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Monday, February 27, 2012

Review-Gone with the Wind, Book

For Christmas Jeff gave me a copy of the book  Gone with the Wind. I've seen the movie probably three or four times. Even so, once I started reading the book it was hard to put it down. There is something about a book that gives you more of an inside look at the characters. You get inside their thoughts and understand what truly motivates them and makes them who they are.

It's no wonder this book is a classic. Margaret Mitchell does a superb job with characterization and of telling the tragic story of the fall of the old south. Scarlett O'Hara is incredibly spoiled, self-focused and strong-willed. She has no qualms about marrying a young man she doesn't love in order to make the man she thinks she truly loves, Ashley Wilkes, jealous. But this proves to be a poor plan and the marriage only lasts a month before Charles, her first husband dies.

One of the most riveting parts of the story is the struggle for survival after the war. The Yankees have destroyed and taken everything. The once idealistic life of the plantation owners is leveled. Survivors have no food, and no resources to live on. In a time when women didn't hold jobs and their only recourse was to marry, Scarlett, whose mother has died from typhoid and whose father has been mentally incapacitated due to grief over her death, finds herself shouldering the burden of trying to feed her family and Ashley's family as well. Mitchell makes Scarlett's character very sympathetic and she instills in her the drive to never be hungry again. It is this factor that makes the reader sympathetic and forgiving--to a point of Scarlett.

This pivital time becomes her driving force. All of the morals and social mores taught to her by her mother, Ellen, eventually dissipate. She becomes a conniving, hardhearted and amoral person. Scarlett turns out to actually have a head for business, unfortunately its during a time when any sign of independence and superior intelligence in a woman was socially unacceptable. Scarlett, like Rhett, ignores what proper society thinks and does what she feels is necessary to reach her goal--to be financially wealthy so she will never have to face hunger again. Fear of hunger drives her more than anything else. Any man who Scarlett sees as an asset is pulled into her schemes and used, often with disastrous results.   Even Rhett, who bears some parallel's to Ashley and Scarlett  isn't immune. By the end of the book we are left with two people, Scarlett and Rhett, who might have been incredibly happy with one another had they ever been able to truly set aside their cynicism and maliciousness--a self-protective device--long enough to see what lay beneath the surface.

Mitchell's epic romance doesn't end with a happy ending--unheard of. Had she written it today the book probably would not have been published for that reason. She's left the door open enough that we hope Scarlett--who we know has the capacity to get whatever she sets her sight on--will go after brokenhearted Rhett. She finally recognizes that Rhett, not Ashely--is her fiery, kindred spirit. Should they ever be able to  drop their protective facades  they may be able to repair their deep wounds and find the deep passion that will unite them for all time.

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Teena Stewart is a published author. Her most recent book is The Treasure Seeker: Finding Love and Value in the Arms of Your Loving Heavenly Father.  Visit http://www.teenastewart.com.

Monday, February 20, 2012

One Inch Blizzard

"It's supposed to snow tonight but only about an inch," said Jeff, my husband. Immediately red flags went up. Get off the road and cancel evening church, I thought. It's not that I have a problem with driving in snow, we've lived in snow country. First in Erie, PA where some winters navigating roads and sidewalks was like traversing bob sled runs. We've also lived in Colorado and Virginia. But North Carolina--brother. No one knows how to drive in this stuff.

We stupidly decided we would still have our evening gathering so we headed out Grace Chapel road. Keep in mind there was absolutely no snow on the roads. The first thing we encountered were flashing lights and a blocked off road. The fire department guys were directing traffic. Someone had already landed in the trees, facing backwards of course. Jeff and I looked at each other. Southerners! They just don't know how to drive in this stuff. At the sign of the first flake, they panic. "Ack. Snow! Quick, slam on the brakes." Careening vehicles follow. Or. "Yikes, snow. Shut down the office and schools for a week. Call in the National Guard. Load up on food and gas! It's the end of the world!"

As we drove on to the coffee shop, we passed two kids outside trying to make a snow something or other. Do you know how hard this is when there isn't any on the ground? But I give them credit. They were trying. 

So, we get to our gathering and wait and wait and wait. And, guess what. No one showed up. Groan. I should have known. Next time, if we see a flake, we are NOT moving to get off the couch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Church Ladies -- Gag Me

Sometimes when we are short on volunteers I fill in behind the counter at Java Journey our Christian coffee shop here in Hickory. We get all kinds of folks through our doors. Some could care less about spiritual matters. They are just there to use the wi-fi or drink the coffee. Some  really "get" what we are doing and  want to partner in ministry, bringing more folks through the doors in hopes of helping them on their spiritual journey.

Then, there are the "church ladies" (there are church guys too). These are the women who outwardly have it all together. Their nails, hair and makeup is perfect. They may participate in or lead a Bible study or women's group or several Bible studies or women's groups. They have lots and lots of Bible knowledge. Just not a lot of practical application for it outside the church walls. (Don't get me wrong. I am not knocking those who go to church.) When they learn we are a Christian coffee shop they get excited because they can use our space for their friends or church group...just don't ask them to open their group to any outsiders. It usually never crosses their minds.

They somehow miss the point that we are trying to be a market place ministry--neutral ground for those who are truly, spiritually hungry. We never intended to be a place for holy huddles. We want those who enter to feel safe and welcome to talk about spiritual matters without fear of judgment or Christian phoniness. Hmm. Probably not going to happen through any church ladies.

You see, church ladies speak Christianese, that foreign language that only the well-churched can understand. They have a shellacked presence that smacks of artificiality and insulated existence. They often think they are spiritual giants. They make sure you know how many Bible studies they lead or participate in.  But they don't know how to break out of their churchy huddles. They are more wrapped up in their own church's function and existence and their Biblical standing than they are in the needs of the hurting world around them. In fact, I am not even sure they know there is a world outside their church. Though they are well immersed in what the Bible teaches, they somehow miss the real application of Jesus' words.

In my book the Treasure Seeker: Finding Love and Value in the Arms of Your Loving Heavenly Father, I talk specifically to women about living an authentic Christian lifestyle.  I use Proverbs 31 as an example of the ideal spiritual woman. But I stress that the real person we are to model our lives after is Christ. Anything else is just a poor copy. Living the life of a Proverbs 31 woman doesn't mean we have to be perfect. We can drop the pretenses. In fact, we are more likely to connect with folks if we peel away the veneer. Church ladies somehow miss this. They are outwardly put together, but so inflexible and brittlethey'd break into tiny pieces to reveal a hollow core. God honors authenticity, even with flaws and inclusions over outward polish and perfection.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How Many Times Does a Book Change Hands?

My new book the  Treasure Seeker: Finding Love and Value in the Arms of Your Loving Heavenly Father is now available on Kindle and the Nook as well as in printed format.  With the growing popularity of electronic reading devices, more and more books are being published in electronic format. It's cheaper to produce and for readers to buy. But the downside is that you can't pass the book on to someone.  Though I believe Kindle may have some sort of lending feature. Does anyone know about this?

Think about it. A hard copy book gets multiple reads. You have the person who bought it new who either keeps it or sells it or gives it away. Then you have the used book reader who reads it and does the same thing. It may pass through multiple hands until it eventually gets too dated for anyone to want to read it or it falls apart and has to be destroyed.  Think of how many people writers influence just through one book or article. Incredible, don't you think?


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lawsuit Paranoia. You Talkin' About Me?

A couple days ago the editor from Beacon Hill contacted me regarding my book in process entitled Mothers & Daughters: Mending Strained Relationships and told me she was concerned that the book doesn't put my mom in a very positive light. The book, which is due out this spring, was written from my account of a strained mother daughter relationship. It was not intended to be a Mommy Dearest book, but rather a book of encouragement for other women who might struggle to have a good relationship with either a daughter or a mother. But like many editors, there are concerns these days over lawsuits by those who might recognize themselves. And this was at the bottom of the editor's motives in contacting me. She wanted to know if my mom would sign a release. But this isn't possible because my mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and we just moved her into assisted living. My youngest sister now has power of attorney. I told the editor I had written the book several years ago and had considered writing an addendum to the book talking about my relationship with my mother now. She felt that that might be a good direction to take. So, that is what I did, talking about how my mother's and my relationship has changed over the past year now that we are dealing with her aging. It has softened both of us toward each other. Will this be enough to satisfy the publishing house? I don't know. But it did bring up a problem many writers face. Often I want to write about someone or something but realize people may recognize themselves. I face this right now with a fiction work I am outlining. Though I've changed names, the location and some of the circumstances but my fear is it may be just too recognizable. I may have to disguise it even more. I recall a writer for the Saturday Evening Post sharing at a writer's conference about how she had written an article where she had interviewed a psychiatrist. I don't recall the exact topic now, but she had tried to maintain privacy of those discussed by changing the sex and certain circumstances. Despite that, one woman recognized herself and came back and sued the publication and won. It's no wonder publishers and writers are skittish. I only hope my reworking of this manuscript softens it to the proper level.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are You Doomed to Repeat Ground Hog Day?


February 2nd I think of three things. First, I remember a little girl in our Erie, PA church named Carly Larson, who by now is probably in her early twenties. Carly was one of the few people I have ever met who had a birthday on Ground Hog dog. So, Carly, wherever you are, "Happy Birthday and Happy Ground Hog Day."

I also remember my daughter Gaby, when she was just a punk in grade school informing me and her father, "It's ground dog day today!"

And then I think of one of my favorite movies, "Ground Hog Day," starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. If you haven't seen it you are missing a treat. Murray plays an arrogant weatherman who is given the assignment of covering the Ground Hog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA. But when a snow storm thwarts their plans to leave town after they are done they extend their stay overnight. Murray wakes up in the bed an breakfast to the annoying Sonny and Cher song "I've got you Babe," on the clock radio and he soon learns that it's not February 3rd but February 2nd all over again. He remains stuck in Punxsutawney, and each day he awakens to the same exact scenario. Locked in this private hell, he begins to try different things to change the events of the day in hopes of breaking whatever charm holds him there. The results are hilarious but his character slowly undergoes a transformation. By the end, he is a changed man.

There is no middle ground on this movie. I've found people who count it among their favorites, while others hated it and just wanted it to be over.

I think we all live our own Ground Hog Days in a way, stuck in ruts trying to get out of unbearable circumstances. The more we try the more it seems we are doomed to repeat our own miserable existence. The takeaway from all this is attitude. We can either have a bad one and lash out and blame people, or make the best of it. It's this subtle change in attitude that can truly impact our lives the lives of those around us.