She’s Baaack!

Once again I have been given licence (and a license) to educate children.  I love to make kids think. Sometimes my methods are a little unorthodox, but they are usually fun.

Today I was in a special needs classroom with 3 hearing impaired kids and their aid, Ms. Ash.  Cognitively there is nothing wrong with these kids, they’re just a little behind because they are having to relearn life with cochlear implants.  It takes them a little longer to process verbal input because their brain isn’t accustomed to hearing, but they are plenty bright.

So, Jay was out of the room for a while for speech.  When he returned, I was sitting in his desk beside two other students and we were working on a science project.  Jay walked up to me. “Uhm — uh –” he pointed at his desk.

“Yes?” I answered.  He needs to verbalize his thoughts, not just make sounds.

“Uhm.” he said, and pointed again.

“Oh!”  I smiled brightly and said, “Hi!  My name is Jay.  This is my desk and here is my name tag.”  I ran my hands over the desk top and pointed at the name tag.

Jay glanced over at Ms. Ash.  She shrugged. He turned back to me and said, “What?”

I repeated, “My name is Jay.  This is my desk and here is my name tag.” I tapped on the name tag then asked, “Who are you?”

Jay looked over at Ms. Ash again.  Again she just shrugged. Jay turned back to me, put his hands on his hips, and said, “Your name is not Jay.”

“Really?!”  I tried to sound very surprised. I leaned forward and studied the name tag. Feigning confusion, I looked at him.  “Are you sure that’s not my name?”

Jay frowned again, and then answered, “Noooo.” He looked uncertain for a moment, then took a deep breath and said. “But I am sure that my name is Jay; this is my desk; and that is my name tag.”

“Really?” I exclaimed.

Jay nodded emphatically.  I grinned at him, we all shared a laugh, and I got up and moved.

Fast forward to the end of the day (about six hours later):

As we were cleaning up to leave Ms. Ash announced, “Ms. Teacher will be out sick tomorrow, too, so Ms. A. will be coming back.”

Jay looked up from putting the blocks away, “Who is Ms. A.?”

Ms. Ash pointed at me.

Jay looked at me, raised his eyebrows and smirked, “Oh, you mean Ms. Jay?”

*   *   *

Yep.  I am going back tomorrow.  They pay me for this.

~names changed to protect the sassy. 

Imagine That!

The sentence was: “The nice girl with long hair had a nice dress.” I put it on the white board and told the kids it was boring. I told them that “nice” is dead. They needed to remove “nice” and replace it with some “pop.” I said, “This sentence needs color, give me something I can “see”!” Hands shot into the air.

“Beautiful girl!”
“Green hair!”
“Curly hair!”
“Sparkling dress!”
“Pink Dress!”
“Black leather jacket, and don’t forget the chains!”
“High heels!”
“Blue shoes.”
“No, cowboy boots!”

I wrote everything on the board as they shared it, then I said, “Okay, let’s make an interesting sentence using words that will build a picture in our minds.”

Then I took ALL of their suggestions and wrote: “The beautiful girl with the long, curly, green hair wore a sparkling pink dress, a black leather coat with dangling chains, and blue high-heeled cowboy boots.” Then I said to the kids, “Now that is a much more interesting sentence. Can you “see” her now? The kids chorused, YES!”

We contemplated the board in silence for a few seconds then one of the girls said, “Somebody better take her to the mall and help her with her fashions!” One of the boys said, “Yeah, Mr. Pointbriand needs to teach her about crashing colors!”

I’ll Leave the Olive, Thank You.

Today I gave one of my students, Em, the first black olive she had ever eaten. She looked at it skeptically, poked it with her finger, and queried, “What is this?” She noticed her friends eating them off the tips of their fingers. She tried hers on for size and beamed delightedly when it fit. One of her friends urged, “Taste it!” Em’s frown returned. “Just a little taste,” she said, then delicately nipped the tiniest bite off the olive.

Immediately her tongue popped back out of her mouth with the smudge of olive on it. The sight was met by a chorus of “Ewww!” from the other girls at the table. The tongue and the olive disappeared back inside Em’s mouth. Her face made the most marvelous contortions as she choked down that speck of olive.

Finally, she opened her eyes and looked at the olive still on the end of her finger. Slowly, she raised it to her lips. I said, “Em, did you like that olive?” She replied, very politely, “I found it a bit unusual.” Again she moved the olive toward her mouth. I said, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.”

Em said, “That wouldn’t be polite. I have to eat it.” I responded, “No, Em, you don’t. I gave it to you and I say if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. My feelings won’t be hurt.”

Em stared at me wide-eyed. She looked at the olive. She looked at me. “Really?” She asked. I pointed at the garbage can. “Throw the olive away,” I ordered.

Em effusively exclaimed, “Oh thank you! That really is nasty, you know!” She tossed the olive and scrubbed her tongue with the cuff of her shirt. “How can you people eat those things?” she demanded. We just wiggled our olive covered fingers and giggled.

