On Ants and Jobs and Graduation

Greetings again!

I thought, back in March, that perhaps I would begin blogging more frequently since I had so much time at home. And I would have, too, except after my last post I realized I had absolutely nothing to write about.

We still had ants.

We were still eating chicken.

We still played gin rummy in the evenings.

What else could I have had to say?

However, with the passing of months, some things have changed, warranting a new blog post:

We no longer have ants!!!!

Exciting, yes? I’m sure any woman who’s ever dealt with a month-long infestation of ants in her kitchen will share my joy at being rid of the annoying little things. When we finally got rid of them for real, I wandered around the kitchen in amazement every single morning, marveling at the ant-less-ness of the sink, counter, cupboards, and dishdrainer.

Those were good days.

Aside from our ant-freedom, what else is new? Well, we’re still eating boatloads of chicken, but we have cut back on our gin rummy habit. Not because we’re tired of it (well, Logan might be, but he’s a champ and hasn’t said so), but because our evenings have gotten preciously short. God opened a door to a piano/violin teaching job at a local studio about a month ago, and the after-school lessons have dramatically reduced our gin rummy playing time. Sad, I know, but we’re adjusting.

And guys. I was made to be a music teacher. I love teaching lessons. I (briefly) toyed with the idea of being a classroom teacher several years ago, but my month-long experience in China showed me that I can’t handle large groups of kids. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE kids. (See? Italicized AND capitalized means I’m for real.) But I’m not good at classroom management, and I hated trying to teach to the average: Johnny never learned anything because he was more advanced than the lessons I was preparing; Samuel struggled because we were moving too fast. I’m sure that real teachers would have all sorts of ideas for individualizing and modifying lessons for “exceptionalities,” but it wasn’t for me.

This, however, is for me. I love getting to know students one-on-one. I love the way their personalities and learning styles show so clearly when they’re on their own in the lesson room. I love being able to slow down to explain phrasing a little more clearly if I need to. I love coming up with fun ways to drill rhythms and note names. I love being able to move an exceptional student ahead to something that challenges her. I love seeing students come back after a week of practice having mastered something that had challenged them the last time. I love praising them and seeing their confidence grow. I love the little girls who skip into the room with enthusiasm. I love making the quiet teenage boys laugh, even if it’s the only non-piano noise he’ll make all lesson. I just love this job.

Looking back, God’s hand is so clear in every step that brought me here. Reflecting on His goodness in preparing me for this place is a long enough tale to warrant its own post, really. It’s embarrassing to think about all those times I cried during lessons (Mrs. Boone was a literal saint, and never once sounded even the slightest bit frustrated with my snotty sniffling). It’s odd to remember that I went through 2 1/2 years of college NOT intending to study music. It’s incredible (as in “completely unbelievable”) to realize I made a decent grade in every semester of ear training. And it’s wonderful to realize that God opened up this job at just the time I was ready to start working; that He directed me to the job posting when I hadn’t checked for music jobs in over a month; that the studio was willing to take a risk on someone who hasn’t taught violin before; that my interviewer was so gracious about the fact that I was an hour late to our meeting (unclear Google maps + accidentally getting on a highway that only has exits every two miles . . . ).

And not only did He provide a job that I absolutely love. . . God’s also provided a wonderful church family where I’ve been able to get involved musically. I’m using my violin and my voice, and yes, even playing handbells again! He’s so good to me.

In other news, congrats to all ABC’s graduating seniors! We wish we could be walking with you . . . but let’s be honest, we’re really happy about NOT walking with you. Not because of you. You’re awesome and I loved having you as my classmates for 2 1/2 years. Because of other things, like travel expenses and dumb hats and the fact that Logan’s parents can’t be at two graduations at once (and Charis’s doctorate is a lot more important) and stuff like that. Anyhow. If any of you are reading this (which you’re probably not because packing and family and Bible conference and wedding plans, for half of you at least), just know that Logan and I wish we could hug you goodbye once more before God scatters us to serve Him all over the earth.

Alright. I’ve rambled about ants and jobs and graduation, but it’s time for the really important stuff: laundry and cleaning and paying bills. And also putting on warmer clothes because North Carolina is SERIOUSLY bipolar and keeps tricking me into boxing up all my sweaters.

Rude.

 

 

A Ridiculously Long Post (With Pictures)

What is this feeling, so sudden and new? I felt the moment…
I walked out of my sophomore platform.
My pulse isn’t rushing,
My head isn’t reeling.
My face isn’t flushing.
What is this feeling?
Fervid as a flame, does it have a name?
Yes….yeeeeeeeeeees!
Freedom! Nearly-absolute freedom! And peace! And lack of stress!

Okay. Bad Wicked parodies aside, I am basically floating right now. Remember how I termed the past two weeks “Death Week” and “Lesser Death Week”? I wasn’t joking. They were every bit as crazy as I anticipated–maybe, in fact, even worse. Continue reading

Book Review: Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (and other things)

Dearest Interwebs;

Congratulations! You are again being treated to one of those “Betsy just doesn’t feel like editing before publishing” posts, which I know you absolutely adore because they make you feel better about your rationality.

Anyhow, I’m writing this en route back to Wild & Wonderful West Virginia. Thanksgiving break was delightful–with the obvious exception of the persistently terrifying cave crickets, which fortunately didn’t consume too much of my soul this trip–and now it’s back for the final two-and-a-half-week rush. This first week I’m affectionately referring to as “Death Week,” and the second I’ll term “Lesser Death Week.” This week includes the Christmas concert at the far end–for which I am a chorale member, Jubilate member, orchestra member, piano accompanist, prelude-player, and student conductor, because I make poor life choices sometimes–and the music theory final project at the near end–for which I keep staring at a partially-written piece of music blankly, muttering things like “rounded binary” and “leading tone resolution” and “passing 6-4 progression” and “dominant of the dominant” fruitlessly, hoping that such highbrow musical terms will inspire me. (So far, they haven’t much.)

“Now Betsy,” I hear you sweetly interjecting. “If this week is actually as deadly as you make out and you’re not just exaggerating again, why in the name of Sweet Bojangle’s aren’t you working on these things?”

While I appreciate your kindness (and your masterful use of idioms), this has a rather simple answer: a while back I volunteered to be an influencer reader for Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s lastest work, Golden Daughter, which I as to have done by November 30th. Which is, coincidentally, today! Why didn’t I review it over break? Because I was too busy taking naps. Worth it.

Anyhow, without further delay, on to the review.

golden daughter[That picture looks like I’m posting it with a terrible resolution, but I’m hoping it’s my screen.]

Golden Daughter

BEYOND THE REALM OF DREAMS IS A WORLD SHE NEVER IMAGINED

Masayi Sairu was raised to be dainty, delicate, demure . . . and deadly. She is one of the emperor’s Golden Daughters, as much a legend as she is a commodity. One day, Sairu will be contracted in marriage to a patron, whom she will secretly guard for the rest of her life.

But when she learns that a sacred Dream Walker of the temple seeks the protection of a Golden Daughter, Sairu forgoes marriage in favor of this role. Her skills are stretched to the limit, for assassins hunt in the shadows, and phantoms haunt in dreams. With only a mysterious Faerie cat and a handsome slave—possessed of his own strange abilities—to help her, can Sairu shield her new mistress from evils she can neither see nor touch?

For the Dragon is building an army of fire. And soon the heavens will burn.

As, I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pretty big fan of Ms. Stengl’s “Tales of Goldstone Wood” series. (Should that title be underlined? Italicized? Quotation-marked? Left alone?) Anyhow, that series–I like it. Golden Daughter was an absolutely fabulous addition, staying true to the series while still introducing something completely new.

One of the “new” things Golden Daughter introduces is the setting; while Heartless began in a fairly traditionally-flavored European-esque fairytale scene, Ms. Stengl hasn’t limited herself to that in following books. This particular book explores the Empire of Noorhitam, previously mentioned mostly in passing. (Well, I can’t say that for certain: the novella Goddess Tithe, so I hear, goes along with this work, but as I have yet to acquire Goddess Tithe, my knowledge is rather limited.) Noorhitam has a distinctly Asain flavor. Do you know how much fun it is to read fairytales that aren’t European-based? It’s not only fun, but it helps to keep the series fresh and unique.

While it’s different in its cultural setting, however, Golden Daughter ties in quite beautifully with the rest of the series. It’s rather incredible to me, actually, how Ms. Stengl can take a theme from one book and make it into a whole ‘nother story… Honestly, most of the connections fly completely over my head. One of the main characters, Sunan, appears as a rather insignificant (I thought) ship captain all the way back in book two, Veiled Rose…but I wouldn’t have remembered that if someone else hadn’t pointed it out. And all the references to the “goldstone” and the night of moonblood and the temple of Ay-Ibunda and Una’s ring…details which I wouldn’t have connected somehow come together. Actually, reading Golden Daughter made me want more to re-read all the other Goldstone Woods books, because I am completely sure I would catch a lot more subtleties now. Someday when music theory isn’t calling. Until then, if someone else cares to make some sort of index or glossary or timeline or something, that would be fantastic.

There’s a lot more I could say–about the characters (I loved Sairu, and Eanrin’s back, being chased by a fluffy lion dog names Rice Cake, no less!), about the plot (Mysterious? Check. Complicated? Check. Engaging? Check.), about the development of Ms. Stengl’s writing (I found Golden Daughter to be adult-ier than the beginning novels, if that makes sense…not that the others were juvenile…you know what I mean…I hope), about the length (deliciously long!!)–but this is already getting pretty lengthy.  A few random thoughts, and then the summary:

  • I wouldn’t recommend starting the series with this book. While you technically could–each book is written in a fairly stand-alone style–I still think Heartless is the best starting point.
  • As I mentioned, I found this book “adultier,” even a little bit darker at a point or two. Ms. Stengl has always been good at writing realistically, dealing with both the good and the bad, both the beautiful and the blighted, but it’s getting deeper. Not uncomfortably so, but so nonetheless. Evil exists, and she doesn’t shy away from portraying that.
  • I wasn’t as crazy about the allegory in this book as I was in some of the others. Heartless was a fairly straightforward Gospel allegory, and the subsequent books have delved into other themes. Golden Daughter has a Joseph theme, which , to my great chagrin, I didn’t pick up on until it was pointed out to me. I did, however, notice a fairly strong Revelation likeness, which I just wasn’t quite as comfortable with…probably because Revelation is already pretty debated about, and allegorizing an already-debated book just sits wrong on my dispensational upbringing, you know? However, I don’t think expounding on eschatology was Ms. Stengl’s purpose here.

In summary, I really liked Golden Daughter (though Starflower still has the most feels for me). One of my favorite things about the series is Ms. Stengl’s ability to create realistic characters is non-realistic settings. While I don’t expect to ever go dream walking, witness an attack on the Lady Moon, or discover a temple made of voices, I can see myself in the characters that did. They had weaknesses and temptations and failures like me, and sometimes they had strengths and victories like me, and that is what I love about these stories. Without departing from her previous books, Ms. Stengl has created an epic that’s fresh and surprising and ancient and familiar and believably unbelievable and heartbreaking and joyously glad. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Now. Music theory time!!

xoxoxoxoxoxo (just in case I don’t make it),
Betsy

disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Summer. Finally.

Dearest All Four People Who Read This;

Greetings.

You may remember last time I posted I mentioned Jubilate tour. (And by “you may remember,” I really mean, “most of you saw me on Jubilate tour and it totally made my days.”) At any rate, it’s over now. We pulled back on campus late last night, unloaded, debriefed, hugged, and went our various ways. (And by “our various ways,” I mean “primarily back to the dorms one last night before our families come to pick us up.”) If blogging about chorale tour was hard, this is harder. Continue reading

There’s Honey in the Rock (really!!)

David Hume, metaphysics, and empiricism have thoroughly confused my mind, so I’m breaking to blog a minute. I could break to work on sightsinging…but blogging is more fun. Plus, my voice is dead. How dead, you ask? 100%, seriously. I don’t think I could sing another note if you paid me. (Though, depending on how much you were offering, I might give you a really good try.) “Wait,” I hear you asking. “Why is your voice 100% dead? Have you contracted some sort of plague from your RA? Did you spend an entire afternoon yelling at one of those sporting event things? Did you accidentally eat an entire jar of peanut butter and so your throat is sticking together?” While I will grant that those are quite admirable guesses, they are, in actuality, incorrect. My RA, though having experienced diseases in a previous life, was gracious enough never to pass them on to me; I don’t even know what those sporting event things you speak of are; and I haven’t had any peanut butter in a long time. No, my voice is dead for quite another reason: I, along with 34 other ABC students, just finished 14 choral concerts over the course of the past 11 days. We sang selections from a repertoire of 15 songs at 9 churches and 5 schools in 4 states and 2 zones, and ate approximately 500 chocolate chip cookies and 9 ham sandwiches. Continue reading