Reading Challenge 2013

If you enjoyed the Reading with RJ posts that Rachel and I wrote while reading Jane Eyre, you should check out readingchallenge.wordpress.com. In it, some colleagues and I will be blogging about what we read throughout the year. This morning, I published a post on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. If you will be blogging about what you read this year, let me know, and I will put you on the Reading Challenge blogroll.

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The New Normal

If you had told me four years ago–even six months ago–that after obtaining my BA, I would move to the small town of my alma mater, where I would run a non-profit and work at a gym, I would have laughed hard enough to bring tears to my eyes. But that is exactly what has happened.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Two months ago, I was a freshly diploma-ed  freelance writer who was living with her parents. It was a comfortable in-between, but it wasn’t somewhere to be permanently. While I love my parents, my temperament is different from theirs, which makes for uncomfortable living arrangements, especially since they were both retired and I worked from home. Also, all of my high school friends had moved away, had gone to college or gotten married or some such, so I was rather alone. I made friends with ladies at church (great friends), but they all have children my age, and so it wasn’t the same as friendships with my peers.

So when I received a phone call from my freshman roommate informing me that she had heard of a job opening in the town of our university. The program director of the local literacy council was retiring and sought a replacement. I then discovered that another friend had an acquaintance who was hiring at the gym she owned. A few weeks of unbearable tension later, I was moving into a one-bedroom apartment and starting two jobs.

It’s been a crazy two months, but I’m learning to adapt. My schedule means that I don’t have much free time in the evenings, so any errands have to be run in the morning before work. Being the program director of a literacy council is definitely something that has required adjustment:  I have more responsibility than I’ve ever had before, and much is expected of me. At the gym, I am studying for my certification to become a fitness instructor. If you knew me as a teenager, that is quite laughable–I skipped P.E. throughout much of junior high, and haven’t attempted a sport since elementary school.

There are good changes, too. I live in a town where I know several people, so I have the opportunity to be social (although almost all of those people are married, so I am a perpetual gooseberry). Having time away from my parents has improved our relationship immensely. Having full-time employment is invigorating, if at times exhausting (a paradox, I know, but it’s true).

In short, the past two months have been terrifying, but I finally feel that I am beginning to be an adult–or at least that I am beginning to pretend.

I Sold My Childhood for $100

Last week, I sold my childhood. By that, I mean that I boxed up most of my childhood books and took them to Hastings to sell. My reasons for doing this were twofold:  one, I needed the space on my shelves. I currently have four bookshelves that are still full, and I am hoping to move into a one-room apartment soon. There are only so many books that can be fit into a one-room apartment. Reason two is that one-room apartments cost money, and every little bit counts. One hundred dollars is a great help.

Besides, these were old books, books that I would probably never read again. Even if I did re-read them, would I appreciate them as much now as I had back then? If I sold them to Hastings, they could go on and have a new home, a home where maybe—hopefully—the owner would appreciate them as much as I had.

The transaction was very businesslike. I’m not sure what I expected—after all, it was a business transaction. But these were my books, the books that had kept me company when I was a kid. I didn’t have a lot of flesh-and-blood friends as a youngster; I had books. I kept some of my favorites, books that I hoped to share with my friends’ kids when they have them, but there were some good books in those boxes:  Artemis Fowl, The Dragonriders of Pern (I didn’t always read age-appropriate materials), and other books that I had read over and over, including most of my manga.

I brought in the four heavy boxes and a few large hardbacks that wouldn’t fit and browsed Hastings for a couple of hours while two young cashiers went through my treasures and picked which ones they would take. They didn’t take all of them. In fact, they didn’t take Artemis Fowl or Dragonriders, but they took most of my childhood loves.

 I’m still a bit melancholy about it, but I know that now these books have a chance to be another kid’s friend.

Climbing out of Limbo

Over the past few months, I have been slacking. Not just on my blog (though you may have noticed a lack of recent posts), but life in general.

While in college, I was doing well:  I worked out three times a week, ate four to five meals a day, wrote, read whenever I had time away from studying. My GPA my last semester at HU was 4.0, I helped three student organizations run, and I walked a dog during my lunch break.  I did all of those things and still had a strong social life that was filled with people of all different majors, even people outside the state. My day had a strict schedule, and I stuck to it. I got things done. I was awesome.

