Heavenly Homes

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Deep down, I was always a little jealous, you could say, of those people. You know, the ones who always knew what they wanted, always knew where they were going next, always knew who they wanted to become—or at least, it seemed that way. Home is where the heart is, as the cliché goes, and those boundless vagabonds seemed to find home wherever their next specific goal, placed deep down in their hearts, took them. Cheerleading and tournament weekend champions? Check. Volunteering to build schoolhouses for Ghanaian children? Check. Scuba diving off the coast? Check.

But there were no checkmarks like these ones on my list, and I was no vagabond, neither seeking home nor feeling completely content with where I was. Rather, I was a homebody. Not that my body was particularly pentagon-ish or made of brick and mortar. Although, to be honest, if I were to be built out of man-made materials, brick would be my choice. But it would have to be red brick, the best brick of all the bricks in the world.

* * *

The Vatican is not made out of brick. Not even red brick. It is made of the blood of the laymen. As one of “the holiest places” in the world, our visit as a study abroad group of Brigham Young University to the Vatican had been hot, cramped, claustrophobic, and, simply put, miserable. The word Vatican, the origins of which are shrouded in mystery, was supposedly used a mere name for a hill in Rome; however, the Latin word vatincinor means “to prophesy” from vatis, meaning “poet, teacher, oracle” (www.alphadicionary.com). If I could have prophesied or had an oracle given to my by the gods the craziness that would follow the morning before we left for our outing, perhaps I would have gone about visiting the center of the Catholic Church differently. Maybe I would have tucked a fan into my saddlebag or worn a hula-hooped vest, allowing a few inches to be salvaged as my outward shrine for my personal bubble.

Yes, it was incredible, seeing the Sistine Chapel, the numerous sculptures and the “idols” (if you were a sixteenth-century Reformation Protestant), and St. Peter’s Basilica. Here is the home of popes, future popes, and cardinals, the past and the current, which is visited by approximately 25,000 sweaty tourists every day and five million every year (Brady). For some, the pilgrimage is a holy quest. Yet for me, although I recognize the holiness, which it holds for many and the importance it carries on with white-Western history, the Vatican was no heavenly home, to say the least.

At the end of August, it is still humid and sunny in Italy, and when I arrived back in my room—alone—there, I sat, drenched in sticky sweat and fanning myself in the living room. The room situation was fine. There were an odd number of girls, and I ended up, somehow, having an apartment to sleep in without other roommates. This room was to be my home-away-from-home.

* * *

Labeled: the homebody. I was the girl who preferred staying inside her room all day long. I don’t remember my first room, or my first home, I lived in particularly well. I was born and grew up in the sunny sin-city—Las Vegas. Memories of the past blur with present so often that it is hard to distinguish reality and pseudo-reality, which then feels just as real as reality—so is there reality in this un-real reality? Like my brother, who after watching home videos over the years, says he remembers perfectly eating a whole slice of lemon when he couldn’t even walk yet. Or when he says he remembers the feeling of riding two horses at the same time (or rather two swing sets linked together and swung back and forth from keyed up energy of a toddler aged boy) like Zorro in the movie. Does Jacob actually remember doing these things? He has a pretty close to perfect memory. Or is he reconstructing this reality from the reality of a camera and a video cassette player?

But I digress. Memories—all alone in the moonlight—you’re a tricky thing, aren’t ya? Much less poetical than the hit song from the musical Cats, music Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Trevor Nunn, but my point is this: as fleeting as moonlight is, so are memories. Maybe you think you see moonlight, but it’s really just a glimmer of a glimpse of something else.

My memories of the Paterson house, which my first home from the time I was age newborn to three, are limited and reflective. Inside the house, there were mirrors on all the closet doors of the bedroom. Flickers of color pass through my mind, reds and yellows. A red feather hangs down into my face, and yellow triangles or diamonds or both fly by. It’s a feathered headband! Legs spread out on the floor, drum between legs, arms beating (maybe with a stick?) a drum, which sides are leathered and worn with texture, but the skin of the drum—it’s smooth and soft to the touch. The focused gaze is at this poor little drum, which is continued to be beaten. But then the scrutiny shifts. And there sits a little girl, with cropped hair the color of sunlight and big, blue eyes and a calm face, half expectant for something to happen, and smooth—smoother than the drum—and paler than moonlight. She looks at me. I look at her. She is me, and in this final realization—the dream, the memory, the reverie—it dissolves to darkness.

There have been no home videos, to my knowledge, of this scene of which I have described. I’ve never watched it before, so whether or not is contrived out of pure imagination or is actually happened, I don’t know—not that I ever will. When I reflect on this memory of home and my presence, sitting alone on the floor, the memory and the experience of reliving this memory become translucent and transcendent, simultaneously.

* * *

Rome is Rome—but home is home. And I just “wasn’t feeling it,” especially after being cramped and shuffled along with and pushed by Asians and Afghans and Anglo-Saxons and Albanians and Angolans and Australians and Argentinians and fellow Americans. I couldn’t help but wonder, in my state of loneliness and exhaustion, why I had bothered to come to this trip abroad, with no friends and no family and no common language and no real home. This statement may seem self-centered and shallow—which it was. This opportunity to see Italy, France, England, and Scotland—who could’ve asked for more? I was blessed, but in this exact moment, I had trouble seeing the blessings and felt my tired feet more. I don’t know, maybe I could blame my self-pity a little on culture shock or homesickness or something.

One, two, three tissues later—my being sick with a cold pressed forward with its mucus-travelling trip via nose, throat, and mouth. Sniffling, I wiped stray, rolling tears that began to fall down my cheeks. So add to the raw soreness of my feet, I now had bleary, eyes and tear-stained, flushed un-rosy-red cheeks. I’m an ugly crier; it’s true.

Skyping Mom and Dad was a rash, mistaken judgment call on my part. After complaining that I should never have come on this trip away from home, they told me to stop crying and, well, pull myself together. There were other girls who were struggling, probably, as well, to make friends and to feel happy and not tired. I just needed to seek out others to become friends with and to give myself and the experience a chance. After the call ended and feeling more lectured at than loved, I flopped on the skinny couch and fell into a deep sleep.

* * *

When I was around three years of age, my family moved from the Patterson house to a home about five minutes drive from the temple. It was a big decision, a big change, especially for toddler Katie. Apparently, I told everybody who asked that I was going to the “up-up-up house.” My parents didn’t know whether I called the new home this name because the home was built on the mountain or because it was a two-story house with a staircase, unlike the Patterson house, which was one story tall. But it became home to our little family, which grew from three to four at the birth of baby “Bapup” in November. It was the only place I ever really called home. My entire life surrounded that home: all my memories, all my experiences, all my hopes and dreams.

In my childhood, I loved to play pretend, imagining I was anywhere else but in the “up-up-up house.” My brother and I created a family of Barbies and GI-Joes where magic existed and literally anything was possible. Timus Thomas Barbae. A perfect, pretend world that never would exist.

* * *

I’ve never found myself to be particularly “motherly” or the “mom-type.” Playing with pretend babies and pretend Barbies and pretend dolls—easy peasy. But real babies—whole other matter. Babies cry when I hold them. Baby food looks disgusting. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I changed a diaper. And I look terrible in mom jeans.

I don’t remember what age when I thought, “I’m never going to have children. Like ever.” I just didn’t think then I could handle it, emotionally or mentally or spiritually. I feared that I would just break them, screw everything up, ruin these teeny tiny lives Father in Heaven had trusted me with. I feared failure, as a parent, as a mother, as a daughter of a Perfect Parent.

During my freshman year at BYU, there was a woman, middle thirties, in one of my classes. One day after class was finished, we walked out together, talking about school and life. She started talking to me about her separation she was going through with her husband and how that really frustrated her whole “baby hunger.” I was paying attention before, but when she said that phrase, my Lassie ears perked up. What in the world was baby hunger? Like straight up Jonathan Swift, whole Modest Proposal? Wasn’t that essay supposed to be bitingly satirical and not to be taken literally? So, being blunt as I am, I asked this fellow classmate what she meant by having baby hunger.

My classmate looked puzzlingly at me and replied that you know, really wanting to have a baby, and I just nodded my head and was like oh, right, of course. But I had no clue what she was talking about. Was this expression something Utah people said? I just felt like something was wrong with me, not wanting to have children at that very moment. But I’ve always been different growing up, I felt it must be another thing to add to the list of what makes me “special.” Not having baby hunger? Okay, yeah, that was me.

I confided in my mom once about my fear of rearing children, and she replied, “It’s different when it’s your own. It’s different.”

One day, like flipping a coin soaring in the air, I suddenly learned what it felt like. No, I didn’t want to eat a baby. And I didn’t want to kidnap or steal a baby. But there was this feeling inside me that said, hey, maybe doing this whole kid thing wouldn’t be so bad, you know? That’s my baby hunger, as a single, twenty-two-and-a-half-year-old woman, my desire for a future, for a family, and it’s good enough for me for now. I can look to my future home with only half an eye facing the future, and the other half facing the present.

“It’s different when it’s your own. It’s just different.”

* * *

Two hours or so later, after falling into a dreamless sleep in Rome, I woke to the sun beginning to set. In Provo during the winter, it always felt to me, a Las Vegan gal, that Provo skies decide to go to bed in a hurry. Once the sun decides it has done its work for the day, the sky switches immediately to moody blackness. However, the fragrant twilight of Rome seemed to continue almost endlessly. The amber light lingered longer, molding shadows that grew lengthy limbs. The sun, holding close her baby-pinks and lavender and ochre, took her time, as if smiling and wishing silent good-byes upon her children in the world below her ceaseless gaze. My window, with lacy trimmings and a wide, happy mouth, showed me this view with open arms, as if to beckon me “Behold this sight, little one.” And it was an awe-inspiring one, for me, in my isolation. Quiet solace entered my heart and cooled with gentle hand my feverish, perspiring brow.

This afternoon was our “free time,” the first time we really had in the course of our trip thus far to take a break and relax. My nap sucked up most the time, but there was still when I awoke to freshen up. Embolden to set out on my quest to meet new people and make friends, I knocked on the next door to my apartment, which ended up being the room of English professor and his family. Dr. Eastley was gone, but his wife, Alison, stood at the door. Uncomfortably, I mumbled that I was just saying hello to “the neighbors” and didn’t mean to bother anyone or to interrupt anything. Mrs. Eastley beamed and welcomed me in, saying that I wasn’t a bother and that I should sit down and talk with her.

* * *

Over a year after coming home from the study abroad, on Monday, 26 January 2015, I drove down 500 West in Provo, Utah, to my doctor’s appointment, scheduled at 1:40 P.M. An ordinary Monday, an ordinary appointment. I was experiencing a certain amount of pain, and there were some problems with my “time of the month.” Too long and too heavy, still, even after birth control. Mood swings. Sharp, piercing pain in my stomach. Nausea. Migraines. Difficulty sleeping. Hot and cold flashes at odd times. I sounded like the side effects of a commercial advertising some new pill.

The doctor came in, asking some pretty normal questions. I answered as best I could, explaining the situation. She asked some more health questions, and then she told me to rest on the table/chair so she could check some things. After she was done, she said she wanted me to get my blood tested. “Premature Ovarian Failure,” she said. “Or maybe not.”

“It’s different when it’s your own body, your own problems, your own infertility,” I thought.

I was in shock. Maybe it was thyroid problems, but she wanted to check for Premature Ovarian Failure, AKA Early Menopause. Only twenty-two years old! Menopause is for old people, right? I joked sometimes that I felt like I was going through early menopause, with all my random sweatiness and inability to sleep.

But it was possible that it would be impossible for me to ever bear children. I may never be able to become pregnant or have high difficulty becoming pregnant. I may never hold a little life in my arms.

Approximately 1% of women have Premature Ovarian Failure. I might be part of that 1%. Yet, 5% to 10% are able to become pregnant spontaneously. When I read that online, I thought immediately to immaculate conception. But the chances of become pregnant the “natural way” are slim.

Infertility. It sounded final, irreversible, like fate shoving its enigma down my throat. Shock, sobbing, shock, sobbing, shock. When I left the clinic, I seemed to go through those motions, stuck in an endless cycle.

“It’s different when it’s your own,” I thought. “It’s just different.”

* * *

Children, of the Eastley’s and those of our art professor, Dr. Jensen, and her husband, ran around the room and laughed with wild glee. Marian was to write in her journal, explained Mrs. Eastley. The girl holding the book wore glasses and two braids on the sides of her face, and there was something about her that reminded me of myself at that age. Next to her was another girl of the same age, a Jensen, with bright eyes and round, cheery face. Marian had finished her writing for the day, and the two girls were looking back at what Marian had written at home when she was in first grade—first grade! Now they were in fifth; first grade was such a long time ago. Apparently, there was a love interest, in this first grade class, and it was passionate. There was love involved, of course, which was gross, of course, but this lover, the topic of conversation was what the two girls talked of interminably and nothing else—this forgotten love of her young life that was ages ago—was it four years, really?—and this discussion, full of giggling and wide eyes, lasted the thirty minutes I spent in their current home for the week.

* * *

After traveling on the Continent, our study abroad group stayed most of our time in London. Our student flat was in Kilburn, about fifteen, twenty minutes out of the heart of central London. Two tube transfers, and you could be in the center of the world. I was assigned the Lea Valley Ward, about a two-and-a-half hour tube ride. This email is what I received from Brother Kahwa, the councilor in the bishopric, shortly after moving into my new home for the next three months:

The three of us were the BYU students. Sarah and I were called to serve in the primary, wrangling children and breaking up fights. These kids were vivacious, to say the least. There were many children, and the ward was quite diverse. People from all over the world—South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, America, New Zealand—gathered in this humble little church outside of London to pray and to worship god. And, if you were ten years old, to punch one another.

The children, they were rascals, and I, overwhelmed. Overtime I learned their names, their personalities, their voices, their hearts. I became less overwhelmed and more heartfelt. As my love grew for them, I knew them better, and they grew to know me better, too. They weren’t always quiet, but there was a little more reverence. When I would play the piano, the children would want to sit with me and watch me play. Poor primary president, having to tell them, along with me reminding them, to please sit down.

* * *

Often I felt inadequate with conversation, although, while sitting at the kitchen table in the small apartment, much more comfortable talking with an adult than I did with the other students on the travel abroad who were my own age. Even as a child, I never seemed to fit in particularly well with kids in my age group, my class (both at primary in Church and at school), or dance and sports activities. In a body of a frustrated child was a soul, it seemed, of an adult.

Despite my feelings of inadequacy at conversation topics, and while the two girls gleefully prattled on about Ms. First-Grade’s class and the other students, Mrs. Eastley and I talked of nothing out of the ordinary but only of our extraordinary day, full of art and history and culture, even if there were lots of bodies about and the crowds—weren’t some tourists just awful!—but, oh, the art’s beauty—oh, it was stunning, wasn’t it?—seeing these murals up close, by Michelangelo and all those other guys who were artists back then, even if passing by was a bit hurried at times and sometimes more forcefully shoved along, they were just so real and so touchable, and your whole life, you see these pictures in books and in movies, but it feels, or maybe, seems so different to see them, the art, in real life, in reality.

