Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Make Spiritual, Creative & Dream Journaling weekend your spring getaway

I'm leading a three-day Spiritual, Creative and Dream Journaling retreat the weekend of April 25-27, 2014 at The Christine Center in central Wisconsin. If you or anyone you know might be interested in attending, see more here.

Make this hands-on journal-writing exploration your spring post-Lent and post-Easter getaway to greet the season with new inspiration. Perfect for beginning and seasoned journal writers alike. The Christine Center is set near a state forest with lodging in hermitages, each unique, that dot wooded paths. Delicious vegetarian meals are served in the main building where the workshop takes place, along with optional attendance at morning and evening meditations, chakra-focused chanting, wood-fired sauna, a sky full of stars, and more.

Spiritual, Creative and Dream Journaling Retreat
Three-day journal-writing exploration
Friday, April 25 - Sunday, April 27, 2014
Christine Center, Willard, Wisconsin, tucked away in a pristine setting in central Wisconsin in


Deepen your spirituality, better understand relationships, foster creativity and delve into your nightly dreams with more focus through journal writing. Over the course of this three-day retreat, leader Cynthia Gallaher will help you uncover the journaling method or methods that best suit your personality. You’ll take part in hands-on explorations of journal dialogs, Japanese haibun (journal entries that end in a short poem) and naikan gratitude journal methods, Leonardo Da Vinci-style notebooks, artists’ journals, modern dream journaling techniques and more.

This retreat provides a stimulating and non-judgmental atmosphere for both newer and long-time journal writers. By the end of the retreat, participants can experience more clear direction toward spiritual, creative and emotional renewal through journal writing, and be motivated to develop a regular journal writing practice. Tuition is on a sliding scale basis. Range is from $85-$125, plus meals and lodging.

* Friday night, April 25, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.: Journal writing introduction, overview personality quiz and getting started.
* Saturday morning, April 26, 9 a.m. to noon: Stepping Stones and Dialogues as the basis of modern journaling.
* Saturday afternoon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Japanese techniques, artist and creative journals, and what would Leonardo da Vinci do?
* Saturday evening, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Dream journaling
What do you do when life gives you synchronicities, serendipity, coincidences or confirmations?
* Sunday morning, April 27, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Final thoughts for future journaling.

Cynthia will also include a few PowerPoint presentations, provide handouts and display selected books on journal writing.

At the completion of this retreat, participants will be able to:
~ Focus on the type of journal writing to fit his or her personality.
~ Access their own list of numerous, personal journal writing topics and questions.
~ Use journaling methods of Stepping Stones and Dialogues to address personal and creative issues.
~ Understand and use the Japanese methods of haibun and naikan.
~ Create a Leonardo da Vinci-style notebook, artist’s journal or other type of creative journal.
~ Create an active, personal dream journal.
~ Use journaling to explore & understand personal values, issues & memories.

Retreat leader Cynthia Gallaher is a poet, playwright, nonfiction writer and journal writer. She leads journal writing workshops in libraries, schools, centers and spas throughout the Midwest, and teaches an online course on journal writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago. ◦
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

How Knife Skills Changed My Life

Learning to wield a knife correctly proved to be a two-edged sword. Would my cooking live up to the new skills I was now so proud of? My world and attitude were turned upside-down as onions took a pole shift from latitudal cutting to longitudal.
Layers became easier to control. Onion slices and dices became more uniform and more attractive to the eye – and palate. You are what you eat, and others will eat what you slice, if it looks appetizing and not haphazard. Soon, my onion cubes made my pico de gallo stand taller with personality, and my sautéed onion slices added lavish luxury to my omelettes.
In the learning process, my knives became sharper along with heretofore dull skills. Who knew there was a difference between a sharpening stone and a sharpening steel? I certainly didn’t. Along with overeating, over-sharpening with a stone can be too much of a good thing. And along with no one seeming to drink enough water these days, it also seems that cooks don’t use a steel on knives nearly enough to keep those edges under control. Now I rely on both stone and steel, each in their designated times and frequencies.


(images courtesy of Food and Wine magazine)  

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Make an introspective getaway before the holidays -- journal writing weekend Nov 22-24

I'm leading a three-day Spiritual, Creative and Dream Journaling retreat the weekend of November 22-24 at The Christine Center in central Wisconsin. If you or anyone you know might be interested in attending, see more here, click on the latest newsletter and scroll down to page three.

This hands-on journal-writing exploration can be an introspective, inspiring getaway before the holidays for those new to journaling and seasoned journal writers alike. The Christine Center is set near a state forest with lodging in hermitages, each unique, that dot wooded paths. Delicious vegetarian meals are served in the main building where the workshop takes place, along with optional attendance at morning and evening meditations, chakra-focused chanting, wood-fired sauna, more.

Spiritual, Creative and Dream Journaling Retreat
Three-day journal-writing exploration
Friday, Nov. 22- Sunday, November 24
Christine Center, Willard, Wisconsin


Deepen your spirituality, better understand relationships, foster creativity and delve into your nightly dreams with more focus through journal writing. Over the course of this three-day retreat, leader Cynthia Gallaher will help you uncover the journaling method or methods that best suit your personality. You’ll take part in hands-on explorations of journal dialogs, Japanese haibun (journal entries that end in a short poem) and naikan gratitude journal methods, Leonardo Da Vinci-style notebooks, artists’ journals, modern dream journaling techniques and more.

This retreat provides a stimulating and non-judgmental atmosphere for both newer and long-time journal writers. By the end of the retreat, participants can experience more clear direction toward spiritual, creative and emotional renewal through journal writing, and be motivated to develop a regular journal writing practice. Tuition is on a sliding scale basis. Range is from $85-$125, plus meals and lodging.

* Friday night, November 22, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.: Journal writing introduction, overview personality quiz and getting started.
* Saturday morning, November 23, 9 a.m. to noon: Stepping Stones and Dialogues as the basis of modern journaling.
* Saturday afternoon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Japanese techniques, artist and creative journals, and what would Leonardo da Vinci do?
* Saturday evening, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Dream journaling
What do you do when life gives you synchronicities, serendipity, coincidences or confirmations?
* Sunday morning, November 24, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Final thoughts for future journaling.

Cynthia will also present a few PowerPoint presentations, provide handouts and display selected books on journal writing.

At the completion of this retreat, participants will be able to:
~ Focus on the type of journal writing to fit his or her personality.
~ Access their own list of numerous, personal journal writing topics and questions.
~ Use journaling methods of Stepping Stones and Dialogues to address personal and creative issues.
~ Understand and use the Japanese methods of haibun and naikan.
~ Create a Leonardo da Vinci-style notebook, artist’s journal or other type of creative journal.
~ Create an active, personal dream journal.
~ Use journaling to explore and understand personal values, issues and memories.

Retreat leader Cynthia Gallaher is a poet, playwright, nonfiction writer and journal writer. She leads journal writing workshops in libraries, schools, centers and spas throughout the Midwest, and teaches an online course on journal writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

What makes a dream journal different from a waking journal?

Just as creative greats and average folk from the past and present have done, you can use dreams to inspire your own poetry, fiction, painting, jewelry making, music, solutions to global issues – or to simply help understand your personal life and others. Some basic questions remain. How can you better remember your dreams, then interpret them and use your dreams as inspiration or as a tool of insight? One of the best ways to better experience, savor and reflect on your dreams is by keeping a dream journal.

If you already maintain a “waking” journal, you might want to start a separate “dream journal.” Why separate? According to the experts, it’s best to record dreams in a different manner than you would your waking hours in a journal.

In daytime journals, what stands out is the exploration of the “why” of things, centering on what you’ve done or could do, what you feel or hope to feel, and how you respond to others. In your daytime journal, you need to build on the reasons you act and feel the way you do.

On the other hand, since dreams are so weird and wiley to begin with, it’s vital to write them down in a factual, journalistic manner rather than begin analyzing them right away. In dream journals, simply capturing “what” you dream should be the goal, before the dream images slip away. In dream journals, you need to deconstruct, not build.

Focusing on the “what” will help you both gather and organize those loose and far-flung dream images that played in front of you the night before. Your dream journal is first a record of the “what,” and also the “where” and “when” of your dreams. Save the “why” for later, as I’ll explain below.

Dreams, on an ever-flexible time frame, can jump from past -- to future -- to present all during one dream. But surprisingly, you are always right there, in the moment. Your dreams may careen across the spectrum. Again, that’s reason to rivet your journal focus to simply recording your meandering path and not trying to explain it. In the midst of an actual dream, you are not looking back on yourself and saying, “Why am I dreaming this?” Instead, you are totally involved as an active participant in your dream, no questions asked.

In a waking journal, you want to break out of the chronological world of seeming step-by-step reality, by add creative asides, ongoing insights, ironies, memories of the past and anticipation of the future. You want to ask yourself questions, to cross-examine yourself to dig deeply for the “why” or “why not” of things.

Such self-analytical questions should arise in regard to your dream journal only if and when you’ve recorded a good 20 dreams or so. Since you’ve kept your dreams together in a separate journal, it’s now easier to go back and skim for recurring symbols laced through your several weeks or months of dream notes.

After you’ve logged this score or so of dreams, go back to circle or underline repeated images. Do you find two or more symbols that seem to stand out in your dreams? Are they trains, children, stairways, dogs or flying? What are they? Are they things or people – or are they emotions or feelings such as nausea, fear, sexual excitement, confusion, thirst?

Then look at the context in which these symbols occurred. Is there a pattern? What do these symbols mean to you personally? What emotions do they evoke? Do they relate to anything going on in your waking life? Do they represent something from the past you still need to deal with? Do they have any implication for the future? What images give you that “a-ha” moment, that spark or nugget that might serve perhaps to launch a new creative work?

Only you can answer these questions as you become more involved in remembering, recording and making use of your dreams. Your emotions can boil over like a heated caldron of water, can split your world in two like an earthquake, can wash away past hurts like repeated waves rendering a shoreline smooth. Your dream images may relate to something that has or can actually happen, or to an emotional or sheerly symbolic condition. Know that by merely starting a dream journal, you automatically give your deeper self a signal to pay more attention to your dreams.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Meeting Dennis Farina when he was officer friendly; future TV and film star

Before Dennis Farina became a popular, noteworthy actor, and while he worked as a Chicago Police officer, he also moonlighted evenings here and there at area teen clubs as a security bouncer.

My best friend Sue and I were regulars at these clubs and venues when we weren't working our various odd jobs. In 1969, in addition to being a high school student, I personally worked a total of 14 different part-time jobs over the course of the year, at places with names such as Bum Steer Restaurant, Rose Grill and Morrie's Clothing.

During our free time, dancing was what it was all about as far as Sue and I were concerned. I toned down the hippie garb a couple of levels when we danced at the rather collegiate Deep End Teen Club in Park Ridge versus romps through the psychedelic Kinetic Playground in Chicago.

One warm spring Wednesday night, Sue and I walked the three miles from our Chicago neighborhood to the Deep End. By the time we arrived, a long line of people fanned outside, waiting along the tall wooden fence surrounding the patio. The regular entry door where you paid your $1 to $5, depending on who was playing that night, was yards ahead of us.

“Hey, Sue, give me a boost,” I said. I wanted to see if we knew anyone already inside hanging out in the patio. As Sue held my feet, I grabbed onto the top of the fence. I pulled myself up, only to come face-to-face with a handsome, full-grown man in a dark uniform.

“Going somewhere?” he asked, slyly. I made a high, little gasp and reeled back, not from being caught snooping, but because he was so gorgeous. With feet now firmly back on the sidewalk, I looked up. He looked down on us over the fence, which was six feet tall itself. He was taller. Eight feet?

“You’re mighty tall,” Sue called up to him. “I’m not short,” he said. Then he paused and looked as us askew. “What do you think? I’m standing on a box.”

