“Welcome Home”- Introduction

13 Apr

On February 8, 2014, I was on the road heading down to Pine Mountain, Georgia, to see my long-time friend, Kaylyn, at Callaway Gardens. Since the trip takes about two hours, I was relaxing and listening to music on my mp3 player. I usually use such lengthy car rides to work up a story plot for some new book idea, but I really did not have a great project today, so I resolved to just sit quietly. I came across the song “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical Rent, and a part of me drifted off into Memory Lane. I set the music on repeat and just sat there thinking, staring out the window. That song will always have a special meaning for me. It was the song that all of the Cue 52 kids sang during a play we put on for the Jackson family’s benefit after Mr. Kevin died. I still miss Mr. Kevin, though he has been gone now for almost eight months. I miss his smile to every student every time they walked through the doors of the theatre for practice, I miss his proverbial advice on acting, I miss the Christian music he used to play before rehearsals, and mostly, I miss the love he showed us. However, he taught me some lessons about life that stuck with me long after he was gone.
As I sat in the car reminiscing, I realized that I had lived through a story worth telling. And, perhaps, I could use my gift of writing to help the Jacksons. That is why I decided to write this book. I wanted to give what I could to help the world through words, I wanted to honor the Jackson family, and I felt like I had a story to tell. I guess you could call this blog/book thing an autobiography, but I really do not want it to be all about me. As I was planning this, I decided that there are a few themes I want to highlight. These themes are the true subjects of the book.
First, I want to highlight faith in God. The tide of my relationship with Jesus affects every aspect of this story. As I was thinking through my life, there seemed to be a pattern; life was just smoother when I trusted God than when I let myself slip. Perhaps my most guilty and deepest secrets will pollute these white internet pages, but knowing what I was going through will help you understand the plot of this story. I am deeply embarrassed about some of my past sins and do not want them to come out, but if it will help others, I realize that my selfish pride needs to yield.
Second, as the title states, a lot of this book is based on the meaning of “home.” Though he was probably unconscious of this, Mr. Kevin taught me almost all I know about home. See, I was born in South Georgia. When I reluctantly left that friendly region at the difficult age of twelve, I vowed that I never would call another place my home. However, as time crawled on, I began to see that I never could truly call any place home, including my former town. Mr. Kevin did have a lot to do with this discovery, as you will see throughout the book.
Third, I want theatre to be a theme. Ever since I was nine I have wanted to be an author and an actress. Following my dreams has led me to learn many lessons and to meeting many life-altering acquaintances, such as my friend Kaylyn, who you will meet, and all of the wonderful people at Cue 52. I have learned to channel my own emotions in my character’s problems, whether that character is a fashion designer from the planet of Who (“The tinniest planet in the sky,” haha) or a rugged pirate sailing on the Caribbean, mate. Theatre has made me a much deeper person. Because of its help, I’m more able to deal with my own emotions. Acting is also constantly reminding me of how diverse this world is, inside and out.
The fourth theme in this book is love in all contexts: love for family, friends, mentors, God, strangers, and even boys. A particularly large problem that is inspected in this book is that I went through an interesting stage when I was twelve. Following one rather innocent “mistake,” I decided that I was going to be one of this new breed of independent women. I was going to be single forever, have minimal acquaintances, and follow what little dreams survived this heartless attack. I did not want anyone telling me what to do. Especially a guy. Time and a few people slowly unwound this absurd pledge. My heart was soon out of this bondage and I was free to love again. I want to describe this process, as I think it might have been an important stage in growing up. Perhaps everyone goes through this. You tell me.
Finally, but certainly not least, I want this story to be about Mr. Kevin. These pages are meant to be my heart-felt gratitude to the best acting mentor I ever had and to his awesome family. I wish I could tell his entire family just how much I love them, but I do not think that there are words for it. Practice never ended, at least in my mind. I believe I have dreamed about Seussical practice at least every week since the play ended almost a year and a half ago. In a play, everyone in the cast feels like family after it is all over and no one feels more like a relative than Mr. Kevin, Mrs. Jana, Lakeland, McKinley, Northie, or Oakley. Thanks, guys. Y’all have been an important part of my life, a season that I will always look back on with fondness and love. As I stated earlier, the song “Seasons of Love” has a special meaning. When we were practicing that song last July, I realized that almost every lyric I was singing was true. I really did know Mr. Kevin for almost 525,600 minutes. The first time I met him was June 4, 2012, and the last time I got to see him was June 6, 2013.
I hope that you will enjoy reading and maybe learn something from this book. Walk through the three years of my life that this book covers, feeling my “inches, miles, laughter, and strife” and know that “Love is a gift from up above.”¹

Sincerely,
Brooke Norris

Note: Whenever I cited a journal entry (usually in italics), I kept the original spelling for authenticity. I realize that there are many grammar mistakes, but I hope that you will view these in context of my age at the time that they were written.
Also, for privacy’s sake, I changed some of the names in the book. Though my characters masquerade under aliases, you can be assured that the story plot does not stray from the truth about my life. Everything in this book really happened.

