Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Time for Change...

I have been a BlogSpot blogger since 2006. It has been the home to many a penned word through my journey to where I am today. As many of you, who read often, have noticed I have not written very much in the past year. In hopes of reviving my lost passion, my husband guided me to purchase my own domain name bringing autonomy to my writing. It is with great excitement that I launch my new blogging site at I have now transferred all of my writings from this site to the new domain and have added a new post today. Please follow me to the new site....

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Seasons of Solace by Janelle Hertzler

 I was fortunate to review Janelle Hertzler's book Seasons of Solace. Here is an interview with Janelle I want to share with you. I found this book of photography and poetry to be of great solace to me as I still live within the parameters of grief. Janelle's interview with me should be posted on her website this week:
Tell me about your book, Seasons of Solace.

Seasons of Solace could be compared to a journal through my grief following the death of my husband to a drunk driver. The book is made up of poetry and photography from my experience. The poetry is narrative, slice-of-life style of poems that give windows into the raw emotions of the grief journey. The photos are images from nature that speak to some element of my emotions at various points along the way. I didn’t set out to write a book. I set out to find a way to express my pain and find healing.

The poems and photographs in the book are beautiful. How did you get started with poetry and photography?

A year after my husband died, I was sitting by a river watch my son play with his cousin. Sitting there, my attention was drawn to a brilliant, red leaf lying on the stones. I was struck by how beautiful it was in its final weeks of being a leaf. It touched something deep within me, and I couldn’t leave without taking a photo of it. It began a journey to find images in nature that spoke to my experiences.

I began writing poetry around the same time. I was taking a graduate class in the area of trauma healing. Our professor told us that we create literal grooves in our brain as we tell ourselves the same story over and over. She then invited us to various exercises that helped us tell our stories in new ways. The one that stuck for me was telling my story in less than 100 words. It evolved into poetry because you can say a lot more with 100 words of poetry than in prose.

Why did you choose to use these mediums to tell your story?

There is a story about a dancer who is asked the meaning of a particular dance. She responds that if she could explain it in words, she wouldn’t have had to dance. That is what the photography is for me. There is so much in grief that truly defies words and thus, for me, photography was a visual medium that helped me touch some of those word-defying places.

Poetry creates images with words. For me, full sentences and paragraphs couldn’t hold the vividness and depth of my emotions during grief.

How did writing the book help you on the path to recovery?

Shock and trauma can cause a lot of emotion to be trapped inside the body. Many of the images in the poems are scenes from the early days of shock that I lived through over and over as I replayed them in my mind. The photos and poems in Seasons of Solace were a way of validating that emotion and documenting it outside of my body, so that I don’t have to carry it around with me anymore.

It is freeing to know that I can open a journal and go back to my story any time I need to, and then I can close it and move on with my life. This isn’t to say that I do not still have bad days, but these experiences can also be recorded and held in a space outside of my internal being.

What is the main message you want readers to take away from the book? And how have readers responded to the book so far?

A friend of mine loaned his copy of Seasons of Solace to a recent widow. A week later when he was visiting, he asked if she was finished with it. She asked him if she could keep it a while longer because she pages through it every day. So he gave it to her.

My hope is that Seasons of Solace provides a reflective and healing space for people in whatever loss or difficulty they are facing. Although based on my own story, the poetry touches on universal themes of sorrow, anger and struggle to find healing. The nature photography allows pain and beauty to mingle, reminding us that nature is continually renewing itself and bringing forth new life.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Blowing Out the Candle...At Least At One End

I tend to over do it. No matter what I do. I don't set out to overextend myself. It just happens. There are so many areas of my life that I value. From my career to my family and friends to my interests I want to make sure I give a “slice of life” to all of these ventures. The trouble comes when all these “worlds” collide because I have not chosen a balanced path—hence--where I find myself today.

