Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One More Quick Post for the Day...

In the world of random thoughts that roam around my head, I was struck all of the sudden today by how many interesting and smart people there are and how thanks to the internet, I get to learn from them.  I must confess that as I was driving at lunch today my thoughts also turned to how many stupid and annoying people there are, but maybe I just need to separate the way a person drives from who they actually are and what they are capable of.

Some of these brilliant people live on my blog roll (which if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can see).  One of the principals on this list, Seth Godin, always makes me think.  He just makes so much sense and he professes the type of honest, permission-based marketing that I wish to bring to any business that I am ever involved in, and seek to do currently.  Marketing sounds like a boring business topic, but actually, as you dig deeper into it, it can be a deeply psychological view into human behavior and how it permeates every single thing in our current society.  Godin's views seem to be so counter-cultural (by viewing people as *shocker* human-beings) and against the traditional grain of Marketing 101, that I take his advice straight to heart.

Today I had the privilege to add my dear friend, Rebekah O'Dell's newest blog to my list as well.  Already on here for her amazing pictures, her book review blog on all of the books that she reads is an absolute must-read.  I love her writing - she's an English teacher after all - and superb thoughts on all that she reads.  She is a profilic reader and writer and I'm so excited to get her reading recommendations, because they promptly go up on my "To-Get-To" List :).

Lastly I'll mention another friend of mine, Emily Thompson.  One of the sweetest girls I know, Emily also happens to be one of the funniest.  She is currently a second-year Wahoo and to say that she is a kindred spirit is an understatement :).  She maintains her own wonderful blog, where she chronicles thoughts on college life, relationships, and wonderful, beautiful things like Warrenton covered in snow.  One of my favorite posts that she has written has to be this one on college finals.  So hilarious!!

Twitter allows me many other learning opportunities as well - too many to link to on this blog.  I really have come to believe that that is Twitter's greatest asset - the opportunity to educate and inform others things that you find interesting and relevant.

So anyway, those are my thoughts and links to some amazing people who teach and inspire me!  There are of course a ton of others, so thank you to you all.  All that I am is really a conglomerate of what I learn from you all!

Thought-provoking podcast on "Selfish Giving"

If you have a quick 5 minutes, take a listen to this NPR podcast on "selfish giving"....it's good stuff.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Outward Look...

I'm a person of many, many interests.  From art in all its various forms, to sports in all of its various forms, business, international relations, history, literature, movies, TV shows - basically anything that captures my attention and holds it for more than 10 seconds I count as an interest of mine.  One of my top interests though is international relations/foreign affairs (which is intimately tied to the subject of history - to me, you cannot know much or care about foreign affairs if you don't know the history behind the stories that appear in the newspapers).  In the past 24 hours I've come upon two great international relations related content that I think people should know about.

First is a link, courtesy of my favorite reporter, Kevin Sites.  Back in 2005, Kevin did a project for Yahoo!News called "The Hot Zone" - spend a year reporting solo on the human stories behind some of the world's "hottest" conflicts.  If you ever have an afternoon free and you want to learn about some of the more under-reported conflicts going on in the world, go to the Hot Zone archives and read a few of his stories and watch some of the videos that he shot. Kevin is also the author of the book, "The Hot Zone", which I also highly recommend. 

Anyway, any link that Kevin posts on his Facebook page is worth a read, and this one, courtesy of Foreign Policy magazine about the Top 10 under-reported stories of 2009, is no exception.  It highlights foreign policy issues that need to be watched carefully as they could have a great impact on the direction of foreign policy in 2010.

The second thing that I came across was a documentary on PBS, called "The Power of the Poor", which has brought to light a name in international relations that I had never heard of: Hernando de Soto.  And I am so grateful that I have learned who this man is, because his work brought down one of the most brutal terrorist regimes that has existed - The Shining Path in Peru.  I have briefly heard about the Shining Path before and was only vaguely aware of their importance in Peruvian history, but this documentary shed light on the entire situation.  What a story!  What a history!  The Shining Path, so brutal in its terrorist tactics that it was compared to the Khmer Rouge, was a Maoist organization that counted close to 80,000 members.  Fed up with their impoverished situation and frustrated with the government they turned to violence to bring about "revolution" in Peru.  And the sad thing was that the poor were just as much victims during their reign as they were before the Shining Path existed.  In comes Hernando de Soto - a man who "discovered" how to help the poor achieve prosperity through legal reform, making economic progress possible.  His legal reforms undermined the purpose of the Shining Path, and as such, Hernando and his Institute for Liberty and Democracy were targeted by the Shining Path with car bombing attacks and assassination attempts.  But in the end, de Soto and the IDL got their reforms through the corrupted government.  More than 50% of Peru's poor have been given economic opportunity to start their own businesses and enjoy the economic freedom and prosperity that owning their land and access to credit gives to all who are able to do the same.  

Basically, de Soto defeated the terrorism of the Shining Path through legal reform that allowed capitalism to flourish among the Peruvian poor and give them opportunity that they never had before in their entire history.  There are definitely still impoverished people in Peru - the documentary definitely addresses this - but the opportunity that never existed before to not be poor now exists for the Peruvian people.

This gave me hope, which is not something that I often have when it comes to world conflicts and systemic problems like poverty.  But perhaps if we approached the Middle East, Africa, and former Soviet republics with legal reform that made economic prosperity through capitalism possible, we would disable the power of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other "big-name" terrorist organizations.  It is a solution that is rife with hardships, difficulties, and complexities - but isn't that also true of trying to "solve" this problem militarily? 

Anyway, it is a topic that has piqued my interest and once I read de Soto's book, "The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else" I'll be sure to share my thoughts :).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: Where is God When it Hurts?

Where Is God When It Hurts? Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I believe this book should be an absolute must-read for anyone who professes the Christian faith.

A sentence like that usually rings hollow to me, but honestly, there is nothing hollow about this book. I wish I could physically take the words from the pages and permanently implant them in my brain because there is so much truth to them.

The main point of the book is about suffering and pain and it attempts to address some of the common questions about the subject - why is there suffering, how do you deal with suffering people, what are the ramifications of suffering, how do we do even more damage to suffering people?

Yancey begins his book by explaining the benefits of physical pain by taking us on a journey through the lives of lepers who, because of their disease, no longer feel any pain - and the damage that occurs to them because they can't feel pain. From there the book delves into where is God in suffering, examples of suffering people, and then flourishes into an explanation of how God has suffered, the hope that we have in spite of our suffering, how we can use suffering to transform our lives, and why Christianity - of all the world religions - is particularly equipped to handle suffering.

Yancey limits his tome to just dealing with people in physical pain and suffering. He mentions mental anguish only in how it relates to the physical pain of people and how it causes them to question a loving God, and not as a subject in and of itself, but the lessons and advice that he draws from dealing with people in physical pain can certainly be brought to those that deal with emotional and mental pain and suffering.

What I loved most about this book is the reminder to Christians of the hope inherent in the resurrection that allows us to cope with suffering. That death is Not the end, and death doesn't need to be "accepted" - death is painful and hurts, but because of Jesus, it has been overcome, and because of Jesus we get to share in that victory. I also loved how Yancey reminds us that for a moment in time, God put on flesh in the person of Jesus and came to this earth, and suffered with us. Every time that Jesus encountered a suffering person, He not only healed them, but He also transformed them. And now we have the Holy Spirit, God within us, who hears our suffering groans and brings them to the feet of the Father and Son.

