Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Over It

Do you all ever have things where you're just like "Nope. I'm done. SO OVER IT."

I've noticed I have a whole list of them lately.

- Discussing the end times. I had this guy start asking me about if I was excited for the blood moon the other day. I was all "um... I guess?" Then he went on this whole soapbox about how something huge will happen because of the blood moon with God and the Jewish people and explaining how Jesus was very clear about end times and all of this stuff and I was just all "Um.... I think you're missing the point." I remember in college I skipped the day in my New Testament class about the book of Revelation.



 Which, I'm pretty sure the professor didn't even care because his attitude about the end times is basically "Jesus is coming back. Be ready. The end." Those are my thoughts exactly. I'm SO OVER IT.

- Christian movies. Guys, there have been SO MANY Christian movies which have come out already this year and are still coming. I can barely go a day without seeing the words "God is not dead" popping up on my Instagram and Facebook feeds. I get that some people are very inspired by movies like God is not Dead, Heaven is for Real, etc. That's fine. But I'm over it.

That being said, my sister did say she wanted to see Son of God, which I'm willing to try. I also kinda want to see Noah,, but that's because Emma Watson is in it. But if I don't get to see either one, I'll be fine.


- Divergent. I do want to see the movie, but no one will go with me. However, I feel like it's not worth all of the hype. It's a good trilogy and I enjoyed it (except the ending. UGH!), but there are other YA series which are better.

- Coughing and sick children. I've been coughing for weeks and I feel like at work I'm a professional nose wiper. It's disgusting and I'm shocked I don't have more diseases. The hazards of working at a preschool.

What are some of the things you all are just completely "over?"

Linking up for Humpday Confessions with Vodka and Soda!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's a Battle

Lately, I've been watching Dancing With the Stars every Monday night. It's one of those where I'll be a die-hard fan for a long time, then randomly stop for a few seasons. Then I'll watch it again and wonder why I ever stopped. This is one of those seasons. I love seeing how the stars grow through the season, becoming a fan of people I hadn't really known about before, and some of the professional dancers I've come to completely adore.

This season, my favorite pro dancer, Derek Hough, has a very unique partner. Amy Purdy.



Amy is an athlete, but lost her legs when she was 19 from Menengitis. She competed at the 2014 Sochi Paralympics as a snowboarder. Which... has some unique challenges. However, I was really glad she was paired with Derek. He's incredible talented and creative, and if anyone can work with her situation, he can.

I didn't want to be a huge fan of Amy and Derek. Not because they aren't awesome, but because I felt that it would be too cliche. The disabled girl loves the disabled girl on DWTS. Lame.

But I can't help it. Especially when it's Disney night and she does a beautiful waltz to "This is Love" from Cinderella. Her being paired with Derek doesn't hurt either since he's fantastic. (Obviously, since I've been fangirling about him this entire post.) The thing is, I can relate to her. I have both of my legs, so I don't know exactly what she's going through. However, I can relate to an extent.

Last night she cried about how discouraged she was about not having the right kind of legs. How what could be so simple for other people are incredibly difficult and she couldn't get it right.

When I was in college, one of my theology professors would teach ballroom dancing lessons on Wednesday nights. It was a huge hit with my circle of friends. More often than not I would go down to the Cougar Den with them and watch everyone dance. It was so much fun, but I always kind of wished I could dance with them. I have decent rhythm and such, but with my own physical challenges, dancing really isn't in the cards for my list of great skills. One of my friends promised he'd waltz with me someday. We never were able to, but I appreciated the thought.

Watching Amy and Derek dance makes me so happy. How, while I will most likely never be in the arms of Derek Hough in a ballgown waltzing to a Disney song, it's nice to know anything is possible. You can watch last night's video here. I really hope she goes far in the show. But I also hope she goes far because she deserves it, not because she's the "disabled girl."


When I was planning on writing this post, I wanted to talk about overcoming obstacles and how anything can happen. Which is true. But then... I had a rough day today, and it had to do with my disability. (Which, if you don't know about it, here's my post explaining everything.) My own insecurities came out, and I had to deal with some things which I hate talking about and feel like shouldn't even be an issue. 

