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.

 

Life Changing Moments

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When we establish human connections within the context of shared experience we create community wherever we go.”Gina Greenlee, Postcards and Pearls:

As a follow-up to the writings of the past two days about how our life stories come together through the associations we make with others, once again I am reminded that we really are never alone. Here is how it happened:

gym uniformsI am connected with an on-line group of people who grew up in the town and area that I did. Someone posted a picture of a vault box used in gymnastics. An onslaught of postings followed of individual memories of junior high and high school gym classes during the 50’s and 60s.

Comments about the vault box echoed my sentiments exactly. Many said “taking showers in a non-private environment was so humiliating because we were at a vulnerable age when bodies were changing and teens were so sensitive about how they looked to others.” Others stated their distain for the gym uniforms because they were “dorky.” Others mentioned individual sports that they detested or were no good at. Some said “they loved gymnastics and the vault box but hated running laps on the track or in relay races.  That’s when they felt so inadequate.”

Junior high and high school gym class held such strong memories for me that I even devoted an entire chapter to it in my memoir. I had a life-changing moment in the gym in the Towsontown Junior High School, that will never be forgotten.

Do you have any moments in your life that changed the direction of your life forever? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment.

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

 

Living With the Heart of a Child

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“Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming.” ~ Joseph B Wirthlin

It’s a wonderful thing to live as an adult with the heart of a child, still full of wonder.

We’re never too old to engage in childhood activities like taking a trip down the sliding board, pumping higher and higher toward the skies on a swing, wading in the waters of a rippling stream, getting messy with finger paints or diving into an ice cream Sundae with such zeal that it ends up all over our face.

The day after Christmas my son, his gal, my husband and I walked into Michael’s Craft Store, looking for a picture frame for a photograph of the two of them they had given us for Christmas.

“Pick out a frame you are happy with,” said Marc, “it will complete the present.”

Before we were finished shopping my son said “Mom, did you see what’s at the front of the store? You might be interested. Go pick one out for yourself.”

“I followed his orders and have enjoyed being a child all over again – all wrapped up into something that used to bring me hours of pleasure as a child.”

According to this article from Business Insider, I am not the only one who is having fun revisiting my childhood!

coloring book2

On some of these long, dark winter evenings, coloring has been a good change of pace from reading.

This blog is brought to you by the author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and short stories Lessons of Heart & Soul.

 

Spaces of Dreams

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“What you surround yourself with should bring you peace of mind and peace of spirit.” ~ Stacy London

Over the past few days blogs have been written about books with storylines about the planetary world. People all over the universe look to the skies and dream and wonder what’s out really out there beyond our earthly existence.

There is so much beauty on this planet Earth, and I love seeing photos of places where others live and the beautiful worlds that people create for themselves.

table top garden sceneI have a friend who looks like she might live a fairytale existence, but I know she doesn’t due to some real health challenges. She surrounds herself with joy, peace, serenity and beauty using her homemaking skills. and has a very special talent for doing it.

I think she’d tell you she has done better than she expected given her diagnosis twenty plus years ago. In my opinion, her beautiful home environment has something to do with it. Her challenges are still there but she dwells more on using her creativity to make a beautiful world for herself and her family – her husband, her two sons and their wives and her grandchildren. She puts so much charm into her environment, probably so she can more easily overlook the difficult stuff.vintage bike


Today, I’d like to give a shout out to my special friend in South Carolina. I hope someday soon I can go see her because it makes me sad that so much distance separates us.

This blog is brought to you by EVVY award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard. For information on her publication Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and short stories Lessons of Heart & Soul.

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. .

Bringing Cheer over the Holidays

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Let’s state something up front! There is no perfect life. There just isn’t. Postings on social media might lead us to believe otherwise but, remember, we are often only seeing the good parts. During the holidays people ramp up their efforts to create images of having perfect lives and Christmases.

Everyone has struggles and things to overcome in life. But as they say, what you do with those challenges is what counts. That is why it’s important that for those who have inspirational stories to tell and feel they could write a book about it, to do so. The reason I penned a memoir in the first place was to help others who struggle with health issues understand that our attitudes profoundly affect our well-being.

I’m very proud to say that this past Christmas, thanks to the Mickey Barrows Memorial Endowed Fund which “benefits children who are confined to the hospital during the holidays,” copies of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected found their way to families through the Childrens Colorado Foundation in the Denver area. The hope for the initiative is that the book brought some smiles and cheer to faces and encouragement to teen cardiac patients who were hospitalized during the holidays. The book has won the Harvest Book Award in the young adult category and two EVVY awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association.

So, for anyone who is considering writing a narrative that will bring light and love to others, here is my message: Help others to know you are never alone.

Your story matters!

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

See you back here on Monday!

 

 

From Lightweight to Weightlessness

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You don’t realize that you are weighed down all the time by yourself, and your organs, and your head. ~ Mary Roach, author of Stiff

“How was your float?” Valerie McCarthy, Owner of  Neptune Healing & Float Spa asked as I exited the private suite that held the pod (or tank) and shower area where I had spent an hour engaging in the closest thing I have come to nirvana.

“Wonderful! I guess it is the first time I have truly experienced total weightlessness.” Think about it, even when we are trying to float in salt water of the ocean, we are fighting against the tides and body beating waves. The high concentration of epsom salt in the float pod was beyond any other buoyancy I had yet to experience. I am a lightweight, and don’t have much body mass to move around, but still taking all weight off my structure (and brain!) was something I have never known -a complete yielding for one blissful hour. I believe I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes. However, Valerie said I may have reached the theta state (that gray area when you are not sure if you are awake or asleep).

The relaxed, “putty-like” feeling continued throughout the day and that night I slept like a baby (although admittedly, I often do). Every tension of 2015 was removed while I “practiced the pause” and drifted unsinkable in the pod.

float podFloating is said to be one of the top ten wellness trends to watch in 2016 and it is even being used in athletic science. Top athletes are jumping in the pod to relieve muscle aches and pains and reduce stress to improve performance.  Floating is also said to increase creativity. Rehab facilities are including float pods for their athletes. According to an ESPN article Stephen Curry is among those elite athletes who is taking advantage of this wellness modality.

I am feeling rejuvenated and have a sense of well-being about the New Year. Bring it on 2016, bring it on!  I am ready!

I would highly recommend this experience. I can see how floating could be even more beneficial to mind/body and spirit on a regular basis.

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard. EVVY award-winning of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.