Inbox // Outbox 3/6/17

Just as I had finally whittled my library pile to near zero, it’s suddenly full again.  Isn’t it funny how life is like that?

Inbox

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

I had a moment earlier this week when I saw something about this book and thought, “How have I not read this?  How can I be a fantasy book lover and not have read this?”  So I’m going to read it.

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

Last fall, I read Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me and found it insightful and enjoyable.  I was thrilled to hear she had a follow-up book coming out.  My library was kind enough to purchase this upon request and I look forward to spending time with it.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

YES, this is the third time this book has appeared in my Inbox//Outbox feature.  I’m actually reading it this time.  I’m taking it slowly and am about 130 pages in.  So far, I am absolutely loving it.   Continue reading

Poetry Friday: There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale was one of the first poets I truly fell in love with.  I discovered her work when I was in high school while doing unrelated research on the internet and liked what I found so much that I asked for her complete works for Christmas.  I’ve read the book cover to cover.  Most of her poems are short and sweet and many are dear to my heart.  This one got stuck in my head the other day.  (Fun fact: Ray Bradbury enjoyed it too–he wrote a short story bearing the same name.)

There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

——————–

What is Poetry Friday?  Years ago, when I was in high school, we did poetry lessons every Friday.  I’ve always loved this idea and will continue the tradition by sharing poems on my blog.

On the Shelf: L’Abri Reading List

With three hours of study time a day at L’Abri, I did a lot of reading.  From serious Christian texts to murder mysteries to memoirs to classics, I covered a wide variety of books.  I feel head over heels in love with Dorothy Sayers, Anne Lamott, and C.S. Lewis–to name a few.

Continue reading

What’s Your Favorite Movie? (Writing 101, Day 8)

A while back, my friend Holly from In Spec made a post about the movie Lost in Translation. When you’re done reading this post, please check her site out because she is a smashing good writer. At the end of the post, she posed a question: What is your favorite movie?

(I love it when bloggers ask questions at the end of their posts because I’m the type of person who usually doesn’t comment on things. If I don’t have anything to say, I usually keep silent. That’s why I love the “like” button so much. It allows me to appreciate without articulation. But I digress.)

Holly is an old friend (we went to high school AND college together), so of course I answered her question. I told her that my favorite movie is Midnight in Paris.

If you’ve never seen it, let me give you a synopsis. Normally, I’d post the trailer, but it is one of the few that reveals little to nothing about the movie. Midnight in Paris is about a man who goes to Paris with his fiancé and future in-laws. This man is an idealistic dreamer. Although he made his millions writing Hollywood screenplays, he has always dreamed of writing novels. When we meet him, he has just finished a major draft. During the day, our characters, joined by some friends they unexpectedly meet, soak in Parisian culture by visiting museums, palaces, and wine tastings. Frustrated his companion’s shallow pseudo intellectualism, our hero takes a midnight stroll to clear his mind and finds himself… well… I don’t want to spoil things.

I adore this film. The first time I saw it, I was practically rolling around on the ground salivating. (Yes, I was geeking out that much. My mother can verify this.) Midnight in Paris feels literary—with themes, motifs, cultural statements… all the things that gets a former English major excited.

Midnight in Paris is all about nostalgia. It’s about the longing that dreamers have for times-gone-by. The film deconstructs the idea of the “Golden Age”. It explores the way we idealize the past and beautifully points out that the people in our Golden Ages were doing the exact same thing. Ultimately, the film celebrates times gone by, but encourages viewers to appreciate and delight in the present.

I’m a naturally nostalgic person, so this film tugs at all my heartstrings. It’s got a star-studded cast, filled with all kinds of fun surprises. The film is poignant, frustrating, and very, very beautiful.

Since Holly has given me such a great model, I’m going to end this post in the same way she ended hers:

What is your favorite movie? What do you like about it?

Imagination and Empathy: Tapping Humanity’s Greatest Strengths (Writing 101, Day 7)

J.K. Rowling, in her 2008 Harvard commencement speech, wisely said:

I firmly believe that one of humanity’s greatest strengths lies in imagination and empathy. We have this incredible gift to place ourselves into the shoes of others. We can experience lives that are not our own. This is a strength that is undervalued and underutilized.

Growing up, I was immersed in a culture that perceived differences as threats. My family and I attended church in our community for twenty years without ever being truly accepted and loved by the congregation. You see, we didn’t fit in with conservative Christianity. We didn’t deliberately stir up trouble… we didn’t want to cause controversy or divisions. We were eager to grow in our faith, learn more about God, and be part of people’s lives. But our minds worked differently than the people around us. We couldn’t help asking questions, which made people uncomfortable. We were different and they had a hard time understanding us. Because of those things, we never felt acceptance. As a young teen, I always felt like I was lacking something, like I wasn’t good enough, like I was made wrong. (That impression was later demolished and my sense of value was strongly established, but that’s a story for another time.) It took twenty years for us to uproot ourselves and search out a church that valued us for the people we are, differences and all. It’s been three years and we are still searching.

I think that empathy can solve problems like these. Empathy is the ability to see things from another’s point of view. Because, the fact of the matter is, we as people are not all the same. Everyone is wired differently—some are scientists, some are artists, some are Republicans, some are Democrats, some are men, some are women, some are old, some are young, some are Christians, some are Muslims, some live in the city, some live in the country, some are dreamers, some are doers, the list goes on and on. There are thousands of perspectives out there and, if you cannot see beyond your own, you limit yourself to a narrow worldview that destroys more than it fosters.

The ability to empathize is one of the most valuable lessons I learned in college. Because of this, I am an ardent believer in the value of higher education. Through years of literature classes, reading the voices of times gone by, I learned to open my mind to new perspectives. Now, let me assure you that I am in no way a master at this. I’m not perfect and, more times than not, I find myself passing unnecessary judgment on others with perspectives different from my own. But there is a difference between having blind spots and being aware of them. I know I often fail at empathy, but I’m trying.

The thing is, differences are not a threat. I think that differences are an incredible strength. If the world were full of people who were the same, nothing would ever be accomplished. If everyone were a builder, we’d have lots of buildings and nothing to use them for. If everyone were a writer, we’d have lots to read, but nothing to eat. If everyone were a politician, we’d really be screwed. The differences between people are what make the world work.

You may not agree with another person’s point of view. It may even offend you. But that’s not the point. Devaluing someone’s perspective is devaluing his or her humanity. If more people considered other points of view, damage caused by unnecessary judgment would decrease. You don’t have to agree with a person, but taking the time to understand their perspective and accepting differences can do worlds of good.

We simply cannot function without imagination and empathy. We cannot settle for being narrow-minded. We cannot go on rejecting perspectives that do not match our own. The world we live in is so broken. Every time I turn on the news or open a paper, it’s something new. Driven from their homes, refugees struggle to establish a new life. A manic father shoots his wife and children before committing suicide. People who legally can now marry are still denied their rights.

But we have the power to change things. We can imagine a world where refugees find homes, where mental illnesses are diagnosed and properly treated, where people are allowed their legal freedoms. Once we imagine all these things, we are in the perfect position to act. We know what must be done. We can then become the people who step up and bring about transformation.

Stories, by their nature, place us directly in the perspective of others. This is why I love Rowling’s quote so much. Stories force us to see with eyes that are not our own, to walk with the feet of others, to feel with heartbeats outside our breasts. Fiction captures the essence of humanity and consuming it forces us to be human.   I believe a well-told, well-timed story can change the world. 

We have everything we need to transform our world. We have the power to empathize.  We have the power to imagine.

On the Shelf: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marilier

Because I’m not quite ready to discuss Bleak House (which I finished last night), this week I’ll be revisiting another old favorite–one of Juliet Marillier’s few forays into YA lit.

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads | Amazon

Summary: High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.
But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.
When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.

