Little Christmas-y Things

I've got nothing profound or terribly inspirational to write today (not... that I do on other days either..) But I did want to try to capture some of the little Christmas-y things that make this season wonderful in my house. Merry Christmas to you and yours! 

My family decorated  before I got home this year, but left my favorite ornaments, the three pearlescent angels, and the white wooden cradle for me to add to the tree.

The Christmas village and our red felt stockings all adorn the mantle; the italian creche with its birch bark stable is tucked away in the corner of the living room; and every morning the boys vie for the honor of tracing the next number on the Christmas countdown chalkboard.

There's peppermint mocha Coffee Mate in the fridge to make delightfully festive coffee, and we've baked more cookies than normal... yet no one is allowed to eat them till after the gift plates are made up. 

Meg and I are on break, and Alex came home Sunday morning, so for the first time in a while we were ALL at dinner together. Sadly, we're beginning to out grow the table; the piano bench double seating the two youngest at the end is going to be a permanent fixture during the holiday. Its good to be all together.

Meg and I are conspiring to make a tradition of last years Christmas Eve viewing of Little Women, though not an explicitly Christmas movie, the themes of love, family, and sacrifice embodied in the story are christmas-y indeed.

I added snowflakes to my blog template (do you like them?) and have been listening to music from the Beatrix Potter Tailor of Gloucester animated film (one of my favorite Christmas stories.) I'll leave you with this one. 

'Silent falls the winter snow, the air is crisp, and the fires glow. Of all the splendour in our town, the holy cathedral wears the crown. Christmas day, when the children do sing 'Open the door and let us come in', for on this day is born a king, and joyous voices are praising. Glory, glory is crowned, the cathedral glows as the voices sound. The joy and wonder fill the air, as hearts are lifted in Christmas fair.'

Endings and Beginnings II: A Year of Writing and Waiting

Its been a year since I started this blog. I didn't really have a plan; I just decided to write, and write often. And I did. My first post was some musings on Endings and Beginnings, which I'd like to reprise today, as I find myself in a similar place.

This week marks the end of not only another semester, but the end of my last semester of undergraduate studies. I'm done at Bryan, and though this has yet to sink in, I'm very well aware of the fact that I'm at a huge crossroads in my life. There are so many things that can be done: grad school, working, traveling... who knows! Aside from going home, I don't know what I'll be doing, where I'll get a job, or if I'll even be accepted to UT's library program. It's exciting and scary all at once. Am I ready? No. I don't think one is ever fully ready to move on from something good in life. Is it the right time? Yes.
This week also marks a year of watching God work quietly in many areas of my life, a year spent praying and waiting. Even though at this point, He hasn't handed me my hearts desires outright, He also hasn't said no either. I think of it as a semicolon. He hasn't marked my prayers with the full-stop finality of a period, but rather, He's left room for expectancy and hope for clarification in the future. Isn't hope a marvelous thing?
Here's to another year of writing. Thanks to my readers for sticking with me so far. 
 Here's to this ending and the beginnings in my future.  Whatever they are, I'll keep you informed.
   And here's to hope, because whatever God has in mind is worth waiting on.

The Dress

This is the story of a girl and a dress.

It all started in the Fall of 2011, when I first moved out to Dayton to go to Bryan College. The first few months of adjustment were pretty hard, as I don't make friends very quickly, and was frequently homesick. Rather than holing up in my dorm room, I made it my goal to go to the historic downtown once a week and visit a new shop each time.

My first stop was the library, when I began my long, happy relationship with Clyde... but that's a different story.

 One week, I decided to go to the Gathering Place, a cute little antique shop on main street. It's one of those places that houses different vendor booths, so you have a sampling of various antiques as well as handcraft items.
 While browsing through a rack of vintage clothing, I came across the most beautiful Gunne Sax dress. I had grown up hearing about the Gunne Sax line from my mother, and recognized the long, full tiered skirt, filmy sleeves and lace trim as being from the 70's prairie-revival trend before I even saw the label. We ha d a hoedown themed banquet coming up at Bryan, and I briefly considered buying it for that occasion, but because I had to buy choral wear for Women's chorus, I held off, promising myself that if it was still there by the time I graduated, I would get it then.

Fast-forward to Fall 2013, my last semester at Bryan. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Gathering Place with my roommate for the final check on my dress. Just as it had been for the past two and a half years, it was still there. I tried it on and it fit perfectly; it was destined to be.

I bought it, telling the lady at the counter my story. She asked what I'd do with it.
I shrugged, "Take pictures... Save it for a special occasion... Wear it to a costume party..."
 I'd get married in this dress.

Today, before she left for home, my roommate took pictures for me.

I felt like Jo March.


Cutting Snowflakes

Last night I was cutting out snowflakes to garland my room with wintery wonder and having a fabulous time. My print quota has been making itself twice as useful, as I have recycled all the unneeded papers from my classes this semester; there's something cathartic about cutting up homework. ("HA! take THAT you beastly little reflection paper!" get the idea.)
I follow the standard method of snowflake cutting, folding a neat triangle, then cutting out little bits and designs. There might be some people who can visualize what the end product is going to look like once it's unfolded, but, my mind doesn't work like that, so I cut at random and look forward to the surprise at the unfolding.
So I sat at my desk at midnight, folding and cutting and unfolding and then, as often happens at midnight when I'm still awake, I started thinking.
Life is sometimes like being a paper snowflake. God holds the scissors and shapes and trims; he knows exactly what the finished product is gonna look like. We just have to wait for the surprise at the unfolding. 
Its hardly a perfect analogy; someone with a better mind for theology could probably blow holes in my lacy little snowflake idea. But its this sort of picture that gives me comfort when I see nothing but unknowns ahead of me.

Fold upon fold
No one knows what you hold.
Each cut in its place
Adds new dimensions of Grace.
A snowflake surprise.

(poem based off blogging friend Jonathan Creasy's fascinating experiment with form that he calls scarlequain, click the link to read more about it and check out his blog.)

"Goblin Market" and Sisters

Because today is Christina Rossetti's birthday, I decided to re-read "Goblin Market", a great favorite of mine from childhood. My dad first read it aloud to me from Harold Bloom's Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages (an anthology, which, despite its incredibly pretentious title, is excellent and well worthy of the inch and a half of bookshelf space it occupies), and I've returned to it several times over the years, though a good space of time has passed since I last read it.
I found it just as eerie as I remember, and it made me think quite fondly of my long held obsession for the fae world that began when I was a good ten years younger. I still believe in fairies now, but in a very different way... but that conversation I'll save for another time...
This time reading the poem through, I was fascinated with the relationship between the two sisters, Lizzie and Laura. I love sisters, from my own two biological sisters, Megan and Fiona, to my unbiological sister (and roommate) Jori, to the various sets of famous fictional sisters that grace literature and film: the Dashwoods, the Bennets, and, of course, the Haynes sisters from White Christmas.  I identify with the cautious Lizzie, who squinched her eyes tight shut and stopped her ears with her fingers when the goblin men passed, else she be tempted by the wild and wonderful glamour of their magic wares; but I don't blame Laura for being curious and lingering to try and buy. (She reminds me so of my sweet unbiological sister... so much that not long after she awoke this morning--right after offering to make coffee--I bounded over to her bed to tell her the story of these sisters. She loves it when I rave about literature early in the morning. ;) Lizzie may have been cautious and chastising of her sister when she came back having tasted of the poisonous fairy-fruits, but she was not hard-hearted to Laura's suffering when the poison began to take effect. A sister will give her good advice but be there to pick up the pieces when it goes foolishly unheeded.  When Lizzie overcomes her fears and braves the goblin market, it is her selflessness that stays her resolve to not eat the goblin offerings even as the little men try to first sweetly coerce, then later force her to eat. Her love for her sister keeps her strong till the goblins finally give up and leave, and she returns to Laura, scratched and bruised, but with the juices as a cure. As the cure take its effect on poor Laura, burning out the poison in her veins, Lizzie still stays by her side, keeping watch. Thankfully, (else I would probably have a fit and scream at Laura, through she's only a character on the page) Laura recognizes the selfless love of her sister and passes it on to her own children in what is, perhaps, my favorite bit of the whole poem,
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”
Thank God for sisters, biological and un-; without them, where would we be?

Searching for Knitting Needles

There are times when, realizing the lack of control I have over the larger events of my life, I try to  micromanage the most insignificant details. This, dear readers, is exactly why I'm up at 12:17 a.m. rummaging through my knitting bin trying to find my size 8 circular needles. It's one of the few things that stand between me and tears. I'm rummaging and thinking and not finding what I need and desperately wishing for a hug and someone to tell me that its okay to not have everything under control. I'm frustrated because I can't remember where anything is in these crates that I've moved twice since May, and will move again in two weeks, but I know that the frustration is only a mask for the fear that lies beneath.

Fear of Change                              Fear of the Unknown                                      Fear of Failing

I want so badly to go on just as I am now: happy, loving life, getting into scrapes with my best friend and roommate, anticipating the afternoon coffee and homework, the late night movies, the real talks in the dark before drifting off to sleep. I don't want this to change; it feels like I only just got here.
I'm terrified--yes, terrified, I've finally said it after two months of thinking it--of the thought of what happens after. After the next two weeks are gone, then what? I try to get a job. I adjust to a new normal. I wait to hear from grad schools. But after that, then what? I just don't know. I hate not knowing.
I worry about not being good enough. I worry that what everyone says is true, that employers are gonna look at my Liberal Arts degree, and my sparse resume and say "Try McDonald's." I worry that the one school I want, won't want me. I worry about making friends in a city where for SIX YEARS, I've not had one close friend near my age.

I wish I could say that by now, at 1:04 a.m., I've soothed myself with promising Bible verses and am ready to sleep peacefully till class time, but that's not how this night is gonna go. I'm praying hard prayers for wisdom and direction, but if I've learned anything in my twenty-two years of life, its that God works on a different time than I do. Some nights you have to go to bed with problems left unresolved as you try your hardest to trust that He's working on your life behind the scenes.

If I have red eyes in the morning and fall asleep in chapel, just blame it on the knitting needles.

its 1:14.

Dear Nashville...Let's Be Friends?

Dear Nashville,

Since I'm moving back into the neighborhood in a few short weeks, I thought I'd drop a line in interest of renewing our acquaintance. I glimpsed you in passing recently, and I decided that I should really get to know you better.
Do you remember when we first met in December of 2007? It was brutally cold as Dad and I roamed your streets, shopping for Christmas gifts in a foreign land. I'll admit we caught you at a bad time of year, but it was also rough for me then as well, as I had just left the sweet warmth of Tallahassee's company; so, let us chalk up our chilly relationship to bad timing and start afresh.
 I'd like to do away with the facade; if we're gonna be better friends, I want to be real. I know you like to show off Broadway with all its boot shops and bars, and I know you're nicknamed "Music City" but here's the thing (and please, don't take offense) but whoever said that all that music had to be Country? Do you ever get tired of the honky-tonk and twang? I'm not out to change this integral part of who you are, but I would  very much like to know the Nashville beneath the surface. Show me your hole in the wall used bookstores, your quaint boutiques, your coffee bars, and I'll visit each one in turn.
So how about it? 2014 is just around the corner; lets do coffee sometime.

Let's Be Friends?

Weekend Inventory

This weekend:
I had a visit from my former roommate (which was fantastic!)

I had a lovely long chat with one of the Bryan wives I most admire, about children's literature and families and post-graduate plans and how neither of us knew quite what was going on in the rugby game. (When I grow up, I want to be like Amy Jones. And my own mom. And Dr. Impson. And no, I didn't just throw those last two in because I know they'll probably read this; I really do aspire to be like them.)

I finally watched Raiders of the Lost Ark (of which I'd only seen the end... get that.) and realized how well my youth pastor had followed the style of the Indiana Jones movies when he made his mini-Indy movies with his kids.

I started applying for grad school... Finally. I know, its about time I got on that. Also in this vein, I learned the five laws of Library Science as proposed by S. R. Ranganathan, who is pretty much the Father of Library Science. (How cool is THAT?)
Fantastic stuff here. I can't wait for grad school. 

I was constantly reminded of the fact that as the Doctor says, "there is, surprisingly, always hope."
and as Sara Groves says "Hope has a way of turning its face to you just when you least expect it"
and as Paul says in Romans 5:3-5 "We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." 
Hope is my favorite emotion/abstract concept.

I practiced using semicolons, as I don't often remember to use them when I can, or rather, I just don't remember when I can use them.  Wait, I think I can rewrite that sentence. 
I practiced using semicolons; as I don't often  remember to use them when I can; or rather, I just don't remember when I can use them.  
Probably not doing that right, but at least I'm trying! 

I checked the following two items off my Whovian Bucket List:
  • Eat real fish fingers and custard. (actually quite good, and I'm not just saying that to sound cool. I really liked it.)
  • Watch the 50th Anniversary episode. (AMAZING!) 
I started applying for jobs back in Nashville and prospects looks bright, as I have many different avenues to check out.
I tried hard not to think about not being at Bryan next semester, but that didn't really work out.

Yeah, so that was my weekend, and since this was just random list and not an essay I'm not gonna bother to even try to wrap things up neatly.

Peace, love and happy Thanksgiving week to my handful of readers who are faithful enough to read even this mind-dump of mine. :)

Starry, Starry Night

Starry, Starry Night
Cold air bites fingers
Grasping at warm quilts wrapped tight
‘Round huddled bodies.
High above, all time stands still.
Shades of blue swirl; a star falls.

(an example of Tanka, a japanese poetic form, written for Intro to Poetry)

In which I look around my room and decide that I don't want to leave.

I'm waiting on my dad to send me mark-ups on a research paper and taking advantage of this break from work to tidy up my room. Its beginning to hit me that in just under a month, I'll have to pack everything up and go home for the last time of my Bryan career. This is a daunting thought, because living here over the summer allowed me to nest and create my "home" in a manner quite different than what the dorms allowed, and I've settled in a little too well.

 I decorate with books, so I have not only my textbooks here, but a bookshelf full of my most beloved volumes, most of which, I haven't even touched over the past year. I knew I wouldn't have a lot of time for pleasure reading, but it makes me feel comfortable to have them here, "just in case." Some are old, old friends--like Anne of Green Gables--who I pull out occasional to draw courage from. Others are new additions, like my writing shelf full of essays and non-fiction and writers-on-writing; I keep these for encouragement to continue to do what I love best.

Just as the surfaces in this room are covered with books, so are the walls aptly adorned. As you might have noticed from the picture above, the focal point is a grand retro-style travel poster for Gallifrey, the planet of the Time-Lords. This is only a part of the larger Doctor Who theme that pervades my room. Roughly a third of the computer printouts taped to my walls and pinned to the bulletin board have something to do with the Mad Man in the Blue Box. The next largest category is anything Jane Austen. There's one crossover piece though that reads,"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a mad man in possession of a blue box must be in want of a companion." Whovian-Austenites, for the win!

I've grown quite comfortable with this room, as its begun to feel the most home-y of all my college lodgings. It's hard to think that in a few short weeks I'll be leaving it behind for the final time. I've spent a good portion of my life adjusting to a new living situation, getting to know people, making memories and cultivating a sense of belonging, only to be uprooted and transplanted someplace new. It's comforting to remember that I'm not starting afresh in a brand new place this time; rather, I'm just going home to my family in Nashville. But still, I'm not the same Sarah as the 19 year-old that left home for the first time two and a half years ago, and this is going to be hard.

