Tag: inspiration (page 1 of 3)

Passing On the Legacy – A Post Mother’s Day Tribute

This post was originally shared on my previous blog ‘Expression Express’. Since Mother’s Day has just come and gone, I share it here again. Enjoy!

My mother was a very vibrant and eccentric individual. She was known for her whimsical ways and inspired a family phrase that perfectly described the way she lived her life. The Doreen Method is our way of saying ‘make it up as you go along’. This applied to recipes, sewing, carpentry… just about anything. Mom wasn’t afraid to tackle tasks if she had no previous experience or skill, but the outcome might not be the norm. As an artist she loved to paint on any surface from canvas to rocks to whole buildings. When my sister and her husband moved into Mom’s old house they were faced with a dilemma.  There were lots of funny little murals she had painted in obscure nooks and crannies. How could one paint over them?

Mom was also a storyteller, and some of my favourite childhood memories include listening to bedtime stories and songs. We were well acquainted with Thornton W. Burgess’ Adventures of Reddy Fox, for instance. In fact, foxes and mice were the favourite characters in her repertoire of stories and songs. She shared them with her children and nieces and nephews, and the tradition was carried forward to her grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren.

Mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 80. Unfortunately, we lost her seven years earlier to dementia. It was so difficult to see such a formerly vibrant individual reduced to the shell that she became. I had the privilege of sitting with her during the hours before she passed away. Somewhere around four o’clock in the morning on January 17, 2007, she slipped away to be with Jesus, free from the mental constraints that had kept her trapped for those seven years.

While I sat with her, holding her hand, I sang some of those old songs. One particularly special song was an old Haven Gillespie tune written in the 1930s called ‘The Sleepytown Express’. (listen here!) This is the song that ushered her into the presence of the Lord.  Strangely, my sisters and my two female cousins all woke at around four o’clock, dreaming about the Sleepytown Express…

I decided soon afterward that I would like to publish a book illustrating the song as a tribute to my mother. It took several years to do the paintings and quite a bit of  research to obtain permission to use the lyrics, but finally, in February of 2014, seven years after Mom passed, The Sleepytown Express was published.

For me this project was so much more than another book under my belt. It was about sharing Mom’s legacy with the extended family and passing it on to the next generation. This is not a book to be kept in pristine or precious condition; it is a book to be sung and celebrated as we pass the memorial torch on to the next generation.

 

How I Spent My Spring Break – WorDshops!

Steinbach

It was a whirlwind WorDshop tour this past few weeks, with three stops on my schedule. First up, the Steinbach, MB event where I was hosted by the wonderful Barbara Ann Derksen – an amazing mystery writer in her own right. I was the keynote presenter with two sessions on the ‘Call to Authenticity’. I also did a workshop on a marketing model I’ve put together which I call ‘Get Your Platform Moving’ and author Celesta Theissen did a session called “How to Overcome ‘I Can’t'”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regina

The next weekend I attended the Regina, SK WorDshop and did some ‘light duties’ as Inscribe’s VP. I also sat on a panel about ‘Time Management’. There were several awesome sessions by Janice Dick, Sharon Plumb, Alison Lohans, and Sally Meadows.

 

Fast forward another week and it was off to Blackfalds, AB to another WorDshop event with organizer Marcia Laycock who gave some profound keynote addresses along  with poet Susan Plett, who led us in some free writing. It was a deep day with lots to reflect on later… (And I had the privilege of teaching a session on blogging.)

it was a fantastic two weeks of learning,  sharing and re-connecting with other writers. But alas… it is back to reality today and my ‘day job’ teaching – which isn’t so bad since I like what I do!

Plus, I’m looking forward to one more WorDshop in May in Fort St. John, BC.