My Thoughts:

This was a book that I read in one sitting my first time through and loved so much that I proceeded to read it two more times in a row.  I adore the way Marillier combines The Frog Prince and The Twelve Dancing Princesses with Romanian folklore.  If you, like me, are a sucker for fairy tale retellings, this one is top-notch.

I purchased this audiobook several years ago and have listened to it countless times since.  Last week, I picked it up for another go-around.

You may be wondering, though… if I profess to love it so much, why give it such a low rating?  Let me explain… I decided to give the story a 3.5 mainly because I’ve grown up since I fell in love with this book.  I don’t see the world the way I did when I was sixteen–and, frankly, some of the romance in this story is hard to believe.  For the majority of the book, the main love story exists between Tatiana (the eldest sister) and Sorrow, a man from the Other Kingdom.  As I listened to their romance unfold, all I could do was roll my eyes–mainly because Tati is underdeveloped and boring, making her hard to relate to.  This is countered well by Jena’s love story, but I won’t go into ’cause I don’t want to spoil too many things.

I’ve always loved the protagonist of the novel, though.  Jena is intelligent, capable, and willing to go to any lengths to protect and preserve those she loves.  This time through, I kept wondering… what is her Meyers-Briggs type?  I normally don’t try to figure this out about characters, but Jena has always left such a lasting impression that I couldn’t help pin her as a ISTJ.  (Full personality description here)  After doing some digging, I realized that my prediction was spot-on.  Jena is ruled by her sense of duty and follows common sense without fail.  One of her main areas of growth is learning to trust her instincts and learn to go by her feelings, not by logic.  This struggle is a real one–there are times when I want to reach into the book and shake her.  She learns her lessons slowly, which is frustrating because things would be so much better for everyone if she just stopped over thinking herself.  All in all, Jena is an enjoyable character to spend time with and, above all else, her growth is the most interesting.

Marillier is one of my favorite fantasy writers–I’ll read anything published with her name on it.  Even though my original zeal for this book has faded with age, it’s one that I know I’ll always return to.

Sample Quote:

“Death is final. The felling of trees is final. What we ask of you is simply the recognition of change, Jena. Yours is a world of constant change. You must learn to change, too. You spend a great deal of time worrying about others: trying to put their lives right, trying to shape your world as you believe it should be. You must learn to trust your instincts, or you are doomed to spend your life blinded by duty while beside you a wondrous tree sprouts and springs up and buds and blooms, and your heart takes no comfort from it, for you cannot raise your eyes to see it.”

You Will Like This Book If: You love fairy tales, cute romance, folklore, and vampires

Stop by next week for my thoughts on Bleak House by Charles Dickens!

Four Years of English Classes: Best and Worst Reads

Being an English Major, I’ve done a LOT of reading over the past four years.  From novels to plays to poetry, it’s been wonderful experiencing all the different texts.  There have been many works I’ve absolutely loved, and several that I couldn’t stand.

Although I’m looking forward to pleasure-reading for the rest of my life, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at the best and worst reads of my undergraduate career.  Below are my lists and in parenthesis are the classes I read them for.

Worst Reads:

  • Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown (Survey of American Lit I)
  • The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right (Courtly Love)
  • The Waves by Virginia Woolf (Woolf Lit)
  • The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (Victorian Lit)
  • The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Cappellanus (Courtly Love)
  • The Romance of the Rose (Courtly Love)
  • Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare)
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston (Senior Seminar)

Fun Fact: I hated Wieland so much that I literally threw it at a wall.  That book brought forth so much rage in my sophomore heart.

Best:

  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (Survey of Brit Lit II, Woolf Lit)
  • Dracula by Brahm Stoker (Victorian Lit)
  • Coming Up for Air by George Orwell (Unhomely Homes)
  • The Faerie Queene (Book I) by Sir Edmund Spenser (Survey of Brit Lit I)
  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff (Senior Seminar)
  • Idyls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Courtly Love)

These are texts I would recommend in a heartbeat–they left a deep impact in my heart and I know I will revisit them in the future.

