Tis the Season: Lucia, Lady of Light

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Lucia in watercolors. Painting by me.

Growing up in a community founded by Scandinavian immigrants, my childhood was sprinkled with homages to my heritage.  On my mother’s side of the family, I’m a third generation American, with ancestors from Sweden and Norway.

There are some beautiful holiday traditions that come from these countries.  One of their most celebrated is St. Lucia, lady of light.

The story of Lucia goes way back:

 Her legend stems from Syracuse on the island of Sicily. It is thought that during a time when the rulers of the land did not look favorably upon Christianity, a woman named Lucia had devoted her life to God and the poor. She gave her entire dowry to the poor, and the man she was to marry was very upset by this. Lucia was put on trial, refused to renounce her Christian beliefs and was declared a witch. She was to be burned at the stake but when the guards tried to light the fire it would not light. Ultimately, she was stabbed. (Quote Source Here)

No one really knows how Lucia’s story came to Sweden.  One of the most popular tales surrounding the legend is that, during a terrible famine, a lighted ship sailed across Lake Vannern bearing a woman at the helm.  The woman’s head glowed with light and aboard the ship was food for the starving people.

Because of being so far north, winters in Sweden and Norway are dark, long, and harsh.  Over the years, Lucia has become a symbol of hope in that darkness.

Today, Sankta Lucia, or St. Lucia’s Day, falls on December 13.  The tradition began in the home, but now is celebrated as a community event.  A young woman is chosen each year to portray Lucia.  She is dresses in a white robe with a red sash around her waist.  Atop her head is a crown of candles.  She carries a tray of cookies to her house and community while her attendants (often siblings and small children) sings carols.

Although I’m not Catholic and do not really pay attention to saints, Lucia is incredibly special to me.  As a child, I participated in my community’s annual Sankta Lucia pageant.  Over the years, I played many parts, from simple attendant to Sugar Baker to member of the Tomte chorus.  When I was seventeen, I had the honor of being selected as my community’s Lucia.

The Lucia tradition is very near and dear to my heart.  America is such a great melting pot that culture and heritage is often lost and forgotten.  I’m very thankful that my parents got me involved in celebrating Swedish customs at a young age.  Someday, if I’m lucky enough to have a daughter, I hope that I will be able to pass on the tradition.

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Me as Lucia in my local pageant in 2009.


Tis the Season is an annual holiday-themed series on Keep Your Feet.  The goal is to bring the blogging community together to celebrate holiday memories and traditions.

Bachelorette Party Crashing

When you work at home for your parents and have little to no social life, you generally don’t wake up on a Saturday morning thinking, “Today, I’m going to crash a bachelorette party.”  But the crazy/wonderful thing about life is that anything can happen.

The morning began as most do: With the alarm going off and making a disgruntled noise that kind of sounds like a dying cow.  (“Mmmmmmmrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh…”)  A cup of tea and bowl of cereal later, I was still groggy.  Despite this, I had places to go and people to see.

Actually, the only place I had to go was a wedding shower.  One of my from-the-cradle childhood friends is getting married at the end of the month and, because I didn’t get an invite to the ceremony and reception (they’re keeping things small), I wanted to make the shower.  I haven’t seen Steph in YEARS and knew my presence would mean a lot.

My mother (who invited herself along) and I arrived at the event fashionably late.  I found myself in a gorgeous house filled with older women I don’t know well and girls I grew up with.  In true post-grad fashion, everyone wanted to know what my future plans were.  (Which is awkward when I myself am still figuring out the answer.)  Still, it was good to see everyone.  There were several friends I haven’t seen in years, including my old babysitter who got married straight out of high school.  (Who had several stories to share about Child Amelia that were extremely entertaining.)

As the event wore on, though, I kept hearing little mentions of things going on after the shower was over.  “Did you bring something for Steph to wear?”, “When we’re at the restaurant…”, “I picked out something fun for us to do later…”  It was hard not to pick up on the comments, especially when they came from the girls my age.  At one point, my mom came up and whispered in my ear: “It looks like there’s stuff going on after the shower.  If you want to stay, I can pick you up later.”  Of course, at that point, I had no idea what the vague other plans were and didn’t know if I was invited.  To say all this made me uncomfortable would be a severe understatement.

