Where The Red Fern Grows- A Review


On my version of Throwback Thursdays, I review a book that’s been around for awhile and tell you why you should read (or reread) it.

Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, was published in 1961, and introduced me to a world I had no idea existed.

I grew up in a fairly rural area in Pennsylvania.  My home was an old farmhouse without any kind of central heating system.  My bedroom had an electric light, but no electrical outlets.  We had a large yard that butted up to a forest.  I had heard that someone owned the land the forest sat on, but no one seemed to know who it was, so I spent my childhood roaming that woods.  I went to a regular school and had to walk a block to the bus stop in an area without sidewalks; I pretty much walked on the road to get there.

Where the Red Fern Grows is set in the Ozark Mountains, and Billy is a young boy who wants a pair of Redbone hunting hounds more than anything else in the world.  Billy and I had some similarities growing up; we both roamed the woods and spent much of our time barefoot.  However, while I went barefoot because I liked it, Billy did it because he had no shoes.  He doesn’t go to school, and when he happens to see a school “in town,” his mother gets weepy eyed because it’s her dream to send her children to a real school.

Billy’s world enthralled me as a child, and I’ve re-read this story countless times.  Although this is ultimately a sad story, it’s also life-affirming.  Billy wanted those dogs more than anything else, so he worked and saved to get them.  He lived a lifetime with those dogs, doing things he hadn’t dreamed of doing before.  It’s a story about ultimate friendship and sacrifice, about love and loss.

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  I suppose it’s meant to be a kids’ book; after all, the main character is 10-12.  I don’t care how old you are though; this book will touch something deep inside you.  If you have read it, it may be time to read it again, or share it with a child.  Even though it’s set in a time and place many of us aren’t familiar with, there’s something timeless about the book.  I believe this is a book that should be placed proudly on your bookshelf and re-read every few years.  Pick a rainy day, curl up on your couch with a mug of tea and a box of tissues, and get reacquainted with this wonderful book.

Don’t Let Anything Stop You

On Wellness Wednesdays, I post about a wellness topic.

One of my all time favorite quotes is:

“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.”

-Chinese Proverb

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

There are always naysayers, people who say that you can’t do something.  People who try to tell you that you’re not enough to do that thing.  Most of the difference between success and failure is willingness to keep trying.  And in order to keep trying, you need to believe that it’s possible, whatever it is.  People who are ultimately successful usually have a lot of “failures” behind them, but they generally rename “failure” to something else, like “learning experience” or “practice.”

If you want something… if you have a goal or dream… don’t let anything stop you.  Not what people say, not your own internal voice telling you that you can’t.  If you have a story to write, a song to sing, a picture to paint, do it.  Do it without judgement, without restrictions.

I didn’t show my writing to anyone for a long time.  In high school, I showed a poem to a teacher, and she said, “Are you sure you wrote that?  I’m not saying you copied it; I’m just saying that maybe you saw it somewhere and forgot about it.”  (For the record, no, that’s not the case.)  I let her words deflate me, and I was afraid to show what I wrote to anyone, lest they be disinterested, or worse, believe I was plagiarizing.  I let that stop me for about 10 years or more, until I started bringing my writing out into the light again.

I’m sure that teacher has long since forgotten her words, but I never have.  I know that she didn’t mean to stop me from writing, but took her words and allowed them to wound me.  Much of the time, when others inflict wounds on us, they don’t even know it.

Don’t let anyone stop you.  Don’t give anyone that power.  Do whatever it is that makes your heart sing.


The Meaning of Dreams

San Tan Park; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

San Tan Park; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

One night, not long ago, I had a dream that my family was gathered for Christmas dinner.  My parents were there, and so was my husband, my sister/ brother in law, and my brother.  We all went to sleep, and when we woke the next morning, I was going to make breakfast, but noticed that the gas line to my stove was pulled off, leaking gas into the house.  The husband and I got everyone out of the house and called 911, but my brother was missing.  In the dream, I wasn’t worried.