Art to Take Your Breath Away

Have you ever had your breath literally taken away by something beautiful or profound?
I have had that experience. The first time this actually happened to me. I had begun my University training in Fine Art, and although I had a love for Art and artists, being from a small town I had never really been to a gallery of substance before. I was in the middle of an Art History class and went for a visit to the Mendel Art Gallery. I remember walking up to an Arthur Lismer painting and gasping. There is was – the actual painting I had just been reading about in my Art History text.
Probably the most profound experience I ever had was many years later when I visited the National Gallery in Ottawa. I had been exposed to a fair bit of Art by that time, but for whatever reason, during my first visit there I turned . . . and then I saw IT from across the room. ‘It’ was a cubist painting by Braque and it literally took my breath away. My heart started to race and I felt flushed; my chest constricted like I might not be able to suck in the next breath. I walked trance like to the painting and just stood there.
I’m sure that many of you find this extremely ‘nerdy’. I know, I think so myself, but I can’t help it! These are not isolated instances. either. Shall I tell you about the time I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York? It was ‘The Bathers’ by Georges Seurat that did it to me that time.  Or what about going to an art gallery in San Diego? Here is a direct quote from my journal:
“I am struck by the almost uncontainable thrill I feel when visiting such a place. Stomach butterflies; warmth and tightness in the chest; forcing myself to breathe in shallow gusts; a feeling like I want to burst into tears. This is a silent exuberance; an oxymoron of emotion brought on by passion. Unlike the excitement of a football game or the joy at seeing a loved one after a long separation, this is different. This is AWE.”
I’ve often said that I am passionate about the creative process in general. I derive a huge amount of satisfaction from all my creative endeavours, especially my writing. But my love for Art is still a place of near reverence. It is the thing that I love simply because I love it. I do not need to strive, or change, or work harder. I simply come and allow myself to be inspired. Next to my relationship with God, and my love for my family, my love for Art is probably the deepest love of all.
 *I found this in the archives of my old blog “Expression Express” (which is sadly, no more…) Even though I am primarily a writer, my love for the visual arts came first, which is why I probably find such pleasure in viewing art of all types. 

Plays the Ultimate in Recycling

Plays rely on recycling all the time. Parodies and adaptations of classic works, fairy tales, and even the Bible are a common way for playwrights to break onto the stage.

Most of my published plays are stage adaptations of familiar stories – fairy tales and other classics that have stood the test of time. I’m okay with being less than original when it comes to writing plays. There are so many fantastic stories out there that are begging to be rewritten for a live audience. I figure if Shakespeare can do it, so can I. For example, his play The Two Noble Kinsmen is a remake of Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. (If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to read them side-by-side.)

If you are new to writing plays, adapting a familiar story is a great way to get your feet wet. Of course, it is crucial that before you do anything, you check to make sure there are no copyright restrictions. In essence, anything published before 1923 is considered public domain. That’s why fairy tales, Shakespeare, Dickens, and even Bible stories are fair game. Many works are public domain even beyond 1923 due to various copyright registration rules.  You will want to do your research if in any doubt.

I find adapting classic stories for the stage very rewarding, even if the basic idea is not originally mine. Using the given framework of plot and characters still allows for a lot of creativity. It is up to me to make the story come to life – literally. In the previous issue of Fellowscript, I emphasized that a play is not the same as a movie. This is important to keep in mind, even when writing adaptations. The playwright must decide how the story will be staged without the use of complicated sets and scene changes, and how the motivation of each character will come across in their dialogue and actions without sounding contrived. It’s always fun to add some unexpected twists, as well. In my stage version of the Peter Pan classic called Hook’sNemesis, Captain Hook is a neurotic female who has her psychologist as well as her mother on board the pirate ship. My premise started with the thought, “What if Hook had Mommy issues?” and it went from there.  (Her mother always wanted a boy…)

Many Christian playwrights choose to adapt Bible stories for the stage, which is another way to hone your skills as a playwright. Another thing I mentioned in last issue’s column was the fact that plays are meant to be produced. Why not offer to write your church’s next pageant? Easter and Christmas are the two most popular, but there are hundreds of other dramatic stories that are easily adaptable to the stage. (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat comes to mind.) However, understanding the basics of dialogue, stage movement, and other theatrical dynamics can be FS spring issuethe difference between a ‘nice’ Easter pageant and a truly moving experience.

Writing plays is a skill set that takes some practice. Scripts also tend to require a fair bit of revision once they are test driven with real actors on a stage. That’s why recycling play ideas from other works is such a great way to start. There is enough to think about in terms of dialogue, action, scene changes, and just the sheer logistics of making it work without having to wonder if the plot has merit. As a bonus, audiences love watching their favourite stories come to life. It’s a win-win!

*Much of this article was originally printed in the May 2016 issue of Fellowscript Magazine.

The Doreen Method – A Recipe For Life

Today marks an important milestone for me. It is the tenth anniversary of my dear mother’s passing. In honour of her memory I am reposting an article I wrote several years ago on my previous blog, and which has been shared multiple others times, probably because of its impact. It is the story of a vibrant and amazing woman. So here, for the first time on this blog, I present to you… THE DOREEN METHOD. Enjoy

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The Doreen Method.  That’s what we call it at our house when I cook something strange or new off the top of my head, or sew something without a pattern, or clean in a haphazard whirlwind …. or do just about anything in a somewhat off the wall and non-traditional way. It’s a tribute to my mother, Doreen, and in a few minutes you’ll understand the full connotation of the phrase.

My mother was the most awesome, unique, creative, wild, crazy, loving, off the wall, caring, artsy, forgiving, nut case, wonderful women I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Really. I know what you’re thinking. We all think our own mother’s are the best – or at least we say those kinds of things … especially when our mother’s are dead and gone, as mine is. It’s easy to remember the good traits and amplify them to some degree. So forgive me if my memory is somewhat biased.

