Writing Joy Lost and Found: Take Joy by Jane Yolen

One of my New Year’s commitments this January was to get back to fiction writing at least three days per week.

Due to illness, I didn’t.

Although I am down to revising the last half of the last chapter of my novel-in-progress, I felt so lousy I did not trust myself to do my best work.

Nonetheless, I am finally coming to accept, that for a time, chronic exhaustion is a partner in my life, therefore I need to get on with living, and writing, anyway.

A Visit with a Friend

One thing I did do right: while resting, I picked up an old writing book by a particularly inspiring author, Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft by Jane Yolen.

Yolen’s words fed me, floated me, excited me.

Last week, I finally got back to work on my novel, and it felt good!

Take Joy

In light of how Yolen inspired me, I thought I’d share some of her nourishing words with you.

“Chapter One” of Take Joy discusses the way some authors describe writing as a bloodsucking, agony-inducing practice. I have seen these claims in essays and blog posts, and they have always irritated me.

Yolen proposes a different attitude:

I suggest you learn to write not with blood and fear, but with joy.
Why joy?
It’s a personal choice.

Chapter One, page 2

Yolen reflects on how difficult it is to actually get published:

All we can count on is the joy in the process of writing.
Uncovery, discovery, recovery are all part of the process.
So take joy behind publishing’s shadow. The joy in the process.

Chapter One, p. 5

In conclusion, Yolen wishes readers:

…joyous flights in your own writing. Save the blood and pain for real life where tourniquets and ibuprofen can have some chance of helping.
Do not be afraid to grab hold of the experience with both hands and take joy.

Chapter One, p. 12


Yolen’s guide reminded me that I love my work-in-progress. I have often spoken of it as a labor of love.

I also remembered that I love writing. When the writing is going well it feels like flying, laughing—a wild joy.

Thank you, Ms. Yolen, for these reminders!

Your Turn

How does writing nourish you? Which parts of writing bring you the greatest joy? What are you working on that you can’t hardly wait to get back to?

Please share your comments in the box below. Let’s encourage one another.

P.S. Read Yolen’s book. It will bring you joy.

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives; Take Joy by Jane Yolen

Teachers’ File Drawer: Corny Quatrains with a Flurry of “Snow”

Corny Quatrains: with a Flurry of Snow: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
It’s February, and we all know what that means: Valentine’s Day is coming.

So… I thought it would be fun to revisit one of my favorite Valentine’s Day lessons Corny Quatrains and give it a little extra spin.

Because this lesson is a “one-shot,” just one day is spent on it, it can provide a fun break in the midst of a longer unit. It also provides a mini review on some poetry terms.


Students will be able to:

  • write a quatrain with an ABAB or ABCB rhyme scheme
  • evaluate and revise their own work
  • point out the strengths in the work of others.


Post this old gem where everyone can see it:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.

Ask: Can anyone identify what form this poem takes?

Hopefully someone will come up with the term quatrain or stanza. If no one does, move on.

Remind your students that poems can be written with a specific rhythm or rhyme schemes, and that poems can be divided into stanzas. It helps to liken a stanza of poetry to a paragraph of prose.

Ask: How many lines are in this poem?

Wait for the answer: Four

Explain: Stanzas with four lines are called quatrains.

Go back to the original poem and ask: which lines rhyme with which?

Explain how to label the rhyme scheme by focusing on the sound at the end of each line, and labeling each line with a letter denoting its unique end rhyme.

Go over the original poem and label the lines together.

  • Roses are red,      ends in “ed” with a short “e” sound   label: A
  • Violets are blue,   ends in “ue” with a long “u” sound    label: B
  • Sugar is sweet,     ends in “eet” with a long “e” sound   label: C
  • And so are you.   ends in “ou” with a long “u” sound    label: B

Point out that even though they are not spelled the same, “blue” and “you” rhyme because they share the same end sound. Conclude that this quatrain takes the ABCB form.

Explain: A quatrain can have other kinds of rhyme schemes besides the ABCB, for example:

  • ABAB—where the first and third lines rhyme, and the second the fourth lines rhyme
  • AABB—where the first two lines rhyme, and the second pair rhymes
  • ABAA—where all but the second line rhymes.

