Are you too old or too young for fairy tales?

C.S. Lewis, on fairy tales

Every Wednesday on Facebook, I ask, “Whatcha Reading?”

I love hearing about what others are reading, whether it is something I’d read myself or not.

Among other things, I’ve been re-reading fairy tales, one or two tales from Grimm’s each night.  It’s like a late night snack of comfort reading.

Fairy Tales, Auden


One of my childhood favorites was Snow White and Rose Red.  I had one of those children’s book club by mail editions with bright illustrations which made it easy to imagine myself as Rose Red and my sister as Snow White.

I was always disappointed that my parents planted forsythia instead of red and white rose bushes.

Parents can be so prosaic.

Albert Einstein quote on fairy tales

I read fairy tales to my own children, too.  My boys loved fairy tales, especially ones involving horrible deaths and the meting out of justice to the cruel.

In our house, we only read versions where lazy pigs were eaten by wolves and evil witches danced themselves to death.

I waited a long time for a daughter who would appreciate bears who turn into princes and happily ever afters.

Of course, she favored the gory parts, too.

Did you read fairy tales as a child?  Did you have a favorite?

(I made the fairy tale posters while I was laying around sick last week.  The first two illustrations are by Virginia Frances Sterrett, in a book that can be found here.  The last is by Harry Clarke, and can be found here.)


Am I the pot or the kettle?

Small kindnesses and small irritants can make or break a day or a mood.  I know that.  Why don’t I remember it more often?

Laundry is my favorite household task.  (In other words, I hate most housework, and merely don’t mind laundry.)  For the first too many years of my marriage, every time I would take the laundry out of the hamper, I’d grumble to myself about my husband’s balled up socks and rolled up sleeves.  “Why is he so inconsiderate?  It only takes a minute to unroll things before tossing them in the hamper.  Can’t he do this one little thing?”

KETTLEYears of that went by until I finally thought, “It only takes a minute for me to unroll them, too, so why do I fuss about it so much?  Am I that self-centered?  I can’t spare a minute?”

Pot, meet Kettle.

I decided to look on the unrolling of sleeves and socks as a kindness on my part instead of an irritant, and after a while, I found that it truly didn’t bother me anymore.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of other things that I still allow to irritate me, like dirty dishes unwashed or shoes not put away.

Like most people, I overestimate my own positive contributions, and overlook my own shortcomingsBlack kojoko teapot I see the mess of stuff my family leaves laying around the house, but my eyes gloss over my stack of unsorted papers.  I wonder why my daughter won’t replace a roll of toilet paper, while I put off going out to buy her school supplies.

Kettle, meet Pot.

Sometimes it feels like the only thing I get better at over the years is recognizing my own hypocrisy.

What little kindnesses have you experienced lately?

Before my husband left for his trip, he brought home individual Fage yogurts for my breakfasts and Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey for my evenings.  I’ll start and end every day this week thinking about how loved I am, and I’ll wonder why I ever let those stupid shoes bother me.

Girl Rising

I saw some remarks on Twitter slamming Anne Hathaway for her “political statement” during her acceptance speech.  My streaming site faltered, so I didn’t hear her full remarks, but this is the project she’s involved with:  10×10 Girl Rising.  It is a campaign to educate girls, to keep them from becoming child brides, prostitutes, or just living a life in poverty.  That’s not something I would have thought controversial or political, and it does fit with the role of Fantine.

At the center of the 10×10 campaign is an innovative feature film, Girl Rising, which journeys around the globe to witness the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. From Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, Girl Rising spotlights the stories of unforgettable girls born into unforgiving circumstances. It captures their dreams, their voices, and their remarkable lives.

Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Priyanka Chopra, Selena Gomez, Anne Hathaway, Alicia Keys, and other celebrated actresses contribute voice performances to the film, with music by Lorne Balfe and Rachel Portman. By sharing their personal journeys, the girls of Girl Rising become our teachers.

Books v. Movies: 5 Close Calls

I’ve only seen one of the films nominated for an Academy Award this year, Les Mis, so I didn’t realize that half of them were based on books until I read this article on Goodreads today.  Of those five books, I’ve read one, Life of Pi.  I listened to portions of Team of Rivals on last summer’s road trip, but I admit I slept through more than I heard (we drive through the night – well, my husband drives, while I drift in and out of sleep).  I have not read Les Miserables, the one movie I’ve seen.

So I have no idea how any of this years books compare to the movies they inspired.  I love both books and movies.  Usually, if I’ve read the book, I don’t go to the movie, but I sometimes want to read the book after seeing the film.  Although I usually find that movie adaptations of books fall short, there are exceptions.   Here are five moves that are worth watching, based on books that are worth reading.

Rebecca, book and movie


1.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier was adapted into film by Alfred Hitchcock, winning him his only Oscar for best picture.  (It also won for its cinematography.)  Both Du Maurier and Hitchcock were masters of suspense, and Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers was pitch perfect.  She should have one best supporting actress.  She still gives me the creeps.

Breakfast at Tiffany's book v. movie2.  The iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s directed by Blake Edwards was adapted from the novella by Truman Capote.  I can see why he was unhappy with the resulting film.  His novella about a troubled  and promiscuous teenager did not have the Hollywood happy ending, or even romance.  His was the better story, but who can resist Audrey Hepburn, either bedecked in jewels or  singing Johnny Mercer’s Oscar winning “Moon River?”

To Kill a Mockingbird book v. movie

3.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee should be required reading, and the film should be watched for its Oscar winning performance by Gregory Peck.  (The screenplay adaption won a well deserved Oscar, too.)  Classic book, classic movie.  What else can I say?  Fifty years from now, nobody will remember The Help, but To Kill a Mockingbird will still be relevant.


Sleeping Beauty grimms v. disney4.  I unabashedly love fairy tales, in all their good and evil glory, and Sleeping Beauty is Disney’s best adaptation of one of the classics.  Here, Disney retained all the original elements of the story, while heightening the drama and romance.  Why have an unknown prince hack through some thorns when you can have true love fighting a dragon/evil witch?  Add a score adapted from Tchaikovsky, and you have fairy tale nirvana.   On second thought, this one should be listed as “movie better than original story.”  It’s a shame it flopped at the box office, putting Disney off fairy tales and subjecting us to animated Robin Hood.

5.  I am torn about including Gone with the Wind.  Gone with the Wind book v. movieGrowing up in the days before video recorders or cable tv, Gone With the Wind was an annual two-night event.  I’d seen it many times before reading the book in my teens.  However, I never liked Scarlett until I read it.  Vivien Leigh, for all her beauty and charm, did not convey a sixteen year old girl with a childhood crush.  She captured the strength and conniving, but I always wondered, “What does she see in Ashley?”  Reading it, I understood the concept of being emotionally stuck, even when you appear to be intelligent, ruthless, and driven to success.  I enjoy the movie more for having read the book.

What book-movie pairs would you add?

Have you seen any of this year’s Oscar nominees?

Motivation for weight loss? No, but…

I ran across this site on Pinterest yesterday.  Model My Diet allows you to make an image of yourself based on your current height and weight, and one based on your goal weight.

Although I’m not on a diet, I couldn’t resist comparing my current and (self determined) ideal weights.  Maybe it would even motivate me to eat fewer sweets.

At left is the virtual me.  Or, it is me if my skin were still as firm as it was at thirty.  My skin is rapidly losing elasticity, and no amount of exercise or dieting is going to change that genetic heritage.

So, what would I look like if I lost twenty pounds?

That’s the thinner me on the right.

Twenty pounds lighter and I did not even lose the double chin!

Not motivational.

I played around with it, to see how much I would need to lose to have a single chin.  Forty pounds.  That’s how much I weighed at my first prenatal visit, over twenty-one years ago.  I have not seen it since.

Funnier, though, was that no matter how much weight the virtual me lost, her breasts stayed the same size.  I wish.

Still, the Model My Diet simulator did inspire me.

While I was trying to get rid of my virtual double chin, I set the weight at known points in my history: my weight in college; my weight at my first prenatal visit; my weight after that second baby, when I could not get rid of those last ten pounds and felt FAT.

