For the last couple of weeks (I’m a slow reader) I’ve been reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker. I’m late to the party on this one, but I’m very glad I showed up at all. it has given me so much to think about. In 7, Hatmaker spends seven months giving up things for 30 days. Each month it’s something different. She then writes about her experience and what she learns from it. The seven areas of excess that she gave up were food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress.
Last August, Ben and I bought a house and moved. As I packed up our relatively small house, I was grossed out by how much stuff we owned. I started going through stuff, making a pile of things to sell or give away. And oh, the amount of time I waste every day on Facebook, or Buzzfeed (Twitter isn’t a waste of time, by the way). But another big takeaway was community, and how present her community was during this time. I crave that. I’m hoping 2015 holds a lot more community in our lives.
I’d highly recommend 7 for anyone who has tried reading something like Radical, but struggles with non-fiction. Or if you have ever struggled with the feel that you just have too much stuff, too much to do, too much, too much, too much and that it’s getting in the way of what really matters. Hatmaker is a really engaging writer, and easy to read, even for people like me who struggle finishing non-fiction.
The last season of Parks & Recreation began airing this week. I love Parks & Rec so much. The first season (which was only 6 or 7 episodes) was pretty awkward, but the leap in quality starting the second season is amazing. I love these characters, but most of all I love Leslie Knope. I want to be Leslie Knope, with a little less manic tendencies.
But what really makes me sad is that NBC is sort of just shoving them out the door. They’re airing two episodes a week to get them through the season as soon as possible. From a network that had such classics like Friends, Frasier, 30 Rock, and more, it’s disappointing to see them snub what, in my opinion, is their last great sitcom. I think maybe we’re just going through a phase in TV where sitcoms aren’t as popular, especially on network TV. People can get their quirky, off-the-wall humor from other places that are more ok with niche programming (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu) that has a much smaller audience. Network TV still has to pay the bills using huge ratings.
I go through seasons where I’m completely out of touch with new music (indie or not), so I might be totally behind the times when I recommend Gregory Alan Isakov. If you like The Oh Hellos or Alexi Murdoch, I think you’ll really like his style. Here’s a video of one of his songs from a couple albums ago:
I’ll be upfront and tell you that I am overly sensitive about a lot of things, but especially these two: Disney World, and helping people less fortunate than me. When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of money. We were never destitute by any means, but things were tight, and things that weren’t necessary to life (Cable TV, air conditioning other than a box fan in your open window, and expensive junk food like Gushers fruit snacks) were just that—not necessary. But you will never once hear me complain about my childhood or say I lacked in anything.
As we got older things were more stable financially, and though we were never rich by American or “keeping up with the Jones” standards, we were more comfortable. When my brother and I were in middle school my parents had saved enough money to take us to Disney World. This was big. This was amazing. It was instantly our favorite place to go as a family. We’re a very British clan of folks. We don’t gush and ooh and aww over things. We don’t cry (publicly) from happiness. And we DON’T squeal with delight. But we all loved Disney. Loved it.
Later this month my husband and I will go to Disney World, and I’m so excited I could spit. But just like when you buy a car and suddenly see that same car everywhere, I’m lately seeing posts about Disney World everywhere online. It usually falls into four categories:
- We’re going to Disney and can’t wait!
- We can’t afford Disney, but wish we could!
- We’re never going to Disney because it’s too expensive and teaches children that they’re entitled to that sort of lifestyle.
- We don’t even like Disney and are above such frivolous things.
I’m obviously part of the first one, and I won’t even address numbers 2 and 4. I’m here to write about number 3. Let me just put it all out there in one succinct sentence:
Disney World is not making your child a spoiled, ungrateful person any more than visiting a homeless shelter will make them a wonderful, grateful person.
My husband and I work for a rescue mission. Everyone who comes to the mission is homeless for one reason or another. Many of them stay for just a few days, and others stay to participate in the program we offer that is aimed at helping them break the cycle of homelessness. Being part of a ministry like a rescue mission means that you see all types of people. From people who have hit rock bottom, to people who are breaking glass ceilings and then building mansions on clouds because of all their worldly success.
Every once in a while people who are somewhere between the bottom of the pit and the mansion in the sky tell us they’d like to bring a child, a youth group, or someone they’re mentoring to the mission. They want to show them the homeless shelter so they can see firsthand just how blessed they are. They being the person they’re bringing—not the people at the mission.
This is hard for us. On the one hand, yes, we need to all be aware of our blessings. Even the poorest people in this country are most often wealthy compared to the vast majority of the world. But if someone believes that a single trip to a homeless shelter will undo a lifetime of entitlement, then they are gravely mistaken about how a human works. That’s not to say a single experience can’t change a person’s attitude. I believe if a seed is already planted, then one experience can certainly be the tipping point that changes an attitude.
But if you’re bringing someone to a homeless shelter, just to parade the less fortunate in front of them, and make them feel guilty, then your motives are wrong.
And if you’re refusing to go to Disney World, while continuing to live a lifestyle that spoils and teaches ungratefulness, then your child will be ungrateful. Disney World is not making your child ungrateful. You are.
Right now you might be thinking, “Um, you don’t have kids. What do you know about teaching them gratefulness and moderation?”
Well, here’s the thing. I—like every other human—was once a child. My parents said no to me when I wanted things but didn’t need them or they couldn’t afford them. I’m talking from personal experience as a child who was taught to be grateful, while still visiting Disney World. We event went more than once!
Don’t get me wrong—I realize that a lot of people don’t go to Disney World because, despite their best efforts, their children still struggle with being grateful. My point is this: Gratefulness is an attitude and lifestyle that must be taught in all parts of life, not just during vacation. An awareness of how blessed we are should not just be taught by pointing out the homeless and saying “you should be glad you aren’t as bad off as THAT guy!”
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help the homeless in your area, or how to work with a local homeless ministry with your kids, let me know. And if you’d like more information about my trip to Disney World, then sit down because we’re going to be here a while.
Setting: A buffet line in heaven. It has chocolate fountains and cotton candy just like Golden Corral. But there’s no need for a sneeze guard, because this is heaven.
Human 1: Can you believe all this food! It’s amazing! And it’s here all day, every day!
Human 2: Yeah, it’s pretty great…
Human 1: Why aren’t you more enthusiastic!? It has 473 types of cheese!
Human 2: No, yeah, that’s really awesome! It’s just…
[Human 2 lowers voice to a whisper]
Human 2: Have you noticed that it’s missing something? I mean, it’s not a big deal. It’s just…I really like shrimp, and I haven’t seen any the whole time I’ve been here, which is like 10,000 days.
GOD: I heard that.
Human 2: Wait, what? No, I didn’t mean anything by it! I was just curious. Why isn’t there any shrimp?
GOD: I still can’t believe I’m getting asked this. You were never supposed to eat shrimp. I thought I made that clear when I made them disgusting looking. They are the roaches of the sea. Y’all nasty.
I’ve been regularly reading blogs for more than 10 years, just a few years after people actually started making money off of them. I’ve had 3 or 4 different blogs during that time, and all but this one were abandoned after a year or so. Even this blog gets abandoned a couple times a year.
Back then I had a daily list of blogs I’d peruse, lives I’d peek in on, and stories I felt a part of. Since then, there are only a small handful of those blogs I still check in on. Most of them are lost in my memory. I was thinking about why some blogs stick, and others do not, and I came up with six main reasons why I’ve stopped reading different blogs.
1. Changes in taste or lifestyle:
This happens most often when a blog goes from a lifestyle blog to a mommy blog. What started out as a blog about decorating, or fashion, turns into diaper rash remedies or 45 pictures of their Christmas outfit. There’s nothing wrong with this change—at all—but since I’m not in the market for diaper rash remedies, your blog no longer interests me. This also happens with design blogs. When I started reading your blog, we had the same taste in design, but our tastes have changed, and not in the same way.
