rachelcoker


A Blogging Break

Hi, everybody! I have been so encouraged by all of the support I have been getting since I started this blog a couple months ago. (I have had over 1,500 views so far!) It still amazes me that other people are actually interested in my life. 🙂

That being said, I am going to be taking a short blogging break for the next few weeks. School is wrapping up here and I really need to get some priorities straight (I have a Beethoven paper looming over my head), so I won’t be on the internet for a few weeks. We will be finished with school the week of June 12th, so (Lord willing) you can expect me back online with tons of new thoroughly enlightening thoughts then. But until that week, I will be here at home trudging through school and work rather than blissfully fluttering away at the keyboard. (I am also hoping that my IQ will skyrocket during this time period without internet because that seemed to work for George Washington and Thomas Edison – just saying)

Since I will be off my e-mail for a while, if you have to get in contact with me, please do it the old fashioned way – through phone call! (Yes, phones still work despite the recent popularity of texting!) Otherwise, expect not to hear from me until I am finished with school on June 12th.

I will be back next month with parts two and three of A Question About Writing, and so, so much more!

-Rachel


A Startling Resemblance

Found this yesterday on Christa Taylor’s blog “Empowered Traditionalist”. It made me laugh so hard. I found the Royal Wedding both exquisitely lovely and outrageously humorous. Best part of the day: When Princess Beatrice stepped out in that ridiculous hat and the news telecaster gasped “Oh, look at that hat. DEFINITELY a Philip Treacy.” Leaving all of us to wonder, of course, what in the world is that? 😉 (Animal, vegetable, or mineral?)

-Rachel


A Question On Writing: Part One

Recently, I had a friend ask me a lot of tough questions about writing that I really want to do my best to answer. Here is what she asked:

“Any advice to someone who’s writing historical fiction? I’m trying my best to add some inspirational stuff in the story but I’m having a hard time doing so. I want the character’s faith to be a big part of the story. What were the hardest parts of writing your story? What did you struggle with the most? Did you ever wonder if your story was too much like someone else’s? That is what I worry about everytime I sit down and write. I wonder if this is too much like a book I read last week. How can you separate yourself from your influences? What did you do? Did you ever struggle with any of this?”

I thought for a while about how to tackle all of these (very good!) questions. The first one I can think of an easy answer to is the last. Yes, I have definitely struggled with all of this and much more. As a writer, I am always second guessing myself and my decisions. Is this character too angry? Is this one too sad? Was that plot line too much of a stretch, or not stretched enough? In the end, it’s hard to feel satisfied when I finish a book or story, and I heavily rely upon the encouragement of my family members and friends to keep me going.

The number one most important thing about writing is to be confident in yourself. And yes, I do feel like somewhat of a hypocrite saying this, but it’s so vital. It has taken me years of writing and editing and writing and editing to finally get to a place where I can finish a first draft of a book and say, “You know what? It’s rough in some spots. It needs tons of work and hours of improvement and editing. But, in the end…it’s good. When all is said and done, I’m happy with it.” Needless to say, this confidence is not going to come easily.

Take writing historical fiction, for example (the first question in the e-mail). There is really only one way to get comfortable with historical fiction, and that is one word. Research. I have done extensive research on the mid 20th century. My book that is coming out next year is set in the 1940s. When I was planning and writing my first draft, I did all kinds of research in order to get into the mindset of my characters. I listened to who-knows-how-many big band records and watched dozens of black and white films. I read books and magazines both about and printed in the 1940s. I interviewed my great aunt and uncle and learned about life in post-Depression America. By the time my third set of revisions was done, I knew a whole lot about the 1940s.

Now, even though I know a lot about the big-band era, I know virtually nothing about Amish America in the 1800s. Because of that, I would never attempt to write a book set in an Amish town until I had done an equal amount of research about that. I wouldn’t know how Amish people thought, or talked, or lived. In other words, I wouldn’t be comfortable enough with the Amish lifestyle to be confident enough in my portrayal of it!

There will always be flaws with historical fiction for obvious reasons: We don’t live in the past, we live in the present! However, unless you are writing a book set in 3000 BC (in which case all I can say is “Good luck!”), there should be a substantial amount of historical data all around you, just waiting to be discovered. Check out your library for books published in the era you are interested in. Research the habits and fashions and lifestyles of those people. Interview friends or relatives who may still be around! Get into the mindset of that era and become in tune with your characters’ lifestyles.

In the end, the most important thing is just to be comfortable with your historical characters. I can pretty much guarantee that people aren’t reading your stories in order to scrutinize every detail for historical accuracy. They’re interested in your characters and their stories! And if you can portray your character’s feelings in a historically accurate yet highly emotional and intimate way, then your work will be successful. Remember that people are people and their stories are important no matter what the country or setting or time period.

