Five Minute Friday — Discover

I know I said I would probably be on the road today, but — surprise! — things change. I moved the trip to next week, so here I am for Five Minute Friday on Friday. Next week it will probably be a Saturday post.

Most of you know what Five Minute Friday is, but for a quick review, it’s a chance for a group of dedicated writers to get together weekly to write on a one word prompt for five minutes. Nothing fancy. Nothing too deep [unless that’s the direction we writers are convicted to do]. Technically, no edits — including spelling and grammar — although I’m sure we all fudge on that one. I know I do. When I just let my fingers wander, they often can’t keep up with my free range mind and the gibberish on the screen needs deciphering. And we do it all in five minutes! [Well, that’s the goal, although I’ve been known to go a tad beyond at times.]

It all starts with a Twitter party Thursday night where the prompts come to life. One of these weeks, I’ll have to “chaperone” that party. Then it’s work time.

The exciting part is after we post, we share. We visit Kate’s spot on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com and link our words before settling in to read the remarkable takes on the prompt word from other writers in the group. I encourage you to visit as well, even if you’re not inclined to join in. It is painless … and so rewarding.

As an extra inducement, I’ve been including testimonials on Five Minute Friday from other contributors as collected in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Flat. This week’s it’s by Sarah. May her words sway you to give us a look.

“I LOVE the Five Minute Friday Community! When I have writer’s block they are always on hand to encourage and motivate me. Having a focus word to write from is an incredible tool for any writer! Even though I don’t join in every week … I know there is always an invitation and a place for me at the FMF Party table!”

So, there you have it, I guess it’s time to get to work. The prompt this week is DISCOVER. The timer is set for five minutes. GO …

As a way to keep in contact with the family, we’ve been sharing little blessings of the day. Sometimes they’re silly. Sometimes their more poignant. Always they stop us for  a moment to just show the awesomeness of God in our lives.

Those are discover moments. It could be a sunrise or sunset, or a flower sprouting in a place not expected, or ducks swimming or a host of everyday things we usually take for granted. Our little family exercise {okay we don’t all always participate} keeps us connected and often leads to other discoveries.

I love looking for gems in the ordinary. That’s God showing me His talents and encourages me to move forward and not dwell in the past. Each day has a new discovery that shows His presence in my life … in your life.

Yeah, sometimes, it can be a little hokie. But if we commit ourselves to discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary … STOP

… the ordinary becomes extraordinary and adds flavor to our everyday lives. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He shows me His wonders, I can get through the day.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Success is not hitting the top — success is how you bounce when you hit the bottom. — George Patton

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Step of Faith

Gulp!

I’ve embarked on a new path after a couple of years of procrastinating {I know I never do that}, questioning the value of the project and questioning myself. But I was encouraged through faith to take that first step … and today I took it. I formally signed a publishing contract. If all goes as planned, in about 90 days or so, Heaven Shines Through will be available on line and at your favorite book stores.

Some of you may be familiar with Heaven Shines Through. It was a 24 week labor of love that was planted almost exactly five years ago.

You might remember the exercise I started by stating, “I often though it would be cool to work on a collaborative community ‘novel’ … or at least a short story. I know it’s been done before, but I have never done it. Now is as good a time as ever. I’m floating the idea here on my blog.” [Oct. 10, 2012]

Simply put, I invited readers — and that included Reveille/Between the Lakes [the newspaper I published at the time] readers as well — to contribute to an ongoing story. As long as there was interest, I told them, I would continue to advance the storyline.

I had no expectations about where the story would go. In fact, I didn’t even have a storyboard or outline. I was trusting in their imagination and direction. Would it end up being a mystery? A romance? A comedy? A drama? A slice of life? Inspiration?

I thought we would decide together.

The plan was to get them started and have them submit continuing paragraph(s) each week. Together, I reasoned, we would flesh out the storyline, develop characters, possibly throw in some curves or red herrings. In the end I hoped we would be able to come up with a readable piece all would be proud to share with family and friends.

