2013: The Year in Review

It’s the end of the first 2014 day, so I’d like to recap my 2013 goals:

1. Work out at least once a week
Mission accomplished! I wasn’t doing so hot with this one earlier in the year, but since August, I’ve been consistently kickboxing each week.  I hope to keep this up in the new year.

Book collection

Book collection (Photo credit: Ian Wilson)

2. Read 20 books I own that I have not read yet
This one wasn’t as successful. I only read one book in this category (Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey – Crystal Bacon), but I suppose it’s better than nothing.

3. Read 10 of the books on my Goodreads list.
I was so close to reaching this goal.  I read 8 books (list below), and I’m hoping to get in a full 10 this year.

  1. Bake Sale – Sara Varon (January 2013)
  2. The Medusa Plot – Gordon Korman (January 2013)
  3. A King’s Ransom – Jude Watson (January 2013)
  4. The Dead of Night – Peter Lerangis (January 2013)
  5. This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz (February 2013)
  6. Slapboxing with Jesus – Victor LaValle (July 2013)
  7. Drown – Junot Diaz (May 2013)
  8. Matched – Ally Condie (July 2013)

4. Publish a poetry chapbook with a press
This one, I now realize, may have been a misguided since I can’t control whether or not my chapbook gets picked up.  I can really only submit and hope, but I’m glad I at least tried.

5. Create more art (which is to say, work on a piece at least once a week)
This one had the opposite progression of my first goal: I started out really good, and then the art productivity steadily dropped. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on a piece of art in months, but I do hope to change that as I have a couple of weeks off before the start of the semester.

Music guitar

Music guitar (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

6. Practice guitar at least once every other week
I don’t think I touched a guitar this year, which saddens me. However, this result did show me that while I like guitar, it’s not a priority in my life right now. I’d rather focus on activities that really excite me. Once time for those things is carved out, perhaps I can branch out into guitar.

7. Watch every Jason Statham movie
This is another mission accomplished! I finished back in September, and it was a great feeling. This was definitely a fun, quirky resolution, and perhaps I’ll pick another actor’s movies to watch in the future.

8. Try to post something brand new on Etsy at least once a month
This goal, like my guitar resolution, showed me what is important—right now, Etsy is not. Honestly, I grew weary of working on a piece of art and wondering if it would sell.  I want to get back to working on art because I love it, because it’s therapeutic, because it helps me relax. For the time being, I’ve closed my Etsy shops.  I’m not sure if they’ll make a reappearance. I’d like to hope they will, but time will tell.

9. Post on this blog twice a week
The progress with this goal was sort of a wave curve. I started off great, then dropped off, then got back on track, then dropped off again. It was definitely progress, but I don’t know that I’d count it as a solid win.  

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

10. Pay off one of my two credit cards
Another not-quite-win here. I paid down one of them, but it hasn’t been paid off yet. Meeting financial goals is hard, but, like most goals on this list, I’d rather try than make no progress at all.

I definitely didn’t keep as many resolutions as I thought I would, which left me disappointed. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that this list helped me to establish what is important to me and what can fall by the wayside. This new knowledge has helped shape my 2014 resolutions, and I’m hoping that I’m able to stick with them a bit better than last year’s goals. Then again, it’s not always the items ticked off the list, but the journey, that counts.

Progress Report on My 2013 Goals

So I’ve been meaning to write an update on my goals for a while now, and seeing as we’re a month and change out from the new year, I figured I should post my progress:

1. Work out at least once a week
This first goal is going really well. I was totally failing for the first half of the year, but since July, I’ve been kickboxing once a week.  Here’s hoping I can finish the year out strong!

2. Read 20 books I own that I have not read yet
This goal hasn’t gone quite as well. I’ve read a total of one book from this list: “Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey” by Crystal Bacon.  I’ve gotten distracted with other books I don’t own, which is always the case.  Hmm, looks like I have quite a bit of reading ahead of me in the coming month and a half…

3. Read 10 of the books on my Goodreads list.
I’ve read 8 out of my goal of 10 books so far.  I’ve started two others from this list, so I’m hoping to get this goal finished up shortly.

