the best of books, pt. 2…

If you’ve been following along with my last book post, I began this lengthy write-up for an Australian friend who wanted some book recommendations for her kids. And then it grew from there… except I got completely side-tracked by being back in school, and never finished it until recently. Or I suppose I can’t say I’ve finished it yet, since this is the other half? But honestly, I went through my entire book collection (not including what might be on my Kindle) and wrote down all the authors that would be excellent for teens and pre-teens to read. And these are all books that I enjoyed when I was a kid, or still enjoy, now that I’m a grown-up.

But if you’ve ever read any of my posts about books before, you’ll know that I have a bone to pick with bookstores that provide all sorts of fantastical books for the “young adults”, and deceive them into thinking that the only “good” reading is about vampires, werewolves, demons, and zombies. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are decent, and most of them are not. And that’s not even getting into the dystopian category, which is the new writing fad. I like to remind everyone that Barnes & Noble (and other brick-and-mortar stores) have a dreadful habit of putting a lot of the good reading in the “children’s section”. You know, the 12 and under section. Going to try and convince your teen to walk past the picture books, in order to find something good to read? But that’s where the Newbery Medal books are, as well as many other good books!

Sure, there’s garbage in the Childrens’ section, also. Every adult/parent needs to search through these books, and make good choices for their children or for themselves. There are a lot of fantasy tales out there… but there are still amazing family oriented stories like the Penderwicks (Jeanne Birdsall) and the Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner), with not fantasy involved. It can be done, people! And if it’s well-written, there’s nothing wrong with a retelling of a classic fairytale, or a new story about an amazing new world. Ask for advice from friends that read, and look for recommendations on Amazon and Goodreads! There are even books listing good books for children (and the one I found was printed in the 90’s, so I’m sure it has some good stuff in it.

Now, I’ll try and get off that rabbit trail and get back to work, talking about books that I love now and books that I remember loving from when I was a child. Remember, no matter what I recommend or the age group I suggest, check up on it yourself, and read along with your kids! Some of these books, I’ve read many, many times, and will continue to do so until I can’t read anymore (perish the day…). And so, continuing with my list of authors and some of their books…

Astrid Lindgren – Pippi Longstocking, Pippi in the South Seas, etc.. –  Ah, Pippi… for some reason, I didn’t have a copy of the first book, when I was little, so I grew up reading Pippi in the South Seas, though I had seen the movie version of the first book and loved it. It was always excessively comical, her amazing strength, despite her size, and how she didn’t think quite the same way as normal kids and people. Just really good fun for the readers.

Lois Lowry – The Giver, Number the Stars, etc.. – I always tell myself that one day, I need to read Number the Stars. Any author that can win TWO Newbery Medals with her books, as well as several Newbery Honor mentions… her books are known to be fantastic. But for some reason, I’ve never gotten around to it, because it’s well-known that this particular book concerns the Holocaust. Serious subject, not a long book… everyone should read it, including me. However, I’ve always been fascinated by her book, The Giver. Yes, I know some of you are aware that it’s being made into a movie, but I’m very skeptical of all the trailers. It seems like they decided they needed more action, and the trailer does not seem to be completely true to the book. I love Walden Media, but I do NOT want them screwing this up. When I first read it, I didn’t know what a dystopian future was, nor am I still sure it’s even set in our future. What is understandable that Jonas is just like every child in his village, waiting to see what his vocation will be, when he turns twelve. In their world, they don’t choose for themselves, but their leaders always choose correctly, as far as the children know. He has a family that loves him and jokes with him… but only when he meets the Giver himself will Jonas realize that his life is NOT in fact, normal. This book is part of a series, now, but it stood on its own when I first read it, and I’ve never needed another. The other books to follow are well-written, especially the last one (which I thought fell flat at the end, as if an end was required, but not enough heart was put into it), but I don’t find that they tie well together, and none of them ever held the fascination of the first. You and your kids can decide for yourself, of course.

M. I. McAllister – The Mistmantle Chronicles: Urchin of the Falling Stars – I actually have three books from this series, and I’ve only read the first one. They reminded me of the Redwall books, and yet they’re not QUITE as good. However, the characters and the drawings were delightful, and I think that anyone who loves animals would enjoy the adventures involved. But like I said, keep an eye on things, since I didn’t read the sequels.  : )  My opinion remains that no author can beat Brian Jacques, however.

Robin McKinley – The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, Chalice, Pegasus, Beauty, Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End – Please be warned… as much as I love McKinley’s books, I do not recommend them all. If they are not on this list, be very careful. Sunshine and Donkeyskin, especially, are NOT for children. Several of her other books are fun or strange, by turns, but the above list are my favorites. Well, except for Hero and the Crown. For some reason, her Newbery Medal book is not my favorite, but that’s not because it’s bad. My older brother really liked it, but I always found the dragon strangely creepy or dark… I can’t explain it. But this is personal preference, whereas the ones I warned you against have stuff you do not want your kids reading. Hero is actually the “prequel” of sorts to The Blue Sword, which is one of my favorites, and understandably, it won a Newbery Honor. My younger brother and I still rave about Harry’s adventures… Anyone would enjoy that one! Beauty and Rose Daughter are two different retellings of Beauty and the Beast, one having been written many years before the other, and the first was for younger readers. Both are excellent. Spindle’s End is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty and it’s probably my favorite of them all. Unless Pegasus beats it, but I’m still waiting for the Pegasus sequels. Again, some of her books are for young readers, and some are definitely NOT. Please be aware of it…

Marie McSwigan – Snow Treasure – This one is supposed to be based on a true story. I wouldn’t know, but it’s a fantastic story. Set during World War II, the country of Norway is invaded by Nazis, and the villagers must figure out how to rescue the millions of dollars in gold bullion that has been hidden from the Germans. The local children, with their sleds, are drawn into the race to save the gold bullion from the enemy, and get it safely to America. I never grew tired of this book, and eventually, the cover got worn off from too many readings.

Catherine Marshall – Christy – Loosely based on Marshall’s own time spent teaching in the Appalachian Mountains, Christy tells about a young woman from the city leaves her family to teach in the backwoods. The poverty of the locals is extreme, prejudice against her city ways is rampant, and while not set during the pioneer times, it might as well be for the little these people had. While the author writes very true to life, she doesn’t paint over the hardships… but unlike some books nowadays, she doesn’t glorify the hardships, either. Maybe “wallow” is the word I’m looking for. Some books can be very dark, because the authors seem to revel in the dirt. Marshall only tries to make you see the backwoods people through her heroine’s eyes, but people do die of disease or injury. Just be aware that an avid young reader can handle this, but you may want to read ahead of them, in case they’re not ready for it.

L. M. Montgomery – Jane of Lantern Hill, The Blue Castle, Anne of Green Gables series, Pat of Silver Bush (duology), Emily of New Moon (trilogy) – Oh, dear… I shall try my best to avoid one of my favorite “rants”. We’ll see how I do. But if you’ve read or watched Anne of Green Gables, yes, it’s a fantastic book and great movie. But you need to read the rest of the series. ALL of them. And while I enjoy the first two movies, which are an amalgam of 4-5 of the books, I have never and will NEVER watch the third movie, because it’s a load of hogwash. Gilbert does not go to war… but I can’t rant about that, because I may give away some of what happens in the later books. The truth is, I love Anne, but I love her children just as much, and it’s very possible that Rilla of Ingleside (#8) is my favorite. Rilla was Anne’s youngest daughter, if you’re wondering, and that book was set during WWI… but I won’t tell you any more because I can’t give away Dog Monday or anything else. But since I’m talking about Montgomery, please remember that these may SEEM like girl books, but they’re wonderful stories, and boys should take the time to read them, too. The mischief, the fun! And for the record, Anne may be the best-selling of her books, but she’s not my favorite character in the books. My favorite set is probably the Pat of Silver Bush duo, and probably because not only is Pat great fun, but those books contain Judy Plum. There’s never been a more amazing character, I’m quite sure. And yes, I love the Emily trilogy, as well, and everyone needs to read those, too.

But if you’re looking for a SINGLE book of Montgomery’s to read, no series or trilogy involved, it’s a toss-up between Jane of Lantern Hill or The Blue Castle. Well, the best one is definitely The Blue Castle (probably my absolute favorite book), but I can see where the younger kids may enjoy Jane, first. While both books center on characters that have been lonely and put upon for their whole lives, Jane is a pre-teen who is sent to Prince Edward Island to meet her father, while Valancy is a 29 year old spinster who dreams of love that she thinks she can never have. Don’t be deceived by any blurb that’s ever been attached to The Blue Castle… you won’t believe the incident that brings Valancy out of her shell, and the hilarity that ensues. But no matter which book of L. M. Montgomery’s that you read, one thing never changes… even in her short stories… the characters are REAL. They are so well-written that you expect them to walk off the page, and you will adore them and break your heart over them, every time. It doesn’t matter how many hundred times I’ve read some of them, my heart still cries out over certain parts, and I still laugh over others. Sit your family down and read them ALL. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Robert O’Brien – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Silver Crown – If you’re like me at all, you were raised on not only Disney animated films, but on Don Bluth films such as The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and… The Secret of NIMH. I have no recollection if I knew beforehand that NIMH was based on a book or what, but if you’ve seen the movie, they really changed the storyline around a LOT. It’s still a good film, but concentrates on magical elements which aren’t in the story. That said, I finally got around to reading it, and it’s really a wonderful book (no wonder he won a Newbery for it), following the story of these super-intelligent rats that have made a home for themselves in the country, and how they work together with Mrs. Frisby to save her son. My memories of The Silver Crown are rather vague, but I just read a review of it on Amazon. That reviewer says that they’ve loved this book since they were 10 years old, but that it has a few mature or alarming incidents that some less mature readers might not be ready for. It all depends on your reader! But I do remember that the little girl wakes up with a silver crown next to her pillow, and must find out what it’s there for and what she’s capable of doing with it… Tantalizing, don’t you think?

