Sunday reading reflection #4

So we haven’t done one of these in ages. The readings for this Sunday (read them here) were especially poignant considering all the terrible things going on here in the United States concerning race, racial ideologies, and hatred. The pastor of my parish preached a fantastic homily about how hatred and pre-judgement of any kind alienates us from God’s kingdom because anything that comes from God does not divide, but unites.

One line that particularly struck me from the second reading is “For the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.” There’s just something that’s so beautiful and yet terrifying about the gifts and call of God being irrevocable. Terrifying in that at times it feels like we can’t live out God’s call or are afraid to use the gifts he’s given us. But so beautiful in that despite all our fears, reluctance, and stubbornness, he isn’t going to take them back. And he isn’t going to leave us when we don’t follow his call how he might want us to, or if we stray a little too far, “…for he has said ‘I will never forsake you or abandon you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

His call and his gifts are for all. No qualifications or even willingness needed. His arms and his heart are always open, we need only reach out. And that is so important to remember, especially in such troubled times.

I hope the skies are sunny where ever you are today. God bless.

A letter to Jane Austen, on the 200th anniversary of her death

Dear Miss Austen,

I hope you will forgive my tardiness in writing to you. This week’s business caught me unawares. I’m sure you will forgive me when I tell you I was tending a library.

I feel the need to mark this occasion, though it is a sad one. You have been such a tremendous friend to me and to millions of others, and though I wasn’t a thought in anyone’s mind when your funeral was held 200 years ago, I will eulogize you now.

Though I never did and never could meet you when you were alive, I feel as though I know you through your stories. My mother bought me Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice for Christmas when I was thirteen. I received the rest of your books for my subsequent birthday. It took me a while (I am a terribly slow reader when it comes to the classics), but I grew to love your stories and, through them, you. In your works, I found ladies who understand what it’s like to deal with the challenges of growing up, of finding love and losing it, and of learning how to go after your desires. These ladies quickly became friends and role models. I still aspire to be as selfless as Anne Elliot, as witty as Lizzie, and as determined as Emma.

In your stories, I also found something that I didn’t know I was looking for. I discovered the sense of human continuity that only stories can bring, the knowledge that though people’s circumstances and social and political climates change, human nature remains the same. It is so lovely to pick up a book and read that a heroine from two hundred years ago had the same hopes and fears that a somewhat awkward heroine, such as myself, now has. That sense of continuity, of belonging not just to my time and place, but to a greater family called humanity, is such a gift. And you gave that to me and I’ll always be thankful.

Miss Austen, you worked so hard and received so little success during your brief time on this earth. But I am happy to tell you that things have changed. Women can now be and are recognized as great writers and contributors and storytellers. You helped pave the way for the rest of us and I can never thank you enough for that as well. Your determination in continuing to put pen to paper has helped me and so many others take up our own pens and write our own stories. Your struggles have borne much fruit. I hope that you know that and that you are proud of all of us.

God rest you gently, Miss Austen. May your stories and your legacy always live on.

Infinities of love,

Elizabeth

Check in #1

“Life piles up so fast that I have no time to write out the equally fast rising mound of reflections.”–Virginia Woolf. 

This quote has described many phases in my life, particularly in college, but seems especially salient right now. There’s been so much going on that I’ve barely been able to talk to my parents or think, let alone blog about things. I’ve also realized that I don’t do short posts about what’s going on with me. I do posts about bigger things such as questions or struggles that I’m having, but I don’t write about the day to day stuff. So here’s a little bit about the day to day stuff. A few of the things on this list aren’t small, but it’s been usually busy lately. Hopefully things will slow down now.

