Have you ever come to the end of a movie, hoping against hope it would end differently? But a movie full of hope, joy and celebration? Such is Breathe directed by Andy Serkis and produced by his friend, and son of the MC, Jonathan Cavendish. Claire Foy (The Crown) as the wife, Diana Cavendish once again shows her quiet determination as she cheers and loves her husband until death parts them. Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man) acts the part of the once athletic tea merchant, Robin Cavendish, who is struck down with polio in the 60’s. He’d rather die than live imprisoned in an institution for life, but his wife refuses to give in to his request. With new hope, Cavendish shoots for the impossible and hits the mark many times. With cadre of resourceful, visionary friends, he breaks out of the institution and continues to breathe and experience life with his wife and young son with the help of a chair designed with an electric respirator. Now, nothing can stop him. Robin goes on to bless other disabled patients and enrich his own life, always pushing the limits.
This story captured the celebration of life at all costs — until the end. I won’t spoil it for you, but I must be honest. I was truly disappointed. But, I understand I have no concept of what life would be like for someone like Robin Cavendish. But, Joni Ereckson Tada does. She’s lived the life of a quadriplegic for 51 years, and keeps on blessing others. Thank God for all those who persevere under trials and tribulations. Thank God for abundant LIFE!
I just watched a movie some would call a ‘sleeper.’ To those from this latest generation, that word is outdated. But, I’m sure they could come up with another term to describe Goodbye, Christopher Robin. I would call it a gentle film, one that grows into its own significance. It’s ‘slow’, or maybe even ‘long and drawn out,’ but definitely worth the watching.
Whether most of the details are accurate or not, I do not know. But it is based on the life and inspiration of A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh. Milne has come home from the ‘war to end all wars’ with shell-shock, and desperately needs to forget the past. After being left alone for two weeks with his son, Christopher Robin, he finds solace in the country taking walks and watching ‘Billy Moon’ (his son’s nickname during his childhood) play make-believe with his stuffed animals. Soon, Milne’s proverbial writer’s block disappears as he begins to capture this imaginary world on paper.
But, I will stop here, not wanting to spoil the ending for you!
By the end of the movie tears flooded my eyes. So many thoughts began to swirl in my head: Should a writer sacrifice his family for a greater cause? Is it wise to place your child in the limelight? Is it best to ‘write what you know’? Do we ever realize what our actions truly beget until the end? I can’t answer these questions for you. Only one’s conscience and conviction can.
I got to thinking of other stories written for the same reason: to take people’s minds off the horrors of war. Folks needed a place to escape. A place to heal. And a place to grow in understanding God and the world.
So, I looked up the top movies from the post war era (40’s and 50’s). Although many were focused on the war itself, (and surprisingly, mysteries were popular as well), here are three I would say gave hope and an opportunity for escape):
It’s A Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
Can you think of others?
Then, I turned my thoughts towards children’s books written post-war, and came up with a number to fit the ‘take our minds off the war and it’s effects’ category. Some, of course, were set during the (Second world) war, such as The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, but others brought the reader to a safe place— one that spoke of home, security and simple joys. Or, they carried one away completely with lighthearted humor:
A Bear Called Paddington
Little House on the Prairie
Cat in the Hat
Make Way for Ducklings
The Little Prince
Can you add to this list?
So, as a writer myself, I often ponder the reason I write. Sometimes it’s to inform. Sometimes to teach. Always to inspire. And at times to cause my readers think, Wow! That’s amazing. I didn’t know that!
And just maybe, to smile at the odd and clever things in life. . .
What is your raison d’être?
Have you chosen a word to guide you in 2018?
I’ve chosen one for the last three years, and I can honestly say it has changed my outlook on life. Here’s a helpful website if you’re still looking: MY ONE WORD
In 2016, my word was FOCUS.
I planned to focus on my writing for the year, submitting manuscripts to agents and editors twice a month. And I thankfully reached my goal. Now I didn’t receive a contract that year, but I did write a 52,000 word Middle Grade historical novel in one month with the NaNoWriMo challenge. I seem to need accountability to keep me going. And this write-a-novel-in-a-month project was just what I needed.
I also became more confident in my writing. And my editing. And revision.
In 2017, my word was WONDER.
