Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Reading Challenge of 2010: June

4:14 PM
Halfway through the year and I'm halfway through my Reading Challenge of 2010! So is my book buddy Becca. We are doing pretty awesome. Here are my reads from June.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larrson
The much anticipated third installment of Larrson’s Lisbeth Salander series arrived at the end of May. Buying it on my Kindle was the first thing I did that day. I already read and loved the previous two Salander novels and couldn’t wait for Hornet’s Nest to release. And I was not disappointed. Larrson with his gifted dedication to the details and the craft of a scene, put together another splendid tale of corruption, lies, deceit, espionage, vindication, and truth. Salander, on the heels of a life-threatening injury at the end of The Girl Who Played with Fire, spent the majority of the novel in the secure lockdown of a hospital, with her murderous father just a few feet away. The story was primarily carried by Mickael Blomkvist, and his journalistic endeavors. While trying to prove Salander’s innocence, without her help, he unknowingly uncovers a conspiracy buried so deep in the Swedish government that his own safety is now at risk. While some of the background drags a bit, the plot itself does not. And once Salander is back where she belongs, behind a computer screen, the story flies. With Larsson’s unfortunate and unexpected death, this may be the last installment in the Salander world, but I hope it is not. As she has become one of my all-time favorite literary characters.

Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Fever Dream is the latest saga into the world of the enigmatic Special Agent Pendergast. Preston and Child have released nine others, which I have read and loved, so I was very much looking forward to the latest which released in May as well. Preston & Child have several books with several reoccurring characters, but the ones with Pendergast at the forefront are by far my favorite. He has such a unique way in following leads, finding information and pursuing justice. Fever Dream gave us a glimpse into Pendergast’s past, and the tragic loss of his wife in a hunting accident. Pendergast learns 12 years later that her death was no accident, but was in fact, murder. Pendergast sets off to solve the crime, and partners up with another Preston & Child favorite character, Lt. D’Agosta from the NYPD. The two of them make an unlikely pair as they hunt leads from Africa to New Orleans to Siesta Key and the bayous of Louisiana. For a book with a slow start, it sure had a jam-packed middle and ending. The mystery twisted and turns in ways I didn’t see coming, and ended with a satisfying, and intriguing, conclusion. As always, Pendergast the man, is a mystery himself, and I very much enjoy just discovering him.

1984 by George Orwell
This is another of those classics that everyone reads during high school, and yet I never had to. So I picked it up now! I can see why its such a classic. When Orwell wrote his classic political commentary in 1949, he depicted the future [which is now the past] of 1984. And what a future it was. Instead of our 7 continents there 3 are superstates. And they are always at war. Big Brother is the leader of Oceania, and he is always watching. Departments that control the government are the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Plenty and the Ministry of Truth. Our main character, Winston Smith, is a faithful employee at the Ministry of Truth. Smith gets ready for work each day in front of his telescreen, which allows Big Brother to watch every single person in Oceania at once. He works hard as a historical revisionist. His job is to go back and make sure that printed and recorded history lines up with what is happening today. He participates in Hate Week and the daily 2 Minute Hate, the only expression of emotion citizens have. On the outside, Winston appears to the model citizen, but on the inside he’s committing one of the most dangerous crimes of all, thoughtcrime. Smith becomes enamored with the past and tries to find out more about it at any cost. Eventually his crime and illicit love affair are discovered and Smith is imprisoned and tortured. The torture ends and Winston is reintegrated to society, brainwashed to accept the Party's doctrine and to love Big Brother. It’s such a creative story, and for the most part was totally captivating. It was entertaining to read about the government operated and recognize we employed some similar techniques. I can see why Orwell and this book are held in such high regard.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Me & My Toys

2:24 PM
I saw Toy Story 3 this weekend. Leave it to Pixar to just tug away at those emotional heart strings! As I watched teenage Andy deal with leaving his toys behind as he went off to college, I began to look back on my past play things.

