Music, Beauty, and Childhood Dreams

Like me, do any of you have TOO many interests?  I have a hard time keeping them in check sometimes.  I want to read, write, play music, sing, act (this is a new one for me), paint, etc.  I am a lover of the arts, but it tends to get pushed back to an oven and burner on another continent.  I am not good at all of these things, but I enjoy them all the same.  There is something about creating that unites me, all of us really, to our Creator.  Art raises our minds to God.

Last night I was reminded of a childhood dream.  I have always enjoyed classical music, especially music performed by string instruments.  My dad raised us on Mozart and Bach.  In fact, music has brought me to tears on numerous occasions and I believe the most beautiful piece of music ever written is Mozart’s Requiem.  That aside, I wanted to pursue an instrument as a child.  I had asked to play the violin, but my parents said it would be too hard.  They did not realize that I was musically inclined, so I ended up playing the clarinet for 10 years.  I was even in the top band in the state!
The thing is, that I enjoyed the clarinet, but was not passionate about it.  Clarinet music has never “hailed my soul from my body” to quote Shakespeare.  Rather, it is always the violin.  The first piece of music that I remember being a transcendent experience was the first time I heard Pachabel’s Canon in D.  I was probably around 9.  We were driving in the car and my dad had it on in the cassette player.  Tears started to flow down my face while I sat in the backseat of the car.  It was an involuntary reaction in coming face-to-face with authentic beauty.
a very dear friend of mine is teaching himself the violin during his retirement years.  He played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for us after dinner last night.  He then let me hold the violin and showed me a few simple notes.  I did not know whether to laugh or cry.  I was so happy just to be holding it.  He encouraged me to learn it now.  I am not too old.  He is 65, he said.  He is right about that, but my vocation right now would make it difficult to add it in, but perhaps in a couple of years I could learn.  I felt like a joy filled child moving the bow across the strings.  I was reminded of the music that lifted my soul to grand heights.
Perhaps this explains why I have a hard time with modern music during Mass.  I have heard Masses chanted and sung that brought my soul to Heaven’s Gate.  Songs like He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand leave me firmly planted in my seat.  It is a lot harder for me to remember that we are in the presence of the Heavenly Liturgy at Mass.
This weekend my husband and I are going to go see The Notre Dame University Chorale perform at the local cathedral.  I am so excited.  It is the first time I will have attended a concert sine 2009.  We have a babysitter, so it is a nice date night of dinner and music.  Perhaps my soul will once again soar in the presence of transcendent music.
Are there arts that you enjoy or that you may have forgotten about?  Do you encourage your kids in the arts?  My daughter already is demonstrating a love of music and dance.  The arts help us to appreciate God’s beauty and love more fully.  I hope you are having a very blessed Second Week of Christmas.
Here are some of my favorite pieces of music:

Advent Wreath Link Up at


Do you love the season of Advent as much as I do?  Do you have a beautiful wreath to share?  Then join us over at next Monday, December 9th, 2013 for the Advent Wreath Link-Up.  Grab your camera and take a picture of your Advent wreath.  If you don’t have a blog send it to Sarah Reinard and she will get it posted with the rest of the pictures. Click on the picture above for full details. Have a very blessed Advent!

Tips to Help Your Writing

In the past few months I have really increased my writing.  I try to write every single day, even if it is just gibberish in a notebook.  Writing, like all art forms requires practice.  It also needs inspiration.  I am working on a novel right now and it has evolved in the last few weeks.  More and more characters are appearing in my mind, and the story, while still the same as what it started as, is developing more layers.  I think that part of those developments come from my taking a step back for a few days.

I really enjoy writing, but I have two other vocations that must come before it: my family and Dominican prayer.  There are days when I can sit and hammer out a few pages while my daughter naps, and days that I have things I must get done.  I am hand-writing the novel.  My writing flows more when it is pen to paper.  It is more time consuming because I can type at a high rate, but even my husband has pointed out that my work is higher quality when I do it by hand.
On the days when I cannot actively sit down and write, I still think about the novel.  I let it develop on its own in my imagination.  I sometimes write a few notes down, but for the first time, this is a story that never seems to leave.  I don’t forget it and it is vivid.  I know the entire story, I just have to fill in the details.
There are some things that I like to do that help keep the creative juices flowing while I am living out my vocation.  Here are some suggestions that might help other writers:
1. Go for a walk.  There is nothing like natural beauty to help you think about settings, descriptions, seasons, or even people.  Looking around your surroundings help give you ideas.  I live in a beautiful part of Virginia.  I am amazed on a daily basis by the beauty of the mountains and the changing of the seasons.  It gives me ideas.  It helps me to remember details that are triggered by the senses, like the crunching of leaves underfoot.
2.  Go for a drive.  Since I have rural areas nearby, I can pack up my daughter and drive through country roads.  The natural beauty around me helps inspire my imagination, and driving in this manner relaxes me.  A lot of my writing ideas come to me while driving.  It is an automatic function for most of us who have been driving for years.  That means other areas of the brain are free to process.
3.  Play with your kids.  If you are a parent, playing with your kids can stimulate creativity.  It could be something they say, a facial expression, or an action.  Just relaxing and being thankful in that moment with your child can help free up creativity.
4. Go to an art museum.  Viewing art helps increase our desire to produce our own work.  Beauty stimulates beauty.  We were made by a good and loving Creator, who desires that we create as well.  God gave us talents and the desire to share beauty.  If you don’t have an art museum nearby, find a co-op or local gallery.
5.  Occasionally go to the symphony, a ballet, a play, opera etc.  When I lived in Washington DC, I made it a point to get to the ballet, a play, or a concert at least twice a year.  There are so many opportunities when you live in a city. I no longer live in DC.   I do live in an area that actually has a symphony, ballet, and even an opera, but it is not as easy to get to with a toddler and the cost.  As your pocketbook and schedule allow, try to make it to a concert or other artistic opportunity in your community.  I do look forward to when my daughter is old enough for me to take her to The Nutcracker every year.
6.  Take a class.  Sign up for a creative writing class, or even painting, pottery, wood-turning (I am married to a very talented wood-turner), sculpting, photography, or other creative class.   
7. Write every single day.  Even if you only write a couple pages of non-sense, write every day.  It keeps your skills fine-tuned and you never know when that gibberish could turn into a story, poem, essay, blog, etc.
8. Share your writing with someone you trust.  I have made the mistake of sharing some of my writing with the wrong people.  If a person does not understand your worldview, they may be critical of your work.  I write from a Catholic perspective, and that means Catholics and other Christians are more likely to understand my writing, especially my poetry, and when I get it done, my novel.  Sharing is extremely important.  Writers struggle with an inner critic.  If we let that critic get the best of us our art form suffers, and we may even give up on a good project.  I found that by sharing my novel idea with my husband and allowing him to read what I have written, I was able to silence my critic more easily and getting his feedback helped me to expand my ideas.  Find someone you trust and share!
9. Pray.  My writing is about sharing my vocation, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Catholic Church.  I want Our Lord’s message to be heard through me.  I am not interested in writing that stems from my ego.  I have days when I write from there and it is not very good because it is all about me.  Even if I am writing a poem or story that is not directly linked to my Faith, I want the words to be true and genuine, to stem from something deep within the human condition.  When I work on my novel, or even my blog, I ask God what He wants me to say. It helps me center and get myself out of the way.
10. Take a break from social media.  When you are working on a project it is important to eliminate distractors.  Social media is one of those things that sucks us in and becomes a huge time waster.  We can become too distracted with everyone else’s lives and we neglect our own work.  Being a writer should be enjoyable and an outlet.  Staring aimlessly at status updates does nothing for creativity.  You don’t need to be as radical as me and get rid of your personal FB page, but take a few days off here and there.  The world won’t end.  I find that it is a great lesson in humility too.
 What are some things that help you to write?  I am always looking for suggestions.
Happy Writing and Creating!