Sunday, February 23, 2014

Quotations of the Week

I love quotations. Over the past twelve years I have filled one entire journal with quotations, and I started a new quotation journal last August. The old-fashioned name for a quotation journal is a commonplace book.

So, for this week I've chosen two quotations on the subject of creativity by a very famous person from my current commonplace book:

"Creativity is intelligence having fun."

~Albert Einstein

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

~Albert Einstein 

From The Book of Common Prayer 2011 for this week:



LORD God, who sees that we cannot trust in anything that we do; By your power may we be defended against all adversity for your mercy's sake; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: Psalm 3.7-8; 129.17-18; Hebrews 7.35)

So as Lent approaches, I pray that God will reveal to me what He wants me to focus upon during these 40 days in the spiritual wilderness, just as Christ spent 40 days in the desert before starting His earthly ministry. We can learn much if only we quiet our minds, hearts, and souls so that we can hear Him speaking to us. How easy it is to be distracted by the Internet and Facebook, by television and Netflix, by cell phones and Instagram, and yes, even by blogging. So I pray that as I take time for silence, I will relax into His Spirit and be truly teachable. 

Wishing you all a blessed pre-Lent,

Friday, February 21, 2014

My Favorite Painter: Fra Angelico

Considering that my Master of Arts in English from Catholic University of San Diego was in Medieval Literature (with many courses taught by an amazing nun with a Harvard Ph.D.), it's not surprising that my favorite artist would also be from the medieval period.

Fra Angelico was born the same year that Chaucer died: 1400. Although he only lived fifty years, he produced an incredible body of artistic work.

Earlier this week, the Church celebrated his Feast Day, and the following is from the daily "Saint of the Day" e-mail from that I received on Tuesday:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Blessed John of Fiesole
(c. 1400-1455)

The patron of Christian artists was born around 1400 in a village overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional tone of his works. 

He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: “One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there.” Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence.

He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455.

So let's take a look at some of his more famous works:

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
The Visitation by Fra Angelico
Madonna and Child by Fra Angelico
The Crucifixion by Fra Angelico
The Resurrection by Fra Angelico
The last painting here was the only wallpaper I ever used on my first laptop computer. The colors, especially of the first three paintings, are still so vivid, and his figures are pre-Renaissance in their three-dimensionality versus the usual flat, two-dimensional work of the medieval period. 

So I hope that you will enjoy the work of this amazing medieval artist as much as I have and continue to do!

Artistically yours,

Friday, February 14, 2014

An Odd Saint Valentine's Day....

This Saint Valentine's Day is unlike any other in my and Keith's 30+ year relationship.

I won't be seeing him today.

Since his dad (who is 82) had knee replacement surgery just before Thanksgiving and also has been struggling with the progression of his Parkinson's disease, Keith has been spending anywhere from two to five nights per week in Ramona. Fortunately, Keith's brother, who built a house adjoining his family's large home for their parents (although their Mom died before it was completed), has quite a long to-do list for Keith to tackle, paying him a discounted rate to build a storage shed and a treehouse for their kids (two of their kids have already graduated from high school, so this fun place is for their three younger ones, ages 8-11), to begin with. In addition to being there to keep watch over his dad and to work on Kevin's projects. Keith has also been helping the younger kids with their chores and homework when they get home from school since they're often alone until dinner time.

And Keith left yesterday to spend last night and tonight in Ramona; he'll be home Saturday evening.

So we're apart for Saint Valentine's Day.

Since 1997, it has been our family tradition to take the grandkids to my parents' house for pizza and ice cream sundaes on Valentine's Day while we "parents" enjoy an evening out. We began this tradition after my mom's father died on Valentine's Day in 1996, and she wanted her grandchildren with her on the anniversary of his death. The kids still get out the craft stuff and create Valentine's Day cards while Keith and I and my siblings and their spouses go out on our dates.

So tonight we're still heading to Pacific Beach to spend the evening with my parents; I'll just be staying there for the pizza and sundaes, too.

Last night I wrote out Valentine's cards for the kids, writing each one a personal note of encouragement and affirmation with a different Scripture verse for each, telling them how much they are loved (and also set two large Reese's Hearts on each of their placemats). Elizabeth made everyone cool Star Wars Valentines with a glo-stick attached as a light saber, along with a small box of Valentine's Nerds (my favorite non-chocolate candy) and three Ghiradelli milk chocolate-caramel squares. Yum!

But family traditions aside, this day is special because of the love of one man, Saint Valentine, and his dedication to God. I found a very interesting history of Saint Valentine's Day at the History Channel site. Following are excerpts from that history:

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day — and its patron saint — is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February — Valentine's Day — should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap."
And from a website called Women for Faith and Family comes additional information about Saint Valentine's Day and a call to "re-Christianize" this holy day:
The popular customs connected with Saint Valentine's Day's probably originated in medieval Europe. At that time, when "courtly love" was in flower, there was a common belief in England and France that on February 14th, precisely half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair.

Thus, we read in the 14th century English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer's "Parliament of Foules":

For this was on Seynt Valentynes' day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
(Chaucer's original spelling).

This belief about "love-birds" is probably the reason Saint Valentine's feast day came to be seen as specially consecrated to lovers, and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lover's tokens. The literature of the fourteenth and fifteenth-century in both France and England contain allusions to this practice.

This association with romantic love, along with the medieval revival of interest in classic literature, no doubt led to the "paganizing" of this martyr's feast, so that the Roman god, Cupid (the counterpart of Eros in Greek mythology), supplanted the saint in the celebration of the feast. In Roman mythology, Cupid, the son of Venus, was a winged immortal who had the mischievous habit of shooting invisible arrows into the hearts of mortals, which inflamed them with blind and helpless passion -- for the next person they might see.

The Golden Legend, a medieval book of stories about saints, says that Valentine, a priest, was imprisioned by the emperor Claudius II for leading people to Christ. While Valentine was being interrogated by a Roman officer, the priest preached Christ as the "one and only Light". The officer, who had a blind daughter, challenged Valentine to pray to Christ for her cure. The girl was cured, and the entire family were converted to Christianity. According to legend, while awaiting execution, he wrote notes of instruction, affection and encouragement to the Christian community in Rome, which were secretly delivered by a boy who visited him in prison.

It is ironic that a Roman Christian who died defending the faith is now chiefly associated with a pagan god, Cupid.

I would like to close with a prayer for Saint Valentine's Day:

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You gave Saint Valentine the courage to witness to the gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. Help us to endure all suffering for love of you, and to seek you with all our hearts; for you alone are the source of life and love. Grant that we may have the courage and love to be strong witnesses of your truth to our friends and family and to the whole world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wishing you all a blessed remembrance of Saint Valentine and of Christ's command to "Love one another,"

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Joy and Pain of Writing

" Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard."

~David McCullough

"The proper words in the proper places are the true definition of style."

~Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

For the past few weeks, I have been good and stuck. And I mean really stuck

Sometimes writing is the most wonderful and freeing feeling in the world. When the characters behave themselves and the images vividly stretch across my mind's eye and the words flow forward so smoothly and perfectly (rather like the ice dancing I'm watching on the Olympics from Sochi, Russia, as I write this) that the challenge is to capture each expression and nuance before the next blooms forth....

That's when I love writing. 

That's when I can almost believe that I am a writer.


That's what has NOT been happening lately. 

Because of my busy schedule, I've been publishing the average of one chapter a month rather than my regular schedule of one chapter a week. Of course, these chapters are much longer--twice as long as the chapters in my previous novels. But still, I've been so crazy busy with my teaching schedule that writing has had to take a back seat.

Not to mention my faithful readers who understand both my insane schedule and my physical limitations...but who are politely eager for the next chapter of my novel--the whole "so what happens next?" question needs to be answered for their sake.  

But without that regular mindset of writing, editing, and publishing a new chapter each week, it's easy to lose the emotional thread of the story, to lose the subtleties of the characters, to lose the flow of images that I usually race to type before the vividness fades. 

All these issues are difficult. Yet the problems with this latest chapter go far beyond what I've described above. I drafted this twelfth chapter of my current novel in November during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). A delightful dream vision came to me, so I followed it. But when I reread the chapter, it just didn't seem to work right, and my brilliant and insightful pre-reader agreed and offered me some wonderful suggestions.

So I rewrote. 

And it still wasn't right. 

My pre-reader agreed and offered me more wonderful suggestions. 

So I rewrote again. 

And it STILL wasn't right. 

My pre-reader agreed and offered me more wonderful suggestions.

So I'm rewriting this chapter again

Right now I hate writing. In fact, I feel much more like a bumbler than a writer. I'm not crafting words; I'm slaughtering them. 

And it's rather a bloody mess. 

So as I gird my scattered mind to rewrite this recalcitrant chapter once AGAIN, I take comfort in these two quotations from two great writers, praying that I can somehow fulfill these words on writing. 

And...back to my novel I go....

Writing away (and trying to not tear out my hair),

Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: The Truth in Lies

Image from

A few of you know that I have written two novels and several short stories which I have posted online under a pen name (and no, I'm not telling my pen name to you) on two websites. Currently I'm writing a third novel, and all together I've received more than 3 million "reads" (hits) between the two sites. One of my novels is up for Top 10 Story of 2013 in its genre, and my current novel--only 11 chapters in--was nominated for Best Supporting Cast in the 2014 Fan Choice Awards.

One of the most amazing perks of publishing novels online chapter-by-chapter serial-style (following in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, after all) is the amazing authors I've come to know as I read their work and they read mine. Through these websites, we are able to review each other's chapters and leave comments and questions.

Jeanne McDonald is one of those authors. I read the original version of her The Truth in Lies Saga online, and I loved it so much that I read it THREE times. (Yes, that is really *3* times!!) So I was thrilled when the revised version of The Truth in Lies e-book was available on Amazon (it's also available in print on Amazon as well).

As much as I loved the preliminary version, I adore the new version now available for sale.

Here's a quick plot synopsis (minus spoilers): The main character, Mackenzie, a speech pathologist, undergoes a traumatic experience and, when her relationship with boyfriend Nate sours as a result, she moves in with her longtime best friend, the fashionable Olivia. However, Mackenzie finds greater understanding, friendship, and solace in the handsome and athletic attorney, Andrew, Olivia's new boyfriend, than she does from her best friend. Despite the fact that the connection and attraction between Drew and Mackenzie is immediate and undeniable, they both attempt to resist each other since Drew is still with Olivia. Complications also arise with Jared, Mackenzie's best guy friend who works with her as a music therapist and who can't stand Olivia. And, since I don't want to give away any spoilers, let's just say that "chaos ensues."

Jeanne McDonald did more than revise an already excellent novel; she completely transformed the plot details while keeping the compelling character dynamics intact; in fact, she focused and sharpened the intriguing relationships. With Drew and Mackenzie, she added more complexities, more uncertainties between them yet also removed some of the moral culpability for their feelings and actions, placing the reader squarely on their side. In the first version, some events occurred between them that would definitely be classified as "cheating." Although I loved the characters of Mackenzie and Drew in the first edition, I didn't like and couldn't approve of some of their actions which muddied my feelings toward them. And with the other main characters of Nate, Olivia, and Jared, the author made their motivations far more direct and clear-cut with fewer gray areas.

My only reservation is that I truly wonder how Mackenzie could be "best friends" with someone as unlike her as possible; the character of Olivia seems to have few redeeming qualities which makes me wonder how both Mackenzie and Drew were drawn her.

In addition, new characters appear in this revised edition, such as Mackenzie's parents, while others seem to have disappeared, namely the main character's first husband and their son with Asperger's (a high-functioning type of autism) who live in a different state. The overall effect of these alterations results in a more unified story that eliminates some of the questionable moral decisions made by some characters while bringing other characters into the action, creating more direct participation and less feeling of their being mere bystanders in the resulting drama.

But the big surprise was a HUGE plot twist at the end of this first volume of The Truth in Lies Saga that I did not expect; in fact, I was simply flabbergasted in the best way. (I love it when books absolutely surprise me, and considering that I had read the earlier version of this story several times, the most recent time only a month ago, shocking me was quite an accomplishment!!) The possibility of this twist never occurred to me, and I practically dropped my Kindle, jaw unattractively agape, as I read the end of this first volume.

Admittedly, this first volume ends with quite the cliffhanger--and a rather distressing one at that. It seems impossible for good to happen to our couple at the close of The Truth in Lies. Of course, I'll have to wait until the second volume, The Certainty of Deception, is published in June to find out what happens next. The suspense is delightfully delicious, and despite the bleakness of the end of this volume, we can't help hoping that good will happen to Mackenzie and Drew.

And I have to admit that I am waiting quite impatiently for June 17 to arrive. :)

Okay, okay, I'll admit it: I'm counting the days until the appearance of The Certainty of Deception. (Just 135 days to go!! Yay!!)

I highly recommend The Truth in Lies, the first volume of The Truth in Lies Saga. It's a human-interest story with compelling characters and a plot full of twists that somehow seem completely natural and works incredibly well, taking into careful account the characters' personalities and foibles.

I also highly recommend following Jeanne McDonald on Goodreads and her website at as she is writing and releasing additional books in 2014 and beyond. An extremely talented writer, Jeanne McDonald is an author whose work I plan to follow for a long time to come.

I give The Truth in Lies (Book 1 of The Truth in Lies Saga) 4 1/2 stars (of 5 stars possible, a rating only given to my favorite classic novels).


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Candlemas Day

Today I attended Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity for Candlemas Day, otherwise known as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple OR The Purification of Mary--all of which are celebrated on February 2...

the same day as Groundhog Day...

(six more weeks of winter are welcome here since we've only had about three days of wintry weather so far...and our first chance of snow tonight!)

and Superbowl XLVIII.

(Yay Seahawks!!)

Um, back to Candlemas...

Here's a wonderful explanation of the Holy Day of Candlemas from Project Britain: Candlemas Day.

And here is the Collect for The Presentation of Christ in the Temple from The Book of Common Prayer 2011:

ALMIGHTY and ever-living God, we ask that, as your eternal Son was presented in the temple, we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; Who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (References: Luke 2.23-30; Galatians 4.4; Psalm 24.3-4; Revelation 1.6)

So have a wonderful 4th Week After Epiphany as we approach the pre-Lenten season!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin