Reaching My Goal — 101 Fiction Novels

Dec 6, 2018 by

Heather Sellers’ 2007 writers’ guide Chapter After Chapter prods anyone interested in becoming a better writer to read 101 Fiction Novels. In December 2016, I set out to do just that, having suffered an injury that was keeping me from working like most, one that continues to plague me even today.

Heather Sellers’ Chapter After Chapter.

Other complications and illnesses have been added since, making working and concentrating even harder, but thankfully, I’ve been able to keep reading, and on Nov. 29th, I put down Javier Marías’ The Infatuations, book number 101, satisfied and fulfilled in a way I could not have imagined two years before.

You see, while I have been physically disabled the past two and a half years, I have been able to mentally travel around the world and through time through the power of fiction.

I’ve made a study of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, the three geniuses edited and managed by Maxwell Perkins. Through them I’ve been bullfighting in Spain in the 1930s, been all over Italy and Europe during World War I, and Paris afterward.

Then through various authors I’ve been in Paris as the Germans invaded it during World War II, and in many ways I felt what it must have been like, to have gone from such heydays after World War I with the Lost Generation to the starkness of the Nazi invasions, their lists, the killings.

But I’ve also been to Australia for a road race around the continent in the 1950s with Peter Carey in his book A Long Way From Home, and returned to experience the power of Big Little Lies with Liane Moriarty; experienced The Plague in Africa via Albert Camus, a non-existent war in Africa during Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, and been to South America for a hostage situation via Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. (I’ll read  anything now written by Ann Patchett–Commonwealth was so good, too.)

I have been to Tennessee and South Carolina to figure out the mystery of the woman who stole river children in the 1900s for adoption in Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours. (Lisa is under the impression US senators ride around in limousines all the time. Reporters should know better.)

My thinking about trees was forever changed by Richard Powers’ The Overstory, one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read. To think about living in the canopy of a redwood in Oregon for nine months, 100 feet off the ground. Something I’d never thought of, but might consider, given the chance and with better health. A wonderful, wonderful book that haunts me now whenever I see someone cutting down a tree because I know how long it takes for a tree to grow, the history behind it and how we snuff out a tree with a chainsaw and don’t give it a moment of thought.

Gosh, I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve been to England. Ian McEwan’s Atonement. What a great story about the power of love. Don’t forget to also read his On Chesil Beach. If you want to read some of the first murder mystery genre setting books, don’t forget John Fowles’ The Collector, who kidnaps a woman he fancies and drags her off to live in his flat north of London. The Lodger is another prolific book that brilliantly explores the murders surrounding the mystery of Jack the Ripper. Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje was also one of my favorites from my journey.

Then there are the books about the States. The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel remains a favorite, a story about a boy who shows up in an Ohio town the summer of 1984 claiming to be answering an ad in the local paper calling on the Devil to present himself. Steven King’s The Outsider was something new for me. It wasn’t scary, but definitely a different read. Tommy Oranges’ There There shed new light on the Native American culture I did not know about. A.J. Finn and The Woman in the Window, Ottessa Moshfegh and Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, as well as Lauren Weissberger’s When Life Gives You Lululemons all gave me new perspectives about the modern woman.

Celeste Ng took me back to Ohio in Little Fires Everywhere, a very good book, and Rachel Kushner seemed to have much the same thematic in The FlamethrowersFac Ut Ardeat (made to burn); perhaps that theme was also being explored in The Summer that Melted Everything as well. Even Stephen King’s The Outsider.

Thomas Wolfe intrigued me for days with his You Can’t Go Home Again. The language and writing is beautiful.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. Funny, at times. But with an important message nonetheless.

Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin was strange to me at first, but I came to enjoy the writing once I got my bearings. The initial passages about the blind assassin himself, and the girl, were just strange, and I’ve found I’m not much for reading sci fi or dystopian nonsense.

I also flat out skip sections in books about explicit gay sex. Chloe Benjamin, Adam Haslett, take note. Your books were good, but I skipped large portions of The Immortalists and Imagine Me Gone and don’t think I missed anything, which means, those sections could have been left out (note to authors, agents and publishers). Those sections didn’t add anything. And in the case of Andrew Sean Greer’s book Less, once I learned that’s what it was, I’d actually ordered it from Amazon, I cancelled the order. I have no desire to read anything like that. Period.

I’ve read my share of spy novels: Daniel Silva’s The Other Woman, T. Jefferson Parker’s Swift Vengeance, Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, and the over-hyped ridiculous Bill Clinton/James Patterson The President is Missing.

In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone I spent time in Washington state and Oregon, and then the wilds of Alaska. This was not a great book by any means, but people recommended I read Hannah’s The Nightingale and I honestly believe it is the best book I’ve ever read. Goodreads has it rated at a 4.65 or something close and that seems to be the highest rating I could find. I highly recommend this book above all the rest. It is the one I described above as helping me understand what it must have been like when the Nazi’s invaded France in World War II. Maybe you should read some of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and their antics in Paris beforehand to learn about how gay and charming the city was 10 years before, that way you may get the full impact.

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’m going to start revising my second novel once again, with new knowledge.

And I’m going to keep writing.

It’s my 53rd birthday today and I’m getting a copy of War and Peace. I’m planning to also read Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov as a study in the next few weeks. I also need to finish Anna Karenina. The movie version is good, but not good enough.

I also have asked my girls for a series of books that PBS and my local book store, Interabang Books put together this summer–100 supposed best loved novels–that I intend to read. Some of them I don’t think belong on the list and won’t read, but a good many I will. Some I already have and just have never read.

The goal in all of this is to make me a better writer, but what it’s also doing is making me a better person. Opening my mind and horizons. Making me think and relaxing my soul. My body is not in a condition to do what it once was able. I’ve been doing all I can the past two and a half years to get help from doctors to get it fixed. In the meantime, I’ve been getting my heart, mind, soul and writing ready for when I am free to walk normally in the world again.

Two years later, that’s the greatest gift I can give myself.

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Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

Jul 15, 2017 by

Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

The graves of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents are in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.

The grave site of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents and family members in Montgomery, AL.

They are marked as #28.

They are not easy to find unless you know what you’re looking for.

How To Find The Sayre Graves

Oakwood Cemetery section. How to find the Sayre graves, the parents of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.

Heading east on Upper Wetumpka Road in Montgomery, go past the Montgomery Police Department and down the hill toward Alabama Public Television and Paterson Field.

The last three entrances to the cemetery are important. The third one leads to Hank Williams’ grave on top of the hill.

The first one, St. Ann’s Street, is the entrance to the section leading to the Sayres.

Once you pull in at St. Ann’s, take the first left onto Stella Street. At the first right, turn north on Clarmont Ave. and go up the hill. The first right near the top of the hill is also Clarmont, but go straight another 20 or 30 yards. Then stop.

Off to your left, three rows in, follow the path of Clarmont to the west. You will see several tall and full trees, and there are two obelisk-like markers to the west in the next row of the Sayre resting place.

Once you are three rows deep, turn to your right and the Sayre site should be to your left.

Clearly marked at the front of the site is a memorial marker to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who are not buried there.

Photos of the Site

I’ve included photos of Minnie Sayre’s grave, as well as Anthony D. Sayre Sr’s resting spots. Minnie is buried on the far left and Judge Sayre is three graves to her right. Zelda’s brother Anthony Sayre Jr lies immediately to the left of the Judge.

Marker for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in Montgomery, AL

The grave of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Close up of the tombstone of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, who was born in Montgomery, AL

The tomb of Judge Anthony D Sayre, the father of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, in Montgomery, AL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zelda, Almost Home

In June 2017, I made a short film about Zelda. The premise, what if Zelda returned to her hometown Montgomery as a ghost?

Thing is, the more I learned about Zelda and her haunts in Montgomery, the more it seems she actually does return to the city quite often.

July 24, 2017 will mark the 117th anniversary of her birth in the Capital City of Alabama.

Here is Zelda, Almost Home, available on YouTube. Music courtesy of Moby.

 

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Zelda, Almost Home

Jun 27, 2017 by

My favorite shot in the short film, “Zelda, Almost Home.” The tunnel leading to Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Alabama.

The premise for the short film Zelda, Almost Home became quite simple: Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1900, lived a wild and tumultuous life with the author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom she met in 1918. What if she came back today as a ghost?

The inspiration to shoot Zelda, Almost Home came from watching Vincent Laforet’s Reverie on YouTube. You’ll also notice there’s a hat tip to Damien Chazelle and his film La La Land— Zelda walks in front of a mural. Simon Cade from DSLR Guide has been a big influence and coach as well. (This is my first short film. I’m 51 years old.)

Come to find out, there are ample stories around Montgomery already to suggest the premise for this film is dead on. The halls of Baldwin Middle School are full of stories alleging apparitions of Zelda. As I talked with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Executive Director Sara Powell last Friday, she had two more accounts, recent ones, as the museum prepares to open upstairs rooms as a bed and breakfast.

