Thursday, December 31, 2015

Holidailies Day 31: Equality is Not A Bad Word

If you hadn't guessed from my last big post on here, I have some thoughts on how women are treated in many areas. Not just the way I grew up, but realizing that in the broader culture, it's just as bad if not worse in a lot of areas. Though, in some, there are great voices and strong calls for more and better forms of gender equality.

However, there are a few areas that have been called to my attention the past few days, where this still isn't being put into practice anywhere. The modesty bit, for one. That's always a big one in the Christian realm. Outside of that, there's also the complete and utter removal of Rey from nearly every mass produced Star Wars toy (which I saw in person). Then there's the blog post I read about how people get offended when people post reviews that are critical of popular - in the sense that they are well thought through and point out uncomfortable truths (read it, you won't regret it). To top it all off, a great article popped up on USA Today about how equal coverage of women's sports is the first step to women's sports gaining fans, which leads to marketing money, which leads to better quality of play, which leads to better pay, etc. All of these things I feel very strongly about.

I think what it really comes down to is representation, which is what the USA Today article pointed out. They made the point that in situations where women's sports have been covered and promoted at the same level as men's, and normalized in that way, there is a distinct increases in interest. I feel like this applies to all situations.

For Star Wars, Rey was already a main character. She was already awesome, already SUPER well-written to be a strong female who was not a Mary Sue and didn't actually need anyone to save her, except for maybe a push or two to get her off the "I need to go back to Jakku and waste my life path!" She was representing all over the place in the movie. So why is she so under-represented in the merch? Especially the kid's toys? I saw it at Target. A whole aisle dedicated to Star Wars, and there was exactly ONE TOY that had any representation of Rey on it. It was tiny, most of it was her scavenger scooter, and you could barely tell it was her. The books were a little bit better. There was a whole book detailing how she survived on Jakku (which I super want to read). She was featured in some of the other compilations. But a lot of the ones focused on younger kids (young readers versions, etc) were solely following the male characters.

Still, this isn't a simple case of women in ensemble casts being left out of the merch runs (a la Black Widow in the Avengers, and Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy). This is the main character. Rey's it. She's the new Jedi. She managed to spank Kylo Ren with only minimal training in the Force, sometimes figuring it out as she went along because she is smart and resourceful and freaking POWERFUL. Why are there oodles of Kylo Ren toys, even toy packs that include different classes of Stormtroopers, and NO Rey?

People think that boys won't like playing with toys of women, but how will they know unless they make them and see? What about the tons of girls who love to play with action figures and would love to have a Rey figure to fight the First Order with? Let's be honest, I'm 26 years old, and I would probably buy a Rey action figure if it existed. She is freaking cool. More than that, I work with kids, and one of the huge topics of conversation with a lot of the boys this week has been about Star Wars. I had quite a few of the boys tell me that they really liked Rey, because she was awesome.

We can no longer make the excuse that we don't know what to do about this anymore. The answer is right there. Just acknowledge it. Acknowledge that inequity has dominated the culture, and still does in a lot of ways. Acknowledge that it is wrong and it needs to be fixed. And then acknowledge and support when someone goes out of their way to fix it. If a time exists when I have money (in my dreams), I will buy a ton of Rey merchandise. I will totally buy jerseys for women's sports, because I love the players and I want to grow the sports that I enjoy (and entice some NWSL teams to get better streams because, seriously, it's 2015, the fact that you're apparently relegated to equipment from the 90's is just sad). Until then, I'm over here in my little corner of the internet, speaking out because that's what I have the ability to do right now.

The first step is acknowledging. The next step is representation. The last step is support. All of these things we can do on a daily basis. Whether it's telling your kid that the movie that you've loved is great, but there are some flaws, or strategically buying things that support the sort of content you want to see. Or promoting people who have stated opinions really well. It all changes the culture just a little bit. It's starting to gain momentum. Do it well. Rule one of the internet (and of life, IMHO) is still, "Don't be a dick."

It's the end of the year, and 2015 has seen a lot of strides towards equality in many areas. Even if it's just things seemingly collapsing, which is a necessary (if painful) step towards rebuilding. Hopefully we can start building a better, more loving society next year. One that treats everyone as people, and values them equally.

Until next year.

[sermon] For the record, this happens to be one of the issues that I wish the Church would actually do a lot better on, if only to show everyone else how it should be done. When it's the other way around - as it very often is - we're failing at our calling. Point blank. We're called to transform not conform, and when other people are transforming better, we need to take that as a wake up call and figure out our crap so we can fix things. Pro-tip: Jesus will help, and He's generally better at it than anyone else, so it's not totally hopeless. [/sermon]

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Holidailies Day 30: Alarm Clocks

The title is such, because I did this stupid thing last night. I forgot that my alarm clock is relentless, and as I am working morning shifts this week, would inevitably go off way earlier than I am ever okay with. Then I stayed up until midnight, which my poor sleep deprived brain is regretting now.

Actually, it's been regretting it all day. I was lying on the couch watching a really great soccer match (2011 Women's World Cup Quarterfinal between Brazil and the US, featuring the worst reffing in a World Cup match EVER, Hope Solo being a ninja anyways, and Abby Wambach saving our collective sanity in injury time of extra time), and I was almost falling asleep until I sat up. When I'm falling asleep watching soccer, I really need to take that as a sign to not do stupid things again.

So my big post that I've been ruminating on and half-composing in my head shall have to wait for tomorrow. It shall be an appropriate send-off for Holidailies, as this crazy month comes to a close. And I will have gotten more sleep, and thus it shall be composed with more quality, and there will be much rejoicing (at least in my head).

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Holidailies Day 29: Just a Little Bit More

I had this great idea for a post about a thing I ran across today. But then I realized that it's 11 pm and I have to get up early tomorrow for work. So... maybe not the best time to get into a long topic sort of thing. Instead I shall... Leave you with a funny video and call it good.

This is one of my personal favorites out of the USWNT sphere of my life. Abby Wambach's teammates, impersonating Abby Wambach.


Becky Sauerbrunn's is the best, because you can tell she really gets into the performance and her face is perfect. "REFEREE! REFEREE! DID YOU SEE THAT?"

Until tomorrow, with hopefully better brainpower.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Holidailies Day 28: Confessions of a Tomboy

Fair Warning: I'm feeling extra sarcastic today, so I'll try and be positive, but I make no promises.

So I came across this article last week that touched on one of my favorite/least favorite topics in Christian culture. Then the week got crazy, and there were other things to think about and talk about so it got put on the back burner until today when I actually have some amount of time to devote to it.

The distinction between this subject being my favorite and least favorite largely depends on who is talking, and what they're saying about it. The topic is modesty, and the "modesty culture." The article was about "Christian cleavage" and how that probably isn't as big of a problem as some of us were raised believing. Myself included, which is obviously why I have some pretty strong feelings about it.

First off, reading the article will get you started on what my views are on this subject. The author lays out a great foundation of actual Biblical evidence, and this weird thing called logic. Also another weird thing called respect for human beings, not just women.

A breakdown of the highlights of modesty culture, if you're in a TL:DR mood:


  • Puts all the responsibility on women for dressing in a way that "doesn't cause men to stumble," which is harmful to both men and women.
  • Women are taught that they are held accountable for men's actions (which they can't actually control).
  • Men are taught that they aren't totally accountable for their actions, which is dangerous, to say the least.
  • Men are also taught that they are more or less animals, with no distinction between a passing sexual thought and actual lusting/obsession/fantasizing about women. 
  • Women are usually not taught positive things about themselves in the course of this doctrine. It boils down to, "That cool body God created you in? Yeah, it's shameful and you should hide it because people could SIN, *Rebecca St. James plays in the background*"
I almost don't even know where to start with this. For most of these things, any decent human being should be able to see what's wrong with this picture. If you can't, or if you're into Biblical proofs, read the article. Really, so much has been written on this topic that all I have to add to it this time around is some personal experiences that I may or may not have shared before.

First off, if you know me in person, you know that I'm a pretty huge tomboy. Like, I intentionally did my best to look guy-ish for a significant portion of my formative years, that kind of tomboy. There was a reason for that, in my little kid head. With all the super strong talk about how modesty was important, from camp dress codes sent out with every registration form, to conferences about keeping yourself pure from all manner of shady sexual sin, that I somehow ended up at before I even really hit puberty. 