I was ready to leave when one of my friends mentioned that, if I wanted to stay, she could drop me off on her way home.  Although I had hoped to spend a relaxing day reading, watching Game of Thrones, and getting ready for another week of blogging, I knew that this was my in and that I should take it.  So I said yes found myself unexpectedly attending my first-ever bachelorette party.

It was a fun afternoon, with all the quirky little bachelorette traditions.  We went to a local restaurant and Steph wore a cute dress with a Barbie pink “Bride to Be” sash, complete with a tiara and shawl.  Her sister-in-law had straws with big kissy lips and Batman themed edible necklaces.  We shared appetizers, entrée, and deserts while discussing future plans and pressing Steph about any pre-wedding jitters.

Next to the place we ate was a hotel and, after giving the lady at the counter $5, we had open access to their pool and spa area.  We milled about in the pool and hot-tub, splashing each other and playing variations of “Two Truths and a Lie”.  (A game I generally loathe, but have been forced into enough times to know how to grin and bear.)  We ended up being at the pool for the majority of the afternoon.  When I checked my phone to see if I had any “Where are you?” texts from my mother (there were none), I was shocked to see it was almost five o’clock.  The day had absolutely flown by.

It’s amazing what unexpected joys a day brings.  At the end of it, I’m exhausted from all the social interaction and small-talk (#introvert), but I’m so thankful for not only the chance to see old friends, but spend all day with them.  It was so fun to talk about all the childhood memories, sleepovers, church trips, and gush about our hopes for the future.  Most of all, it was an absolute pleasure to celebrate Steph share her excitement about taking on the adventures of marriage.

Who knows what kind of adventure I’ll land myself in next Saturday?

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Freestyle Writing Challenge

I’ve been nominated by the wonderful Britta of It’s a Britta Bottle! to undertake the Free Style Writing Challenge.  The challenge is all about seeing how much you can write within a certain time span on a given topic.  Because you’re writing on the fly, polishing, proofreading, and editing is not allowed.  This allows for a certain amount of vulnerability–to post something you normally wouldn’t dare let into the light.  I’m all about a challenge and have more than enough writing capacity now that summer is here, so I thought it’d be fun to join in.  (Be sure to check out Britta’s response to the challenge as well!)

Here are the rules:

  1. Open an MS Word document
  2. Set a stop watch or your mobile to 5 minutes or 10 minutes whichever challenge you think you can beat.
  3. You topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH A TIMER.
  4. Fill the word doc with as much words as you want. once you began writing do not stop even to turn.
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spellings and grammar with spell check in MS WORD (it is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules)
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation and capitals. However if you do, it would be best.
  7. At the end of your post write down ‘No. Of words =_____’ so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.
  8. Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new Topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nominations (at least 5 bloggers).

I nominate:

Anyone and everyone.  If you’re reading this post and want to give it a shot, this is your chance!  If you decide to do it, I’d love to see what you come up with!  Leave me a link in the comments!  (Also, I will make sure to link to your post here as well so others can read as well!)

My free write:

Topic: Childhood Toys

There are girls that play with dolls and girls who don’t. I consider myself a member of the first group. Growing up, I was all about dolls. Baby dolls, Barbie dolls, American Girl dolls… I had them all.

Dolls tended to go in phases. My first memories of them were odd, lumpy babies. I suppose my parents gave these to me because I could chew on them and toss them about without breaking or harming the poor things.

I also remember owning lots of Polly Pocket dolls. No, I’m not talking about the three-inch girls with plastic clothes. (Though those came later in droves). I’m talking about the half-inch plastic people-shaped lumps with large round disks on their feet. Their houses closed in half. Does anyone else remember those?

