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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

If your birthday is today...

This year, you open up to new possibilities; you can manifest much of what you desire. Creativity marks your days, actions and words. Others simply enjoy working with you. Those in your personal life enjoy you more than ever. If you are attached, defer to your sweetie and remain sensitive to him or her. You could become quite me-oriented. A fellow Virgo can be like you used to be--nit-picky and critical.

VIRGO **** A New Moon in your sign allows a new beginning wherever you would like it. Charm, ingenuity and energy all mix to help you along. A partner who doesn't always get you wants to be helpful and tries at any costs. Tonight: Others respond to your wishes.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Seeing things differently

Reading "The Artist's Way Every Day: A Year of Creative Living," by Julia Cameron and found resonance in a portion of the entry for August 28th. Been meaning to share because I think it so aptly applies to writing.

"The creative journey is characterized not by a muzzy and hazy retreat from reality but by the continual sorting and reordering and structuring of reality into new forms and new relationships. As artists, we 'see things differently.' In part, this is because we are looking."

Friday, June 04, 2010

Life–at warp speed

It's the last day of school, a cause for celebration of the impending freedom that comes with summer. Yet I'm feeling the pull of life zipping me along at lightning speed. Isn't there any way to slow down this ship?

As of today, I am officially the mom of a senior in high school. What an exciting time for him! And yet he's also adjusting to the new world order. Last weekend he began work at his first job as a dishwasher at the Winking Lizard in Avon. We paid a visit to the bank to open up his first checking account now that he gets direct deposit (now that's a change from when I was a kid).

He listened carefully as the bank manager explained online banking, receiving his updates via text, his options with respect to new banking regulations (we opted to have his debit card declined when over the balance rather than suffer the cost of overdraft fees) and the responsibilities that come with a first checking account.

As we walked out of the bank, I told him he was a big boy now. He was suddenly very quiet. I asked what was wrong and he replied, "Life is suddenly moving very fast."

Wow! Yes. It. Is.

Ryan turns 18 in November, time to register to vote and for the draft. He's making decisions about his future--what career to pursue, what college to attend, whether or not to pursue playing football in college.

He's our first, so for better or worse, he's our guinea pig. Hopefully, we haven't done too badly by him. I know that I couldn't be more proud to be his mom. But in the quiet moments of the day I ponder pushing the pause button on life. Actually, it doesn't even have to stop, but I wish it could slow down. I just want to marinate for a while.

Another sign of the speed of life

Today, my parents are off on a month-long trip out West. They are both officially retired. My dad retired a year ago, but my mom just retired from MetroHealth on Wednesday. After years of angst about the security of their golden years, she has embraced the freedom. She called me Wednesday night, as giddy as a young girl at the prospects ahead. I couldn't be happier for them.

Safe journey, Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My new mantra

"We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love." -- Mother Theresa

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wise words from a Roman poet

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop." -- Ovid

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Delicious distractions

What a gorgeous day! I have so many chores to accomplish that I'm afraid it's pleasures are going to slip by. While my hubby tackles the yard, cleans the deck and gets the patio furniture out, I'm working on the inside of the house. Sometimes you find pleasures in the mundane tasks of a Saturday.

Several months after I starting working outside of the house, my middle son convinced me to give up the room that had been my home office for 12 years so he could have a room of his own. The work stuff has long been sorted and organized and is stored in the basement, but my wonderful books that served as a source of daily inspiration, have been piled in stacks in the corner of my bedroom ever since.

They are awaiting a new home, a new bookshelf or some other place of honor. So with the mellow sounds of James Taylor serenading me on my iPod, I decide to tackle spring cleaning my bedroom. Only I made the first mistake of cracking open a volume I haven't looked at in a while.

And for the past hour I've been deliciously distracted.

This first book I opened was given to me during a time of transition in my career by a dear friend who had inscribed it with such a moving sentiment that it caused a lump in my throat to re-read today. I haven't seen those words in years, but they were about my increasingly confident writing voice--nourishing words at a time when I needed them most. And still so satisfying to my writing soul.

And then there are my books on writing with post-it flags, marking favorite passages. I found this one in Stephen King's book, "On Writing."
"This isn't a popularity contest, it's not the moral Olympics, and it's not church. But it's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else.
Wash the car, maybe."
Though I've not reviewed books in some time, I'm still on publisher mailing lists and so some of the more interesting titles to arrive, I've added to the stack to check out at some point. Among the titles are "The Wisdom of Your Dreams," "Faith Interrupted" and "Thanks, But This Isn't For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected."

