Friday, September 23, 2011

Summer, stay forever

Today being the first day of fall, my brain instantly went to one of my favorite blog posts ever which just so happened to be written by my dear friend Adele. I would love to just pretend I wrote this because it applies to my current feelings so aptly, but all credit goes to Adele! I hope you all enjoy it:

When I see the leaves changing colors on the mountains, I ignore it.

It's not that I don't want them to change color-- autumn is my favorite time of year. I just don't believe it. I tell myself that it's not really happening, not yet. How could it be? How could it be fall already?

Do you ever ache as you hold your baby because he is just so beautiful and sweet and precious that you don't know what to do about it? You know he is growing up so fast, but all you can do is sit and watch, and know that you are missing so much, and that time is slipping by, and that it will soon be winter, and then spring. And your baby will be growing up.

Don't grow up! Stay how you are! Gaze up at me with those big, round, innocent, curious eyes. Put your hand on my face and stare in wonder at me, let a grin take over your face, laugh when I say "peekaboo." Listen as I sing you a lullaby, rock back and forth to the music. Race across the floor in overwhelming excitement when the front door is open to the outside world or when the bathwater starts running.

Don't grow up. Don't leave me. Don't become just another big person in the world. Be my baby forever, let me hold you, let me kiss your soft cheeks, let me touch your soft hair. Curl your fingers around mine.

Summer, stay forever.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Three weeks and one day

For three weeks and one day you were with me;
a charm in my pocket to keep.
An inkling of hope within me
that multiplied each night in my sleep.

For the eight days I knew you were with me
I celebrated my sincerest surprise
with new plans of car seats and nurseries
and my skinny jeans growing in size.

Today, I realized we would be parting.
Today was one of the saddest days I'll know;
my heart ached and my eyes wept bitterly
for my baby that will never grow.

But when I saw you pass, my lips drew a smile
as I waved goodbye and blew a kiss from my heart
in thanks for the happiness you gave your family
before your life was paused at its start.

Your time on this earth was so brief,
but it filled me with excitement and love
and I look forward to embracing you fully
when we meet in His courts above.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My daddy’s hands

     When I was really young, one of my friends asked me once what happened to my dad’s hands. I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about. My dad’s hands are exactly what a dad’s hands look like, aren’t they? So I looked at her dad’s hands and realized that her father’s hands didn’t look right, not what I thought a dad’s hands look like anyway.
     As I grew older, I realized that perhaps all of the other daddies do have common traits among their hands that do make my daddy’s stand out a bit. Instead of thinking that his were normal and all of the other daddies were strange, I realized that my dad was unique.
     When I finally asked my dad what had happened to his hands, he simply said they were burnt in boiling water when he was a baby and the doctor’s tried to fix them the best they could. I don’t know if it was my brother’s stories or my own imagination that filled in the blanks in that story as to how that happened, but I lived the next 25 years under an incorrect assumption of just how such an event came to pass. It’s funny how I never thought to clarify or ask questions in further detail. It just never came up I guess. I did remember though, that when his mom died 10 years ago—that the part about her death that upset him the most was realizing that his sweet mother lived her whole life with the burden of his hands on her shoulders and her heart. She never forgave herself for allowing something like that to happen to her boy and she was VERY protective of him as a result. She had to see him go through a decade of surgeries, watch him struggle to do simple things, and also hear the taunts of cruel children. It made my dad really choked up to even talk about his poor sweet mom and the emotional burden she carried. He’s made peace with his hands long long ago, but it broke his heart that his mother wasn’t ever able to do the same.
     I have been wanting to do a photoshoot of his hands ever since I got into photography, but I never remembered when I was around him. He was up here on vacation a few weeks ago and I finally took the opportunity to take some quick pics in the fleeting light in my front room. It’s the first time his hands have been documented in detail, and I am SO glad that I took them!
     After I proofed and edited the pics, I called my dad to see if he would mind if I posted them online. He teasingly said that I could, as long as I didn’t make fun of them. He’s always making jokes like that. I decided that I might as well clarify just what happened to his hands if I was going to do a post about them. Man, was my original story wrong! I’m so glad I asked, lol. So here’s the real scoop (as best I understood it), and I’m sorry to anyone to whom I have relayed wrong information previously. I was going off of my childhood interpretation apparently.
     My dad was born in 1944 and at that time, hot water was heated in a basin directly under the sink. If you turned on only the left handle without turning on the right handle, water could be scalding hot within seconds, depending on how long the water had been heating for.
     His mom was outside talking with their neighbor for a short period of time. When she came back in, she noticed that the bathroom was abnormally steamy and that a stool was knocked over in there. She had two boys at the time, a nearly 4 year old and an 18 month old and they were prone to making messes so she didn’t think too much of the bathroom. It wasn’t until 20 minutes later that she found her youngest son, Larry, in a corner of the house whimpering to himself. His arms up to his elbows were nearly white. She didn’t quite know what to make of it and waited to see if it would get better. Maybe an hour after that, his hands had turned grey and she knew that something horrible had happened.
     He was rushed to the hospital and it was determined that he had severely burned his hands in boiling water; his right hand being more affected than his left. Since no one was around, nothing more is known than that. In the next 8 years, he had probably 20 surgeries to try to reconstruct his hands.

