Aug 25

It’s a Grab Bag Monday! You never know what’s going show up here.

Okay, the post title exaggerates, but it holds some merit. Hear me out.

photo by Amanda via Flickr

photo by Amanda via Flickr

I didn’t want to like hockey. I didn’t. My first twenty years did not suffer from a lack of hockey fandom.

But two things happened: 1) I dated David, my future, wonderful husband. He liked hockey. I thought, “If this sport will take over the TV for many nights for the rest of my life, I’d better give it a shot.” No pun intended. If you’re a hockey fan, you’ll get that.

2) After I watched a couple of seasons on TV with mild interest, we went to an NHL game. Up close and personal: Reunion Arena, downtown Dallas, Texas. It’s next-to-impossible not to get caught up in a good live hockey game, especially when surrounded by rowdy Texans.

And you know what else? (whispering) I liked the fights. Still do.

Never had I enjoyed fighting, but this proved fascinating. And I’ve learned things from hockey fights that apply to everyday, skateless life:

Stick up for each other.  Hockey fights often start after one player did another player wrong. Maybe a guy inflicted an illegal hit on your teammate that escaped the refs’ whistle. Maybe he targeted a player nursing an injury. Whatever the injustice, teammates stick up for each other. The same can be true in real life. We all have our family, our gang, our homies, our posse, if you will. We care about these people, and we want to protect them. Mess with one, mess with all.  True, you probably don’t need a mean right hook to settle the score, but you get the point. Loyalty matters.

Be controlled You wouldn’t know it as a spectator, but some fights (not all) are mutually planned vs. a spontaneous eruption. Players are known to make an appointment with each other to fight, so to speak. This “appointment” may be agreed upon only seconds ahead of time. It may come due after a face off or the next stoppage of play, but at the chosen time–bam! There they go. We can be choosy as well when we pick our battles. We don’t have to lash out at the first or at every provocation. We can respond only when we deem necessary.

Fight Fair. Hockey fights hold to unwritten rules of etiquette. Non-hockey friends and family shoot me skeptical looks when I insist this. To most it resembles a merciless melee. But fans know better. For example, see the picture above? As usual, they’ve thrown off their gloves so that it’s not like a Nerf battle (Confession: I secretly want to perfect the throwing of the gloves, but not like this player).

But notice these other details: Their helmets still cover their noggins, their sweaters aren’t pulled over the heads so as to blind them, they’re not pinned against the boards (the sides), and both still stand facing each other. Right now it’s a fair, evenly-matched fight. The officials will send them to the penalty box, make no mistake, but they’ll referee until someone’s at a disadvantage. …One yanks a sweater or either goes down, etc. We, too, can fight fair. When you have a beef with someone, refrain from acting trickster-like. Man- or woman-up and deal with them directly and fairly.

And if all else fails, call me. I’ll throw down my gloves for you.

Aug 18

Note: It came to my attention that there have been technical difficulties submitting comments. Those have been resolved. I apologize for the inconvenience. – Alison

Once a month I review a book – usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk books!

Do you create your own destiny through your choices, or is there no escape from what your life is meant to be? Can mistakes be redeemed?

Heiress-coverThis month I review an award-winning trilogy: Daughters of Fortune series (Summerside Press), by Susan May Warren: Heiress – Book One, Baroness – Book Two, and Duchess – Book Three.

Rating: 4-1/2 mochas out of 5 for the series

You might like this if you like: Downton Abbey, The Great Gatsby, The Natural, Kate & Leopold, Swing Kids or anything else about Europe iBaronesscovelrgn World War II.

Summary: The only trouble with reviewing a series is sharing a flavor of the books without spoiling anything! Here’s a try. This family saga sweeps you into New York’s turn-of-the-century Gilded Age and criss-crosses continents through the end of World War II.

In Heiress, sisters Esme and Jinx want different things from their privileged upbringing: Jinx dreams of love and significance through wealth, but Esme wants to leave it all for the call of the West. Life’s twisting surprises – shaped by their choices – catches each off guard.

Baroness follows cousins Lilly and Rosie from flapper-filled Paris to barnstorming shows across the U.S. plains, and unexpected places in between. Both strong-willed young women are determined to carve out their own lives, but will love throw them a curveball?

Duchess rounds out the trilogy with the glamour of Hollywood on the precipice of the Great Depression. Rosie’s world crumbles but a new opportunity in Europe appears, though it’s not all that it seems.

I liked: HistoricDuchess-250x381al fiction works when I feel transported into the storyworld – a world based on reality but not too bogged down in detail as to be distracting. This series delivers in spades. The research necessary to pull this off must have proved monumental to Susan May Warren. She weaves it into the storylines so masterfully that it comes across as effortless. I felt fully immersed into these settings: the opulence of the Gilded Age, the rush of adrenaline while performing atop a biplane, the intrigue amid Europe during World War II, among others.

The same can be said for the characters. Stories of the rich and glamorous don’t  interest me, normally. These characters captured me and made me care. The reader gets to know them as fully developed people.  I care what happens to shallow Jinx and misguided Rosie, for instance. The break between each book was agonizing!

The stories themselves don’t disappoint. Each book follows multiple, intricate storylines than go way beyond the scope of my paltry descriptions. That’s the most frustrating part of creating this review: Knowing that each story encompasses so much more than I can highlight. I’d be overjoyed if any of my readers take on this series so that we can talk about it!

I wasn’t crazy about: If I sound like I’m gushing about this series, I am. But we both know that no story is perfect. Two things prick my memory here. First, a couple of storylines allude to and describe (with restraint) sinful choices. A touch of violence could be disturbing for some. These elements are not glorified and logical consequences, though buffered with God’s grace, follow – sometimes for generations.

Speaking of God’s grace, one would have to be blind not to see it saturating each character’s life. A few scenes mention God specifically. That said, I would’ve liked more.

The Bottom Line:  Few novels these days stick with me for very long. This series stands out after at least two years and remains my favorite of Susan May Warren’s stories. Read it if you want to get lost in a sweeping, multi-generational saga riding a roller coaster of emotions. I love series that follow families because we see how choices – good and bad – affect others over time. And with all three published, you can binge-read without the agony of cliffhangers.

Questions for you: Which historical eras do you like, and which don’t interest you? Do you think your upbringing always determines your future?  Any feedback on the format of this review?

Links of interest:

Susan May Warren

New York Gilded Age Homes on Pinterest

Barnstorming Site

Lindbergh Arrives in Paris (1927): YouTube

1940s Films

 

 

 

Aug 11

The day finally came. The book signing. I was going to meet a celebrity! …Well, about as close to a celebrity as I get excited about these days. Plus, it was also about food. Win-win.

Front Street BooksDavid and I had rolled into Alpine, Texas for a weekend getaway.  A book signing made it on the agenda, too.  Lisa Fain, a.k.a. The Homesick Texan, would appear and sign my post-it-note-fringed copies of her cookbooks. These cookbooks hold no ordinary content, mind you. It’s Texas food, and the longing to recreate classics and try new ones had made me a braver cook the last couple of years. Plus, she includes in her books and blog many striking, comforting images of the state.

The evening lived up to my mind’s hype. Lisa shared interesting stories and scribbled an inscription in my books. I was happy. It was something to write home about.

…But how often do I get properly excited about the Author? I’m talking about God, the Author of the Bible, the universe, of us.

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Photo by Ryk Neethling

No one outshines Him, of course. He’s the ultimate writer, creator. He not only penned the Bible, but He used the hands of mere humans – across millenia -  to do so.

His autograph is scribbled across creation and the stars in unmistakable handwriting.

And His author’s inscription is embedded in my DNA, despite my sin-fringed life. The Author of the universe signed His masterpieces: you and me.

And His work in our lives is an open book for all to see the work of the Author. Paul says in 2 Corinthian 3:2 (NIV), “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.”

I can’t think of many things more awesome. It’s worthy of getting excited. Not my usual roll-out-of-bed-to-read-some-verses-so-I-can-check-it-off-my-list excited. It’s the wonder of, “Amazing: I get to spend today with God, the creator of everything. I get to read His very words and hear Him speak to me – and speak through me. He wants to spend time with me.”

Now, that’s something to write home about.

Question for you: What’s something about God that excites you or strikes you with wonder?

Aug 4

Technologies like GPS have changed the world. These days it seems like we need it even to find our way to the grocery store. I exaggerate, but only a smidgen.

 

GPS

Mostly gone are my driving days like in college, when I was known to spontaneously travel hours by myself to visit friends in a new-to-me city. …Without – gasp! – a cell phone. Just me and a map. It was wonderful. Can you relate?

But can you imagine piloting a plane that way? In our era of autopilot airliners and drones, it’s easy to forget that early pilots didn’t have as much in the way of navigation aids. Compasses, maps, your own wits and good eyesight, limited radio tower help, and scant more were your friends for most cadets across World War II American airfields. And you got clear weather if you were lucky. If not, you’d better lug a good coat or jacket with you and hope your chilly fingers could manage the maps while you flew.

Picture yourself as a new pilot, focusing on the flying itself, yet also tasked with getting from Point A to Point B in unfamiliar territory. WASPs training in Sweetwater, Texas, like Marion Stegeman Hodgson sure could. She recalls in a letter to her mother in her autobiography, Winning My Wings: A Woman Airforce Service Pilot in World War II:

I went on my fourth solo cross-country (X-C) yesterday, and a strong wind blew me off course and made me temporarily uncertain. I decided to head for home anyway, but things started looking wrong, and the checkpoints didn’t jibe with my map. I buzzed a couple of towns but couldn’t find the names of them anywhere, so I turned around and went back to a town I had just passed over that had an airport…The roads leading out of each town made a similar pattern and the fields were located in the same place in relation to the towns. So I entered the traffic pattern with a bunch of PTs [primary trainers] and landed. The Army cadets and instructors nearly fell out of their planes when they saw a girl taxiing by in a BT [basic trainer]!

Other stories recount the added challenge of navigating at night in bad weather. Runway beacons often hid below fog and rain.

Aerial view

Pretty impressive what these pilots accomplished, day in and day out. It’s humbling. Makes we want to ditch the GPS for a while and show even more gratitude to WASPs and every pilot who served World War II.

In next month’s Time Travel hop in a biplane with me, and we’ll explore coastal Maine…

Questions for you: What would you think about learning to navigate as a solo pilot in World War II? Have you ever gotten really lost? How did you get back?

Sep 25

It’s one thing in reality, but it feels like something else.

That’s how it seems every year around this time. The calendar says it’s fall, but the temperatures scream summer. I long for the colors and coolness of autumn – it’s late September, for heaven’s sake! – but harsh summer heat won’t relent.

But a few moments each day, I see traces of hope that it really is fall. A stray yellow leaf decorates a patch of grass. …Or the sunlight slants with a touch more gold. No need to worry, it reminds me. Soon appearances will match reality.

My thoughts turn toward God’s promises. Often our world seems chaotic, careening out of control. Headlines delivering discouragement bombard our eyes. It’s enough to make a person wish for a Rip Van Winkle-like nap. “Wake me when it’s over,” we wish at times.

But it’s one thing in reality, though it feels like something else.

God whispers that He’s still in control. In the midst of the chaos, His grip is firm yet gentle. The fallenness and sadness of this world may hinder our view of Him for a time. …But before long – in His perfect timing – He will sweep away the haze and we’ll see clearly that He’s there. All will be made right.

In the meantime, “the Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us everything He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.” (Ephesians 1:14)

No need to worry, He reminds us. Soon appearances will match reality.

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