A Long Time Ago in a Faraway Place…

by Betty Thomason Owens

A long time ago in a faraway place…

Sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, doesn’t it? I can imagine scrunching down in my bed, getting ready to hear a wonderful story that helps me drift off to sleep. A story filled with marvelous things, like fairies…and princesses and kings.

What story do you read or tell on Christmas Eve? What story beckons to your imagination? “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” Many of us know that one by heart.

Then there’s the story of the animals that spoke at midnight on Christmas Eve. And the true story of the Christ child, born to Mary in Bethlehem, a long time ago…a faraway place. Shepherds came in from the fields, sent by an angelic host. The three wise men arrived, bearing strange gifts. The Christ child cooed in his makeshift cradle—a manger—a humble beginning for a king.

Leonardo DaVinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

The magic of Christmas glows in our hearts. The traditional telling, whether we read it or say it from memory, passes on the tradition of belief. And belief lends strength to the hearer. How will they hear unless someone speaks the message? How will they believe if no one teaches?

It may have all the earmarks of a fairy tale, but it’s grounded in truth. We’ve fictionalized it over the years, but the facts remain. If you open the Bible and read it directly from the Word of God, you find truth that touches hearts and ignites a fire within.

So plant the seeds of faith in your children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends. Tell the story, or read it aloud to them. Share the faith that burns in your heart because someone shared it with you. And never forget the Christ child born in a manger, who grew up to change the world.

May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and holiday celebration. Peace on earth, good-will to men!

Betty Thomason Owens

What’s Your Favorite Christmas Movie?

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By Jennifer Hallmark

I love November and December! The holidays bring our family together sharing traditions, conversation, and good food. We enjoy shopping, riding around our community to spy out new Christmas decorations, and winter sports. Something I look forward to each year is watching my favorite Christmas movies and shows.

A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott is classic Dickens. The portrayal of Scrooge is masterfully done. Two scenes stand out to me. The scene with a homeless family sitting in the cold eating potatoes that had fallen off a wagon. Then the creepy specter of Christmas yet to come, especially where Scrooge sees his own gravesite.

Christmas cartoons I love include Frosty the Snowman with Jimmy Durante, and Jackie Vernon, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with Burl Ives, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. My favorite is Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Boris Karloff.

White Christmas is a beloved family film and my daughter’s must see Christmas movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart and Donna Reed is another classic holiday film.its_a_wonderful_life

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

Writing Prompt: Jenna turned on the television and within moments tears formed. Not again. The last evening she spent with Lyle they’d watched…

Civil Resistance through the Published Word

Twitter. Facebook. You Tube. We live in a now society. Nothing can happen without being captured on a smart phone. Instant access is available everywhere. Anyone can start a blog or website to express their opinion.

In the past, it wasn’t this way. People were often jailed for their opinions or worse. A few weeks ago, I wrote about John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrims Progress, and spent much time in prison for his opinion of the state-run church.

Writers in the past discovered the use of popular storytelling as a way to express beliefs or cry against injustice. These novels, so deeply wrought with the sentiments of their author, often became best-sellers and are 471px-Animal_Farm_artworkviewed today as classic literature. Three that I want to bring to your attention are Animal Farm by George Orwell, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

Animal Farm was published in August 1945 after being repeatedly turned down by publishers. It is the most blatant work of protest of the three, exposing and strongly condemning what Orwell saw as the Stalinist corruption of the original socialist ideals. Many publishers were actually “encouraged” by government officials to steer clear of the work. It was published in 1945 to mixed reviews and four years later he wrote another novel decrying government entitled “1984.”
In the preface, Orwell also described the source of the idea of setting the book on a farm:
I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.

A Christmas Carol is a novella written by Charles Dickens and published in December of 1843. Its publication met with instant success. The tale has been viewed by critics as an indictment of 19th-century industrial capitalism. It has been credited with restoring the holiday to one of merriment and festivity in Britain and America after a period of sobriety and somberness. A Christmas Carol remains popular, has never been out of print, and has been adapted to film, stage, opera, and other media multiple times. 388px-The_Last_of_the_Spirits-John_Leech,_1843

As a child, Dickens’ father was jailed and Charles was forced to quit school and work in a factory. The poor conditions and child labor deeply affected him. Dickens was keenly touched by the lot of poor children in the middle decades of the 19th century. He began to speak for the children and considered writing a pamphlet describing their plight.

In a fund-raising speech on 5 October 1843 at the Manchester Athenæum (a charitable institution serving the poor), Dickens urged workers and employers to join together to combat ignorance with educational reform, and realized in the days following that the most effective way to reach the broadest segment of the population with his social concerns about poverty and injustice was to write a deeply-felt Christmas narrative rather than polemical pamphlets and essays. It was during his three days in Manchester, he conceived the plot of A Christmas Carol.

