Sunday Scribblings-Power

“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is what we have not sufficiently desired.” Nikos Kazantzakis


It’s not a secret any longer~the buzz is everywhere. The power of intention, the power of positive affirmation, the “if you can dream it you can do it” philosophy. Believe long and hard enough, visualize yourself where you want to be, and the universe will move in ways to fulfill those dreams.

Undoubtedly, that is one powerful idea.

And yet…

“I know what the great cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world.” Henry Miller

While channel surfing on my XM radio the other day, I stumbled across an interview with Denise Jackson, wife of country music singer Alan Jackson, who has written a book about the recent breakdown of their marriage. The couple is back together now, and Ms. Jackson spoke about her desperate attempts to restore their relationship. “It was only when I finally surrendered it all to God that things started to happen, that Alan’s heart began to soften toward me, that I learned to give up trying to control him and our marriage.”

Two diametrically opposed ideas about power over your life. One suggests we have an almost magical ability to believe things into being, to focus a piercing beam of positive energy toward our goals, igniting sparks of creation deep within ourselves and the universe. And the other advises we give over our desires, our need for control and order, offer it in our cupped and outstretched hands to the Higher Power who can only then initiate Her work in our lives

So what is the answer?

In my yoga class, the leader tells us our practice is a balance of effort and surrender. Effort to achieve a pose, to bend and stretch stiff, awkward limbs and muscles into positions that may feel unnatural, even painful, and surrender when you’ve pushed your body far enough and you simply breath deeply and let go, accepting the shape you’re in.

I imagine that everyone reading this is struggling with something -desires, fears, confusions, heartbreaks. We’re all yearning, wondering, hoping to fulfill those dreams we harbor so deep within our hearts we’re almost afraid to speak them aloud. We all want the power to make those dreams come true, to find answers to questions that trouble our sleep, to soothe grief and pain.

But I also imagine that true “power” lies somewhere between these two dichotomies, somewhere in that amorphous realm midway between effort and surrender, when you’ve done every practical thing you can do, when you’ve focused every bit of positive energy you can on that one tight place in your life that simply refuses to bend another inch, and you finally exhale and float, in the clear and certain knowledge that you’ve done your best and now grace must slip in.

The balance of power – saying Yes! and learning when to let go.

for more powerful thoughts, go here

Friday Feast

Appetizer : How are you today?
With radiant sunshine, a fresh cool breeze blowing, and endless blue sky, I’m excited about getting outside, hoping the fresh autumn air will blow some of the cobwebs out of my head.

Soup : Name 3 television shows you watch on a regular basis.
For a long while, there weren’t even three shows I could say I regularly watched. Lately, I’ve become addicted to Mad Men, a series set in 1960′s New York City, and centered around the advertising business. I grew up in the 60′s and there haven’t been many shows or movies set in that era. This one pays great attention to detail, from costume to language, to social mores and customs. It’s fascinating. I also watch Gray’s Anatomy and ER ~ I’ve always liked the “doctor shows.”

Salad : What’s the scariest weather situation you’ve experienced?
A couple of years ago, a hurricane hit Naples, Florida, where our son lives and where we have a second home. We were all in Michigan at the time, but it was frightening (and rather surreal) to be watching the coverage on television, seeing familiar landmarks being blown and buffeted about. Luckily, neither of our homes were damaged.

Main Course : If you could wake up tomorrow morning in another country, where would you want to be?
No question – the UK. When we visited there in 2005, waking up in the morning was my favorite part of the day. The sun on those luscious green hills, the fields dotted with sheep, the peace and quiet of the small villages we passed through – sumblime!

Dessert : What do you usually wear to sleep?
I really like nice sleepwear – not super expensive stuff, but things that match and look good. I’m not an old T shirt and boxers kind of girl. I like feminine nighties and pajamas.

for more feasts, go here

Booking Through Thursday

This week Booking Through Thursday asks:
Buy A Friend a Book Week is October 1-7 (as well as the first weeks of January, April, and July). During this week, you’re encouraged to buy a friend a book for no good reason. Not for their birthday, not because it’s a holiday, not to cheer them up–just because it’s a book.
What book would you choose to give to a friend and why?

