Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Silly Me...

So I've been waiting to post until I have a good hour or so to myself.



*rolls on floor giggling until tears stream down her face*


You'd think I'd know better by now, wouldn't you?

Anyways. SO much has happened in the past week or so (or at least it seems that way to me) that maybe I do have a good excuse after all.

First of all, I am starting an ACT/SAT essay writing class courtesy of BraveWriter and Ms. Julie Bogart. I've used some of her material in the past, so I'm really looking forward to the class. I've been feeling in need of something to help me organize my thoughts and write them out clearly and coherently (as perhaps you might have been able to tell).

Second, college is *sigh* once more in "should-I-stay-or-should-I-go?" limbo. And I'll tell you why.

I recently received a part-time-job offer from a lady who goes to our church, whose son has a chromosomal abnormality called Duplicate 15q, or "Dupe-15q." Its side effects include sensory issues, problems with vision, hearing, and speech, and sometimes seizure disorders. And this tough little guy has it all. A friend of mine works has been working with him part-time for a couple years now, and the stories she tells me about him just make me want to cry, he sounds like such a sweetie! I'm so so so so so so excited to be given the opportunity to work with him, and it looks like it's a done-deal! There's only a little bit of paperwork to fill out. *jumps around excitedly*


(In the sentences following I'm probably going to sound really selfish...I apologize sincerely.)

Since I'm now taking on two part-time jobs, it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to finish school when I was planning (what is that saying? Man plans and God laughs?), simply because I won't have enough time, between work and piano and family stuff.

I was talking all of this over with my mom the other day when I first got this offer from Mrs. P., and having extremely mixed emotions. I was thrilled to think that I might be able to work with Little Guy (that'll be his nickname), but at the same time I was so frustrated because I had thought I was going to be able to finish up highschool over this summer/early fall, take the SAT, and start applying to colleges so that I could leave home fall 2013.

My mother, ever the sensible one (love you Momma!), was trying to tell me that I didn't necessarily need to leave for college next year, and was even going so far as to tell me I could call it a "gap-year", if it made me feel better.

Well it didn't.

Fortunately, (for both my poor mother and myself), I had planned to go to confession and Mass that evening anyway, so I told myself if I had a little extra time in before Mass I would sit down and pray about it and see if that helped any.

As it turned out, I was the only one in line for confession, so I had a good hour and a half before Mass started. So after confession I sat down in a corner and said my penance, which was to read a card full of quotes from St. Padre Pio and Blessed Mother Teresa. My eyes immediately fell on a quote from Mother Teresa, admonishing those who don't trust in God's Will and His plan for us, even if it's something completely different from what we intended.

I couldn't help it.

I started crying. Right there in the church.

Luckily there weren't very many people there yet, other than a few elderly ladies who were praying the rosary.

Even Mother Teresa was telling me to get over myself. After I managed to pull myself together I asked that God would give me some sign as to what His plan was, because I was ready to listen now. It wasn't long before I got my answer.

In his homily, Father talked about Mary, and how we should all take her for our role model for accepting God's Will, no matter what He throws at us, and no matter when He sends us something we need to be willing to say "Yes Lord," and do it right then and there. Mary's obedience was all about trusting that God had a bigger and better plan for her, even when she couldn't tell where it would take her and the Baby Jesus.

It couldn't really have been more plain if He had put it up on a billboard with my name on it. And when I got home I emailed Mrs. P and told her I would accept the job.

The funny thing is, the family I've been working for during the past two years is starting therapy for their youngest girl, because we suspect some learning disability, or delay. And now I get this job-offer to work with another child with special needs.

Oh! And if the homily/quote signs were not enough, God really made sure I was getting the message...

This past Sunday I got ANOTHER part-time-job offer from another family in our homeschooling group who just had a baby with Down's Syndrome, and they're looking for an aid to help take care of him.

I'm starting to see a trend here...

I'm just wondering if there's any particular reason He wants me to know how to work with special needs children. Perhaps I'm meant to be an occupational therapist? I always thought it would be neat to work with the disabled. Or maybe someday one of my own children will be special needs. I don't know.

What I do know is I'm extremely grateful for the kick in the pants from Mother Teresa, and the billboard homily courtesy of Father, and all the job offers.

And I also know that I'll think of that those two things whenever I feel my inner-control-freak starting to kick in.


Monday, June 4, 2012

C. S. Lewis vs. J. R. R. Tolkien, or What Makes a Good Fantasy Novel

"How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?"

                                                                                         ~ G. K. Chesterton

I was reading "Orthodoxy" the other day, just randomly flipping through the pages, when the above quote suddenly caught my eye. And it started me thinking.

How can we find something fascinating in the dullest, most ordinary, everyday things? Is there some way to make the ordinary things not only appear extraordinary, but reveal them as just that?

This, I think, is the reason for fantasy novels, and those who write them. This question is why we have had the story-teller even from the earliest time of man's existence. Stories have a way of engaging our imagination and helping us to see things that our physical eyes can't. They help us to look deeper beyond the outer shell of commonness. And in doing so, they have to push us beyond our comfort zone.

The good fantasy novel creates a world that may not resemble ours exactly, but one that obeys and reflects the laws that bind our universe together. And that is what makes them so convincing, and the reason so many people are drawn to them.

But the creating of a good fantasy world is a difficult thing to do. The good fantasy world doesn't exactly take us out of our world, but shows us our own in a different light, and it does this by reminding us of the "Deep Magic."

Tolkien, in his series "the Lord of the Rings," achieves this feat. The world of Middle Earth is a far-cry from our own Earth, but what makes it so believable? I believe it is because it follows the same rules as our world. It is familiar, but at the same time intriguingly strange. Our predicament in entering Middle Earth is similar to that of the Hobbits the story is centered on. They are inhabitants of Middle Earth, but they have been comfortably sheltered in their land of the Shire. There has been a whole world beyond their borders, but it takes a wizard named Gandalf and a Ring of Power to push them into that world. The "Big-People", as the Hobbits call them, are perfectly at home in the land beyond the Shire. But to the little Shire-folk, what lies past their doorstep is both wonderful and frightening. And in the end, it is the Hobbits who save Middle Earth from the rise of Sauron.

C. S. Lewis, in the "Chronicles of Narnia", answers the same question, though to a lesser degree I think. And not just because LOTR is several levels above "Narnia." There is a fundamental difference between the two worlds. While Middle Earth is mysteriously beautiful, Narnia is comfortably familiar. Nothing in Narnia is strange, nothing surprises us. There is a passing mention of a "Deep Magic", but nothing touches that Magic except for a few instances: one is when the children reach the Woods Between the Worlds, where every one of the millions upon millions of pools of water contains its own world. Another is when Aslan returns from the dead. But after that it's business as usual. It reminds me of a mild fairytale. One with a very definite and decided moral. It holds no exciting, never-before-seen twist on an oft-repeated lesson. This is not simply because the intended audience is younger. It doesn't hold the same depth and mystery as Middle Earth. However, Narnia is still a good fantasy novel, because it creates a world that obeys the universal laws of right and wrong, with the true and the good always overcoming the evil.

That is what makes a good and true fantasy novel. The challenge issued by Mr. Chesterton is the one fantasy writers and story-tellers attempt to answer when they set out to spin their tales, whether or not they intend to do so. Mr. Tolkien is, in my opinion, the highest example of someone who has succeeded in answering the challenge.