Thursday, May 12, 2016

"I'm With You 'Til the End of the Line, Pal"

Bucky's metal arm and Steve's shield
As I mentioned in my last post, M.F. and I took four(ish) hours yesterday to write fanfictions stories about our favorite superhero duo, Captain America (Steve Rogers) and the Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes). Just for fun, I thought I'd share my story. If you haven't yet seen Captain America: Civil War, get thee to a theater! There aren't any real spoilers in my story, but you won't quite grasp what's going on if you haven't seen the film. Enjoy :) 


Three exits—the front door, the back door, and one on the side. Four security cameras, mounted in each corner of the station. A television on mute, cycling through clips of the bombing in Vienna. The employee behind the desk was dragging a French fry through a glob of congealed cheese, using it to draw aimless patterns on the foam plate. Somewhere nearby, a fly buzzed against a windowpane.

Sam picked up a bobbling figurine from the nearest shelf. It was a little man with an oversized head, painted in what seemed to be a replication of Tony’s Iron Man suit. Steve eyed the figure in Sam’s hand as he examined it.

“Yeah,” Sam said, holding it up for Steve to see. “Big head and an awful paint job. Seems about right.”

Steve started to reply but noticed Bucky tucking his chin lower against his chest behind Sam as the gas station owner glanced their way. The baseball cap concealed most of his hair, but there wasn’t much he could do about his face—if someone looked too long, even for a second, their cover would be blown. And the last thing Steve wanted was another fight.

“You go ahead, Sam. We’ll be here.”

Sam put the Iron Man figurine back on the shelf. He pulled out a five dollar bill and handed it to Steve. “Grab me some nachos or something. I’m getting real tired of those peanuts you bought last time. Nuts, man—what are we, squirrels? Get me some real food!”

“Sure.” Steve held onto the bill as Sam left them in search of the bathroom. Honestly, he didn’t understand people’s obsession with greasy chips slathered in cheese that tasted like plastic. Or why they loved food doused in chemicals. Most of the food in the gas station looked like it had been cranked out of a factory, not harvested from the dirt.

Bucky picked up a package of Pop-tarts and frowned down at it. “What is this?” he wondered aloud. A scan of the ingredients list didn’t seem to clear his confusion.

Steve smiled faintly. “Progress. Or so Natasha tells me.”

 He put the package down again and shifted the backpack slung over his shoulder. The hoodie concealed his metal arm from view, but Steve caught a glimpse when Bucky adjusted his bag. His friend wandered over to the magazine section, the baseball cap hiding his eyes as he reached out to pick up a National Geographic issue. The title read, “The Greatest Generation: Stellar Soldiers or Secret Spies?” A HYDRA symbol loomed behind the four soldiers featured on the cover, and one of their faces had been morphed into a leering red skull. Bucky held the magazine in his hands for a moment, then clenched his jaw and put it back.

“They don’t have any idea,” he murmured. “About anything.”

Steve paused and stepped a little closer when the owner flipped the channel to a news update detailing efforts to locate the Winter Soldier. Bucky hadn’t noticed yet.

“No,” he agreed. “There’s a lot of things they got wrong. But they do the best they can with the information they have.”

Bucky looked directly at him for the first time since they got in the car six hours ago. The corners of his eyes crinkled, just slightly. “They don’t care about the truth. They just want a story that sells.” He stared at the magazine again.

“Just because they got it wrong doesn’t mean their hearts weren’t in the right place,” Steve answered. Nodding at the magazine, he added, “Who knows. Maybe they did their research. Plenty of guys took the wrong path. Sometimes it’s easier. It’s harder to stand and fight for what’s right … especially if you’re the only one left standing.”

Bucky scoffed. “You have too much faith in people.”

“Or maybe I’ve been putting my faith in the wrong people. I don’t really know anymore.” His friend glanced over again, and this time Steve held his gaze. “Tony’s heart is in the right place, Buck. He wants to take responsibility for the damage we’ve done. I respect that. But I also think he’s going about it the wrong way. Having the government breathing down our necks, telling us who we can fight, who we can’t: that’s not freedom. What happens when they make the wrong call? How many people have to die so they can pull our strings? What makes them any more qualified to make those calls, anyway? The Sokovia Accords have barely been signed, and they’re already getting it wrong—I know you didn’t bomb that building in Vienna.”

His friend looked down again, a muscle jerking in his cheek.

“Sooner or later, everybody’s gonna know you’re innocent. But until then, we’ve gotta keep moving.”

“Yeah, and where are we gonna go, Steve? Back to Brooklyn? Back home? There’s nothing left. We’re the only ones left. Everybody else is dead.”

Steve clasped Bucky’s shoulder. “I’m not going anywhere, Buck. I’m with you ‘til the end of the line. Whatever happens … no matter who comes after you … you can count on me.”

Bucky’s face relaxed, and he nodded. Reaching over to grab something from the nearest shelf, he held up the Pop-tarts he’d pointed out earlier. “Well, then,” he said with a small smile, “you’re buying.”

