Monday, February 28, 2011

Before you judge...

If you've been reading the blog for a while (or at least at the beginning of the year), you know that I spent he first week of 2011 attempting to reduce my impact on the environment.

No Impact Week was inspired by No Impact Man, who kept a blog, wrote a book, and made a documentary about the one year he and his family lived a no-impact life. It was a gradual process. The cut things out weekly/monthly in order to see if it's possible to have a good life without wasting so much stuff. Which... if we have to admit, as Americans, we waste A LOT.

The family had no TV, no electricity. They ate only local foods and ate vegetarian. The rode bicycles are scooters everywhere. They used no toilet paper and cloth diapers for their young daughter (who, as a side note, was super cute!).

When I heard the no toilet paper thing at the beginning of the year, I was like, "uh... do I have to do that?" I found him just a little bit crazy and over-the-top and I had no desire to follow in his footsteps. In fact, hearing how extreme he was made me hesitant to even sign up and DO the project, period.

But, do the project I did. And I really enjoyed the week and it made me take a step back and re-evaluate my consumption and my impact on the planet. We're killing it slowly based on our choices. And I'd say Westerners (and dare I say especially Americans) are probably the biggest culprits.

Well, I decided to rent the documentary "No Impact Man" from the library... and although it's costing me $5 in late fees (I forgot to renew it, and then learned someone else has requested it so I can't renew it). And I'd say that anyone who's had a bad thing to say about Colin Breavan and his family should watch the documentary before they judge.

Yes, the experiment was extreme. And sure, maybe it was bit crazy. Even his wife thought so for the first 6-8 months of the project. But as the year went on, she had to admit, "Now, I think what he's doing is so cool. I just get a big kick out of it." Ultimately, this project wasn't really meant to be practical. There are some things that are SUPER hard to do without (they had a failed experiment with pots as a refrigerator. Apparently they got the idea from Nigeria. Hmm... he should have also learned to wash clothes from Nigerians; stepping on them in the tub doesn't exactly do the trick.). Instead this project was meant to be philosophical--can he make no impact? And will it make his life better? Will it make him happier?

And in some ways, I think the answer is a resounding yes. They spent more time as a family. They had REAL conversations about life, what they thought, what they felt. They saved some money. And they started a movement that's caused other people to take a step back and say, "How can I make a difference?"
"It's not about using as little as we can use, but finding a way we can use what we need to use in a sustainable way"-- Colin Beavan
The one thing that really got me during the documentary was to see Colin and his wife talk about the negative responses they were getting from people--even their friends. One man said his wife didn't want him shaking hands with them because they were unhygienic. Other people just called them a lot of really bad names and one person even suggested shooting them down with an Uzi. Now who's being extreme?

The project sounds pretentious and a way to get publicity and become famous... and sure, there was some ulterior motives. But this was something he wanted to do. And who are we to judge him? He wasn't judging any of us. He was just sharing what he and his family were doing to change. And if they changed, maybe it'd inspire other people to change. He's not forcing you to change, or telling you you're evil for not wanting to go without toilet paper for a year. He's just offered you a look into his life for a year. A year that changed him and his family.

I think people got really upset and had such hateful things to say because they kind of felt convicted about their choices. You're usually a skeptic and feel resentful to people who say things against your lifestyle choices when you know your choices are wrong--or at least not the best choices you can make. It's funny how we can get so up-in-arms simply because someone suggests that their might be a different way of doing things, a different way of looking at things. We're so quick to cast judgement without knowing and exploring the whole story.

And we call  ourselves an open-minded and tolerant country? Psh!

I already had quite a bit of respect for Colin and his family after doing the No Impact Week. It was hard, so I can only imagine going as far as they did for a whole year! I gained even more respect for them when I watched the documentary. They admitted it was hard. His wife might as well have been me for how resistant she was... haha. They took note of the failures, and embraced the successes.

His goal was to inspire people. I was inspired.

And now that I've been enlightened a bit more, it's time to take this DVD back before I'm charged $6 for it!

Friday, February 25, 2011

This Stuff Drives Me Crazy

So, I guess you could say I'm a fan of Francesca Batistelli. I find her some of her lyrics quirky, and other times they are super deep. And to top it all of, she's an alto, which means I can truly sing along to all of her songs with no problems :)

Anyway, I was listening to the radio the other day and her latest single came on. And it's come on at least one other time over this last week. And man... can I say I needed this song? Cause there's A LOT of "stuff" that's been driving me crazy and a lot of "stuff" has been getting to me within these last few weeks. And it's kind of nice to get a message that reminds me, "It may not be what I'd choose, but this is the stuff [God uses]" and I've just gotta trust Him. It's especially nice when that message is accompanied by a ukulele and catchy tune :)

Enjoy this live performance of the song:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dear Valentine's Day,

I've always liked you.

