A Tale of Three Trees

As promised, today I will reveal the winners of Halfway to Happily Ever After by Sarah Aronson and Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison. See this post and this one if you’re completely confused by that statement.

     

     

Before I get to that, in honor of the first day of summer, here is a photo (the one on the left) of three trees I pass every day. Okay, yeah. You can only see the the trunk of the tree at the far right. So, the photo at the right shows the tree you couldn’t really see in the left photo (though some of the foliage in the left photo belongs to that tree). Yeah. I know. The knot holes give it a creepy look. So, let’s call it Creepy Tree. Despite its appearance, squirrels and birds by the score are drawn to it and to the one across the street from it. The latter tree seems like a happy tree, with its fuller access to the sun’s rays.

 

Happy Tree. Even the branches seem like a smile.

The tree in the foreground of the picture on the left (same tree in the photo at the right) reminds me of a brush, so its nickname is—you guessed it—Brush. Brush is a haven for birds. I’ve seen cardinals dart into it from time to time, though they usually live in one of the larger evergreen trees nearby.

   

Brush has reached a lovely height.

Brush is a place that many birds visit, but don’t live in. Sort of like a Starbucks or a library—a place they go to hang out in or work. But Creepy Tree and Happy Tree are the homes squirrels and birds return to after a hard day’s work.

Creepy Tree is less creepy from this side of the street (the Happy Tree side).

What makes some trees more habitable than others? It takes a squirrel or a bird to know best, since trees are their domain. But as I asked myself that question, I couldn’t help thinking about stories—places we find ourselves inhabiting, even if the settings are completely made up.

There are some stories we visit. We might read them once and move on. But there are stories we call home—the ones that draw us back to their pages again and again. We become citizens of their well-drawn worlds, and gladly tread their well-worn paths.

In what story worlds are you a citizen?

Speaking of well-drawn worlds, time for the book giveaways. Thanks to the random number generator, the winner of Halfway to Happily Ever After is

Is . . .

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Nancy Hatch!

The winner of Every Shiny Thing is

Is . . .

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Marian!

Congrats to the winners! You know the drill. Please comment below to confirm.

Author photos and book covers courtesy of the authors. Tree photos by L. Marie.

Thanksgiving

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Poor Thanksgiving. You often get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas or Hanukkah, don’t you?

Mostly, you’re lumped into the general autumn scheme of things when it comes to decorating. Well, you are a holiday born out of thanksgiving to God for a good harvest (and for survival) back in 1621. And thanks to President Lincoln, you were celebrated nationally on a Thursday, though you didn’t become an official national holiday until 1941.

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I’m grateful for all of the Thanksgiving meals I’ve had in the past, where I consumed mass quantities of food, played board games with my family, then vegged out in front of the television, watching football. This year will be a little different. I plan to hang out with friends, play board games, and eat mass quantities of food. (As I said it will be a little different.)

What are you thankful for? My attitude this past week was anything but thankful, though. I received a record number of rejections from manuscript queries—four. I felt like a failure. But some good friends encouraged me (thank you, Sharon, Laura S., and Megan). Someone else did too. A few days ago, I made a quick stop at a jewelry party at the home of another friend. A young woman was there, whom I hadn’t seen since she was a kid.

“I still have some books of yours from when I was a kid,” she said, referring to a series I’d written many years ago, that went out of print within a year. “They were some of my favorite books. They helped me decide to be an author/illustrator.”

Her words made me tear up. How could I have so quickly forgotten the power of reaching even one kid by the written word? How easily swayed I was by discouragement.

Sometimes you have to kick discouragement in the teeth. And what better way to do that than with the giveaway I introduced in my last post? (Click here for the list of books.) At first, I was going to give away just one book. But I decided to give away more than that. It is Thanksgiving (soon) anyway.

I looked at the list of people who mentioned books. Here it is:

Charles (Star Wars)
Penny (Meetings)
Pamela (Meetings)
Karen Gradient (Grace Lin)
Reocochran (Star Wars)
Lyn (Grace Lin)
Nicki (Grace Lin)

Congrats. You’re all getting a book. Please comment below to confirm. Then I’ll need you to email your snail mail address and phone number to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com (or email my primary email account if you know it, which would be faster). If you would prefer that I not have your snail address, please let me know, and we can make other arrangements.

If you commented and mentioned a book, but don’t see your name on the above list, please comment below. I’m going by the honor system here.

