A Texas Cousins Adventure: Happy Endings

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Once upon a time the sun didn’t rise. Dark clouds blew in over the flat Texas plains with booming thunder and bright flashes of lightning. The wind shook Grammie and Grandpa’s little house. Hobbes, the Lab, laid his head on his paws inside his dog-house waiting for the storm to pass. Clyde, the donkey, stuck his nose deep in his trough of hay thankful for a place to escape the rain.

Aunt Abby sat in the living room next to the fireplace with four rowdy nephews and five pretty nieces gathered around her. Cups of juice and mugs of hot chocolate and coffee filled everyone’s hands.

A loud clap of thunder made the cousins jump. Remi and Rook screwed up their faces ready to cry.

“Aunt Abby,” Constance said. “Can you tell us a story?”

“I think a story is a great idea.” Aunt Abby sipped from her mug. “Stormy days are perfect for stories.”

“Will it be a scary one?” Bruce asked.

All the cousins turned to Aunt Abby to see what she would say. She pondered for a minute.

“You know Bruce, all good stories have scary parts, but the best of stories have happy endings. The very best story of all time had very scary parts: Jesus had to die to save his people. But! He rose again from the dead. See, it has to be scary before it can be happy.”

Joshua frowned. “Why?”

“Because than the happy ending means more. If it’s just happy all the time we would all take it for granted. Aren’t cookies better after you’ve had to eat all your veggies? Wouldn’t you get tired of cookies if that’s all you ate all the time?”

“No,” all the cousins chorused together.

Aunt Abby giggled. “I think it’s just the way the world is. Christmas is more special once a year in winter than all the time. Jesus could only defeat death if he first died. Aslan could only save Edmond by dying. Nemo only appreciated his dad after he lost him. It’s just the way the world works. Happy endings are best after scary parts.”

“I don’t like the scary parts and Mommy says I have to fast-forward when Aslan dies,” Bruce said.

“Yes.” Aunt Abby nodded. “There are different levels of scary and I promise this story won’t be too scary. Just a little scary.”

Ellie leapt to her feet. “I’ll be brave.”

“Me too!” Imogene jumped up.

“Too!” shouted Remi grabbing Imogene’s hand as she stood up.

Jude growled and joined the girls. Not to be outdone, Bruce, Julie, Constance, Joshua, and Rook all came to their feet.

“Shall we all be brave together?” Aunt Abby asked.

“Yes!”

A loud clap of thunder startled everyone. They looked out at the storm raging around Grammie and Grandpa’s house. Lightning brightened up the dark day for a second. Another crash of thunder shook the windows.

“Shall we all be brave together?” Aunt Abby asked again.

“YES!” Nine cousins screamed jumping up and down, up and down.

“What is going on here?” Grandpa yelled appearing suddenly in the room.

Nine cousins and Aunt Abby screamed in fright and hugged each other.

“You scared us Grandpa!” Jules said.

“I scared you??” Grandpa smiled.

“It is a scary sort of morning.” Grammie came up behind him. “Is Aunt Abby going to tell you a story?”

“Yes,” Constance said, “with only a little bit of a scary part so we can have a happy ending.”

“And I’m going to be brave.” Ellie pointed at herself and grinned.

“Me too,” everyone else said.

“Good.” Grandpa sat down. “I’ll listen to the story too.”

“I’ll hold your hand in case you get scared.” Remi took Grandpa’s hand.

“Do you know what Grammie says about stories with scary parts and happy endings?” Aunt Abby said. “You know, ‘those best of stories’?”

“No, what do you say Grammie?” Jules pranced over to Grammie and took her hand. Her eight other cousins gathered around Grammie.

Grammie sat down taking Jude into her lap. Imogene snuggled down on one side of her and Ellie on the other. The older cousins arrange themselves cross-legged in front of her, and Constance pulled Rook close.

“Stories, good ones, let us practice being brave before we have to be.”

The nine cousins looked questioningly at one another and then back at Grammie.

