Friday, September 30, 2011

Force of Nature

Wangari MaathaiImage via Wikipedia

The first time I heard the term, a force of nature, used to describe Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai, I wondered if the writer was being derogatory. After all, I reasoned, a strong woman is often looked down on by those who fear her power.  However, as I learned more about this amazing woman, I realized that this was a term of endearment, a term of great honor.

A force of a hurricane, tornado, or northeaster...Dr. Maathai swept into action creating a new world in her wake.  For the women whose lives she touched, she left confidence, hope for a brighter future, and the knowledge that the world could be different.  For the children whose lives she touched, she taught a love of the environment, a love of self and a love of each other.  For the men her life touched, she was the personification of Grace under pressure, Peace in the storm and Calm Assurance in the midst of chaos.

Dr. Maathai's death has come too soon.  She was a young woman by today's standards.  Cancer stole her from the world.  At least, that is one way to look at her death.  Or, we can see that her work her among us was complete.  She had done what she was sent to do, completing her work with Joy and Love.  She has not died, merely moved into a new life in which her glorious spirit can be felt each time we touch a tree, watch children play in peace or witness a woman stand strong against the storm of degradation, prejudice and pain.

The following are some of the words left to us by the beautiful Soul known to us as, Dr. Wangari Maathai:

“It is evident that many wars are fought over resources which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur…so, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace…those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.”

“All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet.”

"African women in general need to know that it's OK for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence."

"It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees."

“The people are learning that you cannot leave decisions only to leaders. Local groups have to create the political will for change, rather than waiting for others to do things for them. That is where positive, and sustainable, change begins.”

"We are very fond of blaming the poor for destroying the environment. But often it is the powerful, including governments, that are responsible."

"Women are responsible for their children, they cannot sit back, waste time and see them starve."

We can all be hummingbirds, forces of nature, in this world. We only need follow the example set by Dr. Maathai.

May the work begun by Dr. Maathai continue through those who have had ears to hear and eyes to see.  May her legacy be a world that protects the rights of all living beings, witnessing the fragile connection we have to the environment and celebrating the beauty of Peace, Love and Compassion.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Still Banned After All These Years!

Words from the Heart was begun several years ago because of my deep belief that language is a powerful tool for creating change, healing and enlightening others.  Writing, for me, has always been a way around being told that I couldn't do something.  You see, confession time here, I hate being told that I can't do something.  

Is it any wonder, then, that observing Banned Book Week is something I relish?  If you want me to read a book, tell me that it is banned.  I will be at the bookstore as soon as I can to get it.

Recently, I purchased the book, Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson.  More than likely, I would never have read it if I hadn't found an article about how the Catholic Church banned the book.  

After reading the article, I looked the author up.  I found out that she is a nun, theologian, writer and professor.  What, I wondered, is so awful, so sinful about her book that the church feels the need to ban it from their faithful?

I have yet to read the book, although it is next on my list, so I cannot say why her words would be so threatening.  I found in a New York Times article by Laurie Goodstien, however, that "The bishops’ committee on doctrine said in a statement: 'The book does not take the faith of the Church as its starting point. Instead, the author employs standards from outside the faith to criticize and to revise in a radical fashion the conception of God revealed in Scripture and taught by the Magisterium,' the church’s teaching authority according to the popes and bishops."

Once I read the book, I will share my views.  Until then, I will continue to support the right of anyone, anywhere to read the books of their choosing. Knowledge is only dangerous when it is limited and controlled.  When humans have access to various texts, when they are allowed to read with a critical eye, questioning the validity of what they are reading for themselves in their reality, then knowledge is a tool for wisdom.

As far as Banned Book Week goes, I am proud to say that I have read many of the books listed.  Did they change my life?  Yes, absolutely.  Was that a bad thing?  No, because it allowed me the freedom to say, "Wow, that was wonderful!" or, "Yuck, that was the worst trash I have ever read."  

