rachelcoker


Is There Such a Thing as “Girl Books”??

boy reading

In all the time I have spent traveling to different schools, libraries, and other groups to speak to kids, there is one thing I have observed: Both girls and boys enjoy listening to me talk. While this sounds totally egocentric of me to admit, I swear I’m saying it for a reason! That reason being–I never thought seventh grade boys would enjoy listening to me talk about anything! Much less sit there for an hour and a half while I regale the long and semi-humorous story of how I got published, explain in great detail the plot lines of my two books, and give advice on every writing topic under the sun. And yet–they do! They sit there with their faces pulled in a little half-smirk as they try not to let any of their buddies see just how interesting they find it all. They ask questions, like “So how much money do you make?” and “Hey, are you gonna write another book soon?” and then actually listen as I answer. It’s quite overwhelming, to tell the truth, and immensely flattering!

But as I was thinking about the boys who listen to my lectures the other day, I started wondering just how many of them actually go home and read my book. While it’s true that I have signed many a book to a young middle school boy, I can usually tell by that slight squirm or shift of the eye that those boys are the slightest bit embarrassed. What if their friends catch them with it? What if people can tell that they’re reading a girl book?

And so I started asking myself–Just what is a girl book? And why are boys so scared of them?

If you regarded every single book out there with a photograph of a girl on the cover as a sissified “girl book”, then yeah, no wonder we don’t have too many middle and high-school aged boys reading for fun these days. Because they go to book stores and get it pounded in their heads by all their peers and all the marketing professionals out there that these books are for teenage girls. They’re treated with the same scorn and rejection as the Twilight series, and boys either grab a thick dark book with a dragon claw on the spine, or they make a hasty beeline for the door.

And haven’t you noticed that the exact same is NOT applicable of female readers? You’ll rarely come across a book-loving young girl who wouldn’t jump at the chance to read a book with a dragon, sword, or alien on the cover. Those books aren’t marked “For Boys Only” or made strictly off-limits to anyone in a skirt. Instead, we encourage young women to stand up against the seemingly sexist book market and read those adventurous novels! Girls can basically read any book, any time, anywhere, and not get judged for it.

So why the double standard? Why are guys so afraid of looking “girly”, and girls so fearless about being adventurous?

It’s a question that took me a long, long time to think through, and even now I struggle with it sometimes. It’s always a challenge for me to sell my books to the male market, but it’s something I work long and hard at. I usually stand up in front of a room full of middle-schoolers and put my  hands on my hips and ask in deep voice, “Now, I know what you guys are thinking. You’re thinking, ‘Is this a chick book?'” And that will usually draw some chuckles and nudges from all the preteen males in the room. Then I’ll tell them a funny story about one guy friend of mine who told me that he read my book on an airplane and started to cry. But because he didn’t want anyone to know that he was crying, he started freaking out and trying to cover it. So he ended up making some kind of strangled sound in his throat and sat there staring at my book with a look of contorted horror on his face. The guys usually love that story, and if I make them chuckle, they start to realize that hey, if this cool girl’s friend really liked the book, maybe I would too.

It’s really just one small step, but I think it’s a big leap when it comes to opening up the world of middle-grade literature to both girls and guys. Boys need to realize that reading a book with a girl on the cover isn’t going to make them weak, it’s going to make them smarter. Maybe they’ll learn something about life, or friendship, or even just the way the female mind thinks. And you know what? If they don’t like a book, they don’t have to read it again. Hopefully they’ll just remember that.

Stereotypical “Girly” Books That Should Really Be Read By Middle School Guys:

  • “Chasing Jupiter” by Rachel Coker (duh!)
  • “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale
  • “The Two Princesses of Bamarre” by Gail Carson Levine
  • “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
  • “Matilda” by Roald Dahl
  • “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare

-Rachel

P.S. And here is a fantastic blog entry on boys reading “girl books” by Shannon Hale, who really got me thinking on the subject!


Sunday Stories: Rose – Part Three

I’m loving these Sunday Stories because I’m so lazy that it makes me smile to just copy and paste a story into a blog entry and call it a blogging day. 😉 Haha… But seriously, it makes me smile to read through this story that I wrote when I was twelve! Way back when I knew nothing about writing or editing or the publishing process, and I was just writing because it made me happy. 🙂

Hope you enjoy this week’s installment! Let me know what you think in the comments!

red curl

Chapter Three:

The sweet smell of rain and grass envelops me as I squeal and toddle across the field of bright red flowers. She giggles and chases after me, her bright eyes sparkling with laughter. She scoops me up in her arms and spins me around. “Come here, my little rose,” she calls. She collapses onto the bed of flowers beside me and closes her eyes. The rain trickles down my little face as I watch her. Her red curls clung to her cheeks. She opens her mouth and tilts up her head. She’s singing—an old Irish lullaby, her voice softly lilting. My pudgy hands reach out and grasp a flower. I lay it on her stomach and wait. She slowly opens her eyes and smiles at me. “I love you, Rose,” she whispers. Her voice is soft and warm. Just like I remember it.

I woke up to a rosy glow coming from the window. The beams of light fell on the cold bedroom floor. Beside me Annie peacefully dreamed away.

It was the first time I’d been alone since I got to America. I stared at the ceiling in silence.

The remnants of my dream faded away. I desperately searched my mind, longing to remember what she looked like again; what she smelled like; what she sounded like.

I sighed and rolled over, wiping the tears from my eyes. What is the point of dreams? They do nothing except remind you of the things you will never remember.

I shivered and tucked the blanket under my chin.

I tried to remember what it was Mama had said about what happens after you die, but I couldn’t recall ever talking about it.

Where was she? Floating around in some distant land on a little cloud; or lying under the ground somewhere?

My mouth made some kind of strangled sigh that made Annie roll over. Her long eyelashes cast shadows on her pale cheeks; her lips tilted in a smile. She mumbled something in her sleep.

I rolled my eyes. What are you thinking, Rose? You know there’s not a God. I crossed my arms and twisted up my lip. I refused to believe a so-called “loving” person would let children be made orphans and parents be made childless.

I grunted again. Annie wiped her nose drowsily. My bitter thoughts slowly seeped away.

It’s such a shame to have to awaken peaceful souls and make them face reality.

“Good morning, Annie,” I whispered. “Wake up.”

Annie rustled and yawned. “Rose?” Her voice was soft and sleepy. She paused thoughtfully. “Why does my face feel warm and fuzzy? The rest of me’s so cold.”

I looked at the beams of sunlight spreading colorful rays all over the room. “You’re probably getting that heat from the sun. It looks beautiful.”

“Oh,” Annie climbed out of bed and felt her way to the window. She touched the glass. I pulled my knees up to my chest and watched her. “It is warm,” she said, pausing. “Rose, what does it look like? Is there a rainbow in this room?”

I started. Slowly, I put my knees down and tried to think of what to say. “Well, I’m not really good at describing things. You probably wouldn’t like it.” I sighed. Pathetic.

Annie frowned. “Please try.”

I bit my lip. “Well, a rainbow really isn’t a certain color or mood. It’s lots of colors, so it has lots of moods.” So far, so good. “It’s warm, like a fire, but it’s also cool like winter.” I paused, wondering whether to go on. “I’d like to think of a rainbow as looking like something different, though. To me it feels like love. Like yours and Jenny and Patrick’s love, and my love, and Aunt Catherine’s love. That’s what rainbows feel like, which is even more important then how they look.” My eyes welled up with tears. I was thankful Annie couldn’t see them.

She walked across the room and touched my cheek. Could she feel the wetness? “Thank you, Rose,” she said sweetly before she kissed me and felt her way out of the room.

I stared at the doorway long after she’d left.

*

“Who are you?” The small man squinted at me and Jenny. His breeches were ill-fitting and his vest was halfway opened. With every word he spoke spit flew in our faces.

I winced and wiped it off my cheek. How pleasant. “As I said, I’m Rosalyn Keegan, and this is Jenny Moore. We just arrived from Ireland yesterday.” I folded my hands and tried to look professional.

Mr. Jenkins grunted. “Of courthe. I could tell that the moment you opened your mouths.” He bent over his paperwork. “I thuppose you want a job, eh? Well, thith is the plathe to be if you’re Irith or black. I thuppose I’ll give you the thpoths.” He looked up and stared into my eyes. “You’ll haf to thtart tomorrow.”

What? I bit my lip and kept my hands from wiping the spit off my forehead. “We’re available any time, sir.”

“Good,” Mr. Jenkins had a hungry look in his beady eyes. “Yeth, very good.” He rubbed his hands together greedily. “You’ll need to work thwelve hourths a day, of courth, not counting your one hour lunch break from 12:00 to 1:00.”

“Of course,” Jenny said.

“Good. I’ll thee you two at 7:00 thomorrow morning.” The small man leaned back in his chair. “You are dithmithed.”

I smiled victoriously and marched out the door. Thank you!

*

 “Rose, wake up!” Jenny threw up the covers and shook me hard. “Rose, it’s almost 6:30. Wake up or we’re going to be late!”

“What?” I sat up with a start, and managed to knock Jenny in the head. Ugh. I lay back down.

“Ouch! Be careful where you swing that thing.” Jenny rubbed her forehead, a hint of a smile on her lips.

“Jenny! Why didn’t you get me up earlier?!” I moaned.

“I tried to, but you sleep like a log.” Jenny laughed and smoothed down her dress.

Ugh. She must have gotten up thirty minutes ago.

Jenny smiled and sashayed to the wardrobe. “What do you wish to wear today, m’lady? Shall we go with the pauper style?”

 I jumped out of bed and threw on a calico dress. “Help me button it!” My voice was half sleepy and half impatient. I can’t believe this. We can’t be late on our first day!

Jenny fumbled over the little buttons on the faded blue dress. “Be patient; I can’t when you’re so jittery,” she laughed, slapping my arm lightly.

“Sorry, but you’ve got to hurry. I can’t imagine what Mr. Jenkins will do to us if we’re late!” I tapped my foot. Oh, come on, Jenny. “Can’t you go any faster?”

Jenny turned me around and smirked. “Relax, Rose. We’ll get there on time.” She buttoned the top of the dress and patted my back. “And a good word never broke a tooth,” she added sternly.

“Thanks for helping me,” I sheepishly offered.

“You’re welcome. Now pull back your hair.” Jenny handed me a ribbon and opened the door. I smiled and pulled the comb through my tangled red locks.

“Are you two leaving?” I turned to see Annie sitting up in bed. Her hair was ruffled but she smiled slightly.

“Oh, good morning.” Jenny said softly. “You’re up early.”

“You woke me up by accident.”

“Sorry,” I cringed. “We have to leave, though. The factory opens in twenty minutes.”

“Oh. Have a good first day.” Annie smiled.

 *

“You girlth will be working right here.”

I dodged the rain of spit and tried to smile.

“Thith ith Ida Mann.” Mr. Jenkins grabbed the shoulder of a young colored girl, who looked about my age. “She’ll sthow you how the mathines operate. Ida,” Mr. Jenkins motioned to us and walked away.

“Hello, I’m Rosalyn Keegan and this is Jenny Moore. We’re from Ireland.” I smiled warmly.

“I know.” Ida said shortly, turning to the machine. “This is pretty simple. All you have to do is this.” Her hands wove the thread so quickly that all I could do was blink.

I tried to ignore her frosty glare and think positively. Oh, well, I’m sure I’ll get it sooner or later.

“Um, could you show us that again?” Jenny peered at the machine.

“What are you-blind?” Ida pouted.

I felt my blood heat up. What’s wrong with her? I frowned. She looked like one of the orphans in Ireland last summer who had been stung by a bee and someone asked her how she felt.

“There.” Ida wiped her hands on her dress when she finished. “Now that was the last time I’m going to show you. If you have any questions, ask someone else.” She turned on her heel and stomped away.

I stared at the loom with no idea what to do. This may be harder than I thought.

*

I sat on the windowsill and gazed outside. It had been such a long day.

“Rose, are your arms sore?” Jenny lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.

“Hmm?” I turned and smiled. “No, I’m perfect, as always.”

“You mean you’re not achy at all?”

“Of course not.” I rubbed my arm unconsciously. I looked down and quickly folded my hands.

“Lucky.” Jenny massaged the small of her back. “I feel like I got caught in a water mill and have been turning around and around between bars all day.” She laughed and limped over to where I sat. “What are you looking at?”

I motioned out the window. The moon hung from the sky like a big white gumdrop shining above us, peering through the storm clouds. Huge, dark buildings loomed in the distance. Smoke rolled out of chimney tops. Rain poured down, illuminated by the street lights below.

I sighed. “America. It’s so big, isn’t it? Aunt Catherine said that America is massive compared to Ireland.” I shivered. “It’s scary to think about it. This country goes on forever while Ireland seems so small and unimportant compared to it.”

Jenny sat down beside me. “It makes you feel humble. God made this world so huge but compared to it we’re tiny specks of dust. Someday we’ll die, and this world will go on; but no one will remember us.”

We looked at each other and I could feel teardrops forming in my eyes.  This isn’t like me. I looked away.

“Rose,” Jenny whispered, “I don’t know if now is the perfect time…but, are you ready to tell me about how your parents died?”

I was almost ready to say no. But the tightness in my chest stopped me. I squinted to find the big sea. It was no more than a thin line in the distance. I touched the windowpane. Icy cold. I pulled my fingers away. “There’s not much to say.” My voice was little more than a whisper. “My mother was a wealthy young lady. My father was a shoe maker. They fell in love, despite her parents’ wishes. Then she ran away with him. Her family disowned her.” I followed a raindrop with my finger. “My mother found out she was pregnant. My father left her. We lived alone until I was four. Then she died. Just like that, she was gone.” I let my hand fall. “I wasn’t even there. I don’t even know how she died. The people from the orphanage came to get me the next day, after my grandparents refused me.”

Jenny was silent. Well, she coughed a little.

I fought the tears running threatening to run down my cheeks. “I don’t remember her at all.” My voice broke.

Jenny reached out to touch my hand.

I ducked my head and wiped my eyes. “When I was a child,” I said softly, laughing a little. “I had a quite romantic attachment to this battered old grave in the orphanage’s cemetery, under a weeping willow tree. It must have been decades old: weathered and desolate, with no name or date written on its surface.” I smiled at the memory. “I’d dress in my black cotton dress and bring a pure white rose to adorn it with. And I’d cry and pray over the body within until my face was red and soggy.” I looked down. “In my dreams, that body always belonged to my mother,” I whispered.

“Was she a Christian?” Jenny said suddenly.

“What?”

“Was she a Christian? Aunt Catherine’s a Christian. She says that when they die they go to heaven.” Jenny looked genuinely curious, not at all like she was purposefully trying to provoke me.

I tried to hide the bitterness in my voice. “My mother was not a Christian.” I don’t think. “And neither am I. I don’t believe in God.” I felt a strangled wave of hot anger flash through me. “And if He is I hate him!” I burst out, choking down my tears.

“Lady, Honey…” Aunt Catherine stopped in the doorway. She glanced at the two of us and seemed to reconsider what she was about to say.

