Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge -- COMPLETED!

I am borrowing (and slightly adapting) the 2015 Reading Challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy. This list will be updated throughout the year.

A book from your childhood: Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

A book you chose because of the cover: The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly by Doug Stewart

A book recommended by someone with great taste: I am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer

A book “everyone” has read but you: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

A book you've been meaning to read: Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

A book originally written in another language: Mazli by Johanna Spyri

A book you should have read in high school: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A book your mom loves: Who Switched Off My Brain by Caroline Leaf

A book that's currently on the bestseller list: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

A book your dad loves: Alfred the Great: The Man Who Made England by Justin Pollard

A book in a genre you don't typically read: King Lear by William Shakespeare

"Bonus" Uncategorized Books:

Plus, more picture books than I can count.

"More Stories from Grandma's Attic" by a New Favorite Author

It is the last day of the year, and I am posting the final review to complete my 2015 reading challenge. Just in time! The final category to fill is "A book by a favorite author" -- an easy one certainly.

But, it wasn't.

I chipped away at Jane Austen's Selected Letters for most of the year, but I still haven't read it cover to cover. Then, my sister gave me a beautiful copy of Mere Christianity on the last day of November, and I thought it would be the perfect choice. Only, December is an incredible month full of gatherings with friends and family, shopping, wrapping presents, baking, and my favorite tradition, the daily lighting of the Advent candles as my family read, prayed, and sang together before putting the children to bed.

And, in all this, I finished reading a book. It was easy, simple, fun, and wholesome. I think I was holding a drowsy toddler in a dark room during the middle of the night when I happened to come across the last page on my lighted Kindle screen. More Stories from Grandma's Attic was written by my newest favorite author, Arleta Richardson. I read the first book in her Grandma's Attic series earlier in the year as a bonus book that didn't fit neatly into any of the 13 categories of the reading challenge. Five months later, I can say confidently that Arleta Richardson is a favorite author. Her stories are memorable and sweet. I return to them over and over again in my mind. A good book doesn't have to be deep, long, or intended for a mature audience. I find my favorites were often intended for children.

Arleta Richardson's approach of remembering her childhood and the stories her grandmother told about her own childhood -- going back much more than a century -- appealed to me in every way. The good news is that there are more books by Richardson to discover.

Have a happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Family Update!

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas from the Pruett Family! The joy of the season can be captured in Anna's exclamation from the back seat of our mini-van, “Look! Lights! They are getting ready for Christmas!” She loves that people all over our little city are coming together to decorate for Christmas.

Our family in the light of the candle on the first Sunday of Advent

Looking back over 2015, some of it was good and some of it was very difficult. We are so thankful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that He was with us through it all. We can see His hand at work in our lives in so many ways. Among other things, we were able to travel to the San Antonio, Texas, area in June for a family reunion with the descendants of Elizabeth's great grandparents Lawrence and Marjorie Moore. The year was also full of many other family get-together with extended family on both Zachary and Elizabeth's sides of the family, and our relationships in our church family have continued to deepen.

Zachary's work has undergone several changes in the last twelve months. He was content with his job and wasn't looking for another. Still, he was blessed to receive a job offer from Mertz Manufacturing to work in their IT department. He is now their Network Administrator. Mertz and the people there have been such a blessing to us. It is exciting for Zachary to be doing the computer work he loves all the time instead of being divided in several directions. In his spare time, Zachary takes the family to the zoo and has developed an interest in golf. He can be found practicing his swing in all weather and during all hours of the day. Anna and John have both picked up the sport with him and have a blast with their miniature plastic clubs.

Elizabeth's year was full of chasing after John, reading with Anna, and playing with them both. John prefers peekaboo and can now find his nose. Anna enjoys painting, pretending to be anything from a duck to a bear, and baking. This was the gingerbread year. Two gingerbread homes and a church with stained glass windows were decorated this Christmas season, and the year isn't over yet! Elizabeth's involvement at church and in several genealogy/lineage societies keeps her active in the community. She is tweaking her family tree, discovering new ancestors, and finding photographs of old ones. A whim and her desire to be a lifelong learner led Elizabeth to begin studying Swedish – the language spoken by her most recent immigrant, John Peterson [1843-1907].

Anna Christine is 3 ½ and growing into a little lady. She enjoys listening to her Mommy (and others) read to her even more than her Mommy enjoys reading to her – which is saying a lot! Anna began the new homeschool preschool program from My Father's World in July, and the entire family is blessed by it. We knew as a family that we wanted a gentle academic beginning that encouraged a love of learning with a foundation rooted in God's Word. “All Aboard the Animal Train” is exactly that program. Each unit focuses on a color, animal and biblical character trait and is full of great book suggestions, activities, and games. Anna is learning to memorize Bible verses and, more importantly, to treat others with God's love, kindness, patience, etc. Anna brings us and her grandparents so much joy. We are privileged to live near family, and Anna spends frequent quality time with all four of her grandparents.

