Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

Post-Christmas funk got you down? Need a good laugh? I know I certainly do! I’ve spent the last hour or so trolling YouTube for some of my favorite funny movies and thought I might share with ya’ll… have a laugh!

Singin’ in the Rain—Make ‘em Laugh
Love Actually—Gift Wrapping
Singin’ in the Rain—Moses Supposes
The Princess Bride—Miracle Max
The Wedding Singer—Love Stinks
So what are some of your all-time favorites?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Little Christmas

Something seems a little off this holiday season. Maybe it’s the fact that we haven’t had snow since October, just lots and LOTS of rain—no, that can’t be it. After all, they still have Christmas in warm climates. We still have all the Christmas music, the decorations, the cookies, the parties are underway… so what feels so wrong?

I think I may have figured it out this morning. I heard someone say they wouldn’t spend as much as $13 on gifts for kids. Really, people?! Since when is $13 an unreasonable amount? I understand that all the gift expenses add up, so you want to be careful. I also fully understand that times are tough; nobody knows that better than me! I’m getting creative with my gifting this year and have had to save for a while to make even that much possible.

It seems to me that the greed of the season is what’s leaving that bad taste. When we were kids, we were told not to be greedy and want lots of presents. But now that we’re adults, it’s apparently okay to be greedy and not give lots of presents. This brand of greed seems even more repugnant and is running rampant this year.

Remember that Gift of the Magi story we heard as kids? Or maybe I was the only one who heard it at least once a year for the first 16 years of my life. It’s simply story about giving. Those two people had nothing but love so they gave anyway. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Last time I checked, we are celebrating God’s gift of Himself—something which we can never repay and can only hope to reflect.

Gifts don’t have to be big, fancy, expensive displays of cheap affluence. Anyone can buy stuff; that means nothing. That is not what a gift is. Maybe it’s because today is Pearl Harbor Day, but for some reason I seem to be even more sensitive to stark contrast between greed and sacrifice. The Christmas story is full of examples of those two attributes in its characters.

This has been a hard year for everyone. All you have to do is turn on the news to hear about unemployment rates, stocks dropping, Occupy Wall Street… after a year like this, we need a little Christmas spirit more than ever. Everyone seems to be hanging on to materialism even more tightly, when we should really be letting go and focusing on what is really important in life.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

This morning I will believe that...


1.       I won’t forget that this is a day that the LORD has made—which means it’s perfect

2.       I shall not accidentally drop anything and wake up my flatmate

3.       My hair will behave and look nice today

4.       There will be enough in the cupboards from which to pack a lunch

5.       The ice on my car won’t take more than five minutes to scrape off

6.       I will manage update my blog but not be late for work

Thursday, December 1, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

In honor of the Christmas season, I present a piece by my dear friend and author, Jae Maxson. You should buy her book.

All I Want for Christmas Is A New Last Name

For the average single chick out there, Christmas can be a challenging holiday. Not as bad as Valentine’s Day, of course, but difficult in a way. Let’s face it; there’s something romantic about this time of year—the snow, the lights, the Little House specials on Hallmark. In the movies, couples walk hand-in-hand in the snow, whispering sweet nothings. In real life, you walk through the over-crowded mall, get pushed out of line at the registers, and usually end up at Gertrude Hawk floating away on a river of dark chocolate oblivion.

Are you spending all day under the mistletoe waiting for some poor guy to come along and fall for that ridiculous tradition? Have you even left your house in the past 72 hours? Do you have your cats dressed as elves? Maybe you should read on.

We all like the idea of an older man, well established, with a steady job and his own transportation. But Santa is already taken. Some like the strong silent type—the forgotten hero who comes through in the end, and saves the day for even those who ridiculed him the most. But Rudolph settled down with Clarice on a nice three bedroom ranch with a to-die-for solarium. My favorite is the fun-loving guy who sticks around for a couple of days, and then leaves; only to come back when it snows. But Frosty…well, the whole “eyes of coal” thing creeps me out.

There is no perfect cure for the sudden need for a relationship at Christmastime. You won’t find two tickets to paradise in your stocking. Mr. Right isn’t going to come down your chimney. (If he does, call 911 right away). You’re not going to find a two carat ring in your Figgie pudding. Not unless you do something about it.

Don’t just sit around waiting for your very own Hallmark movie; go out and make it happen. Talk to that guy you’ve been thinking about. Leave your house, and go on a real date. (The cats can fend for themselves). Go to your company Christmas party with some dude you met in Price Chopper earlier that day. Have a good time, (biblically of course), this Christmas. And if you end up with a boyfriend for Christmas, always make sure to keep the receipt.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

______________ for President

There’s an election coming up. Did you know that? In case you haven’t been watching SNL lately, consider this your reminder that there is in fact another election approaching. A year from now (almost to the day), there will be a national election in which the presidential ballot will be the most significant. I do not yet know whom I will be endorsing for President; however, I do know that it will not be Barack Obama.

The field of Republican contenders is still wide open. Historically, everyone expects the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary to help us narrow it down a little. These are pretty much the biggest things those two states have going for them, so we let them have their moment every four years. Right now, thousands of hours and millions of dollars are being devoted solely to these two random states.

By the time the candidates work their way to Pennsylvania, the decision will almost be made. When it’s my turn to vote in a primary, I do know who I’ll be nominating: Rick Santorum. Why? Because he’s as much an anti-Obama as you can get. As a former senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I even got to meet him once. What’s the difference between a commonwealth and a state? I have no idea. Probably about the same as the difference between a caucus and a primary.

For some unknown reason, Mr. Santorum continues to be largely ignored by the media. Perhaps they realize the threat true he is to the status quo and hope that if they pretend he doesn’t exist, he’ll just go away. They’re only just now starting to be forced to acknowledge his presence. As other Republican candidates begin to shrivel up and die in the limelight, Santorum keeps chugging along, campaigning in the background.

That right there is probably the biggest single difference between Mr. Santorum and the other wannabe-nominees: consistency. It was for very this reason that he lost his Senate seat a few years ago. He stuck to his pro-life guns and our infamous swing state gave him the boot. However, the most recent PA state election swung heavily back in the conservative direction. Indeed, last year’s national prevalence of the Tea Party may very well signal the tone of the next presidential election.

I’m voting for Rick Santorum. You vote for whomever you like, just please, vote! This is one of those rare opportunities to actually make each vote count, since so few people actually participate at this early stage of an election. So do your homework, and pay particular attention to the candidates' foreign policy records. I don’t know about you, but a little part of me would die if when we get to next November the only choice I have is between Obama and Newt Gingrich. I’d just as soon write in Pedro for President.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Centipede V: Peter Parker

All’s been quiet in the library these past few weeks. I attribute the reprieve to Peter Parker. Peter Parker was strategically placed on my desk as a guard by my lovely flatmate. He guards my office, my workspace, and most importantly, my candy corn. I must say, he has been doing an excellent job as watchman.

Who, you may ask, is this enigmatic guardian? This silent protector who remains steadfast through the darkest night? He could be you or me, any one of us. He is only an ordinary pumpkin, even undersized and apparently insignificant. Yet when a hero was needed, he valiantly donned the painted mask of a spider and took up his post.

We librarians may now go about our daily lives free from fear. He who was once considered a ghoulish Halloween decoration has proven to be our shield against all that is creepy and crawly. Where dangerous, disgusting creatures once skittered unabashedly, now they dare not venture. While this peace may not last forever, we will enjoy it while it does.

Evil undoubtedly continues to lurk in the shadows. Even a brave little pumpkin cannot live forever. We are all keenly aware that this may be merely the calm before the storm. The last, great battle looms in all of our minds. While the final doom awaits, we make the most of our time with our beloved books… and Peter Parker.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Inspiration Fabrication

Someone asked me the other day why I haven’t written in a while. I had to think about my answer for a moment. A few popped into my head, “I’ve been busy, tired, etc.” The truth is that I just haven’t felt like it. I usually only write when I have been inspired, and I have not been inspired in a long time. Most days, I have a hard enough time being motivating myself to even get out of bed, forget about the effort it takes to write.

My flatmate and I have recently been on an inspirational movie kick at home. It’s been a lot of fun to work our way through Braveheart, Miracle, et al., but there has been a serious disconnect somewhere along the line with me. Even after spending hours watching other people fighting for something in which they believe, I feel nothing. Should I feel even the slightest stirring, I am immediately reminded that I have to get up early in the morning; therefore, I delay any action.

Admittedly, I have done a few unusual (for me) things in the past couple days: donated to a political campaign, and got a new haircut… but that’s about it. Those things aren’t exactly life-changing. Or are they? In the absence of a lofty quest, perhaps the everyday becomes more significant. It has struck me that most popular heroes are in the Greatness-Thrust-Upon-Them category. You know, the average Joe who suddenly finds himself called upon to save the world.

Who knows, adventure may yet beckon—and in that moment I must be ready! More often than not, success lies in preparation. While I have not been inspired in a long time, I may be very soon. By that token, I write today. Cicero said that “even if you have nothing to write, write and say so” and I do so. There entire epistle has been a fabrication of necessity in the absence of inspiration and for that, I apologize. Until a genuine muse appears, feel free to check out my film site for a cheap imitation.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Yahweh Yireh

Hallelujah! September is over! I don’t know how this past month was for you, but it was pretty brutal over here. It was so bad that I had to make up a new word because all others failed in description: lifesore. Lifesore is what happens when the hits just keep on coming, day after day. You know, when you get so sore that you can’t even get out of bed in the morning because it hurts just to move.

I had planned to use this title for a blog post last weekend, to celebrate financial provision. The bills from my knee surgery in August finally filtered through the insurance and simultaneously down to me. They were quite a bit bigger than I had anticipated and I don’t have several hundred dollars just lying around. You can imagine the anxiety which set in as I did the math, even though I already knew I would be short.

However, I had forgotten that because of the calendar’s set up there were actually three paychecks this September! My budget is structured around two paychecks, so the unexpected third was exactly what I needed. I was able to use the extra payday to cover the medical bills, knowing that there would still be another one before I had to pay my rent.

The plan was to write about all that last weekend while I was in New York for a funeral. That did not happen because my car broke down while I was halfway there. And by broke down, I mean my transmission blew just as I hit the PA/NY/NJ border on I-84. It didn’t just blow, it was “blown to hell,” according to the mechanic.

Now that I am at last getting a chance to write this, it looks quite different than I had originally intended. I have so much more for which to be grateful, blessings such as: being able to (barely) coast off the highway and avoid an actual accident; having already been wearing a very cute new hat so that the rain wasn’t quite so dampening; my grandparents helping me pay for a “new” transmission.

All that to say how very excited I am that September is over. I am even more excited that my Lord sees and provides for my needs before I ever could. Seriously, how long ago did the whole calendar thing get set up? No way could I have taken care of that one! For a month that started with half the county getting flooded out, it sure put a strain on divine providence.

September reminded me again and again that life hurts. Sometimes it’s physical pain, like strength training on my refurbished knee, which hurts like a bad word. Other times it’s emotional stress, like wanting to panic when your car dies. Most often it involves a spiritual ache for a better world, a kingdom which is not of this world. The one place I can find enough strength is in the knowledge that our God has already provided for not only our temporal needs, but even for our eternal.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Like A Rock

Driving home from Upstate New York on Sunday in the middle of Hurricane Irene, I felt like I should have been in one of those car commercials. You know, the ones where they show you how awesome the vehicle is by driving it through rivers, over boulders, hauling the Titanic, and then launching it into space to fix the International Space Station. Then at the end someone sings “like a rock, ohhhh like a rock!” and that’s supposed to make you buy their product.

Blatant materialism aside, my little Spencer performed like a champ and nobody is allowed to criticize him ever again. I spent most of the trip gripping the steering wheel and contemplating rocks in all forms, including rock ballads and rock slides. I found myself meditating on the parable of the wise man who built on rock and whose house withstood a hurricane; the foolish man had built on sand and his house was washed away.

