Episode 14: A chat with Ed Cyzewski

Shownotes for Episode 14: How-to pair wine and chocolate for a great party + a chat with author, Ed Cyzewski

(Your ears are not fooling you. In Columbus, Ohio at 9:30 pm a man rides a bike around and rings a bell as he sells frozen chocolate covered bananas. Too funny. And it sounds delicious, if not suspicious. That’s why I’m featuring chocolate in the wine segment today! Enjoy it. It’s bananas, after all.)

Want to try the practice of EXAMEN?

In this episode Ed and I chat about one of his favorite spiritual practices. It’s been very transforming for me too. It’s the practice of Examen (typically pronounced: EGGS-Aye-men).

This age old practice of reflection, mindfulness, and prayer to begin and end one’s day goes back ages in Christian History and is reflected in spirit throughout the bible. Like in David’s sentiments in the Psalms (like Psalm 119) and in Isaiah 26:9.

“My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you…”

So today I offer you my personal version of the Examen practice!

I call it “The Daily Sharpening Ritual”
–It’s the perfect way to supercharge and renew personal and spiritual awareness in your life.

It’s a simple but effective worksheet makes the practice easier to sustain. I hope you give it a try.
The practice takes just 3-5 minutes each morning and just before bed.
• You can see surprising changes in awareness in only 5 days.
(Simply print out 5 copies and follow-through for 5 days!)

Both EXAMEN-like worksheets below work like an Examen practice, but the 2nd one features prayer more fully in addition to reflection and mindfulness.

Check them out to see which one you like best. Print out both if you’d like:

SharpeningPRAYER• The SHARPENING Ritual 


(Enjoy these resources with my compliments…tipping what you can is optional.)

How we find spark:

We are in this together. As you listen and become part of what is happening here, it will be obvious that I spend a lot of time and a bit of money doing the show: website, paying for media hosting, producing it, editing, adding music, finding and speaking with guests, more editing, more research, and all the rest to bring you something of value in the Spark My Muse podcast.

Lots of heart, sweat and occasionally tears for your enjoyment and inspiration. You get to decide what that means and what it’s worth.


So, I invite you to just listen, read, and contribute what the episode is worth to you.


• If nothing, I apologize. Please, come back and listen again soon.

• If you think it’s worth one dollar, five dollars, twenty-five dollars, six hundred billion-gazillion dollars…you see where I’m going with this…, or offer something of equal value that is not monetary, simply contribute what it has been worth to you. HERE.

(or contact me here if it’s not monetary. Be creative!)
Thank you!
With Love,





Best tips for the tastiest pairing Party of chocolate and wine!

A how-to.

A chocolate and wine tasting party is so much fun.

• It’s ideal for groups of 3-12 people.

• Have each person bring some wine and provide samples of high quality chocolate and let the fun start!

It’s the acid:
One of the tasty things you can do is pair chocolate and wine. Both chocolate and wine have higher levels of acidity which makes them a naturally delicious match.

Well-paired wine and chocolate work together to make each one taste better. Delicious qualities come out in both the wine and the chocolate and even form a third taste. A careful selection is needed.

Here are some ideas of which wine to pair with which kinds of chocolate treats.


The most  important tip to remember is to keep the wine sweeter than the treat it’s pair with.

(If you don’t it can make the wine seem less tasty and flavorful or heighten its bitterness. yucky.)


Make sure you have high-quality chocolate. 

Many supermarketers have a premium chocolate section and you probably only need one bar of each kind or just a good quality box assortment. Baked good work as well and you can search online too.


Taste test the chocolate ahead of time: Pick out certain fruit flavors, determine the sweet and bitter components they have, check for nuttiness qualities and levels of acidity. If the chocolate has a creme center this will take on added complexity that might pair well with fruit-forward wines. 


A rule of thumb is that darker wines tend to pair better which darker chocolate and should be served first: More full-bodied, (heavier feeling in the mouth) dark and drier (not a sweet style) red wine pair well with the more bitter chocolates that have a higher cocoa %.

White wines tend to pair well with milk chocolate blends and chocolates that have sweeter and fruitier flavor notes.

Remember TIP #1 one …keep the wine SWEETER than the chocolate!

Pick your wines according to the flavors you’ve tasted in the chocolate,
 and ask your guests to bring a specific variety of wine.

Here are some specific ideas for the kinds of wine you may want to serve, but you can feel free to experiment and see if your palate prefers something different.

Bittersweet chocolate (70% to 100%): This chocolate type enters the bitter range with deep intensity. Good choices include Bordeaux wines (merlot, cab franc, cab save), Beaujolais, Shiraz, Port, Malbec.

Dark chocolate (50% to 70%): Pair this with more robust wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, off-dry chamborcin and Port. A Chianti can match well with chocolate around 65 percent cocoa content.

Milk chocolate: Try Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Muscat, and dessert wines. Champagne is also a natural match for milk chocolate. The crisp, dry flavour of the bubbly contrasts perfectly with the creaminess of a simple milk chocolate tablet. Be careful of the higher sugar levels in milk chocolate, as these may cancel out any fruitiness in dry red wines, leaving them tasting bitter.

White chocolate (which is really cocoa butter) : Match with Sherry, Muscato (a.k.a. Muscat) a fruity Chardonnay (un-oaked), These wines will pick up on the buttery, slightly oilier tones of the cocoa butter. Vidal Blanc, Niagra blends, catawba blends.

Champagne or sparkling wine goes well with all chocolate types. It is a variety that compliments many kinds of wines. Many fortified dessert wines work well across the chocolate spectrum as well because they tend to be sweeter.

To keep every one sharp and feeling well, Offer your guests some bread or light fare before you begin and keep the wine samples to just an ounce. 

1. Take take a small sip of wine and note the aromas and tastes. Some hosts offer guest a sheet to jot down their observations.

2. Then bite into the chocolate and note what it happening as you taste and eat it.

3. Then you sip the wine again and note the new flavor notes and changes that the chocolate brought to the wine. It’s amazing how much the taste of the wine will change according to what it is paired with.

4. Don’t rush through the pairing. 7-10 minutes per pairing is about right. Allow people to really luxuriate on the experience and talk about the flavors and taste combinations they are experiencing.

This is not a consumption event, it’s a sensory group experience where enhanced awareness is key. Relax and take your time. Chocolate and wine are luxury items.

It’s a great lesson for life too. The point isn’t to bulldoze through life and get it out of the way, but to really notice what is happening and take it all in deeply. Downshift to a better appreciation of encounters with others, with our surroundings, and ultimately with ourselves and to God who makes a home within us.

• Enjoy yourself and let me know of the pairings you came up with  (in the comments section) and how your pairing experimenting went, or what your plans are. I’d love to know. You can post pictures at the Spark My Muse Facebook page too.

Do you have questions? Leave them here, use the voice mail feature, or use the contact page and I’ll try to answer them in future episodes.


Sparking your Muse…
a chat with Ed Cyzewski


Visit Ed’s website.



Interview notes


Ed talks about his upcoming Christian Writer’s Survival Guide book


The practices of prayer and writing are connected in so many ways.


Contemplative prayer

Spiritual Direction

and how Ed is learning more about Holy Spirit and waiting on the Lord


From my experience…”Type A” or productive person’s view of prayer is active or proactive (maybe not involving much listening to God) (Lisa)


Apophatic prayer – God is found in the silence more than I thought (Lisa)


“The Creative process and prayer require us to enter with hands open”.


For both (writing and prayer), you can’t force the outcome…


Submit to the process.

Do the work.


“[A] general principle is to create space to allow inspiration and good writing to happen.”

Maybe (it can happen) in retreats or in different ways.


My favorite podcast Krista Tippet’s show On Being Onbeing.org (Lisa)

Pico Iyer-  (paraphrase) “So much information is coming in but we have less space to process it.” -Pico Iyer The Art of Stillness


Never a moment wasted because of technology…but at what cost?


(Ed) on not having times for his brain to slip into neutral..


Ed says walks helped clear his mind, and he had to detox and ween from media.


We have a loss of self and fear of quietness.


40 Day Ignatian retreat bringing a terrifying and alone sense after 2-weeks until she found God in the quiet.


Ed’s method for unplugging and creating space:

Relent technique-going offline after 5pm and weekends.


Leaving my phone in my car when I go for walk to eating out. (Lisa)
• I’ve experienced less anxiety (to my surprise).


(Ed’s sarcasm) College students in the 1990s would die all the time, every week, because they didn’t have cell phones. Funerals every week for the mobile phone-less.


In the 1980s my dad got collect calls from “pick me up”. (Lisa)


UK study showing that teens are more anxious because of tech and over-connectedness.


Maybe because the media (they are using) is socially consequential and not neutral: like watching tv or listening to radio. (Lisa)


From his upcoming book:

Allowing space to grow and learn. His spiritual practice of Examen.

The app he uses: Examine App

The practice helped him come up with writing topics.


The practice showed him the imbalance of his life.



Contemplative writer’s Facebook on group


Kirsten Oliphant

Andi Cumbo-Floyd


The group has lots of generosity there like a support group.


How Ed keeps a balance in mood and outlook when the stories he writes about are negative and make him angry.

How he uses a generous redemptive approach and giving his anger time to dispute so he can write with redemption in mind, inspired by Richard Rhor.


God wants to redeem everyone.


…Controversy and hit pieces build a quick blog audience…but the challenge is to be redemptive and to still confront in love when necessary…


“I’d rather be an Atheist than attend the Village Church” (his angry article)


Trying to encourage others to be redemptive and holding back if he can’t do it in a redemptive way. Waiting is important.


How we change. Example: Women in Ministry and how Ed’s mind changed.


“God is all about the long game.”

(It’s not helpful to create animosity)


(Lisa) “The power of heightening Empathy (to solve problems). Sharing stories helps.

The job of a person who is called to communicate for something bigger than themselves is to ask…

‘Am I able to show people something that they haven’t seen, but  then once they see they know it’s true. And they can’t unseen it’.”

“And to feel it too…what that (other) person is feeling.” -Ed

(If you’d like to have Ed back to discuss how writing can be “soul-killing” and what to do about it, please let us know and leave a comment! Was the show too long? Too short? Ed and I decided we are curious about this, so let us know.)


Friends, readers, listeners…I need a little help with this anonymous survey.
It’s takes under one minute. It’s 100% anonymous. The survival of Spark My Muse just may depend on it.

Thanks for your kindness and coming back each Wednesday for a new show. (You can subscribe here and get an alert sent to you. No fuss: no worries…and you can unsubscribe any time).


Shane Claiborne is joining Spark My Muse as a guest this summer! WHOOP whoop !!!

“Survey says!” (7 second Survey results of 2014)

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.


Did you take the survey? Thank you!

A few weeks ago I created this The 7 Second Survey to see who was reading this blog and what you like best.


Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 1.49.59 PMFINDING #1

I was going to post much more heavily on the thing that brings in the $ in my “day job” this year. I was hoping to get more work and inspire other creators and writers like me.

That’s right, Marketing Communications tips and tactics. But, it appears my reader base is mostly the original one from my first blogging efforts in 2007. Overwhelmingly so.

That’s probably good news, and honestly, it surprised me.

So, I will not discard the topics and theme that started it all!

Once per week, at the very least, I will hit on a spiritual topic. It may be anything from a Christian spiritual practice, to theology, to Christian living, or personal and spiritual transformation and improvement. If that’s how you found me, and that’s why you visit, I’m glad I know better now!

Also, I will be a bit more aware of including my brand of humor, which as you may know, I have determined as “damp”. (i.e. Almost dry humor)

(Please note that unlike many “Christian author” websites, I will very rarely step into the fray of controversy so commonly seen on religious blogs. I just don’t have the stomach for it anymore…for a while now, really. I find it 95% shallow and disheartening. If you like that stuff, you have plenty of options, though, and I hope you find what you like for that.)


Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 1.50.09 PM


Another thing I learned is that I don’t have too many folks who come by to read more than once per week, even though I post 2-3 times per week. Now, I’m wondering if I’m writing too much. Maybe. Or maybe you should come back more often!

I’m guessing that there are two possible solutions, or three, to cope with that:

1. I can encourage you, my dear readers, to list the blogs you read through the super handy free reader service called Feedly which houses posts you haven’t read yet. It works like a catalogue of awesomeness. No more bookmarks and time-killing web surfing. You just paste in the websites you like, and boom, they’re all in one place. The best part, no more relying on your memory to visit a few times a week. What a relief! (Can you tell I use it?)

