Hallowed Halls of Johns Hopkins

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The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning. ~ M. Scott Peck, author of Gifts of the Journey, In Search of Stones and The Road Less Traveled

Happy Halloween, everyone. On October 3rd, my cousin Meg Heisse and I witnessed a little hocus-pocus when we attended An Evening of Victorian Magic at Evergreen Mansion and Library, which is a Johns Hopkins University Museum. Since my cousin is a member, we attended a pre-performance reception held in the Asian red room among Chinese and Japanese collectibles. The bartenders stirred up Victorian libations and we saw up close magic tricks by David London. Mind reader indeed, out of a 52 card deck, the magician asked me to select one card and show it to others.  No slight of hand involved, through telepathic transmission he correctly identified the card I had picked. But that was just the start of the delightful evening. The magician had many more magic tricks up his sleeve once the show started and he came to the stage.

There was no need to build a stage for the evening because there is already a Victorian era theatre in the Evergreen Museum. And although there were no upper level seats for celestials to sit as in many Victorian theatres, we were told apparitions are in or about the rooms of the mansion. The theatre, painted by Russian Artist Leon Bakst, was used regularly to entertain the three Garrett boys, who at one time lived there.

The Evergreen Museum and Library was built in 1850 and became home to railroad magnate, John Garrett and his family. He was President of Baltimore and Ohio “B & O” Railroad. A little over one hundred years later, in 1952, the Italianate home from the Guilded Era was donated to Johns Hopkins University and it is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also in the mansion is a 30,000  volume library with much of which is English Renaissance literature. Paintings by Picasso, DegasModigliani and stained glass by Tiffany, a 23 karat gold plated bathroom all are housed in the structure. In the Asian red room I spied several pieces of Chinoiserie furniture and as I snooped around in the museum gift shop at Evergreen, I saw several beautiful publications about stained glass.

Today, my Halloween treat to our readers is a recipe for soul cakes which traditionally was the offering to others on All Hallows Eve. And here are a few pictures of our evening at Evergreen Museum and Library, too. Look carefully you might see things that fool the eye!

Some time soon I do look forward to returning to the historic Evergreen Museum to take the full tour. This wonderful landmark is only one of the institutions of the Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins. Check out the others on their website.

Thank you Meg for inviting me to accompany you for the evening.

This blog is brought to you by award-winning author, Sue Batton Leonard.

 

Good News: The Simplicity Concept

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All Things Fulfilling

simple day 2To some people, living the simple life conjures up thoughts of living out in the woods with no running water, cooking over an open fire and being entirely self-sufficient by growing one’s own crops and hunting and fishing. A bit extreme for most people in this world of modern conveniences.

The good news is there is more than one way of living a pared down lifestyle. We can chose to simplify our lives in ways that might better suit us rather than returning to the homesteading concept.

In the interest of simplifying my blog writing today, here is a link to a great article that outlines 10 ways to simplify your lifestyle. Do a little soul-searching by assessing which choice suits your interests best.

This blog is brought to you by the author of the award-winning memoir Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and short stories Lessons…

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Wear Red Tomorrow

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“Red is the first color of spring. It’s the real color of rebirth. Of beginning.” ~ Annie Condie

Are you planning on wearing red tomorrow? The American Heart Association has declared February 5th National Wear Red Day. This day is dedicated to raising awareness that “heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women, yet 80% of it is preventable.”

On the Go Red for Women website there are educational articles and resources to educate the public about the importance of children and fitness, and factors which increase chances of heart disease such as high blood pressure, smoking, inactivity and high cholesterol. The useful and free information is there for each and every one of us.

As Conway Twitty once said “listen to advice, but follow your heart.” Always listen to your body, and if it is telling you something is not right, don’t wait – go see a doctor. It could be the difference between death or life.

You can help the fight against heart disease by posting #GoRed on your Facebook page or through other social media.  Remember to #gored tomorrow, donate to the cause or fill a shopping cart at the GoRed on-line store.

Thanks for listening and tomorrow is a good a day as any to begin improving your heart health.

My award-winning memoir Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected speaks to this issue which is close to my heart.

 

Keep a Heart from Aging

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The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball. ~Doug Larson

Guess what I got last week? A Save the Date notification of my 45th  high school reunion. When I first read it, I thought, “Oh, there is a typo,” until I made some mental calculations. How could it be that so many years have passed?  After all, wasn’t it just last week I was a teen?

In all those years since I was a student I have only attended one college reunion. I guess it’s because I am more interested in living in the present.

 I’ve maintained some friendships in my home town as well as my college town  over the years so I haven’t let go of my schoolmates completely.

About a year and a half ago, I had a book signing  for my award-winning memoir at Ukazoo Books in Towson, Maryland, the town where I grew up. It’s the setting where most of my memoir takes place. It warmed my heart to see some faces I hadn’t seen in decades.

Sue with snowball heart close upLife has been kind to me despite very tentative beginnings and I am extremely grateful for that. I feel very young at heart and try to do all in my power to stay healthy. There are lots of theories of how to achieve that, but moderation in all things is the key, in my opinion.

An exception to the rule is allowing oneself to do kid-like things frequently. What’s good for the heart and soul is guaranteed to be good for our health, including residing since 1975 in the snowy mountains.

This article explains the benefits of getting out and enjoying some wintertime activities!

Sue with snowball heart

This blog is brought to you by award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard.

 

 

A Whip Stitch Character

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The basic quality that any great story must have is a story that illustrates the human condition.” ~ William Shattner

Who is your favorite audio book narrator?

What’s that you say? “You’ve never listened to an audio book yet?”

What is you, crazy?

Audio books are on the rise and are greatly appreciated by those who are on the run. They allow for multi-tasking – while driving in the car, exercising or cooking dinner. You need not do a thing, only listen.

Here’s a list of some of the favorite audio book narrators of all time. Narrators like Maya Angelou and Garrison Keillor and others are well liked because their voices are so memorable.

Valentines 2016It was a fulfilling experience narrating my own audio book because the central character, Fanny, had a dialect I could emulate so well.  It is what many readers say “drew them into the story in the first place.”

If she were here today, “she say, you oughts to put dem earplugs in yo’ ears, and listen to a story. You don’t knows what you is missin’.”

Oh, how I miss that lady who was the heart and soul of my story. She was some kind of special. One might even call her a “whip stitch.” Just thinking about her makes me smile. And she sowed my heart in more ways than one.

If you are looking for a fun, memorable experience listen to the audio book version of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected through Audible. It’s downloadable within a few minutes. Any one of the formats – the award-winning audio book, e-book or paperback makes for a great Valentines gift for yourself or for someone in your family.  After all, it is a love story from several different perspectives!

Also available are 10 short stories cut from the EVVY award-winning manuscript, Gift of a Lifetime. Lessons of Heart & Soul gives readers a humorous and touching glimpse into the love of a family, just like the first publication. .

Into the Heart of the Story

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An angel can fly directly into the heart of the matter. ~ Unknown

Time is running out! Order the three time award-winning memoir Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected right now for the entire family to enjoy reading together. It is available in audio book (the voice holds the real treasure!) and the e-book and can be delivered in just a few minutes. It’s  not too late to order the paperback either. It may arrive at your doorstep before Xmas if you jump right on it.

Since Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected was published, a few of the most common remarks from readers have been:

“I wanted to be part of YOUR family!” 

another reader said:

I read the story slowly, a little bit each evening, because I didn’t want it to be over!

Why? Because the truths from the stellar character, Fanny, were told in a manner that involved hilarity and unconventional wisdom. Life long lessons were taught by a human being with a limited education who knew how to go directly to the heart in every manner. Fanny’s unique translation of the gospel truth can be grasped by children.

 

Recipe for an angel

See you back here on Monday, on All Things Fulfilling! I will look forward to your company.

Dear Santa 2015

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December, 2015

Dear Santa,

635524489837773185-write-santaI hope you haven’t had your fill of yearly letters from me yet. This December I have an even larger request. Over the past few years you’ve marvelously delivered what I’ve asked for so I hope you can
pull things off for me once more.

Three or four years ago I requested that you provide me with memories of my childhood so I could pen a memoir. Things came through very clearly.

The next year I was lagging in the motivation to finish the publication. Miraculously, persistance and determination began to show up more frequently. Thus, I accomplished my goal. Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected came into the marketplace.

Last year, as you may remember, when I read my Dear Santa letter at the Steamboat Writers Group Xmas party I asked you for two gifts – to deliver some creative ideas on fresh ways to market my memoir and ideas for a new publication. Out of a small twinkle I once saw in your eye Santa, my e-book Lessons of Heart & Soul came into being.

I’m a little concerned that I am really overstepping my limits this year. I have a larger request than ever. Regretfully for you, but fortunately for me, my love of writing keeps leading me forward which requires asking for what could be harder to fill requests every year.

Santa, I am in dire need of a new computer. I mean, the one I’ve got I can tell is nearly worn out. I am grateful that it still is hanging in there.  I can always go work in the library, if  you can not fulfill my request. After all, it’s a beautiful environment – bright, cozy warm and the technology is all there. Problem is we are limited in the number of hours we can use their computers.  There are lots of other people who need them. I understand. I’m not kidding, I really do. Sometimes I awake in the middle of the night…and you know what William Faulkner says about that – “if there’s story is in you, it’s got to come out.

This year I’ve been asked to edit a publication and I need to contribute a chapter to the book also. I could work a little more efficiently if I had a new computer.

Lastly, Santa, I need a larger spark of interest in my ancestors because I have become involved in a genealogy writers group. Although I love to write about my memories, and I have a new found love of writing fiction, my most recent foray into a story can not come from just my own opinions. I’ll need some facts to better substantiate what I intend to write about. Can you help me out with that?

I’ve been a good girl. I always work hard at whatever I am doing. I’ve gotten my work ethics from my forebearers! I am not a slacker. I try to be kind and compassionate, like you. I help others to successfully accomplish their independent publishing goals by sharing my knowledge. It’s what I love to do!

Say, I have an idea! How about one year you and Mrs. Claus write love letters to one another about the spirit of Christmas.  They will be in kept in the family archives for generations. All your little elves down the line will love it too. I’ll help you if I have the means to do so. That is… with my new computer… (Hint, hint!)

P.S. Please don’t forget to take some time out for yourself. It keeps you healthy and in the right spirit of Christmas. Love U! Sue

Storytelling To Remember

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ E.S.V.

The most loved Christmas story of all tells the tale of the virgin birth of baby Jesus. The Christmas story in Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected is  different, but it is an award-winning narrative. There is something in the book for everyone in the family!  The whole tale as told by EVVY award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard,  is sure to be remembered by young and old alike! It is narrated in a non-traditional way that will keep your attention.

What’s between the cover?

  • Unexpected gifts from heaven
  • Bright shining stars
  • A hilarious angel with a memorable voice
  • Blessed arrivals
  • Love of family
  • Faith’s awesome powers
  • The heart of the matter about the gift of life

IMG_20151202_143954_633

A perfect tale to share with your friends and loved ones during this Christmas season. Just as there are different versions of the Bible, some more preferred than others, the award-winning anthology of stories, a memoir, Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected is available in paperback and e-book. The real treasure, however, is in the audio book! You will be able to really connect  with the stellar character, Fanny, in the story when you hear her voice! What a memorable angel!

On Monday we will continue the interview with playright Jorge Avila!

 

 

Putting Back the Balance

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life like a bike

I love this image because it reminds me of a simple life – when tragedies such as what we just saw occur in Paris did not happen. A time when people were more caring toward their fellow man, had moral standards and pride that people worked hard toward achieving. Being a good, law-abiding citizen was something to be proud of.

Internationally things are a mess, and the only thing we can do as individuals is strive to do the right things in our own little worlds – in our families and in our neighborhoods and communities.

There is truth in the quotation “in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Physical activity is good for a healthy mind, body and spirit. But, moving constantly due to unnecessary holiday frenzy, climbing the corporate ladder or wanting to have it all and wanting it NOW can lead to burn out, stress and imbalance. Results or goal driven people have a difficult time recognizing when they are teetering, ready to crash, until its too late.

have a cuppaIt’s important to take time out for ourselves and our families. When you’ve been on a roll, it is even more difficult to lay down the law with yourself and call it day.

So, my writing today is sort and sweet. I’m going to pretend what retirement looks like for a just a few minutes, with help from this article.

Do return tomorrow on Film Friday. I will be posting some information about a  just released movie that you and your family might enjoy watching together. You may remember this story of hope as one of the most compelling news stories of 2010. I remember sitting in front of the television in rapt attention as the events of this day in history unfolded.

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, author of Lessons of Heart & Soul and the EVVY award-winning memoir Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

Up the “Awe” Factor for Kids

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Your deepest roots are in nature.  No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation. ~  Charles Cook

In a world where there is tremendous focus on material things, how do we increase children’s “awe” factor about the natural world?

milkweed

Skip the frequent trips to the mall, and head to the great outdoors for fun and activities instead. Insist upon it as the parent. Teach your child to take notice of the spectrum of colors in the flames of an autumn bonfire. Next spring sit quietly with your family and listen to the crickets tone. Do it again  as spring moves into summer and as that fades into fall. You will notice there is a difference in the tones of one of nature’s creatures.

Point out the milkweed pods in a field and the fluff that blows through the air when it dries and opens. Let your child experience the difference in taste between a just-picked tomato off the vine and a refrigerated one.

vintage harvest

Visit the local farm to see where hens lay eggs, or to observe newborn lambs in the spring.  

Take a group of children on a hike and bring along a wildflower guide or a bird book – see how many species you can identify.

hiking

Go on a scenic family bike ride or watch a fishing boat as it unloads the catch of the day.

biking

Play outside on a snowy day with your family. Watch each crystal formation land on your gloves and examine how two snowflakes are alike – just like people.

Substitute digital playmates with neighborhood friends. Host baseball games at your place or invite kids to join in for some jump rope fun.

softball

kids-jumping-rope

You may be met with rolls of the eyes and bored “uh-huhs” as you point out the beauty in nature, but with time your child will grow to appreciate the outings. As kids mature they begin to “get it” and share the wonders of the world with others who appreciate and value the same kinds of things.

kids-beach

Your family will also benefit from times of special togetherness. With the holidays coming up it is a good time to start changing habits and initiating new traditions and living through the process of discovery.

There is an eye-opening documentary film that addresses children’s nature deficit disorder. The value of outdoor play for children is significant, especially in the digital age when children spend far too much time indoors.

This blog is brought to you by the author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.