Sunday, January 27, 2013

The direction

"The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving." -Oliver Wendell Holmes


"Goodness consists not in the outward things we do, but in the inward thing we are."
-Edwin Hubbell Chapin

Be not afraid

"Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact."
- William James

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Freak Magnet" review

“Freak Magnet”, by Andrew Auseon, is a he-said she-said love story that begins in present day Washington D.C. at a lonely coffee shop. Charlie Wyatt is enjoying lunch with his paraplegic best friend, Edison, while Gloria Aboud is progressing through her day like she normally does, alone. When he sees her for the first time they have a very non-traditional first encounter. Chasing her down, Charlie exclaims to her that she’s the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. But, as a self-proclaimed “freak magnet”, this isn’t Gloria’s first time around the block. She icily shuts him down and proceeds to record her experience in her “freak folio,” a journal with poetry written about her day-to-day life. But even Gloria has to admit to herself that Charlie seemed different, more sincere, than the others.

The story then proceeds with explaining the lives of the two main characters. Charlie is described as an eccentric genius, with a scholarship to an astrology institution in Chile where he plans on going within the month. But as the plot rolls along we find out that he has his own limitations, his mom is dying of Huntington’s disease, and though he doesn’t come outright and say it, I believe that Charlie has some sort of social disorder. Whenever he tries to hold a conversation with anyone, he ends up making it completely awkward, to a point where he’s even accidentally offensive. Gloria is a cold, attractive girl with a home life that appears perfect on the outside, but is virtually unbearable. Her older brother died while serving in Afghanistan, leaving her with a well-meaning scatterbrained sister, and out of touch mom who is more concerned with her next client than helping her daughter grieve. Both of the main character’s situations constructs a perfect layout for a chance to grow by seeking refuge in each other.  

I had assumed that “Freak Magnet” would have been a typical teen quick read, it has a quick, intriguing title and a decent, attention-grabbing summary on the back cover. What I didn’t expect was how much I would fall in love with the generally non-relatable characters. I’ve never had a brother die or had a parent with an incurable disease, yet I continued flipping the pages to try to understand what Gloria and Charlie were going through. I expected minimal description of the most depressing parts of the book, but the author didn’t skip anything. When things went wrong for Charlie I felt like cringing, when Gloria missed her brother, so did I. It’s rare when you’re reading a fiction book and have to remind yourself that you didn’t grab it out of the autobiography section, it shows that the author has established a relationship with you and his characters.

Charlie, in my opinion, is the more likable of the two main characters. He’s smart, quirky and always seems to see the good in people. But, one of the major downfalls to his relatable factor is that he has an obsession with Superman. Yes, the comic book character. Every once and a while there will be a reference to a certain movie or comic book that can be compared to whatever is happening at the time. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve never seen any T.V. show, read any comic, or seen any Superman movie, that this entire part of the book is right over my head, but I could have done without it. Charlie even wears a full-blown Superman costume under all of his clothes, cape and all. I get that he’s going through a hard time, and sometimes it’s necessary to have someone to look up to, or personify when you don’t feel strong. But in my opinion, Charlie should have found a different way to feel like a hero.

I felt like the part of the book that provided the light-hearted and happy aspect was Charlie and Gloria’s weird but perfect relationship. When it seemed like things were getting a little monotone and bleak with one of the characters, they would bump into each other again. The undeniable chemistry between the two was sometimes awkward to read about, in Charlie’s case, he appears more obsessive, but Gloria turns out to be just as crazy about him as he is about her. The only predictable part of the book was that in the end, they do end up together. But it isn’t a cookie-cutter happy ending, they both still realize they have their demons, they’re just better off facing them together than apart.

After reading “Freak Magnet” by Andrew Auseon, I was definitely satisfied. For a random book I found at the library, it had incredible substance. The narration was refreshing, switching from Gloria to Charlie’s point of view. I read a book that was funny, deep, and surprisingly relatable. I would recommend this book mainly to young adults, and to either gender, mainly because that’s what the author was directing his audience towards. However, I wouldn’t stop anyone from reading it, of any age, a love story is good no matter how old you are.

Why you should travel young (part one)

"We are what we repeatedly do." Said the great philosopher, Aristotle. Who is presumably a reliable source when it comes to evaluating one’s life decisions.  So why is it that so many of us choose to ignore the value of the statement? We continue to sit at home and think, “Well, that’s nice. But I could never do that.” We focus on all of the reasons why we shouldn’t venture out. If we are what we repeatedly do, shouldn’t we enjoy what we’re doing right now? 

I wonder what my life would be like if I never left my hometown. To stay in my own bleak little bubble of Cedar Rapids Iowa. If I were to only see the same people every day, take the same roads to and from all of the same places, never experiencing anything different than the norm, I think I would have lost it by now. While I don’t take for granted the comfort of having a stable home and community to live in, I have tasted just enough culture to know that there is so much more out there to be experienced. 

“While you’re still young, get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.”
-Jeff Goins

If we are what we repeatedly do, I should hope that we all aspire to currently be repeating actions that make us happy. People my age tend to have a stronger drive to hit the ground running, to explore, and leave responsibility behind us. But it’s what makes us happy. Yet, I hear many older individuals complain about how they never got around to traveling. My question is why? Why didn’t they see the world, if that’s what they truly wanted? If there was no opportunity in sight, why did they not simply make their own?

