Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On Queen Victoria and Eligible Young Men

I'm on an alternating kick between the Reformation and Queen Victoria lately. It's been super fun, and there's so much information to mine out of both topics. We have a book and a movie review lined up next for the Reformation, but after taking a quick poll of people's interest on Twitter, I wanted to talk today about the different portrayals of Albert in a couple of Victoria adaptations, as well as offering a passing tribute to Lord Melbourne (whom Victoria and I call Lord M) in the new PBS Victoria series.

There are two reasons in particular. First, it's one of those warm, endearing endorphin things. Queen Victoria makes me supremely, incandescently happy, and I think it's because the characters and themes and story deeply resonate. So I keep talking about it because it's Schuyler to the nth degree.

But the other reason is that I love teasing out characterization, and why I resonate with some characters more than others.

The Contrast: Victoria's Albert and The Young Victoria's Albert

(Note: We're just going to call them PBSAlbert and TYVAlbert)

My favorite Albert is and probably always will be the Albert in The Young Victoria (played by Rupert Friend).

After watching The Young Victoria at least six or seven times, and Victoria almost four times, I think I know why. For one, their personalities are different, and it probably all boils down to what my personality likes. PBSAlbert starts off in the first couple of episodes as extremely serious. He never smiles, and I like a hero who can at least see the humor in something. He and Victoria have wildly different personalities, and they seem to fall in love over their arguments more than their agreements. It didn't make sense to me the first time I saw it. I think the screenwriters want it to be a sudden love, as Victoria realizes how much she can respect this man who wants to reform society. She realizes he has some maturity she doesn't, and she wants to pursue bettering the world with him.

The problem is, we haven't had enough screen time to be convinced. We're being "told" the dynamic of the relationship and asked to accept it, rather than having our hearts captured over the course of time. Victoria meets Albert expecting to hate him, and since we're so entwined with her character, we fully expect to hate him too. The problem is, Victoria switches so suddenly that our hearts don't switch immediately along with her. By the time she proposes, I'm still smarting over the fights.

Now, that might be me. I have certain likes and tastes, and lots of people have different ones, and I don't want to squish Albert if you like him. So please tell me just what you love about him in the comments, and I'd be very glad to hear it. *hugs*

Here's where I think TYVAlbert is smoother at accomplishing the same objective. In all of Victoria's mistakes, he keeps encouraging her that there is a way out, there is a way up, she can find it, and he's there to help her in any way he can. Emily Blunt's Victoria is still independent and doesn't want to be tied down to a marriage right away, but we see Albert leading her to maturity rather than frowning. The love plot spins out more slowly. The fights, when they come, are just as serious. TYVAlbert has concerns/complaints just like PBSAlbert. But we've had enough tenderness up to that point to be able to weather them.

I started resonating with PBS Albert a lot better in the Locomotives episode. I think it's because I started to see him smile more and be a little more animated. Plus, I like that his friendship with Sir Robert Peel and his comradely interactions with his private secretary bring warmer, friendlier tones to his character that he really needed. He's tender to Victoria when she's afraid about their future, and altogether just takes life a little easier while still being passionate about the future and still (yes) having quarrels. The quarrels don't go away. They just feel more balanced with happy things.

I think you really see the contrast in how the script was handled when you compare Albert's character journey and Lord Melbourne's.

Vicbourne and Vicbert
If you watch PBS Victoria, you'll find a fandom of people strongly divided. PBS Victoria makes Lord Melbourne a much younger, more personable, and probably more moral man than he was in real life. They dramatized his friendship with Victoria so much that by the time Albert showed up, people were almost sorry to see him come. Hashtags of #Vicbert and #Vicbourne filled Twitter, a trend in which you combine the two names of a couple you really want to see get together.

I'm still fully team #Vicbourne when it comes to PBS Victoria, not from a marriage standpoint, but from a friendship one. (I know Lord M is fictionalized, but I love him anyway.) I absolutely love the way their relationship was portrayed. It only takes an hour's worth of scenes to firmly fix Lord M in viewer's hearts. I think one aspect they did particularly well in contrast with PSBAlbert was Lord M's backstory.

When Albert shows up on the scene, he has backstory too, but in my opinion, his is handled more clumsily. After he and Victoria raise each other's hackles, they end up having a dance together. While dancing, Albert tells Victoria that he likes her flowers, because sometimes his mother was wearing those flowers when she kissed him goodnight. It's put in to garner sympathy, but it may have tried to accomplish a little too much a little too fast.

