My favorite book is…

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My favorite book is…

To say I have a favorite book is akin to saying I have a favorite chord on the piano. I hesitate to confess it because there are so many beautiful chords, so many that I cherish and thank God for (and if you’ve never thanked God for a chord because it resonated deep within your guts, you need to spend more time with your piano). Both are true, however: I have a favorite chord and I have a favorite book, but that certainly does not diminish[1] (a little chord humor for you) my love of other chords or books.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”[2]

It sounds like a romance novel, doesn’t it? Okay, okay—Pride and Prejudice is a love story, but that’s certainly not all it is. Many have commented that Jane Austen’s work is brilliant for depicting the societal expectations of women during her lifetime, but she also shows us how men were expected to behave. She crafts a beautiful (and bizarre) tale about the Bennet family—two sisters who are young and flirtatious, a sister who is awkward and unsocial, two elder sisters who are rational beyond their years, a mother who strives to see them all safely married, and a father who always planned on having a son to provide for any of his unmarried daughters.

Further, it is a story of how these and other characters relate to one another, how they behave, why they behave, and how it affects their choices. Jane Austen was a brilliant observer of human nature, as evidenced by her crafting of the Bennets and all who encounter them!

She was also incredibly witty (perhaps more witty than a novelist ought to be), which I love, and is one of the few authors I’ve read more than once. In fact, C. S. Lewis (another favorite author of mine—sometime, we’ll talk about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and why it has the perfect first sentence) once wrote:

“I’ve been reading Pride and Prejudice on and off all my life and it doesn’t wear out a bit.” [3]

It’s so true. You know, usually when I read a book a second or third time, I come away feeling like it wasn’t as good as the first time. For that reason (and because I am already in my thirties and don’t have an eternity to read all the books I want to have read before I die), I don’t usually read books more than once. Austen is different. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I learn something new about the characters and their behavior. My most recent read-through, I was astounded to realize that Mr. Darcy exhibited feelings for Elizabeth from almost the beginning—and then the recognition that all of his actions and behaviors toward Elizabeth and others coincide with those feelings.

Austen really is my favorite author, and Pride and Prejudice really is my favorite book. I love many authors with a geeky sort of love, and I cherish their books and words as if they were my own; but Austen is different somehow.

I suppose she has the same affect on me as a D2. Something inside of me resonates with what she writes.

All my love,

Aunt Sarah

[1] A diminished chord has a flattened third and fifth.

[2] Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc, 1945) 3

[3] Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children (New York: Touchstone, 1995) 37

My grandparents’ home is…

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My grandparents’ home is…

Since I’ve already written once about Grandma Schmitzer’s house, and I don’t remember Grandma Helen and Grandpa Earl’s farmhouse, I think I will follow the advice I gave you at the beginning of this project and “ignore the prompt.” Are you ready?

You cannot control life.

You cannot make the sun shine or the rain fall. You cannot make others treat you well or respect you. You cannot make everyone agree with you at all times. You cannot dictate even your own existence. You cannot determine that no one will ever rob you or cheat you or lie to you. You cannot make your boss give you a promotion, and you cannot make your teacher give you an A. You cannot control life.

Do you feel a little bit sad? Or a little bit relieved? Yeah—me, too! Too often, I want to control every little thing that happens in my life. It’s just not possible. We were not created to have authority over every detail of life.

We were created, however, with a will, with a conscience, with a mind and heart to weigh matters and determine our own courses in life. What am I saying? Well, you cannot make the sun shine, but you can be thankful when it does. You cannot choose whether or not you’ll be hurt (you will be—that’s just life), but you can forgive and not allow hurt to keep you from loving others. You cannot make your teacher give you an A, but you can follow instructions and submit your very best work.

See, life isn’t so much about the things that happen to you. It’s more about how you respond to the things that happen. That, my kidlets, is something you can control.

And your journal entries—you control those, too! Keep writing! We’re almost to the end of the year!

All my love,

Aunt Sarah

Grandma/Grandpa taught me…

Sorry I’m late this week, folks!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Grandma/Grandpa taught me…

When you made it past the bushes with those white berries, up the porch adorned with red geraniums, and through the door, there was a hallway. To the left was the back room where the piano (and some plants) lived. To the right was the kitchen. Somewhere in that hallway, in that entryway, there was a pantry and a deep freezer (one of those big ones that you lift open, not the tall ones) where Grandma kept the dreamsicles.

Somehow, we managed to set up a card table in that small corner of Grandma Schmitzer’s house. And there we sat, with a big bowl of fresh green beans, carefully cutting them to be canned. I can still smell it—fresh green beans have a crisp, earthy smell (like clean dirt, if that were possible).

I can’t say that Grandma taught me how to can green beans, because I honestly only remember cutting them. I can’t even say that she taught me how to cut them. What I can tell you for sure is that it was something I did with my sisters, my mom, and my Grandma Schmitzer. It was something from another time—a time when vegetables were grown, not pulled out of the freezer; a time when society could respect a woman who cared for her home and her family rather than pursuing a career; a time when children were allowed to use knives without fear of them showing up in our backpacks at school.

Lessons don’t always come by way of words. Sometimes lessons come by involvement and experience. Sometimes lessons come by taking another by the hand and walking with them. Sometimes lessons come in remembering those moments when we felt most alive.

And that was when I felt most alive—that day, years ago, when I cut green beans with Grandma Schmitzer, Mom, and my sisters. The lesson? I don’t know. Perhaps the lesson is simply: Enjoy your time together.

And…don’t eat more green beans than you cut (Grandmas can always tell).

All my love,

Aunt Sarah

The best part of Autumn is…

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The best part of Autumn is…

It could be the colors, bold against the tame gray sky; or the cool, damp air that makes you shiver deep inside; or the hot drinks—the coffee, the cocoa, the cider—that gently calm those shivers one at a time until they subside; or the Lake (I swear She smells different this time of year) on a brisk afternoon as She crashes against the breakwall in Her fury (or joy—I’m not sure which); or the geese in perfect form as they head to their southern homes.

It could be that it’s time for school, and all the neighbor children play together as they wait for the bus; or that it’s almost time for a birthday—another year older!; or that Thanksgiving approaches and I have to find a fine selection of snowmen for your Grandma; or that it’s time to start binding journals for Christmas.

It could be the apples (oh, how I love them!), or the tomatoes, or the two stubborn strawberries that are still ripening this week in spite of the chill; or that first scent of snow, crisp, cold and unmistakable; or that first magical snow fall—a covenant of all that is yet to come—that makes us smile with wonder; or the cold that bites at your face, chasing away your breath as you gaze upon a clear night sky.

More than any other season, Autumn—to me—is an image of change. It is never exactly what it was the last time you looked. It is never exactly what you expect. It is always faster or slower than you want it to be. It is always, always, always on its own terms. The best we can do is enjoy the show, I think.

The same is true of life. It never happens the way we want or expect, but it always happens with color and fury (or joy…and joy) to mesmerize us, if we will but open our eyes. Even the difficult changes will, in the end, reveal a beautiful story of God’s love.

So what is the best part of Autumn? Well…Autumn is, of course!

All my love,

Aunt Sarah

My Grandma/Grandpa had the unusual habit of…

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Grandma/Grandpa had the unusual habit of…

I can only think of one unusual thing any of my grandparents used to do—and I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it was unusual enough to earn its own Sunday Memory entry.

Every time I entered the room, every time he saw me, my Grandpa would raise his right hand above his head as if he was holding something and would ask me, “What am I?” The answer to the question, of course, was the Statue of Liberty. Every once in awhile, though, he would raise his left arm. Then, when he asked the question, I would answer, “the Statue of Liberty,” and he would shake his head, reminding me that she holds the torch in her right hand.

He was the Statue of Liberty. But why was he the Statue of Liberty? I can only speculate, really. No one in the family seems to know why he did it, and to my knowledge, Grandpa never did this to anyone else. It was unusual, but it was our “thing.” For some reason, it seemed important to him that I know about the Statue of Liberty.

Mom suggested recently that the Lady is an icon to my grandparents’ generation. He was a 1st Sergeant in the United States Army during the Second World War, and although I don’t remember any specific moments or conversations, I remember him (and Grandma) being very patriotic. Liberty, freedom, America meant something to him.

Maybe it was a symbol of that freedom he loved so dearly. Maybe he just enjoyed connecting with me about something so universal (Heaven knows we had little enough in common back then). I really don’t know. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful. I love having a memory of my Grandpa that belongs to me.

Unusual. It’s those unusual habits, those quirks, those mysterious details of our family members’ lives that endear them to us. Hold onto those memories.

All my love,

Aunt Sarah