Scott O’Dell – Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Black Pearl, Sing Down the Moon, etc.. – I’m pretty sure that O’Dell wrote about a million books, because I’m always coming across them in used book stores, and many are stories that I’ve never heard about. Many are historical fiction, but parents should also be aware that they do not all end happily. The one that I read the most was Island of the Blue Dolphins, and maybe some of the sadness of the book was a bit much for me, at the time… but I still liked it. What would it be like to be stranded on an island, alone, and to have to make your own clothes, a shelter out of whale bones, and befriend the wild dogs and the cormorants? And I’m pretty sure at that age, I thought the “elephant fight” was between real elephants, instead of elephant seals… but even that doesn’t change anything to a child’s imagination. You learn from these things. The Black Pearl was darker, as I remember, and tells the story of Ramon and his finding of a lustrous black pearl, which may set El Diablo after him… I don’t even remember what happens, I think I thought it was scary, at the time. It isn’t very long, however, so you can easily read through it to see whether your child can handle it. But I should perhaps mention that Island won the Newbery Medal, while Black Pearl won a Newbery Honor, as did Sing Down the Moon, which is a tale of soldiers forcing a Navajo tribe on a forced march (though I don’t know if I ever read it). Others of his stories involve Eskimos in the Iditarod, and pioneers all over America.

Baroness Emmuska Orczy – The Scarlet Pimpernel – Everyone should read this. I don’t care how old you are, this book is amazing. Yes, there are amusing movie versions, but even they never get it quite right. This is the story of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, made up of some of the rich lords of England, doing their best to save the aristocrats of Paris from the Terror, but it is also the tale of the beautiful Marguerite, married to the stupidest Englishman of them all… but is he really? Blackmail and intrigue are involved, and some of the best comedic scenes ever… I can’t even describe the wonders of this book. My older brother and I read my mom’s copy so many times that the cover came off and the book was falling apart, so we had to buy her a new one. This story doesn’t have anything too hard for the young folk to read, though the wording might be a little more formal than they’re used to. And for those that are worried about issues of a touchier nature, there is an episode with a Jew, near the end of the book, which talks about the qualities of their “race”, and isn’t very flattering. I only mention this in case your children take note of it, and you want to know what they refer to… but I had probably read the book a hundred times before I even noticed anything odd about it. All in all, a fantastic adventure/love story.

James A. Owen – The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica: Here, There Be Dragons, The Search for the Red Dragon, etc.. –I’ve been reading this series for about ten years now, and the last one was published this year. It’s very sad. But it’s an amazing series, and I highly recommend it! Especially if you not only love a fantasy adventure, but love literature. Because Owen involves three famous authors, right from the start of the first book… and as the books progress, you meet more of them. In this world of the Chronicles, there are always Guardians of the Imaginarium Geographica, a book of maps of the worlds of fantasy. In every century, there are new guardians and apprentice guardians, who can travel back and forth between our world to the Archipelago of Dreams. And the Archipelago itself? It’s where all our favorite magical lands are located, and some that have never been written about. For example, the land of Prydain. But the lands are not always exactly like how we read about them, because different authors/guardians use them for inspiration, or invent their own lands. And when they invent a new land in a book, it’s very likely that a new one will appear in the Archipelago. By the final book, I was amazed at how Owen could bring characters like Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Jules Verne, and many more, to life within the pages, and keep it from being confusing! But it doesn’t start that way. With the first book, John, Jack, and Charles are swept off on an unexpected adventure after the death of their mentor… and they are thrown headfirst into a guardianship that they know nothing about. You’ll meet the talking badgers, led by the wonderful Tummeler (who always calls the scholars “Scowlers”), as well as Captain Nemo, Mordred, and the descendants of Arthur Pendragon. It’s a wonderful tale, just right for all those book lovers and literature geeks… some of whom are still only kids. Be aware that there are a few dark themes, and some characters don’t make it through the story, as a result of run-ins with the Shadowborn (think something like a Ringwraith, but different). These are great for kids, but keep an eye on them, in case they can’t handle a few scary spots or the loss of a beloved character. You should read them with your kids, if you have the time… I just LOVE this series.

Linda Sue Park – A Single Shard – Set in long ago Korea, this story is of an orphan who dreams of becoming a master potter, and even travels to the Royal Court eventually, in hopes of achieving that dream…. It’s been several years since I read this, so my memories are vague except that it’s excellent and won the Newbery Medal. I find that I get it mixed up with one of the following books by Paterson, but Amazon says it’s for Grades 5-8.

Katherine Paterson – Bridge to Terabithia, Lyddie, Of Nightingales That Weep, Jacob Have I Loved, The Great Gilly Hopkins – Not every person likes Bridge to Terabithia, and I don’t even remember all of what I thought as a child, reading it. It ends sadly, so please be aware, for your child’s sake. But the other part that sticks in my mind is how the children go to a remote location and pretend it’s their own country, and they use their imaginations to make up the adventures they have. What child doesn’t love that kind of thing? But despite it being a Newbery Medal winner, the adventures they had in their own world… I didn’t remember much about it, until I saw the movie and then reread the book. But while it may have fantastical elements, this is a story of friendship between outcasts and how life doesn’t always pass us by, when the hardships come. So, you may want to read it before your child, or keep an eye on them, in case you find them in tears at some point. Still, an excellent book. Lyddie is much more of a farm story (I think), but Nightingales is a totally different ballgame. I’m not sure whether to recommend it for the kids or not, despite it being a fascinating story about a young girl in Imperial Japan… but the twist at the end and who she marries… it’s a good story, but is it appropriate for the kids? You might need to read this one ahead of your child. Or wait. Katherine Patterson is an amazing author, so no wonder she received a Newbery Honor for Gilly Hopkins and a Newbery Medal for Jacob Have I Loved. I’m pointing this out ahead of time, because I’m completely prejudiced when it comes to Jacob Have I Loved, and want you to understand that it’s probably a good book. But I have a history of disliking most books that I had to read in middle or high school, because we had to “dissect” them so much, or even because I just didn’t like the stories. Maybe I should re-read it, but I’ve yet to get past my dislike of several books I had to read in middle school (including Jack London’s Call of the Wild). This book deals with a pair of twins, one who feels like she is the least loved, and how she deals with her growing up years. The reviews are good on Amazon, so I’m just trying to be honest… you should probably give it the chance I’ve never been able to give it.  : )

Edith Pattou – East – A retelling of the tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, this story follows Rose as she lives in a land where significance is seen in the direction a child was facing when they were born. Rather than admit her child is a wild North-born, her mother hides the truth, but Rose can’t deny who she is. Eventually, she will go on a great adventure, in order to save her family, an adventure you will love to read about. Now I want to read this again, it’s been so long since I read it.

Donita K. Paul – DragonSpell, DragonQuest, etc.. –There is a genre known as Christian fantasy… I don’t know what you think of it, but some is good, some is strange. I really enjoyed this series, though it won’t stand up to Tolkien, by any means. Kale is a young girl who starts out as a slave, raised amongst a people not at all like her, sent on an adventure, where she encounters dragon eggs and then the small dragons that hatch from them. The people she meet tell her about the wonders of Paladin (you can see the parallels to Jesus), who himself is the servant of Wulder. It’s very obvious where the parallels are, and I’m not really a fan of stories that make it so obvious, because Jesus and God are… well, they’re not meant to be trivialized. But somehow, these books manage the parallels, and some of the characters like the Wizard Fenworth are enormously fun… and I love stories about dragons. So, while I think the early parts of the series are better than the later books, these are an enjoyable read, and you could probably have some interesting conversations with your children about what the author’s trying to say about us, as well as about God and Jesus.

Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson, The Heroes of Olympus – I enjoy mythology, just like I enjoy fairytales. So, I got a kick out of Riordan’s modern take on the mythology of old, both Roman and Greek. And even if these are written in a manner to imply it’s narrated by a teenager, the Percy books are still quite fun. However, I think Riordan stepped it up a notch when he reached Heroes, because he has to really work at mixing Greek and Roman mythology, and making sure the characters are believable. So, while I’m enjoying the second series more than the first, you have to read the first series to get to the second. And while I’m remembering, I started to read his Kane Chronicles, and didn’t enjoy them at all. Those are stories based on the mythology of Egypt, but I quickly stopped caring about the story or the characters.

J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter series – Of course, everyone has heard of Harry Potter. At this point, you’ve either read them all and watched all the movies… or you’ve still avoided them completely. Back in 2000, I was working in a book store and still avoiding them completely, because our store would put on really ridiculous parties for the days when a new book was published. My coworkers and I all avoided those books, because they were so popular and the kids in their costumes were SO annoying. Lightning bolts on foreheads? I didn’t know why and I didn’t care. I knew what all the covers looked like, though, and hated them. Some of you are still like this, I’m sure. Many years later, probably a year or three before the final book came out, I think I discovered that a cousin of mine, whose opinion I trust, had read and enjoyed them. I decided it was time to give it a chance, and I was hooked. You know what? They’re fun. I already like fantasy, and this was good writing with a believable world, and yes, everyone wishes they could magically make doors open and that they could fly on broomsticks. But while I truly enjoy the books, and I’m still working on getting one of my bookworm brothers to give them a chance (my less book-reading brother started them at Christmas, and then bought himself the series, reading them within two weeks), I understand the people that still avoid them. I was one of you, so I’m not going to judge… well, not much. But while they are not Tolkien by any means, they do have a very recognizable fight between good and evil, and we want for the good guys to win. If you don’t mind your kids reading about magic, then your whole family will enjoy these. Though you may want to keep an eye on them with the last book or two, because it can get pretty dark in spots. Also, for the movies… if you haven’t seen them, please be warned that the opening scenes of Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 is really creepy and scary. I was a bit horrified, and I knew it was in the book. And that isn’t the only frightening scene with the snake in the movie (or the book), so please be cautious.

Brittney Ryan – The Legend of Holly Claus – This is such a beautifully illustrated book, don’t miss out by getting a Kindle edition, even if they do include pictures. Ryan’s book tells the story of St. Nicholas, who is the ruler of the Land of the Immortals, and he is finally asked what HE wants for Christmas. He and his wife want a child, and so Holly Claus is born… but she has a spell cast upon her at birth (rather like Sleeping Beauty). She is raised by her loving parents, but someday must figure out how to break her curse. I love this story.

Ruth Sawyer – Roller Skates – I remember loving this book, though I only vaguely remember what it is about. It won the Newbery Medal, and follows the story of a little girl who goes around New York City (early 1900’s) on roller skates, making friends, and having adventures. I was younger than 10 when I read it, which is why I don’t remember what happened at all, except that it’s a wonderful book.

George Selden – The Cricket in Times Square Likewise, I don’t really remember what adventures that Chester the Cricket has with Mario, Tucker the Mouse, and Harry the Cat, just that it was a fun book (also a Newbery Honor book).

Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret –This is a good book, but technically, it isn’t very long. You see, this one won a Caldecott Medal, which is for illustrations. So, while it looks like a really thick novel, it’s mostly pictures. They’ll be fascinated to your kids, I’m sure, but I felt like I’d been robbed, when I realized the story wasn’t as long as the pages of drawings. The artwork is amazing, though, and the movie is good fun, too.

Elizabeth George Speare – The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Bronze Bow, The Sign of the Beaver, Calico Captive – Many years ago, I think my older brother gave me a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond for my birthday, and I never looked back. Kit Tyler arrives from Barbados in the colony of Puritans in Connecticut, to their great surprise. But while she is welcomed, they are not well-to-do, and don’t understand her outgoing ways. She knows how to swim, makes friends with Quakers, and wears silk dresses. But she comes to love her family and when Kit is accused of being a witch (think like in the Salem Witch Trials), what will happen next? This book definitely deserves the Newbery Medal it won, and remains one of my favorite childhood books. Speare also wrote other books that won the Newbery Medal (The Bronze Bow) and the Newbery Honor (The Sign of the Beaver), as well as an Indian captivity tale (Calico Captive). If you want to get some historical fiction, as well as learn how the main characters strive to get along or understand those that are different from them, these are excellent reading for you.

Johanna Spyri – Heidi My favorite version of this movie stars Michael Redgrave, Jean Simmons, and Maximilian Schell. Not Shirley Temple. Though, in a strange way, the Shirley Temple version is more true to the story. Well, maybe, I can’t remember exactly. But in the book, Fraulein Rottenmeier is a very strict lady who is not a big fan of Heidi, while the Jean Simmons version has her as a delightful woman who loves the girls. For once, I don’t care, I adore that movie. My heart stops every time Clara is left on the mountain to try and walk… Ok, I’m getting away from the point. This is a wonderful story of an orphaned girl who goes to live with her grandfather in the Alps, but when she has to leave him to go to the city, she becomes dreadfully homesick. However, she comes to love the spoiled Clara, who can’t walk, and hopes to make her better by coming to see her on the mountain. It’s a heartwarming, wonderful story that every boy and girl should read. And watch the 1968 television version of the movie… because Redgrave, Simmons, and Schell! That’s why! They’re amazing.

Trenton Lee Stewart – The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict – A mysterious ad in the newspaper brings any number of children to a building to go through lots of mind-boggling tests and riddles. The rewards for the winners? To create a society that will be able to go on a secret mission that only children can fulfill. These books are delightful, with their fascinating puzzles and riddles, with the children each finding many different ways of solving them. And after reading the trilogy, I really enjoyed the prequel, though it had less riddling and more development of Nicholas Benedict’s character. It was fascinating to see how he didn’t really believe in love, despite his extensive learning, because he had never seen love in action. You and your family will enjoy these books.

Noel Streatfeild – Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes  While Streatfield wrote several dancing stories after Ballet Shoes, that one is the first and best of the set. The story is about Great-Uncle Max (known as GUM) who brings back several baby orphans from his travels. Named Pauline, Petrova, and Posy, their family becomes poor while Gum goes away on his travels, so they set out to help their family earn some money. Along with learning to dance and act, the girls have many adventures in the process of finding out what they are good at and what they can become when they grow up. This is a WONDERFUL book.

Sydney Taylor – All-of-a-Kind Family – While this book is part of a series, they have mostly been out of print until recently, so I haven’t read them all. But my cousins and I love them. This is the story of a Jewish family in New York City, in the early 1900’s… a family with five girls. They are not precisely poor, but they are not rich, either. I grew up, delighting in how their mother makes dusting the front room into an adventure, how one of the sisters becomes so very stubborn that she won’t eat her dinner, but her parents lovingly expect obedience from her. The girls have adventures at the library and buying penny sweets at the general store, and always, they are celebrating the Jewish holidays with their family. One of my favorites was when they visiting their papa’s shop and found books that had been donated, and they took some of them home. Do these sound like very simple stories? But you see, the quality of writing is excellent, and the love of family and friendship is palpable. I wanted to sample the foods and see the book of paper dolls that they discovered… I still hope to read all of these books, someday. You should, too.

J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit – By now, you know that I compare many other fantasies to Tolkien. That’s because he sets the bar. And despite my mom being raised on LOTR and my older brother reading them through our childhood, I think I was intimidated by the scary picture of Gollum on the cover. I’m not sure, exactly. It wasn’t until the first trailer came out for the first movie, that I went and picked up a copy at the book store. And was hooked from the first word. Perhaps you think they’re too long or too wordy. Don’t be intimidated by the length, because the story is so amazing that it’s completely worth it, once you’re caught up in it. And while I love the movies, the books are so much better.

Mark Twain – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn I first read Tom Sawyer when I was very young, though I reread it a few years ago, and was amazed at all the details that I didn’t remember. The mischief that Tom would get into! I’ve since discovered that Twain wrote sequels to it, but most people don’t know of their existence, because they’re not in print. I have them on my Kindle, though I haven’t read them yet. And Huckleberry Finn is a harder read, but just as worth it. It often gets put down by certain literary critics because of how it was set in the American South when there were still slaves, and words are sometimes used that would be considered racist, nowadays. But you can make your own decisions about what you want to read and how to approach the truth about history, and how we can always treat people better and more kindly.

James Ramsey Ullman – Banner in the Sky – This Newbery Honor book follows young Rudi, whose father died trying to climb The Citadel, the unconquered peak of the Alps. Rudi would like to conquer that portion, in his father’s memory, but can he get past the heartbreak of his father’s memory?

Cynthia Voigt – Dicey’s Song, A Solitary Blue – I haven’t read all of the books about the Tillermans, but Dicey’s Song is about how she’s brought her siblings to her grandmother, and no longer has to be the one in charge. But can she figure out who she is and what to become, without her usual role? I only vaguely remember the Newbery Medal book, but some of Voigt’s other books have also won Newbery Honors, and they’re all supposed to be excellent books.

Gertrude Chandler Warner – The Boxcar Children – I didn’t get around to mentioning the Bobbsey Twins books or even the Nancy Drew books, because I don’t know if I ever read them, and remember… this list mostly includes what I own. But if your children like mysteries, those books can be looked up, also. But I grew up reading the stories about the Boxcar Children, a wonderful story about the Alden family, who make their home in a boxcar… and end up finding a grandfather. It’s been so long, I don’t remember how it happens, exactly. And while the series continues for many, many books, you may wonder how they always fall into mysteries. But why does it matter? They’re wonderful, fun books, and you’ll be glad your kids have gained such a love of reading, when they make their way through the entire series.

Kate Douglas Wiggin – Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – Written in 1903, this book was beloved by Mark Twain and Jack London, amongst others, and follows the story of young Rebecca, who is sent to live with her stern spinster aunts. They are unused to having a child live with them, but are trying to help out her mother, who has many children to look after. I haven’t read this since I was a little girl, but anyone who has ever read it will tell you it’s wonderful, and you’ll be thankful to have your children reading such a classic. But the Amazon reviews even suggest that adults continue to love it, also.

Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Little Town on the Prairie, The Long Winter, Farmer Boy, By the Shores of Silver Lake, etc.. – Of Wilder’s 9-book series, she won Newbery Honors for five of them. I’ve been wishing I could re-read them all, but we must have worn out my mom’s copies, some time ago. These are for school age children, I don’t care what country you’re from, and American kids (at least when I was growing up) were raised on them. Yes, maybe you’ve heard of the old TV show, but I’ve never watched it. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it’s nothing like the books, not at all. I even bought the series for one of my Aussie girls, for her birthday. These semi-autobiographical stories follow Laura Ingalls’ family from Laura’s early years in the big woods until she marries, while living on the prairie. How I loved to read about Ma and Pa making and baking food for the winter, and parties with family, and making snow candy from maple syrup… and that was before they reached the prairie! On the prairie, there were locusts and Indians and blizzards and other adventures. If I recommended any series of ALL the books I’ve talked about so far… this is the one that I most highly recommend. Boys and girls. My brothers and I read them and loved them. Your children MUST read them. And I’ve heard good things about the prequel and sequel series, which were written by Wilder’s daughter, but I have never read them myself.

Patricia C. Wrede – Dealing With Dragons, Sorcery and Cecilia, Snow White and Rose Red, The Seven Towers, Thirteenth Child, etc.. – The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which includes Dealing With Dragons are SUCH good fun. While being wonderful books, they don’t take themselves overly seriously, telling about Princess Cimorene, who is tired of being a princess and wants adventure in her life. So, she runs away to live with dragons. Who wouldn’t? You and your children will laugh over them. Sorcery and Cecilia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot starts off a trilogy set in an earlier time in England, but in a world that includes magic. So, if you want to imagine your Regency era (or maybe slightly later) while wizards were around, these are for you. My recollection says the kids will enjoy them, too, though they may be a little wordier than the dragon books. Snow White is a fairytale retelling, of course, and The Seven Towers is a standalone fantasy tale that I haven’t read in years, but should be fine for young teens. Take a look for yourself and see what you think. Also, I’ve recently been reading her newest series, which starts with Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic series), and takes place in a frontier America where magic exists. She explores what it’s like to be the unlucky thirteenth child, who happens to be the twin of an excessively lucky double seventh song, and how they grow up and explore the frontier. I think a mature reader of ten years old could handle them, but again, you know your kids best.

Johann David Wyss – The Swiss Family Robinson – Maybe you’ve seen the Disney movie, which is wonderful, but the book is quite different (while still amazing). In the book, there are more kids, and much more details about the many, many dwellings that the family builds on their new home, after they’re shipwrecked. And I’m telling you, the father of the family has SO much knowledge about everything, it’s fascinating, and I always  wonder what he read when he lived in a “civilized” land. But this book was written before all the countries and islands of the world had been discovered, so Wyss was able to create an island where every animal or tree or plant that he wanted could live. Penguins, flamingos, and everything else… they’re all there. But this is a classic, excellent story that every child will love reading, because who doesn’t want to know that they can survive if they’re shipwrecked on an unknown island? An excellent story.

Jane Yolen – The Devil’s Arithmetic, Briar Rose – Yolen is an interesting author. While she’s now well-known for writing a series of picture books about dinosaurs, some of her literature is much more serious. While Briar Rose is technically a Sleeping Beauty retelling, it is tied to the Holocaust and is no easy read. I’m not even positive that I’ve read it, but you’ll know best whether your teen can handle it. The Devil’s Arithmetic… now, I do remember reading that one. Set during more modern times, it tells of a young girl who has little appreciation for her grandparents’ having survived the Holocaust, but during Passover, she opens the door to symbolically let Elijah in… and is transported to the past. Along her historical journey, she begins to see signs of what she knows about the Holocaust and does her best to warn people… but they think she’s silly. She is swept away on the trains to the death camps… but will she survive to return to her family? This story is not an easy read, but no Holocaust book ever is. But Yolen takes an interesting route of showing you what the times were like, and how this young girl grows up and learns to understand her own family’s history.

Wow, I finished it! Wasn’t sure if that would ever happen!

But already, my previous book list has caused my Aussie friend to have some good memories of the book Baby Island, and how much she used to love it. This is what I’ve been hoping! That people will remember their old favorites, that they lost track of… or that they’d find new ones! So many books that showed up in our elementary school book fairs, school libraries, and the Weekly Reader style book pages that we would take home to order from! I still have an old favorite that I must have lost, but the title isn’t well-known and at the moment, I can’t remember the author. But I still remember the cover and the time travel involved, and how the teenagers went back in time and one of them got stuck in an old-fashioned elevator fancy wire elevator during a power outage… and there was a maid named Pegeen! I know that must sound idiotic, but this is the one book that always slips my memory, even though I bought it from a school Book List, and I think the author’s first name was Richard. Hopefully it will come to me later.

But while I was searching for authors by first name, I came up with this list on Wikipedia of Children’s Literature authors, and when I eventually finish this post, I may go back and see what books I missed. I’m sure there are many that I’ve read and never owned. Presently, I’m going to go see if Astrid Lindgren is on this list, because every child, boy or girl, should read the Pippi Longstocking books.

How nice! It wasn’t on this post, originally, so good thing I checked.  : )

Now, I really hope that this very long list will give you some excellent ideas of what to read, or for your kids to read, and take advantage of how Amazon says that “people who bought this book also bought”, and see where it takes you. You can find some excellent reads just by seeing what others are looking at, if they’re already looking at some of the classics outside of the recent run-of-the-mill fantasy novels. Enjoy and feel free to share if I’ve missed something that I shouldn’t have!

Thanks for being patient with me!

P.S.  I found it! After scrolling through pages of Richards on Amazon, I finally found Richard Peck… who wrote a lot of great books, too. Including a Newbery or two, I’m pretty sure. Anyway, the book I couldn’t remember was called Voices After Midnight. But be sure to check his books out, as well, when you’re looking for good reading!

not a quick study…

I’m taking a break from battering my brain with a poem. Yes, you heard that right. A poem. I have my first major essay due for my English Literature (20th to 21st Century) class, next week, and I think I might just be starting to get somewhere with it. The key word being “might”.

Just for the record, my ability to write fairly quickly does not really equip me with the ability to dissect literature and poetry, looking for themes and metaphors. In fact, I don’t generally care why the author wrote it, or why he used that particular descriptive device. I’m just looking for a satisfying story, and then I’m good to go. But this time, I have a poem to dissect, in order to UNDERSTAND it, and be able to write not just a thesis statement, but an entire paper. Blech.

If you’ve been waiting for me to update you on school, there are days when I feel like writing about something, but by the time I get home, I’ve forgotten what it was, or lost interest. But overall, the semester’s going well, thus far.

Despite plenty of studying, I’m not feeling to great about my Chemistry test, which I took today. The quizzes have been group efforts, where we would get an idea of what a test would be like, and then we could study from the quiz, afterwards. Which I did plenty of. But overall, the class doesn’t seem to be too hard, and though it’s full of “green” mumbo-jumbo, I’m usually ok with the science-related stuff. It’s some of the math that throws me the most, but I come home and go over it again, after I get my scores back. If I get a lower score on this one, it’ll be the first I’ve had in the class.

The lab is another story, but at least I’m not alone in my confusion, when we’re asked to brainstorm how to do something. Until this week, it was writing the lab summaries that was driving me up the wall. Was I doing them right? Was I flunking them, and not going to know it for another month? We finally got them back, and I’m doing fine with those, too. So, now I just have to start sweating over putting together a portfolio of what I’ve “learned” in that lab.  : )  But that’s for after my English essay is finished.

Taking German is rather fun, and I’m doing well on all the schoolwork. So much so that I get rather bent out of shape when I do something silly on a quiz, and lose a few points. Influences from my life (my dad is Pennsylvania Dutch), familiarity with German composers and music, and having family and friends visit/live in Germany… these all make me FEEL like I understand the sounds and pronunciations better than some. I’m not perfect, of course, but it is VERY hard to not squirm when a classmate pronounces something really badly.  ; )

My history courses are coming along, both Western Civ and Modern Military History. It didn’t take me very long to figure out what my professors’ biases are, and the Western Civ class can be rather hard. He has a very hard view of patriotic Americans, especially Southerners. But I’m still learning a lot, and using that knowledge to supplement some of what I already know about world history. When I can’t stand it anymore, I continue reading my personal copy of A Patriot’s History of the United States, by Larry Schweikart and Michael Patrick Allen. Now THAT is good reading.

My Military History class can be quite fun, though I admit to not knowing as much about battle tactics as some of the guys in my class. But the Civil War chapter was torture to sit through, as he gave some pretty ridiculous reasons for why the Southerners went to war, and why they continued to fight until the bitter end. I won’t go into it, because it gets my brother and I both rather upset.

But he’s a good teacher, and for the most part, I enjoy that class. I try hard to remember enough about the battles we discuss, in order to give good answers on our essay tests. Not always the easiest to do, even for a writer and a history lover, like I am.

Yesterday, we had an interesting break, though. My ADVISOR, who I only knew by name before this, was subbing in for my Military History Prof, who was out of town. So, he covered the section on WWI and the campaigns for Flanders, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, etc… and it was fascinating to listen to. He’s also a Marine, whose area of expertise is the history of the South. Yes, there are classes on that, and I can’t wait to take them. I was rather worried that someone like my Western Civ prof would be teaching those. But my very own advisor is a Marine (sounds like a Southern boy, too) who teaches it. That’s all I need to know.

And now that I’ve give you an idea of what I’m up to, I’ve got to get back to either reading up on the first day of the Somme campaign, or back to my English essay. Don’t you wish you were me? Yeah, I know. Savor the fact that you don’t have any papers to write, today. It should brighten up your day, considerably.  : )

we’ll always remember…

I had a vague idea, as I walked to my German class, this morning, that I had arrived at work about that same time on 9/11/01. As I thought of it, I wondered how many of the present undergraduates knew where they had been that day. The brand-new freshmen would have been six years old, and the seniors were probably ten years old, at the time. I was twenty-one, and I’ve never forgotten where I was, that Tuesday.DSC_0541

DSC_0540As I left my German class, to walk by the reflection pond, in order to reach Hardin Hall, I stopped short as I saw the hill above the Amphitheater. A flag display had been arranged there, and as much as I wanted to go look, I didn’t have time between classes. Also, I didn’t have a snazzy camera phone to take a picture with. Even at that distance, I could see that everyone was stopping to look. DSC_0542

DSC_0543DSC_0544With the issues of parking on campus, I eventually found my solution to getting my camera, and had my brother drop me off near the end of my mom’s workday. So, walking down from the Carillon Garden, I approached the display from the top. If you walked by, above it, could you tell what it was? Oh, yes, with the 9-11 Project signs, that would attract your attention.DSC_0546

DSC_0545DSC_0547As you can see, there are no pins left under the sign, so I don’t know what they looked like. But I truly appreciate the group that took the time to put up this display. I’ve done my best, by walking to several spots nearby, to get a good look at it. It was difficult to get high enough to see it properly.DSC_0548

DSC_0549I don’t think I can ever say the right thing on this day. Don’t forget our American heroes that saved so many lives on that day, some  giving up their own lives to do it. Remember the families that lost their loved ones. Thank the men in our military, who do their best, every day, to keep our country free. DSC_0550

DSC_0553And thank God for all the blessings in your life. DSC_0557DSC_0559

and then, goliath fell…

I’m telling you, I don’t care how firmly planted those oak trees look, I’m not taking any of them for granted, any more. How long does it take for them to work themselves up to falling? Is there an ominous creaking, for several days, or do they just crash down, out of the blue, without a warning rumble? Did anyone hear that one fall, with the traffic going by, through Clemson’s Downtown? How could they not have heard it, or seen it? I’ve heard there’s video footage, but haven’t found it yet.

