Smaller, smaller

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I have been a very bad blog mom.

It’s nearly been a YEAR.

If only I had received the advice I’m repeating here a year ago, you’d have had regular updates and I would seem less like a deadbeat.

“Smaller, smaller.”

Who said it? Can’t remember, can’t claim it as mine- if it comes to me, I’ll credit accordingly. For now, all I know is that it was whispered across my poor, frazzled heart this week, when life loomed a little too tall.

“Smaller, smaller.”

It was a call to rethink the challenges that were taxing me. It was a reminder that oftentimes the best move is the simplest, tiniest one in the face of life’s hydras. One positive step, one little change. Rome truly wasn’t built in a day, and that to get anywhere, you have to lay one brick. Then another. And suddenly, you have something.

“Smaller, smaller.”

It’s an invitation to make enough space in one day; to revel and rejoice. Oh friends, the worry I would have avoided this past year if I had embraced the little changes, the one-day-at-a-times. If I had lathered grace on my mistakes and developed a greater affectation for small progresses. Life is much too lovely to feel like you’re halfway off the edge all the time.

“Smaller, smaller.”

I say this now to myself when frightening election chatter threatens to drown me, or when I realize that my five year plan is as convoluted as  a Chutes-and-Ladders board. It empowers me to whisper a short prayer, to put five dollars in my piggy bank, or to go for a short run. I lay a brick, and the fear ebbs. I know I’m doing something, even when I feel powerless.

And it’s then I realize that I’m not.

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Trailer Freakout (Monday)

I’m incredibly late to the party, but my super-quick response to the Comic Con Batman vs Superman trailer? **Egads** am I thrilled about this movie. Using the post-Man of Steel backlash surrounding the annihilation of Metropolis as the catalyzing narrative vehicle? Well done. It’s dark, it’s intense, blah blah go the critics. It’s not Marvel- that’s ok- I’m still definitely intrigued. This preview eradicated my fears of mediocrity to the extent that I forgot where I was (a very quiet public place) and reacted verbally more loudly than I ought. (People were startled- it was funny in retrospect. Ha.) Funny is fun with these kinds of movies (thanks Marvel), but I like the heavy-handed morality tales that were Man of Steel and Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Grit and gravitas can be good. Heroics can’t always be pithy quips and shiny shields- it can be heavy as well as light.

I’m impressed enough to shame-facedly give a tentative apology to Ben Affleck, whose casting choice I was vehemently against from the beginning. There you go, WB marketing team- for now, you’ve won me over. I’m starting to see this new iteration of the Dark Knight with considerably less vitriol clogging my good opinion (but my dislike how to go somewhere, so Jesse Eisenberg, my main concern lies squarely with you now).

If nothing else, it’s just- cool– to see a bunch of fictional heavyweights duke it out onscreen, more so, at least for me, than The Avengers, as I find BvS‘s characters more familiar and iconic. If nothing else, it’s Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman in one movie, and that alone gives me hope.

Also: Lois Lane, you’re the real hero here.


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Trailer Freakout Friday: EVEREST

There’s an allure in the inherent spookiness of those classic man-and-his-pack-come-what-may tales. The terror and spectacle of many remains undiluted by fantasy, which taps into a rawer sense of fear. While beautiful and inspiring, nature can become ferocious instantaneously. People have that proclivity, too, in the woods when no one can hear you scream. Shudder. Remember that awful Appalachian Trail urban legend? Sheesh.

I can’t remember how I stumbled upon Into the Wild, but I do know I loved it, and the piece served as a gateway drug to Jon Krakauer’s works. It wasn’t until last summer that I read Into Thin Air, a recounting of the author’s trip up Mt. Everest and the tragedy that occurred on the way down. Truly, it was one of the most compelling and disquieting books I’ve ever read, leaving me affected to the point that there were nights I had trouble sleeping after I put it down. The story that Krakauer tells, and I mean it in the purest, soberest sense of the word, is marvelous.