I want to make sure you know this, just cause I have a lot of friends who feel the opposite. For them, you bring heartache, feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. And I'll admit, there were some years where I felt a twinge of that, too. But, mostly, especially lately, I've really enjoyed you.

Like last year, how you brought me a fun-filled girl weekend. A sleep-over, the girlie movies, cookies and candy. There was so much laughter and love. It was better than having a guy buy me roses or chocolate, or take me on a romantic dinner.

Not the cookies I baked, but mine were heart-shaped! 
And this year, we had a baking party! Desserts galore! Chocolate cake and cupcakes, blondies (brownies sans the chocolate), lemon-line mousse, strawberries with some sort of white chocolate, cinnamon creme. Oh, and I made cookies from scratch (fulfilling one of my new year's resolutions)! We watched the obligatory girlie movies, and had the obligatory conversation about boys. But ultimately, it was just about us--having fun and loving each other's company. Which is what I think Valentine's Day is all about.

Don't get me wrong. At some point I'd love to spend to celebrate this day with a significant other of my own. But, while you're a great day and all, I don't think this one day honestly should represent what any relationship it means. All it represents is how much fun love can be. How much fun life can be. All things that were represented with my night with the girls. Plus, if I had a significant other, I'd hope he'd use the other 354 days of the year to make me feel special and not pin it all on you.

I like you because you're a good excuse to share some love and spend some good quality with the people you care about. And I enjoy taking advantage of that excuse every year. Even when I eventually find "the one," I still hope to create some fun "love" time with my ladies. I hope to still get candy and Disney Princess cards from my students.

I hope you're never just about "the guy"--whether I have one, or not.

So, Valentine's Day, I want to thank you for another great year. For the love that was share, and for the hopes of many great years to come.

With Love, 
B :)

P.S. I also want to say thank you to "The Bachelor," for finally sending Michelle home. It added an extra pinch of glee to my Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Very First Decision

All my Aggies can rest assured. I won't be becoming a Longhorn anytime soon.

That's the easy way of saying that I got my decision from UT-Austin concerning my MFA application. And it was a 'no.'

I'm honestly not really surprised. For one, UT is ranked #3 in the nation and it's ranked #1 when it came to selectivity. Only like 1 percent of applicants get admitted each year. Also, I think the short story I think was my best didn't make it into UT's packet since I wasn't done with it by the deadline. BUT... I still kind of hoped.

My heart's in Texas. Big time. And while I had fun that one year living in Chicago, and I sort of (but vaguely) had fun that one year living in Missouri (mentioning the actual city is pointless; it was so small), and I think it'd be cool to live in other parts of the country for a while... Texas is my home. I really wanted to stay at home.

Plus, I have the cutest nephew who I hate the idea of being too far away from. Who's going to take a million and one pictures of him while he's growing up? :)

Oh well, I guess some other state gets to stake its claim on me for the next two or three years (God-willing).

The one good thing about not getting into UT is this:

I don't have to be a house divided against myself :)

Snow Day #5

Last week, Dallas got hit with a lot of snow and ice. We had school on Monday, and then no school Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. Four snow days that created a six-day weekend. It sounds lovely, but in reality I hated it, haha.

First of all, I was stuck at home. A lot of things were closed, none of my friends wanted (or could!) leave their houses, and I couldn't really leave my apartment either. I spent the four days reading, writing and watching TV. Three things I normally LOVE to do, but when it's all you have to do, it gets old after a while. (Who would have ever thought I'd get tired of reading?!?! Although I did read like five books over those four days, so...)

Winter Wonderland
The one time I tried leaving my apartment went a little like this: I bundle up and head out to the parking lot. With no gloves, my fingers instantly start to develop (very) minor frostbite. I have to avoid stepping on dog poo, because apparently due to the cold people in my apartment are too lazy to make sure their dogs use the potty on the grass... or at least pick up after them when they do it in front of the freaking entrance. I slip and slide to my car, blast the heat on defrost and realize that the six inches of snow piled onto my windshield were not going to melt anytime soon. So, I go back inside, grab a spatula and begin flinging snow off my car. It took 45 minutes and my hood and trunk were still covered in snow. But, since I could see, I begin my drive.

