Friday, July 15, 2016

I'm going on an ADVENTURE!!!! :D


Wow, that emoticon looks really weird in the title font. Like it has a half reverse mustache or something.

Anyway, yes, I am going on an adventure! One that has a name: World Youth Day 2016.

For those who are unfamiliar with World Youth Day, it's a gathering of Catholic youth every few years and the pope (right now, Pope Francis) comes to whatever country World Youth Day is in and celebrates the Mass in a field with millions of youth there, and talks to the youth. There's also other catechetical stuff going on, but I think the part with the pope is the awesomest.

This WYD is in Krakow, Poland, and some of my group is going on a pre-trip to Ireland, which means that I leave on July 17 and travel around Ireland for a week, then go to Poland and travel around for a week and SEE POPE FRANCIS. How cool is that???

It's thumbs-up-from-Pope-Francis-cool!












This also means that since I will technically be on pilgrimage, I can't bring technology with me. Which means…I can't blog for two weeks.

I'm kind of disappointed about that right now but I'm sure the disappointment will vanish when the actual trip happens and I'm gallavanting about Ireland and Poland with other youth and going to all kinds of cool pilgrimage sites. And you'll be getting a nice break from my blog posts, so it's a win-win! ;)

Please pray for me. I'll be praying for you. Farewell!

Isn't Matt Smith adorable? I guess I really do need a break from technology.  ;P


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Introducing my friend, MJ

MJ and I have basically been lifelong friends, and it's my pleasure to introduce her first guest post. I, for one, really appreciated reading her story and her advice. Hopefully there will be many more of her insights to come!

So without further ado…

MJ Watson!

MJ, since you left the formatting up to me you get a Jack Sparrow gif. You're welcome.
Hey. My name is M.J.

But just knowing my name doesn't say much about me, does it? No, you still don't know who I really am. 

I'm a senior in high school and a Taylor Swift fan. 

How about now? No, not really. But do I even know who I am? A year ago I would have began to say, "Of course I do, what kind of question is that?!" but then thought hard for an answer... and blanked out. It wasn't that I didn't know how to put it into words, I honestly didn't know how to define and describe myself. I wasn't sure what type of personality I wore, what gifts I displayed, or what weaknesses I fought. I had never deeply evaluated myself.

Do you know who you are? Self evaluation is something I invite you to do now. It is important to know who you truly are. Even if you think you know who you are at first, think again. Rid yourself of any lies that may have developed as you changed, or even self-deceived, and describe who you are with evidence to back it up.

I bet you can list off a few talents and flaws right now. For example, I am rythmically and athletically gifted. I'm getting pretty good at violin and dance. I also take pride in my flexibility. I know my hobbies, or what I'm good at. And I know what I'm bad at. Math, competitive sports, and being cheerful when I don't get my way are a few.

Now we are closer to answering the big question, but not just yet.

What about on a characteristical level? Am I generally kind or unpleasant? I have to think about this question a while. Why? Because this sort of thing is a choice! I can be who ever I want. What's important is who I choose to be. We have to earnestly believe we can and will be something in order to become it.

I think I have changed since I had this epiphany. Before, I was generally very sullen. The home schooled life can be very very dull.  However, it doesn't have to be. I don't have to be upset over a lack of social and physical exercise.

I looked at my life; I saw who I was. Then I thought about who I wanted to be. Keeping in mind the sky's the limit, I thought about people I wished I could be and why.

I have a friend who I am ever impressed by her compassion. She's in love with the whole world. I had another friend who was very popular. She was confident, outgoing, and easy-going.

I can be all these things: compassionate, confident, outgoing, and chill. I am proud to say, I am (yes, I have proved it too) all these things. *takes a bow*

I thought this was suitable. Continue, my friend:

How did I do it? I completely turned my life around, but it wasn't as simple as that. I took it one trait at a time. And each one took practice. After while it became second nature. It became who I am.

First I got up early and completed my homework in an organized, timely manner. I took breaks so I could focus.  And believe it or not, I actually may have enjoyed it a tiny bit. Don't get me wrong, I still hate school! It just became more bearable.

Then I emailed my friends. I told stories and teased and LOLed. A lot. I also had extracurricular activities and social events occasionally. Every chance I got, I made an effort to be friendly. I took extra steps towards compassion.

