Read Into It: Wise Child and Juniper

Wise Child and Juniper

by Monica Furlong


Wise Child by Monica Furlong takes place in a small Scottish village, with some magic thrown in for good measure.  Personally, I really enjoy it when fantasy is grounded in a historical(ish) fiction. Wise Child (yes – that’s her name) never knew her mother, and after her father mysteriously vanishes, she goes to live with Juniper, a semi-ostracized woman living on the outskirts of town, who the townsfolk fear is a sorceress. There, although initially resistant and scared, she learns about nature, herbology, healing, and developing her innate talents for more supernatural powers.  Wise Child herself is reluctant to do this and is generally spoiled and whiny at the beginning of the book. But she grows into a competent young woman who has to make some tough choices about loyalty and helps to conquer the challenges, both physical, and emotional, of living with a witch (essentially) as her guardian.  A major puzzle in this book was about Juniper’s own backstory, particularly in regards to how she knew Wise Child’s father, Finbar, and from where Maeve the enchantress’s animosity towards Juniper came.  Fortunately, many enlightening details were added in the prequel, Juniper.

 

Juniper is the prequel to Wise Child, also by Monica Furlong. The character of Juniper is introduced in Wise Child as the village herbalist/outcast/witch.  But through the eyes of Wise Child, the reader sees the truth about Juniper – that she is a kind, patient, wise women who teaches Wise Child how to be doran, a powerful woman adept in natural and beneficial white magic. While Wise Child covers the story of Juniper’s pupil, Wise Child (yes- that’s still her name), the prequel, Juniper, covers Juniper’s origin story and her own experiences training to be a doran, in a unique and heroic coming-of-age story.  Juniper was a substantially different girl than Wise Child. Wise Child seemed portrayed as a more selfish, and ungrateful character who actually had it pretty easy as Juniper’s student.  Juniper, on the other hand,  although a typical child in many ways, was a much more grounded, kind and dedicated child while her own teacher, Euny, was almost shockingly strict and harsh towards her than she later was towards Wise Child.  It was especially interesting to read Juniper after Wise Child.  Juniper was published a couple years after Wise Child and really allowed for some fun introspection and insight into Juniper’s character and backstory. I would definitely recommend these books, as they are so interesting and realistic.  Personally, I would read Wise Child first, then Juniper, then Wise Child AGAIN for the best experience with the most depth of meaning!

Both books explore similar meanings, concepts and themes: The mother-daughter relationship, the teacher-student relationship, respect for nature, the dangers of judging based on appearance, and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Ultimately, the stories are both inspiring and encouraging portrayals of young women growing into powerful women in similar, yet original ways.  Their stories follow a similar structure and pattern, but they follow that pattern in unique ways specific to their own individual personalities and characteristics.  I love these books because they effectively communicate that a girl can grow into a strong woman in a variety of different ways, and while the paths to get there may be in the same direction, there are many paths, and not everyone’s path is the same.

awwwwwwww <3

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monica_Furlong

Illiteracy Weekly Newsletter

…. I wish I’d started this homework assignment earlier instead of 3 hours before it was due… it was A LOT of fun, and I’d love to have put more time and energy into it! I wish the content was better… but I guess it’s funnier if it’s NOT! 😉

If you can’t read the tiny text, no big deal… it’s mostly about articles we had to read for class.

This is what the ‘inspirational’ photo says, in case you can’t read it.  😉
(It’s in the rotation of backgrounds on my laptop)

WORDS, WORDS, powerful WORDS!

“Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.”
-Hamza Yusuf

Words are powerful.  And they are especially powerful in influencing and impacting young children, who have often not fully developed discerning critical thinking skills and are easily convinced that Santa is real, or eating carrots will make them see in the dark. Prevalent themes and topics in children’s literature are constantly changing – How these themes develop and change over time and how authors adapt to this transformation can be observed both in the progression of their individual works, as well as the progression of all literary works. The words about these themes and topics have the power to significantly influence people, not only about things trivial, or specific opinions, but also about beliefs, ideas, ways of thinking and how to be a human.

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
-Pearl Strachan Hurd

Some consistently common topics and themes are those of obedience and questioning the traditional, looking beyond appearances, and envisioning and exploring the possibility of a better future.  While these overarching ideas have remained fairly stable in their appearance, associated opinions and perspectives regarding these portrayals are always in flux. With the power of words, the authors of children’s literature can spread awareness of current issues, encourage and develop new and modern viewpoints, and impact readers in a variety of ways.

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Historically, viewpoints on obedience and tradition have been more positive and encouraging of these values.  Today, strict obedience is more and more frequently depicted as undesirable, and the questioning and challenging of the traditional is depicted as more acceptable -thank goodness! We need a little healthy rebellion in our lives every now and then in order to fight for the creation and development of positive advances and an altogether better world. Literary characters question their reality by choosing alternative paths and practice critical thinking about the world around them, especially in regards to appearances. Frequently, characters that look beautiful, are, in fact, villains, and those with physical or emotional differences or defects prove to be heroes or redeemably praiseworthy. Even words can be misjudged based on their appearance. Interpretation is already subjective, and even when an author’s intent seems clear, language exists in such a way that they may actually be saying something entirely different!

“The pen is mightier than the sword”
– Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The protagonist of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series, Lyra, is often disobedient and rebellious, and grows to be suspicious of beautiful and/or powerful people, but these behavior patterns are not depicted as inherently negative, and are actually regularly rewarded.  Many of Ursula Le Guin’s characters rebel in similar way against traditional societal behaviors, those of their constructed literary world, as well as those of the world outside the books.  The dragons even reject gender at all! Fantastic! Let us all be more open-minded, like dragons! Through these consistent rebellions and questions, (now) standard fantasy characters develop unique identities and supply valuable contributions to develop and enrich their worlds. In this way, authors can influence readers to aspire to similar identity development and enriching contributions. Powerful. And hopeful.

“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
– Rumi

It was initially a bit disheartening to read Ursula Le Guin’s intro of ‘Earthsea Revisited,’ just because it is sadly still so relevant that “women are seen in relation to heroes: as mother, wife, seducer, beloved, victim, or rescuable maiden” (1). She wrote this in 1999, and even today it is depressingly very applicable to the majority of ‘heroes’ in literature, film, and REAL LIFE!  It was really interesting to see how Le Guin herself was aware of society’s impact on her own writing choices in terms of female roles and limitations: “I simply lacked the courage to make my heroine doubly Other” (2).  Even when she included powerful female characters, they were not necessarily defined as typical heroes.  While Earthsea has a male-dominated society and emphasis, her series seems to develop over time in complexity and grow more organically inclusive.

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
– Albus Dumbledore

Through the convincing and compelling enrichments of fantasy worlds, the outside world can be enriched simultaneously through new developments and insights.  The words used in the exploration of possible peaceful and harmonious futures can encourage peaceful and harmonious futures for modern society.  Even exploring dismal futures can inspire change, also encouraging a future of peace and harmony. Le Guin’s dominating theme of her first trilogy was “the quest for inner harmony and personal wholeness” (Marek Oziewicz, Rediscovering harmony: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea sequence”), a thematic quest idea that is congruent with the search for a better future.  “Le Guin’s vision is neither Utopian nor dystopian, but rather what may be called ‘melioristic,’ meaning tending to betterment through human effort – or maybe through the opening of human hearts.” (Lenz, 2001, pp.77) Through the encouragement of the development of personal peace and harmony, in literary works as well as reflections upon those works, perhaps a future of real peace and harmony can be achieved.

That’d be hella sweet.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– John Keating

I dunno… he’s telling me with words…. should I believe him?

… wait… I’m using words… Am I influencing YOU? Do I mean what I am saying? What message am I even communicating!!?

WORDCEPTION.

What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?

What IS the use of stories that aren’t even true?


The oft-asked question in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is, “What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?”

While Rushdie’s book is described as an example of a more comical and light subdivision of the fantasy genre, each form of fantasy contains within it a variety of aspects that resonate within additional fantastical categories. Rushdie’s question can be applied to and answered through any genre of fantasy.

There is truth in every fictional story, and the uses of fictional stories, while dependent to some extent upon author intent and reader response, are, in fact, infinite.

If fictional stories had no use, why would anyone write fiction or fantasy? 

Storytellers may not be aware of their subtexts, attitudes, or perspectives about the purpose or benefit of their words and stories, but that does not mean they are not present.  While ideas about use may vary and differ, each author must believe that their storytelling will be put to some use or another.  These uses are often subjective, multifaceted, and numerous.  Just as an author may communicate many different ideas, meanings, and uses, readers may also interpret or superimpose many different ideas, meanings, and uses.  C.S. Lewis communicated tenants of Christian theology through many of his works, but he also reiterated the use of fantasy as a way for readers to address real-life issues, through a fantasy world to explore “emotional dilemmas (they) feel faced by in their everyday lives” (Rustin, 1987, p. 40).  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is clearly representative of the important use of fantasy as a tool to address cultural, societal, emotional, and psychological needs, understanding, and development – a prevalent perspective about fantasy’s value and use.

The primary, overarching importance of the use of children’s fantasy literature is the idea that the genre addresses and fulfills vital “psychological, cultural and aesthetic needs which are disregarded by most other forms of contemporary literature” (Oziewicz, 2008, p. 66). 

Fantasy allows the fears and worries of society to be addressed and explored, as well as providing a great deal of “potential as an emotional survival strategy” (Bharat, 2015, p. 305).  In addition, “stories can be a cohesive force in constructing a community” (Mukherjee, 1998, p. 175), a force that allows communities to overcome obstacles and experience positive growth and development.  Lloyd Alexander’s “The Grammar of Story” emphasizes this importance by detailing the ways in which words and storytelling can work magic.  Rushdie’s narrative in Haroun and the Sea of Stories provides valuable political and cultural implications about the intrinsic value and power of words and stories. This is just one narrative that articulates the importance of stories and storytelling and the ways in which they can be applied to resisting terror and oppression by conquering fears through living life instead of through grand, cosmic acts of courage.

Through the creation of a fantasy narrative such as this, an author can invent their own logic and use and incorporated it into each aspect of the story, so it has a sturdy base: “We don’t dig the foundation after the house is built” (Alexander, 1981, p. 10), and the fantasy world must have “identifiable and workable laws underpinning it” (Yolen, 1996, p. 173).  While each work of fantasy is unique, they are all bonded by their structure and interconnected in their capacity to encourage imaginative exploration and address very real concepts, dilemmas, and threats, such as the “tyranny of fear” (Bharat, 2015, p. 304).  New fears are constantly arising, and all types of fantasy literature can help to confront and explore these fears through large societal battles of terrorism and oppression as well as smaller, but no less important, battles of personal conflict, growth, and development.

Conflict is the dynamic element of any story, and the fate of the world can be affected by cosmic, mythopoeic quest and conflict as well as by the conflict-response behavior of a single person, as revealed through interactions with themselves, others, and the world around them.

While each fantasy story may be categorized according to a general consensus of its overall purpose, use, or tone, each fantasy story is an amalgam of diverse components that draw on a variety of ideas about the truth of untrue stories.  “What is the use of stories that aren’t even true?”  The use of Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is to answer this very question, and in many ways, this is the use of every work of fantasy literature.  Storytellers create illusions, and the truth in that illusion is “how thoroughly it convinces us of its reality; how strongly it resonates in our emotions; how deeply it moves us to new feelings and new insights.” (Alexander, 1981, p. 4).

Truth is not always convincing, and a fantasy story can help a reader to recognize and understand the truth in the world around them.

‘Untrue’ fantasy stories are incredibly valuable in an infinite number of ways.  Each fantasy genre, and each fantasy story, has unique and distinctive qualities.  In mythopoeic fantasy, adventure has momentous scale and consequences. However, while lighter fantasy genres may seem to lack cosmic battles of good versus evil, the adventures and battles still have consequences that are momentous to the characters experiencing them.

While mythopoeic fantasy suggests big answers to big questions, small answers to small questions are just as substantially cosmic to those affected by them.

A child can have an adult adventure that articulates hope for all humanity by the simple act of articulating the hope of one human. 

One human is a part of humanity, and the truth is that one child can change the world.


References

Alexander, Lloyd. (1981). The grammar of story. In Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye (Eds), Celebrating children’s books: Essays on children’s literature in honor of Zena Sutherland. (pp. 3-13). New York: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books.

Bharat, Meenakshi. (2015). Creative fear in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and Luka: The ‘safe house’ of children’s literature. In Marvels & tales. (pp. 304-323).

Lewis, C.S. (1950). The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. New York: Harper Collins.

Mukherjee, Meenakshi. (1998). Politics and children’s literature: a Reading of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In Ariel: a Review of international English literature. (pp. 163-177).

Oziewicz, Marek. (2008). One earth, one people: The Mythopoeic fantasy series of Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander, Madeline L’Engle, and Orson Scott Card. New York: Simon Pulse.

Rowling, J.K. (1999). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic.

Rushdie, Salman. (1990). Haroun and the sea of stories. New York: Penguin.

Rustin, Margaret and Michael. (1987). Narnia: an Imaginary land as container for moral and emotional adventure. In Narratives of love and loss: Studies in modern children’s fiction. (pp. 40-58). New York: Verso.

Strimel, Courtney B. (2004). The politics of terror: Rereading Harry Potter,” In Children’s literature in education. (pp. 35-52).

Yolen, Jane. (1996). Turtles all the way down. In Sheila Egoff et al. (Eds) Only connect: Readings on children’s literature. (pp. 164-174). New York: Oxford University Press.

Identity, Assumptions, and Hope – OH MY!

Identity, Assumptions, and Hope – OH MY!


One of the papers for my fantasy literature class detailing the ways fantasy can offer new perspectives, help people cope with trauma and problems, and encourage critical thinking.


A common thread found in fantasy literature is the transposition of societal issues into fantastical forms to use perspective to better comprehend and process these issues. This transposition distances the reader from reality and abstracts the issues, allowing them to be more easily explained and understood through metaphorical connections.  Contentious and significant issues such as racism, classism, terrorism, power, identity, discrimination and stereotypes can often be explored through fantasy literature parallels and reflections.  Critical thinking concepts and overarching values of humanity can also be presented and investigated to great effect though fantasy. There is no end to the range of societal issues fantasy literature can introduce and examine to reach beneficial comprehension and valuable meaning.

Fantasy is so valuable because it “invokes the possibility of living under different terms and conditions” (Whitley, 2000, p. 175), and “can engage seriously with key issues within contemporary culture” (Whitley, 2000, p. 182).  J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Nancy Farmer’s the House of the Scorpion are both excellent examples of demonstrating engagement with key contemporary cultural issues through living under different conditions.  Each book presents a narrative that challenges basic assumptions about identity, ambiguity, and power dynamics as well as encourages that the reader think more critically about and observe more carefully the interactions and interpretations around them.

Mistaken assumptions or interpretations and engrained stereotypes are present in each of these fantasy books.  In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is told that Sirius Black is evil and wants him dead, and he believes it is the truth.  He hears this well-established interpretation from people he trusts and people in power, and they are all wrong.  Assumptions were made and cemented, which led to a flawed communal perception. This radical example of the promotion of misinformation encourages the reader to ask questions and think more critically. An information source may purposefully and knowingly promote a false perception, but a source may just be ignorant of the truth.  Even if a source is trusted, the truth may be vastly different from society’s common perception.

Society’s common perception in Nancy Farmer’s book is one that clones are unintelligent beasts.  Certain viewpoints are taught about clones and identity that are false.  Matt proves many assumptions wrong when he meets people who hold the entrenched negative opinions regarding clones.  His characteristics are inconsistent with their pre-conceived assumptions.  Those in power actively choose to spread these assumptions about clones to take advantage of them.  In Rowling’s book, there are also people in power who knowingly endorse fictitious or deceptive explanations to their own benefit.

Such conscious misinformation emphasizes the inherent ambiguity within the nature of humanity, which becomes tangled and complex in both books.  The characters are often ambiguous and contradictory within both their true and their perceived identities.  The identity can be a fragile thing.  It can be shaped by, or discovered by observing negative assumptions and prejudices.  Matt’s identity was shaped by the negative limited perspectives to which he had access.  Because of the marginalization he experiences, his perspectives are impacted. Being a clone in his world is to be inferior and unclean.  In Harry Potter’s world, some believe that being a muggle, or muggle-born is to be inferior and unclean.  However, appearances can be deceiving, and appearance doesn’t always mean physical appearance, it can also mean identity or perceived identity. Hermione is harassed for her muggle-born status, Hagrid is discriminated against for being a half-giant with a (wrongful) criminal record, and Remus Lupin is treated with unfair prejudice and disgust for being a werewolf.  Humanity is not always simple, nor is it always reflective of outward appearance or commonly-held beliefs about identities.  Rowling’s books force children “to consider characterizations of goodness and badness” (Strimel, 2004, p. 45), and the consequences and implications of these characterizations.  The ambiguity inherent in the characterizations presents another opportunity to think critically about people and events, both real, and imaginary.

In each of these books, the impact of the fantastical transposition is amplified due to solid foundations in real issues. Fantasy literature needs to have substantiality to be most effective in exploring society’s problems and possibilities.  The wish-fulfilment that fantasy literature offers “needs to be grounded in something substantial if it is to become fully satisfying” (Whitley, 2000, p. 175). Farmer bases her story on circumstances and prejudices that already exist between differing peoples, and scientific advances that are already happening.  Science fiction such as this presents a unique opportunity to explore the ramifications of future societal issues and problems.  By looking to the hypothetical potential good and bad of the future, it is helpful to “open our minds to all possibilities” (Greenfield, 2003, p. 9).  Rowling also presents a wide range of hypothetical situations and possibilities, as well as utilizes widespread prejudice in which to base her world. In addition, her fantasy is grounded in reality through common mythological, religious, and cultural viewpoints and archetypes that are relatable and familiar.

From terrorism to depression, from identity to religion, fantasy is constantly offering new perspectives and the hope to overcome the perpetration of harmful perspectives, opinions, and stereotypes.  Both Rowling’s and Farmer’s fantasy books emphasize the misleading potential of a limited viewpoint.  Hope exists, and with a little knowledge, creativity, and guidance, perhaps fantasy literature can help lead society into tolerance, acceptance, and open-mindedness.


References

Cohen, Signe. (2016). A postmodern wizard: The religious bricolage of the Harry Potter series In Journal of religion and popular culture.  (pp. 54-66).

Crew, Hilary S. (2004). Not so brave a world: The representation of human cloning in science fiction for young adults, In The lion and the unicorn. (pp. 203-221.)

Farmer, Nancy. (2004). The house of the scorpion. New York: Simon Pulse.

Greenfield, Susan. (2003). The future: What is the problem? In Tomorrow’s people: How 21st century technology is changing the way we think and feel. (pp. 1-9). London: Allen Lane.

Rowling, J.K. (1999). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic.

Strimel, Courtney B. (2004). The politics of terror: Rereading Harry Potter,” In Children’s literature in education. (pp. 35-52).

Whitley, D. (2000). Fantasy narratives and growing up. In Eve Bearne and Victor Watson (Eds), Where texts and children meet. (pp. 172-182.) New York: Routledge Press.

Yolen, Jane. (1996). Turtles all the way down.” In Sheila Egoff et al. (Eds) Only connect: Readings on children’s literature. (pp. 164-174). New York: Oxford University Press.

Ella Enchanted and Being an Ordinary Hero

One of my ultimate favorite fantasy books as a child, and still today, is the reworked fairy tale, “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine.  It retells the classic literary fairy tale of Cinderella with some new twists: Ella is, in fact, under a fairy’s gift (curse) to always be obedient.  The tale is a familiar one, but provides more depth and detail about the protagonist and her own journey to discover herself and break the curse herself.  In addition, it answers that question that was always infuriating to me about the size of Cinderella’s feet – surely there was more than one girl in the kingdom whose feet could fit the glass slipper!  Well, in this story, Ella has fairy ancestry, and fairies have significantly smaller-than-average sized feet, so THERE!  Levine’s attention to details such as these really grounded the story and made it more believable to me – it was definitely logical and made sense within the framework she created and expanded upon. While it certainly shares many patterns and characteristics with both more traditional fairy tales as well as reworked fairy tales, this is by far my favorite retelling of Cinderella.  I like that it addresses the real-life issues of the importance of being strong by making your own decisions, standing up for what you believe in, and the worth of sacrifice in relation to love and the protection of those you love.

“Ella Enchanted” provides a universe that is similar to one children have already experienced, but includes a great deal more in the way of explanations, possibilities and self-driven opportunity.  It is a great example of a way to challenge a reader to see beyond more simplistic explanations and search for new perspectives and explanations.  A retold fairy tale is a great example of this, because the concrete universe has already been established, and by telling the same tale from a new perspective, new questions can be unearthed, alternate mindsets discovered, and previously unconsidered horizons can be expanded.  This particular retelling is also consistent with the idea of concepts carrying over from the fantastical worlds to the real ones.  In “Ella Enchanted,” Ella is a real girl with a flaw that she has to work to overcome.  This is certainly a concept that is applicable to many people.  While Ella may not fit the traditional archetype of ‘hero,’ she is still heroic.  She becomes, through her own strength of will, her own knight in shining armor – in the process, saving herself, her prince, and the entire kingdom.  If someone as seemingly average and insignificant as Ella can create such a vast and positive impact, surely this will inspire those who read about her to feel hope and optimism that they, too, can overcome significant challenges and obstacles to create a positive impact on themselves and the world around them.

Fairy tales have been around for a long time.  And with each retelling, they have continued to change and grow ever since their inception.  “Ella Enchanted” is a distinctive example of 21st century fantasy with an alternate world that is still attached to a familiar and long-standing one.  While it may lack the grandeur of Tolkien, or the epic tragedy of Rowling, it is accessible in its realism and its message – one that, while not political or catastrophic, speaks to the more personal internal battles that still must be fought and are no less important than those larger-than-life clashes between good and evil.  “Ella Enchanted” has no evil villain to be abolished or grand quest to be completed.  There are good characters and bad characters, but the main struggle is simply one between a girl and the unwarranted chance restrictions and conditions to which she finds herself bound.  Ella is ordinary, but she is strong.  And it is that kind of inner strength and conviction that is an amazing resource in struggling through such challenges as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Read it.  Or else.

(If you were Ella, you’d HAVE to obey me, but as it is, you have the freedom of choosing.)

I’ve had this copy for NINETEEN YEARS! I think it looks pretty good considering how many times I’ve read it!

I’m Excited To Do Homework? School Can Be Fun!

Well, I DID IT!!!  

I completed the first class of my graduate certificate program in Children’s Literature!!!

It was called “The Art of the Picturebook,” and I never knew that school could be so interesting and fun!!  I’ve enjoyed some classes throughout my college career, but none so much as this! I was actually excited to do homework! WHUUUUT!?? weird…  I never really felt like I fit in in any of the other classes or programs I took in the past.  I guess I just needed to find the right program.  And books have always been important to me.  And now I can explore that further! Yaaaaayyyy!!!

http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/childrens-literature-certificate/overview

This is how I feel about this program!

Sunshine Superman

Going outside in the sun is great! (if you can find it and get there)

Vitamin D deficiency is actually pretty common (especially here in the Pacific Northwest), and can make you feel crappy and tired.

http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/vitamin-d-deficiency#1

http://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-d-deficiency#overview1

Ideally, you could take advantage of the sun when it’s out, participating in fun, outdoor activities like hiking and picnics and frolicking and having adventures with your friends and loved ones!

However, when you can’t leave the house and don’t want to interact with people, but you know that vitamin D is good for you, just go somewhere as private as possible that is in the sun.   If you don’t feel able to make your way to some special nook in your favorite local park, take advantage of your yard (preferably the back yard).  A friend or neighbor’s yard will work too!  I usually sneak out around back and hide in the corner of the yard where no neighbors can see me.  Sometimes I bring a pillow and soothing cool beverage, and if I’m ambitious, a book.

Just don’t forget the sunblock.

Read Into It: Blackthorn and Grim

Reading is always a way to escape reality for a little while into a different universe.

Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors.  I love and re-read almost all of her books.  She deals primarily in historical fantasy – mostly for adults, and some for young adults.

Blackthorn and Grim:

The Blackthorn and Grim trilogy consists of Dreamers Pool, Tower of Thorns, and Den of Wolves.

This particular series touches on some very serious issues, such as PTSD, trust-building, growth, recovery, how helping others can help yourself, and how to rebuild your life after you have suffered from extreme trauma.  PLUS: medieval Ireland, unconventional heroes, and mysterious MAGIC!

Here is part of the description of the first book: 

“What if you were locked up awaiting execution and a stranger offered you a bargain that would set you free?  What if accepting bound you to certain rules of behaviour for seven years, rules you knew you were likely to break within days? And what if the penalty for breaking them was to find yourself back where you started, eaten up with bitterness and waiting to die?

Blackthorn chooses life, even though she must promise not to seek vengeance against her arch-enemy, Lord Mathuin. In company with a cell-mate, the hulking, silent Grim, the one-time healer and wise woman flees north to Winterfalls, where she settles on the fringe of the mysterious Dreamer’s Wood.  Blackthorn has promised her benefactor, the fey nobleman Conmael, that she will use her gifts only for good. But she and Grim are both scarred by the past, and the embittered healer finds her promise increasingly hard to keep.”

Read more about these great books on Juliet’s website: julietmarillier.com!

Aren’t these covers beautiful?

It’s Simpler To Be a Sim

Pretending to be a sim is a great way to assess your mood when you feel like crap, but are having a hard time figuring out why. You know those needs bars in the game the Sims?  When you get really overwhelmed, think of those and how you would deal with them in the Sims.  You evaluate where you are in each category – are you in the green?  Or is the bar red with that arrow to the left?  Identify the problem areas and fix them in order of easiest-hardest.

S – Self-scan :

Think of each need category and assess your level.  It helps to ask yourself questions more like; “When did I last eat” rather than, “Am I hungry.”  Sometimes you don’t know why you feel the way you feel, or what needs the most attention.

I – Itemize improvements:

Think of how you can fix each problem area and then organize your plans to get back in the green in a way that makes sense to you.  Usually that’s easiest to hardest, but sometimes you start with the category that is the MOST RED.  Sure, you might be in the kitchen with a snack on your way to your mouth, but if you’re about to pee your pants, do that first. (please).

M – Manage momentum:

I guess that’s a fancy way of saying just do it.