Here is a list of some of the most famous Banned Books with an explanation from the American Library Association - 100 Banned Novels of the 20th Century

As an educator, I encourage you to read.  I also encourage you to ask questions about any text you pick up - 
  • Why was this written?
  • Who wrote it?
  • Why did they write it?  
  • What was their purpose?
  • How can this help me or others?
  • Is this something I need/want to know?
  • When was this written?  
  • What was the history around the text?
  • What was the history of the author?
  • Who published it?
  • Do they have an agenda?
  • Where is there proof of what is being said?
  • Can this text be confirmed? (Is it truthful?)
May the words you read touch your heart and soul, bring you healing, enlightenment and wisdom.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Support Others In Grand and Small Ways

It is my pleasure today to welcome author, Kathy Handley to Words from the Heart.  Kathy is the author of Birds of Paradise, an exciting novel about a trucker, a runaway teen and a homeless girl.  The three characters support each other in grand and small ways.  Kathy shares some ideas on how we, too, can support each other.

To show our appreciation for your stopping by today, leave a comment and your name will be placed in a drawing for a copy of Birds of Paradise.


Every day we have the opportunity to support others in grand and small ways. The unique gift of supporting others is that we often don’t know the effect our actions have on the recipients of our generosity. We are reminded to smile, care, and support others, and give generously.

  • Let’s think about how writers support each other
  •  Teacher/student relationship, each adding to the mix of ideas 
  • Writer/writing group communications 
  • Family and Friends/ respect and protect writers’ time 
  • Buy the book/ read it on Kindle or from the library/email, Facebook note to author 
  • Set up readings in libraries and bookstores/attend/ask questions, thank the authors 
  • Host a salon discussion 
  • Give feedback and reviews/ Indie Bookstores, Amazon, Twitter 
  • Network-friend to friend-pass on the word about authors, conferences
  •  Pay it forward in time 
  • Throw a book party 
  • Read the book in book club and invite the author in person or Skype

I’ve recently attended readings by Jenna Blum, Ann Hood, Gin Young and Marianne Leone. These writers always thank their readers in person as well as on their sites and on Facebook. They give back. Grub Street, Boston’s creative writing center, gives by providing a myriad of opportunities for writers. Their authors/teachers are accessible and encouraging.

It’s a brand new day - every day. Will you consider how you can support others in your family, career, and friendship circle? It feels good. Have a lovely day. 

About Kathy Handley

Her grandfather entertained his family with stories and dancing, her father quoted Shakespeare and her mother was known as “Mary the Poet,” so naturally, Kathryn would become a writer…eventually!

Now a published novelist at age 71, Kathy’s short fiction has appeared in many literary magazines. She recently won Word Hustler’s Page-to-Screen Contest (2011) and currently serves as Prose Poetry Judge for the National League of American Pen Women Soul-Making Contest. A collection of her work will soon be released under the title A World of Love and Envy (short fiction, flash-fiction, and poetry). 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reflections, Inspiration & Sharing

Natal anniversaries are an excellent time for reflection.  After 58 years of life in this amazing reality, I have so much on which to think.  I am constantly and consistently inspired by my daughters, grandchildren, students, family and friends, some of whom I have yet to meet.

As a gift to my readers, I will share some bits of wisdom that have passed my way this year.


Begin and end each day in grateful praise. When we take time to be thankful for all we have, as well as recognize our need for guidance as we proceed through the day, life's little challenges are never too difficult.

We are all connected...sons and daughters of the Creator.  We must open our hearts and minds to this reality.  The people at My Fellow Americans are just one group that is working diligently to educate society to this fact.


One person CAN make a difference in the lives of manyMy friend, Maithri Goonetilleke, is one such person, along with a host of other individuals from around the globe connected with Possible Dreams International, who work to bring education, healing, comfort and love to the peoples of Swaziland and Africa. 


My "sisters" are my strength.  They come from all walks of life, all races and creeds.  Together, we are creating a world of Peace, Compassion and Justice.  Women like, Ber-Henda Williams, who is using her gifts of poetry, song and Spirit to help women, young and old, find their voice.  Women like, the members of Women on Writing, who come together to nurture and encourage writers of all ages.  Women like, Eliza Fayle, who encourages the celebration of women wherever they may be on life's path, recognizing the intelligence, sexuality and humor we all possess.

"Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, Love gives you a fairy tale."  The greatest blessing any one can have is a partner/spouse that celebrates and honors them for who they are unconditionally.  I am blessed to have Roger in my life. He is my biggest fan and wisest adviser.  He lifts me up, holds my hand, rubs my feet and embraces me when I need a hug.  

Above all else, the Great Spirit, the Creator of All, the Great I Am, is with me, along with my ancestors, angels, saints, and guides.  Learning that the Spirit fills every molecule of life has helped me find peace in the face of pain, courage in the face of fear and love in the face hate.
May we all find inspiration in the things that surround us, daily.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wicked Good Guest Post!

Today, I am pleased to share a lovingly written post by Amy Lewis Faircloth, a mom and co-author of Wicked Good. Amy and her sister, Joanne Lewis collaborated on the book - more on that later.  First, let me share Amy's post...
My Sons, My Muses: How My Writing Got Us Through the Teen Years

In Greek mythology, the muses are the goddesses who inspire humans to create art and literature. They are the source of knowledge. Divine beings, they were believed to inspire mortals to do their best.

It is hard to imagine, as muses, people who laugh uproariously at The Three Stooges or at the sound of flatulence. However, my muses do just that. My teenage sons are the source of angst, joy and pride. They inspire this mortal mom to do her best. 

My oldest son struggles with developmental and learning disabilities. He is the inspiration for Rory, the teen-age protagonist, in Wicked Good. My youngest son struggles with accepting the special needs of his older brother. My time is disproportionately divided between them.

Writing Wicked Good became cathartic for all of us. I talked to my sons. I asked my younger son to remember incidents of the past. He helped me write scenes and come up with dialogue. I asked my older son how he might react in certain fictional situations. The three of us laughed together remembering his sincere questioning of the color of zebra’s testicles. We are able to laugh at ourselves and at each other. The three of us recalled incidents when he was out of control. We all admitted to being afraid of it happening again. We have accepted that some things are funny and some things are scary. We have accepted that things are not perfect. We are not perfect. Without Wicked Good, we would not have spoken aloud these feelings we shared but kept to ourselves.

The teen years are difficult for parent and teen alike. In my family, we have blundered our way successfully through the teenage years with honesty, humor, and acceptance. I suspect that would not have been the case without Wicked Good.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed that to be content one must act in accordance with his or her own nature. It is impossible to feign perfection with my muses around. I must act in accordance with my own nature. And I am content.

About Amy and Joanne -

Having lived in Maine, I understand how the Muse speaks during those long, cold winter days and nights.  So, it is no surprise that on a chilly day in Maine, Amy received a call from her sister, Joanne, asking, “Wanna write a book together?” Amy said yes and the journey began.

Amy is the older sister who loves her 2 sons and nephew, dogs, volunteering at the Bangor Humane Society, running, hiking, snowshoeing, surfing the web, her brown poodle Teddy, Lola, writing, reading, cycling, going to bed early, spending time with her friends and family, being outdoors when it’s nice outside and indoors when it’s not, and editing Joanne’s writing. She is a pescatarian (Amy eats fish but not meat.) and a lawyer in Maine.

Joanne is the younger sister who loves her 3 nephews, her grey poodle Frisco, writing, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, cooking, traveling, Florence, Italy, anything to do with the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo, spending time with her friends and family, and being edited by Amy. She is a vegetarian and a lawyer in Florida.

Two sisters, both attorneys; as sisters, Amy and Joanne have learned to play to each others strengths—an important lesson for any co-authors.

