My Baby is 8!!

…And by “my baby,” I mean this blog.

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I think I tell this story every year, but this started as just a passion project.  I took a college class my freshman year on “digital literacies.”  Basically, it was how to understand and write everything from blogs to Wikipedia pages.  And when I saw how easy it was (and how I didn’t exactly care for the format of Blogger), I went on the hunt for something new.

TADA!

I thought up the name “Belle of the Library” off the cuff while I was in my dorm room.  I realized I needed something and, probably feeling snarky at the time, I thought of the phrase “belle of the ball.”  Obviously that wasn’t going to work for a book blog, so I tweaked it to “belle of the library.”  With the play on words with Belle the Disney princess, it was perfect for me.

Eight years later, this blog is still going.  Maybe not as regularly as it has in the past (or over the summer, when I have more time), but it’s still here.  I’m still here.  You’re all still here, and that’s probably the craziest part of it all.

For whatever reason you like this blog, I hope you continue to like it.  I try to be as authentically me as I can be and I think that’s what some of you really like.  I’m currently in the middle of show choir season and what amounts to my 2nd attempt to buy a house in 6 months (the 1st attempt went horribly wrong), but once things start settling down, I’ll hopefully be back.  Of course, by then it’ll probably be summer again and we’ll be good to go!

Thanks for 8 excellent years, my friends!

~Holly

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2018 — A Year in Review

Ok, so I’m not normally the kind of person who likes to take a look back at the last year and all that, but since this year was…well, 2018 and something of a dumpster fire, I figured it could be cathartic.

So first, let’s talk about the good stuff.  LET’S TALK ABOUT BOOKS.

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According to my Goodreads account, my year looks something like this:

  • I’ve read 117 books this year (falling quite short of my 2015 record of 173, but still a solid number).
  • This translates to roughly 44,796 pages, which is also solid but again short of my 2015 record of 64,328 pages.  (And that year, Goodreads didn’t track rereads.  0_0)
  • Mostly, I rate books 4/5 stars.  I will admit that part of this is laziness, but also partly because I tend to read books that I like and if it doesn’t completely blow me out of the water, I’m not going to give it a five.  Hence, a four.
  • I’ve only had 2 DNF’s this year.  Surprisingly, this is about 2 more than normal because I can’t bring myself to not finish a book.  But I’m learning that if I think it sucks, why waste the time?
  • My longest book was The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon at 979 pages (a reread from the Outlander series) which I started rereading to prepare for season 4 of the show.  Fiery Cross is book 5, but I got on a roll and I remembered how much I liked this one.
  • I’ve also had a significant uptick in romance novels that I read.  I think this is two-fold.  1) I have less of a stigma now about reading what I want and 2) these books typically have great character development, funny plots, and happy endings, which has been really nice considering how dark the news has been.

Now let’s kind of take a look at more of what’s been going on personally.

