27 January 2014

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: A Lesson in Forgiveness

I do not forget any good deed done to me and I do not carry a grudge for a bad one.
~ Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Beginning in January, I am participating in the One Page a Day Challenge.  Hopefully by the end of the year, I'll have 365 pages worth editing.  I’m also trying to follow My Plan for 2014.  I may need therapy by December.  Oh wait…

y father is alive today in part because a German soldier shared his lunch with him on a regular basis.

Even though he spent six agonizing years in a German labor camp during WWII, I am sure that soldier’s kindness is one of the reasons my father doesn’t hold a grudge against his German captors.

To have lost everything: your home, your family, your dreams, your nation and yet avoid bitterness seems an almost superhuman feat.  I struggle with regular interpersonal conflict and my father is at peace about his life-changing ordeal.

It helps give some perspective.

Not that his experience didn't affect him; of course it did.  But he did not let it embitter him; he did not let it strip him.  His old dreams may have died, but new ones took their place.  

He went on to learn seven more languages, to own and operate three businesses, one in South America and two here in the States, and to marry and raise three (somewhat normal) children.

So today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I’d like to remember that soldier, whose name my father probably never even knew, for keeping my father alive.   

Thank you ~ your kindness helped shape him, and in turn, shaped my life as well.

Working in a Tunnel at Melk
Image credit: David Olère

by Barbara Sonek
We played, we laughed
we were loved.
We were ripped from the arms of our
parents and thrown into the fire.
We were nothing more than children.
We had a future. We were going to be lawyers, rabbis, wives, teachers, mothers.
We had dreams, then we had no hope.
We were taken away in the dead of night
like cattle in cars, no air to breathe
smothering, crying, starving, dying.
Separated from the world to be no more.
From the ashes, hear our plea. This
atrocity to mankind can not happen again.
Remember us, for we were the children
whose dreams and lives were stolen away.
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Did the Holocaust personally touch your family?  How do you remember it?

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24 January 2014

Top Five Friday: National Reading Day

There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house. 
~ Joe Ryan

Beginning in January, I am participating in the One Page a Day Challenge.  Hopefully by the end of the year, I'll have 365 pages worth editing.  I’m also trying to follow My Plan for 2014.  I may need therapy by December.  Oh wait…

nd there’s nothing to match curling up with a good book when there’s snow on the ground.

And I’m betting most of my readers have at least an inch, if not more, of beautiful, picture perfect, traffic snarling, black ice-causing, snow outside.

Definitely time to put on the tea kettle, bake up some caramel brownies, and grab a book to cuddle with.

And since today is National Reading Day, it’s the perfect day to give you my snowbound reading list (in no particular order)!

Image credit: Google
I love fairy tales.  Even more, I love fairy tales and myths re-imagined and re-written.  To me, it shows how brilliant the original storyteller was ~ that his or her stories have lasted thousands of years and can be just as poignant and appropriate for a modern audience. 

It’s one of the reasons BBC’s Sherlock is such a hit and a personal favorite.

One of my favorite fairy tales is Beauty and the Beast ~ and today’s society is in desperate need of reminding that you should never judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance.

Bloodstone has been compelling so far ~ no grammar snafus and no insta-love insanity  ~ so far so good! 

Also, at Elizabeth Hunter’s recommendation, I’ve added another Beauty and the Beast retelling, Entreat Me, to my TBR list as well.

A pen pal recommended this book (1 in a series of 4 – surprise!) a couple of years ago, and no matter how many times I’ve read it, I always discover something new every winter. 

It has chapters to suit every mood winter can inspire: warmth, coziness, the blues, despair, isolation.

Only a chapter in and I’m loving this glimpse into an English country life.  Someday I would like to go, but for now, the next best thing is to read about it. 

And the gardener in me absolutely loves the garden descriptions.

After spending a week in Alaska this past summer, I dreamed of going back for the Iditarod.  Sadly, I won’t be able to make it this year, but I’ve been following them on Facebook, and I bought Winterdance before I left.  My friend Marly and I are going to start reading it in February ~ just before the race on March 1.

I may love Alaska, but I’m glad I’ll be warm and cozy and not freezing my dupa off on a sled!

For the ultimate cozy night by the fire while the storm is rattling the windows read, nothing beats the Little House books, especially Little House in the Big Woods, and The Long Winter.  When I was a little girl, I dreamed of snowfalls of up to five or more feet.  I wanted daddy to have to dig us out like Pa did.