My flatmate and I were recently discussing fear. Fear of getting robbed, mugged, carjacked, etc. This is something we all consider occasionally, whenever we see it another violent crime against an innocent victim reported on the front page. It’s not a question of whether we will have storms in life, only of when. The real question is how then do we live.

One particularly common sentiment seems to be that all you have to do is get married. Everyone seems to expect that a spouse will fix everything that is wrong in their life—everything from their car to their parents’ marriage. My heart breaks for this mindset. A wedding is not the happy ending, complete with riding off into the sunset and happily ever after. It is only a (hopefully) happy beginning. I worry that my friends will discover this the hard way.

No mere human can control every aspect of life. There has yet to be a single person in my life who has not let me down at one point or another. Relationships fail. Jobs are lost. Looks fade. People die. When life shakes you to the core, you’d better hope your foundation is sturdy enough to handle it. Trouble happens, but you can’t let the fear of it rule your life.

There are always several responsive options: you can fight, you can run away, you can ignore it and hope it goes away…. That decision defines you. It will impact the rest of your life in ways you can’t even fathom. Yes, you should be able to rely on your husband, wife, father, mother, etc. But “should” and “could” are two very different things. When you suddenly can’t depend on anyone or anything else, the Rock on which you should have built your life is going to matter even more.

The conclusion of the aforementioned conversation on fear was that we could never leave the house, but that would be no way to live. Sure, we could hide under the covers, yet we choose to go out and confront life head-on! Every day, we each must boldly go where no one has gone before! Even if that means sometimes having to drive through a hurricane.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Older Women Teach

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior… to teach what is good, and so train the young women… that the word of God may not be reviled.

Recently I have been noticing how much my relationships with older women have been developing. Now, by “older women” I simply mean women who have been handling life a little bit longer than I have—not that anyone is actually old. As I continue through life, some things are getting easier, but a lot of things are getting harder. Having more experienced people’s help along the way makes a HUGE difference.

These godly women have been helping to fill the void left by my mother. I wouldn’t say that anyone is formally mentoring me, but they are all teaching me something: one woman loves to remind me that she didn’t even meet her husband till she was 30. Another one has the best dessert recipes ever! Another has never been able to have children. Another one is a little bit older and still single, but she’s probably the coolest person I’ve ever met.

Something I’ve been learning about life is that no two experiences are the same. There may be some general similarities, but the happy family with 2.5 kids is more the exception than the rule. Nobody’s life is perfect, certainly not all the time. What matters is your ability to gracefully deal with all the conflict and confusion, especially in the everyday.

The best part is that most of the time, these women inspire me without even realizing it. I may see them at church, or at work, or on facebook, or at Walmart… the where does not matter because of who they are. They are living as virtuous examples. It’s a little scary to think that there's always someone younger who might be watching me, looking for her own role model. I guess the good news is that we “older women” are all in the whole “teaching” thing together.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Christmas Time Is Here

Christmas is coming! Based on my calculations it should be here… tomorrow! Yes, I know the calendar says it should take another 124 days, but based on how quickly the summer went by, I figure it will only feel like one day, maybe two. Personally, I had planned to do a lot over the summer but ran out of time. After all, you can’t do much overnight.

That’s sure what it feels like to me. It feels like commencement was just yesterday, yet we already have convocation today. Somehow, I managed to be in a wedding, find a new apartment, undergo knee surgery, go to New York three times, and fall in love with my Kindle—all between yesterday and today. However, that isn’t nearly as much as I had wanted to do!

So little time, so much to do. I had wanted to get to the beach. I had wanted to have a Lord of the Rings marathon. I had wanted to rearrange my office. I had wanted to update my blog more often. Somehow, all that time just got away from me. Crazy work hours dominated the few days of nice weather with which Scranton is graced every year. Life has always been a battle between what I need to do and what I want to do.

The beautiful thing about Christmas is its scheduled sanctity. We get federal holidays and office parties and bonus checks: we get a BREAK. I don’t know about you, but I know that I’m already looking forward to the vacation. All those tranquil days of quiet snow that can be spent cuddled under a blanket on the couch… I’m feeling peaceful just thinking about it! Good thing it will be here tomorrow.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Toy Story

A very scary thing happened to me yesterday: I legitimately used the phrase “when I was your age.” This terrifies me because I don’t think I’m that old! However, when confounded by the modern toy industry, it was entirely appropriate. All my friends are having babies now and a generation gap has officially formed twixt my own childhood and “kids these days.”

The problem was that I was searching for a classic toy. I checked the toy departments in Walmart and Target first, because I was there anyway. Then I went to Toys R Us, which was a huge mistake. The only sales associate I could find was a teenager who looked like she hated her job almost as much as she hated her life. How could you hate working at a toy store? Only way to beat that would be to work in Santa’s workshop itself!

She just gave me a blank stare when I said that I couldn’t find a paratrooper toy. “What’s a paratrooper?” I very politely described the parachuting soldier doll, trying my best not to call her an idiot. She had another blank stare, then mumbled something about them not having it and walked off. I resumed the search on my own and eventually concluded that she her lazy guess had been correct.

When we were growing up, my brothers and I had basic toys, mostly because we never had any money. I loved my Etch-A-Sketch and Polly Pockets. What I did not love was stepping on random Lego blocks all over the house. We actually played with our toys, often even outside. The only “luxury” toy I ever had was my American Girl doll, which was a Christmas gift from my grandparents. I definitely still have her.

Most of our toys were pretty low-tech. I did have a Galaxy class U.S.S. Enterprise model with detachable dish and warp engines, which even made warp and torpedo sounds. There was always great debate between me and Andrew about who had the Enterprise and who had the Klingon Bird of Prey—but we always agreed that James got the lame shuttlecraft.

It was such a big deal when the boys got their first Nintendo 64. Up until then, my Furby had been the most high-tech toy. We never did get Gameboys. As I looked around at all the new toys yesterday, I was amazed. Almost none of them lacked electronics of some sort. G.I. Joe and Barbie are now fully articulated, yet even they were largely outnumbered by action figures for the latest movies.

The lack of educational toys was heartbreaking. When I was a kid, we still had to use our heads to play. We actually learned how to build rockets! Nowadays, toys don’t leave much room for imagination. You don’t have to imagine your toys coming to life when they can already walk and talk and fight crime on their own. Give me a Thomas the Tank Engine set any day. You can keep your Orbeez Soothing Spa set.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Little House in a Good Hood

Sometimes God’s perfect timing comes when you least expect it. My friend Laura and I recently experienced one such surprise blessing: a new apartment! Everything has worked out so perfectly that there is no way we could have planned it so well ourselves. Weeks later, I still can’t believe it all actually happened.

What happened was that I realized I hadn’t seen my fellow librarian Laura in ages and felt like a bad friend, so we had dinner on a Saturday night. Around the same time, I realized that my current lease was about to be up. Over the course of dinner, we got to talking and figured out that it might be a good idea for the two of us to look for a new place together.

When I got home Saturday night, I hopped on Google to have a look around. At the top of the list was an ad for an apartment that was showing the next day. It really looked too good to be true, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to go check it out. I emailed Laura and she thought the same thing. So Sunday afternoon, we went to have a look.

It actually was as awesome as it looked online—way bigger than the shoebox I’d been living in, with hardwood floors and a new kitchen, conveniently located near our jobs. The space was actually on two floors (living room and kitchen downstairs, two bedrooms and bath upstairs), making it feel more like a little house than an apartment. The price was exactly where Laura and I had agreed we felt comfortable.

We fell in love with the apartment, but figured we’d never get it. After all, we’re practically still just kids, and several other people were also interested. The landlords said they would make a decision and let us know by the end of the week. Monday morning they called to say it was ours if we wanted it. Of course we wanted it!

Less than 48 hours after deciding to look around, we had it. There were still lots of details to work out. I had to move out of my apartment; Laura had to move out of her parents’ house. It got pretty crazy for a while there. There were a few little snags, like getting the electricity turned on, but everything eventually fell into place. A big thanks again to all my friends who helped us!

I am now living in a genuine neighborhood for the first time in… a long time. We already knew the family nextdoor, who turned out to be some of my coworkers. I just love hearing the kids playing in their yards and sometimes even mine. There was even a big bonfire the day after we moved in, so I got to meet everyone almost immediately.

It never ceases to amaze me how the timing in life correlates with personal development. Did it happen because I was ready? Or was I ready because it was happening? I’ll never know. All I can do is wonder what’s coming next. For now, I’m more than content to dream about the future from my awesome new home. Be jealous.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Now I Want Yogurt

It’s back! The Burn Notice season premiere tonight signifies the start of summer programming. Besides providing us with an example of the proper use of a Ke$ha song, the much-anticipated kick-off relieves some serious television ennui. The season finales of Castle, Bones, Chuck, The Office, Parks & Recreation, House, NCIS, Community, Hawaii 5-0, Glee, Big Bang Theory, and all other primetime staples were over a month ago.
Thankfully, USA Network’s program schedule is just gearing up with new episodes of In Plain Sight, White Collar, Covert Affairs, Royal Pains, and of course, Burn Notice (aka, The Show That's Impossible To Watch Without Wanting Yogurt). Psych has unfortunately been bumped from its usual slot to the Fall, so that the channel can launch two new shows. While we’ll miss Shawn and Gus a while longer, it’s okay because the whole Burn gang is back.
That’s right, the hottest parts of summer are back! Michael, Fiona, Sam, Maddie, Jesse, Barry, Nate, Sugar, Dead Larry… they’re all back and reportedly better than ever, now that Michael has been reinstated as a spy. Not to mention the Charger, Miami, plastic explosives, sunglasses, improvised listening devices, and an endless supply of yogurt. So, grab your remote and your yogurt, and escape the doldrums with Chuck Finley.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stop and Stare

It is with great trepidation that I am publishing this. Today’s topic is one which has been heavily on my mind lately, but I am still somewhat unsure how it should be approached. However, I saw something on another blog about it and figured if that guy could talk about it, then I certainly could. I want to talk about beauty.

Recently, I was having dinner with a bunch of friends. We were all eating and chatting and generally having a good time when a woman walked into the room. In a moment that could have been straight out of a bad sitcom, every guy at the table stopped whatever he was doing and stared at her. While the men may not have realized what was going on, every woman at that table sure did.

For the record, this woman was gorgeous. When she walked in, the other women in the room wanted to hide under their chairs. We all know what men want because it is so painfully obvious. When someone sees something they like, they stop and stare at it. The dirty little secret that not many women would admit is that we like being stared at.

That night, I did not sleep at all. Instead, that moment kept replaying over and over in my head, in stark contrast to the greeting I had received from those same guys. Every insecure memory from high school came rushing back, along with all the times I’ve been described as having a great personality or sat at home alone on a Friday night. It took every ounce of resolution I had to get out of bed the next morning.

One of my favorite movies is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A lot of people don’t understand why, but it makes perfect sense to me. I’m pretty sure that deep inside of every woman is a Holly Golightly. We would never admit it, but underneath all our confidence and accomplishment is a terrified 16-year-old who just wants someone to like her.

Today’s woman is bombarded by two very different messages in the media, typified in the Playmate of the Year and the Dove True Beauty campaign. These two images are entirely incompatible, yet they both persist. We all know who wins, though. At the end of the day, the Playmate wins. Why? Because the self-confidence boosting messages are coming from other women.

Feminism preaches that a woman does not need a man’s approval, that she is complete without him. Creation teaches something else entirely: that woman was created from man and for him. Try as they might, all the bra burnings in the world cannot change what is biologically engrained in every female. 16-year-olds and grown women alike will always crave masculine appreciation.

Another concept taught by Creation is that male or female, every human is designed for a higher purpose than mutual admiration. Our very existence is solely for the glory and pleasure of the Creator. This is the Truth to which I continue to cling. It is a fact which transcends the pain of loneliness.

Someone asked me the other day if I knew any good men. I said yes, but that the last one had just gotten married. Keep up the good work, guys! If you happen to be a man reading this, please realize that women don’t want much—we just need you to realize how what you say and do affects us. We’re just usually too scared to bring all this stuff up because we’re worried you might label us as “high maintenance” or “unreasonable.”

To my female readers (as I know most of you are), I hope you know that you’re not alone. I’d urge you to mediate on truth and not believe all the lies out there. We’re not all supermodels, but we were all fearfully and wonderfully made the way we are for a reason.

Whoever you are, thanks for reading all the way to the end. Please understand that I do not mean any of this critically; I want merely to address an issue. No problem was ever solved without first being discussed. Feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section. I'd love to hear what ya'll have to say about this delicate subject.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Burst the Bubble

Allow me to preface this by saying that I work at a Christian college and love it. It happens to be the same college from which I graduated. I also attended a Bible Institute before college and before that, I was homeschooled. You could say that I have been thoroughly Christianized. My entire education (and indeed, life) has been conducted within what is commonly referred to as The Bubble.

A few years ago, The Bubble burst for me in a big way when my parents got divorced. My dad had even been a pastor and suddenly our church wouldn’t even talk to us. However, even before this, I had started poking at the walls of our Christian culture. One of the biggest things I ever learned was the question everything: to examine things for myself, constantly asking why.

What I have discovered is tragic. Instead of being the Salt and Light of the world that Christ Himself told us to be, we have built gated communities. We have become so afraid of being “of the world” that we are no longer in it! How can we change a society in which we have no part? Yes, it’s more comfortable here—people don’t think we’re weird when we’re all Christians.

We even have our own Christianese language. One of the most important things I looked for when finding a new church was the language. I needed to find a place where they spoke plain English. A church that is truly dedicated to communicating with the outside world doesn’t use words like “dispensationalism,” “hermeneutics,” and “VBS"expecting everyone to know what they mean.

So many of my friends refuse to listen to anything other than Christian music. They don’t go to movies; they only wear in-your-face Christian t-shirts. Everyone thinks we’re freaks and they’re right: weird is in the eye of the beholder. So how are they supposed to understand us? More importantly, how are we supposed to relate to them?

Instead of having our own GodTube, wouldn’t it be better if we flooded YouTube with Christian videos? Why do we have knock-off Christian bookstores, instead of publishing books that are good enough to be carried by Borders? If there is a market for quality materials, secular businesses will provide them. It’s the simple business concept of supply and demand and it applies just as well to religion.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ! I am, however, often embarrassed by Christians. Yes, we are different, but that doesn’t mean that we should be unapproachable. We’re coming up on another election and let’s remember that while religion should affect politics, politics is not all about religion. You certainly won’t see me protesting or boycotting.

Maybe you aren’t in The Bubble. You might not have any idea what I’m talking about, in which case, awesome! But if you are a member of the isolationist American subculture referred to as conservative evangelicalism, get out before it’s too late. I dare you to go out for a drink with your unsaved coworkers. As a wise woman once said “my Jesus brought the party” and we should too.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wait Without Hope

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
—T. S. Eliot

As many of you may know, I am not the most patient of people. I have no patience with imperfection or procrastination in myself or others. I like to plan because then I feel like I am doing something, even while I am waiting for a particular event to actually occur. I appreciate consistency and usually try to get things done even ahead of time. If something needs to get done, why wait? Do it now!

One of the things for which I have the least patience is people telling me to be patient. This has been happening to me a lot lately because while my friends are getting married and having babies, I am still incredibly single. “Just wait, your turn is coming. God must have something better in store for you,” is the most common sentiment I hear, usually from happily married people.

While I do not doubt my advisors’ kind intentions, I have trouble grasping their implications. How can they possibly know what the future holds for me? How am I supposed to keep hoping for something which may never happen? Hope is defined as a “confident expectation.” Therefore, by definition, I cannot place any hope in an uncertain event.

There is no guarantee of happiness in this life. Life itself is not guaranteed. What is promised is that we will be able to handle it. As I continue to wait for love, I find myself having to redefine waiting. This is not something that I can rush. I have no control and no option other than patience. However, as I continue to hope, I continue to be disappointed.

Now, I find myself learning to wait without an object of hope. I’m sure you have also experienced this unique brand of faith. Whether you found yourself waiting for a job, a child, a car… whatever it may be, this incredibly human experience of doubt is unmistakable. I am becoming convinced that as we redefine our expectations, we redefine ourselves through a growing understanding of real life.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Short and Sweet

Yesterday, I got to participate in one of the best weddings I have ever attended. Admittedly, my participation consisted largely of applying double-sided sticky tape and falling down the stairs. Nonetheless, it was absolutely lovely. Not only did I get to see my old friends and the city of Baltimore, but I also saw something indescribably special.

There’s a lot of talk about the sanctity of marriage these days. Unfortunately, most of the weddings I have attended have been more about the ceremony and less about the covenant. This wedding certainly had its share of drama, but when Tim and Marie said “I do,” I had a front row view of a sacred moment. All of the planning and stress and details didn’t matter then.

Having watched my own parents’ marriages disintegrate (as well as so many others), I sometimes wonder if good marriages aren’t just mythical creatures. As divorce rages all around, seeing my friends exchange vows worries me. However, yesterday I caught a glimpse of two souls entering into a spiritual bond, surrounded by friends and family to support them.

As I looked around the church, I saw several shining examples of what marriage should be: Ben and Amanda, who have been married for two years and are expecting their first child; Dr. and Mrs. Cragoe, who have been married for twenty years and love their students like children… I listened to the words of the service and knew that Tim and Marie understood the gravity of their vows.

It was a very short ceremony, clocked at 23 minutes. We all felt a little like we were back in one of Dr. Cragoe’s theology classes, but that’s only because we may have actually learned something—I know I did. I probably won’t remember almost sinking into the harbor for a photo or decorating the getaway car with the aisle runner, but I will never forget witnessing that sweet moment of communion.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Vacation

Most people seem to forget that Memorial Day is about honoring our soldiers’ sacrifices and instead equate it with one thing: summer! Today marks the unofficial beginning of the vacation season, as everyone takes advantage of the federal work holiday’s long weekend. Everyone except me. Being the rebel that I am, I am working today—because I have to.

Just to be clear, I took off all of last week. I spent the week with my little brother. We did tons of exciting things, like visiting our grandparents and watching lots of movies. Oh yes, Scranton is an awesome place to spend your vacation, especially when you’re a couple of broke kids. I highly recommend it. Just be aware of the very real possibility of getting hit by a city bus.

Americans have become obsessed with vacation. We spend enormous amounts of money we don’t have to reach “exciting” recreation destinations. We plan our whole calendars around specific dates. Everyone talks about who’s going where and doing what… but why? We’re already one of the laziest nations in the world and then we can’t wait to take a long weekend.

Not that vacations are design to be relaxing. On the contrary, they are usually some of the most stressful times. Nothing is quite as soothing as hours and hours trapped in a hot car with small children. Needing a vacation after a vacation is a very common sentiment. So go ahead, enjoy your traffic jams and sunburns. Don’t forget to charge it all on your credit card too!

Personally, I’m just fine with working today. There’s a whole week’s worth of email to deal with, plus I get so much more done when there are no distractions or interruptions. I’ve got my music cranked so I won’t get freaked out by random noises in an otherwise empty library. Besides, working today means that I can take Friday off instead and go to Baltimore for the weekend.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Modern Symphonies

Few things move the human soul like music. Life would be flat and two-dimensional without it and filmmakers figured this out a long time ago. A well-written soundtrack can elevate a film to a spiritual experience. Through the score, emotions can be elevated, tensions can be conveyed and feelings can be communicated to the audience.

Film composers are some of the greatest musical geniuses of our time. Their job is not only to write songs, but to capture the essence of the film in a theme. That theme must then be expanded and manipulated over hours’ worth of footage to heighten each scene’s impact.

A good soundtrack can complete an audience’s immersion into the plot and involvement with the characters. These superbly composed masterpieces can even stand on their own, as modern symphonies. To me, it’s not just background music, but an essential component of the film’s artwork.



All that being said, I’ve compiled a brief list of some of my favorite composers and some of their best work. However, as this post was originally written for my movie blog, you'll have to visit this page for the full list.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring in my Step

Ah, Spring! When the whole world reawakens from its wintry slumber, refreshing itself with showers and dressing itself in new life. The stirring of both spiritual and natural resurrection demand celebration, which we gladly give. This time of year always makes me wish I were a poet so that I could more fully observe such revitalization.

This past Winter refused to relinquish its frigid grasp on Scranton for the longest time. We were all tantalized by a few rays of sunshine, only to be disappointed in more snow. Easter and Spring were both so late in arrival this year! However, the birds outside my window sing to me their assurances that the sun is finally here to stay.

Seeing the new buds begin to bloom, I can’t help but smile. Walking on Sunshine has been playing in my head all day. Just as the ice has melted, so have I determined to enjoy the promises of the season and conquer the depressing failures of the past few months. I am trying very hard to catch a breath of the fresh air while I still can.

Now, we’re hurtling toward summer vacation and wedding season. A whole new set of challenges are just up ahead. But for today, take a break. Go for a walk. Literally stop and smell the new flowers. We should appreciate Spring and the gift of renewal it brings. No matter what happens, every year it reminds us that life goes on. For that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Fire for a Dream

This past weekend I traveled to Pittsburgh with my friend Amy Kelly, a brilliant photographer. Amy is one of those people who inspire me while simultaneously depressing me. She has been chasing her dream! Her photography has reached the point of artistry and her business has taken off. Spending hours in the car with her was like getting lost in a carnival’s house of mirrors.

As I have been examining my own life lately, I’ve come to realize that something is missing: a dream. There is no spark in my life, no Northern star. I’m doing alright for myself, making what some might call progress, but to what end? I have so much passion but have yet to find a suitable outlet for it, so it just diffuses into hundreds of insignificant diversions. I want more than a life that's just fine.

So many people are so sure of who they are and what they’re doing here. I envy that certainty. Where I am now is fine, but I know that it’s not where I want to be forever. However, lightning still has not struck. I figure that until I am inspired to move on, I should be content as I am. It has become incredibly frustrating to watch my friends’ souls catch fire and explode… while I lack even an ignition.

There are so many things that I could do with my life, but all of the truly important accomplishments escape me. My greatest dream is to be a wife and mother; that obviously isn’t happening any time soon, so what should I do in the meantime? If I could change even one person’s life, then I could know that my own has been valuable. Maybe the dream for my life will only be to catch fire.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Introducing...

My new blog, devoted entirely to film reviews! Someone told me I should do this, since I talk about movies so much. I’m no Roger Ebert, but hope you’ll enjoy the site. I started working on the layout and getting a few films up a couple weeks ago. I think it’s now ready to be officially launched. You can access it through the “Film Reviews” page on the side column, or by clicking HERE.

Please feel free to give me feedback or suggest movies you’d like reviewed. I’m trying to highlight some of what I think are great movies from the past, as well as stay current with new ones. Each post includes the original poster, a 1-5 Star rating, a brief synopsis, a link to the original theatrical trailer, and memorable quotes. You can go ahead and express your own opinions using the comments section and/or response buttons.

By no means am I shutting down this blog. I love writing it—even if it is somewhat sporadic lately. Thanks to everyone who’s subscribed! It’s encouraging to know people are reading this. So don’t worry about it, just mosey on over to my new side project, “Rainy Days and Mondays” if you’re curious… you know you want to.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When You Can't Crawl

Sometimes life knocks you flat on your back very unexpectedly. When this happens, you have two options: continue to lay there or try to get back up. While it may be tempting to wallow in despair, you can’t do that forever. Just because you want to get back on your feet doesn’t mean you always can on your own. Sometimes, you need someone to help you.

I’ve become convinced that friends are essential to an existence. C.S. Lewis once said that “friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” I think that sentiment sums up my feelings perfectly.