I took it to the extreme (which I *never* do. Ever.). I decided that being a girl was just WAY too complicated and stressful, and being boyish, literally, was easier. After all, no one ever gets on girls for wearing loose t-shirts and cargo pants. (Well, unless you're super-extra conservative, but thankfully my family was never on the "we should wear long-skirts and sweaters always" train. I might have died.) 

T-shirts - especially unisex styles - are the epitome of modesty, especially when they have sometimes slightly clever appropriations of pop culture sayings on them, with a Christian twist. My personal favorite when I was 14 was a shirt that said "Talk to the Hand" with a picture of Jesus' hand with a nail sticking through it and blood dripping down. Plus a Bible verse. It was what I considered my most hardcore shirt. Oh, and the best part? The name of the company that made this shirt was "Yahwear" (I wish I was making that up). 

So fast forward 12 years, and I've had a number of changes of theology (thank GOD). I'm still a tomboy, don't get me wrong. I still rarely wear anything fancier than jeans and a t-shirt, but the jeans are women's jeans not men's cargo pants, and the shirts are cut for women and have necklines that I'm still getting used to. I'm slowly trying to buy more things that I could potentially wear in a professional setting, even though that's an expensive endeavor (non-standard size shopping is the worst). I own more than one dress that I didn't have to buy for choir, even if I don't wear them that often. Buying them was difficult enough. I'm working on the whole wearing them bit.

See, this teaching was buried deep in my brain, and I'm trying to pull it out piece by piece, because I realize how it skewed my perspective on everything. It taught me to believe that my body was shameful, before I even had much of a body to be ashamed of. Somehow, just by virtue of being a girl I was heaped with all this extra responsibility. Be modest, make sure your shorts are longer than your fingertips, skin-tight clothing may as well have been invented by the devil, necklines are really dangerous, especially if you have big boobs, but we can't actually say that so we just preach the gospel of the undershirt and the camisole because OH BY THE WAY you're still somehow required to look cute and girly, and be into makeup (though not too into it, because beauty is also dangerous), and want to wear dresses, because that's what boys want, but don't you DARE actually try and draw attention to yourself with your looks because then you're causing them to sin. 

Talk about mixed signals. And I still hear this litany going off in my head every time I try to stray out of my clothing comfort zone. It gets worse (significantly) when weight plays into it, and then I REALLY can't find anything "cute" to wear unless I pay $50 and maybe sell my soul to Torrid because it is the only mainstream store I've found that makes clothes a) in my size and b) not something your average middle aged housewife would wear. I have never been into that style, though I still get dragged into it occasionally, because you try finding professional plus size clothes without going to Dress Barn. 

That particular issue has as much to do with general culture's view of weight (another topic) as it does with the highly shame-based version of modesty I was taught. But for me, they are still rather connected, because nearly every piece of clothing that could possibly be considered nice falls under one of two distinctions in my head. "I could never wear that because I don't have the right undershirt, and if I leaned down plus bend in this really odd angle someone could see slightly more skin than is appropriate." Or, "This would be nice but... oh, never mind, it isn't the right size/cut right."

I don't know if I have a happy ending to this story yet, to be honest. I am still very much in the middle. In the conflict. In the trying to find some form of femininity that doesn't make 12-year-old me - a very vocal age-range still - run screaming into a corner because it's just too hard. In trying to actively not be ashamed of my body, in all it's glory. In trying to learn that the first step to being healthy is actually being okay with yourself as you are, which is a war where I've won some key battles, but there are plenty more than I still have to face. 

In Pokemon terms (because who doesn't relate their life to RPGs?), I've beaten the first couple of gyms. But beating the rest of the game is going to take some work, some grinding to train up my team, and a lot of strategy and playing to my strengths. Problem is, it's way easier in Pokemon than it is in real life. I may or may not have actually found my strengths yet, which makes strategy harder, which makes figuring out what areas to work on nearly impossible.

Still, I'm trying, which has to count for something. Trying to read things like the article that started this whole thought process, which affirm what I now believe, that bodies are not shameful things. I should have to be extra responsible for things that I cannot control. I just need to be responsible for me, and that's difficult enough already. No need to add other people's bricks to my load.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holidailies Day 27: Vacation's End

After another, even more uneventful drive over the pass, I am back. Sitting at home, in my room, contemplating all of the stuff that I left on my bed. I never actually learn that leaving a pile of junk on the bad in the packing process is a bad idea. I always do it, and I always wildly regret doing it when I get home and I'm tired and I just want to go to bed, but oh wait I dumped a bunch of clothes on the bed. I have no other place for clothes in my room, obviously. Except for, you know, a closet and a dresser. *glares at bed*

At least I'm only half off of vacation. I go back to work tomorrow, which is good because money. I sign up to work mornings every time we have full-day programming, because I'm a fan of torturing myself. At least, that's what it feels like. Logically, I realize that I am in fact training to be a teacher and a feature of that job is getting up early in the morning. This means at some point I should train myself to be at least functional in the morning. This is currently my best way of doing so.

I survived the summer working mornings, 8 weeks worth of it. Though, just one week, or a one-day stint is more difficult. You don't get your body into that rhythm as well, or by the time you get it there you're back to normal. For this week, I stocked up on caffeine, more for the afternoons after I get off and still have things to do. 

My goal for this week is to not turn Sims on, because I rediscovered the amount of time it sucks, which is rather unfortunate for goals that include productivity. My other goals are all about productivity, which is to say, cleaning and calling important people like mechanics, doctors, and dentists (oh my!). Make sure all parts of me and my car are in fairly good working order before jumping back into the next, longer stint of school. Also, putting some serious thought into better ways to cope with overwhelming amounts of school, because I feel like my systems of doing so broke down around week 10 of 16. So we're going for longer amounts of relative functionality this time. We'll see how that works. 

Now it is time to reclaim my bed, and - as one of the kids at work always says before his fellow club members arrive - prepare for chaos by sleeping.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Holidailies Day 26: Adventures in the Kitchen

It's always exciting when you get a slightly crazy idea and decide to go for it. I'm on vacation after all, and why shouldn't I try something new? That was my thought process this morning when I decided that I was going to try making my friend's heavenly mac and cheese dish (seriously, it's like pure Holy Spirit on your tongue), without ever having tried to make it before. Also, receiving instructions over text message and the occasional panicked phone call. (To clarify, the result was all user error, not the fault of the instructions at all... She is awesome and makes this the best ever.)

So this didn't actually go as bad as it could've gone, to be fair. The pasta was great, and the mixture of seasoning and the ingredient that kicks it up from perfect to divine - pancetta, may all worship your greatness - turned out pretty spectacular. Together, they did not make a bad pasta salad. 

This was quite fortuitous since the sauce seemed destined to fail. There is not yet a consensus on exactly where it went wrong. Whether the milk was too hot or too cold, or I added the cheese too fast or not fast enough... no matter. The end result was liquid and curds, which was very interesting. Apparently, it didn't even suck that way - according to those who were brave enough to try adding it to their pasta and microwaving it. I admittedly was done trying to save it at that point, and just had the pasta with the pancetta and seasonings, which like I said was still pretty top-notch.

So what have we learned from this experience? One, I am occasionally skilled in the kitchen, because it didn't figuratively blow up in my face until the last step. Two, I should probably learn new dishes in person first, and not over text message because there are things that get lost in translation. Three, people did no go hungry, so you know, I'm still counting it as a partial win.

And at the end of the day, I still had my dad's Christmas gift to share with him: A big bottle of Stone's collaboration IPA, appropriately named "Sorry Not Sorry." That makes a lot of things much better. 

Until tomorrow.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Holidailies Day 25: Driving

Merry Christmas everyone!

My fun today was that I got to drive my Subaru up over the hill all by myself for the first time. Being a coastal and valley CA native, snow and ice are not a reality I have to deal with all that often. So it was one part exciting, one part slightly terrifying. I found myself trying to recite what ice looked like and the signs of black ice, and how to steer into a slide and all that...

Thankfully, it was pretty dry all the way over. We ran into a flurry, but that was it. What was more fun was stopping in Reno to figure out where we were going next and playing around a little bit in the empty parking lots. I justified it, because I need to know how my car handles in those conditions just in case, right? It's a lot more fun to find out at low speeds with no one around.

I am feeling the effects of stressing out while driving for over two hours though. I got out of the car and had to shake out my shoulders, try and loosen my neck up, because I was so tense. I'm very much looking forward to a relaxing night and hopefully a chill day with family tomorrow.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holidailies Day 24: Subversive Christmas Carols


Tonight at my church's Christmas Eve service, they sang this song and it got me to thinking:


That is O Holy Night, one of my most favorite Christmas carols ever. Sung by Celine Dion, whom I still love with all of my 8-year-old heart. I may go on about how I got burned out on Christmas music when I was in choirs, and I can only stand certain people singing certain songs, and that's true. Still, the ones that I do listen to and love, I listen to (sometimes year round) because they're just that good. O Holy Night is one of those songs.

People don't often listen too closely to Christmas carols. They can range from silly to cheesy, to occasionally serious. But the ones that I love, that stick with me over the years, are the ones that actually capture the message of the Gospel better than many normal worship songs.

Consider verse 2 of O Holy Night:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

This whole verse is brilliant. But the beginning is the kicker. "Truly He taught us to love on another; His law is love and His gospel is peace." Right there, that's what I strive to build my life on. It is the entire point of the Bible, in two lines.

The second half of that stanza is even better. "Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease." Let's say that again, for the people in back. All oppression shall cease. Let's apply that to the world events going on in the world this year, during Christmas. Does this really describe the world we live in? 

It took me a really long time to realize that living this way, with this level of belief in the Truth of the Bible was actually really subversive. Every belief of mine that has changed over the last 8 or so years has been because I started to really explore what these words convey. 

I used to think that being a Christian gave me an excuse to rail on about how other people lived their lives, rather recently in fact. I have been that person who, in the name of opposing oppression, occasionally enforces a different form of oppression. I've really struggled to find the balance between forming and expressing a strong opinion in a graceful way, and just pissing people off which is not terribly useful. I'm still not afraid to say the hard things. I am, and probably will always be, blunt to a fault. 

Still it all comes back to this. His law is love, His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break. The slave is our brother. In His name, there is no oppression. Oppression can't even stand to be around. That's subversive. People like oppression. They like having control over others. All oppression ceasing is a monumental shift of power. But it requires the first part. Truly He taught us to love one another.

I was just talking to my friend about this today. About how I struggled with the command, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Because in the Christianity I was taught, loving yourself wasn't a plus. It was called pride and pride obviously goeth before the fall. Being confident in yourself wasn't a plus, if you acknowledged your talents you were arrogant. 

I've said it before on this blog, and I'll say it again. Humility is not hating yourself. Maybe others don't need to hear it, but I certainly do. If you're loving others like you love yourself, and you hate yourself that equation is not going to end in a world with no oppression. 

Love is the key issue for me, for my whole life. It's the thing I keep coming back to. Because if I believe that God loved me enough to send His son to be born in a stable, to grow up in a hostile world and get killed for His troubles, I have to believe that I am worth that love. Otherwise it falls flat. 

The real big thing is that if I'm worth that kind of love, than I have to believe that others are worth that kind of love. Everyone. Muslims, pagans, Sunday morning Christians, atheists, people who hurt and who are hurting. Even Republicans, though Lord knows they're not my favorite group of people in the world right now. Even the people who disagree with me, which is the one that really gets me.

That's where the second part of the verse comes in. Let all within me praise His holy name. Because Christ's power and glory are worth proclaiming. If you think God is not the God of those who are looked down upon, you have not met my Jesus. Let me tell you, He's a pretty awesome dude. I'm glad that I kept looking.

Merry Christmas everyone. Be subversive and really love people this year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holidailies Day 23: Christmas Eve Eve

Usually on this blog I try to be pretty introspective. Post about issues that I've thought a lot about, crafted a strong opinion on in one way or another. I noticed that those topics seem to be thin on the ground this year, or at least thing month. I feel like there should be something deeper to talk about than how overwhelmed I was with school, how I'm now trying to simultaneously catch up on life and also rest some. Usually on alternating days. Neither of those models seem super conducive to writing long, well thought-out blog posts apparently.

I'm trying to figure out where this is. I mean, I know myself. Opinions that I've thought about and feel strongly about are not usually an area I struggle in. It's often the opposite. I can't decide if my brain is just still tired and I can't nail any of them down, or if it's just that I've already talked about them all. That is the struggle with doing this challenge multiple years in a row. Even if I'm just blogging for one month, that's a lot of days available to grind my main axes. It's hard to find something that I haven't talked about yet.

At the same time, I haven't been as connected to the outside world, which is also where I find things to talk about. I've been either hiding in my cave with games and Netflix (my Sims family is doing great, thanks for asking) or outside aggressively trying to spend time with everyone that I feel like I ignored when I was in school. Not a whole lot of random internet browsing, looking for things that catch my eye and my heart.

So here we are, on the 23rd, and I've been here every day, sometimes just barely, but I feel like I haven't talked about anything real. Maybe one or two little things. But nothing big. And it bugs me, but I don't have an answer. Or at least nothing big to talk about, other than family travel drama, which is a little too close right now to objectify.

Here's hoping the last week of December brings some bits of inspiration to go along with the rain and cold and drama.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holidailies Day 22: Rest and Recovery

I've discovered that recovering from the stress of school is a process of not expecting too much of myself at any one time. This is difficult, because I want to use this time that I have off so effectively and efficiently that I feel like every moment should be accounted for. Which sounds great, but then I remember that I am still recovering, and that means rest should account for some of the times.

I learned this lesson the hard way after planning things back to back to back two days in a row. Yesterday was partially planned for me with work stuff - albeit fun work stuff - and then I complicated things slightly by running off to see Star Wars, even though I'd already bought tickets for today. I don't regret it, at all, because free tickets to see a great movie is not something you regret. But it did mean that I got home later than planned last night (as evidenced by my blog post) and so I started off today not at 100%. It makes sense that I petered out partway, it was just sad because I actually did want to do all of the things I had planned for today.

But that's one thing I have learned about myself, I hope. That when I'm feeling a certain way, it's better for me to be in a quiet place where I can do something relatively solitary. If I make myself keep going, I'm not really present at whatever activity I go to, even if it's fun and worthwhile. I would be grumpy and frustrated, and just generally moody and I don't like inflicting that on others.

So here's to a day of cleaning and relative solitude tomorrow. The cleaning I'm not looking forward to so much, though it needs to be done because I have put it off entirely too long. At least I can Netflix, or pop on Pandora, or some other way of keeping my spirits up in the face of grime and grease.

Until tomorrow.

Holidailies Day 21: BRB, Star Wars

This blog took a brief unplanned break, as someone offered me free tickets to seeStar Wars tonight, and how can you pass that up? It meant that I just got home and I have stuff to do before tomorrow, but no matter. STAR WARS!

And that's all I'll say because we're still in the no-spoiler time period, as far as I'm concerned.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Holidailies Day 20: Weekend of Netflix!

I love Netflix. I mean, I realize I'm not the only one. But how else could I facilitate the epic marathon that kept me so enthralled yesterday that I forgot to write things? Jessica Jones, Criminal Minds, How I Met Your Mother, and Friends, all in one place. It's brilliant. Today is Doctor Who while working day, which is nice.

Really, I just needed a chill day yesterday. After a long semester, and a long week to follow the end of the semester, a day at home with absolutely no requirements on me to do anything was perfect. I was running on empty. My initial plan (hope, dream?) was to have finished my paper on the Friday before it was due, affording me a weekend to recover before having to go to work. It would have been a great idea if that had actually worked out. It didn't. I ended up with an afternoon of recovery, which was mostly just enough to get me to "wha?" and not that much farther.

So yesterday I watched Netflix for most of the day. And then went out and actually talked with people and had a life briefly. That was also very nice.

Today I actually made it to church for the first time all month, because Sunday due dates became a thing towards the end of the semester. Definitely not my favorite thing, to be sure. I would just like to say, my church is the best. Like, God is the best of the best, and my church does such a great job of stewarding His power. I can't even describe it. It was so refreshing to be there again, and that was exactly what I needed after all. Refreshment. A breath of fresh air. Rest. The air's a bit chilly right now, but it's definitely fresh.

