Recently, I found myself in the position of needing to name a teddy bear. (Long story.) After considering various Irish words and types of dessert, I finally decided upon the name Digory Kirke. An odd name for a teddy bear, perhaps, but it was the name of the professor who owned the wardrobe that brought Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy into Narnia.
With Narnia thus on my mind, I decided to give you my thoughts on the books. And not just the Narnia books, but all the other C.S. Lewis books I've read. And since I've read...eighteen of his books, I've decided to condense my reviews to ten words or less. I'll also add a rating, since ten words really isn't enough to describe a book. Here goes nothing!
The Magician's Nephew: Nothing better than flying horses, witches, and weird uncles. 10/10
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Why can't my closet be magical? 10/10
The Horse and His Boy: The horse talks, and surprise! Shasta's a prince. 9/10
Prince Caspian: Lots of dwarves, swords, and sadness in this book. 9/10
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: No real plot, but Reepicheep's back! *Excited squeals* 9/10
The Silver Chair: Sadder and weirder than the others; Puddleglum is Squidward. 8/10
The Last Battle: Literally everything and everyone dies. 8/10 (for sadness factor).
Mere Christianity: Apologetics and practical theology--ideal for all Christians. 10/10
The Screwtape Letters: Mind-bendingly scary, funny, and convicting all at once. 10/10
The Great Divorce: Damned souls take road trip to heaven, decide hell's better. 7/10
The Four Loves: Everyone should know about affection, friendship, eros, and charity. 10/10
The Abolition of Man: Philosophy that sucker-punches you on the fourth reread. 10/10
On Stories: Way more than writing advice and book reviews. 9/10
Surprised by Joy: Ironically-titled memoir of a man I want to hug. 10/10
Out of the Silent Planet: Lewis goes sci-fi, invents Martians and space angels. 9/10
Perelandra: Literally just two characters talking. 6/10
That Hideous Strength: Lesbian police officers? Demon-possessed severed heads? MERLIN? WHAT!? 8/10
The Pilgrim's Regress: Bunyan fanfiction full of poetry and stuff I can't understand. 7/10
Yep. Eighteen books. I also own three more that I haven't finished yet (heretical, I know) but I'll give you my opinions of Christian Reflections, God at the Dock, and Miracles as soon as I can. Do you agree with my assessments of Lewis's works? Want a more in-depth analysis of one? Let me know in the comments below, and I'll answer you! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Lukas McCamden's Thoughts on Education
The woman in whose mind I reside is preparing to return to what she calls "school." Personally, I've never seen her attend anything I would recognize as a school. She was quite young when I first met her--thirteen, I believe, the same age as Alynn when we had our first adventure. Still, glancing at her work, I was appalled. Where was the Latin and Greek? The exercises in oration and rhetoric? Where was the astronomy, the medicine, the botany? Why the effort wasted on the mathematical theorems?
Worse yet, at the particular institution she attended--quite a large one, boasting thirty students--she was given little attention. She was separated from her peers and given a book and told to learn from it. While self-instruction is a valuable skill, and the means by which I have acquired the larger half of my own academic knowledge, how dare those pedagogues thrust it upon children in this manner? Even the youngest students, the ones who ought to be hardly old enough to read their own directions, were left to their own devices.
Perhaps, I thought after a few months of witnessing such dismal educational circumstances, my young author would be given a better education as she aged. After all, the adults around her--parents, godparents, and priests--were doubtless instilling better things into her than her books could. Doubtless she was taught things like clothes-mending, child-minding, and finance-managing. She was a young lady, after all, preparing for her own future that invariably includes things such as marriage and children and keeping house.
But now, my author tells me, she has only a single year left in her education. She has grown into a lovely young lady now--she reminds me of Alynn, ever so slightly, mostly in the fact that she slips so effortlessly into the role of housekeeper when her mother is away. She was raised well, this child. At any rate, I asked after her areas of study--and think of it! Still no Latin! Still no Greek! Instead, she has been given a list of books to purchase. A list of some twenty books, all in one language, and all of them to be read in the span of sixteen weeks!
How education has become easier and yet more challenging all at once is simply baffling to me. I was blessed, I suppose, to have Father Sean instruct me in the Psalms and Brother Eammon sit beside me as I stumbled through Hippocrates for the first time. I was blessed, I suppose, to trot alongside my father in the barley fields, mimicking his motions as he scattered seed upon the fertile earth. I was blessed, I suppose, to find myself instructed by the Lord and Creator of knowledge after the untimely murder of my teachers and role models.
Slowly, I am learning that there is more to life than books and logic. I watch my author, though she does not always see me watching. I watch as she tends to her plants in the plastic tub she calls a garden; I watch as she shepherd-knits hats for infants and sings them to sleep with the same lullaby my father once sang to me. And I realize that, although education has changed, life has not. And when it comes to life itself, book knowledge is of little consequence. The majority of my contemporaries, after all, got by with far less formal education than is common in my author's era.
Although I do wish I could teach her a bit of Latin and Greek. Reading Caesar and Hippocrates is quite a rewarding endeavor.
Texas is surprisingly cool for mid-July. The high today is only 90. Clouds cover the sky like a soft gray coverlet, save for a soft white glow on the horizon. I haven't been outside yet today; I slept in and now I fully intend on taking advantage of my day off to relax.
I was hoping to pick up a shift today. After spending yesterday shopping and tutoring and enjoying a surprise visit from a friend, though, I'm glad I didn't sign up for anything. Cloudy days, when they come in moderation, are some of my favorite days.
On cloudy days, I can open my curtains and peer out at the empty field behind my house. Queen Anne's Lace is in season--wild carrot. The white blooms dot my vision. I've tried eating the roots before. They taste only vaguely like carrots and are almost too woody to chew. Dandelions, on the other hand--the flowers are delicious and the leaves make a good salad. Those grow earlier in the spring, though.
On cloudy days, I can curl up with a good book. There's something about the dim light from the windows that makes novels come to life and the real world melt away. Cloudy days make blankets seem more inviting and beds more comfortable.
On cloudy days, I'll work on my yarncrafts. Knitting dishrags and mending crocheted blankets can be hot work on sunny days. Rain makes the day even better--I can listen to the pattering of raindrops on the roof and revel in the peals of thunder as they drown out the clicking of my bamboo needles.
The clouds are clearing now. Perhaps they'll come back; you can never tell what Texas weather is going to do. Living here gives you the sense that this is still wild land, untamed land. You cannot predict or control it, only coexist with the heat and the thorns and the wildlife.
But while it is still cloudy, I will enjoy today.
I do apologize for the radio silence, my friends. I was in Mexico for the past week, and the WiFi didn't allow me to write a post. However, I just might have gotten enough inspiration to write some more poetry on Mondays, so keep an eye out for that!
My parents, like plenty of other people, adore the beach. They also have the funds to go to the beach every once in a while. And I've been lucky enough to go with them on most of their adventures. By the time I was eight, I'd been to Cancun, Cozumel, and Jamaica--not to mention Florida, where my aunt owns a lovely vacation property.
Beaches have their downsides. Things like sunburns, strong winds, and sand that gets absolutely everywhere. My younger self got hung up on those downsides, and I decided that I didn't exactly like the beach.
I'm so glad I gave it a second chance. This trip was amazing.
A very large part of what made this trip was wonderful was the addition of my sister's friend. My sister and I tend to fight, and since my sister's attention was drawn away from me, I was free to enjoy the trip without being pestered by a sixteen-year-old perpetually-sunburned blonde who enjoys insulting me.
Since my sister left me alone, I was free to enjoy myself. Relax by the pool with a book in hand. Gaze at the water--it was such a lovely blue color! Sit on the balcony and knit. Watch the birds. There are a lot of pelicans in Mexico, along with crows and finches and gulls and sandpipers other large seabirds that I couldn't identify. We also got to see dolphins, flying fish, and a couple of crabs.
And the sunsets were amazing.
Something happened to me while I was there. I don't think it's permanent, but it was beautiful while it lasted. I devoured a novel in two days--something I haven't done in years. I laughed and smiled and felt a level of relaxation that I don't think I've ever felt before. I felt like a little kid, like my younger self, and it was beautiful.
Spending thirteen hours getting home yesterday didn't exactly help that feeling. I think I'm still trying to wake up after going to bed at 1:30 and waking up at 6:30, then going back to sleep after a half hour or so and waking up at nine. I'm mad at myself for agreeing to play on worship team when I don't know the set list and only have three days to practice. But at least I get to remember that feeling--I get to remember bounding barefoot down the beach, collecting shells and climbing rocks and letting the waves wash over my feet. And that means something.
Speaking of worship team, I'd better go practice now. Dear readers, when's the last time you went on vacation? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments below! God bless, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Hey, guys! Today's main post is going to be on Facebook--I made a video of me speaking (and singing) in the five languages Lukas speaks. Just to give you guys an idea of what those languages sound like. If you follow the Where the Clouds Catch Fire Facebook page (which I highly suggest you do), you might have already seen the video.
Anyway, I promised I'd link a few things for you.
Julie Fowlis is an amazing singer/songwriter who sings mostly in Gaelic. You can find her music at Julie Fowlis - YouTube
Here's a video of someone reading Old Norse, and probably pronouncing things a lot better than me: The Vǫluspá, read in Old Norse - YouTube
Here's "Deliver Us" from The Prince of Egypt in Hebrew: The Prince of Egypt- Deliver Us [Hebrew subs + translation] - YouTube
I remember the first time I had an epiphany.
To set the stage, I was about ten or eleven years old. I devoured multiple books a week, I took piano lessons from the terrifying wife of a local Baptist preacher, and I was built quite a bit like Hiccup from the first How to Train Your Dragon movie. I had bangs and almost exclusively wore headbands. I owned a gerbil, a refurbished iPod Nano, and more Silly Bands than anyone else in my youth group.
Oh, and I also had a panic-attack-inducing phobia of vomiting. Can't forget that part.
Anyway, my middle-school self was in the bathroom. I feel like I was brushing my hair getting ready for bed or something; I don't quite remember. But I know I was in the bathroom when a thought struck me.
"You don't have to wait until you grow up to be the sort of person you want to be," said that thought.
At that point in my life, I wanted to live in a log house in the woods of Wisconsin. I wanted to have six kids and write books and eat blueberry muffins every morning for breakfast. I wanted to be a self-sufficient gardener, too. And obviously, I couldn't do any of those things at the age of ten. But I did start by growing my hair out. I ditched the headbands and learned how to braid my own hair. "Look at me!" my new hairstyle screamed. "I'm a time traveler from the 1800s, here to enjoy the simple things in life and make the world a better place!"
I also expanded my crocheting skills. My grandmother had taught me how to make baby hats; a library book introduced me to granny squares, and I've never been the same since. I started making baby blankets for friends and relatives. I screwed up all of them, and looking back, all those blankets I worked so hard on are probably sitting in a decomposing heap of tangled, unraveled yarn in a dumpster somewhere.
I've come a long way in the ten years since then. Today, I just harvested an onion that I planted in February. I made the mistake of planting my onions a few days before a vicious cold snap, so most of the plants either died or produced shallot-sized bulbs. But one plant produced an actual, store-sized onion bulb, and I'm quite proud of it!
Today, I'm knitting as well as crocheting. I've screwed up on my most recent project, but my grandmother thinks I'll start a new trend with my rectangular waffle stitch, so I'm keeping it.
Today, my crocheted blankets don't fall apart--and I make them for grown-ups as well as babies. I've moved on to more complex designs as well. The Willow Square is a personal favorite.
Today, I have two books on Amazon.
I'm a far cry from where I want to be. I still don't live in Wisconsin. I no longer want six kids (I'll be good with three or four), and I have decided that blueberry muffins aren't healthy enough for breakfast. But I'm closer to the person I want to be than I was ten years ago.
Oh, and I don't have a phobia or panic attacks anymore. Can't forget that part.
It's hard to focus on the progress, especially since I've had some pretty significant setbacks along the way. But it's easy to close my eyes and whisper "Thank You, Jesus, for how far You've brought me."
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How well did that pan out for you? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter!
I tend not to get political, either in real life or online. But this just makes me mad.
Apparently, the anniversary of D-Day was four days ago. The President did not acknowledge it. My phone didn't sent me a notification about it. Twitter was silent about it. In fact, if it hadn't been for an offhanded comment from my dad, I would have forgotten about it.
That's not exactly a good thing.
I find it ironic that a President whose party is so adamant about fighting Nazis would neglect to celebrate the men who actually fought against actual Nazis. The ones who gave their lives. The ones who survived. Even the ones who planned the invasion--there was quite a bit of brainpower behind D-Day, and it would be folly to celebrate the soldiers without acknowledging the tactical genius (and divine help) that led to the invasion's success.
And what did the the President mention instead? The Tulsa Race Massacre. Yes, it was a tragedy. Death estimates range from 75 to 300--and that counts people on both side of the racial divide. Do you know how many Allied soldiers were killed in D-Day? Over four thousand confirmed deaths; over ten thousand casualties. And that's not even counting the Axis side.
Apparently, to our President, dying at the hands of racists is more honorable than dying to defeat the Nazis.
There are other things being erased in today's culture. The innocence of children is one of those things. This month is Pride Month, and there are some people who advocate for bringing children to Pride Parades. God knows what they'll be exposed to there; I've never been to such an event, but I've read that nudity is not unheard of there.
Intelligence and common sense are being erased. Twenty-one percent of adults in America are either completely or functionally illiterate. Our school systems are abysmal. No one cares if your child learns--except for maybe a few good teachers, and they're not given the time or resources to help as much as they would like to.
When faced with things like this, the correct response is outrage. And, sometimes, that outrage should lead to action. The thing is, I don't know what to do. I don't know how to fix everything that's wrong in our world. Lots of people say they do. They might be right, or at least partially right. Personally, I think that Jesus is the only answer. No one wants to think of Him as a solution, though.
It won't stop me from doing my best to write books that honor Him.
Howdy! Sorry I didn't post on Monday...I worked 30 hours this week, which is something I haven't done since I was seventeen and folding pizza boxes at Domino's. Working at QuikTrip is surprisingly physically demanding. I'm sore in places I didn't know could be sore.
Technically, I'm still in training. I've had four days of training. Day One was smooth sailing. Day Two was a bit more of a hassle; my fellow trainee up and quit after receiving some negative feedback from the trainer. Day Three was my worst day overall; after taking too long to take out the trash (who knew that I'd have a hard time wrestling with 60-pound trash bags on an empty stomach?), I was sure that I was going to get fired for poor performance and wound up in tears. I cry when I'm frustrated. I hate that about me.
My trainer was quite professional about the whole thing, and Day Four was great. I even did better with the trash! But the whole thing kind of opened my eyes to the ways in which constructive criticism affects us.
All of my books have received only positive reviews. I'm glad of that--it means that I've written two good books. But whenever I ask people for reviews, I always tell them to mention things they didn't like about the book. I want to improve my writing, and I know that there are things I'm doing wrong. Maybe my villains are crappy. Maybe my romantic subplot feels unnecessary. Maybe I wax too poetic at times, and my narrative turns unreadable. You know?
But then I get told that I'm not taking the trash out fast enough. And I can't handle it.
I've always been rather hard on myself, and I've always been pretty good at whatever I've felt like doing. Crochet? Boom. I've got an award-winning blanket sitting in a closet somewhere. Writing? Boom. Nothing but four- and five-star reviews. Cooking? Boom. Baked beans from scratch that get compliments from my grandparents.
There are a few things in life I suck at. I can't play sports, I can't bake bread without a machine, and apparently, I can't take the trash out fast enough for QuikTrip. And crying isn't the appropriate response when I'm told I need to improve. I'm an advocate for hard work and dedication, and it's about time I take my own advice.
Yesterday, I worked as hard and as fast as I could. And my hard work was acknowledged. My trainer had no bad words for me--only positive feedback. And it felt good.
Hopefully, the next time I do something badly, I won't cry about it. Hopefully, I'll take a deep breath, maybe eat a snack, and try again. Try harder. And do better.
What's something that you've gotten lots better at? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
Of course. I spend forty-five minutes writing the perfect blog, and then my website goes and deletes it. Thanks for nothing, Weebly! I want to switch to SquareSpace or something so badly...
Anyway, long story short, I'm getting a new job at QuikTrip. I'm grateful for it. I'm scared about it. I might be able to move out if I can work enough hours.
Also, I might not be able to post as much.
Training starts today, so I don't have time to spend another forty-five minutes writing the perfect blog. Blame Weebly.
Also, I'm freaking out about everything, so please give me some adulting advice in the comments below!
O, for a sunny day!
O, to be able to open my curtains at dawn
And breathe in the sunlight as it filters through my windows.
O, for a sunny day!
O, for a cloudless day!
O, to be able to walk down the street
And bask in the sunlight as it kisses my arms and face.
O, for a cloudless day!
O, for a lovely day!
O, to walk without stepping in puddles
And leave the house without an umbrella.
O, for a lovely day!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.