4. Publish a poetry chapbook with a press
I finished putting together my chapbook in February. I have since sent it out to four contests, all of which said no.  I’m looking for more chapbook contests with deadlines before the end of the year, but so far, this hasn’t been a fruitful search. I may have to wait until next year.

5. Create more art (which is to say, work on a piece at least once a week)
I started the year off strong with this one (and even joined a Facebook group dedicated to posting a new piece of art each week), but have since fallen off the wagon. I am going to try to revive this for the remainder of the year, even if it’s working on a piece every other week.

6. Practice guitar at least once every other week
One thing I’ve noticed is that as the year progresses, what is really important becomes abundantly clear. I absolutely love the guitar, but I like writing and creating art more right now. I would rather have those practices take precedence at the moment, so I have tabled this goal for now. Perhaps next year I’ll pick up the strings again.

7. Watch every Jason Statham movie
This one’s done!  I watched all 20 movies I had yet to experience…and wow, Jason Statham has made a lot of generic action movies. But he’s made some keepers too. I really dug “The Italian Job,” (really well done, good plot, and great cast) “Death Race,” (for its sheer over-the-top ridiculousness) and “Gnomeo and Juliet” (surprisingly adorable and admirable…mostly because Jason Statham’s gnome races lawn mowers). There were some odd ones, like “Revolver” and “Turn It Up,” but I enjoyed this venture into all of “Handsome Rob’s” movies.

8. Try to post something brand new on Etsy at least once a month
As with the guitar goal, I realize that sometimes the pace we set out for ourselves just won’t work out. After some deliberation, I put my two Etsy shops on vacation. I realized I stopped creating for fun and started thinking about the “marketability” of my art. I didn’t like this road, so I want to take some time off from my shops and create freely for a while.

9. Post on this blog twice a week
Welp, that hasn’t gone as expected. But as with the creating more art goal, I’m hoping to revive this and finish the year strong.

10. Pay off one of my two credit cards
Umm, let’s not talk about this one. Ok, it’s not that bad, but this goal more than likely will not happen until next year. But at least the end is in sight!

I shall post my final progress at the end of December. In the meantime: If you’d like to keep up with how I’m doing for the next month or so, check out my “Goal” 2013 Resolutions” page periodically, as I’ll update it as I read/accomplish things.

What Makes You Vulnerable?

“My weakness I feel I must finally show.”
Awake My Soul, Mumford and Sons

This post is a bit darker than usual, but I feel I can’t break my hiatus from posting written blog entries until this one is seen.

To answer the question posed in this post’s title: What makes me vulnerable? Asking for help when I am so incredibly depressed I lose my words.

Now let me put this in context: Around the end of June of this year, I felt…off.  I don’t really know how else to describe it. I’m typically fairly calm, content, and level-headed, but I found myself off center. I was snapping at those closest to me and always felt either fuming angry or deeply sad. There was no in between. Thus started three months of the worst depression I have ever faced.

I don’t know where it came from or why it never left during that time period, but there it was when I woke up in the morning, haunting me throughout the day, and keeping me from sleep.  There was much crying and frustration and voices (yes, voices, which makes me sound schizophrenic. But it’s more common than you think.) I couldn’t do anything without crying. I knew there was a problem, but didn’t know what the source was, which near made me go insane.

What was the most maddening for me during this time was the fact that I’m a writer…but I had no words. When my fiancee or a friend or a family member would ask me what was wrong in a genuine attempt to help (which I am so grateful for), I had nothing to tell them. I wasn’t trying to be coy or less of a burden. I legit had no idea what was wrong with me. I eventually stopped reaching out because it seemed pointless.

I kind of felt like Vincent Van Gogh, as portrayed in Doctor Who. During one of Van Gogh’s fits of madness, he has a short conversation with the Doctor:

The Doctor: Vincent, can I help?
Van Gogh: It’s so clear you cannot help. And when you leave—and everyone always leaves—I will be left once more with an empty heart and no hope.
The Doctor: My experience is that there is, you know, surprisingly always hope.
Van Gogh: Then your experience is incomplete! I know how it will end. And it will not end well.

For months, I felt exactly as the artist did in the previous exchange. I felt as if everyone always left me, and I was always alone. I felt like this experience I was having would end very badly.

I don’t think that people should live without hope, but I do think that everyone reaches a point where they truly believe there is none. I agree with Van Gogh in the sense that if someone has not experienced that, then her experience of life is incomplete. But the point isn’t to stay there. It is to rise and get help.

I know it’s a cliche saying, but it is true that sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to go anywhere but up.  That’s where I was, and I decided to just fold into myself. I didn’t reach out, as mentioned before, and tried to deal on my own (This didn’t go well. If you’re experiencing depression, please tell someone). I watched depressing movies so I could cry. Sometimes it was all I could do not to hyperventilate. And in between all this, fielding the voices in my head, and fighting just to go out and see the sun on so-so days, I made it my goal to find words for whatever it was I was feeling.  In the process, I amassed a pretty good collection (some of which I’ve already shared in this post, with more quotes to come).

Now to circle back to the question posed in the beginning of the post: I was vulnerable during my depression, especially because I didn’t have words. But, somehow (and very thankfully), I moved past that to ask for help again. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t pretty. But I started to say, to a trusted few, things like “Something’s wrong,” and “I can’t take this anymore, but I don’t know what to do,” and “I don’t know what this is.” And people stepped in. My fiance, my friends, and family checked in on me. They made sure I had everything I needed. They skyped with me in a minute’s notice. They got me out of my apartment.

It’s hard for me to accept help. I think part of this hearkens back to the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” One of the main characters says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I wanted to soldier through the depression on my own because I wanted to be independent, but I also didn’t want to be a nuisance. The kind gestures of those closest to me showed me that I deserve a love much better than what I originally thought, and I try to carry that knowledge with me wherever I go now.

After getting help, both personal and professional, I’m feeling better. I’ve been ok for about a month now, and I can’t fully express how refreshing it is. I’m back to being myself. I still get frustrated and blue, but it’s manageable and in proportion with the circumstances I face. And I also get happy and smile a lot. But more than that, I’m content. While some may see content as being “middle of the road,” for me, right now, there is no sweeter feeling than to just be satisfied with where I am.

I must give credit where credit is due: There are two web sites (one blog post and one TED talk) that really pushed me to be brave and write this post: Natalie’s “The Lies in Our Heads” and Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability.”  Thank you, ladies, for sharing your stories.

In her TED talk, Brene Brown talks about telling “the story of who you are with your whole heart” and having “the courage to be imperfect.” That’s what this post is for me. That’s why I felt I couldn’t post anything else before I wrote this. I had to learn that being depressed wasn’t my fault. I had to learn that it’s ok to be imperfect and ask for help, spreading that messiness to others who can do something positive. And I needed you, the reader, to know this and, perhaps, let what I’ve learned sink into your own life.

Epilogue: I was seriously thinking of making this a private post just so I could write it, but only for me to see. So why make it public? Because I’m starting to find words and, as a writer, it’s important for me that I put those words out in the open, knowing that this could backfire or that not one person besides myself will read this or care. But even in the times when I don’t believe in myself, I know that risk is worth it, that the written word infused with authenticity has the power to change everything. Aside from authentic human relationships with the closest people in my life, it is all that has ever changed me.

Here are some of the other words I found to help me through my journey and articulate what I was feeling:

“Do not ask the price I paid. I must live with my quiet rage.
Tame the ghosts in my head. They’re unwild and wish me dead.”
Lover’s Eyes, Mumford and Sons

“I feel fine, and I can smile,
But I feel the anger coming.
It’s underneath.
I don’t know why
It’s always overflowing.
It’s a constant fight
Deep inside,
And I wanna forget it.

I confess I’m always afraid, always ashamed
Of what’s inside me.
I confess I’m always afraid, always ashamed
Of what’s inside my head.

And I can breath, and I still feel,
But not the way I want to.
I’m on the edge. I don’t know how
I can escape this nightmare.”
Confession (What’s Inside My Head), RED

“You’re so mean when you talk about yourself. You were wrong.
Change the voices in your head. Make them like you instead.”
Fuckin’ Perfect, Pink

“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
(Thanks for sharing, Stephanie Levy!)

