Saturday, January 31, 2009

Today is like a Death Cab for Cutie song.

I feel as though I'm traipsing on the edge of something very self-destructive today. Like my entire existence is walking a line. A line between what I don't know. Responsibility? Procrastination? Panic? All my chores and meticulous tasks completed, but nothing's accomplished yet. Will it happen today? I don't know. 

I feel like today is like my hair. Mop-head, some straight hair, some frizzy hair, some curly hair, hanging in my face, falling in my eyes. "Apparently someone's lost their brush." But mostly I didn't care enough to style it. Too much to do. Today is like my hair - unrepeatable, the result of negligence, deference to something more important.

Sarah: So what did you do today?
Me: I washed and sorted all our nylons. See?
Sarah: Uh-huh. So what else did you do today.
Me: I picked up the kitchen and dining room. Although I guess you can't really tell.
Sarah: Yeah. So what else did you do today?
Me: I worked on my speech.
Sarah: You mean that Word document that's completely blank?
Me: So what did you do today?

You see, today is like a Death Cab for Cutie song. The melody of today is decidedly upbeat, comfortable, ideal. The lyrics of today are confusing, dark, and melancholy. And yet, it's not as sad when you mix the two together. The perfect line between solid ground and insubstantial air. Not euphoria. Not despair. Not even contentment or discontentment. Something different.

The "no spend" rule

Don't spend the money, Hayley. Don't do it.

Stuff is stuff.

You don't need it. So long as you've got clothes on your back and a stick of deodorant, you don't need much else. Stuff needs maintenance. You buy Thing #1 then you need Things 2 through 22 to go with it. And where are you going to keep all this stuff? How many sets of clothes can you really wear? Are any of your earthly possessions really that important? Owning it is not going to change your life, so why bother plunking down the cash when you could spend it on something truly worthwhile? Stuff will just weigh you down.

Loophole: Electronics qualify as stuff, no matter how good of an investment they are. Unfortunately, the same goes notebooks. Food, music, and most books, however, do not!

Saving is smart.

What do you want to do? Go to London? Take your friend out for coffee? Survive college debt free? Put gas in your car? Fund those mission trips without soliciting moneys? Takes money, fool. And ultimately, what's more important: that second pair of Chucks or a present for your mom? Do the math. All you need to do is look at the economy right now. People bought houses and cars and gadgets, leaving themselves with no money to pay the bills, causing debt and credit bubbles. Don't spend above your means. It's that simple. 

Loophole: Obviously, there's a time to spend. Saving for the sake of saving is just as stupid as letting it burn a hole in your pocket. Decide what you're saving for. It's called a budget!

It's the "no spend" rule. The hat was the only exception.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pain. Deep, searing, slashing pain. Not for me, but for someone else. For the girl who was now without a brother, for the man who was deceived out of a son, for the little boy who didn't understand, for the woman who didn't know what the sickness was. It was tears and stomach-aches. It was abuse and heartache and confusion and fear, and it hurt. Like I never wanted to feel again. Like only a fragment of the real pain those individuals were feeling.

I didn't understand - I didn't know the girl well. The man was through his trial. The little boy was in God's hands. The woman was on the verge of a diagnosis. My pain seems to trivialize theirs. Who was I to hurt for these people? 

The psalmist says, "Blessed is he who has regard for the weak." Who would I be if I didn't hurt along with the broken, and grieve with those who grieve? No. May I never be so hard-hearted. Why should I sleep soundly at night when there's fighting in the Middle East? Why should I eat ice cream when there are people who haven't eaten in days? Why should I be alive when babies die every day? Dear Lord, do not let me forget. Please, stamp it on my heart, ingrain it in my brain. But not forget, never forget.

The television showed pictures of refugees, burned with acid and covered in scars, on the day Hussein's statue fell. "Mom, I'm going to be sick." But I needed to see it. The signs said "massage parlor" in English and oriental characters, but my eyes burned knowing the signs meant "brothel." But I needed to see it. The van drove by dilapidated houses inhabited by tired and beaten-down people, and I wanted so badly to go home. But I needed to see it. So I would remember. 

So I suffer with the suffering, like my Jesus cried for Lazarus. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Holy cannoli!

Once upon a time . . .

Hands up, utensils down! Not enough time in the day, or else too much of it spent wasting time. But this is life, yo. This sitting, this writing, this wasting time. And if you're wasting time to the glory of God it's completely worth it, but God's not into wasted time. Food, fun, failure - happy, sad, misunderstanding, not understanding, living in a fog. It all means something.  Even the confusion will eventually clear away into a solid, immutable lessons on confusion itself. Above and below and around, every word, every thought, every act matters immensely. And we crack under the pressure, folding into ourselves and hosting a pity party, the table set for one. Such rich foods! ice cream, chicken divon, cherry cordial kisses, spinach cream soup . . . pride, selfishness, apathy, greed. And we eat ourselves to death until enough is enough, and we surface, and we see. And yet the confusion is more familiar than the understanding, and the laziness more inviting than ambition, and so the cycle continues. 

Hands up, utensils down! Remember, remember, the fifth of November. I see no reason why gunpowder, treason should ever be forgot. Oh, to live outside of our own minds, to keep our vision clear, to remove all distractions, to exist surreally, to never descend again. Why is it that we know the good and yet it sometimes doesn't matter? "God can make good use of all that happens, but the loss is real." How can you dream in the doorway? Chocolate cake. Attention seeking. The part of me that knows people are most important is the part of me that seeks for people's approval. Why is it that even though I'm yours, I walk the line I drew between your heart and mine? As I struggle for your hand you use me in ways I can't understand. You take this sinful man and renew me, working through me. Is it so bad that I don't, can't understand. Is it like the tightrope, one foot in front of the other, even when I feel like I won't move at all? Do the questions even matter when I already know the answers? 

[This has been an experiment in stream of consciousness. What does it mean? I have no idea. Commence static.]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I am a fearful person. I'm not really sure how it happened, maybe I was coddled too much as a child, but at any rate, I indulged the feeling and let my imagination take over. I used to have to sleep with all the shades and the closet door closed, covers over my head, and a nightlight on. I was most scared of vampires. Occasionally I was scared of the dark. Some nights I slept in my sister's bed to feel safe, some nights I never fell asleep I was so scared. I would scare myself silly with novels, movies, and TV shows, and often just my own imagination.

Now I know my boundaries. For a while I thought I had conquered fear, finally, only to realize that I had merely figured out a way to cope. It was like a disease I thought had been cured of, but really I just knew how to manage my symptoms. Flare-ups are still occasional. The queasy feeling of fear melting in my stomach, the sturdy concept of fright uncurling in my mind, and the panic that I won't be able to cope with this bout of creeps. It sucks.

I'm afraid of failure, monsters, torture, embarrassment, cancer, ghosts, fire, the nervous system, drowning, electricity, awkwardness, being watched, pain, getting lost, aliens, scientific/medical experimentation, serial killers, heights, people sneaking up on me, being alone, not knowing, the government, being a fool, mad scientists, the dark, kidnapping, demons . . . and so many things that scare me and I don't know why nor could I put words to them.

Part of it's pride, part of it's insecurity, part of it's a lack of trust, and part of it is just pure indulgence in fear. Sometimes I forget that I'm free.

Fear is silly, irrational, and paralyzing. To quote Bono, "All our kids are screaming but the ghosts aren't real." I know that the things I'm afraid of aren't real. I'm not scared of those things in the daytime. But when the dark comes my confidence dissolves and comfort is shelved out of my reach. My head knows God loves me and saved me and I don't need to fear, but my heart is already filled with the stuff and it just doesn't matter. 

Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?"
Romans 8:15 "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship."
1 John 4:18 "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fragile People - SONSOFDAY

This song was a free download this week put out by Gospel Music Channel, and it's an acoustic-y short song, but heavily sincere. Lyrically it struck a chord with me. It's so strange to compare what we were created to be, what we became, and then what we're becoming. 

I know it's all the same
Same old story, same old game.
We dream, we love, we hate sometimes
We're painting pictures in our minds.

Time moves on, people change
No one is the same.
We're fragile people, we hurt sometimes
We don't know where to go.

I see it everywhere,
Someone rises and someone falls.
We're always looking for a hero
The one who'll save the day.

We are different people
Fragile and beautiful.
We lose our way sometimes 
We're all in need of a savior.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Gum is repulsive. Why you would chew something without the intent of digesting it is completely beyond me. And then when it comes to disposing said gum, people are gross.  The sidewalk at the mall is so splotched with gum wads that the concrete is invisible in some areas. Under the tables of certain establishments are also scary places, and under the desks at schools . . . forget about it. Teens obviously don't care about hygiene. And I can't tell you how many times my brother has left a pack of gum in his pocket, only for it to go through the washing machine and ruin everyone's clothes. I want to find the ingenious soul who decided to market gum to the ignorant masses and shake him by the shoulders. Both the concept and the application of gum is the most disgusting thing I have ever pondered.

