Monday, September 4, 2017

The Place I Come Back To

Well, it’s happened. My family has moved back to my dad’s hometown in Arizona. They’re currently renting my great aunt’s house. This week my dad will be driving my brother Carl out to college at BYU-Idaho. In the meantime I’m still be here in Utah. Some people have asked whether or not I will be going to live in Arizona with my folks. The answer to that is, right now, no. I don’t want to go down there until I have a car and I’m able to get a job and live on my own. Which, right now, is kind of a tall order. But that’s my goal and I want to stick to it.

In any case, I am happy that my immediate family is in Arizona now. They’re now an 8-10 hour drive away from me (and my mom’s relatives) instead of 20+ hours.
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LDS Temple Pictures

This is the first time my whole family has moved. Up until now, my family has lived in one place, and moving was something other people did. My dad is from Taylor and we visit a lot, but when you go live somewhere it’s a lot different from visiting.  When you move, you have to rebuild your whole support network--who provides your medical care, your dental care, where’s your library, your school, your teachers, your groceries, your gas. The day-to-day things you don’t worry about when you’re on vacation. One perk of living in Taylor is that we get to interact every day with aunts, uncles, cousins, and second-and-third cousins. Some of them even live on our street. We get to help take care of our grandma, too. We could walk to her house if we had all the time in the world, I’m sure, but it’s a 1-2 minute drive to get anywhere usually. Neighbors and friends that we are not related to will come soon enough. For now, Taylor feels more like home because there’s more family, and more people of our faith.

Taylor is also home in the sense that we’re descended from the first group of Mormon settlers who came there. It was where my Shumway great-grandparents raised their family, and it was where my paternal grandparents decided to raise their family. So it’s where my dad’s side of the family gathers, and while we have a few of us living there right now, those who live down in Mesa/Gilbert will come up on weekends. My family used to go out there at least once a year to visit everyone.

What makes Taylor home to me is that I went to live there for a year when I was in high school. I a really bad place emotionally when I was in high school. My parents hoped that sending me out there would help me. My army cousins were staying with my grandparents for the school year, so I joined them. I went there to do high school orchestra and release-time seminary. I took a lot of honors/advanced classes, and I was at Snowflake for the last year that Ms. Cunningham taught English there. I went there to befriend more Mormons, and I did achieve that, but in that setting I was also more comfortable in befriending non-Mormons: the differences just kind of melted away. I even got to go to the freaking prom! I had a lot of experiences and learned a lot of things that I would never have had otherwise.

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Taylor/Snowflake reminds me of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings. Probably because my cousins had a mixtape of movie soundtrack themes that included “Concerning Hobbits” and it would get played every so often as we drove back and forth. There’s a few partly underground houses, and lots of irrigated green fields and livestock. It’s one of those communities that’s tight-knit and doesn’t get out much.

Technically, Snowflake was named after a guy named Snow and a guy named Flake. But yes, it does snow there. It’s about 5000 feet above sea level so it’s a higher altitude and cooler climate anyway. But the year I lived in Taylor was my first real exposure to snow. During winter semester there were two separate occasions where the school opened late because of snowy conditions, and then the ice would linger in the courtyard for weeks while everything else melted.
Snowflake also has an LDS temple. It was the second one built in Arizona, long before Gilbert or Phoenix or the other new ones besides Mesa.

Did I mention the happy little spot in between Taylor and Snowflake known as Bellybutton?

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Weaver's Needle, Paint Your Landscape

During the summer, Snowflake and Taylor are about the two sleepiest small towns anywhere. But during the school year, if you’re involved in school and community stuff and church stuff you will be so busy you can’t even see straight.

When you move somewhere, there are things you do have to give up, but you get good things in their place.

