Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rooting for Cinderella

Over the years, the romance genre has expanded to include a wide variety of stories. And with that expansion has come new types of heroines. Now, in addition to being nurses or teachers or waitresses, heroines can be corporate CEOs, attorneys, military pilots, you name it. I've loved romances with a great many different types of heroines, but I still find myself drawn to the Cinderella character type. I don't mean only Cinderella herself, but also all those wonderful heroines who start out as life's underdog, the poor girl whom no one loves but who in the end finds happiness with the hero everyone would have thought beyond her reach.

I don't believe a woman should define herself by the man in her life, but who among us didn't dream when we were young of a prince falling in love with us and sweeping us off our feet? Cinderella has inspired countless book heroines, and movies like The Prince and Me, Maid in Manhattan, and Pretty Woman star a girl who is either normal or one of the forgotten who gets the guy way above her station in life. It's a powerful fantasy that even shows up in classic novels like Jane Eyre.

I have Jane Eyre on the brain because I watched the Masterpiece Theatre production starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stevens today. I'd read Jane Eyre way back in high school, so it'd been a long time since I'd been immersed in the story. But when Jane was abandoned by her family, left alone in the world and unloved, it broke my heart. Watching her fall in love with Mr. Rochester, a man she knew she couldn't have, was equally hard to see. Not to mention the revelation of mad Bertha's existence and thus the crushing of Jane's hope. But because Jane has gone through so much in her life, it's so much more thrilling when she inherits money, earning her independence, and then finally finds enduring love with Edward Rochester.

What about you? Do you like the Cinderella type story? If so, which ones do you like most?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reconnecting with Childhood Favorites

I’ve always been an avid reader. When I was a child, I’d trek to the library every Saturday and come home with an armload of books. Our next door neighbor was the children’s librarian, so I would always stop by to say hello and find out what she was recommending that week. Many of the books I read in those days are still among my all-time favorites.

I read the Anne of Green Gables books when I was ten, and since then I’ve reread them more times than I can count. I also have the two made-for-TV mini series on VHS. Every couple of years I have an "Anne" day and I’ll watch all eight hours. Just me, a big bowl of popcorn, and my box of Kleenex.

Little Women was another favorite, and I also love the movie version with Susan Sarandon and Winona Rider. As a child, I think I related to both Anne and Jo because they a little on the tomboyish side and their imagination was always getting them into scrapes. Although I never died my hair green!

I adored Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I even read them to my children, and my daughter named one of her dolls Charlotte, just like Laura's.

The Swiss Family Robinson was completely captivating, especially the ingenious things they did to make a home on that island. Part of me has always wanted to live in a treehouse!

One of my neighbor’s recommendations was Loretta Mason Potts—which, in spite of the title, is the story about a little boy who finds out he has an older sister. Loretta, his sister, had been living with another family. After she returns home, she discovers a passageway in her closet that connects her to a secret world. This book was written in 1958 by Mary Chase, who is most famous for her Pulitzer-prize-winning play, Harvey, about a man and his six-foot-tall invisible rabbit.

Over the years I searched secondhand bookstores and then online for a copy of this book, but with no luck. My problem was that I didn’t have the title quite right. I remembered it as Laura Mason Potts. A couple of years ago I googled "Laura Mason Potts," and to my surprise, it turned up in a review on Amazon. The review had been written by another person who had remembered the wrong title.

The book was reissued in 1989, so I immediately ordered a copy. After searching for so many years, there was always the dangers that the book wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but I’m happy to say it did. The day the package arrived, I tore it open, put everything aside, and read the book cover to cover. I'd forgotten that the book is illustrated, but once I had it in my hands, even the black-and-white illustrations were familiar to me.

Maybe that sense of familiarity is what’s so important about these books. Knowing that no matter what else is going on in our adult lives, a favorite story can transport us to our childhood, and to simpler times.

I'd love to hear about everyone's favorite childhood books.

Happy reading!


Sunday, June 22, 2008


Usually, I am all about my family. My kids and husband are the center of my world, and usually everything I do revolves around their schedules. But, well…this past week I was home alone.
That’s right. I was home by myself for six days straight. My husband and two kids traveled to western Pennsylvania as part of a mission trip with our church. I valiantly volunteered to stay behind and hold down the fort.
In other words, I did all kinds of things I don’t do when they’re here. I was in charge of the remote. I watched movies no one else likes. I read books in the living room at four o’clock. I even did my favorite activity...going to sleep early- just because there was no one around to tell me that I really shouldn’t be tired and it was too early to go to sleep.

Yes, it was completely empowering.

The highlight of my time alone was the slumber party I had. To be honest, when I asked my four critique partners if they’d like to come spend the night, I thought they might think it was a little weird. After all, we’re grown women-we’re all supposed to be too old for sleepover parties…right? But before we knew it, emails were flying, deciding on what to bring for our potluck dinner, and how much work to bring.

FYI, the food was great. We didn’t get much work done.

But, oh, how we relaxed! We sat outside on my back porch and had iced tea and laughed about things we’d done over the years. We got caught up on all things- kids and husbands, regular jobs and hobbies. We switched to wine and looked at cooking catalogs. We talked about dreams and goals and things we wished we would have done and things we still hope to do.
Being with these friends is like nothing I’ve had since high school. There are no hidden agendas, only the ease that comes from sharing good writing, bad ideas, diets, medical procedures, you name it-for almost a decade.
At eleven the next morning, I was sad to have the house back to myself again.

I was ready for my family to come back. I felt recharged and rejuvenated and had reminded myself that there’s more to me than just someone who writes. I’d remembered why I love my kids-not just because I’m their mom, but because of their fun personalities and good natures.

Everyone came back safe and sound. Within minutes of entering the house, piles of laundry filled the basement. The phone started ringing, my husband started going through the pile of mail and turned on his computer. Two TVs clicked on, music blared, dogs barked-and that familiar call of "Mom" floated through the house.
Life had begun again.

So, that was my week. I got to have some time alone to really enjoy being me.
And time to remember why I’m so glad it’s not just me anymore.
Has anyone else had an opportunity for some alone time? Or felt the roar that only summer can bring-when the kids are home all day?