“Maybe I’d better go get the others and we’ll all say a prayer together before we go to bed.” She turned on her heel and left. “Sugar! Sweet pea!”

I bit my lip, ashamed of the words I’d blurted out. I didn’t really hate God, did I? I lifted my chin. No, because there is no God to hate.

Jenny smiled and pressed my hand. “I won’t tell anyone, Rose.”

About my parents or my problems? “Thank you.” I self-consciously rubbed my puffy eyes. “Why, look at us! Aunt Catherine must think we’re crazy.”

“You are crazy!”

I nudged her playfully, and she nudged me back.

Aunt Catherine came into the room again with Pattie and Annie. “Children,” she reprimanded with mock seriousness. “Let us settle down and pray.”

We soberly sat up, folded our hands, and bowed our heads. “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I looked around. Jenny was right about the Moores being a religious family. Even Annie and Pattie sat perfectly still, heads bowed and eyes closed. I looked down guiltily and closed my eyes.

“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

To be continued…


Blessings

praying

This is a hard blog post for me to write. Because it means I have to reveal some things about my life and my family’s history that aren’t exactly the funnest things to talk about. Because I don’t have a perfect life, and even though I had a wonderful childhood, it was at times far from ideal or rosy and pretty.

I recently had the opportunity to share my faith and offer some support and encouragement to a woman that I sort of casually know, but who had posted something on Facebook about some trials she was going through in her life. Financial problems, troubled loved ones, and overall discouragement at the lack of prosperity in her life. I commented with a few words of encouragement and a Bible verse (Psalm 121:1) and later got a message from this woman sharing her heart about how hard she is trying to trust God, but how difficult it can be when things just don’t seem to be working out in life, and you can see how hard that is on those you love.

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to say in response. Here I am, a seventeen-year-old kid with a publishing contract and twelve hundred dollars worth of camera equipment. What could I possibly have to say about financial hardships or suffering in life?

A lot, actually.

My parents got saved later in life. My dad had lost both of his parents when he was a teenager, and he’s told me time and time again that he was always pretty much the life of the party in every circumstance, drinking too much and experimenting with drugs from a young age. My mom’s parents separated when she was seventeen, and she lived on her own in the city and worked her way through college, where she met my dad through mutual friends at a restaurant where she worked as a bartender. (Whoa, my parents have such a romantic story, right? That’s where I’m sure going to look for my husband–at a bar! Not!) Anyway, long story short, they fell in love, got married, and had two daughters. Then when I was five, my dad decided out of the blue that he wanted my mom to homeschool me, to which she promptly replied “You’re crazy!” and then “But I don’t know how!”

So she got some help and figured out what kind of books she needed to buy and how this whole homeschooling thing is supposed to look. One of the curriculums she decided to use for me was a Bible program to teach me basic Bible stories and help me memorize some verses. She’d been attending a lukewarm church for a while and thought it would be a good idea to teach her girls some Christian morals and stories. But what she wasn’t planning was just how gripping the simple Bible stories would be on her adult heart. The first story she read through was the introductory “ABC’s of Salvation”. And that was all it took. One simple kindergarten-level telling of the love of Christ for sinners, and her heart was pierced. She confessed to the Lord just how much she needed Him in her life, and from that day on, she was a changed woman.

God started working on my dad at about the same time. So within a few months (he knows it to the day!) my dad was down on his knees asking God to take over his life. He said that pretty soon after that, when on a Christian retreat with some men from the new church they were attending, He knelt by his bed and asked for God to take away his addiction to alcohol. And he said that after he prayed that, he felt the hugest weight lifted off his shoulders. He came home, dumped out every beer left in his fridge, and hasn’t had a drink since then. Not because he believed alcohol was evil or sinful–but because he was excited for the opportunity to show the world that he was a different man.

Well, the road in front of them wasn’t easy. In fact, it was bumpy and painful. Because only two weeks after my dad came to Christ, he got laid off from work. My mom hadn’t worked in years, so for the first time our family was completely without income in the midst of a huge nation-wide financial crisis. And, if things didn’t seem desperate enough, my mom soon found out something else: She was pregnant. With child number three.

I was probably only five or six when all this happened. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that our family was entering into a stage of life that would last for the next four or so years. And that was the time we all fondly call, “Food Pantry Days.”

Why? Because we were poor. We were more than poor! I was too young to realize a lot of it at the time, but my parents are very quick to admit that they struggled keeping food on the table. Milk was a necessity we couldn’t afford a lot of the time. We ate boxed spaghetti just about every night. Without butter. Without cheese. I remember complaining about that to my friends. Boiled spaghetti with salt for supper. And pbjs on food pantry bread for lunch.

Christmases came and went. We learned to make things for each other. I remember hand sewing a sleeping bag for my little sister’s doll and making a crown out of pipe cleaners and party streamers for the baby. One Christmas I complained about the lack of toys I got, and I’ll never forget hearing my mom crying about it later and feeling the worst kind of guilt in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know we were poor! All I knew was that we ate spaghetti with salt and frozen chicken nuggets and lots of people gave us hand-me-down clothes. Which were usually too short considering how freakishly tall I was.

Things got better in time, obviously. My dad had been working at a low-paying job for Habitat for Humanity, but he eventually moved on and was hired somewhere else. The bills got paid. We were able to pay off whatever credit card debt we’d racked up and even started saving to build a house. We were back on our feet financially and life was looking good again.

I didn’t know very many details of that time in our life until I was much older. But then my parents started sharing about it openly. They had no shame in the change they would collect to buy milk or eggs or whatever else they needed. They were quick to admit that they had fallen into debt that had burdened them until they could pay it off. They confessed that they had considered bankruptcy then had declared it not an option unless they were willing to one day go back and personally repay all of those people every cent they had borrowed from them.

But the biggest truth they’re willing to admit is this: That they would not be the people they are today if the Lord hadn’t walked them through those trials. My dad will be the first one to tell you that. He honestly believes that God put him through all that so soon after his salvation as a way to grow him quickly. Because sometimes, my dad will tell us, you need to hit rock bottom in life. Because it’s when you’re sitting at the very bottom that you have no place to look but up.

My dad told me something once that both simultaneously shocked and touched me. He told me that his number one prayer in life wasn’t for my prosperity or overall happiness. His prayer was only that one day God would bring me through some kind of trial. That me and my husband would face some obstacle that would just prove itself to be too big to overcome. Too painful or too scary for us to handle. And that, through that trial, God would show Himself to us and draw us closer to Him.

I have to admit that hearing my dad say those words has meant more to me than few things I’ve ever heard him say. Because I know that he loves me enough to honestly want that for me. Because He wants me to have the same beautiful, intimate, childlike relationship with Christ that my parents do. The kind of relationship that comes through walking hand-in-hand with the Father through some hardship. The kind of relationship that grows from a deep abiding trust that God will always bring me through.

So how did I respond to my friend on Facebook? I told her a few of these things. I offered to pray for her. And I shared this song by Laura Story, that has always proved itself to be nothing but a comfort and encouragement to me as I think about what mountains God has in store for my future. Because sometimes, God’s blessings do come through raindrops. His healing does come through tears. And my parents are living proof that sometimes, it does take a thousand sleepless nights to really know that God is near. And I have found that, indeed, every trial in this life has proven itself to be God’s mercies in disguise.

-Rachel

 


Sunday Stories: Rose – Part Two

So it’s absolutely fitting that we’re reading a story about an Irish orphan on today, of all days. (Because it’s St. Pattie’s Day–duh!) I personally could care less about it being March 17th and all that, but it was kind of cool when I woke up to the sound of my dad blasting our old “Irish Tenors” cd and all I could think about out was how many times I played that on repeat when writing this novella. Kind of cool…

Anyway, if you need a refresher on the first chapter, you can find it here. Enjoy!

red curl

Chapter Two:

 

Ellis Island. “Isle of Tears.” I glanced at the Statue of Liberty curiously.

