Friday, June 20, 2014

A brief note on writing and photos

I wrote 70-plus pages in a journal during the two weeks Mom and I were in Scotland (despite our breakneck pace through the country and essentially staying at a different B&B every night), and nary a word (minus stories FOR work, naturally) since I've been back in the office.

But I think I've come up with the solution to how I can generally get more (creative) writing done: I just need to find someone who will support me while I write... ;)

And I have so much to write about from the trip. Hopefully I will get to some of it this weekend. Inevitably, I think of observations I still need to write down about Scotland while I'm either driving or in the shower, so more will be done eventually.

Oh, and the photos! There are more than 5,000 (though, to be fair, since I've started sorting through them, some are blurry, at weird exploratory angles or a second -- or third -- version of the same shot, or things I took that I knew likely wouldn't turn out, and then didn't), and people are already clamoring to see them on Facebook.

I will not be posting all of them. I'm not that obnoxious. :)

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Leaving, on a jet plane...

And that's just one side...

Departure day, T-minus 5 hours and 10-odd minutes, give or take. The reality that Mom and I are leaving for Scotland today, despite the silent witness of the packed suitcase and carry-on backpack sitting at the foot of the bed, it still doesn't seem quite real just yet. I'm about to head off on a trip that will check off one of my childhood (or teenage, to be more precise) dreams off my bucket list (>>> Not it. My bucket list has far fewer crossed off items!) just hasn't sunk in...but since we leave for the airport in about two and a half hours, it probably will shortly. :)

"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen."

Everything is done, both at work and on my personal to-do list. >> Ok, not exactly everything. I didn't get around to vacuuming my house, but I think it will survive until I return.

I have quite probably over packed (even after subtracting two pairs of jeans, an extra pair of PJ pants, a third pair of shoes and several pairs of socks from my suitcase last night).

I'm taking three books (five if you're counting the guidebooks), instead of my previously decided on two, mostly because my old paperback copy of "Persuasion" weighs next to nothing, and because I haven't read it in a while (the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds movie version is a fairly loyal adaptation and generally satisfies my craving for the story). My other books are "The Four Loves" by C.S. Lewis, which I've wanted to read for a while, and the collected Lord Peter Wimsey short stories by Dorothy L. Sayers (who I only recently learned was friends with C.S. Lewis and also wrote on some Christian themes when she wasn't writing mysteries. I'm looking forward to investigating that more at some point). I've very much enjoyed the Wimsey novels (including the witty byplay between him and scrappy Harriet Vane; their characters eventually marry), and I figured short stories would be easy to digest, so to speak, while on the move.

I'm also taking a laptop, as some of our B&Bs offer free Wi-Fi, although I'm not planning on hitting email and Facebook too often (just often enough to appease and reassure people (*cough*BestFriend*cough* that I'm still alive. She texted me this morning "Omg, what am I going to do without being able to call you for two weeks???!!!!!!!") that we're still truckin.'). I'm going to try and do some writing while we're there, and will be christening a new journal for the occasion.

It's looking a little cloudy out now, so I'm hoping the early evening storms that have been rolling in lately won't delay our take off at all, since we do have a layover in New Jersey before crossing the Atlantic. It's also the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension today, which seems like a nice day to take off into the sky.

(insert rim shot here).

Ok, yes, that was ridiculous, but I most certainly prayed for safe travels at Mass this morning.

Mom is super-excited, too. She keeps saying things like "pinch me, and "I can't believe we did all of it (the planning) ourselves." I hope everything goes according to plan, or at least that nothing gang agley, as Robert Burns would say. We're really doing this!

Renewed... and a reading recommendation

It had been far, far (vastly!) too long since I was last on a retreat, and so last (Memorial Day) weekend's Florida State University Catholic Student Union alumni reunion retreat (the group holds them every two years), held in Orlando, was so needed. I feel centered and so spiritually refreshed (or, as my friend Marie said, "It's like spiritual Draino."). I was so blessed to have this community when I was in college, this group of people who prayed for and guided me, who do so still.

Mass daily with plenty of adoration and praise and worship time, talks and fellowship with nearly 200 other CSU alums and multiple children (It was an amazing witness to life. One of the hotel employees asked one of us if the group was at the hotel for a baby convention) who attended from all over the country was priceless.

Having just been on the retreat, I found a neat connection in the book I'm almost finished reading. It's called "These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body," by Emily Stimpson. I read her other book, "The Catholic Girl's Survival Guide for the Single Years," when it came out two years ago and really enjoyed both it and her smart, relatable writing style, so when I found this one, it seemed like a no-brainer for several reasons. First, I still can't seem to manage to get beyond the first 125-odd pages in ToB and, secondly, Stimpson's book takes Saint JPII's work and (while not neglecting the sexual aspect) filters it toward practical, everyday behaviors to show how our manners and how we treat others, our work and how we do it and how we eat and dress also reflect the theology of the body: the body's ability to communicate who we are and who God made us to be.

Anyway, at the end of Chapter 3, which addresses ToB and work, Stimpson tacks on an addendum called "The digitalization of leisure," which talks about how the way we relax has changed. "A century ago," Stimpson writes,

"a good day of rest for the average American would have involved a long walk, a fine dinner, some neighborly conversation, and perhaps ... some music on the piano or fiddle. There might have been dancing. Or storytelling. Or perhaps and outing to a museum or play. ... and enjoyed in the company of others."

She goes on to say that today the opposite is often true. That we come home from our jobs and spend time watching screens, and our leisure time has become more passive than active and often spent along. I'm guilty of it, certainly, of dropping on the couch to watch a movie after work instead of challenging myself to be more creative or tackle postponed projects.

Not that she says all this technology is bad. Far from it:

"... although those technologies can lead us to encounters with the true, the good, and the beautiful, they are, by their nature, mediated encounters, not embodied encounters, with sonatas, paintings and evening chats ... Our greatest experiences of joy are never mediated. They're always experienced from the body. ... Media technology is at its best when it facilitates rather than replaces embodied experiences of truth, beauty and goodness, and when it helps us become creators rather than consumers during our leisure hours. ... Media technology can never give us the same kind of joy that comes from being on the mountaintop or hearing our favorite band live. It can't forge the bonds of love and friendship forged over a good meal and equally good wine. It can't mediate the glory and love and presence of God to us that being with someone or at some place in our bodies can."

This lengthy end note on the book's chapter struck me because I'd just spent a weekend rekindling some old friendships usually maintained online, but also because I'm about to embark on vacation with my mom to Scotland. It's a place I've wanted to visit for so long, have read so much about. You can look at all sorts of pictures of a place in books and online, but I'm beyond excited to have the opportunity to really experience it, as Stimpson say, in an "embodied encounter" shared with my mom. Like the movie "Up," "Adventure is out there!"

As for Stimpson's book, it's only 160-odd pages and a quick read packed with goodness, and I encourage you to read it.