Monday, August 31, 2009

Hold to the Rod

The local seminary had a special event this evening. Hold to the Rod, from 4pm to 6pm. It was a repeat of an activity they had with their students during the school day. As we were waiting in line to enter, it was fun to watch some of the kids coming out. The little boys couldn’t help but come and tell their friends just exactly what they needed to do—although they were instructed otherwise.

One of the little girls in line, I think she was two or three, wore cowboy boots that came to her knees, a black ballerina tutu, and a white, flouncy straw hat with a big fuchsia-colored flower on it. Cute. When we got to the front of the line we were led, one by one, into the side door of the dark seminary building and instructed to hold on to the rod and under no circumstances to let go.

Of course it wouldn’t be virtual-life if things were easy with no trials. People were stationed all along the way trying to coax us away from the rod. “It’s broken up ahead. Take my hand and I’ll guide you to the next part.” Etc.

The completely black room simulated our earthly life, I think—how we cannot see what was before our current life, or after it. We have to walk along in the dark with only the memory of our beginning instructions ringing faintly in our ear, “hold to the rod.”

For someone slightly past her high school years, the varying levels of the floor, coupled with the varying height of the rod was troublesome enough. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by tripping—that would probably count as my letting go of the rod and they’d whisk me away into outer darkness. GAME OVER! I didn’t want that.

None too soon, and luckily enough—we all made it to a room with the Tree of Life. It was a place of rest, a place of waiting for our loved ones, and a place of sweet treats, although unfortunately all the treats were handed out long before we got there. We had to leave without a goodie—and although we certainly didn’t need a treat, we piled into the car and drove to the local Dairy Queen.
Nope, I’d never make a pioneer. Not unless I could take a freezer full of ice cream with me. Yum!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is an intriguing tale for sure. The story starts with Jane as a ten-year-old living with her aunt and three bratty cousins. Mrs. Reed is not Jane’s blood relation and has always resented the girl, and the only reason Mrs. Reed keeps Jane in her home is because of a promise coerced from her at her husband’s death bed.

Although the aunt keeps the promise of continuing to allow Jane to live in her home, she never attempts to raise Jane as one of her own. The aunt is cruel and unfeeling toward her ward. Jane’s cousin, John, is even crueler. Jane spends much of her first ten years trying to keep out of his way so as not to be abused, both physically in the form of flinging books, and mentally by continually reassuring her that she is nothing but an ugly orphan who should feel grateful for every crumb.

Jane becomes ill after being locked in a room she believes is haunted. The doctor, in the course of his examination, realizes the situation in which Jane lives and suggests to Mrs. Reed that she send Jane away to school.

Jane ends up in a school for orphans and unwanted children, and is run by a man even more heartless than Mrs. Reed. He and his family live in luxury while he grinds into the children’s minds that they should be humble. A lack of proper food and adequate heating keeps them that way until half the children die of disease and alert the surrounding community to the children’s inhumane treatment, and a governing board for the school is formed. Conditions improve dramatically, and Jane is raised to be an educated, well-mannered young woman.

After her favorite teacher leaves, Jane becomes restless and advertises for a position as governess. Her request is answered by only one opportunity for employment—which she takes. Jane finds herself in a lovely home, teaching a young French girl and discovers eventually that the young girl, Adele, is the orphan-ward of Mr. Rochester—a man in his early forties who has lived a riotous life but wants to settle down.

Although Mr. Rochester is twice Jane’s age, the pair discover they are like-minded and enjoy one another’s company, and they fall in love. One would wish the story to end right there. Let the wealthy man, who is proud and sure marry the young girl who has never had anything. But Jane discovers Mr. Rochester’s dark secret while standing at the alter waiting to pledge her love.

The author teased my mind, wondering all the while if the pair would get back together, or if Jane would find another kindred soul who was younger and more suited to her in age. After running away from Mr. Rochester, Jane becomes the benefactress of kindness bestowed upon her by a younger and certainly more handsome man. He saves her from the brink of death and he and his sisters nurse her back to health.

He is not her soul mate, however, and his overbearing ways are soon made manifest. Although he does not love her nor pretend to, he wishes her to be his wife and travel to India so they can be couple missionaries there. (He likes controlling her life.) After having known love true and passionate, Jane cannot bear the idea of marrying a man for sheer convenience.

Poor Mr. Rochester doesn’t get off as easily.

Jane Eyre shows the greatness of true love. However I wish someone would rewrite it in American English. While Jane is tutoring Adele, there are many passages in French that are never interpreted, and the old-style English with which the novel is written is sometimes hard to understand. However, that said, it is worth the effort.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hummingbirds--like me

Not content to stay in one place, hummingbirds are always going somewhere or doing something. I sit in front of my big picture window each day to write, but sometimes like today, I get distracted by the activity just outside my window.

Since we no longer have our outside dogs, the hummingbird feeder has become such a popular place that we decided to put up two feeders. Who would have known that our backyard would turn into a war zone for the little creatures?

(the new feeder, recently refilled)

They love the new feeder, by the way. They loved the old one, too, and guarded it from each other as best as they could. Now the new feeder is up, it, apparently is a novelty because the food disappears from it at twice the rate of the old one. They flit from one to the other, and then settle on the new one.

(The old feeder--still as full as we filled it a week ago)

I think that sometimes we are like hummingbirds—flitting from one important job to the other, always busy. We like new things much better than our old stuff, even though they are equally functional—and we guard our treasures as best as we can from interlopers who might happen by.

Like me, they are curious. More than once, a hummingbird has stopped drinking his nectar to peek into my window and observe what I’m doing—and more often than not, I’m busy watching the hummingbird watch me.

Hummingbirds also have their quiet, more giving nature. They will take a moment to sit on the wind chime, or the garden fence, or the power line to observe their surroundings and relax. I often appreciate the quiet moments of life in a similar way—one second at a time. Sometimes the little birds will also use these same resting points to wait their turn at the feeder. Occasionally, they realize that they can share, and several will drink from the feeder at the same time.

(One little guy waiting patiently for his turn)
It doesn’t take long, though, before peace is interrupted and they are back at play, racing through the backyard chasing one another doing aerial dives and acrobatics in their effort to win the game of “king (or queen) of the feeder.”

Yes, I think I am a lot like a hummingbird—now, if only I could fly.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

School is starting soon (if it hasn't already where you live) and teens everywhere will need a good book for their first book review of the school year. The Hourglass Door is a book with wide appeal.

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum is a YA with a little bit of everything—a little bit of romance—a little bit of adventure—a portion of mystery—and a bit of the supernatural. The Hourglass Door has a great lead character—Abby is an above average student with hopes and dreams that she isn’t sure how to make happen without betraying her friends, her parents—and her boyfriend. She is believable and interesting. Abby Edmunds is a strong, intelligent girl with spirit and ambition.

Abby has the perfect parents—they’re predictable, lending her feelings of security. She has the perfect best friend—she’s known Valerie since 3rd grade. Abby also finds herself starting her senior year in high school with the perfect boyfriend. Jason and his family moved next door when he and Abby were pre-schoolers, the family became instant friends and together planned their children’s lives. Jason is good-looking, kind, and loves order in his life. Abby fits right into his, and both of their parents’ plan.

Everything in Abby’s life seems perfect. And predictable. And boring. Abby yearns for adventure—something less than predictable. After school starts, Abby gets her wish in Dante, a foreign exchange student with a mysterious past who joins her drama class. As luck has it, the drama teacher then gives Abby the assignment of bringing Dante ‘up to speed’ with the rest of the class on their current project, Much Ado About Nothing.

NOTE to teen boys with girlfriends: If you haven’t kissed your girl yet—don’t schedule the event into your calendar and then refuse to deviate from the plan when a better one comes along.

Dante is different than anyone she has ever known—he’s interesting and best yet he’s unpredictable. Like a balm to her soul, he brings much needed variety to her life . . . and yet weird things happen when Dante’s around—time seems to either stand still, or speed up—and he heals remarkably fast.

A popular band, Zero Hour, comes to town and then stays. There are whispers that its three members, Tony, Zo, and V are dangerous—and they seem to share a past with Dante. Does Dante have a criminal past as rumors indicate? Abby doesn’t give much thought to gossip, but when Valerie starts hanging around Zero Hour, her friend changes in a startling and not so good way, forcing Abby to open her eyes and then take action in the only way she knows how.

Zero Hour, Dante, and Abby are thrust into an unimaginable race—it’s a race that Abby and Valerie might not survive—a race so dangerous that if the wrong person gets to the ‘finish line’ first, the world as we know it may never be the same.

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum is the first of a series, and so compelling that as a reader, I wished all of her books could have been written and published at the same time. Lisa skillfully brought her characters to life, and I’m anxious to see how they fare in book two which I’m sure will be one of my favorite reads next summer—and well worth the wait.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Microwave Monkey Bread

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, and with the start of school just around the corner, I figure that in honor of my own children, I’ll share their very favorite snack—

Microwave Monkey Bread.

1/3 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. margarine
1 TBSP water
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ C. chopped nuts (optional)
1 (7.5 oz) can refrigerated biscuits (the cheap kind)

In a shallow 1 qt. round (glass) baking dish, combine brown sugar, margarine, water, and cinnamon. Cook, covered with paper towel for 1 ½ minutes, stirring after margarine melts. Stir in nuts. Separate and cut each biscuit into quarters. Add to sugar mixture; stir, coating each piece. Push mixture away from center and set a juice glass in the center. Cook, uncovered, for 4 minutes on HIGH power. Let stand for 1 minute and remove glass. Invert to serving dish. Serve warm.

NOTE: We don’t actually ever invert them onto a serving dish—we flip them over in the pan, coating both sides with the sugar-sauce, divide them up and then eat them like ravening wolves.