¹Both quotations are from the song “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical Rent

Welcome Home

5 Apr

Last summer my drama teacher, Mr. Kevin Jackson, passed away without much of a warning. Though he was never a movie star nor will be in history books, his impact on my community was huge. Well nigh one thousand people attended his memorial service, though I am not even sure that all of them could speak English. Though the sight was amazing, it was not hard to guess why so many people attended. With a cheery welcome, warm smile, and sincere conversations, Mr. Kevin spread Jesus’ love to every single person he encountered. He was not your typical “drama director” who barks out orders to his students. We were not puppets on a string and he made sure we knew it. Everyone had a priceless value in his eyes, right down to me, even though I had just moved to the area not long before I met the Jacksons and had almost no friends.

During Mr. Kevin’s memorial service, the church played a song he had written. It was called “Welcome Home” and though the lyrics spoke of his travels, it seemed ironic to me because he had truly found his home now in heaven with Christ. This was around the time that I began to heal from my move to North Georgia from Leesburg, Georgia. I realized that everyone has a story to tell, and though mine may not be significant, it may be of use to others around me and may help create awareness for Mr. Kevin’s family. He left behind his wife and four children, who were girls under sixteen years old. His death was from a sudden, unexpected brain aneurism and his family is going through a tough time.

Though this story I am writing may seem like an autobiography, I really do not want it to be about me. It is my wish that you will learn from my past mistakes, learn about my background, meet Mr. Kevin, read about the small town of Leesburg, and see how the definition of ”home” changed last year. In turned, it changed me. My view of Christ, home, friends, and family has been completely altered since this time a year ago and I believe the Lord used his servant Mr. Kevin to help me.

This is going to be a bit different from the previous projects I have attempted. I thought about writing this as a book, trying to get it published, and then donating most of the proceeds to the Jackson family. However, I think I am going to go about this a bit more informally in order to reach a broader audience. Instead of trying to publish this as a book, I think I am going to post a chapter a week on this blog. There will be approximately 17 chapters, so this will most likely run until around late summer. It will be free to read, so go ahead: read the posts and then tell your friends! I do ask for feedback to make this testimony better grammatically and if you benefit from these upcoming posts, please consider giving money to Mr. Kevin Jackson’s family. There are options via paypal and through Helping Hands Ministries. More details about both of these can be found at this link, which I will be including in every chapter I write:
http://www.cue52.com/CUE52/Donations_for_the_Jackson_Family.html

All chapters of this project will be part of a “book” or blog series named “Welcome Home.” Just do a keyword search on this blog for “welcome home” or “kevin Jackson” and you should immediately see all of the related posts.

I hope you will support this new project! I look forward to your feedback! :-)

So You Wanted Math

30 Mar

a2+b2=c2

That is all.

LifeUpdate: The Best-Worst Week Ever Had By Sarah

30 Mar

In the past week I have learned quite a few things: one, getting on your knees and praying when you don’t know what to do is the best thing to do, two, I am a high-functioning sociopath when I am extremely stressed out, three, stress-delirium is extremely entertaining onlookers, four, I am more nervous competing against Hayden Bailey than I am at national competitions, and five, God ordains our steps.

On Saturday of last week, I made history with the Madison County High School FFA Senior Parliamentary Procedure team. We competed and made it to the “final four” of Parliamentary Procedure State competition to take place in May. First parli pro senior team in Madison County history to make it to the final four.

Following that, things started to go south on Sunday. I ran out of materials for testing Nitrate-Nitrogen. This was crucial to my science fair project, which was of course due on Tuesday. After a momentary half-way break down, I made it through Sunday, but only with much prayer. I knew I was going to be going up against one of the smartest, experienced kids at my school: Hayden Bailey for a chance to compete at state with the science fair.

Monday, I hit the bottom of the barrel. Stress load was getting way on up there, and on the way back upstairs to work on science fair stuff, I dropped my computer a collective distance of about 10 feet which eventually ended with a busted up left edge, cracked screen, and accompanying tearfest.

Tuesday, I left my science fair USB drive at home, but still had to put together most of my board by 4:00 as well as produce my MIA lab report. Needless to say, I was talking to inanimate objects and saying things would die by the swords of a thousand men for the better part of the day. My mom wasn’t home, and I didn’t end up getting the flash drive until about 10 minutes before the fair. Everything was stacking up against me, but as I prayed, things came together. It’s not a day I will soon forget.

Wednesday, after being unable to eat breakfast and feeling like throwing up all morning, I was told I have beaten Hayden. I was going to go to area/state competition.

Thursday, I got news that I had gotten a 1920 on the SAT: enough to get into the college I wanted to.

And Friday, I found out I had made it into GHP — a program only .05% of Georgia’s Sophomores and Juniors are accepted into. I couldn’t have been more happy. All the things that had come against me, and I had been given good news. I am sure that without God, I would not have made it through the week. No way.

But that’s the great thing about God: He ordains our steps.

If I were to be only sure of one thing, it is that God is in control. Sometimes the world spontaneously explodes, and as believers and authors, we just have to take it our stride and… well, act a little crazy to get it all done.

 

Keep soldiering on,

Sarah

You Guys Are Lame So Here’s a History of Band Aids

30 Mar

Well, all of you are lame except for Jessica– who is being promoted far up in the ranks of our little army unlike the rest of you. Good job, Jessica. You aren’t required to read though this history of Band Aids.

“Hello, EEB. Congratulations on the success of your blog! I hate to be a lame follower but… I would love it if you posted random, cool physics and maths on here. But to avoid being completely horrible, I’ll leave a real comment. EEB is truly an entertaining and inspiring site, and I love reading all of you authors’ book ideas and short stories. Everything you all post on here inspires me to continue in my own writing, and I thank you kindly for sharing your ideas and encouragement. Keep up your good work!” - Jessica

Jessica, you get a golden star. Not because you like the blog, but because you actually commented.

gold-star3

Jessica’s Gold Star Because She’s Awesome

Now for the history of Band-Aids (from Wikipedia):

“The Band-Aid was invented in 1920 by Johnson & Johnson employee Earle Dickson for his wife Josephine, who frequently cut and burned herself while cooking.[2] The prototype allowed her to dress her wounds without assistance. Dickson passed the idea on to his employer, which went on to produce and market the product as the Band-Aid. Dickson had a successful career at Johnson & Johnson, rising to vice president before his retirement in 1957.

The original Band-Aids were handmade and not very popular. By 1924, Johnson & Johnson introduced a machine that produced sterilized Band-Aids. In World War II, millions were shipped overseas, helping popularize the product.

In 1951, the first decorative Band-Aids were introduced. They continue to be a commercial success today, with such themes as SupermanSpider-ManHello KittyRocket PowerRugrats,smiley facesBarbieDora the Explorer, and Batman and duck dynasty.

Related J&J products[edit]

Johnson & Johnson also manufactures Band-Aid liquid bandages, Scar Healing bandages, and Burn-Aid, burn gel-impregnated bandages. Their newest products include Active Flex bandages and waterproof Tough Strips.

To protect the name, their trademark, Johnson & Johnson always refers to its products as “Band-Aid brand”, not just Band-Aids.

Manufacturing facilities are located in Brazil, China and Denmark.”

 

Now, the next time you’re asked to comment, do it! Or I shall be forced to post the history behind hair-brushes. Don’t tempt me. I will do it.

Quite a Group You’ve Got Here, Captain.

18 Mar

“Quite the collection of folk you’ve got going here, Captain.”

“What do you mean, sir? Last I checked there were only a few others…”

“You’ve got 50 men and women behind you, lass! Tell me you methods!”

“… well… erhmm… 50? Really? That’s… fantastic. I– err… methods? Just post funny stuff… and meaningful stuff… and writing stuff… and Jesus stuff… and err… well, that seems to work pretty well… sir.”

“Of course. Keep up the good work. I will check back in with you soon.”

“Oh, yes… of course, sir. Anytime, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Image

EEB has reached 50 followers. This is cause for much celebration! We are so happy to have you on the King’s Road with us. In the comments below, tell us a little bit about your own journey on the King’s Road, whether it be related to writing or just to life matters with Christ in general. We’ll choose the top five posts and feature them in our next blog post! If ye be lame and post naught, we will bore you with nothing but physics and algebra for the next year! Try discussing that over campfires in the evenings, will ya!

The Wicket Gate

16 Mar

Brenna: This was the product of an assignment for English class; I was required to write an autobiographical fiction and thus decided, ‘ALL the allegory!’

 

The Wicket Gate

“We’ve been watching you.” The inflectionless words were the first thing to greet Anita upon waking. She didn’t bother to stifle the groan of discomfort she gave at becoming aware of the awkward position she sat in. The metal folding chair wasn’t helping either.

She opened her eyes and sat up gingerly, moving her arms and legs slowly so as not to hurt herself against any restraints. Interestingly enough, there weren’t any. “Well,” she thought, I thought I’d been kidnapped. Now I’m not so sure.

A woman identical to her mother sat across from her, a cheap folding card table between them in the tiny room. The woman had a manila folder full of papers lying on the table before her. She sat with legs crossed at the knee, hands folded under her chin, and elbows resting on the table, composed and non-threatening.

Anita, apparently a victim of kidnapping, took in the room. It was a tiny, hollow, concrete cube, maybe ten feet by ten feet by ten feet. There were two doors behind the woman, one on the left and one on the right, but no visible doorknobs. Anita turned around, looking for another possible escape route–oop, nope, biiiiig scary soldier man in that direction with a biiiiiig scary sword.

Somehow, she ended up behind her mother’s evil clone–or secret twin, or doppelganger, or whatever–cowering in fear, having discovered personal teleportation. “This is not what I was going to be doing today,” Anita thought maniacally.

“Do not fear,” said the soldier, taking a step into the room, plate armor being surprisingly quiet. “WHY IS HE COMING CLOSER I’M GOING TO DIE,” Anita’s thoughts screamed hysterically. He smiled politely. “I come bearing a message.”

Anita found her backbone again and straightened up from her ball-shaped crouch of panic and pointed down at her human shield, who was looking faintly amused, and asked sarcastically, “Did she bring the donuts and coffee, then?”

“Would that I did,” the secret clone answered dryly. “Maybe then you’d be a bit less uncomfortable.”

“Er, yes, speaking of uncomfortable,” Anita said as she returned to the other side of the table and sat down with several nervous glances at the soldier, “would you mind telling me where I am?” She tried to demand it, but the words came out as more of a tentative mumble.

The evil twin gave a perfunctory around the tiny room and then shrugged, relaxed as you please. “Here. It’s not exactly a ‘where’ like you’re probably thinking of. It’s…less of a place and more of an idea.”

Anita sat there looking blank for a long moment. The silence felt like a balloon being blown up as it dragged on, expanding uncomfortably against the walls. “Yeah, no,” she said suddenly, stabbing a pin into the balloon, “that explained exactly nothing.”

The doppelganger shrugged again in the same easy manner. “It doesn’t really matter, anyway. We’re here to talk about this.” She pushed the tidy manila folder across the table so it rested in front of Anita, who kept her hands securely in her lap and did not plan to touch anything she didn’t recognize. “It’s not going to explode or poison you with anthrax or anything else going through that crazy imagination. I promise.”

Anita looked at the woman suspiciously, and then decided to trust her, as there seemed to be nothing else for it. She slowly lifted a hand and set it on the edge of the folder, poised to open it. She glanced at the woman again, who gave a single encouraging nod, and carefully, slowly opened the folder.

A name was printed across the header of the top page. “Hey,” Anita exclaimed confusedly, “that’s my boss!”

“Yes,” the woman said calmly, settling back in her chair. “That’s why we had to snag you off the street unexpectedly. Do go on with your reading.”

Anita peeked behind herself at the soldier, who stood at a sort of parade rest, looking straight ahead at the incredibly interesting wall. She swallowed, trying to force down her nervousness like a mouthful of bile, and returned to the folder. She lifted the top page and read the text on the next. Her eyebrows furrowed deeper and deeper as she moved farther and farther down the page. Abruptly, she looked up and demanded of the secret twin, “Is all this true?”

The doppelganger nodded. “Unfortunately so.”

“He tried to…?” She held up the corner of the page in askance. Another nod. Anita blanched. “No way.”

“It gets worse. I recommend you read it all, and then I have another folder for you to read about my employer.”

“If it’s as bad as this one, I absolutely refuse,” declared Anita, slapping the folder shut and pushing it away.

The woman pushed it back. “Please finish reading it. I think you will find it highly informative. And the information about my employer is infinitely better than that about yours, so there’s nothing to worry about there.”

Anita fiddled with the folder for a moment, biting her lip in distress as she tried to decide. Finally, she threw the folder open and started to read again, with frequent glances at the apparently-not-evil clone to make absolutely positive that this was indeed all correct. Anita’s eyebrows were vivid indicators of the emotions she was experiencing, rising in shock or disbelief and falling in confusion or disgust.

A long moment was spent in the near-silence of nothing but breathing and the quiet turning of pages. Finally, Anita finished. She closed the folder gently and pushed it away. Her mother’s look-alike took it and it disappeared somewhere. Anita folded her arms on the table and rested her forehead on them, taking shaky breaths and struggling against tears induced by a variety of emotions–confusion, shock, fear.

The second promised manila folder made a soft papery sound as the doppelganger set it on the table. “Are you ready to–”

Something slammed against one of the doors behind her, cutting her off with a jarring thud. She turned and frowned at the left door, as though trying to make the intrusion vanish with the power of her mind.

A sibilant and rasping voice slithered under the door. “Anita,” it whispered like a knife, “time to come back…Lucian wants to see you…wants to talk to you about all these lies they’ve been telling…” It was a voice out of an abyss, hinting at slit throats in dark rooms and the color of nightmares.

Anita sat pressed as far back in her chair as she could get, fists tucked up against her collarbone, muttering, “I am not having a total wig out, I am not having a total wig out,” over and over.

The soldier moved quickly across the room, sword at the ready, and shoved the left door open. The space beyond the frame was dark and empty, but not nearly as dark as the thing standing framed there. It was velvet mange and sulfurous yellow eyes and bright jagged teeth, made of shadows and secret thoughts. It took a whispery step forward and Anita whimpered and pressed herself back in her chair, trying to become as small as possible.

The doppelganger looked at her with tight eyes and the corners of her mouth sad. “That’s what your employer looks like, you know, under all the lies.”

The thing hissed and Anita swallowed in response. “Lucian does not lie, Anita. Only these people–” it spat the word “–lie to you. Don’t forget that they kidnapped you.”

The soldier raised his sword and said in a low, threat-filled voice, “Do not twist her heart and mind in this place, dark worker.”

The dark worker leered. “We are only forbidden to physically harm her here.”

Anita had to look away from the two glaring nuclear weapons at each other in the doorway. Her nervously wandering gaze fell on the table before her. There sat the second manila folder. Anita opened it, a motion punctuated by the livid screech of the dark worker. A shudder crawled up and down her spine in response to the abysmal sound. The name printed across the header of the top page was familiar.

Anita thoughtfully tapped the words with finger. “Hey, I know that name. I’ve heard that before. I hear people talking about him sometimes.” She started to read. The dark worker began chanting an unending stream of persuasive lies, trying to claim Anita’s attention, but they went unheard and unheeded.

Every so often, the dark worker would try to enter the room, reaching talon-tipped fingers through the doorway; the soldier repelled it each time with his blade or sometimes with only his gaze. Anita didn’t notice, too engrossed in the amazing works of her kidnappers’ boss. After an incredibly long, astounding read, Anita closed the folder again, tapping the pages neatly into place, a pensive expression painting her features.

“He’s offering you a job, Anita,” the doppelganger said softly, gently. The dark worker wailed in helpless fury. Anita realized dimly that it was the first time the other woman had said her name. “He’s been watching you, and he wants you to work for him.”

Anita looked at her closely, not seeing anything out of place. After a moment, she nodded slowly. “I’d like that,” she said quietly, trying to speak over her shellshock. “I–yes. I want to work for him. I want to work under him.”

“Ha!” The soldier barked triumphantly, and slammed the door in the dark worker’s face, cutting off a litany of remarkably indecent language. “We have her now, and you can do no more!” Anita was surprised, and gave him a funny look. “What?” He asked. “They are serious rivals of ours.”

“Okay, relax,” the doppelganger said with a small smile, standing up and collecting the folder. She turned to Anita and motioned to the right-hand door. “You’re free to go.”

“Will…will it ever look the same to me? Out there?” Anita waved in the vicinity of the door.

The woman smiled softly and sadly. “No. It will never look the same. But you will learn how to move within it and hold onto what you know at the same time. The dark workers are out there, but now you’ve seen them, you can spot their lies, and we will teach you to combat them. And someday, when he decides you are ready, our employer will tell you exactly what to do. Until then, keep learning. Keep improving. Just remember, no matter how badly you mess up, we are always here to help. Now, go. We have others to contact.” She pushed the door open, holding it there for Anita.

Anita glanced over her shoulder at the soldier, who grinned at her. She turned back and looked at the woman, who returned the searching glance. “Okay,” Anita said finally. “Okay. I’m ready. I can do this.”

She walked out the door and onto the straight, narrow path beyond.

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