To my neighbors

You built this house

with all these fine,

wide windows

yet your curtains remain

drawn,

your blinds closed.

Why, when

you have such

a lofty vantage point

do you shut out

the view of the world?

As some of you may remember, I have a great fondness for windows. My neighbors have such a beautiful house but they never take advantage of their windows. That makes me sad.

 

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What’s not needed

It seems forbidden

but then again,

everything once

was forbidden.

We are taught to build meaning

out of another’s

words

but to use another’s words

for your own meaning,

is that okay?

They say it’s better

to ask forgiveness than

permission,

so let’s go.

Sorry, Shakespeare,

you’re being edited.

 

Written directly after making yesterday’s blackout poem. I’ve always wanted to try it ever since I first heard about it, but I never plucked up the courage until one of my best friends gave me a book of excerpts of Shakespeare that was designed for blackout poetry. Thanks again, Abigail, for such a great gift! If you want to know more about this type of poetry, here’s a video all about it. I hope you’re enjoying the October Poetry Project so far! I certainly have!

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.

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!

My friend, St. Patrick

Hello, everyone! I’ve been trying to think of a way to blog about the past few weeks. Nothing’s been wrong, but there’s been a lot going on. A funeral. A wedding. My first event as a photographer. A fitting for a bridesmaid dress. A lot of work and a lot of editing. Working on the first draft that is a few pages away from being done (I think.) But since I can’t  seem to find the words to adequately express my thoughts on all of this, I thought I’d talk about St. Patrick instead, since it is, after all, his feast day.

Image result for st patrick

A beautiful icon of St. Patrick. Photo courtesy of stpatswichita.org

St. Patrick is one of my favorite saints. You can read more about his life here since I do a terrible job of trying to sum up people’s lives in a few sentences. I think the quality I most admire in him, aside from his unyielding faith, is the fact that he was able to keep going despite the hardships. He grew closer to God after he’d been captured by the raiders, joyfully returned home after daring the perils of escape, and was brave enough to return to Ireland when asked in a dream. He was able to roll with the punches and keep trusting God and doing his work. Though we’ll never know what private struggles Patrick had, the fact that he was able to keep going and to keep spreading the faith is just amazing. The results of his ministry can still be seen in Ireland today and will be around for some years to come, God willing. Patrick’s persistence and zeal are incredibly inspiring, especially to someone like me, who has a tendency to struggle to keep being faithful when things get rough. And it has been a struggle, for quite some time now.

St. Patrick is someone I think everyone, whatever they believe, can be inspired by. I pray that this great saint blesses the world with his faithful persistence. I’ll be back soon. God bless you.

P.S. Below is one of my favorite songs from the wonderful Irish duo, Makem and Clancy.

P.S.S. I had another story come out last week. You can read it here. This one was my senior English thesis for college so I’m incredibly proud that it has found a literary home. Please read it and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 things I’ve learned so far in 2017

Hello and an incredibly belated Happy New Year to everyone. I’ve been meaning to post for a while, but if you’ve been following this blog for more than a little while, you’ve probably noticed that blogging is the first thing that gets thrown to the wayside when life gets crazy. I’m going to work on that, I promise. To bring everyone up to speed with what’s been going on in my life, here’s a list of 17 things I’ve learned so far in 2017.

  1. I really need to fix my sleep schedule.
    It’s kinda ridiculous how much this needs to happen and how long I’ve been putting it off.
  2. Being immersed in a writing project is one of the most amazing, forgiving things.
    I’m heading toward the finish line with my current manuscript. It’s been an exciting, difficult, but totally rewarding process and I’m eager to keep working on it and make it better.
  3. While I consider myself a good writer, I know I’ll never write anything as remotely cool as Hamilton.
    I finally finished listening to the whole soundtrack on Monday. I cried three times. Favorite songs right now are “Wait for it”, “Dear Theodosia”, and “History has its eyes on you.”
  4. In a time of quick action and loud protests, contemplative silence and calm listening can be subversive but necessary acts.
    I’m not going to say too much about this, but let’s just say I’m an American who doesn’t like joining in on flame wars on social media. That should tell you all you need to know. More importantly, listening and observing what’s going on can be just as crucial as reacting to current events, when direct action is not mandatory, of course.
  5.  Watching a dog learn to play with toys is fun.
    We bought Pongo a tug of war toy when we first got him. He’s shown no interest in it until now since I took it into my head to try to channel his biting habit into something that doesn’t end up with me covered in dog slime. It’s worked really well and he’s becoming really protective of it. It’s adorable.

6.Manga is amazing both as an art form and a method of storytelling.
I started reading Library Wars when I saw it on the “To be shelved” cart at work and I picked up the first three volumes and immediately loved them. It’s a story set in an alternate future in which censorship has become the norm under law except for libraries and the librarians who staff them. The fight for censorship has become so vehement that a library defense force was created, an organization that Iku Kasahara has wanted to join since she encountered one of the defense agents in high school. Though she’s much too opinionated and clumsy to be totally suited to military life,  her passion and verve see her through. It’s a funny, upbeat, and surprisingly deep series that makes me smile no matter what. Definitely check it out!

Image result for library wars

Photo credited to amazon.com.

7.Time doesn’t owe us anything.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Toward the new year, it seemed like everyone was so ready for 2016 to end. And I can understand why. It was a tough year on a number of levels. But for all the bad that happened, there was good that happened, as well. Despite all the bad things, now more than ever, we need to recognize good things when we see them because they are the things worth fighting for. Also, time doesn’t owe us anything, as I said earlier. The only thing time owes to humanity is to keep going. It’s the ultimate soldier, it just keeps marching on. And if it stops, that’s it, for Time and for us.

What have you learned this year so far? Feel free to let me know in the comments. As previously mentioned, I’m really into my current project right now (for more details, read this). I will try to maintain a somewhat normal cycle of blogging, but we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for sticking with me, lovely people.

Thoughts on my first attempt at NaNoWriMo

Hello,everyone! As I mentioned in my last post, I participated in NaNoWriMo and I thought I’d share some of my  experience and thoughts about that process.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, an annual contest in which people try to write a 50,000 word story in the month of November. This was my first attempt at NaNo and I failed. I knew I wasn’t going to reach the goal of 50,000 words for two reasons. One was that my schedule was very up and down during that month, so I figured it would be better to have a more manageable goal. The second reason was that I hate word counts. I hated them in college and I will hate them forever. I’m not even sure why I don’t like word counts. I think it’s because they cause me to focus more on the word count rather than the quality of the words and sentences and paragraphs I’m putting on the page. So I set myself the seemingly more reachable goal of 2 pages a day, 60 pages for the whole month.

While I had every intention of writing every day, I quickly fell into a pattern. I would write my 2 pages, maybe a little more, for a few days of the week, then wouldn’t write anything for the rest of the week. I was initially angry with myself for developing this kind of pattern, but then I shook it off and tried to make the most of it. I draft long-handed and was pleased to fill up a notebook I had been using since the spring of 2015 and to start using one that I had started drafting a story in, but decided to put it on the back burner (where it simmers still). I did NaNo with some a few friends, which was great. We were able to report and talk about our progress and different problems and victories we encountered. It’s always nice to have friends along when you try to take on a challenge and I definitely encourage anyone who wants to try NaNo in the future or who maybe hasn’t been successful with it in the past, to try to get some friends involved. It can be a little distracting, but it will definitely help.

Not only did I fail my first attempt at NaNo, but I also kind of cheated. The idea of the contest is to work on a new idea and I worked on a manuscript that I have been formulating for the past two years but only began working on in earnest in June. I went from page 71 to page 109 in my manuscript. It wasn’t what I hoped would happen, but it was pretty great all the same.

The thing that really stood out to me about NaNo was how normal and right it felt. Other than the fact that I had my friends checking up on me every now and then and I beat myself up more severely than usual for not writing, NaNo was incredibly similar to what my creative life normally is. And I take that as a very good sign. Now that it’s all over, I’m still trying to work on my novel every day. It’s a struggle, but one that I’m learning to wrestle with. I bet you’re wondering what I’ve been working on, but I’m afraid that will have to remain a secret until the manuscript is in much better shape than it is. This is my first draft of the story and though I’ve been building it in my head for nearly two years, it still has a long way to go before I’ll be comfortable sharing it. But this is where the magic happens, where the story and the people become real. In the years that I was slaving away on my degree, I had forgotten the sheer bliss of worlds flowering under my pencil, of people becoming real through my words. I’m so lucky to be able to experience that and it’s something I thank God for regularly.

I hope you enjoyed this little writing ramble and I hope all is well with you, dear readers. God bless you!

 

Thanksgiving (thanks for giving)

Hello, everyone. Once again, I must apologize for the lack of posts. If I thought October was a crazy month, November has snatched that award away and set it on its shelf.

A bunch of things have happened that I’m still sorting through. I’ve been really stressed about many things, to the point that sometimes the best I can do is just not think and just try to be as calm as possible (which is much more difficult than it sounds.) I had two job interviews and received my first job offer (which I ended up turning down for financial reasons.) The election happened and if we all thought it was interesting and anxiety-inducing before, it’s only gotten worse (at least for me, but I’m trying to stay as positive as I can.)

While that might not seem like much, it’s been difficult to deal with. But in all this darkness, there have been many patches of light to keep me moving forward. Like getting to cook all day and spend time with family yesterday (a belated Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.) My best friend asked me to be her bridesmaid (she’s getting married next summer.) I received a surprise visit from another best friend and we got to talk about a lot of things (love you, Jasmine.) I got to take a road trip with my Dad, got to see some new places, and got to admire God’s beautiful creation from the view of a car window (I have a habit of staring out windows whenever I travel.) I got to eat grapes with my brother at one in the morning (because when you don’t have to go to work the next morning and you and your sibling want fruit, why not?) I’ve made significant progress on my first draft thanks to NaNoWriMo (but not as much progress as I thought I would.) I’ve gotten to grow closer to my characters through working on their story and building their world (I love them so much, though I don’t think they’d love me if they met me because of what I’m putting them through.) I’ve received quite a bit of writing encouragement from people who have known me and who have supported me and it’s been humbling and beautiful (hello, lovely people. You know who you are.)

So yes, there have been many ups and downs of late. Forgive the rambling nature of this post. I felt so awful that I haven’t been writing here lately that I was desperate to post something. More is on the way, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for giving me your attention. The fact that people are reading my words baffles and humbles me and I hope you know that I am so thankful for you. You’re amazing. Bye for now.

Waiting

Hey there. I want to talk about waiting for a few minutes today. Because I’ve been doing a lot of it lately. Waiting for interviews, waiting for people to get back to me about said interviews, waiting for people to decide whether or not they want to publish my writing.

But the thing about waiting is that it eventually ends. Most likely not in the ways you’d expect. To anyone who feels like they’re in the waiting room of life, you’re not alone and eventually your number will be called and you’ll get ushered into whatever’s next for you. Hang in there. This is what I’ve been telling myself for the past few weeks and I hope it helps. You can do this. Even if I have trouble believing in myself, I believe in you.