Beauty for Ashes

I revelled in the summer heat
When others fried
And sighed,
Goodbye,
And went inside.

Trusting, I smiled 
When hot became warm,
The return of summer's norm,
Simply a mild forewarn
Of climate's transform.

Too soon it seemed
Leaves turned to gold.
Yet still no cold!
Larch and aspen--behold!
Facing autumn serene and bold.

Fun while it lasted,
No keeping frost at bay,
Friendly warmth gives way,
How I shiver today.
Lord help! I pray.

I grieved, pleaded, implored:
Perfumed rose, spotted fawn,
Warbler song, emerald lawn,
All gone, all gone!
But...was that a trumpeter swan?

I'd missed the mist, 
The glitter of snow,
The hush, and the slow,
The late sunrise glow--
All my friend Winter will bestow.
The Bow River, Mallard Point, Fish Creek Park, Calgary October 31, 2021

I have to admit, I am probably the biggest baby in the world when it comes to winter, inwardly grieving, mourning, whining and complaining. But this scene today reminded me of its blessings, because without the cold, the mist wouldn’t rise up in the first rays of sunlight!

And the frosting on the cake, a few minutes after snapping this photo with frozen hands, was watching a flock of Trumpeter Swans fly overhead as they return to Calgary for the winter.

This also reminds me of one of my favorite Biblical poems:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord…
sent…to bind up the brokenhearted…
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve…
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
[from Isaiah 61:1-3]

Wishing blessings on you for every season!

Relax, there will be an Answer

Have you ever had a dilemma and suddenly–without any effort from you–the answer became clear? That’s what happened to me last week.

The dilemma was one of those fuzzy impressions, hard to put my finger on, a nagging weight on my mind, frustration. It seemed to be related to my many writing projects and interests, and the competition we writers face as we attempt to find readers and run our business.

When the dust cleared, the issue, in all honesty, was that I was become more aware of my limitations, and feeling more and more inept as I tried to compete with much more talented and experienced writers. Aargh.

George Pope Morris -from Wikipedia

The first “Answer”

While studying what were said to be good examples of short stories, I read “The Little Frenchman and His Water Lots” by George Pope Morris, a 19th century American editor, poet, and songwriter. It’s interesting how he starts out by telling us the theme of his story.

How much real comfort every one might enjoy if he would be contented with the lot in which heaven has cast him, and how much trouble would be avoided if people would only “let well alone.” A moderate independence, quietly and honestly procured, is certainly every way preferable even to immense possessions achieved by the wear and tear of mind and body so necessary to procure them.

George Pope Morris

He introduces us to Monsieur Poopoo, living a simple, satisfying life keeping a small toy-store…

“You must recollect him, of course… When a juvenile, you have bought tops and marbles of him a thousand times… There he was as happy as a lark-and there, in all human probability, he would have been to this very day…had he been willing ‘let well alone.'”

When I read those three words, I instantly knew that was the answer to my own dilemma. Instead of focusing on the writing skills and experience I already have, and building on them, I have been frustrated over the new ones I am straining toward. Ah, me.

[By the way, if you prefer to listen to the George Pope Morris story, you can do so here!]

Paul McCartney – from his Twitter

The second “Answer”

As if to underscore Mr. Morris’s point, a few days later I ran across a video of Paul McCartney driving around with a talk show host in the locations featured in many of McCartney’s songs. At the beginning of the video (5:00, but keep watching until 7:45, priceless!), the mega-star recalls that the Beatles assumed their music might have maybe ten years of popularity and relevance. In the 1960s his mother, who had passed away, came to him in a dream, and reassured him by saying, “It’s going to be okay, just let it be”. He’d never really heard that, but he believed her, and was relieved. The next morning, he pondered again what she’d said. Let it be. He let those three little words sink in, and become music. Life-changing–maybe career changing–advice!

By the way, it is a funny video for the most part, but much of it, especially near the end, is also quite thought provoking and heartwarming.

…Which reminded me

Put another way, as my friend Pat recommended about thirty years ago when I confided to her about a problem I was struggling with, “Stop trying so hard.” Simple yet effective. I immediately took her advice and it did wonders for the current situation. I have returned to it many times since then, and passed it on to other friends. Mr. Morris and Mr. McCartney reminded me of Pat’s advice.