“Jenny!” I suddenly shouted as the tidal wave of people pushed me away from her. She grabbed Pattie and Annie with one hand, and with the other she reached out and clutched my threadbare coat. I turned and fought through the crowd to get back to them, holding my hat on with my spare hand. I’m beginning to think this is more dangerous than the boat.

“ORDERLY LINES!” someone bellowed.

Annie gave an uneasy laugh. “Jenny, the ocean has come on shore with us and is knocking us around.”

Jenny chuckled and glanced at me. “Aye.” She sweated nervously. “We all have to stick together.”

We? The word sent thrills down my back. I was part of a “we”. I nodded eagerly.

“Rose,” Jenny continued, “You make sure that nothing happens to Pattie. I’ll take care of Annie. Whatever happens, just stay right behind me and try not to get separated. If we do…”

A jab from somebody sent Jenny and Annie forward, leaving me and Pattie behind. I grabbed his hand and elbowed my way forward.

“I don’t need you to look after me!” Pattie shouted over the loud noise, trying to jerk free.

“Do you want to get left behind, taken away, and locked up in an orphanage all alone in a strange land?” I shouted back, rolling my eyes. I felt him squeeze my hand a little.

The noontime sun shone high, its heat pounding down on my back. I squirmed, my hair sticking to my neck.

We were shoved into a large brick building. I looked around and gawked. All around me were hundreds, maybe thousands, of immigrants, all arriving on different boats and speaking different languages.

The Americans pushed us into line and passed out letters to put on our coats and bags. Then we entered a massive room with dozens of lines of people. At the front of the line, men in white coats probed the immigrants and looked them over. Children screamed while mothers whispered frantically in strange languages. The two families in front of us were babbling away in what sounded like Polish and German. I leaned forward and tried to guess what they were saying. What a lovely trip, John. Yes, beautiful country, Mary. Such smart white coats these doctors wear here. Yes, Mary, they’re not terrifying at all.

Pattie gave my hand a little squeeze. I looked down at his dark hair and smiled.

After a few hours, the men in white coats finally got to us. “Name!” the sweaty doctor yelled, shining a bright light in my open mouth.

“Rothalyn Keegan.”  The words were difficult to say with cold steel on your tongue.

I flinched as he poked and prodded my body. “Where are you from? Can you read? Where are you going? Where’s your family? Have you ever been in jail?”

I nodded or shook my head after each question, holding my breath and praying for it to be over soon.

Finally he gave the four of us one last look-over before shoving us on. “Next!”

I heard a lady scream as her daughter was led away with an X on her coat.

Annie shivered. “I didn’t like him, Jenny.” She grabbed Jenny’s arm and clung to it. “His voice was mean.”

“Shhh. I know.”

Pattie’s mischievous smile upturned half of his mouth. “I came awfully close to telling him that if I wasn’t already insane he sure was going to make me,” he whispered.

I gave a surprised laugh. “Aye, Pattie. But be careful,” I whispered back, “Even little pigs have big ears.” I wiggled my eyebrows.

He smirked and I dared to ruffle his hair. I think that being with this family is the start of a great adventure.

We grabbed our bags and pushed open the door that lead to New York. My adventure was just beginning.

 *

 

Jenny brushed the dirt off her skirt and grabbed Annie’s hand as she stepped off the ferry. “Be careful, Annie. There are a lot of careless people here.” She glared at a man who had nearly run her over.

“I’ll say. Did you see that rude girl?” I asked. “She knocked me right off the ground and didn’t even apologize about it.” My blood boiled.

Jenny raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t have thought that you of all people would be concerned about being knocked over. You seem to be in the practice of it yourself.”

I held my hands out sheepishly. “Will you ever let me free of that one little incident? It was a mistake.”

Jenny smiled forgivingly. “Besides, maybe she was in a hurry. We don’t know what her reason could be.”

I shrugged. She didn’t seem very sorry about it.

“Besides,” Jenny continued, “Why worry about what’s already happened?” She turned to Pattie. “Pattie, would you….” He was in complete awe. Jenny tapped him teasingly. “Patrick, what is it?”

“Look at it all,” he whispered.

I turned.

It was so big. The buildings seemed to extend forever, nearly touching the sky. A smelly, black fog covered the air with a thick blanket. People bustled everywhere, bumping into each other and talking loudly. Dirty children ran barefoot down the alleys, and pale men sat on the corners.

I gawked up at New York City. This is America, the beautiful?

“What does it look like?” Annie asked.

“Um, it’s very crowded,” Patrick stammered, looking at us for guidance.

“I can hear that. But what does it look like?”

My head was racing. “Well, I’ve certainly seen things more…attractive,” I offered pitifully.

“It’s sort of dirty,” Jenny bit her lip. “There are a lot of children running through the streets, and, well, poor men sitting on the corners with tin cans in their laps.” She took a deep breath. “There’s a giant building in the distance and it’s making smoke as dark as death. It’s not as lovely as Ireland, Annie.”

Annie bent her head.

“Don’t worry, Annie,” I said brightly, “Nothing can be as pretty as Ireland! You know that.” I tousled her hair.

Jenny smiled at me gratefully. “Aye,” she continued, “And no use crying over something we can’t change. We might as well find Aunt Catherine and Uncle Gerald.” She turned and laughed. “Why, there’s Aunt Catherine now!” She waved at her aunt and grabbed Annie’s arm.

Patrick frowned. “What’s wrong with her?” he muttered.

Their Aunt Catherine stood about twenty yards from us. She wrung her hands and dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. She wasn’t very beautiful; but she was certainly grand; with a sort of motherly look about her. Her hair was turning gray and her green eyes had begun to fade. Her body bulged here and there, and a few wrinkles graced her face.

She must have been very pretty when she was younger. I looked her over carefully as we rushed across the streets. Now she looks more like the aunt that parents warn their children about: Don’t eat too many sweets, be sure to go to bed on time, wash your hands whenever you’re done playing outside; and above all: Don’t listen to your aunt when she tells you otherwise. I chuckled a little under my breath.

“Children,” Aunt Catherine cried in a strange accent when they were closer. “Oh, children, come give your Aunt Catherine a hug!” She spread out her arms and enveloped the children in an embrace, crying freely. “Oh, you’ve all gotten so big! I haven’t seen you, Jenny, since you were six years old. You’ve grown into such a beautiful young lady!” She wiped her eyes and hugged Jenny again. “It’s so wonderful to see you again, Lady.” Lady?

“Aunt Catherine’s from the South,” Jenny whispered to me once she was free. “Uncle Gerald is from Ireland.”

That explained the funny accent.

Aunt Catherine turned and faced Pattie. “And is this handsome young man our little baby Patrick?” she drawled. He shrugged his shoulders, dodging her glance. “Well, sugar, aren’t you going to give your Aunt Catherine a hug?” She held out her arms expectantly.

“No,” he replied. Jenny kicked him in the shins, but he remained sullen.

“Oh.” A shadow crossed Aunt Catherine’s face, but she quickly turned to Annie. “And who is this pretty young thing? This couldn’t be Annie, the beautiful little girl I heard about?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Annie curtsied in the direction of Aunt Catherine’s voice.

“Why she’s just a little doll now, isn’t she?” Aunt Catherine gave Annie a little squeeze. “I believe that you and I are going to become very good friends, sweet pea.”

“Aunt Catherine loves nicknames,” Jenny whispered again. I hid my smile.