My trusty spatula
Slow progress  on my windshield

I get all the way to the stop light and disaster strikes. When the light turns green, my car won't move with a light tap on my accelerator. So I have to press harder, which instantly causes my car to fishtail. There's a car to my right and the curb to my left and I was positive I was going to hit one or both. My Nigerian in me came out instantly, "In the name of Jesus! In the name of Jesus!" Ha!

They say your life flashes before your eyes when you're facing death, but I must not have truly been facing death because I definitely did not see my favorite memories stream before my eyes.  All I could think was, "I don't want to die. Jesus don't let me die." It makes me laugh now, but at the time I was beyond terrified. I just couldn't get my car to stop swerving and every time another car passed me, I was positive that that would be the car I would hit to end it all.

Eventually, my car straightened out, and I instantly took the very next turn and headed home. Operation "Get Out Of The House And See People" was a total fail. Luckily all the snow had turned to slush by the next afternoon and I was able to go to work, hang out with friends, and volunteer over the weekend.

And I was SOOO happy to be back in school Monday morning (when I had my first evaluation, which I'll save for a different blog). And Tuesday.

And now that it's Wednesday, guess what? Another snow day! Haha. And the funny story to go along with this one is... I wake up at 7:15 and think, "Shoot, I'm going to be late!" My co-teacher had promised she'd text if school was cancelled and since I didn't get a text, I didn't even think to check the news or the district website. I just got dressed and ran outside, saw all the snow, rushed back inside and pulled on warmer pants and shoes, rushed back outside to turn my defrost on, ran back inside to get cups of cold water to pour on my windshield, used my credit card to scrap ice off my window and wipers, drove the 2 minutes to school, and saw... no cars. For a second I was like, "Um..." And then I thought, "Maybe we're just having a late start?" Eventually, I had the brilliant idea to check the website on my phone (Yay, smartphones!) and found the message that school was closed in the smallest type possible.

So now I'm home and just praying it's a one-day thing and we don't have another extended weekend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good Shows Make You Cry, Too

So, it's been about 3 weeks since it actually aired, but I finally found the courage to watch the series finale of my latest favorite show, "Life Unexpected."

It sadly, only lasted exactly a year long, premiering on January 18, 2010 and ending on January 18, 2011. But it definitely deserved a much longer run. It was the first show in a long time that I seriously grew attached to since "Gilmore Girls." And if any of you were a fan of "Gilmore Girls," you know how disappointing that finale was! I was very concerned that LUX (as it's affectionately abbreviated to, and which also happens to be the name of the central character) was going to be just as disappointing for me.

So, I DVR'd it and put off watching it. I used the excuse of being busy with other things. But really, I was just scared. I loved this show. It made me watch the CW again, something I stopped doing after "Gilmore Girls." And in general, the only shows I ever watched consistently on the old WB was "Gilmore Girls" and "Everwood" (two shows LUX has been compared to). And in general, this was the first non-reality TV show I've kept up with in ages. I think it was the family-centered plot--drama, but also a sense of wholesomeness. A cast of kooky, lovable characters...  I was pretty heartbroken when I heard the CW would not be renewing the show's contract. And I was concerned the ending the writers and producers would have to concoct at the last minute would leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Well, I am sooo happy to report that the writers gave me all I wanted and more!

I won't spoil the ending for you, but let's just say that everyone ended up exactly where I hoped they'd be. And without it being predictable--I was help in suspense for quite a bit and there were a few pleasant surprises! I did some more crying today--tears of satisfaction.

For anyone thinking of a future gift idea for me, know that I would appreciate having LUX on DVD. And even though I hated the ending, I wouldn't mind all seven seasons of "Gilmore Girls," too. :)

Good Books Make You Cry

Lately, I've been reading books for their lack of depth. Generally it's been all fluff and silliness, because it's what I have time for. If you know me well, you know that I tend to really get into books when I read. Once I threw my copy of John Grisham's "The Firm" across the room out of nervousness. And if the book is good enough, I can stay up until all hours of the night until I'm done with it.

Well, with student teaching, work, and just life in general, it's been easier to indulge in stuff like chick-lit and Christian romances. I've had no time to have my emotions stirred too deeply while reading. Not that the books I've read haven't been good. I've enjoyed all of them, and would recommend most of them.

But this morning, since school was still cancelled because of all the ice and snow, I sat down to read one of the Texas Bluebonnet Award books. The kids had to vote on their favorite last week, and a few of the books' descriptions peaked my interest. So I borrowed a few from the library.

It took me a little under two hours to read "Umbrella Summer" by Lisa Graff, but can I just say that I probably have not been so moved by a book in a while?