A couple weeks ago, life hit me hard. I’d already been having a bad time of it, but then something completely blindsided me. This was not one of those moments in which to be making new friends—it was one where you thank God for dear brothers and sisters who already know you. These are the type of friendships which can only been built over years of laughs and tears.

My friends are so wonderful that when everything goes pear-shaped, I can call any of them in the middle of the night and she’ll immediately want to help. I love my friends so much and I only hope that can be such a good friend to them if they ever have such a need. You know what they say, when you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t even do that, find someone to carry you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Centipede IV: A New Hope

This afternoon I returned to my office to find an old foe lying in wait for me: un ciempiƩs de muerte! Brashly perched on the wall behind my desk, it crouched just above my phone. Completely taken aback by this sneak attack, I was unprepared for the surprise visit. The months of silence had lulled me into a false sense of security and I had dropped my guard.

As my enemy and I stared each other down, I thought back to how many people had never believed in its existence. A lack of evidence has given rise to the general sentiment that I was overreacting, possibly even imagining the danger. Slowly, carefully I reached into my pocket for my cell phone—this particular monster would not perish unnoted. I snapped a quick picture.

My old friend and ally Laura is no longer with us in this library, having moved on to a better place. This particular specimen of evil was relatively small compared to some others I had faced. However, considering its location on pale taupe wall, this crafty devil could not be squished for fear of leaving a smudge: a different approach would be required.

Emboldened by Laura’s distant cries of “Kill it! Kill it dead!” I went in search of a new and fearless champion to slay the beast and discovered Ashley. She was hard at work on the laminator, a horrid machine which is no doubt in league with the centipedes. Hearing my pleas for help, she immediately left her post to come to my aid.

We searched high and low for the perfect weapon and finally settled on a napkin from the coffee station. Marching straight into my office, Ashley paused only to comment on the repugnance of the spawn of Satan. In one fell stroke, she yanked it from down from where it had been fleeing toward the cabinets, slaying it amidst loud cheers.

The body was disposed of in a public trash can to serve as a warning to other trespassers. While preceding Centipedes of Death have been full-grown to maturity, this was only a young scout. Doubtless, there is a nest nearby. The arrival of Spring has awakened the terror with new vigor. Dark and perilous days may be ahead of us, but we have a new strength on our side. We will prevail.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Overcompensation

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re trying too hard? You keep doing whatever it takes to make everything perfect and failing miserably. No matter how hard you try, you never fully succeed. There’s always one more detail left unfinished, paranoid that there was one more word you should have said. All you want is one unspoiled moment in a day.

Today was one such day in my life. Even after I’d had my morning coffee, I just could not get the day going. Nothing I did seemed good enough. Admittedly, I was the only one noticing any mistakes; however, I could not shake the feeling that I was ruining everything. I found myself obsessing over the tiniest mistyped words—isn’t that what they have spellcheck for?

Overcompensating for a lack of contentment is exhausting. All day, I felt like a hamster in a wheel, running and running and getting nowhere. Why? Because my stylist was careless with my hair and I now look like a slightly deranged leprechaun. I’m worried that when people look at me all they will see is a dumb little blonde girl with bad highlights.

Sometimes you (I) need to take a step back and readjust the paradigm. Yes, I still need to get my hair fixed, but that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly incompetent at my job. The little things in life need to stay little. Overcompensation can knock perspective dangerously askew. Perfection is a worthy goal, but not at any cost. Some things are worth the worry, others are not… the trick is knowing the difference.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman

Everyday life can get so boring sometimes. The daily routines can be come mundane and tedious. Trying to live in such a dull world can be soul-sucking, so I’m constantly trying to find new ways to make things more exciting. Whether it’s speaking in a Russian accent all day or having breakfast for dinner, I simply must do something to shake it up.

The other day, I only had half an hour after finishing one job before I had to leave for my other one. As I rushed home to quickly change clothes, I thought it would be so much better if I could just keep one uniform under the other like Superman. Then I could just switch from mild-mannered librarian to personal assistant extraordinaire instantly.

All day, I’m Clark Kent… but every evening I become Superman, able to leap tall web protocols in a single bound! One of these days, I may even get myself a cape (a very fashionable one, of course). When I finally get to return to my Fortress of Solitude, it’s only to prepare to do it all again the next day. Evil databases and fax machines never take a day off, so neither can superheroes.

Somehow modern culture manages to make superheroes of us all. Whether you’re juggling work and school or two jobs or raising a family, everyone ends up wearing several uniforms with very little time to change between emergencies. The trick is to always be yourself, no matter what you’re doing: be the same Clark Kent and Superman that you are in the Fortress of Solitude.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Like A Lion

Welcome to March! This is the wonderful time of year when you never know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow—or even this afternoon. The groundhog supposedly saw his shadow this year, so that means Spring is on the way. It’s going to be a bumpy ride between here and there and not just because of all the drunk drivers along the way.

There’s lots of fun to be had in this chaotic month:
  • Mardi Gras
  • spring break
  • The Ides of March
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • Purim
  • the first day of Spring
Whether your month is coming in as a lion or a lamb, try not to worry about it. It can only get better from here, right? Eventually. Be prepared to look the lion in the mouth and tell it to hurry up and turn into a lamb already. In the meantime, remember to always carry your umbrella-ella-ella and don’t pack away your snow boots yet.

Friday, February 25, 2011

L'Chaim!

Life is a funny thing. It’s not always good. It’s not always bad, either. Only rarely is it ever wholly either good or bad. One of the secrets I’m learning is how to accept both as they come. I believe one of the keys is to celebrate the good whenever it is found. So much of this life is discouraging that sometimes it takes a conscious effort to discover joy in the everyday, but it is a profitable endeavor.

There is a time and a place for everything: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Life should be appreciated in its entirety. You should savor the milestones, the blessings, and even the little things like surviving to the weekend. Don’t let all the other demands on your time keep you from having some fun every once in a while.

Christ’s first miracle was at a wedding reception and as my friend Rachel likes to say, “my Jesus brought the party!” Providing drinks for a party doesn’t seem like it would be at the top of the Almighty’s to-do list, but everyone (including his mother) recognized the importance of celebrating life’s best moments. Just like any other father, God loves to see His children enjoying his gifts.