This topic, of our day and of the art, came naturally. Mrs. Eastley was a kind woman and easy to talk to. We also talked of God and the sacredness of temples, in contrast to the feeling that we both felt in the Vatican. A place, renowned as well as respected for very legitimate reasons, seemed to lack for us that sacred feeling of the Spirit. In my head, I thought about how, a few mere hours ago, I had been sitting alone in my room crying, while now I, laughing and talking as if a natural at it, was in quite a different state of mind and person. It seemed easy now, or at least easier, than the thought of human contact and interaction had been in my state of previous bemoan-ment, rather than being in the moment and enjoying myself over a wooden table in a kitchen in Italy. Italy!

* * *

Mansions in heaven—that always seems to come up when we talk about returning to our home in heaven. We see this idea expressed in the scriptures. D&C 98:18: “Let not your hearts be troubled; for in my Father’s house are many mansions, and I have prepared a place for you; and where my Father and I am, there ye shall be also.” D&C 81:6: “And if thou art faithful unto the end thou shalt have a crown of immortality, and eternal life in the mansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father.” John 14:2: “In my father’s house are many mansions.”

We even see mansions being prepared for us in hymns. In Hymn 136 “I Know that My Redeemer Lives,” we learn that Christ “lives my mansion to prepare. He lives to bring me safely there.” Hymn 117 “Come unto Jesus” says, “Come unto Jesus; He’ll surely hear you, If you in meekness plead for his love. Oh, know you not that angels are near you From brightest mansions above?”

The mansion, our rightful reward, our motivation for doing what’s right on earth so one day we can have a three trillion dollar house with stereos and computers and movie theatres and personal gyms. Right?

This idea of mansions in heaven never made sense to me. The pearly gate of Peter locks out the unrighteous, while those righteous who are allowed to pass the golden roadblock enter Heavenly Hamptons, zip code 810000. Mansions up and down the lane. An upstairs, downstairs, Downtown Abbey scenario where the less righteous are forced to be slaves for eternity while the Celestial are blessed and waited on hand and foot.

But I feel like our home in heaven is not going to be a bourgeoisie v. proletariat, us v. them, sort of situation. Perhaps mansions is said because our brains cannot imagine how blessed our future homes could be. Even the chorus of Hymn 223 “Have I Done Any Good?” says, “Then wake up and do something more Than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love.” Yes, we will be rewarded and have a heavenly home, but we must do something. We must do good to others and share joy. It is our call, our purpose. Not only is it a blessing, but also serving others is a duty, a responsibility.

I like to think of our so-called mansions more like a place where we will continue to learn and to grow, to become more like our Savior. It may not be exactly perfect, because we are imperfect, but we and our homes in heaven, in the process, become perfected.

* * *

One Sunday, the primary children of the Lea Valley Ward were preparing for their upcoming Primary Program. They had practiced so diligently, working very hard to make their parents proud. And to have treats, of course, afterwards. The music conductor was a senior missionary sister from the United States. She often came off as frazzled, but she really did love the music and the children, especially the little ones. Again, she reminded them all to be quiet and good, without much avail. Then she had them sing “A Child’s Prayer.” It’s such a classic, and probably every child who has ever been to primary knows the words to this song by heart. But as they sang, a reverence and a peace rushed like wild flames of fire into my heart. I felt loved. I felt wanted. I felt peace. I felt at home.

* * *

Dr. Eastley entered the front door, and I stood, the conversation having seemed to come to a close with Mrs. Eastley, said my rushed good-byes and quickly stepped out of the room. But I had done it! I had talked with someone; I had made a friend. In this tower of apartment buildings, I had made a friend. On this level of several rooms, it ended up being only my room and the Eastley’s room as part of the study abroad group.

* * *

The primary had so many different personalities. Osawee was a feisty, young boy. He had bright, big eyes the color of amber. His family was from Africa originally, though he was born in the UK, and his mother was often sick and looked so tired. Her son would run around in circles and still have energy, and he was about three and a half, of course. During the primary songs, he would sing the loudest. During the primary program, I think I could hear Osawee over everyone else in the war choir. During his speaking part, he said that he loved his parents, articulately and loudly into the microphone, causing a reverberation to ring shrilly. The adults laughed while covering their ears. He liked to sit in my lap and tell me stories, using his hands with big swooping motions and his expressive eyes often said more than his limited vocabulary could express. Soon before I left, he came up to me confidently and declared, “I love you.”

And I replied, smiling and holding back tears, “I love you, too, Osawee.”

Another little girl, quiet with solemn eyes and spiraled hair, sat on my lap the last Sunday before I left and asked, “Must you go back to America?”

I explained that my home was there and my family was there, too. They missed me terribly.

She continued, “But you can stay with my family in our flat!”

No response, no answer whispered from my lips, since I just hugged her tightly, so she couldn’t see the tears that flowed down my face.

* * *

I feel like no one will ever want me now, if I cannot bear children. Who would want something broken? Who could love something barren?

