27 August 2015

Imaginations of Children

Two dingy's rocked and swayed among the vast blue-green ocean, their occupants screaming in delight and fear by turn. Side by side the pair moved over the waves, water splashing the sides of their tiny vessels, the spray of the water cold on little cheeks.

"We've got to get through the storm!" the little boy yelled over to his younger sister, who sat in her violently rocking boat, hands tightly gripping the side to keep from tumbling out into the salty sea.

"Here come more waves!" she shouts back, undeterred by the enormous waves that continue to come in their march across the ocean.

"We're sailing! We're sailing!" they both cry in triumph, not to be deterred as water crashes into their dingys and they rock back and forth.

Soon, a whole new sensation over comes them as each boat takes flight up, up into the blue sky. The rocking ceases as the smooth air currents carry them up, up toward the stars overhead.

"We're going into outer space!" the boy shouts to his sister.

"Yay! We're reaching space!" she returns in glee.

Their ascent into the outer unknown doesn't last long as soon they find themselves back in the vast ocean, in search of land.

"We're in the water again!" the boy cries, ever the leader in the little expedition, and the rocking continues as they sail on in the afternoon sun.

Just as suddenly, the voyage ends and the little boy and girl step out of their vessels, now docked safely on land and travel the short way to climb down into a valley, where a steam locomotive waits to take them on their next great adventure.

Mom glances down at the empty laundry baskets which served to carry her children across the ocean, to outer space and back, and smiles to herself, having witnessed a tremendous adventure undertaken by her two youngest children and then precedes down the stairs after them to set out some food for dinner.

25 August 2015

Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

A moving tale full of passion, love, trust, betrayal and hope, this novel will sweep you away to World War I Great Britain and the lives of two passionate people.

It's 1917. Great Britain is at war and most men fight for their country loyally, having volunteered or having been drafted. Able-bodied men who stay at home are often considered cowards, no matter how high up the social ladder they happen to stand.

Enter Grace Mabry, a young, idealistic minded, although na├»ve, woman who sets out on a mission to brand just one such coward with a symbolic white feather. Sneaking into a posh ball, she finds her target -  the dashing, able-bodied and landed Jack Benningham - and hands him the feather, setting events into motion that she cannot fathom.

However, things seen on the surface often mask different, hidden, and deeper things.

Grace goes away to the country to work for the Women's Forage Corps in order to aid the war effort and soon finds herself in the service of the very same person she so detests. Soon the war hits closer to home than either Grace or Jack could have imagined and tests their loyalty, beliefs and courage. Will what's beneath the surface come to light? Will true character qualities shine through as they endure tests of faith and courage?

I thoroughly enjoyed this sweeping tale of courage, faith and love. Breslin writes as though her audience resides in 1917 Britain, in the heart of the Great War, fighting for Queen and country, each in their own way. Her characters who serve in the Women's Forage Corps bring to light the sacrifice that so many women while their men fought bravely on the front in the trenches. Breslin's characters are human and make human choices, no matter how idealistic their goals. Weaving unwavering faith throughout the story against the backdrop of human tragedy makes Not by Sight relatable on many levels.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

01 August 2015

Where have I been?

This picture, in a small way, describes what I have been up to this summer. Well, for a big part of it anyway. This amazing trip, totaling more than 4000 miles, done with my best friend Sierra, which took about three and a half weeks, was immediately followed by another wonderful trip to South Dakota, totaling around 1000 miles and lasting another week.

I love to travel, what can I say? (And there's another trip coming up that I am very excited about!)

Honestly, it will take me some time to sort out all the fantastic memories, touching moments, serene and amazing in every sense of the word views, and daring adventures that we undertook. I had planned on writing throughout the trip, but that went out the window. We were traveling with five kids between the ages of three and seven - what can I say?

I wanted to write a little prelude of our trip, which we called 'The Great Washington Escape', so I'll leave you with some of the highlights in the form of a brief itinerary:

Bisti/De Na Zin Wilderness, NM
Four Corners National Monument (NM, CO, AZ, UT)
Arches National Park, Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah (really, we just drove around a bit and snuck into a state park to get a picture of Great Salt Lake)
Maryhill Stonehenge Memorial, WA
Central Washington University in Ellensburg - Sierra gave us the grand tour of her alma mata
Snoqualamie Falls, WA
Arrive in Bremerton, WA
Mike flew into to Seattle for the week (yay!) (Sierra's husband also flew up and joined us)
The Washington Ferries - oh the ferries!!
Seattle Space Needle, Pikes Place Market (the flying fish guys!), the Seattle Monorail
Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA
Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, WA
Whidbey Island - including a luxurious stay in a historic, Victorian B&B, WA
A tour of the Future of Flight at the Boeing Plant in Everett, WA
Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Mount St. Helen's, WA
Peter Iredale Shipwreck, OR
Fort Stevens State Park, OR
Astoria, OR
Fort Clatsop (Lewis and Clark's fort on the Pacific), OR
Driving Highway 101 on the Oregon coast, from the tip at the north and into California (talk about views!!)
Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock, OR
A tour at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, OR
Yaquina Head Lighthouse (so many lighthouses!!), OR
National Redwood Forest, CA (we drove through a Redwood!)
Avenue of the Giants Scenic Drive, CA
A stop in Yuba City, CA for the 4th of July weekend (Sierra has family there)
Donner Pass, CA (what started as a rest stop on the highway turned into a delightful hike through the California woods - love that spontaneity!)
A  night in Las Vegas followed by a drive down the strip in the morning
Hoover Dam & Lake Mead, NV

Just writing that brief itinerary makes me feel tired! Whew! (We actually cut out three national parks for time, financial and safety reasons.)

Sierra and I had a blast and it felt like I had a sister to embrace life and its' adventures with - teaching our kids as much as their little brains would absorb, reminiscing the past, talking of the unknown future, admiring the extravagant beauty of God's creation and wondering at the immense change in scenery as we traversed across one third of this great nation, and just relaxing and enjoying ourselves. I still have a hard time describing this brilliant experience and I long to relive it and be back in all those places again.

We planned, talked, researched and prepared for ten months. The time arrived to commence our incredible journey, we took it all in, enjoyed living in the moment, all the while keeping in the back of our minds that this journey would end, and we would return to normal, stationary life. The inertia of it all kept us joyful and in good spirits, despite childish quibbles from some of our young ones and domestic setbacks (I learned that I am quite forgetful - several times I forgot a major ingredient of our packed lunch coolers, to which Sierra always responded with kindness, charitable service and mercy). We sighed a bit in relief at the end, glad to be home, at least outwardly. For my part, I didn't want the adventure to end and longed to continue to go into the horizon as long as it would have me . Alas, that is not to be, and I mourn a little inside that the trip is over and our next big trip is years away.

Months ago, Sierra wrote that she suffers from wanderlust. I reflect those feelings, having always felt I am a restless vagabond, and suffer much malcontent from staying in the same place for more than two or three years. My soul yearns to travel, to explore, and most of all to imbibe the knowledge that such travels bring. The beauty, the people, the sights,  the history, the change of scenery, the sensory experiences of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch draw me like some doomed moth to the proverbial flame.

For now though, I sit in "my office" (one end of the dining table), and here I will stay until the next grand adventure begins, dreaming, planning, scheming and wishing.

Our adventurers about to embark on the first of many hikes

South Jetty, where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean

Thoughts on "Little Women"

I just finished, for the first time, a truly classical novel, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.

Shocking, I know, me in my early 30's, just now reading such an endearing, timeless classic. I don't know why I put off reading this wonderful volume, since I first learned about Little Women in the third grade, grew up on the Anime version of the classic, and loved the movie starring Wynona Ryder (in which I now find several grievous flaws and probably will never be able to watch in the same way again).

Anyway, I turned the final page of this enchanting tale and then immediately read the afterward, written by some unnamed editor, which put a bitter taste in my mouth. The book, a Walmart special in which I cannot find a picture of on the internet to post for you, published by Aerie, which I purchased or was given some dozen or more years ago (no excuse really for not reading it), was soured by the utter liberal feminine nonsense of an afterward that I could not believe the writer could have read the book before undertaking such an afterthought.

My first thought upon reading the first few paragraphs was to assume the writer had missed all the important parts of the novel and had taken liberties in putting in a political and social meaning into the work, which I doubt the author intended. The afterward puts down men and completely over looks the spiritual side of the work, stating that "this underlying faith of Alcott's in the self-sufficiency of women may explain why the March family has been cherished by generations of women readers."

I would argue the opposite, that the Marches, while very sufficient indeed in handling their work while Mr. March was away and during other times of troubles or deeper sorrows, were not entirely "self-sufficient". Indeed, they leaned very much on their Lord and Father in Heaven during times of want and times of plenty.

How one could over look this, I shake my head. From the frequent references to Pilgrim's Progress, an allegory of the journey of the Christian life, to references of daily Bible reading, to the straight forward Gospel presentation in a speech, it is hard to miss the Christian values so important to the March family. Indeed, they leaned up their Lord very much - hardly self sufficient, in the truest, holistic, sense of the word. One would say that their whole world revolved around pleasing their Lord and Savior and trying their very best to live for Him, as shining Beth gives the most excellent example, to which the others, especially Jo, strive to emulate all the more after she precedes them through the pearly gates and into her Heavenly Father's arms.

The hint that Alcott despised the marriage life and portrayed this through, as the afterward says, "living a life of submission and seclusion" after Meg is married is hardly accurate. Yes, Meg struggles, as most newly married women do, but in the end she learns a timeless lesson and her joy increases, love abounds and she is content in her role of wife and mother (and she hardly stays in, requesting John to take her to plays and such, to which he heartily agrees). Trying to twist the apt and true picture of marital "bliss" into a ball-and-chain life of torment is to misread the author and completely miss the final chapter where Meg declares "I've got them all, thank God, and am the happiest woman in the world". Happiest woman in the world does not sound like a brow-beaten servant of a domineering man, overrun with the woes of mothering a brood forced upon her. Quite the opposite, I imagine.

The afterward also repeatedly suggests an "absence of men", to which I object entirely. Laurie plays a huge part in the story, and is given his own point of view on several occasions, for entire chapters. John is not ignored at all, and is welcomed as part of the family; though he plays a minor part to the plot, he is there none-the-less for almost the entirety of the book. Mr. March, though physically absent for the first part of the novel while he serves his nation in the Civil War, remains a thread in the story that is consistent, first through letters and then in his physical presence and much sought after opinion and fatherly love. The author of the afterward claims that he "is hardly more present than he was while he was absent", and this is simply not true. Doting Beth constantly sits next to him, learning from him, listening to him, all the girls request his wise, listening ear and he dotes on all of them. Again, though he does not play a major role in the story, and he is there, and to claim otherwise is to be willfully ignorant of a significant character in the minds of the main characters - Marmee, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Lastly, but not least, is Professor Baer, who becomes Jo's lover and later husband. To remove him from the story is to remove the passionate, softer side of Jo as she succumbs to love's ardent desire to be a wife, the final change in her progression of character evident throughout the story.

While I admit to a certain bias, I cannot believe the willful ignorance of a huge theme of this story - that reliance upon our Heavenly Father and the change in character that carrying out His will produces. Every single one of the girls' characters, thoughts and motives hinges upon this theme. To cherry pick what one will wantonly see in a story is do its' author injustice, although as Jo found out, readers will see what they will in a story.

Have you read Little Women? Do you agree or not? What are your thoughts?

08 June 2015

How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird by Amy Lively

Sure, God commands Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves. Yes, it is the second greatest commandment ("Love your neighbor as yourself." - Matt 22:39). I'm going to be honest here though - sometimes just walking across the lawn or down the street to get to know your neighbor is hard, let alone loving them. That's where this book, How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird by Amy Lively comes in. Amy walks the reader through the reasons, the how's, the excuses we invent for ourselves and how to get over those excuses and gain the benefits of not only saying hi to your neighbor, but getting to know them and inviting them into your life.

Amy's book was very well laid out, easy to read and very encouraging. Not only does Amy help you overcome fears about getting to know your neighbors, but shares ways of lovingly sharing your faith with them. She peppers her practical advice with stories from her own life and how she overcame excuses, fear of rejection, procrastination and more to get to know the own people that God had placed her among in her town. Beyond that she shares the joy, friendships, help and laughter that she experienced once she got to know her neighbors. This very down to earth book can be a great help and encouragement for any person who hesitates on the threshold of their drive way or sidewalk when faced with saying hi to the stranger next door. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

**As a note to the author, if the Amy ever reads my review, it would be really neat to see a military edition of this book. The military community is extremely unique in our society, being a nomadic community that constantly changes with moves across the country or around the world every few years, which means new neighbors as often as every few months.**

The Hiding Place (Young Readers Edition) by Corrie Ten Boom with Elizabeth & John Sherrill

Corrie Ten Boom has worked alongside her father and the rest of her family in a small watch shop on a quiet corner in a friendly city in the Netherlands her entire life. Change is fast approaching as rumors of war and eventually war itself reach her quiet life. God has big plans in store for her and her family though, as they risk their lives to hide Jews and other people on the run from the Nazis. A secret room constructed in their home serves as a hiding place for several years as they help numerous people. Until the day they are betrayed. Torn from their beloved home, the family is imprisoned, first in the Netherlands, and then in the dreaded concentration camps in Germany. Even in the darkest of hours, facing starvation, stark loneliness, illness and even death, Corrie does not give up and brings the light of Jesus Christ to the darkness, delivering hope where there was none before.

This inspiring and gripping story written by Elizabeth and John Sherrill, as told to them by Corrie Ten Boom, covers Corrie's early life until the time of her death, with much of the book concentrating on the years that she and her family daringly hid Jews in their home and the time Corrie spent in German concentration camps. Corrie's, and her family's, unwavering faith in God for help and deliverance shine through every page of the story as their total reliance on the Lord led to incredible adventures, some heartbreaking and tragic. Besides being very well told, what makes this story so gripping is the knowledge that every detail happened. History unfolded before Corrie as she followed God's direction in her life and in doing so saved many people from certain death. I heartily recommend this story for young readers and adults alike.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

30 April 2015

Almost finished . . . .

As of right now, I have one exam left in my undergraduate degree.


I submitted my final two papers last night, and I have to admit, it was a bittersweet moment for me.

I feel like I've been doing this whole college thing for so long, it's almost hard to accept that this chapter in my life, this long, over-lapping chapter of many other chapters, is finally going to be over.

Finished. Completed.

It's a bit surreal, really.

I have some studying to do before my final exam early next week, and then the family and I are packing up and driving east to Oklahoma, where I will walk with my graduating class.

I must admit, I am nervous about that.

I've been doing a bit of reflecting on my college career, as long and drawn out as it has been. I remember lots and lots of nights staying late at the Oklahoma City Community College library until it closed, studying, no matter how tired I was. I disciplined myself to stay there every night after class, or on the nights I didn't have class, from the time I arrived after work around 5:30pm until the library closed at 11:00pm. Then I would drive home, fix and eat dinner, go to bed, and wake up at 7:00am to go to work and do it all over again.

I remember my first classes at Rose State College and how excited I was to be at college. I felt all grown up, even though at the time I was 20 and married (to my ex). It wasn't the getting married or buying a house that made me feel grown up; it was attending college. I loved that first English class.

I remember how excited I was to finally be in nursing school, and going to school during the day, like a "real" college student. At the time, I had been in college for four years, but every class had been taken at night or on a Saturday morning. I remember the thrill of walking the college campus and feeling so apart of it all.

I remember sitting in front of the computer for hours on end during my first online classes, my protruding round, pregnant belly making it hard to reach the keyboard comfortably as I typed away on my papers in those two English classes. I loved it though.

I remember falling asleep, face down, on my history text book, high lighter in one hand and pen in the other, on more than one occasion during that semester. It wasn't the history, which I really enjoyed, I was just tired . . .

I remember drawing a very large cell on my white board, located on the wall across from my daybed in my studio apartment, so I could memorize all the features and components of the cell any time I liked.

I remember working two or sometimes three jobs to pay my way through school on the semesters I didn't qualify for student loans. I'd say determination to finish would be an honest assessment of how I felt about school.

I remember crying leaving the Dean of the School of Nursing's office when I told her I was withdrawing from the nursing program because I was pregnant with my first child.

I remember being determined to not let that end my college career, even though it was the end of a dream.

I have so many other memories of my college path, too many really to recount at the moment.

I may have taken a years long break after I had my children, but I remained determined to finish. College was one thing I was absolutely not going to quit.

I knew it would be hard. And it was. I knew it would be a struggle. And it was. But I persevered, by God's grace, I will finish next week.

And now I have almost completed the race. I will be able to stand proudly and say "I did it. I finished. I didn't quit." And I will have finished well.

Though this chapter in academia draws to close, I sense that my career in academia is not over . . . I love it too much. Who knows what the future will bring?

08 April 2015

35 in 365 Update

I haven't updated on my 35 in 365 list in a while! I have been slowly, oh so slowly, working on it and I've been able to get a few things checked off.

Me and Sean Patrick Flannery from Boondock Saints at the ABQ Comic Con in January

Waiting for the Banana Slug String Band at Popejoy Hall Schooltime Series

We also saw "DinoLite" and we have tickets for "Treasure Island"

We went with great friends!

Finally made it the UNM Duck Pond! Why I have never been here before?!?

Finished Lord of the Rings - almost twice! I'm on my second reading for "Return of the King" for school.
Speaking of school - I'm finishing up my last two classes! I've ordered my cap and gown and will be graduating with my degree in four short weeks!

Speaking of graduating, I am taking a trip out to Oklahoma to walk with my graduating class, and while I'm there I'm going to catch up with my wonderful, cherished friends - can't wait to see them!

I'm registered to run a 5K in May! One other 5K and I'll have that completed.

Heading to the ABQ Art Museum this Saturday with the tickets I won on the radio! Thank you KHFM Classical Radio Albuquerque!

Clothing project is in final stage of completion - dropping stuff for donation this week, after selling several items at the New Mexico Kids Consignment Sale this past fall and spring!

I've been to White Sands Missile Range twice in the past month, but I'm not sure if I'm counting that one or not. I went to the southern end of White Sands to watch Mike compete in the Bataan Death March Memorial and we visited the Trinity Site as a family. However, when I put that goal, I was thinking white sand dunes at the National Monument, so that one is debatable for now . . .

I have plans to visit Bisti De Na Zin and Four Corners with Sierra, but that isn't until June . . . can't wait though!!

Do you have a goal list that you are working towards? Or a bucket list of places to see?

01 April 2015

Feeling Like an Imposter

Today the Special Needs Fair took place on base. The children and I got dressed and headed over (it's Spring Break - who says you can't stay in your pajamas until noon?). For once, the kids acted like perfect little angels.

As I wandered from booth to booth with my gaggle of children (is three a gaggle??) gathering brochures and making small talk with various representatives from everything from ABA Therapy to Music Programs for kids with special needs, I couldn't help but feel like an imposter.

Do I belong in this world of families with a child dealing with special needs?

The test results say I do. The behavior issues say I do. The feelings of being cut off from a sense of normalcy in some regards for my oldest child say I do. The school says I do.

I couldn't help but notice the glances I got as some of the representatives looked at my very well-behaved children (trust me, this is not a normal occurrence - the good behavior, that is), as if they were thinking, "What are you doing here, lady?"

In the past I feel like I have been judged by moms whose kids visibly have special needs when I speak up and say I deal with struggles too. Their looks say, "She looks perfectly fine - what could you possibly be dealing with??"

It seems that being a mom in this day and age is a cut throat business full of judging and competition. I admit I have been guilty of that, especially when my kids were much younger, but I've really tried to stay away from that for a long while now. It's so defeating.

And yet, even after the struggle to get Butterfly to use her words, to understand her, the super-long screaming tantrums, the struggle with homework (which we no longer do, thankfully), the struggle to get her to even associate with her siblings, let alone her peers, I still feel like people wonder what I'm talking about when I say I have a child with special needs. Like I'm crazy or something.

Only I know that I'm not. The struggle is real. It's hard. I cry. Butterfly cries. We endured a seemingly grueling therapy schedule for a year before she started Kindergarten and got therapy at school. I guess twice a week isn't too bad, I have friends who have twice as much therapy, or more, but being at therapy at 8:00 in the morning with three small children age three and under was really, really hard.

During that time I felt simultaneously emotionally stifled and exploding, reeling with a new diagnosis and all that it entailed, horrified that I hadn't realized so much sooner, feeling like an awful mom, struggling just to make it through each day before arriving in bed at the end of said day completely toasted, emotionally.

I feel like I'm caught between two worlds: the world of kids who are "normal" and the special needs world. Butterfly can dress herself (although she didn't do this until she was over four), she can feed herself, she does talk. It isn't until you start asking her questions and talk to her, on a more-than-superficial-level, that you begin to see her language processing disorder come out.

And yet, if you just looked at her, of casually talked to her, or observed her on the playground, you probably wouldn't be able to tell that she's special needs.

I feel like I'm alone in this. I have friends who children are on the autism spectrum disorder and I feel like they go through so much more than I do. The same with my friend whose child has apraxia. I can relate, but I can't. Butterfly doesn't have autism or apraxia. She has a language processing disorder and global developmental delays.

She's making progress in school, but not enough progress. She's improving, but not at the rate that she should be, whatever that means. After we had an IEP meeting before Christmas to discuss Butterfly's progress in school (which was nil in the general ed class with only six hours of special ed per week), her teachers and I thought it best to move Butterfly to the special ed class for all subjects except pull outs (art, PE, etc).

I guess I just feel lost. Sometimes at the end of the day I feel emotionally raked over the coals from battles with Butterfly. And I'm sure she feels the same way.

I accepted this new normal a long time ago. But that doesn't make the struggle any less.