Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"People would be surprised if they knew how much in this world was due to prayers."

~from Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.~
Artwork: Praying Hands by Peter Paul Rubens

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Books & Big Fish

In my post this past Friday, I alluded to the shelf-full of new books we got on our anniversary weekend. Lest you think I'm exaggerating...
...the new books we got literally filled a shelf. Sixteen new books. Can you be addicted to books? Because if you can, we definitely are. I just looked it up. There's a term for this. We're "bibliophiles". We don't just love books, we love to collect them. You'd think we'd have run out of shelf space by now, but I have an easy solution for that: buy more shelves. I decided to do an entire post about the books we recently acquired so that I could also talk about this idea I have that some books are like fish. Before I get into that, let me tick off the books we got. From left to right:
  • Aesop's Fables : (a beautiful hardcover 1968 edition)
  • Villette : Charlotte Brontë
  • Jude the Obscure : Thomas Hardy
  • The Age of Innocence : Edith Wharton
  • Anna Karenina : Leo Tolstoy
  • The Brothers Karamazov : Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Sons and Lover : D.H. Lawrence
  • Catch-22 : Joseph Heller
  • The Old Man and the Sea : Ernest Hemingway
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn : Betty Smith
  • A Wrinkle in Time : Madeleine L'Engle
  • Poem a Day, Vol. 1 : edited by Karen McCosker & Nicholas Albery
  • Atlas Shrugged : Ayn Rand
  • The Pearl : John Steinbeck
...and then a couple of French books for Cody because he's going on a missions trip to French speaking countries soon. I know this seems excessive, but we got half of these at our local used bookstore at a 1/2 price sale. 8 books for $17? Yes, please. The 1/2 price sale just happened to fall on our anniversary weekend. WE CAN'T CONTROL THESE THINGS! I mean, it's not like we could skip our annual Barnes & Noble anniversary date just because we already bought 8 books that day. Let's not be silly.

But getting back to my fish analogy: I think of certain books on my Life List as "big fish" books. In fact, I think of my Life List as a whole as a "big fish". Go with me here. If you've ever been fishing or listened to an avid fisherman tell stories, he'll often recount tales of the "big one". Big fish are elusive things. Oftentimes they get away. But when you actually reel one in, you feel an undeniable sense of pride and accomplishment. 

That's how I feel about a huge classic. Moby Dick (pun unintentional but fully embraced), The Count of Monte Cristo, Gone With the Wind, Les Mis, The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina--these are Big Fish books for me. My Life List is a Big Fish because it's constantly growing. The goal to read all of Shakespeare or a biography on every president: Big Fish. Will I ever read all these books and plays, all the classics and all the poetry? Probably not. There are so many books and so little time. These goals are elusive and slippery. But it's such an adventure tailing the treasure and slowly reeling it in. Since starting this blog and creating yearly book lists for myself, I've managed to catch some of my Big Fish. Vanity Fair, Theodore Roosevelt, and Great Expectations to name a few. I've also discovered that some of those fish I'd been trailing weren't such a challenge after all like The Last of the Mohicans

My Big Fish this year are The Three Musketeers and Tess of the D'Urbervilles. The Three Musketeers is already proving its Big Fish status by putting up quite a fight. But it's going to make it that much better when I'm finally able to say I finished it. 
fishing in the Keys : 2007
Is this the craziest analogy you've ever heard? What are some of your Big Fish books?

Monday, May 29, 2017

In Memoriam

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
~John 15:13~
Remembering today the men and women who sacrificed their lives to protect mine.
Thank you.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Casual Fridays

Oh y'all. I thought April was the crazy month, but May slapped me across the face and then laughed about it. My grandmother passed away, my sister officially became a 2nd lieutenant in the USAF and then graduated from college, Mother's Day came and went, all the ants in Central Florida decided my house was the place to party (they were met with bleach and extreme hatred), my husband and I celebrated five years of marriage, and now I'm going through the ringer with these wisdom teeth. Honestly, there hasn't been much reading going on (although I did manage to fit in Slaughterhouse-Five), but that didn't stop us from buying an entire shelf-full of new books on our anniversary weekend--more about that Monday. For now, let's just look at pictures. That's always fun, right?
First of all, this little cutie-patootie (and her parents) are finally coming back to the States and you better believe I am going to be at the airport in Atlanta to pick them up and personally escort them to Alabama because it's been almost one whole year since I went to Japan to see them. I'm so excited! And I'm so thankful that their next home is within driving distance. I predict lots of weekend trips to AL in my near future. 
Speaking of my nieces, this little hot mess lost Tooth #2 a few weeks ago. I keep telling her she's not allowed to grow up, but look at her just defying my wishes and growing up anyway. It can't be helped. While we're on the subject of teeth, my wisdom teeth are coming out on Thursday so please pray that I don't pee my pants or anything equally embarrassing while I'm under the anesthesia and that I actually do wake up from the anesthesia when it's all over--but, for the love of everything holy, not before

