Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

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Earlier this week I read a great blog post by Chad Allen that suggested conversation starters for Thanksgiving gatherings. Allen reflected on how holiday gatherings can be both heartwarming and challenging. His idea was to create a list that could lead to meaningful and non-stressful conversations.

I liked his idea and I liked his list. So, I decided to create a list of my own:

  • Is there something unexpected that you are grateful for? What was it? What does it mean to you?
  • What is something wonderful/beautiful/marvelous that you have witnessed? What made is so superlative?
  • What one, simple, everyday thing are you grateful for? Why?
  • What is something new that you are grateful for? Why now?
  • What do you hope to be grateful for next year? Why?

As I look over my list, I realize these are not easy questions to answer. They take some thought. They also require more than a monosyllabic response. One could journal, in-depth, on any one of these topics (which could also be a worthwhile exercise).

One useful approach might be to print out the list, put a copy at each place setting, and let your guests answer whichever questions they choose. Or, you can toss out the questions one at a time and just see where the conversation goes.

It seems to me, if we can listen and share the answers to these questions with those who are dear to us, what an increase in understanding can unfold and what a blessing our Thanksgiving conversations will be!

Have a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving! (And indulge in some great table talk!)

P.S. Feel free to chime in with more great conversation starters of your own!

*The image above is a  jpg image. You may click on it, copy and paste it to whatever document you wish, and make it whatever size you’d like. Enjoy!

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Wonder, Poetry…a Creative Life

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This morning, I read “Wonderology: The Pursuit of Wonder,” by Emily Morgan, on my favorite blog: This Incandescent Life. (It is the third post in a series about wonder that starts with “The Purpose of Wonder.”)

At the end of the post, Morgan asks: “What fears did you have to overcome in order to pursue wonder?”

I responded:

I’m not so sure it is fear that interferes with my pursuit of wonder, but pettiness, the niggling details of day-to-day living. To encounter wonder, I need to look up, look beyond myself, let go of the battle of “this needs to be done, and this needs to be done, and…”
Hmmm.

The Creative Self

Later today (Did I mention that I’ve been sick for the last five days?), I read a post on Psychology Today, The Creative Self,” by Hara Estroff Marano. In it, Marano includes tips for nurturing and developing creativity. They include such ideas as:

  • “Searching for Beauty:” Marano says beauty “seizes” our “attention,” and engages the “intensity of” our “feelings.” Morgan also shares her thoughts on beauty in this post.
  • “Communicating: …Creativity fundamentally involves expressive power”
  • “Finding poetry in the everyday:” by developing “the power to see the ordinary as poetic.”

Flint & Steel

When I read The Creative Self in reference to Wonderology…, I realized not only do I need to permit myself to experience wonder, but I need to be open and observant enough to find it in my daily life.

Now, the other side of my brain takes over and says, “We need a plan.”

A Plan for Wonder? Yes

Oh, drat! How am I supposed to tether wonder to anything as mundane and restrictive as a plan?

Yet, if I don’t plan to “look up” routinely, how will I make a practice of seeing wonder in an average day?

When Marano said to “Find the poetry in the everyday…” Did she mean we need to write a poem every day?

No, of course not. However, I recall at one point last summer I had decided I needed to start a gratitude journal when the new school year started. Why? To keep me from sinking under the weight of routine and the dark of winter. I even selected a journal,…but I never did it.

Okay. So maybe this is a wake up call. Shall I start that journal and give it some guidelines?

“Yes, Miss Debby.” The always agreeable pupils who exist only in my mind nod their heads. “We cannot do our assignment unless you provide us some criteria.”

In addition, “The Creative Self” also stated that “limits yield intensity,” and went on to explain that “unrestrained freedom is a myth, and it’s not productive.”

How might I limit myself? For starters, I’ll write three responses per day. That seems do-able (and there’s always that fairytale magic about threes).

Three responses to what?

What matters to me? God, family, friends, my novels, reading, writing, the beauty of people and the natural world… I could go on, but I’m ready to move on.

How shall I craft these loves into creative guidelines for my gratitude journal?

I will call it my Day Book. In it, I will record (at least 5 times per week?) 3 things I am grateful for.

  • One entry must document how I see God working in the world, my family, or my life
  • One entry must celebrate the loved ones who bless my life
  • And the final entry must reflect the wonder that I believe is daily before me if I’d just lift up my head and open my eyes.

For instance, today:

  • I am grateful for the way God uses times of illness to reset my thinking.
  • I am grateful that my husband is going out of his way to turn in my Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoebox for me because I’m sick and it’s due today.
  • I am grateful for the golden glow of early sunlight I experienced when I woke up at 7:something; before I fell back asleep for another glorious four hours.

Can I do this on a 5 day/week basis? We do gratitude leaves on the windows at school five days per week. Yes, I think 5 is a worthy goal, but I pledge not to beat myself up if I fall under.