The refreshment is the thing though, because then I had energy to do all the other things. If I had tried yesterday, it would have all gone to crap. I would have been terribly unmotivated, nothing would have turned out right, and I would have ended up more frustrated than I started. I needed a hard reset. Introvert day at it's finest.

But Netflix is also useful for providing the motivation to do things, when I actually do have the energy. For instance, popping on Doctor Who while baking and - if I can keep it up - doing dishes. I always forget how much I love this show until I re-watch some of the episodes and then I remember. It's partially because of David Tennant's hair (and Matt Smith's after him, hair game STRONG guys). But mostly it's because it's the perfect blend of exciting, smart, and funny, and well written characters that bring you to tears even if they're only there for the one episode. That's the thing. Even the characters I don't like that much, I like them. They're good, strong, occasionally really freaky, but always brilliant.

Any rate, I should probably do dishes, if I can manage to keep up this nice refreshment energy. I will also probably watch more Doctor Who, although I'm on the 2009 specials and OH MY GOSH THE FEELS. "The End of Time" is simultaneously the best and the absolute worst, and four knocks, and Wilf and I just can't. I will be sitting over the sink crying over it, I guarantee it. It is the performance that sealed David Tennant into the history books as a legendary Doctor, and I love it.

Very well then. Allons-y!

(Until tomorrow.)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Holidailies Day 19: Made It!

I made it to the blog today! Although just barely. The thing is, I decided today was the perfect time for Netflix and forget about the world for most of the day. Which was great. I finished Jessica Jones (more on that later), the cat was happy that there was someone around to play with her all day, and I got to just chill out. I needed that greatly after stumbling through this week feeling like I was half-conscious.

Then I went to a friend's house to hang out, and we ended up playing Amiibo Crossing on their WiiU, which was a delightfully cheesy game in the way that only Animal Crossing games can be. It was great fun. Much cider was had, much talking, and much cheer. Perfect to distract from the drama of the week. 

And now I sleep, so that I can be awake for the all the productive things I need to do tomorrow to balance out today's relaxation.

Until tomorrow.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Holidailies Day 18: Placeholder

I'm typing this on my phone because my computer decided that it was tired and needed a break. Then I realized by the time I got it back up and running I wouldn't have time to post anyway.

So basically, late alarm, early work, and eveming social life things are happening today. And I have to go get ready for such things now.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Holidailies Day 17: Of Cold and Caffeine

These are the two major factors in my life today, it seems. With only a few regular work days to go before a blessed break - my bank account will be the only thing mourning, the rest of me is more than ready - I have been called on to fill in at the front desk of one of the other sites. The fun part of this assignment is that the front desk is situated outside, with no real protection from the elements. And because it's December, and California seems to be having a more seasonally appropriate winter this year (so far) it's COLD.

Let's be real, I am a true California wimp when it comes to the cold. Yesterday, I had on a long-sleeved undershirt, my staff shirt, a sweatshirt, and my leather trenchcoat, pants, my warm shoes, double layer gloves, plus a blanket over my legs and I was still at popsicle status when I finally got inside. Took me a couple of hours to thaw out completely. Today I'm planning on adding a scarf and a beanie, at the very least. I'm considering wearing leggings under my jeans and an extra pair of socks. Like I said, I'm a wimp. It doesn't help that the job is mostly sitting, which is not really the way to keep blood flow going to your extremities.

I realize this is a very first world problem, and it's very temporary. I'm mostly just trying to sike myself up for it, and praying more than a little that it will be slightly warmer today and not windy. Windy would be the worst.

Caffeine is the other major factor, because I may or may not have overdone it on the caffeine front last week in my desire to stay awake while writing my paper. By that I mean, I definitely way overdid it and now, as I'm drastically reducing my consumption to "just enough to keep me from keeling over" I'm paying the price. It's been a toss up all week, in the season of sickness. "Am I actually sick, or did I bring this on myself?" Today though, I'm letting myself have a little more, because it's slightly important for me to not be spacey when I'm working a detail-oriented sort of job.

That is the thing with working with kids, actually. I've noticed that even if I'm really blah, I can draw enough energy from them that I can usually make it through. I collapse as soon as I get home, but I can be alert and present for the time that I'm at work. When I'm doing front desk, which is largely just sitting and very little interaction with the kids, I get that less, so I have to figure out how to stay alert.

My current plan is to relax this morning, which I am so far succeeding at doing, thankfully. Plus, the rest of the coffee I bought last night to warm myself up. Also, sleeping helps too, I've noticed. It's funny what you forget when you're in school.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holidailies Day 16: Wrist Problems Stink

This is a short post, because my right wrist and hand decided that they hate me. So, I'm not going to make this super long, because ouch.

Today was a pretty blah day anyway, so there's not all that much to talk about. I'm hitting the plateau of motivation after school ending. I'm looking forward to a couple of days of more chilling and less doing.

Here's hoping my wrist decides that it wants to stop being dumb, overnight.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holidailies Day 15: The Brilliance of Story

First off, I'm currently drinking Starbucks Christmas tea blend, the one called Joy, and it is truly joyous. I just thought you all should know. I'm so glad I remembered to buy a box this year, because I forgot last year and it haunted my dreams...

Now on to the actual post. For all that I have missed in this past semester, there are a couple of things I managed to keep following throughout my time in school. US Women's Soccer is one, but I've already talked about that here. The other main thing that has been keeping me connected to this world has been Humans of New York, and their story posts.

I love stories. The importance of story has been one of those recurring themes in my life. I think everything you could ever say is way more powerful when you put it into a story. Especially when it's someone who has been traditionally marginalized in popular culture.

Which is why HONY is so important right now. Brandon, the guy who runs it, took a trip a few months ago to take pictures and tell the stories of Syrian Refugees, in Greece and Germany. Now, he's running a series about refugees who are slated to come to the US, most of whom have spent years getting through all the paperwork and red tape involved. Their stories are heartbreaking. Real, raw, and absolutely wonderful. They bring the humanity back into this huge political issue.

That's the power of story. To bring humanity back where it has been lost. People relate to stories. You read a story, and you put yourself in that person's shoes. You start asking yourself, what would I have done in that situation? How would I feel if that had happened to me? It makes it much more difficult to talk about this major problem as if these weren't ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS whose lives will be affected by your rhetoric.

I encourage everyone to check out HONY. Read the stories. Enjoy the slice of humanity presented there (because even when he's not talking about hot-button topics, he is dedicated to showing the humanity of everyone he photographs). Let yourself think about what it would be like, if you were in their shoes. Then go back and read his series from Pakistan, which is wonderful.

Until tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Holidailies Day 14: What Is Life?

The title would seem to demand a deep sort of post. Existential musings, and all... yeah, no. It's mostly just the question I've been asking myself all day as I try to remember what it feels like to have a to-do list that doesn't include homework.

I was actually doing really well over the spring and the summer keeping up with life. This was largely due to the wonderful discovery of a place called Habitica, once known as HabitRPG. It is basically a productivity app for those people who value collecting prizes and EXP and vanquishing nasty beasts. So basically, gamers. Making it perfect for me, because for the first time I was motivated. I had a party, and we were fighting a boss, and I couldn't let them down. It was great.

School kinda threw a wrench into that. I mean, I knew it would. I subsisted on getting at least half of the stuff done, used it to keep track of my homework (big Gold Mines, those 5 part assignments...), but it wasn't quite the same. It was me surviving, not thriving as I once had. And I mean, I get it. I chose that. School is always going to be the priority. Also, I need to do things other than school, work, and chores, to keep myself sane.

But me being me, I'm already strategizing ways to make it more workable for the next major push, which more or lasts from the start of the spring semester in January until the end of the Fall semester next December (yay summer classes!). What things do I need to make sure actually happen? What makes my life categorically better when I do it daily, and way worse when I don't. I also need to be better about scheduling myself some school free days, where I do other productive things for half the day and then chill for the rest of it. That will help.

Until the start of next semester though, I'm playing catch up. Which means I'll be vanquishing a lot of beasts, starting with the paperwork I got to do today (watching Doctor Who though, which I couldn't swing while homeworking, so that was a plus), and continuing with cleaning my room which somehow reverted into a storage space over the last three months. I blame that on our HOA deciding I had to move all the furniture so an electrician could replace stuff the week after school started. At which point. I was living alone, because my aunt was out of town. That was a fun week.