As a kid, I grew pretty attached to inanimate objects. From a traffic cone in 6th grade to a 10 year movie stub collection, I had my share of weird attachments. I also had some favorite toys over the years too. I had a stuffed lion that I named Lance. I had CareBears and My Little Ponies galore. I was obsessed with Pound Puppies.

But my favorite toy was Kristy. She was a blue bunny, with a white belly and pink and yellow ears. I remember getting Kristy in my Easter basket one year. I was so excited to get her. My parents hid her in what would be my new baby brother’s room. From then on, her and I were inseparable. I remember one night, I couldn’t find her…I freaked out and tore my closet apart until I did. But eventually, I grew up and I put her in the closet, and left her there. I moved in and out of my parents house, and every time I did, I would see Kristy and smile.

After seeing Toy Story 3, I came home and got Kristy down from my closet. It's funny the feelings we have towards our toys. She’s still in pretty good shape for the 22 years I’ve had her. Maybe I’ll have to save her for the kid I just might have one day…


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

3:10 PM
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! I posted a Morther’s Day blog last month, so I felt compelled to post one for Father’s Day as well. Since this holiday falls in June, its usually celebrated with pool parties and cookouts, but not my family. We prefer the simpler approach. A movie and lunch out. And I found the best Father’s Day card. The front asked the question “What are you doing, trying the heat the whole neighborhood?” I thought that was the perfect card for my dad, because he is always the one to remind us about the A/C, the lights, and the electric bill. And I usually respond by rolling my eyes.

As I was hunting for a Father’s Day card this year, I found it really challenging. I made an observation [which I then heard someone share at church, so I’m not the only one who noticed this!]. Mother’s Day cards are so sweet and sincere, often with a poem or saying with meaning or emotion. Father’s Day cards…not so much. There’s only a few topics they cover…beer, golf, sports, tools, and gas. Finding a sentimental Father’s Day is actually a tough task. Why is that? Is it because we don’t value fathers in our culture? One might think so just by seeing how fathers are portrayed on TV. From Homer Simpson to Peter Griffin, to Archie Bunker, to Al Bundy, TV dads are not the brightest. They may have good intentions and genuinely care about their families, but they are just idiots most of the time. What happened to the TV dads like Ward Cleaver, Charles Huxtable, and Mike Brady? Dads that took an interest in their kids lives. Dads that offered advice to their kids problems. I guess we don’t see these dads on TV anymore because we don’t see them in real life either. The absentee father [physically or emotionally] is sadly all too common these days.

I’m lucky. I have a great dad. He’s always been in my life. He’s taught me so much about techie stuff and computers. He’s very analytical and can fix anything that breaks. He’s awesome at providing for our family, and works SO hard to make sure we are well cared for.

So Happy Father’s Day to everyone out there. Hug the dad in your life!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Handmade with Love

12:25 AM

Friday night I was able to be part of a really awesome event. Some friends of mine, Coryn & Adam, helped put together a birthday party for Etsy, the online handmade shopping community. Crafters from all over the Tampa area came together to party! Coryn asked me to set up a table about my trip to Cambodia, just so I could let people know about what I'm going to be doing in the coming months. I was excited for the opportunity, and even brought some bags and purses that I had made, in case I had the chance to sell those too.

I really didn't know what to expect, and I had such a long day that it took so much effort just to get myself there that I wasn't really sure how the night would go. But it exceeded all my expectations. Isn't that just like God to show up when we don't expect him to?? The courtyard was packed and stayed busy for hours. People came from all over to check out great handmade art! I sold several bags, and told countless people about my journey to Cambodia and plans for the future. It was such a great chance to network with people outside of my usual network, and be part of Tampa's ever-evolving art community.

Adam, Coryn, and I [and others!] are planning another art/music/craft event for July 30, which will be a benefit show called Create:Freedom. The whole show will benefit the cause to end human trafficking in Cambodia. After tonight's amazing success, I am hopeful that our next effort could be great as well.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Morning Loves

9:27 PM
This didn't post this morning! But that doesn't mean I love these any less!