He smiled back and took the package. As Steve walked over to the register to pay, the station owner stuffed another cheese-coated fry into his mouth and gestured for the money. Steve handed it over, along with the Pop-tarts and Sam’s nachos. His eyes drifted up to the television as the man rang up his purchase—the imposter’s face was blown up on screen, and Steve couldn’t deny he resembled Bucky. But that wasn’t his friend up there. That wasn’t the friend who used to buy hot dogs with him at the summer fairs and talked about girls and dreamed of fighting for his country when he was old enough to enlist. That man up there, whoever he was, would be caught, and he would face justice for what he’d done. It was only a matter of convincing the right people that Bucky wasn’t the bomber.

Namely, Tony, Natasha, Rhodey, Vision, and T’Challa.

Steve took the plastic bag offered to him by the man behind the counter. “Thanks.”

“Hey, you look familiar. I know you from somewhere?”

“No,” Steve replied, forcing a smile. “I’m just passing through. You have a good day.”

He turned away and rejoined Bucky. Keeping his voice low enough that only his friend could hear, he said, “Head back to the car, just in case. Here.”

Bucky took the bag and adjusted his cap, then nodded at him and left the gas station. He was walking a little faster than normal—Steve hoped the man behind the counter didn’t notice. No, his eyes were still fixed on Steve. He looked away. Sam should be out by now.

Sighing to himself, he watched Bucky walk for the car, the bag clenched in his fist. A car drove past but didn’t slow down or stop as it rolled by his friend. Bucky checked both ways and crossed to the little car, and only when he was safely inside did Steve look away.

It was then that he realized he’d do just about anything to protect Bucky.

The thought plagued him long after they hit the road again. Steve was putting his life on the line, his reputation, everything he’d ever professed to believe and care about—just to prove that Bucky was innocent. It was bigger than that, of course. There was still the matter of the Sokovia Accords. But at the heart of it all …

Steve glanced into the rearview mirror an hour or two after the sun set. Sam was asleep in the passenger seat, but Bucky was still awake. He was staring out the window, baseball cap shadowing his eyes. Even in the car, he wouldn’t take it off.

“How you holding up?” he asked, quietly so he wouldn’t wake Sam.

Bucky didn’t look away from the window. Steve wasn’t even sure he heard him. After a moment’s pause, he prompted, “Buck?”

“I never got to say goodbye to her. She was a kid last time I saw her. So was I.”

Steve barely remembered her himself; in fact, he couldn’t recall the last time he saw her. It must have been twenty years ago—or more. Even though he knew exactly who Bucky was talking about, he asked, “Rebecca?”

Bucky nodded once.

“Tell you what. When all this is over, we’ll find out what happened to her. Maybe she’s still alive.”

The ghost of a smile lifted Bucky’s lips. “She’s gotta be, what, a hundred years old by now?”

Steve chuckled back, relaxing his grip on the steering wheel. “So are we, pal.”

“Hey, Steve?” The smile was gone now.



He glanced into the rearview mirror again. Bucky met his eyes, then dropped his own again. Steve paused and said, “You’re welcome. Just don’t make me live to regret it, okay?”

He didn’t say anything.

“We’ll get through this, Buck. You and me. Just like old times. And when all of this is over, we can find you someplace safe. Nobody’s gonna force you to do anything you don’t want to do. Not on my watch.”

Bucky nodded and leaned his head back against the headrest, eyes aimed towards the window. The moonlight shone in patchy beams through the trees as they drove down the long, straight road, and the next time Steve looked back at his friend, Bucky was fast asleep. 

For those of you who don't know, there is one comic universe in which Bucky has a sister named Rebecca. The MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) hasn't done anything with her, but the idea intrigues me. Hence, I mention her in this story. 
And just for the record, I don't usually write fanfiction. But I do like trying to grasp other people's fictional characters and see how well I understand them by writing stories about them. I do it a lot with my own stories (especially The Rat Race). But I don't object to a fanfic every once in a while. M.F. and I had a lot of fun writing these! :D 
Until next time, lovely people. Captain America: Civil War is now in theaters! 

Summer is Suddenly Upon Us

Although I have a few more stops to make before I get home (Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and England), summer is basically here at long last. This semester flew by. And yet, as I think back to January, it seems more like a year ago than a few months. January 18th was the day we all got back from Christmas break ... and the night I had dinner with M.F., S.M., and J.S. at Doc's. That's significant because M.F. later asked J.S. to take us to Wal-mart the next day, and that set off a chain of events that eventually led to J.S. and I beginning a dating relationship. But you didn't come here to read about how I met my boyfriend, so back on topic! 
       This semester has been unique among my many months spent up here in the rainy mountains of Lynchburg. First of all, it was one of the easiest semesters, academically. I took three writing classes (Screenwriting, Transmedia, and Fiction), so I did lots of writing assignments, and that was fantastic. I wish every semester could be like that. My other classes were okay; fairly easy, in general. 
       Which was helpful, because I had time to spend with two of my best friends in the world. I will now divide the post into two sections talking about how amazing these friends are :)


My friendship with M.F. has an interesting start. While browsing the Liberty Class of 2018 Facebook page, I noticed an eloquently written response to one of the posted questions. As in, really well-written. Cue Facebook stalking. After discovering that M.F. shared many of my interests (i.e. Doctor Who, Loki, Once Upon A Time, Marvel, etc.), I sent her a Facebook message. She actually replied, and we spent the summer messaging back and forth ... mostly about Loki, Bucky Barnes, and Natasha Romanoff, if memory serves. When freshman year began, we met up (in person) for the first time. Although we didn't get to see each other much that first year, we kept in touch. Last year, I was able to get a room in M.F.'s dorm, and I lived a mere floor above her -- after spending the first year of our friendship across campus from each other, this move was great. I spent countless hours in her dorm (probably annoying her quaddies with my constant presence) and got to know all of them pretty well. M.F. and I ate breakfast together on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (sometimes lunch, too), and had brunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Before J.S. came along, we ate dinner together pretty frequently too. We've had more philosophical conversations than I can count. We've also had more conversations about Bucky, Steve Rogers, and various other Marvel superheroes than I can count. 
I have some pretty great memories involving M.F.: the first time we met and I got stuck in the bus doors; the time we watched The Winter Soldier with the entire quad; the time we road-tripped to Boston and listened to "Geronimo" way, way too many times; the time we hiked all the way to Camp Hydaway from East Campus; the time we went home with S.M. and saw otters at the aquarium; the time we sat in my room for four hours and wrote fanfictions stories about Bucky and Steve because Civil War didn't give us the feels we needed (oh, wait, that was yesterday ...) M.F. is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, intellectual, caring, quirky, and fun people I know. Even though we disagree on some all the things, we're still great friends. She keeps me grounded and makes sure I remember to express my feelings aloud (a struggle of mine). She challenges me to think outside my conservative box and helps me see the humorous side of life. 
          It's been a wonderful two years knowing her, and I am pumped to be her roommate next year. Keep on being you, M.F.! 

#sevenyears #beefybucky #redsoxmygoodman #captainswann #bittercagedbird 


I've been acquainted with this guy for about seven months, since I first met him last November at the writing club. However, I didn't actually become close to him until January of this year. After the dinner I mentioned earlier, I ended up having dinner with him alone the next night, and things kind of went from there. I had a class with him (although I had two with him last semester, too), and we started getting dinner together afterwards. On average, we'd spend three or four hours talking every time we got together. If you know me, I don't do that much -- as an extreme introvert, it says a lot about him that I kept agreeing to eat with him when I knew I was going to spend hours with him. Needless to say, he soon asked me out, and I said yes. 

By now, we've gone on 11 dates and still spend several hours a day together. I have very few friends I never get tired of seeing, and he is (thankfully) one of them. J.S. never fails to lift my spirits and put a smile on my face. We've made countless Wal-mart runs, countless late-night Cookout runs, spent approximately 45 hours working together at the observatory, written stories for fiction class and the writing club, worked out together, chilled on the roof of DeMoss, and eaten more Subco sandwiches than I could ever count. We've driven along Skyline Drive, hiked Sharp Top, hiked to Camp Hydaway (in the snow), and sampled some of Lynchburg's finest cuisine. We've come up with stories about various faculty members and bosses. We've called LUPD to make sure somebody wasn't about to murder us at the observatory. We're taught people the difference between Jupiter and the moon. And we've laughed ... a lot. J.S. encourages me, looks out for me, makes me laugh, and teaches me new things every day. It's been a fantastic three months of dating this incredible, godly young man, and I look forward to many more! You're best, Jake!

#astronautfarmer #drlong #mattdamon #theregoesjerry #john #gandhi #allrightallrightallright #murph #dasisttoll #francischan 

It's been a wonderful semester. Even though I still miss my friends from home, these guys have my life in Lynchburg nothing short of incredible. God has really blessed me with friends like these, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. I'm going to miss both of them so much over the summer but (praise God), they're going to try and come visit me in Texas later on! I've already got a list of places I want to take them when they come :) I can't wait for next year. It's gonna be great!  

Saturday, April 09, 2016

The Importance of Good Friends

I've never made friends easily. Even as a child, I migrated towards adults -- they were just more interesting to me and easier to interact with. Both my brother and I were mature for our ages, and pretty much everyone knew it. If I'm being totally frank, I was socially inept at a child, especially at church. I mean, I only saw those people once a week, and they didn't even like me. Why would I waste my time trying to befriend them? (Those were my thoughts at the time.) When I moved to a new school in third grade, I hated it for the first year. But there was one person who made that transition a little easier -- my first friend at Brentwood, G.C. She didn't have many friends either, so she sought me out and befriended me ... whether I wanted her friendship or not. We joke that she attacked me that first day of school. I'm glad she did, because she's one of my best friends to this day. 

        After securing this one vital friend, I learned to acquire friends through her. G.C. would make new friends, often the new girls each year, and slowly, by default, they would become my friends too. G.C. and I were inseparable, so if you were friends with her, you got stuck with me too. For all ten years that I was at Brentwood, that was how I made new friends. Some I became closer to than others, but typically, G.C. was my gateway to friends. 

      When I packed up and moved to Liberty, I no longer had G.C. there to make friends for me. Most of us actually had no idea how to make friends, because we'd spent 10, 11, 12 years together. We never needed to learn. But, on a whim, I joined the LU freshman Facebook page the summer before my first semester. There I spotted an exceptionally written paragraph detailing the author's fond memories of the beach near her home in Boston. And I thought, "Well, if she writes like that, I bet we could be friends." On another whim, I sent her a Facebook message about myself -- including the fact that I liked Marvel, Doctor Who, Sherlock, and other nerdy things. 