2. I can encourage you to get email delivery through free Feedburner service (top right sidebar)…for no more silly and random blog searches and relying on your memory.

3. Don’t sweat it.

(I’m doing all three.)


The third question was open ended…”fill in the blank style”. About half of the respondents left something to answer the question:

“What would you improve at the website?”

The funniest one (or whatever) was…

“Use spellchecker.”

As if I don’t.

…Yes. This site is full of mistakes. Typos. Proofreading issues. Editing errors. Etc. I try to hunt them down. I find plenty too late and some not at all.

If you see a problem that bothers you or you’d like to help me out, please use the contact button and let me know. I do like the help. :)

Also, I’m flawed and weak human–awash in imperfections. I’m more creative than I am a good speller or editor of my own work. If I ever have the money, I may hire someone for that. But, I’m doing #3 on this. (The “Don’t sweat it” option.)

In truth, I use this site as a sandbox. I build stuff. I sculpt the messy sand of words. I don’t worry too much. I would be creating posts even if no one came to read them. I cannot help it. At all.

It’s like this:

Sometimes you’ll find a few lincoln logs from the cat of imperfection here in my sandbox, as it were,


but hopefully more often you’ll find that what you’re reading is still worth it despite the shortcomings.

Thank you for reading and journeying with me through these years. I appreciate it immensely.

More great things are brewing!

The next post is here. It’s about the day I turn 42. The photo will give you a chuckle!



Moms, Don’t Wait for the Book Deal

In a conversation I had recently with some writing friends (friends that regularly write…and all of them mothers), I realized that they all were hoping to be discovered through blogging to land the book deal they wanted. It happened to a few people and they really hoped it would happen to them. They were really trying to make it work. It was frustrating for them. Some felt jealous, some bitter, some resolved to prove they could do it.

It’s really an out-of-date idea this blog to get a book deal thing. Maybe 7-10 years out-of-date, or more…though once in a while it works.

It’s like playing Powerball. It seems like you could win big, but you never do. It’s someone else.

There is a whole industry propping up this idea of landing a book deal too. Billions and billions of dollars are wrapped up in it. There are conferences, agents, tons of ebooks, paper books, articles, and whole websites to help you do blogging and writing better and to help you get published or build your platform that will interest and convince publishers. But the actual premise of all this is like the cassette tape. It worked once, and was considered normal, but now there are better options for your talents. Ones that feel more deeply meaningful too.

Discarded Transformers Cassette Tape At The Side Of The Road, Clarach Valley, 23-07-06

David Jones via Compfight

Over the next few months, I’m going to be going in depth about how you can actually make money writing.

It’s not by freelancing,

blogging and guest blogging,

selling website ads,

getting a book deal,

or self-publishing.

What could it possibly be then?

More on that soon!

It’s also about a entire shift in what success means.
The truth about the dream? The “prize at the bottom of the box” of all that hard work isn’t the big book deal. Many with book deals will tell you the true tales of woe dealing with editors and publishers expectations, exhausting obligations, and accountants who repeatedly want you to prove you are a legit option. Then, in the end, you are left to market the whole thing yourself anyway. This doesn’t apply if you’re famous or infamous though. (Plenty of people try to drum up controversy to get noticed and it works for a few people, but it’s not a winning idea and can turn you into a bit of a monster, it seems.)

Most authors don’t sell more than 1,000 books. Most. (My agent told me that.) When then do sell any, they get about a $1 or less per copy in royalties. Some dream!

That is a terrible return on all the hard work and the time invested. The other options are better ones. The prize you thought you wanted? It doesn’t exist. Not really. That’s the secret they won’t tell you. They can’t tell you that! The industry still needs you to believe that the prize is good enough and still available. The sooner you make a new path for yourself, the better off you are.

But, that doesn’t mean your dream of success should be over and your talents unused. Not at all.

It just takes adaptation and some cleverness. I’ve been consulting folks on how to make the shift, like I did. I’m going to open up the process for you too.