  • Technically starting in November 2017, I started falling in for-real love with my high school crush.  In many respects, it was a dream come true.  I’d wondered what it would be like to be with him for so long that to actually be able to kiss him and cuddle with him?  It was great.
  • Until it wasn’t.  There were layers to him I’d never known about.  He kept secrets from me and started doing drugs in front of me (something I loudly and vehemently let him know was NOT OK).  I ended things with him in May when it all became too much.
  • Attended a cousin’s wedding.  While it looked nice (and the bride comes from a bit of money), it was also a bit redneck.  They served Little Caesar’s pizza at the reception.  LITTLE CAESAR’S.
  • It’s been years in the making, but I have now earned the family reputation of being The One Who Will Turn Anything Into a Dirty Joke.  Thank you.  This award will take a place of honor among my things.
  • I’ve watched a friend lose her job in the wake of the #MeToo movement.  She threw something across the room to get a student’s attention and it accidentally hit him in the face.  Parents were informed, principal talked to her, everything was fine.  Next day, she’s in huge trouble after the parents talked to their kid.  Suspended for 3 days.  But it was snowballing by then and the parents wanted nothing less than her head on a pike.  After her suspension, she was fired.  (Let it be known, there is a male teacher at my school who, it is well known by the administration, throws chalkboard erasers at students daily.)  Now, she has arguably a better job than she did before and the principal of her old school is now struggling to fill her position and grades the homework himself since short-term subs can’t do that.  #Karma
  • This was The Year I Got My Extended Family Interested in Genealogy.  (Immediate family is a lost cause.)  It’s been like 4 years in the making, but hallelujah, I can finally talk about family history with family!  (Nearly every one of them doesn’t care about it if they don’t know the people personally, so it’s frustrating.)  But once I was able to organize everything into easily accessible binders, they’ve all been fawning over me to get their hands on the binders.
  • This was also the Year I Almost Bought A House.  During October, I made an offer on a cute little ranch.  Only problem was it was a bachelor pad and the guy was not handy at all.  Problems compounded.  When I got the inspection done, they pointed out thing after thing we didn’t see before, like how the windows were rotted through.  When I asked for money to fix the windows, they tried to stonewall me and bully me into taking virtually nothing.  It was a horrible experience.  I felt almost every day like no one was looking out for me (especially not my realtor) and I was fighting everything on my own while knowing nothing about real estate.  About 1.5 months after I made my initial offer and 3.5 weeks after I alerted them that I was 1000% done with this house, they finally let me out of my deal when I threatened to take further action to get my earnest money back.  I did not mince words.  Sometimes, getting on your broomstick and making threats gets things done.
  • I’m now teaching strictly one grade level rather than two.  It has its perks, I admit.  Like I don’t have to spend nearly as much time planning anymore.  If I get an idea, I just roll with it and I’m done.  But the bad news?  I’ve gone from grading 80-100 essays at one time (depending on the size of that grade level) to getting about 140 at once.  It makes a difference.
  • OUTLANDER SEASON 4 IS AMAZING.  Also, Call the Midwife.  And The Last Kingdom.  You want historical fiction shows, I can point you in the right direction.
  • I learned a ton of French this year!  I can actually understand most of it when I read it or hear it in movies.  Well, hearing’s debatable, but I can read the subtitles well.  I have a Duolingo streak of like 240 days that I’m massively proud of.
  • This was also the year I sucked up my pride and tried out for a musical again, my first time in about 8 years.  The audition went horribly, but at least I did it.
  • I’ve taken up painting more seriously.  And knitting.  I’ve created some really interesting works in both that I’m proud of.
  • THE COLTS ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS!

Of course, it’s hard to summarize a year into a few bullet points, but I think I’ve hit some of the biggest points.  It’s been an interesting year to say the least.

Hopefully, your year has been full of more ups than downs.

And here’s hoping that 2019 brings with it some better luck than this year did.  I’d really like to buy a house in 2019, for starters.

My Holiday Pet Peeve: “Are you still single?”

Alright everybody, I know I am not the only one out there with this particular pet peeve, so we’re going to cheer each other up right now.

On Thanksgiving Day, I was at my mom’s side, who are generally all Catholics, married young, and had a boatload of babies.  This goes for my aunts/uncles and my cousins.

Then there’s me and my three brothers.  Not one of us has a significant other and I don’t think any of us are actively looking at the moment either.  While I wouldn’t turn down a date if one came my way, I’m a little more focused on things like looking for houses and my job and doing whatever I freaking well please to whenever I freaking want to.

But who gets asked the dreaded question?

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Oh, right.  Me.  Not my brothers.  Me.

I hate this sexist question.  With a bloody passion.

Only the funny thing was I didn’t get asked this question yesterday.  And I had a fantastic time.  One of my younger cousins and I nerded out about history and Bing Crosby and made plans to have an old Christmas movie marathon.  I hung out with my uncles and brothers and watched football and knit a shawl.  (Yes, my uncles gave me some crap about it, but I can take it.  In fact, I prefer it to being upstairs with the aunts.)