He wrote to Dr. Southwood Smith saying, “You will certainly feel that a Sledge hammer has come down with twenty times the force – twenty thousand times the force – I could exert by following out my first idea.” [Speaking of switching the original pamphlet to a novel] And he was right. A Christmas Carol was but the first of many works protesting the conditions of the poor in England.

Our last classic of civil resistance is surprisingly about a horse,  Black Beauty. Written in December of 1877 by Anne Sewell, it became an immediate bestseller, and with 50 million copies sold, is one of the best-selling books of all times. While forthrightly teaching animal welfare, it also teaches how to treat people with kindness, sympathy, and respect.page1-363px-Black_Beauty_(1877)_djvu

Anne Sewell said that her purpose in writing the novel was “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.” Her sympathetic portrayal of the plight of working animals led to a vast outpouring of concern for animal welfare and is said to have been instrumental in abolishing the cruel practice of using the checkrein (or “bearing rein”, a strap used to keep horses’ heads high, fashionable in Victorian England but painful and damaging to a horse’s neck). Black Beauty also contains two pages about the use of blinkers on horses, concluding that this use is likely to cause accidents at night due to interference with “the full use of” a horse’s ability to “see much better in the dark than men can.”

A young woman, who lived in poor health, and died only five months after the publication of her only novel forever changed the way people treated horses. The “bearing rein” was abolished in England and other legislature introduced in England and the United States to stop cruelty to horses.

The list is long of classic novels that speak through civil resistance in book form including Uncle Tom’s Cabin. When you write, do you consider addressing relevant issues in society and religion? Many of the classic writers did and were persecuted for it. But their work still stands today.

Today’s writing prompt: Think of an issue that deeply affects you: abused animals, civil war in third-world countries, or maybe prejudice in the work place. Write a short story and pour your feelings about the issue into it.

Financial Vocations

In the month of August, we will discuss vocations, beginning with today’s post on Financial Vocations. I chose three positions with similarities:

Bookkeeper, Accountant, Comptroller

Many confuse bookkeepers with accountants. If you call an accountant a bookkeeper, you may want to duck. If you call a bookkeeper an accountant in the presence of an accountant, get your apology ready. Of course I’m only teasing, but there are clear differences between the two. A bookkeeper does not always need a degree. An accountant has a degree and is usually certified (I’ll get into that later).
Public Domain
The bookkeeper is “the keeper of the books,” which refers to the financial books. They may go by other titles, such as: accounting clerk, accounts receivable analyst, accounts payable analyst, accounting technician. Their job is to record and perform daily transactions. Sales and purchases are tracked via receipts and invoices. These tasks, once performed manually, are most often done through accounting systems. 
If you are a historical writer, your clerks will handwrite entries in ledgers and journals, then total the columns on each page. It is their job to make sure these columns balance. The manual system of bookkeeping is less common today, but was used well into the twentieth century. These journals resemble your checkbook transaction register. Robert “Bob” Cratchit, fictional clerk for Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, undoubtedly used the manual journaling system.

Per Webster’s Dictionary: Accounting is the system of recording and summarizing business and financial transactions and analyzing, verifying, and reporting the results; also: the principles and procedures of accounting.

Accountants are most often employed in the commerce industries, where their expertise is needed in making financial decisions. The accounting position requires a college degree and certification. The certificates vary, depending on their state of residence or the area of their expertise. The Certified Public Accountant or CPA, provides services to the public. If you have a Real Estate Investment Company and own multiple properties, you will probably need to have a CPA on retainer to audit your books and file your taxes. 
In some states, the PA or Public Accountant is similar to the CPA, but they are not certified to do audits or reviews. The CMA (Certified Management Accountant) works directly for an employer. There is also CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) and ABA (Accredited Business Advisor). These are all degreed positions that require certification and updated education (recertification).
The main purpose of the accountant is to audit journal entries and business processes. They give oversight to the position of the bookkeeper and prepare and file annual reports and taxes. 
The Comptroller (pronounced controller) or Financial Controller is a management-level position requiring a degree and ongoing certification. The comptroller supervises the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization, including government entities. The name comptroller evolved from fifteenth century French “Compte” (an account) and Middle English “Countreroller,” which is someone who checks a copy of a scroll. From the French “contreroule,”or “counter-roll” (copy of a scroll) “compteroller,” who specializes in checking financial ledgers. Comptroller is often mispronounced phonetically. 
The comptroller is an accounting and audit expert charged with implementation and monitoring of internal controls and should not be confused with the Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) or Chief Financial Officer (CFO). 

Research for this article includes the following: