Books and Movies, Musings

More Than Just Books

“I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry. Don’t cry. You won’t be able to stop. Don’t start.”

It seems like lately I’ve walked into many places thinking this. I get anxious before tests and decision making, two things I have been doing quite a bit lately. But I don’t often leave a place with this running through my head. There was no crushing medical diagnosis. No loss of a much needed job. No one died. You may laugh, but I was leaving the library. I’ve been volunteering there for over a year now, and this afternoon was probably my last day. I’m starting college next week.

When I told the children’s librarian that this was my last day she smiled and said “Well, I guess I knew you would get a life some day.” But I didn’t work at the library because I didn’t have a life. I worked there because I loved it,library and it was part of my life. It was a hard year for me. I was figuring out life. Who I am. I was hard on myself, even cruel at times. My future went from set and definite to this current state of flux and uncertainty I’m in now. But no matter how rough of a week I was having, or how tired I was, every week I would have the library. Two hours when it didn’t matter what else I did with my life. All that mattered was that J comes before K and 4 comes before 5. It reminds me of in A Wrinkle in Time how Meg goes through the multiplication tables to calm down, because it is steady and unchanging. Alphabetizing and shelving books is the same for me. There’s nothing trivial about it, Bab goes before Bac, and when it feels like your world is doing backflips, that is a very comforting thought.

When the branch manager heard that I was going to school she said “Isn’t this enough education for you?” We all laughed, but I learned so much in those two hours a week. I’ve never really kept any kind of job that wasn’t super flexible for a very long time. Even though I could tell them I couldn’t come one week or that I needed to change from Friday to Thursday, I was still expected on a certain day, at a certain time, unless otherwise specified. I took debate and bible quiz, but those were both things that I did in school and I couldn’t change the time that classes and meetings were. Volunteering was the first thing I did where I was in charge of deciding I was going to do something, and then do it. It sounds weird, but I kind of learned how to adult. I was expected to be grown up. I was expected to not make a mistake. I was expected to straighten up other people’s mistakes when I noticed them. I learned that I can be liked by people who don’t have to like me. Maybe these are both odd things to learn from working for free at a library, but that’s where I learned them.

I can’t believe I’m starting school on Monday. It will be an adventure unlike any I’ve ever taken. I’ve traveled alone all over the country. I’ve witnessed firsthand the birth of 3 of my siblings. I’ve been pseudo-mom to around 20 girls. Getting up in the morning, driving, sitting through classes of more than 10 people, studying, and interacting with people I’m not related to on a daily basis. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle this, but I bet I’ll end up back at the library.

Books and Movies, Musings

Read It And Weep

I talk about books all the time. We know this by now, I hope. Honestly though, if you think it is bad online, you should see me in person. Sometimes, if there is a really awkward silence, I will just randomly ask someone if they have read A Wrinkle In Time. But I haven’t always had this relationship with words.

I’ve never been tested, but I’m positive I have some sort of learning disability, and possibly a bit of dyslexia. I didn’t read independently until I was about 9 or 10 years old. Mom did everything “right”. We had books everywhere. She read to me. I knew my alphabet. Heck, in college she majored in journalism and Dad majored in history. There was no lack of joanofarcexposure to books of all kinds. Mom started working with me when I was about 6, but it just frustrated me. We played the phonics game, read the Bob books, and all kinds of variations of the two. I remember her writing out the words of a Bob book on 4×6 index cards one word at a time because those three words were too overwhelming.

She was incredibly patient. Eventually, she just left me alone. The books were still there. She would still read to my younger sisters, but didn’t force me to join. Every once in a while we’d work on it again, but for the most part, Mom just let me be. And that is when it clicked. I remember distinctly. One day I opened up the Dorling Kindersley reader version of Joan of Arc, and I just read it. I was kind of surprised, but I just read. Soon after that I started writing poetry, and jumped straight to thick chapter books (A Wrinkle In Time being my first favorite.)

This is how school always was for me. Mom would sweat over it for a little while, try to teach me, but in the end, I learned on my own, on my own time. Not during a set school time. Not with a set school book. Not with a set teaching tool or lesson plan. She figured this out, and pretty much left me alone. We were talking about it a few weeks ago after I got back some test scores, and I really only did about 3 years worth of actual schoolwork in those 12 years I was “in school”. And yet, I’ve never really gotten what you would call “bad marks” when I’ve tested.

