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Time Out

18 Feb

It’s a Tuesday. That means I need to post.

See the verb I used there? Need.

That’s because I’ve said from the start of this blog – 2.75 years ago – that I’d post every Tuesday. And I have.

Every single Tuesday for almost 3 years.

And suddenly I’m tired. Suddenly I’m irritated. Suddenly it’s an obligation. Suddenly I stopped feeling guilty about my terrible track record for visiting other people’s blogs and started feeling cross and resentful about it all.

I have needed the discipline of knowing that I had to post every week. But now the discipline feels less like self discipline and more like parental discipline…i.e.: punishment.

I am not quitting. I have tons of ideas and topics for future epiphanies! (Hmmm…planned epiphanies…no comment.)

But I need a break.

Mondays come along and I find myself thinking, “Shoot. What am I going to blog about tomorrow? What do I feel like posting? Bother.”

I don’t want this blog to be a bother.

I feel like this is controlling me.

I have less time to write my book because I need to write a post.

And the whole point of beginning the blog was to support the book. Not the other way around.

I am beyond thankful for what this blog has brought me. I have made virtual friends who have become real friends. I have been introduced to worlds and to people I knew nothing of and I have benefitted from that tremendously. I am so thankful for all of you – bloggers and non-bloggers alike.

Because of A Fine Day For an Epiphany I was asked to begin The View From My Window – my second blog over on a network supported by my local newspaper – and because of that blog I am now a for-real free-lance writer for my local newspaper and even have a monthly column with them.

In other words, I’m getting paid.

I LOVE THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED.

But that job, in turn, takes its own share of time – time that I do NOT resent because it’s paying off – but there, too, it means I have less time to write my book. Or books. The one that I can’t find an agent for because, in part, I have no time to look for one. And the other one that I’ve begun which will be more like this blog in tone/feel/topic.

In short, I need more time. And taking a break from this blog is going to help with that.

No, I am not quitting. And part of me feels like I’m copping out by posting less than once a week. But see, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my writing. And I don’t want to post less-than-perfect posts…which I’ve been doing lately. I did this in part to improve my writing…not just to throw stuff out there.

Also, I need to define my focus for this blog. And I think that getting this new book idea into shape will help with this.

I hate good byes. Or, even though this isn’t really good bye, I still hate to say, “See you later.”

But I just have to.

I am planning on taking the rest of February, all of March and possibly even April off.

Who knows, maybe in a couple of weeks I’ll say, I WAS CRAZY! I MUST BLOG! I don’t know.

I do know that in March I’ll be traveling to London for a week and that I will blog about that when I return.

So I won’t be gone entirely…just taking a break.

I am not sure how I’ll feel when I hit “publish” today. Relief? Regret? Sadness?

I don’t know.

I think I’ll just hit it now and see…

“Hang it All!”

14 Jan

I recently finished reading a book. It was a good book, well-written, kept me interested all the way through. But then I got to the last page. Only I didn’t realize it was the last page. I was reading on my Kindle and so there was no thickness of the remaining pages to clue me in. I knew from the “% read” at the bottom of the screen that I was nearly done. Knew too, that there was no Glossary or Tolkien-esque appendix that took up half of the book, but I assumed, as I pressed the “Next Page” button, that there would be an epilogue if not a short final chapter.

I read to the end of the page. I turned to the next. And the book was done. And I did what I have never done before. I shouted,

“You jerk!”

as if the author could hear me.

I am a person who likes her loose ends tied up. As a writer I keep a list of loose ends that I must not forget about. As a reader I do this too, only they’re mental lists and not separate files on my computer.

Loose ends Drive Me Bananas. And the loose ends in this book I read were HUGE.

I suppose you’re all dying to know what the book was. I debated telling you or not, but I guess I will because I’m not saying she is a bad writer, or that I disliked the book…I just HATED being left hanging!

I know, I know: it’s a writer’s prerogative. She or he can do whatever they like and if they like leaving their readers unfulfilled, well, fine. They have a right. For whatever reason, she wanted to leave the reader wondering, pondering, considering her book as we drive down the road to pick our children up from school. She wanted us to think. She wanted us to have lively discussions at book club – which I know we will! She wanted us to blog about it.