If your students are keeping learning journals, you might have them jot down some of these terms with their definitions as you introduce this material: stanza, quatrain, couplet, rhyme scheme, and the four quatrain rhyme schemes. However, please be selective so you keep this introductory part of the lesson to less than 15 minutes, because the rest of the lesson is where the fun comes in.

Write a couple of corny quatrains as a class. Start your first one with the traditional “Roses are red…” line.

Write a second one starting with a different noun/adjective pair. Here’s one I wrote:

Candy is sweet,
Chocolate, divine.
Please say you’ll be
My valentine.

Inevitably, someone in class will get silly and suggests a not-so-nice valentine. That’s okay. Keep your sense of humor. Then…

The Challenge

Challenge your students to write their own corny quatrains. First, require them to write something sweet (after all, it’s Valentine’s season, and we did begin by talking about corny quatrains). Then, if they wish, allow them to write something “sour”—one of those not-so-nice valentines. Require them to write a total of 2 quatrains with at least one of them sweet.

Here is an example of a “sour” quatrain should you need one to share:

Saliva is sticky,
Snot, like glue,
You stick like gum
On the sole of my shoe.

Remind your students that good poetry plays with sound and rhythm, and employs specific word choices to express strong ideas with a minimal number of words.

Tips For Students Who Get Stuck:

  • Spend a minute or so brainstorming for a topic for the second half of the quatrain, the third and fourth line.
  • For a sweet poem, think of someone or something you know and like, and come up with the last two lines first, then it will be easier to think of noun/adjective lines for the beginning.
  • For a “sour” poem think of someone or some specific thing or situation you do not like and come up with the last two lines first.
  • The similes, or metaphors for the first two lines are easier to craft if you know the conclusion of the quatrain

Tips to Keep This Activity Safe:

  • No matter which type of quatrain they are writing, instruct students that absolutely no names or other personal identifier is to be used.
  • Also require that content maintain a G rating.

Give your students 10 minutes to write their quatrains.

While the students work, pass out a criteria sheet for them to use in revising their quatrains.

Suggested criteria:

  • Create a quatrain containing 4 lines
  • Use an ABAB or ABCB rhyme scheme
  • Use sound effects like assonance, consonance, repetition, onomatopoeia, or internal rhyme
  • Begin with 2 similes

In addition, while students are working give each 4 stickers (sticky notes will not be sticky enough), and tell them to set these aside as they are for the final part of the lesson. Before class, randomly assign each student a number and have these stickers prepared for passing out.

When the 10-minute writing time is up, instruct your students to revise their quatrains using the handout, select the one they like best, and copy it onto a fresh piece of paper without their name on it.

Now’s the Time for Fun!

When you’re down to ten or fifteen minutes of class time, instruct the students to put one of their stickers on their rough draft and one on the page with their polished quatrain then wad up the polished copy into a paper “snowball” which they must hold until you instruct them further

When all are ready, tell the students to face toward the center of the room and throw their snowballs. Each student is to catch or pick up one snowball and return to his or her seat.

Instruct the students to read the quatrain they “caught,” place one of their remaining stickers on the bottom half of the page, and write one thing they liked about this quatrain.

Ideas for Ways to Praise:

  • Tell the students to refer to their revision criteria or to react as a reader by pointing out something the writer did that generated a positive response. Examples:
  • Connecting with Text: the way you talked about ____ reminded me of _____
  • Emotional Response: when you wrote ____ it made me feel ____
  • A Thematic Response: I can see that ____ is important to you by the way you wrote about ___

Give them about 3 minutes. Emphasize that the response really only needs to be one sentence.

When the time is up, instruct them to again wad the paper up and stand when they are ready. Once everyone is ready, toss the “snowballs” again, instruct all students to “catch” one, and return to their seats to place their last sticker on the page along with one-sentence of positive critique of the quatrain.

After this point you can continue to snowball, and invite students to share the quatrain they are holding.

At the end of the period, collect all rough drafts and “snowballs” (a basket or gift bag might be handy for this).


I would suggest evaluating for the following qualities

Praise the strengths of the quatrains shared.

