Saturday, June 23, 2012

Merida & Elinor - Mothers & Daughters

If there's one thing I'm completely familiar with it's the tenuous nature of the mother/daughter relationship. Especially when the daughter starts reaching an age where she just doesn't want to listen anymore. Ironically my age wasn't when I was a teenager but more now, in my twenties.

Watching Pixar's newest film, Brave, sort of gave me an eye-opener. Princess Merida and her mother Queen Elinor don't quite get along. Their personalities are so completely different that it's difficult for either of them to listen to the other. Elinor wants Merida to be a proper princess which includes marrying one of the firstborn sons of the clan leaders. Merida doesn't agree with her mother and that's putting it mildly. Problems start to ensue when Merida goes to a witch for a potion to change her mother's mind and thereby change her own fate. This magic doesn't work the way Merida had hoped and instead of changing her mother's mind Elinor gets changed into a bear instead.

Brave isn't just a fairytale/adventure story. It's not just a story about a rebellious teenage girl who doesn't want to listen to her mother. It's about a symbiotic relationship that absolutely must develop between them. Ironically when Merida's mother becomes a bear and Merida can't understand her speech, that's the time when they seem to understand each other on an intuitive level. Merida sees her mother with new eyes and Elinor realizes her daughter is growing up into a lovely young woman who she loves very much.

The trick in Brave is that they have to stop arguing before they can start communicating. Now, my mother and I don't really argue but we don't always agree and when we don't I tend to get mad like Merida and even lash out irrationally. Many daughters do the same because it feels like our mothers are interfering in our lives. What I needed to realize and all daughters need to realize is that we need to stop blaming our mothers for loving us and wanting to give us the best advice possible. We can't and shouldn't resent them for their love and their desire to see us succeed and become our absolute best. Even if their best for us isn't quite what we had in mind and isn't a part of our original goals. And never should we lash out as Merida did against her mother. The most poignant moment in the entire film was when Merida apologized to her mother and admitted how wrong and selfish she had been.

You'll often find that it is the daughter who reacts in anger and not the mother. That's the way it's always been with me and my mom and that's the way it is with Merida and hers. Not only did Merida learn a valuable lesson about owning up to her mistakes but so did I. I don't want to be that woman who refuses all advice her mother gives. Because you know something? My mom is actually a very wise woman and I love and respect her very much. Maybe it's time I started showing it more.

On a totally minor note, yes, there are some moments of nudity in Brave when the men use their kilts to climb down from a tower and when Merida's little brothers get turned back into boys when they had accidentally been bears, as well as the unfortunate incident of the nanny's décolleté. Just like Cars 2 was more for children, Brave is actually more for adults. I hope this unfortunate tendency doesn't become a habit with Pixar because I want to continue loving their films and it's difficult to do that when nudity insinuates itself.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Where I was 10 years ago

What comes to mind when you think of yourself 10 years ago? How old were you? What were your interests?

I almost never think of the 18-year-old version of me. But then I watch a trailer or a production video for The Hobbit and it all comes flooding back. 10 years ago I was so embroiled in everything Tolkien that it felt like I actually lived in Hobbiton. Posters on my walls, actions figures on my shelves, costumes in my closet, Lembas bread recipes in my kitchen. I wrote Lord of the Rings fanfiction and developed a simple little website called Christian Hobbit. That was my life. That was me!

And I don't regret one moment of it.

The Hobbit will be different. I'm older now than I was then and my perceptions have changed. My interests have broadened. But you know something? I still get that tingle at the base of my spine when I hear the theme for The Lord of the Rings. I bring up images and scenes from the movies in my head and I love them all over again. And when I look at the trailers and production videos for The Hobbit that same tingle puts in an appearance.

I don't expect this to be another Lord of the Rings because it won't be. Nothing will ever be like that incredible 3-year-span of my life where I lived, ate, and breathed Tolkien. But I have not been this excited or this eager for a movie since The Return of the King hit theaters. That was the last one. Oh, I've loved many movies since then, The Avengers for example is awesome, but there was nothing where I had an internal clock counting down the days.

Peter Jackson found a way to uncork my bottle of Tolkien memories and make them vivid again. These are different actors but it's the same world and the same genius originally created it. When I was 15, the first Tolkien book I ever read was The Hobbit. In the words of Gollum, it is precious to me. And in the best way possible. This is before the Ring was evil and everything was dark in Middle Earth, before the Shadow came. This was the simple story of a Hobbit, going on an adventure, something he had never imagined himself doing.

I'm excited! Something I never imagined happening again is happening. Only this time I'm able to share in the filming and creating by watching the production videos off PJ's website. It's like he's making me and all the other fans a part of the family. I'm involved in the making of The Hobbit simply because he's letting me be involved. It's the most amazing sensation!

The Lord of the Rings will always be #1 in my heart. Nothing will ever top it, ever. But having Peter Jackson take one of my favorite books and put it on the big screen, after so many years of waiting, it's a euphoria I can't even begin to describe. This is re-awakening the reasons why I love Tolkien's work so much. His stories of strength and honor and loyalty and romance and adventure and sacrifice and loss. Nothing else will ever touch him and his mastery.

Now to wait for December 14th, 2012. A day of untold magic.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks

Don't ask me why I wanted to read Nicholas Sparks because there is no answer, but I just finished Message in a Bottle. I would never say that he isn't a good writer, because he is. His style is very engaging and I don't want to put down his books because his writing is so entertaining and heartfelt. He puts a lot of passion into his books and you can really sense that passion. I just wish he'd find a new premise, something he's never done before. Even if it meant having someone else help him develop the story. Anything to give him something new and original.

The premise of Message in a Bottle is this. Theresa vacations by the sea and finds a bottle with a love letter in it. Nothing unusual in that, I guess, except that it seems the woman being written to has died and the letter itself is so poignant it brings her to tears. Through a mishmash of circumstances Theresa tracks down 2 more letters written by the same author and each letter gives a little more information on where the writer might live. Sure enough, Garrett's letters are absolutely correct about his location: living in Wilmington, NC and owning a diving shop as well as a refurbished sailboat from the 1920s named Happenstance. She heads on down there to meet Garrett, probably with the intention of only meeting him and then leaving. One thing leads to another, they both like each other immensely, and by the end of her stay they are embroiled in an intimate relationship.

Of course, the relationship can't stay this way. Theresa is a columnist for a Boston magazine and she published Garrett's first letter in her column before she ever went down to meet him. Garrett naturally discovers this on a trip to visit her and all hell breaks loose. She's upset with him for not understanding and he's upset with her because she dared publish something as intimate as the letters he wrote to his deceased wife, Catherine. Let's just say that if you're expecting a happy ending, this is like every other Sparks' book I've read. In other words, there is no happy ending.

What I truly wish is that his books weren't so darn predictable! I correctly guessed which character would die and how it would happen and I wasn't even 50 pages into the book. I correctly guessed there would be turmoil when Garrett discovered that Theresa had his letters and I guessed that incident would play a part in the ultimate tragedy. I already knew the end so I just read the journey that would take me to the end. And that's really not very fun.

As to Garrett's character, I could almost have fallen in love with him myself. There's something disturbingly attractive about a man who has experienced tragedy and emerges as something of a grieving hero. Garrett is a wonderful man and watching him heal from his wife's death because of Theresa (probably the best thing she did for him) is special. But there would have been a much stronger impact had Nicholas Sparks not followed his normal routine of death.

Now I'll need to bring myself to watch the movie and see if they're at all comparable. Looking at the list of character names for the movie I can already tell they've changed a lot and I'm not a huge fan of Kevin Costner at the best of times. Again I ask myself, why am I doing this?! Because he's Nicholas Sparks and a part of me really wants to understand the draw.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

One Day

It's a relief knowing that 28-year-old me is vastly different from 22-year-old me. Five years can make a huge difference in the life of any young person. Our perspectives change. Or at least they should. As Christians our faith should have deepened by this point. Or, unfortunately for many, that faith in God falls away altogether. I've seen friends who've had faith strengthen and I've seen friends who've had faith dissipate. I'm somewhere in the middle most of the time, which is actually a very sad place to be. My maturity levels have increased so much in the last few years and I've certainly become more open and agreeable to meeting new people than I used to be. But my faith, while there, isn't something I ever really exercise. I don't question it and I'm certainly not going to lose it. But that still, small voice meant to be the voice of God grows dimmer as the years pass. Why? Because I'm not exercising my faith. Because I don't spend time in the Word and I don't spend as much time as I should in prayer.

There you have it. My somewhat imperfect self. I'm happy with the 28-year-old me in all areas of my life except one; the development of my faith in Christ. The solution sounds so simple. Pray, read the Bible, and meditate upon Him. If only it were so simple. That's where Satan's little sneaky endeavors play a role. Something comes up and you cancel Scripture reading for only a day. My schedule is so hectic that before I realize it, it's been 4 days since I've said anything to Him other than a blessing over my meals. It feels almost like I'm a prodigal daughter except that I never deliberately ran away. I just sort of got distracted and well, wandered away.

The thing is: I know this isn't an easy fix. I'm at work at the moment so this is neither the time nor the place to sit down for some serious prayer and tears. That's always the way of it with me too. If I've wandered from Him, I pray, and I cry.  Is this what every Christian experiences? I'm not expecting an enormous epiphany. Oftentimes faith is the day-to-day experiences where I simply know that He's there and He cares. It's the trying to please Him with my life. That's when I'm actually happiest, when I'm closest to my Lord. That's when I care least about the fact that I'm single, or that I still have at least 2 years left in college, or that because of financial difficulty I still have to live at home. When I'm close to God, I love my family more and focus less on myself. When we're close, I care more about the troubles of my coworkers than I do when I'm not in communion with Him.

Those are the times when my love for Christ spills over into the other areas of my life. And it's beautiful. And it happens far too infrequently. God shouldn't be a fair-weather friend. Despite the terrifying amounts of hail and rain we've had this week, my life for the last several months has been good. It's been happy and carefree and because there haven't been any struggles, I've let time with my Savior slip by the wayside.

This isn't a "Now that you know about my lack of communion with Christ, I'm going to change from here on out" post. That would be complete and utter hypocrisy. I can only do this one day at a time. It's the same when I exercise. I don't look at the long road ahead of me. I focus only on that day. So, for this day, I'll go to church when I get home from work and do a little bit of confessing to Christ. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Femnista - May/June Issue - Literary Women

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Grab a cup of tea and your laptop and curl up in a big, overstuffed chair because it's Femnista time! There's lots of goodies from Anne Shirley to Hermione Granger and everything in between, even the women of du Maurier's Rebecca. Plus my own article on Anne Elliot from Jane Austen's Persuasion. So sit down, relax and delve into the lives of these magnificent literary women. May a few new ideas and perceptions jump out at you that you haven't thought of before.


The Oxford Murders - A Bit of Truth

When did people start doubting that absolute truth exists? Was it the intellect of Darwin that started that ball rolling or something else? In spite of the murder and the mayhem in The Oxford Murders that movie still boils down to one interesting "truth" that everything is "fake" therefore there is no actual truth. Even numbers are unreliable. This is the ultimate premise of one of Elijah Wood's newest films (note aqua blue hobbit eyes above).

Truth. Apparently it's a touchy subject nowadays. People either pick their own truth (which seems to be the most popular) or they're denying the existence of truth altogether. It's foolish really. I'm not a mathematician. Half of the theories presented in this movie sailed completely over my head and I just waved at them as they went by. Why pretend to be something I'm not? But I do know a little something about truth. It's not subjective.

Truth isn't subjective.

It's not based on what I'm feeling at any given moment.

Good heavens, imagine if truth was only truth based on what I felt or imagined or believed? This is why I can read the Bible and sometimes feel like fighting it every step of the way. If truth was subjective than I could merely pick and choose my "truth" without any emotional struggles or the need to make any corrective changes in my behavior. But truth hurts. It hits you over the head. People die of cancer. Airplanes crash. Tsunamis wipe out entire towns. People use tragedy as an argument against God when really tragedy is the simplest proof of His existence. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve and the world has been imperfect ever since. It's flawed and tainted and the euphoric belief that if everyone just "got along" then everything would be fixed, is a lie. It's an impossible idea because humanity is sinful and we will always commit sinful and evil acts. It's in our nature. It's not how God wanted us to be but it is how we made ourselves. Isn't it remarkable how He still manages to love us? I'm awed by that every time I think of it.

So, the idea that truth can't be known or that it is subjective is false. Except that all those mighty and intellectual minds who created these notions in the first place will never see the errors of their ways. They have blinders on. In this regard I'm not sure arguing with them would even make a whit of difference, not unless you were on the intellectual scale of C.S. Lewis and knew your stuff. Which I'm not and I don't and I would never claim to be.

There we have my theological ramblings for the day. You know something? John Hurt is an amazing man. He manages to spew forth all of that garbage convincingly and I can see how people would believe him. Elijah Wood. Well, I must restrain myself from gushing. I'm a fangirl from way back when. Only it's lain dormant for several years so I'm resisting the urge to awaken it again. Let's just say that Elijah has developed into a fine actor. He was always excellent even as a small child but The Oxford Murders gave me a completely different view of his skills. He's remarkable and made me realize I should watch some of his newer movies that I'd always labeled as "oddball."

I won't recommend The Oxford Murders. There are some disturbing scenes of violence but more than that there is a lot of language (which, I'm sorry to say, I've grown halfway immune to) and a love scene. Why is it that the woman can be naked, showing her ***** and everything while the guy still wears his underwear? I don't think sex works with the man in his underwear! Still, there never was a happier person than when Elijah backed up and I was prepping myself to close my eyes and then noticed he had black boxers on. Thank goodness for a little bit of sense on someone's part. So, the sexual stuff was totally unnecessary and the language could be a bit extreme depending on what you're used to. Watch it if you must, knowing what's in it. It's an amazing film. I may even, after giving it some thought for a month or two, add it to my collection.
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