Books and Art and Confetti, Oh My!: My 10 New Year’s Resolutions

Confetti, Times Square

Confetti, Times Square (Photo credit: StuartMoreton)

I recently read this article about New Years Resolutions by Don Miller.  It gives some concrete reasons as to why some resolutions don’t seem to work out for those that set them.

Two reasons that stuck with me were 1. the resolutions weren’t meaningful and 2. no plan was made to go along with the resolutions.  It got me thinking about how these two specific reasons are exactly why some of my resolutions for 2012 failed.  I simply didn’t want the results badly enough or other goals not on my “official list of resolutions” were more immediate and promising.  One, honestly, I just plain forgot about.

To avoid resolution failure in 2013, I have made a list of 10 resolutions (or goals, as I like to look at them) that are important to me and that have a solid plan for achievement behind them.

1. Work out at least once a week
This is a failed 2012 goal of mine.  In 2011, I really got into kickboxing.  I stuck with it all year.  Around December 2011, I began to show up to class less and less.  I’d really like to get back into the swing of exercising because I always felt great afterwards (there are few things as refreshing as a post-workout shower).  Also, I miss being able to punch things and not getting in trouble for it 😉

I know “more exercise” is a pretty common resolution for most people, but health is pretty important to me.  During my last check-up this summer, my doctor said I was very healthy and all of my blood work was great.  I’d like to do my part to keep it that way.  Exercising regularly is a habit I want to get into now so that as I age and perfect health may not come as easily, I know I’m doing everything I can to stay in shape.

Books - bookcase top shelf

Books – bookcase top shelf (Photo credit: ~ Phil Moore)

2. Read 20 books I own that I have not read yet
I, like many other literatis, buy books quicker than I can read them.  I have bunches of books on my shelves that I have not read or never finished.  This is typically a source of much frustration since, oddly enough, what keeps me from reading this particular set of books is other books.  This goal is an attempt to help myself focus on the books I already have.

I was going to make the resolution to make my way through all of them, and then I realized that would be crazy.  I like a challenge, but there are times I know I’d just be setting myself up for defeat.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s my list of unread or partially read books (and I have a strong feeling I’m missing a bunch that are hidden in my room under well-placed piles of paper, clothes, and craft supplies):

Ordinary Genius – Kim Addonizio
Eve and Adam – Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant
Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey – Crystal Bacon
Notarikon – Bowman
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers – Shane Claiborne
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
Boundaries – Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Vacations on the Black Star Line – Michael Cirelli
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Blinking with Fists – Billy Corgan
Jesus Freaks, Volumes 1 and 2 – DC Talk
Great American Poets: Emily Dickinson – Emily Dickinson
50 American Plays – Matthew and Michael Dickman
Fire to Fire – Mark Doty
Alabanza – Martin Espada
Harlot – Jill Alexander Essbaum
Necropolis – Jill Alexander Essbaum
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Eye of the Fish – Luis Francia
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
New World – Suzanne Gardinier
me and Nina – Monica Hand
Selected Short Stories – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hip Logic – Terrance Hayes
Teaching Poetry Writing – Tom Hunley
Absence is Such a Transparent House – Aby Kaupang
Still to Mow – Maxine Kumin
Breaking the Alabaster Jar – Li-Young Lee
Passwords Primeval – Tony Leuzzi
Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
Surprised by Joy – C. S. Lewis
That Hideous Strength – C. S. Lewis
Poet in New York – Federico Garcia Lorca
A Gentle Thunder – Max Lucado
New and Selected Poems – Thomas Lux
Gloryland – Anne Marie Macari
Ivory Cradle – Anne Marie Macari
Times Alone – Antonio Machado
Wild Domestic – Tamara Madison
What Learning Leaves – Taylor Mali
What Teachers Make – Taylor Mali
Song of Thieves – Shara McCallum
Panic – Laura McCullough
Pink Elephant – Rachel McKibbons
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Donald Miller
Searching for God Knows What – Donald Miller
The Tiny One – Eliza Minot
Western Practice – Stephen Motika
The Essential Neruda – Pablo Neruda
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair – Pablo Neruda
Lucky Fish – Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Evidence – Mary Oliver
Pier – Janine Oshiro
Dancing at the Devil’s Party – Alicia Ostriker
Volcano Sequence – Alicia Ostriker
Convergences – Octavio Paz
Sudden Dog – Matthew Pennock
Boy – Patrick Phillips
100 Poems by 100 Poets – Harold Pinter
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers – Bhanu Kapil Rider
Capirotada – Alberto Rios
Open Secret – Rumi
With or Without You – Domenica Ruta
Shadow Society – Marie Rutkoski
Barter – Ira Sadoff
Grazing – Ira Sadoff
Year of the Black Rainbow – Claudio Sanchez
Striking Surface – Jason Schneiderman
Hurdy Gurdy – Tim Seibles
Measure for Measure – William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Passion and Pride: Poets in Support of Equality – Bruce Spang
How Good is Good Enough? – Andy Stanley
American Sonnets – Gerald Stern
Early Collected Poems – Gerald Stern
Save the Last Dance – Gerald Stern
Stealing History – Gerald Stern
Dracula – Bram Stoker
View with a Grain of Sand – Wislawa Szymborska
Phantom Limb – Brian Turner
The Girl Who Feel Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There – Catherynne Valente
Door in the Mountain – Jean Valentine
The Water Books – Judith Vollmer
17 Love Poems with No Despair – B. J. Ward
Gospel Night – Michael Waters
This Sharpening – Ellen Doré Watson
Triangle – Katharine Weber
Tortured for Christ – Richard Wurmbrand

3. Read 10 of the books on my Goodreads list.
This is an extension of goal 2.  There are books I already own, and then there are books I would like to get a hold of.  Right now, I have 352 “To Read” books.  10 is barely a dent, but it’s 10 more than I would read if I didn’t make this goal.

4. Publish a poetry chapbook with a press
Last year, one of my goals was to have between 3-5 poetry submissions out at any given time.  I’ve been pretty steady with that submission number, so now I want to up the ante.  My manuscript has not been picked up, which is not surprising as I’ve only been sending it out for about a year.  But, I’d like to tinker with it before sending it out again.

In the meantime, I’d like to market around a chapbook, which is, essentially, a shorter manuscript.  Poetry chapbooks are typically in the ballpark of 18-25 pages.  This, I think (and hope!), will be much easier to put together.  Also, if I publish a chapbook, I may get more press and a better chance of publishing a full poetry manuscript. Yay, professional and creative ambition!

PASTEL

PASTEL (Photo credit: hichako)

5. Create more art (which is to say, work on a piece at least once a week)


This is one of my looser goals.  Since I work in so many different mediums, I want to give myself some wiggle room.  My main three art forms are poetry, photography, and mixed media art.  I’d absolutely love to finish a piece each week, but I’d need way more hours in the day for that.  Instead, I’m being a bit easier on myself and starting with simply working on a project in at least one medium each week.

This goal has a three-fold reason behind it.  When I create art, I feel free.  I love making something from nothing and letting the piece become a force of its own, gently letting me know which direction to go in.  This part has to do with making time to do something I love.  The second reason has to do with the fact that I have two Etsy shops: Roaring Out and Lady Velociraptor.  I sell mixed media art and fine art photo prints in the second shop and would like to increase the number of my wares.  Lastly, while I have been good with submitting poetry (see goal 4), I have not been good with publicizing my art for display in galleries and magazines.  In order to do this, I feel like I need a bigger portfolio.  This will be the year I create that portfolio to (hopefully) give me enough umph to walk into galleries and say, “Hey, I have art and you have wall space.  How convenient!” (except, you know, more professional-like).

6. Practice guitar at least once every other week
Like goal 4, this is another resolution that is branching off of one for 2012.  The 2012 goal was “learn guitar.”  Very vague, I know.  But, I did sign up for a guitar class in the fall and stuck with it.  Because of that class, I have enough material to practice with on my own (though I do plan to continue with the classes in the new year).  I say practice every other week because I already have a couple of things to do each week, like teach and create art and exercise and, you know, sleep.  So, again, I’m going a little easier on myself here.  If guitar goes well this year, I may up the ante in 2014 with practicing every week or every few days.