1. Mad Men. 1960's. Advertising. Attractive men. What's not to love?? This AMC show was an instant classic in my book! I love the 1960's, probably the decade I'd chose to live in if I could pick a different one. And advertising was my major. Mad Men is just as much about the advertising men [and women] on New York's prestigious Madison Avenue as it is about the characters themselves. The anti-hero, Don Draper, is so cool you can't help but love him. But then he cheats on his wife regularly, and treats everyone terribly and you can't help but hate him. But he's played by hottie Jon Hamm, who you can't help but stare at! This show is a combination of terrific actors, clever storylines, brilliant writing, and fantastic direction. A must-see!

2. Zunzi's. My mouth waters just thinking about to say about this deli. Savannah, Georgia, is where you would find this little treat. I discovered it with a friend a couple years ago, and anytime I'm in Georgia, I feel compelled to drive to Savannah for Zunzi's. Or if anyone else is either, for that matter! I had my parents bring me back food from there once. What's so great about Zunzi's? Well, founded a South African couple, their recipes are original and flavorful. The portions are more than generous. Their rooibus tea is to die for. Basically it's a food lovers dream spot. I've shared the good news of Zunzi's with several travelers, and made converts of many. Dee-licious!

3. Words with Friends. My favorite iPod app for sure! It's Scrabble...with friends...for free! Word games are my favorite type of board games, and I love to be able to challenge friends to matches, over and over again. There's still a few friends out there I'm DETERMINED to beat [talking to you @DallasH and @Mad_Max!!] and some that stretch my wordplay ability. It's a blast! Check it.

4. Preson Phillips. This totally rockin' band also happens to be the worship band at my church. And the lead singer, Preson Phillips, happens to be my pastor too! One of the things I love most about my church is our unique worship style. Tommy [Preson] writes the majority of the songs we sing, and they are just beautiful. So often I am moved by the lyrics, and its just lovely. Check out their albums, you won't be disappointed!

5. Project Runway. Creativity + sewing + Tim Gunn = a great show. This once-Bravo, now-Lifetime series is my favorite reality show. I really got into it when I started to sew. I'm not one for high fashion, I could barely name 5 designers. But I love the creative process these designers go through. I understand basic garment construction and can recognize quality and skilled work. Tim Gunn, the host, and his catchphrase "Make it Work" are synonymous for hard work and excellent taste. The regular judges, Nina Garcia, Heidi Klum, and Michael Kors, are a blast to watch. All in all, a great TV show!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Victim of Emotional Pornography

3:43 PM
I recently ran across an article in Relevant Magazine called The Dangers of Emotional Pornography. I just stopped and had to read it. The title just grabbed me, and its probably why you clicked on my blog. Pornography we can define, but what is emotional pornography?

Cole NeSmith, who wrote the Relevant article, had this to say. “There’s certainly a war against the prevalence of visual pornography in many corners of our society—especially in the Christian culture. There is an attempt to expose pornography for its promotion of unrealistic sexual expectations and exploitation of human sexuality. And that attempt is a very necessary one. But what about the unhealthy emotional and relational expectations portrayed in so much of our media? Is there really much of a difference in the hyperbolized sexual imagery of typical pornography and the hyperbolized momentary emotional high felt in a romance film or romantic comedy that sends us looking for a “love” that doesn’t exist?”

And it completely made sense. Over and over again, I see my girlfriends get sucked into a TV show, a movie, or a book series because they are just so invested in the character’s relationships. I think the whole world witnessed this as the Twilight series has taken over the world. My first exposure to Twilight wasn’t from people telling me how great the books were, but from Facebook posts from people who wished a) Edward Cullen was real b) their boyfriend/husband was more like Edward Cullen or c) they could become a vampire to be with Edward Cullen. And I was seriously like who is this guy?! A fictional [stalker-ish] vampire!?! [BTW, I'm not judging these fans, because I, myself, am a fan. Just wanted to throw that out there.] But hundreds of thousands of women were invested in this series for the relationship between Edward and Bella. Women, by nature, are emotional creatures.