Quilldancer Tries “Art”

I can write.  I can sew.  I have talents I am proud of.  Drawing isn’t one of them.

This I am proud of:

wall decor

I made this piece of fabric art. It is 33″ square. The base is 1/8th” particle board. I padded and upholstered the board, and used a curtain tie back to adorn it. I designed the piece to “pull-together” various elements of my living room decor. It hangs above our fireplace.

Those that know me know my first and most favorite art is that of word weaving.  Drawing has never been one of my talents and likely never will be.  I knew that going in, but I still signed up for an art class.  Below you will find my first composition.  Believe me, I have seen better work from 5th grade students.  If you know me, when you see what it is I’ve depicted, you’ll understand my “self-portrait”:

Words

Even in drawing, I cling to the comfort of words — the art I know and understand.

 

A Reading Tale

A Reading Tale

By Kathy Carlton Willis

I’ve always been a lover of books—the opportunity to visit a new world, a new time, a new way of life. What’s your rite-of-passage reading story? I’ll start with mine.

As soon as I started school, Mother encouraged me to learn to read. She was a voracious reader, eager for me to develop the same love of books. This Chatty Kathy enjoyed every form of communications since my first spoken word. The written word was no different—I took to it like gravy goes with biscuits. Remember those Weekly Reader magazines (oh, the delicious smell of the ink and paper!)? The SRA Reading Lab inspired me to read not just for speed, but for retention.

When I received my first public library card around age 6, Mom walked us to the library several times a month. Yes, it seemed like it was two miles uphill both ways, but it was worth it! Our little town of four thousand was blessed with a Carnegie library (built in 1905) full of well-loved books. Mom taught me how to follow my favorite authors—I read all their titles. I knew how to thumb through a card catalog and recite the Dewey decimal system. By the time I outgrew the children’s section, I had read every book and graduated to the “grown-up” shelves.

Most avid readers say their idea of a time-out from stress and life involves curling up with a good book—claw-foot tub or blazing fireplace optional.

My favorite reading tip is this: Don’t waste time on a mediocre book. When reading for recreation, remember that you aren’t in school anymore. You aren’t being graded for reading every word. So if a book doesn’t appeal to you, put it down! Grab a different one. We have only so much time in life—definitely not enough time to get bogged down with a boring book or confusing storyline.

Just because a book earned rave reviews doesn’t mean it’s the right book for you, any more than gorgeous size 7 shoes will fit size 10 feet!

Think about your own reading tale. What was it like when you learned to read? When did you discover your local library? Do you recall the favorite authors of your early years? Who inspired you to read more? What challenges you today in your reading? We all have a story—even a reading story!

 

Kathy Carlton Willis Bio:

Kathy Carlton Willis

Kathy Carlton Willis

Kathy Carlton Willis gets jazzed speaking for women’s events and writers conferences across the country. She’s known for her practical and often humorous messages. Kathy enjoys fiddling with words as a writer and also coaches others. When not reading or writing books, she serves as a happy pastor’s wife.
Web: http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com

Conquer Writer’s Block

Attention all aspiring authors. I loved this book! I used the advice in the pages of  The Story Template, by Amy Deardon to create a detailed and expanded outline for what I think is my best plot ever. I have drama, I have tension, and I have a usable structure to pin it all on so I can concentrate on weaving words into story. If you want to read a couple of excerpts of the story I created using The Story Template, visit charlene-amsden.com.

~*~
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

The Story Template: Conquer Writer’s Block Using the Universal Structure of Story

Taegais Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2011)

***Special thanks to Amy Deardon for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy Deardon is married with two children, and spends much time taking care of her family. In her life BC (before children) she was a scientist who did bench research. She is also a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus.

Amy has written one novel, A LEVER LONG ENOUGH, about a small military team that travels back in time to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb. This book won two awards.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

THE STORY TEMPLATE is a programmed learner that allows the writer to develop her story from chaos. The book uses a series of exercises for the writer to construct her story’s four foundational pillars; learn how to use the “secret weapon” of story structure: the story template; build character depth and believable change; and construct subplots. THE STORY TEMPLATE then reviews writing techniques, and finishes with discussions of editing, writing the synopsis and query letter, submitting one’s work to agents, and types of publishing that the writer may wish to pursue.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.95
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Taegais Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981899730
ISBN-13: 978-0981899732

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Writing a novel or screenplay sounds like a great idea until you sit down to start. Where do you start? Many different methods exist to write the story, ranging from extensive preplanning to venturing onto the first page without an idea. This book describes an approach to developing story–laid out as a sequential series of exercises to facilitate implementation–that you can use whether you prefer a structured or loose approach to writing. You can use it at the start to develop an idea fragment, or later to rescue a partial or completed manuscript that doesn’t seem to be working. The method works whether you want to write plot-driven (genre) or character-driven (literary) stories. It enables you to efficiently use your time and creativity by breaking down the process of story building into a logical plan. You will not waste time sitting at your keyboard, wondering what you should write and how you can organize your ideas into a complete manuscript.