Then, there were the Barbies. Oh, how I loved playing with my Barbie dolls. I used to invent all kinds of stories with them—most of them had to do with maidens getting saved by Ken. (Really original, I know.) Fun fact: I used to cut up old socks to make dresses for my Barbies. That way, they could look like servants and pesants. When the man came along to save the day, they’d get a wardrobe upgrade. (I now realize that I fell prey to Courtly Love tropes even as a small child. Sad.)

American Girl Dolls… I had to beg my way into one of those. I got the catelogues for YEARS before actually owning one. I got Kit, the girl from the 1930’s, though I read all the books for all the girls (courtesy of my elementary school library). In fifth grade, I got Kaley the California surfer limited-edition girl. I owned a LOT of clothes for those dolls. The funny thing is… I never seemed to play with them.

Polly Pockets—or Fashion Pollys as my best friend and I used to call them, were my FAVORITE. I owned so many dolls, clothes, and accessories that I set up a miniature town that took up my entire floor. Those toys got played with like nothing else. I still played with them until seventh grade. (Don’t tell my middle school classmates… they’d probably still tease me.) In the end, I put them in an enormous Rubbermaid and sold them to one of my mom’s friends for $100, making me feel rich and making one little granddaughter’s Christmas incredibly bright.

We had other toys besides dolls. Between my brothers and I, we owned almost every Toy Story character in some shape or form. We also had lots of Legos. It was my older brother’s dream to own the Lego Millenium Falcon. (Actually… I think that’s STILL his dream. He’s twenty four.) We had lots of Star Wars action figures, cowboy figurines, and even fake Lord of the Rings swords. And, although dolls were my primary domain, I played with them all.

No. of words: 184–Time 10 minutes

Main Mistakes: Minor spelling errors

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For those of you who decide to do the challenge…

Your topic is : Your Happy Place.

Hometown Hiking

Over the past week, I’ve rediscovered my outdoorsy self.  Growing up, my parents were always taking us on outdoor adventures.  Hiking, biking, fishing–you name it, we did it.  Summers weren’t complete without camping in the woods of Northern Minnesota and swimming in one of the 10,000+ lakes.

During the school year, I get so bogged down by academia that I forget how beautiful the world is.  I forget about fresh air, sunshine, and the smell of thawing earth as it awakens to Spring.

Filled with vigor from my ski-cation earlier this week, I decided yesterday to go hiking instead of lying around the house all afternoon.  It was a short three-mile loop, but oh, it was worth it.

You see, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the state (after the North Shore, of course).  Five minutes from the border with Wisconsin, the St. Croix River Valley is at my fingertips.

I parked in Taylors Falls, hiked to the top of the bluffs, back down along the cliff face, and back to town via a trail by the river.  Along the way, I stopped to soak in the sunshine and do some reading.

I long for a life of adventure.  I want to do things, meet people, and see the world.  Sometimes, though, it’s good to step back and remember that adventure can be a mere five minutes away.  All you have to do is stop and look for it.

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View of the St. Croix River from atop the bluffs.
The St. Croix River from the river trail.
The St. Croix River from the river trail.
Taking a break with Tennyson's Idyls of the King
Taking a break with Tennyson’s Idyls of the King

What adventures lie just beyond your doorstep?

 

 

 

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!

Lilly and the Unicorn Magic

In the midst of cleaning, I’ve discovered many of my early attempts at writing.  Did you know that I wrote a fifty page story about fairies when I was in fifth grade?  Yeah.  Neither did I.

I also discovered the following story that I penned at the age of ten.  I found it to be wonderfully awful, so I present to you:

Lilly and the Unicorn Magic

One lovely day, Princess Lilly of the Fairies was out in the castle gardens with her best friend, Violet.

“Mmm,” said Lilly while sniffing a rose.

“You have such a beautiful garden, Lilly. How do you manage it?” asked Violet.

“Well, we use fairy magic,” replied Lilly.

“Oh yes! Fairy magic! How can I be so stupid?” asked Violet.

“Sorry Violet, Mother is calling me! I’ll meet you at the Daisy Slide this afternoon!”

Lilly rushed into the Rose Palace.

“There you are!” Queen Rose exclaimed. “Didn’t you hear me calling?”

“Mother, I’m fifteen now. You don’t need to worry about me as much,” complained Lilly.

“I know you’re fifteen, but that doesn’t keep a fifteen year old from coming when she’s told”

“Yes, mother,” sighed Lilly.

“Now go up to your room and get changed out of that filthy dress!” Queen Rose ordered.

As Lilly fluttered up to her room, she wondered what it would be like to live a life where there were no rules, no one to boss you around, to be free! Lily chose out a fancy dress and took off her old one. Then she dashed through some corridors, sped into the ballroom, slid down the banister, and hurried into the throne room.

“What took you so long, dear?” Queen Rose asked.

Lilly didn’t answer. She was too fascinated with what she saw. A beautiful princess was standing on a flying carpet with a gift in her hand.

“I am Dawning, the Gypsy princess. I have noticed it is your daughter’s birthday today,” she said.

“I completely forgot!” gasped Queen Rose.

“Me too!” Lilly added.

“Well, at least I remembered!” laughed Dawning. The gypsy handed the present to Lilly. “Open it later,” she said.

Dawning then flew out of the room. An old lady in tattered clothes came in. “I am the unicorn herder, Madiline. Here is my gift to Princess Lilly.” The old lady left the room. She reentered leading a baby unicorn. It was midnight blue with a silver mane and a transparent horn on its head. Its hooves were black as coal and had eyes like the stars in the sky.

“This is Starlight. His mother Moonbeam wanted me to present him as a birthday gift,” Madiline said. Bowing, she left the room. Madiline was a close friend of the queen and always gave Lilly a baby unicorn for her birthday. Lilly received her first one when she was ten. She now has unicorns named Rosebud, Vica Violet, Morning Glory, and Kingstoil. Lilly loved unicorns. Rosebud was due to have a baby!

“Thank you, Maddi! I love him!” said Lily while stroking the mystical animal.

As Madiline left, a fat dwarf came waddling in. “Hullo! I’m Stubbs! Lilly, you’ve grown a lot! Here, in addition to all your emeralds, sapphires, rubies, topazes, amethysts, gold, and silver, I give you a chest of aquamarines!” said the dwarf, who always gave Lilly a chest of gems.

“Thank you again, Stubbs,” said Queen Rose.

From Apple the pixie, Lily got seeds for golden woods. From Melinda the mermaid, Lilly got five beautiful fish. Last, but not least, her fairy godmother Stacivia gave her a magic book.

After a grand feast with her guests, Lilly met Violet at the Daisy Slide.

“Happy birthday!” Violet said and handed a not so neatly wrapped gift to Lilly. Lilly opened it. Inside was s tiny white kitten with a pink nose and blue eyes.

“Wildcat’s kitten!” exclaimed Lilly. “Oh Violet, this is my favorite present of all! What is her name?”

“You can name her,” said Violet.

“Oh wow, I can? Hmm… I dub thee… Snowball!” Lilly petted the kitten. Snowball purred. “Want to see my presents?”

“Sure,” said Violet.

The two girls went to Lilly’s stables. Violet marveled at Starlight’s beauty saying, “Wow, he’s beautiful!” Lilly was feeding Morning Glory a bleakburn berry when she noticed something strange. Rosebud was lying on her back. Her mouth was open and music was coming out of it.

“Violet, quick! It’s Rosebud!” Lilly yelled. They ran to Rosebud.

A few minutes went by. Suddenly, there was a flash of light. Lying next to Rosebud was a baby unicorn. Rosebud neighed.

“His name is Bristlethorn,” said Lilly.

“How do you know?” asked Violet.

“Rosebud told me.”

That night, Lilly told her mother all about Rosebud’s baby. “His name is Bristlethorn!” said Lily.

“Bristlethorn? You should have named him better,” said Queen Rose.

“I can’t name him, Mother. I told you, Rosebud named him and told me,” said Lilly.

