Mansfield Ranch is on hold for the moment--again. I know I just started it last month, and I'm basically halfway... but now, it's on hold for another new WIP (work in progress). Many people think I'm amazingly talented and gifted in writing. LOL! What you don't realize is that I'm REALLY not. LOL! I just write what the characters say. (Yes, I'm crazy, it's true.) And when a new story starts and another one stops speaking, I have to stop what i'm doing and turn my attention to the new story. Honest. I'm not genius enough to make up my own ending... LOL!
I just write what I'm told and as fast as I can, so I can sleep at night. I have tried to break the mold and NOT worked on something that was speaking to me... talk about self inflicted torture. I finally find myself grudging going downstairs at 3 or 4am and begin working on what I'm thinking about, so I can actually sleep.
So this new book is not the BFF Notebook one that I told you about a couple of weeks ago. That one is finished and with my agent now. Nope. I'm calling this book my Newberry Honor book. Not because I think it'll get that honor (Just the opposite, actually) but because it's that type of story. It's not my typical fun, happy teen book. In fact, it's starting out to be the saddest, most sweetest story I've ever written.
It's about a 5th grade girl (around 10) who's dad died the year before in Iraq. Her mother's had a breakdown and they've all just moved to Arizona to live with grandma (about 3 weeks before the book starts). Chelsea, the girl, has to deal with balancing her life in a new place, helping her mom and keeping her younger brother and sister happy... meanwhile on this journey, she has decided to find out if God is real or not.
I've posted this today, because I'm asking for help. I would like to know of something(s) you would say to a 10 year old to prove to her that God is real. Or, ways that she can try to find out herself that He's real. I realize this isn't a task for everyone to answer... but I'd like to mull over some ideas to keep fresh in my brain as Chelsea explores her life and tries to find the answers she's desperate to find. The ones she's hoping will allow her to be with her father again and see him one day.
I will never say a bad word again. Never.
I know it’s going to be hard to stick to it, not because I go around everywhere cussing every ten minutes or something, but because everyone else around me does.
My Grandma Haney took me to her church today. I wasn’t going to go, but then she promised to buy me a new skirt with a pretty new jacket that matched. It was bribery really. I didn’t care. I love my new light blue jacket with the glittery purple butterfly on it. The blue flowered skirt was just a bonus, it was the jacket I was really after. I don’t know if I’ll ever wear the skirt again. Too fancy for school, I think. Hmm… maybe not?
At church the lesson wasn’t about not swearing. It was about finding a goal that will make the Lord proud of you for keeping. We all had to come up with a goal. I didn’t know what else to say, so I chose to not cuss. I figured it would be the easiest for me since the last time I said a bad word in front of my mom she slapped me. Right on the face. It hurt too. A good reason not to cuss, don’t you think?
So can I just ask something here? Since I’m thinking about it and it’s occurred to me to ask. Why is it parents get to say bad words, but not kids? Huh? Okay, so I know they get to watch different movies than us and I know they get to drink beer and smoke and stuff. And I know they get to drive too.
Hmm… Is that it then? Am I just not old enough?
All the kids at my new school say swear words all the time. I’ll probably get teased or made fun of for not swearing. Oh well, I guess I better get used to it. I will never say a bad word again. Not even if I want to.
I’m very good at keeping my goals. Some people say it’s because I’m stubborn, others say it’s because I’m headstrong, but Mrs. Chee, my third grade teacher told me it’s because I’m determined. I liked that word. I had to look it up, because I didn’t know what it meant. When I looked it up, it made me smile. I wanted to be very determined after that. I even told my family about that word.
My dad liked it too. He used to say, “You are the most determined girl I’ve ever met.” Then he’d rub my hair and remind me, “That’s a good thing.”
That’s another one of my goals actually. I’m determined to remember my dad. It’ll be hard as I get older, I know. Some days it gets hard now. Some days when I close my eyes and think really hard, I can barely see his smile and the rest of his face is fuzzy. Other days I can see him so good it’s like he’s standing right next to me. It’s a good thing I’m good at keeping my goals and I’m the most determined girl. I know I will never really forget my dad.
Will I? I don’t want to.
Can I tell you a secret? I haven’t told anyone this, because I’m not sure what to do about it. Will you promise not tell anyone, until I decide what I should do?
Okay. Here goes.
I think my mom is trying to forget my dad.
It’s true. When we were moving here to grandma’s home she told me to empty the trashcans around the house. Except I think she forgot about the trashcan in her bedroom. It’s the big one she used in her office, not the small one that was normally in there. When I went to pull the bag out you won’t believe what I found.
A whole bunch of pictures of my dad. Some where loose and scattered everywhere in the trash and other were still in their broken frames. It looked like my mom just freaked out and hurled them all into the garbage can.
My mom does that a lot lately. Just freaks out and hurls stuff. She’s even done it in grandma’s house. I know because I heard my grandma shout in my mom’s old bedroom at her, “Tiffany! You can hurl things all you want, but he’s not coming back, so stop it!”
My mom stopped it. She had to. Grandma is my mom’s mom, and she can be mean sometimes. She says, “It’s because she’s the head mom around the house.”
It’s okay, though. Mom doesn’t know, but I saved those pictures. I only cut my finger once pulling them out, too. I figure one day she’ll want to remember Dad again. I know I would if I was married to him and he was my handsome prince.
My mom loved my dad’s uniform. She was right. He looked just like a handsome prince in it. Maybe that’s why Dad died? Maybe the bad guys thought he was a prince and not just a normal dad. You know a normal dad, with a normal family and kids and stuff.
Three kids. The three musketeers.
Well, it’s a good thing I’m the oldest and I’m a determined girl, so that way I can take out my secret box and pull out dad’s pictures and remember him. One day I’m going to teach my little brother and sister to remember him too. But right now, Mom still freaks out too much. I think I’ll keep my secret box a secret for a little while longer.
Besides, now I have something else to figure out. Something that’s had me puzzled for a whole two days since I went to church with grandma and mom stayed home with the other kids. I have to decide if I want to go back. Grandma’s already asked me if I survived and if I wanted to come again. I’m not sure. I’m not sure there’s a point to go back. I mean, what if they ask me to make another goal?
I don’t think I could handle that. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now and the swearing one will keep me busy for the rest of my life. Plus it just doesn’t make sense. Sure, we’re promising the Lord, but how does He know anyway? Just who is this guy and what makes him so special that almost a million other people make promises to him? My mom says, “God isn’t real.”
My grandma says, “Yes he is, Chelsea, and your mom knows better.”
But how do I know which one is right? As far as I can tell it’s one big mess, as messy as the living room when the movers were helping us pack. As far as I can tell there’s no way to know which one is right either, because the guy is invisible.
Hmm… Maybe my mom is right. I’ll have to think about it.
I went to school today. I think Wednesdays are the worst days for school. Really. I think we should have the whole day off, just something fun for the middle of the week to look forward to. I bet I would work much harder if I only had to go to school Monday and Tuesday and then Thursday and Friday.
What do you think?
Maybe I’ll ask the principal. I’ve only been going here about three weeks now, so I’m still new enough to make ideas and point out flaws in the school, right? I mean, change must be brought up somehow and it might as well happen when someone new comes, someone who’s still far away from the whole thing and can see what needs fixed.
Wednesdays need fixed.
Why is it I get in trouble on Wednesdays? Always on Wednesdays. It’s like that day is doomed or something.
The worst part is I’ve made my mom cry again. I didn’t mean to. Honest. Ugh. Even grandma, when she came to pick me up from school and heard the teacher’s report, got all watery eyed. I knew if she wasn’t standing in that classroom, she would’ve probably started crying too.
So you wanna know what happened? Why I hate Wednesdays?
Okay, I’ll tell you. But you have to promise not to hate me too, okay?
So it started out like any other day—well, except it was Wednesday. I hung my backpack up outside at the end of the row of hooks where my name was. Everyone could tell I’d just moved to the school, because my sticker with my name on it was a different design and color from the other kids. Then after a moment where I just stared at the bright yellow sticker that said Chelsea Tennyson across the top, I noticed that most of the kids where done hanging up their stuff, so I quickly followed them into Mrs. Sheridan’s fifth grade class, and found my seat near the back by two other girls.
Those girls were actually pretty nice. One was named, Sarah with an “H” at the end, and the other one was called, Jasmine.
The problem didn’t start until after math, when Mrs. Sheridan asked us all to write about someone very special in our lives. Someone that we loved very much.
She said, “It can be a family member. Like a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, sister, aunt, uncle… anyone. Or it could be a very special friend that you have or it could be a special neighbor or a ballet teacher. Anyone special in your life, just choose one person.”
Then after that she gave us a whole twenty minutes to write something about this person.
So I bet you can guess who I chose to write about. I wish I didn’t now. Especially since it made mom cry and made grandma get teary and made Mrs. Sheridan get mad. I really didn’t know it would cause that much trouble if I wrote about him. But it did.
I don’t like to say my dad’s name very much. It makes my heart hurt, and then I get all quiet and stuff. So I don’t. Instead I call him a prince, just like mom used to. I like to think of him that way. Handsome and strong and brave and fun and a real good singer and dancer—like all prince’s are. (Except Dad wasn’t a very good singer, but don’t tell anyone I said that.)
We were supposed to put the name of the person on top of the paper, for the title. Well, it was Wednesday and Wednesdays are just bad period. So I figured I wouldn’t risk it by writing my dad’s real name. Instead I put:
Then I wrote all about how he and mom met and how he swept her off of her feet and took her to his castle and married her. Just like how Mom used to always tell me when I was little. For some reason I wanted my new teacher to know that story too.
Then I told about how after I (Princess Chelsea) was born he would spin me around and dance with me real close, sometimes just me and him, and sometimes in between him and Mom. Me and Mom really liked that—to dance together, all of us--it made us giggle like crazy. I also wrote about how Prince Tennyson used to read me nighttime stories and then tickle me until I shouted, “Uncle!” That always drove Mom crazy. She would come into my bedroom every night with her hands on her hips saying,
“Ryan! How is she supposed to go to sleep with you tickling her to death?”
But my mom wasn’t really mad, I could tell. She always had a smile when she said it.
The part that I guess I shouldn’t have written and the part that I think made my teacher mad was I said that he flew off to battle. Maybe I shouldn’t have told that part about Prince Tennyson. Maybe I should’ve just said that he was normal and went to work on computers somewhere in a bank or something. I don’t know. It couldn’t have been anything else, because Mrs. Sheridan wouldn’t let me read out loud any more of it.
She just said, “Chelsea! That is enough. You will not read out loud anymore.” Then she walked over to me and asked for my paper.
Not that anyone would’ve heard what I said, the class was laughing too much. I guess no one really thought of their dad as a prince before.
After Mrs. Sheridan snatched up my paper she walked to the front of the room and tore it up. That made me sad, especially when the class laughed more. Then my teacher said really loud to everyone else, “I don’t want to hear about anymore imagined fairy tales, do you understand? School will be taken seriously, or you will have your parents called like Chelsea’s will.”
I hate Wednesdays.
I sat down and put my head in my arms for the rest of the time the kids talked about their favorite people. I didn’t care if I got into trouble again for not listening. It’s all because it was a stupid Wednesday, anyway. If it was Thursday, this never would’ve happened.
I really needed to talk to the principal about Wednesdays.
Grandma was very mad when we drove home. She kept swearing under her breath and saying how she hated the arrogance and rudeness of some people. I just looked out the window and didn’t say a word. I couldn’t. Grandma was almost crying and my heart hurt really badly.
When we got home, I let Grandma tell my mom. I knew she was going to be really sad with me. She was. When I walked by later I heard her sniffling into her pillow on her bed. Her door was open, so I peeked inside.
She looked like a little girl, with her pink frilly bed and girly curtains hanging around her.
I wanted to tell my mom I was sorry, that I didn’t mean to make her cry. But then I heard her whisper, “Prince Tennyson, Prince Tennyson, Prince Tennyson…” over and over again. I decided now was not a good time.
Instead I went and found my little brother playing in my Uncle Jeremy’s old room. He was playing with a whole bunch of cars, the Hot Wheels kind. Cameron was just a baby when my dad left for battle, only a few months old. Now he was two and two months. Dad was supposed to come back the week before Cameron’s first birthday. We were going to have a huge party for my brother and my dad all on the same day. Except, Dad never came home.
It was Wednesday when they said my dad wasn’t coming home.
I hate Wednesdays.
If God is real, I wonder if he hates Wednesdays too.