Initially, I set out to be in awe and wonder over what God was doing in my life. Not just my writing life, but my life in general. The funny thing was, it turned out to be me asking, “I wonder what God is doing in my life?” I was constantly asking that question when difficulties arose: my husband’s potential job loss, and my lack of signing with an agent or editor after ‘hooking’ them with my pitch at a conference. I worked hard last year, so didn’t I deserve a reward?
Turns out, it will take even more submissions and more revisions for that to happen. But, I’m still in awe and wonder at the connections I’ve made and the paths opening to me every day as I faithfully plod along.
This year, my word for 2018 is SIMPLICITY: cutting the clutter and making more room for creativity to blossom and grow. And, as always, to write for the glory of God.
I’d love to pop into this watercolor of mine. Lie in the grass and soak up the breeze and sunshine, enticing my creative spirit to come and fill me with WONDER, so I can FOCUS on what is important, leaving out all the rest. But alas, as happens when you pick a word, this first week of January has not been one of SIMPLICITY, but of complications.
My mother-in-love’s fall and resulting broken wrists, and all that means for a 93 year old independent woman still living on her own. And all it means for those who are responsible for her.
Then, yesterday, the two flat tires we experienced after going over a curb in the dark. And the tow. And taxi ride. And the necessity in this very busy week, to have two cars and not one.
Obviously, we can’t be in charge of everything in our lives. So I’m thankful, in these situations, that God is. And that He has our best interests in mind, even though we can’t see it. But it always, (if we let go of our independent spirits and depend on Him), results in a stronger character. One that can face whatever comes with confidence.
I still hang on to SIMPLICITY, making it my goal as I make daily choices: What to do? Where to go? What to buy? And I still wonder what would happen if my word for next year was COMPLICATIONS. No matter! For this year, I will concentrate on one thing that will simplify everything:
”Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26
A few years back, I did some shopping in our local mall (formerly the largest in the nation, at a time when malls were a new concept.) I, of course, expected to see the typical Santa scene, with lines of tots waiting to sit on the lap of a grandfatherly figure to share their most-wanted wish list.
But what I found was the "Ice Palace". Hmmmmm. That's unusual. I thought. Where's Santa? And who will be inside to greet the children when they reach the interior of the palace?
And then a chill came over me. And thoughts of the White Witch in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. She had placed a spell on Narnia, so it was "Always winter, but never Christmas." A harsh environment with no hope of joy, peace and celebration.
Edmund encounters the White Witch riding on a sleigh pulled by white reindeer. He has stolen away from his brother and sisters, curious of this "witch" spoken of by Mr. Beaver. And, because of his rebellious spirit, is intimidated when Aslan, the true King of Narnia's name is spoken. Queen Jadis is aware of a prophecy that will foil her plan, and bring Christmas back to Narnia. Four human children, Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, will have a part to play in the return Aslan who will save Narnia from the harsh, cold spell it is under.
So, she is thrilled when she finds Edmund on the road. The White Witch entices him into her sleigh, and proceeds to fill him with his favorite treat: Turkish Delight. (When you have tried this rose-flavored delicacy, you will understand why!) She distracts him, so he indulges himself with more and more candy, until that is all he can think about. This greed causes Edmund to betray his siblings to the Queen of Narnia. Secretly, she plans to destroy them, and thus prevent Aslan from bringing back Christmas.
And that's when it hit me. Those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year are being distracted by the goodies of this world. Stuff. Celebration. Santa. Food. And more stuff.
But what about Christmas? Have we forgotten about the Christ Child? The one who came to earth to save it from Satan's power? To bring freedom, joy, light and forgiveness?
I think so.
In Matthew 2: 9-11 it says:
"After hearing the king, they (the Magi) went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
What gift will we bring to the feet of the Christ Child? How will we worship Him today?
I hope I will give Him my heart, and not a wish list. I want to worship the God of the Universe. Not the god of pleasure and possessions. I want to worship the King. . .
Hmmmm. He's non-existent in quite a few nativity scenes in my neighborhood. As my imagination ran wild a couple of years ago, I pondered 'what would happen if' . . . and came up with this 349 word story that solved the mystery.
It's a theme that has been on my heart for quite a while . . .
Help! Baby Jesus is Missing!
Molly stood in front of her neighbor's house, looking at a forest of lighted decorations. There was a snowman, a tin soldier, a candy cane, a candle, and of course - Santa and his reindeer.
In the center were Mary and Joseph, bowing low over the manger. But, it was empty! Where is the Christ Child, Molly wondered?
"It's His birthday soon. Jesus can't miss His own party!"
Maybe the tin soldier would know.
"No, Miss," he said, "I'm just keeping the peace. Try the snowman."
The snowman looked strange.
"Have you seen Jesus?" she asked.
"I can't see. They've forgotten my button eyes. Sorry! Maybe the candy cane can help."
She hoped so. But Molly was disappointed.
"I'm too busy straightening my pretty red bow. I haven't seen him."
"We must find him," she said in despair. "Christmas is coming soon!"
"Ask Santa," the candy cane suggested.
"Yes!" Molly said. "Santa would know."
She tugged on the sleeve of his red velvet suit.
"Santa? Santa! Jesus is missing. Can you help?"
"Can't stop now, little girl. It's almost time to deliver my gifts. Ask the candle."
So she did.
"Mr. Candle, can you help the Christ child find his way back to the manger?"
"Not tonight. Ask His parents."
"Mary? Joseph? Where is your Son?"
"He's coming soon, child. Very soon. He will be pleased to know you were waiting for Him," said Mary.
"Those who are wise seek Him," said his father. "Be patient, and He will appear."
Molly waited. Two whole days. On Christmas morning, there in the manger, was Jesus. Hands outstretched. His parents lovingly bowed in reverence.
Molly clapped her hands in joy.
"He's here! Just in time. Happy Birthday, Jesus!"
The lawn decorations joined in.
"To the Prince of Peace!" said the soldier.
"You warm our hearts," said the snowman.
"Our sweet baby Jesus," the candy cane said.
"The greatest gift!" said Santa.
"The light of the world," said the candle.
"Wise men still seek Him," Joseph declared.
"Our waiting is over," said Mary.
"You've finally come!" Molly said. "Welcome to our world!!"
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
It's that time of year again!
And what is on YOUR Christmas list? Or do you like to be surprised?
Well, in the spirit of the season, here is a short story I wrote three years ago for: SUSANNA HILL'S 4TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!! Since I couldn't write a holiday story without mentioning the Reason for the Season, here is my entry, keeping under the 350 word count with a reference to weather:
THE UNEXPECTED GIFTS
The house awoke early. It was Christmas morning! The snow outside was gently falling. The family
gathered to open gifts under the glistening gold and silver tree. Suddenly the wind began to howl. It raced around and around the house until it forced itself though a crack in the door. In it came, swirling around the Christmas tree.
The little family pressed close together. They watched in amazement as the gifts began to rise and dance around the tree. Around and around they went in all their bright and dapper wrapping. Then, just as mysteriously as it came in, the wind ceased its roaring, and became a gentle breeze. As obedient children, the packages landed together under the tree once more.
The wind blew back out the window, and into the morning, as quickly as it entered.
"What was that?" asked Mother.
"Amazing," noted Daddy.
"Whee. . .what fun!" said brother Donald.
"Oh, no!" said sister Wendy. "The tags are gone. They have blown away!"
"It's a muddle," said Sarah, "but what an adventure!"
The family each took a gift from the pile, and opened it.
"This shirt is TOO big," said Donald.
"These socks are TOO small," said Daddy.
"But this scarf is JUST right!" said Mother.
After much laughter and joy, the family read the story of the first Christmas.
"There were plenty of surprises on that night long ago, too," said Daddy.
Sarah agreed. "The shepherds were surprised to see Angels in the starry sky over Bethlehem."
"And the wise men were surprised to find the Baby Jesus in a stable instead of a big fancy palace." Donald pointed to the nativity display.
"And Mary was surprised at the Wise Men's gifts. Gold, for a king, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh for a prophet," said Mother.
Wendy frowned. "But those were grownup gifts."
"I think Jesus used them later. When they took the long journey to Egypt," said Sarah.
"Maybe Donald will use Daddy's shirt when he gets bigger," said Wendy, her eyes brightening.
There was joy all around that Christmas morning. They would never forget the day the wind mixed-up their gifts!
Make sure you go to Susanna Hill's website here. Even though Susanna is not hosting a contest this year, she has lots of goodies on her sleigh. Uh, I mean- her website.
MERRY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all . . .
And to all a good day!
Today I am happy to be part of Writers Persevere!, an event that authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are running for the next few days to celebrate their release of their newest book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. This book looks at the difficult experiences embedded in our character’s backstory which will shape their motivation and behavior afterward.
Because Angela and Becca have spent the last year exploring painful human struggles, they wanted to highlight a very important aspect of overcoming difficult circumstances: it can make us stronger. I promised to let Angela hijack my blog today, so please read on!
Hi everyone! When you set out to find examples of inner strength, you don’t have to go very far. Right here in the writing community we see it every day. Writers more than anyone understand the swirl of emotions as we work toward publication. We dream of making it and seeing our books in the hands of readers…yet doubt and frustration can be a constant companion. For us, there is a lot to learn, much to steel our nerves for, and unfortunately, a host of real-world problems that can try to derail us. And, even as we slowly move forward and grow, we can sometimes feel like impostors. This is a tough road.
But the fact that writers face this battle, day after day, and KEEP GOING…this should be celebrated! We need to be reminded that we are much stronger than we sometimes believe. We dream, create, and force ourselves to keep striving. Through the ups and downs, we persevere!
Have you encountered something on the writing road that made you question yourself? Have you faced an obstacle that required a force of will to get past?
If so, we want to hear about it! Join Becca and me at Writers Helping Writers from October 25-27th, where we are celebrating writers and their stories of perseverance. Stop in, and tell us about a challenge or struggle your faced, or if you like, join this event by writing a post on your own blog and share it using the hashtag #writerspersevere. Let’s fill social media with your strength and let other writers know that it’s okay to question and have doubts but we shouldn’t let that stop us.
We also have a prize vault filled with items that can give your writing career a boost, so stop by Writers Helping Writers. I would love for one of you to win something that will help you get closer to your goal!
If you struggle, remember to reach out to others. We are in this together, and by supporting one another, we cross the finish line together (and then keep going!).
We were taken by another entrepreneurial couple to San Sebastián (Donostia in the national language) situated on the Bay of Biscay in Basque or Euskadi Country, about twenty miles from the French border. Irene has travelled around the globe on her own and with nothing more than a backpack and a smile. This spunky lady deserves her Basque heritage! Irene met her husband Zach at scuba diving instructor's school in Mexico. An American from Michigan, he married Irene and moved to her beloved Basque city of Bilbao. Together, they introduce tourists to this unique and ancient culture.
Zach is holding the Basque flag, which displays the seven provinces of its heritage- two in France, and five in Spain, nestled between the northern coast of Spain, Pyrenees Mountains and the Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrim’s road. The land has ancient forests, Paleolithic painted caves and Neolithic dolmens (think Stonehenge with a capstone). The Basque are ancient, too— the oldest people group in Europe. Sadly, they have no country to call their own, although they have tried to unify and make it happen.
In the 1600's, many Basque, having formerly pagan/magical roots, were converted to Christianity by Léon the Bishop of Rouen. During the Spanish Inquisition, some still clinging to the old religion and practicing witchcraft and were convicted and put to death. Today, paganism is occasionally mixed with Catholicism. The Basque, unlike the Spanish, are a matriarchal society, and have a unique language having no common roots at the base of the language tree. Hearing and reading the language, I would say it seems like a cross between Turkish and Greek, but it is truly unlike any other. They are as ‘old as the hills they live on’, and excelled in guérilla warfare and mountain ambush for survival. These resourceful people built the Spanish Armada, were great sailors, whalers and conquistadors-and had a few pirates staining their history. As the saying goes, their culture reaches so far back that "When God created the first man, he got the bones from a Basque graveyard." These folks have no history of living anywhere else on earth except in this 'cradle of human culture' sequestered in the Pyrenees Mountains, and have the highest proportion of O negative blood along with other ancient cultures (think Celts and pre-Indo Europeans.) Now you know why I'm so fascinated with the Basque! Today, they run most of Spain's banks and insurance companies.
Above you see the old walls below street level in San Sebastián. . . an example of the Neolithic structures to be found in this ancient culture. After the Second Punic War, the Romans called these distinct people the 'Aquitani' (ring any royal bells?) Now that's ancient!
On this date, August 31st, 1855, captured first by Napoleon and the French, the British and Portuguese pillaged and burned this gorgeous coastal town during the Peninsular War. San Sebastián was known as one of the most important ports on the Bay of Biscay. It took decades to rebuild it, but the Queen of Spain, Isabel II, discovered it to be the perfect place for an elegant seaside resort, with stunning beaches and coasts, along with temperate weather all year round. Here is a photo of her palace from afar:
Now it is known for its sandy beaches, film festivals and gourmet food- mainly fish and seafood, due of course, to its location. Tapas or Pintxos (Pinchos) bars are a common find along the streets. San Sebastián boasts more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere outside France.
During the early 20th century, the dictator Franco, with an attempt to unify the country under socialism and control the Basque people, forbid them to speak their native language, using only Spanish. He even went as far as to prevent them from giving their children Basque names. When Franco was ousted, they rebelled and demanded their own country, which was denied. Below are bibs hand-embroidered with traditional names they now have the freedom to use.
Even so, they are a strong and unified people, and through the years, have continued their traditions and language. Being near the Atlantic Ocean, they have the treasures of the sea at their disposal. The usual seafood like shrimp and clams are enjoyed, but the true delicacies are octopus and barnacles. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to try either one! The indoor market unparalleled—it's the largest in all of the continent of Europe! Here are a few stalls we passed. Below are barnacles. . .
Above is salted cod . . .a staple in their diet. Below, a myriad of fish and squid:
While I was here, I had to buy a traditional txapela (chapela) . . .basically a beret worn in a Basque manner. Here I am with our guide, Zach, who, although married to a Basque woman, never owned one until this day!
The city is beautiful, the coast scenic, and the Playa de la Concha a most stunning beach! Victor Hugo wrote: “Everyone who has visited the Basque Country longs to return; it's a blessed land.” It certainly had me hooked. I might renege on my vow (to never visit a place twice if I can help it) and someday return to explore its fascinating history and land!
One more shot of Getania, the seaside town nearby: we had a fabulous lunch here on a steaming hot day. You can see Irene in the lower right of the photo:
Gero arte, Euskal Herria! See you later, Basque Country!
The Sea Cloud II docked in Bilbao, and soon we were saying our farewells. All the staff were kind and attentive, but I connected particularly with Jess Fox, a Brit with energy and enthusiasm. Although she was a volunteer on our ship (and did her fair share of work and supervision particularly with the sails and rigging), her heart was obviously with special needs children back in the U.K. Her sailboat, The Lord Nelson, serves and is adapted for children who have physical disabilities. Her eyes brightened as she shared a time when a quadriplegic boy made his way up the rat lines to the crows nest, with only slight aid from her. The joy on his (and her) face was priceless, she says. Jess also remembered a blind girl who maneuvered her way to the top with no fear and barely little help! I can sense this story needs to be shared in an article.
Arriving at our hotel in the city center, we settled in, then found directions to the popular Guggenheim Museum on the waterfront. Although I am not a fan of Modern Art, I could appreciate the creative use of lines and surfaces in the sculptures as well as the building itself. Because of this museum, the entire area around it has been revived and renovated into a lovely downtown neighborhood.
The dog sculpture in front of the museum was my favorite. Flowers are planted on a regular basis as they wilt and die.
The simple sculpture of tulips was brilliantly colored. . .
And the stack of balls curious. . .
These large instillations exhibits are not anchored to floor, but artfully balanced!
This sculpture, called, 'Maman' or Mother in French, was fascinating. I saw it first online when I researched the Guggenheim.
Although I am afraid of spiders, this one seemed less intimidating. And I discovered the reasoning behind the name: it was carrying eggs!
Next, after a lovely meal in a street Café, we took a tour of old Bilbao. Called 'Casco Viejo' in the Basque language, it, like the Alfama district in Lisboa, and the old portions of other towns we've visited in Spain and Portugal, was a maze of winding, narrow cobblestone streets lined with tapas or pinxas (pronounced peen-chas) bars and various shops.
We visited a church built in Gothic and neo-Gothic style. . .
The main library, which used to be a British home in the 1800’s, when the Portuguese and British occupied Bilbao.
The remains of the wall surrounding the city. . .
The riverfront where fishermen brought their catch to market. . .
And a photo of the square where five streets met . . .
Then, it was back in to the modern city center for a few more photos and a rest. I do love history, but my head was buzzing with information! Tomorrow we will explore the Basque Country more fully. . .
Jarm Del Boccio, Author
I love to share the quirky things I see in the world. Sometimes, it's for a laugh; at other times, to teach a lesson. Or, just maybe, it will encourage you!