Mindful Writing

By Kim in Baltimore, reading fascinating short stories.

A few years ago I joined a group called the Mindful Writers. Each year I attend two retreats, one in the fall and the other in spring, where I am able to write for hours in peace and take hikes and meditate. These have been some of the most glorious times of my life.

Last year the group decided to compile some of our writings into a book and the result is Into The Woods. All of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to The Children’s Heart Foundation. I have invited Lori M. Jones, Ramona Long and Kathleen Shoop to the blog to share with our readers more about this wonderful anthology and why this foundation matters to our group.

Lori’s Story               .FullSizeRender (6)

In 2005, I was pregnant with what appeared to be a healthy baby girl. Then at a routine 24 week check-up, the doctor said, “I can’t find your baby’s heartbeat.” When the doctor finally did it was only at half the rate the heartbeat should have been. There are 40 known heart defects, and she was diagnosed with one of them – Complete Heart Block – which is a defect in the heart’s electrical system. She would need a pacemaker as an infant in order to survive. She is now 12, on her second pacemaker, and doing very well. But when she was a baby, I had no idea what her future would entail, or more specifically, how she’d handle being different. I dissected my emotions through writing which led to me being offered a contract for my first children’s book – Riley’s Heart Machine – about a girl dealing with being different from her peers because she has heart machinery.

I searched for a heart charity to donate some of the proceeds to which led me to discovering the amazing work of The Children’s Heart Foundation. I eventually became more involved with the charity, from chairing the Pittsburgh Congenital Heart Walk and sitting on the PA Chapter board and the national board to eventually leading the PA Chapter as its president.

Since writing Riley’s Heart Machine, I’ve traveled to schools delivering assemblies on Writing from the Heart and have published another book, Confetti the Croc, which celebrates our unique qualities. I also have written two novels, Renaissance of the Heart and Late for Fate.

One of the best gems I discovered in my writing journey was The Mindful Writing Group. Through the discipline of writing together, I was able to complete my manuscripts. More importantly, I have found my tribe!

The anthology means so much to me because it’s a full circle moment for me. This book was a chance to join forces with all of my tribe members and create one beautiful project. And then they told me the proceeds were going to The Children’s Heart Foundation, to help the very charity that was fighting to make sure my daughter and other children have a bright future.

Kathleen Shoop on why the anthology is titled Into the WoodsIMG_6751.PNG

Into the Woods was a natural outgrowth for us, The Mindful Writers Retreat Authors. We write together a lot – in person and online. After years of retreating together we decided it was time to create something, a sound bite of the variety of voices that make up the group.

An anthology is a fabulous way for authors to pool their energy into a project while maintaining independence in what each person produces for the book. The collection creates a unique and vibrant body of work that can be read in short spurts or in its entirety. The theme – Into the Woods – seemed like the perfect idea for The Mindful Retreat Authors’ first collaboration since so much inspiration, ideas and wonder has grown out of our times in the lovely woods.

Ramona Long on why she wanted to be the editor of this anthology

I volunteered to edit Into the Woods because I wanted to support The Children’s  Heart Foundation and this was a way I could do that. Like any anthology, working with a group of authors is always a learning experience, but I was particularly happy to work with this group because we are so closely bonded as Mindful Writers. We are all a part of one another’s stories, in a way.

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Dear Readers, thank you for joining us today. Please share your stories about a group or organization that is close to your own heart.

The Detective’s Daughter – The Importance of the Dinner Table.

On Sunday I met my mom for Mother’s Day brunch at one of my favorite coffee shops, The Filling Station. As we sat around the table chatting with my children I was reminded of all the happy dinners I had growing up. Our kitchen was always filled with people and everyone was welcome.               .FullSizeRender (1)

There is something magical about a table. You gather around to share stories and secrets and many times the meal becomes secondary to the conversation. It’s the gathering together of friends and family that remain in our memories long after the menu has been forgotten.                FullSizeRender

As we grow older and families move away or pass on, we gather with friends. My book club meets each month around one of our tables, regardless of how cozy and comfortable a living room might appear, it’s the table we gravitate to.  I look forward to the evenings I spend with friends and family, whether it is the girls I grew up with or my wickedly wonderful cozy sisters here on the blog. Though our times together are infrequent, they are meaningful and cherished by me. FullSizeRender (2)

So, dear reader, make the time to share a meal with someone you love or like or maybe even just want to know a little better. It is the community we find around the table that really nourishes us.

 

What was your most memorable dinner conversation? Who is the person, living or dead, you would want to invite to your dinner table?