     Two-ish years later, M.F. and I are college besties. 

      We have our differences. Just yesterday, we agreed to disagree on the subject of feminism (she is a feminist and proud; I am an avowed complementarianist and very proud). We don't agree on everything. And that's okay. We challenge each other's viewpoints and help each other see issues from occasionally opposite sides. She's from Massachusetts; I'm from Texas. You can imagine how different our views might be. But I wouldn't trade her for the world. I can absolutely say she's one of my best friends, and I am super excited to be her roommate next semester. M.F. guided me through the uncertainty of possibly having a boy like me and gave me advice on how I should act around said boy. I didn't always take her advice, but hey, I appreciated it all the same. I hope I can return the favor for her when she finds her man. I've grown so much as a person from being her friend -- and that's how it should be. 

       Through M.F. accidentally scheduling us for dinner at the same time, I also met S.M. She happens to have my same exact major (which is really rare, because we only know of one other person on campus who has it), and I'm excited to take a class with her next semester. We're able to discuss scripts and professors, and we both love critiquing movies. Likewise, she also provides great insight into politics for us, and I've loved getting to know her better. She shows me a different perspective on life as well -- and the dynamic between the three of us is fantastic. It was a blast spending Spring Break with her and M.F. It's not often you get a trio of friends who work so well together. I'm blessed to have both of them. 

Which brings me to the next friend I want to discuss. Boys have always been a bit of mystery to me. I was good friends with my brother when he was still at home, but I never had any real "guy friends." I had some that were fairly close acquaintances, but beyond a few group outings, we never did anything together. I always wished I had some guy friends, but I never did. Now, lovely readers, that has changed. One of my best friends has become J.S. ... who conveniently happens to be my boyfriend. Yesterday we went up to our university's ski slope and hiked behind the mountain to see what was up there. On the way down, he stopped me and said, "I'm so glad we're such good friends." And it's true. We really are good friends, besides just dating. Even before we were dating, we hung out a lot all the time, and I always looked forward to seeing him. That's never happened with a guy before. Conversation is easy. Jokes are common. We encourage each other and give advice just like regular friends do. It's awesome. J.S. challenges me every day to be a better person, a better Christian, and a better student. He is one of my bests friends, and I am so blessed to have him in my life. 

       Without any of that, I almost question the point of having friends. If they're not going to challenge one another in the hard areas and be there for you when the storms come, why do they bother sticking around during the good times? Friends are one of God's greatest gifts to us. They're there to do life with us, encourage us, kindle change in us, and stick with us when times are tough. We have bad days. We break down. We make mistakes. But God brings these amazing people into our lives to help us, and we in turn are there for them. Friendship is one of the most rewarding and incredible symbiotic relationships out there. 
      And I am thankful every day for the wonderful people He has placed in my life. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Six Things I've Learned from My First Dating Relationship

Okay, yeah, it's only been two weeks since I started dating. And don't worry, I'm not one of those people who exclaim in a high, gushy voice, "Guess what?? It's our one month anniversary!!! We're so in love!!!" I can't stand those people. If you're that type of person, please just stop. Nobody else cares about your one-month anniversary except the two of you, so keep it to yourself for the sakes of everyone involved. 

Now that we have that cleared up, I'd like to share with you six things I have learned from my first dating relationship. (There are more than six, but for the sake of brevity, I will only share six.)

1. It's not all about me. Who knew, right? Just yesterday, my boyfriend (still getting used to using those two words in the same sentence) pulled me aside and told me some things that he would like me to contribute to the relationship. Because, to be honest, up until that point ... I hadn't been contributing. I didn't realize it until he kindly and graciously woke me up to the fact. He's the one planning the dates, asking me to do things, suggesting places to eat, and pretty much everything else. And that's not fair to him. You'd think this eye-opening revelation would have come much sooner (hey, it's only been two weeks), but my dazed brain didn't register the fact that yes, you actually need to put some effort into this thing. Never fear, faithful readers -- I have learned my lesson. 

2. I am definitely an introvert. Typically, I don't like spending much time with people. My mom gets (lovingly) annoyed that when I'm home, I'm in my room most of the time. Alone. By myself. Happily. I mean, whose idea was it to have people interact and do things together? What madness is this? I've never been particularly challenged to break out of my introverted ways before now. While in high school, I could retreat home at the end of the day. For the last three semesters, I could go back to my dorm and bury myself in blankets / hide from my roommate(s) while they were gone. It's not that I don't like people. I just like a very select group of people ...... Okay, like, five of them. 

      But now, I actually have to leave my blankets and my dorm and live in the real world of people. I have a (non-paying) job now. I have a best friend who likes to eat meals with me and go to the gym with me. I have a boyfriend who wants to spend time with me. And that's awesome. God is using this time in my life to stretch me and grow me, because, honestly, if it wasn't for the aforementioned reasons, I would be content to spend the majority of my time alone in my room! That's not healthy, no matter what I tell myself. Sure, maybe I only have two people that I spend any appreciable amounts of time with, but hey, that's two more than I had last year! It's been an interesting and sometimes (very) stressful experience, but I am definitely learning to step outside myself and put my friends' needs ahead of my own. 

3. I can't get by with shallow words and non-committal responses. Believe it or not, I tell myself, people want to get to know you! Honestly, I'd begun to wonder. Two years with exactly one friend will do that to you. "Do people like me? Do they care about me beyond a shallow friendship formed out of necessity in a class that meets for sixteen weeks? Do I actually matter to anyone?" And the answer is -- amazingly -- yes. And so the time has come to invest, to put in the effort I was never willing to spare before now, to come out of my shell and let people (i.e. the boyfriend) know that I care about them as much as they care about me. 

        I'm very hard to get to know. One of my very best friends told me the other day that when we first met, she thought I hated her. That was hard to hear ... especially because it's not the first time I've heard it. Certain circumstances have made it hard for me to open up and tell people what I think. I hate sharing my feelings. I feel vulnerable and weak when I do, and it's the most unnatural thing in the world for me to express my feelings aloud. It's a problem that I'm working on ... especially now that I have someone who, you know, actually needs to know that I do indeed have feelings! I can no longer skate through life with feigned smiles and fabricated enthusiasm. That is no longer acceptable, nor is it kind. I owe it to the people I cherish to be open and communicative, even if it's hard and even if it hurts. 

4. I need to lighten up. As some of you may know, I'm hardcore into organic food and medicinal herbs. If you didn't know that, now you do. Unfortunately at LU, there is a painful shortage of organic food. As in, a desert wasteland of greasy hamburgers, oily fries, and disgraceful, pesticide-laden salads. But, because most people do not adhere to this view that non-GMO, cage-free, free-range, grass-fed, pesticide-free, the-way-God-intended-food-to-be food is the best, I try not to be a stickler about it. I don't force-feed my friends organic carrot sticks rather than let them eat a burrito or a bacon wrap. (I may cringe and warn them in my head about heart disease and brain damage, but I usually don't say it aloud.) I also don't refuse the opportunity to go off-campus to Taco Bell at eleven o'clock at night or eat at SubCo with them. Why? Because I get to spend eternity with these amazing people in the presence of God, and I will no longer have to worry about pesticides and fluoride in Heaven! Making memories is more important than following my rules. Yeah, so maybe I drink a glass of fluoride-water and lower my IQ a point. But hey, we all had a great time and got a selfie that will go in my photo album, which I can look back on in thirty years and smile. Worth it? I think so. 

5. Sometimes spending silence with someone is more meaningful. Newsflash: I like silence. Sometimes I lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling for a while, contemplating any thoughts that wander into my head. It's quiet. It's peaceful. It's just me and my thoughts (and God, of course). And that's okay. We live in a world that insists that we must be attached at the hip to our phones, tablets, computers, iPods, etc. Personally, I hate electronics. They're useful sometimes, sure, but overall, I hate them. 

      That being said, one of my favorite memories (so far) from this year is going stargazing with my boyfriend. And yes, that's as nerdy as it sounds. For a good fifteen or twenty minutes, we just looked up at the stars and said nothing. You know that deafening silence that gets into your head and your bones and gets so thick you could cut it with a knife? That's what we experienced. There was no wind. No car sounds in the background. No dogs, no people. Just .... silence. And it's one of the most vivid experiences in my recent memory. There are some things that words just can't cover. Staring up at the Milky Way galaxy -- our galaxy, created some six-thousand years ago by the same God who knit us together in our mother's wombs and knows every intimate detail of our lives -- brought me to my knees. (Okay, well, I was already on my back, but you know what I mean.) That's what I love about space. It's the only part of Creation that's still perfect. It's untouched (mostly) by humankind, and there is an unfathomable amount of information we will never learn about the universe. God knows it all. He made it all. He made us. And He was with us that night as we looked up at His glorious handiwork. 

6. I don't deserve this. Life was rough in high school. I won't go into any details, but let's just say I was glad to leave. I hated college at first, too, and to be honest, I was so bewildered and confused by this new stage in life that I pretty much gave up the relationship with God that I used to cherish so deeply. I'm still working on regaining it. I was angry and bitter about a lot of things, and I retreated into myself that first year. 

         But one thing I know, absolutely, without question, is that I do not deserve the life I now have. I have an amazing, understanding, witty, beautiful best friend who never fails to make me laugh or encourage me when I have a bad day. I have a boyfriend that astounds me with his kindness, respect, sincerity, and devotion to God. I could not ask for better people to have in my life. They constantly lift me up, affirm that I am loved, and have such amazing patience with me and all of my shortcomings. The more time I spend with my friends, the more I realize how richly God has blessed me. In fact, I struggle with feeling guilty about it. I shouldn't; I mean, if God wants to shower me with blessings, I should embrace it, right? But I don't feel worthy, and sometimes (like right now as I reflect of all of these things), I feel like crying because I can't understand why He would allow me to have such a wonderful season of life when I obviously don't deserve it. 

All that being said, this year has been a life-changing one so far. And it's only February! I'm still a bit dazed by everything that has happened. Sometimes I wonder if pinching myself would wake me up. There have been so many changes that I'm still struggling to keep pace, but I know that God has my best interests at heart, and that no matter what His will for my life might be, it will be beautiful. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

So What Kind of Christmas Music Does A Writer Listen To?

I still haven't started listening to Christmas music. Okay, actually, that's a lie, because I'm listening to a Christmas song right now. But it's in Gaelic, and it's called "Don Oíche Úd I Mbeithil," which means "That Night in Bethlehem." Also in my playlist are the songs "Weiße Weihnacht," two versions of "Suantraí," "Mitt hjerte alltid vanker," and "Tu scendi dalle stelle." Oh, and some Michael Bublé, Scotty McCreery, Kelly Clarkson, 11 Acorn Lane, 4 or 5 Celtic albums, Josh Groban, and Pentatonix. Y'know, your average Christmas playlist. 

Me during the holidays. Especially if it's
actually snowing. Which it does in VA. A lot.
I have such unique Christmas music because I generally hate all the stuff on the radio. I mean, really. Do we have to play the same five songs sung in five different versions by five different artists all December long? Aren't there five other artists out there who deserve a chance to be heard? Can we please stop playing "The Christmas Donkey," "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," and "Feliz Navidad?" Please?! I'm not a Scrooge, I promise. I even bought a shirt with a golden reindeer on it today. I'm more of a Grumpy Cat when it comes to Christmas (see picture).  

In fact, I'm unbelievably excited to go home simply because I get to wrap Christmas presents for my family while dancing in the kitchen to some electro-swing Christmas carols and munching on organic carrots or something. I've been compiling a giant playlist (okay, it's only 101 songs so far) to which to listen while I wrap presents and decorate the tree. SO. EXCITED. 

So, you see, I'm really not a Scrooge. I just prefer non-traditional music. I ain't no mainstream hipster with a cute Christmas sweater and a peppermint latté or whatever people drink these days. My golden reindeer shirt is better than your tacky sweater! 

There ya have it, folks. This writer listens to Christmas music of the Celtic / Gaelic, Italian, German, Norwegian, electro-swing, a capella, country, pop, and whatever-Michael-Bublé-is variety. Because mainstream music is too mainstream. (See, this is what five months with people my own age does to me; I start talking like the rest of these "trendy" people. Whatever that even means.)

In other news, I finished my finals today! Which means I get to go home soon. G.C. and I are planning a baby shower for one of our friends, and in addition to that, we're going to another play at the EmilyAnn Theater to see my friend D.C. in A Christmas Carol. Super excited for both of those things! :D If anything noteworthy happens over break, I'll throw it up here. 

Ciao for now, lovely people. And I'll go ahead and say it because I'm a free American and I can say what I want: MERRY CHRISTMAS :) 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Penned: The (Unofficial) LU Creative Writing and Fiction Club

Design credit: M.F.
You may have heard me mention Penned in a previous post, but now we have a website! (Albeit unfinished.) I designed a small website for our group, where we will post our stories and pretty faces for the world to see. So far, there are only four stories available to read, but they're good ones! You can read our stories here

I'm not sure when we're going to be writing our next stories (especially since finals and Christmas are upon us), but when I get the next one finished, I'll be sure to post it here :) 

Ciao for now, lovely readers! Don't do stupid things. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Movie Review: Anna Karenina (2012)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky and Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley), the wife of a Russan imperial minister (Jude Law), creates a high-society scandal when she begins an affair with Count Alexei Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a dashing cavalry officer in 19th century St. Petersburg. Anna's husband offers her a difficult choice: Go into exile with Vronksy but never see her young son again, or remain with her family and abide by the rules of discretion. Meanwhile, a farmer named Konstantin Levin pines for Princess Kitty, who only has eyes for Vronsky (summary not mine). 

     As with Tom Hooper's Les Misérables, I went into this movie without knowing what to expect. Namely, the fact that nearly all of the scenes are performed on theatrical set pieces. Like clockwork, the sets are swapped and modified to represent travel or a change in mood, yet the actors never leave the huge, intricate webwork of beautifully designed sets. In fact, in several cases, they walk through the rafters of a theater to illustrate a walk through crowded, dirty streets or a train platform. Anna Karenina kept my attention largely for this reason; it was uniquely designed and simply fascinating to watch. 

     The costumes were equally gorgeous (in fact, costume designer Jacqueline Durran was nominated for an Oscar for her work). I don't know much about the clothing of imperial Russia, but there were some fur hats and beautiful gowns that certainly had the aesthetic caliber of Oscar-winning designs. 

Why, yes, that is the Russian president. See what I did there?
   Knightley's and Taylor-Johnson's acting did not wow me, honestly. They were fine. The standout performer (for me) was Jude Law, who portrayed Anna's humiliated husband with just the right amount of self-control and tragic heartbreak. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie involves Karenin sitting in an armchair at the edge of the stage, his face half-lit by gas lamps lining the stage, and he asks Anna quietly, "Tell me what I did to deserve this." We don't get an answer from Anna, but we also don't need one. We know it already: he didn't do anything at all, and that's what makes his heartbreak so poignant to watch. Karenin loves his wife, and he offers her multiple chances to redeem herself and come back to him. He even comforts Count Vronsky after Anna asks both men to reconcile. Both Karenin and Vronsky know what happened was wrong, yet Karenin is the one extending forgiveness to both Vronksy and Anna. Karenin even cares for Anna's illegitimate daughter and protects her as his own after Anna and Vronsky run away together. Yet he will not give Anna the divorce she needs to marry Vronsky, and so the count turns his sights on a young princess recommended to him by his meddling mother. Anna is disconsolate when she finds out, and her catastrophic tale is brought to a disturbing end on the tracks of the train. 