Aunt Catherine turned away. “Come along, children. I suppose I’ll take you to my home—if you could call it that. When I grew up, in the South, a house was a home…” They began to walk away from me chattering.

I longingly watched them take a few steps before sighing to myself. Well, I suppose I’ll have to find someplace to start anew. I turned and looked around.

Suddenly, Jenny was at my side. “I’m so sorry, Rose. I completely forgot about you.” She grabbed my elbow and pulled me to her aunt. “I want you to meet Aunt Catherine.” She presented me and smiled widely.

Aunt Catherine straightened and peered down at me. “Who is this?”

“Rose Keegan, miss.” I curtsied.

“We met her on the boat,” Jenny explained. “And I figured her curls complimented my brown hair quite well, so, for vain reasons, I decided to keep her around.” She smiled at me teasingly.

Aunt Catherine looked me up and down. “Well, she is very beautiful. I’m not sure about that red hair, though. Have you got a terribly feisty temper, dear?” She paused and raised an eyebrow at me. My skin flushed. She smiled, satisfied, and gave me a hug as well. “Well, that pretty blush just gives it all away. I do believe that you and I will get along together quite well, honey.”

I smiled at Jenny.  I like her already. 

“So where are you going to stay, honey?” Aunt Catherine pulled away and beamed at me.

“I…I don’t know. I ran away from the orphanage in Ireland.”

Aunt Catherine’s eyes softened and she took my hand. “I was an orphan, too, honey. But I never did run away, though. Guess I never got the courage. Never was a gutsy girl; though you wouldn’t know it now.” She winked cheekily. “So what made you do it?”

I froze. “I…I just decided that I needed to leave.” Why do all these people ask so many questions?

Aunt Catherine looked a bit confused, but she brightened quickly. “Well then, honey, I guess you’ll have to stay with us. If Lady trusts your character, than so do I.” She held my hand and Annie’s and gazed at us all tenderly.

“Oh, that’s okay. I’ll just rent out a place somewhere. I don’t know how long I’ll be staying in New York, anyway.”

“Nonsense,” Aunt Catherine shook her head. “You must stay with us. I insist on it.”

It was no use arguing with her. I tried to smile happily.

“How old are you?” Aunt Catherine continued.

“Eighteen.”

“Ah, Lady’s age! It will be good for her, having someone else her age to talk with.” She stroked Jenny’s hair affectionately. “I know, when I was a girl—”

Jenny rolled her eyes at me. “Well, Aunt Catherine,” she teased, “When will Uncle Gerald be coming to see us?”

Aunt Catherine suddenly burst into tears. “Oh, Gerald!” she sobbed, holding her hand to her mouth.

Oh, no. What’s wrong now? Pattie and I shared a questioning glance. I shrugged. I don’t know.

“Aunt Catherine, what’s wrong?” Jenny asked gently.

Her aunt’s shoulders shook. “Gerald died last week,” she whispered, “I…I meant not to tell you. To let you be happy for the first few moments of your new life. But then you said his name and…” She let out a snivel and wiped her eyes, throwing back her head dramatically. “I’m afraid…he…he went to the factory to work and….and,” She broke into sobs again. We stared at her silently.

“Aunt Catherine, you must be joking.” Jenny said; but she wrapped her arms around her aunt.

“It’s no joke, Lady!” Aunt Catherine bawled, “There was a terrible accident at the factory and he didn’t survive. Everything’s gone wrong since then. Some awful men came to my house yesterday and said that if I didn’t give them all the money that Gerald owed them by next week, they’d kick me out and sell my house!”

Somewhere, from a distant ally, I heard screams. I frowned. What is this terrible country?

Pattie and Annie glanced at me, confused.

“Oh, Lady, it was so much money!” Aunt Catherine continued dramatically. “I’d planned not to tell you just yet. I wanted you to enjoy at least one day in America happily. I don’t even know why God brought you from Ireland, only to kill you here!”

“We’re all going to die,” Jenny whispered, and wrapped herself up in Aunt Catherine’s arms. Annie’s eyes began to water, and even Pattie rubbed his face on his shirt.

Suddenly, the bubble burst and all four of them burst out in tears.

A gust of smog filled the air, and I began to cough. Oh, for heavens sakes! Can’t anyone here think logically instead of bawling their eyes out? “Listen here!” I shouted, surprised to hear my voice sounding so cross and firm. I shook my head to clear it and continued, “Look at you! This is ridiculous! This is America, Jenny! America, Pattie! Have you no pride? No vision? The land of opportunity!” I took a deep breath. “Surely it can’t be so hard to find a job for Jenny and me, Miss Catherine.”

Aunt Catherine sniffed. “Jobs?” she whimpered.

“Oh, for the love of Pete!” I rolled my eyes.

“Jobs!” Aunt Catherine grew excited. “That’s it! Children, I have come up with the perfect answer! Lady,” She took Jenny by the shoulders and beamed, “You and Rose will get jobs in a factory!” She glanced at me. “Oh, and call me ‘Aunt Catherine’, honey.”

*

“So this is your house?” I looked around the small apartment. The walls were bare, and there was no furniture except for a small table, chair, and a bed. Jenny had a frozen smile on her face. I couldn’t blame her; the orphanage was looking luxurious.

“Yes,” Aunt Catherine lit a lamp sheepishly. “There are two beds upstairs, though. I think maybe one of you should sleep with me, one should bunk with Sweet Pea, and my Sugar will sleep alone.”

“Stop calling me ‘Sugar’,” Patrick mumbled, glaring and dodging her touch. I almost choked on the laugh I was trying to hold in. Why was everything so funny all of the sudden?

“Pattie,” Jenny whispered. There was fire in her eyes.

If one more person talks I solemnly believe the floodgates will burst and I’ll end up laughing hysterically and shaming myself to the ends of the country.

“Well, you know the old proverb: a cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle. I’ll sleep with Annie upstairs.” My voice squeaked slightly. I smiled and pushed a stand of red hair behind my ear.

“I knew you’d agree, Honey.” Aunt Catherine said pleasantly.

Jenny frowned. “Do you think that those men you were referring to will give us a little extra time to make that money?”

“I don’t know, Lady,” Aunt Catherine shrugged. “Maybe you and Honey should go down there tomorrow and see.”

“Is that okay with you, Rose?”

“Aye,” I tossed my head carelessly. “Who could say no to me?”

Jenny giggled and nudged me playfully. We climbed up the stairwell, laughing.

“Sweet pea,” I heard Aunt Catherine say to Annie, “Those two are going to become the best of friends.”

 

To be continued…


GIVEAWAY WINNER + “Doing What You Love”

And the winner of one custom-made coral Hannah Everly bow skirt is…. Entry #25–Hannah Elise! Hannah, my Hannah will be emailing you soon with details! Congrats!

And to everyone else who didn’t win but who would still love to get their hands on a bow skirt, they are all still available in Hannah’s etsy shop! If you order now, you may get it in time for Easter! 😉

I also wanted to upload a video blog today, talking about the ups and downs of owning your own business. I may invite Hannah to join me and expand on this topic sometime, but for now I thought a brief overview of my thoughts might be interesting to you all! 😉

Does being an author beat flipping burgers at the local McDonald’s? (The answer is YES)

-Rachel


Hannah Everly Designs – GIVEAWAY!!!

1

I’m just tickled pink to announce the launch of my sister Hannah’s spring line of skirts for her business Hannah Everly Designs!

Can I just say that I think this is my favorite collection of her’s yet? You guys remember the super cute wrap skirts she started out with last year, and of course you remember fall’s adorable (and highly pin-able) bow skirts. But don’t you just love these fresh, springy patterns? I absolutely die over the polka dot one, and have already requested one for myself. 😉 And the yellow gingham and coral would be perfect for spring and summer!