The other thing that I loved about this book is how it gives advice on how to help suffering people. You cannot go through life without encountering suffering people, and Christians, in particular, are called to be the body of Christ to these individuals. But how do we, imperfect people with even more imperfect words, help the suffering? It is a hard question that Yancey addresses with particular insight and I feel better equipped for it.

My only wish is that I had read this book a long time ago, for I've seen, lived with, and tried to walk through suffering with a lot of people. I just hope that going forward I will be able to overcome my own revulsion to pain and suffering and walk alongside those broken hearts and bodies, offering the real and true hope of Christ to those I have yet to encounter.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, December 11, 2009

Undone

All I can say at the outset of this post is that I hope I can capture the magnitude of all that is inside me right now - all that I am learning, and all that I have learned - about my Creator and how real He is to me these days. 

And part of me hesitates to go forth and proceed with this post.  It frankly feels awkward to write about my experiences with God.  Shouldn't I just write about, expound upon some of the awesome experiences I had last month?  Write about Red Bull BC One, or any of the other many wonderful things I got to experience?  Or crafting another tale about how there was a second mouse this past Monday?  Sure - I could do that.  But it would also be hollow and shirking one of the important aspects of this blog to me, which is to share a little that God is doing in my life.

Frankly, He has undone me.

Today in particular, I am feeling especially vulnerable to His love.  I don't know if it was the blue sky with white clouds, or the barren beauty of the trees in winter, or seeing these pictures of some friends of mine who have gone through a mighty struggle to bring their family together, or the post that accompanied the pictures, or reflecting on the true power and hope of the resurrection during my morning reading time, or processing through the meaning of suffering with the help of Philip Yancey in his wonderful tome, "Where is God When it Hurts?" during my lunch hour.

Perhaps the feelings of my heart are best summed up in this quote: "Every experience of beauty points to eternity." ~ Hans Urs Von Balthasar

How do I put into words the way my heart leaps when it sees a barren tree?  When that tree reminds me of the complicated beauty of life that lies underneath all the gloss and greenness of the leaves?  That the twisting beauty of each branch is like a thread that reminds me of my own complicated twists and turns.

How do I share the tears that spring forth when I read these following words from Philip Yancey's book on suffering and wonder if in my "Christian" sophistication I too have lost the power and hope of the resurrection and fail to share that with all those that I interact with?:
"On the day before Thanksgiving of 1983, Martha died. Her body, crumpled, misshapen, atrophied, was a pathetic imitation of its former beauty.  When it finally stopped functioning, Martha left it.  But today Martha lives, in a new body, in wholeness and triumph.  She lives because of the victory that Christ won and because of His 'body' at Reba Place, who made that victory known to her.  And if we do not believe that, and if our Christian hope, tempered by sophistication, does not allow us to offer that Truth to a dying, convulsing world then we are indeed, as the apostle Paul said, of all men most miserable."

How often I forget that Truth in my life.  That the hurts in my life, the wounds of my heart, will be healed and made anew.  And that this is the power of the resurrection - this life isn't the end.  Yes, we can begin living eternally here and now, but the wounds, the suffering, that we accumulate along the path are not the end.

This journey is filled with so many twists and turns.  In the span of one year I have gone from the lowest of lows to the highest of heights - and yet, my Father was there in all of it - even in His silences and distance.  And the thing is, unknowingly to me, Christ transformed my suffering.  He used it to reach a place of depth that I rarely visit on my own.  And because of that discovered depth, I feel the peace of His blessings to a greater degree than I ever have before.

How do I share with you, reader, the oppressive darkness and despair that covered my soul this past summer?  How do I explain the feelings of a broken heart from dashed, wrecked, ruined hope?  Praying desperate prayers, clinging to a thread of faith, though every logical fiber in my being said "what's the point?" and "is this even real?" How this was the second time in my life in which I have had a real crisis of faith?

And then how do I explain praying daily for my Lord to strengthen my hope just a few months later and rejoicing beyond words in the life that I have been blessed with?

I am so thankful.  Thankful for all that the Holy Spirit has revealed to my heart lately.  Thankful that in every experience of beauty that I have been blessed to go through, He has spoken to that hurt heart and given it healing, revealing a little of Himself in each instance.  Thankful that He was (and is) in every smile from a friend.  Thankful for a wonderful family that is as constant in their presence as He is.  Thankful that He is teaching me about real forgiveness, humility, suffering, and most of all love in all of these things - A true love that knows me - that sustained me through the dark.

So, here, at the end of this post, I hope that I have been able to communicate some of the true majesty and true mystery of my Lord.  He has undone me this year - in more ways than I will ever be able to explain here - and I will keep praising His Name, thanking Him for doing so.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mousetrap

SCENE: It is a sunny Monday morning, bright with sunshine and possibilities as Lauren arrives at another day of work.  Having just finished listening to Michael Bolton's Christmas cd, completely satisfying the Christmas light-rock regions of her soul, she ascends the stairs and walks over to her desk.  As she approaches her desk, her coworker in the cubby next to her, greets her...

Alicia: "There's a rat in the ceiling."
Lauren: "What?!"
Alicia: "I heard something scurrying about in the ceiling or something and I think there's a rat up there."
Lauren: "Okay...well, uh, hmm, that's interesting." (Silently Lauren thinks to herself, "A rat in the ceiling? Riiiiggghhttt....")

...A few hours go by, Lauren and Alicia working away at the day's various tasks.  Then, as Lauren is sitting at her desk, typing an email to her boss, she all of the sudden hears a scurrying noise.  Mid-sentence, she pauses, and looks over at her group of Christmas boxes that sit underneath a section of her desk.  She waits a moment, listening intently, because she was sure that she heard something and a feeling of dread washes over.  After hearing nothing for a few moments, she goes back to her email, only to be interrupted again by the noise...

Lauren: "Alicia did you hear that?"
Alicia: "Hear what?"
Lauren: "That scurrying noise?"
Alicia: "Uh-oh - no, but see..."

...As Alicia is speaking, Lauren hears the scurrying noise for a third time and knowing/dreading what that noise means, launches her rolling chair away from her desk and glides away from the corner.  As her chair rolls to a stop, she pivots away and quickly as she can in her heels, flies down the stairs, through the offices, through the showroom and to the back warehouse to find her trusted warehouse manager and friend, Jimmy to come and take care of the scurrying problem.  However to her dismay, she finds that Jimmy is nowhere to be found.  Failing to locate Jimmy, she quickly traverses back to into the office portion of the building and finds Brian Boyle sitting at his desk...

Lauren: sweet, urgent voice "Hey Brian, what are you doing? Are you working on anything important?"
Brian: hesitantly "Hey LT.  No, just working on some billing. Why, what's up?"
Lauren: "Well, I have a scurrying problem that I need someone to come and take a look at."
Brian: "A scurrying problem?"
Lauren: "Yes, a scurrying problem - please, come, quick!"
Brian: "Ok, I'll be right there."

...Brian goes off to the kitchen, where he meets his coworker, Pat Pinkman, and together they make their way to the upstairs offices.  Meanwhile, Lauren has gone back upstairs, is relaying the situation to Alicia and standing outside of her cubby, looking at the dreaded corner.  Brian and Pat finally make it upstairs....

Lauren: "I think the Christmas boxes is where the noise is coming from..."

...As Lauren relays this information, Brian and Pat start moving some of the boxes, remarking how they don't see anything, while Lauren looks anxiously on over the glass wall of her cubby.  Then out of nowhere, as the last box is removed, a blur of gray scoots across the back corner of Lauren's desk area...