     Multiple attempts were made to graft skin from his stomach or legs onto his hands, but most of those attempts failed. After waiting weeks in bandages, they usually found black, rejected skin in the bandages from the unsuccessful graft. They had to try again until they finally created some functional fingers and palms. He is missing the last segment of his fingers on his right hand, won't ever be able to straighten his fingers on his left hand further than a 90 degree angle, and his wedding ring is the size of a key chain ring due to the excessive amounts of scar tissue and skin grafts... but he did manage to walk away with functional hands.
    He says he distinctly remembers endless days in hospitals with one or both hands bandaged, and that he usually already knew if the operation had worked or not due to the wreak of decay that accompanied failed operations. He said that the worst part about it wasn’t the pain he experienced in his hands, but in his stomach, sides, or legs due to large areas of skin being removed to be used for skin grafts. He still carries pretty intense scars on his abdomen and legs to this day. When I asked him when I was little what had happened to his stomach, he told me he was attacked by a shark. Due to the severity of the scarring, I had no doubt that that was exactly what did happen! It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I wizened up as I saw him shaving his hands. Why would my daddy have to shave his hands? Because they’re covered in skin that was originally meant to be on his legs or stomach.
     Frequently only having one or no functioning hands available to him, he had to be very creative with how to do every day things when he was young. He used his feet, elbows, neck, and mouth to do a lot of things that would normally be pretty easy. By the time he was 9 or so though, the operations were done and he has more or less been able to live a normal life. There are certain things his palm won’t stretch far enough to grasp well, and precision skills such as typing can be harder for him to learn than it would be for other people… but he has more or less managed to live as any normal person does; with exception of getting curious looks whenever he gives a stranger a handshake. He was a mechanic for years, a skilled and dedicated mountain climber for decades, a gun enthusiast for life, and has been a loving father for 33 years.
     He's always had a very impressively positive outlook on his hands. He's not embarrassed of them, not that I was ever able to tell. That always impressed me about him and helped me know that I could always be brave and proud of who I am, despite the things about myself I didn't like. He'd make jokes about his hands frequently and never seemed to try to hide them. He said he definitely wasn't like that when he was growing up, but after his twenties kicked in he realized that they were part of him and nothing to be ashamed of. If a small child asked him what happened to his hands, he'd frequently make up crazy stories about how he used to bite his nails and forgot to stop, or how a reindeer ate them (this was usually when he was dressed up as Santa for Christmas). I think he liked to see the kids freak out, lol.
    He was even easy going enough to let me assign an animal to each finger on his right hand and draw faces on them. His index finger is shaped like a rat, so it got mousey whiskers and ears, and his thumb has snake eyes where his nail stubs are, so I'd draw a snake mouth and tongue across the front. The other fingers all became manatees, which was surprisingly fitting for their shape and he always got a kick out of it. He'd even walk around for the rest of the day with animal faces on his fingers, which I greatly appreciated. Also, his hands are uncommonly strong. The combination of being made nearly entirely of scars and callouses and the fact that he is lacking much of his nerve and pain sensations has made for uniquely resilient hands. I remember a log falling over in our campfire once and he simply leaned in, picked it up with his bare hand, and securely placed it back in the burning section of the fire. I sat in shock, SURE that my dad was a super hero. If any other person attempted that same feat, they would have been burnt to a crisp!
     My dad was always a very involved father. He had a temper, make no mistake about that, but if you played by the rules then he was barrels of fun. He read us stories, made up epic tales, sang goofy songs, wrestled with us, showed us how to throw a punch without breaking our thumbs, let us make homemade bullets in his press, embarrassed us to no end when he cheered for us at soccer games, and impressed us daily with his hulk-like strength. He may be incredibly intimidating at times, but he really is the biggest softy you will ever meet!
     Even at his thinnest, my dad is a big, burly guy. We won’t ever know if he actually would have been right or left-handed (as it is, he was forced to be left-handed because it was less injured than his right), and we also won’t ever know what his hands would have looked like had that fateful day played out differently. My dad looks exactly like Lou Ferrigno from the the old “Incredible Hulk” TV show, so I bet he’d look just like this:

Really though, this is the dad I love and know:

    That being said, here are the pics I took. They aren’t all amazing shots technically, but they capture something dear to my heart. I honestly can’t see how his hands must appear to everyone else. To me, they are simply symbols of ingenuity, perseverance, and love.

     His hands aren’t lost though! Nope nope nope. Due to the large bone structure beneath the scar tissue, we always assumed that his hands would have been HUGE had he not burnt them, and now that has been proven. At least 3 of his grandsons have inherited his impressive mits. It’s so fun to see our boys sporting massive paws and getting to see what would have been had fate not altered my dad’s life.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Every day?

     I live in a nice, uplifting neighborhood in the suburbs of Seattle. Aside from some foreclosures that are still recouping, you really don’t get more cliché slice of suburbia than what you’d find here on my block. Last summer, I was standing in my back yard when some neighborhood kids came by our fence and started talking to me. I was holding Simon at the time, he was just a little baby, and Addie was playing in the grass. There were 7 kids standing there, all between the ages of 5-8 years old. The following conversation took place:
Kid: “How old are you?”
Me: “28”
Kid: “And those are your kids?”
Me: “Yep”
Kid: “Both of them?”
Me: “Yep”
Other kid: “Where are their daddies?"
Me: “Their daddy is inside”
Other kid: “He lives there with you?”
Me: “Yep, he does”
Other kid: “Every day?”
Me: “Every day”
Kid: “Is he a good boyfriend?”
Me: “He is! But he is also my husband, we’re married”
Kid: “Oh you’re married? And you have two kids? And you live together every day???”
Me: “Yep! Every day”
Kid: “Oh your kids are so lucky. I wish my parents lived together, or that new boyfriends wouldn’t come”
Me: “Lots of situations make a family, but I am definitely happy that I get to live with mine every day”
Kid: “I am so jealous. I want an every day family”
Other kid: “I would do anything to get to live in the same house all the time and have my family together”
*insert general murmur of agreement from the rest of the group*
     I went around the circle and asked whose parents live together and there wasn’t a single child out of the seven. Some lived with moms, some with grandparents, one with their dad… but there wasn’t a single kid that lived with their brothers, sisters, and both parents on a daily basis. All of the kids were part of families that were either divorced or never married to begin with. The fact that Sam and I are happily married with two children was a total fairytale to this group of youngin’s. A few conversations that mirror this one have happened since with other neighborhood kids and I nearly always walk away with the same impression.
     It’s so strange, this time in which we live. I am glad that people are able to get out of abusive relationships, I know that many people have suffered in the past because of social stigmas or the illegality of divorce. I am also glad that people are free to find happiness if they don’t currently find themselves in a situation that brings them comfort, joy, peace, or hope. Both of my parents, in fact, were married to other people and were divorced. They met each other shortly after their divorces and made a new start. My older brothers have a different dad than I do, but I never really understood that that meant that they were my step-brothers because they were legally adopted by my dad and we lived together full-time. As far as I was concerned, we were a family—through and through.
     Having that as my background, I definitely know and believe that some marital divisions and split families do result in something beautiful, steadfast, dependable, and eternal. Out of heartache can rise a brighter future. I just didn’t see that in the faces of any of those kids. They were so bummed out. They just want to 1) have a stable family and 2) have the privilege to be with that family on a daily basis. I really truly hope they can have that in their lives and I am just so grateful to be able to create a true home for my family.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

