September 29, 2014

Photo Booth Fun! :)

Dave and I had a blast at his coworker's wedding this weekend.

Has anyone else noticed how photo booths and candy bars have now become REALLY popular at weddings? These are two trends that I am definitely enjoying.  ;)

Here are a couple of photo booth moments at a friend's wedding (back in 2012 when Dave and I first started dating!):

It didn't take long for Dave and I to become each other's best friends. *sigh* I love him so much. And I love that I can be completely myself with him. And that we can be goofy together.  :)  Here are our photo booth pictures from the wedding this past weekend:

September 27, 2014

"Rosie" (Novel Snippet #2)

Depending on how you look at it, this could be a complete short story or part of a longer novel. Either way, I am excited -- and a little nervous -- to share this with you. "Rosie" may not end in the way you expect ...  - Laurel

Rosie stepped outside. The cold velvet air caressed her cheeks, turning them red. Blissfully, she was wrapped in an oversized furry coat, which sheltered most of her skin from the chill. A glimpse of a smile escaped Rosie as she saw the snow-laden trees. “It looks like God came and frosted them overnight,” she thought. Rosie wondered if she might yet hear the chitter-chatter of the few squirrels that had resisted the urge to dig into the warm underground and still braved the icy fingers of winter.

Behind her, Rosie’s own shelter from the cold—a nondescript white hut that had just begun to gray with age—beckoned her to return. Glancing back, Rosie’s saw the familiar lone narrow window that graced the front of the house. Rosie felt like that window. Alone. Out of place. And chilled by the frost. But, unlike that window, she could leave that creaking house. She shivered and pressed on to the trees. Rosie longed to hear the voices of the forest creatures…even just one. She would not stay away any longer from the woods—no matter what warning her old hut moaned.

20 minutes later, the house welcomed Rosie back. No, the squirrels were tucked safely underground. She tried to coax one out with a song, but they must be fast asleep. As usual that night, Rosie wrote in her tan, leather-bound journal. With large brown eyes, she peered through her lonely window, gazing at her favorite stars.

Rosie was startled when a robin-sized bird landed on her windowsill. It was as white as the ground outside! And this was no ordinary bird! It spoke to her – “I have come from a distant land. There is a prince there who bid me…” Here the bird stopped, awkwardly shifting to one spindly, sharp-clawed foot.

Rosie’s heart thumped in her chest. What strange words the feathery creature spoke! “So…” she spluttered, “Why have you come here?”

The small black eyes of the bird softened. “As I was flying through this country, I heard you singing in the woods nearby. You have a beautiful voice! So, I stopped a while to rest on a branch and your music gave me great peace. I would like to give you something.”

At this moment, the bird turned his neck almost completely around, pecking at his feathers with his pointed beak. In a moment, he withdrew a single folded sheet of paper. Bowing gracefully, he dropped it in Rosie’s opened journal.

Rosie blinked, and in that second, the bird was gone! With quivering hands, she unfolded the sheet, flattening it on the desk’s hard surface. Rosie drew her candle’s flame close, and bent over the little note. It read, “Dearest lady…”

The contents of the letter are private to Rosie. I would not break her confidence, dear reader, so I cannot disclose what the prince said to woo fair Rosie.

But I will tell you that the letter contained instructions.

The first—and most important—was that Rosie was to keep the paper. On her person.

Rosie happily kept the letter in the pocket of her robe that night. When she awoke, though, the paper had moved. It seemed to have crawled up on her skin. “Ridiculous, of course,” Rosie muttered. “I must have tossed and turned in my sleep.”

But, strangely, she was happy to leave the paper there on her arm. It felt good. The single leaf of paper was face-up on her arm. She read the prince’s words over and over.

Later that day, it had moved up her forearm. By evening, it had wrapped itself around her neck. “I feel so good,” Rosie thought, looking in the mirror at it. “But it feels just a tad tight.” She tried to slip her finger under an edge, but she couldn’t.

Rosie screamed as the paper began to choke her.

Lunging for her candle, which was flaming, she held it up to her own neck. The paper shrieked.

In the mirror, Rosie watched the paper succumb to the flames. Bit by bit, the black ashes fled to the ground. Her neck had a slight burn, and her hair was singed. She hated that smell.

But what Rosie did not see was a silent white bird, who retrieved with its beak one tiny unburned corner of the paper that had fallen to the ground.