“What does that mean?” Joshua said what they were all wondering.

Grandpa explained. “There will be things in your life that might be hard, or scary, or sad. But if you’ve read the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe you can remember that Aslan beat the witch, ended winter, and Christmas came back. You can remember brave King Peter and brave Lucy and that can help you be brave.”

“And,” Aunt Abby said. “You can remember how even after being so mean and selfish, Edmond was forgiven. That will help you have courage when you need to ask someone to forgive you when you’ve been mean.”

“I want to be High King Peter,” Bruce said.

“I want to be Lucy,” Ellie said louder.

“Yes!” Grammie clapped. “We can practice being brave with them when they go through the wardrobe, and when they have to fight the White Witch, so that when it’s our turn to be brave we’re prepared.”

Bruce stared into the fire for a minute. “Aunt Abby? I don’t mind if the story you tell has a scary part.”

“I promise it will have a happy ending afterwards.”

“Well, tell the story!” Jude exclaimed.

Grammie and Grandpa moved closer to the fire. Jules, Constance, Bruce, Joshua, Ellie, Imogene, Jude, Rook and Remi filled laps and gathered close up on different sides. Outside the thunder boomed, boomed, boomed. The lightning flashed. The wind howled around the eaves. No one gave it a second thought because inside they were warm and comfy. The fire burned brightly. The hot chocolate warmed them, and Aunt Abby began her story:

“Once upon a time . . .”

(To be continued)

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My newest and most beautiful little niece is here! Love you Remit! (Picture stolen from Liz.)

My newest and most beautiful little niece is here! Love you Remi! (Picture stolen from Liz.)

Atonement, The Raven Boys, Briar Rose, and The Lantern Bearers,

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Atonement by Ian McEwan

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/038572179X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=038572179X&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=2MP4AVVWJVXIDHA3

While this book does have an inappropriate scene, and all the conflict comes about through inappropriate means, the book is beautifully written, and hauntingly sad. It is one of the few well done book-to-movie adaptations. It tells a story of star-crossed lovers, but is really a story about a women spending her whole life in search for forgiveness and redemption against those she wronged as a foolish little girl. I can’t say enough about the prose of this book. It was wonderful. Plus, it can count as a WW2 historical fiction because it gives you a wonderful sense of the retreat of the British early on in the war, and the hospitals and staff life of the time. This book is sadly beautiful and I wanted to share as a Quote of the Weekend every other paragraph.
Rated R: Sex and Adult Situations

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0545424933/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0545424933&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=BDS5XKIUGNQOGDS2

This book caught me off guard. The idea of seeing the one you love, or the one you will kill snagged me, but the characters are what held me fast. The best way I can describe this book is like Veronica Mars with magic. It follows a girl named Blue who is poor and tied to magic as she meets four wealthy boys and joins them on their adventure. At first I wanted to groan out loud. It was so cliché. She’s poor and hates the boys that go to the wealthy school, but then ends up dating one of them and helping them. Been there, read that, watched that. This is a story that gets told over and over and over. Yet, I kept reading because the four rich boys are so interesting. Their characters are really well developed, their friendship is so well done, and Blue getting thrown in the mix works well.
This book is proof that it is not the idea but how you go about telling it that’s important. Cliché isn’t bad as long as it is done well. I’m excited to read the rest of the series.

Rated PG-13: Fairly clean of sex, just hand holding and mild crushes, but does have some cussing and some of the boys have some pretty intense problems. Good for the middle to higher end of YA. Not a Christian story by any means, but does have some interesting historical fiction elements.

 

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Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0765342308/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0765342308&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=7E6UMUPF5SAAGSRL

This is one of those books that I would argue against labeling as YA. Mostly, because I feel like the story and the themes, as an armchair WWII historian, speak to all ages. This book is not just for teens. It is  well written and deep. I think any adult will enjoy it, especially if you enjoy WWII oriented stories.
Using the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and the history of the Holocaust creates a haunting and beautiful story. It’s also just plain clever. I love the familiarity of both things being brought together. This story held me in suspense every step of the way.
But, I think for the majority of my readers and audience this book would only qualify as the oldest of YA literature. A large section of the story is narrated by a homosexual man who talks, not in great detail, about his string of lovers over the years before he’s thrown in a Nazi work camp. I don’t think this is a part of history that should be ignored or whitewashed, but I do think parents should know about it going into it. So… now you know.
This is a story any adult can read and enjoy. I think it is well written and well told. If you enjoy sad love stories, or just sad stories in general, you should read this book. If you love anything WWII related, you should read this book. It’s not very long, and is worth your time.
Rated PG-13: Holocaust, Homosexuality, Brutality

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The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312644302/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0312644302&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=IMOSFMLUCPCEZXJM

Oh, how I loved this book.

It was interesting to read it after having spent the earlier part of the year working through the first half of Bernard Cornwall’s Saxon series, as this book covers the Britons being attacked by the Saxons. It was like switching sides in the middle of a football game.

This book was so beautiful.
Because it’s an older book, it does a lot more telling and less showing like more modern stories. It is more like reading say the Silmarillian than the Lord of the Rings. But, since it tracks only one young man’s life, it’s not as long or confusing as the Silmarillian. It just tells you there was a battle instead of shows you there was a battle.
It took me a while to get into the book. I didn’t read it all in one day, but every time I picked it up, I fell in love with it. Sutcliff’s descriptions were short but beautiful. Her characters are powerful and honorable and full of struggles. The war is long and heroes are lost. Foes come. Friends betray friends. Love is found. It is one of those great stories.
This is a true young adult book amongst young adult books and I wish we read things like this in our schools today. I think young men would especially enjoy it since the hero is a man going off to war.
As is true for most tales in this time period, families are ripped apart, love comes slow, death is found in the shield wall. But, much of that is shown in the right way, not in a bathe-in-sin sort of way.
I truly can’t speak highly enough of this book. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again. I hope to share it with my nephews when they get a little older.
This would also be a great book to read if you’re studying the history of England, the Saxons, or Vikings.
Rated PG: Adult themes and war

Pencil Dancing Chapter 2

Going Into Your Egg: Write about ways you could change your work space into a more creative space. What could you do to make even a small space more uniquely yours? More private? More comfortable? More inviting?

I’ve always dreamed of having an ‘office’ that was totally mine where I could decorate according to my eclectic desires, where I could draw on walls, and map our huge character timelines. For a short time, I had my desk in our guest room and was able to do this to a point. Then, my husband started teaching and needed that space to study and work out his sermons. At first I was a bit miffed. I had finally gotten the magical space I wanted to write and write and write. A little hidden away place just for me. My husband reminded me that the whole house was my space and he needed this one room. Lol. Well, there I was corrected.

Now, if you will remember I said I was going to look at this book from a homemaker’s perspective and not a writer’s perspective. That’s the point. I never looked at that space or even my whole house as MY SPACE. How silly of me!

After a lot of rearranging last year, my husband now has his own office and I have a guest room ready for company. My small desk had been moved into the living room and stays closed most of the time.

This question sparked a realization in me that I need to re-think my small desk. I need to think of it as the place of creative thinking for my home. It needs to be changed to my home space out of which ideas flow, not my writing space. My head is my writing space. My journals are my writing space. If I want to keep my heart and head in the right place with the right priorities, if I want to be a homemaker first, I need to make a home creative place. My trusty desk, once my Mom’s, is perfect.

My desk is already very private with deep heavy drawers and a top that closes. At any point I can just close it up. (READ: hide the mess) What I need to do to make it more comfortable is get it cleaned up, organized and probably design a better filing system. Right now the filing cabinet is doubling as surface space in my husband’s office. This would make my desk more comfortable and inviting. I need to also put pictures up of beautiful homes and delightful gardens. This space needs to change from the geeky writing space to the home space. Charts of what needs to be done, budget ideas, food, and such need to fill this space. I need to train my mind to love these things as much as my writing. I need to see them as part of who I am, not that thing I have to finish so I can write. There is much wonder in a home and I feel like I’ve been missing it due to discontentment. I just kept thinking: Why, oh why can’t the LORD just let me be a reclusive writer who cares about nothing else???

God knows best. I’m called in the Word to be a keeper of my home and I want my home to be a place that welcomes my husband and other saints in for good food and good drink. In and around that, I am free to use and enjoy my gift of writing, but not to the detriment of the other.

I’m really really enjoying looking at my home creatively from the bottom up. Now, little by little, I’ll get that desk cleaned out, cleaned up, and remade so I can use it for my home. I think I should find some room in my closet, or buy a special box to put my writing stuff in. Like a mobile creativity center. I don’t want to lose that part of me, I just want it to sit where it’s supposed to sit. I want it to quit greedily hording all my creativity leaving none for my home.

Cheers!

Irish Music: It’s in the blood

My brother recently sent me a new Dropkick Murphy’s song called the Rose Tattoo. I have since played it on repeat 1 for days. It reminds me of this description I once wrote for a book that isn’t finished called Hope’s Journey. This is the beauty of Irish music:

Images of rocky highlands, gray sky and a cool wind tugging at my hair filled my mind. The music wasn’t body rubbing sexy music, it wasn’t techno music, it wasn’t sleepy or just hate-filled. This was life music. IT was drinking, fighting, loving, poverty, wealth, God and country. This was a green land with good strong people who found their pride in being the underdog. This was sacrilegious, spiritual and earthy. This was a woman who stuck by her man and worked just as hard as he did. This was people always looking for a better life and always read to tell a tale to make you think life was better. This was fathers, husbands and highwaymen, vagabonds and scoundrels. This was mothers, maids, crones, lovers, sisters, and whores. This was Irish in its body and blood.

In the middle of them all, more Irish, more green, more ready to walk the craggy hills, sat a man beating his drums in some primeval, tribal call.

The raucous, rebellious, resentful music swelled. Beneath the heart stomping beat rose anger. Anger throbbed and pounded in the’ drums. It beat and beat against the crowd with a deep seated hatred of those who betray trust, those who enslave, those who hurt and lie. It wept for those who suffer at the hands of stronger men and its tears turned to power. The anger, pain and power could rip nations apart, families and homes. It could travel across oceans, time, and flow even in the most deluded blood lines.

This is Irish Music

 

Quote of the Weekend

Snake: “I won’t scatter your sorrow to the heartless sea. I’ll always be with you. Plant your roots in me. I won’t see you end as ashes.”

Kaz: “We’re not burying them at sea? What then?”

Snake: “We’ll make diamonds of their ashes. Take them into battle with us.”

Kaz: “A shining light, to our brothers in arms even in death.”

Snake: “We are Diamond Dogs.”

-Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain by Hedio Kojima

(My husband and I are big fans of the MGS franchise. We’ve been waiting three years for this latest game to come out. It hasn’t disappointed. In this scene, Snake was forced to execute a bunch of his men who had become infected with a parasite. He had to kill them to keep it from spreading. They salute him while he kills them. Afterwards, they burn the bodies and went to scatter their ashes at sea. Broken by what he was forced to do to the men who trusted him, Snake turns them to diamonds and has them sown into his uniform patches. It was a moving scene which brought me to tears and proved video games can be art.)

 

Pencil Dancing Chapter 1

Someone asked me the other day how I was feeling. As I quickly pondered how to answer that question, I realized that I’m not really feeling kick-my-shoes-off-and-dance better, nor am I feeling in-the-depths-of-despair bad either. I’ve kinda reached a happy medium where I have good days and bad days. I’m on a strict diet and learning the hard lessons of only doing what I can do today.

With that in mind, I’m going to try to do some slaying of two birds with one stone. I’m reading a book called Pencil Dancing by Mari Messer right now. It is intended to help a writer be more creative, but at the beginning of the book she says that her lessons of creativity can be applied to any setting including that of the homemaker. This caught me off guard. I’m used to being creative. I’m a writer after all. But, do I think of my homemaking and my home in a creative way?? I’ve decided to read this book only with a heart for homemaking and not for writing at all. I’ve already found it inspiring. I have lived too long in the shadow of thinking of my writing as creative and my homemaking as my work. I hope to step into the light loving all that I do with the help of this book.

What about those two birds that need to be slain?

Pencil Dancing has some journaling questions at the end of each chapter and I’m going to do that journaling here. See? Blog post and using my book! Two Birds! 🙂

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New Cork Board! Fabric is from the hem of my curtains. Pray Request sign is the inside of a tea box. Fall pictures are from a tissue box. 🙂

Question from Chapter 1: Raffia in the Doorway

What “barnacles,” imposed from outside yourself or from within, are the most stubborn obstacles to your creative expression? What ideas do you have for reducing or eliminating some of them? What do you most want to let go of? Write your thoughts.

When it comes to creativity in my home I’m most impeded by three things: courage, fatalism, and budget. I have always found it hard to do something creative with my home without overspending on the budget. This makes me want to not be creative at all. It’s just too expensive. I hope to reduce this fear by looking at what I already have in my home. I want to learn how to look at trash differently. For example, I used the inside of a tea box on my cork board. I just cut it up, and wrote a quote on the pretty print inside instead of throwing the empty tea box out. I want to balance this with not being cluttered. I hate clutter. So throw away, but don’t throw away everything. Look beyond something’s intended use, but don’t believe everything has a use.

I tend to be very happy with things the way they are, to the point of being fatalistic. I’m not a driven person except in a few areas. This can really hurt me in my home and even in relationships. I tend to not want to worry about new flooring. The flooring we have is fine . . . right? My oven that never cooks the same way twice is fine . . . or it’s easier to be content with it than it is to go research what oven I might like to replace it with. Put that with the budget fear and I will sit on my hands while my appliances slowly die. I hope to get over this, honestly, by sheer determination and maybe scheduled ‘research’ time. Having a set time to research would probably be the most helpful thing to me.

My husband enjoys a very streamlined, modern styled home. I tend to be very eclectic, and while I don’t like clutter, I do like stuff and books. I like books. I love the homey feeling of books, books, books. I also like throw pillows. I would buy new throw pillows every week if the budget allowed. I tend to want to haphazardly mix all the things I love together whether they match or not. Early on in our marriage finding a happy medium between our two taste was almost impossible. I think, through no fault of my husbands, that I still feel like he’ll hate everything I do in the house.

Now, as a stay at home wife focused solely on her home, and my husband really wanting and encouraging me to make the home mine, I’m a little afraid I’ll overdo it. I don’t trust myself. (If you heard some of the ideas I’ve come up with, you wouldn’t trust me either.) This greatly inhibits me. The solution to this problem is to give ideas time while not being afraid of controlled experimenting. I need to be brave enough to try out new colors. But first I need to think about it, and then maybe try it in the laundry room before I make a commitment to a whole wall in the living room. I need to find small ways to experiment before tackling big things.

What to do all these problems have in common: fear. You’d think I was a woman or something. It’s amazing what I fear in this life sometimes. I think there is also a fear of failure. What I need to do is find ways to be creative in each step and each room without being crazy.

Do you struggle with these same types of fears? What obstacles keep you from creative expression in your own home?

Quote of the Weekend

“He said, ‘Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’ ” – Roald Dahl

(Magic isn’t always granted wishes, sleeping maidens, or evil witches. Sometimes it’s friendship, a cup of coffee, flowers, water, and love that lasts. Sometimes it’s an undeserved rescue, endurance, hope, and standing again and again. Magic is all around us, it’s just more subtle than in a fairy tale.)