Good stuff, but now it's back to dusting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Writing that makes a difference

My first exposure to William Zinsser was in 1990 when I picked up "On Writing Well" in an effort to improve my journalism. What I discovered was a lifelong mentor to accompany me on my writing journey.

Fourteen years later in 2004, I had the great pleasure of meeting him in person and introducing him to an audience of journalists gathered at a conference in New York City. (Pictured above) I've had a passion for his writing and his wisdom on writing for 20 years.

Imagine my delight to learn somewhat belatedly (it was published in 2009) that he has written a book called "Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher." I love the sound of it, I love the idea of it and I can't wait to hear what he has to say about his own journey. I'll be at the bookstore tomorrow to make my purchase, adding this latest to my well-worn Zinsser collection.

His books are filled with my notations: underlined passages, notes in the margins, post-it notes marking entire pages. They are lovingly dog-eared and never far from reach as a source of information or inspiration.

With the patience of a grandfather and the enthusiasm of a lifelong learner, he has embraced hundreds, probably thousands of writers, answering the phone in his Manhattan office on Lexington Avenue and making a difference in the lives of writers. It's a role he embraces.
“Many younger writers have taken me as a mentor. They just look me up in the Manhattan telephone book. ‘I know how busy you are,’ they say, assuming that I spend every minute writing at my computer. I tell them I have many ways of being busy, and this is one of the ways I like best. I particularly like to be busy with people who want their writing to make a difference. And by now I have a small shelf of their books.”
The biggest surprise is to see that this delightfully old-fashioned man, with his trademark white fedora and sensible New Balance running shoes, has embraced modernity in the form of a website.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Playing with poetry

Poetry has always terrified me: Not the reading of, but the writing of poetry. It is writing stripped bear of anything except the most essential. The austerity of it intimidates a writer of prose such as myself.

And yet I am drawn to its simplicity, to its power and to its raw emotion. Maybe my capacity to be pithy, to get to the essence of an idea, is increasing as I age. I think more and speak less. After reading some poetry of late, I conducted a little brainstorming exercise for myself.

I played around with free association with words about things I love or things that move me in life and in fiction. There's no real rhyme or reason to these thoughts. I just wrote them as they came to mind. I've penned only one poem in my life, something so deeply personal that I will likely never share it.

But if I were to write regularly, I would write about rain...spring rain, and long, slow kisses in the rain. I'd write about the smell of old books imbued with the spice of worn leather, dusty paper and pipe tobacco. I'd write about words and their capacity to move me.

Water, plenty of images about water, alternately gentle and rushing, conjuring images of power and emotion and tranquility and touch. And tender, fleshy tomatoes and creamy mozzarella and looks across crowded rooms that focus desire like a laser, causing hearts to pound and bodies to tremble.

I'd write about sand and sounds of foreign lands and the luminous nature of love that envelopes the heart, mind, body and soul, and how light is reflected differently on surfaces, from blue glows to shimmering whiteness.

Though I'm not sure it will result in poetry, this exercise has certainly awakened my mind on this gloomy Saturday morning. Perhaps some of these images will find their way into poetry, perhaps in other writing.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Merton on the truth about suffering

"The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being
-- Thomas Merton

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sleep and writing

"My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I'd never have written a line." -- Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Live the questions now

"I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which would not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
-- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My beach reads

One of my favorite things about beach vacations (aside from the beach) is the reading time it affords. On my latest vacation to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, I had books loaned to me from two of my friends. One was “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know, I know, EVERYONE has read that book. But I’m never one to read books when they are all the Oprah-induced rage.

But as I perused the stack piling up near my bed, I decided it looked well suited for the beach—somewhat light yet lightly introspective.

I didn’t want to like the book because it seemed so, well, popular. It was one of those books that women around the pool or beach would ask, “So where is she now?” “Do you like it?”

But as I read my way through Italy, India and Indonesia, there were some themes that resonated with me—the need to spend time doing for oneself, the desire to travel authentically, the pursuit of beauty and pleasure, the need to forgive myself for my many shortcomings, the need to find some spiritual connection and the quest to keep life in some kind of balance.

There were some beautiful passages in the book as well as a number that I found whiney and obnoxious. But it made me think and it made me feel and in the end, that’s what I seek in a book.

Here's a passage near the end that I found moving:

“I saw that my heart was not even nearly full, not even after having taken in and tended to all those calamitous weeks of sorrow and anger and shame; my heart could easily have received and forgiven even more. Its love was infinite.