That’s virtual me, post-baby, feeling fat.  Granted, my stomach was a bit poochier than that, and it was covered with stretch marks (still is), but over all, it’s pretty accurate.

I look at her and wish I’d not cared whether I’d ever lose those last ten pounds and just enjoyed the body I had.

Which is good advice for me today, too, and, maybe, for you.

Presidents Day Reading

Since today is President’s Day, I thought I would share one of the books I read last year about a president.  (I only read three books about presidents, and the other two books were both small episodes of Theodore Roosevelt’s life.)  Actually, my husband and I listened to Destiny of the Republic on last summer’s road trip.  I probably did not convey just how fascinating this story was.

In other words, I’m on a holiday break, and I’m copying this review from my Goodreads account.  There’s a little link thingie over on the right if you want to befriend me on Goodreads.  I’ve been lazy about writing reviews lately, but I do keep my reading list up to date.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a PresidentDestiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

When you know perfectly well that the protagonist dies, and you still get teary eyed when it happens, that is a well told tale. It’s not only that James Garfield was thoroughly likable, but my heart ached for his devoted wife and children, two of whom were with him when he was shot.

Destiny of the Republic is more than a biography of James Garfield. It is also an account of the life of his assassin, Charles Guiteau. Candice Millard manages to portray Guiteau with neither sympathy nor antipathy. Egotistical, and unlikable, he was clearly mentally ill.

However, it was not Guiteau’s bullets that killed Garfield. Lingering for months after being shot, Garfield was ultimately killed by infection caused by the aggressive and unsanitary medical care he received at the hands of the egotistical Dr. Bliss.

Throughout, Millard places the story in the context of its day. The relationships between Garfield and those around him, the political climate and intrigues, the state of medical knowledge and practice, the technology of the day. She shows how Garfield’s assassination and death led to changes in these various realms.

If you’ve read anything good (recently or not) about a President, please share, especially if it might be available an audio.  I need about 60 hours of listening for our summer road trip, and my husband and I both enjoy biographies and history.

Call Me Irresponsible

I was not one of the 20% of Americans who bought her pets a gift for St. Valentine’s Day, but I couldn’t leave them out of the Sunday Song love.

My dogs bring so much joy to my life.  Mine are definitely not the well trained, working dog type.  Mine are devoted companions who think everything I do is fascinating, but who will steal my lunch if I leave it unattended.

Neither managed to steal food last week, but Jeb ate a bird.  My daughter reported finding him at it.  We’ve no idea if it was dead first or he caught it.  The former seems more likely.  He did not get sick or show any ill effects.  Between that and the snotty tissues he stole, he had a good week.

Tell me about your pets.  One thing that makes them Valentine worthy or not.

(Call Me Irresponsible was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.  The singer is an employee of the company that made the video; his name wasn’t credited.)

Everything is Educational

matroyshkaThe first Christmas with my husband, the one before we were actually married, I was planning to buy gifts for his sister’s children.  He told me, “She doesn’t like educational toys.”

“But everything is educational!  Children are always learning,” was my confused reply.

(In my sister in law’s defense, I think she was referring to electronic teaching toys, not the magnetic alphabet I’d wanted to buy.)

I still believe that children are influenced by everything they see and hear, touch and feel.  Images once seen are not unseen.  Blows -physical or emotional – felt are not unfelt.  Words heard are not unheard.

As parents, my husband was ready to agree with this theory when it came to television.  Less agreeable about music, he wanted to cling to the idea that nobody really pays attention to lyrics.  That only works until your child sings them, clearly knowing every word.

When it comes to books, though, he’s of the, “At least they’re reading,” mindset.  I don’t believe there’s a good excuse for filling a child’s (or an adult’s) mind with garbage, regardless of how the trash is delivered.  Because I love reading so much myself, trashy books seem more influential to me than trashy television.

For most of our 22 year of parenting, it didn’t come up.  One of my sons was an avid reader; the other was not.  Their literary lows came in elementary school with Star Wars novels and Captain Underpants. 

My daughter, however, is drawn to trashy teen supernatural romance novels.  It’s the trashy teen romance part that bothers me.  I’m 97% certain she wants to read them because they are what her friends read at school – just like she listens to the music her friends listen to and wishes she could watch the tv shows they watch.  (Their influence wanes in summer, and we are back to her own personal obsessions.)

In theory, I almost like the idea of reading the books with her, to discuss and dissect them.  That would be a wonderful way to address my concerns or to ruin the book for her.  The truth is, I don’t want to read that trash.  (I do skim through books before rejecting them, and, yes, sometimes she reads books at school she knows I’d reject.)

Part of me wishes I could just let her be.  I tell myself, “She is who she is.  Some people like Jane Eyre; some people read Harlequin romances.”  I say, “Lots of women read trash.  They’re not all doomed to bad relationships, are they?”

Then she tells me about another friend collapsing in the middle school bathroom in tears admitting she’s been cutting and not eating because her boyfriend dumped her, or was arrested at the Seven-11, and I decide to stick with my old philosophies.

She can be herself after I’ve given her time to figure out who she is.

Giving Up or Giving Out?

Did you celebrate Mardi Gras yesterday?  Shrove Tuesday? Carnival?  If I’m honest with myself, I do indulgence rather well every day, and don’t need a special occasion to encourage me.

Then there’s today, Ash Wednesday, preceding St. Valentine’s Day this year, leading many to postpone those Lenten fasts for another day or two.

Every year, friends both religious and not observe Lent by fasting.  Often they tell me, “I’m not really religious, but I’m giving up ___ for Lent.”  There seems to be a universal appeal to self-sacrifice, at least in small doses.

The reasons given and types of fasts differ, but most resemble a self-improvement plan.  Fasting from Twitter or Facebook; from chips, candy, or caffeine; from cursing; or from meat on Fridays, will, they think, somehow make them a healthier person, a more disciplined person, a person, perhaps, more pleasing to God or themselves.

I understand.  For most of my life, I’ve fasted for Lent.  Some years I’d fast one day each week; other years I’d give up favorite foods.  Sometimes both.  I always started with the best, penitential intentions, but a few weeks in, I’d begin to wonder if I was losing weight.  I was much better at sacrificing food than my vanity.  I never did lose weight, nor did I feel spiritually improved by my fasting.  I kept thinking, “If only I could fast and not think about the potential weight loss… If only I could humble myself.”

Then, a few years ago, I truly heard Isaiah 58, where the people ask God,

‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’

And he answers (highlighting mine, for the skimmers; I understand how that is.)

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

God seems unimpressed by merely not eating and praying and makes his usual request:  take care of the poor and oppressed.  Share what you have.  Be just.

Does that sound like fasting?   It certainly isn’t giving up Starbucks or Facebook for six weeks.  It’s not about discipline or self sacrifice for their own sake, or for your own sake.

However, when that daily $2 cup of Starbucks not purchased equals $80 you gave to charity, that is fasting that shares with the hungry.  When that former FB time is dedicated to tutoring at-risk students or delivering meals on wheels, that is fasting that undoes the straps of the yoke.

Last year, as a family, we gave up eating out for Lent.  Honestly, if we’d only be doing it as an exercise in spiritual discipline, we would not have lasted the first two weeks.  Having selected a cause at the outset that would benefit from our sacrifice, the Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls, it was easy to stay motivated.

Unlike my years of giving up sweets and treats, I didn’t dream about eating out, or debate whether Sundays should count.  I didn’t think about how I might benefit, and then feel bad that I was thinking about myself.  Again.  For those six weeks, I thought about those girls, and how much help they needed.  I could not stop praying for them.

I hadn’t given something up; I was giving something out.

When I see the material and spiritual poverty in the world, I know that my sacrifices and efforts are puny, and, even when done for a just cause, they do not make me righteous in the sight of God.  Yet I feel privileged that I can make even a small contribution in his name.

I also know that the righteousness of Christ goes before me.  His light rose in the darkness.  He poured himself out for the hungry and afflicted, of which I was one.

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.