Easy to love it when you’re not the one doing the shoveling!

So grab a book, kick back with a mug of hot chocolate or honeyed tea, and escape on a fantastic adventure ~ all from the cozy comfort of your favorite spot.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What is on your To Be Read in a snowstorm list? Share your favorites with us!

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22 January 2014

Letters Challenge: To Myself When I Was Young and Vulnerable

Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them. 
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Beginning in January, I am participating in the One Page a Day Challenge.  Hopefully by the end of the year, I'll have 365 pages worth editing.

now. I remember wishing, hoping, thinking, praying, and dreaming of snow.  Not just any old snow.  Snow the amount and depth that gave Laura Ingalls Wilder cabin fever!  Sure it was fun to play in it and build snowmen.  But mostly I prayed for snow so I didn’t have to go to school.

Now I pray for enough snow to cause my office to shut down.

Either that, or no snow at all.  Like the true Virginian I am, I am terrified of driving in icy conditions.  And that’s usually what happens here in the Old Dominion.  Ice underneath snow causes vehicles to spin and flip over.

Snow also causes one to slow down, enjoy a pot of tea, and reflect.

And reflection, I have done.  My pen has been scritch-scratching away ~ in my journal, in letters to friends, and in my Ten Letters in Ten Days challenge.  As promised, here is the first one ~ the letter to my past self.

To Me When I Was Young, Naïve, and  unwisely Vulnerable
Dear Me,

Sorry to scare you with that whooshing sound.  That’s just the sound the Tardis makes when she’s coming in for a landing (appearing?) 

You may very well think I’m crazy, but it’s me.  Or rather, you – only older.  And hopefully wiser, although the jury is still out on that.
Image credit: Google Images

My first thought in writing to you, er, me, was to warn you about some things that will happen: heartaches, betrayals, the emotional and mental health issues of loved ones.  The misuse of hard-earned trust.

But I find that I actually like who I’ve become. 

Oh, I have some regrets of course ~ everyone does.  But I want to tell you, the crosses and scars you bear now will only make you stronger.  Always remember that true strength lies in wise vulnerability.

What do I mean by that? 

Well, only silly people are vulnerable to everyone Tom, Dick, and Harry that they meet.  You’re intuitive (something that I wish I’d known years ago), with a big heart that is easily sucked in.  You love people, and you love to comfort and care for them.  This is all well and good.  But care wisely and cautiously.  Not everyone wants your good.  And some?

Well, some will break your heart simply because they can.

Oh, and at least two schmucks you meet harbor a pathological hatred of women.  I won’t tell you who ~ even though I’d like to put them in a sack and beat them senseless, their hurtful words and betrayals served a purpose as well. 

You will need to be stripped bare of all attachments for a time.  It will hurt like the furthest reaches of hell, but you’ll survive.  What is more important, you will need to learn to thrive.  It is a lesson I am still learning, and probably will struggle with the rest of my days.

So here is my advice ~ not that you’ll take it, you always had a stubborn, independent streak.  That’s a good thing ~ just remember to listen to those who are truly wise.  You will know them by their unconditional love and acceptance of you, and their joy in your presence.  They simply radiate goodness.  You’ll meet one soon and let me tell you, you are gonna love Miss Moopes.  She will be a balm and a guide in one of your darkest hours.

These are the most important things to hold on to:

Unconditional love
The ability to listen without judgment
Learn the Five Love Languages and discover which ones your friends and family “speak”
Journal often ~ every day if you can.
Therapy is healthy; just remember some shrinks are crazy and don’t always have the answer.
Let go
Forgive often and without bitterness
Learn to be comfortable with conflict and confrontation
You aren’t the center of the world – so don’t take things personally (see letting go)
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes (see empathy)
Dream big ~ you’ve got what it takes
Keep telling stories

Most importantly, tend your own fire and plant your own garden ~ no one else can do it for you, and although some might help now and then, your gifts and talents are your responsibility.  Only you can make them grow.

And my dear, you have many gifts and a good heart.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently or try to take that away.

My one regret is that I listened too often to those who were jealous, empty, or insecure.  You are loved.  Just not by everyone. 

And that’s okay.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

If you wrote a letter to yourself, how old would you be?  And what advice would you give yourself?

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