To get them started, I began …

I was driving alone on the dark black asphalt, seemingly darker because of ominous clouds on the horizon ranging from steel gray to puffs of white. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of white as the sun tried to peek out from behind the clouds. It didn’t succeed, but first a ray rained into the picture, followed by a halo of rays.

My name is …

Just like real life, things change. Except for naming the lead character [Samantha, which presented challenges in and of itself since I am far from being of the female persuasion], everyone bailed out and I was left to trudge along by myself [I did get positive feedback along the way, though, which buoyed me] …

In all, I worked through the story writing a “section” each week for 24 weeks, then spending another couple of weeks coming up with the title. I didn’t have a direction at first, although each week led to the next week of the serialized tome.

I put the exercise away for a couple of years, but in the quiet of Maine, I was able to revisit and edit the project, while also attempting to convert it into a screenplay [That’s another story for another time and another project I am considering].

Is it any good?

I don’t know. I was personally happy with the final product, which I farmed to a few close friends I knew would give me honest feedback.  Now it’s up to the publishing experts to critique and place it in the right category.

Ironically, I was convicted to take the next step by a five-year old song by Matthew West, Do Something. While his message was a lot deeper, the words “If not us, then who … Right now, it’s time for us to do something … If not now, then when…” was a message I couldn’t shake. It was not enough to do nothing … It was time for me to do something. Right now!

I really don’t know how to describe the book. I suppose I would categorize Heaven Shining Through as a flashback love story that weaves in evolving values, reconciliation and redemption. I tried to keep it real with appropriate language and activities. I purposely stayed away from being “preachy” but rather told a story that showed the presence of God in everyday, sometimes messy lives. The hope is readers will be able to see that.

We’ll soon find out.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Be like a postage stamp. Stick to it until you get there. — Harvey Mackay

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Five Minute Friday — Invite

Saturday confession time. I’m a Five Minute Friday backslider, falling out of my Friday writing routine and into a Saturday session. But, through the grace of God and the indulgence of my fellow Five Minute Friday contributors, I know I’m forgiven! {Advisory: I’ll probably be back next Saturday as well since I’ll be on the road Friday.}

Under Kate Motaung’s direction, hundreds of bloggers rally around a themed word and, well, write for five minutes. No rules. No backtracks. Nothing profound. Not perfect. Just five minutes of writing, letting the Spirit move you … on Friday … Saturday … or sometimes beyond.

I’ve been using testimonials about the group and the exercise from other members as collected in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Flat. This week’s it’s by Jen. I hope she inspires you to give this writing activity a shot. I hope at least her words inspire you to at least give this writing workout a look.

“FMF gave me a voice when I had none. In the midst of a messy divorce and really sad time it brought me community. I had an outlet for my words, thoughts and feelings that was safe and welcoming and where my sharing, honesty and being real was encouraged. Rather that hiding from what felt like the worst failure of my life (which is what I wanted to do for years) FMF helped me find myself again,, little by little, one week at a time.”

Our word this week is INVITE. Let’s start the timer and GO…

It’s been a busy few weeks in mid-Maine. My calendar has been chock full of activities … social, community, fraternal. In fact, I had something to do every day this week — community dinner, Kiwanis, Aging in Place and other civic meetings, lunch with other widows and widowers, a chicken dinner  and then some.

The common theme was an invitation. In each case, someone invited me to attend and I accepted. Through my life, I, too, have extended invitations others have accepted. I do that each time I post. I invite readers and visitors into my world. I share. I commune. I learn.

And we need that. We are social beings, not meant to be locked alone in a room but sharing our life and experiences. It’s always amazing how similar we are despite our age, socio-economic, geographic differences. We all have a history, a present and future goals that need to be shared.

Ultimately, of course, there is another invitation out there. Our Lord extends His hand in friendship, inviting you into fellowship with Him and the living and past saints. Some of us accept the invitation, others balk for whatever reason. Regardless, it’s always there. The invitation has an RSVP, but it is open ended. You’re welcome any time.

The invitation is out there. The question is not whether or not you accept it, but what you are going to do with it. Are you going to expand your sphere of influence? Or are you going to retreat into self? Are you going to share your experiences? Or hoard those precious memories?

