greeting card to share with her mother? It only takes a minute or two and will bring a smile to the face of this multi-talented mother.

From Erin:
“My mom, Lois, is finally(!) retiring after years of being a hairdresser, county clerk, a lunch lady, and dietitian in anywhere from hospitals-nursing homes-WIC. She’s very much looking forward to getting back to her hobbies and spending more time with her grandchildren, and not waking up at 5:30 am (unless she wants to, which is never). I want to surprise her with a big basket of retirement well wishes and have already asked friends, family, and all of her previous places of employment…but why stop there? I’ve started asking some of her favorite places to shop and eat and am now turning to the World Wide Web for help getting the world out. I’d love funny and or/thoughtful cards from all over to include in the basket, and I’m happy to write a card in return (so please include a return address if you’d like a card back) telling about when she opens all the letters. Please send cards by January 10, 2017 to:
Lois G.
c/o Erin Thompson
4214 Rownd St.
Cedar Falls, IA 50613

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Do you have a greeting card request for us?

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Book Review: Walking on Water

Madeleine L’Engle has long been one of my favorite authors, but not for the book her name is most associated with; A Wrinkle in Time. I was in my late 30’s when I read A Circle of Quiet, identifying with the writer who was also a mother, a woman who “escaped” the cacophony of a noisy household to burn garbage in the back yard. I often did the same. Like Madeleine on her 40th birthday, I was at a point in my life where I sometimes wondered if I was wasting my time by choosing to write every morning, when my husband worked so hard to pay bills and I wasn’t making any money with my writing, outside of the small checks I was getting for some freelance work  I did for a local newspaper. Mostly, I identified with her need to write. I couldn’t imagine a life without writing. I still can’t.

A few years later, I would pick up The Irrational Season. I read her Two-Part Invention during my husband David’s cancer treatment in 2006. I vividly remember sobbing on the couch as I read about her husband’s death. Two-Part Invention was one of the first books I read after David died in 2012. Glimpses of Grace and Reflections on a Writing Life, written with Carole Chase, are prominently displayed on a shelf in my bedroom.

And it was L’Engle’s Friends for the Journey, written with her dear friend Luci Shaw, that served as inspiration for our Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink. (NOTE: available for a special holiday price of just $6 through the publisher right now. Click on the title for more information)

Madeleine L’Engle’s words touched my heart and soul so deeply, I mentioned her several times in my book  Refined By Fire; A Journey of Grief and Grace. Her granddaughter Lena Roy, was kind enough to endorse it.

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For all these reasons, I was especially thrilled to get my hands on a new edition of Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art, by Madeleine, originally published in 1980, the year I gave birth to my first child. It was only when reading it, I realized Lena was the granddaughter of Madeleine’s that had been hit by a truck when she was a young child!

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On page 2, I was instantly enthralled, reading these words;

“I sit on my favourite rock, looking over the brook, to take time away from busyness, time to be. I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.”

And this:

“And then there is the time in which to be, simply to be, that time in which God quietly tells us who we are and who he wants us to be. It is then that God can take out emptiness and fill it up with what he wants and drain away the business with which we inevitably get involved in the dailiness of human living.” (page 162)

I’ve so rarely allowed myself that special time of just being, particularly during those years of raising young children. There was no quiet in a house full of babies and toddlers, much less time to just sit and be.  Yet, despite a distinct lack of time, I wrote. Now, my youngest is eight years old, and while I enjoy more quiet, reflective time, I also have an office to go to every weekday.

I’m working on the manuscript for a grief journal that will include my short essays along with quotes from other authors who have walked down the path of grief, including L’Engle. I was slightly dismayed when I found myself admitting in one of the essays that I occasionally missed the slow paced days of those early months of grieving, and the quiet stillness of mornings when I didn’t have to be anywhere or go anyplace. I wrote my way through much of those mornings.

When I signed a contract for this journal, I was well aware that this would be the first book-length project I would be working on without the luxury of the morning writing hours I had counted on for more than 25 years. So I’ve learned to utilize my weekend mornings and snatched moments here and there, just like I did as a mother with young children. I’d sit on the lid of the toilet to write while toddlers splashed in the bathtub, pull over to the curb and write when an infant fell asleep in the car seat. As was true back then, I don’t have hours of uninterrupted time to write. I have to find the time.

“To work on a book is for me very much the same thing as to pray. Both involve discipline. If the artist works only when he feels like it, he’s not apt to build up much of a body of work. Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and to go where it tells him to go. Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear.” (page 140)
L’Engle shares these words of Rilke’s from his “Letters to a Young Poet” that she’d jotted down in her journal:

“You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether if is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all- ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: Must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple ‘I must,’ then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and testimony to it.”

Must I write?

In this wonderful book, L’Engle says she would answer in the affirmative.

Just another thing L’Engle and I have in common. Me too.

NOTE: I am excited to report that Lena Roy and her sister, Charlotte, are working on a biography of their grandmother. Read more about that by clicking HERE.

Book Review: In Such Good Company

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I requested a review copy of Carol Burnett’s In Such Good Company, but it sure wasn’t this.

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Yes, the subtitle Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox should have clued me in that this book would be about the eleven year run of Carol’s show, but I still wasn’t prepared to read a blow-by-blow account of so many episodes.  While I do want to watch re-runs of the show I loved as a teen in the mid-70’s, this book was somewhat disappointing. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say Carol Burnett talked into a recorder about the “good old days” on her show, and someone transcribed everything she said onto paper.

That said, I did learn some interesting facts about some of my favorite actors that appeared on the show, including Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence.  There were moments when Carol’s wonderful sense of humor was evident, and that made this book well worth reading; a fun look back at a show that families could watch together for a good laugh.

Book Review: From Heart to Hand

From Heart to Hand: The Lost Art of a Written Letter
by Kristin Horvath
reviewed by Mary Jedlicka Humston

“Writing letters is what I love to do. It is a passion I have because I know receiving a personalized written letter brings joy to those who receive them and because it is a lost art I want to preserve and revitalize.”(pg. 69).

Kristin Horvath’s From Heart to Hand: The Lost Art of a Written Letter celebrates the magic of composing and receiving letters. Her passion is strong, evidenced by the fact that she shares actual letters she’s written to friends, family, and even strangers who inspired her.
As she says in her introduction, these letters are honest, sometimes a bit embarrassing, but always heartfelt. Each one is accompanied by a short commentary.

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…I have written to people who have inspired me or helped me, thanking them for the help or inspiration they provided in my life. If you enjoy love, laughter, and sentimental stories that show complete vulnerability, you will enjoy sinking your teeth into this work, and you might end up writing a letter to someone you have been meaning to catch up with.”- from the Intro

Catch Horvath’s enthusiasm. Pick up pen and paper to write that letter you’ve been meaning to send. Express your gratitude and thanks for the ways others have touched you. Now is the perfect time. Who wouldn’t love receiving such a letter like this as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches?
And, now is also the perfect time to pick up Horvath’s book and be reminded all over again how fun, wonderful, and powerful a letter can be.

You can read more about Kristin here.