Of course, all this ranting makes me a hypocrite, because I actually do chew gum occasionally. I only like one kind - Trident's Splash in Strawberry Lime flavor. Before this brand I didn't chew the stuff at all, but my dad passed on a Wall Street Journal article about the innovation behind the product and so I decided to try it and it was love. But I only buy it once in a while (because as I'm sure I've made clear, I think chewing gum is a horrendous waste of money), usually one individual pack (9 pieces) at a time, and I ration it carefully. 

So I've been thinking lately, isn't it rather rude to ask people for gum? This could be just me, because I'm bad at returning things and therefore have an aversion to borrowing things, and I generally don't like to ask people for things unless I'm desperate. And maybe it's wrong of me to impute this philosophy on others? I don't know. But I can't help be find it presumptuous for people to solicit gum. I've been in many situations where gum has been offered, but I have recently encountered instances where I've been hit up for gum. Exhibit A:

Me: [saying something relevant to the conversation]
Dude: Yeah. Do you have gum?
Me: Um, Bobby might.
Dude: Bobby, do you have gum?
Bobby: Duh. Here.
Dude: Thanks.
Me: [telling myself I'm not a jerk, but knowing I really am]

Then later that afternoon . . . Exhibit B:

Me: [enters room chewing gum]
Dood: Do you have gum?
Me: Yes.
Dood: Can I have some?
Me: I don't think that's a good idea.
Dood: You're weird. Come on, please?
Me: [leaves room and returns with precious pack of Trident Splash Strawberry Lime gum]

I wasn't ticked off or anything at the time, and it doesn't bother me that much now, but on a strictly intellectual level, I'm wondering why people do that? I feel almost as though there's some unwritten rule that if one person in a group is chewing gum, everyone else in the group is entitled to the gum, whether it is offered or not, hence everyone in the group feels no shame in just asking for it. However, as a strong believer in individual rights (being life, liberty, and property) I don't think I'm a fan of this rule!

I'd just much rather offer my precious Trident Splash Strawberry Lime gum than have it solicited from me. And I'd much rather people see Trident Splash Strawberry Lime gum as the precious commodity I see it to be, rather than something they're taking because they're entitled to it. 

It definitely comes down to my selfishness. I'm a hoarder. I'm possessive. I paid good money for that Trident Splash Strawberry Lime gum and I want to enjoy every piece. I'm generally bad at sharing. I've offered this gum to people before, though, and it doesn't sting to see it go. But it hurts my pride for people to ask me for gum and then have to give it to them on social laws rather than out of the free goodness of my heart. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bookshelf in Review

Someone has been raiding my book shelf. Now, granted, my indignation is just a tad hypocritical. Half the books on that book shelf were raided from my dad's collection from his college days or my grandmother's many books. And furthermore, the actual shelf was raided from my brother's room, but I'm sure you won't blame me when you realize we have an abundance of books and a fair amount of shelves in this house and I was merely moving them around to give them a better home . . . well, at any rate, someone's been taking my books. And you can't very well blame me for being so possessive when you realize that each book that has made it on to that bookshelf holds certain value to me, either ceremonial or sentimental. So this is my bookshelf in review.

I guess I'll start with the most embarrassing -- yes, the four Twilight books are on my shelf. I'm not certain why I bought them all, but I was caught in the fandom for two months. Even though I hold a tiny bit of scorn for Twilight now, a lot of awesome things happened because of my brief fandom, and since I spend good money on those books, they're not going anywhere!

Then you'll see the bright blue covers of SparkNotes books. I have No Fear Spanish, No Fear Shakespeare, and SparkCourses in literature, short stories, and political science. A lot of people see SparkNotes as cheating, but for me they're a spring board. You need the basic knowledge before you can dive deeper, and that's why I like SparkNotes. (Also, No Fear Shakespeare is the cheapest I can find, so I always get that even though I don't particularly care for their "translation.") I also have "When In London: The Ultimate Study Abroad Guide" put out by SparkNotes for my eventual (theoretical?) trip to London. 

I've never been a marvelously huge fan of poetry, but I started warming to it once I entered high school. Featured on my bookshelf are mini collections of Milton and Rossetti, as well as a copy of "Evangeline" by Longfellow. I also a few "anthologies," one legit anthology of American poetry, one of Edgar Allen Poe's poetry, and dear present of 20th century American poetry.

I also have just about every C.S. Lewis book in this house on my bookshelf: The Great Divorce, The Space Trilogy, Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy, Till We Have Faces (which is my most favorite out of all of Lewis's work), The Four Loves, The Screwtape Letters, Abolition of Man, Narnia . . . ah, but Narnia has been pilfered from my shelf as read-aloud material for probably the seventh time. My dad instilled in me an appreciation and love for the works of C.S. Lewis, who was truly brilliant. 

Then there are the economic and politics books -- oh, how the Foundation for Economic Education and TeenPact have infiltrated my bookshelf! Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell was the first addition, followed by "The Law" by Frederick Bastiat and The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek. My mom also bought me Making Globalization Work by Joseph Stiglitz and a book about global business (Redefining Global Strategy) that I still haven't read because it's over my head. Freedom and Federalism by Felix Morley was given to me democracy year, "Real Citizenship" by Tim Echols was a TeenPact homework prize, and Human Action by Mises was another FEE addition. Not all of the FEE propaganda books made it on to my shelf, but those managed.

In the middle of the bottom shelf you can see a series -- these are my beloved Anne books. Acquired over a series of birthdays and Christmases, I finally have all eight. On the top shelf I also have an Anne of Green Gables primer (which has things like Anne Shirley's ancestry, a history of L.M. Montgomery, how to make plum puffs, et cetera) and an Anne of Green Gables themed journal. I am, yeah, kind of a fan. Anne of the Island is my favorite, with Anne's House of Dreams tying with Rainbow Valley for second.

I also have moderate amount of Shakespeare. I feel a little guilty for buying more and more Shakespeare when we have the complete works downstairs, but when it's Shakespeare you're spending your money on, no one argues. I have the Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (my favorite), Much Ado About Nothing (my close second favorite), Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Comedy of Errors, and The Tempest, but I feel as though my collection is severely lacking. At any rate, no one can have too much of Shakespeare.

In addition to nurturing in me a love for Lewis, my dad has given me an appreciation for biographies and has been stocking my shelf with his favorites. My favorite so far has been No Compromise: The Life and Story of Keith Green, but I also like Out of the Comfort Zone and Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. I have similar "life story" books like Blue Like Jazz and Praise Habit, and missionary stories like If I Perish, Don't Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees, These Are My People, and Sister Freaks. There's one I haven't read, that I'm greatly looking forward to, Against All Hope by Armando Valladares. I like reading true stories about actual people's lives.

Some individual books of note: Alice In Wonderland is amazing. My copy includes Through the Looking Glass, which I think I prefer, but both are genius. Into the Twilight Endlessly Grousing, while unfortunately the only Pat McManus book I own, was a brilliant library book sale find, and I treasure this copy. Also of note, I have the complete series of Sherlock Holmes! Some of my favorite stories of all time, and that's right, I have all of them. "Phantastes" is a short novel by George MacDonald that is another favorite and basically brilliant. Sophie's World is a genius novel that gives an overview of philosophy. Robinson Crusoe is a much beloved present that I am still reading but greatly enjoying. Christy is another classic girly novel that I still have mixed feelings about, but God has used that book, in addition to one of my favorite short stories "The Pearl" by Steinbeck, to work in my heart and mind. Finally, The Scarlet Letter has taken up permanent residence on my bookshelf, but . . . I haven't read it. I've tried to, several times, and it just never happens!

There is some sort of closure about owning a book, like the thoughts and words and stories and characters really become yours. When you own a book you are not an impostor or a poster for loving it. While I lack a great number of books I should like to own, I can only hope my bookshelf in the future should look completely different. I never really knew how wonderful it was to own a book until I assembled my bookshelf, and it has given me a whole new appreciation for the written word. What a blessing to live in a place where books are affordable and accessible, and may I never be loathe to share them with others.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I love Robert Frost

I found this one accidentally. And have resolved that it is one of my favorite quotations yet. By Robert Frost, no less. "I alone of English writers have consciously set myself to make music out of what I may call the sound of sense." It is one thing to speak sense, but it's another thing entirely to take sense and make it music.

It's a joke in my family that I was caught on tape saying "I love Hitler" and therefore will never be able to run for public office. And now I'm further incriminating myself here: I do love Hitler, in a vague way of admiration because (and for heaven's sake, don't stop reading there) Hitler was a man who knew how to make music with his words. He could persuade multitudes to believe things that went against the grain of human conviction. That is truly a feat worthy of respect, though not condonation.