Collect the quatrains and score according to the following criteria:

  • 1 Sweet Quatrain
  • 1 Sour or Sweet Quatrain
  • Ideas and Content
  • Word Choice          
  • Well Thought out Praise of Others’ Quatrains (use the stickers to check for each student’s praise)

Your Turn

I loved doing both Snowball and Corny Quatrain exercises with my class. What’s a favorite Valentine’s activity you have tried with kids?

Please share your comment in the box below. Let’s encourage one another!

A Literate Lifestyle: Journaling and Me

A Literate Lifestyle: Jjournaling & me https://literatelives.wordpress.com/I have always been somewhat of a journal keeper. I can remember in my senior year of high school (You know, when life was DRAMA) coming to the realization: “I think better with a pen in my hand” (and now-a-days, more likely a mechanical pencil).

Although, I was never a daily diarist, journaling as a life practice has held steady, even if sometimes a month or so elapsed between entries.

This past year journaling has exploded as a practice in my life, and I move into 2019 with a deep commitment to a diversity of forms of journaling, including:

  • basic, general journaling
  • working through a “Journey Journal”
  • maintaining a gratitude journal
  • using a hybrid bullet journal/planner

My Digital Journal

I do I basic, general journaling on my computer. In this journal I do the typical things like capture memories, plan, dream, work out my concerns… However, to this basic function, I have also added the recording of quotes, my responses to them, and correspondence between myself and family and friends (Once I’ve written something in a letter or email it seems redundant to write it again in my journal). The digital journal works particularly well for this; I love “copy” and “paste.”

My Journey Journal

 These last two years have been particularly filled with trials and seismic events. Life is irrevocably changed and will never be the same again. To process the impact of all this, I began my Journey Journal. I am using it to sit with and understand my emotions, explore the roots of ongoing issues, practice and build my resilience, and dream of the new horizons that lie ahead. Needless to say, I’ve been using my digital journal a lot less since starting this. 

My Gratitude Journal

My gratitude journal (pictured above) is a beautiful little book someone gifted me. (I am so sorry I do not remember who, but know, if it was you, I love it!) My gratitude practice stems from three sources, my faith and gratitude to God, my susceptibility to seasonal affective disorder and the value of gratitude in fighting depression, and my desire to capture the little things, as well as the big, that I value in my life.

Each day, I simply write in the date and “Thank you,” then write a brief bulleted list of things I am grateful for from the previous day—usually just 3. I love doing this. It is a real mood lifter. Despite my troubles or inner conundrums, it keeps me aware of how incredibly blessed I am (And it’s likely, so are you).

My Bullet Journal/Planner, or is it Planner/Bullet Journal?

During the months I have been ill, I did a LOT of online reading, and as is the case online, one blog post links to another, and another, and another, and I found myself exploring new and interesting things. One of them was bullet journaling, popularized by Ryder Caroll. Here is a little video.

Now I have used a planner ever since I started teaching and was required to keep an open, filled-out lesson book on my desk. I very quickly learned how handy it is to use a planner and have done so both personally and professionally ever since.

Bullet journaling, however, was a whole new world. The planning part blended well with my already developed planning instincts, but the discovery of decorative page spreads, trackers, reflection pages, and the wonderful omnibus of lists that could be incorporated… I was enchanted.

I immediately began practicing, using the disc-bound planner I had already purchased for 2018. I added dividers for sections instead of “indexing” –as by-the-book bullet journalers do, began experimenting with different forms of trackers, and have been following planner and bullet journaling blogs online and pinning oodles of inspirational images on Pinterest.

 This year I am making my own pages for last year’s disc binder. I finished the “Future Log” this week, and have weekly spreads in place for January and February, with templates for weekly spreads, and more on my computer. I love the creativity of making my own pages, and the efficiency of tracking what I need to do and have accomplished. (I especially love checking or tallying items off! There’s just this little kid inside of me who delights in a “showy” completion.)

Your Turn

  • What kinds of journaling or planning do you include in your literate lifestyle?
  • Do you hand draw or create digital bullet journal spreads?
  • Would you be willing to share pictures in the comments?

I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s encourage one another!

A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month
One of the wonderful things about the holiday season is that it is—wonderful: a celebration of family and friendship, magic and awe, and contains feast days of many faiths, including mine, which commemorates the season for the birth of our Savior.

Another wonderful thing about the holiday season is that it goes away. It sweeps like a joyous madness from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, and then it is gone until next November.

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to resuming normal life this January, and that includes a normal, for me, reading and writing life. (As you can see by the delay in this post, full “normal” has not yet been achieved.)

Here are some practices and links to articles I am looking forward to reading this month.

Pleasure Reading

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this MonthDuring the holiday season I enjoy reading holiday novels, and now that it’s over, it is with pleasure I resume my regular reading rotation (after I finish reading the gift book,  The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons, which my husband received for Christmas—I know, his book. Yeah, that’s another story.) What’s next?

  • a Celtic fantasy—whichever one is next in line on the shelfDebby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month
  • something from the Library—I’m thinking more of Rachel Caine’s Great Library Series.
  • a historical novel—I’m not sure which one I’ll pick next.

Online Reading

This month I am looking forward to reading saved posts on a variety of topics:



Bullet Journaling:

Writing Craft:


Rather than make a rash New Year’s resolution, I plan to use the month of January to reflect on:

  • my practices from the past year
  • changes I want to implement
  • and maybe craft a personal mission statement.

I look forward to reading the following posts to aid me in the process.

From Little Coffee Fox:

More Reflection Posts:


I also look forward to resuming the final editing of The Swallow’s Spring, my folkloric fantasy novel. Last August, before I came down with the sinus infection from #*%%, I was down to the last half of the last chapter to complete edits on and run through my writers’ group. Due to both illness—three solid months and then recuperation—and the resulting depression I did not trust myself to do my best work. And then, of course, the holidays…

When my husband, a teacher returns to work next week, I will, too. At last, I am looking forward to it.


For more great reading, check out the following applicable Pinterest Boards:

  • A Literate Lifestyle
  • Crafting Fiction
  • A New Year!
  • Celebrate Winter

Your Turn

  • How does the joyous, crazy holiday season impact your literate lifestyle?
  • What practices do you look forward to resuming this month?

Please share your thoughts in the comments box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Spend New Year’s Eve with Carol Riggs’ Junction 2020 Trilogy

Carol Riggs is my longtime writing conference buddy and the author of YA fantasy and Science Fiction novels including: The Body Institute, Bottled, The Lying Planet, and the Junction 2020 series. The Junction 2020 books are set on New Year’s Eve, and so I thought it might be fun to consider spending your New Year’s Eve with Carol and her novels: hence, this Junction 2020 interview with Carol Riggs.

What was your inspiration for the Junction 2020 trilogy?

I think it was because in the 1990s I read a cool trilogy by L.J. Smith, The Forbidden Game series: The Hunter, The Chase, and The Kill. It’s like a paranormal romance with Jumanji elements—the characters get sucked into a board game, and in one part of the book, they have to face what they’re afraid of to get out of that world.

Why did you choose New Year’s Eve to kick off the novels?

New Year’s Eve always feels momentous, a whole new timeline getting ready for new possibilities and fresh beginnings. It’s a nice, dramatic way to kick off a novel. And later I developed it so that New Year’s Eve tied in with what activates the portals (a significant event in the cosmos).

What theme/s play an important role in the trilogy?

I would say facing your fears. Acting brave in the face of danger—and caring for other people as a motivation to jumpstart that courage.

Who is your favorite viewpoint character and why?

Mari, from Book 1, might be my favorite, partly because she started out the whole series, but also because I identify with many of her dreams and fears; there’s a lot of me in her. For instance, I included one of my favorite painters, Maxfield Parrish. I added gross black spiders, hooded Executioners, lack of plumbing or modern conveniences, etc.

How is writing a series different from writing a stand-alone novel?

With a series, some of the character development and the plot elements get stretched out over the course of the books. I’ve also had to keep a detailed document of clothing, personalities, pet phrases, world building specifics, hair and eye color, etc., in order to maintain consistency between the books. Unlike a lot of other authors, I start out each book from the viewpoint of a different character; this feels more fresh to me, enabling me to work on new character arcs.

Of the other novels you have written, do you have a favorite? Why?

I’ve written 3 other published books, as well as over a dozen that aren’t published. Choosing a favorite is like choosing a favorite child (impossible!) but The Body Institute is very special to me because it was my very first published novel. It went through extensive revisions with my agent and Entangled Teen, such as turning it from third person [she, Morgan] to first person [I, me] and from past tense to present tense. I worked hard on it, and I’m pleased with the end result.

