To the Books on my Shelf: A Sonnet

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Couldn’t resist sharing this “shelfie”  😉  #nofilter

 

Too often, I find myself staring in admiration at my bookshelves. The ornate covers of collectables, the crackled pages of old favorites, the bright illustrations of new editions… *sigh of delight* To my abashment (isn’t that a lovely word for a not-so-lovely feeling?), I own and admire many books I have yet to actually read. Also, I continually purchase books without finishing the ones already waiting for me so faithfully at home! Horrible. Simply horrible. But, in staring at my beautiful and partially-read Shakespeare collection, I was inspired. Perhaps, if I cannot read all of the books on my list, then I can at least compose a sonnet (which may or may not resemble Shakespeare’s most famous 18th Sonnet) for them to assure them of my good intentions!

               To The Books on My Shelves

Shall I shelve thee and read mere summaries?

Thou art more dense with stories worth the wait;

Rough times have robbed my reading time in May,

And summer’s months I deem too short a date:

Though Sun a hot book light for reading shines,

And e’en by night a lamp burns near undimmed,

I fear my eyesight steadily declines

While far too many tomes remain unskimmed.

But dusty still your ink will never fade

Nor I forget the study that I ow’st.

Although cases of books rest in the shade,

Someday I shall uncover all they know’st.

So long as writers breathe and glasses see,

So long shall books give breath and sight to me.

10 Reasons to Read Children’s Literature

I love children’s books: always have, always will. However, so many people pass the age of 12 and think they must “grow up.” They somehow rationalize leaving behind the lovely rows of Newberry Medal winners for the cringe-worthy gratuitousness of the “teen paranormal romance” section. When did that even become a section?! Or rather, WHY?!

But I digress.

Upon entering  high school, too often we leave Narnia and enter far nastier realms of either purely reality (that is, not reading at all) or cliche, poorly-written teen romance. Even for advanced readers, skipping over the teen literature for adult books is not usually easy or wise; these too are riddled with profanity, pornographic scenes, and – frankly- poor writing.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some absolutely wonderful teen and adult books out there. I’ve blogged on a few of them and am planning to publish a roundup of recommendations for later, but in general, I have been lately drawn  more and more back to the children’s literature sections of the bookstore.

Not convinced that children’s literature is for every one?

Here are ten reasons why you should read more children’s books:

  1. They are not just for kids! C.S. Lewis, who was a prolific writer for both children and grown-ups, once remarked that “a children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Well-written children’s tales grow with the reader, gaining deeper meaning as the reader ages.
  2. They’re clean! Every time I pick up a book outside of the kids’ or classics sections, I stumble across something scandalous. I get it, sometimes a swear word or sexual scene is necessary, but usually they seem to be thrown in to attract an edgier audience rather than to enhance the story. Children’s books manage to convey real issues without having to be unnecessarily explicit!
  3. They are not condescending. So many books geared toward teens are written in a dumbed-down style, overusing descriptions such as “the boy felt angry.” Don’t tell us he felt angry! Tell us that he “clenched his fists as his face turned red with pent up emotion.” Readers are smart enough to infer what the character is feeling! I’ve found that children’s books most often show rather than tell, preventing the reader from feeling as if he/she is being talked down to by the author.
  4. They address real events and issues. So much of my understanding of the world comes from what I read as a child. They might be riddled with magic and fun, but so often children’s books are deeper than we give them credit for! They teach history, different perspectives, address serious issues, even demonstrate survival skills!
  5. They offer comforters and encouragement. It’s as if, the older I become, the authors that nurtured me as a child become more important; instead of babysitters, they are mentors. Rereading them takes me back to a simpler time, when my biggest worry was how many chapters I could read before I’d have to practice piano. They also are full of sage advice, the depth of which I have only realized with age and experience.
  6. They are brain candy and food for thought. Written for children, the writing style is not generally complicated; however, with such a vast spectrum of topics, these books are certainly not mere fluff! They are perfect for light reading, yet they also demand that you think, ensuring that time spent reading them is time well spent.
  7. They are original! This should be a given. Actually, this should be a requirement for publication. Sadly, though, cliche is the new original for many books. However, you can always count on children’s books to bring lively new stories to the world! Just like kids are always imagining new things, children’s authors are constantly producing fresh tales.
  8. They tell fantastic stories. Again, this should be a given for publication in the first place, but you’d be surprised how many books I start, thinking they look intriguing, and then set aside in my “Half-Price Books trade-in” pile. However, children’s books tell such a wide variety of gripping tales that I have lately found myself staying up late reading, just as I did when I was little.
  9. They have pictures. Books do not need pictures; I’m not Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. But, let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy some well-drawn illustrations? The illustrator of The Mysterious Benedict Society did such delightful work that I have bought books by different authors simply because they are illustrated by her.
  10. They promote bonding. I clearly don’t have kids yet, but I look forward to a day when I will read aloud from my favorite books to my kids. I remember fondly the times my parents would take my brother and I to the bookstore and let us pick out books. Even now, that is how my dad and I spend our time together and, even as a twenty-year-old, I usually make my pick from the Newberry Medal winners.

Are you convinced now? If not, I encourage you to visit the children’s literature section at your local bookstore anyway. Need recommendations? Just comment and I will send you millions. (Maybe not quite millions…)

While I will admit that I am sad to see some changes in the children’s literature section, with books such as Dork Diaries replacing the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, I recognize that it is a place where wholesome storytelling thrives, fostering both imagination and education. In short, children’s literature gives me hope in the midst of a world that is increasingly drawn to darkness and – scarier still – poor writing.

 

BanApple Sur-pies: the Ultimate College Dessert

College is not generally a time of great culinary advancements, but today, history was made and what might just be the ultimate college dessert was born:

Part bananas foster.

Part apple pie.

Part bread pudding.

We call it… BanApple Sur-pies

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“Well…it looks good in person.” -Master Chef Josh

You too can recreate this marvelous delicacy if you have….

Ingredients:

  • 2 forgotten and almost brown bananas
  • 1 green apple you stole from the caf last week
  • 4 slices gluten free bread (or 2 slices of regular, not oddly-small bread)
  • enough cinnamon for two people to complete “ye olde cinnamon challenge of 2010”
  • enough honey to compensate for the lack of actual sugar
  • several tablespoons zero-calorie, low-fat (preferably diet) water
  • 2-3(ish) tablespoons of the coconut oil you also use as makeup remover

Materials:

  • A stove and sink (preferably in the dorm common area so you can make use of whatever utensils you find lying around)
  • A frying pan (preferably your own)
  • At least one fork (I had to eat with a knife…) and a knife (two if you do not have enough forks)
  • A spatula

Bonus Resources:

  • The hunger of a student deep in the “sophomore slump.”
  • The blind determination to make something, anything edible by combining the remnants of groceries found in your dorm.
  • A partner who understands that “sprinkling” is different than indiscriminately “dumping” when it comes to spices.
  • Whipped cream…which by a terrible tragedy arrived too late to be included in this first attempt.
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“It’s starting to look like something!” – Sous Chef Me

Directions:

  1. Slice the bananas. Eat a few when your cooking partner isn’t looking.
  2. Spread coconut oil in the frying pan and allow to melt over medium heat.
  3. Place banana slices in pan evenly and allow to sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Turn your face in despair as the bananas become mush instead of beautiful golden crisps.
  4. As you do so, mix water, honey, and a little cinnamon together in a cup you found left behind (#finderskeepers).
  5. Flip the bananas over as best as you can and allow the other side to fizzle for another minute or so.
  6. Drizzle the water mixture over the former banana slices. Panic at your inability to drizzle. Give up and just dump it.
  7. Look at the weird banana soup you just made. Disgusting. Consider using the sponge you found in the sink to soak up the liquid. Decide that’s a bad idea. Use bread instead.
  8. Tear the bread into bite-size pieces. Really tear that bread. Take out your anger on the bread. That bread is your midterm and you are going to destroy it.
  9. Toss the bread remains into the frying pan with the weird banana soup. Poke it with the spatula to see if it moves. Now stir it all together.
  10. Rejoice with your (optional) cooking partner when the mixture starts to look more like bread pudding than throw-up.
  11. Accidentally dump more cinnamon onto the mixture. Have the cinnamon confiscated by your partner. Compensate by adding honey when he isn’t looking.
  12. Hmmmm….stare together at your shapeless creation. Turn down the heat. Both you and the food need to chill out.
  13. Think with regret that you could have made apple pie. Decide to add chopped apple to your banana no-longer-soup. Close enough.
  14. Before mixing in the chopped apple pieces, fry them in a tablespoon of coconut oil (enough to remove waterproof mascara) on the opposite side of the pan.
  15. Now mix them in with the banana stuff.
  16. Garnish the mixture with more cinnamon and honey until it looks and smells like it will taste good. Believe me, you’ll know.
  17. Scoop onto a plate and call your roommate. Beg her to bring whipped cream for you to put on top. Lament when she is off campus.
  18. Make puns to revive your spirits.
  19. Look with yearning and pride at your creation.
  20. With or without whipped cream, enjoy your finished “BanApple Sur-pies” with whatever utensils you have on hand. Or, if it comes down to it, your hand.
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We were a little afraid to try it…but it was sooooo worth it.

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It ended up being so good, we were in anguish when we dropped a single piece. (Also that girl with the meme-worthy face is 100% not me….)

Bibliophile 

Me: “Just one book…”

Friend: “No, you promised yourself you wouldn’t spend any money.”

Me: “But…George Eliot!”

Friend: “No.”

Me: “Treat yo self?”

Friend: “Nope.”

Me: *buys it when she isn’t looking*

I am willing to admit I have an addiction to literature…but when it’s half price for beautiful editions of classics, I can hardly be expected to leave the bookstore empty-handed! 

10 Going on 30

I turned twenty on November 14th, 2016. It was weird. Every day I was thinking, “one more week until I am no longer a teenager” or “three more days until I am a real adult.”

But then, when the day came, I felt the same.

This should not have been surprising, but I could not shake the feeling that I should have experienced a grand metamorphosis, shedding the hormonal teen years and entering my twenties as yet another confused college student. 

But then I realized: I had never been the typical teenager, so why should I expect to feel like a normal twenty-something?

Teenage girls are expected to be a dramatic, selfish rebels who spend too much time failing at Pinterest-inspired manicures. This is an extreme, to be sure, but still…

While my peers were dating around, I had a single boyfriend who loved Jesus and respected me. My only fights with my parents ended with me telling them that I loved them. I added straps to my senior prom dress while other girls seemed to be competing to see whose dress could cost the most money while using the least amount of fabric.

I broke curfews to study and was only told to turn my music down when I was practicing piano too intensely. While I was nominated for Homecoming court, I was happier serving as Orchestra President (or, as my mom called me, “Queen of the Nerds”). My best friends were theater geeks, music kids, and bookworms, but the cool crowd was so…ordinary.

When the time came to choose a college, I decided on a Christian school with a stellar conservatory and literature program instead of the big name universities that my teachers were pushing.

Of course, I do not mean to say that I did not face normal struggles as a teenager; I definitely did. As a perfectionist, I was always comparing myself to the girls I saw as prettier, my peers who had higher class rankings, and the choir-mates who could sing better. I fought an eating disorder for three years beginning when I was fifteen. I went through random mood swings and said things I wish I hadn’t.

The difference though, is that these trials did not define me. Faith, family, and friends helped me through the teenage tumult and kept me from becoming the self-centered rebel that I otherwise would have been; they supported me through my dangerous perfectionism and loved me for my quirkiness.

In short, while I always “marched to the beat of my own tuba” (as a Dove chocolate wrapper once said), my loving family, growing faith, and amazing friends made sure that I stayed that way.

As my twentieth birthday drew near, I did not have much time for reflection as I was busy leading a chapel at my college and performing in choir concerts. Later, though, I got the chance read through old journals, flip through Facebook albums, and talk to friends and myself (my roommate assured me that talking to oneself is a sign of creativity). As I did so, I realized; I was never really a teenager, so why would I be any different as a twenty-year-old?

I won’t lie; I love Taylor Swift’s song “22.” Maybe it’s just because I am two years younger, but I do not anticipate actually relating to the song’s lyrics. I don’t want to “fall in love with strangers” or “make fun of my exes.” (I will admit that “breakfast at midnight” sounds pretty great because, come on, who doesn’t love breakfast food?) But I guarantee I cannot make myself “forget about deadlines” and I need sleep way too much to stay out all night partying.

I know I probably sound like a grouch, but I just don’t like the idea of feeling “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.” I know what I want to do as a career. I have amazing best friends who share my weirdness and a boyfriend who likes my determination. My faith keeps me strong when I am confused and my family is always there for me. Sure, I have moments of “I can’t do this” and “adulting is the literal worst,” but I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone and nothing compels me to fit the typical 20-year-old mold.

Though I am twenty and thus expected to be tired, broke, and confused (according to the Huffington Post), I refuse to act my age. I will go on working professionally as a pianist as I have since elementary school. I will keep writing poetry and short stories because even though I have to pay taxes and vote, I do not have to stop loving fantasy. I will watch Disney movies and sing along because being a grown-up does not mean I can’t have a sense of childlike wonder. I will chat with my mom about everything because she will always be my best friend, even though new people have come into my life.

When I turned sixteen, I wrote in my journal that I felt simultaneously older and younger than my peers. Now, at twenty, it is the same; I do not feel at all like the stereotypes say.I mean, come on, I play the pipe organ for traditional worship services, but also want to bury myself in a pile of stuffed animals. I am twenty, but feel more ten and thirty than their median.

My College Christmas List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Unless you’re in college. Still, though, Christmas serves as the light at the end of the dark tunnel of finals and juries. While the adult world is out shopping for gifts at the mall, we are on our laptops ordering them through Amazon during lectures. If you happen to be shopping for a college student and need ideas, I shall provide a few that are sure to be hits:

  1. Ask a college student what he/she wants for Christmas and they will answer with a laugh, “Sleep.” You cannot wrap sleep itself up in a box, but you can give your college student some new PJs, a pillow pet (they’re not just for kids!), a fuzzy blanket, etc.
  2. Mugs are the most versatile of dishes. For reals! We use them for oatmeal, soup, cereal, coffee, water, holding flowers, trapping spiders, catching water that drips mysteriously from the ceiling, decorating empty shelves, holding pencils. You name it! Plus, doing dishes is a chore we often neglect, so the more mugs we have the better.
  3. Coffee gift cards. Food gift cards. Amazon gift cards. Straight up cash. We burn through funds faster than America. I am pretty sure I am singlehandedly allowing Starbucks to expand their empire. Not the most exciting gift, but certainly useful.
  4. School supplies. Sure, we started the year with loaded backpacks, but at this point we are lucky to find a spare pencil on the ground somewhere just in time for our last final. Journals, pens, tape, staples, all are acceptable gifts. (Especially for education majors!)
  5. Clothes, especially comfy ones, are in demand. Laundry is the literal worst in college; we have to deal with finicky laundry cards, broken machines, and lugging three weeks of dirty clothes down to the basement. The more clothes we have, the longer we can go without washing them. Plus, the freshmen fifteen (and sophomore sixteen?) is real and yoga pants and sweatshirts are a blessing.
  6. Textbooks. I get low key excited when I receive books for Christmas. Granted, my books are not really textbooks (#ThanksTorreyHonorsInstitute), but getting them as gifts saves me having to purchase 20 books at once. Plus, nothing beats the smell of new books.
  7. Anything fuzzy is sure to be a winner. During stressful times, I revert to acting like a five-year-old, meaning that I literally buried myself in a pile of teddy bears at the store. No joke. But something about coziness and fluffiness is so wonderfully comforting, even to a somewhat adult such as myself.
  8. Headbands and beanies and other headwear are amazing because they can save up to a half an hour of time spent on hair care! Seriously, I can get up at 7:50 and  make it to my 8am class because of the magic of throwing on a headband to hide messy hair.

 

Well, I wrote this post in a final effort to procrastinate studying for my music history final, so I should probably end it here. Hope these help! 🙂