Hero Time

I just started reading The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, which is second in a series of books by Alan Bradley. 

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photo from examiner.com

The series has a unique heroine–11-year-old Flavia de Luce.  Flavia loves chemistry, and she seems to find herself solving mysteries.  Yes, she’s a little bit dark and thinks about her death occasionally while lying in the parish cemetery.  But she’s wonderful.  She’s loves to learn and pays attention to what’s going on around her.  She might play horrible tricks on her sisters, but as a younger sister myself, I can say that they probably had it coming.  (Love you, big brother!)  She’s basically a genius British version of Nancy Drew with a dark side. 

All of this to say that my life would be different without books and a few specific girlhood heroes.  I grew up wanting to be just like Anne of Green Gables and Elizabeth Bennett.  And if I had been able to read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (first in the FdL series) before it was published in 2009, I would have grown up wanting to be like Flavia de Luce, too.  I might even have taken a bit more interest in my high school chemistry class.

I’m not exactly anti-Disney princess.  Thanks to Beauty and the Beast, I knew I wasn’t the only girl in the world (even if I was thinking of an imaginary world) who ran around singing with books under my arm on a regular basis.  I knew it was okay to stick up for the underdog and to sacrifice for your family.  Well done, Belle!

But I will say that I’m very much in favor of finding other heroes for little girls.  Anne of Green Gables taught me about the appropriate level of spunk and imagination for lots of different situations.  I sometimes exceed the appropriate imagination level to this day, but it mostly ends with me being entertained and no harm done.  I call it a win.

Elizabeth Bennett taught me to judge others carefully, even when the truth seems obvious.  That one is a tough lesson even in adulthood, but I’m trying.  And those are just a few examples. 

I’m blissfully happy that people are still writing stories like this.  Stories about people who may or may not fit in perfectly where they’re planted, but they’re worth looking up to and cheering for.  They’re deeper than crushes and clothes and palaces, and they make you think in a slightly different way.  I love being encouraged to think well.  Thanks for the addition to my hall of favorites, Alan Bradley. 

Current Anne

Isn’t it strange how certain smells and sounds and even songs can conjure up the same memory every time you run into them?  The smell of boxwood plants always reminds me of eating watermelon in the summer at my great uncle’s farmhouse.  I’m seven years old again every time I smell them.

For the past few weeks, I’ve heard this new song on the radio here and there.  Then it appeared on my iPod and the run-ins became more frequent.  Imagine that.  The song in question is by The Band Perry, and it’s called If I Die Young.  It doesn’t sound cheery, I know.  It is really pretty though, and the memory that it brings up is a scene from a favorite childhood book/movie–Anne of Green Gables.

Anne is dramatic, to say the least.  In the scene in question, she’s floating around a lake, pretending to be Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, who floats down the river to find her love and dies on the way.  The song covers the same subject matter in a different order (death before floating away), and we’ll just say that I’m not doing it justice with this description.  It’s not creepy, I promise.  The beauty of having this current song that reminds me of Anne is that now something I loved back in the day has a 2010 milestone in my brain.

In addition to being an important part of my past and a classic literary figure, Anne is the source of one of my favorite single-girl quotes.  She’s talking about the fact that her best friend’s fiance is just too good.  When asked if she would rather marry a wicked man, Anne responds, “Well, I wouldn’t marry anyone who was really wicked, but I think I’d like it if he could be wicked and wouldn’t.”  Exactly.  So with the help of The Band Perry, it’s nice to add Anne and all of her wisdom to a niche of my grown-up memories.

P.S.  After writing this, I did some research and found out that the music video for If I Die Young directly references The Lady of Shalott.  That made me happy.

Planning for the Abyss

Yesterday’s haiku left a lot to be desired in the humor department.  That’s just how Microsoft makes me feel sometimes.  I had one big project that I needed to finish, and my computer decided that it wouldn’t open the Excel file that was necessary for that one project.  It made me grumpy.

Today is new and bright, however.  I even wore obnoxiously perky colors to guarantee a cheery outlook.  Bill Gates will be forced to bow to the perkiness.

Anyway, work frustration brings me to the lovely topic of work.  Work and goals.  Goals and life.

I haven’t had any real goals for the past year and a half, despite the fact that I’ve been a planner my entire life.  Having plans has always made me feel good, even if things didn’t turn out as intended.  For laughs, here are some of my past life plans:

Ages 3-5–Hug my favorite stuffed animal so much that he turns into an amorphous lump of stuffing and grey fuzz

Ages 6-14–Become a famous singer or Anne of Green Gables

Ages 15-17–Get into college and worry about the rest of life later

Ages 18-22–Become an editor, or maybe a lobbyist for free trade, or an art museum curator, or professional gypsy, or lobbyist for free trade, or banker, or travel writer, or lobbyist for free trade

Ages 23-24–Get a graduate degree so that having a job won’t involve burning my hands several times a day on coffee equipment

Ages 25-26–Oh, crap.  I don’t have any career goals anymore.

The important things in those plans did happen.  My stuffed animal definitely turned into an amorphous lump, I went to college, finished grad school, and my job no longer involves piping hot coffee equipment.  So when I arrived at the 25 and career goal-less stage, I thought I could use a few years to live without pressing goals.  I thought the lack of giant looming life changes would turn me into a super chill, go-with-the-flow type of girl.  Only that’s not who I am.  I’m still a planner.

It’s not about doing as planned.  It’s about looking into the yawning abyss of the future and convincing yourself that you’re armed to face the next step.  Instead of arming myself for the abyss, I spent the last year and a half buying a house, painting it lots of different colors, and learning how to mow the lawn and cook.  I also worked full-time and tried not to attack any Microsoft products.  It’s been a good year and a half.  But I miss my plans.

I don’t want to be floating around in goal-less land forever, so I’m working on that now.  I’m thinking and mulling and trying to come up with something more logical than “become a famous singer or Anne of Green Gables.”  Hopefully my mind has advanced since I was six years old.  When I do make a plan, I’ll be sure to announce it so that you can chuckle to yourself when I do something completely different six months later.