It was only this morning that I found out someone had asked about my relationship status.  One of my aunts, who is typically described as “nosy” inquired with my mom about my status.  Was I single?  Was I even looking?

“Well, she’d better hurry up and get you those grandbabies!”

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…This is actually pretty mild for what I’m feeling right now.  No one, no one has the right to tell me how to live my life like that.  Yes, I’m 27 and I do feel the pressure of the “biological clock” and all that, but I also want to be with the right guy and have a family together.  I don’t want to settle and then get divorced and then be a single mother dealing with custody battles and all that.

One of my aunts has done that and it was horrible.

But then here’s the best part.

When asked if I was even looking, my mom said she didn’t know.  So my aunt goes, “Well, she should start going to bars and looking!”

Why. In. Zeus-loving. Hades. Would. I. Do. That?

First of all, I never frequent bars.  Ever.  I have only set foot inside a bar I think twice in my life.  And not once have I actually had a drink there.

Secondly, as if that didn’t nail home the point enough, I don’t really drink.  I may have the occasional sangria at home, but I don’t drink in public at all.  I don’t see the enjoyment in it.  I’ve never been drunk and I do not relish the thought of ever being drunk.

And thirdly, I’ve kind of been down this road already.  One of my previous boyfriends was a fairly heavy drinker and during our relationship, I found myself a couple of times trying to keep pace with him.  I drank more than I really wanted to and I didn’t care for drinking just to keep someone company.  Another of my boyfriends had worked at a bar in the months before we met and spent most of his nights drunk.  By the time we met, he was on probation of drunk driving, but at least he’d sworn off alcohol after that.  I didn’t know it at the time, but later I’d learned he’d replaced alcohol with other drugs.

As you may be able to imagine, this makes me more than a little hesitant when it comes to dating now.

My mom’s on my side at least.  She almost turned to my aunt and said, “Why would she go shopping for men at a bar?”  To us, at least, it sounds horrible.  I’d be putting on a front the whole time just to meet someone who probably wouldn’t even be compatible with my introverted, bookish personality.

But she didn’t say that, only because she realized that’s how some of my cousins have/have probably met their significant others.

One of my cousins is actually a bartender and a serial serious dater.  He dates a girl for about a year, nearly gets engaged, and then something happens to break it off.  Two months later, he’s serious with a new girl.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

That’s not the life I want.  I want to be with the right person, someone who finds it interesting that I read all the time and have quirky interests.   I want someone who has their own quirky interests as well.  But all I keep seeing are dude-bros who still have the mentality of a college frat boy and want brainless arm candy.

And I’m not doing it.

So, if this holiday season, someone asks you if you’re still single and you’re as fed up as me, here are some types of responses you can give them:

1. The Truth

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2. The Evasion

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3. The Funny Truth

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4. The Response I’ve Always Wanted to Say

“Hey, if you can find me a guy who is X, Y, and Z [fill in with your own requirements, like tall, bookish, and nerdy] then I’ll be happy to date them.  But I haven’t been able to find that person yet.”

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Happy Holidays, everyone!  Don’t let family bother you too much.  They do (usually) mean well, even if they do make us mad sometimes.

Forever Harry Potter: The Lasting Legacy of Lily and James Potter

Well, here we are.  It’s Halloween and the official end of #HogwartsOctober.

As we all know, Halloween is a very important day in the series for a number of reasons like (1) the day Lily and James Potter were killed and Harry was given his scar, (2) the day the troll was in the dungeon and Harry, Ron, and Hermione became a trio, (3) Nearly Headless Nick’s death day party and the day the Chamber was opened again, (4) the day Sirius broke into Hogwarts, and (5) the day Harry was picked as a Triwizard competitor.

Phew, I’m tired.  That’s a lot of stuff happening on Halloween.  You’d think Harry would start circling it on the calendar and then wearing his invisibility cloak all day just to avoid it all.

But in all seriousness, I feel like Halloween is a day that we as Potter fans mourn.  Lily and James were betrayed by a close friend and lost their lives protecting Harry.  Sure, it ended the war and Voldemort was no more (…I uh, didn’t mean to make that rhyme…), but the cost was high.

And that’s the point.  War is costly.  Any time we fight for what we believe, there is a cost.  Perhaps we feel like we can pay it and we fight back.  Perhaps we feel the cost is too high and we either bury our heads in the sand or we flee.

Lily and James taught us the importance of sacrifice and love.  James willingly stood between Voldemort and Lily to protect her and Harry, to give them time to run.  Lily refused to move so Voldemort could attack Harry, even though he would have let her go.

Both of them were only 21 at the time.  Since wizards live to incredibly old ages, they literally had their whole lives ahead of them–possibly upwards of 100 years or more.  And yet this was important enough to lay down their lives for.

Because of love.  James loved Lily and Harry enough to sacrifice himself.  Lily loved Harry enough to die for him.  Neither of them cowered or begged for their own lives–they begged for the lives of their family instead.  Because they loved them enough to die for them if it would save them.

Love is the lasting legacy of Lily and James Potter.  They taught Harry how to love fiercely, even if he didn’t consciously remember that lesson.  He knew the effect, he knew the importance of it.

And through them, we have learned to love as well.

We’ve learned to love our friends with all our hearts.  Especially when they make mistakes or act like prats.  (Looking at you, Ron.)

We’ve learned to love a significant other unselfishly, and to let them go if need be.  (Like when Harry breaks up with Ginny.)

We’ve learned to love those who are different from us because each of us is important and you never know what we can contribute.  (Thanks, Luna.)

We’ve learned that love also means forgiveness, even if you don’t always forget.  (*cough* Ron)

We’ve learned that love comes in many forms and is expressed in many different ways.  Hagrid’s love and belief in Harry is exhibited differently than McGonagall’s or Dumbledore’s or even Dudley’s.  Because no matter what’s happened in the past, by the end of the series I firmly believe that Dudley realizes he does love Harry as a brother.

We’ve learned that sometimes with love, actions speak louder than words.  The Weasleys may never have said they loved Harry in so many words, but he was undoubtedly part of the family from the beginning.

We’ve learned that love lasts beyond death.  Those that we love never truly leave us.

And we’ve learned that underestimating the power of love is a dangerous thing.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re Voldemort, a political figure, a terrorist, or a bully/abuser.  Forgetting the power of love is to your detriment.

This is why we all still love Harry Potter and why it will continue to move generations beyond ours.  It’s a simple message, that love–and being willing to sacrifice to protect those you love–will bring light to even the darkest times.

Love is love is love.

We’re experiencing some dark times ourselves in the US and around the world.  Remember that with love, we can rise above the hate.

Thank you, Lily and James.

Life Lessons From Magic

#HogwartsOctober (10)

Hey everyone!  We’re only a few days away from the end of all this.  So for these final days, I want to talk about what makes Harry Potter so special and why it will endure for generations.

One of the things we Harry Potter fans love so much is how much this series has taught us about life.  While this list could be super long, I’m going to limit myself to three major lessons.

1. Love is the strongest force in the world

This gets hammered into our heads from the very beginning.  Voldemort’s ultimate weakness is that he doesn’t understand love and sacrifice.  He doesn’t understand that love binds people together tighter than fear.  Lily’s love for Harry and her willingness to sacrifice herself for Harry protected him and brought about Voldemort’s downfall the first time.  Harry’s willingness to die for his friends created that kind of protection for them and, again, brought about Voldemort’s downfall.

But even beyond that, there are smaller signs of this theme.  The Weasley’s become Harry’s true family as all of them–except maybe Percy–would do almost anything to protect Harry as one of their own.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione share a bond that helps them overcome so many dangerous situations.  You can even include in this the Dursley’s, who took Harry in and renewed Lily’s protection year after year.  Sure, they didn’t love him, but they did ultimately protect him.

It’s a powerful lesson for us to learn.  This was our chance to see what happens when we fight evil with love.  When people bond together over mutual respect and admiration rather than fear and ambition.

The world is a cold, cruel place.  A little more love would never go amiss.

2. Stand up for what you believe in

Every year, we saw Harry standing up for something that no one else believed.  Whether it was the fact that a teacher was going to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone or that Voldemort had returned, Harry shows us time and again the type of bravery it takes to stand alone, loudly proclaiming what you know to be your truth.

More than that, Harry was willing to fight for it.  He backed up his words with actions, and he was usually right.  He inspired others to fight as well.  Ron and Hermione.  Neville and the D.A.

As difficult as it may be to stand up and be the lone voice demanding something, it can bring about great changes in people and in the world around us.  I think more of us are learning that in this current world.

3. People can be both good and bad at the same time

This is one of my favorites, taken from a line said by Sirius.  The world isn’t broken into good people and Death Eaters; we each have a bit of light and dark in us.  None of us are perfectly good all of the time, nor are we evil to the core.

We see this time and again throughout the story.  I’d say the most specific examples are Dumbledore and Snape.  Harry would, in the beginning, have put Dumbledore firmly on the side of good and Snape all the way in the evil category.  But by the end of the series, I think he realizes that they are both human and can change/make mistakes.  It doesn’t mean that he can’t respect them–in fact, I would argue that we respect them more for their flaws.

Even Harry deals with this, knowing that he has a part of Voldemort inside of  him.  And Voldemort was a brilliant student who could have made an amazing life for himself instead of choosing darkness and destruction.

But it’s as Dumbledore tells us: it’s about our choices.  Our choices determine who we are.  And we are just as likely to make good choices as we are bad choices.

Just For Fun: Reading Harry Potter in French

So…I can feel a number of you already questioning my sanity.

Since like, April, I’ve been working on learning French.  While I do not claim to be great at it, I can read it better than I can speak it or hear it.  I’ve watched a few movies in French and I can more or less follow along with what’s happening 60-70% of the time.  Those seem like pretty good numbers.

It just so happened that my very lovely library system had Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, my favorite of the books, in French.  I’d been wanting to try my hand at reading a book in French for a while now, and there was no question it had to be a Harry Potter book.  It was a story I was familiar with enough to understand what was supposed to be happening and also popular enough that I stood a chance of having access to it without buying it.

It’s been slow progress.  I’ll start it and twenty minutes later have only read 4-6 pages.  But it’s a challenge that’s kind of fun.  (Not to mention the looks I get from coworkers when I tell them what I’m doing.  I swear, half the stuff I do like this is 50% my own satisfaction and 50% for their reactions.)

What’s kind of funny is how some of the words get changed across different languages.  Those of you who are bilingual already know this, but I’m new to this and it’s entertaining.

For example, Hogwarts is rechristened Poudlard.  That threw me for a loop when I first started.  And, while I’m not to Harry starting Hogwarts (excuse me, Poudlard) yet, I’m pretty sure Snape name has been changed to Rogue.  I’m not even making this up.  I thought it was a little heavy-handed, since Snape does actually go rogue on Voldemort, but then I learned that rogue in French translates to “arrogant” and I decided it was a lot heavy-handed.

But you want to know the best translation?  They don’t have a word for “wand” in French, so “wand” is known as baguette magique.  Every single time, I picture Harry brandishing a baguette when casting spells and it’s worth it.

Learning a new language is hard.  I’m terrible at conjugating verbs.  (That’s the entire reason I struggled with Spanish in school.)  But by listening to the language and reading it, I feel like I’ve been learning it a little faster than I would be if I were in a classroom setting.  I’m setting my pace, I’m doing what I’m interested in doing, and I’m developing a pretty good understanding of their grammar and syntax, not to mention the etymology of where a lot of our English words come from.

Anyway, I thought I’d bring a little levity to all of this.  We’re into our final days and it could get a little sappy as I look back on this past month.

Time Turner: What I Would Change About Harry Potter

Hey!  So first of all, let’s make it perfectly clear that the series is genius as is.  There’s nothing that I would seriously change about it, but it’s always nice to imagine “what if?” right?

These are a few things I would change, mostly because they hurt my heart too much.

Sirius would not die.  Period.

He’s my favorite character, even if he is just as angsty as Harry is in Order of the Phoenix.  I mean, I totally get it.  Even as an introvert, being told that I had to stay cooped up in an awful place like 12 Grimmauld Place after having spent 12 years in Azkaban, yeah, I’d be angsty too.

But also, Sirius is the one person that, for books 4 and 5, that Harry feels comfortable telling his worries and fears to.  When his scar hurts, he always tells Sirius first.  When he wants answers about where Hagrid is, he asks Sirius.  In this respect, Sirius is very much like Harry’s dad.  Harry doesn’t feel comfortable burdening anyone else with what’s happening in his life.  Hagrid’s not there, Dumbledore’s ignoring him, Arthur is busy with work and Order stuff, so he can really only turn to Sirius.

And the thing is, Sirius does help a lot with that.  He’s perhaps one of the few who’s actually listening to Harry.  When Harry voices his concerns, it’s because it’s actually a real problem at this point.  It’s not just a “oh yeah, this is slightly annoying” reaction; it’s more like, “this needs to change right now because something’s seriously wrong.”  And I don’t think most people understand that.  But Sirius does.

More about the Marauders

While we’re on the subject, I would absolutely love if we got to see more about the Marauders throughout their Hogwarts years.  I have these mental pictures in my head of what they all must have been like as students, but it’s basically all conjecture.  The only bits we actually get are usually someone looking back on those times (except for Snape’s memories).  Oh, and there’s this short little Marauders prequel thing Rowling wrote a long time ago that’s like 800 words.

I just think it would be so cool to see things from their perspective, not only what Hogwarts was like at the time, but also what it was like growing up when Voldemort was first in power.  Because if I remember correctly from what Sorcerer’s Stone said, that first war against Voldemort lasted close to 20 years.  I kind of want to know what it was like during that time.

More about Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw Houses

I feel like both of these houses are incredibly overlooked. True, we do know characters from each house.  At this point in Order of the Phoenix, we spend quite a bit of time with Cho and Luna (Ravenclaw) and we know Justin Finch-Flechey (at least, I tried spelling that right) and Ernie MacMillan (both of Hufflepuff).  But I feel like we still don’t really understand these two houses.

And I think that does sort of impact things.  Even in parodies that I watch, they basically say things like Gryffindor is for the good guys, Slytherin is for the bad guys, Ravenclaw is for the smart ones, and Hufflepuffs are the leftovers.  (Or they’re particularly good finders, if you catch my reference.  And I certainly hope some of you do.)

It would just be nice to know a little more about these houses.  I just don’t think they’re done justice.  We get to see the wide variety of personality traits within Gryffindor and eventually we see the evolution of Malfoy as he struggles with what he’s asked to do in the final books, but as for the other houses?  It doesn’t really happen.  And I would have liked to see that kind of character development for some of them.

Maybe Written From Ron’s Perspective?

I’m just throwing this out there, but I think it would be kind of cool to see the story from Ron’s perspective.  He’s typically with Harry for most of their adventures and usually picks up on hints about as quickly as Harry does.  But wouldn’t it be interesting to read about it all from the sidekick’s point of view?  I would totally be interested in knowing how Ron feels when Harry’s getting all of the attention.  We know sometimes he’s jealous of it, but I have to wonder sometimes if he’s lucky he doesn’t have that large target on his back.

Also, I think it would be really funny to see everything from Ron’s perspective because anything to do with Muggles would be new to him.  Can you see him trying to figure out how to use the telephone?  That would be hilarious!

Anyway, that one is totally far-fetched, but I like the idea.