Once you get used to be thankful for the good in life, perhaps you can even be grateful for the bad. All of life is given to us for a reason. Sure, it’s a lot easier to rejoice in the obviously happy times, but looking back, I can see that some of my worst times were actually some of my best. The bad helps you learn and grow—and party even harder.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Lost Boys

“I never wanna grow up!” protests Peter Pan. Leading his band of boys in fun, dangerous, but ultimately insignificant adventures, he personifies the modern American guy. We all know these guys and many of them are my friends. They’re so much fun! Chances are, however, that they are single, their most significant investment last year was a new Xbox, and they still live with their parents or with other immature guy friends.

It used to be simple: you were either a child or an adult. The industrialization of Western culture in the early 1900s added a small gap in between, commonly known as high school. Further advances in the 50s and 60s developed the college step to adulthood. Now, yet another demographic has formed, a sort of post-adolescent/pre-adulthood. People in their 20s have decided to postpone acquiring the social markers of maturity until they feel “ready.”

A unique brand of limbo has been in gestation for the past couple decades and has reached fruition in my generation. This is most evident in marriage statics that remind us that only 40 years ago, only 15% of people reached age 30 before marriage—today, that number has tripled to 55%. An even more interesting statistic is that women are dominating the 20-something age-group.

Left on our own, we females have taken the energy which traditionally would have been devoted to a family and are pouring it into our careers. More women are graduating from college and getting better jobs than men for the first time in history. An increasing amount of research into this socio-economic phenomenon has been coming out recently, searching for an explanation. It seems to boil down to the fact that boys aren’t becoming men because they don’t have to.

Ask almost any of my single girl friends and she’d tell you that she does not want to go it alone, but if a man won't commit, she has no other choice. We are finally reaping the fruits of feminism. Our mothers’ generation emasculated their husbands and raised their sons without fathers. Now those boys are in their 20s and have no idea how to be men—and our current culture is perfectly okay with that stunted condition.

Who wants to work when you can have fun? Those of my peers who have married, settled down, or otherwise gotten serious about their lives are considered weird. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, boys are getting lost. Guys who have supposedly grown up are still fighting pirates in video games, prolonging juvenile fantasies and irresponsibility with the resources which should be used for bettering themselves and society as a whole… they’re still being Lost Boys.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Confronting Multiculturalism

Back in October, German Chancellor Merkel declared that multiculturalism had failed in her country. She was referring specifically to Muslim immigrants who refuse to assimilate into German society. New populations’ failure to integrate has been noted with growing concern by French President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Cameron, among others. Finally, last week Rick Santorum addressed the issue from an American standpoint.

Multiculturalism was defined by Sarkozy as “a society where communities coexist side by side.” Cameron extrapolated that “we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.” What’s happening is that alien bubbles have been forming within countries.

Santorum perhaps said it best when he said “we are seeing the American aspiration eroded, our common purpose lost… our American sense of toleration is now protecting noxious philosophies that are anti-American.” The rights of the individual have been elevated above the needs of the community, when the Constitution itself was written to “promote the general welfare.” We have become so worried about offending anyone that we've forgotten how high the stakes are.

You may think it’s unfair of us to ask you to change who you are, but if you want to remain a member of another society, don’t move here. Retaining your individual identity is expected, but it is not unreasonable to expect you to identify primarily with American culture. Being an American used to mean something—something good. Nowadays, it mostly means that you’re ignorant and apathetic. Our national motto may as well be “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Before it’s too late, you should know what you care about and care about it enough to actually do something! World political leaders are trying to lead us in rediscovering our own cultures. Over the years, cultural tolerance has slid into acceptance and even to support. Coexistance has become preferable to confronting the issues. This is probably only the beginning of a very important debate, so please educate yourself before picking a side. Getting out of this rut will be difficult, but it presents an opportunity for growth.

When a culture splinters as ours has, it becomes easily decayed. Everybody wants to know how Rome went from being a republic to an empire: this is how. Citizens who used to be proud of that title became indolent and when disaster struck, they were divided and weak. A single man could grab power because the general populace looked for a savior around whom they could rally. The same dynamics that produced the Caesars are forming in the U.S. today. Our melting pot has become a double-edged sword.

I love America because here you have the right to do whatever stupid thing you want. However, tolerance does not mean consonance. If you want to be a Muslim or a homosexual or a Nascar driver, that’s your decision—but don’t expect my approval. Certainly, my tax money should not support you and your “alternative lifestyle.”  Nevertheless, we’re still a great country; we’re just going through some growing pains.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Have Confidence?

I know it’s been ages since I’ve updated here and for that I apologize: life got a little out of hand for a while there. I have, however, made some good progress and am working on getting things back under control. Last week really showed me how overextended I am in my professional life and how empty my personal life has become. So, I’m working on it.

One of the things I have been working on recently is my confidence. My self-esteem has taken a serious beating in the past couple years and it has become very noticeable lately. Part of why I haven’t written much lately is because I’ve felt that whatever I may say would be worthless. I am cautious by nature and constant failure has conditioned me to accept defeat and avoid further risk.

Some honest spiritual self-assessment has been in order for a while now. Do I have everything figured out? Absolutely not! But I can feel myself growing. It hurts, but I am finding out more and more who I truly am—or at least discovering who I am not. True confidence lies in a knowledge of who you are. I have been fearfully and wonderfully made and should live that way.

My Puritan heritage discourages the elevation of Self and rightly so. However, there is a fine line between pride and confidence which is often goes unacknowledged. Pride is poisonous; confidence is healthy. The essential difference is in the source of our power: pride says “I can do anything because I’m awesome,” whereas confidence says “I can do anything because God is awesome.”

If you see me doing something stupid, please let me know because (fair warning) I intend to be trying new things. Conquering my fear of failure is at the top of the list. I realize that I will continue to fail, probably a lot… but should that stop me from living? I am obviously still here for a reason, which most likely does not include being too scared to ever do anything.