Monday, May 19, 2014

"The Poet," By T.A. Daly

The Poet
T.A. Daly

The truest poet is not one
Whose golden fancies fuse and run
To moulded phrases, crusted o'er
With flashing gems of metaphor;
Whose art, responsive to his will,
Makes voluble the thoughts that fill
The cultured windings of his brain,
Yet takes no soundings of the pain,
The joy, the yearnings of the heart
Untrammeled by the bonds of art,
O! poet truer far than he
Is such a one as you may be,
When in the quiet night you keep
Mute vigil on the marge of sleep.

If then, with beating heart, you mark
God's nearer presence in the dark,
And musing on the wondrous ways 
of Him who numbers all your days, 
Pay tribute to Him with your tears
For joys, for sorrows, hopes and fears
Which he has blessed and given to you,
You are the poet, great and true.
For there are songs within the heart
Whose perfect melody no art
Can teach the tongue of man to phrase.
These are the songs His poets raise,
When in the night they keep
Mute vigil on the marge of sleep.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Vacation: two weeks and counting

I only have today off for my "weekend" since I subbed out working Monday in exchange for having next Saturday off for the CSU reunion retreat, and I have to tackle both laundry (this means the laundromat: such a time suck) and yard work to get done before church later.

My grand vision of coming home from work last night and sorting laundry so I could leap from bed today and be the first one through the laundromat door? Yeah, that didn't happen. Naturally, I'm sitting on my couch, enjoying a (unusual for me) second cup of coffee reading and writing this instead. A procrastinator to the core, that's me!

Of course, the day's still young.

In addition to next weekend being booked with the retreat (which I'm very much looking forward to, by the way), these next two weeks are so packed with work assignments (my desk calender at the office is a sea of blue ink) and projects to tackle that if I wasn't going on vacation immediately after them, I'd be tempted to run away anyhow. That said:

Two. Weeks. Until. Scotland.

Two. Weeks.


It still doesn't seem quite real to me yet, possibly because there is so much I have to do in between times. But I have made a bit of progress with my to-do list: seven of the 19 items have been crossed off. And I've started tossing clothes in the direction of my suitcase (fortunately there's not much call for long-sleeved shirts in Florida at the moment) so, I'll have less to search for and can, at some point next week, start culling the herd. While it could be tricky, I'm determined to pack as light as a woman going overseas for two weeks can without living from a backpack, so I decided to take the small suitcase, rather than the behemoth I could probably pack myself into: for one, we're going to be on the move quite a bit and I don't want to have to haul the thing up flights of stairs at B&Bs, not to mention the big one would likely take up the entire back seat of our rental car (which is supposed to be a Vauxhall Astra, which looks (online) small but sorta snazzy. I do like saying Vauxhall. I am such a complete dork...).

I've also dug out of my change jar the £11.75 leftover from the unforeseen layover of 2009, when an Italian baggage handler's strike caused us to miss our UK connection from Rome back to the States. Though belied by the stamp in my passport that says I have actually been to England, 24 hours spent largely in a hotel, on the tube and in Heathrow Terminal 5 does not a visit make. I suppose I could have traded it in for dollars long since, but I knew I'd have the opportunity to use it eventually. :)

I only have a hundred pages to go in Sir Walter Scott's "Rob Roy," (I felt compelled to reread one of his books before heading over there) so will finish that before it's time to leave. I've been very much enjoying looking up many of the archaic words in it, and I'm not sure how I managed to read it as a teenager without having access to the (shorter, two-volume) OED. I have to say, too, that the Internet has failed me on several counts when I've tried Googling the odd word instead of immediately hitting the dictionary.