A Biblical passage puts it this way, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10. I also love what bloggers Brett and Chuck Swindoll said about this verse in their posts.

Another passage says, “Do not be anxious or worried about anything.” Philippians 4:6. And my favorite…

In quietness and confident trust is your strength

Isaiah 30:15 , The Bible

Well, there you have it, the same general message conveyed in different words and images. I know I find it easy to forget that I don’t have to stress out over things, and am always relieved to be reminded. I hope some of these words will pop into your mind and “be the answer” some day when you most need them!

Update – the Calgary READS Big Book Sale has been cancelled

With the wellbeing of our community in mind, the Big Book Sale has been cancelled… Take special care & take comfort in books and reading aloud!

From all of us at Calgary READS

Thanks for giving it your best shot, Calgary READS! You are awesome and it will happen in the future!

By the way, anyone who wants to make a donation can do so here. And definitely check out their fun video!

It’s a stressful time. I wish you all peace, patience, health, hope and connection with our Father in heaven. Here is one of the sweetest songs I’ve ever heard, at 20 Schemes. I discovered it a few weeks ago, and it just keeps going round and round in my head, bringing calm and sweetness to my days. I hope it does the same for you, my friend. {{{Hugs!}}}

Nature Break

Hi everybody, since it’s the middle of the winter,

and the world is STILL not back to normal,

here is a little “nature break” video for you – with chill music!

It’s a collection of pictures and videos I took in the neighborhood park, most in 2020.

I hope it gives you that “Ahhhh” feeling.

And especially for you, my fellow Albertans, enjoy some colors (besides white!) …and remember that those “Extreme Cold Warning” emergency alerts on our phones will one day be a thing of the past!

Here’s the link again: https://youtu.be/zKykIjbUrkY

Sit back, take a few deep breaths, relax and enjoy the gorgeous music, “Teth”, courtesy of

Angelo God’s Minstrel

on Shazam,
on Jamendo,
and YouTube.

A HUGE thank you for your generosity!

A Spiritual Rest during the Holidays

“Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world hath suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not the love song which they bring:

O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing.”

from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” by Edmund Sears

Woes, sin, suffering, years of wrongdoing, war, strife… it seems like I’ve been hearing more of those words than usual these past few years.

So here we are in the end of the year “holiday”. But is it possible to find rest with our spirit so weary from life around us?

Many of the original holidays were holy-days, a time to focus on the spiritual health of individuals, a community or nation. They were intended as an opportunity to put the day-to-day work on hold, in order to have time to intentionally celebrate or remember significant spiritual principles or events.

What about now? Are spiritual matters that important these days?

DCF 1.0

I think so. I believe that we live eternally as a spirit, we have a soul, and we dwell in a body.

It’s easy and natural to focus on the physical and mental parts of our lives. I think that’s because they are, for the most part, visible and tangible. The spiritual side is intangible, however. And intangible may mean hard it’s hard to grasp its significance.

It might be that our spirit just doesn’t make as much noise, so we need some inner quiet to hear it.

What brought this to my attention was really listening to the lyrics of some classic Christmas songs. In them I heard a longing for relief from the powers of evil, from guilt, and from the tendency to sin, to go astray from what is right. And I also heard words of joy and peace coming to hearts of those who had found spiritual hope or rest.

Here are a few examples:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til he appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices…” (from “O Holy Night”)

“Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made heaven and earth of naught, and with his blood mankind hath bought” (from “The First Noel”)

“Fear not then”, said the Angel, “Let nothing you affright… this day is born a savior… To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might…Oh tidings of comfort and joy!” (from “God rest ye Merry Gentlemen”)

“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love!” (from “Joy to the World”)

We need those things: goodness, light, a savior, mercy, a feeling of worth, reconciliation, fearlessness, deliverance, blessings, truth, grace, love. And when we can’t depend on our physical or mental powers, or mankind, scientists or governments to give them to us, we need to look at the spiritual, the divine.