And so I say to Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder, yes, you’ve made me think. You’ve made me consider Easter’s fate and the narrator’s future and the crotchety doctor’s wishes as I wash the dishes and fold the clothes and do other things that I’m too proper to write about.

And you’re driving me nuts.

So my question for you all is this: do you like loose ends that make you think? Or do you wish that all authors would tie their loose ends up in pretty bows that don’t stress you out and cause you to call them names when you reach the last page and discover THE END written in nasty, bold letters?

As my children like to ask, “Which would you rather?”

Seasonal Writing

3 Dec

This year I took on a seasonal task that I have avoided for the past few years. No, I never stopped shopping, (though my husband probably wishes I had) nor have I quit baking, decorating, or watching Dr. Seuss’ version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. What I’ve avoided is writing the Christmas Program for my church.

I have written our program a few times in the past, but for the past several years we’ve bought our scripts. Buying a pre-fab script is not a bad thing, but every year we have to tweak it for our particular setting and group of kids and by the time I’m done doing that, I might as well have spent the time writing it from the beginning.

Last year's whole cast.

.

So this year I did. It was a blast sitting at my keyboard with the list of kids in our church and my page of hand-written notes, taken when inspiration hit one afternoon in October. I laughed out loud as I gave the silliest part to our silliest boy. I grinned as I pictured one girl performing a line I wrote just for her. I was inspired by their personalities.

In the past when I have written programs people have said to me that I ought to try and get them published, but I never have. Maybe this year I will. I’ll see if I can find the other old scripts (since the old computers they were written on are long gone) and I’ll spend a little time looking them over, rewriting, and rethinking.

At least I will if I get my butt in gear to actually pursue this idea. It will take some research into proper style, publishers, etc, but it will be worth it if it pays off in the end, yes? I give you all permission to bug me in a couple months and ask me if I’ve done anything about it yet!

DSC_8523

In the mean time, rehearsals are about to begin for our December 22nd performance. I know that my patience will be tried over the next few weeks and I will ask myself yet again why I ever agreed to direct this pageant – the writing is easy compare to directing – but I know that I too, will love, love, love seeing the kids that night, belting out the songs and shouting out their lines.

I adore Christmas pageants. Here’s my favorite photo of my favorite bored little angel a few years back.

097 2

My Stint As A Journalist

22 Oct

For the past several weeks I have been filling in at my local newspaper, the Daily Globe. They’ve been a little short handed so they called in their second string. I’m okay with this moniker. I don’t want to be first string. First string would mean that I have to get up and go to work every day and, as I told my husband, bringing home a paycheck is hard work!

Ah, but it is rather nice to get paid for one’s writing.

On the other hand, I’ve had zero time to work on my book. Which to this point is showing no signs of generating a paycheck whatsoever. So I guess I’m okay with the occasional stint as a journalist.

I started out at the University of Oregon (GO DUCKS!) as a Journalism major. I planned to study Russian as well, and then go to Moscow as a foreign correspondent and uncover fabulous spy stories of the Cold War.

Only the Cold War pretty much ended before my career started. But, really, that’s not what ended my journalism career. It was J101 which did that. Grammar For Journalists – the class that every journalism major had to take – and pass with a “B” – in order to be accepted into the J School.

And so fall term of my freshman year began. I leaped into J101 and Russian 101 full of confidence, a smile firmly upon my face.

Four months later I waved goodbye to my dream. I didn’t pass that stupid grammar class – oh, I passed…as far as the University was concerned – but not as far as the precious J School was concerned. It was, in fact, the worst grade I ever got in my entire educational life: K-12, college and graduate school combined.

I could have taken it again. But I’d discovered something else during that term. I hated journalism.

I wanted to write creatively, free as a bird, with no strings attached, no rules, no horrid grammar police breathing down my neck.

Plus, I stunk at Russian, which, after failing to enter the coveted J School, seemed kind of like a waste of time anyway.

“I’m not competitive enough to be a journalist,” I told people when they asked me why I’d switched majors from Journalism to English.

