Category Archives: My Favorite Things

Believing God




Remember that part in The Hiding Place where the sister, the one who isn’t in the book very much, well, the Nazi’s show up at her house, and ask her point blank if her housekeeper is a Jew.

And the housekeeper is more than an employee, she’s a dear and loved friend. And the sister is horrified by what is happening to the Jews. And the whole situation is just tragic.

But the sister has such faith in God, such total belief in Him.

All she knows is that God told her not to lie.

So she tells the truth.

And they immediately take the housekeeper away.

And later the housekeeper is let go. And she’s never bothered again, even though they know she’s a Jew.

And it’s because God intervenes – he shows his hand to those with faith.

That part made me cry.

I wonder if I know anyone, anyone in my whole life who believes God that much.

I wonder if I ever will.

Shadow Castle




2011-04-08 17.47.36

Last night I finished reading “Shadow Castle” to Olivia and Calvin. It’s a book I loved as a kid. I found it on the dusty shelves at the back of my fifth grade classroom, and remembered it all the rest of my growing up. Every once in a while I would look for it at libraries, or bookstores, but never saw this enchanting book again.

Until the summer after my freshman year of college. It was the late 90’s, and the internet was promising to have the answer to everything (if only I knew!).

Come to find out, Shadow Castle was no longer in print (thus my difficulty in finding it all those years). But I did find a company that specialized in reprinting books that were out of print. And they had Shadow Castle on their list. I ordered it right away.

Of course, it wasn’t the paperback with the charming illustrated cover that I remembered. Rather a hardback covered in non-descript grey book cloth. But there were still the black and white block print looking illustrations inside. I was so excited.

I gave it to Andi to read (I had told her the story many times over our years), and she gave it her stamp of awesomeness approval. I took it to Russia with me that fall to read to my students there. It has been on my book shelf (and for the past few years, Olivia’s bookshelf) ever since.

And about a month ago, as I was brushing Olivia’s hair I started telling her the story. She was so enthralled she asked me to tell her more and more of the story over the next several days. Finally it got to the point where I couldn’t remember any more of the story.

So I pulled the book down from the shelf, and have been reading it every night since. I might have thought the story would be over their heads – all the talk of goblins, and fairies and a dog named Flumpdoria . . . but every night they would remind me to read. They loved it.

I’m so glad I was able to share it with them, and that they loved it! I will be reading it again and again as my children get older I’m sure.

Now a day’s you can buy Shadow Castle, an old original paperback version off Amazon for a reasonable price. So if you are in need of a good read for your littles (or yourself, because summer is coming, and summer is the time to read children’s books) – it is definitely a great one.

Someone I Really Admire





This is my sister-in-law, Heidi.

I have other pictures that are embarrassing.

But we’ll save those for when I really need to call in a favor. (Wink). (Only one wink because I’m serious.)

Heidi is: funny, smart, a great decorator, a great clothing fashionista, super clean, and always ALWAYS thinking of others.

Oh yeah, and she’s a horse whisperer. (wink).

The thing I like most about Heidi is that she’s good at all the things I strive to be good at. I mean she’s REALLY good at it.

When ever I go to her house, I take stock of how she’s decorated, what she’s wearing, and how she manages her life. Then I go home and try to copy cat.

She’s so much better than me in . . . well, pretty much every facet of life, as I can tell. But here’s the most awesome thing about her: She doesn’t make me feel like she’s better than me. She never talks down to me, or sticks up her nose at me, or huffs in disgust at my appalling lack. She just seems to take other people, people like me, who just aren’t as put together, in stride.

Now, here’s the part that really makes me purr. Totally serious, mentally purr . . .

Heidi calls me Anj.

Yeah? So do about a dozen other people in my life.

I know, but the other dozen people have known me my whole life, or are around people who’ve known me my whole life.

See, Anj is my childhood nickname. A leftover from a sister who couldn’t pronouce An-dree-uh.

But I never introduce myself as Anj. Never done it my whole life. So only people who’ve known me since childhood know the name.

Oh, and Wyatt. Because he’s around my family enough, hears it enough, he’s caught on.

The name conjurs up emotions of childhood – safety, adventure, lack of responsibility – the weight of adulthood gone.

But it’s extra special when Heidi calls me Anj.

Something about being around in-laws – a person doesn’t hardly exist in the in-laws minds pre-meeting you. You don’t have a childhood, a memory, a past. It’s as if you blink into existence the moment you’re introduced. All conversation from that moment forward is about current life: the current children, the current trials, the current stories. Nothing about the time you tied Jared Jensen to a lilac bush and left him in the back school yard after recess, or were the first one to find out when Lady Moonstone had her foal – when walking to church barefoot across the pasture one fine spring morning.

So when Heidi says it, it’s like I suddenly have a full existence. I’m seen as a whole person, separate and unique to my husband and children. It’s one of those little things that Heidi has picked up on. I’m sure she doesn’t realize how sweet it is that she did. She’s just like that you see.

My Hiking Boots





Last week I wrote about Andi’s wedding, saying: Wyatt asked earlier if she was going to wear hiking boots to her wedding, and I told him she was, and he just shook his head and laughed and said “She is SO YOUR FRIEND!” I decided to explain that comment a little further with this little blurb, which has actually been kicking around in my head for about six months anyway.
I have a pair of blue suede Solomon hiking boots. My pappy bought them for me nine years ago this summer, as I was preparing to spend a semester in Russia. I broke my foot earlier in the summer on a camping trip with the Kiersts, and I needed something sturdy and good quality while my foot continued to heal.

Here I am in Finland wearing my boots!

I wore them every day in Russia. I never did “hike” but they were the most comfortable walking shoe I ever found! They picked up the dirt of four different countries as I went from Russia into Scandanavia and the Eastern Block.

I wore them in college – trudging up the hill to class in the early morning snow. They were great in snow – never leaked.

I wore them every day on the Navajo Indian Reservation too. They have burns on them, scars, memories of nights in the desert playing “Flaming Soccor” beneath the hundred billion stars that you can only see when you live three hours from a town big enough to have a Wal-Mart.

I wore them across China. Starting in Beijing, they were on my feet as I traveled into the very heart of Asia, to Urumqi, where Wyatt and I spent another semester on grand adventure. They were on my feet when I slept out on the Great Wall of China, during a lightning storm.

You can barely see it, but I am
wearing my hiking boots here,
at a cabin we looked at buying.

I wore them the day Wyatt and I went and chose our first puppy, Cowboy. I wore them when Wyatt and I bought our first house. There are paint stains on them because I wore them when we fixed up that living room. I wore them when we went cabin hunting, and they were on my feet when I first saw Galleons Lap.

They have been through many adventures. They have crossed states and continents. Now they are old. The leather is separating from the rubber of the sole, and they leak at the slightest sign of dampness. The laces (still original) are frayed, and I don’t pull on them too hard anymore. The suede is varnished to a shine. I don’t wear them unless I’m actually hiking these days. Somewhere around our trip to Thailand Wyatt convinced me to try “sneakers” as walking shoes. But they have a special place in my closet. They have a special place in my heart.

Willa Cather



(c) Simple Gifts: Photographs and Reflections from the Landscape.

I was driving across Utah this past weekend, and the barren landscape with the low angled winter sun reminded me of one of my favorite authors, Willa Cather.

I was first introduced to her passionate prose in eleventh grade’s American Lit class with Mr. Williams. My Antonia was a required reading that I found deeply expressive and heroic. I’ve since read other classics by Ms. Cather, including O Pioneers, The Song of the Lark, and several of her short stories. Her heros are set against the backdrop of the unforgiving, yet somehow nurturing landscape of the Great Divide. Her characters are almost all imigrants, who must overcome their past as they overcome the land; and the heroism is to be found not in great acts, but in simple determination and fortitude that made the pioneer era the stuff of legends.

One of my very favorite quotes comes from My Antonia:

The new country lay open before me: there were no fences in those days, and I could choose my own way over the grass uplands, trusting the pony to get me home again. Sometimes I followed the sunflower-bordered roads. Fuchs told me that the sunflowers were introduced into that country by the Mormons; that at the time of the persecution, when they left Missouri and struck out into the wilderness to find a place where they could worship God in their own way, the members of the first exploring party, crossing the plains to Utah, scattered sunflower seed as they went. The next summer, when the long trains of wagons came through with all the women and children, they had the sunflower trail to follow. I believe that botanists do not confirm Fuchs’s story, but insist that the sunflower was native to those plains. Nevertheless, that legend has stuck in my mind, and sunflower-bordered roads always seem to me the roads to freedom.

In Utah (where the mormons settled), every summer the roads and highways are lined with wild sunflowers, and I’m always reminded of this passage.

The Great Divorce




The Great Divorce
By: C.S. Lewis
First Time I Read It: Summer, 2001
Number of Times I’ve Read It: Countless

Books : The Great DivorceKenneth Tynan said of Lewis: “How thrilling he makes goodness seem – how tangible and radiant.” That is the essence of Lewis, in all his works. I had read several other of this works prior to reading “The Great Divorce” in the summer of 2001. But the philosophical possibilities presented in this treatise struck a cord that still causes me to gluttonously devour every word each time I open my now tattered copy. Almost every page is saturated with the ink used to underline ideas articulated in a way only Lewis can.

To write each quote here would take forever, so I’ll limit it to my favorite:

“For every attempt to see the shape of eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom. Witness the doctrine of Predestination, which shows (truly enough) that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real; but at the price of removing Freedom which is the deeper truth of the two. And wouldn’t Universalism do the same? Ye cannot know eternal reality by a definition. Time itself, and all acts and events that fill Time, are the definition, and it must be lived. The Lord said we were gods. How long could ye bear to look (without Time’s lens) on the greatness of your own soul and the eternal reality of her choice?”

The Westing Game




Type layouts for jacket artThe Westing Game
By: Ellen Raskin
I first read it in: 6th Grade
Number of times I’ve read it: 3

Last night I was at the local Barnes & Noble, and came across a table with a sign: “Summer Reading.” My heart lit up like a firefly as I gently carressed each paperback: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, The Trumpet of the Swan, Super Fudge, Charlottes Webb, and then . . . The Westing Game.

It’s a classic mystery with intrigue & adventure. The mysterious death of an eccentric millionaire brings together an unlikely assortment of heirs who must uncover the circumstances of his death before they can claim their inheritance. Anyone who needs a good book for the summer, why don’t you try it. The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin.