Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blog Chain: The Three Little Pigs

Amparo's says:
Confession: I can't draw to save my life. *sigh* If you had some seriously epic drawing skills (or if you already have them) which published book would you have loved to illustrate? Why does that book--and its characters/premise--strike you as something you'd love to work on as an artist?

Funny you should ask! I do occasionally write children's books, in the hope my mom will someday illustrate them for posterity, but yesterday I was thinking of a retelling of The Three Little Pigs. I have three little boys and they are currently obsessed with it. They get under the stairs and pretend the wolf is on top of the stairs trying to get in through the chimney. Adorable! Anyway, the other day I came up with a slightly adapted version for my three-year-old, and he loved it so much I thought I'd write it down and turn it into a custom picture book. I haven't done it yet, but it wouldn't be that hard. 

What WOULD be hard, of course, is the illustration. I am not a talented artist and haven't ever really put in the time to become one. Still, I might illustrate this book (pigs aren't so hard, especially if you draw them wearing overalls). 

What I love about the story is the lesson of building on a sure foundation so you can't be blown away with the wind. It goes nicely with my boys' favorite bedtime song:

The wise man built his house upon a rock.
The wise man built his house upon a rock.
The wise man built his house upon a rock,
And the rains came tumbling down.

The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up,
And the house on the rock stood firm!

The foolish man built his house upon the sand.
The foolish man built his house upon the sand.
The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
And the rains came tumbling down.

The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up,
And the house on the sand washed away! 

I realize it's not really the spirit of the question, which would be what I'd like to work on visually! After watching the movie Thor, I think I'd like best to work on something from another planet because the majestic scope of the cinematography in that movie was just breathtaking. So maybe Thor or Superman or certain scenes from The Lord of the Rings. But for practical purposes, the thing I'd most like to be able to draw right now is The Three Little Pigs. :)

Make sure to check out the other links on the Blog Chain! Catch up with Christine Fonseca to see yesterday's blog chain post,

and check out Demitria Lunetta's tomorrow.

Katrina's blog pic

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Blog Chain: Summer Flings: Do they really exist?

I chose the topic for Blog Chain this time around:

Have you ever written a summer fling? Or are all your fictional relationships the deep, forever kind? If you did write one, how would it begin (the meet cute)? Where would it be set? Give us a few paragraphs sample. 

Surprisingly, though I wrote this prompt, I haven't really written a summer fling. I'll have to think of a new one for the assignment. 

Synopsis: Jaron, a philosophy student visiting hick cousins in Ohio, falls off a hay wagon and lands on a stranger's farm in the middle of nowhere. After blacking out, he comes to with the barrel of Agnes' rifle at his nose. An endlessly practical but lovely corn farmer, she's in the middle of a feud with the mega-farm ten miles upwind, who claims she's growing their patented seeds. The last thing she needs at her door is one of their spies. While Mr. Philosophy waxes poetic about her corn-silken mane and muses over the possibility that reality is completely subjective, Agnes tries to get in touch with his cousins so he can do what men do best and leave. Jaron doesn't remember their phone number, he lost his phone in the fall, and can only tell her their names and horribly mispronounce the town where they live. 


"Coshocktown? You mean Coshocton?" Agnes rubbed her forehead with her whole palm. "You're in Plainfield. That's at least ten miles and it ain't flat."

"Well, could I trouble you for a ride?" Ten miles didn't seem that far. Maybe he could take a hike in the morning, after the rain stopped.

Her hand fell to her side and she stared. "Our truck mysteriously stopped working two days back. About the same time another young gentleman came poking around the farm. Another spy!"

Back to the conspiracy theories again. Her patience for his theories on existentialism wasn't likely to improve, either. He'd have to try another tactic. "Our? Is there a Mister Cornsilk?"

Her eyes went from narrowed to slit-thin. "No. And there never will be. If it weren't for this stupid rain and the flash flood warning I'd send you on your way on foot." 

She spun around and tossed a folded quilt. He caught it with his stomach.

"This must be the Midwestern hospitality I've heard so much about," Jaron mused.

"Don't get too used to it."

A little boy with brown hair like a sheepdog and brand new Levi denim walked into the room with a math book. "Explain it again, Aggie? I can't figure out these stupid fractions! Who's that?"

With a deep sigh, Agnes took the boy under her wing and gestured toward Jaron. "This is what a city boy looks like. Take a good look at those skinny limbs and baby-soft hands. It's what happens to a person who forgets how to work." She gave the boy a swat on the bum and told him she'd be in to tuck him in soon. 

Jaron's made-for-children grin collapsed. "Nice. Really nice. You know, you're shaping his reality, too."

Agnes groaned. "Good night!" 

Before he could even think of a response, Jaron found himself alone in a dark, wood-paneled room on a tattered sofa, with only a mutt for company.  

Make sure to check out the other links on the Blog Chain! Catch up with Christine Fonseca to see yesterday's blog chain post,

and check out Demitria Lunetta's tomorrow.

Katrina's blog pic

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Sensitive Little Girl, a Long-suffering Woman, and a Miracle Man

What's been on my reading pile lately?

Well, I'm glad you asked! I've been dying to share:

Understood Betsy

A warm and charming portrayal of life in the early 1900s. Sheltered 9 year old Elizabeth Ann has always heard her Aunt Frances talk about "those horrid Vermont cousins." Now she is terrified. Aunt Frances can no longer take care of her, and she has been sent to stay with her New England relatives. "Betsy" gradually comes to enjoy the challenge of living with her country cousins, and she has a difficult choice to make. A delightful book.

My thoughts: I haven't had so much fun since Anne of Green Gables. Highly recommended to women with daughters, or just women who remember being little girls.

I actually read this with my oldest son, who is six years old, and he had trouble sitting through read-aloud time with it. I believe this says more about little boys in general than it does about this charming book. I would read it again, and I'm sure I will with my other two boys. The shift in perspective it offers to a new time, a new place, and universal human experience is of great worth.

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?
Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

My thoughts: I particularly loved the conversation between Anne and Harville near the end about who loves strongest and longest between men and women. The warmth of the conversation made what could have been an obnoxious debate into something healing for everyone who heard it. It's likely the part which will stand singularly in my memory when this title is mentioned in the future.

I read this for book club and some of the insights gained there helped me to appreciate it even more. Not only was this Jane Austen's last finished work, but she was apparently very eager to finish it before she died. This explains its short length and the less polished parts of the book. But it also makes the symmetry and depth of character all the more amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed Persuasion and would read it again.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife

A SCIENTIST’S CASE FOR THE AFTERLIFE Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists. A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.
Then, Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human—shut down completely. For seven days he lay in a coma. Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.
Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.
Alexander’s story is not a fantasy. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.
This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to. That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary. No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it. Reading it will change your life.

My thoughts: 

"But while I was in coma my brain hadn't been working improperly. It hadn't been working at all. The part of my brain that years of medical school had taught me was responsible for creating the world I lived and moved in and for taking the raw data that came in through my senses and fashioning it into a meaningful universe: that part of my brain was down, and out. And yet despite all of this, I had been alive, and aware, truly aware, in a universe characterized above all by love, consciousness, and reality.... There was, for me, simply no arguing this fact. I knew it so completely that I ached. 

What I'd experienced was more real than the house I sat in, more real than the logs burning in the fireplace. Yet there was no room for that reality in the medically trained scientific worldview that I'd spent years acquiring.

How was I going to create room for both of these realities to coexist?"

-Eben Alexander, M.D. from Proof of Heaven, a Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife


Absolutely phenomenal NDE narrative. Near-death experiences are a fascination of mine and I've read many, all interesting and edifying in some way, all similar as Dr. Eben Alexander discusses. But this one is unique in two major ways:

1) The status of Dr. Eben Alexander as a known and acclaimed neurosurgeon, a confessed skeptic of extended consciousness phenomenon and religion, and a bacterial meningitis patient who was comatose 6 full days, miraculously making a full recovery beginning on the seventh.

2) The writing. Dr. Alexander's wife, Holley, apparently has a higher degree in fine arts and I'm going to guess she's a writer. While I don't want to take anything from the work of the good doctor, I am going to assume that much of the emotional beauty and literary finery in this record is due to her influence. In the acknowledgments he does thank her along with a few others for editing. Most NDE stories, while still fascinating and wonderful, are written rather poorly. There are emotional moments here and there and a great deal of thought-provoking imagery as people try to explain exactly what happened and what they saw in a place too good for words. But I never opened up one of these books expecting to be transported so completely as I was in Proof of Heaven.

The marriage of these two special situations makes Proof of Heaven my new favorite NDE account, surpassing Return From Tomorrow by George C. Ritchie, which got me interested in these stories in the first place.

To sum up: read it. It is soul-lifting for the believer and mind-opening for the true skeptic.

Your turn to share! What have you been reading?

Katrina's blog pic