Wednesday, December 31, 2014

favorite films of 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Lego Movie
What If
Big Hero 6
The Edge of Tomorrow
The Fault in Our Stars
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Honorable Mentions:
The Boxtrolls
Begin Again

I love seeing movies. While many people don't consider movie-seeing a very social experience, I love discussing movies (perhaps to a fault) and breaking down my favorite/least favorite parts about the stories. I tend to think about movies for days afterward. Perhaps it's my rather obsessive personality, which reached its height in my early teen years during the days of battling boy bands, Harry Potter books and Lord of the Rings movies. That part of me comes out again when I'm confronted with a great, terrible, or fascinating film.

My list above is in no particular order, but I will confirm that my very favorite movie of 2014 was The Grand Budapest Hotel. (And second place would actually be Guardians of the Galaxy). The rest just fall into place after that. I'm sure there is plenty of opposition over my favorite movie choice, and I'm sure there are plenty of good arguments for other greatest films of 2014, but Budapest was by far my personal favorite of the year. It's brilliant. It gets me every time.

While I could talk about these movies for a long time, I will spare you and sum up my reasons for choosing each movie with one sentence:

The Grand Budapest Hotel because Wes Anderson outdid himself in quirkiness, emotion, and meaning. (Read more here). 
Guardians of the Galaxy because it took my favorite things from Star Wars and combined it with silliness, dancing, extra sarcasm and childlike wonder. (Read more here). 
The Lego Movie because it perfectly captured the childhood war between rule following and creative rule breaking, while also making me laugh, smile and remember.
What If because I believe there is still space in Hollywood for smart and charming romantic comedies, and this movie made me remember why I love them so much.
Interstellar because I was on the edge of my seat and never wanted it to end.
Fury because it broke my heart and opened my eyes.
Big Hero 6 because it was entirely unexpected, but was incredibly creative, visually stunning and endlessly heartfelt.
The Edge of Tomorrow because it was a surprisingly perfect combo of Sci-Fi action and comedy, with just a dash of romance.
The Fault in Our Stars because it is one of the greatest, most accurate book-to-movie adaptations I've ever seen (and it made me cry my eyes out).
Captain America: The Winter Soldier because it went a little deeper and carved out extra space for meaningful character development, while also maintaining Marvel's reputation for snarky humor and great action.

For my honorable mentions, I'll just say that The Boxtrolls, while dark and strange, really revived my shock and awe at stop-motion animation. It was brilliantly done and I enjoyed it immensely. Begin Again was another winner with good music, a sweet story and a reminder of why I like Mark Ruffalo so much.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this year's many movies! I know there are plenty of movies I didn't see (I have not seen Unbroken, The Imitation Game, Nightcrawler, Birdman or Boyhood), so perhaps my list would be different if I had. What are your favorites and must-sees?

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

style crush: emma watson


It really shouldn't be any surprise to anyone that one of my very favorite literary females is the brilliant Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. While I am generally less than enthused about the film adaptations of those books, they did a few things right. Like casting. They brought these characters to life, which in turn brought the lovely Emma Watson (and many others) into our lives. 

I love Emma for many reasons. Of course it's easy to say that celebrities in general are "flawless" and while I know that descriptor is untrue for all of them, it's one of the first words that comes to mind when I think of her. Perhaps a better word would be "genuine". I appreciate her style as well as her mind, which has guided her propensity for education and meaningful action. She really is the Hermione Granger of our dreams. 

(Also, she was my original inspiration for the pixie cut. She rocked it.) 

Her style is classic. In general I'm always appreciative of her modesty and her playfulness. She is one of the only people on the planet that I would say does justice to a pair of overalls. She has great hair (at any length) and gives me great dress envy whenever I see her on the red carpet.