  • I got promoted at work! I’m going to be a full time reference clerk! It’s going to be incredibly different from my work in the children’s department. I was really unsure about it at first but as I’ve been trained, I’ve become less and less scared and more and more excited. I’ll get to build different skills and work with different people. I start the new job at the end of this month and we’ll see how this goes.
  • Two of my best friends got married to each other! Remember the wedding I told you I was going to be in? If you don’t, I don’t blame you, since I told you about it back in November. That was this past weekend! I’ve been so blessed to watch these two go from friends to good friends to being a couple to now being married. It’s been such a joy, so much so that I don’t think I’ll be able to process all my thoughts and feelings about it for quite some time. I’ve already warned the bride that I’ll probably call her up in October and be like “YOU GOT MARRIED???? WHAT THE HECK???” Congratulations, Miles and Abigail!
  • I got my first smart phone recently. I got my first cell phone in 2012 and I got a different phone last year and I’ve hated it ever since. I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a smart phone and this seemed like a good time to do it. It’s been an interesting experience so far. While it’s been an incredibly helpful communication tool, I can already tell that it can quickly become an obsession and a necessity, as so many people view their phones these days. I’m trying hard not to let that happen, but at the same time I’m curious as to what this technology has to offer.
  • I’ve been listening to musicals more recently and I forgot how much I love musical theater. Ever since the Tonys I’ve been on a musical kick. I’ve been listening to Hamilton more and I’ve lately gotten into Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. Dear Evan Hansen is next, but I’m waiting until things have settled down with me before jumping into a soundtrack that has already made me cry and I’ve only listened to three songs. Definitely give all these shows a listen if you haven’t.
  • George Bernard Shaw is a fantastic playwright. I’ve been doing a lot of rereading lately and toward the middle/end of June, I really wanted to re-experience a play that I saw in college, called Arms and the Man.  Though I hadn’t read it, it was amazing to read the script for it and to remember how wonderful that production was. I was struck again just how witty and how precise he is in his use of language and development of character. I’m reading Saint Joan now and I love it.

So that’s a little about some of the many things going on in my life. I’m going to try to blog more often and to be a little more open and honest about what’s going on in my life on this blog. I hope you all are doing well. Bye for now.

Things I’ve learned from revising so far

Hi, everyone! I’m almost a month into revisions of my novel and while I’m not as far along as I hoped I would be, I have learned a thing or two so far in this process. So here are those things.

  1. Don’t be afraid.
    Revising anything, from a novel to an email, is difficult and slightly scary. There’s always the fear of being misinterpreted or misunderstood. It seems like there are a hundred little decisions for each sentence and that if you get one of those wrong, you’ll mess everything up and it’ll be ruined and no one will ever want to read it. But that’s just not true. Libba Bray once made the joke that writing isn’t like brain surgery, if you get something wrong, you can just fix it. This is so important to remember. It might take a long, long time but you will get there and your story will be what you want it to be.
  2. Don’t start the Beta-reading process right away.
    I called for Beta readers before I even started revising. While I’ve been very lucky in getting quite a few friends to read my story, I made the mistake of thinking that I could just revise the chapters and immediately send them out for review. After just two chapters, I’ve found out just how silly I was to think that way. So make sure you have a good bit, if not all, of your manuscript revised before you send it out to your beta readers. You can send it to them chapter by chapter or send them the whole thing. However you want to parcel it out, make sure the manuscript is as good as you can make it.
  3. Keep going and give yourself time.
    As mentioned before, revising is scary and difficult. But it is important not to give up and to keep going. While persistence is important, it’s just as vital to give yourself time to step away from the story to let your brain recover and to think of new ideas. Always remember: give yourself time because no one else will.

I don’t normally offer writing advice, but I just wanted to share these three insights in case any of you are in this perilous revision boat with me. If you are and you need someone to commiserate with, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here for you guys <3.

P.S. If you want to read a little story of mine, you can read it here.

Four-sentence book reviews #2

Hello, everyone! I hope you’re having a great day! I recently counted up the books I’ve read so far this year and I’ve already read more books than it took me all of last year to read. So I thought I’d write more four-sentence reviews.

