Month: January 2015

North and South Study Questions 1 and 2

I love Gaskell and North and South is probably my favorite book

Readers of this blog will know that North and South is my favorite book.  I read it every year when I get discouraged by the lame modern novels I find.  I love it for a lot of reasons.  Mostly Gaskell is so great at creating characters that are layered and change subtly over the course of the story until you feel so attached to them.

She also is so great at writing women.  Whether it is Margaret in North and South, Molly in Wives and Daughters or all the women in Cranford she creates independent modern women who would be comfortable in any current setting.  I love how forceful they are with their opinions and make their own life choices.

north and south2North and South is her masterpiece creating two characters Mr Thornton and Margaret Hale who are almost off-putting at first both stuck in their worlds.  Then life throws them together and they change until you want them to be happy so badly.

She also throws in very interesting social commentary and is more subtle than her contemporaries  Dickens and Elliot.  For example, the union men in North and South are painted as thugs and brutes but also starving and unheard.  I’ve read North and South over 10 times and I have no idea what Gaskell’s actual position on unions really was.  That’s a sign of a great writer.

So I bring up North and South now because a few of my blogging friends  are doing a book club read of it and I am woefully late in posting my answers to the questions.  To find her answers and the other bloggers check out her blog for links

http://sueysbooks.blogspot.com/2014/12/north-and-south-read-along-january-2015.html#uds-search-results

So here are my answers to the first 2 set of discussion questions.  A few of them I took out because I didn’t have anything to say on them.  If you have read North and South would love to hear your answers.

northandsouth

  1. Have you seen the BBC mini-series? Is the book anything like you expected it to be?

Yes, in fact I read the book before I saw the miniseries. I love it and I think it is one of the most stylish BBC series with beautiful production design and cinematography. I like all the casting.

However, I think the book is quite different. The book is less whimsical than the movie. Like the ending would never have happened in the era of the book. I like both.

  1. Why do you think Margaret refused Henry? He seems like such a nice chap.

Margaret has a very heightened idea of a gentleman and the kind of person who is worthy of her. Henry is definitely not up to snuff with the Heleston Margaret.

north and south 3

  1. What are your first impressions of Mr. Thornton?

I actually feel both Margaret and Thornton start off the book kind of unlikable. Margaret seems like a snob and Thornton a bullish boss. That’s what makes the journey so great.

  1. Why is Margaret so indifferent to Mr. Thornton, but she can make friends with the Higgins? They are both northern people and have different customs.

It’s kind of similar to Emma in Emma spending time with Harriet or the Bates. It is more of a condescending and serving the Higgins where Thornton needs none of that service.

  1. What differences are you seeing so far between the north and the south?

I don’t know if we ever get a real view of Heleston and the South because Margaret see’s it as an idyllic home which is easy to do when you aren’t living there. She see’s it through rose colored glasses like someone might do to a special vacation home.

Milton in contrast is immediately very realistic and gritty, grimy and even cold.

 north and south 2

  1. Do you think Mr. Hale was justified in leaving the church and his position?

Mr Hale is the one part of the book that is a problem for me. Leaving the church was a such a bold choice and I never feel like he is the type of personality to do something like that. You have to accept it in order to get the story going but he is such a weak human being the rest of the book it is hard to buy.

  1. What are your feelings on Frederick’s situation?

I don’t know enough about the navy and such things at that time but I buy it. I think it works to give Margaret something she has to hide from the world. It humbles her and makes her realize she can be lower than Thornton.

  1. What are your thoughts on the master and worker relationship

I think it is a necessary part of life. There are going to be leaders and followers. It actually usually runs pretty well. Where you get into problems is people who are bad at following and bad at leading. That’s where conflict comes in to play. Margaret is not a good follower and Higgens isn’t really a good leader. He is better at supporting people he loves. What Margaret fails to see is that by being a good yet stern boss Thornton is respecting his workers. He learns to do even more but how often do we, like Margaret assume leaders are all bad merely because they are leading.