I always feel honestly happy to see her, as if she's a friend of whom I'm proud and excited for. My chances of meeting her ever in real life are slim to none, but I'd like to think we could be friends. That's one of the best part of celebrity crushes, filling in the gaps of what we don't know and appreciating the pieces that we do.

sources 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

If you've been out and about in the world this year, you'll certainly have heard of her speech back in September for the UN about the HeForShe campaign. It triggered a lot of personal reflection for me, especially since I am admittedly one of those people who tries not to flinch every time I hear the word "feminism". I think it's overused, misunderstood, and often misapplied to man-hating which I absolutely do not support. I do, however, support gender equality and have a great desire to break down some of the gender biases that have been placed in my psyche rather unconsciously for most of my life. 

It's not just a woman issue, either. Which is what HeForShe is all about. For instance, I've never understood why men can't cry or communicate their emotions. If they do they are horribly shamed for it, as if it somehow strips them of their manhood. As if there is an actual "right way" to be a man. I love this quote from Emma's speech which highlight these issues:

Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society, despite my need of his presence as a child, as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man. In fact, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success...

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.

Women and men undeniably have individual and unique strengths and talents and roles to play in the family unit and in society as a whole, but I think her words are so spot on. There are intrinsic biases imbedded in our societal upbringing, and her words shed a light on several of them. 

I think it's dangerous to reject a word (and especially its movement/intended meaning) out of hand, and "feminism" is one of those that I think is often tossed aside and easily mocked. I feel the same about the race issues that are plaguing our country at the moment. I think it's a very dangerous, reckless, hurtful reaction to just say, "This doesn't apply to me" or "this is stupid". I've seen a whole spectrum of observations and comments, and I've chosen to remain silent. To listen, examine my heart, be patient and compassionate and empathetic. We all have issues and biases, and the knee-jerk reaction of "who cares?" is a bad place to start healing them. (Really appreciate Jen Hatmaker's words on this). 

So all of that to say, I love Emma Watson. I appreciate her heart for people, which is one of the many reasons I chose her for my style crush post today. I am grateful for her words and her challenging thoughts.

I am also grateful for, of course, the opportunity to "meet" her as Hermione Granger, and watch her grow into the character I know and love so dearly.


Friday, December 12, 2014

love is not a triangle

I think my first cognitive experience with a fictional love triangle was in 1998.
All of my fellow 90's-kids will join me in a collective groan when I mention that this love triangle was set in a snowy cabin on a little show called Boy Meets World. The triangle participants? Beloved Topanga Lawrence and brillow-headed Cory Matthews and the forever-after despised Lauren what's-her-face.

I honestly can't even see Linda Cardellini in anything without giving her the stink eye. She destroyed a piece of me I didn't even know existed at age 10. I am forever damaged by her home-wrecking. Unfortunately this plot disaster was not the end of young adult love triangles in TV and literature alike. And I hate it. With a fiery passion that I can scarcely contain.

Here's why:

1. Love Is Not A Triangle.

I won't judge those of you who totally buy into the cheap-ploy that is the love triangle. (Yes, I will).
But love is not a triangle. You cannot be in love with two people at once. And if you say that you can, all that means is that you need to redefine "love". Because there is absolutely no love involved when someone is torn down the middle between two people, leading them both on and completely at a loss about which one to choose. The answer should be neither because both of those peeps deserve better. A love triangle thrives on selfishness and jealousy. It's pathetic and upsetting at best, and downright evil at worst. That's not how love works.

2. People Have More To Offer

A really common story arc is for a girl to be torn between the "good guy" and the "bad guy". Or a guy who is the best friend, who has been there for her for all of time (a.k.a. the "safe" option), and the bad boy who is exciting and usually horrible. She can't decide, she's so confused. Gordo or Smooth Italian Guy, Lizzie? Topher Grace or Tad Hamilton, Rosalee?

The truth is, people don't function in those extremes. People (and yes, that includes teenagers) are complex beings. I have no appreciation for a 17-year-old who has no clue who to choose between a leather-wearing, parents-hating rebel and an argyle-wearing valedictorian. I'm not saying that hormonal teenagers don't date around and have different crushes every week, but don't paint a portrait of a passionate love story with a character who has two opposite choices that they "love" equally. That's not a thing, and it makes me hate everyone.

