Mysterious?

While I don’t know that “mysterious” is an adjective I’d use to describe myself, many thanks to the lovely and talented Jean Lee for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award!
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“According to Okoto Enigma, ‘Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.’ ”

The rules 

  • Thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog.

Again, my thanks to Jean Lee, whose adventures as a writing mom and information on her upcoming book (so exciting!!!) can be found at https://jeanleesworld.com/.

  • Tell your readers three things about yourself.

Hmm. What can I share that’s not in my bio….

1. I have terrible eyesight. I’ve had glasses since I was eight.

2. I love flowers and plants, but tend to get distracted after planting them, so only the hardiest survive. The cacti on my kitchen windowsill are doing very well.

3. After five years as a stay-at-home mom, I’m going to be stepping back into daily teaching this year (though still only part-time) and taking on 7th and 8th grade reading. I’m excited- I love planning and doing novel studies!- but apprehensive about finding balance between family, teaching, and writing.

  • Nominate bloggers you feel deserve the award.

This is a hard one. I don’t actually follow many bloggers, because I want to make certain that I can keep up with the ones I follow. If I’ve followed someone, it’s because something in their blog has really captured my attention.

But, since I can’t choose everyone, I would like to nominate:

JPC Allen, who shares stories of her writing journey along with interesting prompts and ideas.

Rick Long (aka cape cod curmudgeon :)) for his “Today in History” blog, which is always full of interesting historical tidbits.

Ari Meghlen for her helpful writing blog which covers a bit of everything, from craft to marketing.

  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice with one weird or funny one.

My questions for my nominees:

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. If there is one thing you’d like your readers to take away from your blog, what would it be?
  3. What is your biggest distraction from writing? (Whether a pleasant distraction, or an inconvenient one 🙂 )
  4. What is one book that has inspired or encouraged you?
  5. (Oh dear, I have to think of something weird or funny?) If you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.

Will do.

  • Answer questions from the person who nominated you.

Here are the questions Jean Lee put to me.

1.Think back to the first story you ever wrote/drew. What was it about?

My cousin and I would come up with stories together. I’d illustrate, and she’d write. I still have some of them tucked away, riveting tales like Dog City,which was a detective story about a city full of dogs instead of people, and Rainbow Route, a tale of winged colorful horses living over the rainbow (probably more than a little influenced by My Little Pony!)

 

2. Does your creativity spread into other skills?

I enjoy painting, especially acrylic and watercolor, pencil and charcoal drawing, and all sorts of arts and crafts. I occasionally dive into stained glass – making it, I mean, not literally – and then I remember how fussy the measurements are and give it a break for a few years. I’ve managed to crochet one very crooked blanket. Sometimes my cooking gets creative, with mixed results.

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For instance, the skunk cupcakes were a little messy, but delicious.

3. If there’s one book you wish you could UN-read, which would it be?

The Lovely Bones. I bought it on a recommendation, not really knowing what it was about. Especially since becoming a parent, I just don’t do well with stories of children being hurt or abused.

4. Favorite tea or wine? (I’m always looking for recommendations)

Coffee.

Spicy, cinnamony tea is acceptable in a pinch, and for wine I’ll drink a Riesling from time to time, but when friends who know wine start talking in technical terms about it’s nose or elbows or whatever, I glaze over. If we buy wine it’s usually based on criterion like, “Oooh, it’s on sale, AND it has a sea otter on the label!”

5. If you could visit one location on this lovely earth to study it for a story’s setting, which would it be?

Oh dear – everywhere! I’ve read so much in the UK, I’d love to get over there and see the history I’ve been reading about. And then I could just pop over to Europe and see my ancestral countries…and then over to Egypt and see the pyramids…and visit Zambia, where my friend grew up…then Asia’s not that far… then there’s Alaska…

WHEW! I think that completes my assignment! Now that you probably know more about me than you ever wanted to, I’ll close saying many thanks for visiting, and have a wonderful weekend!

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Purple Hedgehogs Can Be Villains Too

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Is THIS the face of a super villain?