I share this my students in the classroom regularly. We compare men to microwaves and women to crockpots. We talk about how men are visually stimulated, and it really doesn’t even take that long for a man to be visually stimulated. A woman can walk by in a revealing outfit, or they can see a pop ad on a computer and be sexually stimulated. I challenge the girls in the class to think about modesty, how they dress and what effect it can have on guys. We are able to talk about some of the dangers of pornography and some its lasting effects. And then we talk about women, and how we are crockpots. This is because women are stimulated by the emotional or caring parts of a relationship. It’s why we fantasize not about what the perfect guy looks like [OK, probably a little bit], but how romantic he will be, or how he will treat us. I then get to encourage the guys in the classroom to be careful with their words and how they talk to girls, because girls are emotional and look for connections in those words. It’s a great activity that brings about some great conversation.

But I never saw it in my own life. Am I a victim of emotional pornography? Absolutely. Whether it’s fantasizing over fictional male leads in romantic comedies or imagining myself as the heroine of a romantic story, I’ve been there. And I have to remind myself to be careful.

Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” These are the things I need to be focusing on. Not unrealistic emotional standards that no real-life man will measure up to. And not the fact that I’m in my late twenties and still single. I need the constant reminder on where and on who to focus my thoughts. Because the temptation to indulge on emotional pornography is everywhere. But I don’t have to be a victim anymore.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Viewing

8:29 PM
Oh the long hot days of summer are here, which I was pleasantly reminded of today when today’s high reached 97 degrees. There’s really nothing like Florida in the summer. Because well it’s hot. But then worse than hot, it’s humid. Every day brings the possibility and air moisture of impending rain. In a few weeks, it probably will start raining everyday. This is hurricane season as we all know. Being a Florida summer veteran, I make sure to balance my hours in the blazing sun with some hours with some cool AC. In addition to tearing through my reading challenge, I’m also going to be catching up on TV missed. If you know me, you are probably thinking what TV do you miss?!? Because I average 10 – 14 shows a week during the fall and spring seasons. But alas, there are some I’ve been excited to start this summer or just catch up on.

The I-Don’t-Have-to-Watch-Every-Episode-to-Like-this-Show Drama: Lie to Me.
A little-watched (?) FOX gem about a team of lie detection experts. Sounds made up, right? These investigators, headed up by Cal Lightman, take on cases ranging from murder and theft, to extortion, adultery to UFO sightings. Through body language, micro-facial expressions, tone of voice, and even breathing, the Lightman Group uncovers the truth, no matter the risk. It’s a great show with clever characters. My favorite aspect of the show is when they catch someone in a lie, their expression will freeze and snapshots of infamous “liars” will then cross the screen with the same expression. Priceless.

The Premium-Cable-Channel-Watch-at-Your-Own-Risk Drama: True Blood
I hesitate to recommend this show to all viewers, but I have to admit, its one I enjoy. It’s the show inspired from the collection of vampire stories I love so much, and these characters brought to life are better [and hotter] than I imagined while reading. Downside to this show? Well, its on HBO, so anything and everything that can be shown on premium cable is shown in True Blood. I have watched the last 2 seasons on my computer, which have allowed to some quick fastforwards through some scenes that were just too much for my viewing. The storylines are excellent, the characters are flawless, but the adult content…over the top. Watch at your own risk!

The Teenage-Girls-Inspired-By-a-Book-Series Drama: Pretty Little Liars.
This ABC Family show only premiered earlier this week, and I haven’t even watched it yet. But the book series flies off the shelf at Borders, and the trailer for the show had me at One Republic chorus. From what I can gather, 4 friends live together in a small town where nothing happens, until a friend goes missing and all of a sudden things happen. Texts from the grave?! Student and teacher relationships?! OK, I may not love this show, but it may be another Gossip-Girl-like guilty pleasure for me this summer.