10 years later, a note was dropped on Rosie’s desk. There was a flutter of wings. Trembling, Rosie opened the letter. “Dearest lady…” she whispered aloud. She held the paper to the single flame of her candle, willing herself to read no more of the letter.

Screaming, the last of the original letter died.

September 26, 2014

"Araleen on the Dark Side of the Planet" (Novel Snippet #1)

This is one of those "novel snippets" I mentioned in my last blog post. I really enjoy writing these. Today marks this piece's public debut ... so be nice!  ;)  And enjoy! - Laurel

Araleen began singing again, now more loudly than before. Suddenly, two stars quivered to life above her, giving minimal vision as she neared the patch of light. Soon, more stars joined the first two in that corner, as if the edge of a dark blanket was being lifted. But Araleen hardly noticed, intent on reaching the light shaft she was gradually nearing.

Finally, she reached the patch of light, stopping what she guessed to be about six feet away from the strange-looking illuminated structure. The light emanating from it cast its fuzzy warm fingers all the way to the ground beneath her feet, forming a light-filled shadow. Here, the ground was not quite as soggy. 

Araleen was puzzled by the patch of light. It was rectangular in shape, standing about three feet above her head and continuing all the way down to the ground. Seeming to function as a sort of television, it transmitted images that were a little hazy. She could, however, make out a beautiful field of purple flowers and high grass that lay under a brilliant blue sky. She could see shadowed darkness just beyond the field, where a forest of trees swayed in gentle rhythm. Drawn to the scene, Araleen pressed her hand against the warm image. Though it was soft, it would not give way. Sitting down, she contented herself with being near the shaft of light. 

She gazed at the five stars that now poking at the black sky directly above, providing soft starlight and a sort of comfort. It is strange that the stars did not appear until now. They really are quite lovely. A sharp intake of breath. My song…it was only after I sang that they appeared. Perhaps it works some sort of magic. 

Araleen instantly stood on her feet and sang, leaning into the rectangle of light, but it would not budge. She tightened her mouth in frustration, once more mesmerized by the scene before her. A girl was now sitting in the field, and she looked as if she had just awoken from a wonderful dream. She stretched and looked around her, seemingly confused about something. Throwing any caution she may have felt to the – well, there was no wind, but – into the thick air, Araleen attacked the dirt right in front of the image with her hands. If only she could somehow get past this grime into that beautiful place! She dug swiftly, pulling out chunk after chunk of mucky dirt. Not even pausing to check again on the girl in the light picture, Araleen worked obsessively on her new task. She wore no watch, and it was impossible to tell how long she dug because no sun or moon rose in the blackness. Finally, she collapsed and fell into an exhausted sleep.
Araleen woke in black silence. Mind racing, she slowly opened her eyes; she was on her stomach. With her hands, she instantly pushed herself up. A hard substance was beneath her…cement, she guessed. She saw a faint light coming from a wall to her left. Walking over to it, she noticed the hard metal bars that formed dark cold lines in the shaft of dim light. The light itself emanated from a torch some distance away, but she could just make out the dancing shape of fire on the wall just in front of her. Oh, spectacular. I’m in prison. She threw up her hands and coughed out a bit of strained laughter. Someone apparently heard her.

September 24, 2014

A Writer’s Confession

CONFESSION: After writing all day long at work, I don’t usually have the creative stamina to dive right into a “long-term” writing project -- like a novel.

After all, to write a novel, you have to be willing to set aside large chunks of time … and go down into the trenches with your characters day after day. Sometimes, I wonder if novel-writing authors ever get sick of their characters before they finish writing a book. But maybe for some, it’s more like saying goodbye to a beloved friend? Hmmmm.

I digress. Anyway, I do enjoy writing here on my blog, creating poetry and short stories, and dabbling in other forms of written art. And over the years, I’ve jotted down what I would call “snippets” of full novels, too.

And I think it’s time for some of these “snippets” to see the light of day.

What say you? Are you ready to dive into some of my novel “snippets”? (Hey, if there’s enough interest, I just might make a blog series with them.)  :D

September 21, 2014

The Process of Grieving

Grieving has been on my mind a lot this month.

You've probably heard that grieving is a cycle. A process. And from what I've experienced of it, that's very true.

Sometimes, I feel like I've come out of that grief, and then a memory will suck me right back into "the pit of despair" -- to use a line from the movie, The Princess Bride (1987). But I'm glad that God brings people alongside us to grieve with us. My dear friend, Erin, came to my grandpa's funeral earlier this month. She wept with me after the service. Entering into grief with one another is a beautiful thing. A healing thing. And it's a powerful display of love.

