Sunday, 27 September 2009

Shakespeare Sat - er - Sunday: Chick Lit

I started typing this post yesterday, but I got distracted and didn't finish. That probably is an indication that forgetting about using a timer is a Bad Thing. However, I'll write that today, and see if I can get what I should write about today to autopost while we're away!

The more I read Shakespeare, the more I think that it's really very accessible. The language is a barrier, but the content is not intrinsically advanced - rich, certainly, but not difficult to grasp. For instance, the King of France's declaration of love for Cordelia , in the first scene of King Lear, is about as soppy as a romance can get. I didn't expect that.

I forget that King Lear wasn't written to be taught in English Classrooms. I don't suppose Pythagoras developed his theorem of right-angled triangles to torture Grade Eights, either. Or that Cramer's Rule was developed because it makes a good multiple choice question.

I think that we sometimes get so caught up in the rush of education - maybe even of learning itself - that we forget the original purpose of things. Reading Shakespeare in order to study great literature is putting the cart before the horse - I read Shakespeare because he tells good stories. Remembering the proper order of things can be applied all over my life. It's a little indirect, but maybe Shakespeare will even help me to finish that nightmarish Calculus assignment!

Friday, 25 September 2009


Last night I dreamed that I had to help lead a confirmation class at a church I didn't know, with kids I didn't know, but who were very, very wild. It was not really a good dream. I think it reflects some of what I'm currently feeling quite well, though.

In a little over three months, I'll be living in a city I haven't visited (although we're travelling down there next week), working and playing with people I don't know. I think it will be a good experience, but it isn't a calming idea to play with. I'm scared that things will turn out like that dream: that I'll be out of my depth or that I won't make friends.

Consciously, I can rationalise. I can figure out how I'll handle things. I can see the huge amounts of good in the situation as well as the challenges. It still takes an effort not to panic.

Next week, we'll visit Pietermaritzburg. I'll see the university campus and my siblings' schools. We'll look at houses. I'll walk the streets of our new city, eat food from its shops and breathe its air. I'm sure these things will help. Maybe sometime before next year I'll stabilise. Maybe I'm just going to whirlwind for who-knows-how-long.

Right now, I just have to trust God. He's opened up a path for us just as far as we need it. When we need to go farther, he'll open up more. I hope.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Like a Child

A large part of being a teenager is growing up.

And he [Jesus] said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3

I think that, perhaps, as a Christian, I get to skip the worst parts. I don't mean that growing up is easy for anyone, but the secular world has expectations that I don't feel any need to conform to. I read a blog post about explaining death to children today. The mother in the post ended up lying to her daughter, because death without heaven doesn't fit into the innocence of a child's worldview.

The secular world says that there will be time enough to learn about death when you're older. Christianity tells me that death has been conquered. Accepting death (in the sense of the end of life, rather than as a passing on) is not something I have to do. I am immensely grateful for that.

There will always be growing pains, but pain comes in two varieties: there's the hurt when you cut your hand and a different hurt it begins to heal. One is good, even if it's not pleasant. One is bad. I think that growing up as a Christian, I get to experience the first sort of pain: soul stretching, if you will. Without Christ, the same experience would be soul snapping.

I can understand that life isn't fair, but I also see that 'fair' is not the ultimate goal. I don't know exactly where I'm going, but I know that God does. I'm far from perfect, but Jesus loves me anyway. And Jesus is never grumpy after a bad day at work. (Parents are wonderful, but they're not quite perfect, I don't think.)

I'm immensely grateful for that.

Monday, 21 September 2009


Lately, I've been thinking about the significance of the Sabbath and how it ought to be kept. I think that there's a certain amount of freedom that's appropriate - playing outside, reading storybooks, even going shopping all seem fine. on the other hand, it's so easy to get caught up in those things that we forget that there might be something more to Sundays.

The Sabbath is emphasised hugely in the Old Testament. Not only is it one of the ten commandments, but many of the prophets seem to tell the Israelites to 'Be faithful to God and keep the Sabbath'. Given the frequency and context of the command, I can understand the knot the Sabbath had worked itself into by the time of Jesus' ministry.

Jesus, I think, shows us the other side of the Sabbath. I think that his teaching on the Sabbath is part of fulfilling the law (Matthew 5:17).On the one hand, we see from the Old Testament that the Sabbath should not be forgotten, but to balance that, we have Jesus' teachings that the work of God is more important than any rule about what certain days mean.

I've seen many interpretations of what is central to the Sabbath, but right now, for me, it means making Sunday God's day. Everyday is God's day, but most days I'm living in this world for God. On Sunday's I think I need to reach out to God, and almost ignore this world. From Monday to Saturday, I organise my life to put God in front. On Sundays, God gives me enough space to keep my life going.

I may go shopping or read novels, but the trick is not to let those impinge on my time with God.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Shakespeare Saturday: King Lear

I'm going to read King Lear. There's not a great deal of logic to the choice, but if I'm going to write about Shakespeare, reading some of his work might help. I read King Lear years ago, but I don't remember much more than the basic plot. Also, we own a copy of King Lear in decent-sized print and it's my sister's set work for next year. If I read it now, we might even get to talk about it next year.