Now that I’m done with literature classes, I’m really excited to start tackling classics for fun again.  Bleak House has been on the back-burner for FAR too long.

Versatile/Liebster Awards

It’s always an honor when a fellow blogger nominates you and features your blog.  The thing is… I’m terrible with awards.  On the one hand, I think they’re fabulous and are a wonderful way to connect the WordPress community.  On the other, they feel a bit like chain mail.

Recently, I’ve been nominated for a number of awards.  So, instead of putting them off, I thought I’d respond to them in one big post.  The thing is, though, I’m not going to pass the awards on.  I know that it defeats the purpose, but the part of me that resists anything that feels like chain mail is simply too strong.  (I mean, I even avoided doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last spring, despite numerous nominations.)

Versatile:

A few months ago, Britta of It’s a Britta Bottle! nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Part of the award involves sharing seven facts about yourself.  Here goes:

1. I believe in the Loch Ness Monster.

2. During my junior year of high school, I held a lead role in a production of Disney’s High School Musical.  (In case you were wondering, I played Taylor McKessie.  Second to the left.)

3. I have read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban over fifteen times.  (Yes, I kept track and have since lost count.)

4. This past summer, I was in charge of the children’s programming for an international Ethiopian Church Conference in Minneapolis.

Me withs some of the girls

5. I have seen The Phantom of the Opera on the Broadway and West End stages, as well as a traveling production.

6. In high school, I wrote a novel length Harry Potter fan fic.

7. I spent my 21st birthday in Oxford and had my first drink at the Eagle in Child pub, where my literary heroes J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and friends (also known as the Inklings) used to have their weekly writing group.

OxfordBirthdayEaglenChild

Liebster:

Yesterday, Akanksha of The World Past Me nominated me for the Liebster Award.  Part of this award includes answering a number of given questions.  Here are my answers toAkanksha’s fantastic questions:

1. What do you want from life?

I want a simple life doing something meaningful.  I want to work in full-time ministry serving and building the Kingdom of God.  I want to travel the world.  Someday, I want to settle down with a husband that I love and raise a family.

2. What’s your secret fantasy?

To eat all the Nutella in the world and not gain weight.

3. What is your favorite color and why?

Green.  Because it’s pretty.

4. If you could change  into an animal anytime, what would it be and why?

I would become a beluga whale because every time I see one in real life, I become so full of joy that I nearly start hyperventilating.  (Yes, I’m a weirdo.)  I want my presence to bring joy to the lives of others.  Also, beluga whales are adorable.


5. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why/why not?

There are lots of kinds of love out there, each very complex and distinct.  In a romantic sense, however, I do not believe in love at first sight.  I think you can see someone and be incredibly attracted to them.  But the kind of love that lifelong marriages are built upon takes time and commitment to foster.  It can’t be captured in an instant.

6. What do you believe is humans’ greatest strength?

I think that one of our biggest strengths is our ability to create.  There’s something about art, literature, and music that transcends words.  Crafting beauty that moves and inspires is something that only we human beings are able to do.  It’s absolutely incredible.

7. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind every morning when you wake up?

Usually, I think about Jesus.  He’s my best friend.  (I also do my daily devotions first thing, so He is naturally the first thing on my mind.)

8. A trip with your best friend or a brunch with good friends?

This is a tough one.  I’m going to go with brunch with good friends.  Why?  As much as I love travel and as much as I love my best friend, we’d kill each other if we were in each other’s company for too long.

9. What’s your favorite book?

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  The first time I read it unabridged, I didn’t know what to do with myself for a week.  I felt like I had lost a very dear friend.  Hugo has crafted a novel that captures the essence of the human existence.  It never fails to move me.

10. If you could date one celebrity, who would it be and why?

Andrew Garfield.  Because LOOK AT THIS MAN.  (Although, in real life, I don’t think I’d ever want to date a celebrity.  Too much publicity.)

So… that concludes my awards acceptance post!  Thanks so much Britta and Akanksha for the nominations!

P.S. I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award in the past, so do check out my previous answers!