It reminded me how while anything is possible, it's still a battle.

It's a battle to do what other people think is easy. It's a battle having to prove yourself every single day. It's a battle to not be bothered by ignorance. It's a battle to let it go. 

Most days, it's not a battle. Most days it's fine and it's not a thing. 

Other days... it is. And it's exhausting because it'll never really stop. 

There are times when you're dancing with Derek Hough and everyone calls you an inspiration. Then there are other days where... not so much. And that's okay. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Kind of Town

 


I have been in Chicago for almost four months now.

The entire time I lived in Missouri I missed living near the city and experiencing all it had to offer. Want to know how much I've done since moving back?

NOTHING.

Granted - this was the most miserable winter ever and it has only been recently anyone has wanted to leave their homes. However, I still feel like this is pathetic. I forgot how easy it is to become complacent when you live here all of the time. You forget sometimes when you're bored, you can simply hop on the train into downtown and have a pluthera of things to do. I want this to change.

Now spring has finally arrived (although it doesn't feel like it today) I've decided I'm going to go out into the city more often. As a bonus - since I'm basically broke- I'm going to try and do as many free things as possible. In a city like Chicago, there are a ton of things to experience.

Who cares that I grew up here? I'm going to be a local tourist this spring and summer.


Here are some of my ideas so far:

- Go to a White Sox game (ok... more expensive, but it has to happen).

- Go to the Art Institute. They have free days on Thursdays and it's awesome.

- Visit a museum other than the Art Institute. That one is my favorite, so I easily just get into the habit of going there all of the time. But there are so many others in the city I haven't been to in years which are just as awesome.

- Listen to the Symphony Orchestra rehearse at Millennium Park

- Attend the outdoor classic film festival on Tuesday nights. (See classic movies for free in Grant Park!)

- Go to the Taste of Chicago. Can you believe I've never gone? It's usually so packed with people, my family and friends usually avoid downtown at all costs. However, I feel like I should go at least once in my life.

- Go to open mic night at the Comedy Bar

- See a play or musical. Because... have you met me?

- Research different festivals and events in some of the suburbs

- Visit a zoo (Lincoln Park is free, but Brookfeild is closer to where I live...)

Native Chicagoans, any other suggestions? Maybe some stuff that isn't quite as "touristy?" Or if you haven't been to Chicago, what's something you've always wanted to do and would like to see pictures of/read about?

Linking up with Meg for Mingle Monday!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Story

Yesterday, I finished listening to the audio-book version of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (read by Jim Dale who is one of the best audio-book readers EVER). I've gotten into the habit of reading or listening to this book once a year around this time. I know not everyone is into re-reading books, but when I comes to my favorites I love being able to revist the world and spend time with my favorite characters. There's something about Morgenstern's writing style and the story which draws me in every single time.

The Night Circus is actually the book of the month for Bonnie's book club, so when she puts her review up at the end of the month I'll do a whole post about it to link up. (www.thelifeofbon.com) 

However, one of the big themes of this book is storytelling. One of my favorite scenes is the very last one. The character Widget is a storyteller. It's his gift, and it's not until the end which he finds out how very special that gift is.

It inspires me to think about my own writing. I love to consider myself a storyteller. Whether it's through writing, theatre, music, etc. Yet, I can't help but wonder, have I told my story yet?

I love the ones I've been working on and I'm so proud of them. I love the stories and worlds and characters I've created for my NaNoWriMo projects and everything I've worked on. I want to keep going with them and see what happens and where they end up.

Yet, I can't help but feel as though I haven't found THE story yet. The one bursting out which has to be told no matter what. The one which will really inspire me the way others have. (The Night Circus, Harry Potter, etc.) I think it'll come eventually. Or maybe something is already in the works and I don't know it yet. We'll see.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Word Vomit

Here's the thing about finally writing something you're proud of.

Suddenly, you no longer want to write a single thing because in your head you're all "But now everything else will be awful in comparison! I have no more ideas! I'm a terrible writer!I'm an even worse blogger!"

Therefore, no blog posts happened after last week Tuesday.

Womp womp.

I figure, the only solution to get me out of this writing slump is to simply write. Whatever is on my mind. Just type my stream of thought. Who cares if it's good or not? This blog post will get lost with the other awful ones I've written and be forgotten about before I know it. Then I'll get my groove back and something good will come along soon. Heck - I might not even edit this post before hitting "publish."

I'm such a rebel!

Cause you know, we bloggers tend to be rebels you know. That's just how we roll. Watch out Internets! Grammar nazi's beware because you never know what I'll type next!

I told you I was in a writing slump.

It also doesn't help that I have two dogs crowding my space. While this is super adorable, but it makes it difficult to type. They think my laptop is a pillow.

It also doesn't help that for the last two days I have been watching Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23. Why did it take me so long to watch this show? It's completely hilarious! I also now really want to watch Dawson's Creek but this time it'll be SO MUCH FUNNIER.

I never thought the primary reason I'd love a show would be James Van Der Beek. But there it is. You've gotta love an actor who can make fun of himself.


Also, I feel like I should be offended by the way they talk about people in wheelchairs... but I just find it completely hilarious.

Beyond TV and puppy distractions though, I think part of my problem has also been myself wondering why I blog. I love writing and I love the friends I've made through it and how I can keep in touch with people, yet at the same time I wonder why I do it. Am I just adding to all of the noise that is already on the Internet? Why does this little corner of web matter? I don't plan on stopping or anything, but I just can't help but wonder the why of all of this.

Yesterday, I was chatting with some of my friends at lunch about blogging. They have to write for their company blog and wanted some advice. They asked me what the purpose of blogging was, and I couldn't give them an answer. I said what I always do. "I've been writing my whole life and I figured, 'why not?' and if people wanted to read it, great! If not, that's okay too." Usually, I feel as though this is a sufficient answer. Then when I said it out loud and not just part of a blogging questionnaire, it felt so silly.

Because what do I have to add? Another story about someone in their 20's not knowing what their doing? Another site about someone fangirling over Supernatural?

But who could blame me on that one? Am I right?


Speaking of the Winchester brothers, I feel as though I haven't watched in forever. I'm in season 7. I'm sorry boys, I haven't abandoned you. I promise.

I keep looking at my phone. I interviewed for a job a few days ago and I haven't heard back from them yet. They said they'd call either way. It's driving me insane!

I also pitched a short story series to a website a few days ago and I haven't heard from them either. It's very frustrating.

Oh! This morning, I finished Days of Blood and Starlight by Lani Taylor and it's the second in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Guys, if you haven't read these books you need to. They're fantastic and the third one comes out this week. (I think.)

OK... enough of my rambling. I'm sure you all have had enough of it. But here's hoping I'll get back to "normal" tomorrow!

Linking up with Meg for Mingle Monday!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Writing Lessons from the Finale of How I Met Your Mother

Last night, we all gathered around our televisions to watch the end of a TV show many of us hold near and dear to our hearts. Tissues boxes at hand, we were prepared for the stream of tears which usually are a result of saying goodbye to characters whom we now consider to be friends.

If you are anything like me, you ended up having tears in your eyes, but not because you were sad. Oh no. It was because you were angry.

Naturally, I'm talking about the finale of How I Met Your Mother.

I know there are people who liked the finale, which is fine. However, I've found a majority of the people I have talked to are much more like me. We're mad.

In case you haven't figured out, this blog post will contain spoilers. I'm going to do my best to not have spoilers and speak generally, however, who knows if that'll actually happen. If you haven't watched the finale, you can hold off on reading this post. You can read this later. This is the internet - nothing goes away. My blog will be here when you're done watching.

I know there are probably a ton of people creating reaction videos and articles about the finale. It was pretty controversial and with a show this popular and had been running for so long, there's going to be a lot of different reactions and views on how it should have ended. Therefore, instead of writing something ranty and angry, I'm going to go a different route.

