All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light The title alone captured my attention when I first read about the highly acclaimed novel, All the Light We Cannot See. The title aptly captures the parallel stories of orphan boy Werner and blind Marie-Laure. The two children grow up in the face of World War II and their paths meet briefly, each of them impacting the other.

Lyrical prose, a stirring story, a hidden jewel. It didn't take long for the story to grab me and not let go. Anthony Doerr's writing is some of the most exquisite I've ever read. The characters captured my heart and imagination. Moving back and forth in time the narrative switches between Werner and Marie-Laure's stories until the climatic moment when their lives collide.

I loved how Doerr weaves other famous pieces of art into his story. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is an important "story within a story" that mirrors the action, to some degree, of his characters. Marie-Laure reads the novel throughout her World War II years, and the climax of Twenty Thousand Leagues parallels the climax in All the Light We Cannot See. Also, Marie-Laure's great-uncle plays Clair de Lune for a few minutes over the illegal wireless after transmitting some numbers to the French resistance. After her great-uncle is no longer able to transmit over the wireless, Marie-Laure starts reading Twenty Thousand Leagues over the wireless instead. The music and story serve as an encouragement and inspiration to survive for a trapped Werner and his comrade.

Clair de Lune and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea are used as means of fighting the darkness and despair for Marie-Laure and her great-uncle. They might seem odd choices, but they push back against the night with their beauty. They remind people of a life worth living. All the Light We Cannot See reminded me of the story of Vedran Smailovic, the "Cellist of Sarajevo," who in an act of defiance played his cello for 22 days on the site of a mortar blast in memory of the 22 civilians it killed. It reminded me how art can inspire, fight, and be a light against darkness.

The story of the "Cellist of Sarajevo" also inspired Sara Groves' song Why it Matters. And I think it captures the spirit of at least one message contained within All the Light We Cannot Seethat we all have a choice to dissent participating in darkness, that we can instead spread light, even if doing so seem very small and insignificant.

Sit with me and tell me once again Of the story that's been told us Of the power that will hold us Of the beauty, of the beauty Why it matters

Speak to me until I understand Why our thinking and creating Why our efforts of narrating About the beauty, of the beauty And why it matters

Like the statue in the park Of this war torn town And it's protest of the darkness And the chaos all around With its beauty, how it matters How it matters

Show me the love that never fails The compassion and attention Midst confusion and dissention Like small ramparts for the soul How it matters

Like a single cup of water How it matters

Why it Matters, -Sara Groves

 For those of you who read All the Light We Cannot See, what did you think?

Inspire: Women Who Create | Ainsley Arment Interview

InspireLogo Last September I had the opportunity to go with good friends to the Wild + Free Conference. It was a refreshing and inspiring time. I wrote about my experience here. I met the founder of Wild + Free, Ainsley Arment while we were there and started following her on Instagram. It's been amazing to watch the Wild + Free community grow through Instagram. It is a community largely made up of homeschoolers, although that is not a necessity and not every participant homeschools. Ainsley came to mind when thinking about Women Who Create because she is cultivating a community through Instagram, conferences, and digital media that is quite inspiring to me. I hope you will find her inspiring too!

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce us to your family?

I was born on the campus of West Point in New York and graduated from college in Greensboro, NC followed by a few years outside of D.C. and Atlanta. Other than that, I’ve lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for all my life. I don’t feel like I’m home unless I’ve got sand between my toes and saltwater on my lips. I live here with my husband Ben, our four children Wyatt (10), Dylan (8), Cody (5) and Annie (2), along with a Pomeranian named Clementine we rescued from the highway. We’re expecting our fifth child, another little girl, this August.

What influenced you to begin your homeschooling journey?

I put my oldest two boys in the public school system when they were in kindergarten and first grade and they did great. But after having them gone for most of the day, I realized I was missing out on the most formative moments of their lives. I wanted to be a bigger part of it. Plus, I started seeing their dispositions change, and it wasn't always good. I didn't feel the need to protect them from other people per se. I wanted to preserve their sense of wonder, their innocence and their uninhibited view of themselves.

How did you become inspired to create a conference for homeschool moms? How does the Wild + Free Conference differ from most of the other conferences out there for homeschoolers?

Wild + Free has been an unexpected journey. I started posting my own homeschool photos on Instagram and quickly saw there was huge resonance among other mothers out there. The conference was our first attempt to gather this community, and it was a great time. I’ve never attended another homeschool conference, so I’m not sure how it differs. I suspect our community is more focused on what we call intentional parenting and raising free-range children. Plus, we just have some really great women in this community. =)

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You’ve mentioned that Instagram was influential in igniting the idea of the Wild + Free conference; can you tell us some more about that?

Everything we do comes out of the community we’re building on Instagram. It’s a place where homeschool mothers from all over the world can connect and encourage each other. The conference is an important but very, very small part of what we’re all about.

