Books and Movies, Musings

This Is Real Life, And It Is An Epic

Every heart has a story to tell
Some dreams have wings, some are torn at the seams
and just sit there on the shelf
If you were to walk in my shoes
You’d see we are all the same
So find the love inside yourself
Cause every heart has a story to tell
This is my heart
This is my story to tell

I really love Pandora. I have found two of my favorite songs by using it. This is the chorus of Every Heart, and it perfectly exemplifies something that’s been rolling around in my brain for a while. I touched on it several months ago, but I think this is an idea that warrants a closer look.

Stories are incredibly powerful things, and I’m not really sure how to describe them. What *is* a story? If pressed for a short answer, I would say it’s a string of related thoughts having to do with and describing an event. But they are so much more than that. They are life. I don’t just mean stories from 10660227_730463573675003_2572696761722264010_nhistory either. But my life is nothing like a storybook. It’s boring. All I do is go to work, eat, and hang out at home. Stop. I mean it. That is no way to talk about an epic masterpiece.

What do you look for in a strong character? You look for complexity, depth, emotion. You look for things that make it real. To the characters in stories, their world is just as real to them as ours is to us. You sit in McDonalds and drink a Dr. Pepper. They sit in an inn and drink a pint (“They come in pints?”) It’s kind of like what I say about the news. Just because something bad is reported on tv doesn’t mean it is a common thing. In fact, if it were common, it wouldn’t be worth noting. [Note: This isn’t strictly true, especially in cases regarding social justice issues.  I’m referring to things like buildings collapsing or people finding anacondas in their bathrooms.] Stories don’t often dwell on the mundane parts of a character’s life. They skim over the irellevent stuff and focus on the important details. We have the luxury of seeing only the good bits. The character doesn’t get that. They have to work their way through life, and they don’t know the outcome. Just like us. They don’t know which details are the important ones, they can make a guess, but there’s no way to know for sure. Just like us. 

But what’s the point of telling your story if you don’t know where it’s going to end? What’s the point of waiting? Do you read the last page of a book before you even begin reading the first chapter? I used to think that my story was boring. I grew up in a fairly normal family. Nothing exceptionally tragic has ever happened. But two things happen when you begin telling your tale.

You find out what makes you special. If you never talk about your life with other people, they can’t give you feedback and tell you how weird you are. I knew having 5 siblings wasn’t normal, but I didn’t know living in 5 different states was remarkable. My dad was in the military, moving was normal until I talked to people who had lived in the same state, same town, or even the same house, their entire lives. 

 You find out that you are not alone. Whatever you think may make you an outcast, or unloveable, or weird, someone else is dealing with too. But until you start talking and opening up, both of you will think you are the only person that feels that way. This is why we have fandoms. If we didn’t talk about loving Firefly, we would think we were the only ones obsessing over a bunch of space cowboys. If we didn’t talk about the damage that fundamentalist mindsets do, people would keep getting hurt by them and think they were the ones in the wrong. But since we talk about it, we can find each other.

When you look at your life as a story, it’s easier to see personal progress. As I said in A Bubbling Brook, a well written character changes. You may not catch it, change often happens gradually. There isn’t always an ultimatum.  Just like in a story, you notice those in real life. That sudden instant of realization. Sure, these moments may be turning points, but you don’t just turn without preparing. If you did that while driving, you’d flip the car. If you do that while singing, your voice will probably crack. Without your consent or knowledge, your life so far is leading up to something. Don’t speak disparagingly about what will be your success story. 

Books and Movies

Volumes of Rows

A young woman wandered through the shelves that seemed to go on and on for an eternity. Now and then, sliding a volume into the rows. It was slow business. Finding the home of each soft leather or crinkled paper binding. She had been walking for hours, but time never seemed to move. The soft carpet and reams of paper dampered any and all sounds. It was peaceful.

book_cover_66

The books never seemed to run out, and the silence never seemed to end. The monotony began to make her feel uncomfortable, she hummed quietly.

She walked on, humming and sliding books into place. There was a creak behind her, like the sound of paper being compressed and then quickly released. She whirled around, only to find a single large book lying open on the floor several yards behind her. Curious, she slowly made her way back to it. There had been no sound of it dropping. She looked at the pages. There were few words and a place were a picture had once been, but was recently erased. Carefully closing the book, she slipped it back into position and carried on with her stack.

On and on, row after row. All was silent for what felt like hours. Then, a rustle of pages, but nothing to see. She started walking faster.  A quiet footfall. She looked, the sound was gone. Faster. A brush of fibers on a shelf.  Running. Another creak. She stopped, but didn’t turn around. Warm, moist air puffed against the back of her neck. Heart racing, immobile, she stood with her eyes shut. Her armload of books tumbled to the ground, and her knees sank to the floor.

The breathing stopped as she turned to face her tormentor. Behind her lay the large book, again, lying open on the floor. She crawled to it, hoping for an answer, but only finding the same few words and missing picture. As she looked at the words, they swam around the page. Never holding still long enough to be read. Slowly leaning in to get a better view and trying to make sense of the markings. She found her hands attempting to grasp the words. A tear dripped onto the page. The words flocked to the drop, and were still just long enough for her to read them. “Beware the empty page.”

A rustle of paper. A suppressed scream. The page was no longer empty.

Books and Movies, Musings, Short

A Boring Character

I often find myself in a position of slight self pity because I don’t have an epic story. I have grown up in a Christian family, I was saved at a young age. I don’t have one of those dramatic testimonies. I am making peace with that. It’s a work in progress. The fact that even someone who isn’t all that bad still needs Jesus is what I have to keep reminding myself of.

But this lack of back-story has also made me frustrated for other reasons. If I were a character in a story, I would not get to be the one that goes off to battle, even though she is a woman. That is always a character that has some tragic back-story.

Eowyn was an orphan raised in her uncle’s court. She went through the pain of losing her parents and her cousin, having her brother exiled and seeing her uncle become poisoned and possessed. She was able to go off to war with the army. She did what no man could do.

Then I think of Maid Marian. In the BBC version of the story,  as the sheriff’s daughter, she was raised as a lady. She didn’t have rough life. It wasn’t until Robin left and Sir Guy took over that Marian became an interesting character. Nothing happened to her. She saw what was happening to others and acted. She took care of the townspeople. It wasn’t her own pain that provoked her to action, but someone else’s. She ended up saving lives and kicking some bad guy booty, all with no other reason other than that it needed doing. I could do that.

I just have to keep reminding myself that my story is just getting started. So far it hasn’t been very dramatic, but I’m not even 20 years into it yet. I can’t let this slow time get me stuck. There is a lot of time left for a good story.

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? The Later Years

So, last week I talked about books for pre-teens and young teens. Those are mostly books I read when I was around 10-13 years old.

But what about older teens? That can be even harder sometimes. You get tired of re-reading Redwall (sometimes…), but the books for our age are even more disgusting. For some it’s so hard to find things to read that they just stop reading once they are done with school. I think it’s important to continue stretching yourself and reading good books. It can get hard to find these good books though. So I present for your reading enjoyment, my favorite books for older teens and young adults:

1. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness  Emmuska Orczy

When people ask me what my favorite book is, this is what I say. It has mystery, it has drama, it has action, it has (appropriate) romance, it has daring rescues, it has clever disguises, it has guillotines. Set in the French Revolution, taking place in both England and France. We follow the beautiful Marguerite Blakeney as she tries to save her beloved brother. The only way is to identify the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel, and in essence hand him over to Mademoiselle Guillotine. But will she find out too late?

2. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Another favorite set in the French Revolution. This one is more complicated, as Dickens often is, and it took me a while to figure out who was who. Still, confusion aside, I love Dickens’ style and imagery.

3. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, by William Goldman

This one took me so long to figure out. It’s not an abridged version. It’s the original. Please just read it. At times the movie follows so closely it’s like reading a script. A few of the places are different, the Zoo of Death for example, but for me this made it even better.If you enjoyed the movie I would definitely recommend the book. It follows close enough that you feel like you know what is going to happen, but different enough that you aren’t sure. Buttercup and Westly don’t seem to be as tender as they do in the movie, but it doesn’t take much away from the story. (Taken from my Goodreads review)

4. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Another classic from the mind of Jack. Written as a series of letters from an older demon to a younger demon he is mentoring. It’s interesting to think of things from this perspective. Very thought provoking.

5. The Fishermans Lady (and The Marquis’ Secret) by George MacDonald

Almost a cross between Kidnapped and The Scarlet Pimpernel. The very first book of George MacDonald’s that I read. I love a good adventure book, if it is set in Scotland, even better. Fun Fact! George MacDonald was a favorite author of three of my favorite authors, J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle.

6. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The nerd in me couldn’t leave this off the list. It is pure fluff and has an extremely rambling and almost nonexistent plot line. There is some language and more adult themes, but it is so hilarious. If you like Doctor Who you will most likely enjoy Hitchhiker’s Guide (Adams did write a few episodes after all).

7. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis

An amazing sci-fi series by the man who is generally thought of as being a fantasy writer and theologian.  I actually read these when I was about 11, but I would recommend them for older teens. I was too young to understand them very well. Full of twists and turns

8. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien

The classic epic story of good versus evil. This story has so many good lessons, it is a sweeping epic, there is rawness, there are heroes, there is brotherly love. Most people know at least the gist of the story, so I’m not going to further spoil it. I will say though, even if you have seen the movies dozens of times, please read the books. The movies, while they do a pretty good job, leave out some of the best parts.

9. Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer

The story of how Veggietales got it’s start. I really love behind the scenes stuff, so this was a treat. Now, I realize this is the only book on my list that isn’t a novel, there is a reason for this though. As we get older, it’s also important to read (or begin reading if it hasn’t been your habit) non-fiction.  For most of the rest of our lives we will be reading non-fiction. I’ve found that great way to get a taste for books about real life is through biographies and the like.

While some of these books have a bit of language (nothing stronger than what you hear on PG movies or TV shows), the main reason I list them as books for older teens is because I want them to be appreciated. Most young teens could handle them, but they won’t get nearly as much out of these books as some one a little older will.

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.

Books and Movies, Farm and Family

The Best is Yet to Come

Have you noticed it? That fantastic chill in the breeze every once in a while? The sudden shiver running up your spine, down your arms and out your fingertips? Ah. It’s coming. Given, it’s still a ways off, but every once in a while…

Fall. Autumn. Harvest.

It’s almost time for hot chocolate, plaid flannel, bonfires, hoodies and jeans. I’m so ready. Fall is, in the words of Lola, “my favorite and my best.”

I’m so ready to snuggle down with a book and a cozy blanket and do nothing. In reality I’m not going to get to do that very often. I am doing Bible Quiz again, which will take up a bunch of time. I have my doula stuff. I’m trying to get a job. But reading is on my list of things to do.

It’s such a relief to not have schoolwork hanging over my head like an anvil threatening to drop at any second. I do need to take the ACT/SAT (not sure which I’ll do), but I don’t really have a deadline for that.

I’m sitting here in my flannel shirt I found at the thrift store. It is red and white and very cute. I don’t really care that it is the middle of August (Although it has been an extremely cool one). I really can’t put into words how excited I am for the fall. I just love the “ber” months. Have you ever noticed that the months that end with “ber” are chilly, but not icy (for the most part, end of December excluded). It’s cool and fresh feeling. It’s like the new beginnings of Spring, but without all the pollen and allergies.

One of the books I plan to read, or rather finish, is “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars- Verily, a New Hope.” Meg, Claire and I were at Target last Saturday and we wandered into the book section. I must say, even though it still has all the junk that Walmart does (You know the ones, the serial authors who won’t shut up and already have 25 books) Target has a lot of cool stuff that Wally world lacks. We were walking through and saw a set of books directing you to “Wreck This Journal.” We opened them up and started reading the instructions. They are basically busy books for grown ups. Stuff like “completely color this page”, “get this page dirty” and then some really bizarre things like “Tongue painting” which instructed you to eat a colorful piece of candy and then lick the page in the designated circle. Next to these awesome titles we saw “Shakespeare’s Star Wars” and had to open it up. I stood there and read the first page out loud in the store. So you know the opening credits of Star Wars? In a galaxy far, far away? And you know Shakespeare’s famous prologues? Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean? Yes. This book is such an awesome representation of my tastes in entertainment it’s not even funny. I may even do a new header to include it. It is the whole story of the classic and fantastic Star Wars, episode IV, a New Hope, in verse. Complete with 20 line long soliloquies and Stormtroopers. I am totally geeking out about this book! It has some really awesome potential also. It would be a great introduction to Shakespeare. You could know the story without reading the modern english or the side-by-side versions.

Other books on my list for this fall include (other than books for my training):

The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare (The real one)

Life The Universe And Everything, Douglas Adams (third in the Hitchhikers Guide series)

Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey

I wish my list could be longer, but I’ve got 5 others to read for my certification.

Well, I haven’t done a random, newsy sort of post in a while, so I hope you enjoyed this little taste of my life.