Speaking of books, that's one thing I need to add to my to-do list: determining the reading material I'll take with me. As a general rule, I have a tendency to over-estimate the amount of books I'll need on trips (and generally just end up hauling them around without cracking the majority), so will limit myself to no more than two: one fiction, one spiritual reading. The problem is, which two? I should definitely begin that process so I can start eliminating! Many would say this problem could be solved by some sort of e-reader but A) I can't afford one and B) even if I could (and call me a Luddite if you want) I prefer actual books, thank you very much. You can't scrawl margin notes on a Kindle.

And as an amusing conclusion, this past week Historic Scotland's Facebook page offered a "Who In Scottish History Are You?" quiz, which I took just for fun. Apparently (according to the no-doubt-completely-accurate quiz), I am St. Margaret. I was quite pleased with that result, actually, since I've always liked her story (and I didn't think I was much like Flora McDonald or Mary Queen of Scots, two of the other female results possible). I'm looking forward to visiting both her chapel (built by one of her sons, King David I, it's the oldest building in Edinburgh) and saying a prayer at her grave site (at Dunfermline Abbey).

Now, on to the chores...

Monday, May 12, 2014

We're all called to motherhood

One thing I love about Ann Voskamp's writing on her blog, "A Holy Experience," is her honesty.

I try to be honest when I write, but don't always say everything I want to, mostly because, well, this isn't my journal, not everything should be on the Internet, and I want to hold onto that little bit of myself, that yen to preserve myself from judgment.

But Voskamp doesn't pull punches. In a pre-Mother's Day post last week, she wrote about how no woman is the perfect mom, because that woman, the "Hallmark mother," does not exist.

"If we’re honest and what else is there really — there were burnt dinners and yelling mornings.
And neck strained words over lost shoes and scattered Legos and unfinished homework and there were crumpled tears behind bathroom doors.
Not to mention the frozen pizzas and no clean underwear and the wild words no one would want the cameras rolling for.
And the realization — that a mother’s labor and delivery never ends and you never stop having to remember to breathe."

She has six kids, so she knows of what she speaks. A couple of sentences down, she writes about womanhood, regardless of motherhood. These sentences struck me as both an acknowledgment and, in a small way, a benediction:

"The deal is — Motherhood isn’t sainthood and we’re all a bunch of sinners here and don’t let anyone tell you any different — pushing something out of your womb doesn’t make you a better woman.
Real Womanhood isn’t a function of becoming a great mother, but of being loved by your Great Father. Someone write that on a card with a bouquet of flowers. We all need that."


I know women who have six beautiful children, have struggled with infertility, experienced (sometimes multiple) miscarriages, but regardless, we are all called to be mothers, whether it's as aunts, sisters, friends, godmothers, or adoptive mothers, and to nurture those we love.

I'm not a mother, and while I want to be, I sometimes toy unpleasantly with the idea that maybe I should give that particular dream up because, even if I'm blessed with a husband, will I even be able to have children? I don't know. And I do terribly with not knowing (and with being patient, and being wrong. Hi, I'm human. *Waves to the group*).

Women joke about biological clocks ticking, but the idea I may not ever be a mother is, without being able to explain exactly how, a physical ache (yes, I would adopt, but not without a husband. Children need fathers). And I have a (stupid) tendency to discount being a spiritual mother, thinking of it as somehow less, forgetting that, "motherhood is a hallowed space because children aren’t commonplace, that anyone who fosters dreams and labor prayers is a mother..."

I have five godchildren, some I see frequently, others less often. They all have moms (and dads) who care for their daily needs, but they are in my heart, in my prayers. Small as my occasional cards and gifts may be in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't make my love, or its impact, less. I need to remember that. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

"Oh, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?"

I'm generally an up-beat, positive person overall, but, like most people, I definitely have my moments of angst, and that whiny quote from Romeo tends to pop into my head often when I'm feeling frustrated about life, along with Juliet's reply, "What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?" Their balcony exchange is all about romantic declarations and frustrated passion, but could easily (at least to my odd-ball brain that makes these weird, out-of-context connections: I was thinking about links between the "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars" trilogies last night) be inserted into any conversation I have with God about why my life doesn't seem to be moving like I want it to. Only in those dialogs, I'm woe-is-me Romeo, and God is Juliet, basically telling me to be patient.

