A Thought-Provoking History

Think of all the things you love – your family, your friends, your house, your country.

Now imagine you had to leave it all behind. Everything. Imagine it was a matter of life or death – and your life is precious. So you leave everything, take only what’s needed. Or maybe you’re only a child and your parents send you away to a place they believe to be safe. Either way you lose your home, your possessions, and your country. You’re separated from your family and spend half your time wondering if they’re still alive while the other half is spent trying to survive.

Recently I read Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys. It takes place during WWII. Thousands and thousands of people are making the long trek toward the port in the hopes of being cleared and placed on a ship that would take them to safety. The ship focused on in this book was the Wilhelm Gustloff, a large ship carrying about 10,000 people and destined for an ill fate. The events, as well as the ship, were real, but I hesitate to say much more since I highly suggest you read this book.

We can learn from history, even if it’s in the form of historical fiction. To think that these events actually took place and to think of what these characters went through is almost chilling. The characters themselves may not have been real, but they were based off real people. I can’t imagine leaving my home, fleeing my country and being separated from my family. I can’t imagine living in fear every day and constantly being on the run. Although, if your life is on the line, it’s really the only choice.

This is a time in history that has always fascinated me. I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around all the brutality. I’ve never been able to understand how humans could be so cruel to each other. But the one thing that’s always struck me in history, as well as in this book, is that somehow there is still a beauty and a lot of times that beauty is transformed into hope.

When I read things like this it makes me think that I have no right to complain about anything in my life. I still have my family and friends. I’m not being forced to leave my county. When winter comes I won’t risk freezing to death. I don’t have to fear for my life because of who I am or because of my ethnicity.

Again, I highly suggest this books goes on your reading list. It’s eye-opening and thought-provoking in many way. Not only that, but it’s simply a good read.

Our Decisions Shape Our Destinies

Recently, I finished reading Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. In a previous post (The Things We Take For Granted) I discussed another one of her novels, Between Shades of Gray, and as in that post I’m not going to talk the plot in detail. After all, I don’t want to spoil anything for those who may want to read either of these books. (And I do highly recommend them).

Out of the Easy.

The Big Easy.

The first line of the book is, “My mother’s a prostitute.” (And that sure does pack and punch.) With Josie as the narrator, this appears to be the way she describes herself, but I can only imagine there’s so much more to her as a person. As the reader, from the very beginning, I could tell Josie was different from her mother and more than a prostitute’s daughter. She didn’t want to be a part of that life. She was smart and wished to continue her education by attending college. An elite college. Josie dreamed of being more she was, more then the life she was born into.

The choices Josie makes throughout the book will shape her future.

The story is set in 1950 Louisiana. New Orleans. Josie lives in what is called the Quarters and it’s not the nicest place, for many reasons. Lucky for her she has a few friends who always have her back.

While I was reading, I had a few recurring thoughts.

First, even though I’m not yet a mother, I kept wondering how Josie’s mother could treat her so horribly. She acted as if she didn’t even want her (and maybe she didn’t). Her mother cared more about money then anything else on earth. She appeared vain and obsessed with looking young and beautiful. This attitude influenced her choices and put her on a path that led to some pretty shady people and events.

But we’re all entitled to our own decisions.

Josie was basically estranged from her mother. She wanted to leave New Orleans and had been saving since she was a child. I didn’t think it was fair that she was a smart girl who always did well in school, but because of her mother’s reputation, Josie was treated like trash.

But life is rarely fair.

Regardless, we can’t let obstacles stand in the way of our dreams.
I think my point is pretty straight forward. (Then again, maybe I’m wrong.) Either way, we are the decision makers in our lives. Everyday we make choices that shape our future, big and small.

Think of the decisions you make on a daily basis. Sometimes it can be as simply as what to wear to work or whether you should have that second cup of tea.

Now think of the major decisions you’ve made in your life. These are the decisions that have helped shape our lives over the course of time.

I know I’ve had to make some major choices in my life and sometimes these can be the hardest.

Everyday we come up against things we have to choose between, whether we realize it or not, and everyday we carve our path further and further and down life’s road.

Josie was born into a life she realized she didn’t want to be a part of. She didn’t want to be her mother. She didn’t want to be a prostitute. Her dreams in life and her ambitions were stronger than her living situation. She wouldn’t settle. Josie was faced with tough choices, but she always sided with the one that fit her morals and propelled her toward her dreams.

Just like Josie, I believe everyone has the opportunity to better themselves.

Isn’t that part of life, to overcome obstacles?

