Friday, May 29, 2009

"Don't mind her, easily excited, you know."

Searching the word "closer" in my iTunes library revealed the following playlist of win. And by win I mean the complete and magical fusion of bomb melodies, brilliant lyrics, and varied musical styles, demonstrating the awesome that is musical synthesis.

Closer to Love - Mat Kearny
"We're all one phone call from our knees."

Closer - Jars of Clay
"I don't understand why we can't get close enough."

One Step Closer - U2
"A heart that hurts is a heart that beats."

Closer to Fine - Indigo Girls
"The best thing you've ever done for me is to help me take my life less seriously."

Closer to You - The Wallflowers
"You know there's nowhere else I've wanted to be than be there when you need me."

Because I'm kind of fail at making my own playlists (the exception to this being my "Loud & Proud" playlist, which is made epic by the presence of Beck, Muse, Donna Summer, and KJ-52) it was a revelation, being able to search one word and be presented with a varied playlist of awesome. I got kind of excited. The end.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Little splinters and taut strings. Pressure and queasiness. Heightened by night. Or just by darkness? Not panic or fear or stress. Subtle & mellow assurance that all is not as it ought to be. Starting with you. (Or me, depending on one's view of things.)

Eternal pessimism is ultimately less soul-crushing than realism. Don't play the martyr. The twinges are worth it. It'll feel better in the morning, I promise. (Or you'll feel at all, whichever is more comforting.) Dull and hollow and spent. Too far from the source.

For every thirst and every need. For peace that passes understanding. For a love that will not let me go. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. I forget sometimes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"I was not 'freaking out'"

My dad is pretty cool. As I start on my "what I love about my dad" rant, one thing that would be good to note here is my dad's passion for accuracy. Oh, if some paid me every time he corrected my grammar -- "Shooting went good." "Well, you mean well." "Yeah, well." "Yes, you mean yes." "Yes, sorry Dad, I forget." "No, you don't remember." And so on and so forth. I am not a fan of semantics, and I tend to play loose with facts for dramatic effect, and I misquote people frequently. This is the antithesis of my dad. He's a lover of truth like that. So of course, I am bound to mess up somewhere here factually, and I am going to incriminate him horribly from here on out. Sorry Dad.

I got an email from my dad today, and this is awesome for two reasons: First of all, my dad reads the Wall Street Journal daily, and wants me to be smart, and so he emails or circles for me articles that are especially informative or ones he thinks will interest me. It makes me happy that he wants to share things with me, and that he wants me to be smart. And secondly, the subject line of the email said "how many more children must die before we really take this problem seriously?" The article he sent me was titled, "Malaria, Politics, and DDT." My dad is an insanely busy individual, almost as busy as my mom, and yet he still cares about the big picture. He has compassion for the hurting, and wants to instill that same compassion in his kids. 

And my dad really loves people, family especially. Yesterday he drove six hours to Vermont and six hours back to take my grandpa to my great uncle Harry's funeral. A few weeks ago he had me wrap a wedding present for a lady he works with. He never goes anywhere without bumping into people he knows. My dad is a networker and an evangelizer. He used to do prison ministry. He is still close friends with his roommates from college, and goes out of his way to stay in touch with them. My dad Facebook stalks people. My mom says he tracked down his family in Vermont of his own initiative, reconnected with them, and has maintained the relationships to date. Even right now, he's conversing with a couple in our dining room while fielding calls from church, because he's people oriented. Because of my dad, I know some of the coolest people, because he knew them first.

I also think my dad is one of the smartest people I know. He has an incredible memory - not only does he remember all these people who have come in and out of his life, but he can recall each of their phone numbers, occasionally even their addresses. He is vastly well read (he is subscribed to The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The Smithsonian, and reads The Drudge Report every night), a fan of biographies and history, and definitely opinionated as a result. He has a ridiculous vocabulary, is a grammar fiend, and is an adept writer. I think he could make a living as a writer, if only in the retelling of the crazy stories of things he's done. (Something about hitch-hiking to Jefferson City, or almost setting the house on fire with a chemistry set?) My dad is my most valuable debate resource, and has taught me or pushed me to learn some of the most necessary things I've ever benefited from. 

One of the most striking things about my dad, though, is that he is a servant. He hates the phone, but he has never failed to make a phone call for my mom or me. He hates the snow, and yet every winter he shovels without complaining. He takes care of my grandpa almost single-handedly. He's always making dinner for us, or washing the dishes for me, or doing the laundry for Sarah, or taking out the garbage for Caleb, or running errands for my mom . . . without being asked and without seeking thanks and without taking credit. He's an elder, a piano player, and a prayer team leader at our church, and he is the sole member of the ministry that puts verses and things on the sign by the side of the road near our church. My dad works so hard at his job, picking up overtime whenever he can, to provide for our family. When there's a song I like on the radio, he turns it up. When there's a movie Mom wants to see, he goes with her. When Caleb and Maggie want to play video games with him, he obliges. He feeds the cat when Sarah forgets. He always puts our desires over his own.

My dad likes real butter, not the plastic margarine stuff. My dad wears shorts in the dead of winter. My dad is a sick piano player. My dad loves Ronald Reagan and C.S. Lewis. My dad does snowball fights with us in the winter and water gun fights with us in the summer. My dad turned our family to Macs. My dad is a sharp dresser. My dad claims to understand feng shui. My dad has shown me some of my favorite movies. My dad makes the best chocolate sauce and Belgian waffles. My dad lets me wear his old sweatshirts. My dad has breadth and depth of taste in music, and shares it with me. My dad loves ice cream. My dad owns a ridiculous amount of books. My dad loves the Red Sox. My dad is easy to laugh. My dad does insanely hard crossword puzzles. My dad loves taking us places. My dad is wonderfully nostalgic. My dad is exceedingly patient. My dad is incredibly wise. My dad is a man of great character. My dad loves my mom and my siblings and me almost as much as he loves Jesus. I don't understand why I have been so blessed to have such a dad when other people don't even know their fathers, but I love my dad.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Waiting for this cough syrup to come down

There is a fly buzzing around my head. Every so often he gets tired of bothering me, and buzzes off in the direction of the window, where he bumps against the glass pane. 

The happy, quiet, mellow background sound of Josh Woodward is coming from my tiny laptop speakers. A brilliant and poetic lyricist, but better than that his music is free. 

I'm fingering my little moleskine notebook, and there's a grease mark on the front and I don't know where it came from. There's also a rip in one of the pages. 

I can't focus long enough to have a train of thought, can't sit still long enough to get anything done, just letting my mind wander until something useful comes. 

The blacktop pavement is wonderfully warm, accompanied by the sneezes from the crumbly pollen littering the driveway. How tolerable spring is, eh?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Me: Talk radio is depressing. In the scope of reading 1984.
Mom: I read that book in 1980. It was scary to think that that could happen.
Me: But obviously it didn't.
Mom: But it could have. People in search of power are capable of anything. Socialism, and totalitarianism, and even in a sense Big Brother, are all real.
Me: . . . yeah, it's a happy book.

I feel like I ought to have a tee shirt - "I survived 1984." For a book that was recommended to me largely by homeschoolers, it was not a homeschooler book. The first half was interesting. I even read most of the Appendix about Newspeak, that's how interesting the first half was. And the second half was also interesting, I read it straight through two rehearsals, I stayed up late after noveling to read it, but maybe that fervent reading was motivated by more of a desire to be done with the book, rather than its interestingness. The only part that wasn't interesting was the dissertation in the middle about the nature of The Party and Goldstein's book and blah blah that was later explained more succinctly by O'Brian anyway. (Somehow I suspect that that was the most beneficial part of the novel, but I couldn't bring myself to more than skim it.) So in terms of books that hold my attention, 1984 was a success.

It was a success in other ways, too: it ruined my perspective in life. I've previously been a bit of a pessimist, but about the time we did a study of Beautiful Girlhood (yeah, I know) I had a change of heart and nurtured my own strange apathetic version of optimism to things that annoy me. My success at this was, well, not amazing, but my siblings get less irritated at me for being negative. And then 1984 happened. I'm an urbanite, but for the past two weeks I haven't been able to enjoy the city or any form of industrialism without remembering Winston's greasy canteen or the Party's twisted Ingsoc. Suddenly America's tilt towards socialism was something I could not brush off, instead the thought consumed me with more of the hopeless pessimism espoused by Winston. Things that used to make me happy like hitting the streets of South Providence instead hearkened to the farce of The Party's prosperity. I really can't enjoy anything that reminds me of 1984 anymore, this includes: train stations, chocolate & coffee, makeup, fireworks, overalls, antique stores, tenant housing, parades, et cetera.

Further, there were a copious amount of my least favorite things in this book: varicose ulcers, bodily functions, military time, grease/oil, long boring discourses of extraneous historical information, and torture. It was not in any way a pleasant book. And that's okay, except that there was nothing to compensate. I had thought that the ideology and philosophy espoused by the story would make up for the more gruesome aspects of the book, but no. No such luck, at all. Winston was all wrong, the Party was right about the most horrible things, and the ending? Happy? Yes, the most miserable happy ending I've ever read. Maybe I missed the point (it's very possible, considering I skipped the discourse in the middle) but 1984 gave no commendation to democracy, or monarchy, or even anarchy. Oligarchy was set up as impenetrable as long as the people in charge were smart enough. And people? Far be it for people to prosper against the man. No. No hope there. Perhaps a warning against socialism and a reminder of the importance of history, but thanks, I already learned that lesson in a much less abrasive and vomit-inducing way. 

I liked Animal Farm. I like Eric Blair's writing style. I don't need a book to be all sunshine and roses and happy endings and positivity. But it was a squalid book. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I'm glad I read it, so I can say that I did, but I will never read it again.

Next up, Brave New World. I'll be listening to plenty of ska to keep me afloat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Isaiah 58:4-10

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, 
       and in striking each other with wicked fists. 
       You cannot fast as you do today 
       and expect your voice to be heard on high.

 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, 
       only a day for a man to humble himself? 
       Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed 
       and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? 
       Is that what you call a fast, 
       a day acceptable to the LORD ?

 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
       to loose the chains of injustice 
       and untie the cords of the yoke, 
       to set the oppressed free 
       and break every yoke?

 Is it not to share your food with the hungry 
       and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
       when you see the naked, to clothe him, 
       and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, 
       and your healing will quickly appear; 
       then your righteousness will go before you, 
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; 
       you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. 
       "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, 
       with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry 
       and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, 
       then your light will rise in the darkness, 
       and your night will become like the noonday.

Monday, May 18, 2009

News flash!

For the first time in a long time, I copied Michael without feeling bad about it. I feel self-actualized now. Oh yes, new layout!

But like all layouts, this one is not without it's flaws . . . or major problems. If y'all are any good with coding, I need assistance. I've fiddled with the HTML a little, but the footer is doing wacky things and my precious editing pencil symbol is gone. Help?

[This is where I return to the noveling I am not procrastinating on!]

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"To Do"

I really don't like the term "bucket list," as charming as it is. So this is the rough draft of my life's to do list, a.k.a. my list of selfish personal goals.

• Lead someone to the Lord
Maybe that sounds like a Sunday school statement, but I mean it so much it almost scares me to say it. Is there any greater blessing than that? I don't think so. 

• Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
I have a healthy appreciation for art, but it's not nearly strong enough. I have never been to NYC, but ever since my mom read us The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler I have resolved that the Met needs to be graced by my presence.

• Be a vegetarian for a determinable amount of time
I really believe God created humans to be vegetarians, but we eat meat because of the Fall. That's an entirely different blog post for some time when I've read and researched more on the subject, but I am nevertheless intrigued by vegetarianism. 

• Read the 150 most taught works of literature
I value being well-read. And I don't have a good reason for it. Except that books and stories help us understand people better. And that fascinates me. I want to understand people as much as humanly possible. (The 150 most taught is defined according to my Spark Notes book.)

