Monday, June 25, 2007

A Literary Essence of Thora

On Aleatha's blog she made a list of 10 books. I too wanted to make such a list (in fact, everyone who heard of the idea has also been making a list of ten books as well), and so here it is. My list of books are not always ones that changed my life, but more are old friends, that I love, and maybe have changed me by that love, rather than any brilliance.

1. Anne's House of Dreams, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I've always loved Anne; when I was a child it was Anne of Green Gables, but as I've grown up, I've found that I appreciate the older Anne more than I ever had before. I love Anne; I've always wanted to be Anne, and have red hair, live on PEI, and marry Gilbert. In Anne's House of Dreams she gets to do all three. Plus she has her own little home, and is a newly wed. The next book picks up when she has five children, so this is the only young, married Anne. If I couldn't be Anne, the next best thing would be to be her friend. And to me these books are my friends.

2. These Happy Golden Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I've also always wanted to be a pioneer. I've loved reading about Laura and her family, and even better knowing that they really lived. I picked this specific book because she's also older in this one, and it's a good, prosperous time for the Ingalls family. I've always wanted to have been born in the last century, instead of when I was born.

3.Praise to the Man, book 6 of the Work and the Glory series, Gerald Lund. Pioneers and the Church; how can you go wrong? Nauvoo is my favourite of the restoration time period, and although Joseph Smith dies in this book, in a way its the beginning of the end of persecution for the Saints, because soon they will move to the Rocky Mountains and live in peace. I love pioneers, and when I was a child I would lay down in our backyard, which was where George Q. Cannon's orchards were originally, and where still today many fruit trees grow, and hope that if I fell asleep in just a certain way out there, I would wake up a hundred years previously and get to be a pioneer. Sadly, this never occurred, and so I've had to read about the time period as a second-class prize instead.

4.Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte ( I think). I'm a sucker for romances, particularly British, upper-class 19th century ones.

5.Persuasion, Jane Austin. see above. Also, I love this particular book out of all of Jane Austin's because the heroine is so mature and likable. Although I love Pride and Prejudice, sometimes what Elizabeth really needs is some good parental discipline (ie, a spanking{I don't actually believe in corporal punishment, don't worry}). Elizabeth is very witty and intelligent, and hence interesting to read about, but Jane is someone with whom I would like as a friend; I could trust her. And I love uplifting people, perhaps because sometimes I"m rather catty or critical, and I don't like that part of myself. I'd much rather be someone who was nice all the time, because then people could always trust me with everything, because they would know that I would never make fun of them later for what they said. Like Jane, who reminds me of Carol Crapo Vezzani, because of their forthright kindness. (Gentle Reader; I didn't have a copy of the book nearby, so if the heroine's name actually turns out to be Hephzibah or something, just make the appropriate substitutions).

6.Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I don't like poetry. It's true, 'tis a pity. I'm rather embarrassed to admit this, because I instinctively feel that the onus of this dislike lies within me, and is not indicative of the true status and worth of poetry at all. Unfortunately this doesn't mean I really like it any better. I grow bored while reading poetry, and am never carried away by it, unlike with novels. I guess I just prefer a great celebration of words, with adjectives, synonyms and other verbal profusions next to a few, carefully chosen words to describe all. Anyone who has heard me talk can attest that I follow this guiding principle in my own speech. You may be asking yourself at this point why I am having an anti-poetical diatribe at this point, under a listing of sonnets.

For whatever reason, Sonnets from the Portuguese remains the only true sole exception to my feelings on poetry (excepting perhaps Leaves of Grass, which I also love. However, I've never actually finished it, so it can't count on this list, nor can I consider the whole work. Also, I love the idea of Idylls of the King, partly because Anne (see #1) loved it, but I've also never read much of it, because it was due at the library).

When I was a child, Don (my step-father) gave me a small, dark blue copy of these Sonnets, that had belonged to his mother Bea, and came from sometime between 1930-1950s. I loved this book. I still love this book, and still own it. It sat proudly on my handsome books' shelf. Although I love the sonnets by themselves, I must admit my love for them is greatly increased when I read them out of my own copy. Reading is such a physical experience with the book one reads. That's why I don't like reading on the computer. I've read it countless times, and whenever I've liked a boy (I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit this), there has been a particular sonnet in the book that I came to associate with him. Avram's turned out to be "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...," because of these lines, "I love thee with a passion put to use in my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith...--I love thee with the breath, smiles and tears of all my life! --And, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death."

