Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Letters of a Woman Homesetter

If you think your life is hard, pick up this book. Or listen to the Play-Away.

I love, love, love! the perspective on life I get from reading (or listening) to different books. This past weekend I drove lots and lots of hours, some of them with my ten-year-old son, so I wanted to choose something that would interest both of us. I picked up a Lilian Jackson Braun The Cat Who book on CD, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. But the highlight of the trip was Letters of a Woman Homesteader.

I found Letters of a Woman Homesteader in the Play-Away section of my library's audio book section. Play-Aways are self-contained digital books that you can listen to on headphones, or plug into an auxiliary jack in your stereo. My husband had the foresight to purchase a car stereo unit with an auxiliary jack, so Nathaniel and I listened to the Play-Away in the van.

Aside from my few frustrations in operating the Play-Away while I was driving (thankfully no accidents resulted), I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In fact, I think I'll check out the book so I can actually read it and soak in the nuances I missed while listening.

The book is actual letters from Elinore Pruitt Stewart to her former employer in Denver. Elinore is a self-proclaimed talker, but has few visitors on the frontier. So, instead of talking, she writes long letters to Mrs. Coney, which Mrs. Coney was smart enough to keep, and arrange to be published.

It sounds a little dry - reading letters from the early 1900s. But Elinore, despite her limited schooling, has a natural way with words and describing life on the frontier. I especially loved her descriptions of her "jaunts" to explore the wilderness, with her daughter (and eventually, sons) in tow. And today we don't like to take children to the grocery store!

Elinore is so cheerful and happy, focusing on her blessings and exclaiming over all the wonderful people who come across her path and all the good things that happen to her. I couldn't help but smile while listening to her letters. After reading the short biography on the back of the Play-Away box, I know that her life was not easy and full of her share of sorrows - orphaned, widowed and lost an infant.

I wish I could have known Elinore personally - she seems like a gem of a woman with a great sense of humor. I love what she said to the man in the office when she went to register her homestead. Guess you'd better read the book to find out!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

All I got for Christmas was..... Blue Tape?!

Last fall, when my family asked me what I was going to give my children for Christmas, I thought for a minute and said, "I'm giving them each their own roll of blue masking tape."

They burst into laughter and told me, "Never send your kids to public school! They'll find out what everyone else gets for Christmas! Can't believe you're giving your kids TAPE for Christmas!"

For the record, they did not only get tape for Christmas, but they each got their own roll.

And you know what? They were excited about that tape too! None more so than Isaac, my youngest.

I just had to share what prompted the gift - this extravagant creation he and his brother built together last year. Using my tape.

And here is Isaac today. Blissfully creating a town. In case you're wondering, there's a store, a firehouse and lots of houses in his town. Still to come: a church and a school... and more I'm sure. All the blue tape lines are sidewalks. He's planning this elaborate creation so he and his friend Matt (whom I watch in the mornings when his mom is scheduled to substitute)can play the next time he comes. Playmobil, Lightening McQueen, Legos - all those great toys can use the same space.

Isaac's town.

And you thought blue tape was a crazy Christmas gift.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Centurion's Wife

Yesterday, I met with a friend at the library and while I was waiting had a chance to walk through the 'New Book' section. That's a very dangerous section for me! Especially the fiction. I admit, I love to read fiction. However, once I start a fiction book, I have a hard time putting it down and doing anything else.

I know that about myself, but still picked up a new book by two of my favorite authors, Davis Bunn and Jeanette Oke. I've been reading these authors since I was in high school and college and own many books by each of them. They've co-authored a whole series of books, which I started but never finished (hummm, I guess I have reading material for the beach this summer!). They're starting another series and the first book is The Centurion's Wife.

I started it last night. And finished it today. Admittedly, I'm a fast reader. I also stayed up WAY too late last night, then came home from church this morning, ate a quick lunch and finished it this afternoon, leaving Glen in charge of the kids. (I tell you - I cannot stop once I start!)

The basic story is about a servant in the house of Pontius Pilate (Leah) and a Roman centurion (Alban) during the time of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. They end up betrothed (to Leah's consternation), and investigating Jesus' resurrection on behalf of Pilate & his wife.

I enjoyed it - the characters and their stories intrigued me and the authors developed them well. The plot also held my attention. The thing that interested me the most, though, was the authors' interpretation of the historical time period.

My most favorite authors are Brock and Bodie Thoene. They've written dozens of novels, most recently about the same time period - when Jesus walked on earth. One of their main characters in those books is also a Roman centurion. They also include Mary Magdalene in their books.

In Thoene's books, Mary, Martha & Lazarus are a wealthy family in Bethany, a little village outside of Jerusalem. The Roman centurion is the one mentioned in the Gospels - Jesus heals his servant and commends the centurion's faith. The centurion comes face-to-face with Jesus and cares deeply for his servant. His struggle is how to reconcile his faith with his job (and his love for Mary Magdalene).

In Davis/Oke's book, Mary, Martha & Lazarus are very poor and Bethany is described as hardly a village at all - more a grouping of poorly-built hovels. Alban, the Roman centurion, cares deeply about his servant, but never met Jesus face-to-face when asking for his servant's healing. Throughout the book, he struggles with why Jesus commended his faith when he doesn't know what that faith is.

I don't think one interpretation is right and the other is wrong - just something interesting to think about.