My Hand Made Hobbit Hole – Bag End from Lord of the Rings

Being a huge Tolkien fan, this simply blew me away and left me utterly speechless.

Madshobbithole's Blog

Aerial View of Hobbit Dolls House

Background on Bag End:

My name is Maddie Chambers/Brindley and this all began when I was a young child and read the Hobbit for the first time. I believe I was about 10 and I was instantly hooked. My Nanan lent me her copy of the Lord of the Rings about 1 year later and I remember thinking that the trilogy leaped into a far more complex world and one that I completely lost myself in. I have read Lord of the Rings about 20+ times now and each time it holds as much magic as the first time. When they announced that they were making a movie, I was really concerned that it would not live up to my imagination and that I would be disappointed. As it happens, a lot of it DID live up to my expectations, and when Gandalf visited Bag End…

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First of Many

Since I moved here, I only felt homesick once, maybe twice, but I definitely felt a sense of homesickness on October 13, 2014. As of yesterday (or today, depending on which timezone you’re in), I had my first Thanksgiving Dinner away from home. I realize prior to moving here that I would definitely be celebrating a number of family oriented holidays away from home (i.e. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Family Day – yes, we have a day such as this in Canada, even Canada Day) and silly me thought I wouldn’t feel any sort of homesickness whatsoever.

I was never so wrong in my life.

I did feel homesick. I knew that during this time of year, the leaves on the trees are falling to the sound of the breezes that blow (anyone notice my reference to Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’? Anyone? No? Ok…. I’ll just nerd out somewhere else then), and see the wonderful colour change in nature. Autumn in Canada is simply a beautiful time of year and it’s also a season for family oriented holidays.

And this is where Thanksgiving comes in. Unlike the US, our version of Thanksgiving happens on October 13 (or around this date), a lot earlier than our American counterpart. In my family, we would travel to one of our relatives’ homes, see a ton of food just waiting to be eaten, say what we’re thankful for, and then eat to the point where there is no food left on the table. The amount of food prepared and eaten is taken on a whole new level in Filipino culture. First thing anyone learns: if you don’t eat all the food, you are insulting the people who made it and will be subjected to being told to eat more, if you refuse, you will be shunned.

Last Thanksgiving, it was pretty similar to what I described, only throw in a TV and a couple episodes of ‘The Voice’, then you get my family’s thanksgiving dinner. That’s what was going on through my mind when it finally hit me that I was going to be spending Thanksgiving away from home for the first time. And seeing the Facebook photos of people already having their thanksgiving dinner with their families, friends, saying what they’re thankful for, etc., didn’t really help either. So me, being me, I sent a text message to the only other Canadian I know in Melbourne: a wonderful young woman from Quebec who I met in one of my classes last semester, and I suggested we have a Thanksgiving dinner this year, and she agreed (just on a side note, I never felt so relieved that I’m not spending this holiday by myself).

Reflecting on my thanksgiving dinner last night (and technically, it still is thanksgiving from my part of the globe), I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for: my mom, my family (both the ones I know of and the ones I have yet to meet), my friends in Australia, my friends in Canada, for the amazing opportunity of living abroad, for having some sort of independence, for learning to find my own way in the world, for experiencing things that would help me in life, for turkey (man, that bird is good!), for hockey, for books, the wonderfully creative authors behind those books and for just so many other things in general. It made me realize that my mind shouldn’t be focused on the trivial things in life, and that I should be thankful with the people (and occasional materialistic object that reminds me of people) that makes me happy. After all happiness is the key to a longer life, eh?

I am also thankful for my improved ability to make new friends no matter the age. I’m only 18 and I can proudly say that I have friends in their 30s, while most people I know would shy away from attempting to create any sort of friendship 10 years their senior. I am thankful for the friends I  already made prior to my first Thanksgiving away from home, because they helped me make Australia my second home.

Speaking of home, it should be obvious that I really do miss my home in Canada. I miss my friends and family, I certainly miss my cat and dog, and I’m thankful that I have friends and family that supported me and my decision to study abroad. It’s something that I really do appreciate and I am now more determined then ever to get the grades I know I’m capable of attaining (still working on the laziness that comes with uni student life) just to make everyone proud.

Just to end things off, I am sure that this is just the first of many holidays where I will be reminded of why I’m here in Australia, how much I miss the Motherland when I’m not overwhelmed with school work, and just how thankful I am to have the opportunity to actually live in another country for a good chunk of time.

Of Blurting Things Out, Reflecting and Regretting

When I was a kid, I talked a lot. I would go on and on and on about the most insignificant of things. I wouldn’t even be asking questions, figuring that I would some how get the answer to my unasked question at some point. Instead, I would make comments, and a lot of it too. I would blurt things out without even thinking and just ramble on. One day, when I was seven years old, someone warned me that if I continued to do so, I’d get into a lot of trouble one day.

That person’s predictions eventually came true when I was 8 and again when I was 10. I said the wrong things to the wrong person and I got into a lot of trouble with both my mother and, indirectly, with the law. When I was 8, I blurted out that my mom hit me, and after that, child services got involved. They didn’t believe me when I said that it was an accident, that I was simply at the wrong place, at the wrong time. It was about a year before child services finally believed my mom and I. When I was 10, the same thing happened. Granted, child services hadn’t (thankfully) gotten involved, but like what happened when I was 8, I did blurt out something that didn’t need to be said. I remember having a fierce fight with my mother that resulted in my determination to keep my mouth shut and opinions, thoughts, feelings and everything to myself. I didn’t want to risk getting in trouble because of my mouth ever again. That one argument with my mother shook my 10 year old self to the core and never again did I want to share anything about myself with anyone. Not even my own relatives.

Keeping my thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc. to myself proved to be very difficult. Eventually, I became accustomed to making conversation with friends while trying not to reveal anything out of fear that I will blurt something again. I started to worry that conversations I have with friends would prove to be dull without the addition of my own personal opinions to add to it (on a side note, keeping my opinions out of conversation is, in a sense, a good habit to get into considering my dream job in diplomacy requires one’s opinions kept to themselves at the same time working objectively within a professional setting).

That resulted in my insecurity; not about body image, but the way I interact with people and the way I present myself in a social context. I don’t know what to say, so I resort to telling stories of what I’ve seen throughout the week, the conversations I had, the people I met, etc. I avoid topics such as school, work, my home life, and I especially don’t feel comfortable talking about my own opinions or my feelings. I even don’t feel comfortable when someone asks why I chose Australia (usually I respond with ‘it’s either here or Ireland’).

What I can’t stand the most is silence when it’s just me and one other person that I’m conversing with. I realize now that the result of my insecurity is represented by silence. If the person I’m with isn’t chatting, then it’d be me who’d end up chatting. It’s my effort to break it, to keep the conversation going that provides the lead up in me blurting something that really, really shouldn’t be said. I start rambling, becoming less coherent, start stumbling on my words, struggle with getting my thoughts out, and in my embarrassment, I’d end up saying the worst possible thing right out of the blue.

Reflecting on all of this, I think that the reason why I’m so insecure about silence is because I’m terrified of getting close with anyone. Very few people (both in Australia and Canada) know the true details of my life, and even fewer know the details of my childhood (which, aside from a few hiccups, really isn’t that bad overall). I’m terrified of being judged by my friends, the possibility of getting hurt, becoming a hypocrite, and most especially bearing my soul to the world; I’m terrified of a lot of things, but the idea of bearing my soul to even one other human being is on par with heights and getting deported (my deepest fears). I never tell a single person everything without feeling scared. Granted, there are some that know more than others, but not everything. Not even my best friend, and certainly not even my family.

It’s this fear of letting someone in (be it family or friend) that makes me hesitate in telling someone about my feelings, thoughts and opinions while having a conversation. It’s this fear of mine that prevents me from voicing my opinion and it’s what makes me ramble about insignificant things. It’s what makes me more comfortable making small talk than meaningful conversations. Thinking on it now, the only reason why I’m even comfortable in blogging about this, is the assurance of the internet’s anonymity.

Despite my fear of letting someone in, I’m actually quite content. It doesn’t get lonely and I’m never prodded with questions. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown used to keeping (what I deem to be) personal things to myself, maybe it’s because I’m used to being on my own, I don’t know. And going back to the original purpose of this post: I do regret blurting things out, but what can I do? I’m an imperfect human being with an irrational fear of silence and what it represents to me. The most that I can do after what’s been said is to take back what I said, apologize profusely, and learn from the mistakes I made and reduce the chances of it happening again. After all, it’s how one grows and becomes a better person.

The NFL’s Epic Breach of Trust

Just goes to show that money really is all that matters in sports leagues such as the NFL. They’re downplaying a heinous crime and even got the victim to apologize for being beaten. No matter what transpired prior to him hitting her, no one deserves to be a victim of domestic violence. Disgusting methods, NFL, completely disgusting.

TIME

The NFL is drowning in disgrace. The league has faced heavy criticism on anynumber of issues over the past few years, but the bungling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident, by both commissioner Roger Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens, is a new NFL low. Right now the actual games, given all these off-field antics, seem pretty beside the point.

Sure, the Ravens cut Rice, and Goodell suspended him indefinitely. But only when they had no other choice. After a new video surfaced Monday on TMZ.com — showing Rice clocking his then-fiancee out cold in an Atlantic City elevator — there was no conceivable circumstance in which Rice could take the field after his laughable two-game suspension was up. It’s hard enough to expunge Rice’s punch from your mind. His return would serve as an awful reminder, every time he touched the ball, of his now very public crime.

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Why Children are the Best

I love children, though it doesn’t mean to say that I want one now. (For goodness sake, I’m only 18! I don’t even want to get married for at least another decade let alone have kids!) However, with recent events taking place a couple days ago, I was reminded as to why I love them. To give you some back story, I’ll start off with the afternoon after my cousin’s ordination into priesthood.