I knew there was a George Mallory project in the works, but I had no idea there was one telling the story about what went down in ’96.  So when the trailer dropped yesterday, not only was I blindsided with joy when it came to plot, but also by the caliber of the ensemble; it’s rich and well roundedLove Actually style. AHH. Check out the trailer:

Yeah, yeah, the clip’s set-up makes our characters seem sort of trope-y, but when you realize that no, these people were not fictional, but flesh and blood, aiming for seemingly “impossible dreams” and missing their pregnant partners while truly truly trying to beat the odds in an utterly horrific situation, it adds an extra layer of poignancy to what you’re watching. Or what I hope to be watching- I’m assuming this movie’s going to be great without seeing it.

What I find to be of particular interest is that while the actor who portray’s Krakauer, Michael Kelly (Man of Steel, Now You See Me), is present throughout the trailer, he isn’t identified; talk-time is given to actors with greater buzz or storylines that can be easily parceled as tweetable soundbites of inspiration and thematic significance (I see you John Hawkes). Everest is allegedly based on an amalgam of different survivor’s accounts of the tragedy– including Krakauer’s- instead of favoring just one, and the change in title suggests that this is isn’t so much an adaptation of his best-selling story- which did, in fact, spark some controversy– but rather one that Krakauer played a part in. I still find it exceedingly interesting, however, that his name isn’t mentioned once throughout the trailer. After all, his enormously popular tale inextricably and very publicly tied his name to Everest fiasco of 1996. Is he a household name? Maybe not like, say, J.K. Rowling. Yet Into Thin Air and Into the Wild (and its subsequent film) are well-known enough to have put him on the map, not to mention his other hit works of non-fiction. It seems to me that introducing him in the trailer would be a marketable move, which makes his absence rather noticeable. Is this some sort of subtle shade? Have other survivors lobbied to have their perspectives have greater presence? Or, at the end of the day, does it really just come down to star power (then cast someone bigger for Krakauer…) or how this particular international trailer was cut? Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans), a relatively popular star, is apparently in this movie, but I didn’t see him in the clip- am I blind?-so it could merely be a matter of this-over-that and nothing more.

We’ll see. Maybe my memories of the book’s detail are foggy and I’m making too much of this. Nevertheless, I for one am terribly curious.

Also! Shout out to The Walk for another dizzyingly-great trailer. While I can’t honestly get behind Joseph Gordon Levitt’s French accent (yet), the cinematography and editing on this puppy look phenomenal, and it seems a fitting, cathartic homage to the World Trade Center in a way that doesn’t recall the horror of 2001. Can’t wait.

EVEREST movie poster image, here used as a header, courtesy of 

What Joe Biden Taught Me About Grief

Poignant. Lots of newfound respect of our VP.

Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

Beau Biden, Joe BidenI read the news today that US Vice President Joe Biden’s son Beau died this weekend. He was 46, the same age as I am. He died of brain cancer, the same thief which stole my mother.

I know very little about Joe Biden, but then I read this article and I was filled with compassion for the losses he has faced in his life. His wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident and he said the only thing that made him carry on was looking after his two sons. Now he must face the loss of one of those sons.

In a speech Biden gave to families of fallen soldiers in 2012, he talks about the constant weight of grief.

Just when you think, ‘Maybe I’m going to make it,’ you’re riding down the road and you pass a field, and you see a flower and it reminds you…

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On “Bad Blood,” “Mad Max,” and Being a Christian Feminist (YIKES)

I was raised by a Godly man and a sassy, take-no-crap woman who bought my two younger sisters and I bumper stickers that read, “Girls can do anything.” My dad put one on the door into our basement and another above the Ranger’s windpipe, the four wheeler that Gretchen, at 11, could drive like a pro. These weren’t empty words for our folks- my parents believed that I could be president when I went through that phase during 8th grade, and as my sisters and I start to fly the coop, continue to remind us that we can do whatever we put our mind to. Perhaps my favorite element of my childhood- and there was much to praise- was the consistent reminder that being women was never an obstacle or a threat –  it just happened to be who we were.  It was something to be celebrated- may it have been through admiration of Ripley from “Alien,” wearing pink sundresses, playing sports, or watching “Pride and Prejudice” every day for a straight week and wanting to be Lizzie Bennett. Our parents did not limit us.