Lauren: "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

...Upon seeing the mouse, Lauren runs down the stairs, into the front lobby, hyperventilating.  Brian and Pat react to this as if Lauren has sprouted three heads.  The next moment later, unable to be drawn away from the horrific scene, she makes her way back up the stairs, only to discover from Brian and Pat that they had let the mouse get away...

Lauren: "What do you mean that it got away? Where did it go???"
Brian & Pat: "It got away, sorry. Don't know where it went.  Maybe you should get rid of some of the cracker boxes that you have around your desk, as you have like 8 boxes sitting around here."
Lauren: "Being that as it may, there is still the issue that there is a MOUSE here! What are you going to do?!"
Brian & Pat: "Uh...don't know."

...As Lauren processes this with wide eyes, she realizes that yet again she must find a solution to the problem.  So with the intent of getting a mousetrap to dispatch the rodent with, she goes downstairs and asks Miss Joan if there are any mousetraps around.  Finding that there are only traditional mousetraps around, she takes one back upstairs to Pat & Brian, but does not want to use this particular trap because she does not want to see the dead mouse.  She needs a more humane mousetrap, the kind that capture the mice but you never see them once captured - they are just contained in the black container of death.  So she grabs her purse, which she was informed could possibly contain the mouse because the boys did not know where it had gone, and quickly marches off to the local Bloom grocery store to find her humane mousetrap.  Thankfully Bloom does not disappoint, having several varieties available.  Locating the appropriate D-Con trap that she needs, Lauren makes her purchase, along with her lunch, happens to run into a past coworker that she quickly says hello to and decides against relaying the current trauma that she is in, as she needs to get back to her desk to set the trap.  Back at the office, Brian and Pat have set the traditional mousetrap in the corner where they last saw the mouse and once Lauren returns, informs her that the trap is there.  Regardless, Lauren puts down her humane mousetrap, and now a competition has entailed to see who's trap captures the mouse first...

...A quick five minutes later, between the time it took Lauren to place the trap, walk back downstairs to stick her lunch in the microwave, and then back up the stairs with the intent to check her emails quickly to see if she had received any pressing emails during the time of this ordeal (during which time, her coworker Alicia had erected a barricade in front of the entrance of her cubby in the hopes of keeping the offending rodent out of her cubby), she glances over to where the traps were set and to her horror sees the inhumane trap flipped upside down with a grey mass sticking out from underneath it...

Lauren: "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

...Again Lauren flies down the stairs in utter fright.  Pat & Brian having heard Lauren's yell from the back of the offices, nonchalantly made their way back up the stairs, curious to see which trap had succeeded.  Upon learning that the inhumane trap (their trap) had worked, they congratulated themselves, shook their heads at Lauren's fright, and grabbing their foe by its tail, disposed of it in the dumpster...

End Scene

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Back to Posting!

This fall has been one for the ages, or to borrow a phrase from my high school friends, "epic".  I have gotten to do so many amazing things, create some awesome relationships, and limit my descriptive vocabulary to "amazing" and "awesome" because I'm so overwhelmed by all that I have gotten to experience.  Over the next few days, weeks, I hope to be able to break down some of my thoughts on the fun stuff that I have gotten to experience, as well as get back in the habit of posting on this blog regularly.

Just to highlight some of the awesome things I'll be posting about:

1 - Being in the THIRD ROW from the STAGE at RED BULL BC ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!! Greatest night of my life to date.  Check out this video...



2 - Seeing U2 live, fulfilling a lifelong childhood dream.


3 - Going to the MuteMath concert, which was probably the most crazy and awesome concert I've been to...unbelievable - I had no idea or expectations of what to expect and my mind was blown.

4 - Getting to see Muse open for U2 and being one of three people in the stands shamelessly dancing away to their songs.

5 - Experiencing the virtuosity of both Lang Lang and Joshua Bell, masters of their respective instruments and superb performances.

6 - Actually watching Cate Blanchett live, bringing Blanche DuBois to life on the stage in A StreetCar Named Desire - so powerful and moving!

7 - Writing and performing "Two-Minute Twilight" for YL Club...was kind of awesome

8 - Having great momentum at Young Life and getting to know some of the crazy (but awesome) kids that have been coming to club - for the first time ever, I feel excited for summer camp next year..

9 - Pulling off impossible work tasks that were thrown at me literally last minute before big events that we were doing or participating in...

10 - Having my sister HOME!

11 - Knowing that God has been lifting me and carrying me through all the crazy, amazing, awesomeness of this fall.  And knowing that He was with me through the depressing doldrums of the summer, just as He is with me now in this time of abundance and blessing.

And I end this post with this thought, because reading it this morning on my wall I realized it's truth in my own life this year:

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the HOPE of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."
~ Romans 5:1-5

Friday, October 30, 2009

Only 2 Posts...

*Sigh*

I wish I could say that I foresee more time for blogging in the future, but next month is going to be a whirlwind of chaos with seemingly everything happening all at once.  But I am sad that I have only gotten to this forum twice in the entire month.  So much has been happening within my life and my thoughts and heart and I wish I had some time to chronicle it, but oh well.  It is what it is.  Now is not the season for blogging.

But, just to run through a few of the things on my mind lately....

1 - THE YANKEES ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!!!!!  And all is right with the world.  I can hardly watch the games from fear that I will have a heart attack/jinx my team from winning.  Every single pitch is a tense moment - on both sides!  And this is probably the best baseball that I have watched in a long, long, long time.  Good pitching will always prevail over amazing hitting.  And blown umpire calls are a part of the game - always have been, always will be - as long as both sides get blown calls evenly!

2 - Afghanistan and Pakistan - Every single day this situation gets worse and worse.  My heart breaks for the people living there, caught in the middle of this conflict.  And there are no easy answers on how to deal with either nation.  Half of Pakistan and Afghanistan want to be ruled by the Taliban again.  But the fact that the State Department and the White House would consider this an acceptable resolution (letting the Taliban become the governing body) is sickening from a human rights standpoint.  Not that what is currently happening is not sickening as well though.  There are no easy answers here and historically speaking, there is no way to win a guerrilla war when the population in general wants you gone.

3 - I am so excited for this coming November!  I am going to get to experience so many amazing things from concerts with classical music masters, alternative rock concerts, the premiere b-boy hip-hop dance event of the year, and a few plays here and there.  The creative part of my brain doesn't even know how to process all of these coming awesome events!

4 - The leaves are gorgeous right now, though there are a lot of trees that are now bare!! It makes me sad that the dark winter months of bare trees and cold are ahead - though there can be beauty found within them as well - but you have to look really hard for it.  For now, I will revel in the ending of fall as these particular last days are a showcase of God's creation in all of its glory.  Hopefully, as I age and grow closer to death my life will be a reflection of the beauty of God's creation in all of its glory as well.

5 - A family reunited is a beautiful thing.  My sister is home from Australia for the next few months and I wish I could put into words the completeness there is in having her home.  There really aren't words.

There is more, much more that is also going on, including the restoration of my heart and soul after a particularly hard summer.  I hope that at some point I get to process and digest in further detail, but I can say that I know - truly, deeply know - that God loves me.  His love is more profound than I can even describe and I am so grateful that He has blessed the eyes of my heart to see that realization.

Again, there really aren't words.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Review: How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When it comes the business world portion of my life I have a few gurus who's word and findings I absolutely trust for the truth that they present.  Jim Collins is one such author.  His seminal work, "Good to Great" was the best business book I have ever read. His first work that he coauthored, "Built to Last" was harder for me to get into, as evidenced by the fact that it still is sitting in my "Currently Reading" list.  But this gem, "How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In" is right up there with "Good to Great".

Collins religiously backs up all of his findings with amazing rigorous research. He and his team are top-notch when it comes to backing up their claims, and being a history major where research was crucial to anything I wrote, I highly appreciate all the work that they have put into their findings.

"How The Mighty Fall" is a cautionary tale and it clearly depicts how some of the best companies in various industries fell victim to one or more of the 5 Stages of Decline and as a result never recovered their former industry positions and either declared bankruptcy or were bought out by a competitor. Coming at a time in our current history, where businesses are being scrutinized under a microscope and where many were victims of the capitulation of the financial industry, Collins' stages of decline help make sense of some of the chaos that has gone on in the market. What is more interesting though is that Collins and his team wrote this book before any of the events in 2007/2008 had taken place. Thus they do not directly address the recession that we are currently in, save for in a few appendices that are included at the end of the book (and which are well worth the read).

Collins references that this book was not planned and actually was a side-project that came out of another book that he and his team are working on. If that is the case, I hope it is not too much longer till that is published!

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I'm Crazy

So earlier this year, I happened to watch one of the most amazing dance competitions called "Red Bull BC One" and wrote the following:

"...After watching the Red Bull BC One, I have decided that if I believed in reincarnation, I would want to come back to earth as a B-Boy. Being 27, I think I have missed out on this dream, but man oh man, how I wish I knew about it back when I was a kid (dang sheltered CT childhood). I don't think I would have been any good at it, but who knows? Maybe I would have actually developed a sense of rhythm or something? Anyway, those guys are all so cool and I just wish I had a smidgen of their talent, but alas, just like ABDC, I am relegated to just uber-appreciating their amazing skill and creativity. Maybe I can somehow become their best friend? Or figure out how to just get in the audience of one of those shows, because those people looked so cool."

Well, I figured out how to get in the audience.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In November I'll be traveling to NYC to be in row 1 to watch Red Bull BC One and see some of the best B-Boys in the world dance! I can hardly believe that I actually have tickets and will actually be going to the competition. It's pretty unreal.

Now, I just need to figure out how to look cool and I'll be all set!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy 2 Years Blog!


This weekend as I was thinking about this blog and what my next steps are going to be, I realized that I have been officially blogging for 2 years now! That is crazy. I never expected my little technology experiment in 2007 to advance this far...so far in fact that I started another blog at the beginning of this year and have been blogging for my company over at Signature WoodCrafters' blog. I have found that keeping up this little experiment is difficult and not without it's challenges...it's really hard to figure out what to write and put out there in the public sphere. But I like how it stretches me, I like how it allows me to dabble in html coding, and I like having my own little corner of the world wide web to personalize and pontificate.

But that all being said, and having made it to two years, I may be going on a little hiatus for a while. I have an absolutely crazy fall coming up that is jam-packed with lots of awesome stuff that I am really, really excited about, but it may end up keeping me away from my little corner of the world for a while. We'll just have to see. I feel as if I need to focus my creative energies in other areas right now but maybe the two can coexist. Again, I'll just have to see what each day brings!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stuck

There are a lot of things that are going through my head these days, but am having a hard time sifting through the ideas and thoughts and figuring out what to say in this little corner of my world. So until I can sift through all of them, just a few thoughts and one video...

1 - Though I felt a little bad for Taylor Swift's "moment" being interrupted, I thought Kayne interrupting her was kind of funny because of how unexpected it was (and how typical of the VMAs...I mean seriously people, it's the V-M-A'S!! Not the Grammys!)

2 - Though I couldn't be there live at Jay-Z's Madison Square Garden 9-11 concert, thank you Fuse for televising it so that I could revel in the mastery of Jay-Z's flow and rhyme!

3 - And speaking of Jay-Z, his and Alicia Keys' performance at the VMAs was A-Ma-Zing. I wish I was as cool as Alicia Keys...(check out the video for the performance if you didn't see it...)



And then after you watch that awesome performance, this video from Jake and Amir cracks me up every time.



So, with my apologies that is all I have for now...stay tuned and I promise that I will have some new thoughts soon!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This One's for you Bek!

When I was in college, one of my favorite things to do was find awesomely, fantastic, useless stuff at K-Mart for my roommates. It was a mecca for me and I did find some pretty awesome stuff there. One of my favorite finds was a musical called "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" starring none other than David Hasselhoff. I got this gem for my roommate Rebekah because of her love for musical theater. We ended up watching it and it was actually fantastic! The Hoff had a good voice and the musical was great. But the shining moment was at the end, when all the performers were taking their final bow, The Hoff ended his bow with a high kick off to stage right. Quite possibly one of the funniest moments of my life and something that I have sought to emulate throughout my own life - high-kicking my way through it all.

Well, when I discovered this gem of a performance on the web, I had to post it, for old time's sake. Here's The Hoff at it again, and this time leaves us with yet again, another notable exit. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Russia, the Mideast, and a Hijacked Ship

Was Russia's 'Hijacked' Ship Carrying Missiles to the Mideast?

The article above from Time Magazine is kind of unbelievable. This is international politics and wars between intelligence agencies to the extreme. Do the Russians really believe that the world is going to accept their "official" version of events? There are too many questions that don't make sense in order to accept that and the only explanations that make any kind of sense of the series of events that surround the hijacking of the Arctic Sea are the stuff that James Bond movies are made out of.

But this is real life. Real terrorists. Real states. Real lies. Real lives.

And the sad part are the poor sailors and hijackers who are caught in the middle of this. The worst thing in the world to me would be to be in a Russian prison. Forget any kind of semblance of human rights!

Monday, August 31, 2009

And Just so I can say it....

This post will mark 10 posts in August! That's a record for me - I've never had 10 succinct thoughts in a month that I have wanted to share with the World Wide Web. And yes, I do count this as Number 10.

On Community

**I wanted to share a post from my other little blog corner of the world, Ruminations and Reflections. I loved this piece a lot and thought that I might as well post on here as well.**

I am still making my way through the gem that is "The Only Necessary Thing" by Henri Nouwen. I love this piece on community that I read the other day. It is so true - I often think that in each person is God's creation and therefore a reflection of Himself. Here is the piece for your enjoyment.

The Mosaic that Makes God Visible
Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope. In community we say: "Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, ups and downs - but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care."

Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That's community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.
~ Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pretty Awesome Music Video

Check out this pretty amazing music video by Coldplay for their song "Strawberry Swing" off of the Viva la Vida album...and then let me know how long you think it took them to make it?

Strawberry Swing Music Video

Oh Fall Fashions...


A bug has bit me. Something that goes by the name of "shopping" and "new fall fashions" and this desire to create pretty things. And then I got the new J. Crew September catalog. And, to borrow a phrase from Rachel Zoe (and yes, I feel a thousand times dumber for doing so), "I died".

I L-O-V-E what this fall season is bringing to the table. I was not really inspired by the spring or summer collections from any catalog, retailer, or designer but I can't say the same for fall any longer. All of the sudden the right mixture of layers, textures, colors and accessories are coming together and I LOVE it! It may also have to do with the fact that these things are hitting me at the same time that I have been aching to do something creative, and seeing all the new things out there has made me want to just use myself (or other people!) as a canvas instead of a big white square.

I do want to throw out there that I'm not saying I'm a huge fan of everything - I'm talking to you suede booties and neon anklet socks - but as I see outfits put together, I see the separate pieces and my own creations coming together. And I love what's coming out!

Maybe I should have never left my job at Wet Seal.

PS - for some fun fall fashions coming out, check out one of the blogs on my blogroll, Camp Comfort. Loving most of the things that she has been posting lately - been my inspiration thus far for new ideas!

**PPS - My awesome and best friend T just helped me discover an amazing new fashion blog, The Sartorialist! Check it out! The pictures are amazing!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Review: A Walk Across America

A Walk Across America A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was going to another tale like "Into the Wild" or something. I was a little put off by the way that it was written, judging it by my "high" standards of a well-written book. But as I continued reading and became captivated by the tale, I quickly learned that this was a book unlike any other that I have read. It made me cry on no less than 4 occasions - and they sprang from a gamut of emotions: sadness, happiness, joy, beauty, mourning, and love. Peter Jenkins's walk from Alfred, NY to New Orleans, LA (as this book contains that portion of his walk) enlightened me to the beauties and dangers of our society and to ALL of the people that make up the fabric of this country that we call America.

Jenkins' starts out like any of the myriad of disillusioned, college-educated young people that graduate and gripe about the failures and evils of our country (I know that I fall into that category). But what Peter does that separates him from me is that he takes the advice of a guy that he works with and decides to discover what America is really all about and who really makes up the people of our country. And that decision to go forth and find that answer, with his forever-friend Cooper Half Malamute, begins a journey that takes him from the North to the South, down the Appalachian Trail and along the Gulf Coast until he reaches New Orleans.

In the journey along the way, Peter encounters many, many people - some who's hospitality is beyond belief, and others who's hostility is hard to swallow. One particular encounter in a North Carolina town was so harrowing, I marveled at the fact that he didn't quit his walk right then and there. He learns life lessons from a genuine mountain man in West Virginia, a black family and the rest of the community in Smokey Hollow North Carolina, a commune of people called "The Farm" who lived and worked the land and followed a religion called "Steve", and Governor George Wallace of Alabama - the same one who ordered the police to stop Martin Luther King, Jr.'s walk from Selma to Montgomery, to a revival in New Orleans when God finally found His way into his life. As Peter walks, his prejudices fall by the wayside, and I found that mine fell as well.

It is a testament to the power of his prose that a journey taken in the mid-1970s could still ring so beautifully and so truthfully. Yes, there are dark corners and evils in our country. But what Peter showed me is that there are many, many, MANY more wonderful, hard-working people who seek to etch out a living and in doing so enjoy life to an extent that I hope to know sometime in my lifetime.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time and Choice

"Choice signifies love....God chose you because He loves you." ~ Father Gregory

I heard that quote when I was in college and a couple of weeks ago I feel as if I gained a new understanding of the power of the choices that I make.

A few weeks ago I had to go and help out with a golf tournament that my boss had "volunteered" me for. Honestly, I didn't mind, because it meant that I got to spend a work day outside instead of trapped inside, sitting in my little cube which is my world day in and day out. The only downside was that I had to get up before dawn (4am) and leave my house at 5:15am in order to make it to the golf course by 6am. Major ugh for this girl who needs to sleep in the morning and has a specific routine of getting up, making coffee, has her quiet time, makes her bed, gets ready, and then leaves for work - a usual 2hr process. Well given the fact that I had to be out of the house by 5:15am, this routine had to be cut short and the only thing that was allotted the time in the morning was making the bed and getting ready for "work".

I ended up being at the golf course from 6am to around 2:30, 3:00pm - a long day out in the hot sun. I then stopped in at my regular office to answer emails, check voicemails and handle anything that had come up throughout the day. Leaving there around 5:00pm, I then headed home for a quick shower and then over to mom and dad's for dinner. I was there for a few hours and then headed home to watch the Season Finale of Deadliest Catch. I finally made my way to bed around 10pm and was out like a light.

The thing was, when I woke up the next day, I realized that I had gone a full 18 hour day without spending any time with God. An 18 Hour Day!! A day in which I was up for 18 hours out of 24, I didn't "find" the time to spend some in prayer and with my Lord.

I often find myself wishing for more time - "If only I had the time to do that" or "I wish there were more hours in the day" to do miscellaneous things. But the one day in which I was awake for more than the majority of it, I didn't "find" the time to do all that I wanted to do. And what that made me realize is that it doesn't matter how much time you have, or how many waking hours you have, but the choices that you make with that particular time. In a day in which I had an abundance of "time" I made choices and decisions to not spend any of that time specifically set apart for me and my Lord.

This was enlightening to me and brought a whole new depth to the word and concept of choice and time for me. Even if I had an abundance of time, I could still make choices that would keep me apart from God. It's the choice that I make of what to do with my time that is important. In that respect, choice does indeed signify love.

Reading

These guys used to have a show on MTV with their other coworkers...but I ran across their videos the other day and they crack me up. This is one of my favs :). Enjoy :)

See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Georgia, Part Deux

I know that I may sound like a crazy person to keep bringing this up, but the Georgia-Russia conflict took another step yesterday when hackers brought down the entire Twitter network, caused Facebook disruptions and attacked the Blogger interface all in the name of silencing ONE individual who communicates on the web in favor of Georgia. (See story here).

This really disturbs me. Who else sees scenes from a Hollywood movie in which mass chaos is created because network communication systems are brought down? The fact that an entire communicative site was brought down because of 1 individual blogger who is trying to make his voice heard - that's scary and brings this conflict to a whole new level now.

Seriously - don't underestimate/write-off Russia (Joe Biden).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thoughts on a Few Movies

So, I do have a more poignant post coming soon - I have an idea that has been germinating since last week. But with the recent ending of The Bachelorette, Deadliest Catch, and the impending summer siesta of Burn Notice - and of course no Lost, or ABDC (until Sunday, woot woot!!), or really anything worthwhile to watch on TV, I have been going to my local Redbox and renting some films that I was semi-interested in seeing when they first came out. So in no particular order, here are my thoughts/reviews of these films.

Confessions of a Shopaholic - Starring Isla Fisher (Sasha Baron Cohn's gf) and Hugh Dancy (Jane Austen Book Club, Stardust, and Clare Dane's bf) - with random appearances by John Goodman and Joan Cusack

I had high hopes for this film. I loved the books by Sophie Kinsella, which are light-hearted reads about a plucky heroine who is prone to spending past her credit limits. Becky Bloomwood, the main character, is someone you root for and laugh out loud at while reading the books and sadly, yet again, this movie is another classic case of Hollywood failing to translate the book to the big screen. I think if the movie had starred Amy Adams, rather than Isla Fisher, it would have gotten closer to the heart of the heroine, as Ms. Adams excels in my opinion of playing vapid yet big-hearted heroines. Hugh Dancy almost saves the film, but unfortunately the plot just fell apart and instead of being a vapid, light-hearted, cute film it became a vapid, confusing, all-over the place film. I give it a C-.

Push - starring Dakota Fanning, Djimon Honsou, Camilla Belle, and some guy I have no idea about, and the Asian-American doctor from ER (Ming-Na? I think?)

I don't even know how to describe this movie, other than the fact that it was better than Confessions of a Shopaholic! It too was kind of random, but it at least created this opposite fantasy realm so if there was a plot more akin to swiss cheese than a real film, you didn't really care, because you could at least suspend all belief in reality and just enjoy the action/psychic battles. It's like it was a weird take or reinvention of X-Men (which I love), but in the end you weren't satisfied because they leave you completely hanging on one of the main conflicts! I hate it when there is no resolution in a movie. I give it a C+.

He's Just Not That Into You - starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Justin Long, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johanasson, Drew Barrymore, and Kevin Connelly, Kris Kristofferson

This movie was just barely this side of ok. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I don't really like it. They at least did an ok job of weaving all of the ensemble cast storylines together, but honestly, the only storyline that I ended up caring about was Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long. All the rest of them were just "eh" or sad and you ended up not liking the characters at all. Also the cameo appearance by Frangelina was priceless - that was definitely the funniest part of the movie! It wasn't horrible to watch, but it again, it was just "eh". I give it a B-, just for the redeeming storyline of GG and JL.

The International - starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts

I am mad at this movie. It was long, but it had potential. It was this long, drawn-out thriller, plot developed pretty well, you cared about the main characters, and then *bang!* the movie is over!! I couldn't believe it! The ending made me so mad - it's like the filmmakers got tired and decided "hey, why don't we just randomly end the movie right here at this point". I don't know what their point of ending it that way was - yeah, it's probably realistic that Clive Owen's character wasn't going to bring down the big, bad international bank, but for pete's sake, it's a movie, why don't we just go ahead and suspend reality (which we have done already at this point) and give us the ending that we're looking for! It wasn't the kind of ending like There Will Be Blood in which you are shocked and still thinking about it days (or years, in my case) later - it was the kind of ending in which you are just ticked that they ended it with no resolution. Grrr. For that reason I give it a B-.

Bride Wars - starring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson, with cameo by Candace Bergon

Loved this movie. There weren't too many plot holes. There were a ton of funny lines. There was a believable (well sort of), funny plot, and the two lead actresses did a great job of playing their parts of Emma and Liv. It was adorable, poignant at parts, and made me love my best friends all over again :). Total chick flick yes, but totally lovable! I give it an A.

Fast & Furious - starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez

Hahahahahahaha. I had to laugh just typing the title of this movie. I LOVED this movie because it was so frickin' hilarious in its seriousness. Paul Walker's eyes do make me melt and Vin Diesel's pectoral muscles looked to be solid rock through his tight muscle shirts. His line delivery is priceless - there is a priceless part in which after he has rammed a guy in half with his car that is one of my favorite movie lines ever now - I almost rolled off my couch in laughter after seeing it! The car chase scenes are totally fun (thank goodness though I wasn't driving anywhere afterwards) and totally reinvegorated my life-long dream of being a stunt car driver :). There were a million and one scenes that made me melt in laughter though. So for the sheer hilarity of being totally and awesomely and unashamedly bad, I give this movie an A+. It was exactly what I was expecting and then some! hahahahahahahaha!

What about you? Seen anything good lately? Any thoughts on my reviews? Feel free to post in the comments!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Surrender of Suffering

Last week, you almost got a very depressing post from the vast vaults of my mind. I was in a deep, dark depression, suffering from a confluence of events that ended up all culminating in these past few weeks of summer. It truly felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest still beating and aflame, a la' Temple of Doom. It was real pain and real hurt mingled with self-pity and lack of understanding, which in general does not sit well with the analytical and logical half of mind.

Yet in the midst of the suffering and doubt in my hurt, I decided that I needed to surrender it what I was holding on to at the foot of the Cross, the altar of the Cross and leave it there along with all the tears and heartache. And in doing so, peace began to find its way to me and my heart.

Peace that comes from an act of kindness from a friend from whom I never expected such kindness. Peace that comes from being with other people and talking about the Truths of God. Peace that comes from fellowship and friendship and laughter. In surrendering and letting go of the suffering that washed over me like a tidal wave, God allowed peace to flow back into the crevices of hurt, healing as it swept through, and interacted with me through friendship and fellowship.

And in His mercy, His grace, He allowed me to experience great encouragement through one of the things that had given me such doubt and heartache. What a Redeemer.

Truly, I have only begun to scratch the surface of this journey with and within Christ.


*PS - Clearly, I must not be in such the doldrums of despair anymore as the above picture makes me laugh!! Picture, hyperbole is thy name :).*

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Realpolitik

Today marks the anniversary in which President Nixon announced that he would visit communist China. It was a landmark event in the history of US foreign policy and it embodied a foreign policy worldview, first coined by Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State at the time), as "realpolitik".

Realpolitik basically says (definition courtesy of The History Channel), that this is a policy of "politics that favored dealing with other powerful nations in a practical manner rather than on the basis of political doctrine or ethics". Take a minute to digest that.

This opened the way for the US to enter into economic relations with China and change the free-market as we know it, flooding it with a myriad of cheaper manufactured goods - despite the human rights' atrocities that occur daily (Tibet, or the most recent Uighur protests and violence). It also currently allows us to turn a blind eye on human rights' atrocities occurring in Russia (check out this article and remember the situation with Georgia last summer). Other examples of realpolitik? How about turning a blind eye on Rwanda (not a powerful enough nation to warrant our attention), or not mentioning anything when former General Musharraf gained power by virtue of a coup (and then becoming our "ally" when we invaded Afghanistan in 2002?). How about continuing to support Israel, even as it demolishes Palestinian neighborhoods and builds a literal wall around the West Bank? How about supporting Saudi Arabia as it promotes radical, fundamental Wahhabi Islam, denigrates its female population, and employs migrant Indian workers (who are no better than indentured servants) while the entire population lives off royalties from oil?

Realpolitik allows the US to turn a blind eye on many things, allowing practicality and logic to dictate foreign policy. But the question has got to be, is this a good thing?

I truly don't know. I don't know when a state on the scale of the United States should step into conflicts and try to help the situation. Do you try to help a failed state like Somalia and risk another Black Hawk Down occurring? Do you go against the political power and money of the Jewish lobby and say that no, we will not support Israel's tactics against Palestine? Do you try to stop genocide occurring in Sudan? Do you confront an economic and military powerhouse like China about it's human rights violations that it flaunts in front of us? Do you rescue North Koreans from an insane dictator that is hellbent on starving his people before he launches a nuclear missile? What dictates a state's foreign policy? Economics? Or ethics? Sell your soul or be guided by principles? Can it be both? Or should it be neither?

What do you think? What should the role of a state like the US be in the realm of world politics? Isolate itself so that we do not "meddle" in the affairs of other states and do nothing; help ethnic minorities throw off the restrictions of a dictatorship so that they might have a chance at the basic human right of freedom; rescue those suffering from gross human rights' injustices; or follow a combination of economic-ethical policies that allow us to turn a blind eye on some things, but not others?

It's not an easy answer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Stephenie Meyer's "The Host"

The Host The Host by Stephenie Meyer

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don't know what it is about Stephenie Meyer, but she certainly has a way of capturing the imagination and interest of this reader. So much so that when I picked the book back up yesterday, I could only put it down once, and then once I started reading it again, I had to finish it before I went to bed. Meyer has a way of weaving a tale of such beautiful romantic proportions but in completely bizarre, weird wrappings that the beauty and romance ultimately transcends the bizzarity of the actual plot details.

The basic plot of the book entails an alien lifeform called a "soul" taking possession of it's host body, which in the case of this story, are human bodies. Kind of weird-freaky and frankly disturbing premise.

But the beauty in the story is that as it develops and transforms, you the reader find yourself adapting to the premise and developing sympathy for the plight of the main character, "the soul", although initially you care for the "host" body. By the middle of the tale you are intently involved with both characters and by the end you find yourself sobbing at the sacrifice of one for the other. Then at that time you also marvel at the fact that the story evolved from a love triangle to a love quadrangle and yet you knew somehow from the middle of the book that this was where the characters would ultimately end up. And while you are investing yourself in the main characters, there are a slew of other minor characters that enrich and enhance the story as well.

The choices that "soul" makes ends up showing it's distinct beauty and character, and I wonder as I reflect further upon it, if the "soul" is not actually a metaphor in some ways for our own, human, souls. I think this train of thought needs further reflection though.

All in all, it's another quality read by Stephenie Meyer, in the same vein (and yet completely different) as her Twilight novels. I highly recommend it and I highly enjoyed it. I hope that Meyer will continue to write more good quality, highly imaginative reads.


View all my reviews.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Review: The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

rating: 4 of 5 stars

So back in March of 2007 when I started this book, I thought it was ok - just another good, popular business book that I should probably read. The introduction was kind of dry and hard to get into when I was trying to read it on zero hours of sleep in the Charles De Gaulle Parisian airport. So I put it down for a bit...quite a long bit, as approximately two years when by before I picked it back up again.

And thank goodness I did. Once I made it past the introduction, I started to get into the meat, the heart of the book, which is a fascinating study of how social epidemics, whether it's a trendy new shoe or teenage smoking, get started and succeed. It's a study that looks at the actions of people and tries to make sense of why do some people act the way that they do? What makes a trend take off among people?

From a business/marketing standpoint, this is a great study. It provides a minefield of data and people to look for - the Salesmen, Connectors, and Mavens (the Law of the Few), as well as the encouragement to think outside of the box to figure out how to make a message "sticky" (The Stickiness Factor). It also makes the marketer think about how does your environment, your surroundings (the fascinating Broken Window theory, or also The Power of Context) affect your message? The thoughtful Afterword that comes at the end of the book also presents the challenges and questions of how does one overcome the Rise of Immunity to a message (my answer is engagement in social media marketing) and the importance of Finding the Mavens as your best ally in spreading the word about your product.

From a human, sociological, and in my case a Christian world-view, the book offers a dramatic look at how people are inherently and subconsciously influenced by the power of community. Especially in America, people like to flaunt their individualism as part of their identity. They are an individual so they make their own decisions and whatever else someone thinks does not matter or affect their actions and decisions. Gladwell's book gives countless examples of how little factors make a HUGE difference and how people, especially children and teens, are influenced by what their community around them tells them. The subversive thing about it, is that often these cues are subconscious, and a person responds out of those subconscious cues more than they would ever admit personally. It also is fascinating that children and teens are more influenced by their peers and the subconscious "permission" that these peers give them to try or do all sorts of things - which sometimes results in unspeakable destructive acts.

All in all, there is a lot to be learned from this book. I have read several reviews on here that seek to debunk all the theories or rail against it for lack of empirical data, but I can't agree with those arguments. It's not a life-changing book and I don't think that it should be read in that way. I believe that it should be read as a guide to think about human behavior and decisions in a way that we've never considered before. It is a great study of human behavior and how the little things really do make more of a difference than anyone has ever been aware of before. I liked this book enough that I'm going to put Gladwell's book, "Blink", on my "to-read" list, in the hopes that it is a continuation of this kind of interesting study on human behavior.


View all my reviews.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lord of Miracles

God is into miracles. Little ones. Big ones. Ones that require only a little bit of faith. Ones that require a mountain range plus Mt. Everest of faith. Ones in which it requires a little prayer. Ones in which a whole community rises up and surrounds a person or event with prayer. There are not many things that I am sure of, but of this I am - God is into miracles.

Two of my friends from college have been on an incredibly arduous journey of faith in trying to adopt two Ethiopian children. They have been on this journey for about two years. Two years of heartache, yearning, pain, obstacles, and now, insurmountable joy. For finally, FINALLY, the last leg of the journey is over and they are now currently on their way, journeying toward their children, ready to bring them home and start the family that God has created. He has been so unbelievably faithful to them, it brings tears to my eyes. And their faithfulness to Him is an epic tale of two people refusing to give up hope and to cry out to Him in the obstacles, in the pain. I invite you to take a look at some of their previous posts on their blog, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet. I have been praying for them and this journey for months now and to see how the insurmountable obstacles just melted away these past few weeks is beyond any description that I can give.

Some of my other dear friends just celebrated the one-year birthday of their daughter - a daughter who was born with serious heart defects and has, in her one year of life, already had multiple heart surgeries. Yet this sweet, beautiful little girl is the picture of health, love, and joy and again, the testament to how a community surrounded an impossible situation with prayers and how our Mighty Lord answered and gave us her life as a living reminder of His miracles.

Then there are the little miracles that the Lord of Lazy Susans, and now apparently Leather Couches, creates, reminding me of His sense of humor and how He can be involved in the little details of our life.

I need one more miracle though and I must ask you, whoever reads this, to pray with me for a friend of mine. She recently lost her mother and is so, so lost spiritually, mentally, and physically. I worry and fear for her, but I also know that I can have hope for her because of who God is and how He can work miracles. But this is a miracle that needs community, and so I am asking you to please keep my friend in your prayers. Pray for healing, for peace of mind, for strength to continue living through her pain, and that her physical needs would be met (she is in search of a job, home, insurance, etc.). And please pray for those of us walking with her through this, that we would have wisdom in what to say and what not to say, how to listen, and yet how to speak Truth into her life. My sincerest, heartfelt thanks to you. And Thank You Lord of Miracles.

**PS, Note on the Picture - I actually took this photograph one day as I was driving my country roads around lovely Fauquier county. Isn't it beautiful! It reminds me of God :).**

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It Just Keeps Piling On....

Oh blog, bloggedy, blog, blog. I have been meaning and wanting to post thoughts, feelings, and reactions to a myriad of things for a while, but the demands of summer, life, and living with Jesus have been pretty pressing as of late. I hope to post some thoughts up here soon though about my completed trip to Young Life camp, as well as some other things that have been ruminating, marinating, and rummaging around in my head. I am beyond grateful for a 3 day weekend this weekend, and hope that by the time I emerge from it, I will be a little bit more rested for the chaos of next week - which looks to be one heck of a ride! Sorry for only posting twice last month - that is a new all-time low. But be sure, as always to check out Ruminations and Reflections. I'm much better about posting up over there :).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review: Bury the Chains

Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves by Adam Hochschild


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
I finished reading this book about two or three weeks now I guess. The reason I have not reviewed it yet is because I don't want to acknowledge that I have in fact finished reading this book, because then it would just depress me that I do not have something as well-written, captivating, challenging, and stimulating to read as of right now.

This book by far is the best book I have read in 2009. Adam Hochschild truly captured not only the spirit of the abolition movement, but also the many different men involved in bringing the industry of slavery to an end in the British empire. His ability to narrate the events that led to this movement in history is unparalleled - perhaps only matched by the likes of Barbra Tuchman and Stephen Ambrose. And yet Hochschild made William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp and Equiano and James Stephen come to life in a way that I don't think any other author could have.

I am doing a poor job of reviewing - on to the details - the book lays the foundation for this period in history - the sociological, psychological, political, religious, and economical factors that lay underneath the acceptance of the slave trade and slavery in the world's greatest empire. From this foundation, it moves into the start of the fight against the slave trade - which was the world's very first grassroots human rights campaign. At no other prior point in human history, did human beings come together and systemically work within the confines of governmental law to change the norms of society. The book goes into further detail about the specifics of how this movement got started, how it developed, and the obstacles that it had to overcome (50 years worth of obstacles) in order to succeed. And yet in the end, the slave trade and slavery itself were finally abolished and for the first time in history, an empire existed in which slavery was outlawed. While there were many other forms of keeping the Africans in positions of subjugation to the ruling elite (many of which have ramifications on the state of world politics and economics today), the name and practice of slavery was officially banned from the British Empire.