I invite you to share … your life, your experiences … STOP

… your faith.

Fell free to contribute your own take on the prompt word INVITE. And don’t forget to check out Kate’s spot on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com and read the remarkable takes on the word from other writers in the group.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. — Abraham Lincoln

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Grace

If you’re thinking this is an “inspirational” post, surprise! It’s not. It’s a restaurant review.

Grace. Yes, that’s the name of the restaurant I visited last weekend in Portland, ME. And it’s appropriate since the venue is a circa 1856 Methodist church. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the few surviving examples of work by the architect Charles Alexander, who was very popular in Portland in the 1850s and 1860s.

The goal, according to the restaurant’s website, was to keep the integrity of the church’s design and history. They did it with original pews along each side of the downstairs seating, the pulpit transformed into the host stand, grates from the floor mounted to the upstairs bar and coal chutes converted into wine cellars.

Both the logo and bar design were inspired by the triquerta shaped stained glass windows at the top of each staircase. The bar’s concept was developed in Colorado by Tivi Design and shipped to Maine for final construction.

Grace Restaurant offers a first rate menu in an intimate yet wide open atmosphere featuring high ceilings and stained glass windows streaming in the fall light. It truly blended the restoration of the historic church to it’s original beauty while creating a modern interior that both complemented the sculptural details of the church and reflected the innovative cuisine.

The focal point downstairs is the spacious bar and, although you can’t see the food being prepared, the elevated kitchen adds an interesting element. You can’t help but wait for the delicacies to come out.

I chose the Bresaola appetizer served with sweet and hearty dollops of fig sauce and horseradish surrounded by mini pickled delicate veggies on a literal piece of slate. I followed with an ample serving of Grilled Short Ribs with a side of a Twice Baked Maine Potato. I capped off the meal with an Apple Turnover bathed in aged cheddar cheese and cider infused ice cream.

Grace is definitely costlier than your neighborhood restaurant, but not obscenely costly … especially considering the portion size and ambiance. So, if you’re in Portland and looking for that “special” place, try Grace. You won’t be disappointed.

Details are at https://www.restaurantgrace.com/

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. — Chinese Proverb

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Waiting for a Hug

I was going through some files the other day and came across the eulogy I delivered for my very good friend, confidant and counselor, Sonni. It struck me. She died two years ago today and, just like my wife, there isn’t a day that goes by without me missing her. I see her {their} influence in the everyday things I do.

After Karen died, Sonni and I became very close friends. She was the salve that helped heal a broken heart — not repair it, not fill it, not replace it. She learned from experience and took me under her wing.

I like to think we were helping each other get through the days of widow- and widower-hood. We talked just about every day — if not directly, then certainly through messaging and e-mail. I knew when something was troubling her. She knew when I got into my “moods” and would authoritatively tell {ordered} me to get ready, we were going shopping or something in 15 minutes.

I actually loved to go shopping with Sonni — Wegman’s, Walmart, Sam’s, Lowe’s, Pet Smart, Hallmark … it didn’t matter. We would always walk into the store hand in hand, often stealing a kiss. It made us feel young again.

During one visit to Sam’s, I sort of got distracted at a sample stand. While munching on the pepperoni pizza I noticed Sonni had kept walking … and talking, not only with her mouth but with her hands. Suddenly about a dozen or so steps up the aisle she realized she was speaking to air. She pivoted, scrunched her face and headed back in my direction, her finger wagging as she scolded me … then hugged me as I promised not to do it again. After all, she wasn’t the first to scold me {just sayin’ hun}. I had heard that speech before. From that point on, however, she tethered me to the cart like a two year old just to keep track of me.

And she got even. She stopped at a sample stand featuring a veggie burger. She told me it was good, but after choking it down, all I could say was it was the best sawdust I ever ate. I got that finger-wave again!

God sends people into our lives. There is no doubt in my mind, God placed Sonni in my world.

As I tried to move on and took my trips to Maine, Sonni would always challenge my motives. Why did I choose Maine? And invariably it would all come back to Karen. It’s what she wanted. It’s what she would have loved. And she would just say, “Uh huh.”