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Seriously, have a good Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it, that is; if not, have a great Thursday)!

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Rudolph and his gang of unfinished crocheted reindeer discovered a new house in the neighborhood. Perhaps they could spend Thanksgiving here.

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After booting out the reindeer, the new neighbor, Rainbow Kate, took up residence in her new house. But Kitty invited herself over for a Thanksgiving meal. Chaos is sure to ensue.

Turkey images from latintimes.com and openclipart.org. Thanksgiving image from dvd-ppt-slideshow.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

When Delight Is in Short Supply

Don’t worry. This is not a tirade about the election. I think we’ve heard enough of those. Rather, this is a post to announce a random giveaway to a commenter. I will give away a copy of one of the following books:

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The book choice is up to you. If you click on each cover, you’ll be taken to Amazon, where you can read about the book. (By the way, the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia is by Pablo Hidalgo and Simon Beecroft, since that’s not obvious from the cover.)

Why these books? I just finished reading the Grace Lin book, which is utterly delightful and poignant. Don’t worry. I won’t hand you my used copy. You’ll get your own, if that is the book you want. And Pakenham’s book is marvelous. It was a huge help in my novel world building. As for the third book, I don’t own the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia. But I wanted to include a Star Wars book, since I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars universe for many years. While I can’t say I’ve loved all of the movies (maybe four out seven), I greatly admire the depth of world building. And I’ve loved most of the Clone Wars animated series. Totally love Star Wars Rebels. I also recently enjoyed Ahsoka, a young adult novel by E. K. Johnston. If you would prefer that novel over the encyclopedia above, please let me know.

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These days, when hate-filled messages crawl across the internet, and delight seems in short supply, I take comfort in whatever is life giving.

The stories we share we each other, the beauty of nature all around us, the limitless universe of the imagination—these things are life-giving.

I love books that remind me of beauty, truth, courage, faith, love, and hope. And now, I’m reminded of a quote by Paul from 1 Corinthians 13:13:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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So, now, it’s up to you. Comment below to let me know which book you would want if your name is drawn. If you like, please share why this book appeals to you. The winner will be announced on November 21, right before Thanksgiving. 🙂

Book covers from nationalbook.org, Goodreads, and Starwars.com.

What Do You See?

What do you see in the photo below? (This is not a trick question.)

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When I asked two people that question, both said, “Two trees.” One added, “One with pink leaves, one with white leaves,” for extra credit points, I guess.

Now look.

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It is one tree, or at least two that became so interrelated as saplings, that they are now one tree. Changes your perspective a bit, doesn’t it?

You’re probably waiting for me to correlate this image with diversity—the fact that we’re all different, yet we’re part of the same “tree”—humanity (humani-tree, I guess). When I began this post, I thought I was going to do that. But something else more obvious struck me: I walked by that same tree year after year, and never noticed that what I thought was one tree is really two until last week.

Observant much? Yep. That’s me. But sometimes, I get smacked in the face with something that’s always been there, waiting for me to finally take notice. Like a beautiful sunrise or a sunset I’ve been too busy to stop and admire.

Life surprises us in delightful ways, occasionally. Which is good, because lately, I’ve had enough of the bad surprises, like when I learned that a teen I know has to deal with cancer yet again—this time a much more aggressive phase, or when I heard of the sudden death of a friend’s mom. And there were other surprises that sent me reeling in the last few weeks. Even writing has been frustrating.

The blows we take in life can change our perspective too—toward the good or the bad. The choice is ours, of course. Unfortunately, I haven’t always chosen a good perspective. I struggled with that recently. Lately, I’ve felt like cracked clay. But breath-catching moments, like when I finally noticed the tree above, also are soul-sculpting moments. What do I mean by that? Moments when I feel my soul expand like clay taking shape on a potter’s wheel. In those moments, I’m reminded that beauty still exists in the world. And good surprises.

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So, yeah, in the midst of a sobering week, I celebrated the fact that this tree surprised me. I also celebrated my birthday last week. Because I posted an author interview (and arranged for others), I didn’t post my usual birthday giveaway. But rest assured—there will be surprise giveaways in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of craft projects I’ve been working on in my spare time to unwind after a hard week—making doll furniture and crocheting friendly looking dragons (a change from the T-Rexes I had to crochet for a kid’s party weeks ago; patterns for fiercer looking dragons are not free, however). To make the doll sofa (it is about 7″ wide and 5″ tall), I watched a tutorial on a great YouTube channel—My Froggy Stuff. The sofa was made out of cardboard and a fabric remnant that I paid $1.49 for at Michaels. The pillows were made out of felt (39 cents at Michaels). The dragon came from a pattern that can be found here.

