Category Archives: Spirituality

Gratitude

Pumpkin-Pie-Whole-SliceTomorrow, here in the US, is a national holiday, a day of Thanksgiving. We gather at the homes of relatives, overeat, and then some of us embark on  the 30 days of Christmas shopping.

I don’t.

Oh, I will go to my daughter’s house and overeat, and I will give sincere and heartfelt thanks for all the many blessings I have been given in this life. And I have been blessed, far more than I deserve. I am comfortable, and I have the luxury of being able to write full-time, because my husband has a good, fairly stable job.

But grandma does not shop. Grandma does not go to the midnight sales, the door-busters, the Black Friday events that seem to be a national sport here.

Grandma does the internet for all her shopping these days. Amazon, Zulily, Overstock.com–these are the stores grandma shops in.

christmas-gift-bagsAnd it’s nearly all done already. All I have to do is get a few little thing-a-ma-jigs for you-know-who, and then we’re set!

Shopping for loved ones is so darned difficult. I can’t tell you how much I hate it. No matter how hard I sweat, no matter how pretty I wrap them, the gifts I think are awesome for so-and-so never seem to live up to their potential.

Thus I have become the queen of gift-cards.

Starbucks, Amazon, Barnes&Noble–gift cards are the way to go. The recipient can get what they want, and I am off the hook for another year.

But if you are looking for the awesomest gift ever, may I recommend a book?  Books are small vacations, little diversions into foreign lands and cultures, windows into other people’s lives.

Books can also change the world.

The company that publishes my books, Myrddin Publishing, just announced the successful campaign to raise funds for the international charity, Water is Life, via sales of their Christmas anthology, Christmas O’Clock.

christmas oclock coverChristmas O’Clock is a collection of holiday-themed stories including magic, space travel, and Rudolph. With two complete chapter books, lots of stories, and plenty of spirit, this anthology is great for kids of all ages. Two of the stories in this collection are mine!

In 2014 the publishing group donated all the revenue generated from sales of this book, totaling over $200.00 in royalties. This purchased three bucket systems and eight drinking straws, providing fresh water to three families, and eight individuals. Their goal is to double that in 2015.

It may not seem like a lot, but for those families who now have clean water, it was huge.  We can do better, and this year we intend to.

All proceeds from this wonderful book go to Water Is Life to help children and families in an international effort.

Christmas O’Clock  can be purchased at www.amazon.com

Paperback via this link: http://bit.ly/CoCpaperback  $9.51

And for the Kindle via this link http://bit.ly/CoCusE  $2.99

a medieval tablesetup 1I live in a soft, easy world of plenty with clean, clear water and plenty of food. I have a warm, dry place to live that is safe and pestilence-free. Not every family has such luxury. My husband and I believe it is our duty to help those who don’t and we do this through actively volunteering in our community. You know that I am involved  as a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month and I contribute time and energy to literacy programs here locally, but my husband is far more active on a grassroots level, and what he does has a direct effect within our community.

MH900438718My husband, Greg,  is on the board of the Community Action Council, and has been for more than twenty years. Community Action Council is a private, non-profit 501c(3) agency governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.  Their multipurpose organization focuses on meeting the needs of low-income individuals and families through a variety of programs designed to help them become independent and more self-sufficient. They work collaboratively to develop strategies that address poverty in our local communities,  providing essential human services in Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties since 1966.

I am Grateful, with a capital ‘G’, for all my many blessings, for my husband who works tirelessly in the service of our community and for the opportunities I’ve been given to help make a difference in this sometimes terrible world.

 

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Nurturing the Muse

photo ©Leah Reindl 2014 used by permission

photo ©Leah Reindl 2014 used by permission

I come from a family whose creative muse is frequently expressed in music or in art. Musicians and artists dot the landscape of the old family tree. So far as I know, other than my daughter Leah, I am the only one who writes novels, but it may be that I am the only one who ever had the time to spend on such an endeavor.

When I watch children at play, I see the creativity that all musicians and artists know, that wonderful sense of “Ah ha! This is fun!” that comes with making something that exists only to bring pleasure to those who hear or see it. I see this sense of “I can do it!” in all the children, but by the time they are teenagers, much of that joy in creativity has been trained out of them. I wonder why and how it happens.

When I was young and working at dead-end jobs, I would come home and while my children did their homework or played, I would write, draw, or play the guitar. It was selfish, yes–in that it gave me pleasure. But it was not selfish, as it didn’t take me out of their world, and was something we could share. It taught them that they could take the time to be creative.

If there is any advice I would give young parents, it is to be creative in the presence of your children. You go to work every day, and by that you are teaching them that one must earn a living, yes, but the reward of earning that living is a life of love and creativity.

Some people will say bitterly that their job has burned all their energy and creativity from them. I say this is not necessarily so–you must take the time and energy you expend on hating your circumstances, and convert it into something creative. It’s amazing how many people I know who tell me they aren’t creative, but they doodle the most amazing  little pictures on the handouts during those requisite boring meetings-to-nowhere that we all endure in Corporate America.

That is creativity trying to get out.

The reason children are so creative is that they don’t do it for other people, they are doing it solely for the fun of it. Get out the crayons and a blank sheet of paper for a child who hasn’t been to school yet, and watch what happens. Add old magazines, round-end scissors, and mix up some flour & water paste, and the possibilities are endless. But once that child gets into a social environment where he begins to feel less talented than the child next to him, he shuts that creativity down.

science of relationships dot comInside every adult at the water cooler is kindergartner with a picture to draw, a song to sing, or a story to tell. Somewhere along the line, they began to fear they weren’t good enough and put it aside. Soon they have an “I can’t do it” attitude, because they fear failure and embarrassment. They have forgotten the joy of making a good, creative mess. They don’t remember how they learned as much from the failures as they did from the successes.

Don’t let the fact you have no money stand in your way. It takes very little money to draw a picture, or to write a story. You don’t need an expensive computer program–all you need is a pencil and paper.  And music?  You don’t need to play an instrument to sing. If you always wanted music lessons but couldn’t afford them, a great way to learn is to join a community choir. It’s free, and takes a little time away from your TV, but it is a way to jumpstart your joy of making music.

Our children are all artistic and creative in the most amazing (to me) ways, and I think that is because I never stopped making art or music.  They all sing or play instruments, or create art. Our older son, Billy, and youngest daughter, Meg, are working musicians. Billy is a drummer in a band with my ex-husband and my brother. Meg is a young mother and a working musician with several mp3s to her credit. If you are curious, here is her Facebook page where you can hear her work: Meg is Singing.

Meg and Billy are both incredible musicians, playing the drums, the guitar, keyboards, and in Meg’s case, the flute. Music is their passion. Son Dan is a guitar virtuoso, but he plays for his own pleasure. He is an incredible sports photographer, and his work can be seen here: SpotKazu

Christy and Leah express their art in other ways. Christy is an engineer who deeply loves her craft, and brings her sense of beauty into her home, designing an environment that is both serene and filled with color. Leah is an artist, one of her pictures can be seen at the top of this page, and a hair-dresser. She loves her craft as much as Christy does hers. They go to work, and art is expressed in their daily lives, enriching the lives of their children.

This is why I am and have always been a happy person despite the bumps and hardships of life–I did what I had to do to put food on the table, but I played and sang and wrote poems and goofy stories in my free time. My children were my audience and my co-creators. My husband’s children were raised in the same sort of environment (he is a trumpet player and she is an actress) and all 5 of our kids are sheer genius to me. They far outstrip me with their talents and abilities, and with their drive and ambition.

Tower of Bones Trailer, Music by MEG

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On Happiness

Be KindHappiness is like dark-matter. It is all around us, permeates and surrounds us.  You cannot measure it–it’s something that can’t be seen by human eyes, but once you know it’s out there you can look for and measure its effects.

1. Attitudes are muscles. The way we use them is the way they grow strongest.

In the beginning, you must consciously exercise a positive attitude at all times but as time goes on it become natural, a part of who you are. Project positivity at all times, and see how the environment around you changes.

be happy 22.Miserable people are poisonous. They want to spread the poison as far as they can, because they don’t know anything different. In order to remain happy in an environment where miserable people are lurking you must  accept the fact you cannot change toxic people. You can only step away from them.

Love them, pray for them, but hold them away from from you as you guide them to cultivate a positive outlook. Embrace them and comfort them, but do not allow them to infect you, because misery is a parasite always looking for a new host. You may have to love them from a distance.

be happy 33. Share your bounty with those who have less. Never lend money–if you have it to spare, and and want to give it to a needy loved one, GIVE it. Never LEND anything. Give it and do not expect to receive it back, with or without interest. Instead, give it as a gift and ask that they one day do the same for someone else. Conversely, do not become a private bank for anyone, no matter how beloved they are, as this will make them weak. Give to local charities or give to the world charities. Living a life of generosity is a key to true happiness.

Three small ideas, but three ideas that made all the difference in my life.

 

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