       As you could have guessed from my post about literature, I was SUPER excited to see this movie. I was hesitant though, because I didn’t want it to end. I have so thoroughly enjoyed this era of Pottermania, I was bummed to know that it is over.
       Honestly, not all of the Potter movies are great stand-alone movies. They all are only really good, in my opinion, if you’ve read the book. They complement the book well, but simply aren't great films in and of themselves I don’t think. The third movie was actually bad enough to turn me off to the franchise as a whole for about 4 years because I made the mistake of not reading the book before I saw the movie. When I read all of the books back-to-back after the last one was published, I realized what a missed opportunity movie #3 was because it’s actually probably my favorite book; then my potter-love went into full gear.
       As for my thoughts on the final Potter installment, my overall impression was that it was amazing. Truly fantastic and epic in every meaning of those words. Honestly though, Rowling crafted a near-perfect ending to the series, so it would have been hard for them to make a crappy movie of it.

Parts I liked (includes spoilers):
  • Most all of the changes they made to adapt the book into a movie were really appreciated. They took what was written and amped it up to fit the big screen.
  • The directing, cinematography, costumes, and CG effects were by far the best of any Potter film, and most films in general.
  • The film’s interpretation of Hogwarts coming to life to protect itself.
  • The amount of times I either had chills or tears overcome me. Seriously? I’ve NEVER been as continually emotionally involved while watching a movie.
  • Professor Mcgonagall’s line: I’ve always wanted to use that spell.
  • Their ability to age Harry for the epilogue and de-age Snape for the pensive scenes. They did such a great job, I was seriously impressed.
  • The dragon at gringott’s was SO well done! They made such good choices on how a dragon in those conditions would look.
  • Ron and Hermione’s first kiss.
  • Filch and Slughorn's small, but hilarious appearances in the film. Slughorn's "Hi Harry" in the lull between battles was just too funny.
  • Abeforth’s patronis that fought off thousands of dementors was awesome. It was like a subtle shout out to Dumbledore’s memory.
  • The sheer magnitude of the battle of hogwarts was even more than I could have imagined.
  • They integrated past subcharacters well. Lavender Brown (though that was sad), and that snatcher from part 1 having cameos was cool.
  • The acting was superb. Seriously? Ralph Feines OWNED Voldemort and brought an element of reality and personality to the character that I would have thought impossible. Alan Rickman was also truly fantastic and Daniel Radcliffe really outdid himself. Essentially everyone was at their best.
  • Can I just point out how unexpectedly hot Neville is now? Because he is. I have always and will always love him to death as a pudgy little beaver-esque adolescent, it's true, but the new Neville is not too shabby:
Parts I disliked:
  • It was more graphic than it needed to be. Voldemort walking barefoot through a blood-soaked Gringot's while surrounded by hundreds of maimed goblins was pretty intense. The huge number of dead students was hard to see as well. Snape’s death scene was also a bit more than I would want anyone under the age of 17 to watch. I’m not offended for having watched it myself, I’ve seen plenty of movies with worse content than that. I just wish they would have dimmed the gore back a bit so that 10 year olds could watch it comfortably and their parents not have to worry about their sweet spirits being negatively affected as a result.
  • I would have really liked to have seen Kreacher emerge with the house elves behind him ready to fight. That is SUCH a great moment in the book, I’m surprised they didn’t optimize it. I guess that they didn’t have the time to really portray the relationship between Kreacher and Harry grow in part I, so they didn’t continue it into part II. The should have done both though!
  • King’s Cross station is one of my favorite chapters of any book ever, and this movie’s coverage of it was simply lacking. I totally understand why it couldn’t be as great as the written book, but it still was really a let down for me. I needed that full conversation between Harry and Dumbledore. I wanted Dumbledore to have his guard down more and to really be emotionally-invested in Harry’s triumph and choices. I wanted him to just really be vulnerable in that moment, but it was just kind of stagnant for me. I wanted the whole story to come full-circle as beautifully and satisfyingly as it does in the book. There simply wasn’t the connection I needed from Dumbledore. I suppose that I’ll just be that much happier that I’ll always have just one more reason to read the books more than watch the movies, right?
  • Where was the original Crabbe in the room of requirement? It was really weird to see Malfoy, Goyle, and Zabini in there instead. I know that the original actor for Crabbe was arrested for marijuana possession a few years back, but couldnt they have just recast him? All they needed was a tall, overweight caucasion boy with a buzz cut and I dont think anyone would have noticed it wasn't the original actor. You just can't separate those three, it doesnt work any other way!
  • I think they could have easily made it a half-hour longer and it would have benefited greatly. It seemed a bit short for me, or like it moved too fast without enough gravity being given to huge themes, such as Harry’s quest for understanding where each of the hallows are and his weighted decisions as to if he should obtain them or the horcruxes first. I could have done with a bit more there.
  • I wanted Harry to fix his old wand at the end, I don’t see why they didn’t.
Though I did have minor things I’d change, I just can’t take the time to write down all of the things I loved about this movie. It was really just so well done and I loved every minute of watching it. Harry, Ron, Hagrid, Snape, Luna, Neville, Mcgonagall (my favorite characters)… I will really miss you. Watching you in these movies has made my heart a happier and fuller one.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Small vs. Big