A Wardrobe-Personality Experiment

Yesterday I conducted an experiment with myself. My roommate had put together an outfit for me, entirely from her wardrobe, (complete with 4 inch heels) and I wore it the whole day, with the intention of experiencing the difference a complete style change affords. It takes confidence to walk in 4 inch heels, but I found that the confidence I mustered to make my way up the hill to campus, was recycled and came back to me exponentially greater. I felt like a queen as I sat through classes with my roommates cute cream-colored top and coordinating navy-shot with gold-cardigan, the only evidence of my own personal style being the worn out, comfortable skinny jeans with a neat hand sewn calico patch mending the one egregious hole.  I sat up straighter, held my head higher and generally tried to own the air of sophistication that my outfit gave me.

But despite the fun I had wearing my confidence on my sleeve...(or on my feet, if you will), I found that by the end of the day, I was completely exhausted, in mind, body and spirit.  I think that it is not that confidence is not natural to my personality, but that my confidence doesn't need to be shouted through what I wear. So this morning when I got ready for classes I reverted to my own style--the homemade flannel plaid skirt, tights and sensible brogues. I am comfortable, I am happy, and I feel no less self-assured.

The discussion of introversion/extraversion seems to be a hot topic these days, but I'm gonna dare to add my voice to the throng and say that this experiment showed me just one way that my introversion has manifested itself.  But that's just me, and by no means am I saying that all introverts dress like me or vice-versa. I generally avoid the Myers-Briggs discussion because I believe that humans have the tendency to label and pigeon-hole people enough as it is with out introducing a pyschological element to the mix. The important thing to remember is that each one of us uniquely reflects the image of God, and as image-bearers, you need to be the best you that you can possibly be.  I tell my five year old sister, who has recently developed a habit of asking, "Am I pretty?" that, as nice as it is to be pretty, it is also important to be good and kind and true.

So friend, be confident. Be beautiful. Be you.

A Momentary Lull

There are, occasionally, times when the events of my harried life and all the many hats I wear--student, sister, daughter, friend--are suspended in a momentary lull. I have to be careful, or I'll miss the being of these moments for the doings and goings that press in on either side. When I find myself in a moment where all these layers are lifted off me and I'm allowed to simply exist and reacquaint myself with the knowledge of my Father's reign , I find a deeper rest than even sleep can provide.
I've always loved Psalm 127, one of the Psalms of Ascent, of which the first two verses in The Message paraphrase read:
 If God doesn’t build the house,
    the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
    the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
    giving rest to those he loves? 

I so often forget that I can do nothing without God's help, and He gives me all the reminder I need in my little moments of being. And so, when I find myself in the lull, instead of fretting about tomorrow's big project, or the unmade plans for post-graduation, I pray for diligence, strength and perseverance to do the next right thing.

7 November 2013

I got home around 2:00 this afternoon, and while everyone else was napping or working, I was greeted by Fifth and Sixth Brothers. They came running across the field to my car; Sixth wrapped his arms about me and buried his face in my midriff, ever the affectionate one, even at the newly acquired age of nine.  Eager to show me the latest in their Lego collection, Sixth led me inside and up to his shared bedroom, where he proudly displayed the new Star Fighters, droids and other miscellaneous Star Wars sets he had been collecting. Fifth joined us to discuss what set they plan to buy next; the posters on the walls lead me to believe that Star Wars might soon be joined by Lord of the Rings. Did you know that Lego has LoTR sets? Imagine acting out the Battle of the Black Gate with Mini-figures. ("For all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Lego Men of the West!") 
Mom, up from her nap, comes down in her green jumper and fair-isle sweater, hugs me, puts on the coffee. We pull out our yarn and needles, and show and tell our latest projects: my shetland lace baby blanket (for a sweet new mother-to-be), her purple patchwork squares. We sit and work with coffee at hand.  
My sweet Littlest Sister is finally awake, and she tip-toe runs to hug me from behind as she hums in wordless contentment. Sometimes she has a lot to say, others, she can be completely mute. She wants to show me her Lincoln Log village, the train, the bank and the cabins (especially the one where our cousins Jon and Amanda live). She continues to build as she listens to Disney on Pandora. Just like her big sister, she can name most of the songs by movie within the first few seconds. I'm ever so proud. ;)
At dinner I almost laughed out loud when Littlest Sister, indignantly protested over the fact that she had to have mashed potatoes while Sixth Brother wasn't required to partake. "You're gonna have to work on that," Mom warned me; but when you're used to the company of 18-22 year-olds, the precocity of a 5-year-old can be almost too much to bear. 
We need a sign by the coffee maker that says "I'm sorry, but you must be this high to ride the coffee machine." That way Fifth Brother will know not bother to pipe up when Dad takes a head count for after-dinner coffee.
The kids sent to bed, Dad and the Big Boys put on The Magnificent Seven, one of those classic movies where (Spoiler Alert!) in the end, everyone you like dies. Its my dad's favorite genre. I sew to the noise of a rollicking cowboy soundtrack and gunshots, till its over and everyone disperses and I'm left here at the dining room table with my newly finished skirt, my computer and the cold dregs of coffee swilling around in the bottom of my mug. It's good to be home.

What is Your Life Genre?

I have a theory that everyone's life has a certain genre to it. It is seen in your personal style, the way you react to your life events and how your life has played out so far. 
Some people were born into a fairy-tale. Their lives glow and sparkle as if sprinkled with pixie-dust. Everything about them strikes the senses with the extraordinary. To them belongs the roses, ribbons, and lace. The damsel in distress gets rescued by the charming prince and after the curse is broken, all live happily ever after.
Such is the life of my roommate. When describing her to friends and family, I often fall back on "She's like a Disney princess." And it's true. The first time I went home with her, everything I had learned about her in the context of school finally made sense, for in a little town on the outskirts of Atlanta, where book-shoppes (and they ARE shoppes) are named after foxes and trolleys run at Christmastime, is a little house with a rose bower bedroom belonging to its only daughter.

As for me, I am convinced that I was born into a period drama. When people describe me, they often use phrases like, "Jane Austen", "Little House on the Prairie" and "Anne of Green Gables." Obviously, the era varies on occasion, but I've never looked out of place in dresses styled a hundred years ago. The events of my life happen slowly, unfolding over the space of several chapters and though the observer cannot hear it, there is a sweet, achingly beautiful musical score that plays in my head. Mine is the quiet, unambitious life, filled with needlework, tea, reading, and playing the instrument. I glory in a good walk, and enjoy a dance as much as the next Bennet girl. I love my family and few friends with a fierce loyalty, and I have a feeling that when I fall in love, it won't be a thing of fireworks and first-sight magic, but a slow building so that I will say as Lizzie did ,"it has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began." 

What about you? Through what genre-lens do you see your life? 

What DOES a Homeschooler look like?

This is what MY homeschool
mom looks like!
Spirit Week is hard upon us here at Bryan and we've had our dress-up themes laid out for us: Duck Dynasty, Disney, Bryan Lions... and oh, what's this? Homeschool day? During the chapel announcement for Spirit Week, one of our prominent students--vice-president of student government--who happens to have been homeschooled, got up wearing a long jean skirt, a sweater stuffed to look like a pregnant belly and a baby sling. (As a nice touch, she was carrying a bag of whole wheat bread.) She introduced us to her children, Prudence Constitution (in the sling) , Liberty Jubilee and Chastity Abstinence (twins in utero). I was in tears of laughter, because the image presented was oh so familiar from years of co-ops and curriculum fairs. It takes one to know one, and I know homeschoolers. I'm not one to be easily offended by the stereotypes given us, and I know when to laugh at a joke made in good fun, but as I started considering what I might do to "dress-up" for Homeschool day, I kind of wanted to stick with my regular wardrobe just to make a point. I was homeschooled. I want to be a homeschool mom. This is who I am, and this is what I look like. Ordinary. I had my awkward days (as does any kid) in middle school when I wore bandannas all the time (my mom even questioned my  fashion then) but I grew out of it.
I even graduated in a cap and gown ceremony with a homeschool umbrella school. Ta-da!