To be honest I was previously not compassionate or sympathetic at all. I started by inquiring into the wellbeing of my friends. I showed them how much I cared. I told them what they meant to me. Told my family and friends how much I loved and appreciated them and why.

"         , you are the fire that warms the hearts of others.         , you tease me so, and for some odd reason I like it!         , you were always there when I needed some one to talk too.         , I flippin' love you!!!"

This rekindled love in my heart that I thought had drowned. I found myself loving like my very special friend I mentioned earlier.

After I got used to putting my feelings into words, it became easier to speak to acquaintances and even strangers; to be confident and outgoing. I used small talk with meaning. If some one looked upset I'd ask, "Are you alright?" Before I would have been simply unattracted to this person and ignored them. And if I liked some one I'd let them know. "        , where have you been, I missed you!"

After small talk, I tried having deeper conversations. It took a while to become comfortable with people but I became smoother about striking up interesting conversations. Confidence took practice. I gave it all I had. Success!!

Now what about my faults?  To hope to ever overcome faults, we must first recognize them. I get out of hand on the Internet, gossip occasionally (more or less...), disregard my parents' wishes constantly, and I'm sure much more. 

If you are having trouble coming up with flaws, I'm sure there is someone who knows you well enough to point them out to you if you ask. Once you have them laid out for you, take one at a time and think up a strategy.

Say you, like me and like 98% of the world, gossip. 

What's wrong with gossip? It can hurt people and their reputations. And it's often a lie, whether you realize it or not. It might be exaggerated or one sided or evolved in the process of story telling. It's all fun until you are the topic of gossip. All around, it's just not a good idea. So what should we do about it? 

Um...just don't. Simple as that. It really doesn't have to be complicated if you make your mind up and stay strong. Remind yourself with an encouraging Tumblr quote on your dashboard. I feel stupid punishing or rewarding myself so I would recommend the prayer method. Every time you slip up ask God for assistance or just say a simple Lord's prayer.

Now we know who I intend to be. How well do you know me now ? I'd say about 30%. What's the other 70%? My dreams, random quirks and tendencies, emotions, preferences and fancies, and the list goes on. You would have to spend a lot of time with me to figure it out, or ask my friends because I am subconsciously me (who else would I be?). I guess you can't know someone just by reading one blog post .¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Until we meet again,

Watson


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hands

Two holes, crimson, the blood flowing like wine

And they gently, slowly--

No, they don't touch mine.

But they wait

Held before the heavenly gate

To the One that will read the writing on those hands

That have sifted through sacred sands

And hoisted men from the grave--

But a single touch needed to save--

Then with a sideways glance at me

He gives a nod of victory

And offers me both of them.

For His Father shall not condemn

My hands in His.




Sunday, July 10, 2016

Men in Black Movie Review


Friday night I watched Men in Black, one of my dad's all-time-favorites, for the first time. I figured it would work for my first movie review, so voila!

The story: Men in black suits and shades fight undercover aliens.

Good or bad? Good. I was absorbed in the story the whole way through, but I wasn't too emotionally invested; I just wanted to see what happened to the characters and what crazy turn the plot was going to take next. And there were a lot of laugh-out-loud funny scenes that kept my attention.

The character development was nonexistent, as can be expected from a sci-fi comedy, but there were a couple genuinely touching character moments involving the night sky. Those who have seen it will know what I mean.

The things that made this movie really fly:

1. Will Smith in shades.



2. This part.


3. Tommy Lee Jones. I really liked him in The First Avenger, and in this one he had some great deadpan lines. ("Did anything about that seem strange to you?")

3. How weird the plot and the world building are:

For most of the movie I had very little idea what was going on, or what would happen next. The story dumps the audience in a completely different world where aliens abound, and there are basically no rules on what these aliens can do or look like, or what weapons can be used against them. The viewer is along for the ride, seeing the story from the eyes of Will Smith's character, who for most of the story has no idea what is going on either.

The magic ends at the fight at the end of the movie, which is fairly predictable. But that seems to be the problem with every sci fi movie, so I suppose that's no longer a genuine grievance.