The idea for this book originated from my own learning process in producing a novel. Having written scientific articles, newspaper columns, and other nonfiction, when I decided to write a novel I was surprised by how difficult it was to get the words down. I tried outlining, and I tried just going ahead. I had wonderful ideas, but although the scenes I wrote were exciting the story itself often seemed somehow “wrong.” I threw out more pages than I care to remember. Through sheer grit I finished the novel, but when I thought about writing another my heart sank. I decided to first solve the problem of understanding how story worked.

I chose twenty entertaining, modern novels in different genres, and fifteen more-or-less recent films (and I’ve since confirmed my preliminary observations with tens of more stories). One at a time, I took them apart: I made a list of each scene, then did a word count or timed the scene, calculated percentages and other statistics, and graphed each story onto a five page chart. I studied each story’s progression, then compared the progressions of different stories to determine common pathways. I also read all that I could on constructing stories. The writing how-to literature was heavy on techniques (plotting, point of view, characterization, dialogue)–all of which are important–but there wasn’t much on blending it all together. Screenwriting how-to books were stronger on structure, but still didn’t give me all I needed.

I studied story after story, puzzling out how they were built. First, I identified elements called story posts, and found that these posts fell reliably within the timing of the whole. Then I found consistent trends of progression in the plot, as well as consistent trends of development and interactions in the characters. My biggest surprise, in fact, was finding just how unvarying were the underlying levels of the story. I also identified a unit of story construction I call a “bubble” that bridges the gap between the high concept ideas for the story and individual scenes.

Once I had my background knowledge, I coached students to develop their stories, and thereby constructed an algorithm for the practical application of this theory.

So, what is this “story template” that is the title of this book? Is this a formula or blueprint you can mindlessly follow, like a paint-by-numbers canvas?

In a word, no. I like to call what I found a template since it describes the shape or progression, on a deep level, of virtually all stories. Recognizing this pattern in a story is something I liken to sketching a face. An artist will tell you that a person’s eyes are about halfway down the head, and are separated by another eye width. The bottom of the nose is halfway between the eyes and the chin, the mouth is proportionally between the nose and the chin and extends to imaginary vertical lines drawn below the eyes’ pupils, the tips of the ears hit about eyelid level, earlobe tips at bottom-nose level, and on and on. Faces are infinitely varied, yet if the artist ignores these rough proportions, no matter how carefully sketched the face will always look “wrong.” Similarly, you will use the template to ensure that your story elements are proportionally correct and all present. The template gives you a guide, but never dictates, what you can write.

Getting the story shape right is the first, and (in my opinion) the hardest step to writing a gripping novel or screenplay. Without good structure, the story tends to meander without a point: although it may have high action, it is characterized by low tension.

You may want to first read this entire book to get an overview of story before starting with the exercises. Keep in mind that shaping a story is intensive work, and it will take you weeks or even months to get your story organized. This is normal. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t skimp on the exercises. Take your time to thoroughly work through each step. At the end, your story will be much stronger, and the actual writing will go like a dream.

This book is not sufficient for producing a finished story ready for publication or production. You will need to master further writing techniques such as characterization, description, dialogue, transitions, editing, etc. I will touch upon a few of these to give you some direction, but the only way to get really good is to practice. Fortunately, many excellent books are available for help. See Appendix One to start.
Outline of The Plan

I like to use the metaphor of constructing a house to envision building a story. To assemble a house, you move from larger to smaller elements to sequentially put something together. Only after you have worked through many tasks is it finally time to do the fine details of painting the windowsills and installing the wallpaper. Similarly, while you have ideas about character arcs and plot twists, and maybe you’ve even written some scenes, you will be well served to develop a direction before writing through your manuscript. If you write your first draft as the ideas occur to you, then this will comprise your story planning. You’ll find that you probably don’t have enough material to form an entire novel or screenplay, and even if you do it may not hang together. Believe me, this is a laborious and frustrating way to go.

The Story Template gives a series of actions for you to do that will allow you to develop your story ideas with a minimum of angst and wasted energy. Some exercises will be quick, others will require a great deal of thought, and perhaps even a marination of thought, before finishing. Don’t be in a rush–some of your best ideas will come as you play with character or event possibilities. As you continue to develop your story you will probably revisit different components of these exercises, going back and changing previous work, as you move through this programmed story outliner. That’s okay. Just go with the flow, and have fun.

When you’ve finished with these exercises, you will be ready to start writing your manuscript, with ease and flow and speed, because you will have already done the hard organizational work. Even if you want to change the story as you’re writing, you’ll be able to do so with an understanding of how to balance the changes. You will have a detailed roadmap that will allow you to bring your vision–your book or screenplay–to completion.
Writing Tools

You are a writer. Before you start, you need to assemble the following items:

1. A tool with which to do your major writing, either a computer, an old-fashioned typewriter, or paper and pencil. If you do handwrite your notes, you may want to treat yourself to a special pen that you love, and is only to be used for your magnus opus.