Can Father’s Day be next weekend already? Last year I wrote this post to tell the story of the writing project my children and I always embark on for the holiday, and to share some thoughts on creativity. I thought I’d share it again, as we will be off on this same journey this week. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ve just completed my annual collaborative writing project.

For the past five years, my children and I have assembled a comic book to present to their daddy for Father’s Day. They are the stars, acting as themselves and their alter egos, “The Super Kids!”

It’s been a journey.

It all started with one little 3 year old, who improvised a superhero costume and stood where I told her to. I took photos of her and the baby, and used Publisher to add some speech bubbles.

This year’s production included pictures taken ‘on location’ at a local park, and all three heroes:  Gargantu-Baby, Skater Girl and Skunky. (Yes. Skunky.)

As my kids have grown, so have their opinions, and their desire to direct the production. I try to keep it moving in plausible directions- no, honey, we can’t actually have you fly- but they do most of the creative work.

And it certainly is creative…

I wouldn’t have thought of a small stuffed rabbit being a ninja in disguise who secretly tries to trap us.

I would NEVER have thought of a giant, purple, spike-shooting hedgehog as a villain.

Nor would I have named my son “Skunky” and given him the power of shooting skunks out of his hands.

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“Skunky” attacks the dragon.

It’s a joy and adventure to see just what happens when imaginations run wild.

Creativity can be a scary thing as we leave childhood. It means taking risks. It may mean writing outside of our comfort zones. It’s all too easy to lose creativity when we get caught in thoughts like the following.

“This is what my genre demands!”

“This is what agents want!

“That article said that the way I started my story is all rubbish! It’s OVER!!!!”

I’m not suggesting that all writing advice be thrown out. Still, I’ve found that becoming too fixated on ‘the rules’ rather than on the joy of creating a story can be crippling.

Writing would be much more fun if I approached it like my kids do. Just tell a story. Think of a fun plot, and go for it, even if it’s unconventional. Try a crazy idea, even if it’s not currently popular.

The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work, I had some fun, and I can move on to something else. And, if all else fails, I can just ask the littles for help. They have PLENTY of ideas.

What roadblocks to creativity have you encountered? How do you get past them?

Many thanks for visiting!

 

One Year

Can it be? WordPress has just informed me that it’s officially my one-year blog-iversary!

In honor of the occasion, I’ve baked a celebratory apple pie for all of us!

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Pie?

Unfortunately, they haven’t yet come up with an app whereby I can deliver pie to all of you via this site. Someday…

Not to worry. My husband has graciously offered to eat your slice, so that it won’t go to waste. What a guy 🙂

In all seriousness, thanks to all of you lovely people whose kind comments and interesting articles have made this year fly by. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Many thanks for visiting!

-Anne

 

Exploring Point No Point

Sun! The Sun has returned!

I’ve mentioned before that finding family adventures is a challenge during the Pacific Northwest’s interminable rainy season.

When the sun comes back, everything changes.

It takes a little adjusting, as pale, waterlogged people exit their houses, blinking and cringing in the glare. (A radio station once told me that Seattle buys the most sunglasses per capita each year of any large city, and if I heard it on the radio, it must be true.)

What better place to enjoy the return of warm weather than a sandy beach? Especially if the location also has a little interesting history associated with it…

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Point No Point is located at the northern tip of Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula, one of the many narrow fingers of land that break up western Puget Sound into little inlets and channels. The drive up, like most western Washington roads, winds through evergreen and fern until you are near the coast and the forest vanishes, revealing blue skies and salt water winking between the buildings of Hansville.

The Native tribes originally occupying the area gave the point the more picturesque name “Hahd-skus” or “Long Nose.” It was the site of an 1855 treaty signed between the Chimacum, Skokomish and S’Klallam tribes and the Territorial Governor.

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Treaty Rock

The Point also boasts the oldest lighthouse on Puget Sound.

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The very first beacon on Point No Point was lit on January 1, 1880. It was a kerosene lantern, as the new lighthouse’s keeper had arrived, but the lighthouse’s Fresnel lens was a month behind him.

The lighthouse itself is open periodically for tours, and we happened to visit on the right day.  The inside is small, but the displays are interesting, and the staff were friendly and helpful.

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We weren’t allowed up the ladder, but were told where we could look up to the light. There it is!
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Foghorn. I wonder if I could install one of these on top of our van, to call the kids when it’s time to get out the door? I’m sure my neighbors would love it.

Naturally, I had to check the displays for a World War 2 connection. During the war, Point No Point served the wounded. It housed about fifty individuals, who took turns manning the watch tower and patrolling the coastline as they recuperated.

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WW2 Watchtower

Back outside, we admired the list of all of the marine life we could be seeing. Alas, no real animals decided to visit.

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C’mon, whales! Just one big breach, maybe a backflip, is that too much to ask?

Even without the marine life, the beach is sandy and gorgeous. The kids had a great time exploring and improving driftwood huts other visitors had left behind. Further along, near the gift shop, we admired some more detailed sculptures.

A portion of the keeper’s house is available for a vacation rental. While I’m not sure that the busy beach just across the front yard would make for a relaxing neighbor, the driftwood rocking chairs on the front porch did look inviting.

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So did the trails through the wetlands, connecting different beach areas on the point. The rosebushes and blackberry bramble lining the paths weren’t in bloom yet- I’d love to make it back to see them! We did find some gorgeous giant red hot pokers flowering near the beach, though.

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The rainy days will likely return before summer sets in for good, but here’s to enjoying adventures in the sun while we can!

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Thanks for visiting!

Do you have any favorite sunny day adventure spots that you’d like to share?

 

If you’d like more information on Point No Point, here’s a link to the Friends of Point No Point Lighthouse site, which I used to fill in the background information for this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Tangible History

 

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” What seems to be the problem, officer?”    Thanks to Daniel Cheung for sharing this on Unsplash.com. It’s not my house, but it COULD be.

I’ve accepted the fact that my home is not my own.

 

Shining plastic eyes of a zoo’s worth of stuffed animals watch as I try to cross my living room unwounded by Legos and matchbox cars.

Bath toys attack from their shelf as I grab the disinfectant, and search for the source of that smell.

Even my kitchen is overwhelmed with school snacks, lunch boxes, and vats of peanut butter to sate the youngest’s cravings.

Since they’ve claimed most of the house as their domain, my littles are confused when I try to keep them out of my room. I can’t let my vigilance waver for a moment if I’m to keep those grubby little fingers (adorable grubby little fingers, which I love) out of the treasures I keep on my bedroom dresser.

My “treasures” aren’t things that would be of much value to any one else. Odds and ends cover the surface: a fabric lei a student brought me from Hawaii, a box of polished stones, a couple of glass beads a friend brought me from Venice…

…and a little bit of tangible family history.

 

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My grandma gave me this handkerchief on my Confirmation day. She’d been given it by her mother, who received it from hers, my great-great grandmother, Anna.

Anna presumably brought this handkerchief from Sweden, along with a few other precious possessions, when she emigrated at 17.

I wonder, did she do the fancy stitching herself before she set sail?

Did she hold it, twisting it as she waited to hear from her friend who was to sail with her?

Did she use it to wipe tears when she heard that her friend was ill, that she’d be travelling alone?

Of course, it’s in pretty good shape after all of these years. Maybe it just sat in the dark bottom of her trunk, safe from the salt spray. Maybe she kept it as something pretty to make her new surroundings feel more like home.

I’d like to think that I inherited a little of her pioneer spirit. I can still feel the trembling, excited terror of finding out that my first teaching assignment was nearly 2,000 miles away from my Minnesota home.

Did she feel the same way? Probably more so, as she was leaving her country, her language, and her family. I could call home any time, and even book a direct flight. Maybe the only things I’ve inherited from Anna are this handkerchief, and the occasional craving for pickled herring.

Over the years, as more family join Anna in her heavenly home, I find myself clinging to these little bits of tangible history. These little reminders that the faces in faded photographs lived, and breathed, and made my life possible, are treasures.