When I told her about the mill apartment in Maine, she asked the same question. This time, however, I gushed about the view, the high ceilings, the old wooden beams, a brand new kitchen with all the necessary equipment and no maintenance inside or out. In short, I told her it was what I was looking for. In fact, I don’t remember mentioning Karen once.

We were again discussing the move on the way back from her out-patient surgery just two days before suffering the debilitating stroke that took yet another strong woman from my life. She grabbed my hand, squeezed it and said, “My job is done.”

I miss Sonni. I miss her laugh. I miss her words. I miss her guidance. I miss her unconditional friendship.

Most of all, I miss her hugs. She believed in the therapeutic magic of a hug. In her memory, right now, give someone a hug … not a small hug, but a deep down, from your soul hug. A Sonni hug!

I miss Sonni.

I’m a pretty independent guy. I like to think I think things through. But the truth is, before I make a decision, I rely on tons of opinions, deciphering {at least trying to} fact from fiction. And I have always relied heavily on the thought of strong women to ground me, corral me, give me a greater perspective. I had that for 40-plus years with Karen. I had that for six-plus years with Sonni. I don’t have that now.

In my mind’s eye, I can see Karen and Sonni sitting there in heaven chatting, Sonni with her Diet Pepsi and Karen with her water turned into exquisite wine. I can see them laughing at the foolish things I say and do without their physical sphere of influence. I see them taking turns proverbially whacking me in the back of the head when I REALLY do or say something foolish {Hmmm, maybe it wasn’t really a stroke I had after all}.

I really miss them — both of them  — every day.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. — Thomas Edison

 

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Ces Soirèes-La

Ces Soirèes-La. Or more appropriately Ces Après-midi-La.

I spent yesterday afternoon with 1,699 other souls at a sold out performance at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, ME. While waiting in the lobby, I couldn’t help but notice snowy heads, frail bodies, plenty of hearing aids and canes and even a scooter or two. I thought I mistakenly wandered into an AARP convention. Then I looked in the mirror and realized these patrons were there for the same reason I was … to take in the spectacular story of the rise and career of the Four Seasons — later Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The Jersey Boys.

As we used hand rails to get to our assigned seats, you could sense the excitement building and by the time the backup group opened the show with Ces Soirèes-La (Oh, What a Night) the 60- and 70-year old audience collectively shed their (my) weathered looks and returned to the smooth faces of their (my) youth. An energy kept building through the “early years” song-riddled narrative until it literally exploded midway through the first act when the Four Seasons’ breakout hit, Sherry, was performed with the fidelity — maybe even better — than the original version  we all heard in 1962 on our transistors and car am radios.

It was a moment. It was a moment that brought us back 55 years … what we were doing when the song broke out, what we did to hear more and more of it. How we contributed to making this the American boy group.

And the energy accelerated from there. Big Guys Don’t Cry. Walk Like a Man. December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night). My Eyes Adored You. Dawn (Go Away). Each one bringing the audience to its feet {not an easy feat for our demographic} with thunderous applause that would rival any current-day concert, except with maybe more class.

For me, it wasn’t the lyrics or Valli’s falsetto voice, but the background drums that resonated through the ’55 Dodge I was driving at the time. From the moment I heard Dawn (Go Away) come on, by the time I heard that first drum roll, the window was rolled down and everyone — e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e — knew I was around and on the road with Dawn on my mind. I can only imagine how many noise citations I would have received had today’s audio technology been available.

Act Two was just as energetic with a dozen more hits ranging from Big Man in Town to Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got) to Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me) to Bye Bye Baby to C’mon Marianne to Can’t Take My Eyes Off You to Working May Way Back to You to Rag Doll.

In the footage clips from American  Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show, it was us they were showing. And by the time the two and a half hour audio experience came to an end we showed the love right back with Who Loves You as the backdrop and a stand-up, non-stop ovation as the troupe appeared for bows … and appeared for bows … appeared for bows.