Now my decision to play soccer with the kids today is starting to catch up to me. It's funny how legs forget what they're used for when you sit for a two days straight. Time to sleep and let them recover what strength is left to them.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Holidailies Day 13: It Is Finished

My paper, that is. THANK GOD! I can finally think about something else, like holiday plans, or the pile of paperwork that has been building up into mountain status on my desk. I have to go into full adult errand mode tomorrow, because I have some important things that I just couldn't focus on until the Paper of Doom had met it's doom.

Still, for tonight, I'm just letting my brain rest. I watched soccer. I spent a large amount of time on Tumblr talking about soccer. I may just go play FIFA 16 since it's sitting on my computer, untouched since I bought it mid-semester. Or some other game that I got on sale over Black Friday, languishing now in my Steam Library. Not adulting. Just... resting. I like resting.

I am looking forward to my first week of work in awhile where I'm not super spacey when I come in. This week was the worst out of all of them. I set my alarm early all week to get in more studying time, and it definitely affected the rest of my days. I forgot to plan activities, kept messing up names that I've had down for months, my patience was definitely wearing thin. I could do with a week where I get to do real-life things, not school things, in the hours before work. Also sleeping. I'm very much looking forward to sleeping.

I honestly can't think of anything else to say, except for another hearty Thank You Jesus, I survived this semester. Hallelujah, Amen.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Holidailies Day 12: PROJECT FOR AWESOME!


Project for Awesome!!

^^^^ That's what we're going with today, because Project for Awesome is... well, Awesome. They've been raising money for a day now, and in that day they managed to raise $1.1 million for Save the Children. Now, going into their second day, they're raising money for charities that fans are able to vote for at the link I just posted. NaNoWriMo is on there, as well as a number of other spectacular causes! So go, watch some videos, vote for some worthy people, donate to them! They are the best! Also, if you're into Nerdfighteria, you can get some pretty awesome perks. Also, if you want some entertainment, they are doing a livestream on YouTube.

That distracted me from my paper writing (and from eating breakfast... whatever) significantly already, so I am considering going offline while I get this paper sorted. Hoping to finish it before I have to leave for my party tonight. Hoping my brain gets on board with that goal.

Until tomorrow.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Holidailies Day 11: Good Guy Paul

Paper crunch time so a short post. But I was just reading Galatians this morning, and it reminded me of my second favorite Paul moment.

One of my favorite authors of the Bible is Paul. He doesn't beat around the bush, he's incredibly intelligent, and his rhetoric is both clear and convincing. Also, he's not afraid to tell it like it is when people are doing something that's messed up.

Which is why in Galatians, when he's telling the church there that circumcision is a function of the old law that has been abolished, we find this wonderful line in Galatians 5:12 (my paraphrase): "As for all those that are so freaking enamored with circumcision, I wish they would just go the extra step and emasculate themselves."

The first time that I read that (and was old enough to understand it), I nearly died laughing. Paul is snarky. This comes as a surprise to many people. But his writings make just a little bit more sense if you read them with a sense of humor and some understanding of sarcasm.

Also, if you want to know how to do righteous anger, Paul is a pretty good place to look. That's a large portion of the epistles. The classes I took explaining the cultural background and historical context surrounding those letters was incredibly helpful to getting what he's actually saying. My teacher heart really just wants to make that a required class for Christianity 101, because it would clear up so much of the random crap that's been attributed to Paul. But I realize that's taking a little too far. It's interesting to study though.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming (Paper of DOOM!).

P.S. My first favorite Paul moment is the time in Acts when he's teaching in a third-story room, and there's this guy sitting in the window who falls asleep. The guy falls out of the window and dies, and Good Guy Paul doesn't care that he apparently put this guy to sleep, he just goes out there, resurrects the dude, and then goes back upstairs and KEEPS TALKING for the rest of the night.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holidailies Day 10: Researching My Life... Sorta

Well, I finally finished the reading of the nasty articles for my paper last night, an occasion that would have inspired happy dancing if I wasn't so freaking tired afterwards. Now today, I've spent a large portion of my morning participating in the time-honored tradition of staring at the blank page and trying to figure out if I ever really had thoughts about this. I know I did, and I'll find them eventually, but it seems like the process requires some measure of me not knowing what the heck I'm doing.

In an attempt to get the juices flowing, I figured I'd break my rule about not writing about my paper (since it has taken over almost every other aspect of my life) and talk about my subject and why I chose it.

I was homeschooled for my entire K-12 career. It had a lot of effects on my life, good and bad, but it did lead me to the path that I'm on. I figured out that I would probably be a good teacher because the way our homeschooling was set up, I had a lot of opportunities to interact with younger kids and express my natural desire to teach, and develop it at a pretty young age. Fast forward a few years, and when faced with picking a topic for this semester's research project (and likely my thesis as well) I somehow ended up right back where I started: Homeschooling.

I started out with the idea of looking into how different methods of homeschooling handle high school records keeping and making sure they stay up with subject matter requirements. The problem that I quickly ran into was that there is very little research on this. Or at least, research that I can use. And even the research that does exist is pretty sparse in the samples they were able to pull together, because homeschoolers can get pretty spread out. This caused some issues in my project this semester, because there was no actual data on what I wanted to look at. So I've been kinda making it up as I go along ever since then.

Here's the thing though. I ended up with an argument that I'm fully aware doesn't jive with the homeschool culture as it is, because I've lived that culture. I am arguing that all states need to have one standard of accountability for homeschoolers that shades towards more oversight, not less (but still preserves freedom). Generally, the homeschool advocacy rhetoric is entirely against that. It's always been assumed that less regulation was better. My argument is that if homeschoolers want to be considered as a viable educational alternative in the age of school choice - a movement that is supposedly governed by data from the options available - they need to acquiesce to some regulatory measures.

I'm not talking about regulation of curriculum, because basically the entire point of homeschooling is based on the freedom to choose curriculum and how to teach. My main points are:

1) Registering the amount of kids, and having a database that researchers can access to pull samples for their inquiries. Regulations for the people teaching them are optional, because that steps on the parent's rights. I mean, I understand the logic behind background checks on those who are considered "instructors," because literally every educational professional has to pass them. But unless it's a requirement for every parent to have a background check to parent (not likely to become a thing, even though it might help some situations), I doubt that's going to get much acceptance. Also, requiring teacher certification for homeschool parents is a bit much. I was taught by plenty of people who were not certified teachers and some of my non-certified teachers were probably better teachers than certified teachers I learned under. While I see the value of teacher preparation programs (obviously, because you know, I'm in one), I don't think it's a necessity for small-scale education.

2) Having some measure of subject-matter accountability. Not in how you teach it, just that you taught it. It has to do with the State's responsibility to ensure that every child is being provided with their right to a decent education. That was the driving motivation behind public education historically, and with more recent laws establishing it as an actual inalienable right, it becomes even more important. This may not have to be anything more than requiring homeschool kids to take the same state tests at certain grade levels. Why many homeschoolers take issue with this, I will never understand, because the data that does exist suggests they usually do just as well, and often better on these tests. Also, other options - portfolios, sheets recording number of instructional hours spent on core subjects, etc - are way more intrusive.

In the end, the standardized test option also provides us with the best data to compare with other forms of schooling, which homeschoolers are all about. They love quoting stats that make them look superior (who doesn't, really?). The problem is a lot of those stats are currently based on extremely lopsided data. It's not an accurate representation of the homeschool population. We don't even know what an accurate representation of the homeschooling population would look like, because even the demographic data is so spotty. Thus, the need for some sort of nationwide accountability measures.

The thing is, I'm not even convinced it has to be a government thing. If you get a national organization that's willing to keep track of all this and provide the data to states, that might keep it farther from supposed greedy clutches of the states. I am not a policy expert, obviously. I just think, based on what I've seen in the research, something needs to shift if the homeschool community wants to be more open to being considered as a favored option.

Now I get to go write all that, with less opinionated language, APA references and a good bit about accountability theory which is seriously the most boring thing in the world (So. Boring. I. Want. To. Shoot. It.).

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holidailies Day 9: A Short Miscellany

Given the fact that I am hitting crunch time with my paper (my goal is to be done with it by Friday, because I want my weekend, dammit), I figured a short post would probably be wise. I also am attempting to enter the headspace where nothing but "paper" enters, something I've totally failed so far this morning. Whatever.