Oh, my brain! :)

Anyway, the other morning, while getting ready for work, I was talking on the phone to my best friend, Sarah, who was herself in the middle of her hour-long morning commute to the Georgia college where she's a science professor. We do this now -- have morning conversations -- because things are often too busy for her after work between the kid's soccer practice and dinner prep, my work schedule is sometimes unpredictable even in the evenings, or she, not one to stay up late like night-owl me, often falls into bed before 10, her energy sapped by both her daily responsibilities and the human she is currently growing.

In large part, our conversation centered around the fact that she and her husband had just found out their third child, due in September, is the hoped-for girl (yay!) and possible name choices for said daughter. Their sons, 5 and 3 (the youngest one of my godsons) were also excited about the prospect of a sister. But I was also having a whiny morning and needed to vent.

At 36, I'm at an advanced age (I write ironically) which used to connote mid-life but doesn't necessarily anymore. I was thinking about all the things I'm "supposed to" have accomplished by now: fabulous job, wonderful house, a passport filled with stamps, an amazingly romantic husband, kids, etc... and I am nowhere near that point in life. I have been able to do some traveling, largely through the beneficence of others (the whole trip to Scotland next month? Mom's paying for it, a gift I can never repay. The airfare alone is more than I make in a month), yet on my own I can't even afford the cost of a hotel for a weekend getaway, and sometimes (stupidly) I feel ashamed by that, that despite all my time spent working, it still yields so little, and that I am somehow less because of it. Then, I feel guilty because, in comparison to so many others, I AM well off. I have a job, no debt (a gift in its own right!), own my own car and a roof over my head. But, like so many, I live paycheck-to-paycheck, and I wish I knew when things would stop being a struggle. Job applications I send out, hoping for something new, something that pays better, yield nary a whisper in reply.

Like Romeo, I'm selfish and get so caught up in wanting, wanting, wanting.

So, back to the phone conversation the other morning: Sarah's driving, I'm trying and failing to pick out a shirt that suits my mood for the day, and she says, "I just want to be settled. Shouldn't that have happened by now?"

It's a feeling I am so familiar with. And, just like that, the bubble of my own selfishness popped.

One of the many, many things I love about my friend is that by trusting me with her own trials, she reminds me, even after you unlock certain life levels -- marriage, children, career -- there will always be worries and things will still continue, in a way, to be unsatisfactory. She's attained all those things, and loves her life and family, but still stresses about choosing the right school for her boys, the need for finding a mini-van they can afford before the new baby comes, having enough space in their current house and whether they should stay where they are or move and, if so, when? She questions how she'll juggle teaching with three children.

As I heard myself reply "It's life. I don't know that we'll ever be 'settled,'" I thought, almost simultaneously, "Do you hear the words coming out of your own mouth, woman?!" And, thankfully brought out of myself, I laughed.

There is a whole other life waiting for us, one that is not here, and that is what we yearn for -- for God. The sometimes (who am I kidding? the ALWAYS) hard part is to not be caught up in the wanting of things, the near-constant worrying this life -- the push to achieve, to win, for Manifest Destiny -- inspires. We live in the world, but can't let its worries and wants consume us. My Dad, though he fought it, tended to be caught up in the negatives so often, it practically became his default setting, and I don't want  --  and cannot allow -- that for myself. As St. John Vianney said "You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God."

Lord, help me live in the world, but belong wholly to you!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

A cautionary note

I'm female, so over-analyzing things is in my nature.

Worse still, my B.A. is in Creative Writing, so I essentially have a degree in exceptionally in-depth analyzation. ;)

Ergo, this reminder from C.S. Lewis is an important one to remember as a general rule of thumb:

"‘Reading between the lines’ is inevitable, but we must practice it with great caution, or we may find mares’ nests."

Truth, C.S., truth. :)

Friday, May 02, 2014

First ever 7QT: Car talk, fiesta & favorite foods, Twitter and good red lipstick.

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about your awesomeness, saints working through Youtube, and me buying you a banana suit

I've wanted to take part in Jennifer Fulwiler's 7 Quick Takes link-up for a while now (and have no discernible reason for why I haven't up to this point), so here goes.

#1: I talk to other drivers when I'm alone in the car. Now, I know I'm not the only one who does this, but somewhere in the not too distant past (I can't recall when), I started using pet names for them. To wit, I'll be alone in my car and say to the driver of car in front of me: "Ok, honey/sweetie/darlin,' the light's green" when they need to move off the dime.

Ummm, wow, that sounds even more ridiculous when I write it, but I think I tend to lose my patience less when I'm calling the driver of the car in front of me "dear" while encouraging them to at least use their turn signal before cutting me off, rather than cursing at them instead.

#2: We had a Mexican fiesta potluck for lunch today in the newsroom. Not everyone was going to be in on Cinco de Mayo, so we filled up today on chicken and beef tacos with all the fixin's. I'm not sure what it's like in other newsrooms, but none of us will ever starve so long as we work here.

In honor of the celebration, and to look a smidge more flamenco-esque/Hispanic (which I'm not, but people sometimes think I am), I pinned a couple of fake flowers in my hair, wore a peasanty looking shirt with a bright yellow sweater and glammed it up with bold red lipstick (not evident in the photo, as it had worn off from taco eating), the latter of which I don't do very often. A bit cheesy, yes, but it's Friday, and sometimes a girl just has to do something fun and different, even if only for herself. :)

#3: Do you know how hard it is to find a really good bright red lipstick? So many are too orange, whereas I need one with more blue in it because of my olive skin tone. The one I have is great, just the right shade, with the smallest hint of sparkle to it (Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Berry Allure frost). But it's old, as in the-smell-has-changed-and-I-know-I-should-probably-toss-it(there are rules about these things)-but-they-don't-make-the-color-anymore-and-I-love-it old. I did say I don't wear it very often.Whenever I do, though, it makes me think of 40's-era, old Hollywood glamour.

#4: If I were to have some sort of retro makeover and could pick the time period (yes, I think about these things), late 1930's or wartime Hollywood is the look I'd want. The clothes were so classy and feminine, and I'm fairly certain I could rock those war-era Victory Rolls.

#5: I love fresh tomatoes, and sometimes just eat them plain. In fact, after I had both a chicken and beef soft taco at lunch, I grabbed a bowl and just filled it with chopped tomatoes and a little bit of guacamole and went to town.

#6: Speaking of things I like, I am currently out of milk. This is a sad state of affairs, as I use it in tea, coffee, hot cereal, cold cereal, hot chocolate, chocolate milk... Seriously, I'm like a teenage boy when it comes to drinking milk (this, by the way, is the only way in which I resemble a teenage boy). I buy a gallon and bring it home and by the end of the day or the next morning, half the gallon will be missing. And I'm the only one in the house. At least I'll probably never suffer from osteoporosis.

#7: I followed G.K. Chesterton on Twitter this morning so I could get the hook-up on some awesome, faithful/witty quotes. Shortly thereafter, I received a "Matched contacts suggestion" on my phone for good old G.K., like now that he knows how to get ahold of me, he's gonna call. That would be pretty awesome, come to think of it, if not just the least bit miraculous. ;)

As for Twitter, I go through stages with it. I will post a flurry of tweets one day, and then there will be a trickle more over the next couple of days, then I tend to forget about Twitter entirely, sometimes for months at a time. I feel like I should be better about it, but also at the same time like I don't need more distractions or another social media site to maintain. Some people seem to be on there constantly, and I just can't.

Head over to Conversion Diary for more quick takes!