John William is our climber. He started walking at 11 months, and now, at not quite 1 ½, his mobility amazes and intimidates us. John tries to get into everything. He is bold, determined, and fast. His almost fearless approach to life has earned him many bumps and bruises, but he bounces back amazingly well. Thankfully, he is a good sleeper because getting anything done with him on the loose is a challenge. John is sweet and affectionate. His hugs are long, his welcoming smile and “Hi!” are enthusiastic, and his good-bye wave is endearing. It is hard to say “no” to his outstretched arms. His favorite toy is his set of golf clubs, and he practices his swing daily just like his daddy. John uses a few choice words to great effect with some highly communicative grunts and squeals and the occasional “what did he just say?” phrase that makes our heads turn.

2016 promises to be a big year with family milestones and travel, so please pray that our steps would be ordered by the Lord and that we would be safe and sane as we travel great distances with our little ones. Thank you all for your friendship!

With Love,

Zachary, Elizabeth, Anna, and John Pruett

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review of Modern Shakespeare's "King Lear: The Original Play with a Modern Translation"

This may make me an odd English major, but I am not a William Shakespeare fan. Yes, he gave a lot to the English language. Some of it was good, but not all he contributed was admirable.  I don't read much Shakespeare, so King Lear was an acceptable choice for "a genre you don't typically read."

My Elizabethan English is a bit rough, so I opted to read the Modern Shakespeare edition,  King Lear: The Original Play with a Modern Translation.  It provides three versions of the tragedy. The first gives both the original and the translation simultaneously (this is the one I chose) followed by just the translation and then just the original (for the purists).

I have to say, Shakespeare comes off course, rude, and crass when read in modern English.  There were a few things that went right over my head in the archaic form, and frankly, I wish it had stayed that way.

Still, there are some fascinating themes to study in King Lear. Basically, the play is about adult children's love (pretend or real) for their fathers. Which should the parent value most? Should King Lear reward profuse professions of love that flatter his vanity? Or can he accept a quiet love expressed simply and backed up by actions? King Lear makes the wrong choice and sets in motion a catastrophic series of events which result in true tragedy.

So, that is enough Shakespeare for a while. It brought up some memories from my college days, and they weren't necessarily the better ones!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Review of "Alfred the Great: The Man Who Made England" by Justin Pollard

I can't say I've read much about Anglo-Saxon England before. And really, you can't realize the extent of what you don't know until you widen your literary horizons and take in something new. This is one reason I was happy to read my dad's choice for my book challenge category "A book my dad loves" (a category I added to the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 book challenge).

King Alfred was the youngest of five sons who all succeeded their father to the throne of Wessex. Their only sister married the king of neighboring Mercia. They were a family of royalty in a day when it wasn't safe to be royal.  Really, it wasn't all that safe to be human in 9th century England; the average life span extended only to the thirties.  For King Alfred's family, the royal family of Wessex, Viking invaders did not improve longevity. Brother after brother died, each leaving the throne in turn to his younger brother until it was Alfred's turn.

Alfred inherited the throne of Wessex at a very bad time. Indeed, he almost couldn't keep it but was sent into exile when many of his high ranking officials succumbed to the Viking pressure. Alfred could have taken the easy way out and followed his brother-in-law and sister's example by fleeing England. Not Alfred. He was made of different stuff. Despite physical ailments that plagued him all his life, despite being on the run for a while with little idea of whom he could trust, Alfred lived to regain and enlarge his kingdom. No wonder the Psalms were so dear to him.

His method wasn't about strength on the battlefield. It wasn't about being more conniving or double crossing or vicious than his enemy. The Vikings had that covered. Instead, King Alfred was about improving his kingdom as a whole by strengthening his people spiritually, intellectually, and practically. He created a system of defensive towns that created fewer heroes but resulted in a more resilient and flexible army of people who were personally invested in the defense of their homes. In an age dominated by the Vikings, King Alfred used careful planning and a complex system of teamwork to defeat his foes. He improved literacy and the arts and personally translated important books into the common language to be distributed throughout the kingdom. His England, built on the foundation that God is in control and that true strength comes from being spiritually strong, managed to thrive where others had crumbled.

Alfred lived to see his enemy's depleted force sail away, but only by a few years. We are blessed that he did not neglect the work of education, translation, and craftsmanship until a day when the Viking threat was over. Indeed, it was his involvement in all these projects (that many might have considered superfluous to their military goals) that contributed to his glorious, victorious reign.

Justin Pollard's biography of King Alfred brought the man to life as well as any book set in the 9th century could hope to do. It left me wanting to know more and my first action upon reading the last page was to go online and look up the Wessex family tree. There is never an end to learning!

Friday, October 02, 2015

Historic Ponca City: Lew Wentz Gets First New Ford in State -- 25 Dec 1927



Lew Wentz, Ponca City oil man, has purchased the first model A Ford motor car to be sold in Oklahoma.
    Mr. Wentz's order for the car, a coupe, has been placed with the Wigton Motor company here, and his signed order, together with a check signed by him for a deposit, have been placed with Wigton's.
    The oil man was given the first ride in one of the new Ford coupes when it was received here the other day and liked it so well he placed an immediate order for one of the cars. It will be used in conducting the affairs of his household and the estate at Lake Supreme, he told Glen L. Wigton.
    The car has not been delivered, but it will be when the first shipment for delivery to customers in Oklahoma is received.
    Mr. Wentz is shown on this page standing by the coupe in which he took the first ride given to a Ponca City prospect.

The Ponca City News, Sunday, December 25, 1927

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Review of Daniel James Brown's "The Boys in the Boat"

Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics brought me closer to my Seattle roots. My great grandparents, Lawrence and Marjorie Moore lived in Seattle during the late 1920s and 1930s, and my grandfather was born there the same year Joe Rantz, the central character of the book, began his career at the University of Washington.

Knowing some of the challenges my own great grandparents faced drew me to this story. Joe Rantz had an extraordinarily difficult childhood and young adulthood during a time when few had it easy. I hope the successes of Joe and his teammates brought smiles to Lawrence and Marjorie. I know much of Seattle flocked to support them during local races and hovered around radios when the team was as far away as New York or Germany.

The local crew team became a source of inspiration and pride for Seattle and the rest of the state of Washington.  Their superior rowing was one more reason to be proud of what ordinary, lower and middle class, hard working individuals could accomplish when they worked together. The nine young men in that shell (and the coaches and support personnel who accompanied them) brought pride to the entire nation when they beat almost insurmountable odds at the famed Nazi hosted 1936 Olympics.

Brown did an exceptional job of tying the individual stories of the boys and their families in the American northwest to the bigger picture of the Great Depression and the world events and politics that led to WWII just a few short years later.

Following Rantz as he overcome past hurts, bitterness, and the temptation to remain emotionally detached from others was one of the reasons I found this book inspiring. He forgave and allowed himself to become emotionally vulnerable within both his family and on his team. That vulnerability is what made many of his successes possible. I am not much into sports, but the human story behind this "sports book" made it so much more.

Note: At the time of completion (27 Sep 2015), The Boys in the Boat was #2 on the New York Times Best Sellers List for Combined Print & E-Book Non-Fiction.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review of "Who Switched Off My Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf

Know you stress out too much but don't know what to do about it? Or perhaps you suffer from headaches (as I have) or another physical ailment and want to fix the problem -- not just cover it with pain medication which often fail to help anyway? Who Switched Off My Brain, is the book for you. I am realizing more and more how much I have internalized my stress throughout my life, and I have paid for it with tight muscles, tension headaches, and skin problems. Dr. Caroline Leaf addresses the science behind how our brains work and the thoughts and emotions that seem to rule our lives. The crucial last chapter gives a comprehensive list of steps to take to regain health and maintain positive thoughts that are good for our bodies and minds. This is not a magic cure and will require that I make deliberate changes in the way I think and process the stresses around me, but I am full of hope that with God's help, I will make significant progress in my thought life, and, as a result, have fewer headaches.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"

After being vaguely aware of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird for years, I finally decided to check it out from the library and read it. I am so glad I did. Brilliantly written, I don't think a brief summary could ever do it justice. It "preaches" but it does so in a way that is hopeful and uncynical. It entertains without making light of sin or pretending that it is all okay or that nothing can be done about it anyway. It is a book that should empower us to look for good in others but make the right decision even when they let us down.

I feel the author handled dark subject matter delicately by allowing the main voice to be that of a child. We enjoy the play of children, the pleasure of reading with a parent, and a first snowstorm (and a snowman made out of more dirt than snow) and are led gently into more serious matters.