I just returned from a short vacation where I was able to gain a bit of perspective. I am in a different place than many of my friends. I am the only one of my close friends who still has children at home. Chanman is in every sport and active, which I love, but it takes a certain energy to keep up. Carpool, games, meetings and practices scatter every day. Then, I am a full time educator who needs to spend time planning and preparing for my students. Additionally, I am co-president of our Education Association and feel this is an significant leadership position. Just when I think I may be released from the ministry to those who have lost a mate, I realize this a major passion in my life. Not to mention the aspects of laundry, house work, exercise, keeping my marriage fresh, nurturing my spiritual life and being whole for my family and friends. SOMETHING has to change.

As I type these things I know that there are many of you who can so relate to what I am saying. The time has come to set priorities. It's time to stop burning the candle at both ends. The time has come to create a balance which can create a sane existance.

One thing that I need to let go of is stuff that doesn't matter-those peripheral obligations and relationships that may be worthy, but are not at the epicenter of my values. Next, I must decide what ventures I want to expend the most amount of energy. These areas are easy—my family, my friends, my classroom, my health and my passions. My goal should be to expends the greatest energy to the areas that will make the greatest difference years from now.

In practical terms this means some things will have to go, even some major commitments. I don't like making commitments and then changing my mind, but I believe this to be necessary. Do I think this is the last time in my life that I will be faced with making these decisions? Probably not, because this is not the first time.

Apparently Buddha had it right "The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly". I am choosing to begin to live “wisely and earnestly” and to burn out the candle, at least at one end.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Learning to Lose

It is difficult to be in the stands during a game when the score is close. Nail biting begins, hearts begin to race, palms begin to sweat; sitting anxiously I await the outcome. It is even worse if one of my children happens to be on the team.

Chandler's middle school basketball team advanced to the regional finals this season. As the game went into its first overtime, I began biting my nails. When the second overtime clock began ticking; my heart began to race. But when the game went into triple overtime, I thought I was going to have to be removed by stretcher. At the end of the game we were left heartbroken; the boys lost by two points. Following the ceremonial, congratulatory team handshake the boys walked off the court, disappointed.

I wanted the basketball team to win that game, but not as much as Chandler. He could smell victory. It was right there for the taking, but in the last seconds it slipped away. For the first time, I saw 14 year old boys, who I had known since kindergarten, in tears. Loss is hard!

On the way out of the gymnasium, a grandfather of one of the players stopped me. He said, “I know sports is beneficial for these boys. They learn teamwork and perseverance, but most of all, sports teaches kids how to lose.”

I had never thought of sports in this light. As parents, we instinctively hope our children never have to deal with great disappointment, yet in our gut we know they must. It seems that children who are “rescued” from heartbreak and loss tend to “crash and burn” at the first sign of disappointment.

Imagining that the ride home with Chandler would be difficult, I began preparing my motherly pep talk which surely would change his disappointed affectation. I couldn't have been more mistaken. Instead, with head held high he jumped into the “mommy bus”, promptly announcing, “We have nothing to be ashamed of. We played a great game.”

I know that living through the small disappointments in life, gives way to developing the resilience needed to deal with huge ones. Strength and confidence comes not only from victories, but from knowing you can handle defeat. Perhaps true victory occurs when we experience loss and still are able to hold our head high and move on.

When Don died, my greatest fear was that my kids would be broken, but life had already taught them loss and disappointment. Though perhaps smaller in measure, the lessons were real nonetheless. When we are faced with adversity, heartbreak, disappointment or loss, victory is often found in the lessons learned.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

by William Ernest Henley

Monday, January 25, 2010

WWJD - Haiti

Facebook can be a riveting social networking tool. At times I find it fascinating and uplifting; other times I find it irritating and bothersome; then there are the times I find it down right infuriating. Tonight happened to be one of those moments.

There are many “cause” posts going around on Facebook-- paste "this" to your status if you support autism; paste "that" if you know a breast cancer survivor; paste "this" if you support children with special needs. I don't have a problem, in theory, with any of these “cause” posts, other than their lack of creativity or personal voice; they do serve as a "shout out" to causes important to the poster. HOWEVER, there was one of these cause-type posts today that has me dumbfounded and yes, my “panties are officially in a wad”. Here it is:
America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment - yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. What about the people of USA?(99% of people won't have the guts to copy and repost)
Perhaps this is because 99% of Americans plain don't agree. What confounds me most about this post is when professing Christians, those who are called to be Christlike, post this as their status.

Someone please explain to me the Biblical basis for such convictions. Why is giving to Haitians mutually exclusive from taking care of those in America who are in need? Haiti is a nation, perhaps the poorest in the world, who is experiencing a most horrific calamity. With 150,000 dead and over a million homeless, their need is greater.

This fact does not absolve us from our responsibility at home, it simply means that for this moment in time we need to shift our focus globally. We have equal responsibility to both our nation and our global community. Can you imagine if Jesus were an American, perhaps your neighbor, do you think you would hear him say “know what, we need to be helping our own, not those people in Haiti”. Seems downright silly, doesn't it? Such attitudes don' seem to pass the WWJD litmus test.

1 John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.
Seems to me scripture is crystal clear. We have a responsibility to all those who are in need, WITHOUT judgment, without engaging some human filter of “who is more worthy” of our assistance, and without strings attached . It is also clear that we are to do more than talk-words are not only cheap, they don't get the job done. Which brings me to my own soul searching questions:  when was the last time I had a homeless American in my home for a dinner, worked in a soup kitchen, helped at the local shelter or even did without, so that others might have food on the table?

Prov. 14:31 Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.
My contention is that by abdicating our global responsibility and doing NOTHING for the Haitians we would be supporting their continued oppression therefore "insulting God". Shouldn't the richest country in the world be a the forefront of humanitarian aide to the poorest country? Moreover, shouldn't those who love God and are called to be Christlike; those rich in grace, who bask in the benefits of mercy be the first in line to give generously to those in need? How do we honor God? What attitudes honor God? What actions honor God? What responses honor God?

If interested there are many relief organizations that are known to be responsible stewards of the monies collected for Haiti:
American Red Cross
Nazarene Compassionate Ministries  I add this one as I know every dime donated goes directly to the Haitian relief

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Marsha's Most Memorable of 2009

Most Memorable:

Event of the Year:
Our Cruise in July―what a wonderful week.

Family Event:
Would have to have been our Christmas with Kiva. That experienced touched everyone.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and more... Set in 1947 it is a composite of correspondence between author Juliet Ashton and the folks of Guernsey island. I loved the strong wome
n and the unusual way the authors chose to present the story.

he Blind Side – I didn't expect to like this one so much, but enjoyed it on a multitude of levels.

evision: House/24 – no change from last year.

plishment: Finishing the United States Air Force Half-marathon in September.

Events: My Book Club-I am always excited for our monthly meetings.  We have experienced lots of life together since we began 7 years ago.

Music in
General: Train – Save Me San Francisco – Just the right amount of funk, soul and rock. Favorite song is Hey Soul Sister.

Classical Music:
  David Garrett: David Garrett Favorite song: Thunderstruck

Christian Music:
33 Miles  – One Life. I love the marriage of pop and country. Favorite song: I Loved You Then

ional Tool: SmartBoards:  We had them installed at school this year and now I can't imagine teaching without them.

15 Minutes of Fame:
  The Herald and Review article about Ginny and me. It was centered around a subject I would have
NEVER thought someone would write about me---running. Go figure.

Mamaw was missed at Christmastime especially. She went to be with the Lord in July. Nancy Cooper, a wonderf
ul friend and educator passed unexpectedly in September. I miss her every day.

Now it is your turn--share your most memorables of 2009! Don't forget to post a link or just add your list to the comments!