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February 2014

The Valentine Box

I saw the other day that someone tweeted about their child making a 'Valentine box' for school. I was rather surprised, thinking this tradition of giving Valentines to classmates had gone the way of the Dodo bird, but apparently the practice persists. I have no problem with that. I loved Valentine's Day when I was a kid. From taking home that yummy-smelling ditto-sheet of names with which to match up the drugstore-bought packet of little cards to gobbling cupcakes and candy hearts...well, what grade-school kid wouldn't dig this holiday? But for me, one of the best thing about exchanging Valentines at school was knowing that I had the most awesome Valentine box ever in the whole history of Valentine boxes.

 Valentine box

I don't even recall trying to make my own box for that February 14th in Mrs. Cron's grade two at Helen Minard Elementary school. I just knew I had to have one, and when the day came, there is was. Where did it come from? My Dad.
Nothing says "be mine" like a bulb in a bowtie.My Dad is an artistic creator. He worked for over thirty years as a draftsman at Ingersoll Rand, and when it comes to making something, he doesn't know the word "halfway". He drew and painted wonderful pictures, designed tools, rebuilt old player pianos and pipe organs, and built houses that stand solid to this day and will continue to do so for decades to come. And he made me this beautiful Valentine box. I don't know what it originally held, but it's covered over with white contact paper, with velvet hearts glued on it and hand-printed slogans and designs covering the rest. "Attention to detail" is putting it mildly. It shone like a jewel on my little school desk, and I used it every year up until grade seven, when high school, puberty, peer pressure and other grown-up things took over school life and all the fun of cupcakes, candy hearts, and Valentine boxes became mere memories.
Why yes, I wood. Wooden shoe?The box was put away in my mom's cedar chest, to be re-discovered every few years when I went digging around in places I probably shouldn't have been. It holds many mementos now, including a batch of Valentine cards from my grade two classmates. I still remember each and every one of them, from the terribly punned "Wooden shoe be mine" card given to me by David Birdsall, to the freaky anthropomorphic light bulb card from Susan DeKay. I wonder if anyone else saved their cards, or at least their boxes? Would I have been so careful to do so if it had just been a crummy old shoebox with a slit cut in it? Probably not.
I don't even celebrate Valentine's Day any more. I know that sounds awful, but when my husband and I got married, we made a decision that we would let this Hallmark-hyped holiday pass by and focus on other celebrations, such as our soon-following wedding anniversary. But seeing my pretty little Valentine box again, maybe it's time to break out the hearts-n-flowers and bad puns and…well, we'll leave anthropomorphic lighting fixtures for bad dreams. But this February 14th, I think I'll leave the Valentine box out on my desk. We'll see what treasures it soon holds.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Florsoy the Wild Mare: Published!

Recently, I posted a blog about the first story I ever wrote when I was a mere seven years old. Now, as promised, may I present to you an original tale of love, danger, and intrigue; the story of "Florsoy, the Wild Mare". Enjoy!

Chapter one: Florsoy in the Mountins

All that's missing is the little hearts popping over their heads!Way down in the Mountins there was a horse named Florsoy. She was light brown with a black mane and tail. She was the last of the wild mares. Most of the horses there were Stalyons.
Florsoy lived where there were mountins. So there were many mountin lions.
One time Florsoy met a black horse named Thunderbolt. Once thay saw eachother thay didn't take their eyes' of eachother.
Everywhere Florsoy went so did Thunderbolt. But one time Florsoy was all alone. She went to the mountins. She didn't know that she was being watched by a mountin lion. When she walked by, the mountin lion jumped out at her. Just befour the mountin lion got her Thunderbolt came and bucked the mountin lion of the cliff. But then two mountin lions came. Thay had Thunderbolt and Florsoy up against the mountin. But just then a golden stallion came and safed both of them.
Florsoy and Thunderbolt came down from the mountain to go along with the golden stalyon.
Uh-oh, who's this meddling golden-boy hero?The stalyons name was Streak. Streak was a stalyon which broke out of a ranch fence and now romes on the wild plains. As they went on they saw a farm. It had pigs, cows, ponys, chickens and horses. One of the horses looked like Streak! The horse that looked like Streak had a saddle, bridle and rains on him and someone was ready to get on his back. The person was a lady geting ready to ride her horse.
As she got on her horse, she looked where Thunderbolt, Florsoy and streak were standing. "John John!" she said. "Tell Jerry there are three wild horses out here. Tell him to bring the ropes before they run away!" John John was her brother. He ran in the house to get Jerry.
Jerry was their brother. He came out with the ropes. He threw on in the air. And it got Streak. He threw another one, it got Thunderbolt. He threw another ant it got Florsoy.
All three of them were roped. The lady on the horse got off and ran to help her brother. She took the rope that was on Florsoy and Jerry took the ropes that were on Thunderbolt and Streak.
Thay led the in a barn where there were many stalls. Florsoy, Thunerbolt and Streak were put in seperet stalls beside each other.


