Wonderful Words: Work-Life Balance

Reading Writer’s in the Storm this morning, I came upon this quote:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – workfamilyhealthfriends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

~ Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises

As the daughter of a work-a-holic, who is as driven as the beloved father who bore the trait before her, I have always struggled with work-life-writing balance, the most recent bout culminating in my physical collapse this spring.

In theory, this summer is (according to me) supposed to be about resting, recuperating, and enjoying my relationships with children, grandchildren, parents, and friends. I remind myself over and over again that there are no goals, writing or otherwise, that need to be accomplished this summer.

And yet, my mind lives in both the actual, physical world and the literary worlds of my reading/writing lifestyle. There are writing projects I want to finish even though I keep telling myself I don’t have to be done before September 1. These include building databases–of markets, agents, and editors, and revising a novel that has been a life’s work. And I yearn to finish before school starts (but honestly will not be able to) in spite of the constant reminder, “Debby, you don’t need to finish anything before September.”

And so, this quote is a good reminder. What I came out of my weeks of illness feeling was a determination to make more time for my loved ones, and a yearning for more time for my writing. I confess, God forgive me, I am too often motivated by the second, rather than the first.

And so I’ll sign off. My granddaughter has a music camp concert tonight, and then I have a writer’s group meeting. I want to be ready to enjoy both!

Your Turn

What new priorities have you been trying to introduce to your life? Do you, perhaps, have some good ideas to help me stick to mine? I would welcome your advice. Please chime in using the comment space below.

 

America, the Beautiful: Happy Independence Day!

America, the Beautiful literatelives.wordpress.com

When I was in kindergarten (I will not even hint at how long ago that was) my classmates and I learned many patriotic songs and rotated through the list of them to sing one each day with the Pledge of Allegiance. Since tomorrow is the Fourth of July, I thought I’d share the lyrics to one of my favorites:

America, the Beautiful
by
Katharine Lee Bates

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I love the imagery Bates used, not just in the well-known first stanza (which is lovely) but in the lesser known stanzas as well:

  • “O beautiful for pilgrim feet…A thoroughfare for freedom beat…”
  • or “Thine alabaster cities gleam…”

I love the values it promotes for us as citizens:

  • “God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control…”
  • “May God thy gold refine…”
  • “…crown thy good with brotherhood…”

Finally, I love its humility; all the good Bates anticipates flowing from our United States, she credits not to human ability, but to the grace and influence of an almighty God.

I’ll sign off with the title of another patriotic song–“God Bless America,” and wish you a wonderful Independence Day celebration.

What are your favorite patriotic songs? What are the lyrics you like best? Please share in the comment box below.

America, the Beautiful literatelives.wordpress.com

President Abraham Lincoln–What a Writer!

happy-bd-president-lincolnAbraham Lincoln’s Birthday

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is this Sunday the 12th. (I know this dates me, but I still miss getting to celebrate Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays separately!)

Of all our U.S. Presidents, Lincoln is one of the one’s I most admire. Why?

  • He was a man of integrity.
  • He was not just faithful to God, but actually relied on him and spoke of his reliance publicly.
  • He held our country together through its greatest crisis.
  • He was gracious in victory.
  • He was a shrewd observer of humanity
  • He had a great sense of humor.
  • And, he was an awesome writer.

There are so many wonderful quotes attributed to him, for example:

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

“With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

 

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

The Gettysburg Address and Parallelism

When I began teaching 7th Grade Language Arts, I was surprised to find the Gettysburg Address included in the text-book. In reading the teacher’s guide, I discovered it was there not simply to reflect its period in the history of literature, but for the purpose of teaching the literary device, parallelism.

Parallelism is a technique used to condense long, similar sentences, but even more important its use creates a dynamic rhythm in the prose.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln’s Use of Parallelism

Lincoln uses this technique to connect just two ideas:

Instead of saying: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation.
It was conceived in liberty.
In addition, it was dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

He said: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

He also uses it connect many ideas in his moving conclusion:

Instead of saying: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.
We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.
Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

He said: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vainthat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

To further complicate this sentence, one of the parallel clauses contains a parallelism of it’s own!

that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

When analyzed, this short speech is incredibly complex in structure, creating an effect that is both eloquent and memorable which has contributed to its being treasured far beyond the dedication of the battlefield that was the context for which it was created.

Your Turn

Do you have favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln ? Please use the comment box below to share it with your fellow readers.

*The selection of quotes came from: BrainyQuote, and the Gettysburg Address from: The National Park Service: Lincoln Home.