Check back for parts two and three (questions about portraying spirituality and copying other writers), which I will post when I have spare time in the next few days. 🙂

-Rachel


Windows to the Soul

When I first saw Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”, I was instantly captivated by the leading lady, Miss Kim Novak. I thought she was everything a lady should be: Elegant, cool, confident, and beautiful to boot. She reminded me so much of Grace Kelly, possessing that smooth, icy confidence and mystery that was so prevalent in the 1950’s heyday of Hollywood screen sirens.

After I saw the film, I looked Kim Novak up online and searched for quotes, as I often do with people who intrigue me. (You can find out so much about someone by looking at what they’ve said!) I didn’t see anything particularly interesting, so I was about to turn off the computer and go do something worth while, when one last quote caught my attention. It was about eyes.

“With the mouth,” Novak said, “Your words speak for you. But your eyes must express what’s inside without words.” 

I thought about that for days afterwards. I ran through pictures in my mind of everyone I knew and admired, and for some reason, even when I couldn’t remember their nose or the shape of their smile, I could remember their eyes. I knew which friends had eyes that glittered in opulent shades of blue, or bright green, or deep velvety brown. It may just have something to do with my photographic memory, but I knew their eyes well.

I was talking with some friends the other day about this new fascination with eyes, and my friend brought up a good point. “Even people who you wouldn’t necessarily find attractive can have beautiful eyes, while beautiful people may not have the same sparkle. It’s all about what’s inside of you. True beauty shows itself from within your eyes, while false beauty does not.”

I didn’t quite know what to say to that. Was it true? Is that why the eyes of those I loved were so beautiful to me–simply because those people were beautiful to me?

Eyes are often called the windows to the soul. I can’t think of a better way to describe it than that. When you are sitting in a field at night, looking up at a house, the light emanating from those windows clearly displays all that’s inside.

Luke 11:33-36 says, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Our eyes are like windows, displaying to the world what is within our hearts. Everything we feel, think, and love is reflected in the expression of our eyes. Are we displaying to the world eyes full of the light of Christ’s love, or the darkness of His absence?

Just something to think about. I went through my favorite photos of all of my friends after I wrote this, and did a special series on eyes. These are all their true eye colors, too. No special editing. Just black and white, with their eyes in color. Aren’t they all so beautiful? 🙂

-Rachel


Unscripted Moments

Tonight is my sisters’ worship dance recital. Last week, their teacher (and my good friend!) asked me to take photos of the rehearsal for her. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite shots for those of you who take worship dance or just like looking at photos. Most are behind the scene shots. Enjoy!

-Rachel


Life is Beautiful

This may sound mundane and overused, but life really is beautiful. Every day is filled with little moments that just take your breath away. I think it may be the writer or the photographer in me (or possibly both) that forces my eyes to capture every little detail around me and soak it all up.

Tonight as we were driving home from church the sun began to set, and for a few moments the whole world glowed golden orange. It illuminated the trees, radiating from the leaves and casting golden streaks onto the pavement. And in that moment, something within me jumped and I praised God, thanking Him for such a beautiful world and a wonderful life.

It really is a comfort to remember that no matter how hard or stressful or depressing things may seem, life is still beautiful. We can still thank and praise the God who puts air in our lungs and a sun in our sky and fills our day with blessings, no matter how small.

Just something to think about. 🙂

-Rachel


I Could Have Danced All Night Part Two

The really tricky part of dancing in a ballgown is avoiding getting stepped on by your partners. No one knows this better than Hannah, due to her extra voluminous gown. 🙂

Anyway, here are some more photos from the night. We went with our friends Tyler and Robin (you’ll remember them from 50’s night). As my dad says, “You all clean up pretty good.” 😉

-Rachel

Way serious dance partners 😉


I Could Have Danced All Night Part One

Well, folks, it is the moment you have all been waiting for. The highly anticipated photos of the Spring Ball! *explosive cheering*

For those of you who don’t know, we had our end of the semester ball at ballroom dancing last night. We all danced the night away to foxtrots and waltzes, with an occasional swing or two thrown in. Rips in the hemlines of dresses were unescapable, but the satisfaction of knowing you were well dressed made it totally worth while. 🙂

Anyway, Hannah and I took so many photos before we left that I knew I couldn’t fit all the pictures from the night into one post, so I’m dividing it up. Our mom came along later and blinded us with my camera’s flash so we could get some decent dance photos, which I will add in the next post. She was also impeccably dressed, since both our parents were chaperones. (Weren’t they cute? ;))

-Rachel

P.S. Despite the misleading title, I highly doubt I could have danced all night. My feet were feeling pretty raw by 10 PM. 🙂


Mother’s Day

For the last couple weeks now, I’ve been thinking about what to say today. I really wanted to share something special about my mom who (as you all know) is the best mom ever. So I decided I was going to say something about one of her many virtues that really stuck out to me. Maybe something on her diligence or tidiness or hospitality. I started looking out for things to notice and report to all of you. You know, in order to impress you with what a wonderful mother I have and all that. But what it’s what I didn’t really expect to notice that struck me the most.

And that is this: The one thing that my mother is best at, probably better than anyone I know, is being a friend. Before these last few weeks I hadn’t really noticed before how out of the way my mom goes to serve and comfort those she loves. No matter how much others (myself included) take her for granted, you will never hear her complain. It doesn’t matter how needy people are. As long as they have a need, my mom will rise to the occasion to meet it.

Several weeks ago, an older woman in our church had surgery and was placed in a hospital nearly an hour from our home. And yet almost every day my mom would pack up and drive out there to spend an hour or so comforting her friend and praying with her. I asked her why she went so often, when normally people only visit once or twice, and she shrugged and said, “She wanted someone to visit her while she was in the hospital. It just breaks my heart to think of her alone up there with no one to talk to. That’s not what I would want.” My mom knew that the woman in the hospital was in pain and just needed a friend to talk to and be with. My mom was that friend.

My mom will always be the first one to drop whatever plans she had and rush to the side of someone who needs her help and support. She doesn’t mind cooking several meals a month for other families or watching someone’s kids for free just so they can have a break. And she expects nothing in return.

Ever since I noticed this about my mom, I’ve become conscious of my own attitudes towards those around me. Whenever I feel like someone takes me or my mom for granted and I huff and puff (“Can you believe she said that to you, Mom? It’s like she doesn’t even care about your feelings!”), my mom is always the first one to remind me to be gracious and always look for the best in others. One day I was upset because someone asked us to do a favor for them that I really didn’t think was neccessary, and I remember telling my mom that I was struggling to do it with a gracious heart. My mom looked at me and said, “Well, Rachel, we don’t always do things for others because we feel like it. We do it because it’s the right thing to do and it’s what Christ would want us to do.”

I’ve thought about that ever since she said it. It’s not easy for my mom to be so serving and so kind to others. I’m sure that there are days that she’d rather say “No thank you” or “Find someone else” (and she does, occasionally), but she serves with the same attitude of Christ. She realizes that even if a job may seem thankless or difficult, there is no better knowledge than the fact that she is doing the right thing. She is helping someone, and showing her love in the best way possible.

We live in a petty, self-serving age that no longer promotes true friendship. Many of the friendships I have seen both on television and in the real world are all about looking out for what you can get out of the deal. How is this friendship going to help me? How am I benefited in some way?

But that’s not what true friendship and love is about. I have come to realize, through my mom’s example, that it’s not about taking as much as it is giving. And I have no doubt that if anything were to happen to my mom, she’d have a dozen friends who would do anything to help and serve her in return. She’s a great friend and a humble and loving person, and I am proud to call her my mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!!!!

If any of you have anything to share about your mother or other women in your life, please do! Today is all about celebrating them!

-Rachel


Benefits to An Unsocialized Existence

Ten Reasons I Love Being Homeschooled:

10) Wearing pajamas while doing math

9) One-on-one attention from the teacher

8 ) Sitting around in the evening and writing a book counts as a high school writing credit

7) And so does this blog! 🙂

6) Bring-a-stuffed-animal-to-school day (Okay, well I haven’t really done this in the last five years, but it was huge when I was in grade school!)

5) Getting to work at my own pace

4) Staring back at the people in the grocery store who are wondering why I’m not in school

3) Being free to pray in school

2) Having a mom who knows all the history answers on Jeopardy!

But the number one reason I love being homeschooled is this:

1) Field Day at the Thompson’s house!!!!!

Yes, we had Field Day today and yes, I managed to get sunburnt (as always), even though it was chilly and overcast half the day. Figures.

Anyway, how can you not have fun at a home-turned-petting zoo on who-knows-how many acres, complete with pigs, goats, and a cranky peacock? All the little kids were in heaven, equally fascinated and disgusted by the smelly hogs. Kudos to the kids who touched them! 🙂

-Rachel

Kids are so brave these days! I remember being freaked out by the goats at Maymont when I was a toddler.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Fascinated and horrified by... goats.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I have no idea what we did to get this peacock so cranky, but he was not a happy camper today.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I miss my chicken chasing days... I chased one today for old times sake.

 

Through the eyes of a child...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

One great thing about the Thompsons' house - Lots of fabulous photo spots! 🙂

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Organized chaos