My best friend wrote me a letter after I told her that I may never be able to have children. Here’s a section of the card: “I just want you to know that anyone worth loving isn’t going to care about whether or not you can do backflips or whether or not you’re fluent in Urdu, or whether or not you have the best dance moves in the zip code (which you do), or whether or not you can have kids. They’ll just love you because you’re you.”

* * *

The beginning and the end seemed seamless, as I waited in my seat on British Airways going home after my study abroad. When I flew out to London, we left in the early morning from New York City and arrived in Heathrow in the dark eventide. Now, flying home to the States, I left late afternoon to arrive home in the evening. Sun sets; sun rises. Constant, yet distant. Eternal, yet ethereal.

Life is one continuous sunrise, one continuous sunset, an experience that is both translucent and transcendent, simultaneously.

When I bake pies or cook curry with my best friend, there always seems to be just an extra pinch of coriander or another teaspoon of garlic or another fourth a cup of sugar to add for taste. Like adding extra ingredients when cooking an old, familiar recipe, I felt like there were bits and pieces, pinches and tablespoons, of my heart, of my home, everywhere. Whether I had a piece of Kilburn or a pinch of Provo or a spoonful of hometown, or even remembering myself playing the drum or hearing the words “I love you” or being held by a loved one while I sobbed over sorrows and pains—all these ingredients and experiences and memories came together to make up my own version of my heavenly homes—imperfect, but still homes.

I may never have children. I may never marry. I may never have a family. But I can have homes wherever I go. I will one day be able to live with Osawee in our homes above and hug him and say, “I love you so much, little one.” Maybe then, one day in my heavenly home above up there somewhere, I will give life to my own dear ones who can play with Osawee and all the other children and people that I love so much.

It really didn’t matter which sunset or sunrise came first or which one lasted longer because when the cycles were completed, I would be home.


 

Works Cited

Brady, Tara. “Vatican forced to tighten security at the Sistine Chapel after pickpockets target huge crowds of tourists.” DailyMail.com. 21 May 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2015.

“Vatican.” http://www.alphadicionary.com. n.p., n.d. Web. 18. Jan. 2015.

the importance is in trying

The importance is in trying. (image from here)

Life can be really hard sometimes, really amazing sometimes, uplifting, heartbreaking, thrilling, boring, lame, terrifying, sometimes . . .  sometimes . . . sometimes . . .

I saw this quote on Pinterest. Cliche? Maybe. But it means, “The importance is in trying.” French, no less. I’m no expert in French, but the phrase is just so comforting.

Anyways, I guess I’m just saying this: Keep trying. That’s what matters.

Adieu.

xoxo,

the bbb blogger

E n g l i s h

When I’m not cooking curry or eating desserts, I’m usually traveling. I’ve been all over the United States, from California Adventures to Disney World, from Pike’s Peak to Times Square. Last Fall semester, I explored France, Italy, Scotland, and England, enjoying art, food, music, and cultures different from my own.

While I love doing yoga in ancient ruins and being enraptured by nature, I’ve learned that reading—as cliché as this is going to seem—is another way to go on adventures by exploring how a writer expresses what it means to be human.

 

I first decided to be an English major because I had lofty goals: I wanted to be a writer and to change the world and to make people happy. Although these are still my goals, I’ve realized that there are many ways to learn and to feel that I had never before realized were possible.

Learning how to think and learning new perspectives has enabled me to stretch myself—as a scholar, as a citizen, as a friend, as a daughter, as a child of God. Our universal status of all being children of a loving and an all-powerful God does not mean that our existence here on earth is completely and totally universal.

 

Modernist writers Virginia Woolf and James Joyce show me their world of determining who you are in a broken, changing world.

The experiences of Buchi Emecheta and Ama Ata Aidoo show me their world of being African and the trials they endured.

John D. Fitzgerald, just as much as F. Scott Fitzgerald, shows me a world of what it can mean to be American, of struggling in the American West or with the American dream.

And there’s a beauty in that adventure, that universal search of what it means to be human.

A New Way to View New York City

Check out how Nathan W. Pyle describes the basics of living in New York City.

His book is called “NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette,” which he worked on for over a year. You can purchase this as a hard copy of a book, an e-book, or an animated e-book (GIFs included, like the ones you will see below. But, of course, there will be more).

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Click here to buy the book at Amazon.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-survive-nyc-2014-4#ixzz38eHAK7tu

Code Name Verity

The Beginning

My dear friend found a book called Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. When I asked her to describe it, she explained that doing so would be a bit difficult. A whole lot happens, including codes, spies, intrigue, friendship, strong female characters, and so on. The setting is World War II. I’m a little obsessed with 1940s and learning about what happened in history then. In my head, a little noise went DING! DING! DING! YOU HAVE A WINNER. I was sold.

What’s It About?

“When ‘Verity’ is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.  They’ll get the truth out of her.  But it won’t be what they expect. As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from a merciless and ruthless enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that reveals just how far true friends will go to save each other. The bondage of war will never be as strong as the bonds forged by the unforgettable friendship in this extraordinary tale of fortitude in the face of the ultimate evil” (http://www.elizabethwein.com/code-name-verity).