It was fun to be inside Jean Louise "Scout" Finch's mind and discover her world with her. I never knew how she would respond. Tenacious, bold, and active, she is also a thinker who wants to understand a world that doesn't always make sense. I appreciate how "real" she is in that she is not a perfect little girl. She is not completely free of the prejudices that filtered through from neighbors, school, and friends. Yet, she wrestles with the big questions and allows herself to find a more loving answer based on truth instead of fear or wrongly placed traditionalism.

First published the year my parents were born (1960), I feel the world is a better place because of To Kill a Mockingbird. I know our country has a ways to go when it comes to racism and superiority complexes based on silly things like how long your family has lived in one place or how much money you have, but reading Harper Lee's novel made me see the great progress we have made as a nation. ...Progress I don't always see because of how "normal" my own attitudes and community are to me.

And, although the ending is not a simplistically happy one, evil does not win. Justice is served. Hope for the future survives.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Dent or Daviess

One reason I enjoy preparing applications for lineage societies (in this case the DAR) is because it motivates me to go through my family tree with a fine tooth comb and compare it with the source documents. I just caught another big mistake in my family tree. My great grandfather, Wallace Gale Gray, Sr., was born in Salem, Dent County, Missouri -- not in Salem township, Daviess County, Missouri. The mistake may just be a few letters, but it is a 300 mile blunder. Oops! ...Glad I caught it!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Review of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"

The world of The Help was a fascinating one to step into as I read Kathryn Stockett's novel set in Jackson, Mississippi of the early 1960s. My own parents were of a similar age as the toddler Mae Mobley, and my grandparents would be the peers of the young adults like Skeeter, Elizabeth, and Hilly who drive much of the action in this work of historical fiction. The 1960s weren't that long ago, yet the world of Skeeter, Aibileen, Minny, and the others -- a world of wealthy or middle class white families with underpaid, under-appreciated, and mistreated black maids -- feels foreign and strange.  It feels a lot longer ago than just over 50 years ago.

That could be because my grandparents were the children of families hit hard by the Great Depression. They grew up with very little. When it was their turn to raise children, there was no hiring of maids to do the work for them. My parents were raised by their parents (primarily in California and Arizona). Any "help" came from grandparents. My dad's grandparents lived next door for several years, and my mom was sent back to Iowa and Missouri to visit her grandparents during the summer.

So, the thing I appreciated the most about Stockett's novel was the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the civil rights movement. No one in the novel set out to do anything big. This isn't about Martin Luther King, Jr., lawmakers, or the protestors who worked for integration and equal treatment in schools or restaurants.  This book is about the black women who served in white households cooking food, caring for children, and doing all the housework.  Yet, ironically enough, they were treated as too dirty and diseased to use the same restroom or eat in the same room as their employers. They could be lied about, taken advantage of, or unreasonably fired with impunity.

I have read some reviews that criticized the novel for making the employers "too bad" and the maids "too good" as though the book was trying to make all white people the villains and all black people the heroes. I didn't see that at all. Skeeter is one of the three main heroins of the story, and she is white. Also, Minny is the angriest of all the maids and has some pretty ugly stories to share about her previous white employers, yet her worst enemy is her abusive black husband. In the end, she learns to trust several white people who are able to give her a sense of safety and security. There is enough good and bad to go around even if most of the white people portrayed in this story are in the wrong.

Thankfully, a change of heart and a deepening of sympathy and understanding takes place among both poor and rich, white and black, and old and young. Not all the villains are reformed, but the book leaves us with a happier world than the one it first introduced us too.

Anyway, The Help is a book that made me think. It sparked a desire to broaden my knowledge on the topic. American history is complicated, and there is always more to learn!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Anna Marie Larsen Baby Photo

"Her name is similar to me!" my Anna exclaims when I tell her who is in the photo. This is my children's 3rd great grandmother, Anna Marie Larsen, as a baby (born 09 July 1886). She was the first of her family born on American soil as both her parents, Thomas True Larsen and Elsie Marie Madsen, emigrated from Denmark. Anna married Earnest "Lee" Beem on 05 Oct 1905 in Lincoln, Nebraska. She passed away 12 May 1972 in Onawa, Monona, Iowa.  Many thanks to Merriel Miller for providing the photo!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Mazli: A Story of the Swiss Valleys" by Johanna Spyri

Swiss author Johanna Spyri knew how to put together a happy ending, and Mazli: A Story of the Swiss Valleys is absolutely celebratory. There are a lot of characters to keep up with, but this wasn't a problem. Spyri introduces and deepens our understanding of more than eight children and multiple adults in a gradual way that gives the community a rich history.