If I can manage to save it from them, I look forward to passing this little bit of their history on to my children.  If…

 

Your turn! If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about any pieces of tangible history that you’ve held on to – family memorabilia, or other curiosities you’ve come across.

Thanks for visiting!

 

 

Profile of Word Weaver Writing Contest 2nd PLACE WINNER Anne Clare, “Dark Corners” — Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR

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What goes on inside the writerly mind? Let’s sit down with Word Weaver Writing Contest 2nd place winner Anne Clare and find out. Anne Clare lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she spends her time chasing her three children, reading, writing, teaching, serving as a church organist and choir director, […]

via Profile of Word Weaver Writing Contest 2nd PLACE WINNER Anne Clare, “Dark Corners” — Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR

April 1st and Easter

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Wishing you and yours a beautiful and blessed Good Friday and Easter!

I’m currently buried under a large pile of choral and organ music. I look forward to rejoining all of you when I dig my way out. 🙂

Many thanks for visiting

-Anne

The Joys of Being a Parent AND a Writer

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Writing while parenting small children is hard.

Honestly? Simpler tasks that require no creativity, like showering, are hard.

Sometimes I catch myself focusing on the negatives of the journey- the sleepless nights, my disaster area of a living room, another diaper going through the wash, the day’s plans out the window because someone’s sick again.

The joy gets buried in the details.

Not today.

Today, I’d like to share some of the joys I’ve found in the balancing act of being a writing parent.

1. Treasuring Time

“I’m so busy!” I thought, back when I was single and childless.

Oh, if only I’d known the truth….

Granted, during those days when I ran on actual sleep vs. coffee, I bounced endlessly between teaching, music, volunteering and everything else.  My schedule was full to overflowing.

This is the difference between then and now: I had control over my level of busyness.

When I didn’t get something done, (barring emergencies) it was because I chose to make something else a priority.

Once there was a baby on the scene, that semblance of control evaporated.

Oh, she was cute, a joy and a blessing that we treasured.

I just wasn’t mentally prepared for the fact that newborns eat every two hours.

EVERY. TWO. HOURS.

And between feedings are the diapers… and the housework…and maybe we should try to sleep…

I won’t go through the whole ‘learning to parent without going insane’ journey, but a journey it was, and it taught me a valuable lesson.

I learned to use my time.

Time with my baby was precious, and I wouldn’t give up those hours for anything.

However, when a spare minute materialized- she’s asleep! And I’m not holding her!- I learned to seize it and make it count. (Of course, then we went and had two more babies…worth it. 🙂 )

Those spare minutes gave me the title for my blog. I rekindled my passion for the written word during those stolen moments- moments that might have slipped by me if caring for my children hadn’t reminded me just how important and valuable they are.

2. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas!

On dull, gray, uncreative days, all I have to do is listen to my children play.

Elaborate plots and adventures full of twists and turns fill our living room, and I’m reminded of the excitement of story.

I’ve written before about the stories the kids and I create each year for Father’s Day. While I am the one who keeps some semblance of a plot,  they’re the ones that keep the storytelling fun.

They keep me generating ideas and telling stories in another way too. I’ve found that one of the easiest means to stop sibling spats starts with the words, “Once upon a time…”

 

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Part of the story my eldest and I made up to help her learn her Kindergarten sight words.

3. Reduced Risk of Over-Exposure to the Computer

There are all sorts of health risks associated with spending too much time on the computer.

Go ahead and take a moment to look them up on your favorite search engine if you don’t believe me.  I’ll wait.

….

Ok, now that you’ve done my research FOR me (clever, huh?) I can tell you that being a writer who’s also a mom, my risk of all of those maladies is seriously reduced.

After all, the littles only let me stay online so long, and I’m a firm believer in the need for children to get outside and to make a mess somewhere that’s not in my house.

I’m forced to leave the screen behind, to play or move or find a new park for us to explore and get some exercise.

Parenting ALSO gives me the added bonus that I have a three year old chaperone to ‘force’ me to try out the swings and slides at the playground.

Breaking away from the screen for adventures rests, refreshes, and sometimes provides needed inspiration!

4. The Built-In Fan Club

My kids haven’t read any of the novel I’m querying, or any stories that I’ve written except for the Creative Writing pieces my class ‘published’ in 7th grade. (My grammar, at least, has improved a bit since then.)

Still, my eldest doesn’t miss much, and she was very aware of when I entered my novel in a contest in the fall of 2016. She watched me checking my e-mails, and occasionally, out of the blue, she’d tell me, “I hope you win!”

When I didn’t, and she found out, she was upset, even angry, for my sake.

It was a great teaching moment

We talked about how yes, I lost, but it was ok. I’d gotten feedback, and would make my story better. Someone else had just done a better job and won. (Modelling gracious loosing for my little girl was good for me too- it kept me from the temptation to wallow!)

She’s seen me keep at it, and, unknowingly, gave me some of the best encouragement the other day.

“Mommy, I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.”

“Really?” I quelled the temptation to tell her that, at 7, she’s not really running behind on this decision. “What are you going to be?”

“A teacher, AND an author.”

“Wow. Those sound like great choices.”

 

Yes, writing while parenting small children is hard some days, but then, most good things are.

There are many other joys, but I’ve rambled enough! Do you have any to add? 

Many thanks for visiting!

 

 

 

Exploring the Naval Undersea Museum

A trip into Washington State’s Olympic peninsula offers opportunities for adventure. From temperate rainforests to snowy mountain peaks to ocean beaches, and from herds of elk to the occasional trespassing mountain goat, the nature-lover doesn’t lack for options.

Of course, most of these options aren’t particularly accessible to those who visit during Washington’s long, gray, chilly, rainy season. (The natives call the rain ‘liquid sunshine.’ I don’t buy it.)

It’s especially tricky for those of us with small children, SO, the Clare brood went looking for somewhere indoors to explore.

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The kids kept looking for the rest of the sub over to the left. It took some repeating to convince them that we weren’t actually GOING underwater.

The Naval Undersea Museum is located just past the signs for Keyport, Washington.

It met our criteria for an adventure: indoors, kid-friendly, and free. (The last is essential. Nothing’s worse than an outing that has to last long enough to be ‘worth it.’ Inevitably, someone will melt down, vomit, and/or soak their clothes with something.)

On top of these basic requirements, the exhibits were fascinating.

The museum begins in the parking lot.

 

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The Trieste II

The Trieste II may look good-sized, but do you see the bit of the sphere showing between the two ‘legs’ to the left? That sphere housed the entire crew of two.

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Talk about close quarters- I hope they got along well!

Trieste II was the U.S. Navy’s first deep-submergence vehicle. Its deepest dive was 20,236 feet in 1977 in the Cayman Trough south of Cuba.

The deep submergence rescue vehicle (DSRV) Mystic was our next stop.

After all hands were lost in the 1963 sinking of the USS Thresher, the Navy took a long, hard look at their underwater rescue operations, and found them wanting.

Thresher and its counterpart Avalon were built to take on this complicated task. While they ran many successful test trials, mercifully, they never had to be used.

Naturally, once we made our way inside I had to check out the World War 2 exhibit.

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The display memorialized all of the U.S. submarines that contributed to Allied victory, highlighting in red the 52 that didn’t make it home.

It also included a display of some of the sub-tech of the 40’s…

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…and “battle flags” from the era.

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Sorry that it’s a bit blurred. The kids didn’t find this section quite as interesting as I did. Moving on…

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Wasn’t he in ‘Forbidden Planet’ ?

We all enjoyed learning about the Navy’s training of marine mammals. I found it particularly fascinating to see how dolphins have been trained to find and mark old, unexploded mines so that they can be disposed of safely. (I was also pleased to see how carefully the handlers provided for the safety of the animals.)

Of course, the kids love exhibits that they are allowed to touch. The museum’s rebuilt control room of the USS Greenling was their favorite part. (And yes, of course, I checked out the periscopes and all of the knobs and buttons too!)