No matter your belief, I think we can all agree that the opportunities are always available. Sometimes they’re right at your fingertips and sometimes you have to fight for them.

The Things We Take for Granted

What are some of the things you have in your life, big or small, that could be swept away in a single moment?

Loved ones.

Cherished objects.

Your entire comfort of living.

I recently read a book called Between Shades of Gray. It’s a story about 1940s Lithuania during the time of Russian occupation. This is a book I’ve been interested in reading for a long time, but for some reason neither of the two bookstores near me had it in stock. What a nice surprise it was to stumble across it one day. Even though I was already carrying five books, I knew I wasn’t going to put this one down.

During this time in Lithuanian history thousands of families were deported, some were separated and many died. Their destination; Siberia.

This book tells the story few are aware of, including myself, and I applaud the author. I’m not going to discuss the plot because that’s not the point of this post and I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone who may wish to read it.

Oh, and I do recommend this book.

The story is told through the eyes of Lina, a 15-year-old girl who dreams of being an artist. Despite the fact that she is ripped from her home in the middle of the night and taken away with her mother and younger brother, she never stopped drawing.

The characters in this book are fictional, but the events actually happened and they happened to real people. They were taken away from everything familiar, scared and confused. No one knew where they were going and no one was willing to tell them.

It isn’t until Lina is sleeping on the cold hard floor, thinking about her warm bed and goose-down comforter, that it really hit me. Who would have thought that sleeping in a warm bed could be considered a luxury?

As I read on, I think more about all the things I have in my life. I have a warm bed to sleep in every night. I have food when I’m hungry and warm clothes for winter. I have my family and my health. All these are things that Lina and thousands of others lost in an instant.

That’s one of the lessons I learned in reading this book, we take the things in our life for granted.

It’s so easy to do that it happens on a daily basis without us really noticing.

Despite the tragedy and the ugliness, there was also beauty in this story. In order to survive, people helped one another and stuck together. On Christmas they continued their traditions and when Lina’s birthday came she was not forgotten. Not only was there togetherness and family, but also hope and love. There was love for family, friends and strangers while hope seemed to help some survive.

Again, I don’t want to say too much and leave spoilers, even though I have just scraped the surface of this amazing story. I will say that this is a truly beautiful and touching book. I’ll admit, I cried several times while reading.

The things we have in our lives aren’t guaranteed. Life itself isn’t guaranteed. I don’t know about you, but I know I take some of the things I have for granted. We should appreciate the things we have, love the ones close to us and live every day like it could be our last. You never know what’s going to happen. Tomorrow it could all be gone.

Welcome!

Hello Readers,

Welcome!

I’m very excited to finally have this blog up and running. It was tough deciding what to do for my first post, as well as picking a title. I know I could have done something flashy, or elaborate, but a nice welcome and introductory message seemed perfect.

I love a good adventure. Sure it’s scary, but who isn’t scared of the unknown? Along with adventure, reading and writing and photography and music are what I gravitate toward. Some would call me a bookworm, some would say I’m a music junkie. Ok, so, maybe they’re right, but we all have a love for something.

Reading has the ability to transport the reader to a different world, a different time. It’s a break from reality. Or it can be a link to reality, a bridge between past and present, a connection to a time in history.

Music is all around. I’m always listening to music, looking for new artists and seeing what the music world has to offer. I enjoy concerts and engaging band members. I love hearing what people have to say, seeing what their story is and learning who they are as a person.

Photography allows me to tell stories with a single image. It allows me capture a moment in a single frame; the emotion, the people, the found objects. It’s different from writing, but also the same in many ways. Both are forms of story telling and I love them equally.

So, what does this all have to do with anything? Well, all these things help me tell the stories I’m after. Some stories come pre-written while others have to be chased down. Some stories need time to grow before reaching their full potential. The stories I find can come from anywhere. They’re really a collaborative effort. I may be the one telling the stories, but they’re influenced by the things I see in the world, by the people I meet, by experiences, by the everyday. I hope what I write will be relatable and possibly inspiring, but, at least, I hope you enjoy reading my stories.

Feel free to contact me by leaving a comment on a post. Also, don’t hesitate to check out my Twitter and Flickr page (and follow along if you wish). My rules on commenting are simple; be nice, be considerate, be friendly and be respectful. It’s alright to disagree, but please, if you feel compelled to voice these comments, do so in an adult manner. Thank you.

I’m very excited for all the possibilities of this blog, which is dedicated to music, photography, literature and life in general. I hope you will enjoy my writings and photos, as I invite you to follow along.