Just Stop With the Harry Potter Stuff Already, Okay? Just… Stop.

img_7684My husband and I recently hung out with his family, and my sister and brother-in-law couldn’t believe that not only had I not seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I really, really didn’t want to. They asked if I’d read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I had to explain that it wasn’t even a real book.

I was slow to board the Harry Potter train (see what I did there… c’mon, that was funny!). People told me how great the books were, but because I’m contrary, I didn’t read them. But by the time the third book was out, I decided that I should read the first one so I could tell everyone that they were WRONG for loving them.

Yeah, it didn’t work out that way. I loved the first book. And the second. And the third. So I was crazy with anticipation as I waited for the fourth book to come out. I went to the bookstore at midnight. I told everyone who’d listen how great the books were. And I think I lost four copies of the first book after I loaned them out and they were never returned. That’s okay though… at least I introduced people to the magic of the world.

I love the books. If I got my letter to Hogwarts tomorrow (a few years later than most people), I’d be on Expedia buying a ticket London, heading to King’s Cross station before you could say “Accio Adulthood.”

The books aren’t perfect, of course. But they were good, and fun, and I enjoy re-reading them.

In my mind, there are seven books. The series is over. I don’t want to read the screenplay or see the spin-offs. I was happy with the ending, and anything else is likely to ruin it for me. It’s like when I have the perfect dinner, and eat one bite too many of dessert. Then I feel sick and start to regret the whole meal. Or when I go to paint night, and I like my painting, but because I’m done with it before everyone else, I fiddle with it, adding strokes or details, and eventually add too much and then I hate it.

Enough is enough. Seriously.

The Harry Potter series is seven books. As far as I’m concerned, the others don’t exist. Leave me be in my happy world of denial.

How to Win at Life

 

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Longhorn Cavern State Park, Marble Falls TX

There are no great stories that start without adversity. No one wants to hear about the rich man who got richer or the smart woman who got smarter.

We want to hear stories about people who beat odds. Who overcame obstacles.

Sometimes those obstacles are external. Life situations like poverty or bad parents. Racism. Oppression.

Sometimes the obstacles are internal. Like mental health issues. Perceived messages from others, like “You can’t do it” or “you’re not good enough.”

If Scrooge had been a philanthropist from the beginning, there wouldn’t have been a story. The narrator in Fight Club started off feeling powerless, and went on to make something bigger than himself. Abraham Lincoln was poor and mostly self-educated.

I know many successful people who beat themselves up for not being perfect. Of course, they know they’re not supposed to be perfect, will tell you that it’s impossible to be perfect, but then stress out over mistakes.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Maybe because we know we’re capable of being better than the mistakes we make? Maybe because we judge ourselves by our mistakes and worst behavior? Or we’re worried that others are judging us that way?

I’m sure that it’s all more complicated than just one or two reasons. Our brains are magnificent, frustrating, complex entities, capable of creating art and science, and capable of telling us that others have nothing better to do than remember when we say or do something we shouldn’t have.

Here’s the thing: your life is just a story. It’s a series of memories, and moments. You get to pick what you put int that story. You’re the narrator. Are you going to pick on your main character every time they screw up? Or are you going to treat them kindly, putting in only the learning from the mistakes?

Most of us don’t focus on all the times Harry Potter screwed up. He destroyed Voldemort in the end, so what does it matter that he drove a car into the Whomping Willow or that he didn’t learn occlumency? People still read Twilight, despite the fact that Edward was an emo sparkly vampire. (Maybe not the best example. And yes, as much as I make fun of it, I read and enjoyed Twilight. But please don’t tell anyone.) We still like Kevin Smith, even after Gigli.

Mistakes don’t define us. It’s how we deal with mistakes that counts.

X is for Crossover books

IMG_5580I don’t have a specific book for “X.”  I tried, but I got nothin’.

So instead of a specific book, I’m going to talk about crossover books.

When I was a kid, people either read kid books (which included young adult) or grown up books.  Then, along came Harry Potter, which everyone read.  After Harry Potter was Twilight, and suddenly the barrier on YA was blasted wide open.  Now it’s a legit genre for adults, and everyone is reading it.

I’ve never stopped reading young adult books and even some middle grade books.  If they’re well-written, I don’t see any problem with my enjoying them.

I’ve had people ask me why I was reading a particular book, “Isn’t that a kids’ book?” and my answer is always, “Because I like it.”

Since everyone started reading young adult books (or admitting they do), it does mean I have more people with whom I can discuss these books.

I think that genre is becoming less important with books than having them be interesting with characters people can connect to.  They also must have at least a little magic.

