Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sneaky Ways to Get More Prayer into Lent…and into Your Life

Sneaky Ways to Get More Prayer into Lent…and into Your Life

We’re told in Scripture to “pray without ceasing,” but when you actually think about trying to DO that, it can seem…well…a little tricky. Especially if you close your eyes when you pray, you DON’T want to do it when you’re driving. Right?  :-)

Fortunately, there are lots of little ways to “sneak prayer in” painlessly, even into a very busy life. For those of us entering Lent this week, this would be terrific to start on Wednesday (or even before) and find yourself firmly committed to six weeks later. Talk about a great new habit to form!

Here are a few I’ve discovered over the past several months…

1. In the time it takes me to blow-dry my hair in the morning, I can say ONE complete decade of the Rosary. Yep. Ten Hail Marys, just like that. J (If you use extra conditioner or style your hair, you’ll have time for the Glory Be AND the Fatima Prayer, too.) And if you go to the gym like I do and end up with your hair wet MORE than once a day…guess what?

2. Driving somewhere? If your trip will take more than 15-20 minutes, you can pray a whole 5-decade Rosary behind the wheel. Turn off the radio and jump right in the moment you start the engine, and before you get to your destination, you’ll have accomplished a heck of a lot. You can use either use a finger rosary to keep count of the prayers or--wonder of wonders!--use your HANDS to count off the Hail Marys. (You knew there had to be a good reason our hands have ten digits.)

Other prayers:
1. Have one minute? Say these:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
“Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I love you; save souls.”
“We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You--because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.”
And, of course, the Sign of the Cross is good anytime, anywhere.

2. Have five minutes? Say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It goes by fast, but it’s powerful stuff.

3. Grace before meals should be a habit already, but if it’s not, you can start. Grace AFTER your meal? Extra points!

4. First thing in the morning: “Lord, make me a blessing to someone today.” (Word of warning: when you pray this, be prepared for what may happen!)

5. The Angelus is designed for 6 AM, 12 noon, and 6 PM, but if you can’t say it all three times, lunchtime’s an ideal time—whenever your “lunch break” falls. (Mary won’t mind.)

6. One of my favorite prayers is St. Teresa of Calcutta’s “quick novena”: the Memorare, said nine times in a row. Mother used to have her nuns pray one set for whatever their need was, and immediately follow it with a second set in thanksgiving. Try it and see what happens!

7. Another one I love was a favorite of both Venerable Solanus Casey and St. Pio: “Deo Gratias” (“Thanks be to God.”). Fr. Solanus used to tell all he spoke with, “Thank God ahead of time.” You might find yourself uttering this after you see the results of asking to be a blessing! J

And these are just a start. I’m sure, once you get started, you’ll think of lots more. Specifically in Lent, many people try to get to daily Mass, and many more attend Stations of the Cross. Both of those are excellent, and if your work schedule allows them, go for it. But for all the rest of us who can’t always make those structured worship opportunities—grab a minute, say a prayer, and you’re still blessed.

Have a great Lent!


Friday, February 24, 2017

Word Wrestle #5 - Some Fun for a Change!

Yes, I know the purpose of Word Wrestle allegedly was to help you navigate through grammar, use the right word for the right purpose, and generally avoid hacking off the CWC (which, as you know, can have dire consequences). But this week? Let's combine two of our favorite things, word wrestling and commercials, for a bit of a grin.

There's a Bud Light ad on Blackhawks radio that has my new favorite commercial line:

"Will Bud Light make your team play better? No. Because that's not how beer works."

Every time I hear that, I crack up. It's delivered in a perfectly straightforward style, by a spokesman who's clearly enamored of beer...but who also knows its place. :-)

Bud Light isn't the best beer in the world. Some people think it's not really "beer" at all (I'm looking at you, IPA-micro-brewery-fans-of-beers-with-stuff-in-them-God-probably-never-intended-beer-to-contain). Some people claim it's undrinkable, watered-down, and generally otherwise not worth using for much other than, maybe, cleaning out the garbage disposal. That's not MY opinion, necessarily...but it's some people's.

But the beauty of this company's product--and its ads--is that it doesn't CARE. It's just out to put the beer in your mind as an option for "the big game," and give you a smile or two. 