So this is just a couple things that have come to my attention today. First, it has come to my attention that in highlighting Ed Sheeran's wonderful version of "The Parting Glass" I overlooked my actual favorite version of the song, by The Wailin' Jennys.


No offense to Ed, because his version is truly spectacular. But as gorgeous as his solo voice is acoustically, it can't quite match the level of perfection achieved by The Wailin' Jennys harmonies. Admittedly, I'm predisposed to love strong female harmonies, because that's what I sing. Still. It's so pretty.

Second, I'm pretty sure I've shared this article before, but it is worth the re-share: 4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex

I may have generally cooled off on the whole "taking the Church to task for the way they've screwed with the heads of children" about this issue. Truth be told, that's largely because I've had other things like school on my mind. I still feel pretty strongly about it, and I can't promise there won't be a longer post on it sometime this month (after the Paper of Doom). For now, this link tells you something about the type of culture I'm mad about.

Now to go try and read my articles. Darn articles.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Holidailies Day 8: The Wall

I'm feeling very lacking in creativity and inspiration tonight. The obvious answer to this conundrum when I have a blog post to write is to talk about how I don't know what to write. And why that has happened.

I have been hit with the wonderful combination of all the things to do and none of the energy to do them. At one time in my life, this was not an unusual thing to happen, so I was pretty used to dealing with it. Upon starting the Masters program, I was determined to keep up and not let myself fall prey to all my old traps and it worked... until now. Or rather, about two weeks ago. I have been slogging through the last projects dutifully, with varying degrees of motivation depending on the day.

I am actually pretty proud of myself. Considering my own mental track record, the fact that I stayed focused and on top of things for as long as I did this semester is a minor miracle. Of course, now I need to get back to that until like, Sunday. I just need to be done and then I can rest and work on getting myself into the headspace needed to start next semester in a good place.

First though, I have to get over the severe case of the "I don' wanna's" that I have developed this week. It's like every time that I start working on my homework, my brain automatically goes to everything that I could be doing instead. Mostly phone games and Netflix, let's be real. It's terrible. I've been failing my adult rolls all week. Eventually, it has to stop, and I will have to get on this paper. Right now though, I'm facing the wall.

I hate the wall.

Alas, now I must go and try to scale it once more.

Until tomorrow.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holidailies Day 7: Melody

A cool song popped up on my iPod on the way home from work. It's been one of my favorites, because it more or less describes my life.


I've talked on here before about how much I love music. It's pretty much always been my favorite thing. Hearing this song again tonight was like that whole thing was put into words. So since it's been a long day, and I certainly need some good tunes, that is what the rest of this post will contain. Good stuff that has popped into my head and kept me company recently.

First, some Christmas stuff, becuase, you know, 'Tis The Season and everything. This has got to be one of my most favorite arrangements of Deck the Halls, and may possibly be the only Christmas song that I don't eventually get tired of. Useful, because I spent half my life performing it every Christmas.


Also, Pentatonix has put out quality music since they've been a group, which I feel is somewhat obvious. However, their Christmas game has been strong ever since they were featured on the Sing-Off Christmas compilation. It continued to be this year, with their bomb arrangement of Joy to the World.


And just because it is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces they've EVER done, here's another dose of Pentatonix Christmas. These acoustics... just... ugh. So great.


Sliding away from Christmas now, Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger put out this wondrous album last year called The Undoing. If you ever need some comforting peaceful Jesus-happiness, look it up. However, the most impactful song on there is the shortest. Called "I Spoke Up." It's like she's writing my life story.



Next up is the beautiful ginger boy, Ed Sheeran. For all his charms - and they are many - as a pop artist, the quality of his voice shines through when he sings folk tunes. Example A: The Parting Glass.


Example B: Wayfaring Stranger (he can harmonize with himself, guys).


Does folk count as throwback enough? Does it count if it's modern folk covers? Just in case, I need some throwback on here, which is why Superchic[k] is going to make an appearance. "Hero" is one of those songs that defined my life, and significantly influenced how I approach the world. I am having my choir at work sing this song, because the message is everything we try to teach them in song form. It's brilliant.


And last but certainly not least, JJ Heller. To talk about JJ Heller would almost be a blog post in and of itself. She's been one of my favorites since her days singing at Koinonia Koffehouse in San Jose (which means nothing to most people), which coincided with my days of hanging out there with my dad when he worked the sound booth (which was nearly every week). Most of the time I was hanging out in the back room playing around with my friends and making sure the little kids didn't get hurt. But occasionally I would hear an artist, and she caught my ear. 12-13 years later, still one of my favorites. Her newest album, "Sound of a Living Heart" and the accompanying title track only solidified my love for her even more.



There it is. My latest music post. Probably not my last. These are just some of my heart-songs from this last couple of months.

Until tomorrow!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Holidailies Day 6: Holy Hypocrisy, Batman!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34-35 NIV


It seems like this always pops up at least once during Holidailies. Christians in the media being so completely over the top dumb that I feel compelled to remind people that we're not all like that. Some of the things are just out and out ridiculous, like the "War on Christmas" which is largely a war on traditions that have less than nothing to do with the religious significance of the holiday.

Then there's the big ones this year: Refugees and those Muslims that are already in country. Oh yeah, and the whole Planned Parenthood debacle. Two mass shootings in a week, one perpetrated by two Muslims, one by a white dude. Obviously, these are all issues that are going to incite huge amounts of ire from all sides. There's no way to get around it.

The problem is when we forget the the people who may have a different opinion are actual people. They are not inanimate targets to throw verbal knives at. I spend my days trying to get kids to realize that their actions affect other people. So I am going to try to say this in the most loving way possible, because I recognize this:

Christians are often the worst when it comes to this. We all know it. Except maybe the ones who continue to say the truly... oh, this is rough trying to be truthful without being insulting. Truly ignorant? No. Idiotic? No. Radical? Sure, we'll go with that. The ones who say the radical stuff, the ones who get soundbites on the news that make logical, loving people cringe, even if they sorta agree with the opinions. I started out there, sorta agreeing. I'm slowly starting to realize that I can't keep sorta kinda agreeing on anything that pisses me off that much. That's another topic though.

See, I'm not here to discuss all these situations in detail. Honestly, I've been too entrenched in my schoolwork to pay super close attention to the details about all the issues, and I don't feel comfortable putting forth strong opinions on events I haven't had the time to research. I'm here to discuss the way we discuss it. The amount of times that I have gone on Facebook and seen some comment about the way that a conservative Christian leader said something that no decent person should say... it's too much. Too often. Sometimes it's unfounded. Sometimes I have the time, take the time to look it up and see the context, and it's not what's meant. More often than not, I look it up and it is actually what is meant, and I am left shaking my head.

I'm aware that not all the nasty surrounding these issues is centered around Christians. But Christians are the ones that have a list of specific commandments that direct us to Love. Love God, yes. But God loves you, and God loves everyone else, so by extension, loving God means loving those he loves. Which is yourself. Which is everyone you come in contact with. Which is even people on the internet who agree with you. Which is even people who may or may not be trying to kill you, but are probably just trying to escape from those who are trying to kill them. Which is also (while we're at it) people who look different than you, people who love differently than you, people who think that you're a crazy radical by association. Yeah, them too. There are no conditions on it.

I have this conversation with kids all the time at work: "But he hit me first!" "Well that doesn't mean you had to hit him back." I feel like it's the same for us. Just because they are jerks first doesn't mean that we get to be jerks back. Granted, I'm bad at this often. I let my inner jerk take over my mouth more often than I would like. But I'm trying to be better about it, and you know why?

Because I love Jesus. I love that He took a stand against this, to show us how. He honored Samaritans (culturally just about as reviled as Muslim radicals), He honored women, He honored the sick, He honored the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the blue collar workers, everyone the elite looked down on. He even forgave the people who killed Him. If my goal in life is truly to be more Christ-like, how can I not love everyone?

How can we really look at the situations around the world and not see Love as the answer? The more angry rhetoric thrown around, the more we joke about carrying guns so we can "stop those Muslims", the more we refuse to see people who are displaced from their homes as people and only see them as a threat, the more we cause the very issues that spur terrorism. The entire point of terrorism is to create fear. Yet, "Perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18).