1. The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

Peregrine, or Perry for short, fights to earn her parents’ affection by being the model of a Latki warrior maid, though she ultimately cannot, for reasons she cannot expect. As you may remember, the book this is a prequel to, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, is one of my favorites and I was thrilled to return to this world. This is an incredibly faithful prequel and it was absolutely fascinating to see the origins of Bamarrian society and its traditions. Wonderful characters and a thrilling story, this is definitely one middle-grade story you don’t want to miss!

Lost Kingdom

Credited to goodreads.

2. Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly.

This story looks at the time Belle was entrapped by the Beast, their friendship, and an escape she finds through a book in the castle’s library, which contains a story that seems deceptively perfect. As much as I love the story of Beauty and the Beast, I’ve never thought about the time where they lived together in the castle and this book is an interesting window into that time. Belle and the crew are well thought-out and portrayed very well. This book was released by Disney in conjunction with the remake of the 1991 film that came out in March, but Donnelly takes the story and the characters and makes it completely her own.

3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)

Isn’t this cover gorgeous? It’s even better in person. Credited to goodreads.

Orphan Lazlo Strange has always dreamed of the famed city that has come to be known only as Weep and, when a band of strangers from Weep come to town, he has the opportunity to make that dream come true. This is my first foray into Laini Taylor’s writing and what a foray it was. I just finished reading it this morning and all I can say is that the characters, the writing, and the world are all so well-developed that it makes me green with envy. If you think the world of YA fantasy is full of unreadable drek, then read this book and prepare to enter a dream.

 

4. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

This is the beginning of the Chronicles of Narnia series, need I say more? Learning how Narnia was formed and getting to see Digory and Polly go on adventure after adventure was just wonderful. I’d never read this before and all I wanted to do was go back in time and thrust it into the hands of didn’t-like-to-read-eight-year-old-me. Truly a great start to a series that deserves its classic status.

That is all for now, loves! In slightly related news, the first round of revisions are soon to commence on my book, which I am both excited and slightly terrified for. I will probably be writing about that at some point, but I am wondering, is there a specific part of the revision process you would like me to talk about? Or any part of the writing process, really? Let me know and I’ll do my best for you! Thanks for reading and I will see ya’ll soon.

The inevitable anniversary blog

It’s been a year. Since I graduated from college, that is. That fact is so hard to believe.

marci, catherine and me

From the right, my friend Marci, my roommate, Catherine, and me. We met at our pre-orientation and ended up being in a lot of classes together since we were all English students. This was taken before the big ceremony. No one looks good in academic livery, but we didn’t do too bad. 

In many ways, it still feels like I’ve been on an extended break, that I’m still waiting for the call from my university, wondering why I haven’t come back to finish up my studies. But I did finish and I do have the diploma, and now I have a year’s worth of work, interview, and writing experience I couldn’t have seen coming. And through all of that, I’ve learned a lot. The following list is not a list of things I’ve learned and then moved on, it’s more of a summing up of bits and pieces that have been reinforced to me over and over during this first year in the “real world”.