Wonderful Words on the World of Children’s Books

In an age when a limited diet for hundreds of millions of Americans daily is prescribed through the medium of TV, there is more nourishment, more privacy, and—best yet—more freedom of selection to be had in children’s reading. Because it is personal and powerful, reading can help weather children into an individuality which will help them to weather that which is impersonal and powerful.

~Gregory Maguire, from Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature: Introduction

Your Turn

Are you reading with your kids?
What would you recommend to read to a child? (Or simply to enjoy on your own!)
I’ll start the list with two, one an old favorite and one a new:

  1. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  2. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pierson

The Kiss of Deception

 

Ode to the English Language: Our Wonderful Treasure Trove of Words

Wndrfl Wrds.Zn DngleWonderful Words on Words

One of the long-neglected tasks I attended to this summer was to continue organizing my huge collection of quotes. (Most just inhabit snippets of paper in a fat paper file.) As I was entering and categorizing them, I came across a series culled from an essay by Pat Conroy, “Interpreting the World Through Story,” featured in the June 2012 Writer Magazine.

This is for all you English Teachers, Writers, and Lovers of Literature

Conroy reflected on the joy of living a life centered on reading, writing, and the English language.

What richer way to meet the sunlight than bathing each day of my life in my island-born language, the one that Shakespeare breathed on, Milton wrestled with, Jane Austen tamed, and Churchill rallied the squadrons of England with? I want to use the whole English language as the centerpiece of a grand alliance or concordance with my work.

A Rich and Abundant Heritage

Our language, our words, are such a commonplace thing to us. I sometimes forget to marvel at the richness and beauty of the language I was born to speak. But as I return to school to teach reading, writing, and vocabulary to students whose exposure to the grandeur of our language has been so much more limited than my own, I am awed and humbled by the great wealth of language it is my privilege to share.

What writers have delighted you?

What words or turns of phrases set your heart afire?

Wonderful Words: Madeleine L’Engle & More Thoughts on Age and Writing

2Q==Last week, I shared a sign I’d seen in a popular bistro while dining out on my birthday. It said, “If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you say you are?”

Coincidentally, I am rereading book I read and loved many years ago–Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, and on page 74, I came upon this:

I need not belabor the point that to retain our childlike openness does not mean to be childish. Only the most mature of us are able to be childlike. And to be able to be childlike involves memory; we must never forget any part of ourselves. As of this writing I am sixty-one years old in chronology. But I am not an isolated, chronological numerical statistic. I am sixty-one, and I am also four, and twelve, and fifteen, and twenty-three, and thirty-one, and forty-five, and…and…and…

If we lose any part of ourselves, we are thereby diminished. If I cannot be thirteen and sixty-one simultaneously, part of me has been taken away.

One of my dilemmas with the prompt I gave you is that my first instinct was to respond, “I am eight, or eighteen.” I wanted to capture the capacity for wonder that I deeply treasure as part of who I am.

But I have been through some LIFE. I am not only eight or eighteen, I know things that I have paid dearly to learn. Would I say thirty-five, maybe forty? Just how old am I?

And then I came across L’Engle’s statement. I am all my ages. I think the fact that all of them are very real to me is one of the qualities that enriches me as an author.

How can I write a picture book if I don’t know what it is like to be a child who is read to?

How can I write a middle grade or young adult novel if the middle grader or teen is not still very much alive inside of me?

I love writing for children, but when I’m actually writing, I am very seldom writing for some present day child. Instead, I write to delight the child in me. I write to answer my questions and yearnings as a middle grader, a teen, a young adult, an individual facing the challenges and journey that are life.

L’Engle’s words helped clarify the confusion within me when I first pondered the plauque on the wall. I am all the ages I have ever been, and I am continuing to grow into the age I am. And I savor that. What a rich and wonderful thing is life!

What about you. How does your age influence your thinking about literature and writing?

Keys for “the Beautiful, Rowdy Prisoners”

keysAllen Arnold is a writer who both took the time to mentor me and inspired me greatly as the keynote speaker for last summer’s Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference. He blogs at Novel Rocket.com, and a week or so ago introduced me to this beautiful, haunting quote that has not left me since that day.

The small man builds cages for everyone he knows – while the Sage, who has to duck his head when the moon is low, keeps dropping keys all night long for the beautiful, rowdy prisoners.         ~Hafiz, 13thcentury Persian poet

Thank you Allen. Your words continue to inspire me.