“Well, your horse doesn’t have good taste then,” replied the Queen.

“Unicorn,” corrected Lilly.

“Whatever. Off to bed now. You have your ball tomorrow,” said Queen Rose.

Lilly flew up to her room. She put on her nightgown and crawled into her very large bed. She dreamed of unicorns all night.

The next morning, Lilly looked at her calendar. It was the first day of a new month. Each month had twenty-five days. It was the first day of Jewly. The day of Lilly’s ball came. Princesses from all over came. Lilly was only a child, but being a princess she had a ball every year. Fairies live until they’re about three hundred, so you are not of age until you are one hundred. Lilly was stuck inside all day getting her make up on. She had a marvelous dress to wear.

At six o’clock, the guests arrived. All the snobby dukes and princesses came. To Lilly’s surprise, her older brother was there. He had run away ten years earlier. Lilly ran up to him and gave him a big hug.

“Cornflower! What are you doing here?” Lilly asked him.

“I have come home to live,” he said, “and I have brought something with me.”

“What is it?” Lilly asked in excitement.

Cornflower motioned to a lady. The woman stepped forward. She was tall, had flowing honey brown hair, and amber eyes.

“This is Primrose, my wife and your new sister. Primrose, this is Lilly my sister,” said Cornflower.

“Hello, Lilly. I am so excited about getting to know you. You can call me Aunt Rosie,” said Primrose.

“But you’re my sister,” stated Lilly.

“Well, call me Rosie,” said Primrose.

After the ball was over, Primrose didn’t act as sweet anymore. She interrupted the Queen and called her mom. She was always muttering, “When I am queen…” Under her breath.

Months went by. Lilly’s birthday came again. She got many presents. Her new unicorn was named Firespin and he was blazing orange. Rosebud had another baby. She was silver. Her name was Silvermane. Mazy Daisy had a baby. She was sky blue and was named Skylight. Lucky Clover’s baby was black. Her name was Duskfall. Morning Glory’s baby was a she and was white as snow and was named Snowmane. Vica Violet had a golden baby and he was named MorningSun. Now Lilly had fourteen unicorns.

Primrose had a baby boy named Snapdragon. She cooed over her little boy. He was the heir to the throne. Queen Rose got very ill. Lily rushed to her room. She stood at her mother’s side.

“I love you, Lilly. Primrose is an ugly gift. I love you, Lilly,” with that, the queen fell unconscious.

Right then, Primrose rushed into the room. “Lilly! What have you done? Oh my god, she’s dead!” she screeched. She pushed Lilly from the room. So passed Rose, Queen of the fairies, daughter of Elenore. Lilly ran to her room and bawled. Primroe didn’t allow her to see her mother’s funeral. Lilly had managed to keep her unicorns secret from Primrose and Cornflower. One day she was followed by little Snapdragon to the unicorns. Snapdragon ran to toll his mommy about the unicorns. Primrose followed her angel to the stables.

“Lilly! What are you doing! Those are dangerous beasts!” Primrose yelled. Lilly jumped. “Now let’s cut off their horns and be all-powerful!” Primrose said, her eyes glinting.

She grabbed a scythe from the wall and was about to swing it at Starlight when Lilly rushed to block the blow. Lilly thought it was the end. A light blocked the blow and saved Lilly. Primrose fled in fear.

Lilly had trained her unicorns to come when she whistled. “When I whistle, come. Goodbye!” Lilly flew up to her room. The year Lilly turned sixteen she got a box that holds any amount of things inside from Dawning. It could grow or shrink to the size needed. Lilly packed her things into the box, shrunk it so it would fit in her pocket, and went to her garden. She collected all the seeds from the flowers and put them into separate pouches. Lilly grew expensive flowers and gave them to Violet. Violet’s mother was a servant in the castle so Violet was Lilly’s only friend. After Lilly collected the flower seeds, she set the unicorns free. Then she ran to the hut Violet and her family lived in. Lilly knocked on the door. Violet opened it.