• Visit London
This has been a desperate aspiration of mine for so long, I have enough journal entries on this topic to wallpaper our upstairs bathroom. Every little thing about London fascinates me. 

• Memorize a book of the Bible
I feel so guilty in Sunday school when they talk about Hebrew school and how boys would memorize the entire Torah. I'm horrible at memorizing, but memorizing James 3 has really revolutionized my life in a way, and I want to memorize more. (Any suggestions?)

• Go a year without buying myself clothes
The closest I think I will ever get to being a hippy (which was originally on the to do list, but I'm all about practicality!) Americans, we're so rich. I don't need all the clothes I have. There must be a time for me to live like I actually understand that.

• Have a stranger to dinner 
Something that my parents have worked hard at is hospitality, and I think it's something that's a central tenet of Christian love that I don't completely understand. So in a Hebrews 13:2 fashion, I figure I ought to make hospitality a tangible goal.

• Pay in exact change when I buy something
I have this perpetual fear of exact change. I always over-pay because I'm too lazy to count out the exact money and in too much of a rush to stand there and count it out. It's degenerated into a kind of complex. I don't even count my change anymore. It's sad.

• Speak to a large group of people
This is infinitely more fun than speaking to a panel of three to seven judges. In a strange way, it's less scary and more personable. It's addictive. Maybe this is a particularly selfish goal, but given something actually meaningful to say, it's something I'd love to do.

• Donate blood & be an organ donor
I hate giving blood. But there must be a time for getting over being squeamish. And if I really believe that Christians should love unbelievers, I should live that. That includes self-sacrifice. (In a slightly morbid, kind of icky sort of way?) It saves lives. That's all I'm saying.

• Read the complete works of Shakespeare
I'm not into reading complete works, I like sticking to the stuff I know is good, but for Shakespeare I can justify it. This is precisely the kind of large challenge I hate, which is why it's on here. (But our copy of the complete works is lovely.)

• Be homeless for a determinable amount of time
How can I possible empathize with an minister to the homeless if I haven't the faintest idea of what they suffer? Who am I to offer comfort if I don't know what it's like. Jesus was homeless, why can't I try it?

Some of these things I've done already, some of them I know I'll be doing soon, and some of them I have doubts I'll ever be able to do. But that's the fun, right? While I can't reconcile myself to the incurable selfishness of my list, having goals makes me happy. And maybe God will let me meet some of them.

What are some of the things on your list?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not a matter of body image

I have been hoodwinked, conned, bamboozled, tricked. I have been deceived into believing a terrible lie. Thanks a lot, world.

You know when you go to conferences or events and they're all, "Here, have a tee shirt with our cause inscribed on it!" And you're all, "Wewt, proof I was here in tee shirt form!" You get people from the event to sign them, or you wear them to promote the event. You know those tee shirts? I have approximately twenty of those tee shirts. Yeah, they're awesome. The problem?

They don't fit! 

Because this is what happens: I get signed up for the event. When they ask for a tee shirt size, my mom puts "large." (I think she thinks I'm fat. It's okay.) And then I say, "Mom, I'm not a size large." And she goes, "Well, they shrink. You're a growing girl. I don't want it to be too tight. You have broad shoulders. Who knows what kind of shirt it is? What's if it's youth sizes, then you'll want a large." And this seems reasonable, so I agree. I get the large. And, shocker, it's too big.

When I was younger, especially, I had growth spurts every other two weeks. All of my clothes were always too small, it was sad. So I always bought everything a size larger in anticipation that I would grow into it. But then, I stopped growing. And somehow I forgot the reason for getting everything a size larger, and just persisted in doing so out of habit! I've never worn a size small in anything, and so I was unable to reconcile my mind to the fact that I might be a tee shirt size small. And yet, somehow, the extra larges and the larges and the mediums were always too big and never seemed to fit . . .

So at Student Life Missions Camp I decided to break the cycle. I walk up to the table. I can see the actual shirts. I know which one will fit! I say, "Small, please." And the guy behind the table says, "Are you sure?" . . . arg! Yes, I am sure! After spending all of my teenage existence with size large Teen Pact shirts, size extra large NCFCA shirts, size medium missions trip shirts, and a perpetual fear of the size small tee shirt, yes, I am sure! I am not going to believe the lie that that is not my size. I freaking want the small!

So he gave it to me.

And you know what?

It fits perfectly. 

Just sayin'!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jesus loves you

Oh, how we can say it so flippantly. It's the center-fold of smiley coloring pages and featured on cartoon-y refrigerator magnets. It's a casual parting salutation and occasionally a witty rejoinder. It's a phrase just thrown out there for good measure, and to hell with reverence.

Except do we even know.

That love is spilled blood and broken body? That love is suffering? That love is battling darkness and brokenness and hopelessness? 

Except do we even see.

That love is serious commitment? That love is serious obedience? That love is dedication to servitude and sacrifice and sanctification?

Except do we even realize.

That love washed our crud away? That love triumphed over death? That love died and rose and lives and is preparing a place for those who believe that?

Except do we even understand.

How can we say it so lightly -- Jesus loves you -- when it is possibly the most true and transforming statement the world has ever known? Do we understand the gravity of those words -- Jesus loves you -- that they can change everything?

And yet we are forgiven. Even for this. Because Jesus loves us. 
I think torture is wrong.

But beyond that, I don't really know what to think. Every time I watch one of these FBI/CIA movies, it strikes me how unaccountable these organizations are. I mean, they have to be, considering espionage and investigation are almost secretive by definition. But I wonder, what do they do? Who are they hurting? 

We're all bad people - why trust an angry bad person to use torture to extract information out of a scared bad person? Does that really make sense? How do we even know that it's about the information and not just about hurting people who hurt us? Does the information justify the means used to get it? No, I don't think so. 

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I haven't been careful enough. In many ways I've been negligent, really. I nursed my pride and told myself I was doing fine, when I've really been slipping on the fundamentals. And it hurts to admit it, and I'm completely ashamed, but that's what happened. I just haven't been careful enough with the important things.

My momma is always right. I discovered this when I was ten years old and we went dress shopping, and my mom insisted on buying a dress that I hated, and three months later I swallowed my pride and admitted the dress she picked out was pretty. My mom has forced me to do NCFCA, forced me to do TeenPact, forced me to take up debate, forced me to get a job, forced me to speak on organ donation at a Rotary event, forced me to do a lot of things that I dreaded initially, but have been wonderful opportunities. My momma is always right, and my momma says I've been slacking.

She said she was worried about where my priorities are, about how much time I spend with friends and who those friends are, about how careful I am with what I do and what I say, about how closely I flirt with dangerous ideas. Her disapproval hurt, especially because I've felt on track. But that also made me realize, I can't "tide myself over" with small successes. Being better than bad is the very definition of mediocre. I shouldn't coast, but oh, I have been. Letting myself form bad habits, letting myself let go of good habits. I thought I had mastered xyz, and in my pride I let myself unlearn xyz. I tricked myself into thinking I didn't need to be careful, and in the process I became careless.

I used to challenge myself to be friendly. And after challenging myself for a long time, it because easy for me. So I stopped challenging myself. And now being friendly is hard again. I used to tell little "white" lies when I was little, and then I was like, "That's bad" and I stopped. Not lying, even in the little things was second nature. Then I stopped being vigilant against those little "innocent" lies, and I find them popping up more. I used to be a hyper-obedient child, now I struggle with doing what my parents tell me to do. I had a problem with fear, I got over it, I stopped guarding against it, and now fear is always creeping back and I'm ill equipped to fight it. The list goes on and on and on. I've been forgetting the basics because I told myself that I was somehow beyond having to care about the basics. 

And I feel like I ought to be discouraged and overwhelmed at this realization, just as I was hurt when my mom inadvertently  pointed it out, but instead . . . I don't know, I feel relieved. I understand now. Sanctification is real, I am a work in progress, and God is active, bringing my shortcomings to my attention and gently redirecting me to where I ought to go. Do you see the overwhelming love in that? How many times have I read Philippians 1:6, and yet, it has never resonated in this same way! I am not doomed to be this flawed and jagged creature forever, God is there, He really is, changing me bit by bit. There are no words to say it, just that God is so good! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

We cope by putting layers between it and us

People should not break bad news over the phone. That's the most recent sentence of my novel.