How did the quote, “All good things are wild and free” become the quote to inspire the Wild + Free community?

I’ve always loved this quote from Henry David Thoreau. He said it many times in a lecture called “Walking,” which contends that our experience in the civilized world needs to be balanced with the wild. We believe this to be true of our children. So much is lost in their character and experience when they’re confined to sterile classroom environments.

What do you hope women who attend the conference walk away with when they leave?

We certainly want them to walk away with practical homeschool insights and favorite practices. But most of all, we went them to come away with deep friendships. Homeschooling is often a lonely endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a flourishing community of women who are eager to support and encourage each other.

Putting together a conference seems like a big task! Did you have experience in organizing events prior to Wild + Free? What have been the biggest challenges and joys in putting together this conference?

No way! I’m just a mother of four, soon to be five, who is trying to figure it out as I go along. On top of that, I’m an extreme introvert who gets worn out quickly by social interaction. But now that we’ve organized one conference, I know what NOT to do. =) I couldn’t pull this off without the help of so many wonderful friends and supporters, and that’s the best part of it – the friendships I’ve made. We’re not experts, but we’re in this together. The experiences are going to get better and better the more we do.

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You also put out Wild + Free monthly bundles. I’ve bought two and they are beautifully photographed with great interviews, recipes, ideas for book clubs, and nature journal inspiration. Why did you decide to create bundles on top of putting together an annual conference?

I’m not good at a lot of things, but one thing I love to do is collect, research and curate things. The Content Bundles are a wonderful way for me to serve the homeschool community with my own gifts. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t write or photograph many of the pieces at all. I leave that to the women out there who are so gifted with words and images. But I love bringing it all together into a beautiful collection each month.

What hopes do you have for the future of the Wild + Free conference?

We’re taking this one step at a time. It’s all I can do to homeschool, curate the Content Bundles and care for my own family. But we do have some big plans for the conference. You’ll find out more on the Wild + Free Instagram feed soon.

When you’re not busy homeschooling or working on Wild + Free, what do you like to do in your free time? What inspires you personally right now?

I don’t have much time outside of homeschooling and Wild + Free, but when it comes to love languages, I’m a quality timer, so I love spending time with my husband and kids. We go to the beach a lot in the summertime and play lots of games by the fireplace in the winter. I’m a voracious reader, so I read novels every chance I get. But I also keep a garden in the backyard where I’m learning to grow our own food.

Thank you Ainsley for sharing with us today!

Ainsley would like to offer any of my readers your own FREE Wild + Free content bundle to check out! You can download it here.

For more information, you can follow Ainsley and discover more about the Wild + Free Community online in the following places:

Wild + Free Website Wild & Free Instagram Ainsley Arment's Instagram

3 Ways to Prepare for Easter Together

I cut dogwood limbs from the tree in the front yard. Knobby grey buds are still tight, not yet ready to open. Taking my distressed blue stool that my husband found discarded along the side of the road, I tuck it into a corner of the dining room. Pulling my earthenware pitcher down from the shelf, I place it on the stool. The dogwood limbs go into the jug, along with some water.

The branches are now ready to decorate. We’re getting ready for Easter.

As my children have grown I’ve looked for ways to involve them in celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection in tangible, hands-on ways. Ways that build up to Easter morning, so that they have a clear idea as to why we celebrate. The following are some ideas that have become traditions in our home that our kids look forward to every year.

To find out more, read the entire article over at Ungrind.org.

(Image Credit: Ungrind.org)

Easter Books for Children {For the Family}

For a bookish family such as ours, celebrating a holiday means reading about a holiday. Christmas has many literary traditions attached to it: think A Christmas Carol, the Christmas scene in Little Women, The Night Before Christmas.

Easter, not so much.

However, I’ve discovered some wonderful faith-based picture books that share the story of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection, with young children. Some are retellings from Scripture, others are legends, fiction, or explain the history of the Easter symbols. The following is a list of books that I either own or I check out from our local library every year to help us celebrate the Easter holiday.

To find out what books I recommend, continue to For the Family.

Daily Moments

Blog commenting has gotten a lot more quiet in recent years. In part, that's because a lot of the discussion has moved to other social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. My favorite social media by far is Instagram, with Pinterest coming in second. I follow my real life friends as well as those whose images and lives I find inspiring, despite not know them personally. Where Twitter feels impersonal, Facebook too combative, Instagram is just right. The perfect combination of words and pictures.

Although I do have the goal of picking up my "big girl camera" to document life this year a bit more than I did last year, my iphone is always on me and perfect to capture the daily moments that would otherwise be lost. I also link to my posts here and articles on other sites, if you're interested in following my writing.

I would love my blog friends to feel free to follow me on Instagram @danielleajones. Although it is private I will happily add you to my feed once I'm sure I'm not being spammed. Since my feed includes images of my kids at times, I want to make sure I know who's following me. That way I can find and follow you too!

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“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” -Aaron Siskind

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