Homeschooling doesn't always mean socially awkward. There are plenty of socially awkward public (and by public, I mean anything not at home) schooled kids too. Homeschooling doesn't mean easy or sleeping in late or doing school in your pajamas or getting perfect grades cause your mom is the teacher.
Learning colors!

fairy princess Fiona
Homeschooling does mean that little birds like my sister can be the free-spirited imaginative 5-year-olds they were meant to be, instead of being packed off to kindergarten. This girl does her book-work one-on-one (best student-teacher ratio ever!) with mom, and still has lots of time to play fairies in the back yard.

To me, being homeschooled is like being a liberal arts major. Your legitimacy gets called into question all the time, and you're the butt of everyone's jokes, but when done right, you come out not only a with a great personalized education, but as a well-rounded, whole person. I am thankful for my homeschool, big-family upbringing, and hope to give the same quality of education to my own kids someday... Once I graduate from Bryan with this liberal arts degree. ;)

But first, I'm gonna go conquer Homeschool Day with my braids and bandanna... It is Throwback Thursday after all!

The Stories that Matter

I'm listening to the rain on my window as I prepare for bed. Sticking to my semester's plan for weekends, I did my work Saturday, leaving Sunday homework free. After church and lunch, I spent the entire rest of the day immersed in watching Lord of the Rings, starting Fellowship at 2:30pm with Sarah and John, taking an hour off for a CLF meeting with my freshmen, then picking back up with the Two Towers.... which I finished at 11pm just half an hour ago. If I didn't have school in the morning, I'd be putting on the coffee and settling in for the long haul with Return of the King. I've never watched all three back to back, but it will happen someday--someday when I'm not trying to graduate from college and still get as much sleep as possible.
But one does not simply return from epic adventures without having to re-adjust to ordinary life, so consider this my day's debriefing.

This semester has been the best for making connections between classes and chapel and life and the crazy wandering thoughts of Sarah Lindsey Peden. Chapel affirms classes, which in turn validate my wonderings, which generally makes life a wonderful thing to be in. If I were to try to explain all the connections I've made, I'd end up sounding like a crazy fool, cause I can't exactly verbalize them yet. It might be years before I can verbalize anything I've learned this year because, as anyone who's ever talked to me (or listened to me trying to talk in Expos) knows, I'm not exactly the best at communicating what I'm thinking. But my heart knows and rejoices at its knowledge, so that's good enough for me right now.

But how does this relate to watching Lord of the Rings? I'll give it a shot--my apologies if I loose you along the way. The grand wonderings I've done recently usually lead back to two things. Ontology and eternality.
My thoughts about my choice of major, about what I read and write and think about, about who I am, where I am in life and how I got to this point, all lead back to that basic question of being. Not only do I wonder who I am, but why I am. Along the way, I forget or remember--depending on the day--my Image-bearing qualities, and the fact that because of those I am part of something so much greater and grander than I possibly could imagine--something eternal. I remember and understand this a little better when I interact with Tolkien's stories.  Sam Gamgee, in his humble gardener's philosophy, shed light on my wonderings tonight with his little speech on stories from the Steps of Cirith Ungol (The Two Towers)

“The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into? …Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that’s a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it – and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got – you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?”

In light of the Great Tale I've fallen into, life seems more secure. The Author know what happens next, and no amount of my squirming around on the page trying to rearrange words is going to change the ultimate end of the story.
                     And on that note, this heroine is going to bed.

Sarah's List of Books Every Girl Should Read

I started a book list the other day, thinking back upon books I read in childhood that are the ones I end up thinking of when trying to recall a "perfect" book. These "perfect" books all come with great female protagonists, all of whom, I wanted to BE when reading their story. That's what make a good book really great for me. Hemingway put it best when describing good books,
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
So here are some of my favorite books for girls. I'm compiling this list for my own future reference as I build my personal library, but also for the future reading of my baby sister... and my own someday-daughters.
  • The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye 
    • I was watching a Disney movie recently, and getting rather disgusted with the perfect princess image Disney has crafted and the myriads of girls I know who try to find their Disney Princess doppelganger.  ("You are YOU!" I want to shout.) I started thinking "Hmm.. I should write a fairy tale about a princess who's just an ordinary girl." And then I was delighted (and slightly disappointed) to remember that someone had that idea already and did it very well. Amy, the Ordinary Princess, has plain brown hair, and freckles and is just so perfectly ordinary that you can't help but love her!
  • Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
    • Written by the Julie Andrews, under her married name Edwards, Mandy is one of those magical books that you wish were real. How many girls have played Orphans? My sister and I did... How many girls play House? Well, Mandy is an orphan, but not one that is tragic about her circumstances. One day, she discovers an abandoned cottage, which she adopts and tends. Wonderful things ensue.
  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge 
    • There was a 2008 movie titled The Secret of Moonacre, which was based on this book. The movie was good but the book was, predictably, much better. Elizabeth Goudge crafts the perfect whimsical fairy tale complete with love, magic, redemption and perfect names like "Maria Merryweather" and "Miss Heliotrope." Maria has red hair. She is therefore, my perfect heroine. Also, horses. Every girl has her horse phase; this book fits the bill with unicorns and horses and ponies. 
    • J. K. Rowling cites this book as her favorite from childhood. This may be all the recommendation you need. 
  • The Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace
    • Betsy and her friends Tacy and Tib are some of the most real girls in fiction that I know. This series ranges from the time they were 5, to when they all find husbands, so its easily rationed out as your girls grow. The girls are imaginative and fun loving, and get into all sorts of scrapes, but grow up into graceful women. 
  • The Anne Books by L. M. Montgomery (anything by her really)
    • My true literary love, Anne of Green Gables, (and its follow up books) should be read by not only every little girl, but every tween, teen, college student, and grown woman alike. I've read through the series countless times, each time finding my own stage of life mirroring a different Anne book. (I'm currently still in the Anne of the Island stage). Anne Shirley is charming, imaginative and resourceful, and grows up to be an amazing mother of six. 
    • The Emily Trilogy as well as several other stand alone books are well worth reading as well.
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeld (and all the other Shoes books)
    • As a girl who dreamed of being a ballerina, but knew practically that it wasn't an option, I read every ballet story I could get my hands on. Ballet Shoes  is the best of the best. About three orphans (again with the orphans) who become a family and find their strengths (and weaknesses) in the local performing arts school, this book set in 1930's England is oh-so-charming and sweet. Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail even thinks so. There are other books in the series as well, most set in the performing arts community, from Theater Shoes (which actually ties back to Ballet Shoes) Skating Shoes, and Dancing Shoes. 
    • There's an excellent movie adaptation of this book that I highly recommend as well, with Emma Watson as the oldest Fossil sister, Pauline. 
  • The Secret of the Ruby Ring by Yvonne MacGrory
    • My roommate tells me that I read books that no one has ever heard of. In most cases, she's the only one who's never heard of them, but in this case, I've yet to find another person who's read the Ruby Ring books. Originally published in Ireland, this is a mix of Irish history/magic time travel/girl-with-an-attitude-gets-life-adjustment story. Magic=Good. Ireland=good. Heroine with red hair=great! 
  • Moorchild by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
    • This book was probably one of the most influential books in shaping my middle-school to early highschool fairy craze. It's incredibly believable in its knowledge of fairy lore, which is fantastic for the girl who needs to know what happens when a changeling child is swapped for a human child. This book has got raw scots magic, (think moors, obviously!) and bagpipes and adventure. 
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
    • While most of these recommendations are good for elementary to middle school girls, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the only one I would recommend specifically for older girls. Francie Nolan's story of growing up in pre-WWI brooklyn is heartachingly beautiful. Here you find love and loss and what it means to live a life of imagination and beauty... and also the best descriptive passages about coffee that I've ever read. 
So, what about you--do you have a favorite book that you think every girl should read? Let me know in the comments!


Someone recently asked me if I was a coffee person,
I replied simply, "Is the sky blue?"

Yes, I'm a coffee person if you mean, do I drink it regularly. But drinking coffee on a regular basis is not the only thing that makes me a coffee lover. Not only do I drink coffee regularly, but I drink it ritually. I mull over the philosophy of coffee--and yes, I hold a philosophy of coffee--as I brew it in the mornings for the awakening of the day; as I drink it in the evening for the quickening of the mind; as I sit with a friend, mug cradled between cupped palms, in the quiet communion of kindred souls.