The truth is, traveling while you’re young is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Sure, there are excuses not to go. There always will be. But then think of how many more there will be once you age another fifteen years or so. Teenagers become adults, students become full time employees, singles are married, and couples become parents. Travel? Aint nobody got time for that.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Does anyone else find it astounding how God's love can reach so many people, yet every person's testimony is starkly different? Not one person's path to finding salvation is exactly like another. This concept is absolutely beautiful to me.
We are each allowed to have a unique and personal relationship with God. Whether we choose to accept it and live our lives accordingly is 100% on us. He wants our whole hearts, but sometimes we don't realize He'll accept them in whatever condition they're in.

"Oh, praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead."

When I first heard these lyrics in the song "Jesus Paid it All," something struck a chord in me. It was telling me that God will revive me from whatever low place I've been, or ever will be. And that Jesus already paid for my sins and deserves all of the glory I can give Him. I knew that I never wanted to return back to the point in my life where I didn't accept that as the truth. God is by my side, and will continue lift me up whenever I reach out.

"Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow."

Psalm 80:18
Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Summer Freedom


Comes from summer wind

When the ordinary is revived.

Blown in

Along side the warmth

When routines are broken.


Sweeps responsibility and cares

Behind the blue sky

Among fresh cut grass.

Summer freedom

With intoxicating heat,

Has me waiting

To catch myself smiling.

The Things They Carried

In the novel “The Things They Carried,” the idea of weight is used and developed by first explaining the physical and literal burden that the soldiers carry, followed by insinuating the mental and emotional weight that is ever-present. On page 2 it says, “The things they carried were largely determined by necessity.” The author then proceeds to list off an array of items and their weight in pounds. Some of the items include pocket knives, rations, photographs, and bug repellent. Some items were required to be carried, while others were brought along because of a soldier’s specific wants or needs. The effect of carrying these things as a soldier is obvious; it would be harsh and tiring, but it’s also just a fact of life when in war. Everyone else has things to carry too, so you suck it up and keep walking.  The effect of the weight carried from a reader’s standpoint is mentally exhausting. As more items are listed, though you cannot feel them, it’s easy to understand the pressure of every extra pound. 

On page 7 it says, “…they carried whatever presented itself, or whatever seemed appropriate as a means of killing or staying alive.” The soldiers carried weapons such as M-16s, AK-47s, RPGs and Uzis. Kiowa is easily remembered for carrying a hatchet, and Mitchell Sanders for brass knuckles. They carried these things to protect themselves and their comrades. When faced with the enemy, they wanted to be able to be able to kill, so that they would survive. But with carrying deadly weapons comes with the acceptance that you may be a killer, that you might end someone else’s life. Because of that acceptance the soldiers carry the burden of sin of killing others, grief of fallen friends, and terror at the loss of their own lives. On page 21 it says “They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die.” As a reader we can’t understand what it’s like to be faced with the mortality of war. Describing the weight of deadly weapons is supposed to allow you to think of the reasons why they needed to be carried.

The last idea of weight has no way to be measured. You can’t put it on a scale and state how many pounds it is. You can’t complain about its physical burden. On page 22 it says, “By and large they carried these things inside, maintaining the masks of composure.” The men could rarely describe how much the war affected them, how terrified they really were or how much they wanted to go home. The coping mechanism used was to act tough and do your job until it was over. Those who were weak weren’t liked, they didn’t get medals, and they weren’t heroes. On page 22 is says, “Rather, they were too frightened to be cowards.” As a reader, this last idea of weight allows us to understand that the soldiers’ toils in war weren’t solely based on physical dilemmas. The emotional burdens could be equally if not more heavy on them.   

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Venus flytrap can eat a whole cheeseburger

Snapple caps. Fact, or fiction?

I've done a little research on the self proclaimed "best stuff on earth's" well known gimmick. Unfortunately, I'm at a loss for what I should believe.

 On the infamous "Real Fact" #0, Snapple threw us all for a loop with this aggravating statement:
"Half of all Snapple "Real Facts" are actually fake."

As an avid collector of these caps, and a fond drinker of their sweet tea, I believe I have the right to be upset with Snapple Inc.

How are we to distinguish which facts are real and which are fake? I've been quoting these facts for over three years. I hope that I'm not alone in saying that I've treated these caps as reliable sources of information. But before I swear off Snapple facts for good, I've taken a closer look at the caps' credibility. 

What I found is a list of Snapple facts that have been proven false, or outdated. See link below:

Some examples include the misconceived notion that people, on average, consume 8 spiders per night. "This statistic was made up in 1993 as an example of the absurd things people will believe simply because they come across them on the internet."
Another would be that no piece of paper can be folded in half more than 7 times. This was also proven untrue, by those sneaky MythBusters with their clever science. 

While this list IS lengthy, it isn't half of the currently estimated 928 Snapple facts in circulation. Therefore disproving fact #0.

Can this get any more confusing? To believe or not to believe?

What I know to be true is that Snapple tea tastes frickin amazing, and that collecting the caps has brought me joy. My friends, and sometimes even little-known acquaintances, will drink a Snapple and save the cap, knowing that I will most likely want it.

A group of cats is called a 'clowder'.
Did you know that? Well now you do.

Another proven fact is that Snapple makes you smarter. How could it not? You crack open some raspberry tea and you find out what a clowder is. Fancy that.

My point is, just because Snapple let me down, I'm not going to stop drinking its sweet deliciousness. Everybody makes mistakes. (everybody has those days, Hannah Montana shout out anybody?) I definitely will still quote their facts like they were written by highly regarded scientists. And a twit is the technical term for a pregnant goldfish.