Even as I write these lines, my heart thrills to them. They contain so much, in so little space; a life of love, eternal marriage, a lot more that she says better than I. I do realize as I write these words that I'm currently showing why sometimes less words are better than more, but hey, I'm an inconsistent person, so I don't care if I both refute poetry for the same reasons I love it. Moving on from this Paean....

7.The Grey King, Susan Cooper. I love the whole series (I tend to love series, have you noticed?), but this is the best, in my opinion. That, and the first one, The Dark is Rising, which is also the name of the series. I love the old traditions of the book. I love the very Britishness of it. I love it that Will Stanton has 10 or so siblings (I don't know for sure), because people in books never seem to have more siblings than will come into the plot comfortably. The only thing I don't like about the series is that Christianity is somehow outside of the battle of Good vs. Evil. This book is also special in that it is one of only three books on this list that weren't either written in or written about the 19th century. What can I say? I love that century. Of course, this book does take place in Britain, so that may make up for it.

8.Beauty, Robin McKinley. I also love Deerskin, although these two are very different books. I love fairy tales, and Robin writes fairy tales, not fantasy (there is a difference). These are two old friends books. They're not life changing, but they are a comfort and very re-readable. Deerskin is a dark fairy tale, but anyone who's read the complete Grimm's fairy tales has a grounding in just how many fairy tales are very different than we tend to think of them today as.

9.Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke. This book is unusual as well; I've only read it once, while the rest I've read countless times. However, it's the first book I've read in several years that has really hit me. She writes with the style of Jane Austin meeting a research book, while going into subjects (magick) and angles that real Nineteenth century Authors never would have. It's a gem, and a hefty one, weighing in at 800 pages.

10.Silver Pennies, collected children's poems (published in 1952.) This is another entry where the specific book is as meaningful as the poems. When my Great Grandmother died, my Grandmother gave my mother this book of poems from the little money that she received as an inheritance. In turn, I've come to possess it, and I love its history. My favorite poem from this collection is "The Spirit of the Birch," by Arthur Ketchum, although I've been unable to find the actual poem. If anyone can get it, please send it too me, as my book is packed up. This poem made me want to be a dryad, and I used to make up short stories about dryads, which I would tell Halley every night when we shared a room. The dryad's name was Myriam who of course, compliments of this poem, was a birch dryad, and her father was an oak dryad. Although this was a "Mary Sue" (ask Avram), it was a lovely one.

Looking over this list, one learns that I love the nineteenth century (7of10), England (50f10), and reading about a girl's life (50f10).

What books move you, dear reader?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In Search of History

In three and a half months I'm moving to one of the, for lack of any better word, coolest countries in the entire world, with many castles, clouds, and centuries of closely packed history. Unfortunately, my high school European History Class didn't start until the Reformation, on the theory I suppose that Medieval European history had no bearing on later centuries. Avram thinks it's because we're Protestant in America, and the Middle Ages are too Catholic. Regardless, what I know about the British Royalty could fit comfortably in the next sentence. William the Conqueror came in 1066, killed all the Saxons except for Robinhood, who plagued John Lackland, but then Richard the Lionheart saved him, but couldn't save his own line because he only like little boys (ask Avram), so then Henry the Eighth took over, probably fathered Elizabeth (ask Avram about this theory as well), who promptly stuck her relative Mary, Queen of Scots in a tower because she killed protestants, but Mary got the last laugh because Elizabeth had no children, being the Virgin Queen, and so put Mary's son James on the throne, who had our version of the Bible translated.

And thus we have illustrated the main point of this post, which is that I desperately need to learn some British history before I convince all the English I meet that Americans are all ignoramuses.

In fact, anything I can do to help my knowledge of England would be beneficial, and so I read a book entitled Looking For Class by Bruce Feiler, about his experience going to Cambridge for a year in the early Nineties. I must say, I was rather disappointed by the book, because it was a tour through Babylon. Not that I'm saying that Babylon doesn't exist in Cambridge, but more that I believe there were uplifting, edifying experiences occurring at that time, and that the author seems to have searched out the exact opposite; sex, excessive alcohol, sex, more alcohol. Also, the tone was quite condescending. And he never went "walking," Britain's national pastime, until the last two pages of the book. I would say that I'm concerned about the youth of the day, except the author is now 42. Granted, there is some useful information in there, like what to avoid at Oxford (bars, any parties put on by students).