Small, kindhearted Mazli is the youngest of five siblings and is the darling of the neighborhood. Well, most people think so. She does have the unfortunate habit of repeating things she has heard her older siblings say, and she can ask sincere -- but possibly insulting  -- questions. Mazli adds some cute factor to the book, but, due to the large number of children involved, I wondered at first why she was the title character.  ...But, wait for the ending! It is Mazli's bold friendliness that breaks through the defenses of a stony heart and sets in motion a series of events that result in the restoration of lost relationships and broken families. 

Issues the children deal with are anger management, standing up for truth, the desire for close friendship, and the need for loyalty, obedience, repentance, and forgiveness.

This really is a multi-generational story as well. As a grown woman with children of my own, I found myself relating most to the parts of the book that featured the children's mother. Full of wisdom and the very center of her children's world, Mrs. Maza learns to further trust her Heavenly Father with the futures of her children.  I will share my favorite passage below:

"The mother knew that she had not the power to keep her children from pain and sin, but she knew the hand which leads and steadies all children that are entrusted to it, that can guard and save where no mother's hand or love can avail. She went with folded hands from one bed to the other, surrendering her children to their Father's protection in Heaven. He knew best how much they were in need of His loving care."

Johanna Spyri was my favorite author when I was a child, and it felt good to return to my literary roots and become reacquainted with her as an adult. She comes from a different time and culture, and, yes, some of it is a bit foreign to the way we do things now, but Spyri's worshipful reliance on our Heavenly Father transcends time and place. It is a breath of fresh air.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"In Grandma's Attic" by Arleta Richardson Book Review

I recently finished the first book in the Grandma's Attic Series, and it was charming. Simply charming. In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson is my kind of book through and through. Each short story was a joy to read. They may have been intended for children to read, but really, they are perfect for any age.

Wholesome and sweet, the author recalls being a child who asked questions about her grandmother's own childhood as they quilted, cooked, cleaned, and played with buttons together.

Christian values shine through, and the family openly praises the Lord. Yet, this is not a preachy "too good to be true" family. Grandma Mabel was a mischievous little girl, and -- more often than not -- we are hearing about how she made mistakes and learned from them. Funny, my own childhood memories are much the same way.

I will be reading these stories to my own children in the near future and plan to look for the other books in the series.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Not a Blind Man

I thought I was onto something new tonight in my genealogy. A record was suggested for one of my ancestors -- the 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes. I clicked on it, and it all looked promising. The name was right, the county was right, the economic status fit.

I almost decided that my ancestor was totally blind due to an accident with gunpowder and was only partly self-supporting. It was plausible. I was so close to merging the document into my family tree. It would have been careless family history, but I almost did it. Instead, I decided to double check two inconspicuous numbers -- the page and line number the individual appeared on the regular 1880 census. I checked, and the blind man's numbers didn't match my ancestor's numbers.

I went ahead and looked for the blind man on the regular census to double check that there were indeed two men of the same name in the same county. Yes, there were, and the two men were even of a similar age. Yet, they are not the same person. I almost didn't take that "extra step" but by taking a few additional minutes, I avoided adding incorrect information to my ancestor's biography. So, I am glad there is nothing new to report (for that ancestor) tonight.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Independence Day Thanksgiving and Reflection

I read the Declaration of Independence to my little ones last night (mostly for me). They “helped” me make potato salad this morning, and I spent part of the time praying out loud as I thanked the Lord for our blessings, freedom, and comfort. I asked Him to bring revival to our people. I repented on behalf of our nation. God doesn't owe America any favors and there is a lot of sin here, but I would still rather live here than anywhere else. We have it pretty good.

So, I dress myself and my little ones in red, white, and blue, enjoy chocolate mousse, and take pictures. I don't really want to be in a big crowd and sing "I am proud to be an American" at the top of my lungs, but I am still thankful and celebratory in my own way.

One BIG thing; no one is forcing me to do wrong. I am free to be in a God glorifying marriage (to a man), I am free to give birth to my own children, and I am free to teach them about Jesus. Praise God!

Looking at current events doesn't give us much to celebrate at times, and our country is very different than the one we started with nearly 250 years ago. That is why I celebrate the groundwork that was put in place way back when and the fact that sinful people didn't train-wreck our nation any faster. No nation is incorruptible. I am thankful for what we have and choose not to think too much about what I wish it was.

I am thankful for my country, and I love my home, my America.

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

"Five Little Peppers and How They Grew" by Margaret Sidney

I finally did it. I read Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney. My sister was given a beautiful antique copy of the book as a child, and I always intended to borrow it from her. The years passed by, and the book remained unread.

I am no longer a child, and I don't live with my sister anymore, but that doesn't mean I couldn't simplify my life for a few days and dive into this 1881 children's classic. I missed out on the pretty antique, but I was able to download it for free onto my Kindle.

