Friday, September 27, 2013

Freud's Wife

In my Story Sparks newsletter this month I mentioned a dream I had. In it, I was seeking the female subject for my next novel and into my dream walked Sigmund Freud. In that dream state, I said something like "I wonder what his wife was like?" and then added that wasn't a good venue for my writing as my stories are set in the mid 1800s usually, on the frontier, about women in the West and I doubted that Freud ever crossed the Atlantic let alone the Mississippi. Nor took his wife with him.
          This morning, a writer friend of mine, Bibi Gaston, author of The Loveliest Woman in America (a book I highlighted some time ago that I truly love!)  then sent me this link. It seems Freud did come to America in 1909. He traveled with his colleague Carl Jung and fellow psychiatrist Sandor Ferenczi to give a series of lectures about psychoanalysis. Now there's a story! But the article said nothing about their wives joining them, however.
        That's pretty typical of women in history, especially women married to prominent men. When researching I can often find the names of a woman's husband, brother, father and sons but often a daughter's name isn't even mentioned. Sometimes there's little about the woman herself, just named as "Joseph Sherar's wife". I call what I find out then "reflected history" as it's only in the reflection of the men in their lives that many historical women are remembered. Unless women wrote diaries that survived, or letters (as with Dorothea Dix) much of women's history is either eaten or used up. Yes, eaten as they spent their work-lives baking bread to feed their families or used up by the clothes or quilts they stitched that eventually stuffed couches or covered woodpiles. Perhaps that's what Virginia Woolf meant when she said "Women's history must be invented, both uncovered and made up."
          Martha Bernays was 21 when she met Sigmund Freud who was in his 30s and still living at home trying to earn enough money to support a young wife. Their engagement lasted four years. Apparently many letters between the two still exist, filled with ardor and devotion during their long engagement. But once they married, no more letters. Martha was likely very busy raising their six children while her husband became more and more prominent causing the great poet W. H. Auden to write: "if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd, to us he is no more a person now but a whole climate of opinion" -  "In Memory of Sigmund Freud."
        I do wonder about the lives of women married to men bigger than life. I suppose in part that's what drew me to Cassie Hendricks Stearn Simpson's story in A Gathering of Finches. Cassie was married to one of the richest men in America at the time, a man who founded North Bend, Oregon; ran for governor, had his many ships bring back exotic plants from around the world that he had planted in a five acre garden around Japanese ponds and beneath towering cypress trees listed on historic registers for age. That garden still exists as a state park known as Shore Acres. That book has just been reissued with a more reasonable price so I hope you'll look for it and visit the gardens. You might look for Bibi Gaston's book as well, a treasure of a memoir about her grandmother.
          I still think Martha Bernays Freud might make a good subject for a novel -- just not mine. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Meet Brenda Johnson, a healing writer

From time to time, we will interview or do a guest post from someone who is worth getting to know.  Brenda Johnson is a healing writer as I like to think of her. She's been writing and listening and many of her subjects are related to the wounds people carry with them and how to find release from them. These are common threads running through many of my stories so I'm happy to host her today.  She also has a giveaway happening.  Be sure to go to the very end so you can enter.

Brenda’s ministry is for those who cannot change the regretful choices of their past yet long to find release.  It is not based on theory or textbooks, but on her own personal experiences of surviving the guilt of abortion, the shame of divorce, and the embarrassment of financial despair.  Brenda discovered she did not have to settle for God’s “second best” but could enjoy “promised land” living at its fullest by reconciling who she used to be with who she is today. She has helped thousands of others do the same through conferences, speaking events, her blogs, website, and everyday living.

Why do you find this topic of letting go of your past so important? 
Brenda: It’s there.  No matter how hard we try and forget it, we can’t deny the past exists.  We find ourselves living in our personal hells trying to hide the secrets, when we should be spending our time releasing them and moving on.  Many believe “we have made our bed, and now the only thing to do is to lie in it.”    Yet God commands us in order to be whole we have to take up our bed and walk.  He doesn’t say to leave the bed or to drag it behind us, He says to carry it.  For me, that bed included some pretty heavy things like abortion, divorce, and financial ruin among other things.  Yet, once I decided to carry them, my life would forever be changed.

In my book A Gathering of Finches, Cassie is a woman troubled by past decisions. She has a hard time letting go. I really like your image of picking up our beds rather than "you made your bed, now lie in it."
Brenda: Psalms 34:18 says "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." He doesn’t want you to stay down but wants to pick you up. Many times others have crushed our spirits and sometimes we keep crushing our own.  I am trying to give people the tools they need to pick up their own beds and walk into freedom.  

So many of us are held hostage by our past. SO, how do you reconcile the past with the present?
Brenda: You own your past, You ask for forgiveness. You forgive yourself and others. You move on and allow God to rewrite your story. Simply written but not simply done…but possible!!   Our website is a place that moves you through this process.  Many times someone can attain courage simply by seeing that others have walked the same path. We want this ministry to be a safe place for confession and restoration.  We help each other by sharing our own journeys. Once a person comes to terms with their regrets they can move through the forgiveness process.  This can be the hardest step and many times it’s not just about forgiving others but about finally forgiving yourself.

How did you get yourself out of those feelings of shame, despair, and regret and begin to change?
Brenda: I was reading the story of David and Bathsheba.  To make a long story short – David committed adultery with her and she became pregnant.  David had her husband murdered.  He tried to cover his sin just like I had done.  God was so angry with David.  The baby died.  Yet David cleaned himself up and worshiped God and was forgiven.  That very day he also went in to console Bathsheba.  The Bible tells us she became pregnant.  Then the next words were: “And God Loved Solomon”.  He did not just like Solomon or accept him, He LOVED him!  What a story of grace.  God did not hold a grudge or shame - He not only forgave…He blessed instantly.  That’s what He has done in my life.

Stories are so powerful. The Greek word for comfort translate as 'to come along beside.' And that's what the story of David and Bathsheba and Solomon did for you, bringing you comfort. What did that process of Forgiveness Restoration & Redemption look like for you?
Brenda: I realized that if God loved Solomon then God did not hold any grudge nor did he heap shame on me.  He had forgiven me the moment I had asked years ago – I just had not accepted it or believed that He would. Jordan went from being my dead baby to being my partner in ministry.  God forgave me - restored me, and redeemed me.  I am now married to the most wonderful Godly man He ever created and am also financially blessed so that we can help others.  He took my story where I handed it to Him and rewrote it and I am so blessed to be living it every day.

What does your website have to offer?
Brenda: It is full of my stories and my reader’s stories that offer hope and healing.  Unlike most websites, it is interactive.  I love that so many are taking this journey with me – We rejoice and cry together, we celebrate and mourn together.  I can tell we are becoming a family with everyone eager to read what’s next.  So excited to see what God has in store.  I feel as if we are all changing the world by sharing our testimonies (we call them Your Stories, you can share yours today!).  My website is a safe place to share your past anonymously if you choose.

What final piece of encouragement do you have for our readers?
Brenda: Because of redemption nothing in our past is wasted.  Just because we are a product of our past  it doesn’t have to control us.  We can be forgiven, restored, and redeemed and go on to live fully blessed lives And like the playwright Oscar Wilde once said,” All Saints have a past and all Sinners a future.”  It is never too late for healing!!!

Thank you Brenda for your healing words & ministry.  May others be encouraged by meeting you today. We look forward to reading more stories of triumph from you and from others.

In closing, I wanted to share an excerpt from my A Simple Gift of Comfort.  Many of you may still be looking to accept your past.  This might be one perspective to find healing.  From Page 15.
A Simple Gift of Comfort, pg 15
The Acoma, indigenous people of North America, are know for their pottery of great beauty and strength.  What distinguishes their pots from other pueblos' is the mix of the clay.

Grandmothers search the dessert for shards of pottery once formed, fired, used and then discarded.  Lifting the broken pieces from beneath the sage and white sand, they grind the old shards into powder.  The potters then mix the old powder with unfired new.  

The two clays-the old and the new together- are molded and when fired become the strongest pottery.
So we are formed, if we allow it. Old powder from our past experiences once thought useless, broken, lacking value, can be combined with new, and through the fires of life, can give us strength.  I wish for you this kind of strength.

As a thank you for hosting Brenda, and to celebrate her manuscript and proposal being sent to publishers from her agent, she is having a giveaway.  Go to the very end of this post to enter to win $100.00 gift card.  Hmmmm.... I wonder if I can enter!?

Connect with Brenda here:

Meet Brenda now and hear her story as her church does a series called “This is My Story”.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Quilting Connections with Log Cabin Threads

I once thought book groups were where women connected best through the years. But now I think it’s in quilting groups. I’m not a quilter by any means but I know many women who are and they’re treasures, every one.

One of the metaphors out of quilting I love best is the definition of a Crazy Quilt as “organized chaos.” When I’m in the final chaos of revisions it feels like organized chaos. I’m most extended then, overcome with clutter and detail, trying to make sure I’ve not changed the eye color of a character half-way through or given her a back story early that I never use. I’m trying to see the big picture while stitching every detail into place. Sometimes it’s as though I’m wearing one of my husband’s work boots on one foot while standing barefoot on the other.

My life seems crazy, a hodge-podge of color and shape and texture but there is order there if I just seek it. The offer of an encouraging word just when I needed to hear it. The kindness of strangers lending their teaching skills. A wise word from an editor. The nurture of laughter with a friend. These moments that seem disparate really aren’t. They’re patches of a kind, threaded together to form the quilt of who we are.

I was once invited to a quilters retreat to talk about stories in our lives. The women brought their sewing machines and materials and they worked away while I talked about the power of story. A few women convinced me I could quilt and I ended up staying up well past midnight working on a “nine patch” with its blends of green and brown, not colors I usually choose by the way. Somewhere in my subconscious when I selected my “fat quarters” to make my little quilt creation my mind chose colors of my story, a book about both holding on and letting go. My story inside A Log Cabin Christmas Collection called "The Courting Quilt" shares that theme of staying connected to our memories while letting them go to make new ones. I can imagine a group of women sitting around a quilt frame with "threads and tongues" going strong, telling stories and finding order in the process. Why, there's even a quilt pattern called Log Cabin. Out of the chaos of my life that weekend came something creatively connected. How serendipitous is that!

I hope you’ll look for the serendipitous moments of your creative day today. That word means “the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”

The authors of A Log Cabin Christmas have contributed prizes for one large giveaway basket you have a chance of winning by entering the giveaway. Yes, you might have sought for it by entering but it's still an "agreeable thing" to win. I sent my Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft book along with beautiful quilt-themed cards by a master quilter and friend Sue Kopp and magnetic book marks by a local quilt artist. To enter the giveaway the form is at the end of the post,  should you have questions about how to participate, visit this page.

Here’s one last tidbit of detail that serendipitously arrived about story and quilt: blood spilled onto a quilt can be neutralized with the spit of that same bleeding soul. Isn’t that amazing? Our own spit can wash away blood better than water or even some high-tech stain remover. All right, so that may seem like a useless piece of information – unless you’re a quilter who has just spilled her blood on a work of soft art. Then, knowing how to get rid of the stain becomes pretty important. I don’t remember who wrote it but someone once said that to become a writer all you had to do was “open a vein and bleed over your paper.” So perhaps there are more links to writing and quilting than I’d earlier thought! So sew away and don't forget to enter the drawing for the great giveaway.  These authors have bled over their work.

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