Leaving the theater, all you heard were anecdotes from still approving fans about growing up in the mid ’60s. For a brief time, at least, the aches and pains disappeared, the heart quickened, energy was restored and no one dozed off despite afternoon nap time. The lone negative I overheard was a woman complaining about the, shall we say, colorful language. Whatsamatta? You’re not from Jersey, are you?

Yes, it was a special time. Back in the mid ’60s … and for a couple of hours in Portland Saturday. Kudos to the entire cast, but especially the Four Seasons — Jonny Wexler (Frankie Valli), Tommaso Antico (Bob Gaudio), Corey Greenan (Tommy DeVito) and Chris Stevens (Nick Massi).

Ces Après-midi-La.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover —  Mark Twain

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Five Minute Friday — Story

Here’s this week’s installment of Five Minute Friday. You might remember the task is to write for five minutes on a specific prompt word, post it,  share it with others at her place on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com and read the remarkable stories from other writers in the group.

As an extra enticement, I’ve been using testimonials about the group and the exercise from other members as collected in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Flat. This week’s it’s Barbara. I encourage you to listen to the words and visit Kate and her wonderful corps of writers … and maybe be inspired to join in!

“My journey with the FMF family started Oct. 30, 2014. Why do I remember the exact date? Because I had connected with so many others during the 2014 ‘write31days’ challenge, and was looking for something that would encourage me to continue writing. Many of those I had connected with during October were participants of this amazing group of writers. I won’t say I am faithful to write every week; it always seems by Thursday evenings I am just wiped out and forget to look at the prompt! But in 2015 I wanted to join with the other writers for the ‘write31days’ challenge again, but didn’t have a topic. I was excited to find the Free Writes through FMF and wrote every single day. My favorite word was BACON! Hopefully I will get back to joining the FMF family and write more. In the meantime, I have enjoyed being a part of this amazing group!”

To be honest, I remembered a similar post on the prompt … STORY. Sure enough, we did write on the prompt back in 2013. Normally, I don’t read other posts {or my own} before sitting down, but this time I did. I was also drawn to a post written a couple of years ago, “Sharing the Story.” So, some of the words may sound familiar, but the message is the same.

The timer is set … so here goes. {clock starts now}

Everybody has a story, each one unique to them. Some off them are good stories. Some of them are bad stories. Some have a happy ending, others not so much. Regardless, each one of us has a story … and a story to tell.

Believe it or not, sometimes the hurts and aches and falls we experience can help someone else avoid them or deal with them better. Other times, a positive experience on screen {it used to be on paper} might be the message needed at just that time for someone stumbling upon our work.

Of course, we also have a spiritual story to tell … definitely a Good News story. It’s a chapter — an ongoing chapter — of our story.

I remembered a conversation I had with Dan Ring, then-pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Oregon, OH. During the transition from Illinois to Ohio — while the family was still in Illinois — I spent the week living in the parish rectory and commuting home for the weekend. With crazy schedules, Dan and I didn’t see a lot of each other, but one night after a late meeting, I noticed the light in the study was on so I popped my head in to say “Hi” and “Good night.” He motioned to me to come in.

“I need a break. I’m working on my homily and it’s just not coming together,” he said as … STOP

… I sat in the chair across from his desk. And we spent the next half hour just catching up.

Somewhere in that conversation, I said I couldn’t write a homily. He laughed and said, “Sure you could … and you would be good at it.”

He then explained a good homily isn’t about the texts. It’s about relating those words of Scripture to today, to today’s Christians, to today’s events. If you show the congregation HOW Scripture relates to them, they become interested in it.

It’s the hallmark of writing and storytelling, so let me repeat that with a slight variation. If you show the your audience HOW your story relates to them, they become interested in it.

I don’t know how successful I’ve been, but I do know I’ve always tried to keep my writing down to earth. As I say in my blog intro, I’m just an ordinary guy walking along this journey called life. I try not to preach, but rather to relate. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I invite readers to search for themselves. I nurture my audience one-on-one and in small groups. In short, I try to show my faith — through words.

You can too … through your story.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm — Winston Churchill

 

 

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