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How have you been surprised in a good way lately?

Clay on the wheel image from somewhere on Pinterest. Other photos by L. Marie.

The View from the Deck

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Hey, it’s been awhile. Sorry about that. I’ve missed my routine of posting and reading the posts of others. But my stress points had begun to stack up like billiard balls before the break. I needed to get away. So I headed to central Pennsylvania for a retreat—the perfect antidote for stress, thanks to the gracious hospitality of a friend. I wrote, walked, hung out with classmates, ate lots of good food, and made new canine friends. (Sorry. I don’t have permission to share photos of them. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed being with them.)

The sunrises and sunsets were glorious over the hills. Each day I enjoyed watching the poetry of the sky, a meter measured by my lowered heart rate and quieted spirit. You can’t buy this kind of peace, people.

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If you’ve been through Illinois, you know how flat the land is here. So the sight of any hill is a treat.

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But I’m glad to be back home in my familiar routine. By the way, Mom still awaits her insurance’s okay for treatment. (Very frustrating.) And I’m still waiting for other news too. If you have no idea what I mean, click here. I hope to return to my regular blog reading soon. 🙂

Beaver Stadium at Penn State University

(not far from where I stayed)

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Woods near where I stayed

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View from above (going home)

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Remarkable Trees

I often head outside to write and relax under the welcoming arms of this tree on the grounds of my apartment building.

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Hullo.

Don’t let this picture fool you. The lowest branch is at least ten feet off the ground. (I gauged the distance based on my height—about five four and a half inches—and the fact that I was only halfway to the branch.) So a ladder is a necessary tool if you want to climb this tree.

I don’t know what kind of tree this is. If you are a tree aficionado, can you tell, based on the leaves in the photo below, what kind it is? (Yes, I know the photo is not the greatest.) Some kind of locust tree maybe? I’m far more used to maple trees. We had those outside of our house when I was growing up.

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With the temperature at 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), and the wind on the chilly side, I was not inclined to sit outside. (It rained anyway.) But I wanted to snap a few photos of this friendly tree.

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This is my good side.

Lately, I’ve been in need of a soul expansion. Ever have a season when you experienced too many battles and too few victories? Like the Grinch who stole Christmas (look here if you’re not sure who the Grinch is or look below), lately my heart has felt two sizes too small. But one quick way for me to regain good cheer involves placing myself near trees and other beautiful plants.

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I’m not a gardener, but I appreciate the efforts of others to beautify the grounds. I love the fact that I can look out of my window and see lilacs, vivid green grass, and trees.

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Tulips and lilacs at the front door

One look at a tree or flowers causes my blood pressure to drop and my hands to unclench. I love seeing birds flitting in and out of the tree the photo of which appears above. Robins are frequent visitors, though I’ve heard a sparrow or two in the vicinity each morning. I’ve also seen a blackbird perched on a high branch, singing a spring song.

As I type this post, suddenly I’m reminded of a book on my Amazon Wish List:

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Click here for more on this book. I’ll pick up a copy of my own at some point. I first learned of it at the library, where I borrowed a copy. I’m fascinated by books that discuss trees, especially ancient or huge trees like the cedars of Lebanon or redwoods. They remind me of how big the world is and how small I am.

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Cedars of Lebanon

Since the remarkable tree book came to mind, I thought about trees I find remarkable and would love to see in person someday. I’m not alone in my assessment. These trees appear on many lists of remarkable or beautiful trees.

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Banyan

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Japanese Maple

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Jacaranda

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California Redwood

Just looking at those trees makes me feel better. And this great post at Nancy Hatch’s blog, Spirit Lights The Way, has the same effect: https://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/relax-youre-on-island-time/

Which tree not currently listed which you add to the remarkable trees list? Why?

Book cover from Goodreads. Jacaranda from exploreaustralia.net.au. Japanese maple from boredpanda.com/falcor88. Banyan tree from en.wikipedia.org. Redwood tree from bigsurcalifornia.org. Lebanon cedars from habeeb.com. Grinch’s heart from adventuresforlife.wordpress.com.