Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

   In A Children's Crusade, we have not entered the Holy Land. We have simply embarked upon a disastrous journey. We have misjudged and been misguided.

   I fear I lack the heart needed to endure the Blair family drama, especially one that doesn't redeem itself in the end, at least in any gratifying way. 

   I'm missing the purpose of an ending that says, "sell the house, do your own thing, and do what most preserves your personal interests." Yes, we are nation of adolescent novelists, forever seeking novelty.

   Or maybe, I missed the arrival of modern day man, who so neatly arranges for his own redemption. So far, I've not yet met anyone who can redeem himself. 

   Packer dismisses faith from the fabric of the Blair family life. Faith is nothing to the Blair family, yet most of our planet claims a faith. How can the reviews claim Packer's spoken to us? 
   No matter the scores of positive reviews, A Children's Crusade is neither gratifying, nor edifying, nor eloquent. Packer kept me up to read something that only filled me with angst: not peace, not wisdom, not joy, not sorrow, just angst and aggravation. I rarely get worked up about books I dislike; I simply set them down. I rarely engage in negative reviews, and I don't write Amazon reviews, but I will not be conned into believing that trashy talk is necessary to develop Packer's characters, nor indeed, that she's developed them, at least into people of any depth. They are simply good actors.

   In some novels, the trash and trash talk may be necessary, and possibly impress upon us the pain, but A Children's Crusade lacks the shimmer of a mosaic that makes broken beautiful.

   The great artists keeps us from frozenness, from smugness, from thinking the truth is in us, rather than in Christ our Lord. ~ Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Noticing Spring

Spring Soccer
Her soccer status quo.
After @ Rogue Ales
New chicks
When no one is watching, she gives it a go.
Yep, spring is here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Book Stacks

    Beauty is not a luxury, but a strategy for survival. ~ Terry Tempest Williams

   Spring is verifiably here. Yard work calls in spades. I'm wrapping up some winter book readings, and thought I'd share what is sitting on the stacks and what has been blessing.
   Life behind the brownstone front, two flights up and beyond, was delightfully higgledy-piggledy as to System; and Duty and Discipline had become pale, thin creatures that no longer cast shadows except on Saturdays - from four o'clock on. Saturday was dedicated to Aunt Emily and sewing. Lucinda buttoned up her fortitude and her best manners....She believed the devil must have invented the needle.

    There were her books, too, to put on their shelf; and there was the new diary that her mother had bought her and that she had promised to write in often. The books she handled and put in their places with loving care. They filled a large portion of her inner world - a sanctuary built securely to keep out Aunt Emily's and French governesses.
   I absolutely adored "orphaned" Lucinda in Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer. As a result, I picked up The Way of the Storyteller; I'm really looking forward to Ruth's tutelage. She has left a wide and generous path for storytellers to follow. 
   She wrote The Way of the Storyteller in 1942 wishing, "there might be a guild for storytellers today where master and apprentices might work together for the upholding of their art." She clearly felt the hunger of blazing trails in a word wilderness. Had she lived today she would have found some excellent guilds. Our hope is to be utilizing the aforementioned guild in the fall.

Also perusing, reading, tackling, pondering...
London by AN Wilson (research)

   We can no longer say, "Let nature take care of itself." Our press on the planet is heavy and relentless. A species in peril will most likely survive now only if we allow it to, if our imaginations can enter into the soul of the animal and we pull back on our own needs and desires to accommodate theirs. What other species now require of us is our attention. Otherwise, we are entering a narrative of disappearing intelligences.

If you do violence to me, you do violence to yourself because we are all human beings.

    This morning at breakfast, I ask Lily when compromise is appropriate. After a moment of silence, she says, "Compromise is fine on anything that is not essential, but you cannot compromise your principles. You cannot compromise the dream or the dream dies, and you suffer spiritually."

   Terry Tempest Williams pulls us together in our brokenness. She makes beauty out of ashes, pain, and dust, reminding us, we too must create beauty out of brokenness. She weaves a beautiful mosaic.

Exploring the world, albeit slowly.
Because this year is the 800th anniversary of the, The Magna Charta

    As we listen to Farmer Boy, I'm suffering serious guilt over our lack of children chores around here. Yet, the arrival of spring is helping rectify the situation! 

   Life is rapidly becoming school, yard chores, and writing, the latter as there is time. Yet, we've upped the ante on writing projects round here. 

   Sister is busy finishing out her IEW year; I'll post another of her papers soon. I'm beginning to wonder if I should quit writing and simply focus on becoming her agent. She recently wrote a letter from Dolly Madison to her mother that takes the cake. Thankfully, she's constraining the drama to her writing!

   Brother has been very busy writing at school and this week he'll also write a bill to prepare for his one day class at Teen Pact. The chosen topic of his proposed bill? Reading in bathrooms should not be allowed. (This is a bit of a personal agenda for him round our house. We won't say who frequently attempts to disappear with a book in the bathroom.) 

  And I've committed myself to a more aggressive pace of writing this year with a few members of my monthly critique group. We have agreed to turn in writing on the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month for perusal and feedback vs. only once a month.

 If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write. ~ Martin Luther

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Weekend Birthday Boy

  Very thankful for an auntie and uncle who hosted a gaggle of us over Easter weekend,  letting us crash their place for birthday celebrations, hiking, food, fishing, and a lot of fun.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Story by Guest: Miss Conolly et Abagail McMuffilin

   For children who dream while they write, and write while they dream. Follow your heart and your pen. Seek, and find far off lands. 
The Pet Goldfinch by Henriette Browne
   Being enterprising and interesting, Abagail McMuffilin, who is a marine biologist and symbiosis expert, has always held extremely interesting jobs. Scottish born, Abagail's parents and siblings live in the hills of Scotland. When she was working on her schooling there, Abagail's future was undecided, but she now has a plan for the rest of her life, and it does not involve retiring from her constant projects and activities. Obviously energetic, Abagail McMuffilin still has her moments of quiet, and it was during one of these moments that her mind drifted back to the time when she was a child in Scotland...

    Science competition today,” the teacher had briskly announced. Groans came from every corner of the classroom except one. Abagail sat in her desk chair and stared out the window, daydreaming about her science fair project. Unsurprisingly, school did not interest her at all. Apart from science, Abagail, who understood every single concept, was bored. Educated science, now that was something. New discoveries were being made! New concepts being taught! New inventions! Science was always changing! Science even changed Abagail's life! Without science, would she ever have met Hailey Clark, the famous professor of life sciences? No. Without science, would she ever had gotten her marine biology degree? No. Without science, would her life have turned out the way it did? No. No, no, and no! Nothing would be the same for Abagail if it wasn't for science! 
    It was only art and science that kept Abagail interested in school. They were like bread and water to her. Abagail longed to go on to college science classes, but she never imagined just how she'd do it. When Abagail, or Miss McMuffilin, as she preferred to be called, went off to college, she was just fifteen. Although sure that she wanted to get her degree in Marine Biology and Biologistic Chemistry, Miss McMuffilin was not sure which school she wanted to go to, and she was nervous. Finally, she decided to go to the Scotland School of Science. During her first term, Abagail made a special friend in a young teacher named Hailey Clark. Miss McMuffilin, who didn't know how helpful Ms. Clark would be to her, procured an internship with a prominent research company off the coast of Florida. Though she would be a long way from her family, Miss McMuffilin took the job, which involved her absolutely favorite subjects of painting and science.

    “'What if I don't know how to do whatever they want me to do? What if...' That was all I could think about as I was nervously getting ready to board the research vessel I was to intern upon.” Abagail, when asked about whether she was nervous or not when getting ready to start her internship, answered. “Besides, even though I knew I'd probably have plenty of fascinating jobs in my lifetime, I still wasn't sure what to expect. I guess I thought the boat wouldn't be so big. Besides, so much equipment was on board, and I was afraid I'd break something important.” Abagail, who knows now that her first job wasn't really that amazing, says, “When its your first time doing something that you have always wanted to do, everything is really cool.” Abagail McMuffilin's first ever job was full of somewhat interesting things like catching fish, eating tuna melts, and getting seasick. Although Abagail finds that her first job on a research ship prepared her for some of the projects that involve boats on the open ocean, she still occasionally gets seasick. Excited, Abagail McMuffilin was soon to learn that this faraway job for a college summer was the first of a lifetime of exciting, sometimes strange, jobs.

    “Why me? Why not someone more qualified for this? This is going to be one of the most exciting trips of my life! I wonder if I my family could visit me. Maybe I'll get to see the Eiffel Tower!” These and many other thoughts pushed their way into Abagail's mind on the plane trip to France. France was to be the new home of the Underwater Divers Research Associates, which was a group that worked with snorkelers and scuba divers to better understand oceanic symbiosis. Symbiosis, the relationship of two different species of animals, provides mutual benefits. Abagail had come to France to work under the current president of UDRA, in hopes of officially moving to France if given the position of president, that is, once the man who was the current president resigned or retired. Abagail was interested in France. It's culture, food, and now this research project were calling to Abagail. France, she felt, would be the ideal place for her to live. Of course, Abagail didn't know French, but that was no problem because she could learn it by hanging out in the open-air marketplace. But then there was the project. It was exciting! It was invigorating! It was amazing! Abagail would have to know some French for her new job, but she wasn't worried. The mere idea of this organization was enough to give her a thrill. She, Abagail, was going to work in one of the newest and most high-tech buildings on the coastline of France! Studying symbiosis, Abagail was sure this was the job for her.

    Ten years ago, Abagail, in France studying marine symbiosis, was working under one of the most famous marine biologists in the world. She never got a chance to be the president of the Underwater Divers Research Association. Just before UDRA's second year of research was over, the bank financing the organization crashed, which created difficulties in the way of maintaining the organization's several underwater remote control submersibles. Since she has moved from France and her position in the Underwater Divers Research Association, Abagail has been quietly residing with her family, creatively teaching science at a small school nestled in the rolling hills of Scotland. Some day Miss McMuffilin, who is quite happy with her life right now, is sure to find another interesting job, another small and innovative start-up company that needs her help. For now, though, Abagail is as content as possible to do what she does best: helping people through her love of science. After all, it doesn't take an expert on marine symbiosis to know when somebody needs a little help.

 *A tiny sample of Miss Conolly's writing. She definitely works within her 5 paragraph requirement, with nary a word more, but alas it's still a fun read, and look-see into her mind.