And, if you’re feeling generous enough–head on over to Amazon and actually send one on its way!
I trade books with my friends all the time~sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who has what, they get passed around to so many people. But I rather like the idea of buying a friend a book for no particular reason, especially since I know it will return to me eventually!
The Whole World Over, by Julia Glass, was one of my favorite reads last year. Glass has a real flair for description and character development. This is a sumptuous book about relationships, and, yes, friendships~ it makes wonderful “curl up with some chocolate and wine” reading, just the kind of thing I like to encourage my friends to do.
For my writer friends, The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron, provides the perfect combination of inspiration and exercise in short, concise chapters. This book distills all Cameron’s highly touted theories about writing into one small volume. It’s my favorite of all her books.

For more ideas on book shopping for your friends, check out Booking Through Thursday.

Write On Wednesday-Coming Alive

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.
Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
~Harold Thurman Whitman
Each time I run across these words, I feel an electric shock run down my spine.
They remind me that the world, myself included sometimes, is filled with people going through the motions of their days, finding no joy, no deep indwelling sense of satisfaction or accomplishment, nothing that creates the feeling of life abundantly lived. So these words prod and poke me, nudge me to search for what creates the spark of life in my soul.
They confronted me this morning when I opened my brand new copy of Foolsgold, by Susan G. Woolridge (author of Poemcrazy). Outside my window, a cloudy, drizzly September day waits for me. Another day in my office beckons, a day of paper shuffling and organizing, a day of sifting through piles of medical records and information. Nothing about the prospect of this day makes me come alive.

But if I am honest, I recognize that I am luckier than most~I’ve achieved half the battle to follow that credo. I, at least, have found the things that make me come alive.

Certainly, writing is one of them.

Foolsgold promises to help me “find the artist within by cultivating a creative lifestyle that will not only expand and inspire you, but may also ground and heal you.” A “creative lifestyle” is what interests me here. In the past months, as I’ve come to realize how much writing means to me, I’ve allowed it to play a bigger role in my inner life. Yet I keep it tucked in the cupboard of my lifestyle, afraid to let it to play in the daylight hours, only taking it out when I’ve completed all the other, less livening activities.

I think in order to start living that “fully alive” life the world needs, I must allow creativity to permeate my entire lifestyle, not just those few “off hours” when the regular work is done.

What does that mean in practical terms? I’m not sure. Perhaps Foolsgold will provide some answers, as I read it with that thought in mind.

It will be a journey, this “coming alive” process.

I’ll keep you posted.

How about you? Have you found the things that make you come alive? Are you doing them?

Writer’s Island-The Key

“What key are we in?” the musician will ask, inquiring about the tonality of the piece of music she’s preparing to play. For singers, the key is vital, because it will determine whether the notes are too high or too low for the voice to produce. As a pianist, I’m also interested in key – music in certain keys has more “accidentals” than others, notes that have to be changed from the normal progression.

Most musicians have their “favorite keys.” Personally, I like the major flat keys, especially D flat. My fingers seem to naturally fit into that five flat pattern, and the tonality is especially pleasing to me, rich and full, with just a hint of melancholy.

Of course, it’s not difficult to see the corollary between life in general and a musician’s relationship with key. We all have certain patterns that best fit our moods, our inclinations, our desires. For some, life in C major, the simplest, most efficient of all keys, is perfect. While others thrive on life in g-sharp minor, with every key an accidental at least once (and don’t even ask me to explain double-sharping!)

Not surprisingly, I prefer my life to be similar to my favorite key. D flat major falls just slightly above “easy”, and is slipping toward challenging on the scale. Tonally, it’s pleasant, yet interesting, evocative yet accessible. And, as Goldilocks would say, it fits me “just right.”

Perhaps the key to happiness then, is identifying that “just right” tonality for your life. Naturally it’s fun to experiment with other keys once in a while. I’ve gotten great satisfaction from mastering a piece in the key of C flat major, even though my brain felt like it was solving one long algebraic equation the entire time I was playing it!