I have been lucky in that I have only experienced a small bit of what some would consider sexism, none of which happened in the classroom or in the workplace; I am blessed to be have been thus far surrounded by people who, while seeing me as a female, don’t recognize it as an issue or a handicap. However, I have heard frustrating, heartbreaking stories from women and sisters that have felt the sting of being considered less-than, or sexual objects, or incapable based on biology, and the injuriousness of it makes me powerfully sad.

I believe a few things. I believe in a creator God, who loves me and made me uniquely. I believe that He made men and women differently in fundamental ways, but that we are united in our shared likeness of God. We are united in His love for a collective “us.” We are united in being called His children.  We are united by the command to love one another- which means a call for respect for His creation, whether we want to or not.

Which brings me here: Women are not treated equally. It’s a fact. It’s a problem. I believe it is injustice. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. That’s why I don’t think it’s bonkers or “un-Christian”  for women who have experienced such egregious mistreatment to, in response, hunger and thirst for equal treatment or opportunity (p.s. – that is all feminism is. It’s not putting women above anyone else or erasing the good differences between the genders, in my mind, but that’s an essay for another lunch break).  I cannot blame them, and I frankly, I stand with them.

At the end of the day, I don’t – and no one should, but that doesn’t mean no one will—go to Hollywood or Taylor Swift for my primary source of identity. I strive and I fail, but my eyes are set on my Creator, and He is where I get my sense of self- my female-ness, which I celebrate, as all His creation is “good.” (His words, not mine!). That being said, I live in the 21st century and I’m going to watch TV. The best advice I was ever given was from the lady who raised me, who in turn heard it from her college professor:  “hold the [proverbial] newspaper in one hand, and the Bible in the other.” It’s both an acknowledgement that the world is broken and encouragement to engage and enjoy while filtering what we hear, see, and learn through what we know to be True. It’s proven so exceedingly beneficial to me, as a cinephile and devourer of stories, however they come, to examine everything for truth and good, and discard the rest- or, sometimes discard it altogether. I’ve gotten to the point where positive images that reinforce ideas I can get behind are the ones I try to prefer when considering my media intake.

That’s why, when I watch Taylor Swift’s (in my opinion, silly, but that’s beside the point) “Bad Blood” music video, I can’t say that I’m expecting to get some Christian truth from it. But I can appreciate Swift’s commitment to excellence, her entrepreneurial spirit, and her (again, cinephile) homages to some wonderful action movies that is evident throughout her work. She’s not my favorite artist out there, but I find it encouraging and inspiring that she, as women in a world that has historically been slow to make room for ladies, is out there and getting stuff done. For those reasons, I can support her latest efforts.

That’s why when I see “Mad Max: Fury Road” for the inevitable third time, I will pay special attention to Charlize Theron’s standout portrayal of Imperator Furiosa, a women who is tough as nails and as capable as all get-out, but who isn’t built of steel and obnoxious quips, ninja-ing in v-necks as female actions stars are prone to (be made to) do. She feels. She cries. She expresses doubt and vulnerability amidst this innate strength. She stands up to injustice that she witnesses, facing violence and danger and hurt in the name of doing what’s right. No, she is not Jesus, and thus she is fictional, imperfect, and not a source of ultimate identity, but man, did I leave the theatre in a sense of wonder. In the midst of all this post-apocalyptica was someone I knew, someone who I would want to be like. To have that kind of reaction to an action movie heroine? Unheard of. That’s good stuff. That’s important stuff. It’s indicative that maybe the tide will change. I can get behind that.

That’s why I don’t think it’s a crime to pause and celebrate being a woman. In a music video, in a blockbuster during tent-pole season, in a bumper sticker on your basement door.  It’s not a replacement for Jesus-truth, lest anyone be reading this and get confused. It (should) not be at the expense of men, nor should it be violent or reactively vitriolic. HOWEVER, it’s not demonic. It’s not evil. It’s not wrong. It is a celebration of God’s creation, His inherently perfect creation, and I believe with all my heart that when we embrace our God-given identity with joy, it blesses Him.

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