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew is a simple children's story which encourages hard work, kindness, and generosity among even the littlest of children. These characteristics are rewarded in an almost rags to riches fashion when the poverty stricken Pepper family is taken in by the wealthy Mr. King.

I had mixed feelings about the story due to the extreme conditions the children find themselves in. The family is just barely surviving, and the widowed mother and two oldest children, 11 year old Ben and 10 year old Polly, work constantly to put the carefully rationed and simple food on the table. 

Polly in particular takes on too much stress for her young body. The family is forced to rely on her too much, and the guilt she feels at being unable to help more than she already does made my heart hurt. At the same time, I imagine I would have acted in just the same way if found in a similar position.  Thankfully, my life as a 10 year old was far easier than Polly's.

There are some sweet moments among the Pepper children and their friends, and the joy they feel in the simplest of blessings is something I wish I could teach my own children (just without the fear of starvation or complete ruin). I don't know how old my children will be when I let them read this, but I lean toward it being a book we read aloud together, so we can talk about the more difficult parts.

One thing of interest is that Polly bakes most of the bread for her family. My little girl (3) already talks about the day she will be able to bake on her own, so she has my full permission to emulate Polly in this area!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is a boy book through and through. That may be why I hadn't read it before. It has a different flavor than The Little Princess or Anne of Green Gables. "Everybody" may not have read it, but it is a "Top 100" book (for children anyway), so Where the Fern Grows will fill the "Book everyone has read except you" category on my list. My husband remembers a teacher reading this book to him in school. 

Billy is a 10 year old boy who begs his parents for a pair of redbone coonhounds. They can't afford to buy the dogs for him, and Billy learns to work hard to achieve a long term goal. Self-sufficiency and care for others is something he grows into, and I enjoyed watching the transformation. By the end of the story, I felt the boy was prepared to launch into manhood. I appreciated that the character of Billy isn't ashamed to show his emotions. His feelings for both his family and dogs run deep.

This is truly an Oklahoma story. It was written by a native Oklahoman and set in the Oklahoma Ozarks. It makes me want to visit that part of our beautiful state. I was warned this was a sad book, but the adventure within made up for the bittersweet ending.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Reading "I am a Church Member" by Thom S. Rainer

I am excited! ...Excited about my church, excited about prayer, excited about being the hands, feet, eyes, ears, or nose of the church. This is me over here being excited.

Why? My pastor recommended I am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer awhile back. There was going to be a Wednesday night study about it. My schedule didn't allow me to go, but I decided to read the book anyway.  I am so glad I did.

This book is short. Super short. There is no fluff here, and every word furthers a re-evaluation of how we see church. Do we have a "Country Club" view of expecting the church to serve us? Or, do we have the biblical view of church membership that looks to serve others?

This is not a book to whiz through, put down, and forget about. This book encourages action as I follow Jesus and love His church. I am already making an action plan on how I can apply the scriptures highlighted in this tiny book so as to make a mighty impact on my life. I will return to it later for a spiritual checkup.

I want everyone to read this. Every Christian will walk away from it with new enthusiasm for their church, and every non-believer will be given a clear presentation of the gospel and what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ.

Read it!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

"The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly" by Doug Stewart

My selection for the "book you chose because of the cover" category was going to reflect my personality in some way. The fact that my choice, The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly by Doug Stewart, has a similar coloring and style as my blog template is almost funny. Yes, I really am this boring.

I am not a Shakespeare fan by any stretch of the imagination, so a Shakespeare play sounded like a good idea for the "book in a genre you don't typically read" category of my current reading challenge. However, plodding through King Lear is leaving me in need of some additional inspiration, so I explored the 822.33 (Shakespeare) section of the library.

The cover of Doug Stewart's brown, white, and black book caught my eye immediately. Okay, so I like the look of old paper! The ink blotted lines were calling to me. The title didn't hurt either.

The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly is about an eighteenth century young man who is underestimated by his dysfunctional and emotionally abusive family and is unwittingly provided the motive, skill, and means to become a temporarily successful forger of Shakespearean papers.

The author shows that young William-Henry Ireland was a product of the decayed morality of his family and nation. Then, he chose to take the truth fudging, genealogy and history rewriting tendencies of his culture one step further with actual forgery. Even so, young Ireland was not the only one. He lived on the cusp of what would be known as the Age of Forgery.