2. A system to organize your template exercises. I prefer hard copy: printing out computer files, or writing on loose leaf paper, then placing the sheets in a three-ringed binder. This notebook may inspire you and give you a sense of accomplishment as you look through to see how much you’ve done. Not as recommended is keeping files only on computer because they’re harder to flip through, mark up, and juxtapose ideas; or a spiral or bound notebook because you can’t replace pages or change their order. But do what works for you.

3. A small notebook to carry with you at all times. Use this to jot down any thoughts that come to you.

4. Index cards. Get two packs, and we’ll go over how to use them to story board. Also get a roll of masking tape and a permanent marker (thin tip) for bold marks. Finally, you may want to purchase an index card binder to permanently keep your cards in order.

Getting the Words Down

Here are some tips to help you get the words down:

1. Decide on a daily quota of words that is manageable. A good starting goal might be 300, but remember to keep pushing this number up as you become accustomed to the writing process. Create a log to record your daily output. Post this on your refrigerator or otherwise keep it prominent in your daily life.

2. Set aside at least fifteen minutes at a time in which you can remain undisturbed. Aim for an hour or more if you can.

3. Don’t start your writing session by checking your e-mail or doing anything else except for writing.

4. Turn off anything that might distract you–music, radio, or television. Some people can write through these things, but try without for a few days to see if you do better.

5. If you’re stuck, do free-writing where you talk to yourself on paper. Something like, “I’m trying to figure out what Jason’s problems with Mike might be in this scene. I was thinking about…”

Let’s get started.

A Picturesque Camping Trip

Once again we tripped off to Vancouver, B.C. with a group of students from UW’s Friday Harbor Labs.  This time it was the ZooBot class (a Zoological and Botanical survey of coastal sea life).

This is Megan.
Megan
Megan teaches the Zoo part of ZooBots.  I took this shot right after the class returned from the beach and caught Megan in the act of exchanging boots for shoes. Megan is just as fun and energetic as this photo implies.

This is the classroom.
Waves

This is the class.
class

Somethings to study.
sealife 2

Some more things to study.
sea life

Of course it wasn’t all work.
Kamp Kool Kids

When in camp we roasted hats.
roasted hats

Roasted socks.
roasted socks
Played games.
cards

Celebrated a birthday …
party
… with cake …
cupcakes

… and music …
music

… and dancing.
dancing

We also ate.
ate
Megan’s friend brought us a bucket full of fresh crab.  I am sure that somewhere in all the crunching and slurping we remembered to say thank you.

And of course I found time to take a few pics:

wildflower

Wildflower

dancing grass

Dancing Grass (growing from a rock)

more scenery

River Tree

seedy

Seed Head

fiddle fern

Fiddlehead Ferns

crab

crab

anemone

Sea Anemone

gull

Gull

berry soon

Berry Soon

grass

Grass

Botany Bay path

Botany Bay Path

Botany Bay steps

Botany Bay Steps

Botany Bay lower trail

Botany Bay Boardwalk

furry trees

Furry Trees

greens

New Growth

stellar jay

Stellar Jay

Friday Harbor Labs, UW

Come see where Amoeba works.  Dave Hays, a UW film making class student, interviewed Hillary, one of the TAs who works with Charley (Amoeba) and Megan in their “ZooBot” class which is an entire quarter (16 credits: Marine Zoology 5 credits; Marine Botany 5 credits; and a Research Apprenticeship in Intertidal Ecology and Physiology for 6 credits).   Hillary is currently working on her PhD focusing on the study of the interactions of marine organisms with their environment.

That might all sound intimidating, but the video below makes it easy to understand and gives you a glimpse of Amoeba’s working environment.

Stumbling Toward Heaven

One wouldn’t expect a book about cancer to be a laugh-out-loud read, but this one is. In Stumbling Toward Heaven: Cancer, Crashes and Questions, Mike Hamel takes us through his struggles with cancer, God, and the aftermath of his auto accident. This a true story told with unusual candor and brilliant insights, and it isn’t just a book for cancer patients.  If you or anyone you love have ever suffered a life altering catastrophe or struggled over questions of God’s will in your life, you will find this book a heart and soul stirring read.

~*~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

Stumbling Toward Heaven: Cancer, Crashes and Questions

CreateSpace (March 24, 2011)

***Special thanks to Mike Hamel for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mike Hamel is the author of a dozen books and a cancer survivor who lives and writes in the shadow of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.

Visit the author’s website.

 

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Stumbling Toward Heaven is about my struggle with cancer in particular and life in general. It describes in detail what the disease has done to my body and what life before and during treatment has done to my mind, which has never been very stable in the first place. It follows my physical and spiritual journey toward the Valley of the Shadow of Death and beyond. It’s written for everyone who has been impacted by life-threatening catastrophes.