It took two DAYS for someone to mention that a giant oak tree had fallen on Bowman Field. Considering how I enjoy playing Ultimate on that field, it didn’t take much for me to guess which ones might have fallen. They’re colossal! How had I not looked, when I passed that way, driving home? You couldn’t possibly miss it, could you?DSC_0821

But considering how it usually takes them less than a day to clear a fallen oak, just like when the Riggs tree fell, this was no ordinary oak tree. This link will show you what it looked like after the Bur Oak fell. I can’t get the picture any larger than that, but if you look carefully, the height of the tree on its SIDE is almost as tall as the oaks behind it, that are still standing.DSC_0822

When I heard that the Bowman tree had fallen, I immediately wondered if I had a picture of it. Some of you may remember how much I like to take pictures of trees, especially before the leaves grew back in the spring. So, after work, I hiked up to Tillman to take a look. And then began counting how many large trees down the hill from the Tillman Chapel…DSC_0823

I thought it was in front of Holtzendorff, but someone suggested that it was in front of Godfrey Hall. If it had fallen towards the buildings, I can’t imagine how much damage it would have caused. Or who might have been hurt. Thankfully, no one was hurt when it fell on the field, as it’s summer, and the field isn’t used as much.DSC_0824

Yes, that photo of the upstanding tree, with no leaves (taken in March), that’s the tree that fell. I don’t think the picture did it justice then, but it was BEYOND huge. And if you saw the bulldozer (or whatever it was) that was working around the trunk of the fallen tree, the root system of that Bur Oak was even bigger than the machine. The yellow caution tape was still marking the area where the tree fell into. It was more than halfway across the field.DSC_0326

My memories of this tree involve seeing students rig hammocks in the lower branches, because they were so long and low to the ground, and it was so nice and shady underneath the leaves. DSC_0825

If you go and look at the link above, you’ll find a lot of interesting things about that tree, just from reading through the comments. Someone suggested that the oak must have been planted a LONG time ago, because Bur Oaks are not native to this area. All these last few years of drought has been killing the root systems of so many large trees, and then all the rain loosens up the soil. They’re so top-heavy that down they come.DSC_0826

Another commenter said that he was 63 years old, and those trees were huge when he was at Clemson. By comparison, the oak trees below Fike were just saplings, then. Another person posted an aerial photo of that part of campus, taken in 1938. You could see the trees, and guess that they were lot smaller, but they were still large enough to be noticeable from that height and distance. I’m guessing it was planted in the early 1900’s, if not back when the college first opened its doors.DSC_0827

The missing Riggs tree is nowhere near as noticeable as this one. Its loss will be felt, by anyone that has memories of Clemson, and who has ever spent any amount of time on Bowman Field. In this particular case, it’s a shame that Goliath had to fall.DSC_0828

once upon a time…

Once upon a time, a young woman spent a wonderful year in Australia, working as a nanny and looking after five little girls. Before she went there, she considered the possibility of being able to travel for years and years, visiting several different countries, and taking care of children. She loved children, you see, and as she was still single (and therefore, childless), nannying seemed to be a wondrous idea. Unfortunately, she was past the cut-off age for work & holiday visas, in most countries, so Australia would be her only overseas gig.

Instead, when she returned home, she thought that she thought that she would soak up being with her family and friends again, and then find another nanny job in the United States. There were plenty of states that she still wanted to visit, and what better way to get to see them than moving there for a year at a time? During her first summer back in the U.S., she packed up her car and drove to Minnesota.

It wasn’t meant to be. She learned a lot from that trip, but two weeks later, she drove (the two day trip) home. Admittedly, she was a little down, after this “failure”. Why had it happened? Was she NOT supposed to go, or did the Lord want her to learn something from that short trip?

She began to apply for jobs again, but just like before she left for Australia, she wasn’t finding anything very high on the pay scale or any higher on the job “quality” ladder. Once, she had been a business owner  and house cleaner, and then a full-time manager of housekeeping for a camp. Now, she was ready to step up and work at the desk in a hotel (in business clothes, instead of scruffy t-shirts and shorts), or something that had nothing to do with cleaning. But with the problematic economy and a limited resume, she wasn’t finding anything.

Fortunately, she still had some good credit with a local company that she had worked with before, and was hired almost immediately. This took her to working as a cashier, at Clemson University. The pay wasn’t high, but the location was a definite improvement on her food service experience in the same company. Every week, she told herself that she would find something better, and this job would hold her over until then.

The weeks went by, and something strange happened. She began to find that she actually enjoyed her job. Not because of the job itself, because cashiering doesn’t call for too much skill, but because of the students and professors. Especially, the graduate students, who were closer to her age. As she also had a college professor for a father AND grandfather, and graduate students had practically lived in her home when she was growing up, she began to feel right at home with them.

But still, she knew that it wasn’t easy to make friends with people, in her position. When students only speak to you for a few minutes every day, they don’t really see you as a person, and potential friend. She wasn’t sure how to cross the line to becoming friends with them, either guys or girls. She didn’t have a lot of local friends, having lived away from Clemson for several years, so she was trying to figure out how to make some.

As she began to persist in learning the students’ names, they began to see her as a person worthy of friendship, and call her by name, in return. And as each friendship developed, she found herself less and less inclined to look for another job, though she knew she needed to. She needed to earn more, but this company was not the right place to do it. But abandoning her new acquaintances, before they really became friends… that was a hard choice to make.

Did I mention that she wrote a blog? I know, you’re stunned. At about this time, she was paying more attention to her photography skills, and began to take more pictures of flowers and buildings, instead of children (as when she was a nanny). Especially, buildings on the Clemson University campus.

This caused her to take an interest in Clemson that she had never had before, not even when her dad taught there, or when she had attended one semester there. Just like when you get a new house (or car), clean it, and place your things just so, making it your own… her wandering photography tours of Clemson were making their mark. Clemson (the city) was already home, and now the University was getting there.

She would tell you that it’s the blog’s fault, really. On some days, she would think about random topics, trying to think about what else to write about. And one day… she had a blog post idea. But she never wrote it. It would have been a fascinating post, I’m sure, but the reality was so much better. I’ll tell you about it, in a few minutes.

With the beginning of the New Year, some of her acquaintances truly became friends. And during one online conversation, she discovered that Clemson University was hiring for a job. A job that was in the same department as most of her friends. If she had never made friends at her workplace, with the students, she never would have heard about it. Because when it was finally listed online, the listing was only there for a week, and you had to be ready for it.

Her friend had thought she would be interested in this job, for herself. As thrilled as she was by this placing of confidence, she knew that she couldn’t take it. Are you wondering why? I’m still coming to that aforementioned, non-existent blog post. Instead, she told her mother about this job opening, and encouraged her to apply for it. Her mother was so much more qualified, and it was about time she worked for a place that would appreciate her that much more!

When her mother applied for it, she was certain that her mom would get the job, though no one else was certain. And then… she did get it! Why had she been so certain? It didn’t really make sense, did it?

But then again… she (the daughter, not the mother) had gone through a long process of not finding employment, after coming home from Australia, and then developing an interest in an uninteresting job. An occupation that was made interesting because of the people. And if she had never gotten to know those students, she never would have helped her mom find her new position. She marveled at how the Lord must have had that plan in place, when she returned from Australia, but of course, she didn’t know about it!

Many people were excited for her mother, after she was hired for the new position, and encouraged her daughter that “they’d find one for her, too!”. She didn’t say anything about how she could have applied for that same opportunity, but that she knew it wasn’t the right one. The Lord had other plans for her, and she’d known it for a long time.

You see, once upon a time, she thought about how much she liked to read, and especially how she read a lot of history books. And because she was always working or taking photographs on the Clemson campus, she began to think about (for a blog post), what she would major in, if she ever decided to go back to college. She had hated college, the first time, and hadn’t had any subject that she enjoyed enough to keep her there. And she knew that you did NOT need a degree to succeed in life.

But while she was thinking about this imaginary blog post… it finally hit her. If she wanted to, she COULD go back to college. She loved to read non-fiction, everything from the subject of the Founding Fathers, the writing of the Constitution, and the forming of the United States, to the Civil War and the Cold War. She spent most of her spare time reading these subjects, for fun… why wouldn’t she enjoy getting a degree in history?

She did her research on getting a history major, and what jobs can result from that type of degree. She applied to Clemson, and was accepted. She jumped through every hoop they held out for her, and they moved those hoops around a LOT, for returning students! She wrote appeals letters for several committees, and scrambled to find out what information they had forgotten to tell her. And at the moment, she is still in the final stages of getting financial aid, and waiting to register for classes (because returning students can’t register until late July).

Think about it. Over a year ago, the Lord knew that she would NOT get a job outside of Clemson, but stay there, making friends. He knew that she would begin to like the campus and the people, and that her friendships would help her mother find new employment. He knew that her reading, blogging, and photography would eventually lead her to reconsider school.

He knew this, while she was crying over her “failure” in Minnesota. Was it a failure, though, if the Lord had His hand on the situation? He knew this while she was worn out by mono, and unable to even think about finding another job. He knew it, when she was unable to afford to travel anywhere, but slowly was becoming accustomed to staying in Clemson. He always KNEW where she would go, and what He had planned for her!

~

And now that you know, I might as well switch tenses to finish the tale. Barring any problems with financial aid, I will be starting undergraduate classes, in about six weeks. I may still be a little worried about the issue of funds, but I sincerely believe that the Lord’s been leading me this whole way, all this time. So, if that is true, then money should not be a worry. He has it under control.

I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers, as I am quite nervous about starting school. I don’t have fond memories of my lone semester at Clemson, and even if it was because I was immature and overwhelmed, the memories can spring up and swamp me, at times. Also, I was serious when I said that I had to jump through hoops, as a returning student. Every time I turn around, I’ve missed some important information, or they forgot to tell me that I need to sign another paper, or write another letter to someone.

Please pray that all the necessary paperwork will come together. That even if I’m nervous, I won’t be overly worried and/or terrified. Panic attacks are NOT welcome. And please, please pray that I’m not having a mono relapse (or that I will get over it soon), because I really want to have the energy to pay attention and even enjoy what I’m doing and learning.

~

I will be very busy, over the next four years, so my blog posts may become much more infrequent, and the subject matter of both word and photo may change (again). But please hang in there, because I truly enjoy blogging, and do not intend to give it up. Perhaps you will even come to enjoy my rambling about life as a 30-something college student. At least, I hope you will!  : )

look at the evidence…

When I first read the most recent flier for my Seabrook Conference, I remember thinking that the topic for the meetings looked very interesting, and also, that I’d never heard Rob S. speak before. By the time the conference started, though, I had forgotten what the topic was, but just had a feeling that the weekend of meetings would be awesome. Of course, they always are.

While I was thrilled by the first session, on absolute truth, and how the modern world tends to think it doesn’t exist (it does!), I just about fell out of my chair with excitement, when he explained what the rest of the meetings would be about. Why?

Because we were going to be studying how SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE firmly upholds the reliability of the Bible. Think you heard me wrong? You didn’t. We were going to go through six sessions on all the “ologies” of science (well, as many as we had time for), and how they support the Scripture.

As I enjoy reading books like Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution; The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus; and The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, this was right up my alley. I might not have been good at science class when I was in school, but I like to learn about science from the books that I read.

I especially like books that challenge consensus, because “consensus”, as it’s known today, seems to be an excuse for accepting what others tell you, without looking into it further. Whether it’s challenging the “consensus” of global warming or evolution, or just something that’s politically correct, I want to learn more about it. For another example, on history, modern consensus, or political correctness, is starting to tell us that Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator and a saint, while Thomas Jefferson was the lowest of the low, because he was a slave owner. But do you believe everything you read? Have you read the books that are referenced in the bibliographies, or even checked to see if they HAVE references?

Back to scientific evidence and the Bible… many agnostics and atheists believe that the Bible and science are antithetical to each other, and that a true scientist can’t believe in the “fairytales” that exist in the Bible. But what if, the more you study the world around you, the more it confirms that the Bible is true? What if the Scriptures KNEW many things about the sciences, long before any scientists had hypothesized on these subjects, much less proved the truth of the matter?

I am not a note-taker, in general, and I rarely go back and look at them again, but for once in my life, I took a million notes. And for once, I was at a conference without my notebook (even though I rarely use it) and had to use the notebook paper provided in my camp folder. I used all the pages provided, and more, because I couldn’t take notes fast enough to keep up with our speaker. And when I got home from the weekend, I started to tell my dad about what we’d learned.

You should’ve seen me. After a few minutes, I went and grabbed my notes, then seated myself on the back of the couch. From my perch there, I kept saying, “Did you know this? You did? What about this? You didn’t? Oh, let me tell you about this…”, and so on. I went through all my notes, excited as could be. Some of the things I heard that weekend, I had already known. But MANY things I hadn’t. And because we’re talking about evidence, these things can be looked up, and weighed in the balance. By you, and by me.

John 3:12 (KJV) says, “If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”. Basically, if you don’t believe the things that the Bible says about our physical universe, how will you ever believe those things that are of a spiritual nature? To sum up, for all you scientists, if you disbelieve what the Bible says about science itself, why should you even think of trusting what it says about spiritual explanations?

So, as I meander through some notes, let’s talk about a few different “ologies”. I’ll start with astronomy.

Isaiah 40:22 (KJV) says, “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in”.

Did you see that? Isaiah was written in 720 B.C., approximately. The translation of “circle of the earth” refers to the earth being round, like a ball that a child plays with. And in 1992, it was mathematically demonstrated that we live in an expanding universe, which is constantly stretching out. So, in 720 B.C., the writer of the Bible wrote that the Lord “stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain”… a long time before it was scientifically proven!

I have several other notes on astronomy, but they’re much more cryptic, so I’m going to head on into biology. If you are interested in seeing Rob’s website, it is http://www.christianevidences.org. You will find references for all the subjects he covers, and he covers archaeological, manuscript, scientific, and prophetic evidence. The sciences listings are still being updated, so if you’re looking for an “ology” that isn’t there, it should be up in the next month or two.

When we reached the subject of biology, we talked about the verses in Genesis 1, about the Lord creating all the creatures and plants “according to their kind”. Rob went on to talk about a study that was done on the Siberian gray wolf, which carries all the genetic information to create ALL the types and breeds of dogs. From Great Danes to chihuahuas, they’re all there, and you can breed that wolf down, eventually. But you can’t take a chihuahua and breed it UP, so to speak. It doesn’t carry the genetic information for any dogs but chihuahuas. So, if you think about it, the Siberian gray wolf was probably on the Ark, but the Great Dane was not.  : )

Did you know there are bugs mentioned in the Bible? I actually did, but I’d never thought of them as being serious references to the subject of entomology. But Proverbs 6 refers to the ant, and tells us to consider the ant for “her” wisdom. In the 1740’s, it was discovered that most ants are girls, and they’re extremely hard working. The male ants are lazy and basically there for reproductive purposes.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” –Proverbs 6:6-8 (NKJV)

It was also discovered that the ants have no leader giving the orders. They use pheromones to direct other ants to come and help them, when they find some food that they can’t lift on their own.

When it came to chemistry, I thought of some of my friends in the Chemistry department, at Clemson. In Genesis 2:7 (NKJV), it says that “…God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…”. So, research was done on this, and the human body has 59 elements in its makeup. All of these elements are found in the earth’s crust (everyday dirt).

Also, in 2 Peter 3:5 (KJV) says, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.”, which refers to how the earth was formed. If it was formed from water, the earth’s crust will also share the same elements that are found in sea water, right? Yes, it does. Exactly the same elements.

Then, we headed into meteorology. Job 38:22 speaks of “the treasures of the snow”. Have you ever seen an image of snow flakes, from under a microscope? They’re beautiful, right? And we’re told that no two are alike. Now, have you ever seen an image of man-made snow, under a microscope? They just look like lumps, nothing of beauty about them. Man cannot recreate the beauteous treasure which are snow flakes.

Why again, are we considering this? Before the world began, Satan challenged the Lord, and lost. He wanted to be “like God”, but couldn’t. So, he turned his thoughts to disrupting the beauty of creation. And he continues, to this day. For, if he can get people to challenge the Bible on its SCIENCE, again, why would certain people be willing to consider the evidence of faith and spiritual things? I am not saying that you can’t come to the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ without knowledge of science, but many scientists throughout the ages were only MORE convinced of the truth of Scripture, BECAUSE of the science that they study. Their studies confirmed their faith!

Continuing on in meteorology, the Bible confirms the weather cycle, long before anyone could explain how it worked. Ecclesiastes 1:7 (NKJV) speaks of how “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again”. You may think that this is so obvious, why even mention it. But remember, this book was written back before any scientist knew how the weather worked. Those that didn’t believe in the God of Israel, they believed that thunderstorms were sent by angry weather gods, not that ocean water evaporated, to go up into the sky, where it would eventually pour out on the earth again.

With the subject of paleontology, things got REALLY interesting. Okay, I find all of this to be fascinating, but this was really a subject that I didn’t know anything about. Have you ever wondered why children seem to be reaching puberty, earlier and earlier? Now, did you know that the human skull keeps growing, for the rest of your life, which is why you get sunken eyes and the hats of your youth don’t fit, when you get old? What do those two have to do with each other?

Back in the 1700’s, there was an orphanage in one of the Northern colonies that burned to the ground. Sadly, a number of children died. In recent years, there have been studies done of their remains. My notes are a little cryptic, but I think the key thing was that these children didn’t even have all their baby teeth yet, though in our day and age, they would have had most of their adult teeth by then.

Have you ever heard of cephalometric imaging? Jack Cuozzo pioneered the method of telling how old someone was when they died, just by using this method to examine their teeth. He began to use this method to examine Neanderthal remains in Europe, which many scientist think aren’t human. But what if they ARE human, they’re just from a time when men lived to be hundreds of years old? You know, like when Genesis talks about the “generations of Shem”, and how Noah’s sons lived to WAY old?

Le Moustier was a Neanderthal skeleton found in 1909, and contrary to what carbon dating suggests, cephalometric imaging suggests that this man was 18 years old when he died. And had a full set of baby teeth. Whereas, La Ferrassie was 267 when he died, and La Chapelle au Saints was 283. Consider this, the next time you think about the Neanderthal man… they’re just us, living to be REALLY old, only getting their adult teeth WAY late, and their skulls are strange and huge, because the human skull keeps growing, as long as you’re alive!

So, basically, we ARE hitting puberty, earlier and earlier… but back in the time of Noah, they were a lot older than we were, when they reached that state of life. And after they got out of teenager-hood (were they in their 30’s, by then?), they got older and older, while their skulls got bigger and bigger…

The fossil record also supports the idea of catastrophism. In the Bible, this would be the Great Flood. How about the fossils that have pterodactyls that seem to have died in agony? Or the fossilized remains of a protoceratops fighting a velociraptor… and they must have been buried instantly! For those of us that were raised on The Land Before Time, and dinosaurs being hatched from eggs, I find the fossil of an icthyosaur giving birth to be fascinating. Yep, the baby’s half in and half out, with several more still in the mother. And this isn’t even getting into the remains of T-rexes in Hell’s Creek, MT.

I’ll just mention anthropology, briefly, and how every culture on earth has a distant memory of a shared history. That shared history would include Creation, the Fall and the Garden of Eden, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Up until the mixing of the languages at the Tower of Babel, the people of the world spoke the same language. Obviously, I’m not providing verses for this, as I’ve been writing long enough on this whole post. But if you ever hear the creation stories from ANY culture, look for the shared history. There’s a reason they have their similarities.

The rest of our sessions went into evidence of Christ’s resurrection and the CSI test given to the reliability of the history of the Bible. Rather than write another mile-long post about them, I will suggest you look up Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, which covers these in detail. I can’t do this subject justice, and if I don’t put this post up soon, I never will.

Please remember, I am not a serious scholar of all these subjects, I am only trying to share what I learned and enjoyed. Everyone, including myself, would do well to keep looking up these subjects for themselves. If I have shared something incorrectly, or there is still more to learn on that subject (and I KNOW there definitely is!), I am open to doing so.

I think I have only given you the slightest taste of what our wonderful weekend of meetings covered, but if you have any interest in the above topics, please check out Rob’s website (www.christianevidences.org). He also recommended several other books that cover some of the sciences in depth, so if you’re interested, I can look those up. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I was able to share with you, and I hope you’ll look into it more, yourself!

the edge of a hero…

He always has a big smile on his face, when he comes into my workplace. Today was no different, in that regard. But instead of his usual Clemson orange polo shirt, he was wearing a dress shirt covered in pictures of the U.S. flag and the Statue of Liberty. I told him he looked very patriotic, as he walked past me, grinning, and greeting all of my co-workers. My supervisor, whom he loves to tease, wasn’t there to see his cheerful smile, because she had left the building, on an errand.DSC_0789

I knew that he had been in the military at some point, as well as having been an ROTC member before he graduated from Clemson University. I suspect he served in Vietnam, but I’m not completely sure. Since he never mentioned his military past, I didn’t find out about it, until I found his bootprints on the Military Heritage Plaza, below Tillman Hall. The tiger print inside the heel of one of the footprints is supposed to represent that he continues to teach at Clemson, his alma mater, even to this day.

When he arrived at the cash register, I thanked him for his service, but he neatly turned it on me, thanking ME for my everyday service in the cafe. But then, he assured me that he would do it again, today, if he was needed. He would serve gladly, just as he did before. And when I mentioned seeing his bootprints on the plaza, he protested that it had been his wife’s idea to have those done.  : )

DSC_0032I know that Memorial Day is a day to remember all that have lost their lives, serving their country, in every war of our nation’s history. But while we take the time to remember those that fell in service to their country, who sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms that we love, remember those that live on. They don’t ask for praise, just as this veteran doesn’t. They’re humble about their service, and proud to have been able to serve.

And even when they don’t ask for it, we can still thank them for it. May God continue to bless our troops, wherever they are, and give thanks for all our military heroes, both past and present.

 

of angels, tea, & tomatoes…

Or rather, the lengthier title would be about an Angel Oak, a tea plantation, and a Tomato Shed Restaurant. But that would take up a whole lot of space in a blog title, so I wanted to keep it a bit simpler. We also went to Kilwin’s, in downtown Charleston, but we’ll see if I even have room for that. For the moment, I have to see how many photos I’m going to try and incorporate into this post.DSC_0576

At breakfast, we took a vote on where to go around Charleston, and the majority said they wanted to go where it didn’t cost much. Also, we have a few people that don’t have a head for heights, so we opted out of walking the Cooper River Bridge. At my suggestion, no matter what we decided on, I wanted to go visit the Angel Oak again, because my best friends hadn’t been to see it before. And it’s been a few years since any of us went, so it was just a short detour on the way.DSC_0577

DSC_0579The Angel Oak was named for the original owners of the property, and is estimated to be 300-400 years old. A Live Oak, its branches shade an area of 17,000 square feet, it’s 65 feet in height, and it’s trunk is 25.5 feet in circumference. Also according to the sign (I took a picture, if you want to check the numbers), its biggest branch is 11.25 feet in circumference, and 89 feet in length. The Angel Oak is a whopping big tree.DSC_0588

DSC_0585The first picture I took shows how the ends of the branches look, from the outside of the tree’s shade zone. Almost like a very large shrub, or a small tree, close to the ground. But once you step through those little outside branches, you see what’s really “hiding” inside.DSC_0586

One friend of mine was disappointed by all the signs saying that you can’t climb the tree, but I wouldn’t dare. Not because it wouldn’t be fun, but it’s so big and beautiful, I would hate to ruin something of such antiquity. And if the careful climbers could possibly harm it, what about those people that wouldn’t care? Let loose a bunch of careless college students, for example, and you’d have branches break, left and right.DSC_0594

DSC_0595As the sign says, live oaks become quite fragile, once they reach a certain age. I didn’t include all my pictures of the supports, but the long limbs were supported by wooden 2×4’s, while other higher branches had long metal poles holding them up. Lots of wires hung from branch to branch, or perhaps even to places above the tree. I never went and looked to see if they had any outside framework, perhaps attached to posts that looked like telephone poles. Maybe, who knows?DSC_0605

DSC_0609I tried very hard to include people in the pictures, to give some idea of scale. Not all the pictures, of course, because the immensity of the tree is enough for anyone. But if you see me standing in front of the tree, you’ll see how tiny I am, in comparison.DSC_0612

DSC_0669After we were done look at the largest tree, east of the Mississippi, we drove to the Charleston Tea Plantation. Again, I’ve been there before, but several of my friends have not. And when I was there, we didn’t have time to go on the trolley tour. This time, we wandered the gift shop until it was time for the next video-led tour of the tea processing factory.DSC_0673

This is a very short tour, but informative on how they make the different types of tea. Oolong tea, black tea, and green tea all come from the same plant, you know, they just have different amounts of time in the oxidation bed. One part of the tour cracked me up (ok, I kept quiet about it), because the disembodied voice says that the tea leaves have time to sit, quietly, in the withering bed. But what about the noisy ones, that don’t want to be quiet?DSC_0800

DSC_0674After that tour, I made quick purchase or two, and then hurried to join everyone. It’s a very old-school trolley, with wooden trim and not much room to stretch out in. So, I made sure I got some pictures of the trolley itself, as well as the fields of tea.DSC_0677

DSC_0679Our cheerful tour guide also works in downtown Charleston, but I guess he comes to the plantation a time or two, every week, to help out with these tours. Intermittently, he would play a tape of the man who chooses the types of tea to plant, and who is a first-class tea taster, trained at a school in Britain. Oh, yes, Bill Hall was the former owner, but the Bigelow Company bought the plantation from him, which has allowed them to find a bigger market for America’s only tea plantation.DSC_0681

DSC_0686Originally, the tea plantation was started elsewhere in the early 1800’s, but around 1960, it was relocated to Wadmalaw Island. The Lipton Company had a go at it, back in the day, but it wasn’t working out for them. Now that Bigelow owns it, Bill Hall is able to concentrate on expanding the plantation, experimenting with tea mixtures, while Bigelow does the advertising and helps get them more foot traffic to the plantation itself.DSC_0691

DSC_0692DSC_0702I found it interesting that they don’t plant seeds for this tea, but they talk about growing cloned tea plants. They actually let the “flush” on the top of the plants grow to some length, then cut two or three feet of it, and put them in water. Before long, it grows new roots, and can be planted in the greenhouse. Our guide told us that it’s quite easy to grow more, and they don’t use seeds because they’d rather work with what’s been tried and found true, the plants they already have.DSC_0720

DSC_0722Their one harvester machine is a one-of-a-kind, made specifically for the Charleston Tea Plantation. It’s a long, boring job, to drive very slowly through the fields, cutting off the tops of the “flush” of new leaves, and using a blower to put the cuttings into a container on the back of the machine. So, since the crazy weather had the plants growing late, they were only just selling the tea made from the “First Flush” of the year.DSC_0725

DSC_0738Speaking of machinery, they only have about 6 people working on the plantation, in the production of the tea (I don’t think this includes the tour guides and gift shop people). It’s expensive to employ lots of people, but with all the machines that do the work for them, they are able to get by with very few employees, unlike in Sri Lanka, where they might have 250 people picking the tea by hand. I only mention that example, because it was the one our tour guide spoke of, when asked.DSC_0752

DSC_0754You’ll notice the sign, showing where all the tea plantations in the world are located, with little lights for each one. I was surprised to find one listed in Australia, where there isn’t a lot of water, compared to the U.S. Also, according to the sign, it would be out in the middle of the desert somewhere. So, irrigation would be necessary, I’m guessing. But why, then, isn’t Australia on the yellow and blue directional sign, showing how many miles to the nearest tea plantation? I’m pretty sure Australia isn’t listed on there.DSC_0756

After the tea plantation, we went looking for a place called the Stono Market & Tomato Shed Cafe. We arrived on the porch, to the smell of boiled peanuts, which were boiling away in a container, to the right of the door. We perused our menus, while sitting on the front porch, until they were able to find seating for all of us.DSC_0802

DSC_0805At this point, we felt a bit like we’d been eating all day long, because of our large breakfast of French toast and bacon. But I don’t think it really should have seemed that way, because we had eaten breakfast a lot earlier than we usually did on Mondays after Seabrook. Maybe I’ve forgotten about a snack along the way?DSC_0808