We have the answer. Now, are we going to actually use that knowledge or just pretend that we're so far apart from this world that what happens to it doesn't actually matter?

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Holidailies Day 5: Cat Pictures!

Well, I had great plans of productivity and deep blog posts today, but then Netflix happened. Now I have to get ready to be a human being for the night (as opposed to a couch potato). So instead, here are some awesome pictures of my cat!

Helping with my homework:


Being totally unconcerned about my need to walk downstairs.


 Getting trapped by a bag and being very confused.


Her favorite bag, because it crunches so much and offers a very convenient wide opening to jump into.


Keeping my feet warm under my desk while I do homework.


Reclining on the recently subdued tissue paper that she was enamored with for a month straight.



This is Lorelai, who is probably way too spoiled, as a cat should be (obviously). She's very pretty and very squirrelly and my main function in her life is to feed her and occasionally provide petting services. She's also a very good distraction from homework, when she wants to be.

Until tomorrow (hopefully with more depth of thought)!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Holidailies Day 4: Of Trophies and Belief

I feel like the last couple of days have been nice and deep and... slightly depressing. So today I decided to talk about something that always makes me super happy: Soccer. Specifically the World Champion US Women's National Soccer team. Who are pretty much the best thing ever, in my opinion.

I've long been a casual fan of soccer, particularly women's soccer. I played for long enough to get the bug in my system, even though I never went to competitive levels of play. There's just something about the game that gets a hold of my soul, and watching the way the ball moves across the field, the communication that leads to incredibly savvy runs, the ridiculously perfect crosses to meet those runs... I could go on, but I'll spare you.

The US Women's team has long been dominant on their side of the international competition (in stark contrast to the men's team, which can't seem to figure out a solid line-up to save their lives, but that's another conversation).  Even when no one knew about them, and they were having to fight for the US Federation to pay them at all, let alone a living wage, they were building a program that has always been one of the top teams in the world. And as of last July, they are once again on the top of the heap with the designation of the #1 team, having well and truly spanked Japan to make up for the heartbreaking loss of 2011 and win the World Cup.

This team is wonderful for a variety of reasons. For one, they are genuinely good people, and they are all dedicated to growing the game and being good role models. It is much more enjoyable to follow sports when the people playing the game are also fun to watch off the field. Part of that is the clear love and enjoyment they have being around each other. You can't fake that kind of love, and it's nice to see a team culture that embraces it and promotes it.

Then of course there is their actual playing, which is beautiful. I like women's soccer, because it seems to me to be more nuanced. It can be brutal, but there's not as much diving (unless you're playing Brazil), there's not as much dirty play, and I just like the tone of the games more. It's hard to describe. And when it comes to the world stage, the US is absolutely at the top of their game. They are fast, brutal, precise, and when they click on communication, they're virtually unstoppable. You have a backline and a keeper who combined to rack up over 525 minutes of scoreless play in the World Cup, which is nearly unheard of. You have Carli Lloyd who seems to thrive on the big games and can't help but being epic. Kelley O'Hara was a forward turned defender turned midfielder who scored her first international goal as a sub against freaking GERMANY of all teams. Abby Wambach barely played, but she was still the figurehead, and a leader off the field. Same with Christie Rampone, who is truly Captain America. The woman turned 40 during the World Cup and still comes out on the field and destroys forwards who are literally 20 years younger. Meghan Klingenberg is my spirit animal, because she is short and is basically a ninja in defense and it makes me exceedingly happy. Every player on the 23 person roster had the capability to come in and be a total gamechanger, and often they were. Watching the World Cup, even with their relatively slow start (in which they still didn't actually lose a game...), was pure joy. And watching the Victory Tour games since then has been a well deserved victory lap with some truly awesome moments.

I am very excited for this weekend, as the Victory Tour picks back up after their November break. I'll definitely be there on Sunday, "doing homework" while watching. It'll just have to be that way. I've been soccer-deprived the past couple of weeks, and I desperately need my fix.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Holidailies Day 3: Memories

Facebook has been doing this Memories things, where they show you posts from previous years. I actually kinda like it. I have always loved history, and looking at my personal history as recounted on Facebook is cool. Seeing how the last four Novembers have been All NaNo All the Time. Seeing posts of crazy stuff I did in college (or not so crazy stuff).

There are also distinct themes I've seen. I pretty much have one note when it comes to posting about homework. Right now I'm getting a lot of the old statuses where I was like... "This paper is trying to kill me, but I swear I won't let it," which is kinda how I feel RIGHT NOW.

The problem with the memories thing is that it often drops bombs of memories that are equally good and painful at the same time. Like, I love remembering the holidays spent with my sister and my nephews. It still hurts like hell though, so I try to contain it to times when I have the energy to handle it. Over Thanksgiving week, in the midst of massive assignments and wonky work schedules, I was getting a barrage of those memories that I so wasn't prepared to handle.

Then I realized, that's kinda how it always is. I may pretend that I can pull the memories out when I want to, and can deal with them. It's not like that though. There's always the little things that pop up. The realization that I'm writing my paper (and thinking about writing my thesis) on a topic that my sister would love to give her input on. We'd probably wildly disagree on it, because we often did, but her input would still be valuable and I miss it.

Working with kids pretty much guarantees that I get reminded of my nephews every once in awhile. It is a risk I'm willing to take, because they're usually great reminders. Funny things they said, or habits they had. Still, it hurts to know that I won't get a repeat of that when I go to work with high school kids, because they never made it that far.

My only saving grace is that the memories aren't all bad. There are plenty of memories of good times, without the attendant grief. Jokes that I still think are hilarious. Plenty of geeky things that still make me ridiculously happy. There's a reminder of how far I have come in some areas of my life, and how far I still have to go in other areas. It's the benefit of history. You can see what went right, what wasn't the best idea, and apply that to your life.

Enjoy your memories and learn from them. Then look forward and see what you can do with that knowledge to make the rest of your life sufficiently awesome.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Holidailies Day 2: Late Post is Late...

... Because I made the mistake of downloading a new King match-3 game, and they are the most addicting things ever. To my shame. And to the detriment of me remembering to do things like post for Holidailies.

But here I am! Alive, mostly. Being sick + final projects + work being a constant whirlwind = tired puppy face a lot of the time.

It was a rough day in a lot of areas. The news, which is seemingly always depressing. Work had some great moments, and one really rough one that I'm still working on processing. I love my job. So much. I love that I just hit 1 year with the organization, and about 9 months at the site. I love the relationships I've built with the kids, over that time. I especially love my co-workers. Being on the same page when you're dealing with kids is crucial, and we tend to gel really well in that way.

But sometimes the weight of knowing gets to me. The weight of knowing bits and pieces of what some of these kids go through, and knowing that the ones who are the most frustrating are the ones who are going through life circumstances that would totally trip me out. I mean, I lived a pretty charmed life in a lot of ways, comparatively. If I were facing these things, who's to say I wouldn't be just as out of control?

As bad as the knowing is, what's worse is the weight of knowing and only being able to do so much. I'm with them for 4-5 hours a day, and I only get to have more than a passing interaction with a relatively small group of kids. There's not all that much I can really do, other than be there, and hopefully be a safe place if they need it. Most days I'm okay with that. Most days I am content to be there, and do everything in my power to be a good person for them.

Tonight the weight of knowing and not being able to do anything is pretty heavy. I'm bad at not taking my work home with me. There are those kids who've gotten hold of my heart, and I can't just leave it at the door and pick it back up tomorrow.

It's a hazard of the profession, I suppose.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holidailies Day 1: Because I Can

Hey, it's Holidailies! The only time that I regularly update any blog beside my Tumblr one (which kinda counts? More on that later). So welcome back to Ned the Duck, and enjoy the ride!

Since I last embarked on this journey, a few things have changed. The one that most affects this endeavor is that I have, in fact, gone back to school (finally!) to work on getting my teaching credential and Masters degree. Which means that this time of year, once again, is marked not only by holiday cheer and general merriment, but also Finals. Well one final. But it's a doozy. So for the first week or so, these posts may be a little more sparsely worded, until such a time as that is turned in and I can breathe freely.