Author Websites:


Have you ever said something that totally stopped conversation? Maybe it was insightful. Maybe it was weird. Maybe it was the thing everyone was thinking but was afraid to say. Rory, the teenage character in Wicked Good, is the master of conversation stoppers—his family calls them “Roryisms”.

WOW! is hosting a “Roryism” contest; the winner will receive a $100 prepaid Visa card and their Roryism will be published in the next book in the Wicked series. Full details can be found on The Muffin.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In the Darkest Moment, Amazing Grace

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monarch ButterflyImage by dave and rose via Flickr

Ten years ago, I worked as a wellness specialist in York Hospital in Maine.  I had arrived at work a bit early, the sun just starting to peak into the basement window of the Wellness Clinic situated in the bottom of the doctor's building across the driveway from the main hospital building.  I remember looking up at the tiny rectangle of a window, thinking what a lovely fall day it was going to be.  The phone rang and life changed forever.

My oldest daughter was on the line hysterically crying.  I couldn't understand what she was saying, so my first action was to calm her.

"Honey, breathe, I can't understand you.  What is wrong?"
Finally, after a long sob, I was able to make out that a plane had crashed into a building in New York.  As she was talking to me, the second plane crashed in front of her.  She screamed, the hysteria getting worse.  On the other end of the line, I was trying to make sense of it all.  Again, I told her to try and calm herself before she got sick.  Finally, I told her to turn off the TV, get a cold cloth to wipe her face down and then call me back.

At this point, I turned on the small radio we had that was usually used to listen to NPR.  I dialed the local station just as the announcer made the statement that the United States was under attack.

Visions of Pearl Harbor came rushing into my mind.  How could this be, I thought.  My next thought was where were all my girls.  How could I get in touch with them.  Were they safe?

Seconds later, the other wellness workers arrived at work.  Their shock at the situation obvious by the unusual seriousness of their demeanor.  

Briefly, we discussed what actions to take.  Should we close? Should we cancel appointments? Should we go home?  No, we decided, we were needed here to help bring calm and peace where there was sure to be pain and chaos.  

The fear that had begun to creep up from my gut threatened to overtake me.  With all the power I had, I took in a deep full breath, closed my eyes to picture my girls, exhaling slowly.  My heart stopped its insane race to terror, my hands stopped shaking and my mind instantly calmed.  I gave thanks for the training I had had over the past few years, which helped me, at this time, to focus on the positive in the midst of such horror.

As I climbed the stairs to leave the building, I wondered how I was going to be able to meet the needs of the patients at the hospital, who would be expecting me to help them be calm before facing surgery. How was I to keep my self detached from the terror of what had just happened, not to mention the mounting fear and concern of what might lie ahead?

Stepping out into the glorious September morning, crisp salt air filled my lungs.  The usual cast of noisy seagulls greeting me with their raucous caws.  Crossing the parking lot to the entrance of the hospital, one of the bushes caught my eye.  I was nearly all red, evidence, I thought, of how quickly autumn comes here along the Maine coast. 

Looking closer, I realized that what I thought were leaves were actually monarch butterflies.  They must have come to rest on this particular bush on their way south. While York is on the migratory route of monarchs, I had never seen so many in one place before.  I stood entranced. (Monarchs are symbolic of rebirth - new life.)

Then, as if a protective arm had wrapped around me, a feel of deep peace enveloped my soul.  I knew that I would continue to remain calm and peace-filled as I did my work today, and the next, and the next.  I knew that all would be well, in spite of this mornings horror.  

In the next second, the words to one of my favorite hymns began running through my mind.  "Amazing Grace!  How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I, once, was lost, but now I'm found. T'was blind, but now I see."  I see...

Through Grace, I could see...see Hope that terror would not reign over us; see Love that would help us to heal; see Peace that would one day would put all our lives back together.