What happened?

Now I’m lucky if I work out once a week, I eat perhaps two meals a day, write only for work, read maybe every other day, never study foreign languages, and my social life is minimal (though I still Skype my out-of-state friends). I don’t set my alarm clock, and have trouble getting up in the mornings, even when I go to sleep early. My planner buried itself under a pile of papers; it’s not like I used it. The most I do for myself is attend personal development seminars once a month, and smaller business plans (for the same program) once a week. This isn’t enough.

The problem is lack of structure. Because I don’t have a schedule that revolves around other people (classes, clubs, etc.), I haven’t scheduled out my day like I used to do, and the result is that I never get anything accomplished.

Today, I resolve to change that. If I want to be successful in any aspect of my life, I need to change my habits. I need to be internally motivated rather than using the external motivation that I have always used. Starting today, my days will be strictly scheduled. I will wake up at 7:00 a.m. and work out six days a week. I will eat at least three meals a day. I will write five hundred words a day that is not for work. I will write at least two blog posts a week. I will maintain my business’ website as well as the websites I maintain for work. I will practice my French twice a week, and I will study German three days a week. I will read a personal development book for half an hour every day, my Bible for half an hour every day, and a novel or short story anthology for half an hour every day. I will listen to four educational podcasts or CDs a day (which I can do when I get dressed in the mornings and while I eat meals). I will make more local friends (most of my friends are long-distance).

To keep this list of promises to myself, I will spend every Saturday night planning out my week, and half an hour every evening planning the next day. To keep myself accountable, I will write a blog post every weekend to document my progress (if I am out of town, it may be posted on Monday, but only if I am out of town).

A Bond Stronger Than Blood

The concept of family has been on my mind lately. For the past several years, members of the older generation, especially in the church, have begun to complain that the power of the nuclear family is waning. They claim that this is the primary cause of many of today’s societal problems. While parental guidance is vital to a child’s formative years, is drifting away from the family unit when one is an adult really the catastrophe that many claim?

I’m not talking about individuals who break away from the family unit and remain solitary, but rather those who seek a tribe outside their kin. There are many people, myself included, who find that they cohere less with their blood relations and more with other groups. Are harmonious belief systems, temperaments, and attitudes less important than DNA?

Did not Jesus  tell us that blood is not the defining factor in family? In Matthew  12:50, Jesus says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Christianity is founded on the idea of a stronger bond than blood, the bond of Christ. Why then does the Church insist that blood ties are the strongest there are?

I have many parents and siblings that do not share my blood, but who are family to be nonetheless.

What do you think of the family unit:  is it defined by DNA sequences or spirit?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Byronic and anti heroes for a while now, and then I stumbled upon this article. I liked it so much I decided to share it.

Kay Camden

I’ve done some research on the difference between the anti-hero and the Byronic hero. I couldn’t find a definitive article anywhere comparing the two directly, but from what I’ve read here’s my own conclusion.

A Byronic hero is a bad good guy. He does bad things, makes his own rules, operates outside of the law. But his goal is to do good. He’s tormented. He’s introspective. He hurts. He takes full responsibility. He’s Batman.

A Byronic hero will never find true success because he is so conflicted. He seems to be constantly putting out fires in his quest to do right, but due to his own sensitivity of the world he will never achieve his goal. He’s tragic. He’ll never be happy.

An anti-hero is unpredictable. He’s good when he wants to be. He’s bad when he wants to be. And sometimes he’s bad just to piss you off. Because…

View original post 85 more words

A Jumble of Thoughts on Death

I have been blessed with more family than I deserve. There are so many people in my life who have taken me in and treated me as their daughter or sister despite the fact that I have no blood ties to them. One of them died two weeks ago.

There are different types of secondhand death. There are the people with whom you occasionally associated, but didn’t really know. They die suddenly, shocking you out of your routine. Their deaths make you realize how precious life is, and for a few months, you make sure to tell people that you love them.

There are the close friends and family members who are sick or old. Their deaths do not surprise you. In a way, it’s a relief–you know that they aren’t in pain anymore. Their deaths, as their lives, make a lasting impression.

Then there are the sudden deaths of those you love. This experience somehow mixes the numbing shock of suddenness with the intense pain of loss. It’s not real for days, weeks even. They’re not gone, you see. They can’t be.

I’m not sad for my friend. He is safe in God’s hands now, just as he was in life. I am sad for us, those who are left behind:  his wife, kids, friends, and colleagues. I’m sad for the thousand-plus people who were at his visitation and funeral, and those who couldn’t make it. As one man said at his funeral:  “I know that if he were here, he would tell me that he’s okay. But I guess what I really need to hear him say is that I’m going to be okay, too.”

On Tuesday, many of his friends went to Starbucks to honor him. We all ordered his favorite drink and gave his name to the barista (the poor man was confused when the café was filled with Jeffs, some of them female). Then we toasted our friend.

In Defense of the Disney Princess: Conclusion

As with any film, Disney’s Princess movies reflect the values of the society that made them. The princesses of the classic generation are domestic goddesses, perfect examples of ladylike behavior. They are always dreaming and optimistic. The princesses of the ’90s are curious and adventurous. They don’t fit in their society, and so they branch out, seeking a place in which they do belong. The current generation of princesses are independent. This independence can make them rebellious, and it means that they are willing to work hard to achieve their goals. All of these women have valuable qualities that young girls should emulate. No, they are not perfect:  show me a story with a perfect hero or heroine and I will show you a boring story. Our flaws as well as our weaknesses make us interesting and define who we are.

In Defense of the Disney Princess: Part III

Disney Generations

I found this on Google. It describes the generations of the Disney Princess.

In my two previous posts about the Disney Princesses, I talked about the classic generation and the princesses of the ’90s. In this post, I will be looking at the princess movies of the 2000s:  Tiana, Rapunzel, and Merida (though I can only say so much about her, since Brave doesn’t come out until June). These princesses, following the example of Ariel, leave their homes and seek adventure. Even so, the nuclear family is important to these princesses. This is interesting because the older generation is concerned about the demise of the nuclear family:  they see that younger generations are moving away from the nuclear family and towards a family made of closely knit friends rather than blood. I think the theme of family in these films is an attempt by the older generation to instill in children a sense that blood relations are important. Neither Tiana nor Rapunzel seek a romantic relationship, but both find one. Romance is no longer priority number one, but it is still seen as something that should be obtained.

I’ve only seen The Princess and the Frog once, so I can’t say as much about it as I can the other films, which I have seen countless times. Tiana is a Unites States citizen, and she strongly embodies US ideals:  she is hardworking, independent, and passionate. She has goals towards which she works and about which she dreams. She is, in fact, the first Princess with goals. Previous princesses have had hobbies and dreams, but none had a specific goal like Tiana’s ambition of opening a restaurant.

In many ways, Rapunzel is a movement back to the classic generation, especially Aurora. Much like Aurora, Rapunzel is cut off from the outside world. Despite her boredom at never leaving her tower, Rapunzel is always optimistic. Also like Aurora, Rapunzel’s life changes when Flynn Rider–the first person she has ever conversed with, aside form Mother Gothel–appears in her tower. There are many things that set Rapunzel apart from the classics, though. Rapunzel has always been told horrible stories about people in the outside world, especially about men. Even so, when Flynn appears, Rapunzel doesn’t cower. Instead, she takes action, tying Flynn up and demanding that he obey her. She thinks for herself, making her own decisions about the lights, the people around her, and the world in general. Her independent thought allows her to be reunited with her parents, both of whom are still alive (like Aurora).

In June of this year, Disney/Pixar will release Brave. From the trailers, it looks like Merida suffers from a classic case of rebellious princess syndrome. The film plays along with the idea that the only strong woman is the one who rejects femininity in favor of more masculine pursuits. I have already given my opinion on that idea, and will not expound on it here. The thing about Brave that has interested me the most is that I have not seen or heard anything about Merida having a love interest. The trailers are full of Merida’s interactions with her boisterous father, her ladylike mother, and her mischievous younger brothers. There is what seems to be an archery competition for Merida’s hand, but, from what I can tell, Merida is not interested in any of them. Instead, she chooses to fight for her own hand. If Disney manages to pull off a successful fairy tale without a love interest for Merida, I will be very impressed.

The current generation of Disney princesses is in many ways the most interesting. They look back to previous generations, while at the same time creating identities for themselves. These princesses are independent, but have strong ties to the people in their lives.