Keukenhof

I’ve been living in Belgium for a couple of years now, but because of it’s location often our day trips take us to different countries.  Having grown up in Northern California, the idea that I can travel for a couple of hours and be in a new country is still a little exciting.  On that note, a couple of weeks ago we made a trip to the Netherlands.

There are many things that the Netherlands are known for; wooden shoes, windmills, debauchery in Amsterdam, and tulips.  One of the best places to go for tulips in the spring is Keukenhof, a large garden.  It’s only open for a couple of months out of the year, but when it is in bloom, it is amazing.

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After a two hour drive, we found a parking spot and walked up to the unassuming outside.  This was my first trip, but I had an idea of what was hiding inside.  I was not disappointed.

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Fun dandelion fluff fountain!  It was the closest thing to a weed in the entire park, at least that I saw.

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As expected, the inside was filled with flowers.

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Lots of flowers.

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In lots of different colors.

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Seriously.  Lots of flowers.

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I mean.  Flowers everywhere.

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I know, it’s a flower garden, what would you expect.  But there was more than just flowers here.

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Little one is always ready for a picture, so we went for it.

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We went walking on these wooden platforms through a pond.  It was strange, as solid as they were, I still felt like we were about to fall at any minute.

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The platforms brought us very close to these lovely swans.  It may have taken about 30 shots to get one without their head in the water, but they were still cool to see.

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We watched a giant game of chess.  Little One was bummed that she was not allowed to move any of the pieces, since someone else was playing.

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We even visited the pigs.  Little One LOVES pigs, and she has since she was tiny.  I guess knowing they become bacon gives them a special place in her heart.

Each year, Keukenhof has a theme, something they use to create a special flower feature.  This years theme was Van Gogh.  Now, I’m not huge on art in general.  I mean, I like it, but I don’t know all of the nitty gritty details.  I’ve never studied art or art history, I just know what I like, and I like Van Gogh.  I was looking forward to seeing the flower portrait based on one of his self portraits.  However, as the line was very long to get on the platform, and I could see from the ground the colors were off, we didn’t wait.  I mean seriously, there are about a hundred different kinds of tulips in a range of colors.  Why choose hot pink as his skin tone?

Instead we visited the selfie garden.  Since Van Gogh loved his self portraits, they created a small section designed to give a modern twist.

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Big One refused to be a part of this, as she is opposed to selfies in any way shape or form.  Instead as usual, Little One and I were in the pictures.

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Say cheese!

All right, so this was more pictures than words, but let’s be real.  It was a trip to a flower garden.

Happy travels to everyone!

Editing

I worked throughout April on a new manuscript as a part of Camp NaNoWriMo.  This is no secret, and was actually a part of my temporary radio silence.  At the end of the month, I had met my word goal by writing 40,111 words, but had not actually finished the story.  I suppose I should have aimed for a higher word count, but based on the last couple I had written, my young adult first drafts tend to hit slightly on the lower side.

While I am still completing this novel, I am also beginning to think about the next step.  No, not publication and inevitable success.  (Okay, maybe occasionally.  I am an unapologetic dreamer after all.)  No, as I finish my mind begins to turn to the dreaded task of editing.

There are different views to editing, and honestly different needs based on the writer.  Many successful writers have made statements indicating that editing was a key part of their success.  True or not, Ernest Hemingway is credited with stating, “The first draft of anything is shit.”  Of course there are others who only edit for spelling errors, and are completely happy with their end results.  So who is right?  I don’t know, and I don’t really care.

For me, I hate editing.  It requires me to be objective about my own writing and my own story.  I begin to second guess everything and suddenly I not only believe Hemingway, but I realize that no matter how much you polish, a turd is still a turd.  I take everything about my own writing personally because it is technically personal.  This is something that came from inside me.  Even if it’s not actually my biography there are parts of me in every character and every choice.

It’s much easier to be objective and honest when I am working with someone else’s work.  I’ve done beta reading before, reading the draft of a story and giving honest feedback.  I feel like I can give constructive criticism without making it unnecessarily cruel.  It’s not about what I like or don’t like, it’s about what makes sense.  Occasionally, I even do it without thinking.