Ten years ago, I came to know myself, as a minister, writer, and poet of Love, Hope and Peace.  Ten years ago, out of extreme terror, Grace gave me the strength to know that Love and Peace would prevail.

May we all let Grace into our hearts and minds, today and every day.  May we never be captives of the terrorism of the mind and soul.  May we each Shine our Light, illuminating the darkness.


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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Am I Afraid Of?

Mari McCarthy is on a blog tour, of which Words from the Hearts just so happens to be part.  
Mari is talking about the fears that are universal to all of us at one time or another and how to help ourselves heal through journaling.  
Journaling is, as many of you know from the many posts here on the subject, a marvelous means of finding balance in your life on many different levels.  Mari's new book, Your Money Matters! Use Journal Writing Therapy to Get Financially Fit Now, is a great example of how journal writing can permeate all aspects of life.
Great news, Mari is offering an e-book to some lucky reader.  Simply leave a comment, I will pull a name out of the hat on Thursday 9/8/11.  The winner will be notified via email.

Thank you, Mari for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with us.

Some say that fear is the opposite of love. Certainly, feeling fear is usually unpleasant, unless you're getting a kick out of a horror movie or a roller coaster ride (would you call that a pleasant unpleasantness, or just masochism?).

Pause for a few seconds and think about a recent encounter you had with fear. Relive the experience in your mind's eye. You might have been suddenly terrified, or it might have been a more slowly creeping horror.

Because the fear occurred in the past, remembering it allows you to objectify it somewhat. You see yourself being afraid, as if from afar; you recall how you acted and exactly what happened. You re-trace your thought process with the perspective of time, from the safety of your present surroundings. Often, airing out the memory like this will reduce the fear's hold on you.

Sometimes fears are vague and unnamed. You feel anxiety, butterflies, maybe even a touch of panic, but you're hard pressed to explain why. The world's beyond crazy nowadays, so it's no wonder that a lot of people suffer from this foggy sort of ongoing fear.

In this case, you can't so easily remember a specific experience of fear, since it's with you much of the time.

Then, there's the kind of fear that is too horrendous to be remembered without great pain. Letting your thoughts dwell on such unhappy memories is a great way to make yourself sick.

Whatever your typical experience with fear, the best way to deal with it is in your journal. When your pen noodles all across and around and through your perceptions and permutations of fear, it's like getting a psychic massage.

• Does your fear involve something you can name and describe? Writing it all out is like unraveling a knot, dissecting it, recognizing its parts and using your intimacy with it to subdue its power.

• If your fear is more of the unnameable kind, your journal is where you shine a light on the mystery, exploring all the leads and tangents, prodding, probing, working your way around the amorphous blob.

• On the other hand, if your experience with fear is not something you want to spend time on, but you still want to become psychically free of it, you can approach from a different direction. In this case, use your journal as a muscle-builder, filling your consciousness with health and optimism as a strong defense against fear. Include everything encouraging and beautiful; let your journal be a celebration of light and lightness.

If your fear amounts to a phobia, you may need professional help. Our minds can become tyrannical, and they sometimes have to be tamed. But whatever else you do to get a grip on your fears, journaling is a given and may be enough in itself to bring back your confidence.

By Mari L. McCarthy - The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of Journaling for the Health of It™. Please visit Mari's blog at In Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life, Mari presents a gentle process for self discovery through journaling. Mari's latest publication is titled, Your Money Matters! Use Journal Writing Therapy to Get Financially Fit Now. Click links for further details.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Pearl of the Aha Moment!

Today, I am blessed to be swapping blogs with, Ber-Henda Williams.  Ber-Henda is a fellow poet, kindred-spirit, Sister of the soul.  She is guesting here and I am guesting on her blog -

My pastor preached last Sunday about finding your “pearl,” that one ounce of truth that no one can define for you, that moment when you go, “Aha!”

I have been shifting through the wheat of my life trying to get to the one thing that mattered most to me, that one thing that I could truly put myself in and find not just happiness but purpose. I have been hosting my own poetry series for five years this coming August but it was not until the earlier part of this year that I found the peace and acceptance of who I am: I am an artist, I am a Poet!

We are always who we are, but it was not until I found myself in a poetic euphoria, while reading the lyrics of Lauyren Hill's “When It All Falls Down” to my poetry class - at the moment, reading her lyrics - that I found my voice and rhythm. I forgot where I was...and when I looked up all the eyes of the class, they were fixed on me. I was not a focal point because I was the teacher; I was the focal point because I was on fire!

My voice made the words on the page quick. I took the lyrics of a woman to whom I revere and shared them with my students, but I found the “why" of my love for poetry, and when I collapsed back into my chair, much the same way a body falls when possession is over, I knew that I not only was called to be a poet but I felt a joyful obligation to write and share my work. I felt more secure in trusting the process of urging my poetry series forward.

My conviction of sharing with youth the power of their own voices cemented for me that day. I know that if I accomplish nothing else in my life, my validation will come from a place that no one can invade. My calling is the word, known to most as poetry. I have held all sorts of jobs and been some very interesting situations but I always find my way back to poetry.
My first awakening to poetry was from a singer by the name of Caron Wheeler from the Afro-European musical group, Soul II Soul. Her works were deep and emotive and “Blue Is the Color of Pain” is what lead me to write in the first place. Later, Latino and Spanish poets that I studied in high school and undergraduate school gave me the freedom and permission to write poetry in Spanish, yet proving that the pearl I found would allow me to transcend audiences. 

In life, we are blessed if we arrive at that “Aha Moment,” more so, if we come to it without the grief of losing a loved one or some catastrophic, life-altering experience. However, finding your “Aha Moment” is life-altering and sometimes frightening.

I cannot imagine my life without this art form, but more importantly, I know why I have this art form. Prior to poetry, my life trajectory was headed toward business, then education, retail, and then whatever paid the bills. I chased what mattered to my family, society, and even what I thought God wanted for me. When the pearl emerged, I organized priorities differently. I have a listed what matters most to me and the order in which I apply them. There is no wrong way to apply these principles, but this is how I honor the life God has given me and cherish my pearl. 

God/Creativity: The minute I get an idea for a poem or event, I know that God is talking to me. I am training myself to listen versus petitioning. Giving God the honor for not only my present life before the one he is unveiling is so very important to me. I am one with my creator and as an artist this connection is how I praise and worship him. 

My Family/Community: I have a lot to be grateful for and my family ranks high on my gratitude list. Even though we do not get to choose our families, I have close friends who I would give my blood for, and therefore, consider family. Telling someone what you do when you are a poet is met with a lot of confusion and curiosity and sometimes criticism, as to say your pearl may not be precious to everyone, but when you find your pearl it is easy to spot a gem. So, my rubies are my family! 

Love of self: We have to remember to honor who we are. With all that we are called to do, it easy to forget who we are. If you find yourself in place to where you cannot remember who you and what your elixir of life is, then it may be it’s time to go on an inward journey of reflection and dive into the depths of your existence and find what you have been put here on the earth to do, developing a plan to get there. The pearls that we find come from the obstacles that are meant to refine us. Poetry is how the soul expresses itself and the soul is the essence of who we are.

Please feel to contact to me about all things creative and community action at 

At this juncture of my life I am seeking to live a bold and beautiful experience. I don’t want to lose on minute on regret or pining for what I know I can create for myself. God has given us all gifts and talents to not only give him honor but to assist us in making this world better for all mankind. Greater gift is there than to know that you are a precious pearl and blessing to all mankind! 
Ber-Henda Williams is a published author and host of Poetry, Pages and Scribes a monthly poetry series at the Southfield Public Library. She is Fluent in Spanish and facilitates workshops for authors and other cultural events all over the metro area. Log on to for more information on her books and events.
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