I ordered the crab cake plate, with mac ‘n’ cheese and sweet potato fries. It was delicious, by the way. The crab cakes were advertised to be “crabbier” than most any crab cakes, anywhere else. Crab and not much extra, and I thought they were wonderful.DSC_0809

DSC_0810And though they had lots of fun looking stuff in their gift store, lots of canned food, bags of grits, and coffee, the only thing I bought was a jar of jam, made from strawberries and pink grapefruit. I thought my brother might like it.DSC_0812

From the Tomato Shed, we drove all the way into Charleston, for ice cream at Kilwin’s. I’m not sure why we did this, because we probably could have gotten it somewhere else, with less driving and less trouble. We had plans to be at a friend’s for a pizza dinner (not that any of us were hungry, by then!), and only had a half hour in Charleston, once we arrived. And, of course, we knew we were risking getting stuck in traffic.DSC_0820

The car I was driving arrived in good time, in a different parking garage than everyone else, we hiked it through the market, and then to Kilwin’s. If you’ve never been in one, this is another of those places where you gain weight just by breathing in the smell of chocolate. We were there for ice cream, though, and that didn’t take long to get. I always regret that any Kilwin’s I walk into (whether in Charleston or Gettysburg, PA), they never seem to have Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream, anymore. Do they have it in Michigan, still?DSC_0822

I got chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, in case you were wondering. After that, we had barely any time left. Though I did enjoy seeing a little boy see one of the horse-drawn buggies, and holler “YEE-haw!”, which must’ve been his word for “horse”.DSC_0825

You really can eat ice cream, out of a dish, with a plastic spoon, while walking quickly back to your car. But I had very little time for looking where I was going, and thankfully, I neither tripped, nor ran into anyone. We drove back to my friends’ house, though a little late because of traffic. Still full from crab cakes and ice cream, I skipped the pizza, and headed home.DSC_0830

This is where I picked up my own car, and I said my final goodbyes to all my friends, who live from Pennsylvania to Iowa to Florida, to here in South Carolina. If I’m lucky, I’ll see most of them again over Labor Day Weekend, but some of them, I won’t see until November. But such is life, so I hopped into my car, while it was starting to rain. Before long, it was a downpour, complete with some seriously freaky lightning. I saw so many lightning strikes, I was really praying that my car wouldn’t get hit.DSC_0832

And there you have it, my entire weekend at Seabrook Island and Charleston. It was a wonderful time, but you may have guessed that, by now. Thanks for sticking with me, while I shared it with you.DSC_0834

a historic piece of jewelry…

My special order that I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived in the mail. It may not be an heirloom, but there’s definitely some history behind this bracelet. And, of course, that’s why I was suckered into buying it. Most of us ladies understood that feeling, going to a mall or craft show, with the intention of being good, and not buying anything. But I wasn’t kidding when I said I ran across this “I’ve-gotta-have-it-no-ifs-ands-or-buts” at the Pendleton Spring Jubilee.DSC_0762

Tia Turco’s booth was home to bracelets and necklaces made from stamps from all over the world. I particularly enjoyed watching some grandparents let their granddaughter pick out a colorful pink stamp charm, to wear on a necklace. But I was only glancing around, and tripped over the unexpected.DSC_0763

Back in the 1950’s, there was a stamp series featuring quotes from some of our Founding Fathers, Francis Scott Key, and Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps there were other stamp quotes, but these were the only ones I saw featured. Tia had turned them into two pieces of unique jewelry (or at least, those were the only two on display), complete with quotes from Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Patrick Henry.DSC_0764

Narrowing the choice down to two, I found that one bracelet had the Francis Scott Key quote, “And this be our Motto, in GOD is our TRUST”, while the other had Patrick Henry’s “Give me LIBERTY or give me DEATH”. Both of the display bracelets had the Abraham Lincoln quote. Don’t ask me what it was, for I don’t remember. It was a good quote, but I can fill you in some other time on why Abraham Lincoln is not my favorite person. He may have had a way with words, but he didn’t actually live up to them.DSC_0770

Nevertheless, I wanted both the Key and the Henry quotes, even though I knew that each bracelet represented a lot of hard work, and it wasn’t likely that Tia could just cut them up and make a new one, right before my eyes. I never want to be a difficult customer, since I’ve been on the other side of things, both in a craft show booth and in a store. But, because of this dilemma, I couldn’t choose.DSC_0771

She solved the problem for me by suggesting that if I liked, I could special order what I wanted, and then she could mail it to me, in a few weeks. Problem solved! How delightful. And by the way, if anyone would like to get in touch with her, let me know, and I’ll get you her e-mail. I won’t post it here. She also has an Etsy site, (as you can see on her card) but it’s used more for custom orders. DSC_0772

I was so excited when I received my box in the mail! I was surprised that it wasn’t packaged in layers and layers of bubble wrap, but whatever the stamps are covered in must be a hard plastic, not glass. No fears of breakage. And there were extra loops on the bracelet, for those with larger wrist, but I removed two of them. Also, I have not adjusted the color in the photos, not even a smidgen, so this is what the stamps in the bracelet really look like. DSC_0773

Immediately, I wore my bracelet to work, not caring that no one would notice it but me, though I did show it off to my fellow cashiers. I got my arm into some awkward positions, trying to show it to the cashier on my right, while standing on her left… and wearing it on my left wrist. She was trying to read it, when I had the words turned towards myself. Eventually, we had a pause between customers again, and tried it again, with me on her RIGHT, so she could just read it like normal. Yes, we were distracted and not thinking straight. Stop laughing.DSC_0774

When I was first looking at Tia’s jewelry, once she figured out which ones I was drooling over, she immediately asked if I’m a history buff. Oh, yes, I am, and what girl that loves reading about our Founding Fathers, the American Revolution, and the creation of the Constitution wouldn’t love having this piece of history dangling from her wrist? DSC_0775

In case someone decides I’ve mistyped anything, Francis Scott Key was not a Founding Father, and I’ve double-checked to make sure I didn’t imply that he was. He was born in 1779, which would do something to prevent being considered as such.  : )  But he is most famous, of course, for writing the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner”. I was taught, somewhere along the line, that the tune we sing it to was a common tune for drinking songs… now, what drinking songs could possibly be sung to that tune? I can’t imagine. DSC_0776

The other names are much better known, but I won’t dwell on their historical significance here. I love reading about these famous men who had such a great and profound effect on our country. So, having a small piece of jewelry to remind me of our history is wonderful to me, if to no one else. DSC_0777

a building fascination… sirrine hall

I don’t know why writing about Sirrine Hall has been the most difficult of all my “building fascination” posts. Yes, I’ve been busy writing other things and annoyed that I’ve put it off for so long. But when I stop and peruse the pictures, I realize what the actual problem is. I have trouble comprehending this building, both with my eyes, my brain, and my camera. What is up with that?DSC_0360

DSC_0361Well, stay with me here, I’ll try and explain. Though it was built in the 1930’s, I don’t know much about Sirrine’s history, except that it’s the home to textile management and the College of Business. So, all the accounting, economics, and marketing majors. Sound boring to you? Yeah, me too. Also, I’ve read that it has 4.1 acres of space, which must mean the footprint of the building is about an acre, multiplied by four floors. If not, that building is a bigger optical illusion than I thought.DSC_0362

DSC_0363DSC_0364The first time I was there, I was wondering around campus, and happened to stop and look at the colorful brick, and get a look at the inner courtyard as a whole. But I really didn’t stop for long, and the sun was so bright that it’s difficult to SEE the walls of the building itself. Looking back at the pictures, I was frustrated that they don’t really give you a feel for the size of the place. Mostly because I can’t fit the entire building into one shot.DSC_0365

DSC_0366You have to get each side of the courtyard in one picture, and even then, you step back so far that it ends of looking small in the photos. It was like I wanted to “get” this building, and it was preventing me.DSC_0764

DSC_0767So, several weeks later, when I was wondering under the popcorn trees at Hunter Hall, I meandered up to Sirrine, hoping that the morning light would be more conducive to picture taking. Also, since I was more in the photo taking mode, and the students were hiding in their classes, I wandered all over the courtyard, trying to get a feel for the building, as a whole.DSC_0768

DSC_0769But then, I was struck by the trees in the courtyard, firstly, instead of the courtyard itself. I don’t know what kind of tree they are, but what disease was causing their bark to look that way? I almost felt sorry for them. I’ve never felt pity for a tree before, but whatever’s up with their bark doesn’t look comfortable at all.DSC_0771

DSC_0773The morning light was a little less distracting, as I gazed up the walls at each of the large entrances. Still, the reflections coming off the windows sends a lot of light back at you. When standing by each entrance, I wasn’t really aware of the size of the building anymore, but just in awe of the colors of the brick and the stateliness of the stonework over each arched entrance.DSC_0776

DSC_0777It was only when I turned around to look at the paths of the courtyard that I really got mixed up. My eyes were playing tricks on me, with those paths. Look for yourself. Feel like you’re looking into a funhouse mirror? The center path turns into an arrow, pointing at you, and the other two branch away like a mirror image. Even the cars and lampposts at the other end distract you into thinking you’re seeing a mirror image. DSC_0779

DSC_0781Going over to another entryway gave the same feeling, so I’m intrigued by the design of that walkway, almost more than that of the building. Of course, the design of both go hand in hand. And in the end, I find that I still don’t “get” Sirrine, nor can my head seem to comprehend the size of it. The wings of the building distract you into thinking it’s smaller than it is, and then the pattern of the sidewalk itself dizzies you. DSC_0782

DSC_0783I think I’ll have to go back, another time, just to look, but not to take pictures. Because I can’t get my camera to take in what my eyes can’t even handle. Maybe one day, I’ll get to view the courtyard from the inside of one of the upper floors. Maybe that’ll help.DSC_0785