Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Until the Very End

[pic via]

In part, JK Rowling dedicated the final book in her Harry Potter series to me, a devoted fan who has stuck with Harry until the very end.

The 7th book was published in 2007, and Harry Potter's story was officially complete, but it has never felt so final as it does now, with the release of the last film in the franchise. Of course, we went to see the movie the minute it opened, but instead of providing a sense of wholeness with the conclusion, it instead left me with a giant gaping void, longing to be filled again.

You see, Harry Potter and his world have been a distinct part of mine for over a decade. I was first introduced to Harry (yes, we're on a first name basis by now) in 2000 by my smarter, younger brother, Richard. Naturally, I balked at the boy wizard's childish story; anything that my nerdy little brother was into was way below me. Since I was already a sophomore in high school, I was much too mature for a "kid's book." Thankfully, my mom continued to prompt me to pick up the Hero's Journey with anecdotes of a "funny house elf" and a flying car, as well as deeper lessons in friendship, courage, loyalty, and love. I finally conceded to quiet my scoffing long enough to "try just one."

To my surprise, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone truly was a cute, entertaining, easy-to-read book with deep underlying meaning. It wasn't long until I stepped a little deeper into the Potterworld with The Chamber of Secrets, which I found that I enjoyed even more than the first. From that moment on, I dove headfirst into this magical world of wands and chocolate frogs.

I anxiously awaited the release of each subsequent novel. Every time Harry boarded the Hogwarts Express, I was right alongside him on his journey into the wizarding world. And at the end of each book, when he was sent back to live with the Durselys for the summer, I, too, was stuck in the muggle world waiting for the next book to be published.

Over the last ten years, the limits of JK Rowling's imagination have become mine, as well. I genuinely felt like I was there when Harry, Ron, and Hermione lulled Fluffy to sleep in order to save the Sorcerer's Stone from the man who murdered his parents; when they ventured deep inside the Chamber of Secrets to encounter the first of many parts of Voldemort's soul stored within a horcrux; when they helped free the Prisoner of Azkaban who would become one of my favorite characters; when his name was spit from the Goblet of Fire and he competed in the Tri-Wizard Tournemant, only to be portkeyed to his arch nemesis; when they fought Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic with the Order of the Phoenix and he finally discovered his true destiny; when he was (seemingly) betrayed by the Half-Blood Prince after studying the history, and final downfall, of his rival; and when they tracked down the Deathly Hallows and finally destroyed all of the horcruxes, so they could save the entire wizarding world from the most evil wizard who ever lived.

I remember drinking butterbeer and learning the rules of Quidditch as if I was truly part of the story. I have legitimate memories of traveling to Hogsmeade and visiting Honeyduke's and Zonko's Joke Shop. I felt like I actually wrote feet of parchment worth of essays for Snape, only to have Hermione correct it all, and that I really wandered the castle in the darkness under the invisibility cloak's protection. I felt the pain when loved ones died along the way. I felt the betrayal when nobody believed that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had returned. I felt the loneliness of being the Chosen One and the fear of having to go on an impossible mission to defeat the scariest, meanest, evilest wizard ever. I felt the resolution of knowing what must be done in order to finally conquer, and I felt the courage it took to make that final journey, as well as the love that it took to get there.

I know I probably sound like a total freak to those who haven't been properly introduced to Harry Potter, and maybe even to some of you who have met him, but haven't gotten to know him like I do. But Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as well as Neville, Luna, Fred, George, Sirius, Lupin, Dobby, Hagrid, Ginny, and so many others have truly been my friends over the years. They were a safe place to go to when I needed an escape. They truly provided me with comfort, peace, familiarity and a sense of belonging, direction, and identity through their fictional lives.

Over the last ten years, Harry and Co. have taught me many things. They've taught me the value of friendship and loyalty and bravery and courage; of believing in yourself even when you're the only one who does; of trusting in the good of others; of working hard and not giving up; of choices being far more important than abilities or lineage, and choosing what is right may not always be what is easy; of the power of love, and the greatest of which is one who lays down his life for others.

If I ever wrote a personal letter to Jo, I imagine it would look very similar to this hypothetical one written by an author/songwriter I admire:

Dear Ms. Rowling,
I think it’s remarkable what you’ve done. I love your imagination. I love your characterization and your sense of humor. I love that you’re telling a story about choosing the right thing, even when it’s hard. I love that you’re telling a story that is full of wisdom, a story that reminds me how evil Evil is. Most of all, I love that your story reminds me that light is stronger than darkness, that the best way to love is to lay your life down, and that Death will not have the final say. By the way, I’m a follower of Christ, and I see him in your story. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, but you should know that he’s in there. In fact, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that reading your books has helped me to praise him even more for his courage, his sacrifice, and his strength to conquer the hosts of hell to save us.
Andrew Peterson

That about sums it all up for me. I really don't know how to feel right now. With the release of the final film marking the true end to Harry's (and my) magical journey, I genuinely feel like I'm mourning the loss of my childhood; like I just graduated and the real (muggle) world is looming in my too-near future.

The Mehaffey siblings taking part in the last moments of world-wide Harry Potter fandom. We waited in line for four hours, and Brad and I made custom shirts to commemorate the occasion.

Waiting for the conclusion to finally begin, ten years in the making.

I will surely miss the anticipation of the next book or movie installment. I'll miss the excitement of midnight premieres. I'll miss the mystery of the unknown and the journey. I'll miss the reign this phenomenon has had on our culture. But, no matter what, I'll always be part of the Harry Potter generation, and I'll luckily never have to truly miss the wizarding world, because this is not the end, not really. Hogwarts will always be there to welcome me home.

Thank you, Jo Rowling, for so many things, I can't even express. Thanks to you, and the Boy Who Lived, all is well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

HP "Friday" parody

This about sums up my excitement today!

(Seriously, parodies of "Friday" never get old!)

It All Ends. Tonight.

The countdown consists of mere hours!

For the last week, I've been enjoying a week long Potterthon, watching a movie a day in preparation for this final installment. (Each one gets so much better than the one before! This last one is going to be absolutely epic!) However, if you haven't had the opportunity to take part in your own Potterfest, here's a quick recap of all the films up to this point. Time to brush up on your horcuxes and hallows!

EEEE!!! I.am.so.excited.for.this! I can hardly stand it! This is it! This is the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort; the final showdown between good and evil; the final moments of simultaneous Pottermania worldwide. This is it. It all ends tonight. I'm so ready! (With a full package of kleenex...)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Joyful blooms

This summer heat wave is making me really crabby. (Seriously, a heat index of well over 100 degrees? Not even being able to check the mail without breaking a sweat? No thank you!) So I decided to focus on an aspect of summer that always makes me smile: pretty plants and the opportunity to work with them.

From the time we purchased our house, Brad and I have enjoyed gradually settling in and making it feel more like home. During the warmer months, that means we're even claiming the yard as well. This summer, we outlined the landscaping that Brad did a year ago with some brick-like "bullets." I think the trim makes the design look much more finished.

When Brad planted the Autumn maple tree (above right), he moved the little magnolia bush and ground cover to the other side of our garage. We've had quite a few blooms this season, but they haven't lasted too long. I'm hoping next year it'll be covered in flowers.

Since I had recently discovered that I really love watching plants grow (God is so visible!), my birthday wish was for a flowery tree to go on the left side of our driveway. I thought I really wanted a cherry tree, since they're so pretty, but the guy easily convinced me to get this hydrangea bush (pruned to resemble a tree) when he said that the blooms last much longer. More flowers make me happy; Sold! It has already grown quite a bit since April, and the little bushels of tiny white flowers are slowly developing. (Note to self: I need to take a current picture.)

Because it was my birthday, the nice (and very knowledgeable) flea market nursery guy let me choose from a host of additional small bushes for free! We chose this pink weigela bush, because pink is my favorite color of flower we knew it would look great in the place of our faltering rhododendron, which we had to move to the back of the house where it gets less light. (And where it is now thriving! Even if it remains unphotographed. Another note to self...)

The azaleas lining the front porch really showed off this year! It's so fun to see plants that we placed there last year come back all on their own (with a lot of  help from their Creator) just to exhibit God's glory. It is actually when these came into bloom that I really learned of my love for working with plants and flowers. It's like witnessing a miracle! And it serves a visual reminder of God's redemptive nature to bring forth beauty where there once was none.

Lilies of all kinds are my very favorite flowers ever (followed closely by tulips), and when these determined stalks surprised us by unexpectedly sprouting out even through a weed barrier and the rocks we had previously laid, I was thrilled! I don't know where we have been all our lives, but it simply didn't occur to us that these flowers would reappear this year. But now I know that bulbs come back and multiply year after year. I guess those "common knowledge" things have to start sometime!

I can't remember exactly what these cute little flowers are (geraniums? anyone?), but they're the perfect "welcome home" on our front porch. This picture was taken immediately after I planted them, but they've since gotten so big that they hang outside of the basket and take up about half of the vertical space. Oh, I just love to watch things grow!

To let that "God automatically makes bulbs reappear and multiply" lesson sink in even further, our day lilies have recently exploded! Last year, we planted six in this area, and this year we must have well over ten plants blooming like crazy. But, seeing as how I looo-oo-ooove lilies, I'm absolutely ecstacic! Brad says that if they keep this up, we may have to relocate some, though. We're thinking of removing the rock in that little section and adding some of the day lilies to the other lilies and just having a lily patch right there. At this rate, it would fill up that area in no time! And a lily patch is right up my alley. The only thing that could make it better, is a few tulips thrown in for good measure.

If our neighbors ever see me come home from work, I'm sure they wonder what in the world I'm doing, because I drive so slowly into the garage, providing me enough time to take a good look at every plant as I pass. When it's not 100 degrees out, I'll pull in and then walk around the whole yard checking out each flower and leaf, noticing any new buds that may have sprouted during the day. It's like they're my little babies or something.

I think flowers are such a wonderful gift from my Father. It's like He just wants me to know how kind, loving, generous, powerful, and creative He is. I mean, generally all women like to receive flowers as a gift from the man they love; I look at flowers growing in the earth as gifts directly from the One who truly holds my heart, as an expression of his love for me. What an incredible blessing.

There. That was just the refocus that I needed in order to break me away from this heat-induced grumpiness. Thanks for your help. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fine dining

I know some people may not care all that much, but I'm super excited about our new dining room table! Our old table was a wonderful blessing when it was gifted to us at the start of our marriage, and it has served us very well for over six years. However, it could only fit four, and that was not very conducive to hosting dinners, which is one of our favorite things to do. Especially every thanksgiving, when we've had to shove our card table up to one end to make room for the entire family to sit together.

As our homes have increased in size over the years, so has our available space for a dining area. A bigger table has been on our wish list for a pretty long time, but it hasn't quite ranked high enough on our priority list to also consequently find its way into our budget. Thankfully, my dad graciously volunteered to swap tables with us, since he had a large one just hanging out in his underused dining room. Holla! Now look at this baby! And this is the size of it while only including one of the two additional 1.5 foot leaves!

Isn't it just wonderful? (I know I'm a big dork for being so pumped about furniture, but I'm not even embarrassed about it. It is what it is.) I wish I could take a lot of credit for the way it turned out, but in all honesty, a lot of it was Brad's doing. I definitely wanted to stick with our red and black theme that I love, but it was all Brad's idea to make the "captain" chairs red and the others black, and it was also his idea to have the duel tablecloths (red by black chairs and black by red chairs), and he even stumbled upon the damask cloth all on his own while I was elsewhere in the store! Seriously, I have to give him all the credit. He's my own little interior decorator.

But I will totally take some credit for the floral centerpiece. While it was a mutual effort to piece the flower arrangement together, it was all my idea to use free party favor beaded necklaces as the vase filler. That's decorating on a budget right there.

PS. Just for comparison's sake, here's a picture of our old table being dwarfed in our larger dining room. It was great while it lasted, but I'm so glad to have more proportionate furniture in there that will comfortably seat more people.

Isn't it just so inviting? With the extra leaf added, we can totally fit the whole family at one table for Thanksgiving. (At least until we have to make room for a high chair or two!)

Well, what are ya waiting for? Come on over! There's plenty of room for you to join us for dinner! Hope you like spaghetti! :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Final HP world premiere

If only Brad and I had a full stock of Floo Powder, we could have used this giant fireplace at the Cheekwood Mansion to travel through the Floo Network over to London for the World Premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two, yesterday.

But, alas, we haven't been able to make the trip to Diagon Alley to replenish our supply. And since neither of us have passed our Apparition test yet (splinching is no joke, people), I had to settle with watching the livestream of the premiere online. It was nearly as good as being there in person.

I can't even begin to imagine how Jo, the actors, and the crew must feel knowing that it's all finally complete. I'm a blubbering fool, myself, and it's not even my baby.

"Whether you return by page or big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."
- Jo Rowling

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011's 4th of July Weekend

It took us an entire weekend to celebrate America's 235th birthday! It began on Friday night when the Hill Ridge Crew (minus EmJ, plus the newlyweds Alex and Amber) came to our house for a cookout and redneck fireworks. That's what Independence Day is all about, y'all. Well, that and independence...

Saturday, Brad and I spent the afternoon at Cheekwood with Alex and Amber (A²), enjoying the beautiful gardens and the incredible, historic mansion.

When the fourth came around, A² and Brad and I dressed up in our most patriotic (read: tackiest) ensembles and made our second annual trip to Nashville's Hot Chicken Festival, "the only thing hotter than the 4th of July." My mouth is a big wimp, so the only thing I feasted upon was the free watermelon. Ah, summer... (PS. Doesn't that dog on my shirt look just like Chester?! Love it!)

This year, we decided to semi-avoid the massive down-town crowd for the city's fireworks display, so we camped out on the opposite side of the river. We only had to temporarily penetrate the chaos when we crossed the bridge to get some greasy delicious vendor food for dinner.

The boys played frisbee as we waited for the sun to go down, and the girls practiced blowing bubbles with our grape Bubblicious. We pretty much mastered the art by nightfall.

I have to admit, even though we had a pretty decent view of the fireworks and could hear the symphony's live broadcast over the car's radio, my heart was a little sad to not be right on the river like we were last year. It just wasn't the same. I couldn't feel the booms in my chest, and we couldn't see all of the ground display, and worst of all, we looked like dorks when we cheered out loud by ourselves. It was definitely nice to not be as sunburned, since we didn't have to claim our territory on the riverfront all day, but I'm not sure we'll miss out like that again. If we're going to watch the big show, we need to be in the big crowd. That's all I'm saying. Lesson learned.

The 4th of July is always one of my favorite holidays, because it's just so laid back. It's all about hanging out with your favorite people and reflecting on the blessings we receive as citizens of this great nation. Our country's freedom is something that I don't know that I fully appreciate, since it's all I've ever known. But I try, especially on the anniversary of our gain of independence, to not take it for granted.

However, there's another type of freedom that is even better, and that's the freedom we have in Christ. I can't think of political freedom without also considering my spiritual freedom. God is so good.

Friday, July 1, 2011

2 weeks and counting down!

It's July! Which means it's Harry Potter month!! His birthday is 7/31/80; the final book was released on 7/21/07; and the final movie will be released on 7/15/11! Did you catch that last one? The final movie will be released in just two weeks!!!

If you need a refresher on where we are, here's a recap of what happened in Part 1. (Sorry about the annoying message across the screen. But if you click on it, you get a sneak peek at a new scene!)

And for those of us who have read the books and don't mind spoilers, here's a featurette about the horcruxes and what's coming up in this epic conclusion of the story.

EEEEE!!!! Two weeks, people! Two.Weeks! I better get started on the Mehaffey Sibling t-shirts for the midnight release! Are any of you going to join us in this last moment of Pottermania?? You can never get it back...
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