Category Archives: Writing

I read a romance novel over the weekend…

…It was kind of on accident.

Beyond some classics — Austen, Brontë — I don’t think I’ve purposely read a romance since I was in junior high, 25 years ago.

I rather disagree with the whole premise of romance novels.  I tend to think that it’s unhealthy for women to live in the fantasy world of The Perfect Relationship;  it sets them up for disappointment with reality.

I feel the same about most chick flicks — “relationship” movies.  I see almost none of them, on purpose.

Strangely enough, this was a decision I came to WHILE I was in junior high.  A very odd thing was the catalyst for my decision:  the movie Romancing the Stone.

In the movie, Kathleen Turner plays a romance novelist who becomes caught up in an adventure.  The movie opens with her, alone in her apartment, crying over her typewriter, sipping wine, and talking to her cat.  As a 13-year-old or so, this made an impression:  “I’ll bet that’s what it’s really like.”  It dawned on my pubescent self that the people writing those books and movies weren’t relationship experts — just relationship dreamers.  And I swore them off.

Now…  I know that a number of friends read romance novels and some of my readers even WRITE them.  I’m sorry if my stance is offensive.  I’m sure any number of people can come up with good reasons to read romances, and exceptions to my stereotypes.  But, I stand firm.  I just don’t think romances are a generally healthy read.

So, imagine me:  standing eagerly at the library counter, waiting for the librarian to fetch my reserved copy of the latest Charles Todd novel:  Charles Todd who reliably writes mystery novels.  Picture my surprise when I see that, on the book in her hand, the “R♥MANCE” label is slapped on the spine.  I was literally, physically startled.

Charles Todd, how could you do this to me???

I have always enjoyed mysteries;  since I read my first Hardy Boys book,  borrowed from my brother, while I was in 2nd grade, I have been hooked.  And, for the last couple of years, I have been immersed in the World War I era.

It’s hard to find compelling, literate mysteries, that aren’t trashy — full of sex, bad language, and violence, masquerading as “intrigue”.  And when you add my caveat of setting it in WWI, the list is even smaller.

  • Yes, I’ve read almost all of Laurie R. King’s books — I’m tired of her.  She seems too  impressed with her own cleverness, and her books have devolved into farce.  I put The Pirate King down, midway through — something I virtually never do! — and swore her off, too.
  • And I’ve read all of Dorothy L. Sayers’ works;  she’s the queen, the original, and Peter Wimsey is a classic.  But, she’s not writing anything new… 😉
  • And I’ve read all of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series.  I like them all right.  Winspear, though, liberally injects her books with her personal philosophy, with which I generally disagree.  I do like the story lines, though.
  • And I’ve read Anne Perry’s World War I four-book series, which starts with No Graves Yet.  They were all right only.  The first and fourth books were the best.  Clean:  Yes.  Compelling story line:  Mostly.  Interesting, believable-but-inspiring-yet-flawed characters:  Mostly.  Literate:  No.  Perry has written a whole lot of other books;  I don’t believe I will read any of them.
  • And, I’ve read a bunch of stand-alone novels set in the 1910-1930 era;  I prefer series, though.

So, really… the ONLY author of whom I know who fits my extremely niche current interest, plus my long list of requirements:  Charles Todd.  The author is really a mother-and-son team.  They have written the 14-book series featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge, who suffers from PTSD in the aftermath of his service in the war.  I love Inspector Rutledge!!  They have also written the newer four-book series featuring World War I nurse, Bess Crawford, all set during the war years.  I’ve loved all those books.  Their first novel — The Murder Stone — I must admit that I didn’t like.  It was an absolute maze of characters for whom I cared nothing, and I put it down after the first 100 pages or so.

Overall, though, I do love the Todds’ work.  They’re my favorite current fiction authors.  Last spring, two friends and I even traveled to the Prescott Public Library to see the authors!!  It was a glorious day trip — the best of company, with two friends who are also fans of the Charles Todd books.

Karen with a cheesy smile with the Todds.

Karen with a cheesy smile with the Todds.

So, having a track record of 18 “loves” and one “dislike”, I always look forward to any new Charles Todd novel!  When The Walnut Tree came out, even though it is (kind of) stand-alone, rather than part of the Crawford or Rutledge series, I really anticipated reading it.  However, I have done very little reading the last few months;  it’s just been an insanely busy season, and when I had time for reading, it was not typically books for pleasure.  So, even though the book was published late last fall, I just now got around to reading it.

So, again… imagine my surprise when I saw that offending sticker on the back…

Ugh.

Under partial internal protest, I read it.

And, I liked it!

I had to get past the “this is a romance” thoughts.  And I had to get past my internal editor, who was highly annoyed that there are a TON — and I mean hundreds — of incomplete sentences in the book.  I finally rationalized that by saying, “Well, the book is in first person, in which Todd generally does not write… and when we think, we often think in incomplete sentences…  The protagonist is narrating her thoughts…  Oh, well.”

I liked the story line;  I found it very compelling.  The book was very readable, though “lighter” than I typically prefer.  And, I got a kick out of the fact that the protagonist is actually tied to the Bess Crawford series, so there were some character references and interplay that I really enjoyed….

I used to voraciously consume books.  Now that I’m a mother of five with responsibilities, I tend to read in a more self-controlled manner, finding ten-to-20-minute snippets of time in which to indulge my reading compulsion:  In a doctor’s waiting room, while a little one is in the tub, waiting in the car to pick up a child who is finishing an event, that sort of thing.  But, I (perhaps unwisely) stayed up late into the night on Friday and Saturday nights, long after everyone else was in bed, to read…  And I finished it on Sunday afternoon, in less than 48 hours.  (I typically take 1-3 weeks to complete a book, using my stop-start technique.)

And, when finished, I found myself hoping that The Walnut Tree would be the first in a new series by the Todds.

What one writes about things unshareable

I can’t write about anything truly meaningful to me, of late.

No, I don’t have writer’s block.

There was a blog I used to regularly read, now defunct, but at one point, the writer said, “You know, I could be a lot funnier on here if no one I knew read this blog.”  I’m not often shooting for comic effect, but I have often remembered her words and completely understand her sentiment.

Given my druthers, I’d be completely an open book.  I’m probably much too transparent, and don’t often see the potential fallout from unwisely revealing the secrets of my heart.  However, so much of my life is tied into others’, and I need — for their sake — to be careful what I tell of their interaction with me.

That causes a mighty internal dilemma.

I had a wonderful 2.5 hour lunch with my dear friend Kathy yesterday.  Among many other topics of conversation, we spoke about writing.  She mentioned that she enjoys when I write about the struggle, the unfinished bits of life.  I enjoy that, too:  writing about the things that are pending, unresolved.  I can’t find it in myself to write about the (non-existent) shiny, perfect, tidily-wrapped events in my life.  I also don’t find any satisfaction in reading about The Pristine Life in others’ blogs, which means I don’t enjoy about 95% of the other “mom blogs” out there, because most women seem to post only the best pictures (in word and photo) of their lives.  I’m not like that.  I don’t envy the perfect lives of others;  if they truly exist, more power to them!  Or, more sparkles and smiles to them…

Does that sound bitter?

Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I’m not bitter.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.

I do enjoy when something resolves wonderfully that was hard-won, and I’m likely to write about that, as well.

But most often, it’s the path to resolution that I find most intriguing.  I’m much more compelled to write about that.

I consider:  If a blog-reader saw me in real life, would she say, “Wow.  She’s so much prettier in her pictures.”  That’s why you’ll never see a Glamour Shot pic of me on here, make-up perfect, perfectly coiffed hair gently blowing in the breeze, some gorgeous and well-accessorized outfit on my frame…

I consider:  If a blog-reader sat down to dinner with our family, would they be aghast that we have trouble keeping Audrey head-up and feet-down, and keeping Grant from trying to treat everyone simply as ears for an apparent stand-up monologue?  That’s why I don’t blog about only The Good Parts of Mothering.

I like to keep it real.  Really, truly real.

But on the other hand, I do dearly want to be an encouragement, not a downer.  I want to impart true hope, and long for my words to be pulsing with true life.

It can be a tough balance, at times.

Still, it’s one for which I strive, and that makes it all the more difficult for me to write, when the things that are deep in my heart, about which I crave to write, are unshareable.  They’re just not mine to divulge, because they concern the lives of others, too, and blogging about it would dishonor them.

I semi-recently tried to write about a struggle involving another person, and thought I was vague enough to protect everyone involved.  I wasn’t.  It backfired, big time.  There was an explosion of hurt feelings, and oh! that was a difficult, bitter pill to swallow.

I am so often exhorting my six-year-old whirlwind, Audrey, “Be careful!  Be gentle!” but a huge part of me sympathizes with her exuberant bungling of pretty much everything, because I am that little girl, too.

Ah!  This post has not entirely gone in the direction in which I intended.  I was going to write about Jack the bulldog from Little House on the Prairie.

Next time, perhaps.

EDITED TO ADD:

Thought I’d post a non-Glamour Shot. Taken today. Barefoot, jeans, and a baseball tee. No make-up. Glasses. Coffee in hand. Current novel on the untidy counter behind me. The only thing not completely realistic is that I showered this morning, which doesn’t happen every day, so I might be a little cleaner than usual. 🙂

Garden! Health! Books! Road trip! Working!

I really don’t have writer’s block.  I’ve written countless posts in my head!  They’re just not happening in real life.

So…  small updates:

  • They're even prettier in real life. I have some that are downright purple on the outside, but the interior is bright orange. Lovely!

    Garden:  It’s beautiful and flourishing, and it feels fabulous to eat my own hand-raised, organic veggies.  It is truly decreasing my need to buy vegetables from the store.  It has taken a while — more than a year — to really get GOING and productive.  And, I still have lots and lots and lots to learn… it’s one of those areas of learning where you can never know ALL there is to know.  Ever.  Interestingly, though, I don’t mind that.  Normally, I get a little cowed by problems with unending possible solutions;  I like things that I can wrap my head around.  However, I find that gardening is enjoyable even when I will never know everything there is to know.  My most recent discovery:  When the planting schedule says that you shouldn’t plant your green beans until March 15, February 20-something really IS too early, and your seeds really WILL rot in the ground when planted too soon.  Bummer.  A triumph, though:  My hubby is taking my gardening seriously.  I tend to get interested in things, and hit them hard for a few weeks or a few months, spend too much money on them, then my interest and devotion fizzles, which amounts to a lot of time and money wasted.  So, he wasn’t robustly supportive of my garden plans, initially.  Now, he TOTALLY is, probably because I’ve been faithful, instead of just excited.  🙂  And he can see the benefit.  Last garden note:  You MUST grow these carrots.  I scrub them and we eat them unpeeled.  They are gorgeous and tasty.

  • Fiala’s health:  I wish I could say that she is 100% better, but I can’t.  She does continue to improve, and it is absolutely clear that her major struggle IS with a candida infection.  However, it is taking longer to clear than I had hoped.  And, she is not self-regulating.  She is happy to “steal” a banana or a jar of honey, or even pull a carrot from the garden, whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Then, the yeast in her system feeds on that sugar, and we have a setback that takes a week or two from which to recover.  So, it’s kind of like three steps forward, two-and-a-half steps back.  She still has head-to-toe “eczema” — which really isn’t eczema — and it’s worse in some places than in others.  But, she has no open, oozy wounds, and over all, her skin, disposition, and general health has improved by, oh, about 40%.  She is on oral and topical Nystatin, plus probiotics, colloidal silver, and grapefruit seed extract (in capsules).  Plus a no-sugar diet, minus the 1/3 cup or so daily of blueberries — her lone joy in food.  Actually, it’s funny, because now that we’re aware that SUGAR in food is her main problem, I’ve been letting her sample various sugar- and starch-free foods, and she just doesn’t like most of them.  So, her diet is still very, very simple, very limited.
  • My own health:  I have improved SO GREATLY on a low-carb, sugar-free diet.  Not only have I lost about 15 lbs, but instead of getting neck-to-thighs hives every single night, that lasts for HOURS and to be relieved only by a double-dose of Benedryl, I’ll get a patch here, a patch there, about twice a week, and it lasts for 20-30 minutes or so.  So, I’m not 100% healed, either, but I’m getting close.
  • Books:  I should really do a whole post on “Books I’m Trying to Read.”  I normally only read one book at a time, but I’m partway through about six books right now, none of which I want to put down, and for none of which I actually have TIME to read right now.  The only one I’ve actually finished has been The Confession by Charles Todd (see next bullet point).  And that took me nearly two weeks of whittling away…  The others have taken — are taking, actually — much longer.
  • Road trip!  Two friends and I drove to Prescott a couple of weeks ago.  It was a treasure of an afternoon — such a pleasant drive of wonderful conversation, lunch together, then a really awesome two-hour meet-the-author presentation by Charles Todd, which is actually a mother-and-son team.  They were both present, and were such engaging speakers.  It was interesting from all angles:  as a writer, as someone interested in WWI (the setting for all their books), as a semi-Anglophile, as a fan…  I’ve read all of their books, save one.  My friends and I had lunch was at The Raven Cafe.  I had researched which places had a gluten-free menu, and when we got to Prescott, my friend Kathy said, “After lunch, I hope we have time for the best cup of coffee in Prescott.  It’s at The Raven.”  The Raven was already on my short list of g.f. lunch spots!!  It has such wonderful ambiance, and it stocks GLUTEN FREE BREAD.  With my low-carbiness, I haven’t had bread in a couple of months.  But, I broke with that for an amazing turkey melt sandwich with avocado, muenster cheese, and other good things, with a side of amazing sweet potato fries with garlic aioli.  I was in heaven.  The whole afternoon, I was in heaven.  It was perfect.  Kathy kept saying, “Is this really real?  Is this really happening?  Am I really in Prescott with two of my dear friends???”  Now, I think I need to come up with more reasons to take little drives and spend a good chunk of a day with my friends.  The whole experience is still glowing in my heart, two weeks later.
  • Jobby-things:  I know a while back I said I wasn’t going to make any writing-related work, but I had already told my author-friend Marietta I’d give her most recent book my once-over.  So, I’ve been working on that.  I also co-taught a small workshop on prophetic singing, which was a complete and total joy.  I was absolutely shocked when I was handed a check for payment.  It was a little disturbing, actually.  I had to ask my pastor what he thought I should do with the money, and he said, “Keep it.  You’ve invested hours of your time and commitment learning about this, making the teaching notes, investing in the prophetic and singing.  Keep it and enjoy the fruits of your labor.”  So, I am.  Haven’t cashed it yet, though.

What God spoke to me.

I was recently thinking that, for all I have disclosed on this blog over the last 6+ years, so much of the most significant events in my life go unrecorded.  Some things are inappropriate to share, some defy my attempts at explanation, some I just never get around to…

I’ve been considering that anew, this last week.  I just don’t even know if I could — or perhaps even should — convey all that happened to me.  It’s hard to explain.

New Irish friend Azman & me, having a really good conversation.

The short version is that I went to a three-day International Leadership Summit — a retreat in the cool pines of Prescott, Arizona.  Back down the hill into the Valley of the Sun, the following day, is what we call International Super Sunday, with an extended church service in the morning, and a nearly five-hour event at night that features a dinner, some amazing speaking, and worship, followed up by a prophetic presbytery, where leaders with prophetic gifting (30ish or so) will give a personal prophetic word to anyone who wants one, and pretty much all the attendees want one.  🙂  Or two.  Or three.  Or as many as there is time for.

My love and me, taken by a different new Irish friend, Claire... I don't look this good in real life. 🙂 Bless God for the occasional use of makeup and supportive undergarments.

The whole Leadership Summit started about 15 years ago with just the leadership team of my own church — 20-30 good folk (and their spouses, as appropriate, most of whom are also leaders) who lead a specific area of ministry within the church.  Then, we expanded to invite a few of the pastors/leaders of various international ministries/churches with whom we minister, or over whom we have some apostolic leadership.  (See?  I bet I just lost a good 50% of you with that last sentence, and I’m just not going to explain it, either.  Unless you ask.)

Of the Summit — which is three jam-packed, meaty days of teaching, worship, and ministry, the most significant to me was Friday night.  On that night, I was praying for some friends when the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon me.  At first, I just bent over and put my hands on my thighs, kind of holding myself up.  Then, I sat.  After a while, I had to lie down.  It wasn’t that sort of dramatic thing you may have heard about (and which I repeatedly have witnessed) where the Holy Spirit performs a “smack down” and a person slumps to the floor or falls backward.  It was a little more subtle than that.  But not by much.

For… a time… at least more than an hour, but I don’t know how long, I was prayed over and ministered to, both by my dear, dear friends… co-workers in Christ… and by the Holy Spirit.  I was trembly, deep in my core and up into my shoulders and arms, as the Holy Spirit was on me.  My abs are still sore, nearly a week later, I was shaking so long.

Everyone who yields to the Holy Spirit and comes under His power finds a different experience.  Some shake violently.  Some laugh.  Some weep.  Some experience a profound calm.  Another dear friend, Paul Min, an apostolic 77-year-old powerhouse from Irvine, California (originally from South Korea), experiences his legs shaking, and he knows the power of God is residing in him.  I tend to quiver/convulse in my core.  It’s been like that for my whole life.

I know that a great many of you may think that odd and/or unbelievable, and that you’d not care for it, and you’re having second thoughts about me, right about now.  Frankly, that doesn’t matter so much.  Well, the part that doesn’t matter is what you think of me.  It does matter a great deal to me how you consider the God of all creation.  But, you can think I’m a looney, and I’m all right with that.  Even if you stop reading my blog.  😉

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-aware that I’m a Christian;  I don’t hide that, though not every post is about JESUS JESUS JESUS.  It’s more like, “This is my life, and Jesus is an integral part of it, of me.”  I often don’t want to post on the more God-oriented events of my life, because its so hard to communicate effectively and so easily misunderstood.  But, I felt like this last week was too significant to just pass by.

See what I mean by that first paragraph?

So.  What happened to me in that time can be broken down into

  1. What others prayed over me.
  2. What the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me.

In the past, when I “go down” under the power of the Spirit, I — to my remembrance — have never heard His specific, direct words.  Instead, what I usually experience is more like a… sense, an overwhelming sense of whatever it is I need most at the time:  His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, His whatever.  This time was different in that I felt very strongly that I heard His voice.  It wasn’t loud.  More than a whisper, but not loud.  But, there were some specific things, some specific words and thoughts that I have never had, on my own, and I feel very strongly that they were beyond “impressions”;  they were the Word of God, to me, addressing some very specific needs.

Another thing that was different…  Sometimes, I have become a wee bit confused over others’ prayers over me.  Everyone, even those with maturity, doesn’t always hear from God 100% right, and the things that come out of their mouths aren’t always the pure, unadulterated Word of God.  For that reason, Scripture teaches us to “weigh carefully” what is spoken by prophecy.  In the past, I’ve had some difficulty at times, sorting out what’s what.  This time, among the 7+ people who prayed over me, and the many things that were spoken, there were two specific instances where God said, “That’s immature and inaccurate.  You can toss that.”  And silently, I returned prayer for the the person who was praying, thanking God for their willingness to minister and pray, but asking Him to increase the clarity of their spiritual ears, so that in the future, they could pray with more effectiveness.  It is my observation that in situations like that, the pray-er is often speaking out of what they know about that person, and their own personal views, rather than led by the Holy Spirit.  That doesn’t make God’s word less powerful, though those who minister prophetically should be continually seeking greater clarity, accuracy, and maturity.  I Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

When the whole Friday night episode was over, I got up and wrote down everything I could remember.

Here are some of the things that God showed me — I’m not sharing everything.  Some of it is too personal, and some of it doesn’t quite make sense to me, and I have to hash it out, to seek God on it, still:

  • God showed me that some of the interests I have pursued — specifically writing and birthing stuff — I have done because I am afraid that I am too old to have prophetic singing/worship stuff fulfilled in me, things that have been prayed and spoken over me repeatedly — countless times — for the last 20+ years.  Writing and birthing are not bad and they may be pursued later, but for the right reasons, not out of fear or distraction.
  • I am to go to bed when my husband Martin does.  He is an early riser and I’ve always been a night owl.  In addition, I am an introvert, and I crave that time, late at night, when the house is still and no one needs me.  That is my “recharge” time.  However, it saddens my husband that I will not go to bed with him when he does, except maybe once a week.  I have thought he’s unreasonable/uncaring that he wants me do do/be something I’m not, and he thinks that I am unreasonable/uncaring because I won’t value his tender heart and the fact that he is restless until I come to bed.  I have been beyond stubborn, when what I really need to do is to obey.  I need to value him.  It is a “little” point of contention to me, but it is HUGE to my husband.  God the father affirmed to me that He will take care of things I fear I will lose in the process, and will make their replacement worthwhile.
  • I must be intentionalabout investing in both my guitar-playing and my singing.  I am a fair guitar-player and I have a great voice.  I’m not bragging;  it was a gift of God that I’ve known about since my early childhood.  However, for my whole life, I’ve just been expecting God to DO SOMETHING about my voice, with my voice.  And He has, to an extent.  I am one of the core vocalists on my precious church’s worship team.  I lead worship (playing guitar and singing) weekly in a home group.  I am one of the three worship leaders for our church’s 6-12 year-olds.  I have been maturing and growing in spontaneous prophetic singing.  Yet, I know that that is not all God has in store for me.  I know I’m not living up to my potential, to His calling in me.  However, I have just expected Him to drop some bomb, some opportunity, to hit me over the head with some profound and specific direction, and He hasn’t done that.  He said that, instead, I need to be intentional about working that gift, investing in it, prioritizing it, furthering it, developing skill…  I totally have NOT done that in the past.  I’ve just coasted on what I have.  To that end, He gave me two imperatives:
    • I am to play guitar and sing for a minimum of an hour, daily.  If I do other things — read, blog, pursue other interests, etc. — it is to be after that hour is completed.
    • I am to take a voice class.  (I’m not sure why about this one, and I have looked into it — the community college that is very close to my home, however, is an extension campus, and does not have voice.  The other location is REALLY far away, spring classes have already started, and the schedule doesn’t seem like it would work at all.  So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.)
  • I felt indescribably strongly that smallish but mighty Vineyard Phoenix, my home church for 17+ years, will always be my Favorite House.  With capital letters.  My husband just got done reading a book by Tommy Tenney called God’s Favorite House.  I have not read it, though I know it is about building the local body of Christ, the local church.  I was FILLED with love and thankfulness and tenderness for the people who have poured themselves out for the Kingdom, for Jesus, and for me personally.  Even though about half (or more?) of those at the Summit were from other nations, those who prayed for me on Friday night — minus one — were all from my local church, Vineyard Phoenix.  I felt that was specific and intentional.  I have long loved the people of my church, especially those on the leadership team, with whom I have served for these many years, and whose pure, vibrant hearts for ministry and the  Gospel of Jesus I have been endless witness to.  But, especially on Friday night, I was filled with a… beyond-strong love for each.  Vicious, almost.  Abandoned, intense, jealous over, consuming, zealous love for my co-laborers in Christ.

I was going to next describe the things that were prayed over me by individuals, but I think that, instead, I will save that for next time.

Until then…  🙂  My love to all readers who have made it thus far.

From the boy who hates to write…

I know I’m biased, but my 14 year-old son Ethan wrote something this week that brought tears to my eyes.  It was jaw-droppingly gripping and well-written.  We got done reviewing it together, and I asked, “Can I post this on my blog?”  He laughed, “I knew you were going to ask that.”

Ethan says that he hates to write.

Toward the beginning of last year, his 8th grade year, I assigned him a “mini” research project.  We went through the process of deciding on a topic, learning the construction of research papers, crafting an outline, procuring the appropriate books, doing the reading, learning how to use the books to get the best info… on and on.  Well, his three-page project grew into five pages.  Then ten.  Ten and he still wasn’t done.  He kept writing more, but with absolutely no joy, and only when I twisted his arm to write.  I was desperately and unsuccessfully trying to get him to rein it in;  he would get so bogged down in the details, it was like he was trying to write another book…  His actual writing is excellent, but his self-editing skills were nil.  And with a paper so long, of course there were many opportunities to discuss better grammar, or spelling, or sentence construction, or topic sentences, or better vocabulary choices, and on and on and on.  And, any time I had a correction for him in the process, well… we’d both end up in tears, because he’d get SO discouraged.  I felt like Bad Homeschool Mom.

The paper, I’m ashamed to say, never got done.  It was mostly my fault, because the whole thing had just ballooned into an awful scramble of flawed teaching, sensitive adolescent feelings, and LOTS AND LOTS of words.  At some point, toward the end of the year, I just decided that it wasn’t worth it, and we’d tackle writing next year.

“Next year” is now this year.

This year is only one week old… but on Sunday evening, as we discussed in greater detail what his freshman year would look like, to his great disappointment, I told him, “You’re going to do a lot of writing.  But, you’re going to do it in much smaller chunks, so that neither of us gets bogged down.  It’s my goal to encourage you greatly, because you really ARE a good writer, but you so dread the process that it hangs like a sword over your head.  I want, by the end of the year, for you to become a confident writer, who writes with relative ease, and isn’t frightened by the writing process.  And I will stay on top of it, helping you along the way, and not giving up.”  He seemed only nominally assured.

The Newbery Honor book by Patricia Reilly Giff

Ethan is doing Sonlight’s Core 200 this year, and really enjoying it.  I’m glad that he found the first assigned novel, Pictures of Hollis Woods, so interesting, because his writing assignment was based on the book.  The book is a compelling story of the history of a foster child.  Each chapter begins with a word picture, painted from a memory of the main character, a girl named Hollis.  The writing assignment detailed:

What is your favorite picture from Pictures of Hollis Woods?  Why?  What qualities make it your favorite? …  Using that picture as an inspiration, write a picture of your own… make sure your picture reflects the same qualities you value in your favorite.

Though the assignment was only asking him to think about it, I suggested to Ethan that he write out his reflection on his favorite portion of the book, describing what it is about it that made it so striking.  Then, for him to pick ANY memory of his own that stands out like a snapshot in his mind, and to note various things about the memory:  what was happening, how he felt, what the weather was like, why it stuck with him, etc.

His notes were:

I think I would say my favorite picture expressed in this book is the thirteenth picture.  However, it is not my favorite because it’s funny, or pleasing, but very sad.  Now, I do not mean to be morbid in any way, but this picture really provoked my emotions more than any other contained in this book.  It just really got me thinking, “Wow, how could this happen.  How could a girl, an orphan at that, be so hard-hearted to the one and only foster father who truly loves her.”  And just the way this book is written puts you smack dab in the middle of this clash of emotions that really seems to make the characters come alive, it’s just stunning and it makes you feel like you’re standing right there the entire time.

Notes:  Arizona Snowbowl
on ski lift
traveling up
about 8? (years)
11 – 2 (time)
tingly feeling
bundled up
very cold
legs feel scratchy from blanket

And here’s what he wrote:  (I very lightly edited it with him, altering a few points of punctuation, and crossing out a total of seven words, adding five that he chose from my suggestions… )

He was tired of looking through the wreckage of this house.  He decided to look in the last room of the house then leave for good.  The man did not enjoy the findings of this particular abandoned abode;  the only thing of use that he found was a thick folder full of paper.  He sighed, thinking, “Only good for starting fires.”

Later, at his camp, the man spread out his findings of the day before him:  a rusty kitchen knife, four cans of food, some ammunition, three burnt and water damaged books, and the folder.  The man was intrigued most by the folder.  He picked it up, but it crumbled in his hand, spilling papers all over.

One caught his eye, different from the others.  It wasn’t just a bunch of letters he couldn’t read, but a picture seemingly drawn by a child.  It was a family, a mother and three young boys, riding up a mountain on some kind of lift.  The mountain was spectacular, hundreds of feet tall, grey, and covered with pines and what stuff the man determined was snow, based on what the family was wearing.  The sun was high in the sky, making the ground glisten, and the man quickly lost himself in his imagination.

He found himself looking through the eyes of the oldest boy, cold, but wearing a strange fuzzy sweater with a hood attached.  He was also wrapped in a blanket that looked itchy.  The man felt a strange, excited, tingly feeling inside and opened his eyes back to the world around him.  He sighed, looked down at that wonderful picture and gently folded it, putting it in his pocket.  “More precious than all the fire starters in the world,” he thought.

Is it just me??  Or is that not REALLY GOOD?  Mystery, unanswered questions leaving the reader wanting more, very evocative, very creative.  He inserted his own memory into a really compelling fictional account.  A short-short story.  I thought it was awesome.  Plus, I was so excited that he (we, really) got through the assignment with triumph.  I didn’t have much to do with the story at all, but it still felt like an accomplishment.

🙂

It was a good first week of school.

Wistful: Children’s books vs. Reality

Sometimes, I wonder what God has in mind for me, since He gave me a heart to love the things I do, which are in mighty short supply in the desert:  water, flora, and fauna.

There is life here in the Sonoran Desert.  There are animals, a few.  And there are plants, hardy and prickly though they may be.  But there sure isn’t much water.

I’ve always longed for greener pastures, literally.

But, God gave me a husband who is a native of this hot, dry, brown Valley of the Sun, and I’ve adjusted my expectations of what might be lying just around the corner, waiting for me.

Acadia National Park is not.  Nor the Oregon coast.  Not even the Mississippi bluff area of western Illinois, where my maternal grandparents had their farm, and — which I recently heard with a yelp of joy — which my Uncle Allyn is farming a bit of, again, with his recovering health.

There are days as I look out at the landscape of 100+ days of 100°+  when I am tempted to despair, and my heart just longs for cooler, greener climes.

So, I pull out a picture book and read to one of my little girls.

Today, my oldest nephew’s girlfriend and I were having a mostly-joking Facebook conversation about her moving (or the two of us taking a road trip) to Maine.  She was up for just about anywhere on the upper reaches of the northeastern United States, but I steered her to Maine.

In this Caldecott Honor book, three- or four-year-old Sal picks blueberries with her mother and gets "all mixed up" with a mother bear and cub eating blueberries of their own.

In my possession, since before any of my children could read, have been three hardcovers, each of which I have loved since my own childhood.  Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, and Time of Wonder, each written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey.  I freely admit that I can never refuse a sturdy two-year-old toddling with binky inserted, trailing her blankie, barely grasping a picture book, half her size, who pipes up with the hopeful query, “Mowneen i’ Maine??”

For those of you unfamiliar, please check out the books from your local library, or buy them.  Now.  Please.

Also a Caldecott Honor. In which 6yo Sal wishes upon a feather (instead of her first lost tooth, which fell into the muddy pebbles, digging clams with her father) and travels to quaint Buck's Harbor for groceries and the wish-fulfilling cone with her 2yo sister, Jane, and their father.

The books show the progression of the author’s family in the 1950s (when they were written) which spent summers in Maine.  They have beautiful illustrations and apt prose, which shows exactly how adept McCloskey was at thinking with a child’s mind, and seeing with a child’s eyes.

After the Facebook conversation, I read Time of Wonder to Fiala, before her nap.  Looked at the pictures, more than actually read, as Time of Wonder, the Caldecott Medal winner for 1957,  is told in second person, and has a more “grown up” prose than the first two books about Sal and Jane.  It shows both girls, aged about 12 and 8, “manning” their own rowboat and small sailboat (sans life jackets), jumping from rocks along the cove with a bevvy of other children, and weathering a hurricane with their parents, partly by sing-shouting The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

The book mentions several specific place names, which — as I have done on several other occasions — I Googled, to find their location on a map, and pictures as lovely as the illustrations in the book.  And — yet again — I longed for a visit to Acadia National Park, which is in the same exact area as the setting for the trio of McCloskey books.  This time, I found myself especially taken with the sites at Duck Harbor Campground on the minuscule Isle au Hait, described as rugged, remote, inaccessible to automobiles, primitive…  combined with 18 miles of hiking trails, it seems like my kind of place, exactly.  McCloskey’s, too.  🙂

Out of curiosity, as I read

…through the fog you hear Harry Smith over at Blastow’s Cove start the engine of his lobster boat and go out to pull his traps.

I wondered if Harry Smith was a real man.  He was.  I found myself sad to read that one Harry Smith, of Little Deer Island, Maine, was buried in the Blastow’s Cove Cemetery in 1957.  It must have been not long after Time of Wonder was published.

Otter Cliff, Acadia NP

I found myself also remembering the incomparable Calico Bush, whose author, Rachel Field, often wrote poetry, apparent in her Newbery Honor prose.  Calico Bush is set off of the coast of Mount Desert Island, which is home to most of Acadia National Park.

Wait.

Suddenly, this sounds very familiar.

[I do a little search on my own blog and come up with THIS POST from February of 2010.]

Sigh.

My memory is short, but at least I’m consistent, eh?

Dorr Mountain Trail, Acadia NP

I guess my point of this point — similar to the last one on the very same subject — is how I just don’t know how to sort all of these thoughts.  I mean, I know that allowing myself to indulge in discontentment is dangerous.  Letting it sit and percolate in my mind is unwise;  I can easily become really unhappy about just about anything, any situation, and anyone in my life if I allow myself to go there.  So, I don’t.  I don’t live in Maine, and can’t conceive of anything that would lead us to Maine, and I think it would 100% be a fruitless and frustrating endeavor to try to figure out how we could or why we don’t have a summer house on a private island in Maine, like McCloskey’s family did.

Precipice Trail, Acadia NP

But, on the other hand… my Father God created me with a love for that particular kind of beauty, and a wistful longing for that sort of slowed-down, simple life, living in community, surrounded with an achingly beautiful piece of His creation.  Did He do that for nothing?  I mean, did He make my heart to love that so, for no purpose, or just to teach me the Godly discipline of not allowing myself to become frustrated and discontented?  Possibly, but I don’t think so.  I hope not.

Last year about this time, I was dreaming of taking a trip there, someday soon, paid for by the thousands of dollars I’d make, writing.  I have made some, but, golly!  In order to MAKE money writing, you have to have the TIME to devote to it, and fit into someone else’s agenda.  That part was less successful.  I’ve had a few other offers for employment in writing, but it’s just not fair to any perspective client to hire me, then to have me perpetually be unavailable, even if that makes any Maine trip tarry.

My hubby works with a guy, though, who has a house in Maine…  Hmm…  Maybe I should find out where, exactly, that house is…  Thinking, thinking…  I don’t think my hubby would consider that appropriate.  I’m sure he’s right.

One way, though, or another…  but it has to be the right way, in the right time.  I *KNOW* that;  it’s just hard to adjust my thoughts on the matter, especially as these visions dance in my head.

Sigh.

The donate button

Donate to OSC by PayPal if you’d like. NO PRESSURE.

OK.  So, for the last 17 months, I’ve been ghostwriting, which brings in a bit of income that has been extremely helpful to my family.  Last year, it paid for our family’s (frugal) summer trip, and now any income I make is going toward a family emergency fund*.

I’ve had offers for more ghostwriting work, but it is so time-consuming and in reality, I just don’t have adequate time to faithfully commit to clients. Thus, I need to stop, which, of course, cuts off the income.

Weekly, I get offers from advertisers who want to use space on my blog in one way or another for pay, but I really want to keep this an ad-free blog, so you know you’re always getting 100% unbiased info…  Well it’s biased to me and the stuff I like and personally recommend.  But, there are no commercial enterprises represented here.

Hence, there on the right-hand side, you’ll see a new “Donate” button. Seriously: NO PRESSURE.  I have no idea if anyone will contribute, and I am not going to twist anyone’s arm at any time;  I’m just sending out feelers, more or less, to see if it will become a viable source of supplemental income…

I hope no one is offended.

(Hereby ends the least salesmanny salespitch, ever.)

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*In other words, I’m not going to say something like “I have five mouths to feed”;  our family is not going to be homeless nor starve if you don’t contribute.

Just about everything but parenting

  • Writing:  If you have read here for a while, you may remember that much of my 2010 and part of 2011 was taken up with ghostwriting a book.  The book is now available for sale — here at Brushed by God — and soon elsewhere.  🙂
  • School:  During the school year, it seems like a genius plan to work for six weeks then take off a week.  With these regular breaks, my house gets clean, special trips happen, everyone breathes a deep breath.  But, ’round about this time of year, when just about everyone else is done with school and we still have four weeks left, it seems less than brilliant.  We’re not finished until June 10.
  • Garden:  Thanks to repaired irrigation tubing and some short, cute fencing, my garden now really looks like a garden, according to my husband who blessedly did the irrigation and fence work.  🙂  However, the fence does not keep out our dog, who has an odd — and maddening — affinity for corn plants.  My corn, some of them 18″ high, does not like it, either.  The garden sits in a side yard, and we may have to run a sturdier barrier from house to side-fence to make the garden dog-proof.  Otherwise, the garden is taking spectacular shape.
  • Fitness:  I am now feeling stronger after nearly three weeks of hiking 3.5 miles, three times a week.  This makes me happy.  My “fat” jeans are looser, too, even though I’ve really lost no weight.  I guess that’s from muscle gain?  I don’t know.
  • My bodybuilding cousin Romney, military wife and mother of two.

    Random extended family thoughts:  I’ve been reflecting on how widely differing my extended family is.  It’s really a cross-section of American society in general…  Just amongst my cousins (including both sides of my family), one is a nun, one is gay, another just placed fourth in a body-building competition — it has been interesting to watch her really transform in the last 18 months,  one is a single dad, one lives in a neo-hippie commune, one is teaching English in Japan, one is a theater professor, some are academics, some are blue-collar workers, some are Christians (in various manifestations), some are pagan, some are married, some not…  Lots of really disparate interests and paths of life.  I find it really fascinating.  Are most families similar to mine in their dissimilarities??  I don’t think there’s enough closeness in my extended family, and I’m sure there’s some cause-and-effect somewhere in there, but I’m not sure of the root…  I’m sure I’m part of the problem, too, sadly.

  • Church stuff:  Over the summer, I’ll be attending a Beth Moore Bible study (the updated version of Breaking Free).  Yesterday, my pastor’s wife asked me if I would, during one of the weeks’ meetings, give a little testimony based on the story I wrote last week, on the story of my son Wesley’s life, and how God really saved my life (literally) through him, when I thought it would kill me.  I was really pleased with her request.  I printed out and edited the original story because I have to hold it to seven minutes, which required me to cut it roughly in half.  That’s OK.  My writing is generally too bloated and filled with unnecessary asides, anyway.  I have pared.  🙂
  • Household stuff:  My hubby installed a “new” microwave over the weekend.  Our “old” one was just 5½ years old, but literally falling apart —  the vent broke off and had already been replaced (then broke again), the door handle completely broke off…  Replacing the door was going to cost us nearly $200.  Ack!  We couldn’t do that.  Thankfully, he works for a homebuilder, and we were able to get one out of a model home for less than half of retail.  Cool!  So, it’s five years old or so, but it’s never been used.  A friend of ours has the same model and is very happy with it.  I now have to figure out how best to clean stainless steel, as it is the first stainless appliance in our home.  Small complaint, though;  I’m happy to have a functional microwave.
  • Birds:  A Northern Cardinal (and today, his mate) has been visiting my back yard for the last three mornings.  Cardinals are not rare in the Phoenix area, but they are uncommon, and in the 5+ years we’ve been in our home, this is the first time that we’ve had a daily visitor.  Mr. Cardinal has pleasantly interrupted my mornings.  🙂
  • Other cardinals:  My husband was asked to design a home — like a manse — for a cardinal in California.  I’m very proud of him.  It’s a modest 1600 s.f. house on a very narrow lot.  My man is brilliant and thinks in 3D.  He whipped out the plan in one day.
  • My mother:  In sad news, my mom is back in the hospital.  I can’t remember how much I blogged about it last year, but in July, we nearly lost her.  She has Marfan Syndrome, and her skeleton is collapsing, which has given her decreased space for her lungs (and other organs).  Additionally, half of her diaphragm is paralyzed.  Then, she got double pneumonia.  She recovered, to our great relief.  She is a stubborn lady, and that can pay dividends when fighting illness.  She has lost a tremendous amount of weight and is very frail, and has been placed on oxygen “as needed”.  In the last month or so, her need for oxygen has been 24/7, with her oxygen saturation dipping into the 60% range or even down to 50% if she’s off of oxygen for even a short while.  After a doctor appointment yesterday, the doctor sent her straight to the E.R.  She has double pneumonia again, and is correspondingly hypoxic.  She was supposed to have major surgery (an estimated 12 hour ordeal) on the 25th of this month to resection her spine and to put in metal supports inside her ribcage area.  This is a risky procedure even for a healthy person;  for her, the doctors had given about a 60% chance for surviving surgery, mostly because of the extremely mushy shape of her arteries — she’s had two AAA repairs and one femoral artery replaced already due to aneurysms.  However, the surgery is really her only hope — aside from miraculous healing — for longer-term survival, since right now, she’s slowly being suffocated.  With this bout of pneumonia, the doctors have indefinitely shelved the surgery.  She’s crushed about that, but — unlike past stays — she’s relieved to be back in the hospital.  Normally, she is an unwilling patient.  I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not that she’s happy to be in the hospital.  Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Proof

I write this minutes after my sweet friend Marietta Wright exited my home.  We stood in the driveway and put one arm around each other and the other with its hand holding the proof copy of Brushed by God, her book on spontaneous prophetic art.  We prayed:  over the book, over each other, and just with thankfulness to God.

Thanks to Arnold at http://www.623creative.com for work on the cover

The book has been a long time in the making.  Well, I guess not that long, as far as books go, but it feels like forever.  She started working on it more than two years ago, after not being able to find a published book on the subject — because there isn’t one.  (Still, none exist, except hers, which is about to hit the market.)  She’s not a writer;  she was just trying to fill a need.  I chipped in, volunteering light editing work and suggestions.  I reached a place, though, in January 2010, where I realized that, in order to give the book what it needed, Marietta would have to hire me and pay me.  That way, I would be more accountable to her for my time (instead of just working on it in my nonexistent spare time).  Being hired would elevate my sense of responsibility for the book.  So, she did.  She hired me.

Now, in the normal scheme of a paid job, I didn’t do much — some weeks only 2-3 hours.  One week I think I worked 19 hours on it.  Most weeks were around 4-5 hours.  But… as a homeschooling mother of five, that was a lot of hours.  It was a big commitment.  It was so big, in fact, that some weeks, I couldn’t live up to it at all, and was unable to do any work, which severely tried Marietta’s patience.  As we spoke today, at my kitchen table, about that (one of many times we’ve discussed the topic of my unavailability), I told her my overriding sense in the whole thing is thankfulness that she did not give up on me, that she didn’t drop me, and that I was able to keep closely involved in the process until now.  She said, “God wouldn’t let me.”  I’m glad for that.  I’m glad she allowed God to expand her capacity for patience, rather than blowing up at me that I had not fulfilled my commitment to her.  Because, in the end, we both became more and did more than we could have, apart from each other.

The body of Christ is like that, truly.  Each sharpening each other, each supplying the other’s needs, each blessing each other, filling in the blanks… and, collectively, we achieve more than we ever could have on our own, both as individuals, and in the Kingdom of God — His rule and reign, both here on the earth, and in eternity.  It’s not always pleasant, being confronted about weakness, or having someone telling you that you let them down, or even just looking at them, and reading disappointment on their countenance.

HOWEVER.  Since some time in February 2010, I repeatedly begged Marietta not to give up on me, that in my heart, I so wanted to be a part of the project.

I felt strongly — and she confirmed it today — that I had the ability to not make the book “Karen’s Book” and fill it with my own language, but to take her voice, and just elevate it — bring it up.  And she said that, indeed, that’s what I did.

I also feel VERY, VERY STRONGLY in the need for the book to be out there, to be published, for people to read it.  It’s important to me that people “taste and see” that God is a speaking God, and that He can use art to bring His heart to His people.  Plus — though, admittedly, it is a small niche — there is growing interest in prophetic art and in its practice, and still there are no books on it, save Marietta’s.

The only bad news is this:  We have no publisher.  It will be self-published.  Marietta had a contract with a large, reputable publisher — our first choice, in fact!  However, after all the papers were signed, they revealed that a) the book would be published in black and white, and b) it would be in a smaller format than originally agreed-upon.  Understandably, Marietta balked at both, but especially the part about color.  How can you have a book which illustratively teaches about art, and have it be in black and white???  That just wouldn’t work.  So, after some conversation about it, the publisher released Marietta, gave her the choice to back out of the contract.  I guess that is a good thing, because they could have held her to it, and just done what they wanted, since neither point of contention was specified in the official, signed paperwork of the contract.

After that, rather than searching out another publisher, Marietta decided to look into self-publishing.  That has been a longish experience  — four or five months of hard lessons learned along a winding and complicated road.

I wasn’t thrilled about self-publishing, at first.  But, truly, there are so many outlets for a self-published book these days that it may be just fine, even though it’s a lot more work for the author (and those helping her).  And, perhaps the book will be picked up by a real publisher, sooner or later.  Sooner, one hopes.

After looking literally all around the world, Marietta found a great printer, people of their word who do good work at a good price, America’s Press.  (Not many printers fit all three of those criteria!)

This juncture where we find ourselves is both the completion of one portion of the journey, and the start of another:  getting the word out.  Even the bit that we have done so far — mostly just her blog, which I work on, as well — has resulted in invitations for Marietta to teach seminars/workshops in both the Netherlands (which will happen next month) and in New Zealand (which is under discussion).  I believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg!!

Soon, I’ll have a little button, there on the right, to purchase the book, for those who have been interested.  🙂  (Daja, you get one for free.)

Braces, blogging about teen children, writing, reading, worship, and the Arizona “beach”

  • My oldest, Ethan, just had a lunch that consisted of refried beans with cheese melted on them, and a glass of milk.  What the rest of us were eating (which included, among other things, baby carrots) didn’t work.  Duh.  I’ll have to get used to considering the Sore Mouth Factor when figuring out meals for him/us.  He got bands placed between his molars this morning, in preparation for the first of his braces, which will be put on in about two weeks.
  • Speaking of Ethan…  A few years ago, I was wondering why I wasn’t getting more great parenting stories, ideas, and tips from those of my bloggy friends who have children a few years older than mine.  “Why isn’t anyone writing about those tumultuous teen years??”  Well, I figured it out.  At nearly 14, my son is now a… sentient being.  The smaller a child is, the more freely you can talk about personal issues:  An 18 month old isn’t going to get her feelings hurt that you divulged mothering struggles to your friends.  (Or strangers, as the case may be, in a blog.)  Your 13 year old?  Definitely.  So, I’ve learned that I can say virtually nothing about my son online, because I want to honor his privacy.  He’s wonderful, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.  😉
  • And, where have I been the last month or so?  Working hard on ghostwriting.  More info on that, coming soon.  😀
  • In my head, I keep composing a post on how vastly different I look with makeup vs. without it, and various thoughts on painting the barn when it needs painting.  Maybe I’ll get around to it some day…
  • I’ve been reading a lot!  Lately, I’ve been working through Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, which is a curious mixture of historical fiction, literary mystery, Biblical scholarship, and feminism.  Very interesting.  When reading any series, I simply must go chronologically, so I’m on the 5th book in the series currently, O Jerusalem.
  • I have a job!  I mean, I’m re-employed!  Or, something…  I’m happy that, this week, I start leading small group worship again.  There was some shifting in small groups, and I was out of a “job” for about six or seven weeks.  It felt like a long time, but it was good to go to a small group and “just” be a participant.
  • Homeschooling 101:  You can take trips on a school day to just about anywhere and call it a field trip.  😉  I took my kids last Friday to the Santa Maria River.  My mother-in-law came with, which was great;  she’s a perfect road-trip partner.  The kids did so well for the eight hours we were gone, other than the first three miles of the trip.  After listening to about five minutes of continuous bickering, I risked my MIL’s esteem by pulling over to the side of the road to chew everyone out.  Chewing out the kids, that is.  Not her.  On the way out*, we took a scenic route, partially by (well-maintained) dirt road, which is probably my favorite or second-favorite Arizona drive**.  On the way back, we took all blacktops, which took two hours and saved us 30 minutes, even though, mileage-wise, it was slightly longer.  The river is NW of Wickenburg, and when there’s adequate water, it’s about as close as we get to the beach, here in Arizona.  The water does not run all the time, so I get USGS alerts for when the water is 10 cubic feet per second or greater.  The pics below were when the water was at about 60 cfps.  We played in an area just where the AZ 96 (my fave road in all of AZ) crosses the river, about 15 miles SE of Bagdad.  The temps were in the high 70s, with a strong sun and cool breezes.  It was perfect.

I have some better pics, too, but everything I post here needs to be 100% modest and fully-clad, so those are a no-go for the blogosphere.  🙂

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*The route we took OUT was Carefree Hwy (AZ 74) west to US 60.  US 60 northwest for only six miles to the point where it meets up with the US 93.  US 93 NW to AZ 89.  AZ 89 north-ish to Date Creek Road, which is 20+ miles of scenic and hilly dirt road.  Then, AZ 96 west to the point where it crosses the Santa Maria.  The route we took BACK was AZ 96 about 10 miles further west (bypassing, incidentally, my beloved Santa Maria River road, another extremely scenic dirt drive, because I was outvoted by my children).  Then, traveled SW sixteen miles on two-lane hilly, beautiful, remote blacktop of the AZ 97.  Then, SE on the US 93, which meets back up with the US 60, then back home.

**My all-time favorite Arizona drive is likely the long, -shaped drive to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which follows the high desert and Navajo Reservation along the US 89 and US 89A (at the point north of where it intersects with the US 160), along the stunning Echo Cliffs and Vermilion Cliffs, then climbs rapidly up to the Kaibab Plateau and the AZ 69, which goes south along verdant, alpine meadow lush with wildlife (deer and bison).  Unparalleled, and remote enough to be sparsely populated, which is just how I like it.

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