I don't remember exactly when I started drinking coffee, though it was probably somewhere between senior year of highschool and freshman year of college. In my house, coffee has predominately been a "grown-up" drink--it'll stunt your growth and what-not. More like, "it'll make you hyper and we don't need a bunch of coffee-hyper kids." My dad has been a coffee drinker as long as I can remember, but my mom didn't start drinking it till she was in her thirties, starting with gas-station machine cappuccinos with fancy fall flavors.  Now she has her morning coffee and quiet time in the library every morning, and my favorite picture of my mother is that of her with green mug in hand, Bible and journal in her lap, and reading glasses perched on her nose. I'm gonna look like that when I grow up.

Coffee has become more important to me since going away to school. For the first two years of dorm life, the only coffee I had quick access to (free coffee at least) was cafeteria coffee, which is alright in a pinch, but by the time fall break rolled around, I would be longing for a big mug--not the little 6 oz dining room standard coffee cups--of my family's coffee, brewed right and strong. Going home meant drinking Peden Coffee and sure enough, often as soon as my car was unloaded, Mom would put on the coffee and we'd sit in the living room catching each other up on our lives on either end of the state. It was like a warm welcome home hug.

Then came this past summer and my adventure away from home. I lived and worked on campus and with the cafeteria shut down, I had to fend for myself. There was no way I was gonna go all summer with out coffee, so I went out to Goodwill and found a working pot for $2. I brought it home and cleaned it up and finally began to own my coffee heritage. I formed my own coffee rituals, drinking my morning coffee with breakfast and my books, and afternoon coffee with my best friend as we watched BBC adaptations of Dickens novels.  I turned her into a coffee drinker over the summer, so that the other day when she told me she had been craving my coffee, I was filled with a strange sense of pride. My coffee was now officially Peden Coffee.

So what is my philosophy of coffee?
Coffee is communal. Its for talking and loving and being family.
But coffee is also individual. Its for reading and writing and Being.
It's so much more than hot water and grounds and cream and sugar; coffee is my love language.


I want to be clever. I want to be able to make witty conversation, to be a someone of whom people say, "yeah! I know her, she's cool!", to be memorable. But when I try to be clever or witty, I cringe at myself for instead sounding catty and sharp.

I then do penance for the rest of the day, praying "Lord, help me not to try to be clever".
I rant at myself, chastising and criticizing till my psyche is black and blue with self-inflicted wounds. "You should know better. You who hold Amy Dorrit as favored literary role model! You sounded like Emma Woodhouse on her bad days just then. Badly Done, Emma!"

Noticing and checking my faults causes me to slide into a rut of deep self-criticism. One event opens the door to a closet full of my failings and sadly human tendencies, and I'm quickly buried in the avalanche that pours out.  I just wanted, for once, to be the girl with the personality, instead of the one who rarely looks up from her notebook and desk. It's here that I see my deeper problem. I wanted to be not me.

I am reminded of a reading assigned in Expos last week from Henri Nouwen's Genesee Diary, his journal tracking his time in a Trappist monastery. I liked it then--I owned it today.
Nouwen wrote about his own struggles with self--trying to be and do something special, comparing himself to others--and I find myself commiserating with him. But as much as I feel his struggle, I also take courage from his reflection. He points to our quality as humans as Image-bearers, created by God.
"We live because we share God's breath, God's life, God's glory. The question is not so much, 'How to live for the glory of God?' but, 'How to live who we are, how to make true our deepest self'" --Henri Nouwen
 Because in my potential of unbroken fullness I am the reflected glory of God, I shouldn't be trying to be someone other than me. In trying to become another, I un-Name myself.
Its a struggle to be content with who I am.

Impossible things

There is something about early fall days, where the veil between real and imaginary life grows so thin that, like the White Queen in Alice's Looking-Glass, I can sometimes believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Take this morning for example. When I stepped out of my town house, to make the trek to main campus to study I was greeted with a cool air so sweet, that I was absolutely convinced of the existence of magic. I was almost certain that I might come across a door to Narnia just standing there in the middle of the sidewalk. Had I found such a thing, the choice would have been clear, and I definitely wouldn't be sitting on a patio taking a break from homework to blog right now. When presented with the chance to go to Narnia, always go. That's an unbreakable rule in my life.

Other impossible things I've believed this morning? well, as I climbed the Hill,  I knew--believed quite deeply in fact--that out there in the woods somewhere was a little mouse in a green monk's habit, tripping over his too-big hand-me-down sandals as he searches for the sword of a hero.
And while reading about the role of a Christian artist to bring a sense of order to the chaos of this fallen world,  I thought I heard  Tolkien's Song of the Ainur ordering chaos in a newly created world.

What is it about the fall that brings these imaginary dimensions so close to my reality? Does it have to do with the time of my life in which I first discovered them? Did I first read of these worlds in fall weather? Maybe my subconscious remembers this and recreates them at the mere triggers of cool breezes and crisp leaves. I'll probably never know for sure what it is... but what is life with out something to wonder about?

Film Heroines: Merida

 Finally, the second in my promised literary and film heroines series! The Bosom Buddy and I watched Brave tonight while her husband was having a dinner meeting and I was reminded that I wanted to add Merida to my series.

When I first saw the previews for Brave, back in the summer of 2011, I was beyond excited. The wee bit of Scottish blood I have was stirred by the accents, the scenery and the music. But more than that, I was thrilled for Pixar to have the chance to do a princess story.

Merida made my Heroine Hall of Fame last semester for several reasons.
Number one being her hair. For the first time in Disney princess history, here is a real girl, with real hair. None of this perfectly smooth, golden locks nonsense. Merida has a free, wild personality with gloriously wild curls to match. Imagine my joy as a fellow red-hued curly girl to finally be represented among the ranks of the likes of Belle, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

True to form, Brave embodies the good character and family values that Pixar has been known for in the past. While similar to The Little Mermaid in the rebellious teenager thread, Merida is different from Ariel in that by the end of the film, she's realized her selfishness and become reconciled to her mother.

So, in interest of keeping this post short, and getting back to my Expository Writing homework, here is my list of ways I wish I were more like Merida,

  • Archery skills. I've always wanted to be good with a bow, since the days of playing Narnia in the back yard with my homemade Susan bow.
  • Sheer Guts. The movie is titled Brave for a reason. I wish I could bring myself to be comfortable just standing near horses, letting alone riding off onto the moors for adventures. I guess I'll just have to be brave in my imagination. :)
  • Hair. Every time I think about chopping my hair off because I can't handle it anymore, I watch this movie, and I think of what it could be, and I give it a chance. :)

Ordinary Adventures Part 2: In Practice

In a weeks time, classes will be in session, and I know that the number one question that will be asked of friends who run into each other in the halls will be: "How was your summer? What did you do?"

I dread this question.

I can never give a satisfactory answer. My (insert academic holiday of any sort) was great, and I do have a life--a nice one at that--but the moment you ask me what I did and how it was, I can't remember any of the truly worthwhile things I did. I have actually said on occasion, "what did I do?"
So for those of you who really care to hear about what I did during my summer of ordinary adventures, read on!


I decided to trying living away from home this summer, as practice for that not too far off day when I graduate and get my life together regarding graduate school.  I lived on campus in the townhouses with other summer stayers, working in the library by day and in Chattanooga by night. It was a good experience. Its not like I'm not used to housework and cooking and the necessary chores of living already, my family training has paid off in that area of life. But I had to adjust to self-starting and motivating myself to do those little things even though there was nobody benefiting from them but myself.
Conclusion: I'd much rather cook for a lot of people than just myself.

It was good to practice being financially independent--living off my paycheck, budgeting, saving and grocery shopping--knowing that as my dad told me at the beginning of the summer, I could always come home if I wanted/needed to. I felt like I was flying, but with a safety net. The first day I got my paycheck and paid my rent, I texted both my parents. completely independent of each other they both texted back a quote from Mulan (which is probably the most quoted movie in my house) "all grown up, and savin' china!"  I might have laughed all the way to work that day. My parents are some of the finest.


