Thursday, September 15, 2011

Have Mercy on Me, Lord, A Sinner

I've been thinking a lot about testimonies lately, the stories we tell to share how we were saved, but more importantly, what we were saved from. I have some conflict in my heart about the nature of testimonies. Certainly what we often think about while hearing someone's story of salvation is related to the depth of the sin and depravity, and the amazing knowledge that somehow that person was yet saved after all, from the depths of their sin. Certainly the Bible tells us that Christ died for all, but in our humanness sometimes we tend to imagine that certain sins are past forgiving.

But the aspect of the Christian testimony that has bothered me lately has been the idea of the Christian testimony often doing a little more glorification of the sin than the savior. I think of a program I went to see once at a very flamboyant church where the message was all of the glory of the world, and the Christian was the dark, quiet, unassuming...I didn't understand why the sin had been made so appealing and by contrast, the spiritual was so dull and boring. It didn't seem like an appropriate message for evangelism. I disagree with the idea of selling Christianity for its greatness, but it cannot be contrasted with such brilliance. The true contrast cannot be shown between the two worldly existences at all, but between the two post-worldly existences. How else could it be done properly?

Perhaps my complaints in this area are overly sensitive, but I can't help but think of these things in some cases. Sometimes I simply think that the Christian testimony spends a lot more time talking about all the sin that came before, when in God's eyes, sin is sin, regardless of its extent. He died to save sinners. End of story. Our testimonies should be to God's glory, not to ours. We shouldn't magnify our sin as if our salvation was better than another's because of what we've been saved from. After all, we've all been saved exactly the same. We've all prayed, "Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner," and to Him, we are all the same.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Indie Girl

I consider myself to be an Indie girl.

What is Indie? Many would say it's a do-it-yourself culture, stemmed from the idea of independently made (Indie music, Indie film, etc...) and if I really think about it, that's me: independently made.

Okay, before a bunch of people get all hot under the collar, let me clarify. Certainly I realize that there have been hands in my upbringing and education. But what about the parts of myself that I've made myself? Those are the areas I'm concerned with now.

First, I am a writer. This is something that no amount of coaxing or prodding ever put into my being. I am a writer and have been one, in spirit and in action, since I first placed a pen to paper. One of my earliest memories is of this action. I tried to write with crayons, but their large, blundering lines were agonizing; I wanted something smooth, something that could curl and flow and resemble the beauty that I wanted to portray. I was three years old. I couldn't even read yet. By the time I was four I was reading well, and by the time I was in kindergarten I was reading the second grade reading book. I wasn't a child prodigy though, because if I was, it came to nothing. I was, however, self-made. I wanted something and I got it, without letting anything--not the restrictions of being "too young," or the stereotype that kids love crayons and directionless exploration--stand in my way. I've always been like that.

Second, I love creative crafting. Just this weekend I was talking with my future mother-in-law about the kinds of crafting projects that I enjoy, and I realized for the first time why I don't like crocheting and knitting projects: they are just the same things over and over and over again! (The rest of this philosophical examination was unexplored in the mother-in-law conversation; I've saved this part for my private and blog-related musings.) I enjoy painting, embroidery, and sewing. I am a true nineteenth-century lady. Except I lack talent in music. But anyway, I find it hard to believe that after all of my dreams of writing--and to be honest, the furthest my actual dreams went beyond writing were into photography and painting, both of which exhibit only average talents on my part--I am suddenly the go-to person for custom wedding veils. I wish I were the go-to person for other creative things besides that! I have big dreams now of making all kinds of neat things, and I have to say a DIY wedding is a great outlet for some of this creativity. I also look forward to decorating my own home, especially my office-library, and having the freedom to be creative whenever I want. I look forward to trying new things and getting my creativity on as a new housewife.