Living in Taylor is great, don’t get me wrong, but it gets even better if you can get out of town every once in awhile and see the country, because you are within a driving distance of some of the great natural landmarks of the West. Even a short drive to one of the other locales like Heber, Show Low, or Holbrook will take you through prairies decorated with junipers, past mountains and buttes and extinct volcanoes, across spectacular deserts, and into beautiful forests. It’s only a thirty-minute drive to the Petrified Forest National Park. The Grand Canyon is a day trip away. And if my family is going back and forth more between Arizona and Utah, that may mean more visits to other national parks in Southern Utah--at least I’d like to think that.

Painted Desert, Personal Photo

Holbrook is the town directly to the north of Snowflake by about thirty minutes of driving. Between the outskirts of both towns it is one of the straightest roads you will ever drive on. Holbrook is where my grandma’s brother Drew settled and raised his family, and I’ve been back there a few times to go visit my great aunt Joan. I also went horsebacking there with some of my cousins one time. Holbrook you may have heard of as one of the places that inspired Radiator Springs in Disney/Pixar’s Cars--the Wigwam Motel is still there. Driving to Holbrook is fun because you pass landmarks such as the Chocolate Cake and Woodruff Butte. Holbrook High School is where I auditioned for orchestra regionals and scored a 29 on the ACT. But mostly it’s the place you have to get through to get anywhere else if you’re going north.

Flagstaff. Darn, I love Flagstaff. When I lived in Taylor, I went to a college recruiting fair at their high school. About four years ago, I waited for my cousin and my brother to pick me up at the Barnes and Noble when I came down to Taylor for Christmas. Years and years ago my family stopped to visit Sunset Crater--the pine trees smelled so good, I’d buy a candle that smelled like that.

Perhaps my favorite drive in the world is US 89 between Flagstaff and Kanab, Utah. You climb down from the forests in Flagstaff onto the Navajo Indian Reservation. Going to Page is fun in its own way. But I LOVE taking the Alternate, because 89-A goes past the Vermillion Cliffs, and Navajo Bridge. I love stopping to walk over Navajo Bridge. My family kept a picture of the rock formation I call “Castle Rock”  on our living room wall back in our home in Texas, along with photos taken at the bottom of the Grand Canyon when my dad would go hiking there with his family. Once we stopped at Lee’s Ferry and I almost caught I fish with my bare hands.  

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A Fish like Thish? Yesh. (Pinterest)

After Marble Canyon, you go up a big, big hill to Jacob Lake--the view is spectacular. Jacob Lake is a favorite stop for my family when we drive between Arizona and Utah. It’s the turnoff to the Grand Canyon, but I’ve only been there with my folks once--that end with me and my siblings having temper tantrums because we couldn’t stop for souvenirs, but if it wasn’t that I don’t want to remember what it was.

Sometimes my family will get to Utah by going east from Holbrook and taking US 6/191 Northward. We go through Ganado and Mexican Water and we’ve only ever stopped in Chinle once. It goes right through the heart of the country that Tony Hillerman writes about in his Leaphorn and Chee mysteries, so next time I drive through I swear I will pay more attention.

Going south from Taylor, you hit Show Low/Pinetop/Lakeside, which is where you used to go to Walmart before the mini Walmart was built in Taylor. Back when I lived there, going to Show Low was a day trip, but now with Mom working there I imagine we’ll be spending a lot of time in Show Low.

Heading down through Heber, between Heber and Payson is the Mogollon Rim. If you watch carefully, you can glimpse Four Peaks while you’re heading down the mountain. The Rim is also where my dad proposed to my mom--rumor has it he would have jumped if she said no.
My uncle Mike has a cabin belonging to his wife’s family down in Christopher Creek. My dad’s family had a reunion there once, and in winter there are nice spots to go sledding nearby. When I did my first year of girls’ camp, I went with my aunt and cousin to Camp LoMia up by Payson.

Woods by the Palmer cabin, Personal Photo

When my siblings and I were younger, we would go out to Mesa to spend the summers with our cousins. Those were the best times--swimming pools, trampolines, and all the cable TV we could stand. I was there long enough that I got familiar with the names of the streets and I learned the names of the mountains.

Other than these few places I have been or spent lots of time in I don’t know Arizona very well. Any state I’ve more or less lived in I can’t say that I’ve seen all of. But I’m looking forward, if I get the chance, to getting to know Arizona a little better. And I will say, serious props to J.K. Rowling for making Arizona the home habitat of Frank the Thunderbird in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that, really. But maybe J.K. knows just how hardcore Potterheads are down in Arizona. That’s where I first read the series, during one of my summers there. Fandom--family--adventure--Arizona is where the important things are.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Liminal Space

I grew up in Texas. But mom and dad’s family lived in Utah and Arizona. If we’re driving, that means one way or another we have to go through New Mexico. So New Mexico is kind of a home to me, since it’s in between the different places I’ve called home in my life.

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Apogee Photo Magazine

The most frequent route that my family takes to get to Snowflake, Arizona is to go up Interstate 25 to Socorro and then turn off at US 60. We go through Truth or Consequences, which I think is the raddest town name ever, and the Valley of the Fires. On a Christmas trip we once stopped for an afternoon at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve. That was my first time actually seeing ponds frozen over with ice in winter. There were lots of migratory birds, of course, but I mostly remember the bald eagles, probably because they hooked my interest more than the geese.

Sometimes going back east we’ll take a shortcut through Roswell, Ruidoso, and Carlsbad, or sometimes heading up to Utah we will go through Lubbock and cut through the plains of eastern New Mexico to head for Albuquerque. My siblings and I grew up watching Bugs Bunny, so of course we enjoy taking “that left turn at Albuquerque”.

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When I’d finished my freshman year of high school, Dad took Mary Lynne and I out to Arizona to spend a couple of weeks with extended family. On the way we stopped in Ruidoso. Dad was in charge of a boy scout High Adventure camp later in the summer and he wanted to test out some of the trails on the Sierra Blanca. Luckily that year I was in really good shape.

About a year later, on our way to Utah my family had to drive on a Sunday for part of the trip. Trying to do something a little more appropriate for the Sabbath, we camped out at the bottom of a canyon on the Pecos river. My parents’ logic is that we’re not making people work by checking out a hotel room, and we’re in nature enjoying God’s creations. My best memory of that campout was Monday morning when the sun came over the rim of the canyon and bathed everything in golden light.

Bugs Bunny jokes aside, I really do love Albuquerque. It’s a pleasant city to drive through. I like how it’s kind of right in the middle of New Mexico and in the middle of where these different parts of New Mexico come together--the high country, the mountains, the deserts, the plains. I have recently been reading Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee mysteries, and my interest in those led me to find a book of Hillerman’s essays about New Mexico. Hillerman writes that part of New Mexico’s attraction for him is that it is a meeting place for different human cultures as well as geographic regions--several different groups of Native Americans, the Spanish colonies, and American settlers. These cultures met in New Mexico, part of movements on their way to or from somewhere else, and yet they (relatively) benignly met and mixed without destroying each other. That notion perfectly fits with my idea of what New Mexico is, a meeting place, or a place that more powerful entities just pass through. Probably because I have passed through there so much.

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Going west from Socorro to get to Snowflake, my family drives past the Very Large Array, a radio telescope you may have heard of. We’d past those radio telescopes looking up at the sky and I’d think about space and the stars.  And then we’d stop at the little corner store in Datil and continue through the little patch of wooded mountains until we got to the juniper-scattered plains on the other side.

Heading to Utah, my family goes west up I-40 from Albuquerque and turns north at Gallup. Then we go up through Shiprock to cut through the southwest corner of Colorado and enter Utah by Monticello. Hillerman’s murder mystery protagonist Jim Chee keeps a trailer down in Shiprock, and he and Joe Leaphorn frequent such locales as Farmington and Gallup in their cases. Talking God even makes reference to Fort Wingate, an abandoned US Army post in western New Mexico--there’s a song about it that the Jennings band plays every Fourth of July.

I started reaching Hillerman’s books in effect because I was a little homesick. The numerous times I have driven through the Navajo reservation have been either going to or from visiting family. And making those same trips over and over again have made me familiar with some of the towns and landmarks along the way. And I love it a lot simply because driving through there meant I wasn’t stuck in Texas, it meant that I was on my way somewhere, on an adventure.

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Since I am a Marvel fan, it bears mentioning that part of the reason I fell in love with the first Thor movie was because the god of thunder landed in New Mexico. Puente Antiguo was actually filmed on location on Galisteo which is just a little bit south of Santa Fe. But it kind of reminded me of the desert south of Socorro, or or maybe southern New Mexico by I-10 west. I felt right at home. Really. The Land of Enchantment was a perfect place for Thor to have his first visit to Midgard, because, like I said, it is a crossroads for many forces--physical, cultural, and spiritual.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What We Leave Behind

Most of you should probably have heard this. If not, you may need to sit down.

My family is--FINALLY--moving to Taylor, Arizona.

So, for anyone in my family or who’s a friend/associate of ours from the Grand Canyon state, yay, it’s good news. If you live in Utah you’ll probably be seeing more of us (I know I’ll enjoy having them close enough to take an occasional weekend trip). And I’m relieved that Dad decided to do this before the Second Coming.

But for our friends back in Texas, it’s kind of a bittersweet moment. Dad moved out to a little town east of San Antonio called Seguin (SEH-geen) to work at the Motorola plant not quite thirty years ago. Motorola has come and gone, but Dad brought Mom to live there and they raised five of us down in a little house right off of 1-10. We went to church in Seguin and school in Marion and although we didn’t have all the cool toys or watch all the popular TV shows we had books and friends and cats and that was enough. I don’t think the people we’ve known and loved in the area can imagine what the world is going to be like without us. I know I can’t.

View out my dad's office window. Notice the goats--
this was obviously a very long time ago

I don’t miss Texas a lot. I had bad experiences at school--some of them, yes, featured me getting bullied. Right up through Senior year. I don’t miss having to drive everywhere to get to a store or to church or to town, half the reason I never moved back. I don’t miss the humidity. Or the bugs--especially the spiders. I won’t miss the floods, and chances are where we’re going we won’t see so many of them. I won’t miss the rattlesnakes we’d occasionally get in our barn, but where we’re going there might still, sadly, be rattlesnakes, probably a different subspecies but still.

I’ll tell you what I DO miss--what I AM going to miss now that my family isn’t there anymore.

I’m going to miss our little house in the country that had grass just soft enough to walk on in the yard. We have like five pecan trees that give us nuts in the fall and in winter we crack them and give them away by the pound to friends and neighbors and ship them to far-off relatives. We have a field that we just let hay grow in and when I was younger dad would build us forts in the barn. Dad has tried getting into raising different kinds of animals--sheep, goats, rabbits pigeons, we were somewhat successful with chickens and ducks. The only critters that really flourished were the cats. We had a garden in the backyard and a little playground that got turned into a treehouse and then a fort that pretty much only the cats used. Part of the reason I turned out an introvert was because I lived too far away from friends to really hang out with them a lot. So that meant I could spend hours walking around in circles around the house and the field and daydream or just go back inside to draw or to read or to watch movies.

Guadalupe River crossing at US 90.

I'm going to miss the hills. Out where I lived there were just low rolling ones everywhere. If you're from Utah, it can seem kind of flat, but compared to, say, Lubbock, it's actually interesting terrain. I thought it was beautiful--it was the most beauty I got to see from day-to-day. And then every so often, my family would drive out into the Hill Country just a little to the west. Big, steep hills covered with brambly forests, a lot less civilized. Definitely a wild place.

I’m going to miss the rolling fields of wheat and corn that line the roads, the pastures full of horses and cattle, the ruined barns and houses that dot the landscape, the thickets of live oak and mesquite that grow here and there. We are out in the boonies enough to still have that small-town/country feel with the authentic drawls and cowboy boots and hats, but close enough to civilization that we feel, well, civilized. Mom and Dad were never really part of that culture anyway--Mom’s from (urban) Utah and my dad’s from Arizona. I built up a tolerance for country music. Enough to say that I like Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood and to relate to the lyrics of a few popular singles that I can’t name the artists or titles to.

I might miss Marion, a little, actually. Runs to Dollar General, driving in early on 78 from early morning seminary in Seguin. A small school that doesn’t have a lot of electives but a staff of teachers that was so supportive and wonderful to me and my four siblings. And there was nothing quite like homecoming day when all the girls who were passionate about it wore those frilly, tinkling mums of green and white ribbons.

Pape's Pecan House, Seguin, TX

I’m going to miss Seguin. Driving over the Guadalupe River every time we’d go to town and savoring the view. The Victorian houses. Just driving down College street. The old-town feeling of Court Street, the square behind the courthouse with the fountain and the statue of Juan Seguin that I regret not visiting nearly enough. Don’t get me wrong, the little Mormon meetinghouse on King and College streets is pretty. But the other religious organizations in Seguin have some fine churches too. Driving into town from you can see all the steeples as you come down the hill, and you glimpse them close-up when you drive through town. And then there’s the stores where we’d do our grocery shopping and the old library and just the landmarks you’d learn from driving back and forth a million times. Lazy afternoons at Starke Park. A lot of it has changed, over the years--the old HEB is gone and they built a bigger one. Blockbuster is gone, of course--it got divided into a liquor store and a dental office. And there’s a big, brand new city library downtown.

I’m going to miss the nearby town of New Braunfels. Landa Park. Playing church basketball with the girls over there. Hobby Lobby and Target and all of the best shopping! The hotbed of local German culture and the Edelweiss Inn that was oddly enough featured in a movie I saw at BYU International Cinema. Clear they make onion rings like that anywhere else?

I’m going to miss the creeks and the little places for camping in and around Seguin and then the state parks up in the Hill Country (fall is the best time of year for camping in Texas, fall being November). The Hill Country, beautiful and remote and covered with wild forests. Wildflowers, every spring: bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, Indian blankets, primroses. Spring is my favorite time of year in Texas. It’s the best place in the world to be in springtime.

My favorite flower, Indian Paint Brush, along with Texas Blue Bonnets
More or less what our highways look like in the springtime, in a good year (Pinterest)

I never went to Austin very much--well, except their airport, but that is a small airport that tbh I am glad to see the last of for now. But everyone in that part of Texas knows that Downtown Austin is a place to be avoided at rush hour. The few times I have driven through downtown Austin, though, I loved it. We would combine with the stakes in Austin for Youth Conferences, and let me tell you Austin is where the cool (Mormon) kids are from. A lot of those cool kids are here in Provo.

When people ask me what part of Texas I’m from I say San Antonio. Because it IS the best part. Marion is close enough to the Alamo and the downtown museums that we took epic field trips in elementary school. My parents, they’re from out of state, and they’re...tourists, so they like taking us to the tourist magnet, the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio, but it’s a beautiful place with bridges and boat rides and the best of local culture on display. Better than Venice. The zoo is...mediocre but the last time I went was over ten years ago. The Japanese Tea Gardens at Brackenridge park are spectacular.  I went on field trips to the auditorium at Trinity University to see plays based on classic short stories when I was in middle school. And then I graduated from high school in that auditorium.

Downtowm SA

San Antonio also has the best freaking NBA team. I am a Spurs fan for life.

The Church built a temple in San Antonio. It has beautiful stained-glass windows and in one of the ordinance rooms a mural of the Hill Country with wildflowers painted by a lady from my home ward, the late Ardyth Haecker. It was completed in 2005 and the night before the dedication I was part of an enormous cultural celebration in the Alamodome. The temple is on Stone Oak parkway, overlooking Loop 1604 (another place to avoid during rush hour), right on top of a hill at the edge of the Hill Country.

Corpus Christi is where my family would go to the beach. And it's getting its own post.

Gosh, I love Texas history. I grew up right in the middle of where some of the more significant events happened, so I’m biased. But we had our own war of Independence from Mexico. We had an epic last stand at the Alamo. I read a biography of Sam Houston a few years ago and let me tell you, we need more people like him in today’s government. He may have been from a pro-slavery state but he was vehemently against the other southern states’ wanting to break with the Union right up until the Civil War, at least that’s what I gathered.

And NO state has state pride like Texas. I may live anywhere else in the world, but I will always own my Texas pride.

I like to think that the Texas flag is made out of part of the US flag.

Edit of a personal photo of the Alamo

I’m going to miss the culture. There’s the cowboy/folk/country element, for sure. My brother David spent several years growing up playing fiddle at the local oprys and I went to a few of his shows--lemme tell ya. But there is also a strong Latino heritage in the area, lots of Spanish place names and architecture and glorious, glorious mariachi music.
Also, the FOOD. Food is very important in south-central-whatever-Texas. Everybody (except me) loves spicy food. My home ward would do a chili cookoff nearly every year. My mother is going to miss the tamales. I’m going to miss the breakfast tacos made on homemade flour tortillas, wrapped in tinfoil, stuffed with cheese, egg, potato sausage, bacon, onions, refried beans, and other fillings and toppings to taste.

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arielle clementine
My mom served her mission in Houston, Spanish-speaking. We almost never went to Houston (but before the temple in San Antonio was built the adults in my ward would go to the temple there every so often, and let me tell you the Houston Temple is beautiful). But my mom learned to make somewhat authentic Mexican food--enchiladas, fajitas. We’re taking that with us. To this day a quesadilla is a staple of my diet.

I’m going to miss driving through West Texas. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but I learned to enjoy the ride, especially when every landmark we passed would mean we were that much closer to that somewhere else we wanted to be. You go into the Hill Country, and then pass through lots of plateaus and buttes right up until you reach Fort Stockton, and then after that you’re in a desert and it’s so barren that you can feel the moisture coming off your skin, but at least there’s mountains. And then, after like six hours and six hundred miles, you’re in El Paso.

Butte visible from Interstate 10 just outside of Fort Stockton

It’s not just saying goodbye to all of these places, though. Moving means saying goodbye to all of the people that my family has spent the last twenty-odd years building relationships with. Each ward unit in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is supposed to be like a family, but no ward IS a family more than the Seguin Ward of the Kyle Texas Stake. When my dad moved there, it was just a branch. There was a Spanish branch there for a little while, but we’ve been a ward since I was a kid. Dad got to be bishop for a little while, even. There weren’t a lot of girls in my young women’s group, but they were some of my best friends growing up. Our chapel has hymnals in both English and Spanish.

There’s a handful of families that have been there as long as Dad has, if not longer. And there are families that come and go that you never forget. Some of them are transplants from Utah/Idaho/Arizona, like my folks. Some of them are local. A lot of them are converts. We have dinners parties like no one’s business--Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, boy scout fundraisers, that sort of thing. Back in the day when General Conference was only broadcast to the chapels we would have pot-lucks in between the Sunday sessions.  And yes, we take turns feeding the missionaries.

LDS Chapel, Seguin

On the Stake level, we’ve made a lot of unforgettable friends too. Up until 2008, we were part of the San Antonio East Stake. Then we got put into the Kyle stake. Our stake center in Kyle is a 45-minute drive from my house and it made no sense for my family to attend functions there. But we stuck it out. We made it work. We have friends clear up and down I-35 from the east side of San Antonio to New Braunfels to Buda, friends with whom we share a common faith. After Dad got released from being bishop he served off and on in the high councils of both stakes. Since he and mom both speak fluent Spanish they have usually been assigned to work with the Spanish-speaking members on ward and stake levels.

We have friends outside of the church, too. My mom says that her co-workers at the Seguin hospital are like family to her, and she will miss them. I didn’t have a lot of friends at school--I had social problems. The few I did have were priceless. I sadly didn’t realize it until my last couple years of high school. But I did learn. No one can ever take their place.