     I’ve been thinking about our family's future a lot lately. I am good friends with six women who are due in the next two weeks and baby hype is in the air! Sam and I hope that our children would all be about two years apart in age and since it takes nine months to cook a baby and Simon's nearly one… that means that we’re getting close to game time for us again. It’s a bit of a conflicted feeling. There's a lot of good going on right now... I'm finally back to my pre-pregnancy weight after having Simon and my skinny jeans fit again. Our days are gaining normalcy and freedom as Simon starts to eat regular food, drink standard milk, and is close to walking. These changes are making me realize just how perfect we have it right now. I’ve had two healthy pregnancies, two amazing natural births, and two of the most wonderfully sweet and easy dreambabies on this planet. I have a boy and a girl even… what more could a person ask for?
     If it remained just us four in our family, we wouldn’t ever need to get a van, we’d always be able to fit easily into a single booth at a restaurant, it would be affordable for the four of us to fly when we travel, and (I can only assume) we’d always have ample money to throw around for the “wants” of life instead of just the “needs”. I wouldn’t get all fat again and have to lose the baby weight, and 1/3 of my hair wouldn’t all fall out three months after giving birth; leaving me with weird grow-in whispies that drive me crazy for the following year as they grow out. My skin, my boobs, and my body in general would have a much better chance at staying young and vibrant well into my late 30s and maybe my 40s if it wasn’t taxed with the burden of creating and nurturing additional children.
     But if I don’t have anymore kids, then Addie won’t ever have a sister and Simon won’t ever have a brother. That means that I won’t ever get to reveal to Sam that I’m pregnant again, feel the first flutters of a baby kicking in my tummy, experience the AMAZING miracle of giving birth, adore the squishy, wrinkled face of a newborn, nurse a baby, see Sam hold our baby or sing to them, chew on chubby baby thighs, or dress up my baby in adorable clothes again.
     Having grown up in a family of five kids, I am familiar with the many struggles that being part of a large family can cause. I also have at least a slight idea of how difficult and overwhelming it would be to raise that many children. Do I dare even mention how LOUD it is? At one point in time, my mom had a newborn, two year old, four year old, six year old, and an eight year old. Yowza. That’s all I have to say.
     But after having grown into adolescence and adulthood, I really feel SO fortunate and blessed to be part of a big family. We had so much fun! My many experiences learning how to play, share, and learn from my many siblings undoubtedly made me a better person. We are all so different and each of my brothers and sisters represents a part of who I am as a person. I adore each of my siblings and rely on them individually for different types of friendship and support. I can’t imagine having to choose just one sibling to keep for my own. I love having tons of people at our family reunions and the fact that Addie has so many cousins who are her friends. I want to give that to my kids. It will make me fatter and slightly crazy and it will probably make it so we can’t afford a boat, but what’s a boat when compared to what is gained?
      I am just so grateful for my family. I feel deeply blessed to have gotten pregnant with ease, to have healthy babies, and to be enjoying our life as a young family as much as we are. I’m really just so excited to see what the future has in store for us. Sam and I think we'll have four kids, perhaps up to six... who knows?! One day though, I know that I’ll have to realize that I am holding my last newborn… but I am just so glad that that day isn’t today.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

