Incredible Journey

Vintage reads

Who remembers the movie, Homeward Bound, subtitled, The Incredible Journey? Yes, an entire auditorium of raised hands fills my vision.

homeward-bound_dvd_cover

Now. Who remembers the book titled, The Incredible Journey? Hmmm. A few uplifted hands spike from the audience like corn volunteers in a soybean field. (Can you tell I live in the Midwest?)

Yes, boys and girls, The Incredible Journey was a book long before Sally Field and Michael J. Fox lent their voices to a foolish dog and a sassy cat. Don’t think I’m criticizing Homeward Bound. The producers and director made sure the heart of the story remained true to the book, and I love that movie. It’s one of the few I’m willing to watch again and again and again.

Sheila Burnford published The Incredible Journey, the novel, in 1960. Between the slightly foreign voice of a Canadian author and the acceptable writing style from over half a century ago, kids today will have a harder time appreciating the original story than they did back when I first read the book.

Wait a minute. I’m assuming you know the premise of the story. In case you don’t: because a family has a temporary living situation that doesn’t allow pets, two dogs and a cat have been boarded with a friend of theirs. Of course, the animals don’t know why they’ve been separated from their beloved owners, so they run away from the caregiver and head home.

incredible-journey-2

The book and both movies pull at the same heartstrings. Yes, both movies. Before Homeward Bound, there was another film, appropriately titled The Incredible Journey. It was completely faithful to events in the novel and narrated in much the same way as the omniscient narrator tells the story in the print version.

 

You would think children would not enjoy the older movie. It’s black and white, narrated, and has no animal voices provided, but my six-year-old granddaughter sat in front of the television, enthralled. Similar to the 1986 comedy-drama, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, children of today still get wrapped up in a story of real animals against the elements.

If you haven’t read The Incredible Journey, go for it. Insist your kids read it, or make it a family read-aloud. Like I mentioned in my September 10th post, make sure your children eat their literary vegetables.

Dysfunctional Family Desired for Story Premise

Vintage reads

Remember those good old TV shows from the Fifties? Andy Griffith, Leave It to Beaver, The Lone Ranger, and a host of others. Today’s viewers say, “Boring. No conflict. Not enough action.”

 
Excuse me? While superheroes didn’t bounce out of the sky and smash a city to individual cinder blocks, the characters in those programs faced real problems and taught children how to solve them. In many family comedies, Dads led their wives and children through a jungle of moral decisions. The parents, as a team, guided their children toward wisdom, unlike many of the buffoons in today’s sitcoms.

 
Take Eddie Haskell, a problem that never stopped. Wally and the Beaver didn’t like him, but they treated him with grace. Their parents told them to, they obeyed, and further conflict was averted. At least, until Eddie tried something else, and the cycle repeated.

 
Or Opie Taylor, Andy Griffith’s son. I remember an episode where he had to choose: prepare to fight the bully for what was right or join the crowd to do wrong. Thanks to his father’s consistent example, Opie chose to stand for righteousness.

 

 

Dennis_the_Menace_North_Anderson_Henry_1959
Dennis the Menace entertained us with his inept efforts to be helpful, and his generous heart taught children like me to love our neighbors. His parents were often at a loss as to how to handle what Dennis might get into next, but they always explained to their son how he might have done things differently with less disastrous results.

 
Even westerns taught Judeo Christian morality. In The Rifleman, a father taught his son right and wrong and to use violence as a last resort to save other lives. The Lone Ranger never looked for credit for his good deeds. The rescued asked, “Who was that masked man?” as he rode into the sunset. Lessons in humility.

 
I want the same lessons of goodness in the books I read where characters solve problems in an honorable manner. It’s why I prefer the classics, books that contain intact families who love each other and face conflicts together. I get so tired of the dysfunctional families and missing parents in today’s literature. As an experiment, I went through the archives of The Scriblerians and checked the family situations in each of the books I’ve reviewed. I was dismayed by the results:

 
Dysfunctional Family/Missing Parent Intact, Loving Family
//// //// //// //// // //// //// /

 
Even if I discount the handful of books written past 1990, I found that authors use the lack of a good parent as an integral part of the conflict for the child protagonist. As much as I love each one of these stories, I’m saddened by that reality.

 

 

Sswans_s-1-
Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars is a case in point. Thirteen-year-old Sara lives with her snarky teenage sister, her little brother Charlie, and their aunt. Their mother died; their dad split. Charlie has unnamed developmental disabilities. Today we might say he’s on the autism spectrum. Sara loves Charlie; she hates his neediness. She hates herself as many young adolescents do. The novel is beautiful and character-driven with a flawed protagonist who finally realizes she loves her family as it is.

 
Most of the events in the plot could have been accomplished with a mom and dad still around. Two parents could have struggled together in dealing with Charlie’s eccentricities, and teens in their struggle for independence get in grand funks even when they grow up in wonderful, loving homes.

 
Strong families are not exempt from ongoing crises. I’m currently writing a fictionalized memoir covering the first five years of my little sister’s life. Our parents enjoyed a solid marriage, and they had to cope with the uncertainties of raising a profoundly deaf child. Heartbreaking events occurred, and comical episodes still made life fun. We were strong. We were together.

 
This is what I feel called to do in my writing, to glorify God with stories of family who strive together to overcome the obstacles in their path as they journey through life, pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land.

The Making of a Family: The Proof of GOD’s Intervention

I have always known that I was adopted as an infant. Same with my three younger brothers.

Before  we could truly grasp what it meant to be “adopted”, we knew we had been adopted. Seriously, my youngest brother who endured surgery for a double hernia at the age of two and two-thirds months, thought his surgery scars were from being adopted. His older and wiser siblings who knew all about this adoption stuff tried to correct his faulty thinking but to no avail. We finally gave up, deciding he’d figure it out eventually.

Our understanding of adoption came from this book, read to us continuously from the day we became part of our adoptive parents’ family. I promise you, “read continuously” is not an exaggeration. I’m certain I could recite the book by a very young age.

chosen baby

When I searched for the book by title, the first books I found were not the familiar plain green cover I remembered so well. Knowing the book had to be on the elderly side, I feared I wouldn’t be able to find it. But I persevered and further digging uncovered an earlier edition that looked exactly as I remembered.

Talk about a trip down memory lane! The illustrations, the characters’ names, even the look of the print were all so familiar. In my mind I could see myself “reading” the story to the brother next in line behind me when we were something like 3 and 1 1/2 years of age.

By the time brother #2 came along, the book was in tatters and had to be replaced. One of the revised covers I discovered seems a little familiar so I’m wondering if the replacement book had that cover. But the copy I’ll always and forever remember is the one above.

While our parents’ chose to receive no information about our birth parents, they felt it was important that each of us be aware of our adoption, and the fact that they wanted us very, very, very much. Hence the reading of the “The Chosen Baby” time and again.

Four days after I penned my  last “slice of life” post, I discovered a rather intriguing fact about my past. A fact my adoptive parents’ knew all along but chose not to relay to me as a child who might not receive the news well. I understand that. A child’s ability to sift through information and to reason is unpredictable at best. I also get why they struggled with  the question, “So, when DO we tell her?” after I became an adult.

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It seems I was left on the doorstep of a residence in a small, Midwest town in the wee morning hours of a cold November day in 1963. Wrapped in a man’s black wool shirt and a blanket, I was approximately 3 days old, having not been born in a hospital. I was 20 in. long, weighed 5 lbs. 12 oz., and found to be in good health.

Talk about a “slice of real life”! In the less than three weeks I’ve known this bit of information, my mind has been spinning. I’ve already embarked on a journey to see what I can learn about my biological beginnings.

If this story doesn’t testify to GOD’s intervention in my life, I can’t imagine a more fitting example. I never had feelings of abandonment or shame concerning my adoption. I always assumed whomever gave birth to me didn’t feel capable of caring for me, so she/he/they chose to allow someone else to raise me.

GOD knew a young couple several counties away desperately wanted a family, and HE put the pieces of the puzzle together. And HE put the pieces together again three other times to create our family of six.

I’ll keep you updated on my journey in future columns.

UPDATE from last time. Remember how my early twenty-something son relayed news of a really-not-so-good-kind while I was writing the “They Need a Mom…” post–the one about letting young adults figure stuff out of on their own? While I’d love to report that things on that front have been resolved —you have no idea how much I’d love to be able to report that–alas, it is not so. Still, I know GOD is in control. This mama is continuing to pray GOD’s power and presence over the situation and to trust in HIS plan.

Call Beth a “cheerleader for abstinence”!  She’s passionate about saving sex for marriage and believes strongly in accountability and mentoring as crucial tools to success in postponing physical intimacy until marriage.  She’s equally as passionate about “renewed waiting”. Because SEX is worth waiting for. YOU are worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. And connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

YOUR Chance To Interview Todd Burpo!

 

Heaven's For Real

Every now and then, a book falls into your hands when you most need it. About five years ago, the book that gave my family hope and renewed our faith was a little book called Heaven Is For Real. For those who haven’t read it or seen the movie, the story recounts the experiences that Colton, a four-year-old boy, relates from visits, which he said he made to heaven during a near-death experience. He came back talking about things about their family, that his parents never told him, and little by little, his pastor father began to realize his little boy’s ramblings were the real thing.

Heaven Is For Real was the only book that my mom (in her 90’s) read voraciously from start to finish in a couple of sittings: a feat that truly spoke of her need for hope.

And here’s why…

Murray

Five years ago, my brother Murray had to stay home from work for a whole week with severe leg and foot pain. (It’s just a bit of plantar fasciitis, he told me) While I was helping him prepare meals, he also complained of difficulty swallowing. I dragged him to his doctor, and wasn’t surprised when Murray was quickly admitted to hospital.

After he endured several days of procedures, I arrived to the hospital one day to find curtains drawn around his bed. Then a doctor backed out, saying, “Sorry. I wish I had better news.”

Dread washed over me. I deflated into a chair by his bed and took Murray’s hand. Seeing his tears instantly made me cry.

Fear and disbelief lined his face. “It’s cancer! They think it started in my esophagus and has spread to my liver. My legs are sore because I have clots in the veins!” He gripped my hand as if it were the only thing keeping him from falling into a chasm.

Anxiety clenched my stomach.

Details of those moments are etched in my memory: the terror in his eyes, the steady beep of his monitor, and tears dripping off his chin making dark spots on his blue hospital gown.

We cried and clung to each other. I prayed for strength for Murray. But we both knew that he didn’t have much more time on earth. However, we weren’t prepared that he would only have about three weeks to live.

Murray was literally ripped from our lives. We had no time to adapt or comprehend what just happened to our normally boisterous, larger-than-life brother.

We desperately needed to be reminded that we would be seeing him again. And the book Heaven Is For Real was given to me by a friend.

Of course, as a Christian, I knew about heaven and read about it in the bible. But here was a timely and solid example of how God was reminding me that we would indeed see Murray again. My mom was too overwhelmed and confused at 93 to understand completely what Murray had or why he could have gone so quickly. It’s just not right or natural that a mother should be burying a child.

 

images movie

When the Heaven Is For Real movie came out, my mom and I went three times. And she would have gone again, (that little Colton was such a great actor) if she had her way.

About a month ago, I stumbled on the Heaven Is For Real website, and pressed the contact button before I knew it. What could I lose? Imagine my surprise when they got back in touch with me granting me an interview with Todd Burpo, the pastor and author of the book!

So…

I thought I would open it up to you, as to the questions I would ask in the interview. What would you like me to ask Todd about his life, his experiences, his family, how the movie came to be, etc? In my next blog, I will have been able to interview Todd Burpo with your questions (and a few of my own of course).

 

 

Vintage Reads: Summer Queens and Frontier Scenes

Vintage reads

If you’ve been a reader of our blog for long, you’ve probably noticed that each Scriblerian maintains his or her own personality, not only in how they write, but their choice of topic. Maybe you’ve wondered what the unifying factor is. What can you expect to find on this site? Our slogan off to the right says it all: “Writing for Non-Adults of All Ages.” We love YA and children’s literature. We love to write it, love to read it. We’re kids at heart, and we know there are plenty of readers out there who feel the same way.

You’ve heard from Gretchen who will cover healthy lifestyle in body, mind, and soul. If you’ve ever met her, she HAS to run off that energy! She can talk at warp speed and some days literally bounces with youthful enthusiasm.

I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest in this group. I don’t think any other Scriblerians have children closer to forty than thirty! My columns have always been written for the purpose of introducing a younger generation to the wonderful stories from yesteryear. Since any item that’s been around for more than two years is considered obsolete in our instantaneous society, I choose to share books from my childhood, from my sons’ childhoods, and the best of the best from the last ten years. Classic KidLit.

Here is my choice for today, a blessing of our American Heritage.

Alfred Jacob Miller - Fort Laramie - Walters 37194049.jpg

Alfred Jacob Miller – Fort Laramie – Walters 37194049.jpg

As a child, I could read anywhere any time. As an adult too, come to think of it. During the school year, I had to take time out for school and homework, piano and dance lessons, but when summer arrived… FREEDOM!!

Now, most kids celebrated summer with the daily kickball/baseball game or hikes in the woods or a run to the ice cream shop. I dedicated my mornings to reading in bed, reading at the breakfast table, reading on the porch, and in the afternoons, reading at the pool, reading in the shade, read… you get the idea.

I had a health-conscious mom, though. She forced me outside for exercise and vitamin D, so I got my fair share of sports, nature, and ice cream. As the oldest members of our neighborhood crowd, my best friend and I ruled as queens of the pack. We were gracious, beneficent rulers (yes, you may roll your eyes) and allowed input from our subjects as to what games would be played each day.Thanks to all my reading, the neighborhood kids enjoyed some unusual imaginary games, all based on plots from my favorite books. When we played Cowboys and Indians, according to majority rule, the cowboys were always supposed to defeat the evil savages. (Keep in mind this was the early 1960’s).

sillyeaglebooks.com

sillyeaglebooks.com

I thought the status quo was unfair, but I held off from wielding my scepter like a club. Instead, I tried to persuade with logic. The Indians were on American land first. Shouldn’t the colonists have shared the land with them? If somebody took away my home, I would fight, too! The boys were not convinced.

Thus began my burgeoning interest in American history. I discovered the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I must have scampered through each volume two or three times. And THEN I read Caddie Woodlawn.

Both authors had been published in the same era, 1935 for Caddie Woodlawn, and 1932-43 for the Little House books. Both stories were based on real people. Carol Ryrie Brink faithfully wrote down the tales of her grandmother, Caddie Woodlawn. Laura Ingalls shared her own story. While several volumes of the Little House series earned the “Honor” status of the Newbery Medal, it was Caddie Woodlawn that won the award in 1936. I think I understand why, now that I’ve reread the books as an adult.

Caddie Woodlawn

Don’t get me wrong. Children will love to read the Little House books for years to come as Laura tells the story of her childhood, painting vivid pictures of family life on the frontier. Caddie Woodlawn goes beyond family and into the contentious issues of the day from a child’s perspective, namely: how do you deal with irresponsible people, and how should pioneers treat the Indians who still roam portions of the land settled by the white man.

Notice, I use the term “Indian.”  “Native American” was a re-label once it became politically incorrect to call the indigent natives a name that made it seem like they were from India. In 1935, the common term was “Indians,” and it wasn’t derogatory in nature. Unless a person’s tone of voice made it so. In Caddie’s case, friendship and peace won the day. Her interactions with Indian John inspired nine-year-old Linda. This was a girl after my own heart!

Her story put history on my side.  The queens of Castle Road decreed there would be no massacres of Indians when we played make-believe. If our brothers insisted on going to war, they could fight the Nazis.

Was there ever a time you used stories from your reading experience to act out or use in a game? It would be fun to learn what you were like as a kid.

 

 

To 13-Year-Old Me

I see you’re feeling pretty sorry for yourself. You think it’s the worst year of your life, and I don’t blame you. You’ve taken some awfully hard punches in 1968. It’ll be another four decades before life knocks you to the mats, and you’re almost down for the count.

Let me assure you. You and Jesus make it through the eighth grade. He never leaves your side. But if you could know now, what I know from the future, the next couple years could be a little easier. Here’s what I’ve learned.

credit to chaoticsoulzzz.wordpress.com

credit to chaoticsoulzzz.wordpress.com

  1. Forget boys. Really. They’ll still be around in a few years, and you’ll be a lot better able to handle whatever they throw at you, be it a baseball or a slick slide from your waist up and across your chest. Invest in a couple of good girlfriends instead. If you have to choose between a heart-fluttering jaunt around the bay with Surfer Joe or keeping your girls’ day out date with Laurie Lee, stick with Laurie. She’ll be there long after Joe motors off into the sunset with someone else. shutterstock_119402656-480x320
  2. Forget the In Group. I know you think they’re your ticket to a great social life, but you don’t even like big parties. You hate to talk about the latest fashions, the coolest rock stars. Why do you want that kind of social life? Could it be the boys? See Lesson #1.

    publicdomainpictures.net

    publicdomainpictures.net

At least, you figure some things out by senior year in high school, and you enjoy choosing some good friends. I’m telling you: you could have had that blessing a lot sooner.

  1. Use the talents God gave you. Now. You don’t have to wait until after college and make one of your gifts a career. People have started to tell you that you have a great singing voice. You’ve even sung solos. Enjoy those times. Work at getting even better.

    hsdiploma.com

    hsdiploma.com

You’ve known you wanted to be a teacher since you were four. What about helping out with the nursery class at Sunday school? Or, here’s a daring thought. What if you offered babysitting services to the unwed mother down block? Teen moms must be even lonelier than you.

You know how you enjoy writing? Surprise! You publish several magazine articles during years when you’re not teaching. And after you retire? You write FULL TIME. How cool is that?

  1. Kick self-pity out of your life. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Your dad’s at war, your sister’s in and out of doctors’ offices, your mom needs your support, and your friends faded into nonexistence just because you moved away for four months. Will it help to learn your dad survives, your sister grows up to be a teacher just like you, your mom was a lot stronger than you gave her credit for, and new people were quite willing to be your friend? But you blew it. The self-pity blinded you. So don’t blow it.

    hdwalls.xyz

    hdwalls.xyz

You asked Jesus into your life when you were ten, and your current Sunday School teacher makes a lot of sense as he shares his faith in class. Listen to him, and copy him.  If you’re looking at Jesus instead of your poor little self, YOU WILL HAVE JOY!

  1. This is a question, not a lesson learned. While you have a great sense of rhythm, a nice smile, and a voice that projects across the basketball court, you are one of the most uncoordinated people I know. Do you really want to be a cheerleader in high school, or do you just hope Quarterback Kevin will notice you?  See Lesson #1. Again.13 yr Linda

Pep Talk to My 15-½-year-old Self

Okay, Cindy, pay attention because this is some of the most important stuff you’ll ever hear. And the only time you’ll hear it.

First, congratulations. You made it through your freshman year of high school. Now in 10th grade and 15 ½ years old, you’re midway through your teen years. And still alive and well. That’s an accomplishment you’ll appreciate later.

Caught at the halfway point between childhood and womanhood, you’re having a Mid-teen Crisis, although you have no name for it. You’re tying to figure out who you are, while others are tying to tell you who or what you should be.

That’s all right. In fact, it’s pretty normal.

You forget to shave your legs or tweeze the uni-brow because you’d rather be outside examining trees and plants, playing with your dog, or running wild in an open field and flying a kite. And maybe when you finally go inside at dusk, you don’t feel like washing your hair and winding it around giant rollers to make it straight, as fashion of the time dictates. You get teased about your unkempt appearance.

So what? Enjoy being a kid a while longer.

Try not to obsess over your delayed physical development. Don’t even think about it for another year, because you’re wasting your time. Of course, you’re in awe of girls your age and younger who wear a bra cup size with letters that otherwise represent mediocre to poor grades in school. It hurts sometimes when boys pay attention only to those girls, especially that one boy you like in particular.

Don’t worry. Your time will come.

When it does, don’t let a boy you date convince you to drop any activities, hobbies, or friends you enjoy. He criticizes those things you love because he’s jealous. He knows they make you look interesting and attractive, and he can’t stand it.

DrawingTeenCouple

A drawing I did in high school of a happy couple I hoped someday to be a part of.

On to the practical aspects of life.

It’s great that you learned to sew. That skill will serve you well in your impoverished college years when you mend torn pants to wear another semester and create a blouse from a dollar’s worth of fabric.

Now learn to cook. Don’t wait so long.

And read more. A lot more. Classic novels and current events magazines.

The times in which you live are a turning point in American history. Watch the news, and listen to adults talk about it. You’ll use the knowledge gained to interpret the cultural and political events in your adulthood.

Even though it’s hard to talk to your father, do it. Think of topics you both might enjoy. You won’t have many more years of conversations with him.

Consider more career options than you do now. Research them and ask questions of professionals in those fields. Seek advice about what to study in college to prepare for more than one option.

Bottom line? Don’t limit your possibilities in any way. In forty years, the people and things you enjoy in life may surprise you.

profile_pic  Cynthia