The Great American Reader – Harry Potter: Name the Fear

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Those familiar with the Harry Potter series know who I mean when I write, “You-Know-Who,” referencing the infamous villain. The wizarding world refers to him as that because his name evokes such deep fear. Yet Dumblebore wisely points out, “It all gets so confusing if we keep saying ‘You-Know-Who.’ I have never seen any reason to be frightened of saying Voldemort’s name,” in response to Professor McGonagall using the reference rather than the name. Dumbledore hits the truth about defeating foes: the first step involves naming it. Otherwise, as he notes, the process to overcome gets confusing.

Usually the first step in treating a medical ailment involves diagnosing the problem. Once a name gets determined, the doctor and patient can formulate and begin the proper healing process. The same steps occur with a mental illness or struggle or addiction. Especially with these harder to see issues, we tend to tell ourselves they don’t have the strength that physical ones possess. Sometimes the stigma prevents us from acknowledging the problem because we don’t want to seem weak. Yet without naming the issue, we can’t take the steps to improve it.

Dumbledore tells the highly intelligent and well respected Professor McGonagall, “My dear Professor, surely a sensible person like yourself can call him by his name?” We can ask ourselves the same question. Though denying or downplaying our or others’ problems may seem helpful, it prevents a crucial recovery step. The sensible response is to acknowledge and validate problems. This language plays into the ultimate battle of good and evil in this series. Spoiler: The adjustment in how they refer to Voldemort leads to a greater strength ultimately to defeat him. Let’s name our foes and fears so we can face them rather than hide in denial.

Countdown to Valentine’s Day: Not So Clueless Galentines

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Clueless

 

For my Sunday Ritual this week, I’ve added silver and pink glitter to my manicure and watched Clueless. The movie ties into a Galentines theme with its focus on friendships and matchmaking. While we tend to get caught up in the romantic side of love for Valentine’s Day, love between friends counts just as much. Cher and her best friend Deon welcome Ty, the new girl at school, into their inner circle. Together they face the perils of driving lessons, grades and unrequited love. At the end, it’s the girls having a good time together that matters.

My love for love goes back many years. Well before I ever had a Valentine in the traditional sense, I eagerly awaited my favorite holiday so I could give sweet (or cheesy) notes and chocolates to my friends. Even now, my favorite angle of this season revolves around my besties. My email preview of my mail shows me I have another Valentine note arriving soon, so I feel excited to open it. It is a trade for the crafted notes I have outgoing for my friends to receive later this week. As we start a new week, let’s consider a friend who might enjoy a sweet note celebrating friendship’s love.

 

Fun Fact: Clueless has inspiration Jane Austen’s Emma. A Jane Austen novel or screen adaptation works perfectly for Valentine entertainment. Mr. Darcy does reign as a beloved romantic hero.

Countdown to Valentine’s Day: Cheese Lovers

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pepperoni

 

Fortunately, I have friends who know me well considering I have received my first Valentine no more than two days into the month. Soaking up the glory of all the small acts of love is like soaking the grease of a cheese lovers pizza into a napkin. Let that love ooze out in cheesy acts and words so those around us know they are loved. I know I feel loved, so I want others to feel the same.

 

Thank you to my awesome friends riding the Valentine high with me. Keep your eyes peeled for love notes and your ears ready for singing voicemails.

Countdown to Valentine’s Day: A Walk to Remember

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As we reach the middle point between the 17th anniversary of A Walk to Remember’s theatrical release and Valentine’s Day, let’s take a moment to appreciate its legacy. The movie would reach its senior year of high school this year if it were a person. The young protagonists in this teenage love story find themselves caught up in an unlikely love story in one of the early, and one of the better, Nicholas Sparks novel screen adaptations. Jamie Sullivan models a lived faith where she willingly helps those around her regardless of their past, and Landon Carter shows us that with support people can improve themselves.

As we walk into the month of love, let’s consider how we can show love to others, maybe even to those society brushes off as hopeless. Landon asks Jamie to run lines with him so he won’t make a fool of himself in the spring play, and Jamie agrees so the whole production won’t suffer. She gives Landon a chance to live up to his challenge. Take a look around you. Is there someone who could use a loving hand to accomplish a task or who could use the company of someone supportive? Start with showing up and being willing to help even with what seems like a small favor. Big changes happen through a series of small steps.

 

The Great American Reader: The Count of Monte Cristo – Gossip Disguised

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After Edmond Dantes escapes prison, and by extension his wrongful sentence, his identity becomes more complicated. So does the plot. Two men staying in Rome make arrangements to witness an execution, a spectacle that has attracted audiences all over the world throughout history. Tablets arrive informing them of the condemned and their crimes. The details have prominence on signs throughout the area, and they get this visibility under the guise of getting those who see it to pray that the guilty parties repent.

Like those signs pose a positive interest of restoring the guilty parties while really drawing the crowd for entertainment, we too spread not so flattering information about people. Sometimes we share the story with a slant that we want to pray for them too. Maybe sometimes that really holds truth. However, we need to challenge our motives. Are we helping this person in some way by telling their crime? Or do we want to make this person look bad, perhaps making ourselves look better at the same time? Let’s evaluate our speech before it leaves our mouths. We can seek to build others up rather than tear them down to feed our pride. In reality, we all stand guilty. God gives us grace, and we can extend that to others.

 

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” 

Proverbs 18:21

 

 

 

Monday Motivation – The Great American Reader: “Yer a wizard”

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Harry Potter, the famous boy who lived, enters the world as a wizard. Yet he grows up not knowing about his identity or the world from which it comes. Once he finally receives his acceptance letter from Hogwarts, thanks to Hagrid’s hand delivery, he begins to learn about wizardry. This involves going to Diagon Alley to get his school supplies and finding a magical train platform that will take him to his destination.

As Harry prepares to get sorted into his house and to start classes, he worries that he lacks critical skills due to growing up in a muggle household (meaning one with no magic). He ponders how his classmates might make fun of him and how he may fail. However, he quickly realizes that his wizard counterparts possess no more know how than he does. They all have a lot to learn, and they each have a path to follow.

Lately, I’ve felt how Harry does about beginning school. He learns about a whole new world at age eleven, and he discovers that it doesn’t matter that he discovered it later than many of his classmates. Like many people, I face various insecurities. I even have them about school. Graduate school also holds a world some know and some don’t, that some appreciate and others don’t. Again, people who attend discover their path to knowledge at different ages. I have friends who went from undergrad straight to grad school and friends who began their higher degrees in their 40s or 50s. All of these people have improved their lives and careers, some even changing direction from their previous degrees, because of their pursuit. Like Harry Potter, I have learned that I have not fallen behind because I begin later than some of my peers.

In addition to accepting that Harry has not in fact discovered his identity and world too late, he learns whose voices to give credit and whose to deflect. His aunt and uncle despise the wizarding world and put Harry down, and bully Draco Malfoy acts as anyone not pure blooded has no place at Hogwarts. Yet Harry sees that everyone there has their place. He quickly finds a group of friends who keep him grounded and mentors who remind him of the truth. Fortunately, we too can deflect the negative voices who feed our doubt to keep us down and instead lean on our supportive friends and mentors to remind us our goals have value and that we can reach them.

 

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” 

George Eliot

The Great American Reader: The Count of Monte Cristo – Belief

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Dantes has escaped the prison at Chateau D’if! He has accomplished no small feat and during a storm no less. After joining a new crew, he eventually steers their ship to his destination. His prison mate Faria has left Dantes with the secrets to find the treasure. Now he has to find the right cave.

The island at first appears to have no more caves. Dantes considers how the landscape could have changed over time. He ponders if rocks could have sealed the entryway. Finally, he even accepts it may never have existed and he has fallen into a false belief. Yet even in his despair and acceptance of that possibility, he continues thinking of the chance that the desired treasure may exist. That leads him to the ultimate discovery. He uses a new approach to see if whoever hid the treasure created a false barrier to the entrance. This proving true, Dantes at lasts breaks through and discovers gold and jewels aplenty.

The crisis of belief Dantes experiences resembles the human struggle to maintain faith. Sometimes we know the truth and have heard the story telling us how to find our treasure or destination or purpose. Yet we doubt what we know. We wonder if a mistake has been made; maybe those treasures aren’t intended for us. Maybe they never existed at all. Dantes knows others make fun of his friend Faria’s stories of treasure; they consider him mad. Dantes eventually wonders if they have the right perspective. We do the same when others scoff at our goals or values. Yet the treasure does exist. It may seem crazy or counterintuitive, but the continued belief and persistence to keep figuring out the next step and taking it makes it possible to discover. Remember that God holds true to His promises no matter what anyone else says.

Book Review: Circe

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Circe, Madeline Miller’s Greek mythology retelling, has earned its slot on my 2018 Top 10 Read list. It also takes the spot for most pleasant surprise. My depth of knowledge in mythological topics doesn’t go far. Yet this story still holds easy accessibility. Circemakes a thoroughly interesting character, and I find myself steeped in the setting’s atmosphere. She spends a lot of time alone on an island because her father has banished her. This gives her plenty of opportunity to contemplate her effect on others and if she desires any connections at all. Ultimately, family rivalry stirs the ultimate battle. Circe proves she makes a strong female character.

Book Review: Summer by the Tides

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I received a copy of Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter from NetGalley.

 

Summer by the Tides makes for breezy fun at the beach as a positive summer read. After losing her treasured job and her boyfriend, Maddy returns to Seahaven to find her missing grandmother. Her two older sisters, who are estranged from each other, arrive at the cottage as well. The family goes through the physical and emotional process of clearing out the attic and their past. Maddy even finds a nice, handsome next door neighbor. The story unfolds rather straight forward and predictably, making it a comforting read as you imagine beach waves just off your porch.

 

Look for this book on May 21 as it releases just in time for summer.

The Great American Reader: Harry Potter

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The Harry Potter series has a top spot on PBS’s The Great American Read list, and some fellow Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club members have decided to read the entire series over the course of the year. That gives me an opportunity to keep a slow, steady pace to dive deeper into J.K. Rowling’s stories and characters, especially since this is not the first time I’ve read them. I have started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this weekend and already see points of interest. This series has so many angles and resources to see.

Grab a broomstick (or catch the Hogwarts Express train) and follow me to Hogwarts castle as Harry realizes the truth behind “yer a wizard” and attends the School of Magic for the first time. Harry figures out his identity, and the story keeps the wizarding world at stake through an epic battle of good versus evil. Follow along for a coming of age story for the ages.