I recently finished a novel, a new adult story that at first seemed like a straight forward girl goes away to college and falls into the middle of a love triangle.  Instead it felt to me to be several books in one.  As I read I could not help but cut through the chapters mumbling to myself about what was unnecessary and what was distracting or weird.  To me, this book needed some severe editing and should not have gone to print without it.  But then, as far as I could find, the writer is at least reasonably successful so my opinion may be the unpopular one on this book.

I hate editing because at the end of the day it is going to arbitrary.  There are many books I have read and wondered how the hell they got to print through a major publishing house without someone saying something about editing the story in some way.   If I had been the agent, or publishing house rep, I would have sent it back and said redo it and we’ll try again.  But no one did, and the world (or part of it) thanks them for sending it through as is.  I can look at someone else’s work and whine about how they should have done things, and doubt all of my own work, but at the end of the day I am only one reader.  My opinion is not the one that makes decisions, and clearly I shouldn’t be the one to make those decisions.  I might have saved the world from some poorly written books, but I also would have saved myself and everyone else from a large quantity of money.

So what does this mean for my own editing?  Hell if I know.  I guess it means I will be one of those writers who needs someone else to help me sort through my own mess.

Het Hallerbos

Several weeks ago I stumbled on a forest here in Belgium.

I’ve done a little research on forests before this.  When writing, I always try to find some sort of an element of truth that can be included in my works of fiction.  A story I was working on a year ago needed a forest, and as I currently lived in Belgium, it seemed a good place to start.  There are myths, legends, and everything I wanted for the topic I needed.  I was writing frequently, and then it fizzled out.  The inspiration was gone.

This travel destination wasn’t a part of my research, or anything else interesting.  It wasn’t exactly like stumbling through a wardrobe and into Narnia, so much as seeing a link on Facebook.  Of course, how I found the forest isn’t the story here.  The point of my little babble, is the stories, both how I came to be walking through the forest, and the story I was working on.

Enter Het Hallerbos.  I tried to translate what it meant, but I only came up with ‘The Hallerbos.’

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Most of the year, Het Hallerbos is a normal forest, with hiking and running trails leading you on a run through the great outdoors.

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However, in the spring, this forest near Brussels explodes in bluebells.

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There are sections where you can’t even see the green or brown of the forest floor.

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It was like something out of a fairy tale.  Of course, as that was what I was writing, this was the perfect inspiration.  To be a writer, you need to write, but those words need to come from somewhere.  It’s nice to get out and see the world so I can bring it home with me.

Pairi Daiza

I once read a silly notion, that is spread on the internet.  It claimed that the surest sign of a happy relationship is no sign of it on Facebook.  I suppose that could easily be spread out to include most forms of social media, and for me, it might be re-written to state the surest sign of a happy life, is no position on the blog.

Yes, I have been gone for a while, but for the most part, it has been because I was happy.  I have been writing, volunteering at my local library, writing, taking pottery classes, writing, traveling, and writing.  This session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I feel as though I fully embraced the idea of working hard not only to complete a novel in a month, but to do work I am proud of.

Of course that hasn’t been all I have done, and isn’t even why I am writing today.  No, with the return of sunshine and warmer weather, I have been struck hard with wanderlust.  It is an almost uncontrollable need to get out and do something, and in truth, I’m not sure I want to control it.  While we have only had time for day trips on the weekend, I think we are making the most of them.  One of the first we took recently, was a trip to Pairi Daiza, a zoo near Brussels.

We first heard about this zoo almost a year ago, as we returned from a trip to Edinburgh.  I may have mentioned before, my family loves to go to the zoo, so we make trips frequently, including one to the Edinburgh zoo.  It was a spur of the moment thing as we were traveling, so we were not aware of the Panda bears who live there.  Unfortunately we were also unaware that seeing the Panda’s required a special ticket, and they had already sold out for the day.  I was desperately disappointed, as I love pandas.  So, when we were walking through the airport in Belgium, waiting to go through immigration (or customs, I don’t remember which) we were excited to see an advertisement for a zoo.  Not only was it right here in Belgium, but the poster had a prominently featured Panda bear.  A little research, and we had it confirmed; there were pandas here in Belgie, and we were going to have to go see them.

Unfortunately, life happened and we simply didn’t get around to it for a long time.  Until last week.  The zoo had just recently reopened for the season, and we were not going to miss it this time.  Let me tell you, I am very glad we didn’t.

First off, the drive from our house wasn’t too bad, until we were about 15 minutes away.  At that point, we turned away from main roads and were driving through small towns on tiny roads that for some reason Europe thinks should be two lane, even if they barely fit one car.  However, as with many of the best things we have found in Europe, the search was well worth it.  Eventually we popped out by the parking lot of a large and very beautiful zoo.  I mean seriously.  It was huge.  The parking lot was at least the size of a football field. However, as it wasn’t very pretty, I didn’t waste my pictures there.

Once inside, we took a few minutes to wander through the petting zoo.

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Goats, sheep, chickens, deer, and one turkey.

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I have no idea what that deer was doing to the turkey, but it almost looked like grooming.  He followed him around for a little while, nibbling at his feathers.

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Big One had no desire to be a part of the feeding, but Little One loved every minute of it.

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We moved on from there where we found miniature mongooses (with the pop up bubble for Little One).

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The otters were enjoying a little breakfast.

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This random peacock, just chilling by the bird show arena.

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All on our way to find the pandas.  Now, this building was actually a noodle house and sushi restaurant.  Not surprising, the sushi was only okay, but still very cool.  The entire area where the pandas lived was beautiful.

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For my family, this place felt like home.  I know, some people are instantly clicking over to look at pictures of me, and yes, I am a pale blonde who grew up in California, but not too long ago, I lived in Okinawa, Japan for eight years.  While Japan and China are in fact very different from each other, the island of Okinawa was actually a part of a trade route, and much of their traditional architecture was more influenced by China than Japan.

Eventually, we passed through this section, and found what I wanted.  Meet Xinghui, the panda.

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This was a very chill panda.  The way he moved, he almost looked like a person in a panda suit. It was very strange.  However, as he lay back going to town on his bamboo, I could completely relate to him.

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I mean, seriously.  This is me watching Netflix.

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If I thought he would remain gentle and cuddly, I would completely invite him over and introduce him to the magic that is in the box.  If he agreed to be the pillow, I would hand him all the bamboo he could eat.

A little ways away was the other panda, Haohao.

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She was a little more active, and wouldn’t stop moving the entire time.  It made it more difficult to get a good picture, but we still had fun telling many, many, many ‘How how does she do that?’ jokes.

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I’m not even embarrassed by that.  I maintain that I am hilarious.

There were a lot of animals, too many for a full breakdown on everything.

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Awww.  Love birds.

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These are just the best pictures, and only a little bit of what they had.  The habitats were huge, and I do mean habitats.  The only places that came close to being ‘cages’ were the carnivores who were simply separated from the humans very well.  Not only did the animals have plenty of space, but several of the animals were out where humans could actually interact with them.  There was a viewing area where a large group was feeding and petting a giraffe. (It was too crowded for us to bother fighting our way in, but still cool.)

Along one path we found this guy just chilling.

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There was a warning that he might bite, so we didn’t try to get too close.  Only a few feet away, his friend was taking a nap in the sunshine.

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They jumped around on rooftops, and basically hung around.

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There was an area with adorable little monkeys, but there were so many people, taking a good picture was difficult.

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One of this guys friends was on top of a roof, and tried to climb into the hand of a passing tourist.  Unfortunately, the tourist got a little nervous and dropped the little guy.  I guess this is the big downside to having non-zookeeper interaction with the animals.

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We even saw baby ducks and baby geese following their moms around the park.  Of course, Little One’s picture was better than mine here.

Big One’s favorite animal interaction exhibit was inside this large building.

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Once you were inside, you couldn’t really get any pictures.  It was pitch black, and using a flash would have disturbed the bats flying around.  Yeah.  I never wanted a bat flying at my face, but apparently Mama freaking out was fun for the kids.  Next time I am sending them in with a flash and seeing how much they laugh then.  (Okay.  Not really.)

This zoo was amazing.  In addition to having lots of animals, the habitats were beautiful.  I mean, seriously.  Their habitats looked better than my house does.  It kind of made me sad.  Near the elephants was a temple dedicated to Ganesh.

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This place was everything they advertised and more.  Not only was it my favorite zoo in Belgium, it might be my favorite zoo we have ever visited.  Even with an almost 2 hour drive, we are going back again soon.  Woo-hoo for season passes!

Silence

Today is April 1st.  In many places this is known as April Fools Day, but not in my house.  I have an absolute hatred of pranks as 99% of them are mean spirited at best and absolutely cruel at worst (if not criminal) and designed to have amusement with someone else’s pain.  Even the things that are considered harmless involve laughing at someone and then forcing them to clean up the mess of what you did.  Luckily for me, my husband was born on April 1st.  He spent years hearing the ever so witty joke, ‘Oh, so you ARE the April Fool,’ and agrees with me that this day sucks (except as his birthday.)

This year, in addition to celebrating his birthday, I am celebrating another day.  April 1st marks the first day of the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo.  (Don’t forget to sign up!)  November was exhausting for me, but it was also effective, which naturally means I can’t wait to start again.  I have my story picked out, my outline done, my opening line. In fact, as soon as I am done writing this, I’m onto my next novel!

I thought that I should take a moment this morning and explain why I might not be writing as much this month.  You know, since I am pushing hard to write elsewhere.  Then I realized, I haven’t been writing much anyway, so you might not even notice.

When I first started this blog, I wrote much more frequently.  I actually had a schedule for myself, telling myself when I was going to write about what, and I often pre-wrote and scheduled my posts.  What it really came down to was an excess of ideas.  There were so many things I wanted to say, I felt like I needed to say them all, right away.  Sometimes I would have a random thought and start writing with it, other times it was a weird observation.  None of the things I wrote about at the beginning seemed like they were a big deal until I started writing.

I think with my fingers.  It’s something I’ve noticed about myself.  Something might be just a thought for a long time, and then when I sit in front of my keyboard and start writing a lot more can come out of it.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but either way, I don’t know until my fingers do their little dance.  Many of these random thoughts I had felt like they were something that might just be funny, and then I would start typing and everything would change.

Go ahead.  Go back to a year or so ago and read some of my earlier posts.  Somehow, no matter what I started with, typing it out seemed to give me some bigger or deeper meaning into who I am.  It wasn’t what I set out to do, but there it is.  Good for me, right?  Sigh.

It’s not like I don’t like learning more about myself, or realizing why I do the things I do.  It’s nice to occasionally realize that I was not just insane, some of these thoughts made sense, in some world, somewhere.  But the constant making something small into something huge felt incredibly pretentious.  I mean really, who wants to spend all of their time listening to someone drone on narcissistically about how the way they eat breakfast in the morning actually points to the greater issue of how to feed the world?  (Don’t bother looking, that isn’t one of the early posts.)  I didn’t want to be that person even more than I didn’t want to read about that person.

So, I started writing less.  If I wrote less, and concentrated, fewer of my posts would end on a pretentious note.  I started trying not to ‘wrap up’ my posts, leaving out anything that could be misconstrued as a larger purpose or thought.  Basically, I was writing worse, and feeling like less of myself was really here.

This was where I started to hit my biggest fear.  Was I writing pretentious posts because I am in fact a pretentious person?  First of all, to be pretentious is to, in essence, pretend.  A person who is pretentious is one who pretends to have knowledge or status when they really do not.  You pretend that everything you have is greater and better than it really is.  At least this is the technical definition.  Generally speaking, a person is considered pretentious when those around them feel like less, rather then when a person acts like they are more.  So, yes, sometimes my posts were pretentious, not because I was faking finding insight into who I am, but because I was attributing this knowledge of myself to the tiny moments which were not really that significant.

I stopped writing as many posts that could accidentally lead me to something bigger because I didn’t want to be that person.  Then I realized, that maybe I am that person.  Maybe I am just someone who will find deeper meaning in little things.  I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

So, yeah.  Writing for this blog has changed the way I write.  I don’t want to be the person who is the person who I am, but the more I get to know the person who I am the more I see the person I don’t think I am.  Is this a midlife crisis, or a middle school flashback now?  Either way, it is very confusing.

Now is when I would normally try to give this post a neat wrap up, almost like what you would find in a  sitcom.  Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed at the same time.  I give insight into why things are how they are for me, and realize that maybe I am smarter than I often give myself credit for being.  Then, I read through and realize I kind of like what I realized, but worry about how the post sounds.  Do I sound like a real person, the person who wrote this post while drinking their morning coffee wondering if they can skip washing their hair that day, or do I sound like a person who wears real clothing on a regular basis and leaves the house daily?  If someone who only knew me from this blog met me, would they think I was the person who wrote it, or would they be instantly disappointed?

And see, I am doing it again.  Maybe it isn’t the deeper insights I should worry about, but the fact that I care so much about what people think.  Ugh.

So, yes.  I am going to Camp, and yes I will post occasionally throughout.  Maybe it will have deeper meaning into my life, and maybe I will write a poem describing the way my toe nail clipping fly, because honestly, both posts would be very me.  But today, I have other things to worry about.

The Day of Black Sun

Last week was a large disappointment for me, large enough for me to delay blogging the event.  Throughout most (maybe all?) of Europe there was a solar eclipse visible.  Some countries were able to see a total eclipse, others an almost total.  From where I lived, I was supposed to see a beautiful, half-ish eclipse.

I was super excited.  I love solar eclipses.  Don’t get me wrong, lunar eclipses are cool too, but they don’t have the same visual excitement for me.

I suppose the love comes from when I was a child.  There was a certain fear involved in events like this for me.  I guess I heard a few too many ‘signs of the apocalypse’ stories.  Seeing the sun go out, and knowing the world continued on gave me a feeling of power.  At the time, I was certain I had something to do with it.  I willed the sun to come back.

Of course, now I am well aware it is all science.  Beautiful, complicated, reliable, science.  The truth did nothing to suppress the excitement I feel for an oncoming eclipse.  In fact, this understanding of the universe makes it more exciting for me.  Knowing all of this, I’m sure you can understand my disappointment when I could see none of the eclipse from my house.  The entire was covered in clouds.  I couldn’t even see the sky get darker, as it was already pretty dark that morning.  Yeah, I was not happy.

I wasn’t the only person in my house to be excited for the eclipse.  Little One was also thrilled, as one of her absolutely favorite television shows had a story arc involving an eclipse.  I had to promise to have her (VERY late) birthday blanket done before the eclipse, because she was sure she needed it for her invasion plan.

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For the many of you out there who do not have any idea what this quilt is all about, it is themed around Avatar: The Last Airbender.  The cartoon, not the movie.  I haven’t seen the movie, so I have no opinion on it, however I LOVED the cartoon.  A couple of years ago, as we were moving to Belgium and Little One’s world turned upside down, I introduced her to the series.   It was just something to watch together while we sorted laundry, but for her it seemed to turn into a lifeline.  She let herself get lost in a world where kids were powerful, smart, independent, and yet still silly.  Many horrible things happen in the series, and the sequel series Legend of Korra is much darker, but through it all the characters keep a sense of humor.  It was just what she needed at the time, and until very recently was her go to show at all times.  We watched that show over and over.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that as the show was a security blanket of sorts, the obsession waned a bit when I turned it into an actual blanket.

This isn’t traditionally quilted, and is made from layers of machine appliquéd pieces.  I suppose if I had searched, or plotted excessively, I could have created a similar or identical look with paper piecing.  I chose not to, because the look of the blanket meant too much to Little One to mess around with trial and error, or to end up with squares that were almost right.  I love making quilts, but when it comes down to what my children want, I care more about their vision than doing things within the technical definition of quilting.  It is why I occasionally call my creations blankets, not quilts.  I might not care about the differences, but I know there are those who find these differences deeply important.

So I guess the eclipse wasn’t technically a complete bust.  My daughter walked away with a birthday blanket she is thrilled with, and we enjoyed telling each other stories of how we invaded the fire nation that day.

WRONG!

I have problem, one to which many of you out there might be able to relate. Let me give you a situation here.

You are happy in your life, experiencing a story.  It could be a book, a movie, or a television show.  It doesn’t really matter the medium.  The point, is the creation.  This is a story that was intentionally created, and you are now for better or worse invested in the outcome.  It happens.

Then, your world crashes down as you reach a part that is, simply put, wrong.  Somehow, the writer (or writers) planted the clues, created a structure, and did not see where everything was supposed to end up.  I don’t know how they missed it, when everyone else in the world sees what SHOULD have happened.  All right, maybe I’m the only one who sees what ‘should’ have happened.  The point is, they got it wrong.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

Technically speaking, I know I should not say the writer got it wrong.  It is their story, but when the story is told well you feel like you are a part everything.  You become emotionally connected to every fictional character, and you know what you want to happen.  You know what should happen.  When the writer doesn’t agree it is hard not to feel betrayed.

This is more than a problem for readers (or watchers), this is a problem for writers.  Sometimes you know the outcome you envision will upset people.  Is it all right to keep going, knowing it will break hearts?

The problem seems to come in when the writer is telling a different story than the reader is hearing.

Sometimes I, as the writer, know exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling, but am unable to put all of it into words.  After all, much of human behavior is subtext.  For example, I don’t walk up to those I am close to on a daily basis and tell them, ‘I find you enjoyable to be around, and consider you a friend.  You rank #4 on my list of favorite humans in this moment.”  Honestly, I think most people I know would be frightened if I told them my feelings regarding them on a regular basis.  Instead, friendship is implied through action, and yes, occasionally words as well.  A person knows they are my friend because I make time for them in my life.  I ask them for help when I need it and am happy to return the favor.  For me, if you read a manuscript between myself and the people I consider to be the most important in my life, you might not think we liked each other at all, but insults and sarcasm are our way of showing affection.  So, when I write, I am not going to have my characters state their feeling outright at all times, but I know how they feel.

As a reader, I am able to see this subtext as I read.  Everything the author puts into the story, every word they give to their characters, every action right down to the smallest gesture, I see it all.  Not only do I see it all, but I am able to play it again and again, reading things as often as I want and seeing new things each time.  Every time I read, there are new words to find, new layers of subtext.  Because I spend so much time reading, I start to feel like I know more about the characters than the writers do.  It’s like the friends you have in high school.  Their parents gave them life, and sent them out into the world, but you, their close friend know things about them their parents never will.  I mean really, how many of us told things to our best friends that we would never tell our parents?

So, who is right?  The writer or the reader?  Do I, as the creator have the right to take the story in whatever direction I choose or does the reader have a right to expect a level of satisfaction from their story when they reach the ending?  Who can claim a greater ownership of the story?

I suppose at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.  When I write a story, I consider it mine and when I read a story, I consider it mine too.  Whatever others think of the story belongs to them, and that is their business.  When people get things wrong, I have a right to be angry, and I guess that means you have a right to be angry with me when the time comes.

(Quick disclaimer, I am not talking about the recent finale for Pretty Little Liars that I saw upset people.  I have not seen it, and I would really appreciate if no one told me!)

Camping Out

I hate camping.  I didn’t always, but over the years I have come to truly loath the entire process.

The beginning of the end must have come when I was six years old.  My father was long gone, and my Mom was moving up North where living was less expensive and she could go to school.  Finding a place to live was rough, and for a few months we called the campground by the lake home.  At the time, I thought it was a lot of fun.  We went swimming every night, cooked on a fire, and watched the stars.  It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that the facts fell into place and I realized why we lived there.

Since the reality of camping hadn’t sunk in quite yet, and after years of watching my older brothers go off to boy scout camp for half of the summer, I was thrilled to finally be allowed to go to on a camping trip myself.  Girls camp through my mother’s church was only one week a year, starting when you turn 12, but it was the only option I had so I embraced it.  We swam, learned to tie knots, practiced first aide, read scriptures, and sang stupid camp songs.  For five years I went for my one week, adding in extra time my fourth year to go on a three day hike with the other girls my age.

I suppose it is possible that this is what drew me away from camping; as I left church behind me, perhaps everything church related when with it, including camping.  Fortunately for me, I married a man who also hated camping, and no one has asked me to sleep in a tent since.  Now, I am getting ready to go to camp again.

I’ve been a little quiet about my writing lately.  After NaNoWriMo, I had a bit of a writing hangover.  I had consumed too much writing in a short time period and I was burnt.  Naturally I haven’t given up writing, I just slowed down. A lot.

I needed to recover.  I spent the time editing, and writing new outlines, but not trying to write a new story.    Now, it is time to start again.  April 1st begins the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo, another chance to push my ability to write.  This isn’t only about putting words on paper for me, it is about making a commitment.  I want to tell my stories, and the only way that will happen is if I commit to myself, commit to my dream, and take action.

This is the first time since I was 12 years old that I am excited to go to camp.  I don’t need to sleep outside, or dig a hole to go to the bathroom, but I can tell stories while I look at the stars.  Not a bad way to live.

50 Books- Diary of a Young Girl

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I know I removed the timeline, but I am still working my way through the list.   These posts will continue until all books are completed!

50 Books- Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Where did I get this book and how many pages does it have?

This book was available in my local library.  There were two copies, the one I read with 283 pages, and another ‘comprehensive’ version which was over six hundred pages and included a lot of analysis.  Since I was only looking to read the story, I went for Anne’s version.

Have I read this book before?

Yes.  I want to say it was required reading in junior high, but it could have been high school.

What do I already know?

Anne Frank was a young, Jewish girl, who went into hiding during WW2 with her family in order to avoid being taken to the camps.  During her time in hiding, they had to be completely silent in order to avoid being caught.  In spite of all of their work, her family was eventually found and Anne did not live to see the end of the war.

What do I think now?

I remember studying her during when we discussed the war in school, but there is so much about her life and story I did not remember.  Most of what stuck in my mind was the need to be silent and move as quietly as possible.  There was so much more to her story that I forgotten, including the fact that they went into hiding when papers were sent for her sixteen year old sister to go away.  I forgot that they were hiding for two years in Amsterdam.  I forgot how much time was spent talking about quarrels with the other family who was hiding with them, and how much time was spent on regular teenage angst at the beginning of the diary.  Anne Frank was a normal girl, with an extraordinary talent for storytelling, and a tragic story of her own.  She wrote about her friends, and the crushes she had on boys.  Even when she was terrified, she still had hope and plans for the future.  It is hard to imagine that she wouldn’t have had an amazing life, if only she had been given a chance.

The first time I read this book I was 13, the same age Anne was when they went into hiding.  The idea of being that quiet all day seemed impossible.  Now Big One is 13, and the idea of my daughter hiding, knowing if we were not careful she would not survive is heartbreaking.  I don’t like to think about it, and yet Anne Frank lived it.

Should you read this book before you die?

When I first heard the idea of holocaust denial I was shocked.  As far as I had been taught, the events of WW2, and the horrible actions done to Jewish people were a matter of historic fact.  There is so much documentation, witnesses, and survivors, how could anyone pretend it didn’t happen?  And yet, people do.  There are those who simply refuse to believe.

During my master’s program, I took a class that discussed teaching to different cultures.  There is such a strong push in the US to never overpower a person’s belief system with the insistence of teaching facts.  (Yes, I know that statement was strongly biased, but I think teaching should be focused on truth, not opinion.)  One example of the concessions teachers may have to make that was discussed was the holocaust.  I knew there were deniers, but the class mentioned that many places in Europe do not teach almost anything regarding WW2.  Schools near me might be pretending all of these events never happened.  There were many reasons given, everything from a continued belief that the Jewish people deserved what happened, to what I hope is denial out of shame for the events they helped to happen.

I know I have strong beliefs when it comes to education.  I fully believe that science should be taught, no matter what a person wants to be true.  Science is fact, and opinions should not matter here.  I believe the same of history.  Just because we don’t like what happened doesn’t mean who should ignore the truth.  Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Read Anne Frank’s diary, because this is a time we do not want repeated.

Opportunities

So much thought has been going into my fears for the future lately.  I’ve been afraid of what I should do, and afraid of what I can do, and afraid of what I might mess up.  I was looking for a sign, any sign, that might direct me to the right path.  Unfortunately, a sign was’t what I needed.  What I needed was an opportunity.  That was also what I didn’t have.  So I decided to make an opportunity of my own.

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My passion is creativity, my dream is writing, but technically my field is education.  Most of the time when people think about education they assume you are a teacher.  However, teaching is not all that there is to education. There are many more things I can do with my time while still making use of my current education.  As long as I am willing to make my own opportunities, and do things that might scare me a little.

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There are many good things that come with making a decision for your future.  I feel much calmer, focused, and sure of what is coming.  Of course deciding on the next step does not guarantee I will not fall, but of course, not taking any steps is just standing around.

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There is one downside.  While working to pursue new opportunities, I may have to let some things go.  Choosing what I want to let go is difficult; I am fortunate enough to have the ability to choose most of my activities right now.  When you enjoy so much of what you do, why would you want to give anything up?  Of course, I don’t.  Instead, I decided to release a little pressure without giving anything up.  I’m taking my timeline off of the 50 books challenge.  Without the looming deadline, which I was frightened I was going to miss anyway, I don’t need to rush through my reading.  Instead I can read the books at my leisure, and also have time to both pursue and create new opportunities.  I will still be able to finish the list, but not by July 31.

It’s slightly frightening, making a decision, but also liberating.  So, today I am liberated, and I am going to enjoy the freedom.