A few years ago, I saw the change was just ahead. Wicked. crazy. change. I did something no one would even think of doing. I had an ace in the hole, but I let my literary agent go. I don’t like to say “fired” because he did nothing to deserve it. I told him I needed to change direction and we amiably parted ways, and we mutually ended  our contract.

He’s a good agent with an incredible track record getting deals and has represented some best-selling books. He turns down most who approach him. He was really really surprised, obviously. I went on instinct. I decided to not stick with convention and the known outcomes in the “formula” to be a successful author. The machine of publishing is deteriorating leviathan. The better fit for me is picking my own path and utilizing technology. I’ll be sharing how in the next weeks and months.

I decided I wasn’t going to wait to get picked. I didn’t like the game. I decided to not be a part of a failing system that was starting to heavily rely on celebrities (all with ghostwriters btw) or gimmicks to keep their publishing houses running. I wanted OUT.

The move seemed asinine, at least on paper. (At that time three of my writing friends had tried to get this agent’s interest and got shot down, and I was letting him go? HUH? Since then loads of others have been rejected too. I had him for  the taking but I said “no thank you”.) Yet, it opened me up creatively to do my best work and find my own prize, not the phantom book deal carrot held out just out of reach by a whole industry propping up the slick myth.

It really was the day I went Pro. I’ll let you in on a few secrets I learned in the next few weeks and help you find a way to come into your own creatively as you let go of the false or shoddy promise of landing a “great book deal” or signing with great agent and making it big. That is so 90s.

Don’t get me wrong, authors sometimes get signed and blogging still helps get deals…rarely. But in the end of the whole process most authors are deeply unsatisfied or underwhelmed. Not just because they reap so little, but because they have so little control in the process, the machine of it. The good news is the gatekeepers don’t hold on the power as they once did, and technology has created new doors.

The book deal that seemed so amazing? I can buy her book for $2.99 at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet just 3-6 months later. (I do it all the time.) The system is busted, but the word isn’t getting out.

Stayed tuned for more. The gloves are coming off.

12 Ways to Spike Blog Hits

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jay via Compfight

The following list of 6 is semi-humorous and/or satire:





the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.


The first 6 of 12 Ways to Spike Blog Hits

Say “vagina”. (It doesn’t even have to relate to the rest of the post. Just wave the it around. The word, that is, not anything else. Wait! What did you think I meant? And also a shout out to Rachel Held Evans who’s keeping things vaginal. The word picked her, actually, and she’s a good sport despite the monkey business. Get it?)

Threaten Violence. (This is especially powerful if the sentiment is violent but the reference is farcical. You come out smelling better this way too. Pretty even.)

Disclose something sexual, or promise to.

Be angry and let a rant loose. (Have you seen the 1st Harry Potter? Do what he did at the zoo, just with your words…obviously.)

Feed people lurking around for controversy. (Stick to newsy bits, disputes, scandals, injustice, corruption, you get the idea. There are many prowling for this, so really, it’s SO Money.)

Post about something sordid, or be a punk. (Titillate. Be explicit, rude, foul-mouthed, try adult-themes, sexual content, unhealthy habits, dangerous stuff, immoral activities, etc. Hello, bad ass.)

Many readers give in to their worst or weakest appetites. That’s just the facts.

These next 6 are the ones I endorse. They won’t get you the same sorts of quick spikes, but they will build a loyal and good-natured readership over a longer term.

They also have quite a but to do with generosity.

The last 6 of 12 Ways to Spike Blog Hits
(and by “spike” I mean not that at all, probably)

Thank others openly (Ed Cyzewski does this well. Thank you, Ed, for teaching me a lot here.)

Be a credible resource or niche expert (I’ve mentioned my new niche here.)

Be humorous, amusing, or feature those who are. (Remember this fruity Bert & Ernie classic? …What? I can’t hear you?…What a duo! I plan to “hat tip” this in an upcoming video.)

Invite others into your limelight (Guest contributors are one way. So, Call me. By that, I mean tweet me.)

Share your lists of favorites (It’s win-win. Alise Wright does this well.)

Link up with great causes (Here’s a new favorite of mine: The Good Woman Project)

If you learned something here today, do one of the last 6, k?