It was a warm Saturday, and after the ceremony, my relatives and I made our way to the building where my cousin serves as Chaplain and I work as a volunteer. Needless to say, even though I was quite happy to see (and meet!) more relatives, I was still very, very upset with the events that took place the night before. Long story short, there was a guy involved, ’nuff said (and even within the anonymous world of blogging and the internet, I still have a very difficult time talking about personal, romantic feelings for another person).

Anyways, as soon as I stepped into the building and saw the other girl who volunteers there as well, I went over and started speaking to her. I wasn’t volunteering that day, but I helped a little bit in an effort to relieve some of the stress (considering there was quite a bit of people wanting to buy some drinks at the bar), after a while, three kids came right up to the bar wanting their apple and orange juices. That was the first time I met my cousin’s three children. The oldest, 12, the middle, 10 and the youngest 7 (turning 8 next month). I fell in love with the youngest at first sight. Her innocent smile just instantly brightened my day and all of a sudden I felt so much less gloomy.

Meeting my young 7 year old relative made me realize 10 reasons as to why children are simply the best.

10. Their optimism that comes with their innocence makes your day brighter.

Remember when you were a kid and you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? I don’t know about you, but I wanted to work as a spy. I remember watching some family friend’s kids for a couple hours, and when I asked them that question, I got responses like ‘I wanna be a fire fighter’, ‘Astronaut’, ‘Ballerina’, ‘I wanna be a fairy princess!’. They all have this confidence about them in which they truly believe they will become a fairy princess.

9. Playing games with them is more fun than anything.

There’s a reason why kids are always loud, and that’s mainly because they are always having fun. What’s better is that alcohol is not involved at all. Their unhinged imagination is what creates the best games known to humanity. I remember meeting two little girls who decided to be faeries one Halloween, and attacked the “Evil Monster” (who happened to be my friend and their 17 year old brother) by using Sparkle Powers.

8. They say the darndest things.

Let’s face it, with all their mispronunciations in lengthier words, kids do say the funniest and the most profound things. Sometimes, they’re even wittier than the grown ups.

7. Just watching them interact with others can make one smile.

Watching kids play games with other kids, or kids latching themselves to someone much older than them can make anyone smile. Granted, if you happen to have a child latch onto you, it can get slightly annoying, but the fact that they like you just goes to show that you’re not a horrible person. After all, kids always see the best in people.

6. You feel better about yourself when you make one smile.

Just looking at the expectant, and hopeful look on their faces can make even the most stoic of people succumb to the will of young children. The smile they have on their faces, afterwards, makes anything said child made you do completely worth it. I mean, who can resist the gleeful cheer? Or the wide grin? Or the eyes lit up in happiness.

5. They can be easily entertained.

Well, most can be easily entertained by simply turning on the television and flicking it to the children’s channel, or a cartoon network.

4. They’re adorable.

No explanation here needed.

3. They know how to have fun.

Playing pretend while using nothing but a twig on the ground? Making up new rules to tag? Playing an ‘extreme’ version of hide and seek? Suggesting ‘What time is it Mr. Wolf’? Scrambling up and down the playscape/jungle gym? Building stuff from random objects? Yeah. Kids know how to have fun. What’s better, no alcohol!

2. They have the best logic.

Kids always have a reason for doing something and it’s their motive that makes everything much more interesting. For example, a little girl once said to me “I wanna do pigtails on your hair and make you look younger!”

1. They are untainted and innocent.

I guess what makes me love them so much is their untainted, innocent view of the world. They do no wrong, they don’t know the cruelty of the world, and I guess it just makes me want to keep them that way.

What really makes me love them is the combination of all the ten things I just listed. Each child is innocent, has incredible logic and wit, along with a sense of fun and optimism and it’s this that makes it the highlight of anyone’s day. Just by interacting with them can they make anyone smile, just like how I instantly felt much better about myself just by spending time with my little cousin. Any thoughts of the night before were suddenly thrown out the window as she went about wandering around with my phone, taking some selfies and video-selfies, and then playing with my hair.

When someone tells me that spending time with kids are the best medicine, I can’t help but agree wholeheartedly.

A Romeo and Juliet Love Story from Iraq

Such a beautiful story. Reminds me of my own grandparents during the strife between Britain and Ireland.

Evil Reporter Chick

Mike and me in Baghdad in early April, 2006. He believed in love. I wonder if he still does. Mike and me in Baghdad in April, 2006. He believed in love. I wonder if he still does.

I met Mike when sectarian strife exploded in Baghdad in 2006. That was not his real name, of course, but it was what he went by in his job as a translator for American soldiers.

Mike and I spent several evenings chatting at a coffee shop on the vast Camp Liberty complex. He was a smart well-spoken man with Antonio Banderas looks. He told me about his life in Iraq before the war. He taught computer science at a small Baghdad college and ran a photo processing shop.

He told me about the hope he’d held in 2003 after the ouster of Saddam, after which he worked as a security guard for Kellogg, Brown & Root. Eventually he found a job as an interpreter for the U.S. Army.

But things did not progress…

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