Cody was working on our actual anniversary, but the night before, we spontaneously decided to take a date night over to Family Fun Center to celebrate our five blissful years as man and wife. We played all the arcade games (I ruled in skee-ball, he spanked me on the big-game hunting, and we tied on our street race through Rio even though the dumb computer attributed the win to him), ate a total junk dinner (pizza, wings, and cherry coke), challenged each other on the putt-putt course (he beat me by 8 strokes--I was totally off my game), and spent all our tickets on very mature items like plastic samurai swords (I got a black one, he got a red one) and green apple blow-pops (because duh). As you can see, the photobooth had an anniversary option. So apparently, we're not the only ones who like to celebrate our love by acting like a couple of teenagers, thankyouverymuch. We had a complete blast, and the night after our anniversary, we still had our grown-up date to the Melting Pot and Barnes & Noble

My anniversary roses. 
Because I couldn't not post a picture of them. 
Insert all the heart-eye emojis here.
These two, amiright?! It's a good thing they're so dang sweet because they (and by "they" I mostly just mean Major although Colonel hasn't been totally innocent) have been getting into the trash lately and eating it. I can't. It's so gross. We went out and got them some new chew toys this week and they have been loving the tough rubber tug-of-war rings we got them. So hopefully they'll stay out of the trash. 
I'm currently in the middle of Job and still slugging along in The Three Musketeers. I'm attributing my lack of headway in this book more to the craziness of the past couple months than the actual content, but I will say that it still hasn't grabbed me yet. I'm contemplating trying to squeeze in Hamlet or Agnes Grey this next week so I can actually check one of my book list books off this month. Thoughts?
And let's wrap this photo-sesh up with my three boys because aren't they the sweetest?! 
I'm the luckiest girl in the world. 

What's going on with you lately? Has May been crazy for anyone else? I still haven't gotten my beach day. What are you reading these days? Any suggestions of what to stock the pantry with during my convalescence? 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"Whoever hesitates for a second perhaps allows the bait to escape which during that exact second fortune held out to him."

~from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas~

Have you ever regret letting an opportunity escape you?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Let's Bust a Recap : Slaughterhouse-Five

Ok. Let's just get this over with. I haven't been this sorry for reading a book since Of Mice and Men. In Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (also called "The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death"....I know), we meet Billy Pilgrim, a World War II vet who has come "unstuck" in time and constantly travels to different scenes of his life with his main storyline being his experience in the war. In the first chapter of this short, ten chapter book, we hear the author's excuse or explanation for the book--more like a preface than a chapter, really--and throughout the novel, Vonnegut acts as narrator and even inserts himself into the story on a few different occasions. 

Billy Pilgrim, the main character, is captured in Germany and taken as a prisoner of war to Dresden and remained there until the infamous bombing of it a few months prior to the end of the war. During his capture and imprisonment, he frequently "comes unstuck" in time and visits scenes of his life including a few scenes from his unhappy childhood, several from his marriage and time as a widower, and many depicting his abduction by alien creatures called Tralfamadorians and the subsequent time he spent living in a Tralfamadorian zoo. 

Yes. You heard that right. Billy Pilgrim was abducted by aliens and put in their zoo for their amusement. This book was so weird. 

Slaughterhouse-Five has been on my Life List for some time due to its fame and also because of the controversy surrounding it. It has been ranked as one of the best English-language novels of the 20th century (it was written in 1969), but it has also been ranked as one of the most frequently challenged books and has been the subject of censorship and controversy even to this day.

After reading it for myself I have to say: I didn't like it, and I wouldn't recommend it. From a literary standpoint, it was scattered and ventured into the science fiction realm which is not my personal cup of tea. From a historical standpoint, it certainly blurred the lines between fact and fiction. Because Vonnegut was a POW at Dresden himself and inserts himself in this novel speaking from his personal experiences there, many consider Slaughterhouse-Five to be semi-autobiographical which can be a little misleading if you don't do your research. For instance, he claims several times in the book that 135,000 people were killed during the firebombings of Dresden making it more deadly than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Realistically, the number killed at Dresden was probably closer to 30,000. From a moral standpoint, it was cynical and caustic and crude. Anytime death was mentioned, the author famously followed it up with the fatalistic phrase "So it goes" using that phrase over 100 times in this 215-page book. And with the foul language and coarse sexual references throughout the book, it's no wonder the book has been such an object of controversy. I personally stand for freedom of speech and am against censorship, but I get why school libraries would want to ban this book. 

Ultimately, I'm glad we only spent a quarter on this book (we picked it up in a used bookstore right before heading to Sarah's commissioning and graduation), and even though I can now check that one off my Life List, I don't feel any better for having read it. It was disturbing and yucky and I was pretty much over it by the end of the second chapter. This will definitely be my first and last experience with Vonnegut. 

Have you read any of Vonnegut's work? What are your thoughts on censorship? Do you think there's a distinction between school libraries and public libraries? If not, why? If so, do you think it's okay for a school to ban a book from its library?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Five Years

Happy Anniversary, my lover-man! 
I will follow you wherever you may go.
Augustine Grace Photography

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"I came to love You late, O Beauty so ancient and new; 
I came to love You late. 
You were within me and I was outside where I rushed about wildly 
searching for You like some monster loose in Your beautiful world. 
You were with me, but I was not with You. 
You called me, You shouted to me. You broke past my deafness. 
You bathed me in Your light, You wrapped me in Your splendor, You sent my blindness reeling. 
You gave out such a delightful fragrance, and I drew it in and came breathing hard after You. 
I tasted, and it made me hunger and thirst; 
You touched me, and I burned to know Your peace."


Friday, May 12, 2017

My Women

My grandmother died a week ago today. She lived with us for most of my life, and she was my best friend. She wasn't always the easiest person to get along with, but what Southern lady ever is? We've all got that stubborn vein running through us. I used to go in her room, fall across her bed, and talk to her about everything--even things I couldn't talk to anyone else about. She always told me her honest opinion, and I could always tell her mine. She and I watched every movie Shirley Temple ever made together. She had them taped from television on old VHS tapes, and we'd even watch the old commercials. Our favorites were Little Miss Broadway and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. For every birthday or Christmas we celebrated, she gave me a new stack of Nancy Drew books. We loved going on lunch dates to Fazoli's, and every person at the Lake Howard McDonald's knew her by name. I make her sweet potato casserole every Thanksgiving. We called her Gingo. 
My baby sister was commissioned into the United States Air Force as a Second Lieutenant this past Sunday, and then she graduated from one of the top engineering schools in the country on Monday. I'm unspeakably proud of her, and I'm completely devastated at the same time. There's something very upsetting about watching your baby sister swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I object. She's the smartest, coolest, prettiest girl in the world, and I can't believe she's this grown up.
This Sunday is Mothers Day. This hasn't been a particularly easy day for me ever since my time in South Africa, but I have the best mom in the whole entire world, and she deserves to be celebrated every day. I love you, Mom.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"I never could believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world, 
ready booted and spurred to ride, 
and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden."

~Richard Rumbold~

Friday, May 5, 2017

Casual Fridays

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi decide to have a competition to determine which of them is doing the best at his job. So each one went into the woods, found a bear, and attempted to convert it. 

Meeting back up with each other later the priest begins by saying, "When I found the bear, I read to him from the catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his first Communion." 

The minister answered saying, "I found a bear by the stream, preached him a sermon from God's holy Word, and the bear got baptized right then and there!" 

The priest and minister then looked down at the rabbi who is lying on a gurney in a full-body cast. "Looking back," says the rabbi, "maybe I shouldn't have started with the circumcision."

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine..."
Proverbs 17:22(a)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"But one thing I know, 
a man must be sensible of the errors of the people, 
and upon his guard against them, 
and must run the risk of their displeasure sometimes, 
or he will never do them any good in the long run."

~John Adams~

Monday, May 1, 2017

My First Guest Post!

How better to start off the month of May than with our very first guest post! Today's post is coming to you from my dear friend Jen Ulrich. Jen and I go way back to my Clearwater Christian College days where our friendship was really born on a study tour to Europe in March of 2008. Jen lives with her husband and their one year old son in Hawaii where she also works as an online professor of history for Liberty University. Today Jen is sharing her thoughts on Little Men by Louisa May Alcott with us. I really appreciate her perspective about the similarities and the contrasts between our culture today and the post-Civil War culture present in the novel. For all things Alcott on the blog including my own thoughts about Little Men, click here. Jen, thanks for putting this together for us. I hope this is the first guest post of many to come from you! 
My favorite photo of Jen and me somewhere in Europe.
March 2008
Review of Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

Everybody loves a sequel, right? I grew up watching the 1994 version of Little Women with the wonderful cast of a young Christian Bale as Theodore Lawrence (aka Teddy or Laurie), Winona Ryder as Jo, a very young Kirsten Dunst as young Amy, and several other familiar names and faces. And there it ends, with Jo and her professor inheriting the great house of Plumfield and saying it would make a great school. Well, I finally know what kind of school they establish and all the boys that filled it…and there’s another book after this one, so I really need some closure. 

Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys picks up about 5 or 6 years after the close of Little Women (which apparently has two volumes, but they’re typically combined in editions today).  Jo and Fritz have two boys of their own – Rob and Teddy, plus Fritz’s nephews Franz and Emil. In addition to these four boys ranging in age from about 3 to 16, they have taken in: Demi and Daisy (Meg’s twins, Jo’s nephew and niece), Tommy (the scapegrace – what a word!), Jack, Ned, Stuffy (the chubby kid), Dick, Dolly, and simple minded Billy. Nat, a homeless orphaned fiddler, and Dan, an older boy who helped Nat on the streets are the last two to join the school. Nan, a mischievous girl, joins later as a playmate for Dolly, with the theory that the girls will have a civilizing influence on the boys.

Whew! I didn’t start to get the minor characters straight until the end of the book. I flipped back to the character sketches in Chapter 2 to refresh my memory on who’s who throughout, which I’d say was the book’s main weakness – having so many characters means some of them won’t be particularly well developed. Most of the action centers on Nat, Dan, Demi, Daisy, Tommy, and Nan, which was more manageable. 

The story begins with Nat, and later Dan, arriving at Plumfield. They come under trial to see how well they do. Nat takes to the love of the Bhaers right away, learning lessons in school for the first time and resuming lessons on violin. He’s such a sweetheart, but I have a soft spot for violinists since I married one. Dan is rougher and harder to reach. He leads Tommy into greater trouble than he’d come up with on his own, and after several chances, Dan is expelled, for lack of a better term. Jo holds out hope for him because he’s so good with her baby Teddy and animals. Dan runs away from the place they send him, and shows up, only somewhat repentant later. The second time around, he feels their forgiveness and love and opens himself up to change. They nurture his passions, and he turns things around. 

The setting is somewhat idyllic – this beautiful farm in Massachusetts, the changing seasons, barns, plenty of land, a creek, gardens, orchards, caves, and berry bushes provide the backdrop for the children’s adventures. The simplicity is nostalgic. Was life really simpler then? Virtues and vices are common to all men, though. The boys learn lessons in honesty, diligence, moderation, generosity, gratitude, and forgiveness. Sins have consequences, but forgiveness is offered as well. It’s a most unusual school. When a good man dies, they learn that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Prov. 22:1). 

Because the characters are so young, there’s no falling in love story, but you see a more mature love between Jo and Fritz as they work, parent, and make decisions together. Jo respects her husband and abides by his wishes. He hears her heart and loves her, while making the final call. Four of the children are paired off towards the end, so I’m curious if those two couples become something more in Jo’s Boys. I have a feeling that Dan, Nat, Tommy, Demi, Daisy, and Nan might form the core of the next book. 

Final random thoughts:
  • They celebrate Thanksgiving with very similar foods, although it was a fairly recent national holiday (less than 10 years since Lincoln made it one). Jo encourages moderation at the feast, indicating that overindulgence at this holiday was already a societal norm. Eating too many sweets had spoiled Stuffy, which is why he comes to Plumfield in the first place.
  • The balance between study, exercise, and honest practical work was emphasized throughout. The scholar needs to learn the real world, and the one with street smarts needs to apply himself to his books.
  • A good name is its own reward, much more than financial “success” at any cost. 
  • The variety in characters shows differences among men and women, as well as between them. Daisy and Nan couldn’t be more different – a little domestic lady and a tomboy, but they’re good friends and have different lessons to teach the boys that only girls can. Some of the boys are rough and some are more tender, but none are any less masculine for it. 
  • The Cinderella story is told with some differences, but is essentially the same as we know it. 
  • Jo was the first #boymom. 
  • “Marmar will come and find me” (sobbing). " if you must, but don't run far; and come back to me soon, for I want you very much" (more sobbing)
  • Louisa May Alcott knows how to get me when a character dies. So powerful. 
  • Some friends say they liked this one better than Little Women, but I can’t give it that place yet. 
  • The second half went much faster for me than the first half.
  • I saw part of a movie adaptation for this book, but I was substituting, and didn’t get to finish it. 

Have you read any adaptations after seeing the movie? Or read the sequel after watching the movie? Do you have any favorite under-rated sequels? When you read older works, do you see parallels to today, or only the differences?