The It’s-Won-a-Ton-of-Awards-So-I-Should-Give-it-a-Chance Drama:Breaking Bad.
AMC hit it big recently. I love Mad Men (which also starts back this summer!!), a great period drama set in the ‘60s at an ad agency. Then a year or two later, AMC releases Breaking Bad, another original series that sweeps up Golden Globes and Emmy nominations like nobody’s business. And all I really know about it is that’s about crystal meth users (?) or sellers (?) or makers (?). So clearly I don’t know much, but I found it to stream online, so why not!?

The I-Really-Like-Enough-People-in-This-Cast-to-Check-it-Out Comedy: Parenthood.
I never saw the Steve Martin movie (don’t hate), but when I saw the cast for the TV family, I was intrigued. Lauren Graham…yes please! She had me at Lorelai Gilmore. Love this woman. Mae Whitman, whose childhood I remember from One Fine Day, Hope Floats, Independence Day and brief FRIENDS episode, but then grew up into Arrested Development [Her name is Ann. Her…really?] and a Criminal Minds ep. Through in the guy from Coach [Craig T. Nelson] and the chick from that awful Freddy Prinze, Jr movie [Monica Potter], and now that’s a cast! Plus, I’ve heard nothing but raves on this one. So, count me in!

So that’s pretty much what I’ll be watching this summer! Any summer shows for you?


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Letters, Love & Prayers Vol. 3

2:49 PM
Dear Family and Friends!

Just checking in another quick update as the months are flying by! Summer is already here [especially if you live in Florida!] and my departure date is approaching ever so quickly!

This September, I will begin a 6 month Discipleship Training School with YWAM [Youth With a Mission] in Orlando, which will begin preparing me for life as a full-time missionary. The first three months in Orlando will be a lecture phase, and the second three months will be an outreach phase, where we will travel outside of America to put in practice what we have been learning. Our location has not been decided yet, but it will most likely be South Africa. After completing the training, I will then return to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I will begin ministering full-time [at least a year!] to girls who have been enslaved by the sex trade and are desiring a new life. We will be sharing God’s love and forgiveness and mercy with them, as well as educating and equipping them with new skills as they begin a new life.

As my financial deadline approaches, I’m excited to announce my Training to Reach the World Fundraising Campaign. Through funds raised over the next six months, I’ll meet my goal to have my training fully funded. This is where I need your help. The total amount I need is roughly $6,000 [depending on airfare], and I’m at 10% of that amount currently. To reach my goal this is what I need for the next 6 months:

- 2 Champion donors at $100/month for 6 months. These Champions are committed to not only the gospel being taken to the ends of the earth, but are also invested in my personal mission to Cambodia. They recognize a long-term commitment in myself, and desire to be a partner in this journey.

- 7 Sender donors at $50/month for 6 months. These Senders are excited for a chance to give to a ministry in a part of the world where they may never set foot. They are able to feel invested in the kingdom and eagerly share in my enthusiasm to reach and rescue the lost and hurting.

- 10 Supporter donors at $25/month for 6 months. These Supporters are passionate about God’s work. They are motivated to see that Christ’s love and forgiveness is being shared with others. They recognize the sacrifice on my behalf, and wish to come alongside in support.

- 10 Giver donors at $10/month for 6 months. These Givers recognize a worthy cause when they see it. They see themselves as part of a team being used by God to fund His work. They humbly accept His prompting to do their necessary role with the means given to them.

Please pray and consider how God could be using you to give and invest in this ministry opportunity. This training is the first step of many in moving to Cambodia to reach and rescue enslaved by the sex trade. And I need YOU to get there. Please fill out and return the enclosed card with your information and giving pledge. Each and every gift received is a blessing, and just gets me one step closer to the ministry God has burdened on my heart. I thank you in advance your prayers, encouragement and support.