So as you read and watch the film, please know, it is grounded in much less fantasy as you might first suspect.

The Making of Zelda, Almost Home

One of the first things any viewer will note is the music, Almost Home, composed by Moby and used with permission from his website, MobyGratis.com. He offers free use of his material provided it’s used for purposes like this—non-commercial and creative expression.

The film is shot entirely in Montgomery, Alabama, June 22-25, 2017. And that is part of my commentary for shooting this, there are almost no films about Montgomery that are actually SHOT in Montgomery.

It is all shot with a Canon D60, part with a Nifty Fifty lens and part with an 18-135 mm. The camera for the most part is mounted on a Neewer Image Stabilizer. Shots from the car the camera was mounted on a tripod.

Shot List

The intersection of Zelda and Fitzgerald, Montgomery

The street sign at the corner of Zelda and Fitzgerald in Montgomery, Alabama.

The opening shot is designed to give homage to Montgomery for honoring Scott and Zelda, while also having our Zelda set the scene that she was full of life when she lived here. It is not hard to imagine the real Zelda spinning around her street sign with glee.

Five minutes after we left the scene, I drove back through and someone had called Montgomery Police to investigate what we were doing. A patrol car was sitting where I’d been parked and was using the lights of the car to light up the street sign.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Felder Avenue

The house on Felder is now a museum. They have a fascinating collection of Fitzgerald memorabilia and are open very day of the week except Monday for tours. And they are in the process of opening an upstairs suite as a bed and breakfast so those seeking inspiration for their writing or filmmaking can soon stay in the same rooms as the Fitzgeralds for nine months back in the 1920s. This is said to be the longest the two lived anywhere together. And it was the last place they ever lived as a family.

Winter Place, Goldthwaite and Mildred

It is often said that Scott and Zelda met at the Montgomery Country Club. But lore now suggests in fact that they met at Winter Place on Goldthwaite. Part of the tale goes is that Zelda’s daddy, Judge Anthony D. Sayre, who lived four blocks away, would not have approved of her being at Winter Place so saying they met at the country club was much more proper.

The McBryde-Screws-Tyson House, Mildred

Christian Lowry, the owner of the house, tells the tale that Zelda was friends with the girls who lived there at the time. He says Zelda used a ring she’d been given by Scott to carve their initials in a second story window. Mr. Winter, who owned Winter Place across the street, is said to have had a thing for Ms. Zelda when she was younger and so as an admirer, when McBryde-Screws-Tyson lie vacant, he sent men into the home to extract with window pane Zelda carved initials into.

The McBride-Screws-Tyson House in Montgomery, Alabama.

It is hoped, that since Mr. Winter was something of a pack rat, that as Winter Place goes through renovation, the original piece of glass will be found and hopefully returned to its rightful window.

But this is the sentimental importance of this shot in the film.

*I have been spelling McBryde with an I instead of Y. That’s now corrected on June 30, 2017 though I can’t change it in the YouTube post.

The Train Shed

There are stories about Zelda and the train shed in Montgomery. It was the prime way in and out of town for Zelda and Scott. But it is also said that she dressed down one day and walked around with a tin can seeking donations. News of this, of course, stirred Judge Sayre. Which is probably what it was meant to do.

The Riverfront Tunnel 

The Riverfront Tunnel has changed over the years. Only recent efforts by the city to bring night life back downtown have led to the amazing lighting in the tunnel. The colored lights and the depth of the shot make this one of my favorite scenes in the film. I thought about going back and having Zelda walk perfectly framed up the lighted tunnel but then it’d be too staged and too fashioned, something the true Zelda would not allow.

Tallapoosa Street

This is one of the apex locations in downtown Montgomery, connecting with Commerce Street, critical to the city’s past and present.

The Alley

Over the past 15 years, the Alley has really come to life as an attraction in Montgomery, and wherever there was a party in this town, well, it’d attract Zelda.

Tallapoosa and Commerce Statue of Hank Williams

The Hank Williams Statue is now the gateway into the Riverfront Park area of the downtown area.

RSA Tower Fountain on Dexter Avenue

David Bronner has built a series of buildings throughout Montgomery over the past 40 years. The fountain this Zelda is playing along wasn’t here when Zelda was, but like the real Zelda, my character couldn’t resist the temptation to play. And she really wanted to get into the water like the real one would have done, too.

Catoma Street view of Troy State

Troy State wasn’t located here back in the day, but is an important part of the downtown scene, connected to the Davis Theatre and across the street from the Jefferson Hotel where Scott and Zelda are said to have stayed, as well as being near the Rosa Parks Museum, which I believe back in the day was also the Empire Theatre, one of the first air conditioned places in the hot of the South.

Sunny Paulk Civil Rights Mural, Lee and Montgomery Streets

Hat tip to La La Land and having Emma Stone walk past the You Are The Star Mural. Montgomery has a beautiful Civil Rights Mural here and we just had to include it. Zelda was gone before all of that came to be and so it was fitting for her to just walk past.

Oakwood Cemetery, Plot 28, graves of Minnie and Judge Anthony D Sayre

The Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama where the parents of Zelda Fitzgerald rest in peace.

There is a memorial plaque for Scott and Zelda, their daughter Scottie Smith, and Zelda’s parents, Minnie and Anthony D. Sayre in Oakwood Cemetery. When we arrived for shooting, the sunset was alive with color and emotion.

The first shot is Zelda mourning over the plaque. She then runs her hands over the stone above her father’s tomb. Out of love and emotion, the Zelda character in the film lies down on the stone above Minnie and puts her hand on Minnie’s name. By then it was too late to see, but the poignancy of should not be lost. Zelda would dearly miss her Momma for many reasons all of us would.

Old Alabama Supreme Court Building, Dexter Avenue

Justice Sayre served on the Alabama Supreme Court from 1909 to 1931. Zelda would visit this place and miss her daddy.

Zelda visiting the Old Alabama Supreme Court Building on Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama.

The Alabama Capitol

The Capitol is just a stone’s throw from the Old Supreme Court Building.

Chris’ Hotdogs, Dexter Avenue

Chris’s Hotdogs is 100 years old this year. I don’t know if Zelda ever went there to eat before she left town, but the odds are pretty good that she would have. They have served every sitting Alabama governor since they opened. It makes sense the lead Flapper Girl would have been a customer, too.

Court Street Fountain

Many a girl like Zelda has climbed the fence at the fountain to wade into its waters looking down Commerce Street toward the Alabama Riverfront and up Dexter Avenue toward the Capitol.

Sunroom window, The Fitzgerald Museum

The sunroom at the museum would hold special value to Zelda. Scottie, their daughter, wrote about its importance during the Christmas the family spent in the home. As a ghost looking back, she would totally take time to look into this room and remember the gem of joy they experienced there as a family for one of the few times ever.

The Museum at night, Felder Avenue

Day or night, the museum is a treasure of Montgomery.

My Own Zelda Ghost Story

So, the night before we began shooting, while walking up the drive to the museum, a white and tan cat came running out of nowhere and up to me. I am allergic to cats and don’t care for them. This one, as I was standing in the drive looking at shots, avoided my Zelda actor, (Angie Tatum Weed) and began curling around my legs. I finally said, “Hey Zelda!” and the cat stopped.

 

 

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A Mile Into The Woods

Apr 27, 2017 by

A Mile Into The Woods

I walked a mile into the woods today to be further away from you and closer to me.
Perhaps I succeeded.
But it was time for another view.

I walked a mile into the woods today.

I hear planes in the distance.
The wind rushing over my ears.
The rustle of the leaves.
Feet padding along the trail.
Cars way off in the distance.
Birds.
Cracks and smacks of branches and sticks.

The whisper of the wind across my ear drums.
The pulse of God’s breath moving across my arms.
The bursts of sunlight breaking through the crown of the trees above.
The dancing shadows across the ground.
The to and fro of branches wafting in the wind.
The colors, greens, darker; brown, black, bright green and gray.

I hold out my hand and the sun catches it, throwing a shadow across the ground.
But it’s not crisp, it weaves in and out of light.
There, it’s solid.
No, now it’s not.
There are patterns from shoes that have been here before me.
V-shapes, circles, squares.
At deeper depths.
Tire tracks, from bikes.

A broken branch lies a few feet away.
The light above illuminates the top, worn from who knows what.
The rest of the bark is intact.

A tiny yellow flower, no bigger than a diamond clings to nature’s floor, protected by fronds of green petals.

A yellow star of a flower.

It’s a miniature star, yellow, with a darker yellow center.
And it was waiting for me to come along and sit here today, for me alone to capture.
Or maybe, just maybe it’s my metaphorical reflection, a quantum physics of sorts I do not yet comprehend.
But I’m trying.
My eyes are open.
Again.

