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.)