Third, I have always thought my fashion sense was a little subdued. I prefer a single bold accessory--eyeliner, lipstick, a sexy shoe, or curly hair--but seldom more than one of these. For a long time I felt like I didn't fit into any fashion category because I wasn't particularly interested in being less modest or placed deeper into debt or being dressed up all fancy all the time. Then emerged the Indie style. Unless you have it, you can't understand it. I like the self-made style, the craftiness, they creativity that goes into style. I don't like wearing things that everyone else wears, or looking like everyone else, or being like anyone else at all. I enjoy being "self-made" and continuously self-constructing. I'm never ready to be done making my own creative identity!

Fourth, I appreciate other self-made individuals, those who are self-taught and creative. I appreciate the music and film made by people who are without the influence of industry professionals. I appreciate homemade goods, like the clothing my grandmother used to sew, and the accessories my mother used to make. I love the Etsy community, the creative world of handmade. I respect the photographers who trained and taught themselves how to be brilliant, my sister Michelle among them. This is what I am here for...these creative individuals who inspire me to continue being what I am!

An Indie girl.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Feminist criticism of Charlotte Bronte

In brief, I am offended by the suggestion that Bronte's characters are unfeminine in identity because they are closed off, or literally that their personalities are less brilliant, less charming, less advanced in social standing and therefore they are the trodden down. To the contrary, it is their very controlled and withdrawn natures that make them all the more womanly to me, all the more relatable. With Lucy Snowe, I cannot respect "the overly emotional and demonstrative woman who tells all without holding back." To be less open is, I believe and contrary to feminist thought, to be more free.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Unemployment Or ...

I have a job option. Already. It's only the third of June. I have written over fifty pages of my novel and it surely needs a good deal more work, but this has been done in one week of steady work. I have a job that pays me only little but that consumes only twenty hours of my week, before 9 a.m. each day. I spend the next eight or ten hours writing. At this rate, things are going well, but what if I take that job? Shall I risk losing this momentary rush for only a small pay raise? Such a struggle. If I could write for my career--write what I want to write, not what everyone else wants me to write--I would be living my dream! So what shall it be?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Last Week Before...

This is the last week of school.

Summer begins in two days.

Are you understanding what I am saying right now? I am saying that the semester is over!

Today and tomorrow I have a few straggling class meetings, Thursday I have to grade and officially submit the rest of my grades, and then Friday--beautiful Friday--summer vacation officially begins!

Friday is named Day 1 of the next 100 Days adventure which I will be happily pursuing this lovely summer. I have so many plans, and in some cases, the lack of plans is as appealing as the plans themselves! At any rate, here are my summer plans:

-- Write EVERY DAY and produce a complete screenplay before the summer is over (at least)
-- Go on adventures daily
-- Remodel Treasured Details
-- Go to Tennessee
-- Go to Kansas
-- Go to Montana
-- Go to California
-- Go to some concerts for some bands I love! (I have my eye on Bon Iver and Josh Groban in July--separately, by the way)
-- Spend quality time with friends and family
-- Be stress free!
-- Find a job

Old People: My Future

While being a student taught me what I needed to know about personal responsibility, learning, using common sense, and making contacts, being a teacher has taught me something quite different. The lessons learned have been a direct result of these different perspectives on education and academia, I feel, and although some of the lessons have been painfully deceiving and then in turn painfully revealing, they've been useful.

Four years in academia--five, if you count the year I spent as a supplemental instructor--has shown me a lot about the inner workings of that mysterious class of people I once regarded as celebrities: professors. I love my professors, still love them! Don't mistake what I am saying for an attempt to slander them backhandedly. In some ways, I still think of my professors as something of celebrity status because of the way they carefully and deliberately revealed to us the deepest secrets of the writers and texts that we loved. Because they were a part of the grand scheme that included our beloved literature, they were classed with that literature as infamous. Maybe that was where we went wrong then, I don't know. At any rate, it didn't take me long in the academic circle to realize that I had misunderstood most of what I was seeing from my undergraduate desk, and later, I realized, even more of what had been misrepresented by myself over my own undergraduates' desks.

The longer I spend my time mingling with members of university faculty--full professors or otherwise--the more I am surprised by what I learn. Granted, I am much less surprised now than I once was, when I first made my transition from one to the other side of the one-way mirror of academia.

Over the past five years, I have heard more professors than I want to admit say how much they wish they had done something else with their lives. In part, I dare not criticize them. After all, teaching never was my particular goal in life either. I've heard professors say grimly that we were all there because we loved to read, or that they wished they would have followed this dream or that dream, become independent novelists, whatever. It makes me sad to think of someone living this kind of drudgery (believe me, five years is enough to show me the career for what it is!) and all that time wishing they had done something else. It makes me wonder, why didn't they do something else then...really?

I think a lot of people fail to follow their dreams for one reason or another, but the point is that it is up to each person individually to decide if they can come to terms with giving up their dreams. There has to be a point in life when one looks at the dreams, faded and dust-covered, lying out on the table and admits that it's too late for some of them. As I grow older, I can imagine the sense of tiredness that enables the acceptance, but the younger part of me, the part that fights really hard against difficulties, tells me not to accept acceptance, not without raging epic war.

There are two dreams I don't want to part with, and these dreams used to not play very nicely together, but they're learning to get along. The first places me as a successful screenwriter learning to direct and produce my own films. The second is much more commonplace and yet as appealing. It places me into a small country house, as a wife and a mother (of one, perhaps two), doing mission work, living a happy and simple life. And oddly enough, that dream still gives me a room of my own where I write on the side. Apparently the dreams I have lead unquestionably toward a path of writing, and both lead me likewise to a path away from academia. I believe that my real dream is to support myself on my writing and my own creative work. I see too many people slaving away, unhappily, for a paycheck that is really little more than what they could earn working much more happily on their own.

So, that's what I want. Observation has spoken to me. The examples I've seen have helped me to see my future self, far down this same path, and I don't like her. She really can't play nicely with the other two dreams.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Photography Day

With the knowledge that school is only days away from completely over and summer vacation is beginning very soon, there is such a load lifted off of me. I have big plans for the next 100 days that will be my summer vacation, and yet right now, with the end only at hand, I can't seem to do much that is productive. All I want to do is relax and enjoy a little bit of free time for a change.

These are some of the things that have characterized my day so far.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Frustration (to the Third Power)

The end of the semester is usually supposed to be a time of rejoicing and excitement over approaching summer, but this is always the week when the seriousness of my stress begins to trump all optimism. I am nervous for my students, but also nervous for me because my handiwork--how well I taught my students and how well they are able to produce writing, in turn--is going to be showcased for the rest of the department to see. Slightly nerve-wracking. I always know how everything becomes such a complicated and tangled mess right before the semester ends, but generally it all seems to get somewhat untangled enough for me to emerge mostly alive. I used to think it was chaos when I was a student trying to get out of the mess, but it's actually much more difficult as a teacher (to the third power, at least!) Instead of having one person to keep track of, I have a lesser degree of responsibility for about 100 people, give or take depending on attendance records and the like. Regardless, as I grade 5 classes worth of final portfolios in the next week (going into hiding, as you can imagine) I am certain to be more than ready for the start of summer vacation at the end...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blondes and Brunettes and Redheads, Oh My!

I watched Easy A this weekend (great movie, by the way) starring Emma Stone, the adorable redhead of Superbad and Zombieland. It all started when it occurred to me that she was a really cute redhead, but then I had to observe that her hair is far too red to be "natural," so I did some research and found that Emma Stone is naturally a blonde! I have always been interested in the idea of changing my color (bored with blonde sometimes; I've been feeling that way off and on for most of my life!) and this made me think about the possibility that I might  actually look fine with a color besides blonde. Also, colors always can go back!

So I started comparing celebrities who do different colors. I tried to find the cutest pictures of them, at least trying to be attractive in the specific images.