I have learned, I hope, the sound of sense. Because of Christ in me I can recognize truth when I see it, and every day my ears become more attuned to the sound of sense, true sense. But can I make it like music to other's ears? Can I speak the truth with love, conviction, honesty, and passion? I want to consciously set myself to make music out of the sound of sense. That the desires of my heart and the thoughts of my mind would be pleasing to my God.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


One of my most favorite things in the world is remembering. Some things are even better in remembering than they were when they originally happened. Even just the act of remembering is like eating chocolate or taking a hot shower - it's pleasant and comforting and seems to release endorphins into my system. I like remembering.

But the older I get, the worse I am at remembering things. And I'm not that old! I don't think it's a matter of having a bad memory (although I suppose that's very possible) but it's the way I regard time. Can you believe 2007 was two years ago? It feel like just yesterday. I don't both to remember things that happened just yesterday. And because I don't remember them, once substantial time has passed, it's impossible for me to remember what actually happened.

If you were to ask me to give you an overview of 2007, I don't think I could. I mean, maybe I could, having just gone through Xanga entries chronicling that time, but without such a reference I think I'd come up blank. This is the Godsend of journalling. If I remember along the way, I have a reference for later. I am quickly discovering what a useful reference tool my journal is. That's why, no matter how embarrassing its contents are, I could never burn it. I need those memories, no matter how silly they are. Eventually enough time will pass that I won't mind how silly I was.

But lately (and I suppose by lately I mean the past year, but who really knows, now that we've established I have a warped perception of time) I haven't been journalling about actually events. Why would I write about something I already know, something that just happened? That's not interesting to write. I don't want writing to be a chore, but I want to be able to remember what's happening year to year.

But then sometimes my memory surprises me. Someone will say something, and it will jog something I had completely forgotten. The other day I found myself reciting an obscure Bible verse I had memorized when I was ten that I hadn't heard since. Just when I start to think my memory is undependable, it surprises me by acting like (and excuse the bizarre comparison) Mac OS X Leopard's Timeline feature.

I think, next to reasoning and imagination, memory is the most wonderful faculty granted to human beings.

(For the sake of memory, a brief overview of the past few weeks: Dad's been out of work since December 17th for recovery after surgery to fix his torn meniscus, and it's been odd but wonderful having him home all day. And the entire United States seems to have come down with the most horrendous cold, Mom and I included. And I have finally come to terms with the fact that I don't care for screamo music as an overall genre. And I just read two excellent books: The Book Thief and The Hunger Games. The end.)

See, that makes me feel silly. But I'll probably appreciate it later.

Chop chop, tongue tongue

Originally posted to Xanga on December 20, 2008

That's where we're from, That's what we always wore. If I retell, that's where man fell, When he put foot on floor. (Burlap to Cashmere)

You know how elderly, sick, or disabled people have to say inside a lot, and how it sometimes results in self-pity and depression? Because they don't have work or something to occupy themselves with they feel useless, the realization of their laziness trapping them? I don't really feel that. I've done nothing beneficial since I walked out of Chemistry class on Thursday, but the guilt hasn't hit yet. I've been sitting at my computer watching movies online since Friday morning, and I don't feel guilty yet. My family is all sick and it's snowing and it's vacation, and so the house is in a perpetual stage of idleness.

But for how long? How long can I sit here doing nothing before I feel like a worthless, lazy slacker? Probably until a deadline comes. It's a question I've been thinking about for years, so I'm pretty sure I'm familiar with the cycle: laziness, guilt, restitution, satisfaction, laziness, et cetera. But revisiting the question made me think - when the deadlines are completely gone, when nothing is there to make me do anything, what will I do?

I'm not a doer, I told myself. But am I a thinker? I can't imagine so. I'm a learner. You give me a book, I'll read it. Want to teach me the FOIL method, fine, I'll learn it. I can memorize yoga poses. Don't make me interpret Sylvia Plath's poems - you teach me what they mean. You know the idiom "Those who can't do, teach." Those who don't want to do, learn. Application of knowledge bores me. I know a lot about yoga, but not once have I done it. The reason it takes me so long to get through my math textbook is because after I learn the concepts from the DVD I don't care enough to practice them. I'm not a doer, I'm a learner. I like things in the theoretical. In theory I love talking to strangers. In theory I'm all about community service. In theory I love this and that and the other. But in practice I'm not a doer.

That's why it's so easy for me to sit around doing nothing and not really care that I'm being lazy. Because it doesn't seem all that different from being a learner. The "doing" is already foreign to me. But there is still a small part of me that wants to do things, not busy work, but good things. I want to actually do the things that I love in theory. I want to actually get up and do yoga every morning, and have conversations with strangers, and volunteer weekley at Butler hospital. I want to be a teacher or a politician or a inspirational speaker or a homeless advocate. And I can't do those things if I continue to sit around watching movies while it snows outside. But how long? How long can I sit here doing nothing before I find the real motivation to do these things?


How to buy Christmas presents

Originally posted to Xanga on December 15, 2008

I went Christmas shopping with my small group from church yesterday - it was a fun time, especially trying on hats at Forever 21. However, walking back to the car, we were contemplative as to exactly how successful the trip had been. Because Christmas shopping is no walk in the park - this is tough stuff. Not only is it tough to figure out what to get whom, there's also the battle against the budget. Shopping is expensive! It requires spending actual money! But Christmas shopping doesn't have to be painful or hard. This is how it's done:

• Have a list
Srsly. Most people, when list-less, are goners. The list should include who you're shopping for, what you'd like to get them, and what your target price range for those things are. Also, it's helpful to write on the list what stores carry the things you're looking for, because . . .

• The key to bargains is shopping around
You can't just walk into the store and hope that what you're looking for has a great price. It takes a little shopping around to get to know which stores have good sales on books, or which have the best prices on jewelry. If you just know where to get what you're looking for, it's easier to spend less when Christmas shopping.

• There's nothing wrong with cliches
My dad is kind of hard to shop for. So when we find something he does want, we milk it. Getting people what they want IS thoughtful, even if you feel like it's predictable. It doesn't matter how unique it is if the person doesn't want or need  it.

• Give perishables
Who doesn't like getting food?! It's always one of my favorite Christmas presents, occasionally more so than books. Also, there's arguably more variety in food than in any other genre of Christmas presents. Food for the win!

• Have a back up
You can't always get your first-choice present for someone. It's not realistic. If you have a back up plan, though, when your perfect, first-choice present doesn't happen, you still have a semi-cool idea to replace the unrealistic one. It's better than just settling for something last minutes when you finally give up on the perfect gift.

• Utilize Black Friday
And other sales. Honestly, if you know what you're going in for and where to look for it, there are some great deals to be had. This past year I got a rad deal on some picture frames and photo albums for my sister that I would have ordinarily paid way more for. If you can brave the crowds, and if you know what you're looking for, the sales are usually worth it.

• Don't buy something you wouldn't want for yourself
As a general rule, and this isn't always true, but generally if you wouldn't want to get it, neither would the person you're giving it to. Especially if the present in question is inspired by common interests, if you like it, they'll probably like it, too. And then you won't feel guilty if they hate it, because you would have bought it for yourself!

• Make the gift thoughtful
It's really lame for the giftee if the gift you're giving is lame. It sounds like Christmasy cliche, but it's about giving, so if the giving part isn't fun, something's wrong. If you think about each present then you can be satisfied in giving it to someone. Giving after-thought presents is really no fun at all.

I love Christmas shopping, and these are the rules I generally shop by. Because really, I used to be horrible at Christmas (and no really, I hated it, even) and it wasn't until I learned how to Christmas shop that it became fun for me. It's not something to stress about - it's fun, and if it's not fun for you, you're missing the point.

So how do you Christmas shop?

I hate milk.

Originally posted to Xanga on December 12, 2008

Once upon a time, Hayley was born and the doctor yelled at the mom because Hayley was drinking more apple juice than milk. To which the mom replied that Hayley didn't like milk. To which the doctor replied that she didn't like milk because the mom had bred in her a preference for apple juice. But it didn't matter, because it didn't change the fact that Hayley didn't like milk.

When Hayley was a little older, she started making friends and visiting their homes for playdates and becoming exposed to the ways of the world. And no matter where Hayley went, she was always asked if she wanted a glass of milk. To which Hayley replied that water was fine. But she always felt a little funny for refusing the milk, so occasionally she would say yes and manage to choke down a glass of milk now and again.

Soon Hayley was old enough that she could make her own breakfast, whereupon she immediately stopped having cereal for breakfast. Cinnamon Toast Crunch was way overrated anyway. The choice to abstain from milk & cereal was not a conscious one, but it dawned on Hayley three years later that she had not had a bowl of cereal in quite some time, and she couldn't remember why. She had only pleasant memories of eating cereal. Why not?

That fateful day, Hayley poured herself a bowl of cereal she had never tried before but was certain she would like. Das rite, Frosted Mini Wheats. Can't go wrong! She checked the expiration date on the milk to verify it was nowhere near being bad, and she poured herself just a very little bit of milk. And she ate her cereal. And it was gross. The taste of milk burdened her palate even after the cereal was gone. She remembers now why she stopped eating cereal. It was because she really does hate milk and always has. As much as she tried to fight it, the animosity lives on.

For the record, that fateful day was today.

Did you know that humans are the only creatures who continue to drink milk even after they're weaned? I'm just saying, maybe if we ate our fruits and vegetables like adults we wouldn't need to keep drinking milk to keep us healthy. At any rate, milk is gross. Just the very concept skeeves me out, and the taste is even worse. Can you really blame me for hating milk? It's unnatural.

Politics is a game?

Originally posted to Xanga on October 17, 2008

People play politics like it's a game. It's immensely irritating.

Exhibit A.

"So are you excited about being able to vote in the presidential election this year?" I asked of one of my friends who had just turned eighteen. "Well, here's the thing, I'm not registered to vote, and the deadline's tomorrow." Needless to say, I flipped out. "I don't care who the heck you vote for," I shrieked, "so long as you freaking vote, man!" One of our friends overheard me (I was speaking kind of loud) and said, "Hayley, surely you don't believe that. What about the people voting for the wrong side. I personally would prefer that THOSE people never register to vote." I tried to recoup to explain what I meant. "That's not democracy. That's not representation. It's about the principle. When you relinquish your right to vote, you endanger everyone's freedom. So when faced with the "wrong" side winning, I'd still prefer that every freaking person vote." Perhaps I came on a little strong, and perhaps I was a little wrong, but I was still struck with the right versus wrong, winning versus losing mentality of my friends.

Exhibit B.

My mom really does not like Mike Marcello, the Scituate Democrat running for representative. But it seemed he was running unopposed, so really, what could she do to stop him? As it turns out, there is a Republican running against him, and my mom informed me that she was voting for this person fo' sho'. When I asked what his platform was, my mom didn't know, but she saw where I was going with this line of questioning. "Hayley, I don't know what he stands for, but at least he's not Mike Marcello. For once I am proud to be voting against someone." This definitely sounded all wrong to me. "But Mom, you don't even know what this guy wants to do in office. It doesn't matter that he's not Mike Marcello. You should have a valid reason for voting for him." My Mom sighed. "It doesn't really matter. We need the Republicans in the House." Ah, political strategy was her motivation. Mike Marcello is a young, well-liked guy, meaning that once he gets in the House, he's not leaving until he resigns. Just like Linc Chaffee won RI voters hearts' on the sole basis that he was "Republican," this other random Scituate Republican has a large following of people who are voting for him just because they hate Mike Marcello. Wrong, if you ask me.

Exhibit C.

Speaking of Linc Chaffee. I hate to beat a dead horse, but this is just the perfect example of what I'm talking about. Two years ago Linc Chaffee's term in the Senate was up, over, done with! Yay elections. And, gaspers, Chaffee was running again, and actually opposed this year in the Republican primary by Steve Laffey, former mayor of Cranston. So the RI GOP had a choice to make. Who would they endorse to win the primary? Chaffee or Laffey? Linc Chaffee was more of a rino than an actual Republican, but he was also more likely to win against the Democrat opposition Sheldon Whitehouse (in theory.) Laffey held views more in like with the GOP and had a larger following of supporters than Chaffee, but the RI GOP decided to back Chaffee in the end, resulting in his victory in the primary over Laffey. But, naturally, Chaffee was beat soundly by Whitehouse. The RI GOP sacrificed the ideals of their party for strategy, and it resulted in a Democrat taking the seat in the Senate. Smart move.

In all my young, foolish, and idealistic musings, I find it hard to come to terms with the fact that politics is a game. That politicians are really strategists. That the issues take second burner to winning or losing. Government is not a game, it's life! It's society! And if people continue to treat it like a game, eventually the issues won't matter at all. Even know it seems as though they're just a tool for jockeying for power.

It reminds me of Mousetrap, actually.

What was the greatest compliment you ever received?

July 25th, 2006. Two o'clockish. The porch of the Ruby cabin at Camp Berea on Newfound Lake in Hebron, New Hampshire. I really have a horrid memory, but I remember this semi-clearly. Partly, I think, because it meant so much to me, and partly because it scarred me for life. The scarring part is me being bad at accepting compliments - simply smiling and saying "thanks" seems conceited, but not accepting the compliment is ungracious. Yay me for struggling with both.

"Hayley, you're one of the most spiritually mature girls in our program. We think God has big things in store for you."

That's what Mrs. Armstrong (no, we were supposed to call her Deb, but that was very foreign for me) said during our interview the second week of Leadership Development Camp. I kind of freaked out when she said that - I was a bit of an emotional wreck that week. I was worried about our friend Erin, it was just a month after Aaron had died so I was still sad for Kendra, I felt like a failure as a junior counselor, I had to be in three-places at once as soon as I was finished with the interview, I was frustrated my lack of character, and I was just overtired as we are at camp. Camp is awesome and stressful like that. But when Deb said that I felt all mixed up. Was I a poser? Was it wrong to be pleased and flattered that she said that? And was it wrong to compare myself to other girls there, whom I loved and respected? It was very confusing, I didn't know how to respond.

But it was incredibly encouraging. It was during those two weeks at LDC that I really learned that the Christian walk is supposed to be collaborative. I had never really talked about my walk with God to anyone else before that week. So how was I supposed to know if I was doing this right? All I knew was that I loved God and wanted to make Him happy, and when Deb and Carolyn affirmed me in that it was a release. I knew what I was supposed to do next was encourage others like they encouraged me.

What went wrong, hm? 2 John 1:8 - "Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully." Leadership Development Camp was a highlight of my life - I knew what was important and I didn't want anything else, I challenged myself, and I felt like I was where I was supposed to be in life. It's not that I wasn't occasionally sad, stressed, angry, or annoyed during those two weeks, because I was, but God gave me the grace to maintain the right perspective. And now I feel so distant from those times that I forget what they felt like. Apathy takes over too often, and each time it strikes it's a little harder to throw it off again. So I feel incredibly guilty every time I reminisce of those two weeks in LDC at Camp Berea, because I feel as though my spiritual life now is not comparable to how it was then, and because I feel guilty for comparing the two.

Interestingly enough, I felt the same way that one day of my interview with Deb and Carolyn - insufficient, fallen, mediocre. It's no good to stew over the failures, but rather I need to recognize it's not about me, but about my Savior and God.

Originally posted to Xanga on September 21, 2008

What was the greatest compliment you ever received?

July 25th, 2006. Two o'clockish. The porch of the Ruby cabin at Camp Berea on Newfound Lake in Hebron, New Hampshire. I really have a horrid memory, but I remember this semi-clearly. Partly, I think, because it meant so much to me, and partly because it scarred me for life. The scarring part is me being bad at accepting compliments - simply smiling and saying "thanks" seems conceited, but not accepting the compliment is ungracious. Yay me for struggling with both.

"Hayley, you're one of the most spiritually mature girls in our program. We think God has big things in store for you."

That's what Mrs. Armstrong (no, we were supposed to call her Deb, but that was very foreign for me) said during our interview the second week of Leadership Development Camp. I kind of freaked out when she said that - I was a bit of an emotional wreck that week. I was worried about our friend Erin, it was just a month after Aaron had died so I was still sad for Kendra, I felt like a failure as a junior counselor, I had to be in three-places at once as soon as I was finished with the interview, I was frustrated my lack of character, and I was just overtired as we are at camp. Camp is awesome and stressful like that. But when Deb said that I felt all mixed up. Was I a poser? Was it wrong to be pleased and flattered that she said that? And was it wrong to compare myself to other girls there, whom I loved and respected? It was very confusing, I didn't know how to respond.

But it was incredibly encouraging. It was during those two weeks at LDC that I really learned that the Christian walk is supposed to be collaborative. I had never really talked about my walk with God to anyone else before that week. So how was I supposed to know if I was doing this right? All I knew was that I loved God and wanted to make Him happy, and when Deb and Carolyn affirmed me in that it was a release. I knew what I was supposed to do next was encourage others like they encouraged me.

What went wrong, hm? 2 John 1:8 - "Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully." Leadership Development Camp was a highlight of my life - I knew what was important and I didn't want anything else, I challenged myself, and I felt like I was where I was supposed to be in life. It's not that I wasn't occasionally sad, stressed, angry, or annoyed during those two weeks, because I was, but God gave me the grace to maintain the right perspective. And now I feel so distant from those times that I forget what they felt like. Apathy takes over too often, and each time it strikes it's a little harder to throw it off again. So I feel incredibly guilty every time I reminisce of those two weeks in LDC at Camp Berea, because I feel as though my spiritual life now is not comparable to how it was then, and because I feel guilty for comparing the two.

