my summer bucket list.

I think summer’s finally here.  It’s hot outside, schools are letting out, and my dad’s summer intern just arrived.  (He’s an old family friend so we’re planning on having a BLAST.)

I haven’t planned anything for the summer yet, and I didn’t think I was going to.  After all, I’m schooling through the summer, so why should I, if I won’t have a ton of free time?

WRONG.  It’s summer, and summer means FUN.  (At least, that’s what I keep telling myself during study breaks.)

summer bucket list instagram.pngSO I’ve decided to make a summer bucket list, full of a bunch of things I want to do this summer. I took a picture of my list and posted it on Instagram (see above) and thought of a few more in addition to all of the above things, such as:

  • Finish a TV show (Boy Meets World, which I’m like six episodes from the end of but have put it off for two. years. because I don’t want it to end *sob*; Gilmore Girls, in preparation for Seasons, DUH; Friends and/or Firefly and/or Downton Abbey)
  • Earn fifteen credits (which I think is gonna happen and that’s AWESOME because I’m SO DONE WITH COLLEGE LOL)
  • Read at least one non-fiction book a month (I read a ton of fiction and thought I’d expand my palate a little this year, starting with Mere Christianity and If You Find This Letter)
  • Finish reading the Old Testament (I was trying to finish this last year and it didn’t get done for whatever reason, and I want to finish it up so I can get back to studying Jesus’s life and Paul’s letters)
  • More screen-free time (my school and writing is all on the computer, not to mention Pinterest and Tumblr and my blog and all of that wonderful time-sucking nonsense, so to say I spend a lot of time on the computer is kind of accurate and I kind of hate it and want to spend more time off it this summer by going on walks and coloring and reading more)
  • Budgeting my time better (I’m nannying two full days during the summer, instead of the usual two half days, so it’s going to be interesting trying to juggle school and the little munchkins.  I had them yesterday and we went to Chick-fil-A and the library and it was so. much. fun… even though I didn’t get any school done.  Oops.)
  • Edit The Art of Letting Go (I just got some really good feedback on it, and I’m really looking forward to working on it again and I’m hoping it’ll be done by the end of the summer!)
  • ENJOY THE SUMMER (It’s already pretty hot here in Georgia, but I’m really enjoying it.  Last week, I sat out on the back porch and tried to get a tan and it was really nice.  I’m looking forward to doing that a little more over the summer.)

What are your summer plans?  Doing Camp NaNo (or some other camp)?  Schooling through the summer like me (*sob*)?  I have three friends who are sisters and are going to Europe over the summer which you know is cool but it’s whatever.  Any big plans like that?  (Actually, if you have big plans, don’t tell me.  I’m too jealous.  Because it’s freaking EUROPE.  Ugh.  Please, somebody tell me you’re schooling through the summer.  PLEASE.)

sixteen of my favorite childhood movies.

(Instead of posting two very ranty posts about perfect people, or one that’s literally just my text conversation with my sister about a guy at Starbucks who was literally sitting next to me the whole time we texted, here’s a list of ten of my favorite childhood movies.  Because I like being nostalgic more than I like ranting at you guys.  ALSO because this is like a make-up for my “movies i don’t like” post, which freaked you guys out.  I still have good taste!  Be my friend again!)

You know that moment when someone bashes something you love and you feel like building a barricade and taking up arms to defend yourself and your opinion?

Well.

A few weeks ago, Shia Labouf said that he “wasn’t proud of Holes.

My knee-jerk reaction was, “WHAAAAT?!  HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT ABOUT ONE OF MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MOVIES?!  IT DEFINED MY CHILDHOOD.  THAT MOVIE IS A WORK OF CINEMATIC GENIUS.  YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE WORLD.”

And then I calmed down and decided to write this blog post.

Because I feel like I need to defend Holes, here are my top ten favorite childhood films (including Holes).  Honestly, these aren’t all Oscar-worthy, but they’re movies that I saw in my childhood (birth-twelve) and have stuck with me since then – and enough that I’ll eternally love them, no matter what anybody says.  In no particular order, because I can’t narrow movies down like that.

{And this was originally gonna be just five… then ten… then fifteen… then I remembered a huge one, so yeah.  Skim it if you don’t care.  It was way too nostalgic to write.  *runs away sobbing*}

holes

Holes (duh)

I distinctly remember when my siblings and I first got introduced to this movie.  We were on the way to Hershey, PA (it was a homeschool field trip that was my idea – booyah), and stopped at somebody’s house for the night.  The kids begged Mom and Dad to let us watch it, but it had gotten too late.  They had recently gotten the DVD, so they gave us their copy of the VHS (remember those???).  We later watched the movie in the hotel room and fell in love with it.  I’ve loved it ever since.  Because what is not to love?!  Bravery, comedy, adventure, and insanely hilarious one-liners, plus a FANTASTIC sub-plot set in the Old West.  We’ve seen this movie so many times, we can quote all of it, and certain lines come up in our daily conversations, such as “I can fix that” and “Once upon a time, there was a magical place where it never rained.  The end.  *annoying laugh*”  (The book is pretty great, too, and almost exactly like the movie – that’s when you KNOW the movie’s good!)

If you haven’t seen it, totally go watch it right now.  Seriously.  Right now.  Go.

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this is the actual cover of the actual vhs we actually still own.  good gracious.

The Country Bears

Okay, so this one’s more of an inside joke in my family – one of those it’s-so-stupid-you-can’t-help-but-like-it movies.  My brother and I watch it every now and then, if only to poke fun at it.  I’ve always loved it, though.  The songs are fantastic (plus, I had a babysitter who looked like the waitress in that one musical number), and the comedy is genius.  Some of my favorite parts are when the parents and police (HAMM AND CHEETS) ignore the fact that Beary (B e a r y) is a bear who was literally adopted, and whenever Beary meets a new member of the Country Bears – thus starting a new musical number.  Favorite lines include: “We’re gonna play this little game I like to call Hidin’ In The Car Wash.” “What do we do?” “We hide… in the car wash.” and “OH NO!  NOT COUNTRY BEAR HALL!”

If you need a totally stupid movie that you can just mindlessly watch that will make you laugh ’til tears stream down your face, this one’s for you.

Robin Hood

Robin Hood

This movie.  This. Movie.  I have memories of singing the “Oodilally Oodilally, Golly, What a Day” song in the car… at nineteen.  With fellow teenagers.  And when we went to Disney last month, I ran towards the guy dressed in the Robin Hood suit.  (And he hugged me and kissed my hand and let me take pictures with him.  I basically died.)  That’s the impact this movie has had on my life.  It’s set all of my relationship goals (‘Love Goes On,’ anyone?), all of my husband goals (because Robin IS goals), and it’s basically one of my favorite stories ever – SET TO MUSIC.  WITH ANIMALS.  I mean, seriously, HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS?!

Pretty sure you guys have all seen this, so watch it if you want some insane nostalgia.

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Chicken Little

Okay, I feel like I need to defend this movie, too.  One of my friends just dissed it and I felt memories from eleven years ago rise up and form my soapbox from which I bashed him.  My younger siblings watched it while I saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and I was slightly jealous, until we watched it later and I fell in love with it then.  I love how funny this one is.  (“Pfft – bandaid solutions!”)  Plus, it’s just a great take on the story.  And with the undertones of friendship and fatherhood and bravery, it’s maintained its place on my list of favorite movies of all time.

Literally just watch this one if you want a good laugh.

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Treasure Planet

I feel like this movie is ignored in the Disney canon a lot because it’s in that awkward stage when Disney was trying to figure themselves out again (it came out in 2002, right along with Lilo and StitchThe Emperor’s New Groove, Brother Bear, Home on the Range, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt – all good movies but not considered “classics”).  And I have NO IDEA WHY because this movie DEFINED MY CHILDHOOD.  Seriously, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this.  We have the pre-release version (long story short, a good friend’s dad was a theater marketing guy for Paramount, so he’d give us the VHSes after he was done with them – actually, a good chunk of these movies are from him.  Thanks, Mr. A!), so I’ve been in love with this movie for a while.  Then, when the 10th anniversary Blu-ray came out, Katie and I lamented how old we’ve gotten and bought it.  Because duh.  Everything is amazing – the cast (Emma Thompson!  Martin Short!  Baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt!!!), the post-apocalyptic-18th-century-SPACEPIRATES setting, the hilarious references to older movies (“Dang it, Jim, I’m an astronomer, not a doctor!”), and the incredible accuracy to the original Robert Lewis Stevenson book.  (And, I mean, it’s probably my favorite adaption.)  Plus, Jim was one of my first major fictional crushes (not telling you what the first one was – it’s embarassingggg), and Doctor Doppler and Captain Amelia were probably my first ship (before I even knew what shipping was!).  This movie is amazing.  Plus, dang it, that SONG.  And the soundtrack is E P I C.  I used to do my math homework to it.  Every single day.  And this huge paragraph just goes to show just how much I LOVE this movie.

If you need something fantastic in so many ways, go for this one.

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Cinderella (1997)

*adjusts hipster glasses* Chances are, you haven’t heard of or seen this one.  It’s based on the Rogers and Hammerstein musical (originally on television in 1957, starring Julie Andrews), and it played a major part in my decision to go see Cinderella on Broadway in 2013.  (I’ll take this opportunity to say again that I saw the original cast – meaning Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes.  Yes, Cosette, this is true.)  To be completely honest with you guys, I got this movie (the VHS from Target – yes, I’m that old) as a reward for success in potty training.  It’s been in my family for a while, and my baby sister watches the same VHS I did.  *melts from the happy feels*  The music is amazing, the sets and costumes are breathtaking, and the color-blind casting is genius.  (How Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber had Paolo Montalban as a child, I will never know.  But I love it.)

If you need a dose of amazing music sung by the TALENT that is Brandi, Whitney Houston, and Bernadette Peters (THE QUEEN), be prepared – this one will knock your socks off.

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Pride and Prejudice

This one seems a little mature to fit in this list, but TRUST ME – IT BELONGS.  I can almost remember the day we got introduced to this movie by our amazing friends in North Carolina (who also introduced us to Redwall, Monk, The Penderwicks, and Hogan’s Heroes) – mid-November of 2005.  We were at their house for a literature class, and their sixteen-year-old son (no joke) casually mentioned that they were going to see “the new Pride and Prejudice” later that day and asked if we’d heard of it.  The second my mom said no, he gasped a little and found the DVD for us to borrow.  He later told us that the new one wasn’t any good and that we should just stick to the old one.  (Before you guys fall in love with him, just know that he’s married now.)  I love this movie.  I like the new one (we’ve formed a cordial friendship ever since I’ve decided that it isn’t as bad as I thought it was), but this one is amazing.  It’s what started my love for period dramas.

If you haven’t seen it yet… seriously, why are you even following this blog.

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Little Women

This one is such a classic, and I connected with it in so many ways when I first saw it.  Jo and I are both second-born, love writing, have a flair for theatre, and are tomboyish.  I can’t see Laurie played by anybody else, either – Christian Bale is Laurie.  And it’s so accurate to the book!  (Which, confession, I didn’t read until about 2012.  What can I say – I’ve never loved classics.)  I’ve seen this one too many times to count, and I still can’t watch Beth’s death scene without covering my eyes or fast-forwarding (because we have the VHS, duh).  The only thing I don’t love is the fact that Jo and Laurie didn’t end up together.  I understaaaand why Laurie wasn’t right for Jo and why Prof Bhaer was, but… dang you, Louisa, they were SO CUTE.

If you love period drama, watch this one.  (And then listen to the musical.)

anastasia

Anastasia

SWEET BUTTERED CRUMPETS, THIS MOVIE.  I’ve been in love with Dimitri ever since 1997.  (He. Is. Mine.)  The entire thing is amazing, but the music is what makes up for the historical inaccuracies and the creepily-almost-demonic Rasputin.  “If I can learn to do it, you can learn to do it!”  And ‘Once Upon a December’ is one of my favorite songs of all time.  Not to mention all of the songs are breathtaking (even the kind of lame, totally 90’s ‘In the Dark of the Night’), just like the costumes.  (GAH.  I need ALL OF THEM.)  The action is amazing – that train scene, guys.  *dies*  Plus, hello, the love story between Anya and Dimitri – TALK ABOUT GOALS!  I shipped them (along with Captain Amelia and Doctor Doppler) before I knew what shipping was.  I want a guy like Dimitri, guys – sassy and loyal and a little bad.  *WINKKKK*  This movie has just the perfect amount of romance, one-liners, action, and comedy.  I will never get over this movie.  It’s on Amazon Prime and I don’t care to mention how many times watched snippets on my phone in between study sessions.  It keeps the kid in me alive.  ; )

If you just want to see a really good animated movie, watch this one.

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Barbie: Princess and the Pauper

Say what you will about all Barbie movies being self-insert fanfiction, but this list had to have at least one (and it’s probably the stupidest movie on this list but I love it anyway).  This one’s gotta be my favorite, probably because of the music.  (I’m sensing a theme here…)  I listened to some of it the other day and got all nostalgic again while realizing I still know all the words to ‘Free‘… plus all the other songs.  (“Imagine life without the strife of an unfamiliar groom!”)  And my relationship with my husband/boyfriend/whatever will not be complete until we sing ‘If You Love Me for Me,’ amen and amen.  Plus, the older ones are just so much better than the newer ones.  (We still own this one, Nutcracker, Rapunzel, and Swan Lake, and my younger siblings watch them all the time.)  I love all of the stupid lines (“It was always lilac!”) and all the music and the insanely unbelievable and predictable plot and all the plot holes and the stupid romance subplots and just everything about it.  I don’t know how or why Martin Short sunk so low, but b l e s s.

If you need something to watch at 2am after studying for six hours *cough* not that I’ve done that *cough* but… yep.

air bud.jpg

i couldn’t find a picture of josh and buddy together… but who needs that when you can have just this adorable little kid, amiright?!

Air Bud

One word: Dimples.  This movie introduced me to them, and I’ve never been the same.  (I’ve also harbored a nineteen-year-old crush GOOD GOSH HAS IT BEEN THAT LONG on Kevin Zegers.  The other day, I found myself speed-watching an episode of a TV show that I’m not interested in just because Kevin played a very sick teen and I needed to make sure he ended up okay.  {He did.})  This movie is amazing.  It tugged at my baby heartstrings and I cried when Josh told Buddy to leave.  (The pudding cup, guys… *sobs*)  I still can’t watch it without crying when Buddy comes back, even though there’s no way he can help Josh with the basketball game.  (HE’S THERE FOR MORAL SUPPORT, OKAY?!)  I still watch this occasionally.  And my opinion on all the Air Buddies movies – no.  Just… no.

IF YOU NEED TO SEE SOME ADORBS DIMPLES (on a twelve-year-old but whatever), WATCH IT.

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Hook

This movie really set in stone everything I want from an action film – ACTION SCENES STARRING SMALL CHILDREN.  (Just kidding.)  Seriously, though, I will never stop loving this movie.  I just watched it again with the kids that I babysit, and let me just say… it’s a classic.  Robin Williams is amazing, Dustin Hoffman is fantastic, and, according to Blimey Cow,  you’re not a REAL homeschooler if you haven’t seen it.  (“RU-FI-OOOOOOOOOO.”)  Plus, John Williams is phenomenal, as always.  And I’m always just 100% here for anything about Peter Pan, so yeah.  (Speaking of: Peter Pan: Return to Never Land.  First movie I distinctly remember seeing in the theater, and ‘I’ll Try‘ never fails to make me weep.)  When I first saw it over a decade ago (whyyyyy am I so ooooolllllldddddd), the scene when Hook kidnaps Peter’s kids freaked the living snot out of me, but in a good way.  (When that handle turns, SHIVERS RUN DOWN MY SPINE. S O.  G O O D.)

If you want a true 90’s classic, go for it.

lww old

*intense war flashbacks*

Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1988)

The newer version (yes, the newer one that came out over a DECADE AGO) is also on this list, but this version belongs first because I fell in love with the world of Narnia because of this movie.  (I loved the books, but I didn’t get around to reading the books for myself until I was about nine, long after I first saw this movie.)  The 80’s feel is kind of redic, the clearly-human-people-in-animal-costumes (the Beavers, anyone?), Animatronic Aslan whose mouth goes up and down – even when he’s not talking – YES IT’S ALL INSANELY STUPID BUT THIS IS THE NARNIA THAT I KNOW AND LOVE.   We had this library we would go to every Tuesday that was in a church that had all of these amazing books and movies but my siblings and I would get one of the old Narnia movies every other week, without fail (this one the most).  I remember being insanely offended at nine years old when I found out that “they” were making another one.

If you want intense war flashbacks because you had an amazing childhood, give this a much-deserved rewatch.

lww new

OH MAH GOSH I LOVED THIS SO MUCH.

Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

I seriously have so much love for both of these versions, so they both belong on here.  Like I said before, I was mad when I found out that a reboot was being made.  Then I saw the trailer and I was like, “NOPE, I’M GONNA SEE THIS.”  I took some friends for my eleventh birthday and loved it.  (Even though I left the theater with a friend to go to the bathroom during the Stone Table scene because I was so freaked out.)  This movie influenced me so much, and the entire series formed a lot of my views of God (even though I didn’t know it at the time).  Plus, everybody said I looked so much like Georgie Henley that I cut my hair short like hers.  Of the three reboots that have been released (SO FAR – SILVER CHAIR, BABYYYYY), this one’s probably my favorite.  I had such a crush on Will Mosley (and of course I don’t still have a crush on him even though he only gets more hot why would you say that) and it was one of the first movies that I saw in which WWII played a pretty big part (we thought we’d gone into the wrong theater for the first eight minutes!).  Anyway, this one’s such a classic and, thus, such a favorite.

If you want to see an amazing version of an amazing classic… yes.  Just yes.

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Muppet Treasure Island

“He’s some kind of a blind fiend.”  “I believe they prefer visually-challenged fiend.”  Seriously, the sass in this movie is unreal.  Which is why my siblings and I loved it so much when we were younger.  Pirates, swordfighting, hilarious one-liners, MUPPETS – what’s not to love?  It’s one of those movies that’s somehow distinctly for homeschoolers, and I didn’t care about conforming to the stereotype when I was six.  Even though Jim’s voice is so high – seriously, the kid hits notes that I can’t hit with a ten-foot pole – and even though some of it is so stupid, we still loved it.  (And I’m pretty sure my older sister had a crush on Tim Curry’s Long John Silver, even though she’ll flat out deny it if you ask her.)

If you want to see (another) hilarious take on Stevenson’s classic tale, here you go.

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look at how cute this guy is!!!

All of Roy Rogers’ movies

My siblings and I own and have seen so many of these and I CANNOT NARROW THEM DOWN.  (Seriously, we own a collection of twenty, plus about twenty other standalone DVDs.  It was an obsession.)  Roy Rogers influenced me so much that I even read not one but two biographies about him and his wife, Dale Evans (and their relationship is just so many goals).  (At fifteen.  When I hated nonfiction!)  Many, many, many happy hours were spent with my siblings watching classics like Eyes of Texas and Jesse James at Bay and Young Bill Hickok and Sons of the Pioneers and Hands Across the Boarder and Heldorado and Roll On, Texas Moon and Springtime in the Sierras and then reenacting the scenes in our backyards and other friends’ backyards.  I wrote so many western short stories and scripts because of him.  And then to grow up a little more and find out that he was a CHRISTIAN who had NINE KIDS, FOUR of which he ADOPTED?!  It’s unreal.  He was my first childhood hero (I even put a framed photograph of him and Dale up on my bookshelf… where it still stands today) and I know I’ll love him for forever.  AND WAY MORE THAN JOHN WAYNE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

If you love Westerns and haven’t seen at least a dozen of Roy’s old movies, you really need to do this for yourself.  Watch one.  Eyes of Texas is probably my favorite.

Honorable Mentions
(because expanding already-too-long lists is what I do BEST)

All of the Pixar movies, but especially my favorites – Toy Story (1,2,&3) and Up
ALLLLL
 of the old Disney movies, but especially my favorites – The Lion King and Beauty and            the BeastAladdin, Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Mulan
The Rescuers
The Great Mouse Detective
The Iron Giant
Mary Poppins
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The Love Bug
Escape to 
(and Return FromWitch Mountain
The Princess Diaries
(mostly just the first one, though – I didn’t see the second one ’til like             2011)
The Emperor’s New Groove
The American Girl movies, especially the Kit one (STANLEY TUCCI)
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (two words: Bryan Adams)

Gosh, this entire post has given me so much nostalgia and now I feel SO INCREDIBLY OLD.  Please tell me that you’ve seen at least some of these!  (And if you haven’t, let me know in the comments and I’ll pop us some popcorn because it’s time for you to L I V E.)

“yer a wizard, harry.”

So this is the Harry Potter post you all have been waiting for!  Read it or don’t read it; comment or don’t comment.  I don’t care.  These are just my thoughts on the subject and the conclusions I’ve personally come to after deciding to read the Harry Potter series.  (Read my first post about it here, which I wrote soon after I finished the first three books.  I’ll probably unintentionally repeat some of what I said in that post, but it might be good for you {and me!} to compare my thoughts then with my thoughts now.)

All was well.

-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

harrypotter.jpgWith that quote, the book series that I’d been completely obsessed with for the past five months came to a close.  I shut the book, hugged it to my chest, and cried and cried and cried.  Not because it was sad or anything (okay, that was part of the reason), but because it was over.  This amazing book series that I’d fallen in love with had ended.

AND I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH ANYTHING ANYMORE.

I hadn’t even expected to get into it that much.  I only personally knew of a few people who had read it (and loved it).  Most of my friends were completely against it.  I had been against it, too.  Then I entered that awkward phase of my life when my dad started letting me make my own decisions about the stuff I let into my mind (and dealing with the consequences I bring on myself).  (If you’re not there yet, you’re probably looking forward to it.  It’s incredible but it’s also incredibly daunting.  Making these kinds of decisions for myself has been amazing… but it’s also been hard.  Sometimes I wish my dad would just tell me what to do sometimes.  It’s hard to know what’s good and bad when you’re just starting to decide where your convictions are.  As wise old Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  *end unintentional tangent*)

From everything I’d read about the series, I thought it was some kind of evil witchcraft book that made you become obsessed with (and possibly even unconsciously join) the occult.  I thought all of the characters were evil and knew that they were doing wrong things all the time.  Furthermore, I thought the series was dark and evil and had no redeemable qualities at all.  (It was, after all, about wizards and witches.)

harrypotter12Boy howdy, was I wrong.

This just goes to show that you should take everything with a grain of salt.  Either Edgar Allan Poe or Benjamin Franklin said, “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.”  Just like you should always double-check what you’re hearing in church with what the Bible actually says, you should probably align what people say with what God says because people are biased.

For the first twenty years of my life, Harry Potter wasn’t in the gray area at all.  In my mind, it was completely evil and there weren’t any good lessons to be learned from it.

Then, someone recommended it a year or so after my dad started letting me make decisions for myself, and I asked him if I could read it and he said yes and the rest is history.

I really can’t explain how much I loved this series.  I haven’t connected so much to a series in such a long time.  Also, believe it or not, this series was THE BEST “secular” series I’ve ever read because it had so many allusions to Biblical lessons.  (Notice that I said “allusion” rather than “allegory.”  The Harry Potter series is not an allegory and should never be called one.)  In some respects, it was even better than some of the explicitly Christian books I’ve read because it contained everything I’ve always wanted from Christian fiction but never get.  I kid you not.

So why did I love it so much?  Well, sit back and I’ll tell you.

The Magic

harrypotter6Before I get into all of the amazing things about it, let me clear something up.  The Harry Potter series does not have real-life, occult magic in it.  Occult magic (such as séances and witchcraft rituals and demonic powers) very much exists and we should definitely stay away from it.  However, John Granger says in his book Finding God in Harry Potter, “The magic in Harry Potter is no more likely to encourage real-life witchcraft than time travel in science fiction novels encourages readers to seek passage to previous centuries.”

Others have explained the type of magic in Harry Potter better than I can, but my (extremely simplified) explanation of the difference between the magic in Harry Potter and the very real, very evil magic in the world, is that, rather learning how to do something that is, until that time, unknown to them (as with Wiccan rituals), the characters in this series merely learn how to control something that has always been a part of them.  They didn’t have to learn how to invite the magic into them or whatever – it was always a part of them.  (Much like Elsa from Frozen, whose icy powers were never explained other than the fact that “she’s always had them,” and Mary Poppins, who can make toys and bedsheets do her bidding by snapping her fingers and can fly around the world and jump into chalk drawings.)   For instance, in the very first book, pre-Hogwarts Harry misuses his gift because he’s angry at his cousin.  Later in the series, it’s revealed that Tom Riddle did the same thing to some of his fellow orphans at the orphanage.

My favorite explanation came from a Christianity Today article entitled “Redeeming Harry Potter.”

If Rowling intended Harry Potter as Wiccan propaganda, I’d be the first to jump ship. But the author is emphatic: she doesn’t believe in magic. So how can she be promoting witchcraft as a religion? Instead, she uses magic as a vehicle for the plot—a literary device for the story’s themes. … Harry wasn’t taught how to be a wizard, he was taught how to control something that was already inside of him. He doesn’t invoke dark powers or evil spirits to do his bidding, he simply uses his genetic abilities (much like a superpower) for good. C.S. Lewis, in defending the “magic” in his Narnia books, calls this “Incantational Magic.” … Ultimately, the source of the characters’ powers isn’t really addressed, and that’s fine for the purpose of the story. Rowling places far more emphasis on how the individuals choose to use their powers and abilities in relation to others. Magic has traditionally been used in this way as a metaphor in classic literature, as something that can hold meaning in our own lives.

Now, obviously, if you’ve got a problem with where the magic comes from, you’ll have a problem with the books (which is the case with some of my relatives).  But since I’ve researched J.K. Rowling (aka Jo)’s intentions with the magic (she only uses it as a plot device and she doesn’t believe in the occult {read this article if you don’t believe me}), and I know she often gets annoyed when people accuse her of putting the occult in there.  So that’s good enough for me.

(Side Note: The first book is only called The Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.  Everywhere else, it’s The Philosopher’s Stone.  The only reason it was changed in the US is because the US publisher, Arther Levine, thought that no one would buy a children’s book with “philosophy” in the title.)

Good vs. Evil

One of the greatest strengths of the Potter series is its treatment of right and wrong.  Rowling loves playing with duality in the characters, showing that we’re all capable of good or evil, yet always clearly distinguishing between the two.  Things aren’t always as they seem in Harry Potter, but we’re always clear on right and wrong.  It is, in fact, a key line to look for in Goblet of Fire, when wise mentor Professor Dumbledore explains to Harry that he will face the choice between “doing what is right and what is easy.” (Russ Breimeier, Redeeming Harry Potter)

harrypotter11This was seriously one of my favorite aspects of the books.  As John Granger explains in Finding God in Harry Potter, the battle in this series is between “good guys who serve truth, beauty, and virtue, and bad guys who lust after power and private gain.”  The central conflictis between good and bad, specifically between the descendants Godric Gryffindor (Harry) and Salazar Slytherin (Voldemort).  (Jo hasn’t confirmed that Harry’s a descendant of Gryffindor, but I think it’s a given and I’m betting it’ll be revealed in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.)  The symbolism of this is all over the place.  Just look at Gryffindor’s symbol (a lion) versus Slytherin’s (a snake).  Sound familiar?

But, just like in real life, the good guys aren’t all good (e.g. Peter Pettigrew, a Gryffindor) and the bad guys aren’t all bad (e.g. Reglulus Black and Draco Malfoy, both Slytherins and, um, hello, Severus Snape).  Unlike a lot of the books I read, none of the characters are perfect.  There isn’t a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu to be had in the entire series.  Every single character has their faults.  For instance, Harry idolizes his father, thinking him to be the model of perfection, and it’s only when he relives one of Snape’s memories that he realizes this is not the case.  Ron is a bit of a selfish brat at times, Hermione can be unforgiving, and even Harry himself performed a few Unforgivable Curses (the Cruciatus Curse three times and the Imperius Curse once).  Even Dumbledore, who is one of the wisest characters I’ve ever come across in any of the books I’ve ever read, definitely has his faults.

Like every human being, they struggle with how to act in situations.  As Dumbledore tells Harry once, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”  Even though they’re conflicted regarding decisions most of the time, Harry, Ron, and Hermione always do the right thing.  Even Neville my precious cinnamon roll child, who has the most reason to hate Voldemort (whose underling tortured his parents almost to death and was successful in the destruction of their minds), still fights for what’s right and never acts out in anger.

However, the lines between good and evil are clearly drawn.  Whenever Voldemort was in any of the books, I couldn’t help but feel utter horror at everything he did.  As we learn in the last two books, Voldemort is only able to do everything he does because he’s willing to kill – “the supreme act of evil,” as someone else in the series defines it.  “That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend.  Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing.  Nothing.”  As Dumbledore tells Harry in Deathly Hallows, “Do not pity the dead, Harry.  Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.”  His incapacity to understand love is his ultimate downfall.

Like Tolkien, Rowling’s depiction of evil is incredibly Augustinian. Early Church father St. Augustine defines evil as a perversion of the good. He also emphasizes that evil is not an equal match of the Good, but far weaker. As something good becomes twisted and warped, it moves closer to nonbeing. Lord Voldemort is really a perfect example of this. As he becomes more deeply entrenched in evil, he becomes less and less human, less and less alive. The acts of murder and cruelty he carries out literally tear apart his soul making his being less whole. He is a shadow of a man. The quest for power without goodness is truly a journey toward pathetic and grotesque brokenness as is portrayed in the King’s Cross chapter in The Deathly Hallows when Harry is face to face with a visual depiction of Voldemort’s soul. Like the White Witch in Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, evil according to the Potter books cannot even comprehend the great strength of love and is ultimately destroyed by it.  (Haley Stewart, Why Your Kids Need to Read Harry Potter)

Which brings me to my next point…

Love

harrypotter2In stark contrast to this is the love that is shown to Harry and everyone else on the good side.  In the very first chapter of the very first book, there is an example of John 15:13 love.  Harry’s mother, Lily, sacrificed her life for Harry’s, which is the reason he’s still alive in the beginning of the first book.  You don’t need a neon sign to see it.  Dumbledore tells Harry in The Philosopher’s Stone, “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”  Later, in Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore explains, “But I knew too where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimatedto his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day.”

This John 15:13 love is repeated over and over and over again in the books.  Harry risks his life for Ginny Weasley in the second book, then again in the last book.

Harry is shown love, too, by the Weasleys.  Since he doesn’t have a loving family, they take him in over the holidays almost every year so he doesn’t have to go home to the Dursleys.  They treat him like he’s a member of the family, both by giving him gifts at Christmas (which, as explained in the first book, are his first Christmas gifts ever {which made me totally sob}) and making him help clean their house for a wedding in Deathly Hallows.

harrypotter10.jpgInstead of going on and on (trust me, I can), I’ll just highlight one more of my favorite examples of love in this series.  In the sixth book, one of the characters has his face slightly disfigured by a werewolf.  His mother is afraid that his fiance won’t marry him anymore because of the scarring.  She insists that she will, which makes another character, Tonks, turn to the man she loves, Remus Lupin (a werewolf) my other precious cinnamon roll child, and say, “You see!  She still wants to marry him, even though he’s been bitten!  She doesn’t care!”  Lupin insists that the cases are different, but Tonks shuts him down.  “But I don’t care either, I don’t care!  I’ve told you a million times!”  (And then Lupin insists that she needs someone “young and whole” and Mrs. Weasley says “But she wants you.  And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so.”  And then I started crying again.)  Tonks insists that she loves Remus for who he is, even though he thinks he’s unable to be loved.  Which just goes to show that there will always be someone out there who will love you, despite how unlovable you think you are.  (#thingsHarryPottertaughtme)

Themes

Dang, y’all.  The themes!  Love was just the beginning.

Somebody asked me via text what I thought of the series and what I learned from it, so I let them have it.  Here’s what I said:

Well I love the importance the books place on joy and that the act of simply being happy can overcome anything (“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one remembers to turn on the light“) and the amazing lessons of friendship and loyalty and “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” and HELLO the importance of living with love (bc living without love ended up being Voldemort’s downfall). There’s such an emphasis on family, too, and the importance family can have on your life. Harry was raised by his relatives who didn’t love him at all and didn’t realize that there were good people in the world who loved their families until he met the Weasleys. And everybody always points out how Hermione is such a bookworm and a study freak but it’s true and I kinda wish I’d had her as a role model when I was younger. And HELLO the many many maaaaany instances of John 15:13 love that is praised over and over and over. And Dumbledore’s insistence that even though something’s happening in your head, it doesn’t make it any less real. And his other words of wisdom to Harry that we should pity those who live without love. And Sirius’s quote that says something like that we all live with darkness and light inside of us and it’s the part that we act on that defines us. And then there’s my favorite character, who taught me that no matter what you think is wrong with you, someone will always be there to love you despite it.  And then the friendships in the stories that only grow deeper through trials and the love that’s shown to everyone and I don’t even know I just have so many feelings.

(Yeah.  Don’t ask me questions like that {especially via text} if you don’t want me to fangirl all over you.)

In addition to all of that…

harrypotter13.jpgLaughter – Rowling places a distinct importance of laughter and happiness in the books.  Someone on Tumblr said, “Happiness isn’t just a feeling—it’s a weapon. Look at how harry and his friends fight: with riddikulus, laughter stymies a creature made of fear; with expecto patronum, the very memory of happiness beats back the grim forces of depression.” (See the rest of their post here.)  (Also, may I just add that Lupin originally taught Harry and the gang those spells and I just think that’s significant.)

Truth – These books also have so many good lessons about truth and the consequences of lying.  In the sixth book, Harry finds a spellbook owned by the Half-Blood Prince.  Hermione is against him using any of the spells written in the book because he doesn’t know who the owner really is, and when Harry ignores her warning, it almost leads to death for one of his classmates.  As Dumbledore says in the first book, the truth “is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

harrypotter4.jpgCourage – Harry and his friends learn so much about bravery in this series.  They face many shiver-inducing circumstances, but they don’t back down.  (Well, {spoiler} except for Ron That One Time in Deathly Hallows, but he comes back with a firmer resolve to be brave.)  Especially Neville, who learns the most about bravery from book one.  (“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” – Albus Dumbledore)

Society – I was watching a scene from Half-Blood Prince and this comment really struck me: “Draco Malfoy’s character just shows how society shapes an individual. He was born to a racist father, and spent his childhood in the midst of people who considered Muggles [normal people without magic] to be beneath them. He was taught that money and power was everything from his childhood. Considering such an upbringing, he actually turned out to be a real gem of a person.”  (And I think his character was more dimensional in the last three movies than in the last two books.  In the books, he was scared of what he’d promised to do, but we see it more in the movies and the inner turmoil he suffers through.)

The Value of Human Life – Just like Harry’s mother sacrifices her life for Harry’s, the value of others’ lives is explicitly shown.  Nobody was worth less than anyone else.  Even Hermione fought hard for the freedom of house elves, even though they were literally made to be servants.  Every death is accounted for and mourned (which leads to a lot of sobbing, both from the characters and the reader).  “We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”  (Kingsley Shacklebolt, Deathly Hallows.)

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In Conclusion

“Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried? … The Harry Potter story is subject to him, too, and Jesus can use it however he wants. In my case, Jesus used it to help me long for heaven, to remind me of the invisible world, to keep my imagination active and young, and he used it to show me his holy bravery in his triumph over the grave.” (Andrew Peterson, Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me)

So, yeah, I did love this series.  I’ll probably read the books again soon, and I know I’ll watch the movies again soon.  (I’ve seen some of them multiple times because I love them so much – especially Prisoner of Azkaban, which was my favorite book before I fell in love with Deathly Hallows.)

I’ll be the first to admit that the series has its faults.  The Voldemort scenes repulsed me because he’s so evil (which all great villains are supposed to be).  A few of the characters got on my nerves (looking at you, Ron).  And a lot of the characters died, which is definitely a fault (*weeps silently*).

But it was also amazing.  And I’ve already gone into too much detail about why I thought it was so amazing, but I’ll say it again – IT WAS AMAZING.  That was half of the reason why I cried when it was over.  Because it was over, yes, but also because it was so phenomenal.  The story of how Jo wrote it still blows my mind and inspires me to write engaging and complex literature, too.

The thing I loved the most about it, though, was the fact that it inspired me to fight for good.  In his book, Finding God in Harry Potter, John Granger says that the series “fulfills our God-implanted longing to resist evil and serve the good.”

I can’t agree more.

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andrew peterson: he gave us stories | video

Hey, guys.  Sorry for the slight blogging break there.  I decided to take a short hiatus.  I was going to write an entire post on why I did, but I don’t trust myself to not say too much.  😄  I’ll just say that we’ve had a hard couple of weeks, but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger, and I think we’ll be fine.  🙂  SO, all that to say, I’m back!!!  And I have quite a few posts lined up, starting with this one.  Thanks for sticking around.  🙂

My dad showed us the video below about a week or so ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  I’ve heard of Andrew Peterson before (I love his music {especially this song} and really want to read his book), and I really appreciated what he had to say about stories.  The message is wonderful for authors.  Here’s the description from the YouTube page:

Stories—true stories—of the patriarchs, the kings of Israel, Jesus, and his apostles make up a large portion of the Bible. Indeed, stories shape our way of looking at the world, and this is true also of fictional literature. In this session, Andrew Peterson will speak on his approach as a writer of fiction, and how his understanding of the Holy Spirit impacts that process. He will in turn speak to how he hopes readers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, interacts with what we read whenever we sit down with a good book.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

(Isn’t that screenshot great?!  Looks like every picture I’ve ever taken of myself.  XD)

Literary Tag

I saw this tag on a blog I read, and decided to do it! (If you want to, I’ll tag you, too!) To begin, you must choose twelve literary characters. Choose the characters first, then proceed to answer the questions.

1. Percy Blakeney (The Scarlet Pimpernel)

2. Emma Woodhouse (Emma)

3. Laura Timmons (Lark Rise to Candleford – yes, I’ve only seen Season One, but it’s a book!)

4. Mac Campbell (Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom)

5. Mr. Knightly (Emma)

6. Jo March (Little Women)

7. Rose Campbell (Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom)

8. Paul Chauvelin (The Scarlet Pimpernel)

9. Bella Wilfer (Our Mutual Friend)

10. Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Little Women)

11. Eustace Scrubb (Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, etc.)

12. Aiden Thomas (The Door Within Trilogy)

Now, answer the questions by putting the correct characters instead of the numbers.

1. Who would make a better college professor, 6 (Jo March) or 11 (Eustace Scrubb)? Oh, dear! I think Jo would, because she’s smart and a good writer, and Eustace, well… as we read in Dawn Treader, he hadn’t read “any of the right books.”

2. 12 (Aiden Thomas) sends 8 (Paul Chauvelin) out on a mission. What is it? Does it succeed? Aiden, how could you?! Oh, well…. I guess he’d send Chauvelin to do something the King. Chauvelin would accomplish the task because he’s stealthy and has his ways, but wouldn’t actually bring Aiden the needed thing because he would join Paragor’s forces. (Villain that he is!!)

3. What is, or what would be, 9 (Bella Wilfer)’s favorite book? Well, it depends on how far she is into the book – how far her character is developed. I’d say something about love. (Something which Julius Hanford/John Rokesmith/John Harmon would know nothing about….)

4. Would it make more sense for 2 (Emma) to swear fealty to 6 (Jo) or the other way around? Um… Probably the other way around. Jo seems more like the person that would swear fealty to someone, not Emma.

5. Number 5 (Mr. Knightly) is looking for a roommate. Should s/he room with 9 (Bella Wilfer) or 10 (Laurie)? Laurie, no doubt about it.

6. 2 (Emma), 7 (Rose), and 12 (Aiden) are going out to dinner. Where are they going, and what do they discuss? Emma would want to go somewhere where she could see people (for her matchmaking purposes), Rose would want to go somewhere that reminds her of her voyages around the world with Uncle Alec, and Aiden would probably just want a cheeseburger. They wouldn’t be able to decide and would eventually go to Rose’s house so Aunt Plenty could make them a meal. Emma would want to know all the juicy details about “Charlie + Rose” and Rose would change the subject and talk to Aiden about drawing. A boring evening all around.

7. 3 (Laura) challenges 10 (Laurie) to a duel. Who wins? Seriously?! Laurie would obviously win because he’s probably a lot better at sword-fighting than Laura, but he’d be a gentleman and let her win.

8. If 1 (Percy) stole 8 (Chauvelin)’s most precious possession, how would s/he get it back? (Cool, they’re actually in the same story!!) Well, Chaubertin – Odd’s fish, excuse me – Chauvelin would try to get it back, but wouldn’t because Percy is too ingenious and cunning to let him get it back!

9. Suggest a story title in which 7 (Rose) and 12 (Aiden) both attain what they want. A Novel’s End. (Seriously, though, Rose and Aiden have nothing in common!!)

10. What kind of plot device would you have to use to get 1 (Percy) and 4 (Mac) to work together? Hmmm…. They’re both very intelligent. I think Percy would help Mac convince Rose to marry him. : )

11. If 7 (Rose) visited you for the weekend, how would it go? Wonderfully!!! We’d talk about her cousins and which one I thought she should have married since Eight Cousins. (And my absolute favorite scene from Rose in Bloom – “Polishing Mac”!)

12. If you could command 3 (Laura) to perform any service or task for you, what would it be? I think I’d have her NOT kiss Philip, and definitely not marry him. (Everyone knows Alfie is for her!!!)

13. If 2 (Emma) had to choose sides between 4 (Mac) or 5 (Mr. Knightly), what side would s/he choose? Mr. Knightly, without a doubt!! He’s her friend, and Mac is too unsociable for her.

14. What might 10 (Laurie) shout out while charging into battle? “FOR JO!!!”

15. If you had to choose a song to best describe 3 (Laura), what would it be? Deary me… Laura doesn’t seem to be the singing type! Well, after she met Philip, she’d probably sing “Ten Minutes Ago” from Cinderella. (Even though I don’t think he’s the one for her….)

16. 1 (Percy), 6 (Jo), and 12 (Aiden) are having a dim sum at a Chinese Restaurant. There is only one scallion pancake left , and they all reach for it at the same time. Who gets it? What’s a dim sum? lol Percy is too much of a gentleman to keep going for the scallion pancake, so he’d let Jo or Aiden have it. Aiden would reach for it, then stop because it wouldn’t be as good as the food in The Realm and start wishing he was back in The Realm. Jo would get the pancake.

17. What would 5 (Mr. Knightly) most likely be arrested for? Perish the thought! But if I must…. If there was ever a law for being too awesome of a hero, Mr. Knightly would get it. (“If I loved you less, I might be able to speak about it more!” would be Exhibit A.)

18. What is 6 (Jo)’s secret? The first time she met Professor Baer, she instantly thought, “Ahh, a perfect tutor for my school at Plumfield – if I can ever get it going. And a perfect real-life model for Rodrigo!!”

19. If 11 (Eustace) and 9 (Bella) were racing to a destination, who would get there first? Bella, because Eustace would drag his feet, whining at how far it was and how there was no point, etc.

20. If you had to walk home through a bad neighborhood late at night, who would you be more comfortable walking with, 7 (Rose) or 8 (Chauvelin)? Chauvelin from a more protective standpoint, but he would creep me out so much that I’d choose Rose and hope she brought Mac or even Charlie along!

21. 1 (Percy) and 9 (Bella) reluctantly team up to save the world from the threat posed by 4 (Mac)’s sinister secret organization. 11 (Eustace) volunteers to help them, but it is later discovered that s/he is actually a spy for 4 (Mac). Meanwhile, 4 (Mac) has kidnapped 12 (Aiden) in an attempt to force their surrender. Following the wise advice of 5 (Mr. Knightly), they seek out 3 (Laura), who gives them what they need to complete their quest. What title would you give this fiction? Sir Percy Wins Again, A Novel. (Bella and Percy are perfect for each other, by the way! Yikes, something must have happened to Mac… poor Mac!! Eustace is just the sort of person who would give up such a secret as him being a spy… lol! And poor Aiden – where was Son of Fury?! Yes, the wise advice of Mr. Knightly – always follow Knightly’s advice! Laura would probably give them a letter or something, lol! A wonderful novel, really…. someone should write it.)

~Eowyn~