Anyway, Hannah has graciously offered a giveaway for blog readers, so listen up!

Up for grabs is one custom made Hannah Everly bow skirt in coral.

These skirts are so well made and Hannah completely custom makes them to your exact measurements! So no worrying whether it will pinch your waist or ride up when you sit down! It’s just part of what makes these skirts so special to own!

In order to be entered in the giveaway, all you have to do is comment below and tell us where you would wear your coral bow skirt! (To Easter brunch? Graduation? A tea party with friends?)

Also, you can win additional entries by:

Liking Hannah Everly Designs on Facebook

Tweeting about the giveaway (be sure to use the handle @RachelCoker03 so I can see you tweeted!)

Pinning the top image!

So everyone can have up to four entries! Good luck to everyone! The contest will start now and run until this Friday, March 15th at 12 PM EST.

For those of you who just can’t wait and have to get your hands on one of these skirts, they are all available for purchase in Hannah’s etsy shop! And for today only, enjoy 10% off your order with the coupon code EVERLYSPRING10.

Happy shopping!

-Rachel

2

3

45

6

78

9


Sunday Stories: Rose – Part One

So this new addition of Sunday Stories is really dear to me. It’s the first ever novella I wrote, way back when I was about twelve or thirteen, I think? I’m pretty sure it dates back to 2008 but I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, I used to have a really affection for Irish culture for some reason, and I thought nothing was more beautiful and romantic than an utterly clichéd story about a red-headed Irish orphan. *cringe* Hey, at least I can laugh about it now!

Anyway, I’ll post a chapter a week every Sunday until it’s all finished! And then you all can decide if this is a good story, or a cute attempt of a thirteen-year-old girl to write something sentimental and sweet. I love hearing your comments, so comment away!

red curl

 

Chapter One:

 

Ireland, 1901

My heart raced as I leaned against the cold, brick wall. I crept down the stairs, carpetbag in hand, hugging the wall. Creak. An old, worn step groaned. I held my breath. Did anyone hear?

A few seconds confirmed that no one had. Silently, I tiptoed down the hall and paused at the door. Should I go through with it?

I could feel my heart pounding as I pulled the key I’d swiped from Mrs. Brown out of my apron pocket and unlocked the door. Noiselessly, I snuck out and ran down the road to the rickety gate. I pushed it open and ventured out into the realm of freedom.

My steps left footprints in the dusty road; each step leading a little closer to the dream of being free. I closed my eyes and savored the feel of the moonlit autumn breeze.

I turned and looked at the old orphanage one last time. The iron gates closed with a loud creak. I tossed my dark red hair and stamped my foot, sending up a cloud of sand from the Irish path. Who’s laughing now? “Ha! Ha! Ha! Me!” I grabbed my bag and ran. I skipped down the road, swinging my bag and giggling hysterically. I’d never felt so carefree and happy.

I knew the way down the road in the dark, climbing over the short stone wall and brushing dust off my cotton dress.

I needed to escape. I’d lived in the orphanage for as long as I could remember. Years of sorrow, pain, and forgotten memories surrounded me.  

I paused at the bend and reached into my skirt pocket. Eighteen years didn’t amount to much, but the money was enough to get me out.

America.

That was the only thought that had been resounding in my head for the past three weeks. Ever since I snuck out during Easter service to barter for my passport.

I continued to make my way in the moonlight, the dew dampening my dress.

America.

Finally free, I reached the dirt road and pranced down it to the boating dock.

 

 *

The dock was unusually crowded the next morning. “Um, excuse me,” I clutched my bag close to my chest, “Can anyone help me?” A bump in the shoulder was all I got in response. More than a little upset, I glared at the offender’s back. “Excuse me!” Silence. Frustrated, I stomped my foot in an angry huff.

“You there!” A man with a thick red beard suddenly grabbed my arm. “Let me see your passport.” My arm ached but I managed to grab my passport and show it to him.

“Here.” My heart pounded. I placed a hand on my chest, willing it to slow down.

He snatched the passport and examined it quickly. “You’re good to go.” He ripped the money out of my hand and shoved a ticket in its place. I was pushed onto the boat, in the midst of hundreds of anxious people.

“Watch it!” A lady shouted, shoving me out of her way.

I stuck my tongue out at her back. Childish, Rose, I chided myself instantly, straightening my back and trying to politely push through the crowd.

I’m not quite sure how, but I ended up on the south deck, facing Ireland’s rolling green hills. Before I knew it, the boat was pushing off at an alarming rate. I gripped the railing and turned away. I might never see it again. The thought echoed through my mind.

I looked around the deck and paused, trying to sort through my thoughts amid the buzz. There were so many—young and old, some rich and most poor.

Just as I was observing the lack of other redheads on deck, someone shoved me violently from the side, sending me off balance. I stumbled into a young lady standing by the side of the ship. “Oof!” My weight pushed the girl onto the ground, and I landed ungracefully on top of her.

“Oh, my!” The young lady whispered under her breath, trying to lift her head. “Am I under attack?”

I frowned at her, quite alarmed. She seemed about my age, with long dark hair and milky white skin. Humor twinkled in her big brown eyes.

The girl was very calm and collected, even after being knocked to the ground.

The very opposite of me: a tall, skinny girl with dark red curls and bright green eyes. She looked composed and unruffled; I was wild and fiery.

I scrambled to my feet, and then helped the girl regain her posture. I took a quick glance around. The sight of two young ladies in a heap on deck had drawn a great deal of attention.

“I’m very sorry,” the young lady began.

“Oh, no, I’m sorry,” I interrupted, “That was very, very clumsy of me. I hope you’ll forgive me.” Oh, I must be a sight. I touched my disheveled hair and placed my bag on the ground.

The girl raised an eyebrow.  “It’s no problem, miss.” With a final amused grin, she turned back into the crowd, grabbing the hands of a young boy and girl.

Watching them leave, I felt little bit of my initial excitement deflate. Nonetheless, I held my chin up and looked around for help. An important-looking man leisurely leaned against the wall on the far side of the deck. I made my way to him. “Excuse me, sir. Do you know where I’m supposed to sleep?”

The man briefly tipped up his hat to look at me before putting it back in place and closing his eyes.“In the cabin with all the other women and children, I suppose.” He grunted and folded his arms, obviously intent upon sleeping.

I waited for him to continue, rocking back and forth on my heels. Realizing he’d dozed off again, I said loudly, “Um, would you please tell me where that is?” I gave him my most dazzling smile, but he didn’t seem to notice. This is awkward. I resisted the urge to lean in close and tilt up his hat to see if he was even awake. After a few moments, I cleared my throat and repeated the question.

He sighed and looked at his wristwatch. “Really, sometimes I haven’t the slightest idea what you Irish people are saying. Could you please repeat the sentence?” He folded his arms and settled back against the wall. But at least this time he was watching me.

I took a deep breath and slowly repeated, through gritted teeth, “Would you please tell me where that is?”

“Where what is?”

I groaned. “The cabin!”

He sighed. “Here we go again,” he muttered.

“Ugh!” I stamped my foot.  I strangled down the urge to stand on tip-toe and shout the question into his ear.

“I think she’s asking where the sleeping quarters are.” A voice with only a slight Irish accent spoke out from behind me. I turned to find the dark haired lady smiling at me.

The man nodded briskly. “Just to your right, down those stairs.” He licked his lips and returned to his nap.

I made a face at him, childish or not, before turning to thank the girl. “How could…” To my horror, she was already walking away.

At the sound of my voice, though, she turned to me expectantly.

