Saturday, December 11, 2010

Peace of Gethsemane

"Be to me a rock of refuge,to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress." Psalm 71:3

"Sooner or later in life, the ones you love you lose...but You've got the love to carry me through" ~ Florence and the Machine

You will have to excuse me for this blog post.  I don't know if this is the right medium to open myself up to, but writing has always been a refuge for me, a place to sort my thoughts.  And my thoughts need sorting.

My Grandma is dying.  I don't know when she is going to pass away from this physical life to the eternal one, but it will be sooner rather than later.  And it breaks me.  It brings tears, many, many, many tears.  It brings sadness.  And it weighs my heart down in a way that I have seldom felt before.

For, selfishly, it also means the death of some of my hopes, my dreams - the dream of having her at my wedding someday being the foremost of them - my prayer for the last three years when I learned that she was diagnosed with lymphoma.

And it causes so much regret, probably the most truly painful thing I have ever experienced - regret that I didn't spend more time with her.  That I didn't get in my car and go visit when I easily could have.  That I didn't call her on the phone when I had a spare five or ten minutes.  That I took this relationship, which has always been a part of my life and supported and encouraged me in all that I have done, for granted.  That I took for granted the gift and curse of time that marches on mercilessly each and every day.  That I let excuses like "I'm so busy" get in the way.  And that the whole time I was busy with ultimately meaningless things.

A piece of my heart is never going to be the same, sooner rather than later.  It is going to bear the pain of loss - and in the meantime it has to deal with navigating through the day to day things of life.  The day to day things which all seem so meaningless in the face of this.

I have always been one to soldier on - to walk through the days, blazing forth on whatever trail it is that I might be walking along.  But this has stopped me in my tracks.  It has bowed my head and covered my heart.

But thankfully in the midst of this, I not only have the Man of Sorrows walking beside me, but I have dear friends who are carrying me to His feet, lowering my paralyzed heart down through the roof, when I can do nothing.  And their prayers, their reminders of His Truth are bringing my heavy heart before Him and His peace.

And I have learned that His peace is real.  Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted".  And He is my comfort, my refuge in this time of turmoil.  Jesus's arms have wrapped themselves around me and are sorting me through this pain that varies from a dull ache to a sharp stab. 

And this pain and peace also remind me of all the experiences and losses that so many of my friends and family have gone through.  It is a mystery of God how this hurt can both be so individual and so universal.  For the impending loss of my Grandma isn't limited to just me - it is my dad and my aunt and uncles' mom - it is my brother and sister and cousins' Grandma - it is my second cousin's Great-Grandma - it is my Great Aunt's sister - it is her friends and neighbors.  So it is with each loss suffered - it is rarely felt individually.

My heart has more thoughts and feelings but my words are done.  Those will come out in tears - tears which are shed for both the loss and huge void that will be left in my family, but also for all those who are suffering and have gone through this pain before.

And so I end with this poem, which both brings me peace and comfort.
There is a peace that springs soon after sorrow, 
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled;
A peace that does not look upon tomorrow,
But calmly on the storm that it has stilled.
A peace that lives not in joy's excesses,
Nor in the happy life of love secure;
But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.
A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passion free;
It's not the peace that over Eden brooded,
But that which triumphed in Gethsemane.


Friday, December 10, 2010

A List of Links

This post is more a note for myself than for anyone else - I wanted a place where I could capture all these links so that I can think more about what these people are saying and instead of making a bazillion bookmarks, I am making a blog post.  Feel free to read any of these articles of course, but just be warned, they will be thought-provoking.

Wikileaks and the Danger everyone is ignoring

Wikileaks reveals Shell's grip hold on Nigeria

Dambisa Moyo's website, author of "Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa

The Munk Debates: Featuring Dambisa Moyo and Hernando de Soto

Thoughtful post on being an adult and closet remixing

Accentuate the Negative: What Don't You Want Around?

The Stop-Doing List

Invictus: the poem

Another article on being an adult, consistency, and commitment

Fallout from Wikileaks in the army

Visualizing slavery: How a Census Map was used as propaganda during the Civil War

Consider these my writing/thinking prompts, if you will :).  Now, if I can only get these thoughts out of my head and written up, then we'll going somewhere...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ok, Seriously? That Doll is not worth 300 pounds

Any reader of this blog knows that I have an affinity for PBS programming for I have blogged about many of their programs.  But one program that I have ignored, because I find it usually seriously boring, is Antiques Roadshow.  Well an episode just came on my TV that is located in London, and I have (of course) a few observations:

1 - Seriously (and sorry, seriously seems to be the word du jour for this post - I'll make it a game for you - you can take a drink every time I use it) - the British don't let anything faze them.  Upon learning that an ugly teapot was worth about 6,000 pounds ($12000US), the woman arches an eyebrow and goes, essentially, "Huh!". If that was an American woman, she would be whooping it up with her eyes popping out of her head. I mean, have you ever seen Oprah's Favorite Things and how people react to an IPad?? Or turkey baster??

2 - How in the WORLD is the world's ugliest doll EVER worth 300 pounds ($600US)!? It's preposterous!!

3 - How in the world do these antique appraisers know all this random history about how tea was transported in the 17th century so that it makes a random Chinese pottery piece worth 8,000 pounds?

4 - The random British host annoyingly keeps interrupting the ridiculous evaluations.  Yet his British accent is very charming I almost forget my annoyance.

5 - Ok, seriously (drink!), now we are appraising random Winston Churchill political cartoons??

6 - EWWWWWWWWWW - The world's creepiest, ugliest, evilest ventriloquist clown just came on air!!! I'm going to have nightmares - it looks like something out of a Stephen King movie! AHHHHHH IT JUST WINKED! Can you imagine having that creeper live in your attic??

7 - Maybe I have missed my calling - how do I become a random appraiser to be on one of these shows? I know lots of useless facts and can assign random values and make up stories about random old stuff...

8 - Oh, ho ho! Did you know that there is a distinct difference between Continental and English furniture??

9 - Did you know that a dresser is known as a commode in the United Kingdom?

10 - Seriously (drink!) I don't believe that some of these random porcelain figures are worth as much as the appraisers say - it just can't be possible.  I mean, really - REALLY - that ugly porcelain doll is worth more than 2 pounds?? Although, I do remember my friend Kat Webster made a small killing off of those weird looking snow baby creatures, so maybe I need to start stocking my house with creepy painted porcelain doll figures?

Oh the things that PBS can teach me...

Book Review: Brain Rules

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and SchoolBrain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me be clear - I am not a science person. My education in the public school system doomed me with uninspiring science teachers (with a few notable exceptions) and as such this whole field failed to ever capture my imagination enough to want to learn more about it. Mostly it was just boring and tedious and failed to ever touch that realm within my head that goes "Wowwwww...I want to learn more about that...". Even attending UVA and the science classes there failed to ever create a spark that ignited a flame, a desire to learn more about the subject.

However, as an "adult" I have to come to appreciate the field of science. The intricacies of the human body and universe that we live in, to me, point to the unbelievable creativity, complexity, and mystery of God. Which is why I found myself completely fascinated by this book all about the brain.

I had no idea how incredibly complex, mysterious, and unbelievably fascinating the organ known as our brain is. It is unbelievable the amount of processes and neurons it is taking me right now to type out this sentence, much less for you to be able to read it. Did you know that what our eyes see really is just the brain "Seeing" for us based upon prior experience and patterns? That the rasoen yuo can raed tihs stenecne is bcaese the bairn is fllinig in the wrods besad uopn porir epereixcne. The words just typed out should make no sense whatsoever to you - yet you can read that entire sentence because your brain is automatically compensating for what should be there. Fascinating, isn't it??

This book, written by the neuroscientist John Medina, breaks down the 12 "rules" that our brains are governed by. Covering such topics as Exercise, Sleep and Stress and their effects upon the human brain, as well as short and long-term memory and our innate ability to learn and explore, Medina presents what could be overwhelming and complex material in an easy-to-understand, read, and digest manner. It is fascinating to discover some reasons and rules about the way we think - something that we take for granted each and every day. On a personal note, I found this book highly enlightening based upon the fact that an aunt had a horrific car accident in which she suffered significant brain damage. Reading this book only highlights the miracle it is to see how much she has been able to heal and regain functions of her brain that could have easily remained permanently damaged. I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Peeling Back a Layer...

This past weekend I had to clean my apartment from top to bottom to deal with a flea issue.  Which is a tale for another day, especially seeing as I own not one pet, therefore how I came to have fleas is a sad saga of yet another unfortunate circumstance in my little apartment as of late. 

But, as I was cleaning, a piece of paper fell out of a notebook/binder and at the top of it was "My fears in doing Young Life".  And I had to stop doing whatever it was that I was doing at that moment and read and reflect upon this page of items that I had listed out.

I wrote this list back when I was seriously contemplating becoming a leader in my small hometown, where I had moved back to after college.  I spent the first year, after graduation and just starting my new job, hanging out around YL, helping out in various forms but I couldn't bring myself to make the commitment to be a leader to it yet.  My prior experience as a leader in college created a whole slew of doubt and wrestling with my faith, especially as I had a hard experience with it, and ended up leaving the ministry in the middle of my third (junior, for all you non-UVA peeps :)) year at school.  I am also a pretty introverted person most of the time, which, if you know anything about Young Life, makes it hilarious that I would even consider being a leader, since it requires a lot of excitement, improvisation, and engagement with high school kids who are way cooler than you ever will be.  So all of these factors created a huge amount of trepidation when I started seriously considering becoming a leader again.

So I wrote down this list, which is listed below in its entirety:

My fears in doing Young Life:
 - Losing sight of my relationship with God.
- Not having the right words at the right time.
- Being up front in front of high school kids.
- High school kids laughing at me.
- Not leading any kids to Christ.
- Being at camp -> having to be excited all the time; get messy; do the ropes course
- Not being able to talk to girls about Christ because of my shyness.
- Not having anything to say to the kids when hanging out with them.
- Not being real with my team members.
- Not letting my team into my life.
- Letting my team into my life.
- Being criticized.
- What it could cost me career-wise.
- Not having the time to do it.
- Having to go to high school games.
- Having to lead a group of girls in a small group.
- God not being with me in any of it.
- Having to talk to girls to have them open up in deep conversation.
- Asking the hard questions/the challenging questions.
- Running any of the skits in club.
- Having to be in any of the skits in club.
- Kids not paying attention/participating
- Not having patience with the high school kids.
- Being humbled by the high school kids.
- Being unsupported by my team.
- Not having a clearly defined role.
- Of Completely and Utterly Failing at This Ministry Again!
- Of Losing God as my Center, Being Replaced with the Idol of Young Life Ministry.

Reading that list, and even typing it out now, I can feel those fears - some of them much more than others (uh, hello, pit-in-my-stomach-at-the-thought-of-the-ropes-course).  I read them and I see a girl who is very afraid, very uncertain of herself and her identity, very unsure about the strength of her faith, and very wary of falling into some of the same traps and pitfalls that she did the first time around.  They are the fears of a girl with some trust issues, a girl who doesn't like to be pushed out of her comfort zone, and a girl who had yet to really experience the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am here, now, five years later from the point that I wrote out that list.  I took a leap of faith and listened to the pull of that crazy high school kids had on my heart, threw my hat into the ring, and decided to become a high school Young Life leader.  

In those five years, I've faced each one of those fears that I wrote down.  I found out that I didn't have to have the right words or questions for deep conversations - because God already did.  I found out that it didn't matter whether or not high school kids thought I was funny or not.  I found out that I didn't need to lead kids to Christ - God has His timing in each of our lives - all I had to do was demonstrate and be a small, micro-example of His love.  I found out that I can do the ropes course, I can be utterly ridiculous in front of a crowd of kids (be it 5, 50, or 500), that I can go to high school games by myself.  I found out that I can be loved and supported by my team - that in fact, I absolutely have to be loved and supported by them - and let them into my life.  I found out that God drew me even closer to Himself through being a willing vessel in this ministry - that there is no failure when I am obedient to Him and the prompting of His Spirit.  I found out that a small step of faith brings a whole lot of God into my life.

It's kind of kismet that I ran across this list this weekend, as I watch time slip by me and find myself towards the end of the first semester of the school year.  This past semester has been one of the richest times of ministry that God has allowed me to ever experience.  He has been completely rocking my world since camp this summer and it is amazing to be a part of it.  To see where we have come from a year ago to now utterly blows my mind!  For me, a light bulb went off this summer when I got to experience a high school girls decide to commit their lives to Christ - to literally see them cross from death to life.  And now - now I don't really care all that much what being a part of this costs me in terms of time, career, or otherwise - for there is really nothing greater that I can do with my life than to be a beacon of God's light in the darkness...and to watch Him light other beacons around me.  

I still carry a whole slew of fear with me (seriously, the ropes course will never go away) but I have learned that when I take a step of faith in spite of them, it is amazing to see what God can do.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Quick Thoughts on the Election Results

Am I surprised by the results of Tuesday's elections?  No, not really.  Americans have historically always voted for the opposing party when they start to see Washington bend in a direction more left or more right than center.  So if the Democrats control both the Presidency and Congress, they'll tolerate it up until the point in which it pushes to far from center.  They'll let Republicans control the Presidency and Congress until it gets too far right from the center.  So we as Americans (and we do it EVERY time) will vote the dominant party out of office in order to maintain the status quo of the moderate center.  We say that we're frustrated with the way that Washington works, but we as voters influence the way that Washington works - it is a direct reflection of the majority of public opinion - especially the House of Representatives.  Which is EXACTLY the way it was designed by the Founding Fathers.  The beauty of our political system is that it prevents the tyranny of the minority from ever taking too strong of a hold over the government.

Obama's best shot to get any new laws and policies through Congress were in these first two years.  I believe his administration in their naivete thought they could enact sweeping reforms and "change" in the country without having to play the political game in Washington (which sort of flabbergasts me considering Obama himself was a senator prior to becoming President, so he should have known that).  People both from the right and the left bombard him with accusations that he is either the worst president in US history or that he hasn't done "enough".  I hold either beliefs or thoughts against him.  Do I agree with the laws, platforms, and policies - both domestic and international - that he has enacted since taking office?  No, not really.  Am I concerned about the size of the national debt and no coherent plan on how to attack that without further destabilizing the income of middle class Americans (which, by the way, I consider a family with a dual income of $250k middle class, not wealthy)? Yes, I am.  Our current economic policies are very worrisome - inflation, deflation, exports, imports, strength/weakness of the dollar, stock market, housing industry, bank policy, consumer spending power, etc - it is all up in the air.  But do I totally blame Obama for the state of our economy? No.  Do I blame Bush? No.  The writing was all over the place in Clinton's administration, Bush Sr., etc.  I really blame Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve who should have known better.  But this cycle, this recession with all of its hardship is a byproduct of our capitalist economic system - and are you going to really change that?  Are you going to limit people's ability to succeed in the corporate world and their capability of making a buck?  Yes, there are deep-seeded problems with it...but, isn't that more of a reflection of base human nature than the economic system itself? But I digress....

Bottom line - the election results don't surprise me.  I'm more surprised that Obama and his advisers would be surprised or remorse - he/they should have been expecting it.  This is why history is so important to learn and understand - because if he had been expecting it, he could have planned for it and figured out a way to adapt to the inevitably of a new party coming to Washington.  How awesome would it have been during the press conference that he gave today if he had said "Oh, I knew this was going to happen.  This happens to every single sitting president in modern American history.  In fact, I welcome this new change. I understand that this is a statement by the majority of Americans that they are not happy, and my administration is going to reach out across the aisle to learn and work together on these pressing issues."  Sure, that would flip the diehard liberals on their heads - but here's the thing - extreme minorities may have loud voices but they are NOT reflective of the majority!  So alienate the minority - for they'll find some reason to alienate themselves anyway - and work with the majority.  That's the only way to work the "system" of Washington.

But that's just my take.  What's yours?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Proof that 8-Yr Olds Can Dance Better Than I Ever Can, Even in My Dreams

Seriously.  These kids better either be on the next season of ABDC or Red Bull BC One.  Unreal...(thanks to Jonathan Acuff for originally posting!)

Music Spotlight: Mumford & Sons

I'm sure that all of my cool friends who are up on their indie bands already know this band, but I just discovered Mumford & Sons the other day when I randomly decided to download their album off of Amazon (which, by the way, if you buy music online, I highly recommend checking out prices on Amazon before you purchase through ITunes - it generally has cheaper music and better deals than the ITunes store - and it will automatically download into your Itunes music library).  Anyway, I was listening to their album and this song came on.  Very rarely does a piece of music really move me emotionally, but I found myself choking up while listening to it.  I hope you enjoy it! (and sorry for the cheesy images - this was the best recording I found on YouTube - there are many other versions up there as well, but this was the best in my opinion.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Really, Is Anyone Surprised?

I stumbled across this article from NPR today via Twitter about how the Obama administration "fought Washington and Washington won".  It cites a New York Times magazine article in which one of their reporters interviews a White House aide in depth and gets some pretty revealing quotes from the source about the administrations views and strategies, especially as we enter mid-term elections.  And the gist of it is that the administration was surprised that it got so much push-back and wasn't able to "change Washington" - and in fact, it's just politics as usual.  In my opinion, the Tea Party candidates that are out there are running on the same platform - "We're going to change Washington" - when, in reality, once they get there, they will have to play "by the rules". Just like the Obama adminstration found out.

I mean, seriously - seriously - is anyone really that surprised by these revelations from the article?  What boggles my mind is that the administration is/was mainly consisted of idealists who thought the strength of their ideas would change the way that politics are played.  AND that Tea Party candidates think the same way - they think that they can "change" Washington.  In discussion with my parents a few weeks ago, they stated that the Founding Fathers never designed the political system to be the way that it currently functions.  To which I laughed and said, seriously??  That there was never an intent for career politicians - that they would go back to their farms and work there.  Maybe for George Washington that was the case, but not for most of the other Founding Fathers.  Nor most politicians throughout the history of the United States.

The truth is anyone who wants to bring "change" to the way the country operates is going to have to push that change through the existing political structure - because that structure is not going away anytime soon.  So you better know and understand what "change" you want to accomplish and believe in it with all of your being, because it will not happen without a tremendous fight.  And you will need to not only work the political system, but also public opinion, while avoiding the traps of today's current 24hr news media culture - and do both simultaneously.

However, big issues can be changed and make their way through the political system.  Civil Rights reform did happen in the United States - though that is still an ongoing issue.  Women did gain the right to vote and wield political power.  Monopolies were disbanded in the early 20th century.  But the best example that I hold on to for any kind of change to happen within a political structure, is Adam Horschwitz's book "Bury the Chains", which is about how slavery as a morally acceptable institution was forever disbanded in 18th, 19th century England.  There, the reformers took on an institution that had been around since the dawn of time (literally - read your Bible) and banned its acceptance on any English shore.  It is a fascinating account of how morals, politics, and persistence finally triumphed, and if any reformer really wants to bring about sustainable change on a national level, they should read this account.

You have to work within reality.  But just because there is a reality doesn't mean that hope can't exist for real, significant change to occur within the structures of the current political and economic systems.  And the sooner that all these politicians advocating for "change" accept that, the closer we'll be to seeing some real strides made in significant issues.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Be a Part of Making a Movie

I think this is one of the coolest projects I've run across that mixes social media and real stories.  Donald Miller posted last week that the movie he was making, Blue Like Jazz, had stopped and was on the proverbial backburner in Hollywood because they had been unable to get the funding they needed.

Well two guys decided to do something about it. They started a Kickstarter campaign in which people sign up to contribute an amount to make the movie.  Different amounts come with different rewards packages.  The amount needed to get the movie made is $125k.  In a matter of days they have raised over $90k and counting.  It is crazy - this morning the amount was at $85k.

It's really cool to see that this movie, that Miller and company thought was dead, may actually happen because a couple of guys decided that they should try to help get the movie made - it's message was that important to them. And by inviting everyone else along with them to make this happen, we all get to be a part of the story of how it's made.

I've added a widget to the side of my blog that takes you directly the website to learn more about the movie and campaign.

And here's Miller's post from this morning on how something that he thought was dead and God had shut the door on is now becoming a reality. Pretty cool.

**UPDATE: On October 25, 2010 this campaign became the largest crowd-sourced project of all time, with over $345k donated from 276 people.  The movie is being made and if you head over to Donald Miller's site/blog, you can details on their progress every Monday, as well as follow specific links on the movie's overall progress.**

Friday, October 1, 2010

One Item, One Week

If you can, please take a moment to visit my other blog, Small Time Style and vote for the item that I'll wear each day next week!  Click here to vote!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Love This Game

Ken Burns has a new piece of his seminal baseball documentary called "The Tenth Inning" airing this week on your local PBS station (mine is WETA here in the DC area).  Covering the modern era of baseball - the 1990s and 2000s - it has brought back so many memories to me and reminded me how much I love this game.  There is an element of poetic drama, story, history, and passion that just doesn't exist in sports like football, hockey, or soccer that is encapsulated in the game of baseball.  My particular appreciation for the nuances of the game is born from countless summer nights over the past eight years, but my love for the game came from my dad.

I remember watching with him, Cal Ripken in 1996, trot around Camden Yards, high-fiving every fan around the warning track, playing in his 2,131 game, breaking Yankee great Lou Gehrig's record, and cementing not only his place in history, but also the return of baseball from the strike of 1994.

I remember the dominance of the Atlanta Braves in the late 1990s and how my cousin adored and idolized them and how my brother wrote to Chipper Jones (still waiting Chipper, all these years later).

I remember 1998 and the excitement of the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and how on the day after McGwire hit his 62nd home run, breaking Yankee Roger Maris's 30yr+ record, I wrote it down in my high school agenda with big exclamation marks - "McGwire HITS #62!!".

I remember the dominance of the Yankees and their 1998 season in which they broke the record for winning the most games AND won the World Series - Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, Andy Petite, Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, David Cone, David Wells, Chuck Knoblauch, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera.

I remember the 2001 World Series (2 Yankee comebacks and Derek "Mr. November" Jeter) and the blooper hit of Juan Gonzalez from the fake team of the Arizona Diamondbacks and how To. This. Day. my heart hurts at the loss and the loss of a Series by the Yankees that started their downward slide and how they were never the same team after that loss and how they should have won because of 9-11, and all the poetic justice of what should have been.  I couldn't talk to my roommates for a few days because I was so upset - hopefully they've forgiven me :).  I've only slightly gotten over it.

I remember 2002 and falling in love with the backdrop of the forgettable World Series between the Anaheim Angels (Rally Monkey) and the San Francisco Giants.

I remember 2003 and the utter joy of the Yankees beating the Red Sox, coming from behind, and winning the pennant.  Aaron Boone will live forever in Yankee lore for one hit.  That is all  you need to live forever in baseball - one hit.

And then I remember the Yanks losing to the Florida Marlins (who had beat the Chicago Cubs) and watching Josh Beckett pitch a complete game to win the Series and being ok with it because it was such an unbelievable pitching performance.  A performance that I could respect.  Not a blooper hit from a fake team. 

I also remember 2003 because it was the summer that marked my beginning with college summer ball and a newfound appreciation for the game.  Learning how to score a baseball game opened my eyes to the drama, the strategy, and the nuances of this game.  It also introduced me to the utter goofiness of baseball boys.

I remember 2004 and the heartache of the Yankees losing to the Red Sox in Game 7, after leading them 3 games to 0 (Stupid Curt Schilling and that damn bloody sock).  And then watching from the sidelines as the Sox beat the Cardinals to win their first World Series since 1918, ending the "Curse" of the Bambino.

Truly, my life in baseball is centered around my Yanks.  The Series of 2005-2008 are forgettable - I think the White Sox won one, the Red Sox won another, the Cardinals one, the Phillies one.  I do remember the Tampa Bay Rays beating the Red Sox and being sooooo happy.  The only thing worse than the Yankees losing is the Red Sox winning for this girl.

Then the world was made right when the Yanks won their 27th World Series title in 2009.

And then there is 2010, a year with its own highlights - No-hitters, perfect games, unbelievable pitching performances - a true baseball fan's delight.

The steroids that rocked the game during this era is even more apparent in watching the documentary.  Players were a different size in the beginning of the 90s than they were in the 2000s.  How these guys got away with it for so long is the real question and both the players union and the baseball owners were at fault.

Burns' documentary does a great job of highlighting the complications of Barry Bonds - who in 1998, without steroids, became the first player to hit 400 home runs and steal 400 bases.  Then, once on the juice, broke Mark McGwire's home run record set three years before and then broke Hank Aaron's home run record, and yet became the scapegoat of baseball.

And then there are many other great stories to discover, like the Hispanic and Asian players who have made a huge impact on today's game, that the documentary covers and provides even more trips down memory lane.

Countless sleepless nights, silently screaming at the TV so as to not wake the roommates; leaving the room or changing the channel not being able to watch games; watching playoff games with a pillow over my face, jumping up and down on the couch; watching history made and records broken; scoring decisions made on the fly, meticulous attention to detail, hot summer days and endlessly, tortuously long games; memories cemented forever for me.  I truly love this game.

Play Ball!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Irony Is...

Sending an article to your friend about what not to do when getting pulled over by a cop....

....and then you, yourself, getting pulled over by a cop that very day.  For a taillight that was out.  Fail.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Review: Love & War

Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed OfLove and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of by John Eldredge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I decided to not review this book immediately after reading it, because I wasn't sure how to approach it. Now, about a week later, I'm still not sure I have any better idea of how to describe it, but the fact that it has stayed with me for over a week's time, is telling to me as I usually churn and burn through books and their content. There are few books that resonate deeply within my heart - and while I don't know if this book is to that kind of status, I did really, really appreciate it.

It's interesting reading a book on marriage as a single person. The couple of other books on marriage that I've read this year ("Flux" by Peggy Orenstein and "Committed" by Elizabeth Gilbert) have always left me deeply questioning whether or not I really wanted to enter into this commitment. The hardships and realities that come with marriage are all too apparent in a Western culture like ours today in which about 50% of all marriages end in divorce. And those books put up a big red warning flag on the "fairytale" romances and endings often portrayed by Hollywood and Jane Austen that I have always loved. And to be honest, what girl doesn't want the fairytale? Of course there is a desire for a knight in shining armor - even the most independent of us have to admit that once in a while (I mean, come on, Beyonce "Ms. Independent" Knowles even married Jay-Z!).

What John and Stasi do though, in addressing the realities of hardships in marriages, is also provide tools and context for how to get through the hard stuff, and also why there is hard stuff. The Eldredges have always been upfront about the spiritual warfare and battle that goes on in our lives (See "Waking the Dead", "Epic", "Sacred Romance", "Captivating", "Walking with God"). But what they remind us - and what I think is one of their biggest gifts in my opinion - is that we are fighting a spiritual battle and NOTHING is spared from this war of attrition. Satan wants to see the ruin of marriages and hurt hearts and vows and agreements to never love again - because then he completely takes us out of the battle. I think the complacency component and routine that marriages can fall into walk a dangerous line in forgetting this fact.

What I also think that they do very well is to also emphasize the unbelievable and beautiful love that occurs in marriage - and how that gives us a glimpse into God's love for us. The grace and love that can come out of a marriage in seeing two people learn how to love beyond faults and baggage and the sin that is inherent in each of us, is a taste of heaven.

One of the best pieces of advice that I think they also provide is the idea of a shared adventure between the partners - something that is bigger than both the husband and wife that helps them focus their attention on not just each other, but on the kingdom at large. For example, the shared adventure/passion that the Eldredges embarked on is the creation of Ransomed Heart Ministries - a ministry that seeks to help men and women discover the heart of God and heal hearts while doing so. For others it could be the feeding of the poor, or the fight against the slave trade, or bringing the message of Christ to high school kids. It's not so much what the adventure, the vision is, but that it is shared between the husband and wife.

John and Stasi are very open and honest in this book. You won't find very many book or movie references here, which might appeal to some or jar other longtime fans that have come to expect that from them. I, for one, found it a highly intriguing and heart-engaging book. It caused me to ask questions of my own heart and views on marriage and come to realize that I have a hard time believing that anyone could love me beyond all of my baggage and selfishness. And if that is true, what does that say about my belief in God? It is something that I will continue to ruminate over. But all in all, I do highly recommend it and would encourage those who are married or thinking of getting married, or people who have ever thought about marriage in general, should go and pick up this book. I don't think you'll regret doing so.

**Many thanks to the publisher for the free copy of this book**

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Some Good Articles

Some thoughts on God and His goodness - do you have trouble believing in grace and the goodness of God? I know I do sometimes - some thought-provoking stuff from two blogs - Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and Stuff Christians Like.  Take a minute to read and let me know your thoughts!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Live Thoughts on the VMAs

So I am watching the VMAs tonight and instead of posting lots of random thoughts on Facebook, I'll save them for my blog....

1 - Chelsea Handler - Hilarious. I bet there are a lot of mad celebrities, but oh well.  Thanks for being funny.

2 - Eminem - Welcome back. And hello red-flaming-fake-hair Rihanna.

3 - Justin Bieber - Ohmygosh.  You can actually dance!  And sing at the same time!  Maybe you're not a fad...maybe I am now a Bieber fan?? 

4 - Usher.  Wow. Wowowowowowowowoowow.  Or, Oh My Gosh.

5 - Florence & The Machine - Love your album.  Appreciate your performance - even more so that it came right after Usher's techno-amazing-dance-extravaganza.

6 - Lady Gaga - Of course you are going to win lots of VMAs for "Bad Romance".  So why wear unwearable clothing?

7 - Why do we need stats on Twitter updates for the VMAs?  There is something wrong with that - I can't quite put my finger on why it feels wrong, but it just seems wrong.  Or more like, why should I care?

8 - Random N.E.R.D. & Ciara performance in the middle of commercials? Shameless bad marketing technique.

9 - Taylor-frickin'-Swift - Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Like Kayne West is looking for a pity song from you? Please - why don't you learn how to sing? I'm sorry all you Taylor fans out there - I. Am. Not. A. Fan.


11 - Drake, Swizz Beatz, and Mary J. Blige - Awesome.  What a hip-hop performance should be with three uber-talented people.

12 - Dumb Jared Leto.  I hate 30 Seconds to Mars and emo-Jared Leto and his eyeliner and his shout-out to the "fans" - excuse me Jared, were these the same fans that you stood up on your tour with MuteMath - a band that actually has talent and innovation?

13 - What must it be like to be a member of the Jersey Shore cast? To get lots of money for doing nothing but sitting in a hot tub together, joking about STDs that you have?

14 - I'm not upset that Justin Bieber just won Best New Artist...ohmygosh, he has won me over! My identity is in crisis!!

15 - Really Cher, really? I don't know whether my eyes are offended and appalled or if I admire your chutzpah to wear that at your age, which is....???

16 - Thank YOU Aziz Ansari, for putting the Kayne/Taylor thing in perspective - It WAS hilarious!!

17 - Welcome back Kayne.  I've missed you.

Apologies for taking so long to put up another post.  I didn't realize it had been almost a month since my last post - I will promise to try to not do that again!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Couple of Good Reads

When I stumble upon a great article or blog post that I think is really meaningful, I like to share it with the world.  Here are a few that I've recently run across that I felt like sharing...

First one is from Donald Miller and one of his blog posts, "Every Good Story Must Endure Conflict".  It's a great reminder that no where is "easy" promised to us in the Bible - just the promise that God will give us strength to overcome whatever obstacle we may be facing.  And I think I'll take that promise rather than "easy", because I believe that is where character and that elusive search for "who we are" is found.

Second is from Sara Hagerty over at her blog, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.  I had the privilege to know Sara through Young Life in college and have followed her blog for the past couple of years and the journey that she and her husband Nate have gone through in adopting two children from Ethiopia.  She is an amazing writer, with a gift to communicate the immensity and magnificence of God through the written word, and her latest post, "Uncomfortable Extravagance" is a beautiful reminder of God's relentless love and answered prayers.

And the third comes from a blog that I just discovered today through Donald Miller's blog, called The Spiritual Klutz.  I like this guy, the way he writes, and the honesty and authenticity in which he writes.  Be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Thoughts for a Wednesday (Ok, maybe Three)

Sorry, if you're looking for deep, soul-illuminating thoughts, you're out of luck with me tonight.  Just a few quick thoughts and observations that I've had that I feel like putting out there for the world.

1 - Looking for something to watch on TV now that Lost and The Bachelorette are over?  Try the Bachelor Pad for a Elimindate meets Real World meets The Bachelor/ette.  Thank goodness it hasn't crossed the lines into "Flavor of Love" or "Rock of Love" territory yet (two scummy VH1 reality shows).  The operative word there is "Yet".  The redeeming element of the show is Our Host Chris Harrison.  Chris Harrison is just always awesome.  We're bffs in my head - we've had a long relationship - we even finish each other's sentences from time to time! Total Bff status.

Or check out any of the great, fun shows on USA - White Collar, Covert Affairs, Burn Notice (Michael Westin, I love you), Psych (one of the funniest shows on TV, seriously), and Royal Pains.  All have good storylines, fun characters, and are great clever shows.

2 - When I'm housesitting one of the things that I find myself doing is watching music videos on MTV's Comcast music video channel (MTV Hits).  Right now they are showing all the videos that have something to do with the VMAs - either as prior winners or are nominated in some category at this year's upcoming VMAs.  Watching them is like a recent history lesson.  Did you know that Aerosmith won the VMA Video of the Year in 1998?? I know. You feel old don't you?  Did you also know that Steven Tyler (rumored to be one of the new judges on American Idol) is quite the androgynous-looking fellow?  Did you know that Limp Bizkit won the VMA Video of the Year in 2000 AND 2001? I know. Can you believe that Limp Bizkit used to be considered worthy of getting a VMA? Let alone two of them?? No wonder Emimen had such a feud with Fred Durst.  After watching those videos I couldn't believe they actually were that popular!

You know what I also wish? That we could fast forward Justin Bieber 7 years, to when he is 20 years old and has gone through his hook-up with a former Disney channel starlet, and decides to collaborate with The Neptunes to put out his first CD as a solo artist, and then a few years later decides to work with Timbaland and puts out another really awesome album....OH, WHOOPS.  I just realized I was talking about Justin "JT" Timberlake.  Where are you Justin "JT"?? Can you please put out another album and quick so that I don't have to be assaulted by the crap that Justin Bieber is putting out there?  There are only so many "Baby, Oh Baby"s I can take.

Although, as an avid ABDC (as in America's Best Dance Crew) fan, I couldn't help but notice that my girls Beat Freaks and the Season 5 champs Poreotix are in the music video "Somebody to Love"! Go gals and guys - live the dream (even if it means dancing in a Justin Bieber video, ugh - at least Usher is also in it).

I'm looking forward to the VMAs this year - one can only hope that another Kayne-Taylor moment will occur! (You know that's what the execs at MTV are hoping for.)

3 - While this has been a great year in many, many ways, it also has been hard.  My best friend said the other day that 2010 will go down as the year of hard - not bad, just hard.  And I completely agree.  Which is why I'm looking forward to getting away for a week in a little bit.  It'll be a good time to rest, recuperate, read, think, pray, and write.

Annnd with 2 minutes to go, I'm done! Happy Thursday (only 2 more business days then it's the weekend!)!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: The Thoughtful Dresser

The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes MatterThe Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. It has been a looooong time since I reviewed any kind of book. And when I started this book, I didn't think I would ever finish it, but last night in the wee hours of the morning when I should have been sleeping I got to the end. Hallelujah - I finally finished a book!

I really, really enjoyed this book. As I have gotten more involved in the style blog community - both with my own blog and in reading others, I felt like this was a good time to explore some deeper thoughts on fashion and style in general. And this book did not disappoint. The author's premise is that all depths are covered by a surface and that the surface matters. That what you wear and how you dress sends a message to the outside world, one that is seen and judged by every person that you encounter.

I was surprised at the depth of the writing of this book. The author, Linda Grant, certainly can turn a pretty phrase and in my opinion is very well-written. The way that the book reads is also very interesting. Rather than carrying one cohesive thesis throughout the book, it is more like a series of articles covering differing topics and areas within fashion and its surprising depths and impact upon women and their views of themselves and the outside world. And Grant does a great job convincing the reader of fashion's necessity to the lives of people - no matter what hardships we go through. She begins the book examining fashion and the Holocaust. Not two topics you would ever think would go together, but Grant does an admirable job in showing how the two actually converge.

The other thing that I loved about the book was Grant's look back into history at fashion - particularly how the world has changed from post World War II to present day. It not only is a great look at the history of fashion, but also a look at women's history post-World War II as well. And it is surprising to discover that even as women made strides to "liberate" themselves and assert our rights, we actually have become trapped by images forced at us of models with pre-pubescent bodies wearing high-fashion clothing and told by the high-fashion design houses that this is what is considered "beautiful". It is a fascinating look back and helps one to realize that this hasn't always been considered the standard of beauty.

The other thing that is fascinating about the book is how seriously women take beauty. And how we cope through unthinkable tragedies by tending to this basic human desire that we have - to look beautiful. It makes sense to me, especially after reading John and Stasi Eldredge's Captivatinga couple years ago, but it is very interesting to see Grant come to the same conclusion.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It definitely broadened my view on the importance of fashion and style and any time my worldview is broadened, I am a fan.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


"God's ability to perform is far beyond my our prayers - even our greatest prayers!  I have recently been thinking of some of the requests I have made of Him innumerable times in my prayers.  And what have I requested?  I have asked for a cupful, while He owns the entire ocean!  I have asked for one simple ray of light, while He holds the sun!  My best asking falls immeasurably short of my Father's ability to give, which is far beyond what we could ever ask." ~ John Henry Jowett

Two weeks ago I got back home from the best week of my life.  A week that I can honestly look back on and say with confidence that it was the best week of my life.  It even surpassed the time that I went to Italy, which is probably now the second best week of my life.  But it was an amazing time.  A time with little time to myself, lots of time spent with high school kids, and lots of time spent doing activities that I don't and wouldn't ever do if it wasn't for a faith, a hope, and a deep, abiding love for my Savior.

To really understand the depths of this week though, I have to go back a year.  The summer of 2009 was probably the hardest summer of my life.  Not because of any terrible tragedies in my family or friends, thank goodness, but because I was just completely broken and felt suffering to my core.  It was like a deep fissure opened in the crevices of my heart - deeper than I think I will ever realize - and from this gulf rose so much pain, hurt, and despair.  It was a time of wrestling and doubt - deep doubt - and lots of tears.  Pain that you just feel in the marrow of your bones.

Thankfully, with the changing of a breeze, September came and broke through with a breath of fresh air.  I loaded up my fall with fun, friends, and prayer.  I was going to start leading Young Life at a different high school and after our Leader/Committee Weekend, I was so excited.  I was ready to start letting go and being "a fool for Christ", in the words of our speaker.

But God is funny.  He certainly answered my prayers, but in a way that I completely took me by surprise.  Instead of ever really getting a chance to lead YL at the other high school, kids from the school where I had been leading started to show up in droves.  Actually, it was probably more of a trickle and then the droves came.  We had a camp-out event in November (probably the craziest 48 hours of my life) that brought about 75 kids - and 4 girls rode in my car and from there it just took off.  They were fans and were "in" and kept showing up.  And then they started to actually want to do stuff with me!  I had never had kids want to do stuff with me.

Fast forward to July 17th and 5 of these amazing girls boarded the bus to take us to Lake Champion.  And from that moment until our bus pulled back into the commuter lot on July 24th, God moved in ways that I had never imagined possible.  From having energy to make it through the first two days of camp (which were probably the second craziest 48 hours of my life) to courage and bravery to talk about Jesus to these girls - to heck, just have enough courage and bravery to talk to them! - to just surrendering each day to God and letting His Spirit have His way - it was incredible.  And the most amazing and humbling thing is that I had nothing to do with it. 

I ran through an obstacle course, leading 13 girls in our cabin through the darkness with a flaming torch.  I screamed and cheered my lungs out throughout a chips competition.  I volunteered to be in a skit in front of 500 kids as Bella from Twilight.  I hung out in the trees for 45 minutes on a ropes course and then "swung" down via the death, errr, bucket swing.  I led cabin times, times at each night in which I got to talk with girls about Jesus as a group.  And then I got to have "one-on-one"s with the girls, talking about all sorts of things - boys, Jesus, tornadoes, puppies - and loved each moment.  I got to pray an "ABC" prayer for my girls.  I got to go on a New Christian walk with them. And I stood beside them as they proclaimed in front of everyone that they had decided to surrender their lives to Christ.  But all I really did was show up and surrender my inhibitions and fears to Jesus, and His Holy Spirit took care of the rest.

For this is the thing - I cannot claim that my spirit, my self had any part to do with this.  I was on some kind of autopilot all week.  The only time that my "self" really showed up was during a torturous session in a canoe at an awful early time in the morning (and it was ugly - perfect storm for me to lose my patience - thankfully it too had an endpoint).  And if my self had showed up, it would have held me back in terror from everything - because there really isn't much that I like about camp - in fact, the first 48 hours are the most torturous for me.  So you see, I can't claim anything about this week had anything to do with me.  It is sooooo humbling, but oh so good.

For I can't explain how difficult it has been to be back in the "real" world.  To go from a place and time in my life that I knew mattered and in which I got to witness kids choose life over death and in which I let God have His way and not let fear hold me back.  And then I come back home and work in a cube.  It is hard to come down from the mountain.

But here's the is just starting.  Even as I descend from the peaks of my experience, I now get the privilege to help shepherd these girls along their walks and as they take their first, real, new steps in a life centered on and surrendered to Christ.  And that is both scary and humbling.  I feel as if I am starting all anew and afresh, stumbling along in the darkness, not wanting to make a mistake.  But I wouldn't trade this for the world.  It is a feeling of being both undone and all in.

And so I look back at the year in amazement, wonderment, and awe.  How at the same time God both repaired and prepared me.  He heard my pleas in the dark and let the few rays of light that faith clung to burst into blinding sunshine.  It is a miracle that He has truly blessed me with.  What a difference a year makes.

Thank you Abba.  I am completely undone by Your faithfulness.  I am all in - for Eric, the speaker, spoke the truth.  There are many things that I will get to do in heaven - but the chance to bring people to Your feet to receive Your love and grace will not be one of them.  That alone I get to do here on earth.  Thank you for the gift - a gift that has felt more like a curse some days - but the true gift and privilege it is to get to tell high school kids about You and Your love.  And not just high school kids, but all men and women.  I surrender this imperfect and sinful vessel into Your hands and thank You.  Thank You for the taste of real life You have given me.  I am undone and I am all in.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For Nerds Like Me, This is Hilarious

Apologies for the lack of posts lately!  Life is incredibly busy, as it is most summers, and I'm having way too much fun over at my other blog, but it does take up much of my "blogging" time, so low post volume this month.  Lo siento.

BUT I wanted to pass along this hil-ar-ious video from Improv Everywhere that the wonderful Katie Sokoler of "Color Me Katie" participates in.  For someone like me, it is soo funny!  Especially considering that when there was a marathon of Star Wars movies over the July 4th weekend, I was watching it when I wasn't a baseball game or cookout - and totally loving every minute of it :).

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Last night as I was getting into my car, my eyes saw this unbelievable sunset.  The rays bursting forth across the sky, the colors dancing through the light - it was a sight truly beyond words.  Thus I grabbed my camera and attempted to snap few pictures of the unbelievable beauty.  This is one of the ways in which God speaks to me - through scenes in His creation that leave me breathless from their fleeting and majestic beauty.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When You Learn Truth...Again

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

I think one of the amazing things about being a Christian and following Jesus is how my understanding of Him changes as I grow and read His Word, the Bible, and other books that help illuminate these well-known and read verses.  It deepens, it shallows, it levels off.  It's constant, yet dynamic.  Words that I have read over and over and over, to a point in which they don't have much meaning for me anymore, all of the sudden take on a new life, a new understanding depending on what circumstances I find myself in.  What is amazing is that there isn't a circumstance or situation dealing with life or human nature that isn't addressed in the Bible.  Yes, the context of the times has changed, and translations here and there have eschewed some of the true meanings of the original Aramaic or Greek or Hebrew words.  But yet, somehow, there is still a depth of understanding, a Truth, that cries out from the pages when they are given the time to be heard.

Last week was a really hard week for my family.  One of my aunts was involved in a serious car accident on her way back to work from lunch - a wreck so horrific that it killed her coworker, who was driving the car.  Right now she is in a continued deep sleep, with all of us waiting for her to hopefully wake up soon.  This accident on top of other stresses that had happened throughout the week - it has been a shared load of stress and pain for all of us.

But this morning as I was reading my daily readings, I ran across the above verse.  It reminded me of a song that I used to sing in college, called "Trading My Sorrows":
I'm pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I'm blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy's gonna be my strength
Through all the things that my family has gone through this week, it definitely feels like we have been pressed in on all sides.  But we're not crushed.  We have taken some knocks, but we're not destroyed.  God's promise in this verse - not to be rescued from hardships or difficulties - for that is a fact of life - but the ability to endure them because of His love, brings hope back to my heart.  I will never be crushed, abandoned, or destroyed, come what may.  And that is a Truth I'm thankful to have heard again this morning.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Eight Things You Learn at the local ER

Today I had an unexpected three and half hour visit at my local ER.  I was having some minor chest pains that I was pretty sure was just heartburn, but given my family's not-so-great heart history I wasn't entirely sure.  So I called my insurance's hotline, spoke to the advice nurse, who spoke to my doctor, who said to go to the ER. Ugh. So off I went.

First - I learned that it doesn't matter the size of the ER that you go to - even if it is an auxiliary wing of the hospital - you will still have to wait a ridiculously long time to be called back to be seen by the nurse and then have to wait forever for them to do everything to you that they need to do.

Second - A hospital gown is a highly functional garment.  It mixes well with all sorts of pieces and even went well with my skinny black pants and heels.

Third - If you burst into tears when the tech tells you he's going to put an IV into you, you might escape having to have an IV put into you.

Fourth - When you wear a claddagh ring and you are single and the tech asks you about it, you have to admit that no, you are not currently in love.

Fifth - When the physician's assistant asks you what your stress level is, you look at him and laugh. "Typical high American stress?" "Uh, yeah, exactly."

Sixth - When the nurse walks in with a cup of a Mylanta/Maalax concoction and asks you, "You know when you take a shot?" as a way to explain how to take it, you have to admit that "Actually, no, I haven't".  Which is true - I'm not one to really take shots.

Seventh - When the techs and nurses leave you in the room by yourself for a long time, your imagination starts to run wild and you imagine yourself in a "ER" or "Grey's Anatomy" episode as one of those dumb patients that comes in with seemingly innocuous symptoms that turns out to be something major and if any of the techs, nurses, and doctors have wildly dramatic lives like the characters on those shows.

Eighth - It's not the prick or the drawing of blood that hurts the most.  It's after they take the needle out that your hand hurts like a mofo.  But then you take off the bandage a couple of hours later expecting to see a huge gaping hole that is still bleeding, and realize that the prick in your epidural layer is so minuscule you would need a microscope to actually see it and feel very foolish.

Everything ended up absolutely fine - they diagnosed me with heartburn/acid reflux, which is what I thought it was.  All is well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

200th Post + Changes

This officially marks my 200th post in my little blogging experiment.  I can't believe that I have two full years plus some months of blogging behind me.  That's crazy.  But I love it and am shocked and awed when people tell me that they've read it - the fact that you would take time out of your day to regale yourself with my incoherent ramblings and musings on all sorts of random things humbles me, truly.

I've also bitten the bullet and changed my beloved blog template to this new design.  I've also tried to shake things up on the sidebar level, mainly by moving my blog archives and blogroll up a couple of notches and all the other content down a few.  I've also cleaned up some of the blogroll - from time to time I update it with new blogs and delete others that haven't posted in a while in order to not have it become so unwieldy that it looks cluttered - because I read a lot of blogs :).

So leave me a comment and let me know what you think of this new design and this little blogging experiment itself!  And thanks again for taking time to read!

Yeah, It's Pretty Intense Stuff...

The Bachelor/ette series have provided me with a host of favorite reality TV moments. From Ryan bequeathing a stuffed dolphin to Trista, to Jason Mesnick almost throwing himself off a balcony, to the guy ripping his shirt off and howling at the moon because he was (and always would be) a "lone wolf", and many "Most Dramatic Rose Ceremony Ever"s, I have enjoyed quite a lot of laughter from this beloved franchise.  But last night's moment topped them all.  Hands down the funniest, most awkward thing I have ever watched.  THIS is the stuff that reality TV is made of.  Enjoy, and you're welcome for the next 5 minutes of laughter you will have.

Monday, June 14, 2010

On Aliens, Israel, and Immigration

*Warning - This may be a long rambling post with much incoherency.  But if it's any comfort you're not the crazy one, it's me. It all makes sense in my head!*

I have been ruminating and germinating this post for a long time in my head - and by long time, I mean at least a week.  Every so often the thoughts start pouring in, but I haven't gotten a chance to put them all together until today.

In the past few weeks several significant international and domestic events have occurred that have caught my attention.  I also had the opportunity to view the movie District 9.  And in only a way that my brain would do, all three things have connected themselves in my brain.

First comes Israel and all of this state's happenings in recent days.  I could not contain my absolute abhorrence when I learned about the raid on the peaceful, pro-Palestinian flotilla that was seeking to bring aid to the Gaza strip - an area that has been walled off and ostracized from the rest of the world for the past three years.  Nothing goes in or out of there and meanwhile, the innocent Palestinian civilians are left to starve and claw their way to survival.  And how did the state of Israel react to this gesture of humanitarian aid?  By shooting live bullets into the ships, killing at least 9 people and wounding dozens of others.  Worldwide condemnation followed this act, but it stopped there.  Even as a second flotilla tried to deliver aid and they were captured and turned back, nothing other than a promise for Israel to conduct it's own "inquiry" resulted from all this worldwide condemnation.  No, protected by the powerful Israeli lobby in the United States, nothing of any significance that would result in the alleviation of the terrible plight of these Gaza Palestinians, has happened.  In fact, the United States refused (REFUSED) to condemn Israel's actions.  And the United Nations - the farcical organization that it is - stayed up all night in negotiations over the "wording" of a resolution that expressed condemnation over the raid.

This is WRONG!  The injustice of treating people in this way because of their political or religious affiliation is wrong.  Of any people in the entire world, Americans should be the ones most up in arms over this injustice!  And yet our words remain handicapped because anything that is said against Israel or calls out its military injustices and policies against the Palestinian people is seen as traitorous or anti-Semitic.  Helen Thomas, the 89-year old White House correspondent who has been a fixture of the White House Press Corps for over 5 decades, had her career end in flames last week after making remarks against Israel and its right to exist as a state.  But if you examine the context of where Thomas's remarks come from - a woman who covered the White House and sitting presidents before an Israel existed and who extensively understands how it came into being, mainly through it's own use of terrorism, the guilt of the West over the Holocaust, and the ambivalence of the British to maintain any kind of continued presence in the Middle East - you understand that there may be an element of truth in her remarks.  But I'm not here to debate whether or not Israel should exist as a state, for the reality is that it does and it is not going away. 

What I am most upset about is the rampant racism and apartheid that the Israeli state formally practices against the Gaza strip, especially since Hamas came into power.  But the worldwide uproar over the raid on the peaceful flotilla should give Israel pause and if they are smart, they will begin to change their policies of hatred.  After all, shouldn't Israel, of all nation-states, extend understanding and humanitarian aid to their neighbors?  As a people who suffered through the hatred and unthinkable atrocities of the Holocaust genocide, shouldn't they recognize and work towards policies that seek to build up another nation, instead of oppressing it to the point that they continuously create militants (and I'll call them militants here, not terrorists) who want the destruction of their state?