Please use the PayPal link to the left for online donations, or contact me directly for mailing information. Thank you!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday Morning Loves

3:25 AM

1. Damask patterns. OK, this is a random one for sure. But it's true! I love a black and white damask pattern. I think its super classy and elegant, but can totally be fun and funky. I have bought several yards of fabric with this pattern for bags and whatnot, and I even picked up some ribbon to class up some Mason jar flower vases! A damask pattern always makes something better!

2. Wall-E. I put this on my list awhile back, but I was reminded how much I truly loved this movie when I re-watched it just the other day. It's simple, yet clever, it's childlike, yet profound, and all in all, just plain enjoyable. Wall-E, set in the "distant" future, is the lone robot left to clean up the earth after humans have left it behind and began living aboard a spaceship. Wall-E entertains himself with showtunes, odd objects, and a cockroach pal. Until his routine is interrupted by a flashing red dot and a white robot named Eve. She's sleek and sophisticated, and Wall-E is instantly smitten. I think I love Wall-E so much because it's just a love story. My favorite part is the first 45 minutes when Wall-E and Eve explore Earth together, and are then taken aboard the spaceship. It's Pixar at its best, and I can't say enough about how much I love this movie! Wall-E's just too cute for words!

3. Monster Trail Mix. I'm a huge fan of trail mix in general, but my favorite is Archer Farms Monster Trail Mix. It's a yummy combination of peanuts, M&M's, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and raisins! It's delicious!

4. Flight of the Conchords. As both a band and a TV show, Flight of the Conchords is fantastic! Bret and Jermaine, two folk musicians from New Zealand, created a TV show that aired on HBO about Bret & Jermaine, two folk musicians from New Zealand. It's brilliant. They are ridiculously funny, and super talented. The show featured them in crazy random situations, and their crazy random songs were the backdrops. I got to see Flight of the Conchords live when they came through Tampa last year. And they were just as entertaining then, as on TV.

5. Amy Butler. Since I mentioned damask patterns that I love so much, I thought I'd also show some love to my all-time fabric designer, Amy Butler. Her designs are so colorful and so fresh. They make any quilt, pillow, bag, or blanket truly pop. Not only is she a fantastic fabric designer, her patterns are super cute too! I've made countless items from her books and patterns. As a beginner seamstress, I appreciate simple, yet awesome, designs to create for myself. For the more advanced, Amy has plenty to offer as well!


Friday, June 4, 2010

Flying By

11:43 PM
I’ve been feeling old lately. Well, maybe it’s been a gradual thing, but still, I’ve been feeling old. When someone makes a comment how they’ve been driving for a decade, and I realize it’s been even longer for me. Or when I discovered that I’ve been dating for a decade as well. That could be a blog post of its own! Or when I get to celebrate the weddings of friends, or welcome a new baby into their family. It hits me that life is moving by at an alarming rate.

But nothing has made me feel as old than this weekend. My little sister is graduating from high school. We haven’t always been as close as we are now. There are ten years between me and Steph. For awhile there were three of us. But not long after Stephanie arrived, we lost our brother, Andrew, leaving a hole in our family tree.

So through my high school years, Steph and I just existed. Not much a 16 year old and 6 year old can really share. Eventually I stopped going on family vacations, moved out of the house, and around the world, and then back again

I blinked and she grew up. She started driving and applying to colleges. And now, she graduates.

I’ve been lucky to be around for her high school years. I even got to have her work for me for the past two summers! I’ve been able to watch her grow into a young lady, and mature, and develop her own unique interests and talents. I got to take to her to college orientation and help her sign up for classes.

And as I’m about to move on again, and move across the world again, I’m so thankful I’ve been right here for this time. To share it with Stephanie and my family.

So, congratulations our not-so-little any more graduate! I love you <3