My theory is that by next week, I'll have read at least the first scene of King Lear, so I'll have something to post. When I've read it (the play, not the scene!) once, maybe I'll read it again so that I actually catch all the clever bits, which will potentially give me something meaningful to say.

And having written this much, I remember another reason for my genera inclination toward rereading King Lear: I read this is all: the pillow book of Cordelia Kenn a while ago, and it inspired me to read about the titular character's namesake. It's only taken me about two years to get there!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

[Strategy #12: Change your blog layout so that you can blog about that, rather than trying to think. If Blogger refuses to make the changes you want, curl up and die or find another strategy.]

[Strategy #17.5: If you can't or won't write a proper blog post, copy your LiveJournal entry from two days ago.]

I've just finished reading I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. I wasn't planning on reading it, but a friend of a friend mine said it was unbelievably boring, despite being an Oprah Book Club book that, according to The Times has 'terrific readability'. That struck me as a little paradoxical and I (very self-sacrificially, you may be sure) offered to relieve her of the burden.

I didn't find issues like schizophrenia, broken hearts, abuse and the search for God boring. I nearly stopped reading after a hundred pages because the main characters were more radical than I was comfortable with, but I'm glad I didn't. Lamb resolves the story masterfully, sifting the truth in Dominick Birdsey's life from the lies. The story is unconventional, but far from unbelievable.

The first part of the book shows us how other people have changed Dominick's life: particularly, it shows us the impact of his responsibility for his schizophrenic twin brother. Reading about what Dominick goes through is eye-opening, especially when an acquaintance of his casually uses the term 'schizo'. I've dome that before, but after reading I Know This Much is True, I don't intend to do so again.

Later in the book, Dominick visits his brother's psychologist for his own counselling sessions. A lot of anger and guilt come out. When Dominick admitted that his stepfather had abused him as a child, I expected the result to be retribution. I was surprised when his psychologist rather guided him to releasing his anger. There are definitely times when abuse does need to be reported - like when it's happening now, rather than in the past - but I think Lamb does well to challenge one of society's most ingrained stereotypes. Ray Birdsey messed up, but he's not evil, and by the end of the novel he and Dominick are reconciled.

I Know This Much is True challenged many of my preconceptions. It made me think. Sometimes I decided that I didn't agree with Lamb's take on life; sometimes I did. By the time I'd raced through nine hundred suspenseful pages, I knew myself a little better. That makes for a good book. It comes highly recommended, although with fair warning that it makes at least 'M' (maybe 'MA') using the Fiction Ratings guide.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


Sometimes, writing for other people's eyes is just plain scary. It's not particularly difficult - it can't be technically more difficult than writing for myself. I rarely struggle to find something I want to say. At this point in my life, time is not an issue. Sometimes I don't write because I'm lazy, but mostly I don't write because I'm scared.

A small part of what I'm scared of is the vulnerability: I'm exposing a part of myself to the world to accept or reject. It's not that hard, though, to convince myself that nothing too terrible will happen to me. If somebody really hates me, the worst they can do is to flame me and have their comments deleted. It's not that likely to happen anyway.

What really scares me is testing my own mettle. I'm writing something that's meant to be of a reasonable quality. If it looks awful afterwards, I can't say it's because it was only for practice: if I let other people see something, it's coming out of the best of what I can do - it's not always the best I've done, but it's rarely if ever the worst.

By putting my writing where others can read it, I'm forced to acknowledge that I'm not about to write a bestseller, because I know my writing won't be that popular. I hope and believe that it's good enough that a few people will be interested enough to read it, but I have to admit that there will be only a few. It's good to squash those ideas before they get out of hand, but going out there and proving them wrong is a little scary.

Every time I write something for others, I take the risk that it'll be ignored, or that I'll offend somebody, or that I'll prove once and for all that I can't write. They're not very big risks, but sometimes my mind inflates them. More accurately, often my mind inflates them. I have to continually make the effort to take the risk. It's not a very big risk, but there's an adventure in every day that write something other people will see.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Frames of Reference

I don't envision myself as a girly girl. I'm not completely unaware of things like clothes and hairstyles, but I own less make-up that some of my friends who own "hardly any" make-up. Sometimes, though, that perception of myself is challenged, especially, I think, given my family.

Today I bought a dress. There are two problems with that. The first is bought. The second is dress. In relation to the entire world, there's nothing remarkable about either of those. In relation to my family, there is. I'm the only person in my family that will voluntarily go clothes shopping ('I don't own anything that fits' is not voluntary), and the only one who voluntarily wears skirts. Buying a dress -- when I didn't really need one, but it was pretty and cheap -- is almost off-the-charts girliness.

Before I began redefining how I thought about myself, I changed my frame of reference. Outside of my immediate family, I don't think there's anything remarkable about going dress shopping. In that frame of reference, I fall somewhere around the middle of the chart, which I'm entirely happy with. The trick is to figure out which frame of reference is appropriate.

Some things - like shopping - I can measure by the world's standards. Other things - like the language I use - I'd rather not. Whether I look at my family's standards, my church's standards, or just my own standards, the rules I'm following for certain things are different to what most of the world is following.

ON one hand, I don't think I should be comparing my actions. Right and wrong are not comparative; for everything else, it doesn't matter. On the other hand, I know I'm going to keep looking for a reference point. While ideally I shouldn't be looking for that in the people I know, practically, I think it's better just to be aware of my frame of reference.

If I can persuade myself not to use inappropriate frames of reference, maybe I'll be able to get to the stage where I don't use them. For now, I'll just accept that I'm not the girliest of the girly girls.

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Sometimes I am amazed at how many good things there are in my life. Things that I didn't have to choose, let alone earn. Things that I sometimes take for granted, but which are really incredibly precious. Right now, I am very thankful for my family.

For weekends when Daddy would play Lego with us and show us how to build things that seemed nigh-on impossible. For schooldays around the table, racing to finish an exercise so that I could dispell the Harry Potter enchantment I was under. For the books Mommy gave e and helped me with, until I wondered how other children survived without reading at least one book a week. For the plays and concerts and circuses we practised in the garden. For bedtime stories and Bible reading every night. For an unconditional love so tangible that even at the deepest points of teenage rebellion, I can't deny it.

I am incredibly blessed in having what so many people all over the world don't have. And I can only be incredibly grateful to my parents, my siblings, my God, for what they've given me. When I hear or read or dream about happy families, true love, and blissful childhoods, I don't have to imagine. I only have to remember.

I struggle with the fact that there's no way I can deserve all this. I have to accept it though. So I'm trying to accept that I've been blessed and pass that blessing on as much as I can.

Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Astronomy and Harry Potter

Most, if not all, self-respecting Potterphiles are aware that many of Rowling's characters have names that mean a little more than appears on the surface. Remus Lupin, the werewolf is one of the best examples: in Roman mythology, Remus was raised by wolves and Lupin means wolf. Intelligent professor McGonagol is named Minerva, like the Roman goddess of wisdom. Dumbledore is the front man of the 'good side' and his first name, Albus, translates as 'White'.

Then there's Sirius Black, who transforms into a dog as an animagus: Sirius is known as the dog star. Interestingly, his brother was named Regulus, which is also a star. Regulus (the star) is brightest in spring. Regulus Black died young after performing a very brave act. You might think their parents were just enthusiastic astronomers, but the pattern continues throughout the Black family. Bellatrix is a star (sometimes known as the Warrior Woman); Andromeda isn't a star, but it's a galaxy. Regulus, Cygnus and Arcturus are stars. Ursula and Cassiopeia and Orion are constellations. I don't suppose there are stories behind them all, but there's enough to make me interested. I want to find out more. Especially when I realise that Merope is a star - Merope Gaunt was Voldemort's mother. She wasn't one of the Blacks as such, so where did she pick up the name?

I suspect that the naming scheme was in part just a quick name generator, especially since the first Black on the scene (Narcissa) is not, as far as I can tell, astronomically named. Still, there's enough pattern to make the concept worth exploring. Except, you know, not more worthwhile than actually passing General Astronomy. Or Calculus, for that matter. One day I'll find time, though, or at least find out that somebody else has already done it!

Sunday, 06 September 2009


My (not so) little sister was confirmed tonight. I'm pleased for her, but I think I've piggybacked off her special event too. Although I wasn't actually standing at the rail, I feel like I've confirmed my faith in Christ again. I believe that I have, even if it wasn't a public confession.

Through the confirmation liturgy, the sharing of communion, the church service and my sister's faith and devotion, God has touched me. I've been feeling down for a while, but now I'm ready put God in charge and run as fast as I can to keep up. Or to move along slowly, if that's what he wants.

I think I've been trying to say, 'God, of course you can go in front, as long as you go where I tell you.' Nothing good can come of that. I think and hope and pray that I'm letting go now. Even when God's road seems tougher, He's there to help me and I can be sure that it leads to a better place.

Wednesday, 02 September 2009

I Want

I want to be famous
I want to touch the sky
I want you to love me
And I never want to cry

I want to be perfect
I want less mystery
I want to earn your love
And I just want to be me

I want to hold the world
I want to touch the stars
I want to buy your love
And do better than a pass

Do you know why I want this
When I have what really counts,
When I know you really love me
And I'm yours on all accounts?

What kind of hubris is this,
That I think of owning you
When you are more than perfect
And I don't know what I do?

I can but say I'm sorry,
May I have another try?
Might I be your little girl,
Even though I'll go awry?


It's not very good, but it's better than just ignoring my blog, right? I hope so, anyway.

Tuesday, 01 September 2009

From my deviantART Journal,

because I don't have the energy to explain what's going on in my head.

Bat Wing Boomerangs

In the Dr Brain's Mindventure game, which I used to play years ago, you have to use dead bats to make 'bat wing boomerangs' which allow you to attack enemies and flick switches. At the moment, I feel a bit like a bat wing boomerang: a bit dead, but probably more useful that way, the best help some people can get, but not always an appealing prospect. Mostly, it's because I'm stressing out about various changes in my life, but partly it's because [critiquing people is interesting.]