Texas was never home for my mom and dad. Other people who live there, they have their parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins living close by, they get together every so often. We have to travel out of state to see our extended family. But now Dad is moving back to his hometown, we’re renting a house from his aunt right next door to a place where one of my cousins is living and a couple of doors down from a few other cousins. It takes two minutes to drive to his mom’s house, but if there’s good weather and you feel up to it you can walk.  Mom can take weekend trips up to Utah to see her family. That’s their idea of being home. So I’m happy for them. And I’m happy for my younger siblings who get to have that experience.

Winter Sunset, I-10 West of Seguin

That little house in Texas is home to me in the sense that it’s where my story began. It’s the place that, after much trial and adversity, I was able to get away from in order to accomplish Great Things™. It’s enough of a home that I have a few ideas for potential fantasy novels set in that region, so if I want to take a trip back I can definitely call it “book research”. If I’m ever successful as an author, I will come back for book tours and give inspirational speeches to kids telling them that they should read books and go places in life. Yes, Texas is home, but there is so much more to the world.

So the Cole family is leaving Texas. We're going to be closer to our extended family. But we will miss the family that we had here. We will remember it as a place of the world that we made a little brighter. That is reason enough to say we’re happy that we were there.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Lunartic Lizy

Brace yourselves: I’ve found a new fandom.

It’s called the Lunar Chronicles. It’s set in a high-tech, quasi-dystopian future, a conflict between Earth and the Moon. The heroines are Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. The villain is an evil queen who eats all other Evil Queens™ for breakfast. And I am going to cosplay all of them. ALL OF THEM.
the main girls from the lunar chronicles by marissa meyer // drawing by

Seriously, the characters in this series are great. Queen Leavana is ambitous and evil and beautiful and yet I have genuine sympathy for her loss of beauty and love. I’m currently about halfway through Fairest. The supporting villain I enjoyed the most was Head Thaumaturge Sybil Mira. She’s the perfect sycophant to Lavana, and she’s also a boss in her own right. And did I mention that I really want a Thaumaturge coat?

The futuristic setting of Earth and Luna is spectacular and dazzling and, of course, lightyears ahead of our society. If I’m not such a huge fan of the science in science fiction, how did I take this setting?  Spaceships, satellites, flying cars? Cool enough. Androids? Awesome. Implanted ID trackers on every Earthen? Borderline disturbing. Suspended animation tanks, cyborgs, transformations into mutant monsters--that made me shudder. Just enough. And the fighting gets really bloody as the series goes on. Bloody without being overly descriptive.

I first picked up Cinder in January on the recommendation of a couple of friends. The further I got in Cinder, the harder it got to put it down. Linh Cinder is everything I am and aspire to be. I don’t know that I relate to her much as a cyborg (although I do have an occasionally photographic memory), but she does have this sense that she is broken and incomplete, that she’s not like everyone else. And she has to deal with it every day. She’s unsure of herself, but she wants to do the right thing. I love that she’s a mechanic. She’s independent, strong, courageous, talented, smart, and, she is kind to people who need kindness, but she takes zero crap from anyone who wants to give her a hard time. I never thought I could like a Cinderella as much as I like Cinder.

Woaw! This is the first time I see this fan art is one of the most great of cinder.

If I can’t be Scarlet, then she’s the kind of person that at least I want to be friends with.  She’s the sterotypical fiery French girl and redhead but without being a sterotype. When she wants something, she gets it.

Cress is kind of a pushover at times, and she doesn’t do much for me. In fact she kind of reminds me of my gullible side--more than I am comfortable to admit. But she has her moments. Moments when she really comes through for the team.

