Alone Yet Not Alone

Alone Yet Not Alone
Alone Yet Not Alone

Alone Yet Not Alone is a young-adult historical fiction novel based on the true story of two sisters who were kidnapped by Native Americans during the French and Indian War in 1755 in Pennsylvania.  It chronicles their journey of being torn from their cabin, witnessing their brother and father murdered, and being forced on a 100 mile journey west into the forest away from their parents.

Eventually, twelve year old Barbara is separated from her nine year old sister, Regina, but Barbara tells her to never lose the song in her heart and never to forget that God is with her.  Before his death, their father told the girls “God knew the lessons I needed to learn before my faith was ready for this promised land.”

Barbara assimilates easily enough into her new way of life, but always she longs to be with her family and those who know the One, True God.  She endures three and a half years of captivity until the moment arrives for her escape. The Native American men of her tribe leave to help the French, leaving only two braves behind.  She and three other captives run and make the long eastward journey to the nearest fort, Fort Duquesne (later renamed Fort Pitt by the English).  She tracks down her mother and brother and is re-united with them.  She struggles to fit back into her old life but in the end she finds love.

Regina is finally re-united with the family after nearly five years in captivity as the captives are released following the end of the French and Indian War.  She remembers little English but she always remembers the hymns she sang as a child and the bible verses she memorized.

Both sisters credit their faith in God as helping them to survive and endure.  Barbara eventually has four children.  Regina never married but was a pillar of God’s light in the community.

Great, short read full of examples of young girls clinging to their faith in God’s goodness to survive horrible traumas.  Written by Tracy Leininger Craven, a descendent of the girls, this book is sure to leave you with a smile on your face and a prayer on your lips.

Yesterday, I Experienced Death…

I got a call yesterday from my sister who wanted me to go with her to put her dog down.  He has been sick for a while.  He has problems breathing.  He has seizures.  I guess he had a seizure that morning that convinced my sister it was time.  I agreed to go with her.  To support her.  After all, it wasn’t my dog.

She picks me up at my house (we live 5 minutes from each other) and her dog, Hobbit, a cute, fluffy white Pomeranian, is in the front seat.  He appears just as happy as can be.  I get in and hold him.  I give him lots of love and pets.

The vet is only another 3 minutes from my house.  We get out and he’s happy.  He walks fine.  He does his business.  My sister lavishes him with bacon she cooked.  He appears perfectly fine and normal and healthy.

We enter the vets office and are greeted with a friendly, “How are you?”  My sister almost loses it.  The receptionist realizes her mistake immediately.

We wait.  Hobbit is fine.  Happy.  Unknowing of what is to come.  I observe him.  Devoted as all dogs are.  Completely and totally trusting in us.  Never doubting.  Never questioning.

We are taken back.  My sister is crying.  I’m trying not to.  The vet comes in and explains euthanasia and what to expect.  First a sedative to put the dog to sleep.  Then an injection which will stop the heart.  He will breathe his last breath.

Hobbit is happy, walking around, eating treats.  My sister holds him as she administers the sedative.  In about 10 minutes, he is asleep.  He is so calm and oblivious to all that is happening around him.  He does not know he won’t wake up.  He does not know he is going to a better place.  And he does not care.  For he is a dog, a lower animal that only lives moment by moment, and for him, he is just sleepy.  So he sleeps.

I fight the urge to whisk Hobbit out of her arms and dog-nap  him.  For to me he is fine.  Only my sister knows how much pain and suffering he is in.  Still, there’s a part of me who wants to rescue him from his fate–a fate we all have and none of us can be rescued from.  But that hope is what keeps me alive at least…

The vet comes back in.  My sister puts the dog on a table as they shave a place to find a vein to administer the fatal dose.  She is uncontrollably crying.  She pets him and kisses him his last as the vet pushes the plunger in.  In under 30 seconds, Hobbit is gone.  It is sad and I cry.  I kiss the dog.  I tell him what a good dog he is/was.  I tell him he will play with my dog, Bay, who died almost two years ago to the day.  Oh, how I miss her!

I think of my 12-year old ancient English Mastiff at home who will be alive when I return.  Who is ailing himself.  Whom I love with all my heart.  Who is having trouble walking and standing.  But who takes it all in stride.  Who cries when he wants me to pet him because he can no longer come to me.  But who is happy each and every moment of his remaining days.  I know not how much longer I will have him but I hope and I pray God takes him and not me.  So then he can be with his sister and Hobbit too.  So he too can have his body back and he can run like the wind again and he can play with the kids in heaven and bring them joy–as he has done to me down here.

We walk out.  My sister says “Well, that’s over.”  And I say ironically and melancholy, “Yeah, now we get to go on with our lives,” sadness consuming me as we’ve left a companion behind who no longer has theirs.

I love dogs.  I love owning dogs.  But I hate it when they get old.  I can hardly stand it.  I know they are dying because of our sins and it eats at me.  It does.

Some say it is good to see life and death and to accept it.  I say they are crazy.  It should be unacceptable that all things die because of our sins.  It should sadden you.  It should make you want to repent and turn to Him even more.

My sister will have her dog cremated and a paw print made.  She will keep him for now.  As I have kept mine who sits on a bookshelf in my house, silently watching over our family and our dogs, always abiding in my heart.  I miss her, but she is alive in my memories and thanks be to God in my kids’ memories as well.

Yesterday, I experienced death when I didn’t want to.  And I learned Hobbit was my dog as well as are all living creatures.  He was a sweet, sweet puppy who lived a good, faithful, happy life, which is what gives me comfort.  He will be missed and remembered by those around him.  But more importantly he is in a better place, waiting faithfully for his owners to join him.

The Dogs in My Life
The Dogs in My Life

Dadblamed Union Army Cow

Dadblamed Union Army Cow
Dadblamed Union Army Cow

Dadblamed Union Army Cow is a delightful tale from Susan Fletcher that tells the true story of a cow in the Civil War.  A soldier tells his tale about his cow who followed him everywhere, including to enlist in the army. She wouldn’t go home.  So she went with him, rode on a train, and followed him all the way to war!

In the beginning, the cow was a pain.  He had to find fresh grass for her and she got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out and she’d end up in the middle of a battle.  But that cow turned out to be useful.  She kept the flies away with her tale.  She kept him warm at night.  She supplied milk when they had little else to eat.  And when the soldier took a musket ball to the shoulder, the cow was there, staying by his side in the army hospital as he healed.  When the war ended, the cow was there, following him all the way home.

Their story made the newspaper and the cow made headlines.  She got visitors from miles around and got a new shed built.  She even received a medal!  In the end, the cow was his friend who always said “moo”.

Based off of a true story of a cow that traveled with the Fifty-Ninth Regiment of Indiana Volunteers, this tale touched my heart.  Another story of how attached animals are to humans and how that bond is very powerful.  The cow did appear in the Greencastle, Indiana, newspaper in 1872 and retired to pasture upon returning home.  Just a wonderful picture book with great illustrations and simple text that will surely delight.  Highly recommended!!

I Can’t Quit (Even Though I’d Like To)…

I was in the middle of my second novel re-write when I got a critique back from a writing contest I had entered.  The critique was bad.  I was missing an “inciting incident” (which I had to look up. It’s the central conflict of the story and the moment the main character is forced to act and we learn what he or she wants the most).  The plot and dialogue were shakey to put it nicely.  But my novel “has a ton of potential” and “could be interesting”.

Seriously?

So I immediately stopped work on it and thought what else I could do with my life instead.  Read my books instead of kids books.  Teach (didn’t get that job either).  Or piddle-paddle around through life.  I was depressed about it to say the least and ready to quit altogether.

Finally, I realized while swimming the other day that God keeps closing doors He doesn’t want me to go down, but this writing door remains open.

While searching the Internet aimlessly (something I’m wont to do when I’m feeling down in the dumps), I read articles on writing.  One article said that a writer is someone who can’t quit writing.  Someone who feels compelled to write no matter the amount of rejection or the lack of success.  Someone who can’t do anything else but write.

That’s how I feel.  Something inside of me is still pushing me to write even though I don’t want to.  I can’t kill it.  It’s a desire that’s there and won’t go away.

Sigh.

So I guess I’ll keep writing (not that I have a choice about it).  And maybe some day this novel that will enter its third (and God-willing final) re-write will go somewhere.  That’s my prayer at least. While the door is still open…

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare follows a sixteen year-old girl who leaves her native Barbados for the colony of Connecticut in 1687.  Her parents and grandfather have all died and she only has one aunt on her mother’s side.  She arrives unannounced and it is apparent from the beginning she does not fit in in this Puritan town.  She can swim for one thing and she is unused to hard labor and small towns having an aristocratic background.

She is immediately courted by the most eligible bachelor (and the richest) in town, William Ashby.  She helps her cousin, Mercy, with the school and teaches a girl named Prudence how to read when her mother refuses to send her to school.  She meets an elderly woman named Hannah who has been accused of witchcraft mainly because she lives alone and is a Quaker.

Kit is drawn to Hannah and they develop a secret friendship.  Hannah offers worldly wisdom, telling her “The answer is in thy heart.  Thee can always hear it if thee listens for it.”

Hannah’s magic cure for everything:  Blueberry cake and a kitten.

Prudence asks why people say she’s a witch.  Kit says cause people are afraid of things they don’t understand.

Hannah says there is no escape if love is not there.

Kit is attracted to Nat Eaton, a ship captain’s son, who helps Hannah as well.

A sickness develops and the Puritan colony blames Hannah the witch for cursing them.  They try to run her out of town but Kit along with Nat’s help warns her in time.  With Hannah gone to live in a neighboring town, the townspeople turn on Kit, claiming she is a witch as well.  No evidence exists and with Prudence’s help who proves she can read and write and has not been infected by witchcraft, Kit is set free.  Kit ends her courtship with William who did not come to her defense at her trial and plans to return to Barbados when winter ends.

She sees Nat in early spring who now has his own ketch, and he immediately asks her uncle for her hand in marriage.

A wonderful book with happy endings for all involved.  All the love stories end up fulfilled and justice does prevail along with stereotypes being broken down.  Great story of standing up for others when it’s the right thing to do even when your life is threatened.  Great historical depiction of life in the early American colonies and Puritan life.  Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1959.  A classic of literature not to be missed.