A bird chirps overhead. Now it’s gone.

Divergent travelers surround me.
Another over-crowded airliner moans eastward overhead.
I hear a truck far off, backing up, backing up, backing up.
Both are in a race.
While I sit here.
Still.
Forgetting to breathe.
Or think about anything but the moment.

The sky above is blue.
The leaves above reflect the white light of the sun—not greenness at all.
While others are shades far darker in the shade.
And then there are the branches where from many feet below I can see the chloroplastered canals of leaf after leaf after leaf.
Like a playground bully, the wind pushes the leaves.
Like me in my inner frights of seeing too many parental fights, they never push back.
So many forces working against them and they continue a dance in the wind as if none of their opposition matters.
These are Spring leaves.
Deep inside I must resemble a crumbling one in Fall.

I see bees buzzing past me.
Clumps of white spores float along in the air.
A blue butterfly.
Then a Monarch.
A bird is somewhere off in the distance.
This snack he’s missing.
I’m glad.
There go two more now, chasing each other into the leaves like lovers in a Hollywood musical.

A water fall of sorts is no more than forty yards from where I sit.
The water rushes.
Like the mass of human drama beyond, it doesn’t relent.
A constant wash of white noise blending in with all the other orchestral parts employed around me.

The wind is blowing the branches above my head making the leaves look like a million pinwheels as they sway two and fro.
A kaleidoscope of light and shadow and mystery.

I want to lie down on the path in front of me.
On my back and flatten against the earth, staring up into the azure blue, and then just close my eyes and take it all in all the more.
But my inner parent voice says that’s not allowed.
Or maybe it’s an echo of an actual parent voice.
Maybe tomorrow.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll bring a blanket or a towel.
Or maybe I should just try it.
Who will know?
Those damned inner parent voices.
What do they really know?

Now a dog behind me somewhere has joined his bit part in the symphony of outdoor sounds I am awash in.
At home, if it were my dog, this would bug me, but in the distance, the sound is different.
Not annoying.
Not troublesome.
Now it’s stopped.
No, it hasn’t.

To my distant right I see one lone purple flower at the seam where the grass is no longer edged and bushes, Mother Nature, takes over.

The pink/purple flower. I took a picture anyway.

Just a lone purple and pinkish dot on the horizon.
And it, too, dances in and out of the bright light overhead.
Maybe I should go take a picture.
Maybe I should let the one in my mind’s eye be enough.
Click.

There goes a wasp.
Keep going.
Arms dropping.
Pincers ready.
I’ve been stung by you and life too many times already.
Keep going.

Maybe it’s time to load up the pack and head back.
Or maybe I should close the computer and open my mind more.
There went a shadow of a plane from overhead, racing on its way.
Why do I want to follow in pursuit?
A yellow butterfly just swooshed off to my left.
It doesn’t need clearance to fly.
No flight plan required.
Without a set destination.
Gate to gate time is of no concern.
Pushback.
Just the will to be.
It’s gone now.
I’ll go now, too.
There is so much more to see.

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Perspectives on Life

Feb 16, 2016 by

My late, maternal grandfather was an artist. One of the most important things he ever taught me was perspectives on life–the way of looking at the world.

When I was in second or third grade, grandpa brought me a small microscope to K.I. Sawyer AFB in the upper peninsula of Michigan on one of his visits. It had a little lamp he’d been using to reflect off the mirror under the specimen platform. But grandpa had done something quite clever. He’d used double-sided tape to stick colored specs of see-thru plastic to the mirror so as I moved the mirror and looked through the microscope, the specimen changed so I could see it, literally, in a new light.

In my teens, when we would visit the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art he’d encourage me to turn my head and look at the paintings sideways, even upside down if I could.

Years later, when we moved to Castle AFB in Atwater, CA, grandpa came out several times and would disappear during the days, no matter the season, to go up to Yosemite National Park. My love for this one area of the country has grown through the years and I make a trip to California whenever possible, now with my daughters, to enjoy this national treasure.

MORE ON PERSPECTIVES

I know several people in my world right now who are going through some fairly significant trials. The tasks before them, and me, seem monumental  to say the least. Here, look at this picture of El Capitan from the Yosemite Valley perspective.

El Capitan in Yosemite from the Valley floor.

El Capitan in Yosemite from the Valley floor.

That’s pretty ominous, isn’t it? If I’d not shot this with one of my grandpa’s film-based Canon’s in the late 2000s, I could blow it up and show you blue, red and green spots of humanity clinging to the face of El Cap, braving the forces of nature and working their way toward the top–like all of us do in the problems we face in this life.

I’ve never tried to climb El Cap, but my girls and I walked pretty close to the base of the face to look up. That is an even more daunting view.

FROM SENTINEL DOME

I’ve made no secret that when my time on Earth has come to its end, I should very much like to have my ashes sprinkled somewhere off the trail on the way up to Sentinel Dome. Probably not legal, no, but in the vast long run of the eternity to come, will it really matter if what remains of me is left in some off-the-beaten wind swept path? I think not. I desire this knowing that in spirit I will be in Heaven with my maker, but the thought of my ashes resting in view of Half Dome and the hundreds of miles one can see in a 360 panorama all around, well… I digress.

I want you to look at this second photo now, taken from atop Sentinel Dome in Yosemite, looking over at El Capitan.

El Capitan from atop of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.

El Capitan from atop of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.

Quite a different view, isn’t it?

I submit to you, those of you who feel like you’re at the base of a real-life mountain, that how you view your task is monumental to your success in overcoming it. El Capitan doesn’t look so big from higher up, does it?

Now imagine what our problems look like to our Lord, who rests higher still than these photos show.

PERSPECTIVE

Perspective is everything in this life. If we let the world around us dictate how we are left to see what is before is, the tasks will almost alway seem like they will be impossible to overcome.

I encourage you to consider these two photos regularly when life seems to be getting the better of you. Remember, God’s view is even higher than what we as humans are able to perceive. You should also know that you’re never alone in your walk. I promise, if you look hard enough, like the climbers half way up the face of El Cap, you’ll find someone who is willing to lend you a helping hand because they’re on the same walk as you, just maybe on a different path, higher up, or coming up from behind.

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The Holidays: Leaving Friends And Loved Ones To Be With Family

Nov 26, 2014 by

A counseling friend of mine once described the Holidays as “the time we leave friends and loved ones to go be with family.” 32

My own family has been going through a painful trial the past few weeks, the details of which I will not go into. But it has been a time for prayer, consoling, and unconditional loving.  In today’s age when dysfunctional families are more the norm than the exception, that seems like something nearly impossible.

I am directly copying (below) advice from another counseling friend, Dr. Harold Duncan of Preston Place Counseling in Dallas. This came from his recent post and email entitled “A Word About The Holidays.”

This is sage and safe advice. As we all know, there seem to be some in most every family who wear their feelings on their sleeves, just waiting for someone to come along and bump into them and give them new reason for aggression and resentment. So here are Harold’s suggestions:

1.  Slow down

  • Take time to think about what is really going on–the significance of the season.

 

2.  Be realistic in the financial arena.
  • Gifts are a form of communication. Consider what you are saying by means of your gift.
  • The most meaningful gifts are not necessarily the most expensive.

 

3. Pay attention to your health.

  • Exercise
  • Monitor what you eat and drink. Focus on moderation.
  • Get enough rest and relaxation.

 

4.  Plan ahead-avoid overloading your schedule–decide to say  “no” to some of what is expected of you.

  • Set and stick to you own realistic limits.
  • Don’t commit to more than you can handle.
  • If traveling, allow yourself plenty of time.

 

 5.  Make your own plans–do not defer all your time to others.

  • Make plans to do something you enjoy.
  • Make plans to be with people you enjoy.
  • Say “no” if you don’t want to do something.

 

6.  Allow yourself to feel sadness and grief when appropriate.

  • Say a special prayer or memorial for a loved one, make a keepsake ornament, reminisce and don’t deny the grief or pain you may experience.

 

7.  Don’t use the holidays for family therapy.

  • This is not a good time to work on your spouse’s attitude or your mother-in-law’s sharp tongue.
  • People are probably not going to change much–especially during the holidays.
  • Courtesy is usually a very important priority.

 

8.  Consider volunteering some of your time to help others.

  • Take clothes to a homeless shelter.
  • Serve food to the needy.
  • Provide gifts to a child.

 

9.  If your “holiday blues” don’t lift after a few weeks, seek help.

  • Feelings of depression and anxiety that are moderate to severe and long-lasting may be signs of an illness that should be discussed with your physician or counselor.

 

Be safe out there traveling. Take lots of pictures. And keep love in your heart. We’re all only here for a whisper of time. Make the most of every breath, during the holidays and throughout the rest of each year as well.

God Bless you all.

 

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