First, I am considering the cute Zooey Deschanel, seen as a blonde in Elf and a brunette nearly everywhere else. To me, it's obvious which one is cuter. She is definitely meant to be a brunette! The blonde hair washes out her face and the brown hair makes her big giant signature blue eyes POP:

Next I can't help but observe the Disney princess Hilary Duff. She is one who is known as a blonde, but has been a brunette on occasion. When I compare pictures of her in the two states, I believe that she is a very attractive blonde, but admit that she looks best as a brunette. Of course, in this image, she has less make-up on in the blonde picture, which changes the comparison:
Some other actresses commonly known with one hair color and sometimes appearing with different hair colors...
I believe that Ashlee Simpson is attractive no matter what. She looks great as a blonde and as a redhead.

Anna Torv, as Olivia Dunhan,appears as both a blonde and a redhead on Fringe, but the impression left by her hair is distinctly related to her hair style and her personality type. The Olivia of our world is serious and her hairstyle is very spinsterish while the Olivia of the other universe, the redhead, is a more fun, quick to laugh, person and her bangs soften her face. Olivia needs bangs, and honestly, Anna Torv looks better as a redhead, to me.

Little known fact: Katy Perry is a natural redhead. This is the only picture I could find of her in her natural state and of course her dark haired style is her celebrity look so she is more fixed up in this picture. She looks like a completely different person in these two photos, but she seems attractive in both. She certainly wears more make-up now! 

Hayden Panettiere looks attractive as both a blonde and a brunette/redhead, but she looks more natural as a blonde than anything darker. I like her both ways though I have seen pictures of her without the make-up and she looks much better plain as a blonde than as a brunette. 

Lastly, our famous Emma Stone! Here she is, both hair colors. What do YOU think? 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weird Observations about my Musical Taste

This is not an exhaustive list, neither have I chosen to qualitatively analyze it at this time. This is merely an observation.

Bands I feel like I should like more than I do:

  • Sufjan Stevens
  • Ryan Adams
  • Freelance Whales
  • Crystal Castles
  • Fleet Foxes
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Wolf Parade
Bands I love unreservedly in spite of known flaws:
  • Rachael Yamagata
  • A Fine Frenzy
  • Bon Iver
  • Glen Hansard
  • Sara Bareilles
  • She & Him
  • Thirteen Senses
  • Tilly and the Wall
This issue will be revisited in future. Consider this a post-it on the subject. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Adore You. I Want to Follow You.

Go Epic or...

I have this strange, unaccountable fear of failure.

Wow, that's a friend-making way to start a conversation.

But really, cutting right to the heart of the matter, that's my fear. I think that is everything in my life in a succinct little nutshell.

While I can't say that failure characterizes my life in any particular way, the fear of it, the dread of it, especially of it being known, terrifies me. It's a strange thing because (commence therapy session) honestly, I don't think badly of others who fail, it's just that I hold myself to this ridiculous standard. "You're your own worst critic," I've heard a million times, and that's true, but that's not it. That's not the problem. The critic of what? What I have been too afraid to actually do? No, I don't criticize myself enough. If I kicked my own butt and called myself a fool more often, maybe I'd actually accomplish something. That's the only way that last one got written, believe me.

So, what of the colloquial "Go epic or go home"? I sit there shivering in the cold thinking, "What if I'm not epic? What if they send me home?" and I change the whole thing to "Go epic or don't go," and I don't go.

So what if I fill my head with the colloquialisms and let them rule me. They are said often because they are proven right, after all.

"The only real failure in life is the failure to try."

"The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure."

"There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them."

"There are no secrets to success; it is preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."

"Life's real failure is when you don't realize how close you were to success when you gave up."

"I didn't fail the test I just found 100 ways to do it wrong."

"Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street."

...You get the idea.

I think that those of us who are afraid of failure have to get over ourselves. No one cares that much about our failures, and success means too much to let it get away. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Week

This is the movie that's inspiring it all.

Check it out!

