Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Did Hereby Highly Resolve...

I'm sure all of you remember that a year ago I made a whopping 3 resolutions at the beginning of 2009: one for my aging body, one for my aging mind and one for my heart. You may also remember how conflicted I am about the whole concept...if not, feel free to go back and remind yourself...or just read this summary:

Pride and shame are the primary motivating factors necessary for New Year's Resolutions to carry any weight, right? If you don't announce them, there's only YOU to hold yourself accountable...and how scary is that? Not scary enough. But if you DO announce...once you put yourself out there, you gotta follow through or everyone will know how lame you are. On the other hand, if you put it out there and over-achieve, you risk alienating everyone because they feel intimidated by your resolve to better yourself. The trick is to find that happy medium. I think I did, and I know you've been dying to know how it came out for me.  Right???

My resolution for my aging body (which I politely kept to myself...OK, I don't do anything to "be polite"...I didn't reveal it because I really didn't think I could keep it!), was to re-establish the existence of my clavicle. I actually succeeded at this one.  I began walking in March and...wah-la!! The clavicle has been unearthed. Check one off for me in the success column.

The resolution I made regarding my heart (which details shall still remain obscure)...well, that was a failure of epic proportions. And the weight of that utter failure makes the success of the first resolution fairly meaningless. Ooh...downer, huh? But at least if you were feeling badly about yourself, you can now feel better. 1 complete success. 1 complete failure.

Then...there's that commitment I actually detailed for you. The one where I intended to stimulate my aging mind by memorizing something new every month...poems, Bible verses, hymns, etc. I didn't exactly meet this one. I came close enough to be satisfied with my progress, but fell short of perfection, thus leaving you with a sense of my commonality, thereby allowing us to remain friends, no? I memorized - and retained (my children quizzed me yesterday!) - 11 out of the 12 months.

If you care, here's a recounting of what this old brain added to its hard drive this year. This was a FUN resolution and the fact that I had publicized it definitely made a difference in my efforts to keep it!

JANUARY: Lord Byron

They look'd up to the sky whose floating glow
Spread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;
They gazed at the glittering sea below,
Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;
They heard the waves splash, and the wind so low,
And saw each other's dark eyes darting light
Into each other - and beholding this,
Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss;
A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth, and love,
And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus, kindled from above;
Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,
And the blood's lava, and the pulse a blaze,
Each kiss a heart-quake, - for a kiss's strength,
I think, must be reckon'd by its length.

FEBRUARY: By Peter M. Bayne

Christ has come, the Light of the World.

Long ages may yet elapse before his beams have reduced the world to order and beauty, and clothed a purified humanity with light as with a garment.

But he has come:

The Revealer of the snares and chasms that lurk in darkness
The Rebuker of every evil thing that prowls by night
The Stiller of the storm-winds of passion
The Quickener of all that is wholesome
The Adorner of all that is beautiful
The Reconciler of contradictions
The Harmonizer of discord
The Healer of diseases
The Savior from sin

He has come!

The Torch of truth
The Anchor of hope
The Pillar of faith
The Rock for strength
The Refuge for security
The Fountain for refreshment
The Vine for gladness
The Rose for beauty
The Lamb for tenderness
The Friend for counsel
The Brother for love

Jesus Christ has trod this world. The trace of the Divine footsteps will never be obliterated. And those Divine footsteps were the footsteps of a Man! The example of Christ is such as men can follow.

On! until mankind wears his image!

On! toward yon summit on which stands,
not an angel,
not a disembodied spirit,
not an abstract of ideal and unattainable virtue,
But The Man, Jesus Christ.

MARCH: Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

The quality of mercy is not strain'd
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
On the place beneath. It is twice blest.
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
T'is mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings. It is
An attribute to God himself. And earthly power
Doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, O man,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy.
And that same prayer doth teach us all
To render the deeds of mercy.

APRIL: Psalm 130

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Yahweh.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If thou, Yahweh, shouldst mark iniquity,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee
That thou mayest be feared.
I wait for Yahweh. My soul doth wait,
And in his Word do I hope.
My soul waits for Yahweh more than the watchmen for the morning;
Yes, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, trust in Yahweh!
For with Yahweh there is lovingkindness
And with him is plenteous redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

MAY: Donne's Holy Sonnet # 6

This is my play's last scene, here heavens appoint
My pligrimage's last mile; and my race
Idly, yet quickly run, hath this last pace,
My span's last inch, my minute's latest point,
And gluttonous death will instantly unjoint
My body and soul, and I shall sleep a space,
But my ever-waking part shall see that face,
Whose fear already shakes my every joint:
Then, as my soul to heaven, her first seat, takes flight,
And earth-born body in the earth shall dwell,
So, fall my sins, that all may have their right,
To where they're bred, and would press me, to hell.
Impute me righteous, thus purg'd of evil,
For thus I leave the world, the flesh, the devil.

JUNE: Browning's Sonn Frm the Portugeuse # 38

First time he kissed me, he but only kissed
The fingers of this hand wherewith I write;
And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
Slow to world-greetings, quick with its "Oh, list"
When angels speak. A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here,plainer to my sight,
Than that first kiss. The second passed in height
The first, and sought the forehead, and half-missed
Half falling on the hair. O beyond meed!
That was the chrism of love, which love's own crown
With sanctifying sweetness did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect purple state. Since when, indeed,
I have been proud and said, "My love, my own."

JULY: Psalm 46

A Psalm of the Sons of Korah

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear
Though the earth gives way
Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam
Though the mountains tremble at their swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God
The holy habitation of the Most High;
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved!
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
He utters his voice, the earth melts.
Yahweh of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come behold the works of Yahweh
How he brought desolations on the earth!
He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire.
Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the earth.
Yahweh of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

AUGUST: Donne's Holy Sonnet # 14

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

SEPTEMBER: Donne's Hymn to God the Father

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which is my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin through which I run,
And do run still: though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin by which I have won
Others to sin? and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two; but wallowed in a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
Swear by thyself that at my death, thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done,
I fear no more.

OCTOBER:  epic fail month! 

NOVEMBER:  From Helen Keller's Autobiography

Sometimes, it is true, a sense of isolation enfolds me like a cold mist as I sit alone and wait at life's shut gate.  Behond there is light and music and sweet comapnionship, but I may not enter.  Fate, silent, pitiless, bars the way.  Fain would I question his imperious decree for my heart is still undisciplined and passionate.  But my tongue will not utter the bitter and futile words which rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears.  Silence sits immense upon my soul.  Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in self-forgetfulness!"  So, I try to make the light in other's eyes my sun, the music in other's ears my symphony, the smile on other's lips my happiness.

DECEMBER:  Edna St. Vincent Millay

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
Imiss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountainside
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped upon my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go - so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

Time to Talk Some Baseball

Bernie Miklasz is one of my favorite sports commentators in St. Louis.  I appreciate his opinions, whether in print or on the airwaves...probably because I often agree with him.  Funny how that works.  It's easy to like people with whom we agree, isn't it?

In Saturday's Post-Dispatch, Miklasz set forth his "All Decade Teams" for STL sports.   Here are his picks for the Cardinals:

C:  Yadier Molina - I would have been OK if he had picked Mike Matheny, but it's hard to argue about Molina...I'm a big fan.

1B:  Albert Pujols - well, duh.

2B:  Fernando Vina - this one caught me completely off-guard, but #4 is exactly who I would have chosen!  Skip Schumaker hasn't been around long enough to prove himself and Aaron Miles never really got to be the everyday guy here...they're the only other two I would have considered.

SS:  Edgar Renteria - again, hard to argue with and, of course, the only other candidate would have been David Eckstein, but Renteria gave us 6 great years to Eckstein's 3.
3B:  Scott Rolen - easy choice, really.  We had him in his prime and he was just solid all the way around.

LF:  Reggie Sanders - yep, I agree.

CF:  Jimmy Edmonds - another duh.

RF:  Ryan Ludwick - I was mildly surprised by this choice...not sure why, except maybe that he is relatively new to the Cardinals.  But come to think of it, no one has really dominated this position for the Cards this decade.  Larry Walker would have been a suitable choice as well.

Backup OF:  JD Drew - OK...this is the one choice with which I am in 100% disagreement.  If you've been around me for long, you know that my nickname for him is "NANCY Drew."  The guy was a real nancy during his STL years...couldn't walk down the dugout stairs without spraining his ankle, for crying out loud!  I'd take most anyone in place of him:  Rick Ankiel comes to does So Taguchi...or even Miguel Cairo.  Shoot!  I'd take Chris Duncan before JD Drew...and that's sayin' somethin'!  Hey, Bernie's allowed to make one mistake.

Backup INF:  Placido Polanco - perfect selection, actually.  Great flexibility and range and consistent as could be.

Starting Rotation:  Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris, Adam Wainwright (no surprises with those three!), Woody Williams (a huge and very pleasant surprise for me...I remain a devoted fan of Woody...the guy was an intelligent workhorse on the mound and I never thought he got the attention he deserved!), Jeff Suppan (big Sup the choice!)

RH Reliever:  Ryan Franklin - fine

LH Reliever:  Steve Kline - absolutely!  Lovable psycho who always came through.

Closer:  Jason Isrinhausen - as frustrating as his last couple of years with STL were, I cannot disagree.  During his early years here, he was phenomenal.

Manager:  Tony LaRussa - of course!  Although I'm surprised Bernie didn't find a way to pick someone else at this position...even though LaRussa held it the entire decade!

What changes would YOU make to Miklasz's roster?  

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Swords into Plowshares

I finally finished All My Holy Mountain, the fifth and final book in L.B. Graham's Binding of the Blade series.  The ending was predictable for anyone who knows the Bible, because it follows the trajectory of Christian history to its culmination - that day in which wars will cease and all its implements will be forged into productive instruments of creativity.  Even so, the vision of a gloriously restored Garden-City on the mountaintop, out of which the Crystal Fountain flows once again for the cleansing, healing and remaking of a world desecrated by rebellion, is a beautiful and moving one.   Hearing and seeing it in the context of Graham's world and story forced me to think anew about what awaits us at the end of history as we know it.

I enjoyed the BOTB series, but found the first and fourth books most compelling.  I couldn't put them down.  I am anxious to see what my boys think.  At their young ages, they are more widely read than I am, and have had some pretty decent instruction in literature.  I'd also be interested to hear from any of you who have read the series...from beginning to end.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eggless Cookies

Many of you will remember sweet Mary Stigers, our saintly sister from PRPC who went to be with the Lord several years ago.  Like most women of her generation, she liked to cook, and she contributed several recipes to our last cookbook. 

Tonight I was looking for a quick and easy cookie recipe to whip up for some teenage boys.  Afterall, they can't drink hot chocolate without cookies, right?  I skimmed the church cookbook and settled on her recipe.  Within 12-15 minutes, the first batch was out of the oven!  I was worried that the recipe might have been misprinted because there were no eggs in the dough (we have discovered many errors in this book over the years...missing ingredients, instructions, etc.).  But I gave it a shot anyway.  They were perfectly crisp and delicious!  Try them.

Mary's Sugar Cookies

1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c. sugar

1/2 t. vinegar
1/2 t. baking soda

Blend in:
1 1/2 c. flour

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto baking sheet.  Flatten with the bottom of a glass, moistened and dipped in sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.  Let cool before removing from pan to rack.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Leisurely Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... unfortunately, the season's first snowfall disappeared as quickly as it came.
From the kitchen...Mary Stiger's eggless sugar cookies.  Recipe to follow later this week.

Around the house...I am forced to take down the Christmas tree much sooner than I planned.  The branches which started out 2 feet off the ground are now touching it.  There isn't even a hint of life left in that thing.

A favorite photography.  I love how quick and easy it is to share photos with others.

I am thinking...that writing fiction is very, very difficult!  I'm still working on my first attempt at a short story.  It's slow going...

I am wearing...a hunter green cowlneck of those fashions I was certain would never re-emerge.  I like them even more this time around!

I am hearing...Abbie Gardner and Anthony da Costa - Abbie is one of the gals from the Red Molly trio, which you've heard too much about lately.  Her voice is a perfect blend with da Costa, a young singer-songwriter in the folk tradition.  I am newly addicted to 6 tracks from their shared album:  Bad Nights / Better Days - You Remind Me...Note...I'd Rather Be...On My Knees...Crazy In Love...Let Me Die In Your Arms.

I am reading...Jesus Ascended by Gerrit Dawson:  a practical theology of Christ's incarnation and ascension.  I'll let you know what I usual.

I am thankful...that my eldest son can now drive about independently.  'Course I'm not as thankful for that as HE is!  Got milk?

Plans for my week...welcome the New Year with church friends.  Consider making resolutions.  Again.
A photo/video I am sharing...the Shaffer men modeling a traditional Christmas Eve gift...matching jammies.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stuffed Shrooms

A relatively simple appetizer which worked well enough that I'd make it again!

Crab & Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

24 sm/med mushrooms - de-stem, wash and dry

4 slices pepper bacon - fry, drain & crumble (reserve grease)
3/4 c. mayonaisse
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 c. lump crab meat

Blend all filling ingredients in processor.  Spoon into mushrooms, overfilling them.

In a large baking pan (9x13 or so), melt 6 T. butter.  Arrange filled mushrooms in pan.  Drizzle reserved bacon grease over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Wordsmith Wednesday

Did your Granny ever tell you not to "get your panties in a wad?"  No?  Well, that's one of the cute, quirky little sayings that my Granny had and it still comes to mind under certain scenarios.

One of those scenarios is when Christians get all uptight (aka: their panties in a wad) about people saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."    I understand the underlying objection:
"They're leaving Christ out of Christmas!"  But really now, does saying the words make an individual or a culture Christian?    Of course not.  We can say the words and exclude him just as thoroughly.  Why are we anxious to have those who don't believe in Christ, throw his name around in a meaningless and non-chalant manner anyway?  Do we not regard his name more highly than that?  Afterall, his name, because it represents his person, is to be revered.

If it still bothers you, consider this.  The alternate greeting "Happy Holidays" also carries Christian undertones.  The word "holiday" means "HOLY day."  And what does "holy" mean?  Even by the standard dictionary definition it means "belonging to or coming from God; consecrated; sacred."

So, these days ahead are recognized as HOLYDAYS.  And what makes a day holy?  Being set apart for sanctified use. So even when they think they're escaping him, leaving him out, they aren't.  Indeed, they can't.  He is inescapable.  It will take them a while to figure out that they're still acknowledging him, but that's OK.  In the meantime, when you're greeted with "Happy Holidays" just breathe and smile, knowing that Christ is in the midst of that greeting as well.   

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Need to Talk to HER

53 children, ages 5-13, were crowded into the Choir Room - a room with a high ceiling...tile floor...60 metal chairs...106 feet and 50+ voices - lined up and waiting to enter the sanctuary and enjoy the Lessons & Carols service.  Ideally, our stay in this room would have lasted for the planned 15-minute prelude, but instead, it stretched into 45-minutes!   

Again this year, the lot of Lessons & Carols Drill Sergeant fell to me,  and one little guy mistakenly assumed that some sort of power or authority came with the job.  "I need to talk to HER," he demanded.  In answer to his request, his teacher escorted him to me.

He came with a look of dire distress...furrowed brow and big brown eyes full of angst.  His tone was somewhat deferential, but a tad scolding as well.   He was animated as he expressed, "I didn't come here to be...well...this noise!...I didn't come here...I thought I was coming here to sing and I didn't come to wait for all this long time and I didn't come here  for all this noise!  I came here to sing."  He was beyond pitiful.  (photo by Jeff Meyers)

I wish there was a way to communicate in writing, his pleading little voice, full of longing to be free from the chaos!  I assured him he only had to tolerate about 2 more minutes and then we'd be ready to go!  It was a precious moment and the highlight of my evening.   

The cool thing for me, is that everytime I interact with these church children, even if it's filling a role I'd rather not be filling, one of them inevitably brings me an unexpected moment of delight.    

My Little Mastermind

So, I've told you before about my younger son's creativity, right?  If you don't remember, check out these posts about him.

A Love for Learning

A Love for Fire

A Love for Adventure

My Baby is 12!

Here's his latest creative "project."  He had a fairly hearty case of  "Swine Flu" in the fall and was stuck at home for several days.  Like any boy with an active mind, as soon as that fever broke, he became bored with the inactivity.  I went upstairs to check on him and found this nifty little set up.  I don't know if you can tell, but he built a structure around the base of his lamp. 

He created it with Magnetix.  Those things are awesome!  A set is comprised of metal balls and magnetic rods of varying lengths which provide endless design possibilities and practical experience with physics and engineering.  The child doesn't realize that, of course.  He's just having FUN!   If you have a child with any creative/building/design inclinations, you have to get some of these!!  If your kid loves Legos, he'll probably love these as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Leisurely Woman's Daybook

Outside my window...another perfectly chilly morning for a run.  I literally hate myself for the first 5 minutes for being stupid enough to do this, but am more than a little satisfied with myself when it's over!  Not only because I DID IT!!  But also because I survived without getting killed, which after last Tuesday AM, I must say I now recognize as an accomplishment.  One can never be too cautious, you know?

From the kitchen...crepes with powdered sugar.  Yummmm.

Around the house...the Christmas tree is already crispy from top to bottom.  I mean reeeaaallly crispy.  Dry.  Dead.  Crispy.  I like to keep it up until Epiphany, but I'm not sure that's even an option this year.  :-(

A favorite thing...our church's yearly Lessons & Carols service. 

I am thinking...that I love the ages my boys are.  Wish I could keep 'em right here for a while.  Don't think I've ever felt that way before now.

I am hearing...12 days of Christmas.  This is NOT your mother's version.  Guaranteed.  "What's a partridge?  What's a pear tree?  I don't know, so please don't ask me!"

I am reading...believe it or not, I am STILL reading All My Holy Mountain.  Nearly finished.  And I haven't started anything else!
I am creating...C'mon...I just made a PINK COAT!  Cut me a little slack, eh?

I am thankful...that Julian Paul Camp was joined to the Body of Christ yesterday. 

Plans for my at least 1 Christmas present for each of my family members and fill their stockings.  I have not bought ONE present...STILL!!  Parties Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday!! 

A photo/video I'm I the only one who misses the sights and sounds of the ballpark?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Light in the Darkness

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
The sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in
darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
(Luke 2)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bear With Me

I just switched over to the "NEW" editor for Blogger and am encountering all kinds of quirks.  Sorry for the variation in font size and the pictures all over the place (THEY WON'T STAY CENTERED!!!!   Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!)

I'll figure it out eventually.  (Or go back to the old...)

In the Image of God

If the following makes no sense to you, you should get a copy of James B. Jordan's Creation in Six Days and read it. Or, maybe you should just get inside my head and figure me out. If I were you...I'd choose the book. Much less dark and complicated.

1. Take hold of the formless and void: fabric, pattern pieces, scissors, pins

Change mind about which design to use
(not sure that one follows "The Creative Pattern", though)

2. Separate - cut up, mark

3. Reconstitute into something new - fuse and piece together in an orderly fashion, giving form to the formless, separated mess

4. Name - bodice, skirt, sleeve, lining...COAT!

5. Assign duties - keep "young lady" warm and...stylish? Well, warm anyway.

So, what do you think?  Kind of "out there"?  A PINK overcoat?  I think I like it.  I especially like the gathers at the own little variation on the original.  I hadn't sewn an item of clothing for several years (7-10?), so I thought it would take me a week or two, but VOILA!  36-hours later...mission accomplished!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordsmith Wednesday

If I don't hurry, it's gonna be Wordsmith Thursday and that just doesn't have the same ring to it, ya know? you go:


levare - Latin (v) - to lighten, lift, raise


elevate - to lift or raise up, either physically or mentally (elevator, elevation)

lever - a simple tool used to lift heavy objects (leverage)

levity - a lightness of spirit

levitate - to raise supernaturally, in defiance of gravity

levee - a raising of the ground to prevent flooding

levy - the raising of money by increasing a tax or fee

relevant - that which is raised to a place of importance (irrelevant, relevance, relevancy,)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I KNOW Who THIS Child Is!

So...remember that sweet little note I found on my desk the other day?  If not, see it here.

Well, today I asked the other son what he wanted for Christmas, to which he replied (once again), "I don't know."  I reminded him that Christmas is NEXT WEEK, which seemed to come as a surprise to him.  You know, what with the date of Christmas fluctuating every year and all, it can be a little confusing.  Oi-vay.
Since he couldn't come up with anything, I suggested that maybe he follow in his little brother's footsteps and told him what he asked for.  His first response was the same as yours and mine:  "Oh, way to make me feel guilty, Bro."  He paused...

"I can see it now - Christmas morning - 'Oh, here, Grant, here's your present...and another one...and another...oh and here's one more!  No, Eric doesn't have any...he donated all his money to the poor.'"  

"Hey, wait!  I know what I want!  I want you to take the money you would have spent on Eric and spend it on ME!"  

Now THAT'S a sentiment I can relate to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Harry & the Great Books

Once I abandoned my arrogant and uniformed snobbery regarding the Harry Potter books (i.e. "anything so widely received by pop culture cannot possibly be worth my time and attention!"), and I actually bothered to read them, I quickly recognized them as carefully conceived and well-structured stories which deserved the accolades!

As is the case with most literature, my first reading was hurried and driven by the desire to know what happens! Along the way, I was conscious of several layers of meaning within the story, but did not take the time to analyze as I went. That's a task for subsequent and multiple readings.

After reading John Granger's Harry Potter's Bookshelf, I realize that my perception of layers barely skimmed the surface. If Granger is right, J.K. Rowling is stunningly brilliant and has managed to weave literary elements from nearly every genre (gothic to allegory), reflections of the entire canon of British literature (Chaucer to Tolkien), with the tenets of several major religions (alchemy to Christianity), as well as political philosophy...all cleverly disguised and woven into the fabric of a ripping good yarn...FOR CHILDREN!

If the following very limited and inadequate summary of Granger's evaluation intrigues you, read his book and then re-read the Potter series with his illumination. I am anxious to do so myself!

Narrative Drive:
Detective/mystery novel - Dorothy Sayers

Narrative Voice:
"Orphan-underdog" - Charles Dickens

Narrative Misdirection:
3rd person limited omniscient view - Jane Austen

Narrative Setting:
Boarding school novels - Enid Blyton and Thomas Hughes
Gothic - Bronte sisters, Mary Shelley, Sherlock Holmes, Bram Stoker, Edgar Alan Poe

HP as Postmodern Epic: misunderstood bad guys with an emphasis on tolerance, iclusiveness, questioning authority and the struggle to believe

HP as Allegory:
Political satire - Jonathan Swift, Plato
Christian journey - Everyman, John Bunyan, Chaucer
Triptych (body, soul, spirit) - Dosteyesvsky, Star Trek

HP as Myth:
Circle - (exodus, transformation by trial, death, resurrection) - E. Nesbit, Mary Burnett Hodgson
Hero's journey (7x) - Homer, Virgil, Dante

HP as Alchemy (lead to gold - black, white, red, gold) - Shakespeare, Dickens, Milton

HP as Christian Fantasy - Lewis, Tolkien

Yes...Granger sees ALL of this in Harry Potter and he supports each of these claims with details and examples. It's fascinating to consider and I'm convinced that my next reading of Harry Potter will be enriched by Granger's insights.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The NON-Wishlist 5

"The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings!" So said Robert Louis Stevenson, in spite of the fact that he did not have access to a fraction of the wonderful things which are at our fingertips in this modern era! Here are a few of the treasures which were out of his grasp...and, for this year anyway, will remain out of mine.

From our good friends at CBD:

That's it. I'm not going. (movie reference...anyone?)

Have you ever read one of these books? I did, at a friend's behest. These kind of books used to get on my nerves. Now I figure I should write my own...I mean, there's gotta be some serious profit involved, dont' ya think? Only 23 minutes, Bill? That's nothin! Just wait til you hear MY story!!

I have admired these Prayer of Jabez shawls for years, but I've never added it to my list because I'm convinced I could MAKE it for less.

And about a genius marketing ploy! Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Afterall, we women ARE the gullible, feeble-minded gender, sure to fall for this.