Describe your writing routine.

I finish my shower, breakfast, email, and social media, then set to work. All I need is a glass of water and my current novel document opened. I re-read 3-4 pages to get into the flow, making minor changes to what I wrote the day before. Then I continue with new stuff, writing anywhere from half a page (when research or plotting or real life slows me down), to 5 pages on a super productive day. I highlight words or phrases I’m not sure about in red, saving those to deal with later so my flow isn’t interrupted. I use a rough but not strict outline, to allow for “happy accidents” that spring up more organically to the characters and plot.

What’s on your “want to read next” pile?

Goodreads is an excellent way to keep track of books I want to read, such as Crown of Feathers  by Nikki Pau Preto, Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano, and Rewind  by Carolyn O’Doherty.

What ideas intrigue you and just might show up in future work/s?

I have at least one idea tickling my brain right now, a YA fantasy twist on a classic late 1800’s story, but I don’t publicly tell people details about my future novels because, well, I’m just secretive that way! My ideas are usually weird twists of real life, since I write fantasy and sci-fi.

How can Literate Lives readers help you get the word out about the Junction 2020 Trilogy?

Any exposure is great. Just having people become aware of a book is important, especially with the rise of self-publishing and so many new books appearing on the market. Thank you for inviting me to your blog and interviewing me, Debby!

Thank you, Carol, for joining us here at Literate Lives!

If you would like to learn more about Carol and her novels visit her on her website.

Your Turn

  • What is an interesting book you have read this holiday season?
  • Could you recommend a novel that also deals with facing our fears?

Please post the title and author for either response in the comment box below so others can find and enjoy your recommendations. Let’s encourage one another in our reading/writing lives.

Language Arts Teacher’s File Drawer: Gingerbread Character Analysis

Gingerbread Character Analysis; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/One beloved feature of the holiday season is the familiar stories we tell. It is framed by songs, books, movies, religious practices, and the unique family stories we cherish. And every one of these centers on a character or group of characters.

Understanding Characters

Understanding characters is central to comprehending fiction and much of non-fiction. It is so central, it is included in the common core standards and many of the state standards that preceded these.

As a fiction author, I do not have a viable story idea until I have envisioned a character. In fact, much of my fiction comes to me in the form of a character first.

Here is a Language Arts Lesson to help you teach this important skill.

Character Analysis Exercise: Discuss and Instruct

For this exercise, instruct your students to think of a favorite holiday character, from any form of media. There’s Rudolf and Frosty from songs, Ebenezer Scrooge from classic literature and movies, and the iconic figures of the religious practices in which the holiday season is rooted. Many of the characters appear in multiple stories. Invite your students to share, and honor the choices of every one

Discuss the ways creators help their audiences understand the characters that make their stories meaningful.

Surface level:

How the character looks—both the basics of the physical appearance we are born with and the things we have control of, like hair style, clothing, and accessories, reveals character. However, like the old adage about books and covers, a character cannot be fully understood by appearance alone.


What the character does—our behavior reveals far more about us than does our appearance. How does a character carry herself? How does he relate to others? What does she like to do? What does he hate to do? How does this character choose to invest his or her time?

What the character says—what we say reveals far more than the information we want to convey. It can reveal where we are from, our degree of interest, our attitudes, our moods, how we feel about the people we are interacting with and more. Even what a character doesn’t say can be revealing.


As we move “inward,” the character tells become more and more significant.

How a character thinks—our thought patterns, like what we say and do, reveals a great deal about us, and in characterization, this is where things can get really interesting. A character can speak and act one way, while carrying on an inner thought process that can stray so far as to even be contradictory. Our thoughts also reveal our general attitudes toward life—optimistic, pessimistic, cynical, enthusiastic—which in turn colors what we do and say. So, too, with characters.

How a character feels—this one is two-pronged. How does the character feel, physically, and how does the character feel, emotionally? Is she fit and healthy? Has he been injured, or does he experience a chronic illness? Our responses to how we feel color what we say or do and impact our overall attitude.