I've been in such a turmoil over this - so much so, that I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose's interview with Mahmoud Abbas, the current leader of the Fatah faction in Palestine who had visited the White House to talk about the current situation in Israel and Palestine.  It was a fascinating interview, creating the opportunity to hear from the "other" side, so to speak, on what they want for peace to exist.  Too bad that this interview was shown on the local WETA PBS station at 1:00am in the morning.  So much for spreading dialogue.  On the other hand, thank God for a station like WETA that would put such programming on the air.  Otherwise we would only have programming like the "No-Spin Zone" likes of Bill O'Reilly or the liberal crap of Keith Olbermann.  Can you tell that I have no respect for the media and the way that they report international events?

But you know what else? This practice of systematic hatred isn't just regulated to the land and policies of Israel.  It is propagated in our own country.  Don't believe me?  How else do you characterize the passage of the new Arizona immigration laws and the other laws that they seek to pass?  And how they want to jail illegal immigrants in "tent cities"?

Seriously America?  Are Americans truly going to let a new-age apartheid system spring up on our own shores?  The shores that we have fought for in blood - the blood of immigrants nonetheless - so that freedom can be experienced by all people?  Why should we limit the rights of a person to become a naturalized citizen of our country that was born on the shoulders of immigrants from all walks of life?  All great innovations, all privileges that we take for granted today came to us because our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents traveled from some place overseas to start a new life - to have a chance to earn a living and experience a quality of life that no one else in the world gets to experience - true and utter freedom to do whatever the heck we want, whether it be waste our life or make it into something.  Why are we now going to deny others the capability to earn a living?  To have a chance to NOT live in third-world poverty - to earn a living?  And if we do indeed deny others this chance, what are we going to do to help these individuals?  Are we going to try to propagate some kind of backwards isolationism thinking and do nothing to help others of the world - like other "first world" nations, Austria and Australia (my own sister, a college graduate cannot obtain a job as a library aid because of the racism rampant in Australia)?  Doesn't that completely fly in the face of our global and interconnected economy? Isn't that what partially led to 9-11 in the first place?  And hasn't any isolationist policy we as a nation have ever practiced backfired on us?  Or are we just going to become a nation of a bunch of Gangs of New York?

And while we deal with how to treat legal and illegal aliens in our country, perhaps we can use a movie about aliens, apartheid, and xenophobia, District 9, to illuminate our way.  I don't want to spoil too much of the movie for those who haven't seen it, but it is a phenomenal film in the way that it dissects these issues in the context of the fantasy-realm of an alien population stranded on Earth.  Tent cities are erected and aliens are forced to live in a shanty town in the middle of Johannesburg, based upon Soweto and its history within South Africa.  And in spine-chilling way, the film examines what life looks like when the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak.  It may seem kind of random to mention such a film in the same post as my rants on Israel and immigration policy, but the way it speaks to the issues of xenophobia, apartheid, and basic humanitarianism and how they are extremely relevant in the context of those two issues, prompt me to recommend it unequivocally.

What I hope for most of all is that common human decency and justice will prevail in the end.  I hope that someday Israelis and Palestinians will be able to experience the peace that South Africa found through its Truth and Reconciliation Committee.  I hope that everyday Americans will take a step back from their anger over funding health care and education for illegal immigrants and see that these are human beings like ourselves, like our ancestors, who just want the opportunity to experience a life like we have.  And that those same Americans who want to send these illegal immigrants back to their own countries, will step up and take the jobs that we gladly let them procure.  And that the opportunity and freedom that we have fought so long and hard for will be experienced by all people, regardless of their race or religion.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Having a Down Day?

If that is you, or if you are having a blah day, or if you are having a good day, take a moment and read these three blog posts from nueva sonrise, 1000 Awesome Things, and Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.  One will inspire, one will make you laugh, and the other will make you tear up with joy.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book Review: Rumor Has It

Rumor Has It: Some people just can't keep a secret... Rumor Has It: Some people just can't keep a secret... by Jill Mansell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I picked this book up as a lark in the bookstore yesterday and started reading it when I got home. Five hours later, I was reaching the end of one of the most enjoyable, light-hearted, fun, entertaining reads I have read in a while. While this book might be in that oft-derided genre of "chick-lit", it transcends it with its intelligence, irony, snark, sarcasm, and a cast of lovable characters in a small English town named Roxborough. In a Cranford meets Jane Austen meets Helen Fielding kind of way, the girl and the guy do get together in the end, but the journey there is so enjoyable you don't care about any of the cliches that might be within the story.

The narration of the actual book is interesting in the fact that it jumps from character to character from time to time. Most of the book is told by Tilly Cole, but every so often the next chapter comes along and you get a different point of view. While this may sound pretty jarring, the way that Mansell weaves everything together makes for a fluid story when all is said and done.

This is a very British novel. Loads of irony, snark, and sarcasm and it is delightfully funny even in the most hard, painful moments. Life and death are all treated with the same aplomb. One of the playful ironic touches comes in the naming of some of the main characters. There is character named Jack, who's love in life was named Rose. Jack and Rose. Titanic anyone? It's a playful liberty taken by the author and I fully appreciated it.

This is my first foray into a Mansell novel and I'm looking forward to the next one. I can only hope it's half as good and fun as "Rumor Has It" has been. Honestly, the worst thing I can say about the book is that it's title shares the same title of a terrible movie with Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, and Shirley MaClaine. Hopefully if this book is ever made into a movie, it will be more along the lines of "Bridget Jones" rather than a second-rate romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston!

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Yeah, We're Badass"

Warning - Don't view if you don't like humor.

Have you seen the new, overly dramatic commercials for the new season of Whale Wars on Animal Planet?  Every time (EVERY time) I see one of these, I can't help but burst out laughing, and it's all because of this.

And then this...(caution, some PG-13 language ahead)

I mean, where else would you find a send up of Lady Gaga, Rockband, the Japanese, Godzilla, and reality sea shows? I mean, they even make fun of Deadliest Catch, one of my favorites! It's just too funny! "Yeah, We're Badass"

Happiness Is...

...having dinner with your parents and laughing for a solid straight half hour with them about their visit with the exterminator this afternoon.

...embracing your inner nerd and playing your favorite Star Wars music compilation CD because when you randomly started humming at your office in the morning, the tune that came out of your head was this.

...learning business lessons from your boss, like how to not worry about paying your bills until the lawyers start calling. dinner for a bunch of high school girls you've been getting to know all year and having time to sit and talk with them for an evening.

...realizing as you're making your bed in the morning, you're thinking about the high school kids' history project that they were talking about the night before and putting together their 30 slide presentation in your head.

...being excited to go to Young Life camp for once instead of dreading it because of the above high school girls getting to experience it for the first time.

...learning that forgiveness - of yourself, of others - is an ongoing painful process - but a process that continually opens your heart to God. Open Hands, not Clenched Fists.

...the joy of the Lord radiated from the faces of loved children..

...a new season of The Bachelorette, fit with characters like Steven Webber from Wings, Patrick Dempsey, a brown belt weatherman, a caliente baseball player who salsa dances, a stalker who makes scrapbooks, a ukulele, the requisite recent divorcee who also plays the guitar, a Jason Mesinick look-a-like, a Jake Pavelka on helium, and Ali with terrible outfits and terrible extensions - it's priceless entertainment.

...the return of the ever-hot Michael Weston and Burn Notice. Hallelujah.

...a week of good, fun outfits.

...the smell of the earth on your drive home after a rainstorm.

...a four-day work week!

Enjoy the weekend!  And can you believe it's already June?????!!