I knew then that this is how God loves us all and receives us all, and that there is no such thing in this universe as hell, except maybe in our own terrified minds. Because if even a broken and limited human being could experience even one such episode of absolute forgiveness and acceptance of her own self, then imagine—just imagine!—what God, in all His eternal compassion, can forgive and accept.”

The other book I read was “Little Bee,” by Chris Cleave. This was a superior book in terms of voice, plot, character development and sheer language. The author writes from the point of view of two women in a way that rings authentic. His language is just gorgeous right from the very first paragraph.

“Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I could visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead—but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other’s names.”

What are you reading? What moves you?

Monday, April 19, 2010

April is...

"April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain." -- T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cleveland is a time-saving city

I'm getting caught up reading my magazines. The April issue of Real Simple has an editorial focus on saving time. One of its features is a survey of the 21 Top Time-Saving Cities in America. Cities were rated on a scale of 1 to 5 on how easily one could get around, the health and safety, access to information and technology, green time-savers and lifestyle.

Cleveland is in a three-way tie with Dallas and Los Angeles as the 16th top time-saving city in America.

According to the survey results, we rate a 3.5 in both health and safety and green time-savers Our lowest rating of 1 was in lifestyle.

With the number two on-time airport in our survey and one of the shortest commutes (just 23.5 minutes), Cleveland scores additional points for its free downtown trolley and large number of farmers' markets.
What cities rank ahead of Cleveland?

1. Seattle
2. Portland, Oregon
3. San Francisco
4. Boston
5. Minneapolis
6. Denver
7. Washington, D.C.
8. Pittsburgh
9. Miami
10. Atlanta
11. Baltimore
12. Philadelphia
13. New York City
14. Chicago
15. Austin, Texas

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Natalie Merchant's enchanting music

I'm dating myself now, but there was a time when the 10,000 Maniacs was part of my life's soundtrack, a cassette regularly popped into my car stereo for driving music.

Natalie Merchant, lead singer of the Maniacs, has released a new album of children's music called Leave Your Sleep that I found absolutely enchanting to listen to at 6:15 this morning. Her eclectic collection of tunes is set to classic poetry from a variety of nations. The King of China's Daughter is a song that has stuck with me all day and reminds me so strongly of my niece Natalie. Here is the text of the poem.

The King Of China's Daughter

The king of China's daughter
So beautiful to see
With her face like yellow water, left
Her nutmeg tree.

Her little rope for skipping
She kissed and gave it me
Made of painted notes of singing-birds
Among the fields of tea.

I skipped across the nutmeg grove
I skipped across the sea;
But neither sun or moon, my dear,
Has yet caught me.

Music has always been a special language for my niece that I don't fully understand. As a child on the autism spectrum, she has profound insights that are expressed in unusual ways. She describes songs by color, just as she describes people as colors. I'm yellow she always tells me with a big smile. :)

I wonder if she would call this "a blue song." Think I'll buy it for her and see what says.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tread softly...

A beauty from one of my favorite poets.

"Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths [...] I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

-- William Butler Yeats, "The Wind Among the Reeds"

Sunday, April 11, 2010


As we quietly slip out of our vacation rental and into the blackness of the early morning, I’m a little melancholy at the thought of vacation coming to a close so quickly. The morning seems to reflect my mood. As we make our way across the bay bridge, there’s a sliver of a moon reflected on the water’s surface, only its edges and reflection are both blurred by morning fog.

My mind feels foggy, partly from the lack of caffeine but also due to its aimless wandering. Eventually my thoughts turn toward the realization that while I am sad to see my vacation come to an end, it also marks a beginning…a recalibration of sorts.

As we drive northward, the knot of tension magically reappears between my neck and left shoulder blade. My tendency to become consumed by my work has GOT to change. After having spent a week waking with the sun, sipping my coffee, reading, walking, playing with my family and yes even writing again, I realize how out of balance I had become.

My life has always been a quest for balance. The search for balance in living a creative life is why I started this blog six years ago. Why is it so difficult to find equilibrium? To find that blissful place between consumption and ambivalence?

As the sun rises above Alabama skies and we wander the back roads of U.S. 331, my thoughts turn to the past two years, how life has changed mostly for the good, but with some serious adjustments.

I returned to full-time work outside of the home (I qualify this because I’ve never really stopped working full-time) and while I managed a good balance at first, I’ve been consistently putting in 60-hour weeks for the past eight months. As the months ticked by, my view became myopic, only allowing me to get through the next task, the next meeting. I found myself thinking, “If only I can get through X, I’ll be able to breath easier.”