This book is also meant for those who find themselves spiritually “off the reservation” as novelist and cancer survivor Kinky Friedman would say. For a long time I’ve been “out where the (church) buses don’t run”—another Kinkyism—and it’s surprising how many people have wandered out here for one reason or another.

On May 16th, TV News 5 (Colorado) ran a story about Mike. Click HERE to see the interview!

 

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1461005000
ISBN-13: 978-1461005001

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Good News, It’s Cancer!

July 2, 2008
“I have good news,” Dr. Dillon said, leaning forward on his elbows. “You have cancer. The biopsy shows the lump in your abdomen is Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and not an omental tumor as the initial scan suggested.”

Lymphoma is good news indeed. The first time I’d seen the good doctor a few weeks earlier he’d said, “You have a nonspecific mass in your omentum.”

“I didn’t even know I had an omentum,” I replied.

“It’s a fatty covering in the abdomen.”

“How big is the mass?” (“Mass” sounds more benign that “tumor.”)

“About the diameter of a grapefruit,” he said, making a circle with thumbs and forefingers. “The nearby lymph nodes are also enlarged.”

Dr. Dillon had no idea how long the tumor had been growing. I got introduced to it in the spring of 2008. I was getting low-grade cramps after sitting at my computer all day, which I put down to poor posture. Then I woke up two nights in a row with abdominal pain I couldn’t blame on posture or indigestion. That’s when I first felt the hardness in my gut.

The cramps went away about the time I made an appointment with my family physician but the lump remained. I remember kneading my gut on the way to the doctor’s trying to rekindle the pain that had caused me to make the appointment in the first place. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about wasting the doctor’s time; he could feel the abnormality and wouldn’t buy my glib explanation that it was my abs of steel.

“It’s only hard on one side,” he pointed out.

“Okay,” I conceded, “How about ab of steel?”

“How about you get a CT scan,” he countered.

The scan revealed a mass large enough to warrant an immediate trip to a surgeon/oncologist, which is how I wound up at Dr. Dillon’s.

Larry Dillon is a personable man with salt-and-pepper hair, an open face and straightforward manner. During our first visit he had explained to my wife, Susan, and me that the normal course of treatment is a complete surgical resection of the omentum. Before we left he warned about doing research on the Internet because the information on solid omental tumors “will scare you silly.”

He got that right.

I had no problem finding authoritative articles on omental masses. I had hoped it was something Catholics attended during Lent, but no such luck. An article on eMedicine clinically stated that, “Patients with primary malignant tumors of the omentum have a median survival time of only six months. Only 10-20% of patients are alive two years after surgical excision.”1

The word that popped out at me was “survival,” a stark concept for a fifty-six-year-old who had seldom been sick and who had only been in a hospital as a visitor. Till now my closest brushes with mortality had been conducting funerals as a pastor. All that was about to change. Since then I’ve been in and out of hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices. I have gone from a high-energy to a high-maintenance lifestyle; from avoiding even aspirin to popping up to twenty pills a day and having lethal doses of toxic chemicals injected directly into my chest.
Scan This, Biopsy That

The transition from diagnosis (determining what’s wrong with a person), to prognosis (discerning how a disease will progress), is facilitated by a plethora of tests. It was a CT scan that sent me to Dr. Dillon. He in turn ordered a biopsy of the mass in my abdomen.

Computed Axial Tomography, aka CAT or CT scan, was invented in 1972 by a British engineer and a South African physicist, both of whom later received Nobel Prizes for their contributions to medicine and science. Tomos is Greek for “slice” and graphia means “without a knife.” The CT scan uses X-rays and computers to examine the body in 3-D, which sure beats exploratory surgery! It allows radiologists to see diseases and abnormalities that, in the past, could only be found by surgeons—or coroners. Thankfully, the procedure is painless, unless you count drinking the contrast solution, which tastes like banana-flavored chalk.

I reported to Memorial Hospital on June 26 for my tumor biopsy. I remember talking to a nurse named Tammy while on the examination table and the next thing I knew I was in the recovery room an hour later. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and the skills of top-flight professionals, I can truly say the process was painless.

As I looked at my stomach after the biopsy, I noticed the “x” they made before the procedure was an inch below the actual cut. I pointed this out to Tammy, who explained that they’d marked me while I was holding my breath during the scan. Once I was under, I relaxed, hence the change in location. There went my hopes of a malpractice suit. Actually, I was impressed at how personable and professional the medical personnel have treated me) an observation that has held true throughout my treatment).

All I have to show for the biopsy the next day is a small bruise and a slight soreness. I feel pretty upbeat but I’m careful not to get too exuberant or else I’ll pay the price. To an extent, I believe Newton’s Third Law also applies to emotions: “For every feeling, there is an equal and opposite feeling.” Like other natural forces, emotions come finely balanced on a shifting fulcrum.

