Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Seeds, Harvest, and a Writer's Thanks

photo courtesy of pixabay
"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." --Robert Louis Stevenson

Thanksgiving. A day to slow down (even though the to-do list to get the traditional spread on the table can become hectic!) and reflect. A day to consider, acknowledge, and count--count all those blessings that grace our families and our lives. I paused for a few minutes the other day to do just that. It necessitated a period of intentionally stopping, quieting, and taking some deep breaths. After all, that to-do list wasn't going to get done on its own.

But something happened when I got quiet. Yes, I recorded many things I'm thankful for, including my husband and our over-40 years of marriage, my children/their wonderful mates/the precious grandchildren, our home and freedoms and health and all the beauty that can be seen no matter the season of the year. I noted things like the wind through pine trees, grapefruit, ocean walks, sled rides and chapped cheeks, Mom's quilts and warm socks. I added 'time' to the list--time to write, time to learn, time to change and grow, time to meet challenges with more courage than less. So many things, so many directions. In fact, the whole process reminded me of Ann Voskamp's inspiring book, One Thousand Gifts--a book worth pulling off the shelf and rereading.

But the exercise brought me to an interesting point. I found myself remembering some of the people in my life who were influential in helping me get where I am--people who planted seeds, if you will, and who also would probably be surprised to learn they had been included on such list. In no particular order I thought of:

1. Mrs. Stahl who ignited the spark for journalism--and words in general--in high school.
2. Mrs. Moore who taught an elementary child the importance of discipline and kindness.
3. Mr. Walters who, unbeknownst to him, opened up a world of history to a receptive teen--and fired up the desire to bring characters to life through his portrayal of Matthew Brady of Civil War photography fame.
4. Mrs. Bennett who helped an introverted sophomore gain a bit of confidence in public speaking through soft-spoken compliments. 
5. Mrs. Gossett who gave an eight-year old child insight into faith and hope through her weekly neighborhood Bible story times for the children.

These were not the only influential people in my life, but they were the ones that came to mind first. They were happy to plant seeds though they wouldn't necessarily see the harvest. And am I ever grateful for the seeds they planted!

What people 'planted seeds' in your life that you are thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving to all who stop by!

Friday, November 14, 2014

On Footprints, Life's Passion, and Centenarians

fall walk 2013 archives
"You can't leave a footprint that lasts if you're always walking on tiptoe." --Marion Blakely

Footprints. The idea was reinforced when I came across the following report in a recent issue of World Magazine (11/15/14): "There's one thing Madeline Scotto didn't wish for on her 100th birthday: retirement. Despite becoming a centenarian on October 16, the 100-year-old Brooklyn woman still works as a teacher at the St. Ephrem School where she prepares middle-school students for math competitions When asked about retiring after six decades at St. Ephrem, Scotto told WPIX: 'Oh, that's a bad word. I don't ever want to hear that word." Her commute is easy enough: just a walk across the street. 'Some people like what they're doing, but I  have a passion for what I'm doing,' she said. 'And when you have a passion for something, you never give up.'"

Madeline Scotto
photo courtesy Daily Mail
Isn't she darling? Imagine the footprints this little lady has left. Simply because she never shook loose of her passion--passion for children, for teaching, for living. At 100 years old!

Synonyms for passion? With varying degrees of meaning: enthusiasm, love for, coming alive, joie de vivre. No two days will necessarily give a full measure of these gifts, but--if we can look at Miss Madeline's life--we might say she experienced a fuller measure than some.

Others who have weighed in on the subject:

"Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for." --Ray Bradbury

"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing. do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." --Howard Thurman

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." --Albert Einstein

Thank you, Miss Madeline, for your example. For being an inspiration. For leaving footprints to emulate and follow--no matter our age. I just love examples like this!

How about you--any stories of those who have inspired you to reach higher, to live with more joy?

p.s. want ideas of incorporating joie de vivre in your life? Check out "How to Capture Joie De Vivre" here.

Friday, November 7, 2014

John Gardner on The Very Life of Fiction

neighbor's yard November 2014
"Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has someplace to stand, something that can help define him, something he can pick up and throw, if necessary, or eat, or give to his girlfriend. Plot exists so the character can discover for himself (and in the process reveal to the reader) what he, the character, is really like: plot forces the character to choice and action, transforms him from a static construct to a lifelike human being making choices and paying for them or reaping the rewards. And theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody: theme is elevated critical language for what the character's main problem is." --John Gardner

Character is fiction's life. Setting, plot and theme support, fill in the gaps, add brushstrokes to the canvas. But character breathes. I share this quote so that I, for one, won't lose track of it. It's a keeper!

Enjoy this beautiful fall weekend, everyone.