And this isn't the first time Bud Light has come out with commercials that are actually witty. Which, IMHO, puts them head-and-shoulders above about 98% of the advertising out there.

Although beer doesn't make our writing better--because, again, THAT's not how beer works, either--there are plenty of things beer DOES work quite well to do. On a hot day, at a baseball game, very few things taste better.

In the meantime, there's at least one ad out there that I can actually enjoy--every single time. And that's something any agency ought to get kudos for.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The "Nineveh 90" Takes NERVE.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking's this. It's a challenge to all of us to employ an extra "layer" to our prayers for this world, and specifically for this country, for the Church, and for our culture. And yeah, it's HARD.

Which is why I'm doing just parts of it. But I refuse to let perfectionism be the enemy of the effort--or, in the old saying, "letting the best be the enemy of the good."

I've been able to make several sacrifices over the past week and a half, some of which were easier than others. :-) And, no, I will NOT be doing just bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays...because I'm hypoglycemic, and that's asking for trouble. And no, I will NOT surrender every bit of TV sports I watch...because sports is about all I watch on TV. That being said, the Blackhawks are playing tonight, as is Northwestern...and I'm not watching either one. And yeah, it feels hard. (But I'm recording it to watch on Sunday when we can relax the penance a bit....! LOL)

This has, I have to say, been freeing in many ways. As in, I'm spending more time WRITING now than I did before, even a few short weeks ago. As in, I'm actually not missing all the commercials (although they DO give me some lovely fodder for this blog!). As in, I'm discovering once again how nice peace can be. Not that I didn't know it already, but with this tinnitus diagnosis, I haven't been able to find peace much in complete silence (because my silence isn't complete anymore) I've had music on more.

And a great deal of this, we were already doing. Going to confession once a month, at least. Praying the Rosary every day. Watching a minimum of TV as a rule anyway: we don't do news, we don't do sitcoms, we don't do reality shows. We do sports, and the occasional Food Network and HGTV, some EWTN...and that's about IT anyway.

So I suspect we were already focusing on things that detached us from the world, and already cutting down on distractions. This is just helping us refine that a bit, and go a little bit of an extra mile or two to see if we can add additional penances to our prayers and help atone for the rampant sin that is all around us, everywhere--even among Christians who think they know better.

More to come, I suspect. But if you're looking for an excellent way to segue into Lent, and nab a few extra blessings in the process...check it out. Whatever you do, it'll be more than you did before...and you WILL be blessed for it.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

No Rants, Just Write (ing)

Much as I know you're all enjoying the snarkiness of Ms. Mentor and her Word Wrestling...I have to confess now to being distracted, in the best possible way.

I am writing. And writing. And writing. On MY BROTHER'S KEEPER.

Yes, it's going slowly in one sense. I'm still feeling my way through a plot I've already streamlined in my head, distilling it to pure essential parts that ought to pack a correspondingly powerful emotional punch. I'm pulling out the emo as far as I can get it, and then I'm going to pull it out some more.

And by then, the balance of plot and feelings ought to be about right. :-) (hah!)

Part of what's doing this is sheer determination on my part.
Part of it is a new spiritual exercise in which we're engaged.
And part, it must be said, is due to a present I've given myself: a masterclass taught by one of the luminary authors of our time, and one, I will admit, who inspires me by his sheer success alone. (Not to mention creating Alex Cross.)

I've only listened to the first couple of lessons here--the beauty of this being that I can progress at exactly the pace I want to, and I can keep these around forever. But just listening to Mr. Patterson talk is firing me up. Inspiring me, if you will. Because he says so much of what I believe about writing, what I feel about it, and what I needed to hear from someone who doesn't go all "academic" or artsy-fartsy on you. 

He sells like crazy, like we all want to, and I want to know how he does it.
Every step of it.
In the process, I can reaffirm that I, too, CAN do this thing.
Which is a priceless thing to remember...and very easy to forget.

So I'm busy. If you need me, e-mail me. Or text me. But don't be surprised if it takes a little bit for me to answer you. Right now, I'm spending some quality time with some people I really like: Doug, Julia, Abby...and James Patterson.

Watch this blog for more updates as we go!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Word Wrestle #4: Spell Check is NOT Your Friend.

Last week, we talked about how to get good spelling and grammar help--which is to run what you write through the real-life pair of eyes of someone who knows how to do these things correctly.

And, as you know, there is also a way to get bad help.
That comes from applications that promise to do "spell-checks" and "grammar checks."
And they're everywhere.

Today, however, we're just going to talk about the Microsoft Word version of it.
Which ought to be called a perversion of it.

I don't know why one of the world's superpower-corporations couldn't get this right. They've had years and years, and versions and versions and VERSIONS of Windows, in which to figure out that whoever wrote that original version of Word's Spelling and Grammar Check was a complete imbecile.

Yet it has never been fixed. Not by one iota.


I found out why when I ran a document through the Grammar Check, once upon a time, with the honest intention of seeing if it would, in fact, catch bad grammar.
If it would, in fact, catch sentences that don't make sense because the wrong WORD is in them.
If it would, in fact, catch things like putting "hers" where you mean "his" or "her" where you mean "him," or similar things that are RIGHT in the strict spelling sense, but complete and utter gibberish in terms of meaning.

I'm here to tell you, unfortunately, that Grammar Check can't find any of those.
It can't tell sentence sense.
It can't tell when you've accidentally put the wrong gender in a sentence.
And it can hardly tell when you've said "hardly" but meant "heartily."
In short, it's not a Grammar Check at all, in that it will not correct ERRORS of that sort.

But what it DOES do, boys and girls, are things like this:
--Where you have a sentence that says a phrase like "your children" or "your career" or "your school" will query that and suggest "you're."
--Where you have a sentence like "She didn't know if she dared," it will query that and suggest putting in a question mark.
--And probably the worst and most egregious offense of all...Where you have a sentence that says "It's a problem," it will query it and suggest you change to "Its." And where you say, "Its nature is to be incorrect most of the time," it will absolutely bear that sentiment out--by querying and suggesting "It's."

I don't have hard figures on this. I don't have statistics. If someone does, I'd love to see them. But I'd be willing to guess, off the top of my head, that Word's Spelling and Grammar Check will take something that's already correct and tell you to make it wrong approximately 88 percent of the time.

And the rest of the time, it won't find the wrong word or the nonsensical sentence. Because if the words are all spelled can't read enough to actually check the GRAMMAR and tell you the sentence is wrong.

Which means that while, as a raw spelling (and repeated-word) checker, it has some limited a Grammar Check, it's a complete fraud.

And yes, I'm prepared to stand behind that.
Because I've seen many instances of what results when writers lean on it.
And that, boys and girls, is awful.

Spare us awful writing. Either use reverse dictionaries to help you spell a word you "know" but can't "spell"...use regular dictionaries to make sure you're using the right word...use someone like Strunk and White to get some of the grammar gremlins out of the way...

...or best yet--use a really, really good editor, and all these things will be seen to.
And in order.

Class dismissed!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

For Better, For Worse...

I'm committing to a new (old) book. See the sidebar for progress on the resurrection of MY BROTHER'S KEEPER, a "Fabulous Five" contest winner once upon a time...and a book that's always been close to my heart (as only a book about two basketball players could be). Problem is, it's been through umpty-ump-plus-one too many revisions, reversions, remakes, and retools, until the original STORY has been lost in the shuffle. more. I hope. 

I'm going into Intensive Care (not to be confused with where our hero may end up) of my own to get this book Up and Running Again, starting with Write-a-Thon's SPRINT tonight. Stay tuned!

More to come,

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

It's Happening Again...

...or maybe I should say NOT happening again.
Here it is Wednesday afternoon, and my e-mail is as silent as a tomb.
My Skype is quiet.
My clients aren't talking to me. I've reached out to THEM, but...nothing.

So I can only come to the conclusion, as I have before, that somehow, someone's figured out a way to make a living WITHOUT WORKING A LICK PAST WEDNESDAY NOON. (I'd say "past Tuesday," as I did before--but technically, I DID a small job this morning.)

Let me in on the secret, wouldya?