Writing Lesson from the Finale of How I Met Your Mother


Story and Character Arcs

A huge part of writing a story is creating arcs for the plot and the characters. You start in one place, the story and the characters grow and change, and they end up somewhere different. Somehow at the end of the story, your characters (especially the main character, your protagonist), are different than they were in the beginning. If your characters are in the same place as they were at the start of the story, you've done something wrong.

This doesn't mean the characters change and become completely different people. At heart, they are still the same person. However, there has been some sort of change. Some sort of growth. Think about it, even in real life we aren't the same as we were when we were born. As we get older and have different experiences, we grow and change.  This might not mean we have grown and changed for the better, but the growth and change is there.

The story works the same way. If your plot is in the same place as it was in the beginning of the story, you've done something wrong, and the story was probably really boring.


Here's a nice diagram in which this is kind of explained.
I personally feel as though the characters and the plot of How I Met Your Mother regressed at the end. The characters had been growing throughout the nine seasons of the show. The plot evolved and changed. It was awesome. I loved seeing how each of the characters were the same people at heart, but still grew as people. Then... in a single episode I felt like so much of it backtracked and progress was hardly made. Especially for Ted. He was in the same place as he was in episode one.

Some may argue "But that's realistic! Sometimes people don't change and we regress!"

Valid point. However, while good stories many time reflect "real life", telling a story is different than actually living life. Therefore, the writers need to approach it this way.

Plot Driven vs. Character Driven

I actually had a long conversation about this point with a friend just the other day. A lot of TV shows, movies, and books lately are very much driven by plot. How many plot twists they can put into their story and see what happens. In a way, this works. It keeps the audience interested and the story keeps moving. Also - you need plot to create a story. Otherwise you have a bunch of characters just sitting around and it's completely boring.

However, if your entire story is based on plot twists and turns, it's pretty weak. You need good characters to really have a strong story. I felt like How I Met Your Mother was good at this. Plot twists happened. Things turned in directions we didn't expect. Yet, it all was focused on the characters and their relationships. It was the characters who influenced the plot in most cases, not the other way around.

Until the last episode. Basically, it was all just a bunch of plot twists.

Write With the End in Mind

From what I've heard, the creators of How I Met Your Mother knew what the ending was going to be eight years ago. It was even filmed. That's great. It's awesome. I know when I write, if I don't know how I want it to end, I'm lost. I also can tell in other stories when the writer wasn't sure how they wanted it to end. The rest of the story was disjointed.

As this last season closed, I loved how all of the pieces from all of the other seasons fell together. It was seamless and fantastic. It was so much fun to see how everything worked together.

Then, in the last 20 minutes (or less) they turned everything on it's head and it fell apart. Basically, everything the show was pointing to didn't matter anymore. If you are going to do something like that, you need to have the rest of the story pointing to it as well.

Shock for the Sake of Shock

This is a huge pet peeve of mine lately in movies, TV, and books lately and it goes back a bit to the plot driven vs. character driven point. I feel as though a lot of writers are putting in crazy plot twists simply for the sake of being different or having some sort of shock factor. There is nothing wrong with a crazy plot twist and being different. It can show creativity and how unexpected life can be.

However, when you're writing a story your plot twist needs to have a purpose. If there isn't a point to it, then it shows lack of creativity. Actually, it also shows the writers don't have confidence in their story or their audience. If having a major shock factor is the main thing driving the story, there's something wrong.

In my opinion, the feel of the final episode was very much just about shock factor. Also, I felt like it was deceptive to the audience. There's a difference between plot twists and deceiving your audience. It might work for shows such as Lost or something, but not How I Met Your Mother. (Not that I've watched Lost so I could be totally off on that point.)

Be Flexible

As I mentioned before, from what I've heard the ending of How I Met Your Mother was planned from the beginning. That's awesome! However, over the course of 9 years, the characters and the show evolved and changed. Which is a good thing. I can't tell you how many times I've begun a story and then as I've gone on writing, it becomes something completely different than I had originally planned.

Sometimes this means I have to change my ending.

That's the creative process. Maybe when the show first began this ending was perfect. However, by the last episode it felt as though so much of it had been pointless and just filler for the big plot twists.

You need to learn how to be flexible when things are going a new direction.

Keep the Heart

When you read or watch a good story you get a sense of it's heart. I think of Harry Potter and if people ask "what is it about?" you can have two different types of answers. One answer would be "Harry Potter is about a boy who finds out he's a wizard, goes to wizard school, and has to defeat an evil wizard." The other answer would be "It's about love, sacrifice, growing up, learning, social issues, friendship, family..."

Do you see what I mean?

You can have a ton of twists and turns and great plot devices and fantastic characters to a story, but you also need to have the heart of it. What's the story really about? How I Met Your Mother had this awesome heart to the story with the friendships, navigating adulthood, and ultimately - meeting the mother. Meeting the love of your life. Never giving up hope.

Yes, the finale did do this to an extent. And when it was done well - it was awesome! Then there were other moments when I felt like they completely forgot what the point of the show even was and threw it out the window.

All in all, I have to become Mr. Knightly from Emma and say "Badly done How I Met Your Mother. Badly done."


I know there are probably a ton of people who liked the finale- which is fine. However, I think you can tell I did not like it. After nine years of an excellent show, they could have done much better and been more true to the heart of the story.

Also- I'm going to be honest. I'm slightly terrified to post this because I have no idea how people will react.

Also (again)- This article is a fantastic reaction. http://time.com/44702/how-i-met-your-mother-finale-review/

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares- Review


I've been a fan of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books and movies by Ann Brashares ever since high school. Just this past year I listened to the conclusion of the series as an audio book and still felt just as attached to the characters as I had when I first read the book and saw the movie. When I had the opportunity to read Brashares newest book before it was released in stores, I jumped at the chance.

The Here and Now
By Ann Brashares

Basic Summary Without Spoilers

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Prenna is a 17-year old girl living in present day New York. However, she is not from here. She, along with everyone else in her Community, are from the future and immigrated to the year 2010 when she was 12 because they were escaping a plague which covered the earth via mosquitoes. The Community has incredibly strict rules where they cannot go to doctors, not interfering with the outside world, and of course - not falling in love with one of the "natives" of the time they are living in. Which, naturally, is a problem for Prenna and her "native" friend Ethan. However, they both end up knowing more than they should and go to prevent what has already happened in Prenna's past/what will happen in Ethan's future.

Welcome to the world of time travel everyone.

My Thoughts

The Cover: Honestly, nothing special. When you look carefully you can kind of see little scenes in the triangles, but even after reading the book these scenes don't mean much. Knowing it is an Ann Brashares novel is the most the cover has going for it.

The Premise: The idea of this book was really interesting. It was a bit of a different view of time travel and what the future will bring in the next generation or so. Many novels which deal with the future lean towards technology, media, and social issues. This novel goes toward the angle of global warming and it's long-term effects on the world. It was definitely not a view I would have thought of so I found it interesting. There also wasn't a whole lot of time travel itself in the novel. There was only one instance in the very beginning and everything else was simply a result of that instance. However, I did feel as though the plot was pretty loose and I didn't completely understand all of the ramifications of Premma and Ethan's actions through the story. It gets confusing trying to figure out why some things changed int he end but other didn't and why some people remembered things and others didn't...

But then you have to remember it is time travel. With most stories about time travel, you will never 100% understand everything that has happened and it's results.

Any Doctor Who fan is very familiar with this.

I couldn't have said it better myself, Doctor.
The Characters: There honestly weren't a ton of characters in this story, which is nice every once in a while because having too many characters gets confusing. Most of the time is spent with Preena and Ethan. I enjoyed them very much. They were likable and determined. Yet, they weren't very complex. We learn a bit about their past, but it was more about their families vs. the main characters themselves.

The World: I covered some of this in the premise, but it was an interesting world. Of course, most of it was spent in 2014, so it was very familiar. But it was interesting to read about the supposed history of 2014 until the 2090s.

The Love Story: Adorable. It's young first love and very sweet. They talk about sex a lot, but that'll happen when the guy is 18 years old and it does actually have to do with the plot, so it's tolerable. There were also times I was very much "Awww this is so cute. Wait! Shouldn't they be planning what their next move is in saving the world? Oh well. This scene was adorable. They'll figure it out later."

Overall Thoughts: This book was cute, interesting, and read very quickly. I enjoyed the love story and seeing another view of what the world might be like in the next generation or so. However, I felt as though Brashares could have gone deeper with the characters and the plot. The world and premise was great, but there could have been so much more. Yes, it's wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey, but I still feel as though there needed to be more plot and make a bit more sense.

I gave it 3 stars because I did like it, but there could have been more.

The book comes out April 8 and you can pre-order it via the links below.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Half.com

Friday, March 28, 2014

For I Know The Plans I Have For You... Maybe

I can't help but notice we (as in people in general, but particularly my age group) spend a lot of time wondering about the future. Making plans, wondering where we're heading, and what's God's plans are for our lives.

It's natural for us to think about such things when everything seems so up in the air. Fore me, it's because I quit my job, moved back in with my parents, and generally trying to figure out what's next in life. It's not just me though. I have friends and family searching for new jobs, getting married, having kids, changing majors and schools, and also trying to see what is coming up next.

In conversation, talk about "God's plans" comes up a lot. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people tell me "God has a plan" over the last several months. Although I can't blame them. I heard myself say that to a friend just the other day and then apologized to her for saying something so cliche.

It came up in a conversation with my mom this week. She is very much in the mindset in which God's plan is for us to be with him in heaven. Period.

Which I agree with. God's ultimate and big plans all point to Jesus and his sacrifice and resurrection so we could go to heaven. It's awesome and it's above and beyond what we need.

Yet... I can't help but wonder... "That's his only plan? Everything else in our lives he's just like 'whatevs'?" Not that he doesn't care, but he doesn't have any other plans for people at all? He knows what will happen in our lives (you know... being omniscient and all) but does that mean he didn't plan it and only knows it?

What about the people in the Bible whom God told "Go do this" or "Go to this place" or "Say this"? Wouldn't that mean God had a plan for them? Or was it just something God told them and if they had said no he would have simply moved onto someone else and the people in the Bible are just those who did say yes? (Does that make any sense?)

Maybe God has a plan for some people but not for all. That doesn't seem right either though. Would he really be that selective?

On the other hand though, I feel like we do get too wrapped up in wondering "What is God's plan for my life?". It's as though there is just ONE THING God really wants for us to do. Or we need some big sign from him to point us in a certain direction. Then we sit around around wait for him to talk to us.


A friend of mine and I were discussing this a few weeks ago and he said he feels like God sometimes is telling "Go. Just go."

Because when we have decisions to make outside of moral issues, are we worrying too much about which one God wants? Think about it. Take jobs for example. Picking between one job or the other isn't a moral issue. Both might be just as good as the other. (Unless it's like selling meth or murdering puppies something...) More than likely we aren't going to get a big sign, or even a tiny whisper, from God saying which one to do. We just have to do it and know he'll be by our side the whole time.

This isn't just about careers and jobs though. It's about relationships and where we live and how we live our day to day lives. Maybe there isn't "the one" person God has in mind for you. Or maybe there is. Maybe there isn't a specific university we should attend. Maybe there isn't a certain plan we need to live. Maybe there isn't a one path in life we need to follow.

Or maybe there are certain ones we need to follow and people we need to have relationships with and jobs we need to take because God knows it's what we need. Maybe we simply don't need to know the end result or even how it all comes together in the end.

Jesus said he came so we may have life and have it to the full.

Some people interpret that as eternal life in heaven, which is true. But what about life here? Should we only be focusing on heaven? But then what happens to things here on earth?

The verse from Jeremiah about "I know the plans I have for you..." gets thrown around a lot. I always can't help but notice the word in that phrase is "plans" - with an "s." As in plural. There isn't just one. Yet... he also was talking to the people of Israel in this passage. Are we all just taking it out of context so we can feel better about our own lives?

I'm not really sure. What do you all think?

Simple Moments Stick