In Appreciation of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna Books

As a lifelong reader, there are many books I read when I was young that have shaped me into the person I am today.  Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables (which I didn’t actually read until high school… but it still shaped me), the list could go on.  I remember loving Julie Andrews’ The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and tearing through every Boxcar Children book I could get my hands on.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve returned to several of these books and have found them disappointing.  Whatever spark they ignited in me no longer connects with the person I am today.  They lose their savor and I can no longer remember why I returned to it again and again.

But that’s not always the case.  There are some books that, when I enter in with my grownup perspective, only get better–books that I can go years without and, upon opening the first page, feel the magic rise up in me once more.

Tamora Pierce is one of those writers for me.

Continue reading

Emergency Dance Party

As far as weeks go, I think it’s safe to say that I’m having a terrible one.  To begin with, my parents are currently away road tripping to Oregon, leaving me in a big empty house with no one but my brother (who isn’t exactly a chatterbox) and my cat to keep me company.  Then, I made the mistake of wading into the wrong patch of woods on our farm, resulting in poison ivy rashes and blisters all over my legs.  To cap it off, I got sick on Monday night and made a big mess of it, making cleanup gross and difficult.  (Sorry if that’s too much information…) Continue reading

Tis the Season: Holding On to Memories

Growing up can be a jarring experience.  You move out into the world and, suddenly, everything you’ve ever known is different.  After a while, you get used to it.  Life is fluid.  That’s just the way the world works.

Some things, though, never change.  Like Christmas.

Although we’re not exactly warm and cuddly, my family has always been close.  We push each other’s buttons and drive each other crazy, but have always enjoyed spending time together.

Christmas has definitely been different this year, with Grandpa in the hospital.  But, in many ways, it’s still the same.  As I said in yesterday’s post, no matter what happens, Christmas is still Christmas.

Many years ago, before college, I had a moment one Christmas when I realized that it wouldn’t always be like this.  There will hit a point when we’re all grown up and have families of our own.  We’ll be too far away to come together like we always have.

I’m thankful that this hasn’t happened yet.

But don’t know what the future holds.  I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing a year from now.  I don’t know if I’ll be home for Christmas.  So I’m bound and determined to make the most out of this year’s holiday.  I’m going to soak it all in, from the decorations to the carols to the time spent with family, and make memories that will last.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!  I’m very thankful for each and every one of you.  I wish you joy and blessings this holiday season.

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

Thoughts From a Cold Boulder

My coat wasn’t quite warm enough, but I hardly cared.  Perched on my rock, it was not the bite of the wind that took my breath, but the blue of the water stretching for miles before my feet.

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Panorama of my view from my iPhone.

Duluth, Minnesota is an old industrial town.  Perched on the Westernmost tip of Lake Superior, it’s an important harbor and port for ships bringing goods and services across the Great Lakes.  Before settling to soak in the view, I had the pleasure of watching one of the enormous freight ships slip into the harbor, skirting gracefully under the iconic lift bridge.  Strolling along the boardwalk, old manufacturing warehouses and mills (now hotels, shops, and restaurants) on one side and, on the other, the endless lake.  I’ve been coming to this city since I was a little girl.  The boardwalk, the worn brick buildings, the lake–they’re all part of me.

My nose was beginning to run, but I perched along the shore anyways.  In that moment, soaking in the beauty of the sunlight glistening on the waves, a deep peace settled over my spirit.

The past few weeks have been a torrent of upheaval–from persisting unhappiness to my job to arranging to leave the country in January to terrorist attacks and political strife.

It felt so good to get away, to sleep in a bed twice the size of my own, to eat pizza in front of a hotel TV as my brother gushed about Star Wars.  It felt good to look out my window and see city, not forest or fields.  It felt good o walk along the boardwalk, to sit on the rocks, to watch the ships come into harbor.

It blows me away how crazy this world is.  Things are always changing and I am no exception.  I don’t know what the adventures ahead have in store.  I don’t know how my experiences will shape me and who I will become.  This both terrifying and liberating.

I can’t help but think of the quote from which this blog is named:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Moments like these ones, silently dwelling in the places that have known me for so long, give me the courage to take that leap.  The peace that dwells in my innermost being gives me the strength to see what’s out in the world and discover who I’m going to be next.

Rivers & Roads (Writing 101, Day 15)

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” Victor Hugo

There’s something about music that is essential to life.  It reaches into our souls and expresses the inexpressible.  I’ve always loved music and, after four years of failed piano lessons, played the flute in middle and high school.  These days, I don’t do much in the way of music creation, but oh boy am I a consumer.  Most of the music I now listen to isn’t played on the radio.  Top 40, while catchy, doesn’t hold much appeal.  I tend to favor indie-folk/rock–the kind of bands that you can see in small clubs for only $15.

If I had to choose a favorite song, it would have to be “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart.

The lyrics are deeply nostalgic, filled with a longing for times gone by.  It’s a song about seasons and change, how people grow apart with time.  The people who are near you now will someday be far away.  Although we know it’s inevitable, it’s still heartbreaking.  I feel like this song captures something we as humans all feel at some point in our lives.  In my experiences and travels, I’ve made some very dear friends who are now very far away.  Some are only an hour or two, others across the country, many across the world.  When I listen to this song, I think of all the people I love.

As heartbreaking as the song is, it hangs on to hope.  It ends with a repetition of the following lyrics:

Rivers and roads

Rivers and roads

Rivers ’til I reach you

There is distance between us, but distance can be crossed.  It may take time and dedication, but it’s possible to reclaim what is lost.  We may become separated from the ones we love, but we can never be disconnected entirely.  The people I care about may be far.  I miss them terribly, but there is hope.  We will see each other someday.  These ties are weakened over continents and years, but they are not and will never be lost.

Take a listen to the song and let me know what think.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

(Today’s assignment included a quote by Nietzsche, but I like Hugo’s better.)

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

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?

All Hail Queen Brandi

You know those summer nights that have you grinning from ear to ear?  That was me last night.

The thing about Brandi Carlile is that she’s got a voice that reaches into your soul.  She digs into your roots, unearthing all insecurities and nostalgia and takes you back to a place you thought no longer existed.  She finds beauty in simplicity.  Her music is raw cuts to the bone.

As a graduation gift my older brother took me to see her at The Cabooze in Minneapolis.  It was an outdoor show and couldn’t be more perfect.  The openers were Anderson East and Iron & Wine.  I had high hopes for the later, but they were just too mellow for an outdoor show.

Brandi was such a treat.  Most of her songs center on the themes of home, innocence, and change.  I’m a pretty nostalgic person and her music hit me dead center.  I’ve been to several concerts over the past year, but this was definitely a favorite.  I’d see her again in a heartbeat.

Photo courtesy of my older brother.  Edited by me using the VSCOcam app.
At one point during the show, she strayed from the set list, pulled an eleven year old boy on stage to sing her song “Keep Your Heart Young”.  It was one of the night’s highlights.  Photo courtesy of my older brother. Edited by me using the VSCOcam app.

It’s been a great year for concerts.  My next one is The Oh Hellos in October with a college friend.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?  Tell me about it in the comments!

On the Shelf: Coming Up for Air by George Orwell

This week I’ll be discussing the novel Coming Up for Air by George Orwell

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Goodreads | Amazon

SummaryGeorge Bowling, the hero of this comic novel, is a middle-aged insurance salesman who lives in an average English suburban row house with a wife and two children. One day, after winning some money from a bet, he goes back to the village where he grew up, to fish for carp in a pool he remembers from thirty years before. The pool, alas, is gone, the village has changed beyond recognition, and the principal event of his holiday is an accidental bombing by the RAF.

My Thoughts:

Whenever I encounter George Orwell, my immediate reaction is almost always a groan.  He doesn’t write happy stories and, whenever I am assigned his work, I can’t shake the dread as I open to the first page.  Every time, though, I’m blown away at how my assumptions are completely wrong.  No, Orwell isn’t a happy writer, but DANG.  That man can write!

This was my second time through Coming Up For Air.  We first crossed paths in one of my literature classes while studying abroad.  It’s one of Orwell’s lesser known novels–paling in the popularity of 1984 and Animal Farm.  I, however, have come to the conclusion that it’s my favorite.

The book, as you can see in the summary, centers around George Bowling–a mediocre man with a mediocre life.  The plot is simple: he’s deeply unhappy, reminisces about his childhood, and eventually decides to go back and revisit his home town.  To his shock, his hometown is unrecognizable.  He returns home and life continues.  End of story.

What get’s me about the narrative, however, is that Orwell perfectly captures the essence of nostalgia.  I’ve been told that we as humans are the most nostalgic during periods of incredible change–personal or social.  Orwell sets his story at the cusp of World War II–just before Great Britain enters the fighting.  Everything in society, in this moment, is changing.  George, a veteran of World War I, is painfully aware of this.  He knows exactly what is coming and what it will do to the world.  Nothing will ever be the same.

Orwell puts words to the deep longings we all have for something that never existed.  Every time he begins reminiscing of his childhood, George makes a statement assuring that what he remembers isn’t the whole of it.  He tells us that, in his memory, it’s always summer.  He knows this isn’t the case, but he remembers it anyway.

The most heartbreaking part of the novel is that even though he is painfully aware that he over-idealizes his childhood, George still convinces himself that he can go back.  And go back he does.  Or, at least, he tries.  He visits all his old haunts–his father’s shop, the old church, his favorite fishing holes.  And none of it is the same.  All has been altered and no one recognizes him.

It’s a bleak novel, but a wonderful one.  My timing on re-reading was perfect.  I’m in an enormous transition stage at the moment and while looking at everything that is changing, it’s important to remember not to idealize the past or long for things I never actually had.

Favorite Quote:

“The past is a curious thing. It’s with you all the time. I suppose an hour never passes without your thinking of things that happened ten or twenty years ago, and yet most of the time it’s got no reality, it’s just a set of facts that you’ve learned, like a lot of stuff in a history book. Then some chance sight or sound or smell, especially smell, sets you going, and the past doesn’t merely come back to you, you’re actually IN the past. It was like that at this moment.”

More book-related news…

Every summer, I listen to the Lord of the Rings trilogy on audiobook.  When you do manual labor all day, it really helps pass the time.  I started Fellowship of the Ring yesterday and, believe it or not, am already halfway through the book!  (This is what happens when you work all the time.)

I’m breaking ground in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  I have yet to breach the fifty page mark, so may not get to discussing it by next week.  I’ll get to it eventually!

Come back next Tuesday for another book discussion!  Before that, though, I’d LOVE to get some feedback for this feature.  Yes, it’s the first week, but I want to find a format that works best for the enjoyment of all.  What aspects do you like?  What would you change?  Any other suggestions?

Thanks for reading!

Remember the Prairie

It’s strange being a college graduate.  I’ve worked so hard for so long and it’s odd to think I won’t be going back to Morris in the fall.  Still, the school sure does know how to send us off.  The ceremony was everything a graduation should be and I loved soaking in every minute of it.

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Having the event outside in the heart of campus, surrounded by all our class buildings, felt incredibly intimate.  The mall was absolutely packed and, the whole time, it felt like the university was wrapping its arms around me–giving me a long, sweet farewell.  The speeches and performances were on-point, and although the band sounded a bit off-key, marching forward to “Pomp and Circumstance” still made me tear up.

Our student body president and my fellow classmate gave a traditional speech reliving all our shared experiences.  When she came to the end, though, she shied away from the cheesy/vague encouragement that normally infiltrates graduation speeches.  Instead, she told us one simple thing: Remember the prairie.

I adore this piece of advice because it’s something tangible.  She didn’t tell us to pursue our dreams, reach for the stars, follow our path, etc.  (It’s funny, ’cause I draw from the path metaphor for inspiration on this blog.)  She told us to look back at the place we came from and remember the way it shaped us.  It’s a call to never forget where we have come from.

Since the ceremony last Saturday, I’ve moved home and am now one of the stereotypical unemployed English majors living with their parents.  Mind you, this isn’t a permanent situation.  My job hunt is going to be a non-traditional one, but it is already underway.  In a few months, I’ll hopefully be on my way to setting out on my own.

To conclude this post… I came to the prairie four years ago to study what I’m passionate about.  I cannot express how thankful I am for all the people I’ve met, lessons learned, and memories made.  It’s been fun blogging my way through college.  Although it’s time to embark on the next adventure, I will always have a special place in my heart for Morris.  I will always remember the prairie.

The benefits of dating yourself

Weird title, I know.

By two o’clock today, I had gone to church, worked out, and finished all my weekend homework.  All my friends were busy, and I was left with an entire afternoon with nothing to do.  I’m an introvert, but too much time alone in my room makes me lonely.  It’s like my heart feels heavy and empty and no amount of Netflix can make it better.  Knowing I had hours ahead of me in my own company, I didn’t want to waste the day moping around.

So I took action by taking myself on a date.

It was a wonderful afternoon.  I sang to the radio during the hour drive to and from Alexandria.  I talked to my mom on the phone.  I went to see Cinderella a second time and loved it just as much as the first.  (Be sure to check out my post about it!)  I went out to eat and spent dinner with my favorite John Green novel.  (Which, in case you were wondering, is Paper Towns.)   I meandered through Target, sighing over pretty clothes and household decorations.  I purchased a new purse and the final Hobbit movie.  (Be sure to check out my post about that one too!).

On the drive home, I spent a great deal of time meditating on the nostalgia that comes with the end of a season in life.  With only a handful of weeks left of college, there are so many aspects of life here that I’ve taken for granted.  As I approached Morris, instead of heading to campus, I drove to the overlook just outside of town.  Perched on a rock, I watched the sun set over the tiny town I’ve called home these past few years.  It was such a beautiful, peaceful moment– one that I know I’ll hold in my heart for a long time.

Afternoons like this one remind me that incredible joy can be found in little things.  It felt so good to forget the stresses of college, to drive away, and do things just for the sake of doing them.  I think that it’s important to learn to date yourself.  You can have a lot of fun and learn a great deal in your own company.

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Driving home to Morris in the sunset.