So, to the moms who are stressing out over their kid’s academics, don’t. Sometimes they don’t need a different curriculum or a more strict lesson plan. Sometimes they just need space. Your child is learning about life, maybe they need that more than multiplication right now. Keep the books around, but don’t push them. And for all that is good and decent, do not take away the fun. Let them play. Playing is learning how to live. Books will come later. You are doing a great job. Just keep loving your child and getting to know them.

Books and Movies, Musings, Short

Desperately Complete

Well, I did it. I finished An Acceptable Time. I’m kind of sad about it.

It’s not that it ended poorly. In all honesty, it’s only partially because it is the last book. It’s a series I started when I was somewhere around 9 or 10 years old. That’s actually about how long I’ve been blogging, now that I think about it. I’ve been reading it for most of the time that I can remember. And now it’s over.

It feels kind of like letting go of my last ties to childhood. It’s funny though. I still read a lot of kid’s books and watch kid’s TV shows. Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite books. I was excited when I finally got “Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” from the library, and I plan to buy a copy for myself.

But even though I fangirl about Doctor Who, watch My Little Pony, and quote Princess Bride (and feel no shame about any of them), I can talk for hours about the need for Grace, what we can learn from and the fantastic literacy of the book of Revelation, or why we should be joyful. I realized the other day while playing a storytelling game that I have little to no desire to write fiction anymore. There are so many real things to write about, plus I’m kind of particular about stories and I can’t ever make one quite right.  I am finding that I love these things that I used to feel such an intense, burning indifference for (name that song).

So, why does this one thing feel like such a big turning point when this change has been happening for a long time? I really don’t know. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Sitting here, finished with high school, looking for a job, thinking about college, I can’t help but feel a desperate sense of completion. Finished with childhood and determined to start life.

I’m not sure how that works, but that is how it feels. Desperately complete.

Books and Movies, Musings

The End

You may not know this about me, I haven’t really talked about it much, but I have a love-hate relationship with endings. A good ending will leave me in a good mood for days. Whereas a bad one can make me mad at the world.

I like happy endings. The Guy get The Girl, the Baddie gets got, all is well in the world, and there is obviously more going to happen after you read the last page. It’s like, when you open a book you open a window to a different world. If, when you close the book, the world seems go on behind the pages, that is a good ending. Even though I don’t like books that are too realistic (unless very well written, like Scarlet Pimpernel or Kidnapped), I like an ending that is more like a beginning. Because that’s how life really is. It may be an ending of one part of life, but it goes on after that.

I finished a book like that last night. As always when you pick up a good book, you entered a new world. This time it was a world of books piled high, mysterious men, and scared little girls. There was no way of knowing who to trust, too many strange things were going on. It was wonderful. I often get sucked into books and forget that I am reading, in Inkheart it was so much more vivid. Like it was really happening. Some of the plotlines were predictable, but enough weren’t that it made everything suspect. If I ever do another What To Read list, Inkheart will most certainly be on it. The end felt more like a beginning. I guess that makes sense, since it is the first in a trilogy, but this was even more so than most I’ve read. It was enchanting.

I got another book from the library yesterday. It is one that I have been waiting for years to read. I have a habit of getting overly attached to series by dead authors. When I was around 10, I had just caught on to reading on my own and I went straight to “tough” books. Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and A Wrinkle in Time. I stumbled through Jane Austin and slowly picked at Alcott, but I devoured Madeleine L’Engle. Even her name is more intriguing. After years of wanting to read the last book in the series, I found a copy of An Acceptable Time at the library. I got home and cried. How will it end? I almost don’t want to read it, just because then it won’t end. It reminds me of an exchange on The Shop Around the Corner:

Alfred Kralik (played by the dashing Jimmy Stewart): Pirovitch, did you ever get a bonus?

Pirovitch: Yes, once.

Alfred Kralik: Yeah. The boss hands you the envelope. You wonder how much is in it, and you don’t want to open it. As long as the envelope’s closed, you’re a millionaire.

I like how the BBC series, Robin Hood ended. I’ve heard so many people talk about how terrible it is, but I love it. Marian dies at the end of season two.  For a few fleeting moments they are wed, and she dies a beautiful death, in the arms of Robin. On the very last episode Robin dies too. He lies alone in the forest, and just as he begins to slip away, he sees Marian walking over the hill. Beautiful.

And then I wonder about my life. Part of me wants to have a dramatic and beautiful death. Actually, that part of me is a pretty big one. Something like Marian’s. But then, a nice quiet death after a life full of love and adventure sounds… nice. 

Books and Movies, Musings

What to Read?

I don’t think you have to read my blog for very long to notice I love books.

It really makes me sad when people can’t find good ones for their kids. Now, I totally understand the lack of good children’s literature these days. It’s getting harder and harder to find clean books for pre-teens and young teens. Judging by their age they could be reading Young Adult over in the Teen section, but then you go over there and it’s all zombies, vampires, end of the world and forbidden love. Nothing against you if you like that kind of stuff, I’m just of the opinion that this is not appropriate, especially for kids of this age.

So what can they read? My favorite books of course.

Don’t laugh. I’m not being arrogant. It just happens that most of my favorite books are considered Juvenile Fiction at our library. I’m quite serious. I’ve found that the best books are the old “young people’s books.”

They are mostly innocent, generally old (there are some exceptions), sometimes challenging, usually epic and always worth your time.

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This is pretty much my favorite one on the list. Most people know the story of the March girls so I’m not going to go into much detail. Suffice it to say this is a great book for and about strong girls.

2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Fiery redheaded Anne. Another book that is near and dear to so many people. The story of an orphan girl who goes to live with an old maid and her bachelor brother has charmed young girls for over a hundred years. While she can be a drama queen, I love how she sees the poetry in ordinary life. Another book in my list of/for strong girls.

3. A Wrinkle In Time (book 1# of the Time Quartet) by Madeleine L’Engle

This is one series I have read over and over again, main reason being because I love Sci-fi and books with strong, complex heroines. Meg Murry is the oldest child of two geniuses, and the older sister of yet another, while she is about average in most ways. There are so many things about this book that I love.  The explanation and expectation of quantum physics? The fact that she actually has a good home life? Meg’s relationship with Calvin that stays sweet without getting overly romantic?  Another thing, I love it when the evil is obviously wicked. I like for the good guy to wear a white hat and the bad guy to wear a black hat. It’s fine for their minions to not be so apparent, but I want to know who I’m rooting for. I’ve just gotta say, there is an exceptionally short list of books I have read more than once, but this and the rest of the series are on that list. I could go on for a long time about how much I love this book, seriously, just go read it (or listen to it on Grooveshark!). This is not just for girls by the way.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Does this series really need an introduction? Most of us start our journey to the fantastic land of Narnia with four children sent out to the country to escape the air raids in London. Although I have mostly listened to the audio book,  this is another series I have read/heard many times.

5. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

Another one that requires little discription. This is the precursor to the Lord of The Rings trilogy, the story of how Bilbo Baggins gets the ring in the first place. My reason for putting it on this list instead of the Trilogy is because it is more of a fairytale than the others. If you feel that your child is mature enough I would definitely recommend the rest of the books as well.

6. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

I had several, unrelated, unacquainted people tell me to read this book. It’s a very basic fairytale, which is what I love about it.

7. Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Another one of my favorites. I have a thing for whimsy and surreality. The colorful world he creates for Alice to venture off to in her dreams is just he kind of place I love to read about.

8. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

High adventure in the Highlands. A young boy finds out he is the true heir of an estate is sold to pirates and shipwrecked, only to take arms with a Jacobite rebel and journey across Scotland to regain his rightful inheritance. Wha! It’s just exciting to think about!

9. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

A good classic adventure story about a family’s life after being shipwrecked on a tropical island.

Something about leaving that at 9 bothers me, but to stick with only my favorites for this age range it will have to stay that way.  There are many others I could list that are perfectly fine and clean, but I just don’t care for them. A very short list of books that are fine but bore me: Caddie Woodlawn, The Little House books, The Secret Garden, Pilgrim’s Progress. I know, I’m a bad Christian and a bad homeschooler.

Most of these books are in the Juvenile Fiction section of the library, and yes, I still read them and love them. I have no intention of growing up and losing my imagination or sense of wonder.