Awards

  • UK Literary Association Award Winner
  • Edgar Award Winner
  • Printz Honor Book
  • Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book
  • Shortlisted for the 2013 CILIP Carnegie Award
  • Golden Kite Award Honor Book
  • Shortlisted for the Scottish Children’s Book Award
  • Catalyst Book Award Winner (East Lanarkshire County Council, Scotland)

Favorite Quotes

There are some pretty amazing quotes in the book. I couldn’t pick just one. These gems listed below include what I found when I googled for quotes from Code Name Verity:

My favoritestiest quote of all

This astonishing tale of friendship and truth will take wing and soar into your heart. ~quoted by Laurie Halse Anderson, New York Times best-selling author

Yay

I don’t even know where to start. There are so many great things about this book, and I don’t want to give away too much. The writing is great. As shown from the quotes above, she has some stellar lines. The author’s allusions and references from history and literature are fun, too (Shakespeare, Peter Pan, French literature, German literature, etc.). Characterization is top notch and would past the Bechdel Test (for more information, see http://www.feministfrequency.com/2009/12/the-bechdel-test-for-women-in-movies/). Let’s just say . . . So. Much. Sass.  🙂 The two main characters have a great relationship that will melt your heart. And I don’t want to give anything else away other than that. You’ll just have to read it to find out. Sometimes it’s hard to find interesting female characters in YA. TANGENT: This book really shouldn’t be labeled as YA because it’s great for adults and older teens, and there are also mature themes (e.g., concentration camps, torture, some language, etc.).

Nay

YOU WILL CRY. Or maybe not . . . if you are a soulless, pathetic, heartless little creature from the black lagoon. And the whole “crying” part doesn’t even have to be a “nay.” But you will have feelings (unless you are  . . . well, what I mentioned above.) But don’t NOT read it if you think that it’s like a super duper depressing book. There is so much humor and witty dialogue. So think of it more as a combination of laughter and tears. Bring some tissues, yet be prepared to stifle your laughter if you happen to be at work, and you need to be quiet, and you read something funny and have to bite your tongue off. Speaking of work, I am allowed to read or to work on projects when I have downtime. My book, which was borrowed from the library, has the cover of two female hands bond together with rope/twine/cords (?). Some of my coworkers asked if I were reading a BDSM novel, and I quickly responded that I was not. So I feel like the cover of this book does not represent the book very accurately. Of course, this cover art has absolutely nothing to do with the content and quality of the writing (and the author probably had no real say in the cover anyways). I guess there are other covers (as shown above in the first picture of all the different books covers).

A few of the topics/ideas covered in Code Name Verity. Originally from bibliophilemystery.blogspot.com

Gray

Also, several of the characters have “real names” and then “code names” or several different code names. It’s not impossible to remember, but it’s important to keep in mind who is who and who is doing what when. Maybe it’s just me; it’s probably just me. But I don’t know a whole lot about planes or types of planes or military jargon. Sometimes I would wonder what they were talking about. So . . . I made list of some of the planes listed and military references made throughout the book. 🙂 Enjoy. It’s pretty cool.

RAF Special Duties Cap Badge

 

Citroen Rosalie

The Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber used by RAF Coastal Command.

Two Spitfire FVB in flight

This is the Do-217 aircraft manufactured by Dornier for the German Luftwaffe in WWII.

RAF Lysander WWII

De Havilland DH-80A Puss Moth aircraft

Conclusion

Basically, read this book. It will change your life. I hope you have a beautiful day. xoxo, the bbb blogger

Creative Fiction: “Travel Machine”

Salvador Dali, “Anthropomorphic Chest of Drawers,” 1936

 Time travel—it is impossible, no?

Studying, studying, studying; researching, researching, researching. No use, you would think, after years of, well, working, searching, finding what I could in what was left of the university libraries, in my spare time, of course.

No one goes to college anymore. How could this be? How had this happened? The locks are not that hard to break. So that is why, why in fact, the reason why I broke the law, I broke into the libraries, whenever I could and whenever I was guaranteed not to get caught, although, really, it’s not too difficult to be caught, since, well, remember the laws that were made years—oh how many years has it been?—but that really doesn’t matter, the year I was turning fifteen.

That’s what it was. Yes, the year I changed was the year the war happened and when the peace treaty was made between the Germanic States of Europe, the Portuguese States of Europe, and the British States of Europe, that was when the universities were locked up. Education was exterminated because no one, God knows only why, needed to know how to read. Immediate, mindless work was much more effective for the masses. Was it not? But I broke the law—the cause is justifiable, no?

My name is. . . I don’t remember now. I found my name, written out, in the records, hidden deep within the labyrinth of the library. My parents. My sister. My brother. Their names, there they were, written on the white page like seals pressed into the edges of time. I wanted, you know, to check, of course, to see if I was real. Real, we were all real, in the pages of books.

Why, books, have you been cast aside? Burned by so many after the war? Broken apart by those who searched for ways to keep their broken, shriveling bodies warm.

The cause—the cause to go to the past. To return to the golden era. The turn of the twentieth century, the age when almost anything was possible, where rights were expanded, and people began to fight for what they really believed in.

Not like this current cesspool of flashing, broken images streaked across the burning, midnight skies and dawning evening dusks.

I would write. I would write the greatest of things. I would save my people through thoughts and ideas and words, and they would learn, yes they would, they would learn the importance of words and literature. They could be saved.

The masses, the groaning masses, could find salvation.

It was during these midnight break-ins that I’d make my greatest break-throughs. Languages, I know four (German, English, French, Russian). Sciences, from Einstein to Newton to Bohr. For fun, I’d study Plato, Aristotle, Kant . . . But the one section I always returned to for hours and hours was the area that had books about time travel.

My favorite author, an Englishman, was inspired. The Muses spoke to him. Science spoke to him. Angels spoke to him. Something or whatever spoke to him, or maybe it was just his own genius altogether, but his writings lifted my mind to higher realms of inspiration and glory. Oh, how I miss those silent nights with the books that were left and the haunted memories of past students roaming through the aisles.

It was on one of these nights, so long ago, that I made a decision. The pages of a particular book, bended and faded, torn and worn, felt so crisp and thin in my hand. I turned the pages so many times, reading each line with a furious hunger. Why not, I asked myself, do what this very character did? He went to the future; I can return to the past.

For ages, I longed to write my own book. My book would be spread underground and read by thousands. Eventually, my visions, my theories would change the world and infiltrate to the top. People would be forced to hear what I believed. People would be forced to see the world in a new light. People would be forced to read.

Works of great literature should be whole. Like scientist’s theories were complete and exact, so would my greatest contribution to the written word be. My ideas would flow like great rivers I had never seen or the fresh ocean water I had heard about only in these dusty books I stole, or barrowed, of course, barrowed, you know, for reading purposes. My writing would be an organic unity of wholeness. How could it not?

But I lacked any original ideas, or so I thought. Even my idea to create a time machine was based on an idea that had been going on forever. This time, rather than going to the future, I would return to the past.

By going to the past, I would ask the writer of this book, my favorite author, for inspiration. How did he create his ideas? How did the Muses speak to him? How did his mind work? We would have an actual conversation, face-to-face. He would like me. I would like him. We would become friends. I would no longer be alone in the labyrinth of books. Then I would write my book, return to my time in the future, and change the world.

I took a risk—I took my precious book from the library to my home. It wasn’t really stealing, no; it was not to be missed among the other rows of books that were left.

I read the book over and over again. Some pages tore just from their delicate states. Additional trips, during riskier times of day, mid-morning and late afternoon (midnight was the best time to go), were made. No one ever broke into the library—no one but me. But, of course, I wasn’t breaking in. I was just exploring the world of knowledge the world did not see.

During these extra hours, I read even more than I had before, trying to create a way, through the piles of theories I read, to fulfill my desire to return to my idealized precursor. Years passed by. One day, while sketching on some torn sheets of paper, I found my eureka. For months I built my time machine, using old desks and old electricity wires and metal from around the library. It took diligence. Once it was created, I knew, I knew it would work.

But it needed to be tested, you know, like scientists test hypothesizes with little mice or birds with grey feathers, so I set the dial back to one day, at university library. I saw blurred visions zoom past my eyes, and when it stopped, I was, as the clock indicated, exactly one day previous to the day I finished the time machine. In my excitement, my fixation, I choose to go back in time to meet my favorite author where he lived and wrote. I set the dial for 1895, pulled the lever three notches down, and zoomed faster and faster into the past.

The dial began to spin, turning, turning, turning backwards. Over what felt like a few seconds to me, I began to see the dial spin close to the 1900s. The blurry images surrounding my machine began to slow, and the dial eventually came to a stop. Right as the dial was about to click, I noticed an image, which seemed to be glaring at me from the end of a long corridor. The machine stopped, and soon I realized we were not in some hallway.

Rather, it was dark, and it was night. It must have been a forgotten alleyway. I checked the time and place to make sure and then unlocked my door. Stepping out of the time machine, I noticed that it was exceedingly dark. There were no flashing lights, no glaring screens, no block long advertisements. Vibrant darkness in all its glory screamed to my soul at what I had done.

As I stood by my time machine, I did not realize at first what was happening. I was quite dizzy and felt a bit sick. My ears were ringing like haunted bells churning in a dark nightmare. Resting my hand and left side upon the nearest wall, I swallowed gasps of cold air. My eyes clamped shut, I tried to adjust myself. Slowly, the dizziness went away, and I realized how cold it was out. I had no jacket, no money, nothing on my person.

Then I heard a few gasps, a moaning, a blood-curling sigh come from my machine. Great goodness, where was it coming from? It was actually from underneath my machine, I thought. I feared going close, but then, quickly, I came to a realization that there was some teenager somehow under my machine.

But no—he was not merely under the machine. He was crushed. I found, on the other side of the machine, the kid’s face, his eyes glassy, his tongue flopping out to one side. I stepped back in full horror at the realization of what I had done.

In going back in time, I had killed this poor boy. I had assumed that going back in time was fine, but I had not considered time and space. This person was exactly at the wrong place at the wrong time. I had not killed him on purpose. It was an accident, an accident, I swear. But he was surely dead.

