Writing: The Success is in the Offering

Writing: The Success is in the Offering

The first blog I started was in the early 2000s.  Way back then, I didn’t call it a blog and neither did anyone who read it.  It was a very short list of distinguished people who read it, but it was there, a precursor to what I would do here and now.

I was imitating my older sister.  She sent emails to her friends about life ponderings that she had during the day.  There were religious reflections, philosophical musings, and simply ideas she had as she went about her ordinary high school life.  Wanting to be like her, I started my own little email list.

While I don’t remember how many emails I sent out, I do recall one topic.  Blue toilet paper.  My mother purchased blue toilet paper and, for some reason, this was the thing I felt most compelled to write about.  I know that I sent at least two emails about it.  The first had an intriguing subject line of “Blue” and the second was titled “Still Blue.”  And then, for one reason or another, I stopped sending the emails.

My next foray into the world of writing was in eighth grade.  Apparently, my English teacher thought I had something to offer the world and contacted the local editor of the town newspaper.  The editor agreed to let me write occasionally for the paper about virtually whatever I wished.  I wrote about my sister entering the convent, the death of a classmate, summer church camps, dream jobs, my dad’s retirement, the holocaust of abortion, and my trip to Ireland and Scotland.  The writing continued sporadically until my graduation.

In college, I wrote a couple of times for a few different campus publications.  I was too busy writing papers to publish many articles just for the enjoyment of it.  College also had the knack of tempering my perceived self-importance.  I’d been told for years that I had a gift for writing, largely from family and friends who are supposed to say those kinds of things.  In college, however, I received authentic criticism from my Honors and English professors.

Admittedly, it took me by surprise. Continue reading “Writing: The Success is in the Offering”

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The Gift of Winter

Snow in the Swiss Alps
When did snow become a drudgery?  I’m sitting in my classroom, grading papers, trying to let Pandora play music uninterruptedly and outside snow is gently falling.  It has been fluttering down for a few hours now and it looks peaceful.  Instead of an empty classroom, I should be in a cozy living room, warming my chilled fingers on a cup of hot chocolate, and watching the snow design an intricate blanket for the earth.  

This used to be a delight.  The arrival of snow was once something longed for, something wanted.  Now I seem to view it as a necessary evil, the consequence of living in a northern state, a sort of Purgatory on earth.  Yet only a few days ago I was able to witness first hand the disappointment of my 4 year old nephew when the snow melted.  He was debating other things and realized he was losing so he changed the subject.  Whining and with such a sad face that you would want to quickly give him whatever he desired, he told his mother that the snow wasn’t there anymore.  In his short lifetime he had only been through a couple winters and they still held a deep excitement for him.  It amazed me briefly.  I had begun to assume that everyone was as unimpressed and pessimistic about the snow as I was.  My nephew, though, was viewing snow through a gaze of wonder and awe.

When did snow become something I disliked instead of something I anticipated?  I always thought it was when I was required to help with outside chores and I realized that snow and slush make carrying 5 gallon pails of corn remarkably difficult.  I used to don snowpants, gloves, and a hat and go roll in the snow, make snowmen, and just relish in the cool air nipping at my nose.  Now I am more concerned in keeping my feet dry and how quickly I can dash from my car to the warmth of a building.  Much of the wonder of winter has been zapped from my life.  It is there, in brief glimpses of soft snow settling on window sills or the sunlight enhancing the sparkle of the icicles forming at the edge of the roof.  There is a cold sort of beauty that I like with winter, but the moments I rejoice in it are few or only when I am separated from the elements by a windshield or window.

That is my present goal–to embrace the beauty of winter and delight in it.  I plan to begin with putting my things in my car and then, perhaps for only a few seconds, tilting my head back and feeling the snowflakes kiss my face and melt at the brazenness of their touch.  Then I will drive (carefully) home and try to embrace the gift of winter.  Everything is a gift, right?  Today the Lord is offering me the chance to live and experience another winter day.  For all my aged and weary 23 year old bones know, this could be my last winter.

The Lord provides for the tender hearted

The Lord has given me the gift of a tender heart.  I don’t always view it as a gift, I don’t always want people to know about it, but on occassions I am reminded to be thankful for it.  Now this sensitivity doesn’t mean I cry when I see a dead deer and worry about Bambi.  It also doesn’t mean that I sob over soap operas and run to see every chick flick in theaters. 

What it does mean is that I nearly cried the other night when I saw a gorgeous sunset.  It means I cannot read “A Child Called It” because I feel physically sick and begin to feel depressed.  My sister brought the book home from the library several years ago and I tried to read part of it.  The story focuses on the abuse a young boy endures at the hands of his mother.  I feel sick just thinking about the way I felt when I read the first pages.  This sensitive heart causes me to remember things people said or did years ago that they probably didn’t intend to be lasered into my memory.  It meant that I had to will myself to not cry when my principal was talking to me about how I handled a situation last year.  He wasn’t even angry or yelling at me but I had to keep willing myself to not let the tears fall.  “Trish.  You cannot cry.  You are an adult.”  So I managed to not cry…until he left the room.  Then I sobbed.  This tender heart causes me to cry each time I open it up a little in spiritual direction.  I plan to high-5 Father the first time I manage to walk out of there without having shed tears.  This tender heart causes me to long for Heaven as though I have been homesick my entire life.

Recently a man who had worked with my dad died due to brain cancer.  He kept a blog about the journey he was making with the cancer.  Instead of becoming bitter and cynical or blaming God, he called his cancer “the gift.”  I didn’t really know him, but I loved seeing him at the different Masses around town.  As I read through some of his blog entries, I cried.  He writes about how he sees God each day and encouraged people to look for God wherever they were.  I think of the family he leaves behind and I mourn for them.  Yet I also think (though I don’t intend to minimize their pain) about what a gift all of it actually could be for them.  To know that you will be dying and soon.  It would make me live each day to the full.

But shouldn’t I already be doing that?  Why is it that the fear of death suddenly makes us desire to live?  St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  I want to be fully alive.  Sometimes it takes a sunset to wake me from my stupor.  Or the feeling of holding a beautiful niece in my arms as she squirms and smiles.  Every now and then I am just struck by reality–the grass is really green or the sky seems so clear.  Suddenly I can see and I realize how blind I let myself become 

Lord, help me to embrace this tender heart.  This heart that causes tears to well up in my eyes at inconvenient times and yet allows me to see a beauty that is perhaps overlooked.  Above all, help me to place my tender heart within the wound of Your Sacred Heart.  Only there is it truly safe, only there can she find rest.  Thank You, Lord, for this gift called life—the challenges, the heartaches, the joys, the blessings, the experiences of You that reaffirm that all of this has a purpose.  Thank You, Lord.  Amen.