For a couple hours every morning, I hit up the Bryan Library to do any little odd projects they might need me for. For the most part I did a lot of shelf reading, but for the month of June I had the privilege of working with Stephanie Wood, our former archivist, helping her wrap up some of her final projects. I learned so much about the school, and archiving... and even got to hold a picture of Leo Tolstoy, signed by Leo Tolstoy himself. That was a major geek-out moment for me.  The humanities (archive) room in the Bryan Library is now imbued with some very fond memories of this summer, and my education toward becoming a librarian.

As for my night job... every afternoon at 4:15, I drove the 45 minutes it takes to get to Chattanooga, where I worked at Southtree from 5 to 11:30. Tonight is my last night, and while I'm not gonna miss the late nights and long drives, I think I will miss the job. I started out as a photo tech, scanning and digitizing prints, negatives and slides, but later got moved to quality control, making sure every order was put together properly before it went out. It was a really good job for me, and kind of went hand in hand with my archive work in the library. Memories Matter is the company motto, and with every order I worked on, it was fun to think about the people behind the pictures and videos.
Compared to last summer's job at Five Guys, the work environment at Southtree was a huge blessing. The company was started by two Lee graduates, and the majority of my coworkers were graduates or current students of Bryan or Covenant, and I just fit right in. It'll probably go down in the Annals of the Life of Sarah Peden as my favorite summer job.

Social and Leisure

I did have some time for fun this summer, despite all the working I did. :)
There were two weddings very near and dear to my heart. Mary Clare and Isaac Geyman, the sweetest young couple I have ever met, got married June 23, and was that ever a happy affair. 
Before that, on June 1st, two of my best friends, Sarah and John Glenn got married, and I had the honor of attending Sarah as a bridesmaid. (my first time!) That weekend was full of crazy adventures and lovely, lovely memories.  After the honeymoon, they moved back to Dayton (John works at the school) and needless to say, Sarah and I spent a lot of time together. Almost every afternoon you could find us together drinking coffee or tea and watching a BBC Dickens adaptation, or Doctor Who, or just being together. She kept me from going insane with loneliness. 

Speaking of coffee... ( I know, that was two sentences ago) I did the math this morning and I drank upwards of 200 cups of coffee this summer. With my late work schedule, I finally figured out the best times of the day for me to get my coffee fix in order to not fall asleep at the wheel on the drive home. I found a blessed routine in the ritual of coffee making and drinking that gave a certain steadiness to my life. 
I read a lot, of course. But then, when am I NOT reading? I always have a L'Engle book on my nightstand (and I'm really excited cause I have a new one coming in the mail!) I'm still working my way through Little Dorrit, and I read various childrens and teen lit know, light and fun stuff. But if I were to choose one book to hold above the rest this summer, it would be A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. That is one book that you can truly savor and digest, and incidentally one that really embodies my summer theme of ordinary adventures. Francie Nolan knows what it means to see the beauty in small things. 

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing," thought Francie, "something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains - a cup of strong hot coffee when you're blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you're alone - just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness." --A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

And by these standards  I have had a very happy summer.

Ordinary Adventures Part 1: In Theory

The word "adventure" seems to have become a popular word in my generation. I used it as a search term on pinterest to get a visual as I was writing and the results (click here to see them!) were full of rope bridges and hang-gliders and beautiful, far-off landscapes.  The text that accompanied some of these images expressed--among other things--curiosity, excitement, and a restless spirit.  Yes, by definition (Merriam Webster in this case) Adventure primarily means "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks," but it's the secondary definition that I'd like to think about for a little bit. Take out the danger and unknown risks, and you get an "exciting or remarkable experience." I am persuaded to believe that with the right mindset, anything you undertake can be a remarkable experience.

That has been the theme of my summer this year. Finding adventures in the ordinary. Ordinary adventures. I have friends that went overseas this summer, to Ireland, Africa, and India, and in no way do I mean to discredit the adventures they had, but in my own longing to go places and see the world first hand I began to recognize a misinformed idea that you have to go to have adventures. Going is good, and I hope that I can go places one day, (Summit Oxford has a strong magnetic pull for me right now)  but how can I possibly appreciate the adventures abroad, if I can't even appreciate the little adventures that pop up in my everyday life?

I was reading G.K. Chesterton's Tremendous Trifles essay collection earlier this summer, when I was first starting to mull over this idea of having ordinary adventures and in the title essay, one passage in particular really validated my thoughts on the matter. Chesterton was writing about different schools of thought in literature, referencing Rudyard Kipling in saying that some thing that adventures must be had on a grand scale in order to be worthwhile. However, Chesterton's own view was that even the ordinary person in everyday life can see things, and maybe more so. According to Chesterton, Kiplings theory is that,
 "We moderns are to regain the primal zest by sprawling all over the world growing used to travel and geographical variety, being at home everywhere, that is being at home nowhere."
(Having lived in three vastly different regions of the United States I've had enough of being at home nowhere, thanks very much.)

Chesterton goes on to say that,
"The purpose of Kipling literature is to show how many extraordinary things a man may see if he is active and strides from continent to continent... But the object of my school is to show how many extraordinary things even a lazy and  ordinary man may see if he can spur himself to the single activity of seeing."
Of course that last bit got hold of my mind and wouldn't let go, as those who know me well know that I am ever on a quest to truly see the world and not just look at or even through it, but to truly see--things, people, events--as God intended us to, and in so doing, become a little more particularly the particular me I was meant to be.

 And now, I've gone on longer than I anticipated about the ideas in my head this summer... I'll spare your eyes for now and save the practical aspect of my ordinary adventures this summer for part 2 tomorrow!

Doctor Who: Why I Watch It and Other Things

WARNING: The following contains jargon and unexplained references to a complicated TV show. Read at your own risk. also, SPOILERS maybe. Just to be on the safe side.

It was only a matter of time before I wrote this post... Ask me what I've been doing for fun this summer, and I'll tell you three things: Reading, sleeping and watching Doctor Who. By the end of this weekend I will have completed 4 seasons of the highly acclaimed BBC show, and I am not ashamed of this fact.
I decided to write this post for a couple of reasons,
1.) To better explain to the various non-whovians* in my friend group my unabashed love for the show,
2.) To explain to my whovian friends why I can watch the show completely out of order and still respect its 50 year legacy.
3.) To explain why the Eleventh Doctor is my favorite (and its NOT just because he's the best looking)

*whovian: noun. A word which here means, "fan of Doctor Who"

So, here's my story.
I started watching Doctor Who (henceforth abbreviated as DW) in January of 2012, at the beginning of the Spring Semester. I had nothing to do after moving back in to the dorms and I had been thinking about giving the show a try, so I wrapped up in blankets and queued up my Netflix. I started at Season 5, where Matt Smith picks up the story as the Eleventh Doctor. This is one point on which on of my whovian friends and I disagree "You can't just start in the middle of a show!" he says.
I say you can.
I had researched the show before I started. (What can I say, I'm a librarian!) Being active on Tumblr and Pinterest had let me in on the fact that this was no new fad, but rather a longstanding, well respected show with a huge fan base and a lasting legacy of nearly 50 years. But where do you start with a show of such enormous proportions?
This is what it's like starting Doctor Who
There are three answers, none of them right, none of them wrong. It just depends on your personal preference.
1.) Start with Classic Who. Not all of the Classic episodes even exist anymore, having been lost, or (sadly) just chucked in the rubbish heap by BBC (the archivist in me cries bitter tears at this thought) but Netflix does have a few key stories from each of the Eight Doctors before the show went off the air.
2.) Start at the reboot. A fan decided to revive the show after it had been off the air for about 16 years. The the reboot starts up with a new season numbering starting at season one with the Ninth Doctor.
3.) Start at the most recent Doctor. While researching, I found fan forums saying that this was an acceptable way to start, so thats what I did. I picked up with Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor  at Season 5.