 

The Detective’s Daughter :The New York Trip Part 1

We are having a technical problem this morning. Earlier comments have been lost and you may get a second message announcing this post. We apologize for any inconvenience!

Kim, back in Baltimore, planning the next getaway.

Last month I visited one of my favorite cities, New York. I try to get there at least twice a year. Though I’m not fond of crowds or the Times Square hubbub, the West Village has wrapped itself around my heart. It was the Jane Hotel that first introduced me to this lovely neighborhood several years ago.

The Jane Hotel, designed by William A. Boring and opened in 1908 as a hotel for sailors, is not only a beautiful and inexpensive place to stay but is rich with history. More than 100 survivors of the Titanic stayed at the hotel during the American Inquiry into the sinking of the ocean liner in 1912. The sailors felt right at home in the cabin-like rooms.

I stay in a “Captain’s” room usually on the third floor with a view of the Hudson River. The rooms are a fair size though not overly large, but you could swim in the bathtubs! The Jane also has a restaurant and a nightclub. Even if you’re not a “clubbier” it is worth going to see the Victorian architecture.

In the late 1980’s RuPaul lived in the “penthouse” apartment which is now the rooftop bar. Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Million Dollar Club were among the bands who performed there in the 1990’s.

As much as I love New York, I believe I really go just to stay at the Jane. Everything else is a bonus.

Readers, Join me next month to learn about all the fabulous places I visited when I was able to drag myself from the hotel. In the meantime, please share your favorite hotel experience.

The Detective’s Daughter — The Ornaments of Christmas

Kim in Baltimore decking the halls…and every other room!

It has taken me nearly three weeks to decorate our tree. This project began the day after Thanksgiving and our tree is not that big. The problem is me. I need to reminisce over each ornament then find exactly the right place for it to hang. Maybe by Christmas Eve it will be finished.

Growing up in the house in South Baltimore, we had two Christmas trees. One was downstairs in my grandparents’ apartment and the other was upstairs in our apartment. Both were artificial and I was an adult before I realized people could have live trees other than in movies.

Nana had a beautiful silver tree that sat on a table she sometimes gift wrapped. The ornaments were all silver like the tree, but changed colors as the color wheel turned.

Mom’s tree was a traditional green wrapped in colored bubble lights and adorned with ornaments that she and I (and sometimes Daddy) had made. We would sit at the kitchen table and paint wooden gingerbread men, angels and houses. There was also a trio of angels made from feathers. They were my favorites.

As I decorate my own tree I remember all these stories and how each lovely ornament came into my possession. There are the ornaments I was given by my students when I taught Kindergarten, the little things my own children have made, and the ones we’ve collected on our travels. Still, after all these years, it’s the ornaments I have kept from my childhood that truly mean Christmas to me.

I have recently found a beaded lady Nana made and have added that to my tree this year along with a snow-covered house my son bought for me last year. New items to hang beside old favorites. I still have one more box left of ornaments and though my family will say we have enough and the tree looks good, it isn’t finished until all the boxes are empty and the garland is draped over the branches.

I wish each of you a happy holiday season!

Dear readers: Do you have a favorite holiday ornament or tradition? Please share it with us.

The Detective’s Daughter Goes on Retreat

Edith here. Our Accomplice, Kim Gray,who usually writes the Detective’s Daughter posts, can’t be here today, so I’m jumping in to share her virtual report of going on a writers’ retreat.

Kim, Annette Dashofy, Martha Reed, and I were invited by Ramona DeFelice Long to go on a week-long retreat at Clare House, a convent retreat house in Pennsylavania. None of us had any problem with jumping at the opportunity. I’d gone with Ramona and Kim last year and loved it. After we returned last week, Kim put up a few pictures and commentary on her Facebook page, so I’m drawing it together in a blog post for her!

The gathering spot for the animals’ breakfast.

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Time for reflection.

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Our doorbell.

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The front entrance of my home away from home.

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A good spot to sit and think.

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My companion on my walks these past seven days.

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A great place to relax and write.

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(Edith: The “Hermitages” referenced in the sign are five tiny cottages also on the grounds that one can rent. I haven’t been inside, but the web site says they are 17′ x 17′ and have all the essentials, including a mini-kitchen. Wow.)

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Our last dinner table set.

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Edith: And a couple of mine, this one just before Ramona, Kim, and Martha set out to explore the Amish farmers’ market. It wasn’t all work!

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And my “office” in the room designated as the chapel.

Edith's desk

We all had a highly productive week interspersed by laughter, wine, meals, and of course, storytelling. And we Wickeds look forward to having Kim back next month with another tale of the Detective’s Daughter.