His hand was outstretched to one side, and the finger seemed to point out towards the right of the machine. I walked around the machine more and found a bundle of documents tied up with string. This poor kid, his last attempts were to hold these papers one last time, but, alas, they were too far out of reach.

I picked up the bundle of papers. My hands shook, and as I tried to steady them, I noticed something on the top corner. A name so familiar, a name that had haunted me in my waking thoughts: H. G. Wells. The title read in curvy letters The Time Machine.

No, I screamed in my mind. This cannot be. In going back in time, I had inadvertently killed the very author I had so desperately want to see. But I gave another glance at the blank face under the machine. Wells was supposed be twenty-nine years of age when he had written the book, the same age that I was. Yet this boy looked like he was not even in his twenties. He was younger. Had Wells actually written this story when he was still in his youth, only to publish it years later? My mind swirled in confusion.

A sudden thought came to my mind. What if I could go further back in time, just a few minutes more, and warn this poor boy not to go down this alley, to avoid any sounds, to never venture down this path. I ran immediately with the papers in hand to my machine. I closed the door and twisted the dial a bit and then twisted the nob down. But the machine did nothing. It did not move or spin or zoom or anything.

Panic thumped loud in my ears, and my hands shook even harder than before. My machine! Broken! But how? It must have been my horrific landing when I hit the boy, my author, my inspiration.

I was officially stuck in the past. I had no resources. I had no friends. I had no home. I had no life. I opened the door to my machine. My bag held some of my prized possessions from the old university library: some philosophy and all the writings of Wells and some paper. Although I had planned to talk about Wells’s books in full, vibrant detail, I had indeed killed my precursor. I took this manuscript, blood-splattered and torn, in my hands.I found some smelling old rags in the gutter. I had no clue how long it had been there. Because I was quite literate and could write, I was able to find some work quickly. There was only one thing I could do.

Though my name had been Harold Gross, I became Herbert George Wells, shortening it to H. G. Wells.

Shortly thereafter, because I was low on cash, I sold Wells’s story to a publisher. Every night I scrub, and I scrub, and I scrub. The blood—it won’t come off my hands, I tell you! It’s always there. My hands are died permanent red, and when the water rushes down the drain, it’s stained pink, of course, but the blood never leaves my hands. I had killed my precursor—I had become my precursor.


~ Some Explanation:

Bloom’s theory centers on the anxiety of influence from precursors. So that got me thinking—what if a person became so obsessed over creating an original work of art that that person would do something crazy? I love how Bloom argues about “a greater awareness of the artist’s fight against art, and of the relation of this struggle to the artist’s antithetical battle against nature” (1653). Bloom’s believed, “To search for where you already are is the most benighted of quests, and the most fated” (Leitch 1656); time travel—the first thing that popped into my head.

My character, a man from the unknown, inexact place in the future, obsesses over original creation. Art in this futuristic setting has become broken images that do not reflect the natural world or truth or anything real. Art becomes flashing images for commercial purposes only. Very few people read, because, really, what’s the point? Commercialization is much more effective in conveying to the viewer what is desirable and necessary to purchase.

The man obsesses over a return to the processes of the mind (Kant-esque) and organic works of unity (Coleridge-esque) that will uplift society (Shelley-esque), instead of blitz of false advertising and its sole purpose of people to purchase the latest gadget. This creative piece is written in the first person point of view to emphasize the focus on mind (Kant-esque . . . again).

My character is undoubtedly bright as well as creative, to a certain extent, but he fails in his journey to go back to his favorite author to gain inspiration. I hoped to bring about the feeling of the romantic but hazy genius through the narrative. He becomes stuck in the past (literally and, perhaps, figuratively by breaking with reality in a mental collapse), as if his sole identity revolves around a man who never really existed yet at the same time exists because of himself.

However, this character is ultimately unable to help the future or society, in all actuality. He never returns, stuck in the past, stuck in his mind, stuck by past influences. The cruel twists of fate, the realities of broken pride are, indeed, bitter when he falls so far as to take the identity of his favorite author instead of his own. It really does not matter whether or not he went insane or really ever went into the past.

Personally, I believe that the man was actually caught in the future by security guards protecting the university, which is why he always is on the defense. Did he go back in time? Was he just tortured? Did he kill a man? Or could he really not kill or overcome his precursor?

Despite all these questions that cannot be answered exactly, he ultimately experiences the pangs of fallen idealism. I would argue that the man could not overcome his precursor in the fight that Bloom suggests.

Que Sera Sera

Que Sera Sera

Sir Walter Scott said the following:

“I will suppose that you have no friends to share or rejoice in your success in life,—that you cannot look back to those to whom you owe gratitude, or forward to those to whom you ought to afford protection; but it is no less incumbent on you to move steadily in the path of duty; for your active exertions are due not only to society, but in humble gratitude to the Being who made you a member of it, with powers to serve yourself and others.”

Photo Cred: C.A.H, October 2013
Sir Walter Scott Monument
Edinburgh, Scotland

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/prompt-que-sera-sera/