7. Watch every Jason Statham movie
So, I have a celebrity crush on Jason Statham (there’s explosions and fire and fight scenes when he’s on screen *swoon*).  This resolution is more for fun than improving personally or professionally.  Everyone needs some silliness thrown in 🙂

The movies I have left to watch are:

Jason-Statham

Jason-Statham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Turn It Up
Ghosts of Mars
Mean Machine
The Transporter
Transporter 2
Transporter 3
The Italian Job
Collateral
Cellular
Chaos
London
Revolver
Crank
The Bank Job
Death Race
13
Gnomeo and Juliet (I almost excluded this movie, but he’s the voice of Tybalt. I have to see this!)
Safe
Parker (coming out in 2013, as are, like, 27 other movies with Jason Statham.  I’ll get to those as they come out.  Geez, this Brit is prolific).

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

8. Try to post something brand new on Etsy at least once a month
As I mentioned in goal 5, I have two Etsy shops.  Last year, I made a resolution to post something on Etsy once a month.  The problem is that I counted renewing a listing for an already existing item as a “post.”  That just wasn’t meaningful enough for me because it was too easy.  So, I’m raising the bar.  I want to post a brand new item in at least one of my shops for each month.  I was tempted to say that I needed to post a brand new item in each shop every month, but I’ll start small for now.  If anything, it means 12 new items by year’s end.

9. Post on this blog twice a week
Much like the previous goal, this one’s 2012 incarnation was too easy.  The goal was to post once a week.  But I was already doing Poetry Monday once a week, so there was no challenge to do anything differently.  Now that I’m recording Poetry Mondays every other week, there’s a bit more for me to keep up with, especially since I’ll need two original posts on Poetry Monday’s off weeks.  Hmm, maybe I should start a Folk Music Friday….

10. Pay off one of my two credit cards
I figured I’d round out my resolutions list with a practical financial goal.  Not much to say here except I hope that by this time next year, I’ll have one less bill to pay 😉

Some final thoughts on an already long post:
1. I once heard someone say that people should strive for progress not perfection.  That’s something I’m going to keep in mind this coming year, and I encourage you to do the same.

Even if I only attend exercise classes regularly for one month and read 4 books from my lists, I’m not going to beat myself up over it because, hey, that’s more than I would have done had I not made these goals.  I can adjust resolutions this time next year if need be.  At the age of 26, I’ve realized that what makes a more interesting story is the journey rather than the destination. But crossing a big goal off the list is fun too 🙂

2. In the fall, I took an e-course called “Creative Courage,” which is organized by Stephanie Levy. In this course (which I highly recommend if you are a creative lady), participants were encouraged to make a list of 5-10 fun things we would like to do before the year is out.  This was an exercise in encouraging us to intentionally make time for activities we enjoy.  I made a list of 8 things and accomplished 6. I think what really helped me focus on these “mini goals” was the fact that I made an actual list and posted it in my room where I’d see it every day.  This constant reminder was so helpful and encouraging.  So, that’s what I’m going to do with this list, too.  I’m going to be staring at these same 10 goals all year and my hope is that I’ll get to cross them all off.

I’m sure I’ll be posting updates on these goals, which will help me with resolution 7 😉

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Doing Nothing is the Most Productive Thing To Do

Most weeks, my life consists of work, laundry, volunteering, and sometimes cooking.  My weekends can get even more hectic with family parties, dinner with friends, weekend events, and catching up on errands thrown in.  It’s all good stuff, but it can get overwhelming.

This past weekend was the first in a while where I could just sit back and enjoy the luxury of doing nothing.  Sure, there are things I could have been doing, like cleaning or writing a book review.  But I often forget that sometimes doing nothing can boost productivity later.  Monday is coming to a close and I felt rested for most of the day, which is a plus of rest!

Well, I did do a couple of things this weekend.  I finally finished a book I borrowed from a friend over six months ago (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak…good stuff!).   I even made some yummy Black Bean and Brown Rice chili (I added ground beef later):

Speaking of food, my boyfriend and I also gorged on junk food while watching the Jason Statham/Jet Li gem “War.”  Also (perhaps more importantly), my boyfriend and I completely obliterated a score I held in Geometry Wars 2.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

For those of you not familiar with the game, Geometry Wars 2 allows those of you despise Math to do what you’ve always dreamed of: shoot shapes!  There are several shape-shooting modes, but my favorite is called “King.”  In King mode, you fly from circle to circle trying to shoot the multicolored shapes and snakes while avoiding contact with them.  Shapes cannot get to you while you are in a circle.  The catch?  The circles start to shrink and disappear about 5 seconds after you enter one and you can only shoot while in a circle.