Flip over to Lord M in episode 1. He's got backstory and we know it, but (unless you're a history buff) we're not sure exactly what it is. All we know is that he's tired of being prime minister until he meets Victoria, when he seems to gain a fresh lease on life. Slowly, piece by piece, his life unfolds. He's been accused of scandal, and it was painful for him. His wife ran away with Lord Byron. Victoria says she would have a hard time forgiving something like that, and Lord Melbourne's replies are gentle and limited enough to warm hearts without waxing eloquent: "Perhaps you're too young to understand." On the night of a formal ball, Melbourne isn't there at the beginning. He's sitting at his desk with his head in his hand, looking at a painting and fingering a lock of hair. His servant comes into the room and says, "Lord Melbourne, Lady Portman knows what day it is, but the queen is asking for you." We don't know exactly what day it is, but we know that it really, really hurts him--and he shows up at the ball to support Victoria anyway.

The cream of his backstory shows up at the end of episode one, and it only comes out when he decides to share his deepest hurt so that Victoria, who has fallen into despair, can get back up again. It's revealed at just the right moment for the most resonance, not as an extra line to gain sympathy, but as part of the story itself, to give Victoria what she needs to pursue her goals. First, he tells his backstory (I won't spoil it) and then he offers her the hand up in one of my favorite lines: "You will go and you will smile. You will smile and never show them how hard it is to bear."

i just want a kleenex and a sword all at the same time 

When Albert is introduced, we are given an episode full of conflict and inklings of tragic backstory, Melbourne's backstory is woven into Victoria's success. He is willing to set aside his personal wounds so that she can grow. You don't see that kind of self-sacrifice from Albert right away. From him and Victoria, you see dislike that does a sudden 180 into love. Melbourne finds it easier to be kind and charming right from the beginning, and since, like Victoria, I love kind and wounded souls, I can, like her, be slower to connect to PBSAlbert and Sir Robert Peel's personality types.

I feel like, in due fairness, I ought to throw one more twist into this, to make it a well-rounded critique. It is easy for me, as someone Victoria's age, to look at Lord M and say, "He sacrifices. He loves, he supports, he encourages, and gives gentle warning, and lets her be herself all at the same time." Of course I like him. And then it's easy to look at Albert in the first episodes (I like him a lot more later on) and say, "he corrects, he frowns, he confronts her with her errors, he doesn't praise easily" and assume that one is love, and the other is a guy I couldn't say goodbye to fast enough.

But in the end, if I only took Lord M, it would stunt my character growth. There are points in Victoria's character that Lord M can't help her achieve, because he's kind and he's her subject after all, and he can't be too forceful when she's headstrong. Albert is a higher grit of sandpaper on her flaws. It's uncomfortable, and she does not always like him for it. But having people who are that high grit of sandpaper in our lives is something that God uses to conform us to his image. It shows us how living the Christian life applies to loving and welcoming people who confront us with our sin.

That being said, while PBSAlbert can confront and romance Victoria, I think PBS Lord M and TYVAlbert have another vital ability: they can cherish her. In the end, it's not the hot romance that makes a marriage last. It is a long-term, Christ-like cherishing on the man's part, respect and submission on the woman's, and mutual willingness to help each other pursue Christlikeness, that makes the long journey of marriage last.

This perspective is, of course, tinged by the romantic inexperience of a twenty-something single. I have a lot to learn from Titus 2 women who have a lot more experience than me. And I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

How do you feel about all these character arcs? Do you agree? Do you see things totally differently? Please tell me! I'd love to know! 

P.S. I've reviewed The Young Victoria here, so I'll let you catch up if you want to know what the movie's about. I haven't reviewed Victoria PBS yet, but I'll just say that while it contains a lot of endearing characters, there are a couple of plotlines that you might want to fast-forward through. Feel free to email me for a parent guide, or I hope to have it up on the blog eventually as well.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Reformation 500: Ladies of the Reformation

via Pixabay

Ladies of the Reformation, by J.H. Alexander, is a bright pink paperback without even a barcode and dives into one part of the Reformation that you might not have on your list this year. When a friend lent it to me, I was absolutely thrilled. It gave me a huge amount of help in preparing a short series of lessons I'm writing about women of the Reformation and Scripture principles we can take from their lives.