Which possibly was true. But, the real truth is, I’ve learned a thing or two since then. One thing is that a major which actually provides a job when you graduate is a nice thing. Another is that forcing oneself to do something difficult in order to reach a goal is actually a good thing in the long run – and maybe, just maybe, majoring in English was a cop out. I tell people it’s a good thing I married an engineer ‘cause otherwise I’d be the proverbial starving artist living in a drafty garret somewhere.

Mostly what I’ve learned, though, is that I don’t actually hate journalism. Especially when I’m filling in and the expectations upon me don’t include me knowing when to say, “He said” or, “He says”. I have frequently heard writers thank their editors…now I totally understand why.

Over the past month I have learned more about insulation than I ever hoped to know. I have learned that not everyone will return a phone call, and not everyone wants attention brought to themselves or their situation. I have also learned that people are eager to thank others in print – which is lovely – and that they’re eager to share their story if it’s something they think others will benefit from. I have smiled during interviews, and shuddered (to myself) and marveled at the human spirit.

And I have to say, I really liked it when a person who makes his living off of speaking in front of vast crowds said to me, “You’re the writer. I trust you to make me sound good.”

“I’m a writer?” I thought to myself as I hung up the phone. “I’m a writer!”

The next day I introduced myself in a meeting as a writer. And my lovely friends in the crowd smiled and patted me on the back, and whispered, “Yes, you are.”

That was actually a rather marvelous moment in this flunked-out-of-J-School student’s life.

I have learned one other thing. I have learned that just as I tend to talk too much, I tend to write too much. There is beauty in brevity.

I’m still working on that one.

PS – Yesterday I posted this same basic post over on my other blog The View From My Window, which is connected with the Daily Globe, and is more local in focus. Audrey over at Minnesota Prairie Roots – who is a lovely friend and encourager – commented on it and said, “I find it difficult to believe that you would not do well in a grammar class when you went on to major in English. That’s pretty contradictory.”

This made me think (I love that about Audrey) and here was my response: I think that my problem with that grammar class was that it was so technical – it took the joy out of writing and made it stressful. I think I truly am a bit Bohemian in my approach to writing and all the rules and regulations were horrid. I have never liked or known the technicalities of grammar – I just use it properly and don’t care what it’s called! Taking apart sentences to name all the different parts just seemed – still seems! – sacreligious! But as an English major I just had to read and write – all of the technical stuff was left behind!

To that I add this: ever since 9th grade English class, when we had to diagram sentences and suddenly my “A” in English was threatened, I have found grammar to be irritating and suffocating. Yes, it’s vital that the basic rules of grammar are followed…but why do I have to know what a gerund is when I can use it properly without knowing the proper definition?!! (I know, I know, it’s an “ing” word…I do actually remember that one!) Here’s the deal: as a kid I read and read and read…and that taught me my grammar. Not Mr. L in 9th grade, and not professor whoeverhewas in college. If you want to be a writer, read, read, read. It’s that’s simple.

One more thought: I am NOT advocating not teaching grammar in our schools. American’s are bad enough with grammar already and it IS being taught. (If I see one more person on Facebook write, “I like that to,” for example, I am going to scream!!) I guess I’m just venting. Can you tell that I really, really, have issues with grammar?!!

Oh, and also this: I know that I use too many commas.  And also that I’m not perfect, grammatically speaking.  I figure, that’s what editors are for.  :-)

Dear Mr. Sedaris,

24 Sep

Ok, so I’m still writing newspaper articles and ignoring my blog. That is why I’m giving you this, a letter I wrote several months ago, addressing David Sedaris, author of Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. I have never actually sent a letter to an author before because I never cared enough. I shy away from controversy. I shy away from talking about my faith. But there are times when I get hot under the collar and reading this book was one of those times. So I’m posting my letter. I’m doubting that he’ll ever see it, but who knows? Maybe I’ll actually send it to him one day. But, for now, here it is for you…should you care to read on!

Dear Mr. Sedaris,

I bought Me Talk Pretty Someday several years ago, thinking at the time that it was some sort of tie-in to Roger’s and Hammerstein’s South Pacific – a sort of newly-popular version, perhaps, that I kept hearing about – a “Happy Talk” book that sounded to me, an optimist, like a good read.