I relate to Winter’s...lack of sanity. Scarlet and Winter are my BrOTP. They don’t really like each other--well, Scarlet doesn’t really like Winter--but they rely on each other to survive and kind of develop an interesting chemistry.
Also, Ryu :'(

The Lunar Chronicles also features several intertwined love stories. I’m not a huge fan of romance, but set against the background of a high-stakes space battle, these love stories were quite enjoyable.  Now, for Cress and Thorne, it took a while for me to be convinced that Thorne actually liked her, and I’m not sure Cress is more than just infatuated by the end. But there’s room for this ship to grow on me...if the Tangled crossover fanart doesn't do me in first.

Cresswell x Tangled by Tara's Art
See what I mean? (Pinterest)

Thorne is kind of a jerk, but he comes to feel responsible for Cress. Thorne has never been able to get anything easily in life, even though he’s the kind of guy who wants to have everything easy. But he is a good companion for Cinder. And I think he has a great bromance going with Kai.

Kai and Cinder are the purest ship in this series, one of the purest ships ever. My favorite scene is at the end of Cress when Cinder finally gets a chance to explain to Kai what’s going on and that she’s the lost Lunar princess. More than that, she finally gets to be open with him about her struggles and her being a cyborg. And he just accepts her.
-The Lunar Chronicles- : Photo

Kai is perfect. I don’t blame Iko for idolizing him. But it’s not just because of his looks. He’s willing to do everything for his country. (the Eastern Commonwealth, which is a big conglomeration of China, India, and most of Asia--seriously the way the Earthen Union is cut up you would think it was Risk.)  Anyway, Kai: he’s almost too self-sacrificing, but then again he gets put under a LOT of duress. But he’s willing to stake the safety of the planet Earth on the legend of a lost Princess and his love for a cyborg girl--who happen to be the same person. I just can’t even with Kai.
The ending was kind of less than satisfying. But for crying out loud Cinder is still a teenager--yes, give her a few years to grow up and find herself.

By the end of the series, I’m convinced that Scarlet/Wolf are more Beauty and the Beast than Red Riding Hood/Creeper. It follows a classic trope pretty closely but in a way that’s as refreshing tomatoes? I don’t even like tomatoes that much. I’m really upset that Wolf ended up having the full mutant treatment, but if Scarlet’s okay with it then I can try to be okay with it. Honestly it’s not very fair and I think Wolf deserved better, but that’s just me. But Scarlet is 18: she can do what she wants. Wolf is a pretty typical struggling/suffering character. He’s insecure, he loses EVERYTHING, Scarlet is literally the one thing going for him.

by himramw << FINALLY. That's quite exactly how I imagined Wolf.
well, maybe he doesn't look so bad in this illustration

Jacin and Winter are sort of upstaged by the time we get to their part of the story. But what’s interesting about Jacin is that Winter is his motivation for everything. And he’s willing to play both sides--play along with Cinder’s conspiracy to overthrow Leavana and then sell out the Rampion crew--to protect her.

The supporting cast--golly, I love these people. Dmitri Erland is a “good guy” who acts an awful lot like a bad guy. He kills lots--I mean LOTS of cyborgs just to find Selene. And he traffics Lunar Shells just to find his long-lost daughter. Eat your heart out, Severus Snape.

Kai’s adviser Konn Torin is the dad of the series without actually being anyone’s dad. He’s able to see both sides of the issues he and Kai faced, and he lowkey encourages Kai to join Cinder’s rebellion. He’s just so steady and steadfast. Everyone else runs around like crazy, and Torin keeps everything together.
by meabhd | This is definitely my favourite piece of Iko fan art

Iko is awesome. She’s basically Cinder’s actual Mom figure. And Cinder loves her back a lot. And I love her journey from robot to ship’s computer to escort android that’s not afraid to kick butt. It's cool to see her getting a lot of love on Pinterest.

I love the burst of new enthusiasm and energy that comes from discovering a new story. I am going to enjoy being a part of this fandom, rereading the books, collecting fan art and headcanons, meeting other fans, and I hope, contributing to the story. If you are a Lunar Chronicles fan, come and find me and tell me what you love about it. Here’s to new frontiers of the imagination!