What now? “I, uh, didn’t introduce myself back there. I’m Rosalyn Keegan, but you can call me Rose.” I smiled and extended my hand, hoping the introduction was enough to start a conversation.

Slowly she shook it, her dark eyes glancing over me curiously. “I’m Jenny Moore, and these are my siblings, Annie and Patrick. But you can call Patrick ‘Pattie’.” She motioned to the children standing to her right. The young boy looked about fourteen or fifteen and reasonably healthy, but the girl was hardly more than a breath of air. She clutched Jenny’s hand and smiled over my head.

I frowned before realization hit me. Oh, she’s blind. I straightened and tried to grin. “Well, now that we’re acquainted I’m sure we’ll all be good friends.” The boy named Patrick was glaring at me. I cleared my throat nervously. “Once again, I’m very sorry about my careless blunder. This ship is something, I tell you! People everywhere, not looking where they’re going or what they’re doing. Someone’s going to get hurt!” I said in a rush. “Well, I mean, you almost got hurt, but…” Almost immediately, I felt my face flush. Oh, I did it again!

“Aye,” Jenny said quietly.

Did she agree that someone would get hurt, or that she was nearly harmed? I wrung my hands in despair.

Unsure whether or not she desired my company, I lingered a little longer, saying a few commonplace things and feeling like a fool. When will I learn to be graceful and quiet? “Well,” I finally said, picking my bag back up, “I suppose I should go and see the cabins.”

“We’ll come along.” Jenny grabbed her siblings’ hands and led the way.

I felt my heart racing as I fell in step behind them. Does she want to be friends? I bit my lip to suppress the large smile spreading across my face.

 

 *

 

The cabin had the worst stench ever. Even after being on the ship for two days I couldn’t get used to the smell.

“Ugh,” I rolled over on the bunk and looked at Jenny lying next to me. She stared up at the ceiling silently, holding her own stomach. “Can we go get some air?” My voice came out as a squeak. I made a face at her pleadingly.

“Aye, we need it! Annie, Pattie, come on.” Jenny sat up and climbed down the ground.

I shook the dirt off my dress and grabbed Annie’s hand. “Come on.” She smiled in my direction and I felt my heart flutter.

We pushed past the passengers crowding the deck and made our way to the railing.

The breeze felt so wonderful. I clutched at the rail and closed my eyes, feeling almost all my nausea vaporize. I took a deep breath. The wind danced around me, teasing my hair and tickling my skin. Rose, it seemed to whisper. Slowly, I opened my eyes, the vast blue ocean surrounding me coming into focus.

The sea seemed to stretch on forever and ever; the most wonderful, majestic thing created, swallowing us up in its greatness. I felt so small and unimportant beside it.

I sighed and closed my eyes again, suddenly feeling lonely and unprotected.

“So,” Jenny asked, “What makes you wish to travel to America?”

I started at her voice, blushing yet again. I’d forgotten anyone else was there. I tried to smile. “Um, well…” I twisted a fat curl, turning back to the scenery. “I ran away.” Did she notice the squeak in my voice?

Annie frowned. “Why?” She reached over and felt for my hand. I took hers and gave it a little squeeze.

“I used to live in an orphanage. You can’t imagine how terrible orphanages are.”

Pattie crossed his arms. “I don’t want to.” He glared at me.

“Pattie!” Jenny exclaimed, boxing his ears lightly. “A good word never broke a tooth,” she whispered to him fiercely. She looked up and gave me an embarrassed smile. “Our father died of cholera years ago, when Annie was only a baby. We moved to England for a few years, before coming back to Ireland to start anew. But the famine hit, and took Lucy, Martha, and Marianne. Our Aunt Catherine, who lives in New York, wrote Mama and sent the money for our passes. By the time the tickets came, Mama was gone, too. I guess we came too close to being in an orphanage for comfort.” She took Annie’s other hand and leaned back on the rail. “How did your parents die?”

I frowned and gazed over the wide sea. Twice I opened my mouth to answer only to shut it. “It’s…It happened so long ago…I’m not sure I remember. I have a terrible memory.” I tried to wave my hand in an offhand way, furiously fighting the tears in my eyes. It hurt too much to tell the truth. What was I supposed to say? “I don’t know how my mother died”?

“Oh,” Jenny blushed this time. “I’m sorry. I wish I hadn’t asked you.”

I waved a hand carelessly, still not trusting myself to look at her without crying. “Do you…” I stopped to gulp and bite my lip, “Do you ever wish that there was a heaven on earth that you could go to whenever you need to get away? Whenever you feel like the whole world is piling on top of you and you just can’t stand it anymore?” I finally glanced her way.

She smiled faintly. “Maybe it’s called America.”

 

 *

 

The ship jolted in the rolling storm. I closed my eyes and tried to calm my churning stomach, pinching my nose to wipe out the horrid smell.

Candles had been snuffed for fear of fire, leaving the cabin dark and quiet. Softly moaning mothers and children rolled around gagging.

The storm had been going on for a full day now. I hadn’t had a breath of fresh air since the night before last.

Annie groaned beside me and vomited into a small bucket. I sighed. I had thrown up so much the past few days that I was only dry-heaving by now. Annie lay back down and grabbed my hand. “Jenny,” she whispered, “When will it be over?”

“I—” The ship gave a tremendous jolt. I moaned and reached for the bucket.

“Soon,” Jenny began, “I think—“

Suddenly, the cabin door burst open. A flash of lightning illuminated the sky behind the figure in the doorway. “Man overboard!” The sailor cried. “All stay below deck!” He leaped away from the cabin, slamming the door behind him.

I shot up and ran to the doorway, jumping over the sick children lying on the floor. I stood on the tips of my toes and looked through the peephole.

The deck was filled with water. In the flashes of lightning, I could see seaweed and fish sliding across the floor. Sailors rushed about, sliding and falling on the wet wood, apparently blinded by the stinging wind, as they rushed lug ropes to the railing.

I craned my neck and shouted commentary over my shoulder. “There’s a bit of a mess out there! They’re reaching over the edge of the deck—Oh! They’ve got someone! They’re pulling him up!”

The rude red-headed sailor was being hauled over the edge of the railing by crew-men. Thunder roared behind him as the crew pulled up another person, a young boy, who must have been thrown overboard first. The boy shivered as the crew threw some blankets on him and pushed the two towards the cabins. I saw him smile shyly at the red-headed man. The man looked down gruffly, but gave the boy a friendly little shove.

“They’re all perfectly dandy,” I announced to the cabin, making my way back to my bed in the dark. I climbed in next to Annie and stroked her hair. “Goodnight,” I whispered, “Tomorrow will be a better day.”

 

 *

 

“Hurry up,” Jenny giggled, pushing me up the stairs.

“I’m trying,” I snapped back, bounding up them as quickly as I could. We all stopped and stared when we reached the top deck. Pattie was the first to recover, hollering and running to the railing. I laughed and chased after him, grabbing the edge and craning my neck.

America. I could see it before us, a wide streak on the horizon. If I squinted hard enough, I could just make out the buildings and factories in the distance.

“America,” Jenny whispered.

“I’m going to buy myself an American flag and hang it from my window,” I said excitedly.

Pattie jumped up and down. “I’m going to learn how to play baseball!” His eyes sparkled.

Annie wrinkled her nose happily. “I’m going to memorize all the words to Yankee Doodle.”

“And I’m going to knit a red, white, and blue blanket,” Jenny said.

I smiled at her and jumped up to see if I could catch a glance of the Statue of Liberty. “Tomorrow,” I said excitedly, “We’ll be on dry land in America.”

 

To be continued….


Just to Make You Smile… :)

Hey, I think I’m going to post a new “Sunday Stories” tomorrow… How do you all feel about starting that up again? No fairytale this time, but still something interesting and semi-romantic. 😉

Hannah and I watched this movie last night with some of our parents’ old friends and nearly DIED LAUGHING. I couldn’t resist sharing. Hopefully “Franck” will put a smile on your faces this morning….

Happy Saturday!

-Rachel


So…. You Like Clothes???

Why yes. How very observant of you. I do like clothes. I’m not sure how you all figured this out, but maybe it struck you one day when you realized that I’m never photographed in the same outfit twice, and that my wardrobe resembles a rainbow. Not quite sure…

But anyway, I thought it would be fun to blog about clothes just once! Because, hey, I am a girl and like ninety percent of my followers are girls. (Sorry to the couple of guys who are going to have to breeze past this post!)

1

Dress – Anthropologie, Sweater – J. Crew, Shoes – Aldo

The best way I can think of to tackle this topic is to approach it the way I do everything else in life. By making a list! So here’s the lowdown on what I like, where I shop, and what my secrets are. Maybe you love clothes and maybe they’re just something to put on your back, but I view them as a great way to express your personality and tell people a little about yourself without having to do too much talking! 😉

  • Firstly, I love *vintage* clothes.

A lot of people are scared of vintage because, hello, it’s basically old used clothes. I do have several friends who refuse to buy vintage or used clothes because they don’t want to own anything that once belonged to someone else, and that’s totally okay! I do realize that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. BUT, if your cup of tea happens to be beautiful, unique, high-quality clothing, then vintage might be for you! Plus, there’s just something so individual about vintage clothing. I hate the idea that I could show up at a party and have three different girls there wearing nearly the same identical dress as me. It might be snobby, but I think it’s more a uniqueness thing. I’m not exactly like anyone else, so why should I dress with them? Thank you, but I will take my 70’s rainbow striped maxi dress and 50’s lace tulle dress over that American Eagle hoodie anyday.

seattle (6)

Dress – vintage

  • I’m also afraid of department stores.

You will never find me in a Kohls. Or a J.C. Penney’s, or a Macy’s. On a random day, I might be found in Walmart buying groceries or cds, but in general I have a strong dislike and distrust of department stores. Like, they literally freak me out. I’m not sure what it is, but I get nervous at the idea of going in them! Maybe it’s all the racks and shelves of multiple copies of the same things… It’s a bit weird. Plus, don’t even get me started on Targets. I have this theory that all of Target’s and Walmart’s items are made in the same factory, then some woman goes around and wraps the Target stuff in fancy boxes and hires a fancy photographer to make it look good. So basically, Target is like a snobby Walmart. There, I said it! 😉

You all can judge me now…

  • I like to support independent designers.

There are so many amazing, creative, and super talented designers out there who no one ever takes notice of because they’re so busy snatching $7 cardigans off afore-mentioned Target clearance racks. There’s just something so impersonal about the general shopping experience of modern websites and stores. Everything is mass-produced these days. Compare that to the rare talented individuals who still have a passion for sewing their own clothes and selling these amazing finds to women and teens who are actually interested in high-quality homemade goods! And by homemade, I’m not talking about cheap hand-sewed mocks. I’m talking about crazy cool tulle skirts, printed dresses, and embroidered blouses! I love supporting independent designers, and even though I’m not a liberal by any stretch of the mind, I do buy into the “Sweatshop Free” movement.

Let’s stop supporting companies who may condone factories operating under long, dangerous hours with minimum pay and poor working conditions and give our money instead to the designers and small businesses who are creating items we can love and wear guilt-free! 🙂 Designers like my wonderfully talented sister Hannah, and her shop Hannah Everly Designs. (Giveway soon, by the way!) I also love and support several other independent designers! Their clothes may cost a bit more, but remember that you aren’t support a corporation, you’re supporting an individual. And every penny of your money is going toward encouraging and helping that person to continue their art. Which I think is a pretty cool thing!

rachel_047

Dress – Moulinette Soeurs (ebay find)

  • I usually wear dresses.

Okay, in the summer I wear a dress EVERY DAY, I kid you not. Well, maybe I’ll wear a pair of shorts like once a week but other than that it’s a dress. I don’t even wear skirts that much. It’s pretty much all dresses. I mean, they’re so easy to wear! You don’t even have to worry about matching a shirt and a bottom, or whether or not your top is going to ride up. You can just throw on a cotton dress and a pair of sandals and go. Gah. It’s so easy that now I’m just dying for it to be summertime… And if you’re worried that the breeze might cause your dresses to be a problem, just wear those cheap Soffe shorts underneath them. That’s what I do!

  • I wear heels.

Even though I’m 5’8, I still wear heels every Sunday and sometimes other days of the week, too. Because life is just too short to worry about being taller than everyone else! If I spent all my time worrying about what other people thought about my clothes or my shoes or my height, I would miss out on a lot of fun in life. I just wear things that I like, even if it’s something weird like an orange velvet blazer or red polka dot heels. If it makes me smile and feel good about myself, then it’s worth it!

62

Shoes – ASOS

  • I bargain shop.

It’s probably a result of the two million hours of Dave Ramsey lessons I was forced to listen to growing up, but I refuse to pay full price for anything. Like, I’m literally looking at my closet right now and I don’t think I paid full price for a thing in it. Okay, maybe the orange suede Mary-Jane heels. But they were the only ones left in my size! Other than that… Haha, but seriously, don’t expect that everything is non-negotiable! Even if you have to go to a department store *shudder* look for coupons or other promotions. And if you, like me, can successfully avoid the siren (?) call of department stores, many jewels are to be found in the world of online shopping. I have gotten soooo many designer, vintage, and even regular J. Crew and Anthropologie finds through Ebay. I’m scary good at navigating Ebay, it’s not even funny. (I even wrote an article on it for a friend’s blog here) Etsy.com is also an amazing goldmine, and whenever I find something I like on there, I just message the seller and make an offer on it. Never pay what they’re asking you, unless they won’t compromise and you can’t imagine life without it. (In which case, you’re probably too attached to clothes anyway and need to stop spending so much money!)

Dress - Dorothy Perkins, Bag - Kate Spade

Dress – Dorothy Perkins, Bag – Kate Spade

  • I read blogs.

Ugh. This is embarrassing. Yes, I am “that person” who reads style blogs. Let’s be brief about this, okay? My favorite is obviously one of my closest friends Elaini. She’s amazing. Her blog is here. I also love DesignLoveFest, Classy Girls Wear Pearls, and WishWishWish. Among others…

*

Yeah, so that’s about all I have to say on this topic. I think. For now. 😉 But something tells me I’m just going to end up getting a bunch of comments asking, “Rachel, if you’re going to be so snobbish about Target, then where on earth do you actually shop? Are there other stores out there???”

Haha, yes. So here’s a list of my absolute favorite places to shop, both in-person and online.

  • Ebay.com
  • Etsy.com
  • J. Crew (outlet or clearance only)
  • Anthropologie (um, I will shop their clearance sometimes, but I usually just buy amazing Anthropologie dresses on Ebay, hehe)
  • Modcloth.com (an amazing resource for adorable vintage-inspired dresses all made from sweatshop-free designers!)
  • ASOS.com
  • Goodwill (don’t judge! It takes some hunting, but I have found some beautiful designer dresses at Goodwill! I just always take them to a tailor afterwards to make sure they fit properly)
  • Eshakti.com (my sister will kill me for posting this–a gold mine for dresses and where fifty percent of my dresses come from)
  • And of course, my sister’s etsy shop, Hannah Everly Designs!

Are there any questions? Where do you buy most of your clothes? And is fashion even a priority to you???

-Rachel