Sunday, August 23, 2015

"My Sweet Summer Is Gone..."

Pacific Beach--taken by moi
It's a depressing thought that summer is gone--it feels as if it just started, and somehow, summer slipped through my fingers. We had grand plans for going to the beach often...which we only managed over the 4th of July despite the fact that my parents live half a block from Law Street Beach in Pacific Beach, just south of La Jolla. J went on his nine-day missions trip to the Utah/Arizona border with a group of 20+ high schoolers, college-agers, and adults in July.

I had grand plans for writing this summer, especially during my Fan Fiction class at Brave Writer. (BTW, have you seen the new Brave Writer website? Click on the hyperlink and enjoy! And I even have my own teacher page here!) Anywhoooo, this if my fifth year of teaching this fun writing course, and I've averaged about eight, perhaps ten, students each July in this class. But this summer, we had 24 students enrolled in Fan Fiction! It was a lovely surprise, but it also derailed my writing plans for the month. And as summer classes are much more relaxed and tend to drag out a bit with so many kids at camp, on vacation, etc., I just graded and returned my last two stories tonight, August 23, for a class that "officially" finished July 31.

I spent most of the summer continuing to read and absorb more Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF); I'll have some more Goodreads/Amazon reviews for you in a week, perhaps less. I've started to write two JAFF stories myself, but I've only written a handful of chapters. I'm hoping to have more time after school begins and I get back on a regular schedule. But after the craziness of last year with more all-night grading sessions than I can count with teaching nine online classes at Brave Writer, including four of the crazy-intensive literary analysis classes, plus two courses at Heritage Christian School's ECII Class Day, I needed this summer to rest and recover.

On Tuesday, B and I will open our books and begin my 19th year of home education. Fortunately, we don't begin Class Day courses or Brave Writer classes until after Labor Day, so we have two weeks of just US while we adjust to his sophomore year of home schooling. Later on, he wants to study American Sign Language (ASL) as his foreign language, so he'll take community college classes his senior year to study ASL and perhaps some other courses.

His and my schedules for the 2015-2016 school year may be seen HERE.

Once we start into our full schedule after September 8, I plan to schedule in an hour of writing for myself each day, along with grading time for Expository Essay assignments and Brave Writer responses, plus time for Morning, Midday, and Vespers/Compline Prayers. I also set aside an hour for exercise on my stationary bicycle and twenty minutes in the spa (designed for those with rheumatoid arthritis) before bed. I'll be busy, but productive, too.

Plus, I'll still have my Online Essay Grading Service via e-mail for homeschooling parents who need some help with evaluating their students' junior high and high school essays.  I'm also swapping tutoring with an amazing mathematics teacher; she teaches B high school math while I teach her high school daughters writing. It's definitely a win-win situation as we meet each Thursday afternoon all year.


Oh, and August 13 was the Ninth Anniversary of Meditative Meanderings! It started on a homeschooling blog site and then moved to Blogger in 2007. With over 1500 posts, 2500 comments, and more than 225,000 views, I've thoroughly enjoyed blogging here and do not plan to stop anytime soon. :)

We're hoping to get some beach time after Labor Day when all of the kids return to school and we can descend upon my parents' place and enjoy the beach in relative serenity. Crowds really aren't our thing. So although summer is gone, we do have plans to enjoy some beach and Balboa Park time as we can once the crowds dissipate and we can enjoy San Diego sans tourists.

Welcome to autumn (I guess...),


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Plans for 2015-2016 School Year



This school year, which for us will start a week from today, will be the first time that I've had only one student in our home school since 1999. In June we graduated J, and E and T graduated in 2010 and 2014 respectively, so now it's just B and me at home doing school. It's also Year 19 in my homeschooling journey.
Heritage Christian School

B will be a high school sophomore this year, and here's our plan through Heritage Christian School of San Diego:

Bible: Book of Common Prayer 2011, Lectionary Readings and Morning Prayers (ESV Scriptures); The Story of Christianity by Price and Collins for Church History.

English 10: Masterpieces from World Literature (ABeka); Easy Grammar Ultimate Series Grade 10; Spelling Power; Copywork; Editor-in-Chief B-1; Star Wars Mad Libs; Brave Writer Assignments

World History: World History and Cultures (ABeka)

Biology I: Exploring Creation through Biology (Apologia Biology) with Lab at Heritage Christian School East County II Class Day

Geometry I: with Saxon Algebra I (with Geometry), tutored by Julie Brennan

Elective: Chess and Games at Heritage Christian School East County II Class Day

I'll also be adding in some art assignments throughout the year, probably a semester's worth by the end of the year. I'd love to have him take some art classes, but they just aren't in the budget this year.


Heritage Christian School East County II Class Day

While B is taking his double-period Biology Lab and his after-lunch chess and games class, I'll be teaching Expository Essay I and II at East County II Class Day. Over the course of 18 meetings, I'll have my class of twelve students writing ten essays, plus a college-level research paper:


  • Keen Observation (descriptive paragraph: 500 word minimum)
  • Biblical Influence Essay (five-paragraph, 1000 word minimum)
  • Contrast Essay (five-paragraph, 1000 word minimum)
  • Comparison Essay (five-paragraph, 1000 word minimum)
  • Definition Essay (five-paragraph, 1000 word minimum)
  • Literary Analysis Essay (five-paragraph, 1000 word minimum)
  • Poetry Explication Essay (five-paragraph, 1000 word minimum)
  • Timed In-Class Essay (five-paragraph, 1000 word minimum)
  • Exploratory Essay (1000 word minimum)
  • Persuasive Essay (five-paragraph, 1000 word minimum)
  • MLA Research Essay (five-seven page minimum; minimum five sources)


Brave Writer

My Brave Writer schedule is lighter than last year with only one literary analysis class which are the most intensive classes I've taught online; my last literary analysis class generated more than 1,100 posts over four weeks! I especially love teaching three of the Family Workshop courses in grammar, poetry writing, and Shakespeare!

Fall Term:
Groovy Grammar Workshop: September 8-October 2

MLA Research Essay: October 5-November 13

Playing with Poetry Workshop: November 16-December 15

Winter Term:
Groovy Grammar Workshop: Dates To Be Posted (TBP)

MLA Research Essay: Dates TBP

Playing with Poetry Workshop: Dates TBP

Spring Term:
Shakespeare Family Workshop: Dates TBP

Literary Analysis: Shakespeare's Hamlet: Dates and Description TBP

Summer Term:

Fan Fiction: Dates TBP


So here are our homeschooling plans for the 2015-2016 school year! I think they'll keep us fairly busy...but I hope with some room for writing for me...perhaps even NaNoWriMo in November??

Have a wonderful school year!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The "Spoon Theory" of Chronic Illness

Re-post from the Archives with a few recent additions....

If it wasn't for the cane I use to help with my balance, I doubt most people I meet, or even those with whom I am acquainted, would know that I am sick. Often I have been told, "You look wonderful! You don't look sick at all." There is an unspoken question asked in those seemingly innocuous words: Are you really sick?

Although I am certain that they mean to compliment me, those words stab my heart a little bit, too. Even my close friends don't know how difficult it is for me to get out of bed, how taking a shower can sap my energy for the whole morning, how climbing a flight of stairs can make my knees weak for hours afterward.

My favorite activities are severely limited. I love gardening, but I must limit my time, depending on the particular activity (weeding, planting, digging, etc.) to ten to twenty minutes a day unless I want to spend the next day or two exhausted on the sofa. I used to love walking and hiking with my husband (who has been incredibly patient and understanding through my illness), but now I can walk only a few hundred yards...a little more on occasion. When we lived in San Diego, I used to bicycle all over North Park on a daily basis, and biking in the mountains was an activity I was looking forward to when we moved to Pine Valley. Unfortunately, I was sick and unable to use my bike before spring came around after we moved in September. Long shopping trips and days at Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, Disneyland, etc., require me to use a wheelchair. Right now I've been able to build up to an hour on the stationary bike at 7-8 mph (no tension), walking to the post office and back (a tenth of a mile), and ten minutes of light gardening a day. I have to spread all these activities throughout morning, afternoon, and evening so that I have time to recover in between.

One of the very best explanations of what I go through each day with whatever-it-is that I have, diagnosed by various doctors as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, is the Spoon Theory. I first read it years ago, and I recently saw it making the rounds once again on Facebook. You may read it here:


I try not to dwell on what I can't do (I can't help it sometimes, and it is frustrating) and focus instead on what I can do. I can pray. I can read. I can write. I can teach..although I need to monitor my time on the computer or I have additional neck, upper back, and shoulder pain that breaks through my dosage of pain meds (40 mg methadone morning and evening).

I feel that my older kids grew up "missing the fun Mom" I used to be when I played badminton and volleyball with them and took them biking and skating, hiking and running. However, the younger two boys don't remember me when I was "normal." I'm not sure which is worse.

So what helps me through all of this? Ten years ago, God led me to a conservative Anglican Church (Reformed Episcopal), Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity for weekday healing services. The silence of the service without music, the peace of praying Scripture and ancient prayers, the celebration of the Church Year, the Communion of the Eucharist, and the laying on of hands and anointing with oil as the priest prays over me gives me the willpower and strength to persevere through the pain, exhaustion, and the emotional and financial turmoil resulting from my illness. I still attend these Friday morning services each week and still feel the Holy Spirit strengthening me as Father Acker prays:
"Susanne, I lay my hands upon you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain you with His presence, to drive away all sickness of body and spirit, and to give you that victory of life and peace which will enable you to serve Him both now and evermore. Amen."
During and after these services, I feel God's peace filling me, enabling me to soldier on despite what I am unable to do, able to focus on what I can do. And that, indeed, is the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.

And during this time of trial now in its fourteenth year, I have learned to pray...to really pray. And by that, I mean not just rattling off a "grocery-list" of prayer requests for family, friends, and self, but I've learned to truly worship, mostly through praying through the Scriptures with the resources I mentioned in last Saturday's post. I also have Anglican prayer beads which can be used in many different ways and which I use to pray Scripture and for the needs of family and friends. Having something in my hands while I pray, making it a physical act in addition to a mental/heart/soul act, keeps me focused and deeply in prayer.

Now I see our oldest struggling with chronic fatigue and our second oldest suffering with chronic pain, and all three of us have been diagnosed with different genetic mutations that are at the root of our fatigue and pain. We have an amazing Christian osteopath who keeps us on track and insists that we each have an artistic outlet to release stress and build us up emotionally. We've been prayed over by elders, pastors, and missionaries; we've been anointed with oil, and we haven't yet been healed. Do I believe that God CAN heal us? Definitely! Do I believe that God WILL heal us? Definitely! He will do so in His timing, and in the meanwhile, we learn to depend on Him, not in ourselves. God will heal us in His perfect timing, and we shall grow in faith, hope, and love while we wait.

In His Grace, this day and always,
  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

My Quiet Times, Tenth Week After Trinity, & Quotation of the Week



One of the most precious times of my day is when I sit at my desk with a lit candle before me to spend time with God in His Word. Christians approach their time with the Lord in many ways, and mine is a rather eclectic mix that I'd like to share with you.

First of all, I start and end my days with Quiet Time, and I also pause at noon. In the mornings and evenings, I pray through:



The Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, the Morning Prayers and the Evening Prayers. This little book was written for WWII soldiers to take with them on the battlefields, with prayers for one month: thirty-one Morning and thirty-one Evening Prayers, plus prayers for Sunday Morning and Sunday Evening. The language is so beautiful and worshipful, and I can worship God in ways that would never have occurred to me through these prayers. The blank pages facing each page-long prayer are for writing our own needs and prayer requests. I've been praying from this book off and on for fifteen years, and I somehow always come back to it.



The One Year Book of Hymns. I use this resource in the mornings only; I used to pray it in the evenings, but I found that I was often praying two hymns since the next resource usually includes a hymn in Vesper Prayers. If I know the hymn for a certain day, I sing it (very much off-key; singing is not my strong suit!), and if I don't know it, I read and pray it as poetry. I love the accompanying devotional and Scripture verses on the page facing the hymn lyrics. Some of the hymns date back a thousand years or more while others are from the 20th century; it's a lovely collection that lifts my heart to worship each morning.



The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. A friend who used to attend Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity gave me these three volumes (Springtime, Summertime, and Autumn/Winter) about ten years ago, and I keep returning to them as they ground me in God's Word and in prayer three times each day. Set up in the format of weeks starting with Sunday (The Sunday closest to August 1, etc.), each week is united by a common collective prayer prayed on each day of the week at each of the three prayer times: Morning, Midday, and Vespers. This is the only resource I use at noon at which time I also pray the requests of ourselves, family, and friends via the Prayer Popper app on my mobile phone. Set up with several short Scripture readings (quite a few from the Psalms), I pray the Scriptures and prayers during my day. The Vespers (Evening) readings include a hymn which is why I use the Book of Hymns mentioned above at Morning Prayer only.



The Book of Common Prayer 2011 by Father Keith Acker; edited by Alice Acker and Susanne Barrett. Following the request of retired Bishop Richard Boyce, Father Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity retranslated and rewrote the original Book of Common Prayer of the Early Reformation. Then Father Acker and his lovely wife, Alice, traveled up the hill to Pine Valley to work with me, and together we focused on revising and editing this modern Book of Common Prayer which uses the English Standard Version Bible; yes, Crossways was very kind in allowing us free rights to their Psalms and other Scriptures. Now in its second printing, this Book of Common Prayer theologically hearkens back to Thomas Cranmer's original Book of Common Prayer of 1547, but uses the language of modern English rather than the archaic and difficult-to-understand language of the Early Reformation.

I pray Morning Prayer, read the Morning Scripture verses (one reading from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament) from my ESV Bible app on my Kindle tablet as they are listed in the Lectionary (a schedule of Scripture which, if read morning and evening, will take us through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice each year), plus the Psalter which lays out all 150 Psalms into thirty Morning readings and thirty Evening readings, thus allowing us to pray all of the Psalms each month. The Collects (collective prayers) for each week are referenced back to Scripture verses, and ancient hymns and canticles are also included along with the great Creeds of the Faith. The sales for this Book of Common Prayer have been generated more by evangelicals eager for a touch of liturgy steeped in God's Word than by Anglicans themselves. I pray Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline (bedtime prayers) each day from this resource.

And speaking of the Book of Common Prayer 2011, here is the Collect for this week, the Tenth Sunday After Trinity:

TENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
THE COLLECT:
LET your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your people; And, so that we may obtain our requests, assist us in asking only for those tings that are pleasing to you; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: Nehemiah 1.11; 1 Chronicles 1.11-12; 1 John 5.14)
THE READINGS:
1 Corinthians 12.1-11; Luke 19.41-47a; Psalm 55.1-8, 23; Psalm 137.1-6; Exodus 20.1-17

And as I try to update my Quotation of the Week every week, here is a new quotation I found last month that caught my eye, mind, and heart:

"You have made us for yourself, O God, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you."

~Saint Augustine

Wishing you all a blessed week in the love and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Transfiguration of Our Lord


(Raphael's Transfiguration, copied from Wikipedia)

Repost from the Archives, with a few edits....

Liturgical churches celebrate the Transfiguration of Christ on August 6. The above painting by Raphael (1483-1520) was studied as part of our One Anothers Sunday School class about ten years ago at Lake Murray Community Church in which we discussed the Gospel of Matthew, verse by verse, over a three-year period. What is so amazing about this painting is that it relates two Gospel stories that may indeed have taken place simultaneously. The first is Christ being transfigured, His Glory shining, with Moses on one side and Elijah on the other, and the three disciples, Peter, John, and James prostrate and quivering in fear at their feet.

Then below this scene we see the second story: the attempts by the other disciples to heal a demon-possessed boy (Matthew 17:14-21), the story that immediately follows the Transfiguration in Matthew's Gospel. They aren't getting anywhere with this poor boy, and the Scriptures state (starting in v. 14): "And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him [Jesus] and, kneeling before him, said, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.'"

Jesus' reply has always baffled me somewhat. He rebukes the "faithless and twisted generation," asking "... how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?" Then Christ "rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly." The Gospel continues: "Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out?' He said to them, 'Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'"

I guess I can understand Jesus' frustration. Just a little while before casting out the demon that his disciples were unable to, He once again tasted His glory on the Mount: "And he was transformed before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him" (Matt. 17: 2-3). Then the first thing He has to face after speaking with Moses and Elijah, after His glory shone through His human body for the only time of His 33 years of physical life on the earth, after hearing the voice of His beloved Father praising Him: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him" (Matt. 17:5), after He had revealed to them that John the Baptist was the "Elijah that had already come" (17:12), was the lack of faith of His other nine disciples who were unable to heal a young boy from demonic possession. No wonder He was a bit miffed--His utter frustration with the slow-to-get-it disciples finally got to Him. Jesus' reaction here makes me feel a bit better when my own frustration takes over at times.

But the Transfiguration is of the utmost importance today. Christ's glory, His true identity as the Son of the Living God, His magnificence, His purity, were revealed to His closest followers who "fell on their faces and were terrified" (17:6) as Raphael portrays so convincingly in the above painting. Peter, James, and John, all of whom would have important parts to play in the Apostolic Age of the Church, were specially chosen by Jesus to be witnesses of His transfiguration. Years later, St. Peter wrote in his second epistle, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty...for we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Pet. 1:16, 18b).

From the Catholic Encyclopedia Online:

The Transfiguration of Christ is the culminating point of His public life, as His Baptism is its starting point, and His Ascension its end. Moreover, this glorious event has been related in detail by St. Matthew (17:1-6), St. Mark (9:1-8), and St. Luke (9:28-36), while St. Peter (2 Peter 1:16-18) and St. John (1:14), two of the privileged witnesses, make allusion to it.

About a week after His sojourn in C├Žsarea Philippi, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them to a high mountain apart, where He was transfigured before their ravished eyes. St. Matthew and St. Mark express this phenomenon by the word "metemorphothe," which the Vulgate renders "transfiguratus est." The Synoptics explain the true meaning of the word by adding "his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow," according to the Vulgate, or "as light," according to the Greek text.

This dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity. False Judaism had rejected the Messiah, and now true Judaism, represented by Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, recognized and adored Him, while for the second time God the Father proclaimed Him His only-begotten and well-loved Son. By this glorious manifestation the Divine Master, who had just foretold His Passion to the Apostles (Matthew 16:21), and who spoke with Moses and Elijah of the trials which awaited Him at Jerusalem, strengthened the faith of his three friends and prepared them for the terrible struggle of which they were to be witnesses in Gethsemani, by giving them a foretaste of the glory and heavenly delights to which we attain by suffering.

Already in Apostolic times the mount of the Transfiguration had become the "holy mount" (2 Peter 1:18). It seems to have been known by the faithful of the country, and tradition identified it with Mount Tabor. Origen said (A.D. 231-54) "Tabor is the mountain of Galilee on which Christ was transfigured." In the next century St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. Jerome likewise declare it categorically.

I like best the Transfiguration prayer in The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime which is based on the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

O God, who on holy Tabor revealed to the chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured white and glistening: Mercifully grant that I and all your church, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in His beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I conclude with Psalm 106:48: "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting; and let all the people say, 'Amen!' Alleluia!"


Wishing you a blessed remembrance of Christ's Transfiguration this day,


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Austen Variations Reviews


For the past year, I've been reading a lot (so many I can't count them all!) variations of Jane Austen's works--mostly of Pride and Prejudice--with the idea of immersing myself in the genre and then writing my own variation/continuation of this favorite novel. Yes, I've finally tired of writing modern fan fiction despite the 4+ million reads I've received on Wattpad and FanFiction.net for my novels and stories.

As soon as I submitted my final transcript for my online Literary Analysis: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night course at Brave Writer, I took Amazon up on their oft-repeated offer of a free month of Kindle Unlimited--yes, free Kindle books (selected books only, not all of them, unfortunately) for a month. And I absorbed about about twenty Austen Variations during that time. In exchange for reading their books for free, I posted reviews of the books on Goodreads and Amazon to at least help the authors to generate more readers.



My favorite writers of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) are on the wonderful site Austen Variations, and I've been fortunate to find quite a few of their books via our state-wide California library system called Link+. Why so many JAFF books were purchased in by libraries in Northern California in general and San Francisco in particular remains a mystery to me. Just this week on the Austen Variations site, I won a debut copy of Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow which I am very excited to read. :)

So here are some of my Austen-ish reviews. By the way, I'm stingy with "5" ratings which I save mostly for classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc. Most books that I truly enjoy get a "4" rating, but there is one "5" listed below.

Enjoy!! :)


So Gradually: A Pride & Prejudice Tale So Gradually: A Pride & Prejudice Tale by Jessica Schlenker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lovely novella with several major changes from Austen's P&P: Bingley returns to Netherfield a week after the Netherfield Ball and asks for Jane's hand; they are married when this story begins. Darcy and Elizabeth are best friends; they can talk about anything and they do. However, Elizabeth has fallen in love with her "best friend," and on a subsequent trip to Rosings, her low spirits are such that Colonel Fitzwilliam confronts her (with Anne's prodding) to admit her love. Darcy also confronts her over her lack of good spirits, and that when the story gets intriguing....

 A delightful read--so refreshingly original and light-hearted--a perfect summer afternoon book!



View all my reviews The Perfect Match: a Pride and Prejudice sequel The Perfect Match: a Pride and Prejudice sequel by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful Pride and Prejudice "sequel" that follows the marriage of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy nearly a year after their double-wedding with the Bingleys. While the Darcys are enjoying the most felicitous of marriages, a true "perfect match," they must prove it to the ton as well when they go to London for the first time after basically honeymooning for a year at Pemberley and in travel around England. Plus, the Bingleys are not enjoying a "perfect match," thanks to Bingley's rude sisters and too-frequent visits from Mrs. Bennet to Netherfield. What can the Bingleys do to have the same joy in their marriage as the Darcys obviously have? This is a lovely and thought-provoking look at what an actual "perfect match" may be, showing that communication is at the root of marital bliss. It's also a heart-warming view of how both Elizabeth and Darcy themselves have changed as they seek each other's felicity above that of their families, friends, and even London's ton who may have quite a bit to say about the new Mrs. Darcy's foray into the upper crust of society. A wonderful read--I read it basically in one sitting and found it lovely, thoughtful, and the perfect way to relax on a summer afternoon...before more essays need to be graded from my summer school class. ;)



View all my reviews In the Arms of Mr. Darcy In the Arms of Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth in Sharon Lathan's wonderful Darcy Saga, this novel takes us through the first years of Alexander Darcy and the various happenings in the Darcy family as Lizzy and William travel, dote on their child, and love one another more and more. We also get to see Georgianna grow up and even see Colonel Fitzwilliam fall in love. Kitty, the lone unmarried Bennet daughter, finally finds love in the unlikeliest of places after significant heartbreak.

Overall, it's a lovely continuation of the Darcy Saga, and I enjoyed every word. :)

Book 5 in the Darcy Saga is definitely next on my list!



View all my reviews The Trouble with Mr. Darcy The Trouble with Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The final book in the Darcy Saga is filled with more adventure and intrigue than the previous few books. Evil intentions haunt the happiness of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy after Elizabeth suffers a difficult illness after the birth of their second child--an illness that nearly tears our happy couple apart.

This is a more suspenseful and dramatic book in this saga than the rest, and it truly was a page-turner. People from the past align forces to harm the Darcy family while other members of the family finally find happiness after previous difficult experiences. And one member of the Darcy staff who has always hated Elizabeth and the changes she has brought to the quiet and peaceful Darcy establishment betrays the family in a potentially deadly manner....

But in true Darcy style, the family rises above all attempts to endanger their happiness and well-being. The Darcy Saga ends at the perfect place, with happiness all-around and more joy in store for the Darcy family and their immediate family and friends.



View all my reviews Mr. Darcy's Promise Mr. Darcy's Promise by Jeanna Ellsworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful variation on Austen's Pride and Prejudice in which Wickham notes Darcy's attentions to Elizabeth and plots a way to get money from Darcy by compromising Elizabeth. But Darcy steps in before Wickham is discovered by Mr. Bennet (with Mr. Denny's assistance), and Mr. Bennet finds Darcy comforting a sobbing Lizzy and claims that Darcy has compromised his daughter and forces a marriage. Elizabeth is reluctant while Darcy is not.

As Darcy and Elizabeth drive away from Longbourn after their wedding, Elizabeth sobs heartbrokenly. And then Mr. Darcy makes a promise that will haunt both him and Elizabeth, causing both to constantly second-guess the other's motives, feelings, and even their love for one another.

This variation is a lovely slow-burn between Darcy and Elizabeth as everyone else thinks their marriage a love-match despite the circumstances, but neither one believes that the other loves them. But as they spend time together, especially at Pemberley, they bond over the little things in life--little things that become a metaphor for their marriage and for their growing love for one another.

I ended up procrastinating a great deal today on various projects because I simply couldn't put this book down; it's that delightful!!



View all my reviews The Best Of Relations: A Pride And Prejudice Variation The Best Of Relations: A Pride And Prejudice Variation by Catherine Bilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful Austen variation in which Elizabeth and Jane's beloved Aunt Gardiner is a distant yet beloved cousin to Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. When Elizabeth writes her aunt of the proud and distant Mr. Darcy who is visiting his friend at Netherfield Park, Aunt Gardiner defends the gentleman very warmly, causing Lizzy to re-evaluate her opinion of the gentleman.

But it is a letter to her aunt mentioning Mr. Wickham that causes Aunt Gardiner to rush to Longbourn on the eve of the Netherfield Ball to protect her nieces from the wicked and dissolute man who brought grief and ruination to her own family, in addition to Mr. Darcy's, in the past....

This was a wonderful novel--I read it nearly all in one sitting because it was so original and compelling. And the reaction of Miss Caroline Bingley's when she learns that the polished and fashionable cousin of Mr. Darcy is actually the Bennets' relation who lives in Cheapside is precious indeed! Reading this novel with a cup of tea at one's elbow is the perfect way to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon!



View all my reviews To Refine Like Silver To Refine Like Silver by Jeanna Ellsworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have never given an Austen variation novel five stars before, mostly because I save that rating for literature of true classic significance. But this novel well-deserves its five stars for weaving Pride and Prejudice so seamlessly with Christian doctrine and encouragement.

I've tried reading "Christian romances," and the vast, vast majority of them are so heavy-handed or so syrupy-sweet that they take all of the sparkle out of the characters and the plot.

But this variation of Pride and Prejudice marries true Christianity lived in the life of Elizabeth Bennet who has suffered great tragedy during her short life. Her father is a retired pastor, now a country gentleman after inheriting Longbourn, and Elizabeth shines with light and joy as she comes to Derbyshire to help her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner to settle into the small estate which they have just inherited--and their estate is near Pemberley. When Darcy comes to meet his neighbors, he is immediately taken by Elizabeth's joy and peace (and impertinence, of course!) and wants her to befriend Georgiana who is in the depth of depression after Ramsgate. Elizabeth's wise and practical faith brings both Darcys hard-won peace...and while Georgiana finds herself a friend for life, Darcy discovers that he is falling in love with this unusual and impertinent young woman who, with a wink and a smile, challenges him to discover the meaning of Malachi 3:3. And Darcy also finds out what happens when one small (but extremely difficult!) act of forgiveness and grace affects another character so profoundly that he saves the reputations of the woman Darcy has come to love.

This book is definitely written for a Christian audience with faith issues abounding on nearly every page. Its approach of unapologetic apologetics is refreshing, and Elizabeth's various sayings and quotations affect not only the characters in the story but faithful readers as well. A truly wonderful and thought-provoking novel that I loved reading!!



View all my reviews Most Truly Most Truly by Reina M. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet novella telling the story of the romance between Colonel Fitzwilliam and Kitty Bennet, the latter of whom has greatly improved under her elder sisters' care since their weddings. Of course, now the Darcy is no longer available for Anne, Lady Catherine is determined that Colonel Fitzwilliam is the next likely victim, I mean, husband for her daughter. Little does the great lady know that both Anne and the Colonel have given their hearts to others...and not to each other.

A delightful and even at timesa bit of an angsty look at romance from both Kitty and the Colonel's POVs. A wonderful afternoon read with a cuppa and a few iced tea biscuits....



View all my reviews Darcy and Elizabeth: A Most Unlikely Couple Darcy and Elizabeth: A Most Unlikely Couple by Brenda J. Webb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story in which Darcy has a cousin, Andrew, who grew up with him and Wickham, but Andrew has long tended toward Wickham's character than the upright Darcy. However, when Andrew compromises Miss Elizabeth Bennet and then disappears, Darcy steps in to offer for the woman he loves but never thought his family would permit him to marry.

But his Derbyshire neighbor, the widowed Lady Susan, had wished to marry Darcy, and despite his hurried and hushed marriage to Elizabeth, plans to ruin their marriage with the assistance of a spoiled and horrid Georgiana who never believed Darcy's tales of their cousin Andrew's natural children or Wickham's gambling. Georgiana quickly becomes a pawn in the game of winning Darcy away from Elizabeth by Lady Susan with Wickham and Andrew's assistance.

There are several original characters(OC) in this fan fiction variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, including Andrew Darcy, and Fitzwilliam Darcy's uncle and aunt, Joseph Fitzwilliam and his wife Olivia, who were banished from the family for marrying without approval. Their beautiful marriage becomes the goal for both Darcy and Elizabeth who are in love but are too afraid to admit the truth to one another.

And thus the story unfolds with intrigue, kidnappings, highwaymen, several attempted murders, and plotting of various kinds that both endanger Darcy and Elizabeth while also bringing them closer together. A real roller-coaster ride, Regency-style!

I'll have more reviews for you soon! :)

Loving everything Austen,

Monday, July 20, 2015

Quotations of the Week


Once again, God has turned my easily-distracted mind back to gratitude, thanks to an amazing group of women focused on Gratitude via Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, one of the most life-changing books (outside of God's Word, of course!) I have ever read.

I had been a longtime reader of Ann's blog, A Holy Experience; in fact, her blog inspired me to start my own...and my ninth "blogversary" is coming up next month! So I was familiar with her "attitude of gratitude" long before her book hit the bestsellers lists. I've kept various Gratitude Journals throughout the years, in addition to all of the other journals I keep: a regular "life journal" in which I try to write once a week, a quotation journal (filled with Ann-quotes, Scripture, poems, hymns, advice on writing, various words of wisdom--anything I want to savor and keep) for which I'm in my 13th year and second journal volume, a prayer journal, etc.

So all of this brings me to my Quotations for the Week, some Ann-words and some Scripture this time:

"The truth is that stillness with God is always a matter of focus, not of circumstances."

~Ann Voskamp (via Twitter)

***

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."

~Psalm 90.12, English Standard Version


Focus, not circumstances...how true that is in my life! How often do I allow circumstances to dictate my relationship with God instead of clearing away the detritus of my days and simply BE STILL.



And as days seem to fall one over the other, each one passing in the proverbial blink of an eye, I want to stop, truly focus on "numbering my days," seeking His Wisdom and not my own so that my heart is filled with His Love, His Grace, His Peace.

May this week be a week of deliberate focus, of wisdom, and not tossed about by circumstances, most of which I have no control over.

Wishing us all God's best this week,
 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Best-Laid Plans....



I had some awesome plans for July. It's Camp NaNoWriMo time, and my goal was to write a very do-able 30,000 words on my new novel during this month. Yes, I knew that I was also teaching the Fan Fiction class at Brave Writer this summer, but the class has averaged about eight students in the four previous years that I've taught it. No problem! I can teach this class and have plenty of time to work on my new Jane Austen novel.

So when I was blessed with 24 students (25 is full-capacity!), I was thrilled, but I also knew that my precious writing time would have to take a backseat. I've written about 5,000 words on my new novel and 3,000 words on another project, and I hope to squeeze in a little more writing time between grading some amazing stories written by students as young as ten years old. The first batch of stories came in this week, and I am so thrilled with the quality of their work!


Yes, the best-laid plans.... Well, there is always August, which I have off from both Brave Writer and Heritage (our private home school group), but I'll also be planning the next home school year for our last student--yes, I'll be back to homeschooling just one after graduating the older three. I'm also teaching only one class at Heritage's Class Days this year instead of two as I did last year, and I'm also teaching more family workshop classes instead of the intensive literary analysis courses at Brave Writer.

Thus I hope to return to writing more of my tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, starting at the end of Pride and Prejudice and moving forward into their married life together. Yes, many Austen Variations exist (I've spent the last year reading over a hundred P&P novels!), but I want to give my own spin on Elizabeth and Darcy's engagement, wedding, and marriage. I figure that if I can read so many of these variations on Austen's books and never get bored, other Austen fans would also enjoy mine. We shall see. All I know is that I can't wait to get back to crafting my little novel...even if it won't be as popular as P.D. James' last novel, Death Comes to Pemberley. 



So on this Sunday afternoon with the welcome rumble of thunder and charcoal-gray clouds releasing even more welcome rain showers, I'll finish grading the first round of fan fiction stories from my online class and plan my week...with a few time slots set aside to write. Although I most likely will not meet my original goal of writing 30,000 words this month, every little bit I write takes me that much closer to my goal of completing this novel, the first one that I hope to publish on Amazon and perhaps earn a little money, unlike my other novels and stories which I have posted for free on other sites. They were fun practice works to write and have been very popular with nearly 4 million reads between the two sites, but now to get a little more serious about writing....

Wishing you all a blessed week!




 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Fourth of July!


Law Street Beach on the 5th of July last year--early (before the crowds return!)

We're heading to my parents' place at the beach today and tonight. Living just half a block from Law Street Beach in Pacific Beach, my parents always invite the whole crew down for the 4th. The beaches are extremely jam-packed, so I usually just go for a walk on the boardwalk rather than face the sandy crowds and the stickiness of sunscreen. I'd rather hang out on the deck and enjoy the sunshine and the view in relative peace.

Sunset from my parents' deck

Keith refuses the crowds--not that I blame him; he'd rather enjoy a quiet house than the beach crowds and my semi-insane family. I love watching the sunset first from the deck, and then the four-five fireworks displays visible from the deck starting at nine, and then Sea World puts on their display at 9:30; we "oooh" and "aaah" while eating dessert. Elizabeth made peppermint brownie bites and orange protein balls (Wild Orange oil, honey, dried cranberries, almond butter, and coconut, all rolled in coconut and chilled-yum!), and we'll pick up some ice cream to go with it.

In honor of Independence Day, I thought I'd post the same poet distributed this morning by the Academy of American Poets in their Poem-a-Day e-mail:

View this email on a browserForward to a friend
http://academyofamericanpoets.cmail2.com/t/y-l-dltjkrk-jrjudulttr-u/
July 4, 2015
 

I, Too

 
Langston Hughes
 
Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. He is the author of The Weary Blues (Knopf, 1926) and Montage of a Dream Deferred (Holt, 1951), among other works. He died on May 22, 1967 in New York City.
Wishing you all a joyous celebration of our nation's independence,



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo


All of the essays have been graded and returned for the 2014-2015 school year, and all final course grades have been submitted. So, I AM DONE!!!! YAY!! :)

I will be teaching a Fan Fiction class with Brave Writer during the month of July, but the class is a piece of cake compared to the other classes I taught during the school year; my last class topped 1100 posts in four weeks, nearly all of which I responded to point by point.

But July also marks the return of Camp NaNoWriMo--a more relaxed version of November's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Instead of the 50,000 words-or-bust scenario of writing a new novel as we do each November for NaNoWriMo, in Camp NaNoWriMo we set our own goals and write in different genres, if desired.

I plan to work on two novels alternately during Camp NaNoWriMo with an overall goal of 30,000 words--one thousand words per day, skipping the July 4th holiday. One novel will be a sequel to my first novel, a Twilight fan fiction, and the second will be a Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF), a continuation of Pride and Prejudice (currently untitled), starting with Bingley and Darcy's return to Netherfield after the Lydia/Wickham fiasco.

Austen Variations Blog Header
I have spent nearly a year absorbing JAFF (as can be easily seen by the list of books I've read this year as posted in the sidebar of this blog), especially from the wonderful site Austen Variations which features the work of some incredibly-talented writers of variations and continuations of Austen's novels. I've become a devoted fan of their work, especially that of Abigail Reynolds, Monica Fairview, Mary Lydon Simonsen, Kara Louise, Jack Caldwell, Jane Odiwe, and many others. I've been able to borrow many of their novels through the state-wide California public library system called "LINK +," with the vast majority of the books coming from San Francisco and other Northern California public libraries. I've also invested in a few Kindle books by these authors when their books are not available through the library, plus I've been reading additional JAFF on FanFiction.net, especially by Astonishment, AnotherSentimentalFool, SophieTurner1805, Shaelelina, and DarcyFan1. So I am really excited about starting to write my own JAFF!

If anyone else is doing Camp NaNoWriMo, please feel free to "friend" me under the user name SusanneB, and we can encourage each other along the way. The beginning of my Jane Austen Fan Fiction novel can be read from the Writing Project Info page.

And, for my Quotation of the Week:

"Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way."

~Ray Bradbury


Happy Writing!

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