“Sure you are,” said Sue. “You’re probably a midget.” A look passed over his face as if he caught himself, annoyed to have let the banter go too far with teenage girls.

“Are you girls trying to sneak in?” he said, in a mock authoritarian tone. “My friend Cindy here only wanted to see who was in there,” Sue said. “What’s the hold-up getting in, anyway?”

“They just opened,” he said. “I guess everyone showed up at once, including you two.”

I examined him with fascinated curiosity. Deep End hired a number of moonlighting police officers like himself from Park Ridge and Chicago to work as bouncers for a few hours each evening. Parents in the area had complained that their children were coming home from Deep End inebriated. It wasn’t because the Deep End served liquor. They did not.

The Deep End had opened to give teenagers something to do and somewhere to go where liquor or drugs weren’t part of the scene. Nevertheless, certain kids entered with hidden flasks of whiskey or marijuana joints in their pockets. Bouncers weren’t as concerned with kids sneaking in as they were with kids handing six-packs of beer or other contraband over the fence to friends already inside.

Sue and I liked to chat up the cop bouncers. Most had both textured, carefree senses of humor and more mature, polished bearings than most of the silly teenage boys our own age. There was Farrell, a wise-cracking Irish-American Park Ridge cop who often played the grump, but had a warm heart. There was Showalter, a former Taftite who had Miss Marquardt as homeroom teacher. When I told him she was still at Taft High and my current homeroom teacher, he said, “She’s still alive? Miss Marquardt must be 100 years old.” I once told Showalter that he looked like Hugh Hefner, the kingpin of the Playboy empire. He said in response, “Oh no! That fag?”

I looked up again at the tall, beautiful man on the other side of the fence. A newbie. “Do you know Farrell or Showalter?” I said. “Am I supposed to?” he said. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Dennis,” he said. “No, your last name. We call all the cops here by their last name,” I said. “Farina,” he said. “Dennis Farina.”

“Isn’t farina just another name for cream of wheat?” said Sue. “What if we call you Cream of Wheat?” The head disappeared from the top of the fence as he got off his box on the other side. “Oh, he’s mad now, Sue,” I said, turning to her. A huge portion of the fence swung open. I never knew that part of the fence held a door-like panel that opened on hinges. Dennis Farina stood there, at his actual height of six-feet, two inches, holding the panel open for us.

“Get in here,” he said. We entered the Deep End patio and he closed the panel. “Are we in trouble?” I asked. “No, I’m just getting sick of listening to you. Go inside and leave me alone to do my job,” he said. “You mean you’re letting us in for free?” I asked.

He then turned his back, pretending as if he didn’t see us. Sue and I ran up the patio stairs into the club and danced the night away doing the "Funky Broadway," the "Boogaloo" and other dances of the era as local bands covered Motown favorites, or groups like the New Colony Six and Blood, Sweat and Tears played original material.

From then on, when Farina was on duty, we stopped to chat once or twice a night. We tried to behave ourselves and not act too silly, but it was hard. At age 16, “Silly” could often be both our middle names.

Farina grew up in the St. Michael Church, Old Town area, with his Italian father and German mother, by heritage. “My area was a poor, Italian neighborhood before the hippies came in and gentrified the place,” he said. “But it was a solid neighborhood. My parents lived there for decades. Now even they can no longer afford the neighborhood anymore.” They were forced to move to a less expensive residential area far west of Old Town. He was upset that what he once called home wasn’t the home he had once known.

By day, Farina served as a rookie cop on the Chicago police force, then worked at Deep End and at some of the area Catholic church teen clubs a few nights a week. When he’d see us at the Catholic venues, he’d just sigh and roll his eyes. “Not you two, again. Can’t I get away from you for one evening?” he’d say.

On one particular three-mile walk back to our neighborhood after Deep End closed, we spied Farina sitting in a corner coffee shop. He was wearing his police hat low on his head, the glow of the restaurant contrasting both the dark night and his chiseled, rugged face.