2. It’s just one long ad:
I don’t mind ads on your page or even sponsored content. And I’m glad you got a book deal, TV deal, deal with the Devil, or whatever. But when every single blog post somehow miraculously leads back to your book (and that we should buy it), or the ideas presented in your book, then I’m sorry, but it’s just not working out for me. I promise, it’s not you, it’s me. My New Years Resolution is to read fewer ads, and stick to blogs that have new content.
Also included in this are constant giveaways (especially if I have to follow tons of people on Twitter/Instagram, post something online, give you my email, tag other friends, and give you my firstborn child just to win a necklace), numerous updates about your new line of jewelry or home goods, and just a general feeling of “Look at me! Read my book! Follow my lifestyle in order to find true happiness and make your life count for something!”
3. You’ve started taking everything too seriously:
Sometimes I just want to tell design bloggers that everything isn’t a movement. Sometimes it’s just a trend. And a cool picture is not a “moment.” It’s a cool picture. Sometimes it’s ok to stop going 105 miles an hour, and it’s ok to stop trying to make every. Single. Moment. Count. Just chill out and watch 5 hours of Netflix for goodness sake. Stop assigning so much importance to every little thing and try just enjoying beauty and having fun. You don’t have to try and change the world with every single blog post, and sometimes the best way to change something is to just do it. Do you feel strongly about artists being paid what they’re worth? Then pay them what they’re worth. Is your blog geared toward a specific group of people? Wonderful. But when every post becomes about making fun of, or becoming angry at, other groups of people, then I’m out.
Also included in this are bloggers who feel the need to make a comment on every single current event or social cause. We get it. You care about people. So stop lecturing us about it, and just do something. We get it, you don’t like the people in charge. Then go vote or start a viable third party. But first, calm the heck down.
4. Blogger burnout:
I think one of the biggest signs of burnout among bloggers is snark. Suddenly, every post becomes a soap box on which they can air their grievances about everything, but especially about that one group of people they really dislike. Pointing out the flaws in our society is no longer enough, because now they have to make fun of everyone who dares disagree with them. Every YouTube video of someone saying something laughable or outrageous is showcased for their readers’ glee. Every time someone stumbles, it’s their pleasure to revel in it and use it as proof that they were right all along.
Granted, some blogs are built around this type of thing, so it’s nothing new for them. But if your blog suddenly becomes Grand Central Station for everyone who also hates a particular person, and you’re the train conductor leading the cause, then maybe it’s time to take a break and reevaluate the purpose of your blog.
5. You stopped writing regularly:
I am personally guilty of this one. I go through phases where I write regularly, and other times when I’ll go six months without writing a word. So yes, I understand why I don’t have many readers, and so should you, if you only update once a month.
6. Bland content:
What started out as a blog full of fun stories and interesting views on everything things, has evolved into the same old thing every week. Lists are great (duh…I’m writing one right now), but if that’s all you ever post, then I’m going to get bored quickly. Tell me more than what music you’re listening to, or what stories you’ve read recently. Tell me about you.
What are some reasons you’ve stopped reading a particular blog?
I need everyone to calm down with their over-the-top marriage proposals. It’s getting out of control. Now this mass hysteria has even leaked down to high schoolers, who are planning extravagant “prom proposals.”
Just calm down. Slow your roll. Get a hobby.
Not to sound too much like your grumpy relative who still believes Publisher Clearing House will show up at their doorstep, but when I was a young lass, all we needed was a guy who loved us to get down on one knee and pledge to love us for all our days, even the ones where we’re mad at them for no reason other than leaving orange peels in the sink overnight. (Phew…that was a long and winding sentence, eh?)
But now, it’s become a competition to see whose proposal video can go viral. Will they get their 15 minutes of fame? And will that 15 minutes of fame result in free stuff for the wedding?
This brings to mind Runaway Bride. You never thought there were lessons to be gleaned from romantic comedies, did you?