“Lilly, what are you doing here?” asked Violet.

“Primrose found the unicorns. I set them free and am running away. Do you know where I can stay?” asked Lilly.

“Yeah, see that open lot next to our house? Build a house there,” answered Violet.

Lilly went to the lot and poured lots of fairy dust on it. A large hut magically grew there. Lilly went to the hut and opened the door. It was empty with a dirt floor. Lilly unpacked her things. She had a long day and was exhausted. She crawled into her bed and went to sleep.

She woke up hungry. She had breakfast and went to Violet’s house. Violet came out carrying a leaf bag full of books.

“Time to go to school,” she said. They walked to the schoolhouse. There, a group of girls were chatting. “Hi girls, this is Lilly. She will be joining our group. So introduce yourselves,” said Violet.

A girl with honey colored hair and brown eyes stepped forward. “I’m Iris. Pleased to meet you,” she said.

A girl with blonde hair and blue eyes said, “I’m Buttercup. How do you do?”

“I’m Chicory,” said a blonde curly-haired girl with blue eyes.

“I am Columbine,” said a girl with brown eyes and short brown hair.

“Hi Lilly! I’m Thrift!” said a girl with short, curly red hair and green eyes.

A girl with long gold-brown hair said, “I’m Yarrow.”

Last , a girl with curly dark brown hair and brown eyes said, “Hello, my name is Ladysmock. You can call me Lady.”

THIS IS AS FAR AS I GOT.

Here are my thoughts:

  • At beginning, it says she takes her dress off, but never says she puts the new one on. So basically Lilly goes through her entire birthday celebration naked.
  • How do you forget your birthday when there’s all these people giving you gifts?
  • Lilly never actually opened the gift from Dawning the Gypsy Princess
  • If fairies live to be 300 and she gets gifts like this every year, where will she put it all?
  • The unicorn birthing scene was pretty magical.  I mean… music comes out of their mouth, there’s a flash of light… and voila!  Hello, baby unicorn!
  • Lilly’s mom is SUPER unsupportive.  Woah.
  • The passage of time is really weird
  • Cornflower??? What was I thinking???  What kind of name is that?
  • All of a sudden all the unicorns start having lots of babies and I’m torn between being disgusted by their awfully written descriptions and the desire to own a unicorn army of my own.
  • Why was I so obsessed with flower names?
  • The queen’s death is the most dramatic, masterful death ever created in all of literature.  Also, her last words… what.
  • DUDE, Primrose… chopping off the unicorn’s horns?  That got dark fast.
  • You really ran far from home, Lilly. You really think Primrose won’t be able to find you in a hut on the castle grounds?  Nice work.
  • How many people in this story have honey-brown hair?  And seriously… how many friends are there at school?

All I know from finding this story is that I was a very special child.

What do you think, readers?  What’s the weirdest part of the story?  What’s your favorite part?  If you could re-write it, what would you change and why?

Deromanticizing apple orchards

When I tell people I grew up on an apple orchard, the first thing they always say to me is, “Wow, that sounds like such a Romantic childhood!”

For many people, one of Autumn’s biggest highlights is going to the apple orchard.  They flock in crowds, enjoying scenic views, colorful leaves, going on a hay ride, selecting a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, eating baked goods, and (of course) picking apples.  It really is an ideal way to spend a sunny October day.

Photo taken from Facebook, courtesy of my mother.

What people fail to realize, though, is all the work that goes into running an apple orchard.  All they think about is how fun it is to take photos of their child picking an apple and how delicious that pie is going to be once it’s baked.  When you peel back the commercialized experience and actually think about things, orchards are a lot less Romantic than they appear.

There’s nothing Romantic about watching your dad wake up before the crack of dawn to put in a solid day of physical labor (picking, hauling, washing apples; covering things up to protect them from frost; feeding and caring for the petting zoo animals; tending the trees; covering up our strawberry fields, the list can really go on forever) only to go to bed at two in the morning.  He’s the hardest working person I know.  And, all day, he deals with customers who have no idea how much work he does pestering him with stupid questions, telling him how to run his farm (as if they know more than he does).