  • Bladder
    • Easiest fix. GO POTTY!
  • Hunger
    • Eat something. Too hard to decide or to make something? Fruit and string cheese are my go-tos.  Just stick it in your mouth.  It’s also handy to prepare by stocking up on super easy meals for hunger emergencies.  My emergency meal is Yakitori chicken and fried rice from Costco.  It’s yummy, hot, and takes three minutes in the microwave.
yummmmmmmm
  • Hygiene
    • Take a shower – you stink! Too hard to stand up? Sit down in the shower.  No rule says you can’t.  (I call it a shather). Or take a bath.  Still too much work?  Wash your face.  Brush your teeth or hair.  Invest in those make-up removal wipes for when even that is too hard. Been wearing the same clothes for three days? Change ’em!
  •  Energy
  • Fun
    • Do something you have fun (or used to have fun doing).  See a movie, hang out with friends, play laser tag. If you’re thinking, “Ugh… FUN. What even is that?”  Just take baby steps. Youtube ‘unlikely animal friendships,’ or ‘kitten derp.’ Play your favorite cheerful song.  Just take three minutes and listen to it. Or if you feel able and spritely, move your body WHILE you listen to it! Dance parties are high energy, but you can handle it for ONE song maybe, right?  It might be helpful to make a note whenever something you do makes you even a little happy.  Then you can refer to it when your fun meter is especially low.
      • This is one that helps me:
  • Social
    • Yeah, yeah interact with someone.  (This is especially tough if you are an introvert, like I am.) You may hate the idea of it, but your hate will probably lessen if you are actually doing something with someone else.  Hang out with friends, go to an event, talk to someone for just 5 minutes.  You don’t really want to see any of your friends?  Okay, just leave the house and have a random positive interaction with someone – anyone.   The best way to do this is with someone in customer service – it is LITERALLY part of their job to try to connect and be nice to you.  Go grab a coffee and remember to smile at your barista and say hello, please, and thank you.  If that’s too long of an interaction, then try complimenting someone on something.  It doesn’t really matter what (well, don’t be offensive).  You don’t even have to particularly believe it.  As you’re passing a stranger, just pick something about them, and then say you like it.  Like, “Hey – cute shoes!” It takes three words.  Two if you leave out, “hey.” Minimal effort, you make someone else feel good, which will in turn make you feel good, and LOOK you had a social interaction! Congratulations!  Your bar is moving towards the green! If even leaving the house is unthinkable, invite someone over.  Specify that you might be in your pajamas. Can’t even bear the thought of being in the company of another human? Cuddle up to your pet or hug a stuffed animal.  Reach out to people you care about via facebook, email, chat, whatever.  Send someone a text letting them know you’re thinking about them.  Even something that small can cheer you up. Try not to neglect your important relationships.
  • Comfort
    • Here’s where naps can come in handy yet again. Find your softest blanket and warmest slippers and snuggle on the couch with some mac & cheese and your favorite book.  Pretend you’re a human burrito.  Take a hot bubble bath and use that special body wash.   Treat yo’ self to a mini-spa experience!  If you’re like me (and many other ladies), you have mysteriously accumulated a ton of miscellaneous body lotion.  Get rid of it – slather it on your body.  Paint your nails while watching a silly rom-com.  IDK… what comforts YOU? Do THAT.
      • *but be careful with eating TOO much food, or relying as food as your primary comfort tool.  This can often backfire and make you feel worse, guilty, and bloated.  After you eat some comfort food, and you find yourself wanting more, try to ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Then wait 20 minutes before getting more.
  • Environment
    • Where are you?  Or where do you go often?  Is it pretty? Calming? Comforting? Or…is it a source of anxiety, annoyance, and distress?  Make some changes. Ok, so you can’t afford to move to a better apartment or quit your job.  But you can move furniture, clean, paint walls, and declutter! Can you spruce up your office space in any way?  Add a cheerful plant or cozy seat cushion? What can you do?  LOTS! But… Baby steps again. Think about what specifically you don’t like about your environment and start there.  Start small.  For example, my bathroom had looked the same since we moved here, and I was tired of it.  I didn’t want to go in there.  To me, it was just a boring reminder of how stupid the past was. It was uncomfortable, crowded, and boring.  I thought the shower curtain was ugly.  So I bought a new shower curtain.  I changed those cabinet knobs that I hated – from functional and boring to FUNctional and pretty! I even bought a special, very soft bath mat because I hated stepping on the cold tiles!   (It was THIS and I LOVE IT! SO SQUISHY AND BEAUTIFUL!) But you don’t have to spend money to change your environment – use what you have! I hung up art that was cheerful and fun.  I got rid of clutter and moved things I didn’t use everyday to some decorative storage bins.  I fixed the broken shelf and folded the towels.  Each small thing you do to improve an environment you’re not happy with is a step in the right direction.  Even if your environment problem seems too big to solve, try doing just one small thing that makes it a little bit better.  You wish it were sunnier in Washington?  TOO BAD – haha! But you can get a light therapy lamp, take vitamin D, plan vacations to sunnier climes, make sure you get outside every day, move heavy furniture away from your windows, get stronger lightbulbs, find things you love about the rain.  Appreciate and make the most of each blue sky!

Just beware of swimming in pools with no ladders!