But I’m always happiest when I return to the “tonic” – home base, in musical terms. After spending the day meandering through life, like a jazz pianist will wander from key to key, following some wild, unexpected path so far from where he originally began, I’m comforted to find my way home, and let those odd chord progressions resolve into my own natural tonic “do”. The place that feels just right to my fingers and to my heart.

more keys are available on writer’s island

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: G is for…

In all honesty, I’m not very goal oriented. I do alright with the minor goals – like getting the laundry done, learning my music for a concert, and finishing my work on time. But I’m not very good at setting those major life goals. In the “olden days” when I was growing up, there wasn’t so much emphasis on goal setting and life planning. You just did what you were supposed to do…finish school, go to work, raise your family, live your life. Not even any of that “live your best life” stuff. Just get it done.

Sometimes I’d like to be more of a goal setter, but it seems that every time I stick a toe in the goal setting water, life (and/or world events) get in the way, putting a monkey wrench in my carefully (and I mean, carefully!) laid plans. A few years ago, we set a goal for Jim to “semi-retire” at age 55, and we would move to Florida. With that in mind, we purchased a home, and then another home in Florida, hoping to use the equity from a booming real estate market to stake our retirement dreams. Well, I’m sure most of you know what’s happened to the real estate market during that time~it’s gone down the tubes, taking our retirement dreams with it.

“Set another goal!” life planners would advise. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

Admittedly, I’m a bit gun shy about goal setting. Personally, some of the best things that have happened in my life were unplanned – getting married was actually never on my list of things to do-until I met Jim, that is. Having children – we had no plans for that either, but God thought otherwise, and thank goodness He did!

So perhaps I’ll just continue on relatively goal-less. With the exception, of course, of making the most of every day, enjoying my friends and family as much as possible, and doing what I can to make the world a little bit better place.

Sunday Scribblings – My Name Is…

My grandmother called me Sugar, my dad sometimes called me the Queen of Sheba, my husband called me Sunshine. My friends call me Becky, my colleagues, Rebecca, and here in cyber space, I’m Becca (of the Byline).

All these appelations bear some truth about my essential nature. Yes, I am sweet, as my grandmother recognized. Sometimes I do feel entitled to royal treatment, though I’m generally content to spread warmth and joy into the lives of those I love. I am a bit Old World, as the ancient history of my Hebrew name would suggest, but I’m willing to sample modernity when the situation requires.

I’m also a baby boomer, I was once a stay at home mom, and I’m now an empty nester. I float somewhere in the nether world between mid-life and senior citizen.

None of these nametags tell you very much about the essential Becca – the one who’s all about family and home, fairness and honesty, simple pleasures and lasting love, enjoying life and honoring your gifts. Or the Becca who was once afraid of stairs and is still afraid of spiders.

From my simple introduction, you would never know that I love the water, but can’t swim, or that I’ve always harbored secret dreams about ballroom dancing and race car driving. That I’ve been drinking coffee since I was three years old, and it’s my drink of choice for most any situation. Or that I’m an only child, a child of divorced parents, and wandering through the world with a very tiny, precious number of people who share my blood.

Unless you know me well, you wouldn’t know how conflicted I sometimes get about my music and my writing (never good enough!). How much I worry about what will happen in the future~where will we live, will we have enough money, what will we do for health care. You wouldn’t know that many mornings my eyes pop open at 4:00 am and all these worrisome thoughts invade my mind, poking and prodding, agitating me until I surrender and get up to make myself hot cocoa to soothe my pounding head.

I can now readily walk up to people, offer my hand, and say “Hi, I’m Becca. Have we met?” But I was once painfully shy, and rarely spoke unless spoken to first. I now realize the really interesting part comes after that simple introduction, where I get to know the person behind the name, and share a bit of my own essential self with another human being. That’s what keeps us human, isn’t it? The sharing of our stories, the offering of little bits of ourselves.

But it all starts with a name.