"But you won't understand the story!" you say.
Let me ask you this. Do you think Amy Pond understood the entire life story of the Doctor and the race of the Time Lords when she first met Eleven when he dropped out of the sky in a blue box and landed in her
garden? No.  I learned about the Doctor along with his companions, and I think that's a perfectly acceptable way to approach the show. (Also, I pick up on things quickly, so it wasn't any problem.)

That being said, Eleven is undeniably my favorite for a couple reasons, the most simple being a phrase that is oft repeated in the sphere of the whovian universe.  "You never forget your first Doctor." I fell in love with the story of the Doctor while watching with Eleven, therefore, I am unshakably loyal to him as my favorite.
But there are other reasons I like Eleven. His style for one, I adore the awkward, tripping all over himself, long-legged, bow-tie and suspenders wearing image that Matt Smith shaped as his version of the Doctor.
Secondly, his theme song. Murray Gold composed the most wonderful piece of TV music in the universe when he wrote the "I Am The Doctor" Theme. It is truly beautiful and will never get old in my ears. Thirdly, his speeches and quotes are marvelous. One minute he'll be giving an epic, blood-stirring speech of defiance from the middle of Stonehenge, and the next minute he's speaking the most uncanny words of wisdom. He speaks with such universality, that even non-whovians might see a quote and be inspired by the philosophy of the Doctor as it is realized in the words of his Eleventh Regeneration. Quotes like
"You know that in nine hundred years of time and space and I've never met anybody who wasn't important before." 
 "My experience has been that there is, surprisingly, always hope." 
 are only a two examples of the life-giving mentality that I love about the Eleventh Doctor. No, I haven't seen all of the other Regenerations yet, but from what I have seen, this is a special something about the Doctor that Eleven brings out very well. And THAT, my friends is the ultimate reason why I love Eleven.
Now, I don't expect my non-whovian friends to drop everything and start watching the show immediately. I'm not a radical, just a gentle evangelist, when it comes to winning people over to my fandom. If you don't want to come, its ok. I understand. Not everyone has the time or energy to be a fan-girl/-boy. Nor do I expect my whovian friends to agree with me totally. Just hear me out and see things from where I stand for a minute. Its a lovely place, but not for everyone. Just take a peek at the view from here, then you can go back to your linear, logical standpoints. ;)
And for all you people, like my mom, who don't really get why I get so obsessed with things like Doctor Who, I leave you with a quote from author John Green on what it means to be a nerd.
 “…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.” 
Peace, my fellow enthusiasts-of-the-miracle-of-human-consciousness. Over and Out. S

time enough to dream

I don't know when I last enjoyed such a day of freedom as this gloriously quiet Saturday, but I sure know that there won't be many more this summer. There are two more weekends in the summer, one of which I'll be traveling to Nashville and back. Don't get me wrong, it'll be fantastic to go home before school starts up again, but I have grown to love the independence of Saturdays on my lonesome.

Now, Mom, because I know you're gonna read this at some point, don't be upset and think I don't miss the family or anything--That's what Sundays are for (haven't you noticed I usually call on Sunday?) 

It was one of those mornings where I wake up around eight, same as usually, but instead having to o up immediately and preparing for work in the library, I just grabbed a book and stayed in bed. I'm reading a new teen lit book that the Dayton Library had on display, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's a story I'd class with the likes of The Fault in Our Stars or anything  by Sarah Dessan. It was one of those mornings where I read while I get dressed and do my hair, while I eat my burnt toast (burnt cause I wasn't paying attention to the toaster oven) and nutella (well... Jif's imitation nutella, which is just as good and half as expensive) and pretty much don't put the book down for anything unless I have to.

My one real chore for the day was grocery shopping, which despite the kvetching I'd done at work the night before about not wanting to have to run errands, turned out to be not so bad. I enjoyed trying to figure out what I'd cook today for the week to come. I ended up with an amazing pot of potato soup (with carrots and parsnips and onions, Oh My!) that will dole out nicely for dinners at work this week. It'll be a nice change from Ramen for sure.

The rest of my afternoon was unashamedly filled with back to back episodes of Doctor Who and coffee and knitting my Amy Dorrit Shawl. I finished off Series One (with a pounding heart at the finale and regeneration of Nine and great cheers at the appearance of Ten), made a dent in Series Two (while chopping vegetables) and nearly finished the shawl.

The thing I like about Doctor Who, is that its a very Naming show. The writers are sometimes brilliant (more recently they've been nothing but) and it stirs my thinker in lovely ways, so all the in  betweens of today have provided plenty of time to dream and fodder to dream on. There's been no rush to get out the door to work, no exhaustion of coming home at midnight, brain- and body-tired. The whole day was filled with a lovely, free, hopeful feeling. Even pumping gas at the the walmart gas station turned into a glorious moment when a summer storm broke out over head. Little things like that excite me :)

Now that I've gotten to the end of this post, I've realized that I really didn't have all that much of import to say. Maybe I was attempting to preserve at least a shred of this idyllic day. I almost never take pictures (and some things which can't be captured on film) but rather I hold stories and feelings and memories in state in my mind... folded neatly into little drawers, to be taken and out and reviewed at my leisure.

As a last word, which is not really a word at all, I leave you with a mini playlist of two of  my current favorite songs, which I feel properly exemplify this day.

till next time lovely readers.

Rubber Bands

I'm working in Quality Control, reviewing and packing a large order of film reels, which has a lot of loose rubber bands.  I can't resist stretching one out on my thumb and shooting it across the room. It flies true, all the way from Shipping to Processing. I retrieve it with a mischievious grin, then return to my workstation. The rubber bands sitting on the table amid plastic CD sleeves and pens and neon pink highlighters trigger a long ago memory. Paperclip Guy (the king of all random stories) takes a seat at the disc printer. As I pick up another order, I ask him if he wants to hear a random story. He has no choice.

Once upon a time I was an awkward middle-schooler. A very awkward middle-schooler. I used carry a couple rubber bands with me at all times, wearing them on my wrists like bracelets, as self protection against the middle school boys in my sunday school class.

"How did they protect you?" asks Paperclip Guy, waiting for discs to print. 
"I would shoot them if they annoyed me," I answer, "I was a vicious little thing if provoked."

He asks when I stopped. 
I honestly don't remember. I'm not sure I ever did. I tell him that I still shoot my brothers with rubber bands when then need it.
His discs are almost finished printing as he asks where I fall in birth order. 
His knowing nod when I tell him I'm number one says, "that explains it all."

All of a sudden, I see something in my story, something that reminds me of Fourth Brother James. In a moment of clarity, I see my self ten years ago contrasted against Fourth Brother now. We are so similar--our copious amounts of reading (mostly fantasy), our quirky habits. His behavior of late begins to make some sense. I can see things more from his perspective. I was an awkward middle schooler once, just as he is now. I decide at the end of this long, branching bunny trail that I can, just maybe, cut him a little slack.

More Words to Myself

There will be growing pains, times when your personality grows awkward and gangly and you trip over your words like that prepubescent tween trips over her feet.

You'll defy your status of "Tuesday's Child" and feel like you've lost your last scrap of grace. Those sleepless wee small hours of the morning will be filled with rememberings of long past fumbles, which you'll replay like a choose-your-own-adventure, changing the ending each time, hoping for a better outcome.

You may feel like every flaw has been exposed--you'll be painfully aware of it in fact--but the awareness is a good thing. As long as you're aware, you know you're alive. God's not finished with you yet. He may have that jeweler's lamp turned on you for a time while he chips aways at those cracks in your character, adding facet upon facet so that in the end, you may more brilliantly reflect the Light of His Glory.

Remember that when you lack in grace, He abounds with Grace.

Literary Heroines: Amy Dorrit

Last year, my favorite of my dorm decorations was the wall of fame composed of my favorite literary (and
film!) heroines. I had pictures of these girls, each with the character trait I most admired in her captioning the picture. I've been meaning, for a long time now, to write a series for my blog, featuring this women, why I love them, and how I want to be like them. So here begins my Literary Heroines series, starting with one of my all time favorites--Amy Dorrit.

Amy Dorrit, of Dicken's Little Dorrit, is probably one of the most underrated female characters in literature.  Why is there not more fuss made about her? She most certainly deserves a place near the ladies of Austen and Bronte. The picture I have up here, is Claire Foy as Amy in the BBC's 2008 production of Little Dorrit.

The Kindred Spirit and I just finished watching the BBC miniseries together today, sighing that great sigh of happy-sadness that comes with the end of a good period drama. I watched it for the first time last summer with my Dad, and I'm beginning to see a tradition forming. Annual summer viewings of LD, anyone? I say oui! 

Amy was born and raised in the debtors prison where her father is kept for half of the story. Subject to abject poverty, she does her best to keep her father happy and comfortable in his imprisonment. Throughout the story, the most striking thing about Amy is her gentleness and grace in all situations. Always kind, respectful, and considerate, she keeps a cheerful outlook on life despite her bleak beginnings. Even after her family's fortune takes a turn for the better, she still maintains her gentle sweetness and servants heart in the midst of her riches. She never forgets the friends that loved her in her poverty, no matter how much the rest of the family wishes to distance themselves from their past.

I have felt a good deal of kinship toward Amy since I first read the passages about her being often mistaken for a much much younger child.  (Try being a junior in college and having a lady in the mall think you're twelve. yeah.) I've noticed that having a hero(ine) produces a couple of results--and this is just from a casual study of people, not scientific at all, so bear with me--first, you notice that a character that you kind of like has some similar qualities, usually in physical appearance, to yourself. This being noticed, you strive to mold your mannerisms to be more like them. Its not a bad thing, as long as you don't change your you-ness to  become a fictional character.
 I've seen it time and time again from my girlfriends, whether they know they're doing it or not. I hope that because I am aware of this cycle I can avoid it's personality altering pit-falls and, rather, harness this admiration of a model character to my best advantage. This is kind of the drive behind this blog series.
SO, in a way of wrapping things up (And I apologize for the completely blowzy, unstructured nature of this post) I present to you a list of how I strive to be like Amy Dorrit.

  •  to be graceful in all circumstances, maintaining dignity, but not prideful.
  •  to be gentle towards all, even when I could easily snap out in anger. (This is for your sake, my six brothers)
  • to cultivate a servants heart, thinking of others first.
  • and... slightly more trivial,  to learn how to do my hair like hers! 
This is definitely going to be my wedding hair-do someday!

As always, thank you for reading! Let me know in the comments what you thought about Little Dorrit if you've seen or read it. I'd love to hear from you!

Ontological Small Talk

"What's your deal?"

I turn around from my workstation, the half-folded CD box still in my hands. Paperclip Guy* is standing at the processing shelf, scanning a cart-load of orders before shelving them. I can only imagine the puzzled look on my face that prompts him to repeat his question.

"What's your deal?... What do you like?... What do you do?"

Basically he's asking me who I am. This is what I get when I work with a guy who studied philosophy in college; instead of discussing the Mets and Dodgers (metaphorically speaking, of course; I care nothing for baseball) we discuss our ontology in a round-about way. I half turn back to my table, slipping DVDs into plastic sleeves while I gather my thoughts.

"Oh gosh," I say slowly, "That's complicated..."

"You can give me the short answer," he says. He's dead serious. He's always dead serious. Even when telling me that manatees weigh only 50 pounds because they are made up of mostly air. I almost believed him for a half minute, before he told me he was just teasing. He hadn't cracked a smile at all.

"Well," I say carefully, still forming the thoughts in my head, "I guess I would say that at the very heart, I'm a Lover of Words." The words have capitalization even in my head. "Its why I want to be a librarian, its why I like to read..."

I'm not finished--there's three to the group--but he interjects. "Then why don't you become a writer?"

"...and why I love to write" I finish.

His cart is almost empty, but he's got enough time to ask what I like to read. Seriously, Paperclip Guy, one hard question at time. Isn't it enough to ask me the nature of my being, let alone try to condense my sphere of reading into a single sentence? I manage to pull an genre (essays) and an author (Chesterton) out of my mental card catalog, and we exchange niceties about the great Englishman.

Now his cart is empty. He goes back to overseeing the rows of tapes that are transferring to disc. I return to reviewing orders for shipment. I can't say I didn't enjoy the conversation. It was just...different.

*Obviously not his real name... Names changed to protect the innocent (or something like that). Besides, for about a week, (before I learned his real name) I thought of him as Paperclip Guy, because I didn't even know he worked with me until he came through the building looking for paperclips.

girlhood things and sprig muslin

I've been reveling in the joys of re-reading an old series from childhood this week--The Betsy-Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace. I read the first few books in 3rd grade, but didn't discover the later ones till I was in highschool. For those unfamiliar with the series, its follows the life of a girl, Betsy Warrington Ray, and her two best friends, red-headed Tacy Kelly, and fairy-like Tib Muller. The books start when Betsy and Tacy are quite young--five or six, I believe--and continue through highschool and into Betsy's first year of marriage. The books are all quite wholesome, and on my Must Read list for any girl. The girls get into all sorts of hilarious scrapes and seem to have hardly a care in their Pre-Great War world. I'm currently re-reading the highschool years, and as I am wont to do,  projecting the characters onto my own life. I can see myself and my friends reflected in varying combinations of personalities. Betsy's journaling certainly sounds so much like my own, that I wonder if, somehow, I  have been subconsciously echoing her in the way I write these past four years of steady journal keeping. Tacy is just one of the many red-head's who have stirred my own longing for true red hair, and her coronet braids have certainly been manifested in my life a lot the past couple of years.
Most mornings lately, you'd be able to find me sitting legs folded beneath me in my plush armchair with coffee  at hand, giggling at the escapades of Betsy's Crowd,  smiling a secret smile when ever Joe Willard comes into the story (for I know what Betsy doesn't know... she's gonna marry him someday) and occasionally scribbling a quote down in my ever present notebook. It's been good for my imagination, and good for my soul.
Also on a slightly unrelated note, I have an observation. Isn't "sprigged" the loveliest word? Meaning "decorated with a design of leaves or flowers" you'll most often read it in books like Betsy-Tacy, and Little House on the Prairie, in the context of describing fabric. Ma Ingalls has a sprigged calico dress, Tib Muller has a lilac sprigged dress, and I do believe there's a Georgette Heyer book titled "Sprig Muslin". The word is  dainty and quaint and innocent in sound, and I am utterly enthralled with it. It kinda makes me want to sew a sprigged calico dress of my own. 

Til next time my lovely readers, I am yours in hopeless romanticism.

Rainy Day Ramen

I couldn't have been older than ten, but not younger than eight, when I first remember thinking that Ramen noodles on rainy days was possibly the best lunchtime combination. I think it might have been my first conscious recognition of comfort food. Sitting at the dining room table in our little white World War II era house with the rain coming down hard on the windows, I don't believe I'm fabricating memories when I recall being perfectly content as I forked up the warm brown noodles and contemplated the books I was going to read at quiet time.

This memory came back to me today when I was working up in the library archives and trying to figure out what I'd eat for lunch when I got off work. When I woke up this morning, the Hill was enveloped in grey clouds and mist, (the actual Bryan Bubble--am I right?) and it was trying to rain. It actually did rain for a little while-- happy, fat drops that fell on the library's atrium skylights with a most beautiful rattle. The rain, plus my   hungry belly dredged up the memory of rain day ramen, and made my lunchtime planning easy.

It surprises me when I find people that have never had ramen. For a young family on a tight budget, it was a cheap lunch; for the large family with hungry boys, it was again, a cheap belly-filler, we've never not had ramen in the house (except for that one time mom was going on a MSG-free kick and didn't buy it for a month.) Hardly nutritious, and barely delicious, its not the most glamorous food out there. But it's warm, and comforting, and perfect for rainy days.