A Diamond in the Rough

Another story!  This one is for a contest.  Mostly, it’s just practice and fun…but I love a little challenge.  This is the unedited version, i.e. the first draft.  So mind minor mistakes but enjoy the story.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres of literature to read.  So naturally I jumped at the opportunity to write a little bit of it.  I figured with Halloween being the nearest holiday, with the exception of Labor Day of course, I’d write something to do with that.  Dia de los Muertos is the Hispanic Halloween and has been around at least since the Spanish Conquistadors discovered the native Aztec and Mayan Indians celebrating it.  So anyways…just read and enjoy!

Dia de los Muertos

1519

He stepped through the thick brush of the Mexican jungle.  The Mexican Elder trees and Mexican Fan Palm trees were thick and the underbrush kept grabbing at his ankles as he slashed through the undergrowth.  The eleven Spanish Galleons carrying five hundred and fifty soldiers and sailors as well as sixteen horses had set anchor on the tropical beach of San Juan de Ulua only days before.  Hernan Cortes himself was amongst them.  Felipe was a Spanish Conquistador and had been assigned the mission ordered by Queen Isabella I herself.

Since that day on the beach they had camped on the dunes but Cortes was not one to waste time.  Felipe and his fellow soldiers set foot to the jungle almost immediately.  Days had passed.  The jungle was humid and the air was hot and thick.  As he brushed against a vine a red and black striped beetle crawled down his arm.  Felipe was unsure of this strange beetle.  The creatures and insects he had seen here were not like any he had seen at home in Spain.  Spiders that measured as large as a man’s hand.  Illusive big black panthers and large fat snakes as long as a Galleon itself lurked in the shadows.  As they hacked their way through the thick undergrowth monkeys threw nuts and fruit down from the trees.  One hit Felipe square on his helmet.  The men dressed in their thick shiny armor and pointy silver helmets stopped for a break.  A faint pulsating beat could be heard in the distance.

“Shhhhhh,” Felipe said turning to the soldier behind him. “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” said Roberto.

As they waited a distant drumming filled their ears.  Felipe swallowed hard.

“We must be getting close to a civilization.  They may be hostile.”  Felipe warned.

“We must tell Cortes!”  Roberto said.

Walking through the thick gathering of silver armored men Felipe made his way to Cortes.

“Sir…” said Felipe.

Cortes was quick and to the point.  He waved his hand to silence Felipe.

“Did you hear that?  Cortes asked.  “It sounds as if we have reached some sort of civilization.  Natives could be anywhere spying on us already.  We must be careful.”  He said.

“Yes, sir” Felipe replied.

“Felipe, go and scout this people.  If you do not return we will attack.  Rapido!”

“Si, Senor Cortes.”  Felipe replied.

Grabbing his musket, Felipe began his journey.  Not knowing what he would find he moved his right hand over his forehead, then down and across his chest in the likeness of a cross.  Hours had passed and Felipe made his way following the beating of the drums.  Night fell and he decided to set up camp.  Grabbing some vines and fan palm leaves, Felipe made a makeshift hammock to sleep on.  Bugs swarmed at his feet and as the sun sank lower he thought it a good idea to get off the ground.

He was woken from sleep by the sound of branches breaking.  Something was coming near him.  Startled he grabbed his musket.  The fire he had lit earlier had since gone out and in the darkness he could barely make out the dark figure that was coming near him.

“Parada!”  Felipe said as he naturally tried to command the figure coming to stop.

Before he could ready his musket he felt a hard thump on the back of his head and then blacked out.

When Felipe finally awoke from being knocked out he startled to find himself surround by several Aztec natives.  They looked at him curiously and fondled his strange silver clothes.  Felipe startled and tried to stand.

“No! You will sit!”  A native pushed him back down.

Taken aback, Felipe couldn’t believe he could actually partially understand their language.  He looked around. He saw a village partially hidden by the dense trees and tall grass.  Little brown huts with grass roofs were clustered together.  Women sat outside their doors preparing food.  Beautiful orange marigolds were gathered in beautiful bouquets.  Skulls were everywhere.  Skeletons decorated with the strange orange flowers sat out.  Food sizzled in primitive skillets.  Loaves of bread were set out.  Children ran in and out of the little huts.  Women gathered around grave sites with food and flowers as if honoring the dead.  Could this be a ceremony?  As he sat tied to a stake Felipe remembered his own celebrations at home.  This was the time of year where the dead were honored.  Spirits came back to visit.  Could this be the same? He thought.

An elderly woman walked toward Felipe carrying bread and fruit.  She sat next to him and set the food in his lap.  Nodding her head she pointed to the food and then to Felipe.  It had been days since he had eaten and he was starving.  The woman turned to leave.

“Perdón, mujer.”  Felipe said to the woman.  He was relieved when she turned around.

“Excuse me, what is this celebration?” He asked

“Dia de los Muertos.  We are celebrating our dead.  Their spirits come to visit.  We bring them food and flowers…things they liked while they were living.  Death is a continuation of life to us.”  She said.

As she spoke Felipe looked around and munched on the bread.  Its nutty flavor brought him satisfaction.  He was pleased that the berries and sweet figs complimented the bread.  The woman offered him a drink.  It was bitter but refreshing.  Why is she so kind?  He thought.

“Come.”  She said.  She untied him from the stake.

They walked through the village.  Children laughed and ran as they chased each other.  Women looked up from their work as they gazed at him inquisitively.  Native men practiced throwing their spears.  They wore nothing but a cloth to cover their loins.  They passed what looked like an altar.  Could he be a sacrifice?  Felipe’s heart pounded.  The woman simply pointed to the altar.

“Here is where we honor the dead.  This altar is very symbolic.”  Later Felipe would come to realize the importance of this altar and the tradition of family and history it represented.  They came to the edge of the forest.

“Go.”  Said the woman.  Tell your people to bring an offering.

Felipe took a few steps forward and then turned around.  The woman had disappeared.  Could she have been a spirit?  He took a deep breath then ran deep into the jungle to his fellow soldiers.  He explained to Cortes of the natives and their celebration.

“We will convert them.”  Cortes replied.

Felipe remembered the kind woman.  Were they really that much different from themselves?  He thought not.

And that’s exactly what the Spanish tried to do.  They tried to eradicate Dia de los Muertos or ‘Day of the Dead.’  Almost five hundred years later the Mexican people still celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

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Twinkle Twinkle Little Firefly

This is a vivid memory I have of when I was about five or six.  It was the middle of the night and my mom had slipped into my room.  She was probably just checking on me before she went to bed like I often do now with Grace and Anya.  We lived in Chesapeake where it is very swampy and heavily wooded (at least where we were).  That is an environment that fireflies love.  Moist, humid, warm air.  She opened my blinds and looked out then came to get me and what we saw that night was so gorgeous I will never forget it.  What looked like millions of fireflies were twinkling like the Milky Way Galaxy right in our back yard!  This is just a little story I put together from the perspective of a five or six-year-old.  Enjoy.

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I opened my eyes and rubbed the sleep out.  I took a deep breath and yawned.  I looked around my room.  The walls were light pink with black and white cats stenciled on the wall.  In the dark the walls looked dull and the cats were barely visible except for their white paws and chests.  Mommy was sitting on the corner of my bed.  She stared out my windows that faced the back yard.  She smelled like lavender and mint.

“Mommy, what are you doing here?”  I asked.  It was nice waking up and seeing her rather than the shadows that prowled in my closet.  I squinted.  My toys were everywhere.  I was supposed to clean them up before I went to bed.  Barbies, My Little Ponies, Matchbox cars, and hair brushes were strewn into a messy pile near my toy box.

“Look outside, Sweetheart!”  Mommy said.  I had never seen fireflies before we moved to Virginia.  The soft flashes of light illuminated the trees.  The moon hid behind the tall maple, oak, sycamore and sumac trees.  They cast deep shadows that made them appear taller.   Millions of small lights blinked on and off.  They were fireflies!  I loved these bright little bugs!  I missed California, but I could get used to the Virginia Watershed and its fireflies.

“What are they saying Mommy?  I asked in wonder.

“The daddy fireflies blink on and off to tell the mommy fireflies ‘I love you.’  She said.

“Why are there so many of them, Mommy?”  I asked.

“Fireflies love warm humid areas, Sweetie.  And Chesapeake is very warm and very humid!”  She said.   She was right.  We kept our house cool with air conditioning but as she opened my window I felt the heavy, wet air enter into my room.  It felt like velvet on my skin.  Crickets were chirping and the little frogs that love the muddy pools were singing their songs too.  It was not a quiet night.

We sat there for what seemed only seconds when Mommy picked me up and put me back under my blankets.  She kissed me on the forehead and stroked my hair.

“Good night love bug.”  She said.  “This was a very special night and I wanted to you to see these special bugs!  You can’t find them in California so it was something I thought you would enjoy.”

“They are so sparkly!”  I said.  “Will they come back every night?”  I asked.

“As long as there are thick forests, warm air, and a moist temperate climate they will.”

“Good.”  I said.  I want to tell them I love them too.”

After Mommy left I grabbed the flashlight stuffed under my bed and raced to my window.  I clicked it on and off and pretended I was a firefly.

“Good night fireflies!”  I said.  I clicked the button three times then rolled it back under my bed.  The smell of lavender and mint lingered on my blankets.  I gathered them together and stuffed them close to my face.  I felt content.  I felt at home.  I fell asleep that night dreaming of fools gold and fireflies.

2 a.m. thoughts

Currently my eight month old is sick.  It has progressed from slight fussiness on Wednesday to running a high temperature Thursday and Friday nights.  I feel so helpless sometimes.  All I can do is dose her up with Tylenol and try to keep her comfortable while sleeping but I can’t help but pray from my inner most being that God will protect her little body.  I find myself jumping to the worst conclusions!  Why is she sick?  Where did she get this from?  Is it something serious?!  Should I take to the E.R.? Her temperature spikes mostly in the evening.  Usually it reads 103 or 104.  Thursday  night I ended up calling the pediatrician on call and he told me to that if her fever did not subside within the hour to take her to the hospital.  This was at 2 a.m. when I was walking the floor with her because the only way she would sleep was upright on me.  Once again, it is 2 a.m. and at least she has gone back to sleep.  That brings me a little hope that perhaps she is on the mend since she’s not acting as upset as last night.  But still I pray.

Lord Jesus I rest in you.  Protect my little girl and give me the wisdom needed for caring for her.  I trust You.  I love You.  I pray you will bring healing soon.

I find myself whispering this over and over.  As the sickness moves through our little family I am reminded how much we are truly in God’s hands.  We are fragile.  But God is strong.  I will cling to that!

Weary mother signing off.

Picture Perfect

So I just wanted to post a few more photos of Anya and Grace.  I haven’t really put very many on only because I just now figured out how to do so…haha.  So enjoy!

Precious Children

I can not say just how much I love my girls.  From Anya’s sweet gurgles and coos to Grace’s giggles and toddler sentences like “momma, need help!”  when she wants my help and attention.  Here are some photos of my loves.

Just last weekend August and I took the girls on their first real off-roading experience. This is at the top Bother's Knob. It was so foggy and gray. But Grace loved it.

Usually Anya wakes up pretty early in the mornings. Unlike her sister, she will not go back to sleep if I lay her in bed next to me to nurse. So I usually would put her down on the floor to play before she was crawling so that I could get a little more shut eye. Well, I started to wonder why it was so quiet. I looked down and found her sleeping like this! So cute. I love it! I could't help but race, but quietly race, to get the camera before she woke up.

Natural Baby Wipes Recipe

So in an effort to save a little money as well as protect my baby’s precious little toosh from harsh chemicals I delved into research using a quick google search. This is what I found:

For a quick and natural way to soothe baby’s bottom and wash away messies use the following:

2 Tbsp. of Natural Baby Wash (I.E. Burt’s Bee’s).
2 Tbsp. of E.V.O.O. for moisture
2 Cups of water.

Very easy. Simply pour mixture into a spray bottle and spray cloth or paper towel (soft) and use immediately or mix the solution right into a wipes container. When using the container just swish it around in the container before use.

I plan to use this for my precious baby girl. Simple, cost effective, and no nonsense chemicals that I have no idea what they are. And it’s “green.”

Natural mother signing off.

How To Bring a Thunderstorm (or wolf spider) To Life

She squatted next to a towering Aspen tree.  Behind her loomed the darkness of the dense deciduous forest.  In front of her lay the tall and wispy brown grasses of summer.  She squinted gazing forward.  It was difficult adjusting to the bright sun after being concealed in the gloomy shadows of the woods.  The canopy had sheltered her for so long as she hiked through the woods but finally, she reached their end and the beginning of the long meadow.  The grass was blowing in the wind.  The field looked like an ocean of gold as the grasses bent to and fro with the current of the winds.  She uncovered her eyes.  Black clouds raced in and the Aspen tree above began clapping its leaves as it answered the distant rumble in the skies.  Lightning  scraped the earth and bolted across the golden field now bending low to the ground as the thick drops of water pummeled them with force.  The thunder boomed and the lightning flashed.  She sprinted as fast as she could back into the protected woods.  The scent of wet leaves and rain filled her nostrils and her heart beat wildly.  Could it really have been so peaceful just a minute before?  Summer thunderstorms were known to hit with out a moment’s notice.  This one sure did!  The towering Maples and Oaks covered her with their extensive canopy of thick branches and leaves.  For the moment she felt safe.  She thought she would wait the storm out here….

This is just an example of the kind of writing I am doing at the moment.  I love descriptive writing.  It is perhaps the closest I can get right now to painting a landscape since we have no money for my beloved oil paints and canvasses.  What is the key?  Use all five senses and keep sentence structure varied and concise.  My next assignment will use the technique above along with incorporating nonfiction.  Writing an article of nonfiction that a young student would love to read.  I am told that is the way to get published and begin a writing career.  The opportunities for writing non fiction are limitless and it does not exclude creativity.  So what to write about?  Just yesterday I was helping a young cousin find bugs for an identification project she is required to do for school.  We found a Wolf spider in the bottom of our pool and decided to pull it up and use it.  In case you don’t know, I am incredibly squeamish when it comes to spiders.  Brown fat abdomens.  Eight creepy little black eyes.  Fangs.  Spindly legs.  No thanks.  Even though it’s lifeless brown stripped body and it’s long legs were obviously far from moving, I still found myself grossed out.  Goosebumps ran up and down my arms and legs!  How silly.  I am 24, have birthed two babies (one without pain medication) and am confronted with yucky things all day long that most people would rather not touch.  How could this harmless dead bug creep me out?  We brought him in and extended his legs to ready him for pinning.  We thought it a good idea to let him dry out.  As I pulled one leg forward to fashion him in his “natural” pose, it moved…just a little.  ‘Oh,” I thought.  ‘It must just be nerve impulses still running through his nervous system.’  Totally normal.  20 minutes later Bec and I came to check on him.  I moved him once again with a stick to fashion him to a piece of card board and YUCK!!!  He moved!!!  But wait!   Wasn’t he just dead??  So not only is this Wolf spider creepy as a dead bug, he is the Frankenstein of Wolf spiders!!  So anyways, to make a long story short I think my next piece of literature will deal with wolf spiders.  Why are they called “wolf” spiders?  What would a 12-year old want to learn about one?  This is my next project.  So, what I thought was just a plain old science project ended up inspiring me to learn more too.  As gross as they are, I am intrigued.  And thus begins my search.  I hope I can make this article as vivid as the sketch written above and as intriguing as my experience with Frankenstein Wolf spider.

Cheers!

The Here and Now

Anya is currently crawling all over the great room floor!  Just last week she crawled for the first time.  She seemed so content to just sit, but now she is all over the place!  She has actually begun to pull herself up on objects within her reach.  Stools, coffee tables, chests…anything.  In fact, as we speak, she is so sweetly resting on the chest this computer rests on.  Does she want to play with her baby toys?  Nope!  Computer, computer wires, the mouse, stools that can tip over on her…anything she shouldn’t be playing with is what she wants to play with!  What am I to do?  I have a two-year old and an 8 month old.  Call me crazy.  I love my children though.  Their little lives fill mine with such joy.  As tired and busy and frazzled as I can get I wouldn’t trade anything for them.

So Anya is 8 months.  Like I said she started crawling last week.  She makes lots of glutteral noises and likes to growl and grunt.  Sometimes I wonder if she is going to go up to be our daddy’s girl.  August is my mountain man.  My rugby player.  My Rover driver.  Will she take after daddy?  Part of me hopes so.  In this day and age women need to be defensive and assertive.  I want her to stand up for herself!  So what else?  Anya does not like me to feed her.  I’m beginning to wonder if she would just be happier feeding herself.  Perhaps she is ready for small cut up pieces of banana and Cheerios!   She is not a snuggly baby either.  She likes to get up early and even if I try to nurse her in bed to put her back to sleep she will not.  Instead, she rolls around and tries to climb all over me.  Haha!  Oh my life.  She does not sleep very good still but the past few nights have been wonderful.  She has slept from about 7:30 to 6:00.  Still not 12 hours like I would like her to be sleeping but I’m happy she’s not waking in the middle of the  night to feed!!  I just hope she will start sleeping like this permanently!  I am still just amazed at how quickly life flies by.  As hard as her infancy has been I try to remind myself to savor and cherish these times because it won’t be long before she too is a toddler running around and growing up.

I feel somewhat happy that I am not pregnant yet.  With Grace, I became pregnant with Anya when she was only 7 months old.  I do hope to wait several years just so I can really focus my attention on my girls for now.  I feel that my hands are full and having another baby, however joyful it would be, would push me to the max!  Also, we still are living in our tiny apartment.  We have absolutely no room to breath in here.  I am forever hopeful that someday soon we will be able to move out of here to another place with my space…maybe even buy our first house.

Speaking of first houses, there is a beautiful piece of property for sale just a few miles down the road.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  An open field full of tall, wispy green grass takes you all the way to the river.  At 17 acres there is lots of space and although there are neighbors, you don’t really notice them.  I would love that.  Mountains fill your view whether you face east or west.  What a peaceful way to spend your mornings and evenings.  Morning coffee watching the sun come up over the mountains and an evening cup of tea as you watch the sun set over the mountains.  I wish I wish I wish I wish!!  Anyways, so I keep dreaming.  Perhaps it is good to dream.  It gives you something to hope for.  We need hope in our lives!

Well fellow readers my toddler is awake so my morning session of writing must end.  Thus begins another day!  Perhaps a visit to see grandma will be in order.  Perhaps play time at the park.  Whatever we do I want to do all with the Joy of the Lord in mind.  He has blessed me with this life and I want  every minute of it.  Who cares how poor we are.  We have each other and I know I belong to my Savior who took my place on the cross where I should have been.

Peace be with you!

Hopeful mother.

What Have I Learned Lately?

Once again I find myself distracted from God.   Lately, I find that I have been avoiding reading scripture and that I feel a little bitter.  Interesting how I do that.  Perhaps it seems that I am not that different from Adam and Eve in that they too hid from God and tried to cover themselves.  Have I sinned?  Yes, I sin every day! Well, it all started in March when August did NOT get the promotion we were hoping for from UPS.  Previously, I had been spending time talking with God, reading scripture and even taking time to play my guitar and sing praises to Him with my children sitting in front of me.  How beautiful that was!  We don’t have a lot, but I was SO happy.  I had just had a baby, my toddler was content, and life seem orderly to some extent.  August wasn’t working two jobs yet.  I had felt so confident that he would be promoted to a full-time supervisor at UPS.  Having spent time in prayer, I felt utterly assured that God was going to take care of us and a peace came over me too.  I felt that God was moving in our lives and that He was going work something wonderful in August’s life as well…that his work would finally be blessed!  Well, May came when the promotion was supposed to be announced.  We came back from vacation in and instead of good news awaiting my husband as he went back to work, another supervisor was there awaiting to give him MORE directions!!  But wait!!  Wasn’t that supposed to be for August???!!  My heart sank as I read a text from my hubby stating, “didn’t get the job..back to work.”  Oh how discouraging.  We’ve been waiting for almost two years now for that promotion and when it finally seemed we were close and out of the clouds another storm hit and boy did it hit hard.   I was happy.  I tried my hardest to stay positive and to encourage my husband.  I said things like, “I don’t care if we don’t have a house,” or “I will support you no matter what!”  Well, ultimately I don’t care and I still support my wonderful love, BUT where did my joy go?  God, why are you so quiet all of a sudden??  Weren’t You just encouraging me and reigning your love and joy upon me?  Now all of a sudden it just seems gloomy and that everything bad is being dumped on me.  Not only is August working two jobs, he is physically exhausted and actually has permanent knots in his muscles because he has no relief!!  Weren’t we supposed to get relief??  Now it’s worse than before!!  So now you somewhat understand my dilemma.  Truth is, I just feel let down.  I don’t understand what God is doing!  I know and I trust that He intends good for us.  So what have I learned from this trying experience?  I have learned how fallen I am.  I have learned that I can’t hold it together all the time.  I can’t be the rock for my family.  God is showing me that HE is my rock.  I have learned to be content in all things as Paul was.

Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed [NIV: I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation] both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Perhaps my life will never be free of trial.  But, God is teaching me through all of this that now more than ever I need to seek Him.  I can definitely be happy and love God when everything is going my way.  But can I be content and happy and love Him even when it’s not?  As hard as it is this is what I want my children to learn.  I want them to see their mother praising God even in the midst of struggle.  This is what is important.  What example am I showing them?  Am I a complainer when the road gets bumpy?  Yes, but I don’t want to be….Am I sometimes bitter?  Yes, but I don’t want to be!!  I find myself praying as David prayed in Psalm 51:10.  “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Now more than ever I need God.  He is that steadfast Spirit.  Amen.  So, as you see God is teaching me daily that I can not rely on my own strength.  I can not rely on my own wisdom.  I need Him.    Perhaps He has something greater for us and that the way I would bless myself is not the way He intends to bless us.  So I wait.  I will wait on God.  I will be real and open that I am fallen and far from perfect.  My peace comes from knowing that I don’t have to have it all together.  God does.

Anya is On the Move!

Hey there again.

So, I’m not too good about writing every single day.  Usually, just as I do with a journal, I’ll write whenever I get a chance to sit down and relax, which is usually not very often considering I’m now chasing around two children.  Yesterday, August 4, 2010, Anya Christine took her first steps of crawling!  It was so adorable.  Grace and I were over visiting August’s parents when she started to do it.  They got to see her first little movements too!  How special!   As a young mom it brings me joy to see another child of mine taking steps to becoming more independent.  It seems like it was yesterday I was holding Anya for the first time after an awesome delivery.  Wasn’t it just yesterday when I was seeing her sleep soundly and beautifully in my arms for the first time?  At almost 8 months she is crawling to objects she wants to hold.  She is on to making discoveries to fill her little brain with new wonders.  As wonderful and exciting as this is I know my life will be extra busy.  Not only will I be chasing my two year old around, now I’ll also be chasing Anya around!  Life is busy.  Why not fill it up with children?  I feel that I am investing my life and giving them a love that will literally last for an eternity.  I’d rather be busy with my precious daughters than working just for a pay check.  Anyways.  That’s that.  Anya’s crawling!!!