Interestingly enough, I felt the same way that one day of my interview with Deb and Carolyn - insufficient, fallen, mediocre. It's no good to stew over the failures, but rather I need to recognize it's not about me, but about my Savior and God.

Originally posted to Xanga on September 21, 2008

Mixing religion and politics

Originally posted to Xanga on August 30, 2008

There are two things that can start a ruckus in any room, even one filled with the most docile people: Religion and politics. Put the two together and you've got an all out war on your hands, and nothing makes me more angry.

Well, actually, people not picking up after themselves makes me kind of angry, and while I doubt I'm a minority on this one, I also doubt you'll be as agreeable with the rest of what I am going to say.

There is a Christian publication where I live, a newspaper of sorts called The Good News Today. Their mission, according to their website is, "to provide a forum of communication services for local churches, ministries and the Body of Christ. We publish a monthly newspaper which offers news and information from an Evangelical perspective, currently unavailable through secular media. Our vision is to unite the body of Christ in order to spread the gospel, minister to the sick, poor and homeless in a statewide, organized and cooperative effort." I, for one, think their vision is admirable. However, I have some contention with some of the content of this publication. My dad picked up the September copy today to see the bold headline, "Vote Only for the Righteous." In fact, I am holding this paper in my hands right now, and I'm starting to get that tight feeling of aggravation in my chest.

This article annoys me for two reasons. 1) The author (and I'm a bit abashed to say this, because I do know the author personally) endorses his own campaign in the article, thus abusing and compromising his platform in the paper. Ethics 101 - in what world is it appropriate to use a non-partisan publication to promote your campaign? Whatever happened to objective journalism? Apparently it is not a concern of The Good News Today. I, however, have a serious problem with it. 2) He starts the article with the sentence, "Tis is a small history lesson for those of you who think 'Republican=Good, Democrat=Bad.'" And I'm tracking with him . . . until I read the rest of the article. Personally, I think parties are stupid, and a lame way to do politics. But at least I realize that just because you belong to Party X, it does not mean you are a Party X clone. Duh. The author, in attempt to prove this very point, argued against himself. He set out to argue against party stereotypes, but instead only made a case for redefining stereotypes. Such presumption is highly irritating.

But really, this article makes me angry for one big reason. If this publication's goal is "to unite the body of Christian in order to spread the gospel, minister to the sick, poor, and homeless" then why is your front page article one about politics? Not only does it have little to do directly with the goals of The Good News Today, but also the case could be made that such an article works against these goals, causing division between readers. Nothing divides a room full of people quicker than a discussion on politics. Mix religion and politics at your own risk. You have been warned.

This issue, actually, has been something I've struggled with since my very first day at TeenPact, maybe even before then, since I was the kid raised on local talk radio by the politically "interested" father. How can I, as a Christian, also be involved in politics. I love politics. But I hate politics. I hate it when people blindly tout their candidate without really knowing what that person stands for. I hate that people don't see the beauty of the free market. I hate that so often Christians are stupid when it comes to politics, and often hypocritical. So it makes it hard for me to reconcile the two things I love the most - my spiritual family and my political country.

So right now I prefer that the two don't mix.

On thinking.

Originally posted to Xanga on June 17, 2008

"Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered." C.S. Lewis

This past week I spent some time challenging myself with tough questions such as . . . why do we value tradition, can we know anything if it is not revealed to us by God, what's the difference between romantic love and comrade love, and how did Ryan Seacrest become famous? I discussed these questions with respected peers and adults, and now I've continued to do some thinking about my questions by myself.

It's really hard.

I'm not kidding. I have gotten such headaches and once in a while I wonder if the confusion is worth it. I went to go answer a tough and thoughtful question posted by a friend and thought to myself, "Whoa, that's too much to thing about. I'll hold off answering that one." But that's just the thing - often times we don't want to challenge ourselves to think deeper. It's hard! But the benefits I have reaped are 100% worth it. Our brains are muscles - the more we use them to ponder, the easier pondering becomes.

It's so hard, but try it, it's really awesome.

I hate poverty

Originally posted to Xanga on April 29, 2008

I love ice cream. I love free stuff. Put it together and today was heaven for me - Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day. 30th anniversary, yo. We stood in line for half an hour, but it was worth it. Free Cone Day was in association with some teen organization that didn't do much of anything, but there was also advertising for 'One.' An organization to fight poverty. And fittingly, I had been thinking about poverty today.

We went to get gas for our car today and the prices were insane. And so my mom gave us a talk that basically said: recession's basically here, prices go up, income stays the same, which means our lifestyle must adjust. Neither my mom nor my dad were part of privileged families growing up. I mean, the 70's were obviously hard for everyone. Our family now, though, has been ridiculously blessed. But with the recession, a comfortable lifestyle is going to change for a lot of families . . . so what is that going to mean for the people who were barely getting by before?

Jesus said that the poor will always be among us. Poverty has been no stranger to history. The UN defines poverty as living on or less than about a dollar a day, and estimates that nearly half of the global population (3 billion people) fits this criterion. The US is about 5% of the global population. The US holds about 24% of the globe's wealth. About 1 in 5 children in the US live in poverty. It has been said that 760,000 people are homeless on any given night in the United States.

But thinking about this is gut-wrenching. I hate it, I really hate it. I hate thinking about it. There are few things that drive my heart to such violent emotion as when I think of poverty. That's partly why I chose The Glass Castle as my dramatic interp because when I read it I was affected, even if I did a lousy job of interping it. (Read it, by the way.) My parents tell me stories of when they were kids, and it makes me sick. When I visited DC, Lee, Baddeck, and drove through various places, I cried inside for these homeless people and these struggling to make ends meet. I wrote about how horrible it all was, but put it aside because I didn't want to reread what I had written.

But as much as it pains me to think about poverty or to see it in front of me, I can't just force it out of my mind. How selfish, to simply cope with being uncomfortable with reality. How selfish, to not suffer inside with those who physically suffer. How selfish, to pretend that things are something they're not. But I'm just a person, just an apathetic teenaged girl, with no real knowledge of poverty, with no real experience with poverty, and with just a general queasy conviction that maybe I should do something about it. I have zero qualifications to share my heart on poverty because there is so little I really know.

I volunteer once in a while at local missions. I love I pray often for people I know personally who have financial troubles. And yet it seems like I could do bigger things, and yet I'm not. But I'm going to San Francisco this June with Ignite (my youth group) through Youth With A Mission (YWAM.) I really have no idea what I've signed up for. But I'm hoping I'll be given an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus? And maybe God will use what I see there to turn me into something He can use to actually serve, rather than just pity, the poor.

What's your favorite movie?

Originally posted to Xanga on March 3, 2008

I love watching movies. It is my all-time favorite way to spend time. So picking just one is kind of hard. But my current favorite is Catch Me if You Can, yeah, with Leonardo diCaprio, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielburg. Why? Because it's inspirational. It was funny, because I saw it the week before my 16th birthday. And in the movie you have this kid, just turned 16, his life is falling apart, so he runs out of there and becomes a pilot. Then a doctor. Then a lawyer. He travels the world, and granted, he rips off a lot of people, but he had the ambition to achieve amazingly high heights. All starting shortly after his 16th birthday. When I first saw it I was really worried about where my life was headed and whether or not I had the capacity to aim high, and watching this movie gave me the encouragement to do big things in the here and now. I don't have to wait to grow up to make an impact. God can use me here and now.

I have seen a lot of really excellent movies in my short life, and dozens of wonderful movies come to mind, but only a few that have been real, long-standing favorites. So, runners up were:

Beauty and the Beast: long time favorite movie. It's witty, colorful, clean, and the themes are so positive and uplifting. Sacrifice, intelligence, love. I love the story, and I love the characters, and I love the songs.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: You cannot beat the silliness of this movie. I'm a big geek about the importance of history, so I like that aspect of the movie, but mostly it's just quotable fun on film. And you gotta love Keanu Reeves.

The Princess Bride: It's a family classic. I was raised on this film, I was saying "Have fun storming the castle" before I ever even saw the movie, and it's lovable on every facet. You've got romance, comedy, action, drama, and fantasy, all thrown together. The book is even better.

I have a lot of other favorite movies, certainly not limited to, but encompassed by the following:
The Prestige, Awakenings, A Beautiful Mind, Master & Commander, 3:10 to Yuma, Little Women, Batman Begins, Newsies, Pocahantas, Empire of the Sun, The Court Jester, Anne of Green Gables, Pride & Prejudice, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, White Nights, Timeline, Robin Hood, Back to the Future, Anastasia, Pirates of the Caribbean, Much Ado About Nothing, The Princess Bride, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, On the Line, The Last Samurai, The Importance of Being Earnest, Ocean's 11, Ocean's 12, Ocean's 13, Dead Poets Society, Day After Tomorrow, Maverick.

