Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CE: March, the Garden.


You can find Character Encounter's, and Kendra's excellent blog HERE.
And now, the story.

The progress on the roof was coming along nicely. Now if only I could get a picture of the roof without getting the apple trees in the shot too...
I stepped back several paces, holding the camera up, and backed into a wall. I took a picture, and then realized that my backyard has no walls in it. I whipped around and there was a stone wall! I moved backwards and ran into someone. Thinking it was a roofer, I turned, ready to apologize, and gave a violent start. It was not a roofer in jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap in front of me. No, it was a tall, dark-haired man. Underneath his black leather jerkin was a dark blue shirt. His pants were the same dark blue, tucked into black boots. His arms were filled with an assortment of oddities - clothes mostly, though I noticed a few masks. One had fallen to the ground when I bumped him.
"Excuse me," he said simply, with a hint of a smile on his lips, as he bent to pick up the mask. He succeeded in dropping a shirt and a slipper.
"No - it's my fault. I'm sorry! Let me help you," I replied, bending down and picking up the things that had fell. "It's always so difficult to carry large quantities of clothes, isn't it?" I said. "Whenever I'm doing it, I always drop something and have to come back for it later."
"Yes. I think I'm in that predicament presently," he replied. "Thank you."
"Wait!" I said. "Sorry... Can you tell me where I am?" I had gotten a look at my surroundings. I was in a courtyard-type garden area. My house was no where in sight. The wall I had backed into was a palisade built of rocks; the outer wall of a castle. Directly in front of me a garden filled with vegetables and herbs was laid out, and several women in long skirts and aprons bent double to pick the choicest of the harvest. When their baskets were filled, they raised them to their hips, wiped the sweat from their brows, and walked to a wooden door, which led into what could only be a castle.
The man looked at me, thinking my question odd. He fixed me with a penetrating stare.
"You don't know where you are?" he asked.
"Well... I, uh, kind of lost my way," I said.
"You're in the servant's courtyard," he said, "in the castle, in Kasteel City. Over there is the kitchen."
"Oh, of course, the kitchen!" I said. "I'm new."
"I see." He started walking again.
"What is it now?" he asked, turning.
"Where are you going with all that?" I asked, not really knowing why I was keeping from whatever work he was about.
"To the dungeon."
"That's an odd place to bring clothes."
"Yes, well... I'm an odd man," he said. "Now may I carry on my way? My little wife would not take kindly to you talking to me so long."
"Your... little wife... Are you Draegond?" I asked. Suddenly it all made sense.
"Yes." His brows knit. "How do you know my name?"
"Long story... Speaking of stories - why are you taking it over? You weren't meant to be anyone! Only the nameless guard, and now you're only one step away from a main character!"
"I don't understand. Explain how you know my name."
"And no one told me you looked like Patrick Dempsey! Yes, you are definitely going to be the favorite."
"Patrick Dem- what are you talking about, girl?"
"And what a nice outfit you have... hmmm... I wonder how I could describe it... I like describing clothes, but I'm afraid I'm not very good at it. By the way, do you want to tell me what those clothes you are carrying are really for?"
"Only if you tell me who you are, and how you know my name. And who this Patrick person is," Draegond replied.
"Alright, like I said, long... confusing... story. Books, you know books?"
"Well, I write books, and you are part of one of my books. And every month Kendra has a character encounter and this month I guess I wandered here and now I'm encountering you... so that's how I know your name. It kind of just came to me. It's supposed to sound like 'dragon.'"
"Yes, because I have always wanted to see the dragons."
"Exactly! Oh, and Patrick Dempsey is an actor."
"In a troupe?"
"Well, sort of... he plays a doctor on... in the troupe of Television."
"Ah." Draegond raised his eyebrows and said 'ah' in a way that suggested the thought 'oh, yes, she's insane.'
"So, what are those clothes for?"
"I'll tell you if you promise to keep the secret."
Evidently taking me for someone whose lost it, gone crazy, nuts, insane, bonzo, no longer in possession of one's faculties, three fries short of a happy meal... WACKO! [aside: I apologize for the StarGate quote, it just kind of came out] Draegond decided to trust that in my insanity, I wouldn't tell anyone his secret.
He leaned closer and said in my ear: "I'm breaking my friend out of his cell in the dungeon, and we're going to the masquerade held for the princess."
Maybe he thought that I would think that he was crazy too.
"I see. Masquerade. Paper faces on parade. Masquerade. Hide your face so that the world will never find you." I may have accidentally burst into song.
If we had been in America, and if Draegond had actually been Patrick Dempsey, he might have taken this opportunity to call some nice people dressed in white to take me away to a nice, white padded cell. Luckily, we were no where near America, and Draegond just stared at me strangely.
"I must get going now," he said. "Goodbye. I hope you get un-lost soon."
"Thanks," I said. "Good luck with the masquerade! If a bowl of punch accidentally gets spilled on someone... it's my fault."
He just turned and walked quickly toward the dungeon door, which also opened up into the garden-courtyard-thing.
I let out a sigh and turned around - and there was my house!
"Boy, these Character Encounters are just getting weirder and weirder," I said, as I ran back inside to the safety of home.

I have NO clue why Draegond looks like Patrick Dempsey. Or why he's taking over the story. Actually, I haven't written a word for probably a month. Hopefully this CE and some homework for SAT class I did today will get me back in the writing mood. I've been on a reading kick.

In other news: I actually might be three fries short of a happy meal... WACKO! Yesterday, while it was super windy, it was "Whoa! That's so amazing! Let's go outside and see if we can get hit with a branch!" Today it's, "I wonder what my fruit smoothie would taste like if I put frozen peas in it?" (Mom: "No."). Tonight... I'm listening to Hannah Montana's first album. SOMEONE GET ME OUT OF HERE! Actually no, don't. I'm enjoying her first album. Once, my friend and I were huge Hannah Montana fans. I bought the CD, but before my parents let me listen to it, my dad and I sat down and read through the lyrics of the songs, and he told me what was wrong with some of the thoughts, and which songs I shouldn't listen to. Some of the lyrics are kind of great. "I know where I stand, I know who I am, I would never run away when life gets bad." I think that lyric kind of backfired in Miley Cyrus' life, unfortunately.
Just listening to her early music again brings back such a flood of nostalgia and emotion. It almost makes me want to cry, because I miss being ten, and putting on Hannah Montana concerts with my friend down the street. I miss rocking out to this music on summer nights. I miss our sleepovers, and our games of make believe. Life wasn't so complicated then, it was just naive innocence.
Anyway, I should be off and away to bed. I've got a Jeeves and Wooster book to read. Thank You, Jeeves, of which my favorite episode(s) of the TV show are based.

Live long and prosper.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bombus something-or-other

This morning I went to open the dog door in the solarium for Rosey and was met by such terrific buzzing that I jumped back inside and locked the door (leaving an indignant dog still outside - "Why didn't ya open the door for me?")
I went back out to really open the door, and saw the cause of all the buzzing.This "little" fella:

He was about an inch and a half long and was by far the largest and loudest bumble bee I have ever seen and heard! (And I've seen quite a few buzzing around in the good ole' summertime.)
I was going to leave him to buzz 'round 'till death do him part with the world... but then my homeschooler senses took over.
I've never seen a bumble bee that big, or with that color, what is he?
After an unsuccessful search of "black bumble bee with stripe" which came up with this as a search result:

it dawned upon me that maybe a closer look was called for. Also, I felt terrible for leaving the poor thing to die a horrible death knocking itself against the window pane. Bumbles are getting rarer (so I've heard) and I couldn't just let a perfectly good one die! So... the garage for a large vase to hold him in! 
Bugs make me skittish. From harmless dead worms on the sidewalk to hideous spiders. Bees are no exception. We have a home video from when we first moved into the house... we're in the backyard and a bee flies near me and I run screaming to the other side of the yard.
So I was very proud of myself when I captured this huge bug in a large vase today.

We think it was either a Bombus californicus (California bumble bee) or a Bombus vosnesenskii (yellow-faced bumble bee). The yellow-faced bumble bee is probably more likely.

You just have to look for it in the every day.

Live long and prosper!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"It's good fun for a hermit." Part 2.

Monastics had the right idea prioritizing prayer and time with God. The way they went about it, however - secluding themselves, not eating, not sleeping, not bathing - is not, in my opinion, the best way of going about fostering a relationship with God. (Especially when the focus was taken off of God and was instead put onto little competitions... who could stay on their pillar the longest, who could stand on one leg on their pillar the longest, etc.)
Basil the Great (a bishop in the 300's, and later a saint) also believed this and came up with a Rule that changed Monasticism. He put emphasis on helping the needy, underprivileged, and sick. He also emphasized community life and liturgical prayer. (Liturgical prayer is a set prayer that everyone says at the same time). Basil encouraged the study of Scriptures, eating three square meals a day, and the good old eight hours of sleep. He reasoned that if you deprive yourself of fellowship, rest, and food, what kind of state are you in to help others?

I'll be honest, I haven't been having the best week. My mom (confidant and best friend) is sick and I've been feeling pretty lonely. Self-doubts feed and fester on my brain every few weeks and last night it was looking rather like they had decided to attack while my flank is down sick. My brain sounded rather like this last night: "DOWN ONCE MORE TO THE DUNGEON OF MY BLACK DESPAIR... DOWN WE PLUNGE TO THE PRISON OF MY MIIINNDDD"

Which is when I went on Leslie Ludy's blog (check her out, she's an amazing woman) and found this post.
You don't have to read it, I'll recap it a bit for you. She talks about the voice of discouragement and then gives some tips on how to combat it.
I love the first one: turning outward. If our focus is on serving and praying for others, we can't be focusing on ourselves and those discouraging thoughts that wage war against our true identity: Child of God.

Most people - if left mostly to themselves - will think only of themselves. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights is a good example. He grew up in a very secluded family circle, on the moors of England, where the only person who loved him was Catherine Earnshaw. He is a very selfish man, who cares only for himself and Catherine. His selfish desires to have revenge on those who hurt him cause him to be cruel to everyone in the novel. If things don't go his way, he punishes the person(s) at fault with beatings (both physically and verbally).
It's been slowing dawning on me the past two days that when I've been alone for awhile (like this week - with my mom sick, we haven't been able to go anywhere) I immediately start to think about myself. Sometimes I'm trying to figure out what to do to keep myself entertained. But just as often, or more often, I'm thinking, wondering, and worrying about my future. Those self-doubts sneak in and set up a perimeter.

That's why it's not good to be a hermit. I've said it before and I'm sure I will say it a million more times before I die:
God created us to be in relationship with one another, to be in fellowship with one another.
God knew that it was not good for man to be alone, so he made Eve.
What happened when Eve was off by herself? A serpent came and tempted her, and she ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and sin entered the world.
God knows that when we're continually alone, when we're hermits, there's more of a chance that sin will get to us.
We're created to be in relationship with each other. This doesn't exclusively mean fellowship, though. Basil the Great knew that. That's why he made service such a big part of his ministry. That's why he started hospitals. When our focus is on others, our focus can't be on ourselves. Here's a few good ways for focusing on others:

1. Make time to pray for people.
2. Get to know people. This one is, perhaps, the most difficult. In this age of technology, it's easy to send off a text or an email at whatever time you want. It's easy to fit friendships into your own schedule. But if you are actively out, trying to make deep connections with people... your schedule is going to get messed up, because real, human relationships don't fit into little boxes.
3. Help people. Do service projects. Open doors for people in the mall. Pick up trash on the side of the road. Help at a food bank. God calls us to help the widows and the orphans. Do you have any widows in your church? Go and visit them. Talk to them, or see if they need any yard work done.

In Sunday school, we are continually going back to that kid's song "read your Bible, pray every day, and you'll grow, grow, grow." We've since added two more things to that list.

Read your Bible everyday.
Make persistent prayer a priority.
Fellowship with other believes. Have deep, personal relationships, and hold each other accountable.
Serve others.

You can't do those last two unless you throw off hermitage and get out there in the world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I finished Algebra 1!!! HUZZAH!!!

Let's take a moment to celebrate.






Okay, moments over. Now onto Algebra 2.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"It's good fun for a hermit."

Perhaps not so fun if you were an Original Hermit, from the 4th century.
"Hermit" comes from a Greek word meaning "of the desert" or "desert dweller."
In the 4th century, the first hermit appeared. His name was Paul of Thebes. He had a followed named Anthony the Great.
The goal of hermits was to isolate themselves and encounter God through prayer.
Out of this, sprung Monasticism, which eventually grew into monkhood.
When Monasticism first showed up in the 4th century, however, it was seen as the "new martyrdom." In the first few centuries AD, Christianity was illegal and those found practicing it were killed, or pitted against lions in the arena.

Martyrs were seen as the heroes of Christianity. It was an honor to die for the faith. Then Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal and martyrdom became extinct.
In Monasticism, the person renounces worldliness and focuses on spiritualness. Celibacy, poverty, and obedience were major aspects. They believe that it's the heart and the spirit (devoted to God) that matters. Because of this, Monastics often went without eating, bathing, or sitting down. Often they wouldn't change their clothes, and if bugs crawled over them (one man supposedly had worms living in his teeth), they wouldn't mind, because the body would eventually decay in the ground anyway. It's the soul that matters.
One man went out into the desert to be alone with God, but found a crowd of lookie-loos waiting for him, so they could observe this strange new aspect of Christianity. The man didn't want to go back to civilization, and he didn't want to stay with the crowd in the desert, so he did the only thing he could do. He went up. Literally. He build a pillar, allegedly 72 feet high, and lived up there for 30+ years. He would stand on one leg, and then the other (because there wasn't enough room to sit or lie down) and he would preach to the crowd below him.

All this is rather odd to the 21st century Christian. The first thing that presents itself to me is the Bible verse about our bodies being temples of God (and we should take care of them). The Monastics had Bible verses to back up their way of living (some verses of Paul's about giving up the world, and something about the body as well, but I can't remember).
But, if you think about it, their way of living did have certain things going for it.
For one, they didn't "love the world or anything in the world" (1 John 2:15), and they spent lots and lots and lots of time in prayer - in communication with God.
Our pastor is going through Luke in his sermons and, even though we're only 6 chapters in, do you know how many times that Jesus has gone off by himself already (to be in the presence of God, to spend time talking with the heavenly Father). Four times. The first time was when he was a little child and stayed behind at the temple to listen to the men teaching there. When Mary and Joseph found him they were upset but he said "Didn't you know I had to be in my father's house?" Had being the imperative word.
Today, in too many Christians lives (my own included), God is pushed to the side. He is, ultimately, Lord of our lives, but it's more of an aloof partnership. Do you think God wants that? No, of course not! He created us to be in relationship with Him, and even though sin did a nasty job of separating us from God, he still yearns for us to know Him. And not just know as in knowledge. In Hebrew, the word for know is yada which doesn't just mean "knowledge." It means to perceive, to distinguish, to know by experience.
A knowledge brought about by experiencing God.
And how do we go about knowing God in such a deep fashion?
Well, the way you would get to know anyone. Spend time with them.
Read the Bible, pray everyday (and you'll grow, grow, grow).
Jesus did that. He took time away from the crowds, from the disciples, from everything periodically to go and spend time just talking with God.
In Luke 6 he goes to a mountainside and spends the entire night praying to God.
How many times have you purposefully set out to pray the whole night through? I know I've never done that.

Though the Monastics way of life was rather extreme, they took this aspect of WWJD? to another level. They wanted to know God, and spent there days, their months, their years doing just that: praying and seeking God. They left everything behind.

The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back. No turning back.

Monday, March 10, 2014

King Lear and Paradise Lost mini-reviews

Title: King Lear

Author: William Shakespeare

Synopsis: Lear is King of England, and he has three daughters. He wants to split his kingdom between his three daughters. To find the daughter most deserving of the most land, he asks his offspring to express how much they love him. The two eldest shower lavish praise on their father, but the third, Cordelia, feels that her actions should speak louder than her words. She remains silent, and is banished for it.
The two eldest daughters take more and more power away from their father and finally, he runs away, and descends into madness.
At the same time, a nobleman has two sons, one legitimate, and one not. Edmund, the illegitimate son, wants his brother's birthright, and pits his father and half-brother against each other. Edgar must flee his father and brother.
(Spoiler) Everything spirals downward and everyone ends up dying except for Edgar who becomes King (end of spoiler)

My rating: 7 out of 10 stars.

Comments/the good: We listened to this book on tape (it only took three hours, too!) and very much to our surprise, we found that David Tennant does the voice of Edgar, the good son! We were listening, and he had a soliloquy and I exclaimed, "STOP THE TAPE! THAT'S DAVID TENNANT, ISN'T IT?!" and sure enough, there he was on the cast list! What a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, King Lear is full of metaphors and fancy language that needs translating. It's pretty interesting if you can understand it, and there are some very interesting debates between the characters on various topics.
I think I would enjoy this story more if it weren't so sad! The people of Shakespeare's day and age felt the same way, for after he died, many re-wrote the play's ending to happy instead of tragic.
Several characters were cheer-worthy; Edgar and Kent were tied for my favorite. I enjoyed hearing them both pretend to be other people. The Fool was also an interesting character, though he kind of disappears half way through the play and never shows up again.
The parallels between King Lear and Gloucester's situations was fun to write an essay on.
I remember being struck with some of the scenes that take place on the moor during a storm. They had some nice descriptions and conversations. Other than that, I can't really remember much, since it was over two months ago that we finished the story.

The bad/what you should be wary of: There are several, erm, very Shakespeare scenes and descriptions and metaphors that, to the unaware reader, wouldn't be a bother. But to one with a handy dandy No-Fear-Shakespeare or cliffnotes book, explaining what different old English words mean, things can get slightly graphic and a tad bit awkward. So beware.
Also, one character gets his eyes gouged out. This isn't really a problem if you are just reading the play, but it quite difficult if you are listening to or watching the play. Several other characters get stabbed/poisoned to death. Their screams of agony on the tape were almost too much to bear.

Would I recommend it? If you are a fan of Shakespeare's tragedies, or just Shakespeare in general, go forth and get yourself a copy! As far as Shakespeare goes, King Lear is one of his most popular tragedies. It has a lot of depth to it. Otherwise, I would maybe not recommend it. Especially if one is younger. 12+ at least for this one!

Title: Paradise Lost

Author: John Milton

Synopsis: This story is in twelve "books" and is depicts the Fall on Man from Genesis 3, including things from the devil's point of view, and what happens after the Fall.

My rating: 5 out of 10 stars.

Comments/the good: What can I say about this book.... The poetry and descriptions and rather nice in some areas.
As far as the story goes, I would much rather just read Genesis 3. Some of the books, however, were really interesting and those I enjoyed.

The bad/what you should be wary of: I didn't enjoy this book. Part of it was definitely because it was poetry. Poetry is really hard for me to read. Also, I didn't particularly enjoy the plot line, because, as I said, why not just go read Genesis 3? That's not to say others wouldn't, though. It was a very interesting read.

Would I recommend it? Personally, I wouldn't. Objectively, perhaps. It's one of the world's most epic classics for a reason. I wouldn't tackle it if I were below highschool age, however, as it is rather difficult to get through.

Live long and prosper!