  1. There will be twists and turns you won’t expect. And things will not go your way.  Learn to be okay with that.
    I’m not going to get into too much detail here, but suffice it to say that the dreams I had of getting the perfect job and moving away from home right after I returned from school did not happen. There have been so many days that I’ve beaten myself up because I feel like it’s my fault that I am not where I want to be in life right now. While I know that sounds stupid (and it kinda is), it’s also an understandable reaction. People’s dreams sometimes take a long time to come true, if they ever come true at all. And while that’s discouraging, being upset about it doesn’t help anything. So if you ever feel sad because you don’t feel like you’re where you’re supposed to be in life, it’s okay to be sad, but don’t let that sadness weigh you down. Use that sadness as fuel to keep going. You can do it, even if you don’t think you can.
  2. Celebrate your successes, even the little ones.
    It can be easy, especially when you’re just starting out, to ignore the successes you do have because they are not the kinds of successes you’re aiming for. Success involves a lot of plodding along on a path that will eventually take you where you want to go. It’s so dumb and demoralizing that (at least in the U.S.) we have this idea that success occurs in a shoot-to-the-moon kind of fashion and that once you are deemed “a success”, you better do all you can to hold on to that title and that validation. While those stories make for interesting fodder for Hollywood, I’d safely wager that if you ask any successful person, they’d tell you just how long and how difficult a journey it was. So celebrate your little successes, because that means you’re one step closer.
  3. The key to being thankful is being observant.
    Noticing the little things and taking the time to be thankful for them is almost, maybe even more important thank being grateful for the big things.
  4. Getting an interview doesn’t mean you have to take the job, if they even offer it to you.
    Since I started my job search late last May, I’ve had several in-person and phone interviews for different jobs. The one thing that has been consistent with all of those interviews was the fact that I got incredibly anxious about moving and how I would handle the job before the interview even happened. While it’s important to be well-informed about the job, what you’ll be doing, and where you will potentially be living, it’s also important to keep yourself calm and not to get ahead of yourself. While getting an interview is a good sign, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the job or that you’re going to have to figure everything out at the drop of a hat. Take everything as it comes and don’t try to climb the mountain before you’ve even arrived at its base.
  5. There are some things school hasn’t and couldn’t prepare you for.
    School, like everything in life, is a mix of the mundane and the magnanimous. It’s only now that I’ve been out of school that I realize just how much of school I found boring, even though I know I’ve been incredibly lucky to attend school at all. I’ve also realized that, though school feels like it finishes your education, it really is only the beginning. I remember my Victorian lit professor telling us that when we were discussing the influence of England’s universities on the writers of that period. He said something like, “The end of our formal education is only the beginning, which is why they call graduation commencement.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little reflection of my time out of the education system. If you have any school/life stories you’d like to share, please do! Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, stepmothers, godmothers, and mothers-to-be!

 

Thoughts on “Silence”

Hello, everyone. We’re going to do something different on the blog today. I’m going to be talking about the film, Silence. I saw it last week and have been wanting to talk about it, but it’s taken me a while to collect my thoughts. For those of you who don’t know, Silence is a movie about two Jesuit missionaries who travel to 17th century Japan to seek out their brother priest, who appears to have gone missing.

This post is going to be something between a review and an analysis, so if you don’t want the movie to be spoiled, then don’t read any further until you’ve watched the movie. For those of you who have seen it or don’t care about being spoiled, feel free to pass go and collect your $200.

 

After trying to write a lengthy review about this movie, I decided to keep it to a bullet point list of my thoughts. Before anything else, I should define the term apostasy, since it is one I will use often. Apostasy means to reject or to turn away from a faith or belief system in favor of a different one. This has been symbolized in such ways as stepping on a rosary or a cross or, like in the film, an image of Jesus. For more information about this, click here. If you’d like me to elaborate on any of these bullet points, feel free to ask in the comments.

  • This film is so respectful of both sides, the persecuted and the persecutors, and allows both sides to explain their viewpoints on Christianity and its place in Japan. And while there is a lot of debate both within the film and externally about whether or not the apostasy committed is justified, the film offers no definitive judgement about it, letting the viewers decide for themselves if those who renounce the faith were right in doing so. While I disagree with apostasy and the idea that Christ would move anyone to apostasize (as he does so in the story with Fr. Rodrigues), it was an interesting way of portraying such a complex and difficult situation.
  • The use of color in this film is fantastic, though sparing. The only colors that are used are the reds of fire and blood, the blue of the sea where Christians are drowned, the multiple greens and muddy browns of Japan itself, and the white of the Buddhist/Shinto authorities dwellings and the fans they use. And of course, the white of the Easter lily at the end.
  • Rodrigues, played by Andrew Garfield, is an amazing character. Though not much is revealed about his past, I could tell he grew up like a lot of Catholic kids (including this one), learning the stories of the martyrs and looking up to them and not really considering what martyrdom actually looks and sounds like. And when he does see and hear the terrible truth that is martyrdom, he doesn’t like what he sees and hears. And it does cause him to question if such suffering is worth it, especially since God seems silence throughout.
  • Can we talk for a moment about Fr. Garupe, Adam Driver’s character? Holy moly, he was totally different than what I thought he was going to be. The trailer revealed him to be a questioning sort of fellow, and that’s exactly what he is. Throughout their time in Japan, he is questioning while Rodrigues is quiet, doubting where the other is faithful. Yet he does not apostasize (at least I think he doesn’t, I might be wrong about that) and dies a martyr’s death while trying to save one of the Japanese faithful. Even if he did apostasize, it still was a brave way to die and one I wouldn’t have thought his character capable of. Yet some of the greatest saints started out as people seemingly the least likely to become holy.
  • I can’t remember where this happens in the film, but at some point Fr. Rodrigues tucks the little crucifix from his rosary into the waistband of his pants. You don’t see that crucifix again until the end of the film (which was a tremendous way to end it). That really struck me because it’s an incredible visual metaphor for what he had to do after publicly denouncing the faith and agreeing to live as Japanese. Christians have been under persecution in different parts of the world since the Crucifixion and that simple action was a nod to this fact while showing that he had tucked his faith away in the most intimate part of himself.
  • I really like that, however much people aposticized and stepped on icons of Jesus, the images never got dirty, no matter how muddy people’s feet or shoes were.
  • The one character I got incredibly frustrated with was Kichijiro. He aposticized, then kept coming back to Fr. Rodrigues for confession again and again. I was so annoyed with him, especially in the middle of the movie (when he gives up Fr. Rodrigues to the officials) and I wondered why he didn’t just give up and either live the faith or leave the faith. Then I realized that I do exactly what Kichijiro does, every time I sin and turn back to God in the sacrament of confession, only to sin again. And I felt ashamed at my annoyance.
  • I was so pleased to see, before the credits started rolling, that they dedicated the film to the Japanese martyrs, with the postscript of the Jesuit’s motto, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, “For the greater glory of God”. It just made me think that there is no better way to honor the sacrifice of those brave people than to tell their story in such a wonderful, honest piece of art. I had also been listening to Hamilton earlier that morning and seeing this movie truly drove home the point that we “have no control who lives who dies, who tells our story.” It makes me wish that all martyrs and indeed, everyone, could have their lives told in such a beautiful way.

Have you seen Silence?  If you have, let me know what you thought about it in the comments. If you’d like a much more detailed and much better analysis than mine about the movie, watch this video. Also, if you’re looking for a good Catholic youtuber, you should watch this guy’s videos. He’s pretty great.

That’s all I have for now, everyone. Thanks for reading this ramble. Before I forget, I had another story published by the good folks at 101 Words. If you want to read it, click here. It’ll be permanently archived on my writing page, which I am planning on reformatting soon so it doesn’t look like such an eyesore. I hope you’re all having a fantastic Sunday and I will write again soon. Bye!

Years and raining blossoms

Hi, everyone. I’ve had two realizations this week and it’s only Tuesday. The first is that it’s April and April means it’s National Poetry Month and I haven’t put up a single poem yet. The second is that, as of tomorrow, I will have been keeping this blog for an entire year. That is bananas. This time last year, I was a college senior struggling to keep it together long enough to graduate. And now, well, I’m still struggling, but I’ve been able to write and do work that I am grateful to do. I just want to say thanks for reading and sticking around, everyone. Here’s to hopefully many more years of blogging! And now, without further ado, here is a poem to celebrate National Poetry Month.

They say that, when the blossoms rain early,

the sky is not too far behind,

that the days will stretch out

and then shrink back in on themselves

again, reaching

for the blackness

that, summer or winter,

is always there,

after the sun sets

and before the dawn.

I wonder about that night

before the dawn,

if it feels neglected since people

almost always want it gone.

Or if it doesn’t care

and shines forth regardless,

casting the sky in crowds of stars.

Some time,

I will stop wondering

and start wandering

and seek the answers

to the world,

to the darkness,

the light,

and the everything in between,

myself.