The Midwife’s Apprentice

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman is a wonderful coming-of-age book set in the fourteenth century in England.  We follow an orphan girl who can’t remember either of her parents or her name.   She doesn’t know how old she is either–12 or 13 maybe.  She’s known as Brat and Beetle–the names others call her.  She travels around villages, pilfering food.  She meets a midwife who takes her in because she needs help doing her duties.

Beetle learns quickly and is far from dumb.  She rescues a cat she names Purr.  She takes the name Alyce after being mistaken for another girl named Alyce.  She saves a boy, Will, when he falls into a pond.  He is one of those who taunts her.  He comes to like Alyce and defend her.

One day Alyce is called to help a woman give birth.  She is specifically requested after she helped another woman give birth.  Alyce arrives but fails to help the mother.  Jane, the midwife, steps in and successfully delivers the child.

Alyce, feeling a failure, runs away.  She believes herself too stupid to be a midwife’s apprentice. She finds a home in an inn and works there.  She befriends a magister who is staying at the inn collecting stories for an encyclopedia he is writing.  He teaches Alyce how to read.

One day the magister asks Alyce what does she want.  She never thought about what she wants.  She thinks and thinks and thinks and says, “I want a full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.”

The midwife shows up to tell the magister herbs for midwifery.  She mentions Alyce and says, “Alyce gave up.  I need an apprentice who can do what I tell her, take what I give her, and who can try and risk and fail and try again and not give up.”

Alyce misses the village she left so she visits.  She checks in on Edward, an orphan boy she helped find a job.  He’s content and doing well.

Soon afterwards, a prosperous couple shows up at the inn.  The woman is pregnant and Alyce ends up successfully delivering the baby after watching the woman suffer labor pains.

The rich merchant couple offers to take Alyce as their nanny.  The innkeeper offers to pay Alyce to stay.   The magister offers to take Alyce with him to Oxford to care for his elderly sister.  However, Alyce returns to the midwife–where her heart is and her place is in the world.  Jane takes her in only after the cat refuses to leave.

Great, great story.  Short and fast.  We read it in about an hour and a half.  Newbery Medal Winner for 1996.  Great themes of not giving up.  Of having faith in yourself.  Of believing in yourself.  Of following your heart to where you belong.  Of finding your place in this world and discovering what you want.

Authentic to the Middle Ages.  True to the hardships of peasant life.  Great portrayal of orphans and its prolifery in the Medieval Ages.  All around a great read.  My kids and I loved it.  Author’s note at the end about the history of midwifery and its prevalence today.

Mesa Verde National Park

We recently visited Mesa Verde National Park, which is in the Four Corners Region of the United States but most of the park is in Colorado.  It is the largest archaeological preserve in the US. Created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, there are more than 600 cliff dwellings within the park’s boundaries.  We purposely waited a few years so my youngest would be old enough to climb around to all the archaeological sites.  It was awesome and my kids loved it!

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace

We toured Cliff Palace, which is the largest cliff dwelling in the United States.  It was built by Native Americans archaeologists believe from 1190-1260 AD. Discovered in 1888 by 2 cowboys looking for cattle, Cliff Palace is the most visited site in Mesa Verde National Park.  The building was partially collapsed but archaeologists have since restored it.

Balcony House is another cliff dwelling we visited. This one is only accessible via tall ladders (hence the waiting for my son to be old enough to climb).  It has 40 rooms and is considered a medium sized cliff dwelling.  Like Cliff Palace, Balcony House was in ruins until restored and preserved by the National Park Service in the early part of the 1900’s.  The ladder climb leading in and out of this dwelling was the highlight for my kids!

Standing in these structures, one is awed by how these early peoples lived.  The climate is dry. Little rain falls.  The cliffs are accessible only by climbing up and down.  One wrong move and you fall over the cliff.  But inside the structure, it is cool and protected from the elements. Archaeologists do not know why the cliff dwellings were abandoned or exactly when but at some point the peoples moved on probably around 1300.  They kept no written records.  Maybe drought or other weather conditions contributed as well as an increased population.

After the cowboys publicized their discovery of the cliff dwellings tourists began to arrive. These “curio seekers” took away artifacts and destroyed some the of the ruins in order to sell ancient antiquities.  This violation led to the Federal Antiquities Act of 1906 that made it a crime to remove artifacts from archaeological sites.  Many archaeologists believe much was lost during this 15 year period that could have been used to understand more of the people here.  In fact, many of the artifacts from Mesa Verde are in Europe, in museums, or in private collections from those who sought to make a profit at the expense of the sites.

Balcony House Inside

Balcony House Inside

Long House, another cliff dwelling which we did not visit, can also be toured as well as Spruce Tree House.  Tickets can be purchased for ranger-led hikes to other cliff dwellings as well.  Pithouses are located right off the roads as well as views of other inaccessible cliff dwellings.  Most of the major sites have kivas, which are ceremonial pits inside the dwellings.  The drive is fantastic as it’s mountain terrain with wide views of the surrounding landscape.

We camped inside the park at Morefield Campground, just 4 miles from the Park’s entrance. We hiked around and saw tons of deer walking through.  Some hiking trails are available, including one that  leads to petroglyphs.

We had a wonderful time and would highly recommend the park.  Educational for the kids.  Fun all around. Outdoors.  Enjoying Nature.  Marveling at God’s glory.  And what man does with God’s gifts.

I Never Thought I’d Say This But…

I like editing.

I used to hate it.  Despise it.  Curse it.

Now, it’s a challenge to me.  To make my writing better.  To find the awkward wordings and sentences.  To tighten up my story.  To eliminate repetition.  To make my story the best it can possibly be in hopes of landing an agent and getting published.

What Keeps Me Going...

What Keeps Me Going…

I’ve set an unofficial deadline for myself of June 1st to finish this novel and begin querying. It’s finished. But I’m not sure if I’ll be done editing it by then.

But it’ll be close.  Very, very close.

Oops!  Shouldn’t use the word ‘very’ now should I?

Summer Prayer Requests

Hey all!

Just wanted to post once more for summer prayer requests.  I will leave this up over the summer and will be checking in regularly to pray!

You can leave a comment or email me at atozmom.wordpress@gmail.com (my response time may be longer during the summer so comments will be quicker).

God bless, enjoy your rest, and see you in the fall for Revelation!

When Life Matters Most…

Last night, I lost my almost 13 year-old English Mastiff.

I knew he was dying.  He told me so in his own words.  He wouldn’t move.  He wouldn’t eat.  He wouldn’t drink.  He cried.  But only because he wanted me by his side–not because he was sad or fearful or in pain.

I often wonder if dogs know when their time is up.  Having watched two of my pups die, they get a look in their eyes that says, “Momma, it’s time.”

I sat with him last night until I could take it no more.  He knew I was there.  That’s all that mattered to him.

I woke this morning and first thing I checked.  And I knew instantly…

The vet called this morning.  I made my husband answer the phone and tell her.

I am only consoled by the life he led.  It was good.  REAL good.  God put this creature in my life to care for and I did.

He was my misunderstood dog.  Big.  But afraid of people.  Loving.  But only to his “pack”. Demanding when it was time to eat.  Quiet and content otherwise.  No one else wanted him.  But I did.  And it goes without saying: loyal to the end.

He was a good, good dog.  He will forever be missed.  But he will forever be in my heart–with me wherever I go.

He’s with his sister now.  They are running and playing together again.  Awaiting me to join them. But having all the patience in the world…

I know he is happy.  Content.  At peace now.  And loving me from above.  I love you, my sweet, sweet pup.  Forever.


Prayer Requests for Week of April 26th, 2015

Hey all,

Please post prayer requests below in the comment section or email them to me at atozmom.wordpress@gmail.com

Mine:  Prayer over book.  Hoping it is God’s will, God’s message, and will land an agent and a publisher this summer!

Happy and Blessed Last Week of April to All!

Prayer Requests for Week of April 19th, 2015

Hey all,

Please post any requests for prayer in the comment section below or email them to me (atozmom.wordpress@gmail.com) and I’ll be happy to get them posted!

Mine:  We are trying to buy a house.  Pray God removes all barriers and puts us where He wants us.

Have a great week!  God bless!