After having read this book, I've decided I should write a book of memoirs about my year in England; of course, I wouldn't write it for publishing, because I'm much too religious for general America, and also I'm not a very polished writer. But I figure any one's experiences could be potentially better than his experiences, so I've an easy task to fill. Also, I want to read books about England, either historical or cultural, so if anyone has any they would like to recommend, please do so.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Faith of our Fathers

I'm taking the time to write a post, honestly, because the Ninth, and final, volume of the Work and the Glory series currently lies next to my sleep daughter in our room, and so I must do something else if I wish her to sleep any longer. Otherwise I would be finishing the restoration by helping the Steeds arrive in Utah. I want to arrive in Utah, even if it does never rain. Moving on...

Reading the Work and the Glory series in the last two weeks (yes, I've read the whole thing in two weeks, after taking a break of five days in the middle; so I'm a little obsessive when it comes to reading. Avram hates it.) has made me think about my own heritage a lot.

My whole life, it turns out, I've been a descendant of John Taylor, third president of the church. My maternal grandmother, Lydia Taylor Marchent Sorensen Merrill is his great grand-daughter (this is whom Lydia Aurelia is named after) through her mother, Agnes Taylor, then Agnes' father, William Whitaker Taylor, who was a son of John Taylor. Of course, John Taylor had many sons (I was going to be very impressive, and find out how many, but I couldn't. But I did find out that William Whitaker Taylor has an article in Wikipedia: ), because John Taylor had many wives, and my line is descended from one of the last, Harriet Whitaker, who was sisters with a previous wife of his, and somewhat of an old maid when he married her.

Despite the fact that this sounds like a pedigree chart to prove my superior worth and bloodline, the truth is I've never really felt related to John Taylor, nor descended from the early pioneers, per se. Avram likes to tell people my ancestry, but honestly it's always kind of embarrassed me, although I will admit I'm proud of it, but proud like it's a story, and has no substance or reality. Partly this is because I'm from such a "minor" wife, but also I think it's because nothing had ever in my life happened to "tie" me to my ancestry.

Then we visited Nauvoo. I toured the John Taylor home, like I had done before the last time I visited Nauvoo in 2001 after I graduated from High School. It was neat, but still did nothing for me feeling like he was truly my ancestor. What changed everything is Avram and I visited the Nauvoo Land office, where we looked up all of the relatives that I knew about from the Nauvoo time period, and found out where they lived, their conversions, their lives. And as we looked at these people, I suddenly felt a connection to them, in a way that I never had. Names and facts, a Relief Society manual, and even reading (most of) John Taylor's official history by B.H. Roberts never accomplished what half-an-hour doing Genealogy did; it gave me a sense of history, of where I had come from, and hence, more of a sense of where I'm going. I found out from a Sister Missionary there that descendants of the original occupants of the restored houses could sign a special guest book in each house, and so I immediately went back to John Taylor's house and signed it, including which wife I was descended from, so that way people would know my line.

Since arriving in Virginia, this renewed sense of connectedness hasn't left me. As I read the Work and the Glory and John Taylor walked through its pages, again and again it hit me that this was a real person, with a real testimony, and real sacrifices as he followed the church from Canada to Kirtland, Far West, Nauvoo, on a mission to England, and finally out to Utah. The end of the sixth book covers the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith. As I read of that day, I marveled that I shared the blood (at least a pinkies worth) of a man who was present when the first prophet of this dispensation was killed for his testimony. That the pocket watch that stopped on 5:16 pm on June 27th not only saved President Taylor's life, but also the future lives of his descendants, such as myself.

Some wonder why descendants of the early pioneers, or anyone before our day who was famous, care so much for their ancestry. For me, I now care because I feel as if I continue the mission that they began, that I shall go forth in the Gospel just as they did in their lives to continue to bring forth the kingdom of God on this earth. Knowing that John Taylor, and Harriet Whitaker, Duncan Spears Casper and Matilda Allison continued forth in the faith for the remainder of their lives, how can I help but to continue forward, carrying their legacy of faith into this century?

A Sop for Grandmothers

Just a few notes:

Lydia now weighs 20 lbs and is about 27 inches tall, at 15 months of age. We turned her car seat around, although the official instructions would like us to wait until she's 34 inches long, but considering how she's grown so far, that could be until she's two. In other Lydia news, she loves cars, and has a small toy car she has go back and forth with noises. Is she a tomboy? Also she has a small wooden rocking chair she sits in, while holding board books that she flips through while cooing to herself.