The hardest part of this ordeal so far has been telling family and friends and hearing the concern and tears in their voices. The possibility of a shortened life hasn’t registered on me yet. I’m not trying to suppress my feelings; they just haven’t gotten too worked up.

Obviously God has entered my thoughts but this crisis hasn’t suddenly cured my inability to pray. For a few years now I’ve suffered from the loss of a sense of God’s presence and shed my evangelical worldview. I’ve been adrift in a spiritual Sargasso Sea, which may have contributed to my getting sick. More on this later.

* * *

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.”

—John Diamond

What’s in Grandma’s Attic?

I just finished reading two of the sweetest books. They would make great read aloud stories for early primary school children, or even starter devotional type reading material for an upper elementary aged child.  Arleta Richardson teaches Biblical lessons and precepts as she brings the past alive with her wonderful storytelling skills.  I was totally charmed by both, In Grandma’s Attic, and, More Stories from Grandma’s Attic.

~*~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

In Grandma’s Attic
AND
More Stories from Grandma’s Attic

David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Arleta Richardson grew up in a Chicago hotel under her grandmother’s care. As they sat overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, her grandmother shared memories of her childhood on a Michigan farm. These treasured family stories became the basis for the Grandma’s Attic Series.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Remember when you were a child, when the entire world was new, and the smallest object a thing of wonder? Arleta Richardson remembered: the funny wearable wire contraption hidden in the dusty attic, the century-old schoolchild’s slate that belonged to Grandma, an ancient trunk filled with quilt pieces—each with its own special story—and the button basket, a miracle of mysteries. But best of all she remembered her remarkable grandmother who made magic of all she touched, bringing the past alive as only a born storyteller could.

So step inside the attic of Richardson’s grandmother. These stories will keep you laughing while teaching you valuable lessons. These marvelous tales faithfully recalled for the delight of young and old alike are a touchstone to another day when life was simpler, perhaps richer, and when the treasures of family life and love were passed from generation to generation by a child’s questions and the legends that followed enlarged our faith. These timeless stories were originally released in 1974 and then revised in 1999. They are being re-released with new artwork that will appeal to a new generation of girls.

Product Details:

In Grandma’s Attic:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403790
ISBN-13: 978-0781403795

More Stories from Grandma’s Attic:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 3 edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780781403801
ISBN-13: 978-0781403801
ASIN: 0781403804

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

In Grandma’s Attic – Chapter 1

Pride Goes Before a Fall

“Grandma, what is this?”

Grandma looked up from her work. “Good lands, child, where did you find that?”

“In the attic,” I replied. “What is it, Grandma?”

Grandma chuckled and answered, “That’s a hoop. The kind that ladies wore under their skirts when I was a little girl.”

“Did you ever wear one, Grandma?” I asked.

Grandma laughed. “Indeed I did,” she said. “In fact, I wore that very one.”

Here, I decided, must be a story. I pulled up the footstool and prepared to listen. Grandma looked at the old hoop fondly.

“I only wore it once,” she began. “But I kept it to remind me how painful pride can be.”

I was about eight years old when that hoop came into my life. For months I had been begging Ma to let me have a hoopskirt like the big girls wore. Of course that was out of the question. What would a little girl, not even out of calicoes, be doing with a hoopskirt? Nevertheless, I could envision myself walking haughtily to school with the hoopskirt and all the girls watching enviously as I took my seat in the front of the room.

This dream was shared by my best friend and seatmate, Sarah Jane. Together we spent many hours picturing ourselves as fashionable young ladies in ruffles and petticoats. But try as we would, we could not come up with a single plan for getting a hoopskirt of our very own.

Finally, one day in early spring, Sarah Jane met me at the school grounds with exciting news. An older cousin had come to their house to visit, and she had two old hoops that she didn’t want any longer. Sarah Jane and I could have them to play with, she said. Play with, indeed! Little did that cousin know that we didn’t want to play with them. Here was the answer to our dreams. All day, under cover of our books, Sarah Jane and I planned how we would wear those hoops to church on Sunday.

There was a small problem: How would I get that hoop into the house without Ma knowing about it? And how could either of us get out of the house with them on without anyone seeing us? It was finally decided that I would stop by Sarah Jane’s house on Sunday morning. We would have some excuse for walking to church, and after her family had left, we would put on our hoops and prepare to make a grand entrance at the church.

“Be sure to wear your fullest skirt,” Sarah Jane reminded me. “And be here early. They’re all sure to look at us this Sunday!”

If we had only known how true that would be! But of course, we were happily unaware of the disaster that lay ahead.

Sunday morning came at last, and I astonished my family by the speed with which I finished my chores and was ready to leave for church.

“I’m going with Sarah Jane this morning,” I announced, and set out quickly before anyone could protest.

All went according to plan. Sarah Jane’s family went on in the buggy, cautioning us to hurry and not be late for service. We did have a bit of trouble fastening the hoops around our waists and getting our skirts pulled down to cover them. But when we were finally ready, we agreed that there could not be two finer-looking young ladies in the county than us.

Quickly we set out for church, our hoopskirts swinging as we walked. Everyone had gone in when we arrived, so we were assured the grand entry we desired. Proudly, with small noses tipped up, we sauntered to the front of the church and took our seats.

Alas! No one had ever told us the hazards of sitting down in a hoopskirt without careful practice! The gasps we heard were not of admiration as we had anticipated—far from it! For when we sat down, those dreadful hoops flew straight up in the air! Our skirts covered our faces, and the startled minister was treated to the sight of two pairs of white pantalets and flying petticoats.

Sarah Jane and I were too startled to know how to disentangle ourselves, but our mothers were not. Ma quickly snatched me from the seat and marched me out the door.

The trip home was a silent one. My dread grew with each step. What terrible punishment would I receive at the hands of an embarrassed and upset parent? Although I didn’t dare look at her, I knew she was upset because she was shaking. It was to be many years before I learned that Ma was shaking from laughter, and not from anger!

Nevertheless, punishment was in order. My Sunday afternoon was spent with the big Bible and Pa’s concordance. My task was to copy each verse I could find that had to do with being proud. That day I was a sorry little girl who learned a lesson about pride going before a fall.

“And you were never proud again, Grandma?” I asked after she finished the story.

Grandma thought soberly for a moment. “Yes,” she replied. “I was proud again. Many times. It was not until I was a young lady and the Lord saved me that I had the pride taken from my heart. But many times when I am tempted to be proud, I remember that horrid hoopskirt and decide that a proud heart is an abomination to the Lord!”

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More Stories From Grandma’s Attic

Chapter 1

The Nuisance in Ma’s Kitchen

When Grandma called from the backyard, I knew I was in for it. She was using her would-you-look-at-this voice, which usually meant I was responsible for something.

“What, Grandma?” I asked once I reached the spot where she was hanging up the washing.

“Would you look at this?” she asked. “I just went into the kitchen for more clothespins and came back out to find this.”

I looked where she was pointing. One of my kittens had crawled into the clothes basket and lay sound asleep on a clean sheet.

“If you’re going to have kittens around the house, you’ll have to keep an eye on them. Otherwise leave them in the barn where they belong. It’s hard enough to wash sheets once without doing them over again.”

Grandma headed toward the house with the soiled sheet, and I took the kitten back to the barn. But I didn’t agree that it belonged there. I would much rather have had the whole family of kittens in the house with me. Later I mentioned this to Grandma.

“I know,” she said. “I felt the same way when I was your age. If it had been up to me, I would have moved every animal on the place into the house every time it rained or snowed.”

“Didn’t your folks let any pets in the house?” I asked.

“Most of our animals weren’t pets,” Grandma admitted. “But there were a few times when they were allowed in. If an animal needed special care, it stayed in the kitchen. I really enjoyed those times, especially if it was one I could help with.”

“Tell me about one,” I said, encouraging her to tell me another story about her childhood.

“I remember one cold spring,” she began, “when Pa came in from the barn carrying a tiny goat.”

“I’m not sure we can save this one.” Pa held the baby goat up for us to see. “The nanny had twins last night, and she’ll only let one come near her. I’m afraid this one’s almost gone.”

Ma agreed and hurried to find an old blanket and a box for a bed. She opened the oven door, put the box on it, and gently took the little goat and laid it on the blanket. It didn’t move at all. It just lay there, barely breathing.

“Oh, Ma,” I said. “Do you think it will live? Shouldn’t we give it something to eat?”

“It’s too weak to eat right now,” Ma replied. “Let it rest and get warm. Then we’ll try to feed it.”

Fortunately it was Saturday, and I didn’t have to go to school. I sat on the floor next to the oven and watched the goat. Sometimes it seemed as though it had stopped breathing, and I would call Ma to look.

“It’s still alive,” she assured me. “It just isn’t strong enough to move yet. You wait there and watch if you want to, but don’t call me again unless it opens its eyes.”

When Pa and my brothers came in for dinner, Reuben stopped and looked down at the tiny animal. “Doesn’t look like much, does it?”

I burst into tears. “It does so!” I howled. “It looks just fine! Ma says it’s going to open its eyes. Don’t discourage it!”

Reuben backed off in surprise, and Pa came over to comfort me. “Now, Reuben wasn’t trying to harm that goat. He just meant that it doesn’t … look like a whole lot.”

I started to cry again, and Ma tried to soothe me. “Crying isn’t going to help that goat one bit,” she said. “When it gets stronger, it will want something to eat. I’ll put some milk on to heat while we have dinner.”

I couldn’t leave my post long enough to go to the table, so Ma let me hold my plate in my lap. I ate dinner watching the goat. Suddenly it quivered and opened its mouth. “It’s moving, Ma!” I shouted. “You’d better bring the milk!”