In Runaway Bride, Ike Graham (Richard Gere) is a reporter doing a story on Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts), a woman who is about to walk down the aisle for the fourth time, after leaving the previous three men at the alter. Cuteness and love in smalltown America ensues.
But what I thought of was Ike’s speech about wedding proposals, as seen in the clip below.
Here’s what he says:
“Maybe it’s just me, but if you gotta dress it up like that, it doesn’t ring true. I think the most that anybody can honestly say is, ‘look, I guarantee that there will be tough times, I guarantee that at one point one or both of us is gonna want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don’t ask you to be mine, I’ll regret it the rest of my life. ‘Cuz I know, in my heart, you’re the only one for me.’”
Now, I’m not saying that anyone with an elaborate marriage proposal isn’t sincere. But sometimes I wonder if people with these huge proposals, or kitschy engagement sessions, or intricately themed weddings, are planning for a marriage, or planning for a chance to become internet-famous.
Are they trying to prove something? Prove they’re the most in love, or the most creative? Are they, like many of us, seeking the validation from strangers that seems to have become the most valuable currency of this age?
If the people doing the proposing are just trying to show their extravagant love in an equally extravagant way, that’s fine. More power to you. Maybe I’m just being cynical about everyone’s motives. But I can’t help but think people are missing the mark on what it means to show someone an extravagant amount of love. It’s not in the big gestures or the viral videos, but in the everyday things. The small things that say “I’m committed to you on the days when we’re internet-famous, but even more so on the days when you’re the only one in the world who sees me.”
I’m writing the following to my fellow pro-life Christians.
First things first, I am pro-life. Let’s just get that out of the way. I believe women have been given a huge gift and responsibility to bring life into this world, and that each and every one of those lives is precious and deserves a chance to live a full life. I don’t always agree with the way in which fellow pro-lifers express these views, or engage with pro-choice advocates, but I am fully pro-life.
Many of you are also pro-life. I’ve seen the articles you post on Facebook about miracle babies who survive the abortion procedure. I see the studies showing the correlation between abortion and depression. I see the sermons, Bible verses, and other Christian writings extolling the sanctity of life in all its forms.
Wait, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to write “in all its forms.” I meant to write “only when you deem it worthy or deserving of a fight.” I’m assuming that’s what you all mean since I don’t see any outcry over two states each executing an intellectually disabled man this week. And I’m guessing that’s what you mean since I haven’t seen anyone posting rants about the CIA torturing fellow human beings–made in the image of God–for information that was often incorrect. And I’m guessing that’s what you mean since your first reaction to the death of a black teenager is that he shouldn’t have stolen cigarettes, rather than sorrow at the loss of another life.*
Before you start writing a reply about how those people were evil, or were punks and (probably) headed to prison eventually anyway, please hear me out.
“For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
“There is none righteous, no not one.”
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I’m sure each of those sounds familiar, and you probably memorized these Bible verses as a kid in Sunday School.
Each of the people in the examples above fell short of the glory of God. Each one sinned. Each one deserves death, and deserves hell, by our own Christian standards and beliefs, as lined out in the Bible.
And yet. And yet! God demonstrated His love toward us, by sending His son to die for ALL SINNERS. Even the terrorist. Even the kid who stole cigarettes. Even the intellectually disabled man who killed someone.
Even the mom who does the best she can, but she still makes mistakes. Even the dad who loves providing for his family, but still gets angry over little things. Even all of us who never break a single law, but still sin every single day of our lives.
All of us.
And so this is my question: Why do we fight for the lives of some people—for some sinners—but not all? Why do we say that some people are worthy of life, but not others? Why do we give up on some people, saying they’ll never come to know Christ, but not others? Why are we ok with the killing of some lives, but not others? Why is one death seen as justice handed down by a flawed, manmade system, and the other is murder? Why are we ok with throwing the first stone, but then confess with that same voice that all have sinned and are deserving of death?
Are we really pro-life, or are we only pro-baby-who-hasn’t-messed-up-yet?
I know we can’t fight for everything. We all have things about which we’re passionate, and for many people it’s the right to life for unborn children. I get that. I’m not expecting everyone to be passionate about everything, because then nothing would get done after we all became burnt out.
All I’m asking is for us to examine whether we’re truly pro-life, including people who have made horrible, evil mistakes. Including people who have sinned in the worst way possible. And especially when it’s an intellectually disabled man, with an IQ of 70.
*The Ferguson case is not a simple case, and there’s a lot of conflicting information. I’m not taking sides in whether either person was wrong in what they did, because it’s impossible to know what really happened, and I know police officers are often trained to “empty the chamber.” It is not an easy case. At all. I am, however, taking issue with people who automatically assume that Michael Brown was in the wrong because they think he’s a punk kid. Whether or not he was wrong, it is a tragedy that he died. However, I will take sides in the Eric Garner case, and say that the grand jury was absolutely wrong in their decision.
Sometimes I can’t keep the logical, judgmental part of my brain quiet long enough to enjoy a movie that is supposed to be fun. People are falling in love, and I’m sitting there thinking, “In six months they’ll hate each other because they spent the first month of knowing each other lying about who they really are.” Or “why is it that the universal sign for a career woman is super straight hair pulled back out of her face? Do career-driven women not like voluminous hair? Is that a thing?”
This inability to disconnect from reality increases ten-fold with an ensemble cast. Try as I might, I cannot stop analyzing each of the relationships in Love Actually, and deeming most of them hopeless and, in several cases, more annoying than your neighbor’s dog who won’t stop yapping at everything that moves.
Here, in order of least annoying/unbelievable, to most annoying/unbelievable, are the relationships in Love Actually:
9. Billy Mack and Joe
Props to Richard Curtis, the writer and director, for including a friendship in the mix. Billy Mack is the most obnoxious character in this movie, but he’s supposed to be. This friendship is completely believable, based on the small amount of information I have about the music industry. Billy Mack doesn’t change a bit at the end of the movie, but at least he’s honest with Joe, and tells him how much Joe means to him.
8. Daniel and Sam (and Joanna)
It’s hard to be critical about a recently-widowed man who helps his lovesick stepson impress his first crush. Granted, they watch Titanic, which is not the movie I’d choose to show true love, (there was room on the piece of wood for Jack, ROSE) but it’s sweet to see them work through their grief like this. I have a sneaking suspicion that years later, Sam is the reason high school guys started planning elaborate “prom proposals.” I mean, he learned to play the drums a month before the Christmas play, for crying out loud. The kid goes all in.
7. The Prime Minister (David) and Natalie
First of all, how can we trust a movie that expects us to believe that Hugh Grant could be the Prime Minister of England? Second, we’re supposed to believe that Natalie is fat? Can we just not? Could Hollywood stop trying to make us believe that women like Natalie are fat? This little subplot certainly has its high parts, like when he and his driver sing carols to the little girls, or the fact that Natalie has the couth of a middle schooler who just learned how to use cuss words. But it would all be a lot more believable if Hugh Grant played something a little less important. Like maybe a company CEO, or a local politician.
6. John and Judy
This is the part of the movie that makes you glad for TV-edited versions to watch with your family. I get what Richard Curtis was doing here. John and Judy are in what could be a very awkward situation for two strangers, so they get through it by talking about the most normal, mundane things possible. But my personal views on the industry in which they’re supposed to be working makes it hard for me to see past that, and appreciate their meet-cute.
5. Sarah and Karl
Sigh. This is a tough one, because I don’t want to sound insensitive, but please find a hospital for your brother that will better monitor him so he does not call you all day, every day. Surely it’s possible for Sarah to lead a somewhat normal life, with relationships besides her mentally ill brother. I don’t really know what the point of this particular story is supposed to be. Are we supposed to feel sorry for Sarah? Mad at Karl? Proud of Sarah, that she puts her brother first and loves him unconditionally? Worried that Sarah seems to neglect every other part of her life in order to take care of a brother who is already being taken care of by medical professionals? I don’t get it.
4. Colin and the American Girls
Has Richard Curtis ever been to smalltown America? I’m sure women like this exist in some of them, but please calm down. This storyline makes me start to wonder if this whole movie is satirical. Or maybe I just don’t have as great a sense of humor as I thought. I don’t even know what else to write, because the women in this particular story are so ridiculous, anything I write would pale in comparison to how stupid the notion is that he meets so many beautiful women who want to jump in bed with him after five minutes of hearing his accent. And then he comes back to England with two completely different women, each dressed like cowgirls, if cowgirls were based solely on Lisa Frank illustrations.
If this story is supposed to just be fun, and not necessarily accurate to what it would really be like for a dorky British man to visit America, then why is it told alongside other stories that are (apparently) supposed to be believable? We see husbands and wives who are struggling with the temptation to cheat. We see best friends who have been together for decades. Then there’s a dad who just experienced heartbreak, but still helps his stepson “get the girl.” And then we have these caricatures. Make up your mind, Richard Curtis.
3. Harry, Karen, and Mia
Mia wears devil horns to the company Christmas party. Do I even need to say more? It’s as though Richard Curtis didn’t think we could gather from her flirtations and her line “dark corners for doing dark deeds” that she was an awful person who was trying to seduce her boss. Thanks for the clue, Richard! “Oh, so she’s a bad person because she’s wearing devil horns! And the girls wearing cowboy hats in that other story line were Americans…gotcha. I could never have gathered that information from all the context clues!”
Emma Thompson, of course, shines in her role as Karen. When she opens her gift to find a Joni Mitchell CD, instead of the necklace she found in her husband’s coat pocket? And then she cries in her room, takes a deep breath, and puts on a happy smile for her kids two seconds later? I want to see a movie about her. In that movie, I’d like to see her dismantle Mia.
2. Jamie and Aurelia
Love conquers all. Apparently, even the ability to speak the same language. But it’s okay everybody! The subtitles show us that they’re basically saying the same stuff, but in different languages! And you know it’s true love because Jamie saw her take off all her clothes, down to her skivvies, and saw her tramp stamp. The way the camera scanned her, from top to bottom, is evidence that he made sure to see it all. It’s true love, guys. Then he flew all the way to Portugal to sweep her off her feet, and meet her obnoxious family, including a sister who is not as funny as she probably thinks she is.
I give them six months. Right up until they have to have a real conversation about who paid the water bill, and why Jamie keeps losing his novel to gusts of wind because he won’t use a computer.
1. Juliet, Peter and Mark
I get the distinct feeling that Keira Knightley is exactly like her character in Love Actually. When she sees herself on video Keira (like her character Juliet) says “I look quite pretty.” Then Keira spends time in front of the mirror perfecting the acting skills she used in this movie. These skills include “looking off into the distance while maintaining a friendly demeanor” and “casual thinking that turns into a revelation and a big smile” and “big smile that melts into a look of contemplation.”
But she’s not even the worst part of this love triangle. Mark, the best friend and best man of Peter, takes the prize for Most Selfish Male Character in Love Actually. You know what, buddy? If you’re in love with a girl, say something before the wedding, or keep it to yourself forever. But confessing your love to Juliet after the wedding, after you have spent months acting as though you don’t even like her, is a really selfish and immature move. What is she supposed to do with that now? Oh, and real clever move, having the CD of carolers playing while you confess your love to your best friend’s wife. Classy. Can you imagine how awkward it would be to hang out together now? Every time Peter leaves the room, Juliet and Mark just stare at each other. “Hey, remember that time you confessed your love to me five weeks after I got married to your best friend? Good times.” Oh, and hiring a bunch of musicians and singers to spontaneously burst into song at their wedding is really cute and all, but now we all know you did it just to cover up the fact that you’re in love with Juliet. Please move to America and meet one of those smalltown girls that Colin met. You’re perfect for each other.
What do you think? Is Love Actually the greatest Christmas romantic comedy? Or do you have a love/hate relationship with it like me?