If you're new here, I don't try and stick with any theme during the month usually. Just whatever happens to be on my mind. It's the one place I let myself get on my soapbox, if I feel the need. There is a 100% larger chance of cat pictures this year, because I have a cat again and she is delightfully quirky (as all the best cats are). I also reserve the right to fangirl over various things here, including my most recent love, U.S. Women's Soccer. We have four Victory Tour games coming up, which is going to be spectacular. Very much looking forward to that.

Honestly, the thing I'm looking forward to this month is break, once I conquer the Final Paper of Doom. It's been a whirlwind of a semester, and I am looking forward to having some time to process everything that's happened. Also, doing adult things, like filling out paperwork in a timely manner, and doing chores more than once a week, and maybe cleaning my room which somehow became a storage space again over the last few months (not sure how that happened). And if I spend some of those days binge-watching Jessica Jones (which I've started), Daredevil (which I haven't started yet), and Doctor Who (which I'm woefully behind on), well then, I'll have time for that too!

Now that I have given myself this break from my reading, it's time to sign off and jump back into the research articles! Whoo hoo! *cries a little*

Until tomorrow, friends.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Be Love

This article is the basis for this post:
(Disclaimer: Soapbox moment ahead)
I was raised a Christian, with parents who would consistently rail against the inhumanity of abortion. How it hurt the woman, and was murder, and all that jazz. Believe me when I say that most of the people in my old community would 100% support Hobby Lobby in their fight against having to supply contraceptives. Because REASONS. 
Of all the beliefs I’ve reconsidered over my journey of moving away and getting healed from a lot of the crap, one has stayed pretty well seated. I don’t support abortion. The thing that has changed is that I now understand it. I have close personal friends who have gotten them, and I know them, and I know their story, and I understand what led them to that choice. 
Which is where this article comes in. Because if the unborn children are the truly voiceless, than the mothers of those children are the one who are nearly voiceless. Even if they wanted to tell their stories, many are afraid to. And rightly so. The amount of vitriol and shame that is heaped upon them FROM THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH is absolutely despicable. From the self-same people who fought to prevent these women from having access to safe medical care, or affordable contraceptives. Who are now shaming and refusing to help, because they didn’t choose the right path.
Excuse me, but last time I checked Jesus was the only one who got to decide who chose the right path or not. And He was pretty clear about what the right path was. Love God. Love others as much as you love yourself. Shame is not love. Shame should NEVER be part of the equation.
So here are a few questions to be considered:
1. Where has our culture failed to educate women, and empower them enough to prevent this choice from happening? For the record, I’m not talking about Abstinence Only, because it is dumb, and not actually educational. I know this from experience. (So I guess that’s one answer to my first question) What are ways we could improve it?
2. What can be done on the other side? If women have their babies, and have no money, what help can be provided outside of what the government offers? If they don’t have their babies, what help can be given to them in terms of appropriate health care and emotional support?
3. What can YOU do to help? If you’re a Christian or not. There are thousands of women each day faced with this choice that permanently affects their lives, whatever they choose. It doesn’t have to be huge. Find someone you know. Offer to be a support system for them. Love them even on their bad days. 
That’s what it all comes down to really. Love. Love doesn’t remember wrongs. I think a lot of people forget that. 
And for the love of God, if you are a Christian who is pro-life, put your walk where your talk is. Educate yourself, and be a light. Be love.
/soapbox moment

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why I Read Harry Potter (And Why Jesus Is Okay With It)

(This is a re-post from my old blog, written in Dec. 2013. I've been thinking about it recently and decided to share it from here.)

To understand where this post is coming from, know that I have heard and paid attention to every Christian argument about Harry Potter and considered them in due time. And still, in the 13 years since I've been embroiled in this debate by virtue of being one of the ones in my conservative community who not only didn't see a problem with them but loved them, I've never once faltered from my wholehearted support of these books. I'm now going to attempt the considerable challenge of stating my reasons for this without getting too snarky/condemning, because I've endured a lot of personal attacks over this subject and I'm working on being better about not retaliating. Despite my talent for it.

Reason 1: I'm not afraid. What do I mean by this? I mean that 90% of the arguments I hear about why people should stay away from Harry Potter are by people who are so afraid of being led astray that they create unnecessary rules. So let me state right here and now: Witchcraft is a thing. It's real, it's not a new thing by any stretch of the imagination. Harry Potter is not real witchcraft. How do I know this? Because I've studied the real thing. Not practiced, just researched to see exactly what I was dealing with. Besides, anyone who has a passion for Ancient Celtic culture runs into it more often than not, because so many of the symbols are tied up in the ancient pagan practices. So yes, I know that it's real. I know that it's not something to be played with. And I know that Harry Potter, from everything I've ever read or seen, isn't close in philosophy or practice.

Aside from that, for Christians, there is one truth that I think a lot of us overlook too often. We have absolutely no reason to be afraid of anything in the spiritual realm that is not of God. Because we have God. Who wins. Every time. Yes, they have power, and they use it. But our source is greater. If we truly believe that, we have no cause to be afraid of inferior power. Just saying.

And also, it's the philosophy of light and dark in practice. There is nothing dark that does not have a greater light side. Satan cannot create, he can only imitate and twist that which God has already created. So if there's power in pagansim, there's greater power in God that He gives Christians free access to through the Holy Spirit. It's a much more wholesome redemptive power too, and altogether awesome.

This also goes back to my post about fantasy and why it's not something to be feared.

Reason 2: I find Jesus so often in Harry Potter. Seriously. The story is based on a boy who is protected from the greatest evil powers BECAUSE OF HIS PARENT'S LOVING SACRIFICE. Furthermore, he is given the power to defeat that evil power once and for all by the knowledge of their love for him. And that's just the beginning of it. The entire series is based on the power of love, to redeem any situation even if the characters in question have been acting like brats the entire time (those who've read the series know that the entirety of Harry's rebellious years were somewhat annoying to read, and had real consequences to boot, which was a fairly good life lesson).

What people don't understand is that so much of Western literature is based on our cultural foundations in Christendom. Whether we want it there or not, the seeds are there, sprouting up in the oddest places. God has a way of making Himself present in unusual places. It's Christmas, for heaven's sake. We celebrate the fact that He CHOSE to be born into a food trough in the middle of a stable. If that's not unusual, I don't know what is.

If you want further proof, look at the entire study of pre-Christian mythology. I went to a lecture on C.S. Lewis and his relationship with mythology, and completely agreed with what he said. Mythology was God's way of preparing the hearts and minds of people to believe in something larger than themselves. The majority of myths from all over the world follow the same pattern of story as the Bible, or they have similar concepts presented within them.

So basically, Jesus is everywhere. I see Him all over the place. Even in Harry Potter. Especially in Harry Potter.

Reason 3: As a reader, and as one who is passionate about education, I cannot deny the effect Harry Potter had on a number of kids who had previously sworn off reading. The talent of J.K. Rowling to tackle such real issues in the midst of the fantastical drew a whole generation of readers in, a whole generation of kids who grew up with the characters. If you've never read the books, you're missing out. I'm not denying that they get dark. They're intense reads from book 4 on. But since when is LIFE ever all hunky-dory? Not only does that make for a boring story, it's not true.

I've never been a fan of neutering reality out of literature in the name of "protecting" kids. Especially not after they've hit puberty and in many cultures and societies would be considered to be capable of acting and thinking as adults in most areas of life. What it really does, in my experience, is remove a person's ability to deal with reality when it hits.

Simple example: When I was a kid, I was sheltered utterly from all forms of bad language. In a militant sort of way. I was one of those kids who got in trouble for saying "dang it." But I never even knew the majority of the real words, the ones that I should have been avoiding. So when I heard a friend using the word "sh*t" I had no idea that it wasn't appropriate. Until of course, I had adopted it into my language and got in trouble for using it. Had I known what to watch out for, I might have avoided it.

Empowerment is what I'm talking about, really. By letting kids know that life isn't always going to be the happiest of things, and giving them actual tools to deal with that, we're empowering them to take their challenges in stride. By sheltering overmuch, you're producing the opposite effect. There is no way to protect any person from hurt. The best we can do is love them enough to give them weapons to battle the hurt. I'm reminded of the quote, "Evil never wins unless good men do nothing." I forget who said it, or even if that's the right wording, but the point is there.

I could go on for days, but I'll stop there. There's this annoying thing called life that I took a brief break from to write this, and it's calling my name now. *sighs and walks off muttering "Accio job applications"...*