Monday, November 10, 2014

Remembering Veteran's Day and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day and we at BFB would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the veterans and their families who have made such incredible sacrifices for our nation. On celebrations like today it is easy to focus on the memories of the people who served and died during World War I and II and that is so very important. It is also essential that we not forget that we are a nation at war and have been for over a decade. Our armed forces are still put into harm's way every day and many return home bearing physical and psychological wounds. This Veteran's Day, let's not forget those who are serving amongst us today.

There are some excellent ways to observe Veteran's Day, check your local papers for details on parades, ceremonies, and other public events. Consider visiting with a veteran your family knows, or bringing a meal to a family who has a relative serving in the armed forces.

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, illuminated balloons have been placed along the original 9-mile stretch of wall. Here it is seen from above at night. What an incredible visualization of a city divided.
Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall! If you were alive at this time, you probably remember where your were. I was nine years old and very confused about the idea of an "Iron Curtain" separating East and West Germany. Check out this video of the celebrations in Germany, including the release of balloons symbolizing the wall. Amazing! Other interesting articles about this historic event:

Pieces of the Berlin Wall around the World

The Berlin Wall is Everywhere

Reagan and Kennedy's Speeches at the Berlin Wall

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Literature Shaped Childhoods, or how every girl I knew growing up wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder

 If I had to choose one series of books that had an outsized place in my childhood it would have to be Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. Whether is was being read aloud to me or I was sneaking the books off into my room to read ahead, the stories of Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, and Carrie had a profound influence in shaping my love of reading. I wanted a dog like Jack, I thought that my wardrobe was horribly incomplete because I didn't have a brown and red calico dress (or any calico for that matter), I wished I had opportunities to prove I was adventurous and brave like Laura. And, of course, when I was picked on by a particularly nasty girl, I took solace in the fact that I had my own Nellie Oleson with whom to contend.  Isn't poor Nellie the villain that every girl loves to hate?

My two favorite titles from the series were On the Banks of Plum Creek and These Happy Golden Years and even now I can open those books up to my favorite chapters. Being the purist that I was at age 9, I was horrified to find that the movie versions featured a beardless Pa and swore to never watch them, a promise I have faithfully kept although it didn't take much effort.

I cannot wait to introduce my children to these books and so I was intrigued when I came across this article, Reading Laura Ingalls Wilders is Not the Same When You're a Parent. It's excellent and well-worth reading. The author, Amy Lifson, was similarly obsessed with Little House as a girl and writes about how her perspective on the books shifted when she began reading them as an adult and I can completely relate. The charm of the stories absolutely remains but there is a weightiness that comes when you begin seeing situations more from Ma and Pa's perspective as opposed to Laura's. The Ingalls lived a very very difficult life but I don't remember thinking that as a child. Yes, there were hardships and scary scenes (who can forget the story of Pa getting lost in the blizzard?) but the overarching theme was one of contentment and savoring simple pleasures. Despite the fact that danger and deprivation were often time scratching at the door, everything was fine when Pa played his fiddle long into the night. But now, I see these stories as a bit more harrowing and questions arise like, "Why were the Ingalls constantly moving?"and "How did Ma always remain so calm in the midst of so much constant uncertainty?"

Lifson digs into the history behind the stories and finds some real treasures. Letters between Laura and her daughter, Rose, help fill in glossed over details. These brings new light to something I sensed as a child but only fully realize as an adult and parents: Ma and Pa were truly remarkable parents. As quoted by Lifson:
Charles Ingalls was a hands-on dad at a time when gender roles were more distinct and fathers were often emotionally absent. Between the lines of the family’s travels is a guide for contemporary parents on how to smooth adversity with calmness and optimism. “Her father, particularly, must have been an incredible man who was able to distract them and entertain them and react to these situations as they unfolded with great equanimity, given the conditions,” says Fraser. He was the master of redirection, a code word in modern parenting, and found teachable moments at every turn. When Laura was crying over not getting what she wanted, Pa instructs her to look at the miles of Osage Indians leaving the territory. “Look at the Indians, Laura. . . . Look west, and then look east, and see what you see.” Laura choked down her tears, obeyed her father, “and in a moment she was still.”
As Lifson concludes "...Little House series isn’t so much a story of a young pioneer girl, but a tribute to her parents’ love, steadiness, and endurance." 

Returning to these books as an adult has been such a joy. I know this isn't always the case, but these books only get better. What books have you enjoyed returning to as an adult?

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages.  To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here.
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