There’s nothing Romantic about spending summers hoeing strawberry fields, hauling brush, trimming root suckers, spreading fertilizer, thinning the apple trees, etc. for 40 hours a week.

There’s nothing Romantic about the fact that my mom hasn’t travelled beyond 15 minutes of our house for a month.

There’s nothing Romantic about finding $100 worth of pick-your-own apples sitting under a random tree because some customer didn’t realize how much they picked, didn’t want to pay, so just left the now-unsellable fruit sitting there.

There’s nothing Romantic about working in the store all day long, then spending your Saturday night and time off making caramel apples in your pajamas till 10:30 PM to prevent running out in the store the next day.

There’s nothing Romantic about your highly anticipated Mother/Daughter shopping day in the city being cancelled because she was needed at the orchard to watch over the staff.

There’s also nothing Romantic about watching all the crowds flocking to your home, the place you grew up, the place you spend your summers tending to and caring for, only to tramp all over it and stare at you like you’re out-of-place when you go for a walk.

Apple orchards are wonderful places, and I will forever be grateful for my upbringing.  It’s given me a unique, special childhood that I will always cherish.

My brothers and I a few weeks ago.

But, sometimes, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Bill Nye comes to Morris!

A couple of days ago, a certain scientist/t.v. show host dropped by my small town on the prairie!  He found himself face to face with a full gymnasium (1,700 people in all… that’s nearly 2/5 of the town!) of students screaming “BILL!  BILL!  BILL!  BILL!  BILL!”.

Bill Nye gave a fantastic talk.  He was a charismatic, engaging speaker.  I was surprised at how genuine he was.  Most speakers I hear are used to the speaking circuit, and each talk is just another stop to get through.  I fully expected a fairly dry hour of science talk that would go over my head.  That was not the case.  He spoke for over two hours and seemed genuinely interested in us.  He cracked the stereotypical Minnesota jokes about cold winters, ice fishing, the Vikings, and promised us that there are such a thing as hills.  (Morris is known for being very flat.)

Photo taken from UMM’s photo archives

Instead of sticking to facts and figures, Nye’s talk followed a narrative.  In essence, he basically told us stories for two hours.  He took us through his family’s history, including his father’s obsession with sun dials, and lead us in stories about deep space exploration.  He was a passionate speaker and continually told us we could: “dare I say it, CHANGE THE WORLD!”

The one thing about his talk I didn’t like was that I felt he was unnecessarily harsh towards Ken Ham, Creationist opponent in a debate that took place last February.  I thought he could have shown more kindness and respect towards Ham.  I wasn’t offended by what Nye said because, although I do believe in Creation, I don’t side with Ham’s extreme views that the world is only 6,000 years old.  But I thought bringing Ham up was unnecessary.

One of the questions at the end of the talk had to do with being taken seriously by an adult audience after being on a children’s show for so long.  Bill said that, yes, the transition is sometimes difficult, but it’s a process.  He also said that he never regretted the t.v. show.  I realized that, twenty years later, he was still speaking to the same audience.  Most of the students in the crowd grew up with his quirky show.  Now, here we were twenty years later, and he was still speaking to us.  It’s come full-circle.

One of the cool things about the event was that it sheds VERY good light on my university.  Being a tiny liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, we often get sidelined, despite the fact that we are one of the most academically rigorous institutions in the state of Minnesota.  And having a nationally known cultural icon like Bill Ny did, and will continue to do, wonders for our public relations.  I mean… we got a hashtag trending on Twitter!

Taken from UMM’s Facebook page

It was a great night, though.  Although I’m not a science major, I loved his excitement as he encouraged our generation to engage in the world of discovery.  I grew up with Bill Nye–he’s the man who taught me all I know about magnets and nuclear power.  I used to run around the house singing his theme song at the top of my lungs.  Countless study-worn students, myself included, left the talk bright-eyed and refreshed to learn all they can and, dare I say it, change the world.

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!

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.