3. Girl Power

Love triangles are the worst because they completely strip my heroines of their strength and respectability. They play upon a really terrible stereotype of flaky, cruel, mindless, indecisive females. The reason why love triangles so often hang on a woman who is love-struck and dumb is because nobody would believe a man to be that fickle and obnoxious. And if he is, he wouldn't be the hero! A man in that situation is a jerk. You can't have your heroine be a jerk! Do not support this behavior in our fictional representatives.

I want to read about young women who are strong. The way Katniss should have been. Instead of playing on her strengths and bringing out the hear me roar potential in her, the series dribbled her down to a shell of a person who had no social skills, was intent on killing herself, and whose only interesting plot design was whether or not she would choose Gale or Peeta. What a waste.

Especially in reference to YA fiction and literature, I want characters that are smart, engaging, relatable, and revolutionary for our young people. I want to read about young women (and men) who are good. Who struggle, sure, but who are loyal, especially in love. That's what I want out of a love story. Love. Is that so crazy?

4. Today's "Love Triangle" Isn't Even Right

The current teen drug of a love triangle somehow evolved from the original triangle, which was A loves B who loves C. That I can appreciate. There is heartache and unrequited love, which is always compelling and actually realistic. Take The Holiday, for instance. Iris is in love with Jasper, who is in love with somebody else. But he loves to tease her and torment her and stay "friends" because he is a jerk. People who can't decide and have two love interests are jerks. They're unfaithful and miserable fictional morons. Nobody roots for Jasper, amiright?

There are countless examples of brilliant, heart-wrenching stories of unrequited love. I will take the brilliant, tragic Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities any day. I can root for those people, I can emphasize and grieve and cry with those people. I've met those people. I've been those people!

5. It's Lazy Storytelling

You know what stories I love the mostest? The ones that don't utilize lazy, immature plot devices to hook me. Ones that have authentic gumption and content and don't need to throw in frilly sex drama to fill time. I want characters and worlds with real plots and real stories to tell. I guess what I'm saying is that Harry Potter is king. To quote my friend Bonnie,

"You know why Twilight and Hunger Games had love triangles?
Because Harry Potter didn't need one."

Word. Good stories don't need love triangles, which create this weird, perverse, and unhealthy conflict in young people (and middle-aged women). The character core of Harry Potter was even made of two guys and one girl, and there was no triangle-ing. That is fantastic. They were too busy actually living. Growing up, fighting evil, and showcasing bravery, friendship, loyalty, strength, intelligence, fortitude and all of those other great adjectives. Those are heroes, ma friends. 

To sum up: love triangles are the living worst, and they ruin stories. 
I would love to hear your thoughts on love triangles and their prevalence in YA fiction nowadays, and if you adore them I promise I won't hate you... but you won't be able to convince me that they're cool. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

auntie, that's me

Let me just take a second to talk about being an aunt.

I've always known I was going to have kids. Probably a lot of them. I grew up in a family of 4 kids and adored it, and I hope to have a good little nest of children someday because siblings are an absolute blast. There's really nothing like them. My mother-in-law used to tell my husband and his siblings when they were little, "God has chosen you all to be best friends for life." 
And that's really the best way to explain it. It's a wonderful relationship that's unique and lasting. I wrote a post a while back about my lifelong wish to have a sister, but I really wouldn't trade my 3 brothers for anything.

But then there's aunthood. It's kind of a state of being, it's a calling. A calling that's completely out of your control. It's powerful. It redefines your identity. I entered aunthood almost four years ago, when little bebe Abigail was born. She was so cute and pink and big-headed and life-changing. Watching her grow has been...insane. Crazy, brilliant, exciting, scary, shocking, wonderful. It absolutely makes my own life seem so much faster. When you're able to track your own days by the constant changes in a child, you realize how quickly it all goes by. 

I'm just going to be completely honest with you all and say that I don't naturally like kids. I know it's a horrible thing to say, but I also know that I'm not alone. (Please tell me I'm not alone?)
Being around kids doesn't come naturally to me. My husband is the one who is going to be an absolute natural, the one who I think has wanted to have kids since he himself was a child. He has always wanted to be a dad.