How a character feels emotionally—a fully rounded character experiences joys and sorrows, trials and challenges and has done so during the phases of their “lives” that occurred outside the framework of their story. These, too, impact behavior and choices. An intriguing or beloved character is never perfect. Furthermore, characters rarely live in a vacuum. As they work their stories out, they interact with others. They have good days, bad days, and many people in their lives. Who do they love? Who do they tolerate? Who do they loathe? This impacts how they react to and treat secondary characters. It also reveals who they are as a person.

Discuss a character from a story previously read by the class to analyze each of the above features and list class findings on the board as they come up.


Pass out the handout.

Gingerbread Char Analysis Handout; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/

Instruct your students to give an example (or two or three—whatever you feel your students are ready for) for each of the ways creators make their characters seem real.

Another way to use the handout is to have the students work in small groups or pairs. If this approach is chosen, you could have each group present their finished analysis to the class using the document camera. This would allow you to assess for speaking standards as well.

A Step Farther

Use this character handout for the springboard to a creative writing assignment. Instruct students create a character, and then assign a short story written about this character.

Your Turn:

Who is one of your favorite holiday characters? What qualities or traits make you love him or her?

A Creative Advent Practice from Sybil Macbeth

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Creative Advent Practice from Sybil MacbethI am so excited for this Advent season (the Christian church calendar’s four Sundays plus remaining days before Christmas) to begin!

Why? Because I am finally going to doodle one of Sybil Macbeth’s Advent calendars, and my mom, daughter, and granddaughter are going to do it too! We’re going to share our Advent creations Christmas Eve! (Please forgive the excess exclamation points; I truly am excited.)

Who is Sybil Macbeth?

If you are new to following Literate Lives, you may not be familiar with Macbeth and her book and blog, Praying in Color.

Reading Praying in Color revolutionized my prayer life. What Macbeth teaches and practices is prayer through drawing, writing, and coloring—essentially, mindful doodling.

For me, this practice has helped me to pray when I have more feelings than words to speak. Her drawing, coloring, writing practice has also helped me pray for longer amounts of time, stay focused, and pray with greater depth.

What is Sybil Macbeth’s Advent Practice?

At its most basic, Macbeth’s practice for the season of Advent is to doodle/meditate/pray each day through the three-plus weeks before Christmas.

She has developed a variety of creative grids that have a spot for each day’s prayer/meditation, which she shares, for free, on her site https://prayingincolor.com/handouts. My family and I have all chosen to do the Christmas tree template, but there are several others—including calendar-style rectangles and a “stained glass window” baby Jesus.

Macbeth also recommends multiple ways for using the Advent grids each day:

  • Write the name of a loved one in a space and pray exclusively for them.
  • If you are using a devotional book, choose a word from your reading upon which to pray and meditate.
  • Because Advent is a season of hope, you might use each space to doodle what you hope for, not just tangible items, but hopes and dreams for yourself and others as well.
  • Since Christmas is the holiday that celebrates Christ’s birth, you could use each space to reflect on one of the many names for Jesus—wonderful counselor, prince of peace…

Last year, Macbeth shared an article she’d written for The Living Church, “Year-round Advent,” in which one of her suggestions was to make a list of words you associate with the Advent season and select one to doodle in the day’s space. I was excited to try this strategy. Macbeth and The Living Church provided a list of words and quickly brainstormed some more:

  • Luscious
  • Angel
  • Mary
  • Shepherds
  • Gifts
  • Prayer
  • Invitation
  • Transformation
  • Salvation
  • Blessing
  • Love
  • Grace
  • Search
  • Celebrate
  • Share
  • Give
  • Create

I planned to use an index card for each day, but got derailed very early in the season by illness. Here is one of the cards I did make:

Advent Vocabulary: Patience; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/

(Sorry for the crooked scan, at the time, I never thought I’d be sharing it.) A new Advent word list is posted on the Building Faith website, here

For my Advent Tree, I want to doodle prayers for loved ones and some Advent vocabulary. I’m planning to alternate from one to the other each day.

Your Turn

How do you celebrate Advent or count down to your family’s holiday? Please use the comment box, below, to share your favorite practices. Let’s celebrate a December filled with love and goodwill, and of course, let’s ever continue to encourage one another!

P.S. Our schedule at Literate Lives will be a little different this upcoming month. In order to bypass Christmas, instead of blogging on the first and third Thursdays of the month, Literate Lives will come to your inbox on the second and fourth. Have a wonderful holiday season!