The little artist in me agreed not every page needs an illustration.Oh my, where to go from here? Streak broke out of a fence once, could he bust down the barn? But then what would they do? Go back to the mountains and buck more big cats over cliffs while forming some kind of horsey love-triangle? I think I realized that I'd written a story that would have to include people doing things with the horses at least for a little while, especially if I wanted to have any dialog, because, well, horses don't talk. But if Jerry, John John and the nameless lady (who was rightly so, as there was no opportunity yet to introduce her in the narrative—smart!) started trying to train or ride the horses, it would no longer be the story of "a wild mare, a beautyful horse which gets in all sorts of danger", and I didn't want to tell Jerry's, John John's and the lady's story. I wanted to tell Florsoy's. I don't recall consciously deciding never to work on the story again, it just kind of happened. And I recall being rather sad about that.
Now for some interesting observations. First, this story wasn't written in one sprint-like chunk. It's obvious to me I stopped after page three, then started again sometime later on, probably at age eight after I'd moved to the country and actually been around horses for some time. Also, upon re-reading this about a dozen times, I find and recall that the story was proof-read and edited as I went (although pesky typos and missing words still made it through). For instance, there was initially no coma in the sentence "When she walked by, the mountin lion jumped out at her." I vaguely recall realizing that without the coma, even I got confused reading it, and so I added one. I also see I was not a fan of the Oxford coma. We were likely taught in school at the time that it wasn't necessary, and several times I eschewed it. I'd never do that now.
Run John John, run!Another edit I can clearly tell was erased and changed is that originally it was 'father' John John was running to get. I don't remember why I changed it, but I will admit a story about three siblings and three horses is much more balanced and interesting than one with two siblings and an authority figure. Probably at some point I wanted each sib to get a horse, but then that 'people story and not horse story' thing reared its ugly head.
Lastly—and I do recall this—the line about the horses escaping before they could be roped read: "Tell him to bring the ropes before they walk away!" Ahem. 'Walk' away? Even my childhood writer mind realized that 'walk' is not an action-packed verb. What wild horse just ambles away from someone trying to capture it? My own horse used to scoot pretty quickly when she didn't want to be ridden!
As for the artwork, I'm hugely impressed with my little self. As crude as the drawings are, there's a lot of detail and knowledge there. I normally drew (and still draw) horses facing to the right. Drawing Thunderbolt facing to the left to stare at Florsoy in the 'Florsoy and Thunderbolt sitting in a tree' illustration was a difficult, talent-stretching endeavor. Additionally, the tiny tree behind Florsoy is meant to lend perspective, something I had just learned.
But...but then what happened???Same with tiny John John running to the house. Clearly (well, to me anyway), the horse and rider are in the foreground, and John John is more distant. Details such as the swishing tail, the light—complete with pull-string—in the upstairs window, and the fact that the lady is holding split reins 'romel style' are all indicative of a young girl who knows her world and her horseback riding. And let's not overlook the huge leap in lifelike drawing demonstrated by the fact that the lady is looking away from you, while her horse is looking at you. This was a ground-breaking illustration for me; to draw it exactly as I saw it in my head, against my strict 'horse and people always facing to right' side view method. I remember more than anything being quite proud of this drawing. I still am.
I should finish this story one day, but first I have to review my protagonists' options. Will the siblings tame the trio and lead them to international horse show or rodeo championship fame and fortune? Or will Streak save the day once more, organize a jailbreak to impress and woo the lovely Florsoy away from Thunderbolt, then lead them and the other horses, as well as the pigs, cows, and ponies out into the wild mountainside yonder to fight the ravaging mountain lions?
I don't know, but I'm kind of liking that second idea. So many more possibilities! I mean, who knows what may await my beautyful Florsoy? The danger! The love! The excitement! Well hey; anything's better than being trapped in suspended animation in a barn stall separated from her two handsome suiters, right? Right!