All Was Well

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That title has dual meaning. After a prolonged absence, I expect it will take me a bit of time to get my bearings again as we greet a new season. Our travels to Ireland and Wales were more than I could have expected or hoped for, and there is so much to write about. Not only travel pieces, but I encountered so much in way of soul-seeking, and the blessing of findng spirituality and pilgrimage in several unexpected things and places.

However, I couldn’t let today pass unnoticed.

Today is the First of September, the traditional beginning of the Wizarding School Year. Today all the young witches and wizards who received their attendance letters from Hogwarts are busily arriving at Kings Cross Station in London to catch the Hogwarts Express.

Today’s Express is a little different, though.

This is the last day – the official last day of the original Harry Potter series.

1 September 2017

Nineteen Years Later.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Ginny, and Draco all arrive to put their children on the Hogwarts Express. They give parental advice, hugs and laughter abound among the childhood anxiety of something new, a nod here or there to their old classmates.

Nineteen years ago I read the first book, and I was entranced. It was everythng I wanted in a book. My oldest son was a baby, and it was my reading material for that year’s Rosh Hashanah.

When I finished the last book, the seventh book, The Deathly Hallows, I remember sitting in my cozy overstuffed chair, my mother-in-law on the sofa across from me. We’ve just returned – it’s barely been a week – from spending the last two weeks visiting my mother-in-law’s home and family, and putting her ashes to rest in Belfast. Time is a delicate mistress. I remember that day relatively clearly, or at least a moment of that day, trying to keep myself composed as the book took over.

No spoilers, but Fred.

This could not be over! What do you mean all was well? I wanted more.

I needed more.

And through some googling, I found Live Journal, and that opened up an entire world of reading, and then writing fan fiction, and brought me into this amazing, exciting, creative place called the Internet. It began another chapter in my life that is continual and continuing today.

Nineteen years later…all was well.

Emma Watson’s Book Club – Robert Frost

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This is one of those school assignments that stay with you for life. You’re trudging along through the poetry unit of middle/high school English class, and something just grabs you and clings to you as much as you cling to it.

How many of us have had a choice put before us that we’re stuck thinking about for much longer than any other choice? I write constantly about roads and paths and journeys, and this is one bit of writing that I always seem to go to in my mind.

The same could be said about Emma Watson’s characters, Hermione Granger and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. In both instances, she can easily just give in and be who others want her to be, but instead she takes a chance and makes a choice to be herself, and let the chips fall where they may.

In the Harry Potter series, she has her two best friends (Harry and Ron), and they tease her, but they love her and wouldn’t change her for one minute. She’s able to grow and find herself and her priorities and stick them out.

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is a little more self-aware. Gaston professes his love for her, but she must change in order to be truly accepted by him. She’s having none of that. She loves her books, her education, her imagination, and no one should take that away from her. Let her be her or what’s the point? The Beast doesn’t try to change her, but in truly knowing her, he is changed.

Emma, in the Entertainment Weekly article recommending books, suggests Robert Frost‘s poems. This is one of my two personal favorites; the other being Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Share your favorites and enjoy.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Obama Book Club

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The Harry Potter series is one of my all time favorites. It has influenced my most recent years in ways that almost can’t be expressed, and I found it all by accident.

As part of my Jewish heritage, I am prohibited from working on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I was always taught that work included driving, shopping, cooking during the day, coloring, writing (how ghastly!) and computer work.

In lieu of any of those things, since most years I did not attend Temple on the High Holy Days, I wanted something productive, but not work to do, and so each year, I chose one or two books to read. I didn’t read as much then as I do now, and so on the High Holidays, my way to prayer was to sit quietly, contemplate G-d and the universe, and read a new book.

Right around when I was pregnant or when my son was born, my friend, another teacher, gave me to borrow, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I hadn’t heard the hype yet or at least it was at the beginning of its pop culture takeover, right around when librarians and teachers were discovering that boys actually liked reading if you gave them something interesting to read – a good policy for all genders.

So, I read it. I think it took less than the two days of Rosh Hashanah, and I needed the next one immediately. I joined legions of kids waiting on the hold list for the fourth book when it came out at the library.

In the interim, right after the seventh book came out, I discovered fan fiction, and then I was writing fan fiction and somehow started and became a group leader in an online community of a subfandom of Harry Potter called Daydverse. It was wonderful for the creative doors it opened up, but more importantly it brought me a group of friends of all ages and walks of life that I continue to be close to.

Harry Potter opened a new world for me, and showed me through the related tangents that I had different paths to pursue.

I am continuing to pursue them.

Like President Obama in this Entertainment Weekly article, I highly recommend the Harry Potter series to all age groups.

From the books, find the movies, and the careers of the actors; the actor who played Draco is now on one of our family’s favorite television shows, The CW’s The Flash. From there, check out JK Rowling’s Twitter. I have great admiration for her as a person, and she has a lot to say.

But always, always, always, begin with the books. The books are magical. You will cease to be a Muggle forever.

Fandom Merchandise and Where to Find It

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​As I look at my Christmas gifts, and my recent birthday gifts before that, I am struck, but not terribly surprised by how much relates to the variety of fandoms and pop culture things I am involved in. Many of these things have stayed with me since my teen years, to the point that I no longer participate, but they still hold an important place in my heart. The one example that comes to mind was my getting a new messenger bag: ThinkGeek’s Bag of Holding. It’s so glorious that I’ll be writing a separate review of it. My son was a little annoyed that I would be getting it – it was a little expensive, but with the thirty percent discount that was offered, it was well worth it. He was still a little annoyed and exclaimed, “You don’t even like Dungeons & Dragons!” I think I may have snorted. I was momentarily speechless.

I don’t like Dungeons & Dragons?! Do you even know me?! I had been playing Dungeons & Dragons since high school. In our school cafeteria, we would use the half-pint milk container as a six-sided die. Every weekend in college, we’d get together in the blue room to play. Dave, our DM (dungeon master) would not let us have any alcohol. We got stupid. We were probably the only group on a Saturday night not drunk. We would play all weekend, talking time only to sleep before the next night’s game.

I met my college roommate in a study hall through a conversation about character sheets.

My oldest son used my original books when he and his friends played Dungeons & Dragons.

Not a fan?! Harumph!

Glancing at The Walking Dead trivia box, the Hufflepuff necklace, the Supernatural zipper bag, the Star Trek 50th anniversary gold ornament with sound, I saw just how many fandom things there are, and I also realized how difficult it was to get some of them.

Continue reading

Tea for Tuesday

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A belated birthday gift from my bestie! Fandom blends from Adagio Teas. My first choice for this morning is The Walking Dead’s Daryl blend.

The blend consists of Mambo, Honeybush Vanilla, Mocha Nut Mate, Cocoa Nibs, and Cloves.

I use about a teaspoon and pour the boiling water over my strainer. I give it a taste and almost always add sugar, two teaspoons. With the mocha and cocoa, I think it would be very nice with a bit of milk, but our house is short of milk at the moment.

What I love most about these teas is that they almost always taste like their description on the tin.

This blend is smooth, enough caffeine to perk me up when I didn’t really want to be perked up, but morning has come, so… The cloves, vanilla, and cocoa give it a hint of the holidays, but not out of place in the cold of January.

Despite being really strong flavors – cloves, vanilla, and cocoa – they are very subtle in this blend, and no aftertaste that I sometimes get with flavored tea. This is also a black tea base, which is my personal preference.

Reviews from at least four more fandom blends to come including The Avengers, Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter.

Can’t wait to try them all!

The Day After the Day After

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[Author’s Note: This isn’t meta per se, but it does contain spoilers, however vague for The Walking Dead and Harry Potter. If you have not seen TWD 6:3 or read Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows, you might want to skip this.]

For those of you who are fans of an ongoing series, whether it be movies, books or a television series will understand the emotional upheaval that comes with the loss of a character so integral to the story; at least in your mind’s view of the characters and the story. Now, I’m almost positive (about 98% sure) that this character is coming back in two weeks, but that doesn’t change the initial feeling of seeing someone you have come to love over the past five years suddenly, and unexpectedly die. Horribly.

The initial ‘oh crap, he’s in a real pickle’ to ‘wait, why isn’t he getting out of said pickle’ to ‘OMGWTFISHAPPENING?! NOOOOOO! NOT HIM!!!!!!’ can suddenly propel you into a deep sadness and sense of denial; deep denial.

I’ve been there, in denial, since the episode aired, and I’m going to stay there for a bit longer. It was one of the reasons I didn’t post yesterday; I just didn’t feel it. I’m only know coming back.

That is the only way I can explain what happened to me between approximately 9:45pm on Sunday night and pretty much right now.

The last time I had this happen so intensely was in the summer of 2007 when JK Rowling killed Fred Weasley. I don’t care who actually said the spell, the Killing Curse, JK’s responsible and she knows it. And no, JK, if you’re reading this, I still have not forgiven you. That emotional upheaval sent me to Live Journal and down the rabbit hole of a world of fan fiction and meta and other passionate fans of all stripes, and it’s safe to say my life will never be the same.

I wouldn’t call what I’m feeling depression. Despite the lethargy, the not wanting to get out of bed, loss of appetite except for the cheese doodle craving, the rewatching of the offending episode, the constant thought processes figuring out his last minute escape, I know that this isn’t a clinical depression or even a situational one. However, that doesn’t mean that these feelings are not real.

It’s very real.

Especially for those who have little by the way of in person family and friends, who find comfort in the escape of a television series that they love, who find a strong support network in fandom.

For some of us, it’s just plain fun. For others, it’s escape; it’s coping; it’s so many things that unless you experience it, you can’t begin to name them all, and they come in multiples as well: fun and escape. Fun and coping. Coping and inspiration.
For me, it’s many of those things.

For those, even those in my own household, who say it’s only a TV show, yes, it is, but it is also more, even to them. Why else would they block out at least an hour each week to watch it? I’ve mentioned that in our family, this is the biggest fall season I can ever remember. My oldest son does a lot of his watching on the internet, but for the rest of us, we have our shows and we love them and we get together practically every day to share in the experience of a new episode.

We watch; we predict; we laugh; we cry. Sometimes we live vicariously through them. I wouldn’t want to experience a zombie apocalypse but I’d like to think that I have the will and the ability to survive it; to continue to live my life; to not lose myself in this new chaotic world.

That is one of the things this character in particular embodied. While other characters changed for the worse, and others have changed for the better, and we learn something from all of them, this character has an inherent goodness that is needed in this seemingly no good future world. He is good, and he’s kind. He’s compassionate and he shows mercy; sometimes when maybe he shouldn’t. But he’s kept his moral compass focused, and to lose that is to lose something special and significant.

I know he’s coming back.

But he might not. Or escaping this, he might die later on in the series.

That’s what I’m mourning these last two days. We’re going to lose him, and we’re going to need to cope with that loss. This was a test of some sort, but all it showed us is how ill-prepared we are and we will be when this character and others like him don’t make it.

What happens when he’s really dead?

The other characters will move on. They’ll mourn, and they’ll cry. They’ll be angry and take their frustrations out maybe where they shouldn’t, but they, along with us will get through it somehow.

We’ll always get through it somehow.

Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, but in recreating lives on television or in books, we get a little bit of a dress rehearsal where we can see our reactions to losing someone we love, to seeing the good in people, and in being able to change our own selves for the better while we still have the chance.

It’s one of the reasons we gravitate towards characters that are both so alike and so different from ourselves. Just in the episode, we saw a character change for the better even if he couldn’t handle the realities of this world.

But that doesn’t mean we give up on the rest of those characters who need to change; who want to change and are changing right before our eyes.

He’s is the only one with enough heart to take them under his wings and teach them to fly; teach us to fly. There is still much to learn and much to do. We need him to guide us there.

While I know he’ll be back, I’m still also mourning. We still lost something. Only time will tell what that is.