Again, I was really the only one interested in the American Civil War era ‘frame torpedo’…

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“C’mon guys…hold on so I can get the shot…ack!”

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…but they could have spent all day with the interactive displays on water pressure and buoyancy.

There were other exhibits, but the littles were about done.

Our last stop was a sobering one.

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They were quiet for a moment, looking at the artifacts from the sunken sub. Enough of their little friends have dads serving under the waves that the Thresher display, simple as it was, made an impression.

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The little ones have found me, so in closing I’ll ask then what they liked best about our museum visit.

Child 1: “I liked the periscopes, and the little screens and the things where you can push buttons and the spinny things, and the periscoes.”

Child 2: “They’re called periscopes.”

Child 1: “No, periscoes…”

Child 2: “PeriSCOPES!”

The conversation is still going on, so I’ll sign off for today.

For those of you still in the inhospitable grip of winter cold or rain, I hope you find your own interesting indoor adventures!

Thanks, as always, for visiting.

For more information: www.navalunderseamuseum.org/

 

 

Gimme Some Agape, Baby!

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Why yes, my Valentine’s Day post is about love!

After all, ’tis the season for love- at least according to all of the florists and chocolatiers.

‘Love’ seems to become very tangible on February 14th. It comes cloaked in gifts and meals, in little cards or wide-eyed stuffed animals.

During the rest of the year ‘love’ becomes more vague- harder to pin down. The word is amorphous enough to apply to the man I’m spending my life with, and also to my favorite purple sneakers.

I do love my native tongue, but I find it interesting how much more clearly ‘love’ is described in other languages.

No, I can’t claim to be multi-lingual. I wish I could. I made it through my two years of Latin and Spanish, but unfortunately I’ve lost so much that I might be able to carry on a conversation with a very quiet three-year-old, provided she wanted to talk about ‘queso’ and practice counting. However, I’m a pastor’s kid, and a smattering of Biblical Greek stuck, in particular some of the various words detailing (you guessed it!) types of love.

Ancient Greek had numerous specific words that all translate to ‘love’ in English. A couple of them are easy to recognize.

For instance, “eros” is the root for ‘erotic.’ Need I say more?

Philadelphia gets its name from the Greek word “philos”, and its nickname is based on the meaning: the City of Brotherly Love. (Just don’t look up the crime rates…or so I’ve heard.)

The third is trickier: “agape.” (Ah-gah-pay, rather than the ‘opened mouth’ pronunciation. I once saw a dentist office called “Agape Dental.” I wonder which pronunciation they were going for?)

Agape love is the love of self-sacrifice. It is love that gives, regardless of whether the object of the love is deserving. It’s love in action. (Going back to my first encounter with the word, it’s used consistently in the New Testament to describe the relationship between God and humankind.)

While the other types of love can be invaluable in stories, including some ‘agape’ can deepen and strengthen the relationships between characters. When they show unselfish love- love that gives rather than takes- it’s so outside the realm of the typical that, when written well, it’s unforgettable.

After all, to take a few examples from varied genres, Sam didn’t have to accompany Frodo into Mordor. Mr. Darcy didn’t stand to gain by secretly aiding the family of a girl who’d as good as spit in his face. Atticus Finch wasn’t forced to risk his reputation and family’s safety to defend an innocent man.

They chose to do it anyway, and those stories hold a place of honor as some of my favorites.

In real life, I think of the nights when my husband, weary from another overtime shift, rejoins the family to be pulled in three different directions by our children. I can tell that he’s longing for quiet, but he puts it aside. He talks to them, plays with them, listens to their exploits. I think of the nights when he sees the crazy in my eyes, and he sends me away for alone time in his place.

That’s love that doesn’t fit into a chocolate box.

 

Do you have any stories of love in action, in self-sacrifice, that you’d like to recommend? I always love new books to read!

Thanks for visiting!

BONUS: Fellas, if you’re celebrating today but can’t figure out what she really wants, Tim Hawkins has the answer. 🙂