Personally, it was an interesting time to be reading this book right on the heels of concluding Rob Bell's "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" in which he rails against "empire" and all of its trappings and how as Christians we need to fight against the empire. Yet empires are a fact of history - there has always been empires and there will always be empires. What I think that "Bury the Chains" did for me that Rob Bell's book did not was show how a group of people can fight for the basic human rights of people who could not fight for themselves. This book showed how a group of 11 men, working within the political, social, and religious confines of their society, were able to bring down the economic forces that allowed slavery to continue for as long as it did. These men helped regular people to identify with people of a different skin color and see them as human beings - not a means to an end. It took many years - and in the end, violent revolutions in the Caribbean - but they ultimately succeeded. Yet Hochschild does not overlook the fact that in doing so, that by eliminating slavery in the British Empire, that very Empire suffered an enormous loss to their GDP - well into the millions, billions. Obviously, a person's life is worth more than money - but it took a half century for the empire to recognize that it's people wanted them to realize that.

The characters that dot the timeline of the abolition movement were eccentric fellows and all very different from each other - yet they were able to overcome their differences - religious, political, and social - and work together to help their fellow man. I wish I could go back in time and meet Granville Sharp, or Thomas Clarkson, or Equiano, or William Wilberforce - such amazing men. Hochschild excels in detailing their lives and roles in bringing this movement into a reality and finally to an end.

While there are forms of slavery that still exist today in the forms of sexual trafficking and factory labor in the East, it is safe to say that the idea that slavery is inherently evil would never have occurred had it not been for the work and unparalleled dedication of these men to the most basic of human rights - that of freedom. Many kudos to Hochschild for capturing this tale in such an enlightening and brilliant way. I was truly sad when I turned to the last page and read the last words of this wonderful, wonderful book.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Lord of Lazy Susans

Scene: Lauren is packing her things up after another long day at work. She looks at her watch - 7:55pm. *Sigh* She makes her way downstairs, for the final office check-through to make sure that everything is locked up so that she can set the alarm. As she walks down the hall to go out to the warehouse to double-check that everything is turned off and locked up, she notices a light on in one of her coworker's office. As she makes her way over to turn off the light, she is surprised to find another coworker still there...

Me: "Oh! Hey D, I didn't know you were still here!"
D: "Yep, just finishing up on a few things for some customers."
(Lauren and D chat for a little bit...talking about the designs that she's working on, the customers that she's working with, how hard it can be to work with some people, the inane requests that come in...)
D: "Oh, let me tell you the story about this one guy about a week ago. This guy phones in. He is looking for one piece of a lazy susan that Cardell manufactures. I tell him that we might have one in the back warehouse, and to let me go check. So, I go in the back, and climb up a ladder to see if we have this piece, and lo and behold it is there. It is covered in dust, spiders, cobwebs - disgusting. But, we have the piece. So I call the guy back, and tell him that he is in luck, we do actually have this piece that he is looking for, and he can have it for free if he cleans it himself. He agrees. So I sit the piece up front, with his name on it, and expect that to be the last of the situation. Well, when the guy comes in, he asks to see me. I am, like "great, what does he need now? I don't have time to deal with this, grumble, grumble, grumble". But I go up and meet with him, and he asks me if he can speak to me in private."
Me: "What? Uh oh..."
D: "I know. I figure that he is going to try to sell me Amway - which is a pyramid scheme from back in the day. So, we go back to my office and I shut the door, and he starts crying!"
Me: "What!? Seriously??"
D: "Yes! He starts crying, and then he asks me if I am a Christian, and I say yes. He then tells me that he had been praying for two weeks for this lazy susan part, because he really needed it to sell his house and he didn't know what he was going to do, and that I must have been sent by God to answer his prayers!"
Me: "What!?" Looking up to the ceiling/heavens "Seriously, Lord?? Really, seriously?? I've been praying for a husband for two years, and this guy prays for a lazy susan for two weeks and gets it?? You've gotta be kidding me."

The Moral of the Story? Obviously, I should have prayed a little harder for the white chocolate creme brulee to be found last week at Girls' Night so that we could have all received a free dinner. And that the Yankees need to be in my prayers as well.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mild Techy-Genius

One of the things that I love the most about blogging is that I get to dabble in HTML code. Most of the time, this frustrates me to no end, and this foreign language remains a mystery to me. But every so often, a chance occurrence happens in which I DO figure out a neat bit of coding and I am able to apply it to my blog format. Today was one of those rare days in which I am able to figure out how to make the code work for me and do what I want it to do! Check out my other blog, Ruminations and Reflections to see the tiling of one of my pictures at Whitney State Forest, the new blog color background, and title. I'm currently struggling with the Blog Title Color - I can't quite find a color that I love, but the one I have is sufficient for the moment. And please let me know what you think! I'm thinking of maybe trying to do something similar both at the work blog that I maintain as well at my beloved "The Road Goes Ever On". It's been fun to figure out, though it caused at least a couple of hours of puzzlement and bewilderment to figure out! But, many thanks to the folks over at Blogger Buster for their informative how-to articles on how to make this work!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Heart Bursting Full of Joy


I hope that everyone has these days. There is nothing better than a day in which a good mood envelopes every fiber of your being and you can almost feel the joy shining out of your skin. It is a gift, one that I absolutely relish and cherish because of how quickly this joy can dissipate, especially in this world. I wish I could describe the feeling more accurately, but there are not really any words to express and color in the lines of the space of happiness in my heart. I wish I could let other people into my heart during these times and that they could see the world with eyes of such wonder and become overwhelmed by its simple, yet utterly complex, beauty.

I think this is one of those rare tastes of what heaven has to be like. I believe that God gives us these gifts of opening our jaded eyes to the wonder of His creation - all of His creation, including us, His people. And I can't express enough how wonderful it is to come up out of the darkness of sarcasm, jadedness, and disappointment that I normally live in, and lift my eyes up to the sun, the Son, that literally shines down on me, and be enveloped in the joy and love of my Creator through the touches of His creation.

This is a happiness that sets aside the worries of the world and leaves them by the wayside, as I journey along this path. It's a happiness that makes me silly and child-like and laughter close to my heart, my eyes, and lips. It's a happiness that patiently forbears the pain of sitting enclosed in my cubicle when all I want to do is be outside - in no matter what shape or form - just to be outside. It's a happiness that had to create it's own playlist in order to fully encapsulate the tone of the mood that I'm in. It's a happiness that wants to put 50 dozen smiley emoticons behind every sentence :) :) :) :) and 50 more exclamation points!!!!!

And yet, it's a happiness that also has to deal with the reality, pain, and darkness of this world. An old neighbor committed suicide last week, leaving behind a son and daughter as virtual orphans in this world. How do you processs that? Tonight I travel to the memorial service of another neighbor who lost his brief life in a senseless accident, in which the perpetrator got to walk away, even though he was a multiple offender. My job hangs on a thread daily - any second could be the last one. My sister is off living in Australia and it is a daily pain to be separated from her by such a long distance for who knows how long?

The thing is, tears are always close by. Pain and suffering is only a heartbeat away. This journey takes unimaginable dips, turns, and flips, and if you don't watch out, you can be sucked into the darkness, the lies, the temptations that seek to utterly destroy our lives.

Which is why this happiness is such a blessing and gift. Thank God for the beauty of humanity and nature that He surrounds me with, that gives me the gift of a heart full of joy that is bursting at the seams today. Hallelujah. Amen.