In the midst of Calvin and Luther and an impressive list of theological points, it's easy to let the year go by while overlooking the women who contributed to the Reformation. Who thinks about it much? It's like the women who supported Jesus in his ministry: many nameless and faceless, but all valued by the Son of God in helping to spread the Gospel.

J.H. Alexander's book highlights women from all over the world who helped support Christian ministers and were used by God to advance the cause of Christianity. With lots of exciting details to interest girls (midnight escapes and forced marriages!), this book can give vision in so many areas: reading Scripture for themselves, supporting churches and ministers, and obeying God rather than men when people try to force them to abandon their faith. These are important lessons and show them the powerful biblical influence a woman can have on those around her. Some of the stories end happily; others are martyrdoms that end in faithfulness to Jesus. The women in this book come from all around the world and range in scope from nuns to princess to housewives.

Sometimes I think certain aspects of the book could be very slightly embellished, and I found a couple of facts differed from internet articles on Elizabeth of Brunswick's life, so I would want to fact check. But this book serves as a good introduction and jumping-off point into further research. I'm so glad I got a chance to read it.

I've enjoyed studying the theology and history of the Reformation this year. It's a watershed moment in Christendom, and regardless of a person's theological background, it's a vital time in history to be informed about. It's shaped our pulpits, our congregational singing, and our view of work and marriage. Reformed or not (I'm actually not 100% Reformed) it's well worth taking the time to study. In fact, if you're looking for a great theological overview, you might want to check out my brother's studies over at www.icbfblog.blogspot.com!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


We're seeing trees turning red and orange, yellow and green along the roads now.

It's autumn.

A couple of weeks ago I ran away to a local cafe and hung out for the morning to run through edits and make a game plan on the second half of War of Loyalties. This half is much better than the first half, and I was able to get a lot done. A mug holding a delectable concoction called Paris Tea Latte kept me company. I think it's something with Paris tea and raspberry, and it tastes like this song in drink form.

I found Flame-Colored Taffeta by Rosemary Sutcliff at a bookstore today. I love that book, and the copy I have isn't mine, so now I can return it. ;) I also found Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was a good book day.

Last week in Bible study I was challenged by a question our leader asked. How often am I inspired by God's Word? I am inspired quite often. But the next question was harder. How often am I transformed? So often I am inspired without being transformed. It's a good wake-up call to ponder.

I missed devotions several times last week. I don't miss devotions. They've been part of my life like clock-work. But last week was a week where life turned upside-down, and I missed more than I gained. Whenever I do, I think of an article I read a while ago on Desiring God that says we do not rely on devotions for God being pleased with us, or for the grace we need. He is still able to dispense it when we fall short. It's not dependant on our actions.

Some seasons of life have felt like famine times, but this season has felt like a feast, and God has been the good Giver of it. I'm so glad.

I've been having good conversations this week. I'm an INFJ, and I love deep conversations, though I tend to have them more on the phone or in person, or via email perhaps than posting on social media. I love iron sharpening iron. My soul is fed, and my heart encouraged. I'm so grateful for the gift of fellow believers.

I'm slowly starting to get a handle with record-keeping and self-employment. It feels good to be a little more organized. Doors I never expected are opening. Tutoring. Extra jobs that pop up now and then. I get to do interesting work that engages my mind and stretches and teaches me, and that's such a blessing. It feels like something I'm training and getting stronger in, and I love it.

Rediscovering the joys of harp songs has been part of my life the last couple of months. Some of you might not know that I played the harp. I have a heather harp (about the size of a lap harp with a beautiful stand that my grandfather made.) I pulled out some songs again recently on it. I love it and enjoyed practicing again so much. I might even pull out some Christmas songs on it again this year. While I don't have correct form, it's still fun, and I'm OK with being half-correct, I suppose. Nat Bowditch was OK with half-knowing French until somebody made him learn it properly, so maybe someone will force me to learn properly too.

A few days ago I got to do some Scottish Ceilidh dancing--the Gay Gordon and a couple of easy waltzes, which are good because I'm not accomplished at dancing. I love being twirled around and asked to dance. Joy is a precious thing.

Last night something exciting happened on the War of Loyalties front--but I can't say what it is yet. ;)

What have you been up to? Thinking about? Reading in the Bible? Pondering? Have a cup of tea, and we'll chat about life together.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Sometimes you hear of a book, and it automatically associates with a certain season in your mind. To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) always associated with Autumn for me. I'd never read it, but when a friend loaned me her copy (which she had already taken care of the language in) I was really glad to explore it for the first time.

TKAM got onto my to-read list after I heard of Go Set a Watchman, the controversial sequel to Lee's first novel. Amidst a swirl of debate about the suitability of publishing the book, and whether or not Lee was coherent enough to give mindful consent, I really wanted to discover the original book that inspired so much passionate love and nostalgic remembrance on the part of its readers.

It took a while. Like two years later? But all things come in good time. :)

The Story [description below and book cover above from Goodreads]
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

My Thoughts 
TKAM is a detailed story of heart and childhood. If you loved books that managed to capture the eyes of a child, like Laura Ingalls, you'll like Scout. Scout is sharply perceptive, a classic little sister, and a very good protagonist. There are so many things that ring true to childhood experience--Jem and Scout and Dill's fascination with role-playing their hermit neighbor and bullying each other into playing things they wanted to do. The sibling tussles, the struggles with adults, and the golden adventures are classic. 

Atticus, Scout's father, is a fascinating character study. He's not emotionally demonstrative. The most affection he openly shows is allowing Scout to climb up on his lap every night and read the paper with him. He's not cold, but he's not a man of many words. He doesn't struggle to communicate, and he's not a wounded soul. He's a man of precision, a bookworm, and a man of integrity, and yet he still has warmth to him, and you catch glimpses of his love and care for his children. While I would be nervous talking to him, he seems like a man whom one could have a fascinating conversation with. The moment that shows his character the most keenly is when he walks out of the courthouse and people stand because of the kind of man he is.

It's kind of funny, because when I heard about TKAM, I had absolutely no clue what it was about, and it was totally different than I pictured without actually having a picture in my mind. The seclusive neighbor plot was a surprise, and the only thing I knew for sure was the court case plot.

That court case. I've read two gut-wrenching books on racism this year. I wasn't expecting the grief in TKAM, which Jem really epitomizes when he's processing the unfairness of what's going on. It's something so obvious to us--that all shades of skin are one, equal race, and deserve the same justice in the court systems. That all humankind is infected with sin, no shade of skin more so than another. While the subject matter was tough, as a black man is tried for supposedly raping a white woman, the way the court case is played out is legendary, and none of the information is R-rated. It can be a way to answer children's questions quietly and thoughtfully through the means of Scout's eyes. Even so, I'm glad I didn't read it sooner, and I'm really glad I didn't read it last year when I was in the middle of some emotional upheaval. There are some tough, sobering, adult things in Tom Harmon's trial that were even challenging to read this time around.  

While this book has language (many instances) and a mature central plot, it is a heart-warming, full-blooded story. The colorful personalities, the beauty in its writing, and the sense of memory and home pervading its pages combine to make a story that enriches the lives of those who read it. I wish I could be more eloquent in how I feel about it. Please tell me what you love most about To Kill a Mockingbird in the comments! 

P.S. I originally planned this review for last Friday. Life is getting the better of me, folks! I have books lined up in the queue to review, but some work and life projects are commandeering my time right now--I'll see you next Tuesday for a newsy life update, with more reviews to follow in days to come! 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Young Victoria {what young love should look like}

my photo of the dvd cover
On the night of my twenty-third birthday, I watched The Young Victoria. British movies are quintessentially Schuyler, and The Young Victoria is pretty much quintessentially Schuyler too.

*goes off to look up quintessentially* 

I've seen this movie a lot of times. It's one that grips my heart. It made me cry the first few times I watched it. It's a story about a young queen navigating her ascension to the monarchy, trying to fend off a regency, a revolt, and a Tory Parliament. As she makes mistakes and learns how to be a queen, she also learns who she can trust: her prime minister with his smooth words, or her uncle's marriage candidate, Albert.

Victoria has been controlled all her life (some of that is inevitable, being a future monarch). But her controllers in this story don't do so for her benefit, but for their own political advancement. The heart revolts against this kind of treatment, and Victoria needed people who would actually love and support her without self-interest and forceful behavior. Because she was controlled wrongly, she revolts against control when she becomes queen, making some major errors as a result. Ironically enough, she still falls under the control of Lord Melbourne, who pursues his self-interests with kid gloves and smooth compliments rather than Sir John Conroy's threats and force.

Victoria wants to be seen and supported--to be affirmed and loved. Because Lord M fills this role, she doesn't realize that she's fallen into the same trap that she was in before.