Many of the books I’ve written about during this challenge are books that I loved as a kid and still love as an adult.  Special mention of several other books that I won’t be talking about during this challenge, but have also managed to stick with me: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, Watership Down by Richard Adams, Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, anything by LJ Smith, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Are there any books from childhood/ teenage years that you still read?

The Timelessness of Stories

FlowersOnLedgeThe death of Alan Rickman got me to thinking about stories, and how important they are, in so many ways, to us all.

Everyone loves a good story, whether it’s one that’s been written down, acted out, or told.  Stories are one of the oldest forms of entertainment.  They’re endlessly flexible, and though the core of them has never changed (good vs. evil, love, etc), the way they are told does reflect the times.  Fiction has a way of holding up a mirror to what’s important in society.

Alan Rickman was a wonderful actor who played a myriad of parts, though he’s perhaps best known for his villains.  His death has led others to speak out about what a wonderful man and friend he was as well, something I didn’t give much thought to before his death.  To me he was Snape, Hans Gruber, the Metatron, the Sherrif of Nottingham, and so many other characters.

That’s the power that stories have.  Stories transport us from our everyday lives, and have the ability to speak truths more profound than if they were plainly stated.  There’s a reason why artists of every kind are important to a society, and why the stories they tell, if told well, overshadow the writer, the actor, the teller.  The tale is what’s important, and if told well, becomes alive.

Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813.  That’s over 200 years ago.  Yet there have been dozens of movie and TV adaptations of it.  Most recently, a parody novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been published and will be made into a movie.  The story takes the classic version and adds our currently cultural obsession.  There have been countless adaptations and spinoffs.  The story is timeless, and both Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are characters with lives of their own.  They’re not just names on paper; they’re living, breathing, people.  They’ve lived 200 years, and it’s unlikely that they’ll ever die.

I expect that Harry Potter will be the same way.  In our movie age, though, it’s likely that the books and the movies will always be merged, to an extent.  Who can picture Severus Snape without picturing Alan Rickman?  I can’t.  Will Alan Rickman still be Professor Snape 200 years from now?  Only time will tell, of course, but I’d like to believe that even if the movies are redone decades from now with fresh faces, Alan Rickman will always be the Snape that others are measured against.

There’s nothing I love better than a good story.  I want to be transported to different times and places.  I want to live inside someone else’s head for a little while, see through their eyes.  I love to talk to others about their stories, or the stories they love, or the stories they don’t love, and why.

I don’t want to hear about the weather; I want to hear about how the sun baked your skin, why you use sunblock (or don’t), what you think about vampires, and about whether or not you dance in the rain.

I don’t want to watch you use your cell phone while we’re at dinner; I want to hear about the last really great meal you had, whether or not you think you should have dessert first (because life’s short), whether or not you think that cell phones are secretly used by the government to listen to me talk about the weather, and how you use your phone to stay in touch with the people who are most important to you.

In other words, I’d rather hear you say something absurd than something mundane.  We’re all so in the habit of having safe conversations that we don’t say the really interesting things we’re thinking.  I’m wondering if people even have interesting thoughts anymore, or if cat videos are the current highlight of human insight.

Smile at me.  Say something absurd.  Tell me a story.

 

S is for Stories

So many books!  They're everywhere.

So many books! They’re everywhere.

For me, it’s all about the story.

I don’t care what you’re talking about: books, movies, people.  I love a good story.

I’m more liberal than most people about what makes a good story.  I don’t really care if there are plot holes or if the story has been done before.  I just care about how well the story is told.  Ordinary can be interesting in the same way that extraordinary can be boring.

A lot of people complained that Avatar was a cliched story, but I loved it.  Even if it’s a story I’ve heard before, I liked the way it was told, and it had enough new and interesting elements to keep it fresh.  People complained that Twilight had poor writing, but if it did, I didn’t notice when I read it.  I was too drawn in my the story to worry about the fact that Bella and Edward have an unhealthy relationship dynamic.  The story was interesting and fun.

I like literature.  I like reading about psychological theories.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy things at the other end of the spectrum, and everything in between.  As long as there’s an interesting story, I don’t mind if it’s cliche.  I enjoy stories I’ve read before, and I enjoy reading them in different forms, from different perspectives.  But then, I’m also the person who can read the same book over and over again and still have emotional reactions to it as if I were reading it for the first time.  (Where the Red Fern Grows makes me sob every. single. time.)

Stories connect me to the past.  Growing up, I loved Cinderella and Snow White, and remembering those stories gives me warm memories of my parents and grandparents.  I love sharing stories (discussing books and movie plots) with other people.  We all see the same story in different ways, and it’s interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on a story.

I know people who love sitcoms and comedy memoirs, but it can be hard for me to get into those things because I feel like too often, they focus on the punchline rather than the story.  There are always exceptions, of course, but my favorite stories are the ones that make me feel deeply, that make me cry or touch my heart.  I love characters who feel so real to me that they become part of my life even after I’ve closed the book.  Harry Potter, The Fault In Our Stars, Watership Down, Me Before You, and Watchers are just a few of the books that made me feel this way.

What’s your favorite type of story?  Do you have a book whose characters feel like part of your life?

I’m Having a Great Time- And Have the Pictures To Prove It!

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix AZ Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix AZ
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Being the Harry Potter fan I am, I’m fond of Daniel Radcliffe.  Yes, I realize he’s not really a wizard, but it’s hard to separate them.

You never hear that much about him, mostly because he seems pretty grounded and avoided the child star curse.  He’s just a guy who does stuff.  I read a recent interview with him, and the following quote really stood out for me:

“It’s an interesting thing: The internet isn’t about having a good time — it’s about showing people you’re having a good time. When you go out to bars and clubs, nobody’s actually dancing or enjoying themselves; they’re all taking photos of themselves at the bar so that later on they can say, ‘I was there, wasn’t it great?’ It’s crazy.”- Daniel Radcliffe

I’ve noticed this phenomenon before.  Every time I go on Facebook, as a matter of fact, I wonder for maybe a second or so, “Why is everyone having more fun than me?”  And I think I finally realized, maybe they’re not.  Maybe I just don’t take pictures of all the fun stuff I do.  I don’t update Facebook with: “I just blew through 50 pages of Man’s Search for Meaning, woo hoo!” complete with photos and the ubiquitous selfie.

I read an article that said that people are having more trouble forming memories because of the rampant picture taking we do.  By looking at things through a lens, instead of better remembering them, we remove ourselves from them.  In my house, we’re in the habit of no cell phones at meal times.  I’ve been trying to see something awesome, like when I’m hiking, and resist the urge to whip out my camera phone.  The picture never looks quite the same anyway, so if I sit there and drink it up instead of photographing it, maybe I’ll enjoy it more.

I love pictures as much (or more than) the next guy, but I’m trying to be where I am.  I try to just do what I’m doing without giving into the urge to document every step I take.  It can be hard.  I love taking pictures, and I have a nifty camera with me at all times!

I don’t think that picture taking is a positive or a negative.  I just think that we should strive to do all things in moderation, and picture taking is definitely one of them.  I love digital cameras because I can snap as much as I want to, but there comes a point when it actually intrudes on the experience, instead of adding to it.

So where do you weigh in on the whole picture taking thing?

 

 

 

First Words

Phoenix Art Museum Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Phoenix Art Museum
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

As I was drifting on the edge of sleep last night, I had a random thought, as I sometimes do, and I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

In books and movies (good ones, at least), first words in a relationship are important.  They set the tone for the relationship going forward.  In Harry Potter, Hermione’s first words to Harry and Ron were, “Has anyone seen a toad?  Neville’s lost one.”  She sounded bossy, and was taking charge, even then.

But in real life, we don’t bookmark moments, and they often pass by with little notice.  I remember how I met my oldest friend; we were 6, and her finger was slammed in the desk by another girl.  I imagine my first words were something like, “Are you okay?”  I remember being attracted to my husband because he wanted “an interesting woman,” but I don’t remember how I decided he was interesting in those early days.  I remember that we talked for hours but don’t remember what either of us said.

But as to the rest of my friendships, I remember very little about their beginnings, because in early days, those relationships aren’t important, and by the time they are, those early days have become blurry.  The most important moments in life are usually only important in retrospect.

That’s probably why conversation is so hard to write; most conversations are nothing profound.  I’ve tried to listen to my conversations with others, but the problem is that if I’m listening to them, I’m not in them.  Conversation often blurs around the edges too, in retrospect.

In writing, it’s hard to make conversation sound real, because if it’s really realistic, then it’s pretty boring.  Think about it.  Most conversations are pretty boring.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has some of the best conversations I’ve seen in any book, but I wouldn’t exactly call it realistic.  The teens are too witty and without the missteps and awkwardness of real conversations.

Lucky for me, I’m care more about entertaining and being entertained than I do about whether or not something is “realistic.”  Still, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could rewind life, not to change, but just to see?  “Oh yeah, I remember now!”