For more on Sybil Macbeth, check out Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil Macbeth.

It’s Thanksgiving Time!

It's Thanksgiving Time! https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
It’s time for Thanksgiving, and I have enjoyed reading a variety of blog posts I’d saved just for this holiday month. Here are a few nibbles from each. Just click through the title links if you want to read the entire article.

Two Great Lists from Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.

In Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D’s “Ten Things to Be Thankful For: Thanksgiving is a very special holiday, embrace those around you,” he proposes an eye-opening list of things to be thankful for. Among those that stood out for me:

“Be thankful for growing older. Not everyone gets this opportunity. Aging with health and grace is a rare and beautiful gift.”

“Be thankful that you can read these words. It is a very sad thing that many  people do not have the ability to read.” This second one is definitely a favorite of mine. The ability to read and write has enriched my life in so many ways—helping me to learn, express myself, enjoy myself, even work at a job I loved–helping students build their reading and writing skills.

And last, this suggestion, particularly poignant since my dad died just a year and a half ago: “When your parents are telling you how to run your life, be thankful that you still have them around.”

In “10 More Things to Be Thankful for: Look at what you have, not what you’ve lost,” Goldsmith lays out another powerful list things to consider, focusing on our closest relationships. This list includes “Laughter,” “Tears,” and “Health.”

On Health, Goldsmith writes:

“If you’ve ever dealt with a serious or chronic illness you know how important your health is. Being with someone who will care for you if you ever have a physical crisis gives you a powerful sense of well-being.”

After enduring several consecutive seasons of prolonged illness, I know how one’s health truly is. I also know, without the love and support of my husband, this time of nearly 100% rest would have been unbearable for this recovering-perfectionist overachiever. Early on, especially, depression hovered at the periphery of my days, and I am still learning how to live well when not feeling well.

Gratitude is Good for You

In, “Gratitude and Giving Thanks: Being thankful is not just part of a holiday, it’s good for your mental health,” Samantha Smith, Psy.D. points out that negativity bias, a propensity for focusing on what’s going wrong, comes naturally to human beings and shares studies indicating the practice of gratitude “can have a powerfully positive effect on our lives.” Studies indicate that nurturing gratitude can lead to better health, increased optimism, greater satisfaction in both your familial and social relationships, and enhanced academic achievement.

She then lists a number of ways to maintain a grateful perspective. The first, keeping a gratitude journal, is something I have benefited from greatly. She lists five other practices, some I would never have thought of, that are worth taking a look at as well.

Thanksgiving 2018

So, how do you want to practice Thanksgiving this year? I have two suggestions to consider. First, cut out one paper leaf using a variety of autumnal colors, for each person who will be attending Thanksgiving dinner. Place one leaf at each place setting and scatter pens /pencils across the table. Rather than ask each person to tell what they are thankful for this year, ask them to write it down on their leaf.  After dinner, either collect the leaves and make a Thanksgiving wreath by taping them onto a pre-cut cardboard ring. Other options could be to have the children who are present tape the leaves to the ring, or have each individual tape his or her own leaf on the ring. When done, hang the wreath somewhere everyone can enjoy it.

Option Two? Consider making a Thanksgiving time capsule. For this you will need slips of paper, pens/pencils, and a jar. If you wish, decorate the jar ahead of time or ask someone crafty (or a kid) to do so. This time, instead of asking Thanksgiving diners to share what they are grateful for, ask them to write it down on a slip of paper, sign their name, and place the slip in the jar. Wait a year, and on Thanksgiving 2019, as you sit down to dinner, open the jar and enjoy reading aloud what people were thankful for last years. Discussing what you were grateful for in the past can be a great conversation starter for reflecting what you are thankful for in the new year.

In either case, you can still add the step of sharing, verbally, what you’ve written.

More Things to be Thankful For

If you would like more suggestions for sharing gratitude with your friends and family this season, check out “Thanksgiving Conversation Starters,” a post from Literate Lives’ Thanksgiving past:

Your Turn

  • How do you and your family express gratitude at your Thanksgiving gatherings?
  • What kinds of questions do you ask to help loved ones focus on what they are grateful for this season?
  • What are you thankful for?

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