I know it helps me immensely to focus my mind on spiritual good news. My spiritual beliefs center on Jesus, who created this beautiful world and everything in it, is the highest authority and power, paid the sin-debt I owed, and walks with me through life. What a relief for my conscience, and peace for each day. Now that is tidings of comfort and joy!

This holiday, especially after the strain of 2020, I hope you will find a quiet time to attend to your spirit, get out in nature, talk to God, hear his voice, and respond to Him.

And I wish you a healthy and happy New Year in 2021!

Writing to Senior Pen Pals

Ah, the joys of writing!

And today I am referring to literally WRITING, handwriting, using pen or paper–not typing. I have found handwriting or printing one of the best ways for me to create and record my thoughts.

But here I want to focus on sending snail-mail letters to people as a way to connect and keep in touch.

Coincidentally, today I received a thank you message from a dear friend who just received my card in the mail. I’d commented that I felt closer to her sending a physical card than emailing or texting, and she agreed wholeheartedly.

Also coincidentally, today I read an article by one of my favorite bloggers who writes about the joys and opportunities of handwriting and sending snail mail. Barb at ritewhileucan.com is full of creative ideas and has a heart for brightening up someone’s day with a card or letter. She just posted about an opportunity to be a pen pal with a senior in a care centre, who are especially lonely because of lockdowns. I am looking into to adding one of these dear ones to my snail mail pen pal list. Thanks, Barb!

Interested?

Go to Rite While U Can and see more precious smiling faces of men and women with their written notes to potential pen pals!

There are also many other similar initiatives catching on around the world, in Canada, the U.K., Australia, to name a few. Check out these news stories!

Caring and Connecting Pen Pal Initiative, Canada

A Nova Scotia University Initiative

Kind-hearted Australians writing Letters to the Elderly

Sending Support Throughout the U.S.

You may be inspired to pen a letter or send a card to one of your loved ones, or one of the seniors at a website. If so, I hope you’ll post a comment about it below!

image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/@shkrabaanthony

Freedom with Writing

Are you, like me, dusting off some stories or manuscripts that have been filed away for a few years? If so, you probably want to find homes for them.

Or, you might be looking for periodicals that are in need of exactly the kind of articles you write.

 

 

Let me tell you about a website I recent discovered, Freedom with Writing.

Most of the online resources I’ve found focus on either non-fiction or fiction, but Freedom with Writing focuses on both, which I like. It’s free and couldn’t be simpler: they send you emails with valuable links to writing opportunities. Apparently, they have been going since 1999!

I can never just “scan” their emails, like I can many others. They are full of meaty information all the time. On top of that, the format is an absolute joy: clean, clear, simple, to the point, giving you in a glance exactly the information you are looking for.

Take their home page, for example. It looks similar to many other websites offering to help you find success. But once you start clicking on their links, you can tell they put in a lot of time and energy into digging up valuable information and passing it on to you.

 

 

They also lend a helping hand to newbies like me with various straightforward, useful articles, such as how to send in your proposal, or helping you understand the realities of the freelance life.

Here is an example of two entries I found today while browsing the information under “95 Technology and Science Blogs, Magazines, and Websites that Pay Writers”  on their home page.

The following is a list of 95 technology publishers that accept pitches directly from freelance writers, and pay for the writing they publish. Payment rates in this area tend to be higher than some other categories; blog posts for a programming site are often in the $200 to $500 range. If you’re not sure how to approach these publishers, then be sure to watch this free webinar.

And here are a couple from today’s “24 Free Writing Contests & Cash Grants (Up to $30,000)”, also on their home page.

 

Today, I STRUCK GOLD!  35 Themed Calls for Submissions (Non-fiction, essays, etc.)  This article is what inspired me to write this blog post. It is right up my alley!

Now, I tend to be overly trusting, so these days I scan reviews of EVERYTHING. I was happy to see that there are many others who agree with my positive reaction to Freedom with Writing. Here are a few:

Alex Tucker, Medium.com, and Make Money Online.

If you check out Freedom with Writing, let me know what you think!

Have fun dusting and getting your creative works out there!

 

[“laptop-and-diary-on-table-in-garden-4559527” photo courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels;

Gold photo courtesy of  James St. John at Flickr : “Gold-quartz hydrothermal vein (16 to 1 Mine, Allegheny County, California, USA)” ]

Notes of Encouragement while wandering in the Park

Two things happened recently, one good, and the other… also ultimately good.

The first is that the winter weather finally left, and it’s spring! That is definitely a good thing.

The second is that I was recently laid off from my teaching job. It felt bad at first. But if you believe as I do that God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him, it will turn out for the better. It will be exciting to see how things go!

Anyway, it certainly has its advantages in the short term:

 

 

The combination of these two things has brought about a wonderful change to my schedule. Now that I don’t have to rush around weekday mornings to prepare for–and drive to–work, I can go on early morning walks to the park!

Ahhh. When the sky is clear, I love to grab my camera, and walk a block to the urban park near my home, Fish Creek Park.  It is referred to as one of the largest urban parks in all of Canada, and here it is considered one of the BEST.

First, let me share with you some of the sweet messages of encouragement some very talented artists have created and shared since mid-March. These adorn one of the paths I take when I want the best chance of seeing wild animals.

 

 

 

Notice that not all of these have written messages, word messages. Some are merely pictures. Yet those still convey a message, don’t they?

And I think we’d agree that all give a message of hope and happiness, a warm feeling that yes, “every little thing gonna be alright”.

I hope these made you feel that way, too!

Next, let me share with you a few of the other joys of the morning walks from the past few weeks, mostly birds. More good vibes!

 

Goose and gosling

 

Mallard

 

Morning dew

 

Woodpecker

 

Smiling tree trunk, ha ha!

 

Bald eagle hunting

 

Pelican taking off

 

Yellow-rumped warbler?

 

It is my sincere hope that all of you are well and safe, and that you were able to take a few deep breaths of peace, joy and nature from these photos and messages.  God bless!

Calgary spring used book sales – the 2020 version

UPDATED ON MAY 31, 2020    

At this time of year, I usually post information to help you plan for the Calgary’s biggest and best used book sales, but this year things are (obviously) a bit different…

 

RESET Calgary usually holds the first used book sale at the Crossroads Market. Here is the note on their website:

“We have made the decision to postpone the 18th Annual Book Drive & Sale. We are truly sorry that the Book Drive & Sale will not be able to move forward in the spring as in previous years, but we are feeling excited about the possibilities for this event next year.

This is an extremely important fundraiser for our agency as it provides over 12% of our revenue and we thank you for your considering supporting RESET Society in other ways during this time: https://resetcalgary.ca/how-you-can-help/”

The Calgary READS sale is usually at the Calgary Curling Club, and they are planning their used book sale for the fall of 2020. BUT in the meantime, they need your donations of new and “like-new” CHILDREN’S books NOW. 

“If you are able to donate “gently used” children’s books, please contact us at info@calgaryreads.com and we will provide instructions on how to donate.”

 

And for those who just can’t wait for the in-person used book sales, you can still shop online. Although the following do not offer as many incredible deals as RESET and Calgary READS will offer, here are some used book stores to get you started:

Calgary’s Fair’s Fair used bookstore updated their webpage: Our Inglewood store will be OPEN to the Public effective THURSDAY, MAY 14th 10:00 am – 4:00 pm – 7 DAYS A WEEK“.

Calgary’s Better Books and Bibles (new and used Christian books) has posted this notice on their website: We are opening our doors again on Saturday May 30th! Our hours will remain the same (10-2) but will increase if business calls for it. We are very excited to see all of you again!” https://www.betterbooksandbibles.com/

AbeBooks, founded in Victoria, B.C., Canada, now worldwide, has a page for searching for books with free shipping to Canada.

Better World Books has free shipping to Canada, and has several deals happening now. As their website says, “Every time you purchase a book on betterworldbooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.”

Powell’s Books is included in my list because it is near and dear to my heart. This “City of Books” was established in 1971 and is also one of the top attractions in the city of Portland. In the two hours I had allotted to explore it in 2007, I only made it through about a third of this unique store.

Happy reading to all!

 

Wishing you all health, safety, sanity, and patience as we get through this time!

Life is still beautiful. Consider yourself hugged.

 

[Warm appreciation to photographer Artem Beliaikin for the “Pile of Books” image!]