Then Albert enters.

Albert takes on a completely different role than John Conroy and Lord M. Instead of controlling Victoria, he becomes a friend, a partner, and a voice of wise affirmation and guidance--two things Victoria really needs. She is, after all somewhere between eighteen and twenty. She needs some help, but she needs it in a tenderer way than she's received thus far. Albert fits that bill. He's quiet, even-keeled, and steady. He's also kind, treating Victoria as someone with intellectual value and affirming her in her efforts to tackle the role she has been given in life. I like Albert. He feels safe--the epitome of 1 Peter 3:7: Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (ESV) While Victoria is not a Christian movie per say, I think Albert and Victoria epitomize what kindness and vision and oneness can look like in a Christian marriage.

There's a scene where they play chess together and Victoria asks, "Do you recommend I find a husband to play [the game] for me?" Albert responds, "I should find someone to play it with you." He neither subordinates his role to his wife's, nor does he devalue hers. Albert is no less a man and a leader for being the husband of the queen of England. He's not there to complete Victoria's life. He's his own man, and doesn't relinquish his leadership role simply because Victoria is socially above him. (I could cheer as he overhauls the palace system and tells Lord M, "I neither ask for nor require your advice.") To put in biblical terms what the movie illustrates, both Victoria and Albert have gifts, personalities, and callings, and their marriage makes them stronger and more able to accomplish the work God called them each to together than they can accomplish apart.

All that to say, it's not just a kind and even-keeled personality that can make for a good Christian marriage. Martin and Katie Luther were two strong-tempered firebrands that had one of the most glorious Christian marriages. But I am not like Katie Luther. I am more like Victoria. And therefore, when it comes to the type of person I'm looking for, characters like Albert resonate with me. I would like a marriage like this movie portrays someday.

Parent Guide:
Sex: One nude statute shown when Victoria is a girl, a row of statues shown in several scenes with King Leopold of Belgium. Victoria and Albert kiss several times. Albert and Victoria share a wedding night roughly around 1:14:47-1:17:22, 1:18:37-1:19-24, and 1:36:25-1:36-47. Some costumes are off the shoulder with low necklines.
Violence: One gunshot, bloody shoulder shown. The palace windows explode.
Language: Two instances--that might be all? 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Happy Birthday, Schuyler!

A certain conversation took place yesterday in an undisclosed location...three people sit in folding chairs in a dimly lit room. One of them is speaking.

Ben: I’m not sure Schuyler would want us to post on the blog. She might not consider it very professional.

Me and Terry: No, no, no, it’s a Grand Idea! We’ll keep it super professional, we promise.

Me: By the way, where’s Jaeryn? Oh wait, here he is!

Jaeryn: *sits down on folding chair* Hey all! Sorry I’m late.

Me: No problem. Long time no see, Jaeryn! What have you been up to?

Terry: *interjects* He’s not been doing anything half so interesting as what I’ve been up to—spending time with Acushla.  By the way, isn’t she supposed to come to this meeting?

Me: Terry, this is our third annual meeting, and Acushla has not come to one of them. Furthermore—

Terry: *mutters* That’s a tradition that has to change.

Me: Furthermore, Terry, you wouldn’t be any help, if she was here. We’d be too distracted trying to keep you from kissing her or something.

Ben: *chuckles* I think he’s distracting us enough as it is.

Terry: Hey, I have an idea!! How about I instagram this conference, so people can see it live?

Me: But Terry, it’s supposed to be secret. What about a live video says secret to you?

Terry: *sadness* But then Acushla could watch it. And I could text her and send her cute heart eye emojis.

Me: But all Schuyler’s other followers could watch it too, and this has to be a spur-of-the-moment thing. Besides, I don’t think Acushla has an Instagram account. Neither do you, now that we come to it. Whose account would you be posting from?

Terry: Colonel King’s! He’s amazing at social media, you know. Has a Pinterest and everything.

Me and Jaeryn: O___o

Ben: What does he post on his Pinterest boards?

Terry: A whole bunch of home d├ęcor stuff. Look at this picture.

[Terry proceeds to shove the phone in our faces, showing us a shiplap dining room with green vine things in it]

Jaeryn: I would have thought his style to be more vintage.

Me: *coughs* Getting back on track….wait, what are we trying to figure out again? Jaeryn missed the beginning of the meeting.

Ben: Whether or not we should post on the blog this year.

Me: Yeah, I mean, I think we should. Think about it. Schuyler’s getting a book published this year!! You guys have to share that joy.

Ben: *coughs*

[Terry says something about everyone having colds.]

Me: Don’t you want to share the joy, Ben?

Ben: I wouldn’t call it a joy to have our stories told to the world. There’s such a thing as confidentiality. And personal SPACE.

Me: Oh Ben, that’s very bad advertising. Once you read the book, you’ll understand why so many people love it. Besides, aren’t you part of Schuyler’s street team? You need to advertise it, so lots of people will buy it.  

Ben: *shakes head* No, I’m actually not yet. Jaeryn is part of it, though.

Jaeryn: *looks up in surprise* No, I’m not.

Me: Well, actually, Ben’s right because I signed you up for it. What about you, Terry? Are you part of Schuyler’s street team?

Terry: Yeah, when I can get ahold of her phone to check my emails. To start the conversation ball rolling, she asked us in the Facebook group what our favorite things were. You want to know what I said?

[Jaeryn and Ben glance at each other.]

Jaeryn: We know what you said, Terry.

Me: Does your Favorite Thing start with A?

Terry: *grins* No, her name actually starts with P.

Ben: And how are you spreading the word, Terry?

Terry: Oh, that’s easy. I just tell Acushla about the book and how grand it will be.

Me: Acushla’s pretty shy, Terry. I’m not sure that telling her reaches a wide audience like Schuyler wants.  

Ben: Fenton almost joined the street team, but Schuyler wouldn’t pay him, so he decided he wouldn’t participate. He was going to tell his clients to buy Schuyler’s book or he wouldn’t investigate their cases anymore.

Me: Now there’s marketing for you.

Terry: *checking emails* I just got an email from McConkey Press! Oh, it’s about voting for a series title.  *glances through the titles* Aw, there’s not one I want to vote for.

Me: But Terry! They’re all fantastic names for a series. What don’t you like about them?

Terry: There’s wasn’t an option for The Acushla Accounts.

Me: *chokes* That alliteration tho.

Ben: We’ve been over this before, Terry. The series is not about Acushla. It’s about loyalty and honor and—

Jaeryn: And a good bit of it is about you, Ben. Don’t forget to say that.

Terry: *leans over to Ben* Selfie time! With face filters!

Ben: I refuse. Absolutely.

Me: I’ll do it, Terry!! Let’s do the koala ears!

[both make funny faces for camera]

Jaeryn: *grimaces* There are at least two of us in this room acting very ridiculous. But I’m not naming names.

 [knock at the door. everyone looks up….
…just the postman leaving a package]

Terry: *walks over to pick it up* Oh, it’s for Schuyler. Probably for her birthday. I’m going to open it.

Jaeryn: *tries to snatch the package away* Terry, don’t you dare.

Terry: Don’t worry, doc! I’ll tape it back up again so she won’t know.

Ben: That’s not the point, Terry. It’s her present. She ought to open it herself.

Terry: *looking at the return address* But it’s from Starlin! I’m definitely opening it. That kid never sends presents to anyone. *rips paper*

Ben: I am not responsible. 

Me: Me neither. Actually, probably I am, because I’m heading this secret meeting up.

Terry: It’s sheet music for her. That’s nice of him. He should play it sometime for me and Acushla. *rifling through tissue paper* OH, and look at this! A Dickens book! Wonder where he found that? *worried* I was just going to get her some chocolate truffles. Do you think that’s not fancy enough?

Jaeryn *twinkling*: I think Schuyler will appreciate the heart behind the gift. Just don’t eat them all before you give them to her.

Terry: Well, I did have one or two….

Ben: I have some house calls to do before the party. Can we get back on track? Are we going to post on the blog or not?

Jaeryn: I vote for posting. I think she’d enjoy it, and after all, it’s a momentous year with publishing and all. We’ve got to help her celebrate. Besides, I bought her a present that I think she’ll like.

[Jaeryn pulls out a box. Three heads get in his way as he tries to open it.]

Jaeryn: Stop that. Get out of there. You’ll all see soon enough.

[Pulls out copy of War of Loyalties.]

Jaeryn: I thought we could all sign our names in it and give it to her.

Me: *squeals*

Ben: I think that’s an excellent idea. Schuyler would love that.

Terry: *reaches for the book * Yeah, can we put a message along with our names? Like, “Will you let me kiss Acushla?” or something like that?

Me and Ben: No, definitely not.

Jaeryn: I’m planning to place a message with my name, so I suppose Terry could be allowed to put something there. I do think we should tweak the wording of his message though.

Ben: What are you going to write as a message, Jaeryn?

Terry: Oh, it will definitely be his vow. And Ben will write something about home and happiness, I suppose. I wonder what Fenton would write?

Me: We’ll probably never know, because I’m not planning to pay him to find out. Okay WoLians, we have to wrap this conversation up; we’re making it super long as it is. Anything special you want to say to Schuyler? Jaeryn, you can go first since you weren’t here for the beginning of the convo.

Jaeryn: I wish her Many Happy Returns and ask her not to treat me too poorly in the upcoming novel. Enigmatic Irishman aren’t always treated in the way they deserve.

Me: We’d better just stick with Many Happy Returns for a proper-sounding birthday wish. You all coming over for brownie cheesecake later?

Terry: You bet! And I’m bringing Acushla too! I’ll finish her piece for her coz she won’t be able to.

Ben: I suppose I could come. As long as the house calls don’t take too long.

Jaeryn: They won’t; I made sure of that. I’ll come too. Brownie cheesecake sounds incredible.

…and thus the curtain falls on these four conspirators.  They wish Lady Bibliophile a happy birthday and they are eagerly looking forward to the release of her upcoming novel. Many Happy Returns of the day!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Birthday to the Hobbits!

via Pixabay

September 22nd, Bilbo and Frodo's birthday...

The memories are slowly coming back to me.

I was trying to trace how I first encountered J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. I had asked my dad if he minded me diving into Tolkien, and he gave me the grand go ahead. I've never looked back since.

I ordered it from the library. The Annotated Hobbit, with extra notes about how Tolkien spelled dwarves differently (I prefer his method) and all the different covers various Hobbit editions had. I took the book to bed with me while I couldn't sleep, trying to read without disturbing the rest of the house. (At the time, it required two stifling blankets to keep the light from leaking out. Now I just go in the living room and turn the light on.)

I don't really remember my first reaction to The Hobbit. Some time later, I ordered Lord of the Rings from the library, and they sent me the gorgeous Alan Lee editions. I was too unversed in Tolkien to know I had encountered the most magical version of the books possible. I still smile at the wonderful fortune of receiving those particular editions out of all the books they could have sent.

The journey continued when we attended a Family Economics conference in Illinois. It must have around 2011, (at least after I read Fellowship of the Ring) because R. C. Sproul Jr. compared God to Tom Bombadil in his talk on the tithe of rest, and I knew exactly what he meant. Among the beauties of that vendor hall, there was a used book booth with a paperback version of The Hobbit. I picked it up and read it aloud to my family.

(I still think it's a shame the movie left out all the funny lines in the spider fights of Mirkwood.)

Years later I returned to The Hobbit, stunned by the epic fight at the end of the book. I could picture that fight--and I wish the movies, much as I enjoyed them, would have done a lot more arial shots and fighting around the foot of the mountain like the book described.

When The Hobbit came out in movie form, they made for my first trip to the movie theatre. I don't go often to the theatre, but I do go for films I know I would like. Those movies were my once-a-year treat. While watching The Desolation of Smaug, I tried my first Coca-Cola freestyle machine, where you can mix and match any kind of pop you like. The next year, when The Battle of the Five Armies came out, I bought a tube of waterproof mascara. It still cracks me up to remember sitting at the end of the row of my brother and his friends, being the lone girl crying during the sad scenes. Those were fun years--wondering if Legolas and Bard were going to have an archery match-off in the films, and hoping Legolas would win--loving Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield--hating the dwarves' table manners, which affected my enjoyment of the first Hobbit film for a while. (I got over it.)

In Tolkien's world, I have wept at grief and heart-throbbed with glory, had dozens of conversations about them with friends, watched the movies, listened to the audio drama, and listened to the musical song, "Now and For Always". I've written a post defending Frodo and watched The Two Towers with my dad the day after a late night Celtic Thunder concert. Now we're watching the movies with the sis, and we've almost made it through all six. Just one more to go.

Tonight, I'm making chicken and mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy (because Hobbits love mushrooms.) I wish the hobbits could drop in to dinner, but that's a bit much to expect for fictional characters. So I'll just wish them well, and maybe curl up with a clip from The Hobbit in honor of the occasion.

How did you discover The Hobbit? 
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