Monday, April 18, 2011

100 Days

At the moment, I am obsessed with the idea of the last summer of my "youth." This year I finished the single greatest accomplishment of my life to date (ahem! I told you I would mention it every chance I get!) and now I am sitting in the pleasant, shady little spot that is still fresh enough to be comfortable: educated and not yet employed. It's too soon to be worried, after all I have had a number of interviews already, they just can't hire me yet because I am still teaching until the end of next month. I am not worried about anything right now except perhaps the thought of getting a job sooner than I want to. Right now, I am anticipating a summer of fun, abandonment, daydreams, books, writing (yes, that again), adventures, road trips, and anything else new, unusual, and in any way exciting that I can squeeze into my schedule. I am hoping to make the whole adventure an adventure in and of itself. It should be a period of discovery, hope, newness, and starting all over again as something different. Or maybe just starting over as myself again, because it's been a long time since I've been that, and I miss it. I miss me, the reader, writer, adventure-loving dreamer. And now I am free to be what I want to be again!

I have this fascination with road trips, though not usually in the form of road trips themselves, but rather in the form of road trip movies. This weekend I watched One Week for the first time. I thought it was an amazing and incredible movie... I sympathize with the main character entirely; I mean, it's hard to imagine what one would do at only 29, hearing they have cancer and will likely live for only a short time. I can understand his desire to have an adventure. It makes me want to have my long-awaited adventure now, before I have to make it fit into the little piece of my life that's left. I love stories like this though; it's important to think about life like this. Haven't we always been told, profoundly, to live like we're dying? If I found out my time was through, there are a lot of things that I'd want to do, and being with everyone I love for every remaining moment of my life would not be the plan. There would be time for that, but that wouldn't be everything. What about the adventures we dream of, the parts of our lives that we have always wanted and yet we never pursue. We only have a single life to live, just one opportunity to realize and fulfill those dreams. We should take the opportunities that we are offered and use them. We cannot let our dreams go to waste! Once our lives are over, no one is going to live our dreams for us; if they haven't been fulfilled, they will simply die when we die. 

I have a goal to pass the next 100 days (well starting in about 30 days, when my semester ends officially) having daily adventures of searching and discovery--I hope. I will document those days, and I will have them. I have a trip to Tennessee planned, and a trip to Montana planned, and a trip to somewhere all by myself in the planning. I am dreaming of that adventure now. The time will come...soon!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


My real friends say I'm waiting for what started long ago
And life is what you make of it.
So come on now let's go
Cause still I'm bored lately
Do you feel the same?
Being young it drives me crazy...
And this world's insane.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Road Trips, and Other Adventures

I have finished my Master's degree.

I keep reminding myself of this lately because, for some reason, the reality of it hasn't quite kicked in yet. I know that I am finished, and this opens up a few doors to me in terms of possible future adventures. I realize that I haven't done nearly as much as I wish I've done. Some people have made fun of me because completing a Master's degree is doing something, something big, but then again, the people who say it haven't done it. My Master's program has been a matter of locking myself into the deepest privacy I can get myself into and writing alone. All of it has been writing alone. Yeah, what an adventure. I have to admit, of course, that the completion of my thesis project and my Master's degree has been a personal achievement. It was worth everything it cost me, but now it's time to live a little.

Tonight I watched my favorite movie Elizabethtown for perhaps the hundredth time, and I was
reminded again of all the things that used to inspire me when I was younger. I remember the phone conversation between Claire (my heroine) and Drew... "Everyone has to take a solitary road trip at some point in their life--just you and some
music." I have wanted to follow this advice for the past six years, and I have decided that this year might be the one where I have to follow through. I want to get my music and my car and myself and hit the road.

There are a million things I want to do, and life is too short to save them.

Traveling at the Speed of Life

It seems incredible to me that life goes as quickly as it does. When lost in the swirling abyss of a stress, it is difficult to imagine ever being out of it. And once out of it, it seems a little over-dramatic to call a merely stressful event an "abyss" of anything. But really, it has all been a whirlwind. It has been as dramatic as it sounds. Life has gone so fast, and the thought that it has all slowed down suddenly is both overwhelming and confusing.

Right now, I just want to sit back, relax, and enjoy whatever comes. I know it's going to come quickly, but I'm prepared!