When it's nice to be wrong

     It took me a long time to realize that I love reading and am not bad at it. My sisters both are the type to read super fast and would read all the time as young kids. It made me feel dumb in comparison because I am naturally a slower reader so the whole process became a chore. Instead of trying to improve, I decided that I hated reading in the first place and reading was lame. With that belief in place, people who were good readers weren’t a threat to me anymore. That’s sound logic, right? Plus, I don’t know—it was really hard for me to get into books. The teen novels all of my friends were reading just seemed SO lame when I tried to read them too; so I just decided that reading wasn’t my thing and didn’t really pay any attention to it until I was a junior in high school.
      I hadn’t ever been too into the many fantasy books that my friends read because they weren’t grounded enough for me. It was too easy to just make something convenient happen due to “magic” to resolve an issue in the plot. I don’t know, too many loopholes for my brain to be really satisfied. Then I read The Lord of the Rings when I was 16 for the first time and I was just blown away. I seriously just immersed myself in those books for a few years. What made Tolkien’s work so different is that he created a real world that spanned ages of time. The magic involved wasn’t ever a “point your wand and something random happens” type of magic, but more of an understanding of the true nature of things and being able to manipulate it to your will. Something about it just really suited me in a way no other fantasy book had. I didn’t just read them, I STUDIED them. I wrote cross-references on pages, memorized ancestral lines, analyzed Tolkien theology—it was intense.
     I took a class on Tolkien in college and learned that his writing was a result of his love of being a linguist. He had created multiple, full languages just for fun and then became so attached to the languages that he invented people who would have spoken them. That is how Middle Earth was created. Tolkien was just so attached to that world, it obviously consumed him. I’m sure it would have been horribly annoying for his poor wife to hear about it and lose him to it often, but as a reader I will forever be appreciative. I think my favorite thing about him was how every single character in his books has a thousand-year-old history and ancestry behind them. Even many sub-characters have ancestry and purpose that arcs back over ages of time. How could you not enjoy a world that is so delicately crafted?!
     LOTR and the Hobbit don’t stand on their own though, you have to read and study the Silmarillion and the Lost Tales and some other books that fill in the gaps. For instance, why Eagles helped sometimes and not others, just what happened and what it meant for Gandalf to come back from having fallen, and the true nature and purpose of each of the races. Seriously, Tolkien took EVERYTHING into account when he wrote. I might even write about my theories and discoveries on some of these topics at a later time on this blog; they are really just too fun to get into.
     As my reading maturity progressed though, I started to realize that though Tolkien is an amazing story-teller and creator, he isn’t really my favorite author. His poetry is really weak and his actual writing is lacking in ways. That doesn’t mean his books aren’t amazing, they are! But Tolkien was left in the dust when I got into college and started reading the classics.
I LOVED a big fat, thick, wordy book. I just lapped up books by Dickens, Hugo, Dumas, Dostoevsky, or Steinbeck (to name only a few). There was just SO much there to appreciate, think about, and sink my brain into. Don’t even get me started on poetic writing like Edgar Allan Poe or Milton. I could go on for days! I tried a few contemporary books but they still just weren’t for me! They didn’t hold my attention, they didn’t grab me, they simply weren’t enough food for thought. I was too happy immersing myself in canonical literature to even consider any other type of reading as having merit. If it wasn’t a book that you could analyze for days on end, then it simply wasn’t worth reading.
     Aside from my English classes, most everyone else really wasn’t into the type of books I loved. What were they all reading? Harry Potter.
     Harry Potter had really started to gain momentum as a series in my early college days. This really frustrated me. I really wanted someone to whom I could talk about the intricacies of characters and subplots in A Tale of Two Cities, but all anyone would talk about was Harry Potter. I wanted to know what all the hype was, so I read the first book (only a few had been published at that time) and watched the movie and I just didn’t see the appeal. Honestly, I thought it was stupid. Many people were comparing it to LOTR and that offended me. Harry Potter doesn’t even compare as literature… it’s an apples and oranges scenario. To me, Tolkien was for an adult audience and Rowling was for tweens. Yes, they both have wizards—but that is the only similarity between the two. I don't know, from there on out I just wouldn't even give Harry Potter a chance and kind of thought that HP fans needed to up their reading level a few pars.
     During college, I kind of got into heavy reading overload though. When I graduated, it was kind of a nice feeling to not have to concentrate so hard on reading anymore or have to keep up with the insane amounts of reading homework that come with a college education; especially as an English major.
     The summer after I graduated, we went to Houston for an internship with ExxonMobil. Sam was working every day and I was writing full-time from our apartment there for Testout. My workdays weren’t as long as Sam’s, so I had plenty of time to myself. I mostly worked out or laid by the pool. The final Harry Potter book had come out that summer and everyone was all a twitter about it and that annoyed me. Those silly HP books, I mean really. I decided that the only way I could truly go about making fun of HP fans properly was to read the whole series. I had plenty of downtime and they were easy reads so I’d have nothing to lose.
     I read one and two rather quickly and thought they were fun, but still held my ground that HP was kind of stupid as a whole and definitely not for adults. Book three is when I started to be humbled though and admit that I was kind of into it. Book four was a really fun read with the tri-wizard cup and whatnot. By book six, I found myself fully-engaged and LOVING the books. Book seven? I was totally crying my eyes out in multiple parts and by the end of the book I was just so sad that there would be no more Harry Potter to read. I have been changed as a reader ever since.
     I haven’t read a classic book since then aside from Les Miserable for a re-read. Even though that’s one of my favorite books of all time, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I once had. It was like my eyes had changed and become more less romanced by the heavy wording, I don’t know. I even found myself less-inclined to reread LOTR, and stopped my annual reading of it nearly 6 years ago. You know what I have read yearly for the last 5 years though? Harry Potter.
     I absolutely adore Hogwarts. I want so badly to go to a school with 4 different competing houses within it, and try to win the house cup every year. Schools these days are so worried about offending the losers that they never do anything fun that people can win at anymore. Hogwarts just seems like the most fun a kid could have.
     I really enjoy the characters in those books; I love Hagrid and Ron the most I think. The characters in that world are just so accessible to read and enjoy, I get sucked right in.
     Are the Harry Potter books flawless? Oh my goodness no! There are loopholes left and right not only in the magic but in the actual story (and don’t get me started on how lame quidditch is). I find myself not caring though. I love it all the same and will always be happy to reread the series. Those characters and that world are good friends to me that will always be welcomed.
     Once I admitted that the my days of book snobbery had ended, that opened the door to a whole trove of contemporary book-reading; something I had never enjoyed in the past. Some gems that came out of this opened door were the Hunger Games, the Dan Brown books, the Twilight Series, the Immortal Instruments, and Water for Elephants. Each of those is a book or series that I probably would have thought beneath my reading sphere in the past, but now they are what I love to read. They aren’t all fabulous pieces of literature, but they were FUN to read, and I’m glad that I can appreciate that now.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