Me? Well.
I'm the weird one who is totally fine not to hold the new baby. Who has to restrain myself from disciplining random kids because they're driving me crazy. The one who has really naive and ridiculous views on how to parent because oh boy if that was MY child... I'm the one who talks to children like they're adults because I can't stand baby talk, and because I don't even know how to gush over them. Instead I say things like, "What's shakin'?" or "Sup?"

I'm the girl that never babysat in my teenage years because I'd rather be broke than spend my days with little kids. I know I'm a terrible human. I would normally make jokes about it but it's honestly something that scares me. What if I'm a terrible mom? What if I don't even like my kids? I don't like most kids. It's the truth. I'm really sorry about that, especially if I've side-eyed your kids before.
Which I probably have.

But here's the really beautiful light at the core of this post: being an aunt.
Oh gosh, if becoming a mom is even more transformative than being an aunt, I can't wait to be that woman. Abby opened up a brand new corner of my heart that I didn't even know existed. I now have 5 nieces and nephews, and I love them all so much. Which is the great thing about love - it isn't stingy, it doesn't deplete, it multiplies. Despite my fears about being a mom, not having kids has never been an option for me. My dad once told me that he has always grieved for childless couples who decided when they were young that they never wanted kids and insist they're better off without them - because they'll never truly know. The joy, the transformation, the purpose, the legacy. They couldn't possibly have understood the gravity of their decision when they made it. And maybe they never will - or if they do, it'll be too late.

Even in my short 26 years I've seen career-minded couples devastated by their inability to have children in their late thirties and forties because they thought for sure they didn't want kids, that their lives were too busy and important to have them. I could talk for a long time about what I believe about children (hint: it's in the Bible), and how I think this generation is incredibly selfish (I'm lookin' at myself here too. Hiiii), but of course it's not up to me to make those decisions for other people. And I'll stop myself before this becomes a totally different post. But I absolutely want kids. I don't want to put myself above the future of our family, and what it will be like when I'm 80 to have children and grandchildren surrounding me. People who are literally a part of me. I want to be that old lady surrounded by loved ones.

Abigail is the oldest of my nieces and nephews and is now at the age where I can actually talk to her, and tell her secrets. I can see her eyes light up when she sees pretty clothes and jewelry (I can't even handle the excitement of our future shopping trips together), and I have a front row seat to observe her developing her own tastes and interests. She is a fabulous little creature and I love being close to her.

Being an aunt is the best because:

1. I am a precious one in her life. 
This is an honor, you guys. I'm already in the core of her life, by no merit of my own. I have the power and the blessing of being there for her. There are a few people in every child's life that will always be there as big influencers in their development. The immediate family is first, and then come the outer rings. Friends and extended family. Realizing the preciousness of our relationship, the honored role that I have in her life, is quite humbling and miraculous. It's real and it's for life.

2. There is a deeper connection with my siblings. 
Watching someone become a parent is quite revolutionary. It changes them and changes the relationship, and the fact that they flipped the switch and changed the rest of us into aunts and uncles makes it a much deeper and more meaningful connection. And the rest of us are no longer just siblings; we're a part of this joyous little club of aunts and uncles. We're no longer bonded by just the past, but by the future as well. Those relationships take intention, patience, love, honesty, hard work and understanding. Loving someone's children is like the white stuff in the center of the Oreo. It's important.

3. It is a small taste of parenthood. 
Emphasis on the small. You get real-life examples of what being a parent is like, but you get to leave. You don't have to stick around for the tantrums or the blow-outs. When everyone's sick or exhausted or teething, you can just peace out and go to brunch. Sip that mimosa and chillax. It's a great wake-up call for snobby childless folk who claim to have all of the answers, because parenthood is no joke. It's the real deal. You learn so many lessons by being an outsider looking in. It's enlightening and, for those of us planning to be parents, preparatory.

