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 naïve, 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?