One thing I really enjoy about living on campus is the ability to experience new things. So far this semester, I've interacted with people from Saudi Arabia, Australia, India, Columbia, and somewhere in Africa (I haven't gotten to ask him which country he's from yet). I've eaten cafeteria food (yuck) and read books I wouldn't have otherwise picked up. But I wasn't expecting to have old memories pop up, too.
It's always the little things that bring you back to years gone by. I was homeschooled for ten years, and my family used the Abeka curriculum. It's an excellent curriculum, and it's also used by the school my church runs--the school I substitute teach for. One day, I was tasked with collating worksheets for the kindergarten classroom. Turns out, Abeka has a certain smell to it that I'd forgotten about.
I remember sitting on one of those too-small chairs in the library, papers stretched out before me and a small pile of paper clips half falling off the table, sniffing papers. This was my third-grade math book, my sixth-grade grammar, my high school chemistry. Heck, I'd been immersed in that smell since my own kindergarten years. It felt good to smell it again.
But somehow, being in college has stirred an even deeper memory in me: the crack of a baseball bat.
I've never been good at sports. I was the tall, gangly, scrawny kid who read too much. But, when I was probably nine or ten, I played softball with my local public school league. I lived in a small town, and we didn't even have our own school district. We shared with Kingston, a town that was somehow even smaller than we were.
The first year I played, I don't think I hit a ball once. But I was still a good player. The pitchers all sucked--except for one, a tall girl who wore a helmet with a face guard while she pitched. We all hated her and her sixty-mile-an-hour fastballs. Anyway, the pitchers all sucked, and nine times out of ten I'd get to first base on a walk.
The second year I played, the pitchers got a bit better, and my parents started paying me to literally swing the bat, even if I missed. I still got a lot of walks. And I sat on the bench a lot. I played outfield when we weren't batting which means I spent most of my time beheading dandelions with my cleats.
But still--when we practiced, our coach would pitch. And sometimes, my dad would throw a couple balls in our backyard. And so I came to love the sound an aluminum bat makes when it hits the softball.
We have a baseball diamond on campus. Apparently, we have a baseball team that's practicing right now. And so sometimes, when I'm outside at the right time, I can hear the crack of the bat. And it sends me back to my younger years, to the practices and my coach's voice and the teammates who nicknamed me "Evil Eye" because of the way I glared at a girl who accidentally spilled my water bottle once. Good memories like that. I had a kind coach, and that made everything so much more enjoyable.
What noise brings you back to your childhood? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Again. Freaking again. I sit down. I write an excellent blog post. I go to the top corner where there's a big orange button that says "Post"....
And Weebly logs me out of my account, erasing my blog post and forcing me to start from scratch.
I'm mad. I'm so mad at this God-forsaken website host. This is the third time AT LEAST this has happened to me.
I was GOING to tell you about the first few sentences of the three new books I got on sale at the bookstore, but my fingers are tired and I don't feel like typing another 500 words.
Instead I will tell you that I can open my window now. I will tell you that I can see the sunlight gleaming on the leaves of a tree just outside my window, and the blue sky between its branches. I will tell you that I can hear a dog barking, and the hum of an air conditioning unit, and cars as they pass along the street. I will tell you about the large patch that I sewed on my window screen, and the tape that runs along the bottom of it to keep the bugs from getting in.
Oh, the smell of fresh air! It makes my dorm feel less like a prison cell and more like a home, although a few more pictures on my walls would have a similar effect. I've never been good at hanging pictures. I want a nature scene--perhaps a forest in spring, with plenty of pastel pinks to go with the rest of my room--hanging on the other side of my desk. That way I'll see it in the mornings, before I open my window, and it'll make me smile.
I'll tell you about the plants on my windowsill. I dropped them when I moved in, and they spilled everywhere. I re-planted them and now they're growing towards the sunlight again. Succulets don't need much root, I suppose.
Anyway, what can you see out your window? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to follow us on Facebook!
But they're not alone. A Norse army led by Chief Konar the Mad is making its way to St. Anne's Monastery. In a desperate attempt to save their home, Lukas teaches Alynn how to wield a sword. She vows to fight off the Norse alongside him. If they win, she gets the home she's always wanted. If they're defeated, she faces death--or worse, slavery.
Alynn doesn't have much of a chance. But if it means a forever home, it's a chance worth taking.