Content: I had tried to watch MIB several years ago but back then I wasn't as accustomed to language in movies so I started blushing like crazy before we even got to Will Smith's introduction scene, and we turned it off. This time, however, having watched things like The King's Speech, I was a little more prepared for the salty language. There's a ton of it, though. I was cringing internally for quite a few of the scenes because there was just so much unnecessary cussing. Sometimes I want to walk up to script writers and say,


By the way, when I looked up that picture I found a thing of beauty which I felt compelled to share:



Moving on…there are also a few suggestive comments, an unnecessary but funny offscreen childbirth, and the expected alien gore, including a morgue scene.

Favorite lines: "No, Elvis is not dead. He just went home."

"Meet the twins, *complicated noise* and Bob."

Would I recommend it? Maybe not, depending on how much language you think movies should have in them. But if you're looking for a relatively absorbing film with a decent script, good acting and some oddball humor, sure.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Top 5 Christian Rock Songs

Gotta love Blimey Cow.

There is a lot of sub-par Christian rock. Like, a lot of it.

I just wanted to throw that out there. *waits to be pelted with tomatoes and worship songbooks*

Christian rock tends to fall into the rut, maybe more than any other genre, of each song sounding the same. Ok, country sometimes has that problem, and probably pop too. Maybe I just notice this with Christian music because I've been listening to K-Love from the tender age of…actually I don't know what tender age. Let's just say I was really young.

Anyway, there are some genuinely good Christian songs, with good lyrics as well as a good, unique sound. At least unique to my relatively undeveloped music taste.

Here are my top 5 Christian rock/pop/whatever songs. There are a lot more good ones out there, but there's only so much room and I only have so much initiative.

(I won't number them, by the way. That would require being decisive.  ;P  )

"Free to Be Me"

"I got a couple dents in my fender, got a couple rips in my jeans. Try to fit the pieces together but perfection is my enemy, and on my own I'm so clumsy but on your shoulders I can see I'm free to be me."

"Speak Life" 

"Lift your head a little higher, spread the love like fire. Hope will fall like rain when you speak life with the words you say."
"Love Song for a Savior"

"He's more than the laughter or the stars in the heavens, as close as a heartbeat or a song on her lips. Someday she'll trust Him and learn how to see Him. Someday He'll call her and she will come running and fall in His arms and the tears will fall down and she'll pray, 'I want to fall in love with You.'"


"Shine"


"Shine. Make 'em wonder what you've got. Make 'em wish that they were not on the outside, looking bored."

"Oceans"

"Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior."
What are some of your favorite modern Christian songs? When I ask questions I always worry that no one will reply, which would be pretty funny and somewhat awkward, but I'll get over it so no worries.  ;)

By the way, I've been experimenting with one of those poll thingys on the left side of the blog, if you'd like to give your opinion on a question that has polarized many people…




Friday, July 8, 2016

Random Things #1: Blisters and a Song


Since this post will be pretty random, I've started a line of Random Things Posts. We'll see how long it takes to get to 100, and then…I dunno, I can make a cake or something to celebrate.

I think I have too much time on my hands.

Anyway, I currently have a sense of both accomplishment and pain. Accomplishment because I've gone on to the next level of the cello, and pain because that next level is thumb position.

For those unfamiliar with the more obscure workings of the cello, thumb position is when you press the strings down with--you guessed it--your thumb. It's used to play things higher up on the strings, sort of like this:

Steven Sharp Nelson, my hero. If you haven't heard of him, YouTube the Piano Guys. You won't regret it.


My cello journey has led me to this book, which is currently the bane of my existence:


Don't trust how friendly it looks on the outside. It is evil.

You know that you've gone too far on an instrument when your teacher tells you that if your thumb starts hurting and turning red and you can feel your pulse in it, you should stop practicing. Fortunately the only hard part of thumb position is starting, because you need to get a callous on your thumb, which according to my teacher comes from practicing enough that you get a blister and start growing new levels of skin. Lovely.

That was probably way more information than you wanted to know, but now you have been warned. Steven Sharp Nelson may look happy now, but his thumb has gone through intense agony in the past. 

Anyway, I've practiced thumb position for probably a total of 5 minutes so far, so I'd better get on it. Those callouses won't make themselves!  :P

I've also been discovering Mumford and Sons, one of those bands that has been out there for a while but I hadn't really thought about or listened to much before now. I like how thoughtful their lyrics are, and even if I don't quite understand all of what they're trying to get across, the imagery is gorgeous. Mumford's voice is sort of rough, which might be annoying to some people but I like the air of sincerity it gives to the songs.