4. I have a beautiful new friend.
As an aunt, I'm family, but I'm also something else entirely. The calling of being an aunt transcends into an opportunity for real friendship with a child who loves me, looks up to me, and confides in me. I remember being a little girl and having a few young women in my life that I worshiped and adored. I was absolutely fascinated by their lives and wanted to be just like them. I love being on the flip side of that now, watching these kids grow and falling in love with the people they are becoming. I want to be their best friend. In a responsible, auntie-like way, of course.

We always talk about family around the holidays, but I think it’s a great time to dig a little deeper and really examine and appreciate the various roles we have as family members. Brother, sister, father, mother, daughter, son. We all have roles and are irreversibly part of the whole. Family is a beautiful puzzle of imperfect people made to love and support each other. I love that. 

And being an aunt is my favorite thing. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

wanderlust wednesday

Sometimes I wonder how we can fall in love with a place we've never been to.

I've heard that quote a lot, and I find that it speaks to my heart. Whenever I see it I am almost inclined to pump my fist in the air, triumphant, like "Yes! That's so true!"
Go figure it's a quote from a John Green book, because he has a rather uncanny ability to reach straight to the heart and reveal wistful, tragic, beautiful pieces within ourselves. Don't even get me started on The Fault in Our Stars because I just don't have the emotional fortitude.

I can dig deeper for myself, at least, and say the reason I can find kinship with a place I've never been is a mixture of imagination, experience, storytelling, reading, and dreaming.

I wrote a post a few days back about experiencing Christmas around the world, and I could absolutely imagine myself in every one of those places. Puzzle pieces coming together from the various sources of imaginative powers that I have built up over the years. Memories, books, movies, photos. I am such a huge advocate for encouraging imagination in little kids and adults alike. I encourage it in myself almost every day. It really is a super power. How else could I fall in love with somewhere I've never been? Or even somewhere that doesn't even exist, like Narnia and Middle Earth and, sadly, Hogwarts.

We were created to be philosophical, adventurous, curious, imaginative, creative. This is the reason why I celebrate Wanderlust Wednesday. I love reliving my own trips and memories, but I also hope to inspire others to wish, dream, and imagine. I would love to spark that wanderlust in someone new, galvanizing them to make that life-changing decision to travel or, at the very least, to imagine themselves in a foreign place filled with new foods and new traditions and new adventures. To fall in love with a city they've never been to, and with people they've never met.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Dress: Ruche, Necklace (remixed): LOFT

Despite the fact that it didn't really feel like Thanksgiving this year because I didn't watch any Thanksgiving Friends episodes, I still have an enormously long list of things to be thankful for. And I also dyed the ends of my hair purple, so check that off the list!

It has been a difficult few months which makes Thanksgiving all the more necessary. It's just a reminder, really. Gratitude and appreciation are daily intentions, but Thanksgiving is a feast to celebrate those good qualities. Actually sitting around with family and friends, declaring the abundance of blessing. I'm personally in favor of instituting more feasts into the year, maybe monthly, but I'm not the one who cooks and prepares them so I should probably tread lightly. Also, monthly feasts would be a terrible idea for my health goals this year. 

We had a marvelous day split between my husband's family and mine, plenty of good food and wonderful people. We were missing a few siblings on both sides, which made us feel a bit incomplete. But one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the happy swarm of extended family that we're able to hug and visit with. The families are growing so much, it makes it incredibly difficult to be all together at one time. It's one of those bittersweet tinges of growth. 

This year I was (am) abundantly thankful for:

my faith
my parents (and generosity)
friends, new and old
an incredible family
mexican food
good books (and my book club!)
a job that i love
the growth found in change
making goals and having dreams
chocolate-covered pretzels
benedict cumberbatch
beautiful music 
good humor
and so much more...

Gratitude is such a funny thing. It's easily overlooked, isn't it? If we truly sat down and did as Andy Griffith requested and counted our blessings, they would be incredibly overwhelming. The more I sit here, the more things I can think of that I love and appreciate in my life. And yet darkness feels so much denser than the light. We get easily pulled down, easily discouraged, and over time we very easily forget.

Gratitude should be an action. It's a quality that we have to define for ourselves. Perhaps some people are naturally more thankful than others, but I happen to think it takes a lot of hard work for each of us. Gratitude is defined by a readiness. Readiness to be kind. Readiness to show appreciation. Readiness to see the light. It isn't easy but it's a beautiful, contagious kind of alertness. 
We are told to be ready and prepared, and I think part of that is to always be ready to give thanks. Always. Let the words of gratitude be literally on the edge of your lips, saturating your tongue and your eyes and your ears at all times. If gratitude was glitter, I pray to be a dang disco ball. Wouldn't that be lovely? A party of disco balls. I wanna be those people. Don't you?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

in which i share a bit of story

November was National Novel Writing Month, and I read a great pep talk from Brandon Sanderson, who is one of my all-time favorite authors. In 2002 he was starting to write his 13th book before he finally got his first call from an editor that wanted to publish a novel that he had submitted two years earlier. As he says, "this thing you're doing isn't about publication, bestseller lists, or reviews. It's about you, your story, and the victory inherent in completion."

Around my birthday in October, I began to think much more seriously about writing a book. I've always wanted to write one, but had neither the gumption nor the confidence to actually commit to a story. I have so many ideas tumbling around in my head, but they're all rather nebulous bits and characters that don't quite fit together. To actually commit to only one of those, until it's actually fleshed out and completed, is a very intimidating feat. I made a list of goals that I hope to complete in my 26th year, and a few of them had to do with writing.

My love of reading has led me to write many posts on the subject, and I have also written a few thoughts on my insecurities as an aspiring author. I love stories and could talk for hours about ones that I particularly adore, but this is going to be the post where I take a really deep breath and post a bit of writing from my book.

I'd like to preface this by saying that I love bards. It's a strange thing. I grew up reading Lloyd Alexander books and for some reason I was always overly attached to the bard. I just love the concept of a man with a harp traveling the world and singing stories. Books like The Last Unicorn and Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time have elaborate storyteller characters and history told in song, and I love that. When I started thinking about what kind of book I would write, I immediately thought of a bard. Because he must exist in whatever world I create.

Welcome to a bit of my story.

Redge jumped over the small gap of dark sea between the side of the godforsaken ship and the splintery dock, stumbling to his knees in relief. He briefly considered kissing the salty wood, but thought better of it as he heard a bubble of laughter erupt from the sailors observing him. He didn’t mind, really. As a bard he was used to being the entertainment. He wasn’t crazy about ridicule, though. But he just figured they’d get what they deserve. Mean men usually did, either in this life or the next. No use trying to force it. He clumsily lifted himself back to his feet, adjusting the case on his back and giving the sailors a slight smile and an exaggerated salute.

The drumbeats of many boots hitting the dock followed him as he made his way toward the beach. He wasn’t much for sea-travel, but the life of a committed poet called for travel of every kind. And he was committed. He had even ridden a tratta a time or two, and those wormy creatures were most certainly worse than riding a ship. They slithered around like monumental snakes, ugly nocturnal things. They weren’t much use during the day of course, so the only times he had encountered them he had been quite desperate. Supposedly this island had a rather large population of the beasts, and he direly hoped he wouldn’t need to use one. He shivered at the thought.

Redge was a small man with a decidedly pointed nose and dark hair that was tucked under a velvet cap. It was impossible to tell his age, although most might guess he was somewhere in his twenties. He suffered from a rather childish face, which kept him from enjoying the majority of his youth. No one ever believed him when he announced his age, so he had stopped trying long ago. He decided to use it to his advantage, courting younger women at his leisure. They didn’t often accept his proposals, but if they ever did, no one would think him indecent.  

He was wearing far too many colors for such a small person. He enjoyed them, but he wasn’t blind to the many eyes that were lingering on him for a bit too long. They were either trying to uncross their eyes from the offensive pattern or coming to the slow conclusion that he was a bard. Color and bards went together like, well, music and bards. They were colorful people because they understood the beauty in all things, especially music. They were artists. Their clothes were simply a reflection of the color of their souls. He nodded to himself as he walked, pinning a mental note to write that down: reflection of the color of their souls.

Redge took in a deep breath as he neared the end of the long dock. The toe of his right boot caught against the raised lip of an uneven wood slat, and he lurched forward. His case swung forward and smacked into the back of his head but he caught himself, groaning, before he fell to the ground. He didn’t bother looking around to see if anyone had observed his clumsiness. It was better not to know.

The only luggage he carried was a red leather bound case in the shape of a small harp. The way it settled at the top of his shoulders made him look a bit like an ant trying to carry a boulder. The ship he arrived on was emptying its men and contents onto the dock far behind him, and he was happy to leave them to their work. It was a small fishing boat that had been quite unkind to him. The ship itself, not necessarily the men. Although in truth he wasn't fond of the men, either. The vessel was named Heaven's Glide, which must be the captain's idea of an ironic joke. It had "glided" like a bucking horse. His stomach still churned uncomfortably. Not much for sea travel, indeed.

The first of many drafts of Redge, a little bard character that may never be read or adored but who exists in my head, and for now that's enough.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

christmas around the world

This has been a great December so far.

The other day I was shopping at World Market, and I found these rather extraordinary globe ornaments. Restraining my desire to decorate an entire tree with them, I picked a single blue earth for our tree. It's the perfect addition to our ever-growing collection of ornaments, which we love to collect from each new place we travel. I absolutely adore Christmas ornaments. This tiny obsession comes directly from my dad, who has a very large obsession. His collection could probably fill 3-4 Christmas trees. It's magnificent. It's not Christmas until I can come home and hear my parents' tree, which is laden with 35 years of ornaments, including live-motion elves and villages which clink, tinker and buzz with our very unique Christmas morning soundtrack.

The new globe ornament was perfectly timed, because last night Dustin and I picked out our very first real Christmas tree together. Our basement smells incredible. It was rather thrilling picking one out for the first time! As soon as we pulled up to the striped circus tent covering the vibrant green trees and stepped out into the rainy night air, I was transported to a very long ago Christmas when I was a child. I vaguely remember getting real Christmas trees once upon a time, but over the years it became a hassle (they're messy, they dry out, they're a fire hazard) so we switched to a giant, rather glorious fake tree. I didn't really think about it again until my husband and I moved to Virginia, and we had friends who would legitimately go and chop a tree down each Christmas. That's the actual real deal right there. We don't have that kind of nature life in AZ. But it did galvanize my desire to have a real tree again.

So we dressed like it was 30 degrees (it was actually like 65), hopped in my mom's ginormous new truck with Christmas music blaring, and waltzed into the tree tent like pros, breathing in the fresh scent of fir trees. We carefully picked out our favorite tree (we immediately named him Frankie, short for Frankincense) and hopped up and down with freshly-cut Christmas spirit.

I have a secret wish to travel the world on Christmas.

Part of me knows I'll never do it, because as the song says, "there's no place like home for the holidays." I really couldn't imagine a Christmas without family.

But the wanderlusting dreamer in my heart imagines all of the magical ways the world celebrates Christmas, and longs to experience them. The Netherlands with their Sinterklaas and France with their Père Noël. Or perhaps Iceland, where Santa is replaced by 13 Yule Lads who come bearing treats the 13 days leading up to Christmas. I would love to visit Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland in London, or the Christmas Fair in Budapest to sample honey cookies and folk music. 

Wouldn't it be enchanting to do all of your holiday shopping in a Christmas market in Germany? With giant strings of stars sweeping from medieval buildings, and the smell of fresh gingerbread wafting from a nearby cart. I would love to know what it would be like for the hills of Austria to come alive with the sound of Christmas music. Or to wander through the wooden stalls of Prague's Christmas market, with their wooden toys and sparkling crystal and local animals.
What better way to celebrate the season than with a red-bridled llama?

I love Christmas in all of its wonder and worldwide reach. It is a different experience for every person, and yet it joins us together in so many ways. For me Christmas is intricately tied to my faith and to my family, and I revel in the twinkle lights and the celebration.

It's the most wonderful time of the year!