I've been watching the show 19 Kids and Counting on Netflix, and the episode I watched last night was filled with grief. I couldn't help but weep with Michelle Duggar and her family as they mourned the loss of their precious baby girl, Jubilee.

I thought that this month in particular might be a good time to share a poem I wrote back in 2009 about grieving. I hope you take the time to enter into another's grief. To allow them to share and cry ... and not have to try to hold back the tears. We shouldn't have to hide our grief.

The Spiders

Dark spiders are

warm and wet
down my silken cheeks

Black saltwater stains crust on
my fingertips.

The dark, dripping webs
smother me

until I am small,

And everyone can see –
I am not hidden at all.

September 18, 2014

Foot Golf and Other Adventures

I have now played foot golf.

What is foot golf, you ask? Picture regular golf, but replace the golf ball with a soccer ball ... and the golf club with your leg. That's pretty much what it is! On our vacation up north this past week, Dave and I had fun kicking soccer balls across a 9-hole golf course. (Even with a golf cart, it was quite a workout! Two days later, my legs are still sore!)

Dave and I also tried cherry salsa (delicious!) and discovered a candy store with 30+ flavors of taffy. We filled a little bag with some new flavors--like caramel popcorn, chocolate chip cookie, and blueberry!

If you could invent any flavor of taffy, what would you make?

September 8, 2014

A WWII Love Story

My grandpa served in the military during World War II. While he was away, he and my grandma (who were dating at the time) kept in touch through telegrams as well as handwritten letters and postcards. Some of those notes have survived all these years! I was privileged to read them for the first time this past weekend.

Reading these notes just warms my heart. My grandpa passed away last week. He and my grandma were married for 67 years ... still very deeply in love.

Here are a few excerpts from telegrams:

September 4, 2014

Purity Isn't Popular (Episode 3)

Fall begins this month! It's my favorite season.  :)

I love apple picking, taking walks in the woods, and snuggling a warm cup of tea in my hands. Oh, and thunderstorms. I really like thunderstorms!

Maybe you remember how I wrote back in April about making changes to my purity standards. Well, I wanted to give an update on how things are going. As with any lifestyle change, it was hard to get used to this and make it a habit at first, but it is getting easier!

Here's what's been happening:

I changed all the preset radio stations in my car to Christian or classical music. This helps me avoid taking bad stuff in with the "good" or "neutral" on secular radio stations. Don't get me wrong—I like a variety of music, but it's just not worth it to me to have to listen to immoral crap alongside decent music.

I have been cutting out more TV shows and movies. Taking a critical look at what I'm watching—through the lens of Ephesians 5—I have begun to "re-sensitize" myself to what is right and wrong. My ability to discern those things took a nosedive years ago as soon as I started to rationalize and excuse certain things, thinking they "weren't that bad." Now, I am working to reverse that process ... to make myself more sensitive to prompting and correction from the Bible because I want to honor God with my life.

I confess that one day last summer, I was feeling whiney. I just wanted to sit down and watch a funny show like The Big Bang Theory to unwind and relax, as I used to. I was feeling sorry for myself that I had committed not to watch something that many other Christian believers wouldn’t bat an eye at. But the next thought I had stopped me in my tracks. I remembered Jesus’ sacrifice. His agonizing death on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. What right did I have to complain about my “sacrifice,” which suddenly seemed so tiny? Jesus sacrificed his very life for me. Giving up a TV show I once liked shouldn’t even be in the category of “sacrifice.” That realization really propelled me forward … and has kept me motivated.

Dave has been really wonderful through all of this, by the way, and is walking this journey with me, even though it’s not always easy or fun. We’ve had to stop watching a lot of seemingly “clean” shows—sometimes several episodes in—because they suddenly used God’s name in an offensive way (swearing) or a husband cheated on his wife or something else to that effect. This stuff is EVERYWHERE, people. And it’s frustrating. And horrible. Satan has his claws in deep into the media we consume.

On the bright side, because I can’t find much by way of clean movies and TV to watch, I’m spending more time playing games with Dave, reading, making craft projects, writing (of course!), and other non-media-related stuff. And that is definitely a side effect I am okay with!  :)

What are some of the fun things you like to do outside of watching TV or movies?