And this image was taken by me on my 35mm Canon Rebel! It represents my feelings on the above subject :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The End of an Age

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I felt really sad about the idea of not being a teacher anymore. I love working one-on-one with my students, conferencing with them about their particular struggles as writers, and learning about each one of them on an individual level. I have students who have specifically chosen to take my class semester after semester just because they enjoy my teaching style and my conferences. I was working with one particular student that has been with me for a year and it made me sad to think that he was about to finish the course and then probably not be working with me anymore. Then I thought, "Well, maybe if I start teaching higher level...." but then my mind finished that thought for me. "Not if I'm not going to be teaching anymore!" It's not even about teaching itself that I become sad, but about Prairie State. I have always wanted to return to that school after graduation, I have wanted that full time position for so long, but it didn't work out and it makes me sad. I can't afford to stay there without decent pay (and adjunct teaching is simply not enough money to live on), but I can't imagine leaving. I don't want to leave; I love my students and want to continue teaching my night classes with my fun, energetic night time students. I love working with adult returning students too. I don't know, the decision to stop teaching seems like a logical position to take, and yet it makes me sad. What to do...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bad Habits

Writing has become kind of this habit with me. But when do people talk about their "habits" and mean the nice things that they do? The understanding of what a habit is always has a distinctly negative connotation to it. People with bad habits skulk in dark corners of rat-infested alleys to keep people from seeing what they are doing; the goals of people with "bad habits" are to keep their habits secret so that no one tries to take the habit away. This is how I see my writing.

I have a terrible dread of having my writing read by others. I used to think that I could express myself only through writing, but now I realize that while I express myself that way, clearly, I want others to see into me through writing as little as I want them to see into me through my spoken words. I am not particularly interested in using my writing as a means of sharing myself. I want my writing to speak of things beyond me, to showcase lives unrelated to mine, and to share truths that are not of myself.

I hide in corners to scribble furtively on blank pages, and then I stuff the pages into my pocket to destroy them later. No one sees what I write, because I have an unnatural fear that people will read my thoughts and think they know me by them. Or worse, that they will read my thoughts and realize that they never knew me, because then that will be my fault, and that would be even worse.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bleeding Dreams

I have spent the past 4 years of my life teaching freshman composition, and doing almost entirely that and nothing else! It has been rewarding, interesting, frustrating, and exhausting, sometimes by turns and sometimes all at once. Now is a decision point for me. As I am making the final touches to the master's thesis I wrote with my own blood (that could easily be turned to a literal statement...often it feels that excruciating!) I am faced with the facts of where I am in life and where I want to be. Sure, I love teaching. Really, I do, even on those frustrating days when I feel like I am talking to a brick wall of emotionless faces. There is nothing like that breakthrough that occurs, usually few and far between, sure, but so awesome when it does come. However, I have to consider which dreams brought me to the place where I now stand. I started college at 18 saying that I knew I would always read and write, but I needed to do something to support myself. I changed my mind right away when I realized I needed to become a master of reading and writing in order to support myself as a writer, which was what I really wanted to do. Then at 21 I was recommended to supplemental instruction, and at 22 I got my own classroom. I am 26 now, almost done, sharing my love for reading and writing with tons of people every day. That's the dream, right? Well, almost. I read almost constantly. I teach how to write, what to write, how to read in order to write better, and I talk about reading and writing to 100 or more people every day. Also, I read their papers, read their lessons with them, and read a novel a week (except right now the novel I am reading is 2,000 pages long, so it's taking at least 2 weeks) but when do I follow my dreams? When do I write for me? And the thesis I wrote in blood isn't for me; it's writing, yes, it benefits me in the future, yes, yes and still yes. But dreams. They will probably nag at me forever, and if I don't complete them, the regret will take the place of the dreams themselves in torturing me in my sleep. I've been talking about this forever and doing nothing about it, but then what could I do while bleeding out over the pages of a giant document that could seal my fate for the future. I have to take the path slowly and wisely, but I wonder if now is the time to begin considering which fork in the road to take. I think I am certain of where my interest lies...where it has always lain...where it always will...okay, I am not trying to write "lie" in every tense possible...I get silly when I think too much.