Driving - a lot harder than I thought

Originally posted to Xanga on February 17, 2008

I finished the torturous 33 hours of driver's education at the end of January, and I have 1/3 of a driver's license: a permit. Wewt for graduated licensing! So my dad took me for my first driving lesson . . . in the snow. We practiced turning and stuff in a tiny parking lot. It wasn't really real driving. Then, a week later, my dad took me for a second lesson, and we went on an actual road. I was driving for four minutes on RT 116 and when I went to make the turn onto RT 12 (did I mention I had a huge black pickup truck on my bumper? RI drivers get mad when people drive the speed limit.) I almost crashed into the guard rail.

Then, that night, I went with my mom to Whole Foods. (I bought this $20 moisturizer there that doesn't even work! But aside from that, I really love Whole Foods. Except their chips. Nasty.) We finish shopping and go out to the car, and she gets in the passenger side. And she wouldn't get out! I was really almost angry that she would even suggest I drive home all the way from Whole Foods when I'd had so little instruction actually behind the wheel. Never mind that I had almost crashed earlier that day. So she drove home. Except she stopped on RT 12 and insisted I drive home from there. "It's a straight line from here," she said. "C'mon, you can do that."

Apparently they don't understand. My parents don't seem to get that I have never driven before. I have had no instruction behind the wheel. And what comes as second nature to them is completely foreign and scary to me. It doesn't help that I have an aunt that won't drive. Part of me is paranoid of ending up like her, and part of me feels like this fear of driving is already inherent in my DNA. I don't trust myself behind the wheel, and I don't know what to do to remedy this.

Learning to drive simply isn't practical. Lame.

The Beijing Olympics

Originally posted to Xanga on January 25, 2008

So the 2008 Summer Olympics is this August. Are you excited? You know, I vaguely remember reading an article two years ago, shortly before the Winter Olympics, about how the television rating for the Olympics were going down, down, down. And I thought to myself, that's lame. I love the Olympics! I've looked forward to them since I was old enough to know about them. The Olympics have been like vacation for us - I remember being allowed to take time out of school to watch the Olympics, time to stay up late to watch the Olympics, time to discuss the Olympics fervently with my sisters and friends. So yeah, I'm excited!

Or, I was excited. I've never been a huge fan of China, mostly because it get such negative press from the media, but you can't deny that China isn't exactly "the model nation." In regards to the Beijing Olympics, I was optimistic, though. China has such extremely rich heritage; I knew it would be interesting. I was so excited, in fact, that I decided to write about the 2008 Beijing Olympics for my composition class. And naturally the first place I turned to for research was CNN. Yeah, I know. And what the search engine produces is an article about the people who have been displaced from their homes to make room for the Olympics Village.

Hold the phone? I was stunned. The pieces of the puzzle fell together for me. I was vaguely aware of what was going on with China politically - their involvement in Mayanmar and Darfur, as well as human rights' and workers' conditions. But the news this article informed me of was unpalatable. I did a little more research, and the more I learned, the more disenchanted I became with the Beijing Olympics.

Many argue that an Olympics in Beijing would further open up the nation to democratic ideals. Yeah, just like free trade advocates argue that free trade would open China up to democratic ideals. See how that's going?

Think back to the last time a communist nation hosted the Olympics. Yeah, USSR. They were determined to prove themselves through the competition, and would stop at nothing to do so. The Games were a sham! There was blatant rule breaking by the USSR, and it was a Games that left a bad taste in everyone's mouths. And the time before that? Yeah, Germany. Commonly called Hitler's Olypmics. Also a regime trying to prove itself, only this time through racial slurs. There were no Jews on Germany's team. This Games, too, was a disaster. And people expect the Beijing Olympics to be different?

I know better than most that the spirit of the Olympics is friendly competition between nations, a way to bring countries together. And I want to believe that spirit will be preserved in the Beijing Olympics, but history tells us otherwise. Besides, why would the United States want to be a part of a Games that is so marked by blatant barreling over the rights of life and property? I wish with all my heart that the United States would boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but there's no hope left for that.

Enjoy the Games!

If you had to name the one thing that most frightens you about growing old, what would it be?

I could not pick any one thing! I must confess, I have a secret phobia of growing old. Losing my memory, my body wearing out, being treated differently because of my age, and having that different treatment be somewhat warranted. I hate the thought of losing my independence and leaving my well-being and quality of life in the hands of a person who may or may not care what happens to me. It's degrading and scary. I've seen too many elderly people be mistreated or neglected, and it fills me with dread knowing one day, I'll be in their shoes.

This speaks volumes to me about my treatment of old people. My grandpa is in an assisted living place, and I'm so haughty, I never eat the food there when we go to visit him. I open all the doors with my sleeves and I never touch the remote or banisters. I act like older people have germs or something! But it bothers me to see people who were once vibrantly living decompose before my eyes. Joints enflame, eyes strain, skin gets dried out, bones get brittle, hair thins, brain slows, and so many awful sicknesses tear these people apart. The vulnerability that the elderly must embrace after they acted as caretakers for everyone else. Then they are considered worn out and obsolete, having outlived their usefulness to society. It's enraging!

So I sit here at my computer raging, and fearing, because I know that eventually that will be me. And no matter people speak out about treating the elderly with respect, and no matter how much they live that out as an example to the rest of us, this does not change the general perception of old people. But what can I do? I run errands for the elderly I know, or see about, but I treat them with dignity, or at least I try. I'm still a full-of-it teenager so I struggle with treating many people with dignity, but I'm working on it. ; )

But is my fear totally unfounded? And what can I do to help change this degrading perception of the oldest generation?

Originally posted to Xanga on January 1, 2008
Originally posted to Xanga on December 28, 2007

This topic has been weighing on my mind for a little over a year, probably longer. Hence, I've got a lot to say on this subject. This is probably going to be a long, wordy post. Prepare accordingly. What got me in this mindset was:

• Reading Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. This is an excellent book, very well written, and classic American 20th century literature. You're probably familiar with it, but if you're not, I highly suggest you go out and read it. It operates on the premise of surviving after a nuclear holocaust, but if you're not into that stuff, don't worry; it's not really about that. This book is filled with deux de machina, naturally, because these people have to build up a civilization that's been destroyed. The major theme is how the actions of one person can change the streams of civilization, from the one fighter pilot who caused the nuclear holocaust, to the one man who provided leadership to a town that was killing itself from its panic. Very interesting.

• Watching The Day After Tomorrow. (I just rewatched this recently and it almost prompted an entry on global warming, but my browser shut down and everything I had written was lost. I was too lazy to rewrite.) I love this movie, in spite of the lack of realism, propaganda, and how depressing it is . . . I mean, it has Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal in it! Who can pass that up?! But again, it tells the story of a civilization wiped out due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, giving global tragedy a face. It helps us to imagine what a wiped out world would look like, and piques our imagination of how people would react and what would happen to civilization as a whole. Also, I Am Legend. These movies on the end of civilization are plentiful. The Day After Tomorrow just happens to be my favorite.

• Attending an economic lecture. The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) helped to shed some light on the current economic condition of the United States. First, I learned that we don't need to worry about the trade deficit, or illegal immigrants sending the money they're earning here to Mexico! What a load off my mind. But I also got some perspective on the dire situation our economy really is in, mostly due to government meddling, IMHO. The value of the dollar is dropping, but the Federal Reserve just keeps printing more money. People are not spending or investing money wisely. Banks are handing out loans like candy and the housing market is in shambles. And our stock market . . . ! Obviously, I'm no economic expert, and I have only a rudimentary understanding of economics, but anyone can see the US economy is headed in the wrong direction. And when the economy collapses, the civilization must start over.

• Hearing the news of Bhutto's assassination. I got the news from the radio and my CNN homepage simultaneously yesterday morning. My mom was stunned. I mean, yes, everyone saw it coming, but that didn't make it any less tragic or shocking. So now what? The most dangerous nation in the world (a nuclear nation, you will remember) has launched into turmoil and chaos that is incredible, even for them. The US has also lost a key ally against terrorism and al Qaeda is stronger than ever. It seems like this puts everyone involved between a rock and a hard space. (And it's killing me how people are connecting this to the issue of democracy, and the spread thereof. Please, people! Democracy is a system, not a good in and of itself! Respect the dead and stop bringing this back to our foreign policy! But that's another entry for another time.)

So between the threat of nuclear weapons, natural disasters, terrorism, economic collapse, super viruses, or whatever, the ending of US civilization as we know has been on my mind. What would I do? How would I react? How could I contribute? My parents were discussing our distant relatives in the South somewhere and mentioned trade school, and this was me: "I wanna go to vocational school!" My parents were both irked that I had been listening to their conversation and confused by my sudden interest in trade school. I've always been the scholarly type. But I explained that I wanted practical, useful life skills in preparation for the end of our civilization. They gave me a strange look. And you're definitely thinking I'm a nut-case, if you've stuck with me this long. But I know that all of this stems from my two desires: to be prepared, and to be useful. To have no regrets and to be good for something. I'm not a fanatic, or a conspiracy theorist, I just want to be prepared for and part of something bigger. The end of the world is your chance to make a difference. No longer can you leave it to the politicians, teachers, or parents. We must all lead, and best to start learning it now.

"The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide. Mount St. Edelite. Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs. Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You symbiotic, patriotic, slam, but neck, right? Right." (REM)

Trials of a homeschooler

Originally posted to Xanga on December 10, 2007

I finally feel like I have missed something!! No, wait, let me explain.

I am home-schooled. For me this entails the following routine: I wake up, I shower, I practice the piano, I check Facebook (on which most of my friends are home-schooled), I do some school, I go to the library where I do more school or read lame novels, I go back home and do more school, I check Facebook, I go to shooting club, I come home and watch a movie with my sister. Once a week I go to "school" or classes with other homeschoolers, once a week I go to church and youth group, and once a week I go places like the library, shooting club, and shopping. This is my life, m'kay. (Don't mourn for me; it's great.)

I really love it. I do school on my own terms, when I want to, spending as much time as I need on subjects I don't understand, and I get to highlight the subjects I like. (I like to think my education in English is far superior to that of one's average public high schooler.) I have the most awesome friends in the world, between forensics competition, the kids I've grown up with, they're all the sweetest people. I have a wonderful life, and I hear nothing but horrors about public education. Even pragmatically, it seems to be a less-than-effective way to educate kids. But I have finally found something I miss about not going to school.

There are so many different people out there! So far, I've only ever met people who are more or less like me. I've never had a job, I live in a pretty average town, I've never been exposed to much diversity. And I'm not talking liberal dead-horse diversity, either. I mean diversity of interests and personalities, ways of life. People are so different! And I want to get to know them all - the liberals and the conservatives, the goths and the punks, the musicians and the mathematicians, the ambitious and the shy . . . I want to know what they like, why they like it, and I want to learn from them. And I can't do that stuck in my house, now can I?

Should I go to school? What do you think about public education? What do you think about home-schooling? Is my view of people's diversity a little too rosy?

Speaking in public

Originally posted to Xanga on December 5, 2007

I do public speaking competitively, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I mean, I love it, or rather, I love the concept, and I love the power that comes with being able to speak eloquently and persuasively. But at the same time, it freaks me out. Why the heck does public speaking freak us out so much?

I must have given far over fifty speeches thus far, but I still get nervous butterflies whenever I get up in front of a crowd. You think to yourself, "Gosh, they're all looking at me, expecting me to say something brilliant. Either that, or they're waiting to throw tomatoes at me." There's pressure in that, undue pressure just from caring about how your audience is going to react.

I've come to realize that you can't reach them all. Yeah, some people will think your speech was stupid, they'll call you out on the things you said, and if you let it bother you you stunt your potential to be an amazing public speaker. That's the attitude I've adopted -- I will speak my heart to these people, and if they listen, wonderful. If they hate me, or worse, if they don't listen, oh well.

I like attention, therefore, I like to have the platform. But with the power of the podium comes the responsibility to make it worth while. There's nothing worse than listening to someone talk because they like the sound of their voice. If you have a purpose and you have a message, there's no need to fear speaking in front of anyone. But it takes practice for said theory to prove itself true for you.

Being poor IS all it's cracked up to be?

Originally posted to Xanga on November 28, 2007

Looking at his disciples, [Jesus] said:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:20)

For all my extensive Sunday schooling, and lesson after lesson on important Bible stories, apparently I had missed The Beatitudes, until last Sunday. Our youth minister was going on about something or other, but he mentioned in passing the specific blessings God has set aside for certain kinds of people. It was such a novel idea for me, almost akin to the concept of natural rights. God has special blessings for special groups of people. Blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, et cetera. And one such blessing is on the poor.

We have a long commute up to classes we take in Massachusetts, and we like to redeem the time by listening to audiobooks or lectures, et cetera. This week we were in a rush, so I grabbed 'Your Story Hour: George Muller' for us to listen to. (Sadly, I think I will never get Jeremy Wolf's lecture series done.) If you're not familiar with the story of George Muller (trust me, you're not. I've heard his name a dozen times, and never cared who he was. Why should you?) he was a German who served the orphans in London. But get this -- he had no source of income, and never asked for money. He lived day by day on the brink of poverty and, by faith, trusted God to bring him money and food when he needed it.

It's a combination of these two thoughts that has made me want to be poor. I know, I must not have had my Wheaties this morning. The thought of [other people's] poverty has always wrenched my heart strings, but after thinking about this more, I really feel more optimistic about global poverty. (Not that I know what it's like to be poor. I mean, money's always been a bit tight in our house, but even the poorest American is wealthy compared to victims of the caste system in India or those displaced in Beijing.) Why did I ever think it was hopeless? Why did I think the words 'wretched' and 'poor' in the same sentence? I was discriminating against the poor without even realizing it. And yet Jesus has called them blessed!

There's one aspect of Christmas that makes me sick deep in my stomach. And it's not the commercialism. Santa, Rudolph, and the Keebler elves are a little annoying, yes, but I'm not going to go troll on everyone and rant about the true meaning of Christmas. Linus' quiet message does that nicely. No, rather it's the concept of gifts that makes me sad. People mean well, and it's a nice gesture, but everyone already has so much stuff. I got a Macbook for my birthday, and I love it -- it's amazing. But now I need more stuff. I need a protective case, I need an iSkin keyboard protector, I need iKlean cleaning solution. Sooner or later we're all going to drown in our massive amount of stuff! And no matter how much we tell ourselves we need our stuff (and we very well might 'need' it), the poor are blessed!

Soup: Food of the Soul

Originally posted to Xanga on November 7, 2007

Soup is amazing.

You know what book I'm reading? Tales of Despereaux. If you get the chance, you should read it. Our family listened to it as a book-on-tape the redeem the lengthy amount of time we spend on the road. It was a cute, well-written story, soppy but insightful, ridiculous but carrying much gravity. . . On second thought, I doubt you would like the book very much, so if you have a chance you should listen to the book on tape, preferably with people of all different ages, and you'll enjoy it much more than reading it straight.

One "motif" or symbol of this book is soup. Soup is a key plot point on at least three occasions, and soup ends the novel. I've always loved soup, but never as much as after I heard this story of Despereaux. After finishing this book, our mom made soup every day for lunch for a week or so. And I'm still craving soup.

My mom makes an awesome spinach soup with heavy cream, as well as delicious escarole soup. Her chili and chicken soups are lovely too. And after Easter or other special occasions, she makes lentil soup with the leftover ham and it is positively divine. We went to the Macaroni Grill on my birthday, and my mom ordered Chicken Tuscana soup, and of course I had to have a bite. I swear that it was the best soup I have ever eaten. I ordered a bowl for myself. Living in New England, and the Ocean State at that, we have the best chowder around here. I like the white chowder the best, but it's all delicious. Soup, all kinds of soup, just make me happy.

And nothing is better with soup than bread and cheese. And why not mix them together for the casual soup? Yes, grilled cheese is my second most favorite food.

But I'm not too good at making soup myself. Actually, I've never really tried, but I can assure you that my domestic abilities in the kitchen are, well, lacking. I always manage to misunderstand or misread the recipe. So, give me what you've got. Yes, I would like to hear how to make soup. If you post your instructions, recipes, and tips, I will use them. Teach me how to make soup.

And, share your soup experiences -- good soup, bad soup, what you love about soup! We're having a soup fest up in here.

Would you become an organ donor?

Yes, yes, yes. In fact, I am one. But let me elaborate.

Last spring: after a local forensics tournament, a friend of my mom's (actual a coach for one of the few debate clubs in RI) gave her some information on a mini speech competition hosted by the Warwick Rotary club. My mom was kinda "meh" about it, and while I thought it was interesting, I wasn't too compelled to do this competition to the death. In fact, I don't know how I ended as one of the nine competitors, but somehow bah-dah-bing, bah-dah-boo I found myself preparing to compete in the Rotary Four-Way Test Speak-Off. For my speech I chose the topic of organ donation. (If you want to see my performance, comment or something, but I warn you that it was kind of pathetic.) I thought that was the end of my organ donation soapbox. However . . .

Two months ago I received a call from the only Rotary member who had my contact information. He asked on behalf of the former district governor if I would be interesting in giving my speech at some sort of Rotary meeting in Mystic. To be honest, nothing in me wanted to go. Especially when he mentioned that there'd be over 300 people there AND I'd be sharing the stage with two other participants in the Rotary Speak-Off. But, my mom, being my mom and being dedicated to my success, insisted that I go. It was absolutely amazing. I gave the speech flawlessly, and the response of the audience was overwhelming. Afterwards, the stories I heard and the encouraging words made up for all my misgivings. It was a thrilling and fulfilling experience, knowing that my simple seven minute speech reminded Rotarians of the importance of organ donation.

