Tis the Season Day 5: A Shift in Focus (Guest Post by Britta!)

Welcome to Day 5 of Tis the Season!  Today, I’m honored to feature a guest post by the wonderful Britta of What’s Past is Prologue!  Although I don’t know her very well, I’m over-the-moon in love with her blog and so pleased to have her contribute to my Christmas series.  If you’re looking for new blogs to read, definitely stop by her blog!  Here comes the post…

Christmas 2014: A Shift in Focus

Hello there, everyone! In case you don’t know, I’m Britta; Amelia and I go to the same little college out on the prairie together. When I started up my blog a short while ago, she was one of my first followers and I always look forward to her own posts. So, it’s my pleasure to be contributing to Keep Your Feet’s “Tis the Seasons” series.

The holidays have always been a magical time for me. I love the traditions, being able to spend time with family, the overall cheer. I love how we are able to take the darkest time of the year and give so much beauty and light to it. There is something so undeniably special and comforting about that.

Despite all this, despite my love for the holiday season, I have to admit—I’m not feeling the holiday spirit at all this year. Last year at this time, I was so excited for Christmas I could hardly stand it. I listened to Christmas music non-stop in the days leading up to the end of fall semester. It was without a doubt my study music of choice pretty much every day. I looked forward to seeing family, to continuing the long lasting Christmas traditions we have, to having time off from school and basking in all the holiday cheer.

This year though? Not so. For some reason, my holiday cheer has been increasingly lacking in a way I can’t even really properly describe. I’ve been listening to Christmas music on and off, though certainly not with the same zeal that came with last year’s holiday season. The Christmas tree at home with all the presents underneath it is certainly beautiful, but it doesn’t conjure up the same feelings of excitement that it used to give me in the past. Today my mom and I made Christmas cookies—okay, well, truthfully she did all of the baking and I just helped with decorations and such. Usually, I am over the moon to contribute to this time-honored tradition—today? I couldn’t have been less excited. Even decorating the tree—one of my absolute favorite traditions—wasn’t as fun this year. This year, all these traditions that I usually love so much just seem more like chores to me than anything else.

Hold it, hold it! What kind of addition to “Tis the Season” is this? This is supposed to be all about the beauty and joy of the holiday season and you claim to be lacking all of that right now! What the heck?

Yes, you may be asking these questions right about now. In fact, I completely understand if you are. This certainly wasn’t the post I set out to write when I initially told Amelia I was interested in writing a guest post. I realized yesterday while I was trying to write that initial post that, while it probably would have been cheery, bright, and funny, it wouldn’t have been in line with my current feelings; my initial post idea would have felt cheap and dishonest.

To appease any uncertainties that might be had with this, I promise that I’m about to get to what I hope will be a meaningful point here, so just bear with me.

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m being a Scrooge this year. It’s not that I’m not thankful for this holiday season. I really, truly do love all the joy and happiness that the holidays bring with them. The fact that Christmas comes around every year is quite comforting, really. It’s not that I hate Christmas or am dreading in it anyway; that is not the case at all. More so, I’m just filled with less excitement than I usually am.  During my busy semester that just wrapped up, I blamed my lack of excitement on my stress and exhaustion; however, I don’t think that’s what’s really going on.

You know what I think? I think I’m growing up.

Okay, that might sound cheesy, but it’s true. 2015 will be a year of big transitions for me as I graduate from college and move out into the real world. I think a lot of my disinterest in Christmas this year is simply coming from the fact that I’m more concerned with what’s ahead; my priorities have shifted as I look for meaning in myself and in my future. An appreciation for the time honored traditions that I love so much have been dampened with this shift in focus.

Despite my lack of excitement, I still want to make the most of this Christmas season. The traditions I usually love so much aren’t what’s most important, anyways. More so, I want to make sure I spend this holiday season the right way with the people who matter most. I want to let those people know how much they mean to me. To me, the holidays are really about  with family and friends, appreciating each other, and making special and long-lasting memories. They are about looking back on the year and being thankful for all the good times, for looking ahead with hope to the New Year.

