Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Quick Takes Friday about New Houses, New Story Triumphs, and Newsish

I’m returning this Friday to Seven Quick Takes, hosted by thisainttheLyceum, as I’ve got a bit of time to spare for blogging for once.

seven quick takes friday 2

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I’m off to Scotland tomorrow, woo! Two more weeks of not knowing if I can post on a regular schedule or have the ideas. Seriously, though, I’m looking forward to my holiday and taking a bit of a break from the stress I’ve had recently. I’m still finding writing quite emotionally difficult at the moment.

~2~

For that matter, I’ve had access to WiFi for the last couple of days, but I have to say, I’ve got into the practise of jumping straight into writing, rather than I am hoping to, after this, do some necessary editing to the background of Abney Park. It’s certainly nice to have Spotify at my disposal again. ;)

~3~

It was enjoyable to see The Boyfriend’s family over last weekend. With one of my best friends getting married in November (and me being one of her bridesmaids), lately I have come to remember how important family is – and has always been to me. Before I became a Catholic, I already had a notion that I’ve been called to be a wife and mother and teach others about God and Faith through my example. It’s difficult sometimes – often – but with Family, I don’t feel as much anxiety to share my faith as with, say, the internet or the university community. I feel God’s Love so strongly when interacting with the microcosm of family, and I so want to share in that.

~4~

I’ve spent in total about three weeks at the new house. At the moment, it’s only me and one of the three housemates, and we won’t be resuming our Chapter House Christianity duties until the new academic term starts at the end of September. However, as our tenancy is a July – July one, I thought I’d spend some time ‘acclimatising’ to the place. I love cooking for myself, and my housemate is the epitome of the generous Christian cook. ;) Her cookies, and other puddings, are delicious.

~5~

I was lucky to escape the Tube strikes by a few days. My trip up North takes me down via London first, and sometimes I think I can deal with the journey, but other times it’s just a slog through so many people, gates, and trainways. So, I am grateful that my recent journeys (minus one, where two trains back were cancelled) haven’t been too delayed.

~6~

I finished my CampNaNoWriMo novella about a Steampunk campus, monster, and MRI machine. I have a lot of favourite extracts, but below is a piece from one of the final chapters where, though the final fight is over, Summer is in despair at what she has lost, and a circus-traveller offers her consolations.

~7~

Taking her eyes from Summer’s for a blinding second, the RingLady removed the medal above her heart, five old cogs wrought into the symbol covering all of the circus banners and here attached to a badge displaying the word RingLady, and turned it down-facing. With short fingernails smudged with cobalt paint, she dug into the medal, into the pentagon of cogs, and lifted out a stone, bright purple in colour with veins of pink tarnished so they were almost silver. It was barely longer than one of Summer’s nails.


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Quick Takes about Guided Prayer, Farmyard Frolics, and a Rule of Life for Next Year

Oh, hi, Friday, come here often? Haha, the week has passed so quickly with the everything and nothing I’ve been doing.

seven quick takes friday 2

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Guess what I’ve been doing this evening?

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My Neuroscience revision is coming together for my exam next week, and that occasionally involves painting a silver squishy/stress ball brain with various colours to represent neurology pathways, such as the somatosensory cortex, the Fusiform Face Area (not shown), and the superior temporal sulcus.

~2~

Reading Uni has been running a Week of Guided Prayer this week, which has been a nice change. It involved half an hour of prayer a day I experienced a relaxing, calming pace of prayer and talked about women in the Gospels with my guide, where we both discovered more about the passages and people that we hadn’t realised through solo reading of the gospels. God also opened my eyes to the interplay between prayer and work; I can take half an hour out of my revision and my day, and yet I am still able to focus on my revision – more so at times!

~3~

It was the General Election in Britain this week. I did contemplate writing a post about it (in fact, how badly some of my friends had reacted to the news on social media rather upset and/or aroused my opinion), but, in the end, there is no point in complaining about people who are complaining, as that would make me as bad as them.

But we could have done worse than another Conservative government, and the result is no one’s fault (especially not the general public’s!), but a reflection of a plutocratic norm that has existed for centuries. I think that the only way to avoid a situation like this would be to convert back to a society of skill-and-gain exchange.

~4~

But back to happier things. This afternoon, as part of the Union’s relaxation/distressing regime to ease us from our exams, they brought in a selection of farmyard animals and cute pets for us to handle. I got to hold a bunny, guinea pig, and stroke various other cutesies. A lovely distraction from work and way to release those natural endorphins.

A 13 week old lamb, aww.

A 13 week old lamb, aww.

More photos on Monday – unless I find something better over the weekend for my photo of the week.

~5~

 As well as the evening talks/workshops for the Week of Guided prayer, Wednesday evening saw a meeting of my house group for next academic year. We signed the official contract last week, and we moved in in July, so that is all very exciting. There are four of us, and we plan to make our house a Christian community, a Chapter House for those wanting to pray together, eat together, and discuss scripture together. We started this this year, but it has been non-residential, out of the kitchen of the Chaplaincy assistant, so the residence-ness is a big step, and we were meeting to discuss our Rule of Life: our way of living as a community, including how much time we were giving to community work, social work, and Chapter House feedback.

It was an enlightening experience – we spent an hour in full discussion, and I didn’t realise there was so much to be considered – but a rewarding meeting. Just that meeting, imagine! I can’t wait to start living out our plans for faith living.

~6~

Again, nothing to report on the writing or editing side of life. I had a cracking vivid dream yesterday about the eldest of a collection of siblings – most of whom are twins, but he isn’t – who has to solve a life-size, Indiana-Jones-like-exploration puzzle (starting as a Where’s Wally/Waldo game) to reveal family secrets. I hold off from writing or planning it, because I know I will become immersed if I do. Story of my life.

I almost did this evening, but then my revision took my mind and left me a shell, waiting for the time for inspiration. It’s now 11.30 and later, so I have run out time.

~7~

I leave you with a quote from Hosea, the fancy image found on He is Our Strong Tower:

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How apt for the start of my exams. Pray for me, that God gives me the wisdom, insight, and determination I need to power on through my revision, my birthday (yeah, that’s totally a thing I keep forgetting), and the rest of May.

God bless. Have a lovely weekend and a good following week.


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I Finished My Catechism Challenge…Now What?

Around the end of 2013, as I really entered my catechesis stage and began to inject faith not only into my life but to be my life, I decided I was going to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church from beginning to end, one or more paragraphs a day, no matter how long it would take. I’ve had some blips along the way (as have we all!), but I strove on reading when I could…and I stumbled on the Amen almost-prematurely.

I’ve given myself a few days for the inevitable to sink in around my academic work and blog planning (and the Tea Incident of destroying my laptop): I have no more Catechism challenge. No more daily routine. No more set plan through which to experience God.

Eep.

Firstly: Hooray! I completed what I set out to do! 

But I’m left with something of a hole in my plans.

It would be easy for me to say that I should present myself with a new challenge, something based around reading The Bible every day, perhaps, or going through the Sunday missal. To add something into the space where my Catechism challenge was. But I don’t think these as challenges would be beneficial.

Let me expound. Reading the Catechism on an (almost) daily basis massively strengthened my relationship with God. It’s not something that I’d want to revert to the way it was, even in the few years before I was confirmed. Yet, I don’t want to set myself a challenge; I don’t want to use that label when it comes to The Bible, the Most Sacred book, I still see the importance of daily prayer and time for God alone, but I don’t want to feel so guilty if I miss a day through not-remembering or a change of location. I think that is reducing it to a task-and-reward relationship— if one could even call that a relationship at all.

It’s not a question of what I should do, but how I should be living my life in a more Christian fashion. Only reading something would no longer be helpful to the way I live my life as a Christian; now I must further put into practise what I have been taught.


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‘Eve’s Apple’ Virtual Book Tour

Today, I’m taking part in the virtual book tour for Eve’s Apple by Marie Therese Kceif. It’s an inspirational autobiography, detailing a woman’s journey to God and conversion to the Catholic Church through the difficulty life has thrown at her, including war, abuse, and divorce.

 

Title: Eve’s Apple

Author: Marie Therese Kceif

A Witness of God’s Faithfulness: Marie struggles to grow in grace and guidance from the Lord while slowly recognizing her own rebellion. She intimately shows us the highs of her aviation, military and automotive careers and the suffering lows of abuse, bankruptcy, and divorce. Her relationship with God grows through it all. Eve’s Apple is a witness of how God gently guides one of His Eves into a slow freeing surrender of a Mary’s trusting yes. This is a journey of hope, faith, and real relationship!

 

As a convert myself, I always enjoy reading about others’ journeys, and Marie’s stark writing captivated me, offering its own signs towards God. I was particularly moved by the passages she described of her experiences of how adultery, divorce, and remarriage can be selfish and affect more people than simple the couple involved. Interspersed with Scripture quotes and church teachings, Marie’s tale of adversary emphasises how God is always guiding us and with us if we listen to the signs He is providing. Indeed, I was able to relate to Marie about times when I have ignored God’s suggestions for a selfish alternative. Yet, the book does have a happy ending – showing how each of our bad decisions can bring us into God’s light in the end.

EvesApple

Now isn’t that a lovely cover? Full of the idea of Eve’s temptation to stray from God.

 

Available on Amazon in softcover and hardback:

http://www.amazon.com/Eves-Apple-Marie-Therese-Kceif/dp/1462410219

Also available at the Publisher’s Website:

http://bookstore.inspiringvoices.com/Products/SKU-000693538/Eves-Apple.aspx

Goodreads Giveaway: (drawing to occur April 26)

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/132147-eve-s-apple

 

Marie’s Biography:

From farm life in Wisconsin, Marie Therese Kceif went on to have a varied full life. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics. Marie became an active duty US Army Capt. and pilot, automotive manager, bible study leader, RCIA guide, lector, speaker, writer, mom and wife. She now lives with her husband in Fenton, Michigan.

You can contact Marie Therese at marietheresekceif@gmail.com

Other stops on the Virtual Book Tour:
April 9 – Karee Santos (Can We Cana)
April 13 – Ellen @ Plot Line and Sinker
April 14 – Michael Seagriff (Harvesting the Fruits of Contemplation)
April 15 – Alexandrina Brant <
April 16 – Karee Santos (Can We Cana) Review
April 17 – Jean Heimann (Catholic Fire)
April 18 – A.K. Frailey
April 19 – Melanie Juneau (The Joy of Nine)
April 20 – Nancy Ward (Joy Alive.net)
April 21 – Dana Doyle (Catholic Working Mom)
April 22 – Ellen @ Plot Line and Sinker (Interview)

Thanks to Ellen Gable for inviting me onto this book tour, and to Marie Therese Kceif. She is offering a free ebook code to a winner each day of the Virtual Book Tour. Comment below for a chance to win. Tell me, readers, religious or not, what is a favourite inspirational story, fiction or non-fictional, you have come across and why?


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Finding God in the Happiness

Spring_Alex_B_Daff5

As Lent rolls around again – and with it, the first-year anniversary of my Rite of Election – I find it apt to reflect on spiritual health. Now, in terms of the other levels of health one can have, I have been pretty physically healthy over the last few months (praise God!), my mental health and anxiety has been mostly stable, and emotionally I have hardly in my life been as happy as I am at the moment, in spite of the stress of work.

But have I been spiritually healthy?

First instinct – be that my disparaging mind or the voice of God – says no, loudly and clearly. I am a sinner and sometimes I am not as humbled or penitent of the fact. I can count the sins I commit every day, and sometimes my sincerity is lacking when I ask Him for forgiveness. I try to pray to some extent every day and to read a page of the Catechism every day, but I fail often as more than weekly, and sometimes through my own mind, saying I can’t be bothered.

These thoughts of forfeiting God’s attention for living in the moment have haunted the Christian throughout time. Wherever there has been Christianity, there has been the Devil in the temptation, sometimes of Sloth – and sometimes of giving us a happiness that we think we do not need the Lord by our side.

You see, it is so easy to forget God when one is having a good time. I don’t mean the act of going out and, for instance, indulging ourselves on substances and activities (though the stoic may argue that we offend God with our pleasurable sin), but in the emotional resonance of having a good time: being happy.

When we’re happy, one may argue, we have no need of petitionary prayer. We have nothing for which to ask God. Why pray when all one would be saying to God is thank you and praise you?

Well, that exactly. For starters, God appreciates it when we acknowledge that He is behind the source of our happinesses – He is happy that we, His children, are happy, and He will always be happy when we thank Him for even the small joys. God is worthy of our praise, regardless of how we are feeling in the transitive moment.

Too, there are always things for which to pray to God. It is easy to slip into the mindset that we can only pray to God when we need something, but actually God’s creation may be suffering elsewhere. It is always worthwhile to extend prayers to God for the needs of others, be they friends, family, the old lady who lives down the street – or those on the other side of the world suffering famine and tragic loss. We will always need to pray for our souls and others’. In the same vein, the human will always be the imperfect sinner, so it is best to pray for forgiveness even if one does not know what sin exactly has committed today.

However, I understand that this is easier said than done. I have been trying to say grace before my main meal every day, but I’ve found my memory so lost in the day’s activities and the people I have seen to remember to say grace.

How can we find, or remember to talk to, God in those giddy-positive and happy moments in our lives? How, my question is, can we stay spiritually healthy and aware when we are living in the moment and enjoying it?

It is the little things, I think. Little moments of quiet one can seize when companions have left or popped into the next room. That little thank you prayer to God after a moment of success. I find that statues and tokens in the house help me remember to think of God as I bustle around my busy life.

Because even the simple act of giving Him thought – acknowledging that He is the Master of all life and time – is a start towards keeping Him in mind in whatever we may do.

With every day that I consider my spiritual health and that I may have strayed from God’s plan for me, I am in the mere act replenishing my spiritual health. With this in mind, I am thankful for Lent, thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice, and thankful that God knows exactly what the plan for my life is. I believe that the happiness I feel is a gift from God, rather than a Devil’s temptation, and so I try to keep my mind turned Heavenward for His sake.


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7 Quick Takes: I’ve Been Absent, But That’s the End of Term…

Wow, it seems these days that I’m so busy I forget even to blog. It’s not that it’s not important to me – and not that I don’t have ideas – the issue is simply one of time or lack thereof. Which is why 7 Quick Takes Friday is so rewarding. I do apologise for any shortnesses, though. Hosted by Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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So, what’s been going on in my life that I’m so busy, eh?

Essays, my friends. Essays and lab reports. I finished the latter and started writing the former today. I have two full weeks left of terms, so I must be on my guard and sharp to complete everything I need to.

~2~

Whilst I (once again – sorry!) neglected/forgot to post a Quick Takes last week, I did have somewhat of a post detailing my travels on Wed, and, for the thousand photographs I could spill here, I’ll stick to one.

Rules for etiquette...

Rules for etiquette…

~3~

I think I might be getting a cold, but I’m getting through with honey, Lemsip, and camomile tea. Oddly enough – compared the other times colds have hit me, and those are many – my bad synapses haven’t much affected my singing. I’m hoping this is a sign that I’m using my diaphragm, lungs, and soft palate to better and more lovely extent. One day, I’d love to learn the Bel Canto way properly, but, again, it’s something for which I have no time.

~4~

I am really getting into the swing of saying grace before mealtimes. In a crowded university hall, I haven’t yet the strength to say a full prayer to myself, but I can at least cross myself and remember that it’s God who has put me in this place at this time. Twice a week I have meals with fellow Christians, which is so helpful in ideas for the words to say, too. I’m not giving anything up for Lent, but I’m finding my cravings for meat have been less on days where abstinence is not necessitated.

~5~

I have been so blessed lately, with the friends and the life choices I’ve been given. It’s easy to get lost in ‘real life’ and forget the One who has created and allowed us to look after His world, so this is my little praise to God today. I hope to blog about that later in the week, but for now I’ll just nod and smile.

~6~

In terms of the writerly side of life, I have actually had the gears in my mind whirring this week. I’m managed to get some editing in – I finished the rewrite I was doing, and sent those pages off to two Betas, and now I’m playing the adjective elimination game, one page at a time.

~7~

Patience and Milo face danger as a mechanical beast* rounds on their hiding place. I’ve been jotting down notes for The Mallard: Cosmic Train short story for the last couple of weeks, but, with the little time I have, I’ve not met them in running script yet. Writing in first person from Patience’s view (I have yet to decide if I want to see from Milo’s perspective, too) is interesting – unusual for my fantasy genres – but I think it’s working. Patience is a kindly maid, but she’s intelligent enough to question the so-called facts and orders when necessary.

Indeed: the clanking of a metal-adapted beast as it trailed its elongated limbs from the rear carriage. The strained grinding of the internal gear-cores, choking under their own weight and the oil I’d watched the creature guzzle, stumbled closer. Our hiding spot. With a nose no doubt amplified with certain measures of pewter and fibreglass curling from its orifices, the beast drew out a sniff and its scraping spilled again into their room.

*I have yet to decide what animal I want here, so this is deliberately rather vague for the moment!


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7 Quick Takes about Poeming, Photoshooting, and Bipartite Discussions

Ah, Friday. I remember you from last week. That had been so long and so paltry a time ago. Now, of course, it’s time for this week’s 7 Quick Takes, hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum.

seven quick takes friday 2

#1. It’s funny how time changes, isn’t it? This time last year, I was practically petrified of everything and would never have asked a lecturer for source materials or tips. Today, I struck up a conversation with my Philosophy of Mind lecturer about the psychological problem of hemispatial neglect, which I am currently looking at in my Neuroscience module. Whilst I expected the bipartite degree to overlap, I never expected it to so directly.

#2. Speaking of which, you might have heard that the new term started. Eep. Expect my creativity productivity to decrease. I’ve already gained an essay, and next week is the start of Mini Project number two. It’s only a matter of months now before I start my final year project. Alas, the problems of university!

#3. Sometimes life gets the better of people, though, and one of my friends had to cancel her 21st party planned for tomorrow because she can’t make it up to Reading. Sadly, I’ve not seen her since she deferred her academic year for medical reasons, and, whilst I know she’s been recovering well, it’s still disheartening that I’m not going to be able to celebrate her birthday with her. Pray for her.

#4. In Chamber Choir, we’ve started the ambitious project of the Frank Martin Mass for double choir. I’m in the second choir (as a Soprano, of course), which gives me some of my lowest notes. Bizarrely, I can actually reach that low in my chest voice, but, boy, it’s not comfortable. Nevertheless, the sung Mass work is beautiful and ghostly. A piece of Heaven, one might say. If you want a nosy at the sound, YouTube has some good recordings (though, the whole piece is 27 minutes):

#5. I’ve been doing another over-elaborate photoshoot today with Lady Chronaire, as she gained a proper corset (yes, there are such things as fake corsets) with shiny shiny buttons today, and I spent a good time editing the rubbish auto quality of my laptop camera into photos that bore a little steampunk mystery to them.

AlexB_LadySChronaire_Explore2 AlexB_LadySChronaire_goggles

#6. Editing again this week. I’m making great progress with my January batch of writerly things, whilst also trying to hang out more with other writers on Twitter, Absolute Write, and their own blogs. I did, however, write a spontaneous poem in my own little way to combat the hail I encountered on my way home.

#7.

The day was crisp and low and kind of nice –
I took the scenic road,
Along the lake and
Where the mallards squawk.
Cold breeze engulfed my hands,
And only just numbed fingertips.
I wondered, purposed, beside the trees,
Whilst an ash-grey sky from invisible volcano smoked;
Before long, the plink and plonk
Of slow raindrops
Coated phone and face—
No, it was far too cold for rain.
Hailstones rebelled until
Safety I sought.
Yet, in that unsteady pace,
In that tumultuous sky,
I made my way home.

It’s kind of a love poem in its own little way: an apology for lamenting at the weather, but also one that cares for the nature around me. I had one of those wonderment moments where I just wanted to spend more time with God’s Creation. Not having the time, however, I simply took a different route back.

Don’t forget to catch up with everyone else! I’ll see you next week.

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