  1. Have your feelings changed towards Mr. Thornton during this section of the book?

Thonton taking lessons from Mr Hale I think helps endear him to the reader pretty quickly. There’s a humility there. His back and forths with Margaret help create building tension and an intriguing character. You learn a lot about him through their debates.

north and south

  1. Have your feelings towards Margaret changed?

Margaret is a very independent woman. She almost reminds me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast . She is bold with her opinion and forward about making friends and getting involved with local issues. All this makes her very likable. She is never dishonest with anyone even when her feelings and impressions are wrong they are her feelings. No attempt to lie to anyone. Another likable traits.

  1. What do you think about the riot and how Margaret and Mr. Thornton reacted?

It’s a superbly written scene. Gaskell builds tension perfectly and throughout the book she does a good job not really saying whether the union is the enemy or to be admired. I honestly don’t know what is going to happen each time I read it because it’s hard to know whether the mob likes Margaret or not. When she gets struck it is quite shocking but her actions make sense because we the readers are feeling the same way Margaret is about the mob. Thornton seems to be the only one who knows what is going to happen and there is a desperation in all of his actions.

  1. Did Bess’s or Mrs. Hale’s deaths effect you in any way

Bess’s death affected me because she is such a lovely sympathetic character. Mrs Hale I never really bonded with so I was kind of glad to see her go.

  1. Were you surprised to learn that it wasn’t common for women to attend funerals? What are your feelings on that tidbit?

That was interesting. Kind of silly really. They should be able to all mourn and pay their respect. Different culture I suppose.

Higgins and Thornton
Higgins and Thornton
  1. Now that we’ve met Frederick, do you like him? Are you sympathetic to his predicament?

Yes, I think he is a likable figure. He made mistakes but they seem understandable given the chaos of war. You don’t get to know him very well but what we do he seems sweet and sincere.

  1. What are your feelings on Mr. Thornton’s proposal?

It’s devastating. Gaskell does such a great job building these characters bit-by-bit until you want them to be happy. Thornton gives such a noble proposal. Unlike say Darcy he hasn’t really done anything worthy of Margaret’s disdain. She has yet to let go of the notions she picked up living with her cousins. In her defense she has had a lot to take in during a short period of time. She’s moved to a foreign local, father disgraced leaving the church, lost her Mother, dealt with Frederick and worked with the unions and Higgens. It’s a lot where Thornton has had to deal with just the union. So I give her a bit of a pass.

Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Gaskell
  1. If you were in Mr. Thornton’s place, having seen the person you love with a stranger late at night, then finding out that person was questioned by the police and lied, would you do the same thing Mr. Thornton did? Would you protect that person even though you think they have done questionable things?

It’s hard to say. I’m not a very good liar so I would probably let it slip even if I didn’t want too. I think he knows there is more to the story or at least hopes there is. We always hope we would do the honorable thing but who knows.

  1. Do you think Margaret’s feelings towards Mr. Thornton have changed? Why?

Definitely. Margaret starts to notice Thornton more after the proposal and the Frederick lie is huge in getting her to see things in a new way. Gaskell is so great at her subtle character development.

Birthday 2015

Last Friday I turned the 34 and had a great birthday.  I decided to meet up with friends at the local aquarium because I thought it would be an easy place to bring kids and my friends wouldn’t need to find sitters.  It ended up being very crowded and we had a hard time staying together as a group but I felt like I spent time with everyone who came and really enjoyed it.

My friend Lisa came over and stayed in the guest room Friday night. She even came with me to a midsingles game night I had to go to (and ended up being very fun!).  We had a great time visiting and reminiscing about our missions (she served in my mission mostly before I got there).

When we all got back from the aquarium we had tarts from my favorite bakery, Bake 360.  They were delish!  My Dad surprised me by getting me a sound box and new TV!!! I was overwhelmed at such a gift.  I also got some new big mixing bowls from my roommate and Mom, Anne of Green Gables from my sister, scarf, swimming shampoo, and my Christmas gift to myself came on my birthday- my dream Le Crueset dutch oven pot.

But more than any gifts I was blessed to be reminded with just how many people love me.  I am so blessed with good people in my life.  I lost track at 49 but I couldn’t even tell you how many birthday wishes I got on facebook and other social media.  When I think of the lonely people I met on my mission and other places I am overwhelmed with gratitude at all God has given me.

Thanks to everyone who made my birthday memorable.  I love you!

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Small Things

For my non-religious readers this is one more faith-based post. I promise I will give it a break for the next few. Thanks for bearing with me. I posted some great things to my movie blog if you want to check that out including a review of George Lucas’ new animated movie Strange Magic. http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com/

mother_teresa1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the small things in life.  God really does ask us to do a lot of small things.  Let’s think of the 10 Commandments.  I would say there are 3  to some non-believers seem kind of small. 1. Shall Not Take Lord’s  Name n Vain. 2. Must Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, 3. Honor thy Father and Mother.

I mean there are despots and dictators all over the place, would God really care whether I say Oh my G…. as you so often hear on the shows?  What about going for groceries on Sunday?  Surely with human trafficking and child rape God would not care about such a small thing? What if my parents are jerks why does he care if I honor or dishonor them?

All fair questions and I’m not sure I know.  I have thought about this a lot and wondered why I obey these small things (or try too at least)?  I am almost hesitant to talk about this because it might give the impression that I am perfectly obedient.  Of course I am not.  I know particularly with entertainment I am perhaps too lenient.  I own that. But it is in my heart to be obedient and to feel God’s spirit as an active force in my life.  I know when I am obedient I feel it stronger.  I cannot deny it.

I wonder if the real reason he asks us to do all these small things is because most of the great joys of life are found in the quiet small moments? Sure we all have the big moments of weddings, graduations, births but I find those times are often a blur of stress and busyness.

When I think about the happiest times it is a conversation with a friend, a moment of clarity in prayer or a swim in the ocean.  Perhaps the more we learn to trust God in all these little rules the more we grow to understand his little blessings?

I also think God’s goal is to ‘bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’.  His goal is to create Saints where the world would tell us it is good enough to just avoid doing ‘bad things’.   That’s why He asks us to wear one set of earrings or not date till we are 16 or not drink coffee.  He wants us to follow Him as best as we can because that will make us happy.  It’s just an eternal law that certain actions create happiness and others create sadness.

A lot of us need the examples of small and simple things to give us confidence for the gut wrenching times when maybe He feels a little bit further away. I know for me if I had not developed a pattern of obedience I wouldn’t have made it through some of the tough moments of my life.  So, in the end I’m grateful for the rules even if others may see them as limiting.

I think a lot of it has to do with faith.  Do we have faith to live a law that we may not completely understand?  Do we have faith to do something when there seems to be no reward?  Do we have faith when it may even seem we are punished for following God’s law? If we can say yes even occasionally for small things that is powerful and it builds until it is a ‘sure foundation…whereon if men build they cannot fall”.

I believe faith also allows us to create an individual relationship with God.  When the laws of God allow for multiple interpretations and lifestyles that frees us to go to Him and find out for ourselves how He wants us to live.  The big things there is less movement on but the small things give us the chance for a personal connection with deity which perhaps makes them the most important rules of all?  I could have a definition of the Sabbath, which I have prayed about and feel good about but it will be different than my neighbors.  That’s a good and powerful thing. It makes a strong relationship with Our Heavenly Father when forgiveness and comfort is required. We’ve been to Him on the small things so we know how to do it for the big.

What do you guys think? Why does God ask us to do these small things like keep a clean mouth, pay a full tithe, keep the Sabbath day, fast once a month etc?  I think there is just something about it that makes us strong.

One of my favorite stories from Jesus’ ministry is Mary breaking open the oil and washing the feet of Jesus. It was a small act of love but she was truly anointing a King. That’s pretty big in reality.  Would love your thoughts.

Mary-Washes-Jesus-s-Feet-jesus-11078625-635-450

Kind of a rambling post but would love to hear your thoughts.

Faith and Loneliness

I have lots of different readers who enjoy my posts for different reasons. I love every last one of you! This is a religious post probably best suited for my Mormon readers but hopefully encouraging to anyone of faith. If religion isn’t your thing don’t worry will be posting about your favorite topic soon. It’s a huge part of my life so it will come up on the blog from time to time. Love you!

missionLately I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my mission.  This year marks 10 years since I came home which has given me pause to think about the decade which has come and gone. Plus, I recently played host to my favorite companion Julia Graves and spent time with a sister who also served around my time Lisa Luddington.  We’ve shared stories and looked back on all we learned during those very intense 20 months (I extended).

Today I went to a homecoming for a friend and it touched my heart to see how strong she has become. I hope she can keep that strength and faith for a decade as I have striven to do however imperfectly.

Called to Serve Him.  No greater work.  No greater chance to become more Christlike
Called to Serve Him. No greater work. No greater chance to become more Christlike

As I’ve been thinking about my mission I realized something special it taught me I hadn’t put my finger on before.  It taught me how to deal with the loneliness of faith.

Let me explain.  There was a time on the mission I was given a companion who was bi-polar and thought that a mission would cure her mental illness. When it obviously didn’t she took her anger out on me and was emotionally and verbally abusive. I was berated as the worst missionary, ugly, stupid, inept, you name it.  Then she would go days with the silent treatment which was better but hard when you have to spend 24 hours a day with a person.

It was an especially hard time because I was trying so hard to be a good trainer and obedient.  We were opening a new area to sisters so I didn’t know anybody and we were far away from the mission home.  On LDS missions you are not allowed to call home, just weekly letters (although my parents did send me flowers. Love them!).

Got to love Indiana corn!
Got to love Indiana corn!

I’m not saying I was perfect because I wasn’t but I was trying to be obedient and I seemed to be punished for that where other people had great training experiences. Plus, how many times can you be told your a terrible missionary before you begin to believe it.

It was one of the loneliest time of my life. That may be surprising because I was with someone all the time but it just goes to show a person can be lonely who is surrounded by people.

pres quist
President Quist helped me so much through that lonely time

Anyway, I thought about coming home but I didn’t want to let my family down especially my younger siblings who needed an example missionary in their lives. I had to call the mission president every night and he helped me to get through every day.  I had a sister swap with my MTC comp Sister Noyes and that also helped.

But in the end I had to turn to my Heavenly Father in a way I hadn’t done to that point. He was all I had to really lean on. I read my scriptures and I prayed so hard my knees hurt. And you know what? He filled me up.  He let me know I wasn’t a bad missionary.  He helped me to forgive her, which was incredibly hard to do.  He loved me and I was not the same after that.  I was in 100% to the mission and while again I was far from perfect I know I was the missionary He needed me to be.

purdue
Purdue campus was the new area with tough companion but it was the site of many sacred experiences too

As hard as that experience was, and it was brutal, it gave me a gift.  In the 10 years since I came home there have been lonely times.  I don’t need to go into all of them but just trust me there have been lonely times. I’ve felt attacked, disappointed in the choices of others, angry, frustrated, confused and alone, as all humans do from time to time.

But I’ve always had that time on the mission in my pocket to carry me through.

I had discovered God’s ability to strengthen me during the lonely times and have never forgotten it and never will.

If you are feeling lonely or life is giving you a shellacking (we’ve all been there!) maybe it’s a moment God is trying to turn you into something better, like He made me the best missionary I could be?  Maybe he is trying to make you strong?

I absolutely believe moments of loneliness are essential to understanding the atonement of Jesus Christ and really applying it to your heart. We need it so bad in those moments and only then are we teachable and humble enough to make the tough choices and rely on His mercy completely.
me-in-snow-on-missionNever forget the scripture says

“I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

When I’m 34…

34

I am writing this post as an officially 34 year old woman and I find myself wondering ‘how did this happen?’.  I know it’s a cliché but seriously ‘where did the time go?’.  In just a few weeks it will be 10 years since I came home from my mission.  I repeat where did the time go?

I was a kid that didn’t particularly like being a kid.  I wanted to be respected and listened too like the adults in my life were.  I wanted to have the answers and the power to get things done.  Now I find myself as an adult wondering if that young version of me would be happy or sad with what has happened?

And I think I always assumed I would change a lot as an adult but honestly aside from feeling a little beat down I feel the same as I did 10 years ago an 15 years ago.  I would say that’s a bad thing but I expect everyone feels that way.  You are still the same personality more experience behind it.

There’s a lovely little movie with Bruce Willis called The Kid where he, the cranky PR man, gets to come face to face with the 12 year old him.  He looks around at his future life and says

“So, I’m forty, I’m not married, I don’t fly jets, and I don’t have a dog? I grow up to be a loser…”

I’m 34.  I’m not married but I do swim marathons and own a house.  Hopefully the 12 year old me wouldn’t think I am a loser (I had no interest in flying jets or owning a dog as a kid!). I’m sure I would be disappointed that I am unmarried.  Not because it was some big dream of mine but I think I just assumed it would happen since most adults I knew were married, why not me?  Indeed.

It’s perhaps not good to dwell on it but on days like birthdays I can’t help but ponder for a second about my life.  Is God happy with my life? That’s what is most important to me.  I believe that He is but it never hurts on such a day to get that confirmation again.

When finished my mission I was blessed with a sense of closure and freedom from regrets. That is what I seek whenever I have a moment of contemplation about my life.  I want to know that I can stand with Paul and say ‘I have fought a good fight.  I have finished my course.  I have kept the faith”.

Anyway, I don’t know if that is interesting to you at all- just something I was pondering today. Regardless another year in my life has come and gone. I hope I have made the best use of it.

Sure Love ya!

Movie For Every Year of My Life

I thought you guys would enjoy this post on the movie blog. I decided on one movie made for each year of my life. It was a lot of fun so check it out.

Reviewing All 56 Disney Animated Films And More!

Rachel's Movie Festival!(2)

Just for fun I thought I would go through and pretend I was doing a movie festival where I had to pick out a movie made in every year of my life.  These are not nececssarily the Oscar winners or most highly praised, just which one’s stand out for me.  Some years there are strong honorable mentions like 2012 and 2007 and others it was easy like 1990.

Here goes:

1981- Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982- ET

1983- A Christmas Story

HM- Return of the Jedi

1984- Amadeus

HM- Ghostbusters

1985- Back to the Future

HM- Goonies

1986- Ferris Buellers Day Off

HM- The Mission

1987- Princess Bride

HM- Moonstruck

1988- Who Framed Roger Rabbit

HM- My Neighbor Totorro

1989- The Little Mermaid

HM- When Harry Met Sally, Indiana Jones and Last Crusade, Dead Poets Society

1990- Home Alone

1991- Beauty and the Beast

HM- What About Bob?

1992-…

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Rachel’s BBQ Rub

Hey guys!  It might surprise you that one of my most popular blog posts over the years was a recipe for BBQ sauce I did when I was hard core on the low sugar thing.  It is a fun recipe and lots of people have tried it and liked it.

Rachel’s Homemade BBQ Sauce

My friend invited me to a handmade item co-op tomorrow where we swap items that we have made by hand.  Can be anything from soap to jam to cheese.  I love making jam but didn’t feel up to it this week and they didn’t want sweets (was going to do chocolate covered strawberries!).

I just couldn’t take on a bit project like making jam this week so I thought long and hard about what I could make because I don’t sew or knit or do a handicraft I could swap.  The best thing I could come up with is to make a spice rub.  I looked at some recipes and came up with something I liked. It’s a little sweet and spicy and would be great on pork, poultry and fish.

I also found these jars on amazon with blackboard stickers and I just think they are darn cute.

rachel's rubHere’s the recipe

Rachel’s BBQ Rub

1/2 c paprika

1/2 c brown sugar

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp parsley flakes

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp black pepper

Pretty simple just mix everything together and put in jar.  The paprika and brown sugar will clump up.  If you don’t like spice than omit or only 1 tsp of cayenne pepper. If you want it sweeter add more brown sugar. It seemed like every batch I made I added a little more of one thing, a little less of another so it just depends.

It was so fun hearing people’s changes and success with the BBQ sauce recipe so I’d love to hear it on this as well.  Please share!