William-Henry attempted to make his Shakespeare obsessed father proud of him by giving him a piece of Shakespeare's handwriting (that he claimed to have found) but only managed to make his duped and gullible father greedier and a bigger laughingstock than he already was. Samuel Ireland went to the grave believing his son was too stupid to write anything on his own -- never mind be Shakespeare's pen for more than a year. In many ways, Shakespeare was Samuel Ireland's god, and Samuel Ireland's approval was William-Henry Ireland's god. Big mistake. It cost them both dearly.

I learned a lot about Shakespeare, London, the Bardites, and forgery while reading about William-Henry Ireland and his family. My appreciation of Shakespeare isn't any greater, but I do understand what can become of people who want something so badly that they become victims of their own egos.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"The Adventures of a Real-Life Cable Guy" by Dan Armstrong

I enjoy "people" stories, and The Adventures of a Real-Life Cable Guy -- fresh off the press -- is full of them. Dan Armstrong is a regular guy, but his work in thousands of American homes has left him with some extraordinary stories.

Many of Dan's cable customers wouldn't normally let anyone past the front door, but Dan is invited into the most private areas of their homes and told things so personal, you might just shake your head in disbelief. What he sees is often touching, sometimes repulsive, and occasionally a confusing mix of both at the same time. After reading a few stories (you won't be able to stop at just one), you learn that anything could happen next. Lost treasure, mysterious stains on the ceiling, and strange noises in the dark will keep you on the edge of your seat.

One of the nice things about this book is that the stories are short and easy to get into. You don't need a large chunk of time to be pulled into Dan's world. Even so, his wit and vivid descriptions of people and places left me wanting to read just "one more story" even when it was time to move on with my day or turn the lights off for the night.

I came away from this book with more sympathy for the strange people I have met whose stories are unknown to me. As Dan says, "They all have a story." I also have a greater appreciation for my own home and family. The places we live are a reflection of who we are, and a kind word can go a long way to brighten someone's day. I want my home to be a welcoming place to both guests and the workers who may enter for a short while with no need to return.

You can find out more about Dan Armstrong and buy his book HERE. I hope you read it with as much enjoyment as I did!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

What is love? In a week festooned with red and pink hearts, streamers, and balloons, love seems to be everywhere. Flowers are given. Candies are eaten. Stuffed animals hold boxes of caramels and truffles. On the other side, people argue about what true, healthy love looks like -- or doesn't look like.

I love chocolate as much as the next girl, but I know this: love doesn't always come with a trumpet blast (or a string quartet). It doesn't always have its own song. It doesn't always have big balloons or flowers.  Let me tell you about the moments that made me feel the most loved.

1. Sitting silently together, hand in hand, watching the cars drive by.
2. Hearing the dishes being washed in the next room while I rest on the couch.
3. Never running out of things to say and laughing at jokes and stories until late into the night.
4. Thoughtful questions and comments at female dominated midwife appointments.
5. A soft "Thank you for all you do." after a day spent with needy little ones.
6. Having the Psalms read to me at 2:00 AM because my head hurts too much to sleep.
7. A candy bar coming out of a big coat pocket because he thought of me while he was away.
8. A humble "I'm sorry." after a thoughtless moment or just because he knows it was a rough day.
9. Having a shoulder to bury my head in as I manage labor pains.
10. A smile and a glance from across a room of people.
11. Conversations with the random "I love you." sprinkled throughout.

I love you, Zachary!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Monday, February 09, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 25

Don't let answered prayers lull you to spiritual sleep. Ask God each day to be led by Him in even the small things.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 24

People can't or won't always help me the way I want them to, but God will renew my strength when I trust in him.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 22

Keep asking for wisdom. Always. Knowing when and what to start is important; knowing when to move on is vital.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 18

God gives confirmation of His will when we need it, but don't keep asking for signs because you don't like His answer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 16

God's patience is unmatched - and further proof of His power. ...Thankful for His patience as I continue to develop mine.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 14

Like Gideon, I have less than I did. ...Less strength, energy, and time. 2 Corinthians 12:9 came to mind. Thankful.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 13

Letting go of stuff and the fear of regret makes my "less" more useful.

A Book From My Childhood: "Misty of Chincoteague" by Marguerite Henry

I remember roaming the stacks of the children's area of "my" public library during our first few visits there. We moved to town just a few months before my 10th birthday, and I loved the library right away. The ensuing years would find me reading, studying, and growing friendships within those walls. When I went looking for a job to pay for college, the public library was the only place I applied. Three wonderful years were spent shelving, answering phones, filing, replying to genealogy queries from all over the country, and helping our patrons research local and family history.

But, at age 10, I didn't know all that. I just knew that as much as I loved the talking animal stories of Thornton W. Burgess, I had long outgrown them. I needed a new author to enjoy. Marguerite Henry was that author, and Misty of Chincotegue -- published in 1947 -- was the first of her many books I enjoyed.

I decided to visit "Misty" again this year, and it felt like I was becoming reacquainted with an old friend. A brother and sister share the lofty goal of capturing and purchasing an illusive wild pony during Chincoteague's Pony Penning Day. The two are self-motivated to work -- and work hard -- in a way most children don't understand. They make a good team as they face unforeseen obstacles, handle disappointment, celebrate successes, and ultimately decide to make a personal sacrifice to do what is best for the animals they love so dearly.

Part of me felt the book was incorrectly named. It should be The Phantom of Assateague instead of its actual title, Misty of Chincoteague. Perhaps this marks my own shift in perspective as I identify with the mother instead of the foal. Who knows?

Oddly enough, I pulled this book from my shelves at home, but it could be the same copy I read as a child. It is a library discard bought during a $2.00 a bag sale several years ago!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 12

All my successes are because of God; every weakness draws me to rely on Him more. He is the beginning and the end.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End" by Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth's final book in her non-fiction Call the Midwife trilogy may be the darkest of them all. It is set in London of the 1950's but encompasses history long before and after the main events. When I was in the middle of the book and reading about abortion, infanticide, rampant tuberculosis that wiped out entire families, etc., I wasn't even sure I would write anything about my reading experience. Yet, I am. This will be short.

If there is a defining characteristic to talk about from Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End, it is mercy. The heroes of this book are the nuns and nurses who never failed to answer the call to serve people in need. It didn't matter how bad a situation was or who caused it, the midwives used whatever resources they had (often very little) to save lives, give hope, and make the best of whatever they were facing. Most of them did so out of a God given love for people in need. They were there under God's command, and they survived through His strength.

God is merciful, loving, and caring. Sin does have consequences, and our just Lord cannot remove all suffering from this world marred by humanity's sin. ...Not yet, anyway. However, he does bring relief.  He sends help and comfort, and He often does so by sending people like you and me.

God's love casts out fear. With His help, we are capable of doing far more than we could ever imagine, and we can find hope and joy in little miracles and victories.

Lessons From Gideon: Day 7

Every unpleasant, mundane task has a blessing from God as its source. ...Thankful for dirty dishes and diapers today!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 6

Have I failed to recognize God in action while hoping for a "so big you can't miss it" moment? Opening my spiritual eyes.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 5

Lord, as for me and my family, we choose to serve you. Please help me and my husband teach our children about you.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 4

God's Spirit does what we can't do on our own: breaks down the spiritual foundations of what we see as physical problems.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 3

Mothering my children is part of God's redemptive plan -- different than going into battle but still culture shaping.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 2

Mistakes made in the past complicate my today, but I choose to act today in a way that will make tomorrow even better.

On Reading "Here I Shall Die Ashore" by Caleb Johnson

I have read quite a few biographies and autobiographies, and I prefer the ones about ordinary but fascinating individuals. You know, the people who were not born to greatness but lived a life worth writing about -- whether that was on a dairy farm or in the white house. Right now, that person is Stephen Hopkins.

The back cover of Here Shall I Die Ashore by Caleb Johnson, reads in part, "By the time he turned forty, he had already survived a hurricane, been shipwrecked in the Bermuda Triangle, been written into a Shakespearean play, witnessed the famine and abandonment of Jamestown Colony, and participated in the marriage of Pocahontas. He was once even sentenced to death! He got himself and his family onto the Pilgrim's 'Mayflower,' and helped found Plymouth Colony. He signed the Mayflower Compact, lodged the famous Squanto in his house, participated in the legendary Thanksgiving, and helped guide and govern the early colonists. Yet, Stephen was just an ordinary man..."

This ordinary man is also my 11th great grandfather (on the Beem quarter of my tree), and I am so enjoying reading about him and his family. Don't forget, it was his wife, my 11th great grandmother Elizabeth Hopkins, who gave birth while traveling across the Atlantic. I loved every page!

I appreciated the author's attention to detail, his detailed and thorough research, and his ability to breathe life into the events of nearly 400 years ago.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Lessons From Gideon: Day 1

When you owe God everything, a "Thank you" and a return to complacence just isn't enough.

My Women's Bible Study started up again today, and we will be using Priscilla Shirer's Gideon. I am excited about this study and will be following her advice to record any "hashtag" statements that will help me recall what God is teaching me at this time.

Short and memorable is what I am going for in this series... as in, 140 characters or less short. I have found it is often harder to write less than more, but the boiling down process helps me identify what I really need to be meditating on in my walk with the Lord.

So, enough writing and more Lessons From Gideon!