      Meanwhile, Anna's brother's friend Konstantin pines for Princess Kitty, who believes Vronsky loves her. After he abandons Kitty for Anna, she realizes that Konstantin (who actually loves her) might not be so bad after all. Their love story is truly sweet, particularly the scene in which she agrees to marry him at last, and I enjoyed their scenes more than Anna's and Vronsky's. They (Anna and Vronsky) were entirely caught up in their own good feelings and lust, with no regard whatsoever for morality or society's demands. In fact, one of Anna's friends puts it this way: "It would be different if she broke the law. But she broke the rules." (See? There are some rules that are just understood, whether you're a Christian or not. Hmm ...) 

Yeah, that was my expression when I saw your mustache, too. 
      Anna Karenina only got two stars out of five on Netflix, but I'm going to give it four, because I loved the cinematography, costumes, set design, Konstantin's and Kitty's love story, and Jude Law's acting. I'm keeping the other star because Aaron Taylor-Johnson's mustache annoyed me, Anna and Vronksy had no real reason to love each other, and for the many times Anna refuses her husband's forgiveness. And the fact that Aaron Taylor-Johnson also played Quicksilver in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I kept expecting his Russian accent and never got it. But mostly for the mustache. I mean, look at it. Yeesh. 
     Final scoring for Anna Karenina: 4 /5. Beautiful movie. Moderately acted. I keep a star. 

Sunday, December 06, 2015

"Let's Have A Spontaneous Adventure!"

I seem to have lots of those, don't I? Which isn't a bad thing, by any means! So yesterday, our writing club had its third meeting (minus about half of the group), and we swapped short stories so we didn't have to read ours aloud—for those of you who aren't writers, you must understand that we are collectively wary of reading our works aloud because we wrote them, and it's akin to sharing a very personal secret with people you hardly know >.< So thankfully, we did not have to read our own stories aloud. 
      After each story was read, we all offered praise and constructive criticism. It was fun to see how differently we interpeeted our prompt, which was: You see the love of your life 10 years before you first meet, and (s)he isn't at all what you expected. (You can find my story here.) S.M. and I, however, basically wrote the same story: Girl and Boy love each other. Girl goes back in time and meets Boy 10 years ago. Boy is trying to commit suicide. Girl convinces Boy not to kill himself. Girl goes back to her own time and throws her arms around Boy, and they live happily ever after. And if that wasn't weird enough, S.M. named her characters Angie and John, and my characters were named Anna and John. Coincidence? Hmm .... *suspenseful music plays*
      All of the stories were great. I really enjoyed seeing how differently we all interpreted the prompt, even though only three of us actually finished our stories (we still read the fourth, though). Three used time travel, one didn't. Two had a female protagonist, two had a male. Two protagonists were scientists, one was a cop, and one was a housewife. It was great :) 

Photo credit: M.F.
   After the meeting ended, four of us went to the cafeteria. We ate, and then S.M., J.S., and I stayed there, talking, until I suggested we go to the observatory since we all love astronomy. I've been with M.F. before, and I've been looking for an opportunity to return, so we all met up at the bus stop later on. The bus driver that was supposed to take us to the observatory refused (awkward), so we took a bus out to J.S.'s off-campus dorm, got his car, and drove ourselves. 

     Once there, we got to see lots of cool things, such as the Andromeda galaxy, the Pleiades, Uranus, and a scarlet star that could fit a billion of our suns inside it. We also saw the Orion nebula, which was amazing, because we could actually see the gas clouds, and they were a beautiful turquoise color. And J.S. has his own telescope, so he invited us to go stargazing again next Friday—I'm so happy I've found other people who like astronomy! :D Friends are great in general, but friends with similar interests are even better. 
     After getting back to the dorm, I chilled with S.M. We worked on t-shirt designs for the club, and S.M. is setting up a website where we can all post our stories for the World Wide Web to read. It'll be awesome, because she's a website wizard. Looking forward to seeing the final product! 
     That was our spontaneous adventure. As S.M. said so succinctly, "I enjoyed it immensely." :) 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Brief Suggestion to Professors

Dearest professors,
    You have an amazing opportunity to change young people's lives all over the world. You give your time, your energy, your love, and your hearts to us, and we're grateful. Truly, we are. Without you, we couldn't take those crucial steps forward into semi-adulthood that society seems to think qualifies us to get a job. (But that's another post for another time.) 
    But there is one infuriating mistake many of you seem to make. Yes, every professor I've had thus far in my college career has said this at one time or another, and I felt it was time to make my frustrations known to the three people who actually read my blog. 
    Let me be clear, so as to avoid any possible confusion. We are all adults, according to the rite of passage that is our eighteenth birthdays. We are not, as you seem to think, in preschool, incapable of imagining a world different from our own. We are (generally) intelligent and creative, and we can, in fact, empathize with others. 
    So, dearest professors, please refrain from telling us this in all seriousness:

   "Now, the _____ (culture) didn't have Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. They couldn't upload selfies or text each other. They had to write letters or hop on a boat if they wanted to speak to someone!" 

    Are you, dearest professors, implying that we didn't know this? Because it seems to me that every single time this implication (or one like it) has left your mouths, you appear to be ... totally serious, as if we would have never, ever guessed without you telling us this revolutionary information. Just last week, in fact, one of my professors was about to show us a film about Martin Luther. And I kid you not, the professor opened by saying, "Now, I want to make this very clear: this is not Martin Luther. These are actors. This is not real footage from 1517."
     The very fact that professors feel the need to say this makes me want to cry (in frustration, not because I'm sensitive). Do you really think we're that stupid? Have you lost that much faith in us? Do we really come across that thickheaded? 
    Please, dearest professors, do us the courtesy of treating us like the young adults we are. Don't say things like this to us. It might seem silly, but if you treat us like children, you shouldn't expect us to act like adults! We are well aware that the Sumerians didn't have Twitter. We know the Victorians didn't upload selfies. We are not stupid
    That's my brief suggestion. If any professors happen to read this, please take it to heart and do your students the courtesy of assuming they are capable of imagining a world without technology. 
     With respectful exasperation, 

Welcome to Bahston

That's Boston, by the way. I do know how to spell it correctly, but that's how people pronounce it here. Some of them, anyway. 

     So why am I in Boston, you ask? Well, it happened like this: my RAs forgot to assign me to a prayer group, so last week, I decided to swing by M.F.'s prayer group because she's the only prayer leader I actually know. She and our mutual friend S.M. were the only ones there. We talked for a while, and M.F. invited me to breakfast the next morning so she could have some company while she studied for her semi-final. 

     Upon eating breakfast with her the next day, the subject of Thanksgiving break came up. She had apparently forgotten that I wasn't going anywhere for Thanksgiving and invited me home. I'm honestly not sure why I said yes, because I had been planning to stay home all week and write my little heart out (and maybe do some homework like a responsible college student). Three other people had invited me home with them already, and I turned them down in favor of a blissful week of solitude, so ... I really don't know why I said yes. 

     A day later, I found myself in a small car with four other people, driving towards Boston in the middle of the night on a twelve-ish hour ride. We arrived at 6:30 a.m. and promptly went to sleep. 

  I won't give you a day-by-day update of what I did in Boston (not much besides writing my little heart out), but I did get to see the ocean for the first time. The Atlantic, I mean. I've seen the Adriatic in Italy, but that's more of a sea than an ocean, anyway. My fellow Texan friend A.R. and I fed the seagulls with a bag of rolls that the kind cornerstore lady gave her for free. The shoreline was cold, rocky, and rugged, and the ocean was big and blue. Pretty much what I expected. I got some cool pictures, though! :D

     On Wednesday, M.F. and I went into Boston after she got off work. We didn't really have any plans other than finding Quincy Market. The building was built in 1826, apparently, and it's like a mini strip mall, except indoors and really cramped. It's basically a long hallway with a menagerie of food vendors lining each side. M.F. tried to talk me into getting clam chowder, but I migrated first towards the Italian pizza. Then the TexMex. Then the barbecue. (Don't worry, I didn't actually eat at all of these places, just browsed.) And then I saw the USDA Organic symbol and sprinted (figuratively) over to the organic salad vendor. It was a lovely salad, and I got a pomegranate Honest Tea, as well (also organic). *the "Hallelujah chorus" plays*

     After eating, we wandered around the shops and down to the wharf / pier / dock / whatever. A full moon was rising over the water, so we watched it rise and then went to the aquarium ... which was, sadly, closed, but I still got a keychain from the gift shop and almost bought a stuffed seal, too :D 

Surprisingly good. Who knew. 
   Then we just ambled around, looking at whatever struck our fancy. Upon returning to our original starting point, we ate dinner at a local shawarma restaurant
—aptly named Boston Shawarma. I'm still not 100% sure what shawarma is; I just wanted some because there's a famous Marvel Easter Egg scene in The Avengers where the group sits in a shawarma restaurant after saving New York from an alien invasion. That's the only reason I wanted to try it. It was good, whatever it was. It was basically a toasted wrap with chicken, lettuce, tomato, and some kind of sauce. We also got baklava, which was a nutty, buttery pastry. 

     M.F. and I returned to the train station and went home. I didn't buy anything except the keychain, but she got a hipster watch at Urban Outfitters. 

     What else did we do? Hmm. We had Thanksgiving lunch the next day and watched some Doctor Who. We may or may not be going into town today for a picnic at the beach (if we do, I'll be sure to update with pictures). Tonight we're headed home, and then ... the dreaded finals week begins soon. I don't think they'll be that bad, though. I have plenty of time to study :3 

     So that's been my week in Bahston. Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving! Go forth and don't do stupid things, lovely people. Ciao!