I could play this game all day.  In about a half hour, my boyfriend and I completely obliterated my previous high score of about 1,300,000 with the ridiculous score of 11,749,880. When we completed this feat, we must have had the perfect combination of salty ridge chips, Reese’s peanut butter ice cream, and Jason Statham badassery running through our veins.  I guess I did accomplish something this weekend.

 

How about you?  What are some things you like to do (or not do!) on lazy weekends?

Of Mitres and John Coltrane: My Thoughts on Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz: The Movie

I think Don Miller is pretty cool.  If you’ve spent any time around me, you already know this.  I’ve been reading his books for a couple of years now.  He seems like the kind of guy you could sit down with at a coffee shop and talk for hours, which might be why I keep reading.

The reason could also be that his work is real.  Don doesn’t sugar coat life or faith or the hard work it takes to get where you want to go.  So I was thrilled to learn his memoir, “Blue Like Jazz,” was going to be made into a movie.  And after this surge of anticipation came a wave of dread.  Books turned movies don’t always translate well (“The Lightning Thief” anyone?).

As a book, Blue Like Jazz is a beautiful fusion of faith and wrestling and life and interactions with people that seem really off-beat (in the best way.)  To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the film.  Many movies under the “Christian” label can be quite biased and unrealistic.  This movie could also swing in the opposite direction, creating a piece devoid of any deeper meaning.

After I saw the movie this past Friday, I was happy to find that Blue Like Jazz is delightfully balanced, showing both the reality of life (specifically college life) and all of its complexities when you throw in wrestling with faith.

Sure, there will be the people who may expect a sermon and will not be happy with the fact that the movie doesn’t end with Don’s character parading around the campus of Reed College handing out Bibles and yelling, “Repent!”  There will also be people who won’t like it because of all the God talk.  But, ultimately, this movie serves as a great discussion piece.  Not to say that the cinematography wasn’t good or that the dialogue felt forced.  But the movie is more than close-ups and funny one-liners.  Blue Like Jazz is a movie that isn’t afraid to wrestle with the larger life questions and refuses to present clear-cut answers simply because we all have our own experiences, which almost never produce a neat answer when we add them all together.  Life is art, not math.

There are certainly big differences between the book’s accounts and the movie’s portrayal.  But the film tells a good story (and, really, isn’t that what a movie should accomplish?).  There is one scene I keep coming back to where Don’s character is speaking with his father.  His dad is sitting on a lawn chair outside of his trailer, drinking a beer, and listening to Coltrane when he says two lines that have stuck with me: “Life is like Jazz music.  It doesn’t resolve.”  This is the main theme I took away from the movie.  It’s a theme that is nuanced, and certainly opens the floor to discussion.

A Love Supreme

All of the people Don interacts with along the way (Penny, Lauryn, “the Pope”) are three-dimensional.  They are not dismissed as heathens or God girls or merely intellectuals.  There’s depth to them, qualities that made them all human.  This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the movie, mostly because I can relate.  I have a friend who reminds me of Lauryn and a friend who is pretty much “the Pope” (minus the mitre).  And these friends have struggles and beauty and flaws.  And yet, I feel that some would box them in, then write in big, bold, Sharpie letters “THE LESBIAN” and “THE PAGAN.”  Blue Like Jazz shows that people are more than the sum of their labels without being preachy.  That in and of itself is quite a feat.  I hope movies (both Hollywood and “Christian”) will take a hint from this movie and create more films with complex characters.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the film not because it was made by a Christian author or marketed to a specific audience.  I enjoyed the movie because it is refreshing, because it is honest, because it celebrates the very human freedom to question and draw conclusions from our own messy and beautiful experiences.

It has been five days since I’ve seen this movie. For whatever reason, I can’t stop listening to John Coltrane.

Listen to a song by Coltrane here: Acknowledgement by John Coltrane from the album A Love Supreme