Monday, December 12, 2011

Pinecone Promise

Despite my wonderful family surprising me with a new Kindle, I haven't really sat down with a can't-put-it-down book in a while.  This weekend, I did.  Possibly against my better judgment, I read A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard.

If you haven't read the book already, it might be because you know the story would disturb you; therefore, I am not sharing any explicit details of Ms. Dugard's captivity here.  If you have read it, then you can possibly understand the inexpressible sadness I feel for the theft of a young woman's freedom.

As you might expect, there was little in the book I - or anyone who has not experienced the terror of kidnapping - could relate to.  Page after page detailed Ms. Dugard's confusion about what was being done to her, concern for her mother, and the struggle to cling to the hope that she might someday be free.  That hope was juxtaposed with the understanding that the real world might be too much for her to handle, even if she did gain her freedom.  It is heart-rending to read - but exciting, knowing that she is, in fact, reclaiming her life even now!

Still, amid the chapters chronicling events that I had mercifully never had to endure, there were moments that felt as though they were stolen from my own ill-kept journals.  Ms. Dugard mentions keeping a diary that she dedicated to a kitten given to her when she was, I believe, twelve years old.  The words she chose and the way she expressed her love for that kitten brought tears to my eyes because I felt like I was reading my own thoughts, written by another - only this other was a child trapped by sexual predators.  Strangely, if you didn't know her back story, I don't believe you could imagine that Ms. Dugard was trapped at all.  Her words, her little doodles, her love letters to her pet seemed as though any compassionate, maturing child could have written them.  Maybe even me.

Further along in the book, Ms. Dugard records a list of some of her favorite musicians during a time that would be (though she did not know it) close to her release from hell.  I caught my breath and read the list a few more times.  These were songs that I liked.  Artists that I listened to on the radio, music I had downloaded from iTunes.  Suddenly, again, I felt close to this stranger.  Sure, they may well have simply been the popular songs that were getting airplay at the time...but to know that I was free to listen to them in my car, in my apartment, at a friend's house, at the gym...and this woman never was...well, that was sobering.

Also, in reading Ms. Dugard's impressions of her captor, I was appalled at what was done to her.  Yes, physically, yes emotionally, but this self-deluded religious fanatic almost stole from her the precious gift of hope.  As her brave story proves, there are times when hope is, quite literally, all we have left.  For those who believe in Christ, He is our hope, as are the promises God made through the Bible.  Even that hope was marred for Ms. Dugard, as her vile captor was a sexually sadsistic self-proclaimed prophet who perverted scripture even as he abused her.

I don't know what religious beliefs, if any, Ms. Dugard holds right now.  But there is a power beyond her own that is allowing her to take an impossibly brave step, and forgive the people who contributed to her suffering.  I am grateful, for whatever reason, that she is allowing herself to move on, establish a life for herself and her daughters, without the threat of bitterness to cloud her bright future.  Surely that kind of decision must be made with a great deal of love, support, compassion and understanding from a great many hearts, and I thank God that Ms. Dugard is now surrounded by those kinds of people.

When I look back on the difficulties of my childhood - and there were many - I can cover them all with the blanket of knowing that I was always - always - safe among friends.  In fact, I was always safe, even among "enemies", for those who I thought hated me never would have done to me what was done to this remarkable, beautiful and incredibly strong young woman.

May you be greatly blessed, and may every single second of your stolen life be returned you you a hundred-fold, Ms. Jaycee Dugard.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Felt Phenomenon

I saw it the night it opened.  How could I resist?  With a step-mum who's only as old as her shoe size (at heart) and a four-day weekend stretching ahead of me, how could Ross and I NOT go to see The Muppets?

I won't spoil a thing for any of you who have yet to see it.  It's worth it, worth it, WORTH IT.  It's adorable, hysterical, and, most importantly, it maintains the original spirit of Jim Henson's Muppets: that innocent, enthusiastic, joyful feeling of optimism that rides on the back of catchy, silly sings and shines through big, googly eyes. 

In light of the success of this latest installment, may I humbly make a few suggestions on some classics to revisit next?

"Pig and Prejudice", by Jane Austen: A pretty, prideful pig learns humility when she spurns a wealthy but misunderstood frog barrister.  Musical score by Rowlf.

"The Three Muppeteers", by Alexandre Dumas: A frog, a bear and a weirdo are all that stands between a beautiful queen and a royal scandal (regarding pearls and swine, of course!)

"Cyrano de Bear-gerac", by Edmond Rostand: A wanna-be comedian fails miserably at wooing a crowd, so he enlists a "silent" partner to help him bowl them over!  Unfortunately, the crowd falls for the weirdo instead, and the two struggle to make amends.

"Huckleberry Frog", by Mark Twain: A forward-thinking frog and his buddy, Bear Jim, a former slave, enjoy adventures on the Big River.

"The Hunchbear of Notre Dame", by Victor Hugo: A lonely bear, isolated by his duties as the dinner bell ringer on a dude ranch, learns that it's not hard to make friends if you start acting like one!

"Janice in Wonderland", by Lewis Carroll: An already spaced-out blond maiden enters a dreamlike world where nothing is as it seems...and then writes a hit album.

"Gonzo with the Wind", by Margaret Miller: A strong-willed weirdo learns how to rebuild after everything he's ever known is destroyed in a battle over cotton vs. polyester leisure suits.

"Frogenstein", by Mary Shelley: A mad scientist and his companion, who only communicates with squeaks, resurrect the lifeless body of a biology lab frog...with disastrous results!

"The Mark of Rizzo", by Johnston MaCulley: A wealthy, benevolent, land-owning rat, disturbed by the government's treatment of his people, dons a mask and cape and brings evildoers to style!

"20,000 Frogs Under the Sea", by Jules Verne:  A team of brave, felt-faced adventurers face ocean-dwelling dangers and make exciting discoveries.

"The Taming of the Sow", by William Shakespeare: A beautiful but quarrelsome pig finally meets her match through deception and a battle of wits.

(I, of course, would happily make myself available as a literary consultant for Disney.)