But, cutting past all the platitudes and nice fuzzy feelings, my mother truly was an inspiration to not only me, but many other people, including family, friends and former students.  You see, she wasn’t perfect, but it was the way she embraced life and saw the beauty and creativity in things that I think inspired so many.  She was a teacher, an artist, a musician, a mother and grandmother, a prayer warrior, and a true and loyal friend. Somehow, she had a knack for making everything into a creative adventure. Some might even have called her eccentric. (Okay, maybe even a ‘loon’ as my brother in law so affectionately likes to say!)

Let me give you some examples. As a dutiful wife in the fifties and sixties, she managed to keep up with the expected house hold chores, but she was never one much for canning, sewing, baking … all those things a ‘good’ wife did.  She was much more apt to play with her kids – create magical forts out of blankets, or have impromptu picnics on the kitchen floor.  She never shied away from building, sewing, or painting if it meant some kind of fun and creative project that we kids could share.  I remember how she made ‘treasure’ out of tin foil (I think) and put it in the root cellar that we had for potatoes and such when I was very small.  We went down there together and with wide eyed amazement, she showed me the buried treasure that she had found! No matter what magical adventure she created, I always knew it was just a game – but I enjoyed every moment of those fun filled childhood trips invented by my mother. I wonder how many mother’s actually take the time to play with their kids any more?  Usually the best times were those that were fairly impromptu and had little in the way of preparation.  Her vivid imagination was enough to spark the ongoing ‘play’ when she had other chores. I never remember being bored as a child.

As an artist, my mother would paint just about anything she could get her hands on.  Rocks, doors, walls, stair wells – even entire buildings! She painted many murals over the course of her life, some on the sides of old buildings (long before this was a common sight) and painted every backdrop for every figure skating carnival/church concert/school play for decades. Of course, being the creative free spirit that she was, making a mess was just a hazard of the job. She was not known for being pristine!  So what was her solution?  Well, if there wasn’t anything else suitable, she could be found wearing a pair of under-panties on her head to keep her hair clean!  (True story on more than one occasion!)

She was also ‘famous’ for her fabulous bedtime songs.  Bedtime rarely took place without a story or a song or both.  One that she was especially renowned for within the family was an old thirties song called “The Sleepy Town Express”.  It was this very song that I sang to her as I sat by her bed during her last hours on earth.  She fell asleep to it’s tune at around four am.  The next day both of my sisters and my two female cousins reported being awakened at that hour ‘dreaming’ the song.  I painted a series of pictures based on this song that was later published as a children’s book.

I could keep rambling on and on.  As a teacher, History, English, and Science all came alive with her imaginative projects. She loved putting on class plays and musicals at both school and church.  She continued to invent stories and imaginary worlds with her grandchildren and great grandchildren and always came to visit armed with a new craft or some other fun and messy project.

Somehow I feel as if I am not truly expressing how truly individualistic and inspiring she was. She was a maverick for her day – into health foods and yoga (standing on her head each morning) back in the sixties and seventies long before either of those thing had become mainstream. Her artistic nature and creative talents inspired me to pursue my own life of creativity, although I will admit that as a teenager I was sometimes embarrassed by her free spirited and artsy ways.

I’ve long since gotten over that, obviously. As I get older I recognize that the old saying ‘You get more like your own mother’ is true. In my case, I say ‘bring it on’. I would be honoured to be like her in any small way and to carry on the legacy of creativity that she embodied. Even more than that, however, I want to be that kind of woman of faith.  When she came to Jesus, after searching and experimenting with all kinds of other religious philosophies, she embraced her faith wholeheartedly and set such a high standard that I am sure I can not ever measure up.  I’ve talked about all the fun and freedom that she projected, but hers was also a life of great sorrow and personal pain. (Another story for another time perhaps.) Despite her own tragedy and mistreatment, she was steadfast, loving and forgiving. She was an uber-prayer-warrior if ever there was one, and I know for a fact that it was her tenacity in prayer that brought me to faith in Christ, as well as my then boyfriend. (Who later became my husband.) He always cites her as his spiritual mother and one of the most influential people in his walk with Christ, and I know it’s true.  She was a shining example – all cliche and fluffiness aside!

So, to end this post, let me just say, “Long live the Doreen method!” This is our family’s affectionate way of saying, “If you don’t have a recipe, make it up; if you don’t have the directions, experiment; if you like something, do it; if you feel like singing/painting/ whatever – go for it.” This is a tribute to her – Doreen – that fearless woman of faith that paved the way with a life of creativity and inner joy that still stands above the crowd as an example that I am proud to emulate.

a page from ‘Sleepytown’

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