Everyone was fine, but then a detective came asking questions.  Around that time, my brother returned, and the detective focused on him.  She didn’t want to take fingerprints or look at some random footprints in the garage which seemed meaningful in my dream.  I asked her about that, and she said, “I already know who did it.”  Then my alarm went off.

Some people swear dreams have all kinds of meanings, while other people believe they’re essentially meaningless.  I fall somewhere in between.  I think that the brain is an amazing and minimally understood organ, and that it’s working constantly.  I think that dreams are the brain’s way of processing the day’s events, but not necessarily in any logical way.

I read The Mind at Night: The new science of how and why we dream, by Andrea Rock.  The book was based on studies about sleep, and showed that people who processed emotion through their dreams actually recovered from depression and anxiety faster than those who didn’t.

A new website, DreamsCloud, offers to interpret dreams for you.  This isn’t one of those stupid things where you plug something in and it generates a random response; licensed psychologists and dream experts actually interpret them for you.  It sounds interesting enough to try.  I don’t know if there’s anything to it or not, but… why not?  Here’s an article about it. 


Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreams

Blackfoot Indians believe that butterflies bring dreams to us in our sleep.  I think that’s a perfect metaphor for dreaming: being kissed by a butterfly.  Northern Europeans believed that dreams came from your soul-butterfly wandering around other worlds.

No matter what brings us dreams, if it’s butterflies or something much less interesting, like brain chemistry, I chose a butterfly picture for this photo challenge.  Here in Phoenix, the Desert Botanical Gardens has a butterfly exhibit in the winter months, and two years ago, a friend visited me.  Butterflies were everywhere, and I got this shot of two butterflies sharing a flower.

I wanted to share this poem.  I came across it, and the timing seemed fortuitous.

A Boat, Beneath a Sunny Sky
by Lewis Carroll

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

Happy Writing… and happy dreaming…


N is for Nightmares and New Experiences

I very seldom remember my dreams, and I seldom have nightmares.  I’m happy about that because when I was much younger, I had nightmares all the time.  Still, I do miss some of the odd stuff that pops out of my subconscious in dreams and nightmares.  One of my novels came out of a recurring nightmare I had about getting lost in a room with too many doors.

There’s a really great book by Andrea Rock called The Mind at Night: The new science of how and why we dream.  The book suggests that nightmares are the brain’s way of processing emotion.  They did studies that suggested that people who had certain types of nightmares actually worked through depression and anxiety faster than people who didn’t.  So if you’re someone who has nightmares, it may be adaptive, rather than maladaptive.

On a totally unrelated topic, I also wanted to talk about new experiences.  I like to do all sorts of different things, as long as I have someone with me.  That’s right folks!  Even though I’m an extreme introvert (or maybe because of it), I don’t like to do anything new unless there’s someone with me.  I’m always afraid of looking dumb in public, and because I’m such an introvert (and a know it all), I hate to actually ask anyone how to do things.  On a bad day, I’ve been known to turn down help when offered because “no thanks” has fewer words than a question.  Unfortunately, I’m being quite serious.

I would say I’ll work on this, but then I’d be lying, and I hate to lie for no reason.  ‘Nuff said!

The Peace and Quiet of Night

I love being the only one awake at night.  There’s something especially peaceful about being the only one awake.  I’m not sure why, but I can be very productive at night.  It feels different than the day for some reason.  Maybe it’s the cozy feeling I get from nothing but darkness showing outside my windows.  Maybe it’s because I don’t hear my neighbor using a leaf blower or cars driving by.  Whatever the reason, I love being alone at night.

I recently read an article that said I might not have insomnia.  The article makes the argument that humans are wired to wake up in the middle of the night for an hour or so, then go back to sleep, essentially sleeping in two four hour shifts.  That would explain why I curse 4:30 a.m. more often than not!

I wonder how it would work for me to get up when I wake in the middle of the night and find something to do for an hour, then go back to bed.  I’m thinking about giving it a go.  The article makes the argument that it’s easier to remember dreams that way.  I like remembering my dreams (though I don’t often) because I’ve gotten some interesting stories from dreams.

Here’s the link to the original article: