Category Archives: Knowledge

A Little Piece of History: Abraham Lincoln

I love old things. The smell of old books, the architecture of old buildings, the creak of old furniture. There’s something special about touching the past. Which means that I was especially excited when my sister-in-law brought over an old newspaper.

A family friend had let her borrow some old newspapers that a great-grandmother had kept in an attic. Among the delicate pages was an unexpected surprise.

Abe Lincoln newspaper

This article is from May 26, 1860: when Lincoln was still a nominee for president. It was filled not only with his political views but also a full description of his appearance. Certainly not the sort of article you read now. (The flourish of yellow journalism hadn’t left its stain on the industry yet.)

As I touched the pages, I wondered who else had read them, what they thought about the election, what their daily lives were like. And I wondered if they had any idea that someone else would be in awe of this piece of history 157 years later.

Do you like historical objects? What’s the most interesting historical artifact you’ve seen?


Happy Birthday, Tolkien! #TolkienBirthdayToast

Today is Tolkien’s 125th birthday, which means British food, plenty of tea, and all things Middle-earth are on tap for today. Okay, amid getting ready for the spring semester to begin.

It’s also a great day to share an interesting tidbit of Anglo-Saxon history. While Tolkien is best known for writing about Middle-earth, he had many interests, including Anglo-Saxon history. With that in mind, I came across something fascinating while making cookies and watching Secrets of Great British Castles via Netflix.

Evidently, there was once a Norman monk known as Gundulf of Rochester. King William I noticed that he had a knack for architecture so he helped build none other than the White Tower, which is now part of the Tower of London. Could this Gundulf have somehow inspired the Gandalf we all know and love today? Or did the White Tower influence Minis Tirith or The Two Towers itself? No one may know now, but a historian on the show presented the theory, and it’s certainly one I’d never heard before.

Tonight at 9pm local time is the Tolkien Society’s annual toast to the Professor. I’ll likely have my customary Taylor’s of Harrogate afternoon Darjeeling (because afternoon Darjeeling is good at any time of day). A good cup of tea just seems appropriate.

So here’s to another year of celebrating the Professor, his many accomplishments, and his lasting influence.

The Evolution of Star Wars

The latest movie in the Star Wars franchise — Rogue One — is out. Needless to say, I’m excited. While I haven’t seen it yet (though that will change soon), I already feel better about it than I did Episode VII. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Episode VII. I certainly did, but there were directions it took that I wasn’t so sure about. And that I still feel conflicted about a year later.

Rogue One looks different. First off, it’s clearly a bit different than most of the Star Wars movies so far. In many ways, it reminds me more of The Clone Wars. (Yes, it’s animated. Yes, I watched it. Yes, it’s actually better than you’d think it is. I was skeptical at first.) There’s a lot more war in it. And — perhaps for that reason — it looks a little darker and grittier. Both of those seem appropriate considering the nature and tone of the movie itself.

Initially, I thought the change was just because it’s more of a war story and that’s just how those look these days. However, it looks like there might be more to that. It looks like it might be how the space opera has changed over the years.

The video is 10 minutes, but it’s well worth it. I know it changed the way I look at Star Wars.

Are you looking forward to Rogue One? Have you seen it yet? If so, did you like it?

And Reading Therapy (Or, A Future Occupation?)

Bibliotherapy. Evidently, it’s a real thing. Of course, any reader can tell you the mental and emotional benefits of reading. (Not just self-help books either but fiction.) It’s an escape into a fictional world. The Rivendell to the journey through life.

But it’s also a way to deal with problems. Last time, I wrote about how writing has helped me through different events in my life. (Okay, so I only listed one major example, but there are plenty of others.) Reading has done the same.

During that same time of growing up that I mentioned in the last post, I was very much into The Lord of the Rings. Like, my mom and I had weekly marathons of all three films. I found myself relating heavily to Sam Gamgee. He is the epitome of loyalty. The journey wasn’t really his, but he wouldn’t let Frodo go alone. He supported Frodo at every turn, even when that meant he would inevitably die. I was good at being a friend before, but I think I became a better one thanks to Sam.

Evidently, though, this idea of bibliotherapy started with the Greeks and has carried on into modern society. And for good reason. It works. And here’s the original article that inspired this post in the first place: “Bibliotherapy Is Real and Wonderful.” (Newly discovered note about the link: It now redirects to an offer to download their plug in before showing the article. Obnoxious, I know. If you click on the round “Go to blog post” at the bottom, it’ll show the content I meant for you to see. Sorry about that!)

So I suppose this means that, if I ever decide to move away from teaching, I can become a bibliotherapist instead.

What books have helped you through hard times in your life? Would you want to be a bibliotherapist too?

A Linguistical Approach to Lying

A couple of weeks ago, I helped the psychology teacher at school with typing up some quizzes. I’ve always had an interest in psychology (probably thanks in part to my parents’ counseling and my dad’s background as a mental health therapist), so I enjoyed quizzing myself to see what I already knew and learn more. (I did pretty well!)

One of the things I love about psychology, sociology, and the science behind who we are is how helpful it is in writing. Through stories and by knowing other people well, I have glimpses of how other people experience the world. But by understanding the basics of everything from a scientific perspective as well, there’s a whole new layer to explore.

This whole train of thought reminded me of a recent TED-Ed video I found on lying. I’ve watched plenty of shows about how it works on multiple levels, but this one is different. Instead of focusing on physical tics and responses, it focuses on how liars speak. If that isn’t handy for writing, I don’t know what is.

On Linguistics (or, Why Don’t We Read Beeks Instead of Books?)

Today is the first day of school, and what a fun one it’s been. I love seeing so many familiar faces and welcoming the new ones as well. Instead of retreating to the middle school wing, I helped everyone find their classrooms. My first French classes start soon.

Transitioning from teaching middle school English to high school French has been an adventure. Some things are the same. Other things are very different. One thing that has come in handy in both classes, though, is my love of linguistics.

I wish I had time in college to take more linguistics classes, but the one on the history of the English language was enough to whet my appetite and make it into a lifelong pursuit.

Recently, I found a TED-Ed video on English’s plurals system. You thought it was confusing the way it is? Just think of what would have happened if the Norse hadn’t streamlined the language after invading!



Remembering the Battle of the Somme

Today marks 100 years since the Battle of the Somme began. Most people just know it as one of the many battles during World War I (if they know it off the top of their heads at all). Perhaps they even know that it’s the bloodiest day of battle in the British Army’s history and one of the bloodiest in military history. However, it’s also a day, and more accurately a battle, that shaped one of my favorite authors: JRR Tolkien.

While Tolkien’s service during WWI was short, this is what he faced. A stalemate in the trenches that lasted until November 1st. A battle that resulted in more than 1.5 million deaths on both sides.

One of Tolkien’s good friends, Robert Gilson, was there the first day of this battle and died leading his men. Another of his friends, Geoffrey Bache Smith, died as the battle came to a close. Only one close friend, Christopher Wiseman, survived. Tolkien fought until the end of October, when he had to leave due to trench fever.

Our experiences influence our writing, and I’ve read several great articles throughout the years on how Tolkien’s military service and the loss of all but one of his close friends affected him. Middle-earth’s history is riddled with its own wars. In each, the heroes demonstrate courage, heroism, and sacrifice: things he would have seen every day as they fought.

Want to read more from the Tolkien Society and see two short documentaries (one on Tolkien and one on his friend, Robert Gilson)? Click here.

For more on the Battle of the Somme in general, click here.

Do you know of any experiences that shaped your favorite author? What experiences shape your writing?