Each chapter had tears welling in my eyes, and as I got closer to the end, drops actually began to fall on my pillow. In fact, I'm still a bit teary-eyed thinking about that book. And it's not like it's heart-wrenchingly sad or anything. In fact, there's quite a few humor-filled moments. It's just that Lisa Graff was able to capture and show sadness, grief and mourning so well, while mingling it with the hope that comes from moving on.

"Umbrella Summer" is a story about Annie, a 10-year-old girl who has recently lost her brother. Her whole family is grieving his loss in their own way--dad has become closed off and absentminded, mom has become uptight and wants no mention of her dead son, and Annie... well, Annie has become a hypochondriac of sorts and is over-obsesses about being careful and safe.

Through the help of a new neighbor, E.B White's "Charlotte's Web," and other's in her neighborhood Annie begins to learn something important. When it rains, you need your umbrella to protect you from the falling drops, but eventually you need to close your umbrella otherwise you'll miss out on the sunshine.

Simply put, it was a beautiful story.

I also finished reading "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl." I liked it--Anne was a very thoughtful girl, and a good writer! I'm interested in reading the little stories she wrote while in hiding. While reading through each entry, I was most curious about what her last one would be. And Miss Anne didn't disappointed--it's almost like she knew she wouldn't be able to write again. Her last few entries were probably the most beautiful. While the diary itself didn't make me cry, its Afterword did. Throughout the book, I felt like I grew to know Anne. As if she were my friend. And then reading about how the family was shipped to Auschwitz, split up, and how one by one Mrs. Frank, Anne's sister Margot, and eventually Margot succumbed to sickness and died was so sad!

I'm off to read another Bluebonnet book, "11 Birthdays." I wonder if it'll make me cry, too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I'm a Freelance Blogger!

I've been asked to blog for two other sites! How exciting is that?!

I mean, I've always liked to write, and deep down inside I know I'm a good one. But I'll be honest, I'm plagued with A LOT of insecurity when it comes to the words I put on paper (or online, whatever). I've had friends read my stuff and go, "Wow, that was really good!" and I feel a moment of glee. But then I think, "Well, you know me. You're my friend. Of course you wouldn't tell me I sucked!" And instantly, I'm refilled with self-doubt about my skills.

This year, I had already decided to face my fear and write more. It's why I decided to apply for MFA programs--to stop being scared and finally pursue the career route I've always dreamed I'd take. It's kind of why I decided to start this blog--to force myself to write more often and just put myself out there.

Keeping this blog hasn't been easy. There are points when I ask myself why I'm doing this. What's the point? I feel like I have zero-to-no readers. And the few readers I have are friends, who read out of pity versus true interest, haha. A lot of times, I feel like Julie Powell in the movie "Julie & Julia," when she's like, "Hello out there! Is anyone reading me?" Just one comment each day would be nice! But I will say that I do get excited sometimes when I look at my stats and see that 20 people read a post! It's not a lot, but there's that excitement in knowing I'm being read! And I have eight followers!

Anyway, my "freelance blogger" status began at the beginning of this year when I did No Impact Week for YES! Magazine. It was a great week and the whole time I was super self-conscious of what I wrote and what people would think of me. But then my friend, who is the web editor and who wrangled me into doing the whole thing, would fill me in on the feedback she was getting. "They love you!" "My publisher won't stop talking about you!" "They think you're funny!" And then she e-mailed me this one comment that almost made me cry (in a good way):

Well, this same friend has been trying to get me to contribute to her personal blog project It's a website dedicated to discussing the slave trade around the world. Her assignment for me: Take a look at the sex trafficking that will be happening during the Super Bowl (which is in Dallas this year). I was like, "uh... are you crazy?!" But being the girl who can't say no, I eventually agreed. And can I say that I'm getting excited about doing this? I feel like by volunteering with a group and then blogging about my experience is part of me "living on purpose." And Life on Purpose has been the theme of the Awakening for the last three weeks. The last message was about how you do that--and it all comes down to doing what you're good at and what you're passionate about and running that race like there's no tomorrow. I feel like blogging for HumanGoods in a sprint in the right direction :)

And speaking of The Awakening, that's who else I'll be blogging for. You are looking at one of the newest members of the blogging team. I'm already writing my first post in my head--be prepared to hear about the seven weddings I'd have gone to by the end of 2011 and how they've gotten me pretty excited about the newest series on Ruth & Relationships coming up. Another member of the blogging team will be my girl, Lindsey. She recently wrote this hilarious blog post for the PriorFatGirl site. I can't wait to read what she produced for The Awakening.

Worship at The Awakening

So, look out for me on both sites! :)
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