Readers: Where do you go to recharge, to think, to reflect, to get away from your usual setting?

 

 

 

 

The Detective’s Daughter — Oh Christmas Tree

kimspolicehatKim in Baltimore still decorating and shopping for Christmas.

kimI was twenty-seven years old before I found out Christmas trees came from a tree farm and didn’t magically appear in a roped-off lot in front of the hardware store on the corner. I’m a city girl, what do I know? Our tree, the one that sat on a table in my Nana’s living room, was silver and had come out of a box she kept in the back of the basement on what we called “the bank.” Each year Pop-pop would haul it upstairs and curse as he tried to match the branches with the tiny slot they fit into. Nana would bring out a boxes of glass ornaments. There were a box of red, a box of green and one of blue. Each year only one color was chosen for the tree. On the floor sat a rotating light that made a whizzing noise as it spun round changing the color of the silver tree from blue to gold, then red to green and back again.

Upstairs in our apartment my mom had bought our tree from Montgomery Wards. It also had branches that needed to be pushed into the base of the tree. We had a beautiful star that glowed on top and dozens of feathered angels hanging from the branches. Not one person in my family had a Christmas tree that needed to be watered.

When I met my husband, he told me the most amazing thing. He said he worked on a Christmas tree farm. Now, I knew every year that there was a huge tree in New York City and that it came from some far off land like Maine or Vermont, but I had no idea you could get such a thing here in Maryland!

kimtreeoutsideThe first year we were married we set off one freezing cold morning in search of the perfect tree. I was in charge of carrying the saw. We drove for nearly an hour and then walked for another, at least it felt that way. Soon my nose was frozen and I would have agreed to a branch in a vase of water for a Christmas tree. My husband cut down the tree and we dragged it to the road to wait to be picked up. “This is fun, right?” my husband asked. Sure, I nodded, and tried to stomp feeling back into my feet. Yet, for the next twenty-three years with dogs and kids alongside us, we trekked across fields in search of our tree.

Then a few years ago I had a lung infection and was told by my doctor that I could no longer have a live tree in my house. I mourned the end of our family tradition. I missed the stinging cold on my face as we walked and the way my children’s voices echoed in the fields, the soothing warmth of the little shed that sold hot kimtreechocolate and cider. It would all be just photos and memories now.

This year we pull the branches out of the box and debate as to which goes where on the base. I make the hot chocolate and we unwind the lights and another Christmas tree is adorned.

Readers: What kind of tree do you have at your house? Or if you don’t have a Christmas tree what other decorations do you pull out every year?

The Detective’s Daughter – Hollywood Glamour

Good morning – we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with a special announcement!

The winners of the Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker contests are:

Gail Arnold (Shannon’s winner)
Ann Mason (Jess’s winner)

Gail and Ann, message us your emails on the WCA Facebook page and we’ll put you in touch.

Now, over to Kim!

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Kim in Baltimore melting from the intense heat.

A few months ago I read a book called Design for Dying by Renee Patrick which I highly recommend. I love reading about old Hollywood and show business, in fact I’m a bit obsessed with it. I blame my grandmother. She had subscriptions to Photoplay magazine and Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. We spent hours – and I do mean hours – flipping through the glossy pages covered with updates on everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Paul Newman. While other girls on my block were dreaming of Robby Benson and Parker Stevenson, I was setting my alarm to get up at 3am to see a Robert Mitchum movie. The best nights were the ones where a Barbara Stanwyck film followed.
As much as I enjoyed the movies and magazines, what I really loved were imageNana’s stories of her older brother Al. Al was a bandleader who had his own club in the D. C. area in the 1940’s. I was fascinated with the photos of his orchestra and the many acts that had performed in his club. I could picture William Powell and Myrna Loy sipping martinis and watching as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glided around the dance floor.image
Just like all good Hollywood pictures, Al Norton’s life had a dramatic end. Nana told me many times how her brother, dejected by the woman he loved, died of a broken heart in his kitchen. Many years later I found a newspaper clipping about his death that revealed the truth; it wasn’t so much his broken heart that killed him as it was the gas on his stove he had purposefully turned on. Nana would never admit to that, but would tell me two notes were left. She burned hers after reading it.image
Though I never met this man, he has been a great influence on my life; from the books I read to the cocktails I drink. When I find a delightful book like Design for Dying or watch I Love Lucy reruns, I can’t help wishing to be sent back to that glamorous era.

Readers,
If you could be transported back in time, where would you want to go? Would you want to meet one of your ancestors or a famous historical figure?