Last October I some how got roped into either calling or answering the phone, I don't even remember how it happened, just that I was on the phone with my shooting coach and he was telling me that an acquaintance had killed himself. And I didn't know what to say. What does one say?

I didn't really know him. He was a young guy, maybe 23, one of his brothers was friends with Hannah. This guy had coached me for a few weeks in winter 2008. That was the extent of my involvement with him.

I just sort of stammered when my coach told me, I didn't fully comprehend what he had said until after I hung up, and I felt kind of weak in the knees when I told Mom who was freaked out by the look on my face. 

I felt like an impostor for being so sad. Or maybe it's just that suicide is inexplicably horrible, no matter how well one knows the person. I still felt like I didn't have the right to be hurt and disturbed, but that also didn't stop me from writing a novel about it. 

I don't know why I'm thinking about it just now. Maybe I need to stop writing novels about suicide. Is it wrong that things always mean more to me in retrospect? Is it an illusion that emotions, like cheese, get sharper with time? 

According to Michael Buckley, if the Taylor Swift/Joe Jonas break up taught us anything, it's don't break bad news over the phone.

How wretchedly insensitive the world is.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Mom: I'm going to the store, going to run some errands, anyone need anything?
Me: zomg, kenicomewhichu?

I like going to the store. I like going to Wal-Mart because they feed my obsessions with their cheap nail varnish and massive bins of cheap DVDs. Today I was sifting through a bin that was overflowing, going systematically through each heap, DVDs were falling everywhere, people were staring, it was great. And Mom comes over and asks what I am searching so fervently for. "Dad said he saw Stand By Me in here a few weeks ago, but I've already been through most of the bin and no cigar." And Mom grabs the first DVD she sees off the side of the pile, "Oh, this has River Phoenix in it?" It was a severely deflating moment, but at least I got the DVD. 

When we walked in the store, the greeter said to the lady in front of us, "Welcome to Wal-Mart" and she kept walking without even looking at him. A miniscule part inside of me died. Maybe it's because I'm reading 1984 and everything seems farce to me now, but the manufactured feeling of the store killed me. All the bright colors and uniform labels and new merchandise, a theoretically a place that makes me feel happy, but all the people were frowning and dirty. And next to them everything in the store felt fake. Smiling felt fake. The overpriced crap they were selling was supposedly a testament to the success of capitalism. The people buying the stuff looked content enough to be wasting their money. The cake is a lie.

After Wal-Mart we skipped on over to the supermarket. I think the second I am spending my own paycheck food shopping I am going to go crazy. It's insane, all the good food waiting to happen, confined to one building - in a small, very removed sort of way it reminds me of heaven. The asian pears, the pure blood orange juice, the special cheese with cranberries in it (sorry Jake, I don't remember what it's called, but it smelled amazing),  the specialty bagels, the foreign vegetables, the fresh ground coffee aisle . . . the best was the all-natural ice cream section, though. Food is almost as interesting as literature. I am a hopeless food romantic. Maybe it's just successful marketing, that I can even begin to feel happy about all the food options I have when other people have nothing to eat at all, or maybe it's just savoring one's blessings.

While we were in the deli section, we crossed paths with this guy who seemed sane enough, but was talking incessantly to no one in particular about the music playing over the loudspeakers. And we proceeded to run into this man about forty times in the course of our time in the store. He was saying things like, "Why don't they play real music anymore? This sounds like rap. They should play some real women singing, not these snot-nosed brats. Gawsh, won't they stop whining?" He was also laughing a lot. Everyone just kind of ignored him or gave him weird looks, or laughed nervously until they realized he wasn't talking to them. He was really interesting, and I feel like I was supposed to have learned some important lesson from being around him for an hour and a half, but I didn't.

That's all. I guess I'm ready to start noveling. Too tired.