Organ donation is so important to me because it is one of the rawest, most basic ways one human being can help and serve another. It blows my mind. When given the chance and the choice to help someone else, who would pass that up? Organ donation is self-less, and a tangible way to reach out to someone else. That is so special! Also, I love the thought that while death is so painful, through organ donation life came give given and restored even in the midst of something so terrible as death. Even in the pain and grieving of losing a loved one there is hope that some good can come from this terrible tragedy. This is why I am passionate about organ donation.

Originally posted to Xanga on November 4, 2007

We Are Red Sox Nation

Originally posted to Xanga on October 1, 2007

I live in Rhode Island. I was thirteen years old when the Curse of the Bambino was broken. I can name a dozen players from the 2004 Red Sox team, and I have no idea who the Red Sox won against (the Angels?). I always thought baseball was stupid because it was a bunch of fat guys running around in a circle after hitting a small, fast, hard ball with a thin, wooden stick. (Honestly, take a step back and think about baseball as a game. Can you honestly tell me that that doesn't sound ridiculous?) But I was part of Red Sox Nation.

Fast-forward three years to June of this past year: I'm sitting in my grandpa's apartment at the assisted living place, zoning out as my parents watch "the game." Whatever, I want to leave, cos I have homework to do! I make my dad promise to leave after the fourth inning, and because there's nothing else to do, I find myself getting sucked into this baseball game. My dad loves the Red Sox, and my mom loves my dad, and my sister gets excited about these things, and between the three of them, there's a lot of team spirit in our house. That had never really been my thing, but I think it's safe to say that's changed. Between NESN playing 24/7 in our home or discussions on trades and rosters at the dinner table, I have been sucked into the American obsession that is baseball. For this season, at least. ; )

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We are Red Sox Nation: As arrogant as it may sound, it has been my experience (and thus I truly believe) that Red Sox fans are the best fans in baseball. We are crazy and loud and sometimes obnoxious, but we live baseball. We're dedicated to our team. Tickets at Fenway sell almost as fast as tickets to a Red Sox v. Yankees game. And both sell way faster than tickets to a Hannah Montana concert. (*rolls eyes*) It gets me feeling all soppy, that by following baseball and rooting my team, I'm part of something bigger. Red Sox Nation is like a sports cult and some sort of strange cultural tradition!

And while when the Red Sox of 2004 broke the curse I hardly knew my team, for 2007 I have been all Red Sox all the time. (Seriously, listening to NESN can do that to you.) My iPhoto library is filled with pictures from the season, my favorite videos on You Tube are all of Papelbon dancing, and I have mentioned "them Sox" in every conversation I've carried since the playoffs started. Perhaps I'm experiencing some Red Sox-mania, but when you're part of Red Sox Nation, this kind of obsession is completely normal. Yes, the irony.

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The Red Sox have won the World Series, baby!! The parade was today, and it was Free Taco Day thanks to ah-mazing Ellsbury who is nasty fast. There's talk of trading and deals, but A-Rod better stay out of Boston. Schilling's getting old, but he was ours. Jon Lester and Mike Lowell have beaten cancer. Matsuzaka and Okajima have represented Japan. Manny and Papelbon have made us laugh. Gagne has made us groan. Buchholz and Pedroia have broken into rookie fame. J.D. Drew has proven himself in the post-season after a disappointing year!!

So baseball season is over and life goes back to normal and it was fun to let loose, be loud, and root for the home team.

Do you think a person can develop close relationships through the Internet?

Originally posted to Xanga on October 1, 2007

I am definitely a nerd. I meet all the qualifications -- I wear glasses, I'm not athletic, I don't like being out in the sun (sunburn, freckles, hurts my eyes, makes me sneeze), I spend way too much time on the computer, I cry over "B"s ("why did I get a 93?! My life as I know it is ending!"), and I live on forums and weblogs. Sad, my friend, sad. But what I've learned, more importantly, is the social outlet provided by the internet. My parents don't understand this, and believe all the best conversations occur face-to-face. But I've learned from experience.

I was like, twelve, and I joined some forum for my favorite music group (ZOEgirl! Show a little love! See, nerd.) I got to talk to the coolest people! In fact, I made some friends that I still talk to every once in a while. And the forum has been shut down for +3 years now. Then I was 14-ish and I joined another forum for a homeschool debate league (I debate - I'm a nerd!) and I happened to meet someone who lived in my area, but whom I didn't know in person. We had some great conversations and (granted, we see each other in person sometimes) I consider him a friend. Last year I joined a forum for my NCFCA region that I help run. When I joined the forum I didn't know a single person, but now I'm so tight with the coolest people, simply because I've had the opportunity to talk to them on a daily basis on this forum. It's remarkable to me!

Then there's Facebook. (And even Xanga, to an extent.) These networking websites that I use daily . . . I have gotten so close to people via the internet. Seems to defy reason. There is something about daily reaching out to people, conversing, getting to know them -- it's something easily done over the internet when the laws of reality constrain against meeting face-to-face. In fact, I think I'm tighter with people I've become friends with via the Internet than in person. I think this is because I personally express myself better through the written word. In person I come across as aloof, conceited, and disinterested, even though these are definitely NOT the attitudes of my heart. It's also easier to be "real" with someone when you're separated by wi-fi and gigabytes. You're less vunerable, so you're more likely to let down your guard. And in my opinion, that is the foundation of a good relationship.

A person can definitely develop a close relationship through the Internet, in my limited experience. :D

The world is our oyster

Originally posted to Xanga on September 26, 2007

On Tuesday, my friend mentioned a career assessment test she had taken and alluded to the results.


This year started out as my junior year. Luckily, I've convinced my mom that it's in my best interest to take a fifth year of high school. But that doesn't dam the flurry of thought in regards to what they call my "future." Where am I going academically? How is that going to translate into a career? What am I going to call my life's work? I have to think about credits, courses, colleges, scholarships, extra-curriculars, transcripts, awards, resumes, PSATs, SATs, SATIIs, SAT subject tests, ACTs, CLEPs, APs, [insert forgotten test name here's], and anything else that minutely pertains to my 'education.' It's ridiculous. I am fully buried under an avalanche of information, tips & tricks, plans, strategies, and knowledge.

I needed a breather. Something to make this process simpler. And I'm talking beyond these Your-Awesome-And-Easy-Guide-To-College. I thought I needed a career assessment test, but better than that, I needed one of those free thingies all over the internet. So I picked a MAPP assessment test and took it a couple of hours ago. I was floored by the results. Obviously, it was one of those buy-me-and-I'll-give-you-the-COMPLETE-results, so my results weren't exactly comprehensive (top ten careers? dashed out. But I got to see 11-20.) but the results clearly articulated all that I hadn't been able to say about myself.

It was weird that I needed a stupid, free, online career assessment test to affirm for me what I'm like. But I'm so young (not even sweet sixteen yet) and I can do anything. (Well, except math. But I can do anything else.) I'm bright, and I'm skilled, and I'm special. Even though I'm not. What does the Bible say? We are a royal priesthood, we are children of the King. Why did I need a free online career assessment test to tell me God has gifted me? I may have no idea how to use this anomaly-ridden personality, but apparently God does. Should I worry? Do I have to? Is the Pope Catholic? It's a novel feeling to have the world open to me. Now God has to show me my place in it.

Zach Hunter is dreamy

Originally posted to Xanga on August 20, 2007

It is simply amazing how God gives certain people the talents and abilities to share their message, and then uses them to inspire the rest of us. In this moment there is nothing more remarkable to me. So I'm reading Be the Change, written by a fifteen year-old modern-day abolitionist. I've sort of just finished the chapter on inspiration, so fitting that it would be the first chapter, because Zach Hunter himself is quite the inspiration. I'm fifteen years old. I'm his age. And look what he's done, how God has used him. Inspirational? Heck yes! I will most definitely blog more about this book and what God's teaching me through it as I get further in.

But I'm back! From Canada. A.k.a. The Land of Great Scenery and Not Much Else. It was relaxing, but it's good to be home. I've got so much to do though. I really should be getting that stuff done instead of blogging. I need to finish painting our room. (Oh yess! Perhaps I'll post pictures when it's done.) And I need to prep for debate camp. (Ah. Ha. This is so sober a subject I don't think I can bear to dwell on it further.) And I need to get ready for the school year! Wewt! (The further I get into high school, the less capable I think I am of graduating. *rolls eyes*) I also have commitments with GenJ and our youth group, as well as speech stuff to get done. I'm not stressed though. It's still summer and I have few immediate deadlines. Gotta love summer.