There is so much beauty in this time of year; I am still very much aware of that and I am very thankful for that. A lack of holiday cheer doesn’t necessarily mean this holiday season will be any less enjoyable for me; it just means I’ll have to approach it differently.

Different can be good. I’m going to try to make the most of that.

The Battle of Five Armies

This weekend, I visited Middle Earth via the silver screen for the last time.  To say I’m a Tolkien fan is an obvious fact.  I mean, I DID name my blog from one of his lines.

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

I remember my first exposure to The Hobbit.  I was six or seven years old and we rented the old 1970’s cartoon.  It was creepy, kind of terrifying, but my brothers and I enjoyed it enough to delve further into Tolkien’s world.

In fifth grade, I read the Lord of the Rings for the first time.  The movies were coming out around this time and I followed them religiously.  Despite differences from the books, I adore the film versions.  I have them memorized.  I listen to the original trilogy on audiobook every summer.

The main difference between the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fanchises is that the original trilogy came out when I was still in my formative years.  I was an excited child, ready to eat up anything Peter Jackson dished out.  As I grew older and learned to see the books and movies as different entities, I continued to love them out of childhood nostalgia.  The Hobbit, however, is different.

The first time I ever read The Hobbit was at the age of ten.  I was in fourth grade.  Mr. Achartz, my teacher, read it aloud to us.  I had a copy and followed along.  I fell absolutely in love.  Ever since, I’ve been reading and rereading the children’s story to the point where I don’t even need the words for the story to appear in my mind.

My main issue with The Hobbit movies is that I’m WAY too intimate with the source material.  Not only did I grow up on the story, but it’s something I’ve put a great deal of academic thought into.  Last fall during my term abroad, I wrote a ten page final essay on the uncanniness of Mirkwood that not only scored the best grade possible, but took first prize in the annual essay contest in my university at home.  The novel’s themes, centering around the idea of home, fascinate me and hold my heart.

It’s been incredibly painful, to be honest, watching the world eat up the film versions.  I enjoyed the first one well enough, but was absolutely devastated by the second.  Peter Jackson mutilated my beloved story.  The characters come and go to and from all the right places, but the events that transpire are totally different.  I was heartbroken by this.

Going into the final version, to say I had expectations would be a lie.  I didn’t even watch any of the trailers, to be honest.  I knew that the film would never match my idealistic childhood imaginings.  So I didn’t expect it to.  I went into The Battle of Five Armies with a mindset of detachment–these weren’t my beloved characters.  This isn’t my beloved story.  It’s an adaptation, a version that is not my own.

Having this mindset helped a LOT.  I actually really enjoyed the movie.  The pacing, of course, was really weird.  One of the finest moments of the novel is when Bard slays Smaug, which happens in the first ten minutes.  Most of the movie is focused on the battle and resolving Thorin’s issues with pride and, as the movie calls it, “dragon-sickness”.

There were things I really enjoyed.

Smaug, for one, is absolute and total perfection. It’s a shame his role is cut so short. Benedict Cumberbatch is incredible.

Once I pushed aside the weirdness of the Tauriel/Kili thing, I was able to actually cheer for the cross-species couple.  (Although I’m still miffed that they actually created a freaking awesome female elf and the stupid studio only allowed her existence if she was part of a love triangle.  WOMEN DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE IN LOVE IN MOVIES.  Rant over.)

I also really enjoy Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo, especially his weird little twitches.  It’s been fun seeing Bilbo grow and evolve as a character, finding his courage and facing down deadly foes.  But, through those little movements, Freeman conveys that deep down, Bilbo is not at home.  He isn’t comfortable.  He belongs in the Shire, in his armchair with a cozy breakfast and a large stock of pipeweed.

I also am head-over-heels in love with Lee Pace’s Thranduil.  He’s one of the most arrogant, (insert many profanities here) characters I’ve ever encountered.  And I love it.  Oh my goodness.  The internet has done some beautiful things with this character.

Because GingerHaze’s Party King Thranduil comics are the best.

I also pretty much adored Legolas throughout the entire film.  But that’s mainly because I don’t take Orlando Bloom seriously.  Every time he does something, I turned and obnoxiously whispered to my older brother, “Legolas does what he wants!”  He never listens to his father, never follows orders.  Out of nowhere, he opens up to Tauriel about not knowing his mother.  And at the end, he dramatically announces to his father that he isn’t returning to Mirkwood.  To which Thranduil goes, “Okay cool, just so you know, your mother did love you.”  At this point, I whispered to Joe (my brother), “So all this time, Legolas just had serious mommy issues.”  And he goes, “And now he’s going on the Middle Earth equivalent of a three-month backpacking trip in Europe to find himself.”  It’s fun not taking Legolas seriously.  (Because even in the original movie trilogy, all he does is point out the obvious.)

There is certainly a great deal more to say and there are a lot of things I could complain about, but I’m trying to be better at not being a total elitist English major snob.  So as far as movies go, it is an entertaining and enjoyable one. I will leave it at that and go read the book.

What are your thoughts/opinions on the movies? Love them? Hate them? Tell me about it in the comments!

Influential albums I

Trending on Facebook recently have been lists of things that influenced you.  The premise is simple.  You make up a list of books, movies, songs, etc. that have impacted your life, tag a few friends, and there you go.  I’ve been nominated for a couple of these things and, instead of bogging down my Facebook feed, thought I’d make some blog posts out of it!

My friend Kassandra nominated me to share some albums that have influenced me.  So, without further ado, here are the first five!  (In no particular order.)

1. Flogging Molly, Drunken Lullabies (2002)

After I escaped from my country music phase in middle school, this was one of the first albums I got hooked on.  In many ways, it was the introduction to much of the folksy music I listen to now.  I fell in love with Flogging Molly in eighth grade, under the influence of my older brother, and it’s a love that has sustained me through the years.  Choosing a track to feature was incredibly difficult, but I ended up going with “If I Ever Leave this World Alive”, as it’s one of my favorite songs of all time.

2. Classic Disney Vol I & II

In second grade, I purchased this sketchy yellow portable cassette player from a girl at the annual TF Elementary rummage sale.  This enabled me to listen to my Disney tapes anywhere and everywhere I wanted.  And, oh goodness, those songs became imprinted on my childhood.

3. Ministry of Magic, Goodbye Privet Drive (2008)

I will admit, this was a weirder phase of my music listening career.  In high school, I developed a taste for “Wizard Rock”–an underground movement of indie bands themed around (what else?) Harry Potter.  I’ve got hundreds of Potter inspired songs on my iPod to this day.  At the time, I thought they were fantastic.  Looking back, I can see how musically sub par and poorly written most of the songs are.  But, hey, they sure are fun!  Here’s their song “Sonorous Love”.  (Please ignore the poorly made fan video.)

4. Relient K, Mmhmm (2004)

Like Flogging Molly, Relient K was one of the first bands I ever fell in love with.  My older brother (once again) brought them into my life after coming home from camp one year.  He couldn’t stop singing “Sadie Hawkins Dance”, and soon, neither could I.  Relient K was one of my staples in high school, and Mmhmm saw me through all my teenage drama.

5. Top Gun Soundtrack (1999)

Okay, so this one is a bit strange.  I’ve never actually seen the movie Top Gun.  But back in the 1990’s my mom would play this on repeat in the car.  We’d get to the end of the cassette tape, rewind it (’cause that’s what you had to do back in the day) and listen through it again.  So, even though I’ve never seen the actual film, I know the soundtrack by heart.

Stay tuned for the other half of my list!

The Forest Again

On a rainy Saturday night, I find myself taking part in one of my favorite pastimes.  Over the past few months, I’ve slowly been revisiting some of the novels that have impacted my life more than probably anything else (save the Bible, of course).  That’s right, I’m talking about Harry Potter.  I could honestly gush for hours about my love for these novels, discussing character development, themes, plot structure, etc.  But if I did that, would you read it?  Probably not.  In lieu of this, I thought I’d share the most poignant (in my opinion) moment in the series.  It comes from the beginning of the final novel, Deathly Hallows, in chapter 34, just after Harry views Snape’s memories in the pensieve during the final battle.

Finally, the truth. Lying with his face pressed into the dusty carpet of the office where he had once thought he was learning the secrets of victory, Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms. Along the way, he was to dispose of Voldemort’s remaining links to life, so that when at last he flung himself across Voldemort’s path, and did not raise a wand to defend himself, the end would be clean, and the job that ought to have been done in Godric’s Hollow would be finished. Neither would live, neither could survive.

He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest. How strange that in his dread of death, it pumped all the harder, valiantly keeping him alive. But it would have to stop, and soon. Its beats were numbered. How many would there be time for, as he rose and walked through the castle for the last time, out into the grounds and into the forest?

Terror washed over him as he lay on the floor, with that funeral drum pounding inside him. Would it hurt to die? All those times he had thought that it was about to happen and escaped, he had never really thought of the thing itself: His will to live had always been so much stronger than his fear of death. Yet it did not occur to him now to try to escape, to outrun Voldemort. It was over, he knew it, and all that was left was the thing itself: dying.

If he could only have died on that summer’s night when he had left number four, Privet Drive, for the last time, when the noble phoenix feather wand had saved him! If he could only have died like Hedwig, so quickly he would not have known it had happened! Or if he could have launched himself in front of a wand to save someone he loved… He envied even his parents’ deaths now. This cold-blooded walk to his own destruction would require a different kind of bravery. He felt his fingers trembling slightly and made an effort to control them, although no one could see him; the portraits on the walls were all empty.

Slowly, very slowly, he sat up, and as he did so he felt more alive and more aware of his own living body than ever before. Why had he never appreciated what a miracle he was, brain and nerve and bounding heart? It would all be gone… or at least, he would be gone from it. His breath came slow and deep, and his mouth and throat were completely dry, but so were his eyes.

Dumbledore’s betrayal was almost nothing. Of course there had been a bigger plan: Harry had simply been too foolish to see it, he realized that now. He had never questioned his own assumption that Dumbledore wanted him alive. Now he saw that his life span had always been determined by how long it took to eliminate all the Horcruxes. Dumbledore had passed the job of destroying them to him, and obediently he had continued to chip away at the bonds tying not only Voldemort, but himself, to life! How neat, how elegant, not to waste any more lives, but to give the dangerous task to the boy who had already been marked for slaughter, and whose death would not be a calamity, but another blow against Voldemort.

And Dumbledore had known that Harry would not duck out, that he would keep going to the end, even though it was his end, because he had taken trouble to get to know him, hadn’t he? Dumbledore knew, as Voldemort knew, that Harry would not let anyone else die for him now that he had discovered it was in his power to stop it. The images of Fred, Lupin, and Tonks lying dead in the Great Hall forced their way back into his mind’s eye, and for a moment he could hardly breathe. Death was impatient…

But Dumbledore had overestimated him. He had failed: The snake survived. One Horcrux remained to bind Voldemort to the earth, even after Harry had been killed. True, that would mean an easier job for somebody. He wondered who would do it… Ron and Hermione would know what needed to be done, of course… That would have been why Dumbledore wanted him to confide in two others… so that if he fulfilled his true destiny a little early, they could carry on…

Like rain on a cold window, these thoughts pattered against the hard surface of the incontrovertible truth, which was that he must die. I must die. It must end.

J.K. Rowling

My other favorite moment in the series goes all the way back to the first book–when little Harry stumbles upon the Mirror of Erised and sees the images of his parents for the first time.  But that’s for another time.

P.S. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually put efforts into coming up with a deep, insightful, intelligent, moving, (insert more adjectives here) post.  But until then, you’re going to have to settle for Harry Potter quotes.  You’re welcome.

Contraditions

I’m a model student and get straight A’s, but at least once a semester, I blow everything off and take a long weekend.  (Four day Easter weekend?  I think, yes.)

I’m an English major, but have absolutely no desire to be a writer, teacher, librarian, or scholar.

I love academia and intellectual life, but I grew up on a farm and know what it’s like to get my hands dirty.

I grew up in a house of boys, but my friends are primarily girls.

My family owns a strawberry patch, but I don’t like strawberries.

I have a deep abiding love for cats, but am extremely apathetic towards animal death.  (Growing up on a farm does that to you.)

I’m a blogger, but lately, have had no drive to blog.  (Sorry about that, guys.)

The impressiveness of pasta in The Parent Trap

As a child, I remember watching the movie The Parent Trap.  You know, the newer version with Lindsay Lohan before she grew up and went psycho.  I adored this movie.  I wanted to experience all the spots the movie takes place in–summer camp, Napa Valley, San Francisco, and London. My best friend and I used to reenact scenes.  We’d do Annie and Hallie’s secret handshake and dream about pulling pranks at summer camp.  More than anything else, we’d fight over who got to be Hallie.  Nobody wanted to play Annie.  Apparently, being British wasn’t cool when you’re under the age of ten.  Oh, how little we knew.

I remember the scene where Martin, the butler, comes into a room in a Speedo.  That was my first exposure to swimwear that looks like underwear.  Because of this scene, my brothers and I referred to everyone wearing a Speedo as Martin. And, being oh so mature, we thought it was hilarious.

Don’t forget the scene where Meredith clicks sticks together to keep mountain lions away… oh man, we used to have fun with that one.  When on camping trips, we would scrounge in the woods and wander around the campground clacking them together.  When asked what we were doing, we solemnly replied, “We’re chasing away mountain lions.”

At the end of the movie, there’s a scene when the Dad (Dennis Quaid) talks about his cooking.  I remember the mom was pleasantly surprised until he said something along the lines of, “I can make really great pasta.”  Then she didn’t look so enthusiastic.  I never got that.  “Wow,” I remember thinking.  “You can make pasta.  That’s really something.”  To a kid under the age of ten, making pasta seemed like one of the most impressive things in the world.

I’m a college student now.  I’ve been to all the places in the movie.  I’ve explored San Francisco and driven through the Napa Valley.  I spend my summers working at a camp.  I lived in London.  All the joys of playing Annie and Hallie with my best friend have been lived out.  I’m mature enough to no longer refer to Speedo-clad men as Martin.  And keeping away mountain lions?  Please.  That’s so third grade.

But, for the most part, growing up hasn’t changed my affection for The Parent Trap.  Looking back on all the childhood silliness makes me smile.  Well, on all accounts but one… As for Dennis Quaid’s cooking… well… I now understand the mom was cynical.  College life has taught me the ease of pasta.  But part of me definitely still wishes that the key to spaghetti was the most impressive thing in the world.

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Seriously–coolest handshake ever.

 

Jane

Her first home was a cottage by the sea that is no longer there.

The wafting of her afternoon tea rebuilds the grey stones.  Once again a knobby-kneed kid, her mam fussed fussed fussed  (How did you manage to get seaweed in yer hair?  Don’t drag yer dirt into the gaff.  I told ye not to get yer new boots wet, ye gimp!) when the light sunk beneath the silver horizon and she traipsed up the dirt path clutching treasures of wave-molded pebbles.

What makes home home?

In the narrow halls of the Dublin flat, Mam’s shrills bounded off cardboard walls and she dreamed of the grey stone cottage.  Boring her face into the too-flat pillow, she imagined the constant press of waves pounding.  pounding.  pounding.

Where did home go?

She likes to touch things that are old.  One time, she brought her antique copy of The Victorian Catelogue of Household Goods to lecture, in case her students were interested.  “Just look at all the pointless stuff they would buy just because they could!” Pages of perfume bottles, china, porcelain vases, foot scrapers, candlestick holders, chitzy busts of Prince Albert.  “Why did they need all this crap?!”

Why?  How does this make a home?

Her favourite part of day is right before curtains are drawn—when windows are lit, but not yet covered.  She paces past in the winter mist beneath a black umbrella, her red beret clinging to the coils of her springy hair for dear life, observing the houses of strangers.  Her round blue gaze is meticulous—noticing everything from the IKEA couches to the Turner prints on the walls to the stained doily on the end table.  She never needed to own a telly—not when the houses of London play the best program of all at five each and every night.  Behind those golden squares run the story of life—an endless stream of coming and going, sitting and standing, leaving and—

What makes a home homely?

The stone cottage was gone when she came back for it.

How heartbreaking it is for all those memories—warming wind-beaten hands over the fire. . . porridge over the old stove . . . that one spot that leaked after an evening storm, no matter how many times Da patched the roof . . . the plink! plink!  plink! of droplets filling the rusty kettle . . . to be gone.

~~~

I’m getting this piece workshopped in my writing class tomorrow, so I thought I’d share.  It’s actually a piece of non-fiction.  Who is Jane?  She was my literature professor when I studied in London and all these details are based on real information.

That’s right, I write imagined stories about real people.  Watch out… you could be next.

If I were a villain, this would be my tragic backstory

I.

You know the paper that goes around muffins and cupcakes?  At six years old, I was convinced that they looked like sunflowers.

One day during kindergarten, my mom packed me a muffin.  When I finished eating, I boldly approached Mrs. Hopkins and gave her the paper.  I was filled with the can’t-sit-still anticipation that six-year olds feel when something wonderful is about to happen.  My heart glowed as I watched my teacher inspect my thoughtful gift.  Her expression, though, was not one of pleasure.  Disgusted, she demanded “Why are you giving me garbage?”

I tried to explain that it wasn’t garbage–it was a sunflower!  It was a beautiful, thoughtful gift!

She threw it away.

I was crushed

II.

When I was eight, I desperately wanted a pet fish.  Around this time, it just so happened that my second grade teacher’s classroom goldfish had babies.  Mrs. Anderson told me that I could have one when they got bigger.

Determined to become a fish owner, I went home and did as much research as possible.  I inspected my dad’s old fish tanks that were in our pole barn (all broken) and scoped out the pet section of Wal-Mart for potential bowl accessories  (Castle?  I think, yes.)  My parents were hesitant, but I assured them that I would feed them every day and clean the tank once a week.  Grudgingly, they agreed.

Every day, I pestered Mrs. Anderson about the fish.  She had placed the babies in a separate bowl.  I’d gaze at their tiny bodies swimming about and constantly asked: “Are they big enough?”  “Are they big enough?”  “When can I take mine home?”

One day, Mrs. Anderson combined the fish bowls.

The mom and dad ate the babies.

To this day, I have never owned a fish.

III.

In middle school, I had to take this class called F.A.C.S.–also known as Family and Consumer Science.  Each week, you’re given a partner and assigned to a station.  At these stations, you learn practical life skills like budgeting, marketing, child care, how to properly set a table, cooking, etc.

One week, I was about thirteen at the time, I was assigned the sewing section.  The task was to make a wall hanger with pockets using the sewing machine.  At the end, we attached a wooden rod and string to our creations so we could hang them up at home.

All week, I battled that machine.  It was a long, valiant struggle, but I made the best wall hanger I possibly could.  I even decorated it with permanent markers, spelling my name in colorful block text.  I knew that my project wasn’t anything amazing–nothing like the spectacular wall-hanger that I saw Lisa making the week before.  But I had worked hard, and I was proud of my accomplishment.

At the end of the week, I presented my wall-hanger to my teacher (also named Mrs. Anderson) for my grade.  She was a kind-hearted, soft-spoken woman and I expected a “well done” for my efforts.

That’s not what happened.

Mrs. Anderson looked down at my sewing project…

And she laughed.

I haven’t touched a sewing machine since.