Ma soaked a rag in the milk, and I held it while the little goat sucked it greedily. By the time it had fallen asleep again, I was convinced that it would be just fine.

And it was! By evening the little goat was standing on its wobbly legs and began to baa loudly for more to eat. “Pa, maybe you’d better bring its box into my room,” I suggested at bedtime.

“Whatever for?” Pa asked. “It will keep warm right here by the stove. We’ll look after it during the night. Don’t worry.”

“And we aren’t bringing your bed out here,” Ma added, anticipating my next suggestion. “You’ll have enough to do, watching that goat during the day.”

Of course Ma was right. As the goat got stronger, he began to look for things to do. At first he was content to grab anything within reach and pull it. Dish towels, apron strings, and tablecloth corners all fascinated him. I kept busy trying to move things out of his way.

From the beginning the little goat took a special liking to Ma, but she was not flattered. “I can’t move six inches in this kitchen without stumbling over that animal,” she sputtered. “He can be sound asleep in his box one minute and sitting on my feet the next. I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate him in here.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t much longer. The next Monday, Ma prepared to do the washing in the washtub Pa had placed on two chairs near the woodpile. Ma always soaked the clothes in cold water first, then transferred them to the boiler on the stove.

I was in my room when I heard her shouting, “Now you put that down! Come back here!”

I ran to the kitchen door and watched as the goat circled the table with one of Pa’s shirts in his mouth. Ma was right behind him, but he managed to stay a few feet ahead of her.

“Step on the shirt, Ma!” I shouted as I ran into the room. “Then he’ll have to stop!”

I started around the table the other way, hoping to head him off. But the goat seemed to realize that he was outnumbered, for he suddenly turned and ran toward the chairs that held the washtub.

“Oh, no!” Ma cried. “Not that way!”

But it was too late! Tub, water, and clothes splashed to the floor. The goat danced stiff-legged through the soggy mess with a surprised look on his face.

“That’s enough!” Ma said. “I’ve had all I need of that goat. Take him out and tie him in the yard, Mabel. Then bring me the mop, please.”

I knew better than to say anything, but I was worried about what would happen to the goat. If he couldn’t come back in the kitchen, where would he sleep?

Pa had the answer to that. “He’ll go to the barn tonight.”

“But, Pa,” I protested, “he’s too little to sleep in the barn. Besides, he’ll think we don’t like him anymore!”

“He’ll think right,” Ma said. “He’s a menace, and he’s not staying in my kitchen another day.”

“But I like him,” I replied. “I feel sorry for him out there alone. If he has to sleep in the barn, let me go out and sleep with him!”

My two brothers looked at me in amazement.

“You?” Roy exclaimed. “You won’t even walk past the barn after dark, let alone go in!”

Everyone knew he was right. I had never been very brave about going outside after dark. But I was more concerned about the little goat than I was about myself.

“I don’t care,” I said stubbornly. “He’ll be scared out there, and he’s littler than I am.”

Ma didn’t say anything, probably because she thought I’d change my mind before dark. But I didn’t. When Pa started for the barn that evening, I was ready to go with him. Ma saw that I was determined, so she brought me a blanket.

“You’d better wrap up in this,” she said. “The hay is warm, but it’s pretty scratchy.”

I took the blanket and followed Pa and the goat out to the barn. The more I thought about the long, dark night, the less it seemed like a good idea, but I wasn’t going to give in or admit that I was afraid.

Pa found a good place for me to sleep. “This is nice and soft and out of the draft. You’ll be fine here.”

I rolled up in the blanket, hugging the goat close to me as I watched Pa check the animals. The light from the lantern cast long, scary shadows through the barn, and I thought about asking Pa if he would stay with me. I knew better, though, and all too soon he was ready to leave.

“Good night, Mabel. Sleep well,” he said as he closed the barn door behind him. I doubted that I would sleep at all. If it hadn’t been for the goat and my brothers who would laugh at me, I would have returned to the house at once. Instead I closed my eyes tightly and began to say my prayers. In a few moments the barn door opened, and Reuben’s voice called to me.

“Mabel,” he said, “it’s just me.” He came over to where I lay, and I saw that he had a blanket under his arm. “I thought I’d sleep out here tonight too. I haven’t slept in the barn for a long time. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Oh, no. That’s fine.” I turned over and fell asleep at once.

When I awoke in the morning, the goat and Reuben were both gone. Soon I found the goat curled up by his mother.

“Will you be sleeping in the barn again tonight?” Ma asked me at breakfast.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “I’ll take care of the goat during the day, but I guess his mother can watch him at night.”

Grandma laughed at the memory. “After I grew up, I told Reuben how grateful I was that he came out to stay with me. I wonder how my family ever put up with all my foolishness.”

Grandma went back into the house, and I wandered out to the barn to see the little kittens. I decided I wouldn’t be brave enough to spend the night there even if I had a big brother to keep me company!