Lydia isn't big on words as of yet; she still has her four solids; Hi, Bye, Uh-oh and No, with an occasional Wow as well, but that's it. She does point and grunt for things. And if you pick the wrong thing to hand her, she'll grunt harder while emphasizing what she wants with her finger.

Lydia has fallen in love with fruit; she loves grapes, and eats watermelon, and strawberries now too, although she has rejected cherries thus far. Another staple of her diet is animal crackers; her and her daddy share boxes of Barnum's, the best brand there is of them.

That's the official Lydia update.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Wherein there are many shelled and belegged creatures of the Sea

A week ago today, Friday, Avram and I decided to go on a date, the first in many weeks. Why not? We have many free babysitters (the best advantage to living with family). So we left Lydia with my sister-in-law Sariah and went. The plan was to just go to dinner; we're not too exciting of date people. We drove down to Fredericksburg, hunting for a quaint, local, cheap and good restaurant. The kind of hidden treasures one sometimes stumbles into. After driving to downtown Fredericksburg, we saw a quaint and local restaurant, Claiburnes, and parked and went up to look at its menu. On the way we passed the valet parking sign, and I knew we probably weren't at the right place (Avram had already suspected that; it looked a little too quaint). Our feelings were right; at $35 an entree, it was definitely out of our price range.

So back in the car, we headed for the cutsey main street, where quaint and local is plentiful. About this point Avram and I bemoaned the fact that we couldn't call Matt up and ask him where we should go eat in Fredericksburg. We feel crippled without his good eating opinion; he's never proven us wrong yet in where to eat. We even drove down main street, but there was no parking because it was so quaint. Having visited Fredericksburg once before as newly weds, when I wanted to go sight seeing, I remembered that there was parking further away, and there were signs for parking that validated this. So we headed away from main street, and right into a party zone/fair thing. Where all the parking normally is. So that was out, plus it cost money to get into the fair. So I turned right at the light, to go one more block out; and lo and behold, I had turned onto a bridge! So we left Fredericksburg over the Rapphahanock River, and that was that.

By this point Avram was slinking into the seat, sunken with hunger, and I decided to give up some of my requirements for a restaurant, only keeping cheap and good. We stumbled onto a "town" called Chatham, which consisted of two strip malls and a light. The first strip mall contained nothing, but the second strip mall had "Steamers." Avram has a rule, "never eat seafood in a land locked state." So we've never been to a seafood restaurant in our whole married life (excepting once, but we ordered steak). Avram was unsure of the restaurant, for one thing, half of it was a bar. And it turns out he doesn't really like seafood in an ocean bordering stater either. But we forged ahead nonetheless.

Here is where I must admit my already shaky reasoning broke down. Granted, fate had landed us here (so I hoped), and there really wasn't anywhere else to turn. On the menu they had Papa's Steam basket, where there were oysters, clams, shrimp, and crab legs. It sounded healthy. It sounded Seafoody. I convinced Avram to share it with me (after all, it cost $21, so I figured it was the kind of sharable entree one sometimes sees). Then they delivered it. I hope the waitress did see our faces at that moment, because I'm sure both looked repulsed. Avram and I stared down at the large bowl, filled with small creatures still in their shells, with spiny legs arching over all. This did not look like a meal, it didn't look filling; it didn't even look edible. But Avram and I are cheap, so we ate it, every last disgusted, slimy, stringy, bland bite. The shrimp still had their legs attached, too. It made me think of the Dave Barry opinion of Lobsters, which are related to Cockroaches, and so essentially when you order one you have a large Cockroach on your plate. Except we had only gotten the cockroaches legs and small shelled friends.

Now I am sure there are people out there who enjoy seafood. I've even enjoyed seafood, when it's battered and fried, or combined with a tasty dish. But straight, it all of its inedible glory? I am truly NOT a seafood person. We laughed through the entire dinner, at how thoroughly disgusting it was, and how stupid we were, to have ordered it, and how cheap we were to eat it all. Finish it we did, and then drove home, hungry and dissatisfied. (by the way, I have never been asked so much my restaurant personnel how I enjoyed my meal. The waitress asked us. The manager asked us. The busboy asked us. The hostess asked us. Either they are a very polite restaurant with great customer service, or Avram and I looked like we might be sick all over the table.)

We decided then and there that one of us should post about this, so that way we could count spending that much money as a good expense (with our side dishes and tip, it cost $30), because it was a "story," instead of just a bad dinner. So if any of you ever stop in our neck of the woods, don't ask us where you should eat, because we don't know.