But what I’ve realized this week is that the work will always be there, as evidenced by my endlessly buzzing Blackberry, which I managed for the most part to ignore for the week. People will always have needs and requests of me because it's the nature of the position I now hold. I need to better manage my expectations of myself, to pace myself. I’ve got to set boundaries—AND stick to them.

So I’m going to start this week with small changes.

I’m already up early most mornings so I’m going to exercise three of those mornings. I'm too tired when I get home at 7 no matter how good my intentions are at the start of the day. I’m going to leave my office at 5 every day because I miss having dinner with my family. And I’m going to return to writing…some of it may appear here, but because I'm writing more for me, more will appear in my private journals. We'll see where it leads.

My oldest son turns 18 this year. We’re looking at colleges and getting him ready for his next big adventure. I want to enjoy every minute of that experience.

Finally, I’m going to find the time to better enjoy the people in my life—my family, friends and those people who have meant so much to me over the years. Maybe this time, I’ll be able to make the recalibration stick.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Introducing St. Vincent Charity Medical Center

With completion of the transaction between the Sisters of Charity Health System and University Hospitals on Dec. 31, 2009, the Sisters of Charity Health System has regained 100 percent ownership and governance of St. Vincent Charity Hospital. With this strong commitment of the founding Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine to this 145-year-old institution, St. Vincent Charity Hospital today is reintroduced to the community as St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.

“St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is not just one place. It is a hospital in the Campus District with off-site facilities across Greater Cleveland, including locations in Solon, Brecksville, Church Square, Brookpark, Independence and the former St. Luke’s,” said Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA, president and CEO of the Sisters of Charity Health System and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.

“This modest change to our name also reflects the teaching role of the hospital, which includes training physicians, dentists, podiatrists and many other health care professionals for our community. This is further supported by our developing collaboration with Catholic Community Connection and also with our neighbors, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College and the Campus District,” said Karam. “Yet it also remains true to our mission as an urban, faith-based hospital and our continuing quest for the highest quality and patient-centered health care across our diverse service lines as well as our evolving role in promoting health and wellness.”

Not only has the organization name changed, but it has also adopted the radiant cross of its parent organization, the Sisters of Charity Health System. This new identity emphasizes St. Vincent Charity Medical Center’s faith-based component as a beacon of hope and an extension of the healing ministry of Jesus. It also more closely ties the hospital to the Sisters of Charity Health System family brand, which is comprised of five hospitals, three grant-making foundations, two eldercare facilities and a number of community outreach ministries in Northeast Ohio and South Carolina.

The name and logo change was implemented internally on Jan. 11. However, the launch became official last week with presentation of the HealthGrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical ExcellenceTM and launch of a new advertising campaign celebrating this accomplishment and rebranding St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.

The rebranding campaign was an effort that began in June 2009 when the marketing department and creative partners, Twist Creative, convened a team of caregivers from across departments to help identify the strengths, weakness, challenges and opportunities present at St. Vincent. Over the course of several months and with the help of patient and employee satisfaction surveys and market research, the team developed brand positioning statements that reflect the personality, character and atmosphere at St. Vincent. The essence of the new brand is: Care you can believe in.

This new tagline reflects how St. Vincent Charity Medical Center delivers faith-based personalized health care. “As when the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine founded St. Vincent in 1865, our renowned physicians, nurses and staff understand that true healing comes not only from advanced medical technology, but also from a warm, holistic, healing touch,” said Karam.

“We started from the premise that when you’re sick or injured your desire to get well is equal to your desire to be treated well,” said Wendy Hoke, director of marketing and communications at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. “Our current advertising campaign reflects how our patients find comfort and confidence in an approach to health care worth believing in through the excellent care provided by our physicians and caregivers,” said Hoke.

Completing the new branding is the launch of a new, interactive and highly functional Web site that has reinforced the focus on delivering the best in clinical excellence. Additionally, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center has launched a social media strategy that includes Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


About St. Vincent Charity Medical Center
St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is Cleveland’s faith-based, high-quality healthcare provider. Our distinguished doctors and caregivers are devoted to treating every patient with clinical excellence and compassionate care. St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is home to the renowned Spine and Orthopedic Institute and the Center for Bariatric Surgery. Owned by the Sisters of Charity Health System, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center delivers health care you can believe in. The Sisters of Charity Health System is a family of hospitals, grant-making foundations, elder care and outreach organizations devoted to healing individual, families and communities. For more information, visit