Don't miss this stunning tale of faith, courage, and the power of family. Where I Stand, Book Two in the Clouds Aflame Series, is now available on Amazon.
A faint voice was vying for Alynn’s consciousness, but she brushed it away.
If she woke up, she’d be cold again. Her arms and legs would burn with a cold that felt like fire, and she would shiver until she was nauseous.
But the voice refused to go away. Something shook her shoulder, and she cried for it to stop.
“There ye go, lass,” the voice said. “Open yer eyes. Look at me. Ye’re safe, ye’re out of the water. Ye need to look at me.”
The man’s voice was calm and comforting, with a brogue that was neither lilting Irish nor the type of Scottish that Captain McMahon spoke. Alynn knew she’d heard it before—she’d spent the night at an inn when she was moving from Corgrigg to Kilteery, and she’d lain awake listening to a man telling stories. A Highland Scot, he’d been.
“Come, now. Look at me.”
Alynn tried to open her eyes, and the first thing she saw was a ribbon of red racing across the horizon. It was nearly dawn.
A blurry figure was kneeling in front of her. Warm hands were shaking her shoulders, touching her face and pressing two fingers into her neck. Alynn felt as if he were trying to choke her. She cried out again.
“Yer pulse is strong, lass. Ye’re going to be fine. Be quiet, now, and we’ll get ye out of here.”
A strong arm slipped under Alynn’s back, and suddenly, she was lifted into the air. She shrieked.
“Shh! We can’t let them—just—don’t say anything. I’ve got ye, lass. Ye’re alright.”
Warmth seeped through Alynn’s soaking clothes as the stranger carried her down the pier. She started to relax.
“Ye need to stay awake.” The stranger sounded like an adult, someone at least as old as Rowan or Captain McMahon. “Talk to me. But quietly. We can’t let them find us.”
“Who’s trying to find us?”
Alynn’s voice sounded so slurred to her, she wondered how the stranger could understand her. But he answered her in a comforting tone. “No one ye need to worry about, so long as ye say a prayer fer us.”
Alright, then. Saint Mary, protect us.
“What’s yer name?” she asked.
“Where am I, Mr. McCamden?”
“Just call me Lukas, if ye don’t mind. We’re on the outskirts of a village.”
“Alright, then….Where…what kind of village is…is this Scotland?”
“Not quite. We’re on an island, north of—”
A new voice rang through the air. “Excuse me!”
“Say that prayer now,” Lukas whispered.
First off, I'd like to thank everyone who came to the Loy Lake Fall Festival last Saturday. I sold 25 books and had a great time! I'm busy with school so I'm not sure when my next book signing will be, but I'll be sure to let you guys know!
Anyway, let me tell you how my day has been.
It all started last night, when I realized I was behind on my Shakespeare reading. So I wake up this morning, spend 45 minutes daydreaming (bad habit), and finally do my morning Bible reading and crack open my Shakespeare tome afterwards. I do all of this without getting out of bed, mind you. When you live in a dorm, practically everything is within arm's reach of your Twin Extra-Long bed. Your haven of comfort. The one thing keeping you sane amidst studies and books and deadlines that glare at you over the horizon with beady red eyes, creeping slowly closer so that you hardly notice them until they're on top of you.
So I read my Shakespeare--the last two acts of Much Ado About Nothing, which I hardly understand--and lay in bed until twenty minutes until class starts. I manage to brush my teeth, grab a protein shake to drink in class, and walk across campus (with my 4.5-pound Shakespeare tome in my backpack, mind you) just in time for Humanities.
Humanities is boring. The teacher essentially reads and elaborates on a PowerPoint Presentation that she makes available afterwards online. As soon as my heart started beating normally again (hey, you try walking halfway across a college campus and up two flights of stairs with the collective works of Shakespeare in your backpack), I started sketching a picture of an elf. I'll admit to spending too much time trying to get the shading right so it looked like she had...oh, let's say feminine curves. I can say that, right?
So after Humanities, I had Shakespeare. I sat next to my good friend and chatted a bit before class started, when I was unfortunately informed that we would be having a midterm exam in less than two weeks and duly reminded about an essay I haven't started on yet. I don't know Shakespeare. I don't know what to write about.
After class, I chatted with my friend a bit more, ate lunch at the cafeteria, and returned to my dorm. Where I crashed.
Remember how I didn't want to get out of bed this morning? I'm back in bed, covered with a weighted blanket, listening to my roommates goof off as they work on their own schoolwork in the living room.
My grandfather, bless his heart, has made a point out of calling me once a week. Last week, I described the difficulty I was having in getting my brain focused on a paper I was working on. "Papa," I said, "Remember telling us about how you rode a horse to school?"
"Yep," said my grandfather, who grew up in rural Missouri in the 1930s and 40s.
"Did you ever have a day where your horse just didn't want to do anything? That's about how I feel."
Well, I made Papa laugh, which always makes me feel good. If I could just get my horse to start working, I'd really appreciate it.
I guess I'd better buckle down and get back to work. What are your tips for staying motivated during the school year? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to leave us a review on Amazon or Goodreads!
Howdy, y'all! My idiot computer decided to delete my entire, beautiful blog post, and since I've got an essay to write, I'll give you the outline.
Reasons you should come to the Loy Lake Fall Festival on Saturday the 11th:
So sorry for not posting last week. I have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and last Thursday I had to talk about a Shakespeare poem detailing the rape and suicide of a Roman noblewoman. So, yeah, I wasn't exactly in a mood for blogging afterwards. I needed a nap.
Anyway, I made up for not posting by putting three consecutive Facebook Live videos up on our Facebook page. If you don't follow us on Facebook, you really should. You'll get notified about all our events and new blog posts. I'm pretty sure I came up with the username @DontRaidMyMonastery for the official Where the Clouds Catch Fire Facebook page when I was fifteen, so please don't judge me for it.
I did my Facebook Live videos because I was bored. Do you ever get so bored that nothing sounds good to do? I could read a book--but no, that's boring. I could write a story or crochet a bit--but no, that's boring. So you wind up playing on your phone until bedtime. That's about how I felt over the past couple of days. I was exposed to a certain disease and ordered to isolate myself from the rest of human society. And that's what I did. For two and a half days, I got my meals slid to me on a rolling desk chair. I had to sanitize the bathroom every time I used it. I Facetimed my mother, who was only a few rooms away from me.
The first day of quarantine, I went a bit crazy.
I was already pacing like a bear at the zoo when my arms started to move. I couldn't stop them. My insides were scrambled, and I felt panicky. My arms kept moving, as if of their own accord. I was doing something called stimming--short for self-stimulating. You do it when you're overwhelmed or bored. Normally, it's something like tapping your foot or wiggling your fingers or twirling your hair. Sometimes, though, it can get a bit excessive.
Now, I've dealt with anxiety for a good part of my life, so I immediately started deep breathing. It didn't help. So I went deeper, to the very root of the problem, and started singing a worship song.
It took a whole song, but I eventually stopped moving my arms. My feet grew still. My mind calmed down, and my heartbeat resumed its normal speed.
The next day, around five o'clock, I started feeling the same way. This time, I started worshipping before I started stimming, and the crisis was averted.
They say that hell is other people. I beg to differ--hell is the complete absence of other people. But even in isolation, even when I was confined to my bedroom so that a trip to the bathroom felt like an adventure, I wasn't quite alone. God was with me. It took me a while--I'm still not very good at it, but I'm better than I used to be--but I learned how to tap into God's presence. And you don't even have to say anything. You don't have to pray if you don't have anything to say. It's like flipping an inner switch, and you're on a porch swing with your best friend. There's peace on that porch swing, a sense of contentment and love. You feel like you mean something to Someone.
Sometimes, though, it's hard to flip that inner switch. You're too panicky, or angry, or frazzled to think straight. That's when it's handy to have a worship playlist on YouTube, or even a song that you've memorized. It directs your thoughts and your heart to a place where they can flip that switch and sit in divine peace for a moment.
I wish I could teach you how to flip that inner switch. The peace and companionship Jesus gives is the best thing in the world. It's better than sitting in a rocking chair with a baby sleeping on your chest--better than watching the sunset from your upstairs window. But I'm afraid this is something you'll have to figure out on your own. I hope you do!
I've got some good news, though. On September 11--not this Saturday, but the one after it--I'll be signing books at the Frontier Village Fall Festival in Denison, Texas! I can't wait to see you there. And you can't miss me. I'll be dressed like a Viking.
God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.