       Sam and I were lucky enough to go to the movies TWICE so far this month. That never happens! I love talking about movies and hearing what other people think, so I'd love to hear some feedback if anyone cares to take the time to chime in. Since this blog is pretty much an outlet for whatever I feel inspired to write about, I bet that movies and reviews will pop up rather often; so let's get the ball rolling!

       I absolutely LOVED the first Pirates of the Caribbean. Going into it, I thought it would either stink, or be fantastic... probably not anywhere in between. I loved the idea of a pirate-themed movie and was really happy that it turned out to be a great flick! It was clever and whimsical, yet swash-buckley and action-packed all at once.
       The two sequels were horrible in comparison though. SO over the top and poorly-written. In my opinion, they took everything that I loved about the original and pooped all over it. Kind of like fan fiction novels that think that they're "oh so cool" but actually totally miss the mark, then expose the copycat authors as the lame, over-giddy fans that they are. That was totally my impression of Pirates 2 & 3. The writers, computer animators, and director over-exaggerated the subtle things that made the original characters and plot work well and not be over the top... then just went way out in left field with it.
       So where does "On Stranger Tides" fall in all of this? Kind of right in the middle. I was very happy to see that they tried to keep the storyline more tame and reasonable; that was appreciated. The character writing was also pretty good at allowing Jack to seem more like an extension of his original self rather than the parody that existed in the sequels. It moved along well enough as a movie and introduced some interesting elements of classic folklore in a new way.
       I still think that this Pirates fell short though. I don't know... I just wound up really not caring by the end because I know that the movie wasn't going to be accountable to itself for anything it sets up. No one is going to die when you think they are. No one is ever actually as good or as bad as they "seem". It winds up being rather predictable in its attempts at being unpredictable.
       If you're a pirates fan and aren't critical, then I think you'll really like the movie. If you are skeptical in the first place, I don't think you're missing out by not seeing it.


       I really didn't know what to think about this movie going into it, but I walked out of the theater quite happy on a whole. Where it could have been über cheesey, it managed to walk a fine line and pay tribute to classic comic books while still being contemporary enough to appeal to a larger audience.
       Chris Hemsworth was too perfect for the role! I simply loved him. He acted his part really well, despite having scripted lines that would be hard to deliver in a natural, believable way. I was about as impressed as I could be with him in this particular movie. I'd feel amiss if I didn't point out that he not only was a decent actor, but was perhaps the most perfectly sculpted man I've ever seen, lol. Plus, he kind of really reminded me of Heath Ledger. They both have the same Australian accent and same tone to their voice, that was the first thing I noticed. Then I noticed that Chris's smile was even rather reminiscent of Heath's and something about his mannerisms in general just kept linking the two for me. That wasn't really a parallel I was anticipating and it took me half of the movie to realize who Chris reminded me of—but once I realized it was Heath—that was all I could see!
       The writing for subcharacters was kind of lame though. I don't know... I just wasn't feeling it. Thor's friends were used too much for easy humor, and I suppose that's fine; just not my style.
       Anthony Hopkins and the other leads were all really good though, aside from Natalie Portman. I usually really like her, but this wasn't her movie. A lot of it was bad scripting so I'll try to be forgiving, but she definitely didn't win me over in this role.
       Overall though, I think it was a great movie that most anyone would enjoy. I was also super excited to see that Kenneth Branagh was the director! I have loved him forever, so I'm glad to see him continuing to do great work.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Something there is that doesn't love a wall

       That line is from one of my favorite poems, Mending Wall. Since the name of my blog is wall-themed, I decided this would be a perfect first post! This blog isn't dedicated to poetry by any means... it will have my thoughts on pretty much whatever strikes my fancy, including silly things like book and movie reviews; but why not start by talking about a poem by one of the best poets ever?
       The focus of my capstone course for my English degree at BYU was Robert Frost. I did my thesis paper on the influence of classical poets such as Theocritus, Virgil, and Lucretius in Frost's work and it was absolutely amazing! It was mind-boggling to look at someone's work that closely and slowly start to recognize and discover so many parallels, references, and allusions to the classic poets who lived thousands of years ago. It was also really fun reading the works of the most famous greek and roman authors and start to see their influence in places I never would have thought to look had I not been in that particular capstone class. I myself am a rather shabby poet, so I get that much more excited when I find someone who can really create a piece of art. During my studies for my thesis, one of my absolute favorite poems I came across was Mending Wall.

       For those unfamiliar with the poem Mending Wall, you can see it here. I highly recommend reading the entire poem, it is true perfection. For those whose brains turn off at the thought of reading a poem longer than a limmerick though, here's a favorite excerpt:
The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
       "Good fences make good neighbors". There's just so much behind that simple phrase. His neighbor in the poem is just such a simple and accurate insight on human nature. What is it about us that drives us to divide and label things that really need no distinction? It's the same propelling force that fuels wars that shape the world, but also inspires our decisions in trivial moments, such as deciding which person we want to sit next to on a bus. The "good fences make good neighbors" attitude can apply to so much more than pine trees vs apple trees. We do it with everything; people vs people being the most sad. It's just how most of us are I guess. I will freely admit to falling victim to this particular human weakness at times. I wonder what the world would be like if we could all have the common sense and the sense of humor of the narrator in this poem. I know my day to day life would be better.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
       I love how Frost points out that no matter how hard we work on keeping up fences, nature will always weather them away into nothing. To me, it seems like this is one of God's many subtle ways of letting us know that our efforts to divide ourselves as people or claim domain on the earth is just silliness. It's all temporary in the grand scheme of things and we're really just spinning our wheels. Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley is another favorite poem that hits on that topic in a much more direct way. One day I think I'll make a sign to go by my front door that says "something there is that doesn't love a wall" and another that simply says "Ozymandias" just to help me remember not to invest my time or efforts into things that don't matter, are causing me to be narrow-minded, or aren't helping me in any way.