“He’s like ‘Nighthawks’ by Edward Hopper,” I said. “Remember we saw that painting at the Art Institute, Sue? The people sitting at the restaurant counter in the middle of the night? Farina’s a work of art,” I said.

Sue answered, “I wouldn’t go quite that far."

Another time, right in front of Farina, Sue said, “Cindy’s got a crush on you.” I was embarrassed, but only for a moment. “But I’m old enough to be your father,” Farina said. He was about 12 years older than I, 28 to my 16. “You might be old enough to be my brother, not my father,” I said. Somehow, that didn’t seem to impress Farina.

One night in late spring, Farina was on duty at Deep End as usual. “Some day I’m going to be far away from here and not a cop anymore,” he mused out loud.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“What I really want to be is an actor,” he said.

“And I want to run as Senator for the state of Connecticut,” Sue said.

“I just don’t want to be an actor,” he said. “I will be an actor. It’s going to happen.” Sue just laughed him off, but I could tell he was serious. In the midst of his intensity, his pronouncement seemed prophetic, as if it really would come true.

About a week later, Farina came up to Sue and me. “This is it. Tonight’s my last night,” he said.

“What? You’re leaving?” I said.

“I can’t take these places anymore,” he said. “Too much nonsense for what they pay me.”

We both couldn’t blame him and told him we’d miss him. He picked up his paycheck from the owners and took off early. Sue and I watched as he walked away, headed back down the block to his car, back toward Chicago down Touhy Avenue. Sue looked over to me.

I watched Farina and his elegant long legs move almost in slow motion farther and farther away from us. “Somehow, I feel that man might haunt me the rest of my life,” I said. And as it turned out, in a strange, unexpected way, he did. Just when I thought I’d forgotten him, he’d turn up in living color on a billboard, in TV shows such as “Crime Story,” “Law & Order” or “Unsolved Mysteries,” or movies such as “Get Shorty” or “What Happens in Vegas.”

Coincidentally, Farina’s character’s name on “Law & Order” was the same as one of my high school classmates who was also a Deep End regular, Joe Fontana (who coincidentally also became an actor).

Of course, I got over my teenage angst. When I witnessed various celluloid, four-color process and digital images of Farina, I really wasn’t “haunted” in the strict sense, but happy instead to be reminded of him, delighted to see what a success he had made for himself. Farina’s dreams of Hollywood came true, in a realm as far away from the Deep End of things as you might possibly get. #

RIP Dennis Farina -- July 22, 2013

(excerpted from Cynthia Gallaher's memoir-in-progress: "Year of 14 Jobs")
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Takeaways from the Health Freedom Expo

The Health Freedom Expo is more than a place to get a few healthy hints. It is a radical, grassroots, compelling weekend convention of dedicated, educated experts who care about our world and how we might survive in the midst of fluoridated water, ubiquitous GMO food, dangerous oil pipelines precariously scurrying over the Oglala aquifer, and a nation of Walmart-shopping, diet-pop guzzling, and Whopper-scarfing Americans.

The good news is that American awareness of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the damage they can do to human health has reached a tipping point (our savvy European siblings got wiser a little sooner). We're totally on to Monsanto's slight-of-hand to take over and make a draconian presto-chango to the seed supplies of the world. And at the Health Freedom Expo, speaker after speaker is convinced we're not going to let that happen.

In one place, I was able to listen to actress Daryl Hannah describe the Koch Brothers plan to drag fracked fluids from tar sands from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico with no regard for the fate of one of the nation's largest aquifers or the private property of thousands of Americans. If things go well for these conspirators, an area in Canada the size of the state of Florida will be fracked, broken and ruined in the name of sucking the last drop of sticky oil from its sands.

In one place, I was able to get the latest, informed word from Dr. Joseph Mercola, Patch Adams, Non-GMO expert Jeffrey Smith and many others -- dedicated to turning to organic, non-GMO, untainted real food, clean water, supplements and stress-reducing attitudes for health instead of the symptom-masking, pharmacuetical-juggling, and CAT Scan-happy western medicine solutions. For one, it's imperative we remove useless, and harmful, fluoride from our municipal water supplies, which pose a dangerous level of toxicity, especially for babies. Watch the eye-opening, hour-long Fluoridegate movie online for free.

In one place, I was able to get an antioxidant skin reading that had once been featured on the Dr. Oz show, get an analysis by a doctor who recommended a personalized recipe for my own green smoothie with mixture of fresh vegetables, herbs and healthy oils, learn how to analyze health by telltale signs on the tongue, skin and fingernails, and see my husband get tremendous shoulder relief from a five-dollar massage and energy treatment.

Last, but not least, I was able to meet Coast-to-Coast AM's George Noory, who moderated a fabulous panel of six health experts to a standing-room only crowd. See the proof in the photo! (used by permission from friend and photographer Cyndy Spatafore) So looking forward to next year, or whenever the Health Freedom Expo decides to return to Chicago.


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Friday, June 07, 2013

Create Your Own Stay-at-Home Writing Retreat

If you’ve ever been away from home at a writing retreat, you know how rich and valuable those special days can be in helping push your work forward in a vibrant way. At writing retreats such as the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I was able to write in one day as much as I would in seven if at home under my usual schedule of a day job, commuting, evening family duties and just living my life. Writing retreats, as well, are enriching experiences by just being in another location, surrounded by different cultural and natural resources for you to experience when you aren’t writing.

Staycation vacations are becoming more popular today as gas prices rise, time away from work harder to pin down and the cost of one-the-road food and lodging pricier. Why not instead create a stay-at-home writing retreat in a similar fashion to a staycation. Writer Beth Barany, author of The Writer’s Adventure Guide: 12 Stages to Writing Your Book, brought up these stay-at-home writing retreats in a recent article.

Stay-at-home writing retreats don’t have to be the week-long to month-long endeavors of away-retreats. Each can be comprised of just a couple of vacation days, a long weekend or even one day a week if that’s feasible with your schedule. If you have children, make it a day when they’ll be at school, in daycare or with grandma. Barany makes progress on whatever novel she’s currently writing by going on such localized writing retreats every Friday and Saturday. She works in three, one-hour writing stints over the course of each day. And instead of doing all her writing at home, she often café hops through her neighborhood, writing for an hour, then changing locations. She may go to another café, or perhaps the local library or diner.

Barany’s readers offered some great ideas of their own on other neighborhood locales conducive to writing, such as a patio with a bubbling fountain, a bookstore or an art gallery where you can sit down, even parking your car where you can get an ocean or lakeview, or at least within earshot of surf tickling shore. One reader said she was just getting ready to take a six-hour train ride (her half-day home?) – which she said “sounds like a retreat of sorts to me!” Another suggested preparing a special home-cooked meal at the end of a retreat day, complete with a celebratory glass of wine.

As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy taking hiking, walking or yoga breaks in between writing stints when I’m away on retreats. These same jaunts or stretch times can take place right out your own front door, as well. I also like taking breathers from my writing sessions with mandala breaks. Anyone can create a mandala. You don’t have to be an artist. Find a nearby table where you can spread out your materials. Draw a circle on a piece of paper using a compass, grab a small set of colored pencils, mark the center of the piece with a bold dot, and work up a colorful world of meditative wonder within your circular border. You can create a small, simple mandala in a half-hour – refreshing your mind by using another part of it that’s devoted to visuals and hand-and-eye connections – before you move back to your laptop or notepad for more writing.

Evenings during your stay-at-home retreats are great times to turn off the TV, close down your computer and get some enjoyable reading done – books of poems you’ve meant to read, how-to books on writing, a bestseller to get lost in. Before I hit the hay on retreat, I like to take a gander through a telescope or binoculars at the moon or planets that may be visible on a clear night, sit by a fire, or loll in a music-enhanced bathtub soak I usually don’t take time for. Retreats, whether at home or away, are times to not only nurture your writing, but also nurture yourself.

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