Accountability? In my journal I wrote, “I think I’ll blog this.” Now I have. In January, after we have passed beyond the darkest days of the year, I will report. (I even logged it into my planner!)

How About You?

Anyone want to join me in a commitment to pursue wonder?
How might your criteria differ from mine?
I’d love to see your ideas. Just respond in the comment box!

Update:

Crazy, I know, but I just had to add one, little modification: While I only need to select three items a day, I want to add just one more category to select from–Little Things. For example, hot,running water. The kinds of things we take for granted unless we think about them.

Yes, that’s better. Have a great day!

NaNoWriMo? No, NaNoTyPo!

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I have wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo for many years. I even actually started, once, five years ago, but life interfered. Between health issues, financial issues, and my teaching career, November has never been the month to launch into a 50,000 word rough draft.

 

What I love about NaNoWriMo

  • I love the opportunity it provides to focus intensely on writing a work of fiction. “Look, I made a commitment,” translates to “Yes! I get to spend every day in the month of November crafting fiction!”
  • I love how it establishes an overall goal that can be broken into segments to be completed over the full thirty days of November.
  • I love that participants get to emerge in December with a hefty chunk of work completed.

Why I’m Not Participating in NaNoWriMo

I know many people manage to work full-time and complete NaNoWriMo; however, between health issues and my job, I know it would not be wise to push myself to do so.

Also, I have been engaged in the process of doing a major revision on a novel. The revisions are now done. However, because I truly am a more effective reviser when I do it, pencil on manuscript page, I am now slogging through entering all the changes. I want to be done; I need to be done (because I stopped in the middle of drafting two other novels to do the revision, and I am eager to get back to them.

My Solution? NaNoTyPo

  • I have counted up how many pages of revisions still need to be entered.
  • I have counted up both weekdays and weekends remaining in November.
  • I have assigned a page count of revisions entered for the remaining days of the month.

Abra-cadabra,
Twirl three times on your toes.
Presto change-o
Here she goooooes!

I have my very own writing related, segmented, limited time for completion challenge.

And when I’m done? My revised novel can go back on submission, and I can finish writing those other two drafts. (And will I ever, in the future draft two new novels at the same time? Not if memory and sanity remain with me.)

How About You?

Are you feeling just a little bit left out because NaNoWriMo wasn’t in the cards for you this year?

What kind of November challenge can you devise for yourself that will bring satisfaction. I’d love to hear about it. Maybe it will inspire some of us in setting a unique November 2017 challenge for ourselves.

Or maybe, just maybe…November 2017 will be my month to NaNoWriMo!

October Book Log + One, Teensie, Tiny Cheat

Confession time: I only read one whole book in October. Yes. I admit it.

(“Some literate lifestyle model she is,” one might mutter.)

However, I must plead extenuating circumstances. The book I am reading during Reboot at school is one I started in September. It is larger than standard size and over 300 pages in length. Today I finally began the last section.

I also started three other books in October, and one of them I finished reading November 1. That’s my cheat. I don’t want to wait a whole month to talk about it.

The Only Book I Finished in October

248377The only book I finished in October is actually the second book in a series, The Farsala Trilogy, by Hilari Bell. The first book, Fall of a Kingdom, I picked up in the school library back in 2014. It took me a year to find book three of the trilogy, and finally last summer, I found book two: Rise of a Hero. In this novel Bell follows the lives of the three protagonists from book one–the daughter of the general of the Farsalan army, the illegitimate son of this same general, and the itinerate peddlar (and traitor who betrayed the Farsalan army to the conquering Hrum.) The kingdom has just one more chance to throw off the yoke of their enemy, and each of the three works in his or her own way to thwart their conqueror.

It was so easy to slip back into the world of Farsala, even though two years had passed since my first read. Each of the main characters, while distinctly flawed is also quite sympathetic. Your heart aches with theirs over all that has passed, and yearns with them for their world to be set right. I highly recommend both books one and two of this series and can hardly wait to read book three, Forging the Sword. (And I won’t be waiting another two years!)

My Teensie, Tiny Cheat

18580As I said earlier, I did start three other books in October, and I finished one on November first–Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene.

I had many preconceived notions about this book and, wow, was I wrong. I knew before I read it that it was about a girl who shelters an escaped German prisoner during World War II, and for some reason I thought it was a romance (hence the amount of time it took for me to get around to reading it.) However, this is not a sappy love story about a young woman sheltering a handsome enemy. Instead, it is the gripping story of a Jewish girl, growing up in an abusive household in 1940’s Arkansas, who struggles to find a way to a sense of self-worth and hope for the future, and how her life is changed forever by her friendship with a German P.O.W.

The book deals with child abuse, racial issues, and xenophobia. It is dark and painful, yet through her focus on relationships and Patty’s love of learning, Greene is able to hold out hope–for both Patty Bergen and our world.

What Books Made Your October Reading List?

Please share in the comments any books you’d recommend.