Saturday, July 30, 2016

Poetry Break

The innate powers of literature and poetry have been haunting me.  I blame it on my AP Literature homework and the book that I'm currently reading about literary analysis and interpretation. It's Thomas Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and I think I'm enjoying it far too much.  (I mean, intertextuality?  Yes, always and forever!)  When I was little, I used to dress up in blouses that were way too big for me to play either hospital or school (or occasionally "newspaper" and "store") with my brother and misfit dolls, and I'd always get very emotionally involved in whatever role I was playing, but, regardless of whether or not we were in outer space or in a 1820s schoolhouse, books and reading were always involved.  They've been constant friends, loved to the point of torn pages and stains and memorization.  What's unfortunate, though, is that, no matter how much I love stories and books, there are still so many people in the world who don't have them. I've mentioned this before, yes, but the whole back-to-school (almost) thing has been reminding me of it because, while we're all seeing our summers wind down and wishing they'd last longer, there are whole villages of people that are starving and will never get to go to a schoolhouse or learn to read.  It's a true tragedy.  I hope maybe one day I'll be able to do more than just write about it, but writing is a start.
<3 Frances

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Irena Sendler, the WWII Hero You May Not Have Heard About

As someone who had a very close friendship with their European History textbook, I have the tendency to get overly-enthusiastic when I find out "new" things about history.  When I'm at history museums, it's a bit dangerous because of how much time I spend wandering around obsessing over artifacts, and my mum and I have been known to go full fan-girl over little details we've learned about the past. Bram Stoker's wife was an ex-girlfriend of Oscar Wilde?  Branwell Bronte (the Bronte Sisters' brother) wanted to die standing up?  Oh, my, so interesting!
Anyway, World War II is one of the subjects closest to my heart, so I was really moved when I found out about Irena Sendler yesterday.  I knew I didn't know nearly all of the WWII heroes/stories yet, but I can't believe I hadn't heard of Irena until just recently.  She passed away in 2008 and was even nominated for the Nobel Prize a while back.  During the war, she was a Polish nurse, and she got a gig working on plumbing and sewage in the Warsaw ghetto--where she used her toolbox to secretly sneak infants and small children out to safety.  She then got them false identity documents, and after the war, she tried to help them reconnect with their families. Sadly, many of their parents had been killed.  Many of the children ended up being raised by foster families, and they owed their lives to Irena's willingness to risk her own.  #powergirl
To learn more about Irena, check out Life in Jar.

<3 Frances

Thursday, July 21, 2016

School in Wartime

"All children here witnessed war."  That's what Larissa Zhidkova, headmistress of School No. 12 (Slovyansk, Urkaine), said about her students in an article for UNICEF, and it's a line that I can't get out of my head.  Living where I do, war--though I've spent years reading, listening, and talking about it--is a faraway thing.  I have family members who have experienced war firsthand, but I myself never have, and I have the gift of getting to go to sleep in the same bed every night without worrying whether or not it will still be there when I wake up in the morning.  But there are so many other people out there who don't have that luxury.  The fires and shellings and shootings we see in images are the ones that they see around them, and death is so real to them that life has become an unreliable game of chance.
Photo from

Anyway, I suppose the reason that I'm writing about this is because I feel like we forget too often what's happening to people (and animals, too) and become too focused on things like politics and disagreements.  We also spend so much time talking about what's new that we push long-term issues into the backs of our minds.  I mean, the fighting in Ukraine seems rarely discussed nowadays because it's an older subject, but that doesn't mean its effects aren't still felt.  The children at School No. 12 in Slovyansk have still experienced loss and tragedy and trauma.  Even if it may have not happened "recently," it still happened, and they're still working through it.  Fortunately for these children, though, school has become a place of respite, and their teachers (notably one named Yvgeni) have been providing stress management classes to help them cope with the scars of war.  Reading about these sorts of programs makes me smile because it reminds me that there's hope for recovery for everyone.  I wish there were more funding for these programs.  I volunteer in schools a lot, and there's an awful lot of funding for research into best teaching methods, etc., but I think the emphasis should be taken off of acronyms and theories and put onto things like education in wartime and stress remediation (for teachers as well as for students).  Those are just some thoughts for today.

<3 Frances

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Planet Sleeps

When I was a baby, I fell asleep listening to the faraway soundtrack of The Planet Sleeps, an album of lullabies from all corners of the world.  It was the late 1990s, and the world was a far more complicated place than I could've ever imagined from the security of a wicker bassinet.  War, poverty, and pain scarred the planet, but the lullabies of The Planet Sleeps connected the world in peace and love and calm.  That CD somehow made everything feel blue and starry, even if it wasn't, and I can't help but to think that its songs could save the world.  How could horror continue in the face of something so beautiful?

The Planet Sleeps
The cover art of The Planet Sleeps is magical realism-meets-indie (thank you, 1990s alternative scene!), and the album itself is/was a fundraiser for UNICEF. Inside, though, is when things get exciting.  Tucked into the album cover is a little booklet of the songs, their translations, and anecdotes about their origins.  Each anecdote is as poetic and special as the song it accompanies.  I learned, for instance, that "Oj Talasi," a lullaby from Bosnia and Herzegovina, was performed by The Trebevic Choir during a tumultuous time of war and strife.  Choir members met with each other to perform the song during a difficult winter despite cultural boundaries and wartime bombardment, and many of them later disappeared.  It's heartbreaking, and "Oj Talasi" is a poignant reminder of the need for peace and love for and between everyone.  Some of my other favorites from The Planet Sleeps are "Fais Do Do, Colin Mon Petite Frere" (France), "Schlafe Mein Prinzchen, Schlaf Ein" (Germany), and "Phnom Penh Lullaby" (Cambodia). But there are also songs from places like North America, Ireland, and New Zealand.
"Oj Talasi"

"Fais Do Do, Colin Mon Petite Frer"

No one is too old for lullabies.  The Planet Sleeps (available at Amazon) is a compilation of some of the best, and it's particularly important now in this time of so much unrest.  The world needs to be reminded that it is whole. We need to remember that, no matter where we come from, we all sleep under the same stars, and we need love now more than ever. 
<3 Frances

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Braces and More Music

After wearing a corrective retainer for most of seventh grade, I thought that my tiny, oddly-shaped teeth would stay somewhat straight.  Several years and a bit of time off from my night guard (I couldn't wear it after my wisdom teeth were removed), my teeth decided to rotate back into their original state of crookedness, and, as of today, I have braces.  Yay! (Apparently, the pain won't start until later, so for now I'm in the clear...)
Today has very much been a work day, and I've been doing summer assignments and organizing a classroom library, but I have some music to share that'll hopefully help you get through to the weekend. 

Violent Femmes: "Blister in the Sun"
Coldplay: "Up&Up"
Foals: "Mountain At My Gates"

<3 Frances

Saturday, July 9, 2016

All the People...

Imagine all the people, living life in peace...

John Lennon: "Imagine"

<3 Frances

Monday, July 4, 2016

Stories in Everything and Vintage Stamps

My mum and I could talk about history forever. It's one big compilation of stories (which, as any bibliophile can agree, are essentially life-blood), and we have the tendency to become incredibly attached to its characters.  Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are both very admirable pieces of literature, but my interest in them is largely fueled by the true stories about the Bronte Sisters (which are tragic and heartbreaking and full of illness and death, by the way), and I could get totally lost in the library's historical literature section. I was also best friends with my sophomore AP European History textbook and still get emotional over having parted with it....
All this in mind, it's pretty clear why I am so very excited to be sharing these vintage stamps!! My mum found them in a giveaway room at work, and I just took a break from working and went through them this morning. They are so diverse and so clearly used that I can hardly contain my geeky awe, lol. Our favorite discoveries include Christmas stamps from Grenada in 1970, a 1929 stamp from London, stamps from Argentina (the Spanish language-lover in me is super happy about these ones), and a Beethoven stamp that says "Republique Rwandaise." What's really cool is that some of the stamps have black ink residue on them from when they were cancelled at the post office. I keep wondering who bought them and used them and what they were sending. Wartime love letters? Birthday cards? Oh, the possibilities! I'll let you know if anything is haunted.

<3 Frances