Friday, January 16, 2009

Who knew?!

Apparently, January 16 - today - is "Religious Freedom Day." Who has ever even heard of this commemorative holiday, let alone acknowledged it in some way?

I can't really figure out for certain when it started, or how regularly or long it has been going on, but it has been many years now, it seems... at least since the enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. (Had you heard of this, either, I ask you?!)

Religious Freedom Day is generally acknowledged as an honoring and commemoration of the passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, since January 16 is the anniversary of its passage in 1786.

At any rate, here is this year's official White House proclamation by George W. Bush.

Hmmm... it is news to me, but I'm happy to have discovered it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Goodbye, "Generous One"

Currently, I am in NC with my husband's family.

We had thought that yesterday would be a celebration of my birthday with our small little nuclear family on the shores of North Carolina. Instead, it has become a larger gathering of extended family to commemorate a different life.

On January 9, 2009, iivo's dear, sweet, 98-year old grandmother slipped quietly from this earth into eternity. For ten years now we have commemorated her life on her birthday, since my daughter OG was born the same day as her "Helde," and we have celebrated their birthdays together these last ten years. Now we will forever also commemorate her life on my birthday, since the Lord chose to take her home on the same day I was born.

Nearly 99 years ago, He created her inmost being and knit her together in her mother's womb. Her frame was not hidden from Him when she was made in the secret place. When she was woven together, His eyes saw her unformed body. We praise Him that she was fearfully and wonderfully made, and we praise Him that all the days ordained for her were written in His book before one of them came to be (comforting thoughts from Psalm 139).

We also praise Him for her amazing life... and the testimony she gave to His constant protection and mercy toward her. It is hard to let her go, and we miss her sweet, feisty presence immensely. She was a fighter. She was strong-willed and stubborn. And she was one of the dearest people on the planet to me.

Selfishly, one of the things I'll miss most about dear, dear Helde is the fact that she, more than any other person in my life, could make me feel beautiful. Every time I saw her, she told me how very beautiful I am. (I'm not, really.) She told me how remarkably lovely my body is. (It isn't, really!) I can still hear her broken English, "How you have four children?! Really?! I can't believe it. Your body is not that. What you doing keep your body so nice with four children?"

I hear this voice in my head and it makes me smile even as I cry. Somebody famous somewhere once said that her favorite emotion was "laughter through tears." (I don't know if Dolly Parton's character in Steel Magnolias was the first or not, but she's the one I remember.)

Remembering Helde is filled with "laughter through tears." I miss her. The house just isn't the same without her quietly appearing in the doorway; the table just isn't the same without her proudly sitting at one end.

She was in amazingly good health, and not even in that "especially for 98" sort of way. She was more zippy and fast and active and fun than many fifty-somethings I know.

I'm so grateful that my children got to know her as well as they did. Who, in these days of late marriages and birth control, gets to know their great-grandparents well?!

We will miss you, dear Helde!*

*Vana ema, helde, lahke is a line from an Estonian folk song about grandmothers, translated Grandmother (literally 'old mother'), generous, kind. She became known as "Helde" early on, dubbed such by her very young grandchildren who were learning the song. She remained "generous" to her dying day, even as she was a "vana, vana ema" to my children. I hope I live to be an "old, old mother" to some great-grandchildren, and that they love me even half as much as my children loved Helde.

Farewell, dear elderly friend. Your marks are indelibly over our lives. OG's birthday will forever remind us of you. EL's name is what it is because you bore that middle name. Your voice makes me smile every time I listen to the message I have saved on the answering machine at home. I will miss you more than words can say, and I rejoice that I believe we will see each other again one day.

"A message only! Here is Helde. Nobody at home? Okay. Then I send you a message. Bye."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thoughts Regarding Movies-from-books...

... or perhaps they would better be dubbed Books-made-into-movies, to highlight their proper origin.

I'm not sure what I want to say, exactly, but I do have lots of thoughts milling about in my brain regarding this particular genre of movie.

First (and this goes without saying), you can't capture everything great about a book in a movie. You just can't. This is understood, and so there is an attempt to capture the heart and essence of a story - and somehow present it to the world - in this other form called a movie.

The problem is that, once you've seen the movie, the original "pictures" formed in your brain when your first read or heard the book are replaced. This has happened to me over the past few years with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, Rowling's Harry Potter Series, and even the Series of Unfortunate Events. Never again will Lucy (or Hermione or Aragorn or Violet or so many others) look like they did when they came to life off the page in my mind.

And now, the list is expanded to include Despereaux Tilling. You see, my daughter EL received a "reward" of movie gift cards from the orthodontist for finally kicking the thumb sucking habit*, and with it we went to see the movie The Tale of Despereaux.

Let me first tell you that this book was one of the books-on-tape we listened to recently on a trip as a family. Let me also tell you that, on New Year's Eve, a friend of mine asked my daughter EL - who was running through the room at the time - if she had "seen Despereaux yet." She replied "yes" and was gone. I turned to my friend and said, "No, we haven't seen it, but we did recently listen to the book on tape." I smiled inside to realize that my eight-year-old daughter had, in fact, "seen Despereaux" as she formed images of him in her mind while listening.

And today I am a little sad to know that yesterday, as she watched the screen, those images were replaced. Her images were likely different from those formed in the minds of each of her siblings, but like the images formed in my mind as I had listened, they were all wiped away in one fell swoop. Now Miggory Sow looks like that. The queen. The king. Roscuro.

The movie is very little like the book. Characters are changed... eliminated... re-crafted. The story is significantly altered. Much was lost in the translation, I must acknowledge, and I miss the guys from the real story. But alas, they are gone. I can't find "my" images of them in my brain even if I try.

So, sure, it is a cute movie. It isn't, however, the real Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread. And now that millions of American kids are seeing the movie, they may never really get to know the real story. And even if they do eventually hear the real story, they will read it with someone's else's images in their minds from the beginning.

Some part of me finds that just a little bit sad.

I remember reading aloud one night - years ago - to my own children and some visiting friends who were staying with us while their parents were out of town. One of the girls, probably five or six at the time, was listening intently when one of her younger siblings got up and absent-mindedly walked through her field of vision and stopped.

"Hey, get out of the way! I can't see the story!" she cried. She wasn't quite sure how the "movie in her brain" was forming, but it had to be linked somehow to those words coming from my mouth...

Here's to the glorious experience of "movies in the brain" when we read a really good book. May some of them, at least, remain unspoiled by the big screen!

* The breaking of EL's thumb-sucking habit is due entirely to the orthodontist's discovery of an amazing and wonderful product called Mavala Stop. If you have a similar problem plaguing one of your little ones, I highly recommend that you try using it, and at the earliest possible age.

Friday, January 2, 2009

AFTER-Christmas Cards

Our family is terrible about Christmas cards! Last year, we wrote a Christmas letter and even had the photo cards printed, but we never mailed them! They were "late," and so I sent out an email version to those whose email addresses we had, but then I never sent out the real hard copy. They sat in a red basket under my desk all year. That is really rather pathetic, isn't it?

This year, the letter is written, the photo cards printed, the envelopes stuffed, and the stamps on... but they are still sitting in my den on January 2. They're not all addressed, and we haven't gotten around to getting them in the mail. Life is full with homeschooling, and then gets even fuller (and busier) during the holiday season; Christmas cards are one of those things that seems to get left undone around here until after New Year's. I need to just think of them as New Year's cards and be done with the guilt.

Of course, it doesn't help that my mother and my sister take turns from year to year being the first (and second) Christmas card to arrive in the mailbox!

I guess I'll just have to distinguish myself by being the last card to arrive in your mailbox...