Therefore I Exist

old barn 2 27 20

A dying barn …

Yesterday was the beginning of Lent for Christians.

This was the first time in years (or maybe ever) that I was excited to get the ashes smeared on my forehead. Going back to Confession was a big step for me since for the longest time I hated the idea of a priesthood set apart. I wanted to be on equal footing with everyone and liked the idea of having “accountability partners” who basically were just as flawed and untrained as me.

It’s a rare friend who tells you the truth about your missteps.

The priest I went to see was pretty hardcore (in a nice way). He didn’t downplay my tendency to jump into family gossip and self-righteous back-stabbing of my adult siblings. After all everyone in the family does it. The priest shook his head. “No, that’s a bad sin.” Of course he was far more eloquent about it.

Friends tend to help you find excuses for your bad behavior. After a while all of my “accountability partners” became suspect. It started to bother me when they soft-pedaled around things. I’ve done the same, thinking to myself this person is a train wreck but not saying it. I mean, calling someone a train wreck isn’t helpful anyway, but you know what I mean. I didn’t have the faith that the friendship could survive an honest appraisal of the person’s behavior.

A priest at Mass recently talked about how draining  it was in this time of priest shortages and bad-apple priests to carry the weight of parishioners’ sins. Until I “got” the sacredness of the priests’ position I would not have understood what he was saying. He intercedes for us! Now that is a burden for sure!

Last night I took my puppy to her PUPPY CLASS. You can follow her on INSTAGRAM here: Comfychi_golden

comfy 02 27 20

Down … stay … good Comfy!

I was tempted to wipe the ashes from my head. I was torn because some teach that wearing your faith on your sleeve (or forehead) is offensive to the sensibilities of others, and I so enjoy being liked. Some say you should proclaim your faith in actions and behavior. In the end, since I’ve decided to fully embrace traditional Catholic culture I went ahead and wore the ashes to class.

Totally by coincidence, the judge who was involved in the adoption of our daughter was taking the same class with his tiny pug-like dog Wolfgang (which is the cutest name ever). It’s always funny to see people outside of where you put them in your head. Obviously the judge doesn’t wear his robes to class (and he doesn’t command the same authority with his dog that he does in the courtroom).

He smiled when he saw the ashes (by now I had forgotten them). “Oh, I forgot today was Ash Wednesday,” he said, “but I went to a Fat Tuesday pancake dinner last night. It was really good.” He sheepishly laughed again. How could he have forgotten after a full night of pancakes? I laughed too.

We all care so much about what people think. 🙂 As a writer I care about every last review and fret when people on Amazon find the few negative reviews from when I first published MY NOVEL “helpful” because this lands those reviews as Top Reviews. I tried to explain to an Amazon rep that it would be better to set the default on reviews to Most Recent (since my book has been thoroughly re-edited and getting good reviews for a while now) but to no avail.

I found this this helpful:

“To realize how desperately we depend on the ‘existence’ that recognition by others gives us, and how hopeless we are without it until God gives us feet to stand alone on. I have those feet sometimes, but once again, let me realize that there is no absolute ‘standing alone’ — only awful poverty and insecurity and clinging to God in one’s need of others, and greater appreciation of the smallest and most insignificant of communal verities.” THOMAS MERTON

Going to puppy school has been a good thing for me. The tendency to keep in my hermitage actually makes me more desirous of outside praise and notoriety. I don’t want to be that bitter person who compares likes on Instagram and lives for new followers, but it’s an easy trap to fall into. At puppy class everyone goes without their authoritative robes. We are all at least partially dependent on the whims of the puppies. Learning to let your guard down and take your lickings and laugh when you can’t make puppies stay is the best kind of humbling experience. And in this most insignificant of communal experiences I find, as I already know but forget, that we are all the same and live in this mystery of loneliness and friendship.

comfy 2 27 20

 

A Letter to Artists

“None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when — like the artists of every age — captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.” Letter of John Paul II to Artists

Isn’t there something thrilling in the idea that God, through some mysterious inspiration, taps our shoulders and asks us to birth beauty? Artists are graced especially with a sense that we are given something from nothing. We take an idea only just now occurring to us and bring it into this dimension of reality. When we have taken our inspiration seriously enough, we sense the importance of it or the goodness within it even in its embryonic stages. Though our limited talents may always disappoint us, there is a sense that this idea, this vision was given as a gift — if even a more humble one than others receive. Yet is any gift small if it is meant especially for us?

FXFP5992

When we keep our eyes on the gift before us, we feel that expansive breath and excited heartbeat. It transports us to the heavens — if only for moments of time. I don’t know if everyone is gifted with such moments or if it is really only given to artists. I do know that we have a choice to accept the grace or not.

IMG_2083

For twenty years I ran from God’s call on my life like Jonah, and I too was swallowed by a whale. I had caused many storms and needed to be thrown overboard. I turned back to God and the creative call only after everything else that seemed more practical had failed.

But it doesn’t matter anymore. Saying yes to the art that God asks us to make puts you in a special mood — one that makes life very simple even when it’s difficult. Listen and obey.

Have you ever felt called to do something? Did you run from it or embrace it instantly? I’d love to know in the comments!

 

Sunday at Middlemay Farm

IMG_9639

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it.

IMG_9653

Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

 

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Advent: A Time for Reflection

“You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time.”
John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers

Do you think of this time of year as a time of reflection or a time for shopping? I confess that for most of my life I’d never even thought about the weeks before Christmas as something separate from the actual holiday (which I rarely reflected upon either).

IMG_9655

The dogs are reflecting upon how much they love blankets.

So what is there to reflect upon? For Christians advent is not about waiting to put the porcelain baby in the tiny manger on Christmas, but about waiting for the second advent when Christ returns. Non-Christians may find this a foolish notion, but I wonder if there is a person alive who doesn’t feel that humanity needs to be saved.

Social media and “the news” —  no matter the flavor — ask us to take sides in the battle to save children, animals, foreigners, neighbors and the planet because we all know in our bones that we need saving and that there is something of value to save.

This year I find myself at loose ends (the perfect time to reflect).

I wonder about blogging. I’ve made some great friends.

Yet …

I feel constrained sometimes.

Years ago at college I took a journalism course called Minorities in the Media. The professor loved my political writing, and I loved the praise. At the time, I was marching behind banners supporting terrorism in my spare time. I embraced a victim-hood that wasn’t even my own because I had an Irish last name. For a brief time the badge of victim-hood got me good grades and a seat at the university activist table. It also meant that I cared little for the people who might die for disagreeing over the issues I marched for in complete safety. In short, I was young, naive and ignorant of the complexities of human nature and history — so much so that compassion disappeared.

I remember one young man who dared question the narrative. He was Jewish and had living relatives who had survived the Holocaust. He refused victim status. The professor often stood back as the mob shouted him down. I remained quiet more out of cowardice than anything else, but that one boy’s stand against group-think made an impression on me.

In the books I’ve written I have never considered shying from controversial topics, yet more and more when I blog I find myself second-guessing writing about things I really believe in. The idea of offending someone and having to spend a day defending an off-the-cuff remark just seems so boring and useless. Politics and religion are fascinating subjects but the idea of writing about them in the present environment is so fraught with anger and hysteria I find it difficult to wade in.

With a few exceptions the internet is becoming a cultural desert for me. People are told to write how-to-blog/how-to-write posts to get more followers. People are told to stay away from religion and politics. Or to write about religion and politics to create extreme controversy and buzz.

I am guilty of it all. I’m guilty of chasing followers. I’m guilty of insincerity and of paying too much attention to the repetitive promptings of how-to-write/how-to-do-life blogs which at this point all blur into one another.

So why blog?

To build a platform? (when do we feel the satisfaction we are hunting for?)

To meet only like-minded people? (doesn’t this get so very boring?)

To trash opponents? ( I admit I  too often find reading this stuff entertaining — but such a waste of time)

To offer advice? (not always — but often — the advice is copy and paste)

To bring something of value to the world? (isn’t this what we all hope to do?)

I suppose we all value different things, but for advent I’m reflecting on Saint Paul’s admonition:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

But, my friends, I’m at an impasse.

Where does opinionated fit in? Where do political rants find their proper place? How is boredom cured? How is fear of man dispelled? Have I been so tainted by the world that I can’t come up with things that are interesting and “good”?

This may all be Lyme-induced brain fog. Who knows …

Or maybe we just have to occasionally question why we do what we do.

One thing I do know is that I’m hungry for beauty, depth and inspiration. There are many blogs I really enjoy (but I want more!). Three that come to mind are:

Sharon Bonin-Pratt’s Ink Flare

retrospectivelily.com

A.M. Pine – Hearth Ridge Reflections

 

I would love to know what blogs you follow for your fix of positivity. Please leave your recommendations in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Sunday at Middlemay Farm

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you,

IMG_9042

or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

IMG_9047(1)

or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.

005 (3)

Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)

 

HAVE A PEACEFUL WEEK!

What’s Your Mission in Life?

all books cover-page0001

How do you start with a tiny spark of inspiration and end with a six book series?

I’ve just released THE ONE MY HEART LOVES, the fifth book in THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES so I thought it would be fun to walk down memory lane.

My writing mission that I didn’t know I had at the start:

To write deep characters with real flaws who, despite it all, find love and redemption. I didn’t know what grace was until I gave it to John Weldon in THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD.

THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD: Looking back it would have been impossible to write compassionately about morphine-addicted Civil War veteran John Weldon if I hadn’t fallen in love with a handsome boy in high school who was addicted to drugs. We dated on and off through college. He even looked me up after I was unhappily married with children and he was sober. I hope he still is — though the last time I looked he’d disappeared.

WEARY OF RUNNING: An addict’s road to redemption takes its toll on others. I was curious how John Weldon’s son William would handle adulthood with the hurts he carries. The saddest scene is when William takes his first drink. All of his secret yearnings for Thankful Crenshaw slip into far off second place.  Thankful’s brother, Buck Crenshaw carries secret hurts of his own — how else could he be so easily tempted to take out revenge on one of the first black cadets attending West Point?

THE DEW THAT GOES EARLY AWAY is a reference to fleeting love. Buck takes center stage as he wrestles with disillusionment as a new Christian and runs off to a utopian society that promises a fast track to God (and worldly delights). He hardly has time to notice his sister Thankful, still reeling from the loss of her unfaithful fiance, and rushing headlong into another mistake. William’s cousin Lucy takes him to task over his drunken lifestyle but will he change? (You’ll have to read the book to find out :))

FORGET ME NOT is SAD. It just is. I do love how it ends and that’s all I’ll say.

THE ONE MY HEART LOVES: All of my favorite characters are paired off and making a hash of things. Buck is a wreck over his engagement. Thankful is a wreck because she’s jealous. Seeing how Lucy McCullough and William Weldon navigate the Crenshaw minefield satisfies something deep within me and sets us up for the final installment.

THE GRAND UNION starts off in Saratoga Springs, New York at The Grand Union Hotel. Will Buck’s marriage be a grand union? Will he screw up even this? What happens when his wife really gets to know him? I love this couple and want only happiness for them but new troubles await (with Thankful leading the charge) when they arrive back in Englewood to start a family. (Preorder TODAY!)

I love big books about families. How about you? Do you have a favorite literary family? I’m obviously biased.

And more importantly, what’s your mission? I’d love to know in the comments below!

 

 

Dream Attained. Closing Shop.

001Fifteen years. Five books finished. The final chapters in the lives of my best friends soon to be sent off to the editor. I feel like I want to die.

Or maybe write an epilogue? Maybe another spin-off? My issue with God and writing books is that I followed the instruction to love my neighbor (in this case fictional) but hate the part after opening my heart where I have to say good-bye to people I so love. I used to ask: why love anyone if they’re only going to die or leave you heartbroken?

For fifteen years every book I read and every library I visited was in quest of information related to my characters and their world. I want to believe I was unearthing a real world in another dimension because at times I felt these characters urging me on and applauding the moments when I got them right. I want a near-death experience where these characters meet me at the end of the lighted tunnel. I want to say like Steve Jobs did before dying, “Wow. Wow! WOW!”

There you are, John Weldon, and looking so well!

002It’s raining outside, echoing my gloomy mood. I consider taking my dog’s anti-depressant but I won’t. I don’t like meds. I know mourning takes time. I’ve lost “real” people in my life. I’ve even lost favorite characters before, but to lose over ten people at once and to feel the loss so keenly is more than a little surprising to someone who only expected to write a cynical novella to prove I could.

I have ideas for the future but right now they don’t matter to me. I want to have an Irish wake but I have no one to invite. I want to wear a black arm band and sorry face so no one feels comfortable intruding on this sad time.

Someone will say, “You should be celebrating accomplishing something you didn’t think you could! You stuck to something, finally!”

I know I still have marketing to do and a final cover to enjoy being a part of. I have wonderful readers who encourage me with their reviews and comments. I’m happy with the ending of the series, but I’m afraid that everything now will feel changed like when you see an old flame on the street and find it painful to remember all of the good times between you. Maybe someone will be sad to read the final chapters of THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES one day. We shall see.

So I’m not quite closing my writing shop for good. I’m just putting a sign up: Closed due to death in the family. I know in a few weeks I’ll want to get started on another novel, but for now I’ll grieve.

Anyone find it hard to deal with endings? Real or imagined? Is there a character you really miss?

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen

If you don’t know SALLY CRONIN, you should! One of the most generous souls on WordPress, Sally not only takes the time to feature hundreds of writers and their books, but also offers everything from book reviews to health tips. Her commitment to improving the lives of others is inspiring–as is her energy!

Sally has been featuring blog posts from the archives of many bloggers. Some of you may have read these posts before but visit Sally anyway! She’s amazing!

Thanks, Sally!

Adrienne

 

ADOPTION

HOW TO HANDLE CRITICISM

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS IN WRITING