Their song "After the Storm" has become one of my favorites. If you haven't heard it, you should look it up!


What do you think of the song? And have you had any painful experiences with instruments? Feel free to share in the comments!



Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Grief Observed...Observed


All right, now for this blog's first book review. Further up and further in!

A few days ago I read C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed. It didn't take long, since it was 76 pages. I went into it knowing only what was on the flap, which declared, 

"Written after his wife's tragic death as a way of surviving the 'mad midnight moments,' A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis's honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss." 

Thus, I read the first-person-narrated book as autobiography. Lewis even mentioned something about what notebooks he was using to write this all down, which added more authenticity to the story. 

Well, fast-forward to a few days later at breakfast. (Or was it lunch, or maybe dinner? Meals tend to blend together.) In the midst of reading a book called The Riddle of Joy, a collection of speeches and essays about Chesterton and Lewis, I skipped forward to the middle of a speech by Lewis's former secretary, Walter Hooper, because I saw that he was writing about A Grief Observed. And I started laughing. 

The flap was wrong. At least, according to this guy's experiences with Lewis. The book was not autobiographical, and Lewis actually took pains to make sure that people knew that! He published under a pseudonym and with a different publisher than he usually used, but everyone still guessed it was him and assumed that the book narrated his personal struggles. 

He got letters from people saying that they knew he was the real author. According to Hooper,

"I don't recall anything which seemed to irritate him [Lewis] so much. The response which he dictated to me usually began, 'All right. So you know.' As he made clear in a number of his books, he found it annoying when people found it impossible to understand an author's ability to 'invent.'"

I thought that was hilarious. And how serendipitous that I discovered that right after reading the book! Poor Lewis must have rolled over in his grave when they published that front flap.

All right, moving on to A Grief Observed itself:

Isn't this a gorgeous cover? I like these reprints.

Now that I know that it was not an actual autobiography, a lot of the book's impact has faded. Its real attraction (at least to me) was the revelation that even a brilliant man and a great apologist had struggles and doubts. Much of A Grief Observed is the narrator wallowing in emotional and intellectual pain, trying to deal with his sense of loss as well as his doubts about God's goodness. 

I suppose the book, even as fiction, is interesting in itself, especially with what Lewis said about it (also taken from Hooper):

"'The structure of it,' he [Lewis] said, 'Is based on Dante's Divine Comedy. You go down and down and down. Then, as in Dante, when you hit bottom and pass Lucifer's waist you go up to defense of God's goodness.'"

Yep, that's the structure. There's a lot of despair and darkness in the book until the very end, when the author acknowledges that suffering is necessary for him to see his own dependence on God, and thus suffering does not contradict the goodness of God because God is allowing suffering for a greater good. At least that's what I got out of it from the first read-through. 

Did I like it? Why yes, yes, I did. (Thanks, Zootopia, for aiding my writing style.  :D ) It interested me, although more intellectually than emotionally. For some reason I didn't really "get into" it, probably because it was so short that I didn't have time to get into the narrator's head. But there were some gorgeous passages in there, and the depressing parts made me really appreciate those. At the end when the narrator finally came round I was super excited.

As a whole I think it's pretty good and it's worth reading for some amazing little quotes, like that monkey bars one.

Anyway, those are my two cents. You should read it and let me know what you think! Or if you've already read it you should still let me know what you think. Or you can write a post of your own on it! Looking at you, Meredith.   ;)

I should probably give you a content warning too. As usual with C.S. Lewis's books directed at adults, it's clean but it has some references to married love. It's not explicit but it still isn't stuff for younger readers.

I'll let Hooper finish off:
"It should be emphasized that Lewis never said that A Grief Observed was autobiography, and he told me that it was not. This does not mean that he didn't grieve over the death of his wife. He may have grieved more than is recorded in A Grief Observed. But that is a story which may never be known, and which is perhaps none of our business anyway."








Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Advantages of Cleaning One's Room



I cleaned my room yesterday!

Okay, I know that's not the most interesting thing to write about. But this is serious room-cleaning we're talking about here: completely rearranging the furniture, vacuuming the floor, repositioning books on bookshelves and accessories in drawers, and so on. This took six hours. Well, that's including YouTube/snack breaks and guitar breaks.

Yes, I snack while watching YouTube…for the sake of efficiency, of course. It goes rather like this:



At least that's what it would look like if I had someone with me to toss me food. So all in all I probably only spent four hours on my room. But still, that's a pretty big milestone for me, since cleaning my room is only an annual thing at best, and usually I leave the furniture where it is and just work until I can see the floor.

Why am I telling you about this? Well,

1) It's my blog, so I can write about pretty much anything I want.
2) It reminds me of one of my favorite essays by G.K. Chesterton.

Before I talk about the essay, I should preface with the fact that I'm a huge fan of G.K. Chesterton. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Chesterton was a ridiculously prolific English author in the late 1800s and early 1900s who wrote everything from fantasy to detective stories to newspaper articles to apologetics. He's known for his paradoxical statements, wordy writing style, and frequent tangents.

Anyway, he has this one essay called "The Advantages of Having One Leg." It's actually from a collection called Tremendous Trifles, which is where I got the name for this site.

The essay is public domain by now, so feel free to look it up if you're up for a difficult read with some bits in it that I can only assume are 19th century pop culture references. It's good, though. If you like it you'll probably like the rest of GKC's writings, too.

His main point seems to be that temporarily hurting one leg made him appreciate his legs more. It's like when I get a cold and I realize how nice it is to be able to breathe through my nose. Ok, that was kind of a gross example, but you get the picture.

He moves on from the isolation of one leg to the isolation of things or ideas in general:

"To appreciate anything we must always isolate it…if we wish to see what a house is it must be a house in some uninhabited landscape. If we wish to depict what a man really is we must depict a man alone in a desert or on a dark sea sand."

And his conclusion:
"All surrender of life, all denial of pleasure, all darkness, all austerity, all desolation has for its real aim this separation of something so that it may be poignantly and perfectly enjoyed. I feel grateful for the slight sprain which has introduced this mysterious and fascinating division between one of my feet and the other. The way to love anything is to realize how very much otherwise it might have been."
What does this have to do with cleaning my room, you ask? And why must this post be so long?

Well, when it comes to GKC I tend to ramble. Sorry about that. As for cleaning my room, moving my furniture and wall decorations around and seeing my familiar things in an unfamiliar order made me realize how amazing my room actually is. I just needed to look at my stuff from a different perspective.

For example, I was getting really bored of my Van Gogh print because it was on the same wall for ages, and today when I saw the last rays of sunlight shining on it (since I had moved it to the wall by the window) I realized (or re-realized) how gorgeous the painting is:


Isn't this awesome? I have a thing for Van Gogh. Probably because of that one really sad Doctor Who episode, but still.

To conclude, Chesterton writes,
"This world and all our powers in it are far more awful and beautiful than we ever know until some accident reminds us. If you wish to perceive that limitless felicity, limit yourself if only for a moment. If you wish to realize how fearfully and wonderfully God's image is made, stand on one leg. If you want to realize the splendid vision of all visible things-- wink the other eye."
And if you wish to like your Van Gogh thrift shop find, clean your room. Apparently that's how it works.







Friday, July 1, 2016

On Saints, Disney, and Pope Francis

Today's the feast of St. Junipero Serra!!! *cue streamers and confetti*

I've got to admit that I know barely anything about today's saint, but from what I've heard he sounds like a cool guy. In the 1700s St. Junipero Serra founded a lot of missions for Native Americans, particularly in California (he's called the "Apostle of California"). That's pretty neat in itself, but what really sticks out to me is something that Pope Francis wrote about him:

"Father Serra had a motto, which inspired his life and work, a saying he lived his life by: Siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized."

Being the shameless animated movie lover that I am, when I read "keep moving forward" a choir began enthusiastically singing in my head and my mind's eye very helpfully showed me this:


Meet the Robinsons, anyone? All right, if you haven't seen it, you should watch it. It's hilarious, and highly motivational. 

Anyway, I think both Disney and Pope Francis are definitely right. I know from experience that when I, for one, dwell on the awkwardness of the past, it becomes more difficult for me to be joyful and to connect with other people, and to realize how amazing life really is.  My heart becomes "numb," as Pope Francis put it.

Here's to a new month, a new day, and…er…an un-numb heart!

Siempre adelante!