My name is Becca…have we met?


for more introductions, go here

Friday Feast #161 (But #1 for Me!)

Appetizer
What is your favorite type of art?

I love the Impressionists – Monet, Renoir, Cassat. But I also love artistic photography, like Ansel Adams

Soup
When was the last time you got a free lunch (or breakfast or dinner)? Who paid for it?

Today, as a matter of fact. My mom treated me to lunch in the dining room at Macy’s Department Store – a real old fashioned “ladies who lunch” place, where we had our favorite~ Maurice salads

Salad

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how emotional are you?

Ten years ago I would have anwered 8. Now, I’d say 5 or 6. I don’t know whether I’m hardening with age, but I rarely cry about anything anymore. I sometimes cry after visiting my mother in law at the Alzheimer’s facility where she lives. So many people with once vital, busy lives, now existing as shells of their former selves. Breaks my heart every time.

Main Course
Approximately how long do you spend each day responding to email?

Very little time. I don’t receive a lot of email. I spend a great deal more time commenting on blogs -probably an hour a day.


Dessert
To what temperature do you usually set your home’s thermostat?

Winter is coming, and the thermostat war will soon begin! I like it at 68, my husband likes it 70, so we’re always sneaking around adjusting the thermostat on each other. Terrible for energy conservation, I know.

to sample other feasts, go here

It’s Been a Hard Days Night

Thursday nights are choir nights at our church, and we’ve started off the year with a very ambitious project~we’re mounting a production of South Pacific, not the full show, but a slightly revised version. It includes all the songs, and a good bit of the dialogue. Tonight was our first full rehearsal.

The show goes up in two weeks.

That’s right. Two weeks.

If you’ve ever been involved with any kind of musical production, you’ll know that’s slightly ludicrous. But our church has a long history of doing full out musicals, so most of the people in the choir are used to this kind of thing.

However…

Our choir director “invited me” to play the second piano part of the accompaniment, which is scored for two pianos and…well, two pianos. That’s it.

Okay, I’ve played lots of musicals before, and this isn’t terribly hard music. Our regular organist will be playing the other part, and she’s a phenomenal musician.

However (and you knew there would be a however)…

We don’t have the music yet.

The show is in two weeks.

There are 42 songs.

“The music’s been shipped! They promised me it would be here tomorrow!” our choir director assured me tonight. Hmmm…I think she told me that last Thursday night.

My friend Sandy, the other accompanist involved, gave me “the look” that says, “Don’t you just love being taken completely for granted?”

A few years ago, I would have been completely freaked out about this situation.

However, perhaps it’s because I’m older and wiser, or perhaps it’s just hormones (remember, I blame everything on hormones these days), I’m really not terribly worried. I figure, que sera sera – I’ll do the best I can. After all, since it’s for church, I’m hoping God will guide my fingertips.

Even if it is South Pacific.

A Whole New Grind

You all know how much I love my coffee, and I’ve developed quite a discerning set of taste buds for my favorite brew. For many years I’ve been ordering coffee from the Gevalia Company, whose traditional blend has just the right full bodied, smooth taste for me. But whether it’s my age or my hormones (which I tend to blame for everything these days), I’ve noticed lately that my cup of Gevalia occasionally has a bitter aftertaste.

Yesterday I tried organic coffee for the first time, and I was hooked immediately. Cafe Britt Organic is a dark roast, smooth tasting, slightly sweet flavored coffee, that is full bodied without even a hint of bitterness. And even better, it’s harvested from plantations that use 100% organic materials – no pesticides, no chemicals – and are completely dedicated to fair trade practices. So I have lots of reasons to feel good about drinking it.

As an added bonus, my new addiction is available at First Cup, a brand new coffee shop located just a mile from my house. I’m so thrilled that my neighborhood finally has its own coffee house, complete with art gallery showcasing local artists, poetry readings and – wireless internet. I’ve already made friends with the owner, a lovely woman from Lebanon, who is completely dedicated to serving all certified organic foods. I think I may have found a new hangout.

I know I’ve found a new coffee.