I was not disappointed when I discovered that it had nothing to do with beaches, the Second World War, or sailors seducing young natives…or was it the other way around? I was a little bit disappointed that it had nothing to do with getting rid of gray hair, as that has been a recent torment in my life. I enjoyed the book and I laughed often as I read it – even reading bits out loud to my husband who, perhaps, did not laugh quite as hard as I did as I read them, but who, nevertheless, deigned to smile.

After reading that book I moved on to other books, not really even realizing that you had others published. I saw your sister Amy on television a few times and finally connected the dots that she is, in fact, your sister. She’s hilarious, by the way. She about gave me a side ache from laughing when she was on Martha Stewart.

Then, this spring, I saw that you had a new book coming out – and I loved the title from the moment I saw it. So, eagerly awaiting the day when my Amazon Wish List could take residence in my Amazon shopping cart, I bought Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls a month or so ago and began reading it last week, after finally finishing up the Percy Jackson books my son implored me to read.

I dug into your book, admiring anew your writing style and remembering how much I enjoy short, easy-to-read-between-making soup, doing laundry, filtering cold-pressed coffee, and-actually-drinking-it activities that consume my day. (That sentence may not have made a lot of sense, grammatically, but I hope you got the gist of it. Or is it gyst? I like that better, actually, but my computer says no.)

Anyway, I began reading it and was liking it until I got to the chapter, “If I Ruled the World”. Okay, okay, yes, you can write what you like and no one is forcing me to read and/or buy it. But I just was so sad and surprised by it because I didn’t see it coming. I mean, you crack me up – and so little literature does that well these days – and then you kinda punched me.

It’s like this: I love Jesus. I truly do. And I believe, fervently, that He is hugely misrepresented in our world today. He doesn’t make or want people to do so many of the things that they do in His name. People are running around saying and doing all sorts of stupid and hate-filled things in the name of Christ, and I imagine that it hurts Him deeply to see that happening in this world He created.

One of those irksome things – albeit a small one – is that people want me to “like” Jesus on Facebook! Come on! I like Jesus – but that doesn’t mean I have to lower Him to a Facebook button. Eww.

Jesus doesn’t need me to be His fan or even to defend Him. He can defend Himself. I’m not writing to you to convert you or to be weird or to fill your inbox with defensive dogma. I just want to tell you that I was so very disappointed by that chapter. I was not expecting to be insulted when I read your book…and yet that’s how I felt. I understand that it was done under the guise of humor…but it was so not funny. I guess I just think that if you knew Jesus the way I do, you might actually be surprised, ‘cause the guy I know is so much better than the image the world has forced upon Him. That guy loves you. Beyond imagination. I so wish you could see Him without the filter of the world’s garbage…

Oh, and yes, I noticed that you even capitalized your pronouns when referring to Him. Somehow that just made it worse.

What is your real view of Jesus, Mr. Sedaris? (I’d call you David, but that seems presumptuous.) How do you really see Him? Do you know that He loves you, no matter what?

Oh, I feel like there is so much I could say, but I won’t. It’s hard to talk about Jesus – hard to know the right words. It’s like trying to describe your imaginary friend whom you’ve known since childhood – BUT HE’S NOT IMAGINARY…just kinda invisible. And yet not. And He’s powerful. And beyond comprehension. How does one describe THAT? How does one describe what one truly believes, based on experience, one enormous book, and a lifetime of faith?

Faith is hard to clothe.

Anyway, I guess I’ve said what I wanted to say and probably – as is usual for me – in far too many words. It’s 10:34 at night and I probably won’t ever send this, but, then again, maybe I will just to let you know that you make me smile so very often…which is why I wish so hard that you hadn’t punched me.

Sincerely,
Gretchen O’Donnell

PS – I wish I’d known your sister “Gretchen” when I was growing up – I needed all the Gretchens I could find just to not feel like it was a freakish name!

PPS – I could totally relate to your colonoscopy experience as I myself find all the irritating preparations worth the ten minutes of blissful drug-induced waking up afterwards. Does this mean I have an addictive personality? Or does that mean that people are addicted to my personality? I’ve never been sure of that, but the fact that not everyone who meets me fall madly in love with me, perhaps proves the first thing true and not the second.

PPPS (Sorry, this is getting ridiculous) – I have to admit that I skipped your poem at the end of the book. Just couldn’t take anymore. I apologize. Then again, I don’t apologize at all. I’m a bit of a prude, I suppose, but I’m okay with that.

Moments

3 Sep

Okay, so here’s a confession: in all my years of living in a world where words matter to me and I majored in English and took a year’s worth of poetry writing, I admit that I did not recognize the name of Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who died on Friday.

Clearly, I have missed out.

Last week I posted about canning tomatoes…only I wasn’t really canning tomatoes. Here’s my first line in case you forgot or didn’t see it: “This is how I can tomatoes: with words.” Okay, now that that’s brutally clear, you’ll understand how I felt when I read Seamus Heaney’s poem, Digging. Here it is in full:

Digging

The cold smell of potato
mould, the squelch and
slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts
of an edge
Through living roots
awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow
men like them.
Between my finger and
my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

(As quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Early Edition, September 1, 2013.)

Can you even stand how wonderful this is? And I get it! I so can relate. We may not be able or willing to can tomatoes or dig potatoes, but hopefully we writers can give something else to the world with our words:

moments.

Moments of recognition in a few words. Moments where people see themselves in language. Moments where our hearts and the hearts of our readers leap with shared longing.

I pray that I can deliver such moments.

Canning My Own Tomatoes…Again

29 Aug

Full disclosure: I wrote (and posted) this two years ago…but thought of it last night and felt called to re-post since many of you didn’t see it back then! This is tomato season – and I’ll blog more about that on Tuesday – but for now, enjoy this “throwback” post. It’s one of my favorites.

This is how I can tomatoes: with words. In past years I have canned them with jars. Lovely, shining, wide-mouth Mason jars, topped with golden rings and flowery caps. I have waited in nervous expectation for them to seal, for them to justify my time and energy and sweat. And, almost always, I have been rewarded with a “ping” of success. Ah, sweet music to a canner’s ears.

But not anymore. Well, maybe someday again, but not for now. Nor, I’m sure, for a long time to come. Canning is a HUGE job. No, it’s not difficult, per say, but it’s messy, hot, and sticky…times a thousand. Every surface of my kitchen would need wiping down after I canned tomatoes. And I needed a shower. Badly. Yes, it’s rewarding. Yes, I loved having MY tomatoes on the shelf all winter long, lending the taste of summer to my spaghetti sauce. I LOVED that. But not enough to do it anymore.

Who knew such beauty could come from a lowly whiskey barrel?

For one thing, I’d have to have a garden. Or at least a whole lot more tomatoes than I have now in my four whiskey-barrels. And to have a garden I’d need a fence. And to have a fence I’d need time and energy and commitment to this lifestyle called gardening in order to justify the expense of the fence and the fertilizer (perhaps Rita over at SoSheMarriedAFarmer could give me some cow poop for free?). But most of all, the sheer loss of writing time while out weeding, watering and harvesting keeps my fingernails clean and my thumb less than green. Yes, I have a lot of excuses.

But seriously, writing – and figuring out this writing life – is captivating/controlling/fulfilling me right now. I cannot do everything…and so gardening is out. If only we had more TIME. Time to clean, play, parent, garden, write, sleep, eat, work, drive, can, read, volunteer, befriend a lonely orphan…the list goes on. Canning is definitely out.

How is it that some people seem to have time to do all of that and then some? I am not one of those people. There are too many books calling to be read. Too many sentences begging to be edited. Too many blogs to check out. This is my life right now, and I’m okay with that.

Don’t get me wrong: I liked canning. Other than the mess. I liked feeling a communion with my mother, my Scottish grandmother. I liked feeling like I was contributing. Liked feeling like a homemaker, a provider. Like I was Ma Ingalls. After all, Walnut Grove is only a couple of hours from here; maybe there’s something in the air in these parts, some tomato-laden scent that calls a person with the voice of those pioneer women, enticing them jar-wards. Just call me Caroline.


Yeah, dream on, Self. I never was more than a one-hit wonder in the canning world. I never canned anything other than tomatoes – oh, and a few kinds of jam, come to think of it. I did write a poem about canned beans once. It was the only poem I wrote that my college poetry professor ever liked. I got into his class because he thought I was related to someone…only I wasn’t. There aren’t a lot of poets out there with the last name of “Wendt” and it turns out that Ingrid Wendt was a known Eugene-area poet of the time. All these English profs and secretaries in the department kept asking me if she was my mother – it was very confusing at first – but turned out to be to my benefit, so thanks, Ingrid, if you ever read this!

Anyway, I’ll see if I can find that poem just for giggles. I know I still have it somewhere in the depths of my box of college memorabilia. I wrote it during Music Appreciation class one afternoon – shhh – don’t tell my kids I wasn’t paying attention to the teacher.

So, yes, sadly, (but to the joy of anti-botulism fans everywhere) the only beans I ever canned were in my poem. And the only tomatoes these days are in words, too. The jam is long gone, the jars mostly broken. But the words remain. Perhaps that’s the best kind of canning, after all.

At least for me.

The Mystery is Solved

23 Jul

I probably will never be able to pinpoint the exact moment in time that I knew I wanted to become a writer. Nor, for that matter, will I be able to pinpoint the precise reason. All I know is that when I was a kid I loved to read and I want to write books for other kids of that age to help them love reading as well as I did.

There were many places – both real and unreal – that fed my love of reading. Narnia, Middle Earth, Walnut Grove, Prince Edward Island. And there were authors: Susan Cooper, Madeline L’Engle, Enid Blyton, Author Ransome, Elizabeth Goudge. There were characters I fell in love with, and pets, there were styles of writing that I adored, and others that I found irritating or dull. There were turns of phrase, and words too, that changed my vocabulary, causing one friend in college to remark, “Gretchen, you have an entirely different vocabulary than I do.” Which, while untrue in many ways, was, perhaps, tinged with truth. I like to think that I never used those words to sound pretentious (the word I had used in that conversation was “vernacular” – not such a bizarre word, I didn’t think) but, perhaps, without meaning to, I sometimes did…

I recently returned from a wonderful vacation out on Orcas Island, Washington. I’ll post more about that in days to come. But for now, I’ll set the beaches and mountains and reunions aside to tell you about one small incident that occurred on the vacation that made my day…or, rather, my decade. At least in a literary sense.

For about ten years I have been searching for one of my favorite childhood books. Every so often I’d think of it and go to the internet to have a search. Only trouble was, I couldn’t remember the title, let alone the author. I thought the title was “The Mystery of the Hidden Staircase.” But every time I searched for that – or any variety thereof (The Mystery of the Lost Staircase, The Hidden Stairs, The Mysterious Staircase) – my search would come up with Nancy Drew books.

Not what I was looking for.

I even went so far as to inquire from a bookseller once if the book he was selling was set in Quebec and contained chapter titles about staircases. He never responded.

For, you see, those were the two of the four things I remembered about the book. I remembered the setting, I remembered the stairs, I remembered that somehow whistling came into play, and I remembered that the protagonist was a little girl and she solved the mystery of the stairs.

Beyond that I was stumped.

I did hold out one glimmer of hope over the years. My niece. She told me that she had a box of children’s books in storage and that when she could, she’d pull it out for me to look through. Finally the stars aligned and I was in Washington when the book box was available and so was I. Turns out there were actually two boxes. My hopes grew…yet I dared not hold out too much hope…it just seemed too much of a reach to think that they would have held on to that book for so many years.

I opened the first box. Lots of great books!! But not THE book.

Then I opened the second box.

I lifted out a book. Nope. Then set aside a few more, knowing they weren’t IT. Then I took out a gray, thin, hardback book.

The Mystery of Lonsome Manor, by Harriet Evatt.

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My heart began to race. Could it be?

I turned to the Table of Contents. Quickly scanned, my hopes grew.

Then I turned to page one, chapter one. The words, “French Canada” jumped out at me. I flipped a few more pages. An Indian – yes, that sounds familiar, albeit politically incorrect – a sledge, a girl, the old manor house. Suddenly I knew and I shouted out in the middle of my niece’s living room, “This is IT!!!!!”

I didn’t cry. I didn’t hug it to my chest. What I did was stand up from my place on the floor, walk to my purse, put the book in my purse and zip it shut. It rode home with me in my carry-on, not in the large Huggies Diaper box full of books that we checked as luggage.

Filled with books - from the sublime to the absurd.  But all worth the search.

Filled with books – from the sublime to the absurd. But all worth the search.

You may be thinking that I read it as soon as I possibly could.

Nope.

I savored it first. Reveled in the anticipation. I even finished the book I was currently reading first (I was almost done with it) simply because I loved the feeling of KNOWING I had it. I even let my daughter start reading it on the plane.

And then, the afternoon of our first day home, I began to read. I finished it before bed.

And no, I was not disappointed.

Oh, it’s a little politically incorrect, as I mentioned, and it’s a wee bit old-fashioned (it’s copywrite is 1962) and it’s very abrupt in its mystery-solving (no prolonged searches or plot twists), but it was simple and sweet and a wee bit exciting and definitely a little mysterious.

I love it.

And that’s why I write. So that someone, someday, when he or she is 43 and wracking their minds for a good book for their daughter to read, or desperately searching for that book they loved as kids, will think of my book.

And be glad.

A Marvelous “reblog” for You!

4 Apr

Ok, I have to “reblog” this post because it is so marvelous. “Clyde of Mankato” is a fellow-Minnesotan. This post about a chaplain visit he made to a nursing home is full of humor, pathos, and humanity. I practically began weeping in the café as I read it. Luckily no one looked at me weirdly as my eyes were full, that’s for sure. Please read this and experience it with me. – Gretchen

No Man – or Girl – is an Island

26 Mar

I have been struck anew, this past week, over the tenderheartedness of my two daughters. Though, to be sure, their emotions are shown in different ways.

Boo, age 6, was watching The Lion King the other day. She came up to me, scared, but dry-eyed, when Mufasa the king was thrown off the cliff to his death by his own brother, Scar. I held her, and together we weathered the injustice of the jungle out there.

The Lion King

But her indignation at Scar’s behavior was not done. Later, at the end of the movie, as Scar is trying to convince a young Simba that it is his, Simba’s fault, that Mufasa died, Boo suddenly shouted from her place on the couch. “Dummy head! Double Dummy head!”

That, to Boo, is high abuse indeed.

I must say, I loved that what came out of her mouth in that moment of unguarded behavior was something so benign…and yet so full of truth.

She knew, though perhaps could not articulate, that the “jungle out there” is, truly, the jungle we all live in every day.

I couldn’t help but think of our other daughter, now age 11, who behaved much the same way when she was Boo’s age.

She and I were watching A Little Princess, a nicely-done movie based on the book by Francis Hodgson Burnett.

A little princess

She was sick that day, as I recall. She liked the movie, followed it along, understood – for the most part – what was going on. But every so often she would turn to me and ask, “Why is that woman so mean? What did Sara do to deserve that?”

I suppose I said something about injustice in the world. About bad people. About things not always working out the way we wish.

But then came the end – the part where Miss Minchin lies and denies that the amnesiac man is Sara’s father. And our daughter stood up on the couch and cried, “NO! NO! He is her father!” And she cried and cried and cried and could not be consoled.

Her tender heart has not changed over the years. Just now, at age 11, she came upstairs in tears. It’s well after bedtime, but she’s caught up in her book, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, and Beth, the sweet, kind sister, just died.

Little Women

“Why do we care so much about storybook characters?” she asked me through her tears.

Because we love them, my sweet girl. Because books have power to change our lives. Because you have a kind and gentle heart and when you cry over injustice and sorrow and sadness in the books you read, you are really crying over the things in this world you have not yet faced, but you know are real. You know they could happen, and you weep for those they have happened, and will happen, to. You weep for the imperfections of the world. You weep because you are not an island. You are a part of the continent, a piece of the main.*

Never send to know, my darling girl, for whom the bell tolls.

It tolls for thee.

*John Donne, Meditation 17

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