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 imdb.com. 

What Joe Biden Taught Me About Grief

Courtney:

Poignant. Lots of newfound respect of our VP.

Originally posted on 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.

Photo header courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com.

Getting Messy

Carolina nights are always beautiful. Even in winter, the night hums, sweetly musical. That particular evening must have been late spring, and the cacophony of crickets and birds, strangely peaceful, was the soundtrack to the emotional conversation I was having over the phone with mom. The catalyst? It was sophomore year of college. As it was…a roller coaster of an experience, I have a few ideas; however, I can’t say for certain. It doesn’t matter now, I guess, but whatever it was had left me a very public wreck, sobbing outside my dorm.

I wouldn’t have been out there unless I had to be. The spot by the pillars was the only place I got service, and I needed to talk to mom. I was alone at that point, and rather discreet, anyway, so embarrassment- or even fear- of being spotted was the last thing on my mind.

She barely made a sound, so I was surprised to realize that suddenly there was a woman’s hand on my arm. I turned around and recognized her as a classmate from my freshman writing course. We had spoken very little since then as we ran in different circles, but I knew that she had recently returned to school after a season of deep grief and suffering.

Without a word, she kept her hand on my wrist, turning around from my shaking frame, preserving my dignity as I snotted and sobbed. She didn’t say it, but I could almost hear the words unfolding in my head:  “I see your grief and I feel for you.” In an instant, she was gone.

She didn’t try to fix me. She didn’t throw pleasant platitudes at me. She knew how it felt to hurt, and that the pain subsides when we know someone is present, can identify in some small way, and cares. It was one of the most powerful moments of my life.

***

I found myself crying in a church parking lot recently. It was awkward. I wasn’t, you know, haha Hallmark movie crying; it was full on ugly tears, like, “get a room, Court!” kind of weeping. (Hey- give me a break. I made it to my car!)

What made it slightly worse is that I was parked next to a woman who was preparing to leave. I didn’t look at her, but I knew she was there. I was hoping that if she glanced over at me, she would just see a kiddo fiddling with her phone, not one that was in the middle of a rather powerful cry.

She pulled out, much to my relief, and it was getting hot and I had somewhere to be. I was checking to see the state of my eyes-reddish, but not bad, little eyeliner damage; a miracle!- when suddenly a car pulled up beside me, and the woman whom I thought had left was suddenly at my door.

“Are you alright?” She asked. “I couldn’t leave. I just saw you and…I felt your pain.” And then, she hugged me deeply, and she cried with me, and told me she would pray for me. No words, no game plans. She was there, this lovely stranger who saw grief and addressed it. I will never forget her kindness.

 ***

I don’t know what the point of today’s post is. Maybe I’m trying to say that we need to be willing to be uncomfortable in the face of sadness, that getting our hands dirty with those we love or those we are commanded to love, even if we don’t know them, can bring healing to both the sufferer and the comforter. I’m learning that one can read about pain and then one can experience it, and when you do, the last thing you want is a corny greeting card line or a Sunday School standby verse that you know to throw out in times of trial because you found it in the concordance. I don’t want to imply that the Word doesn’t have power, or a timely letter isn’t impactful- please don’t get me wrong! But you’re not reading an essay that includes anecdotes of people patting me on the back while spouting Psalm 23 and then rushing off to the next thing. Just saying. (And so does James!: “Faith without works is dead.” -2:14)

I guess I feel sort of silly sitting here in the dark writing about pain, especially since I am in a season where I have chosen, for better or worse (currently, it really feels a lot like worse), the loss I experience, and I feel a bit- guilty- to be wrecked, totally and utterly. But the fact of the matter is- we’re a hurting people, all of us. Let us be like Jesus and be willing to “get in the boat,” even in little ways- with those riding through a storm.[“Letters in Red: Why Are You So Afraid?”]

Love ya.

xoxo,

Court

For All Those [Post-Grads] Transitioning:

Hi, friends. I’ve been a rather poor poster; life’s happened pretty fast round these parts (jobapartmentsecondjobnewfriendsbillsflattires), and writing hasn’t been high on the list.

Speaking of, I’ve created a big old list of my observations (and longer riffs from time old-observations from wiser and older adults) from the first month our two living on my own. I wanted to post it for those sisters and brothers who are about to venture out.

1. Invest in health. Set up some basic appointments; dentist, doctor. Cut your hair if it’s getting a little, well, ratty. Join a gym. During the more difficult times of my first post-grad year, I was frustrated because of a lot of things were occurring in my life that I couldn’t change. What I could control, however, was how I treated my body, and I made healthy eating and exercise a priority. It made such a difference!

When you do move out, a note of caution: buy some healthy food for you refrigerator immediately.  You will be weirded out and tired because of all the “new” happening, and will suddenly realize you have Dominos on speed dial and all the work from your spring workout sessions are pretty near ruined because you were overwhelmed and hangry. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Spiritual health counts, too. I was inspired by a sermon on Perry Noble’s website in which the guest preacher talked about how he made a change in his spiritual life that had monumental impact. He simply got up a bit earlier and spent a solid chunk of time with Jesus before work.  That’s it! I’ve made this my routine of late. I hate mornings, but I’m learned to love coffee; it helps soothe the sting of an early alarm.

A favorite quotation from The Hope Quotientan incredibly impactful book by Ray Johnston, addresses the life-giving importance of spending quality time with Jesus.  “…to say, ‘I don’t have time’ is another way of saying, ‘I prefer to be drained and hopeless.'” Preach!

2. Find a church. One of the best things I ever did my last year in college was a Campus Outreach retreat exclusively for seniors, which had workshops about spiritual issues and the new responsibilities facing graduates. The main point they continually drove home, however, was the importance of finding a church and getting involved in said church when you’re out on your own. That changed my life! I have the good fortune to have a solid, Bible- believing church nearby that I really enjoy. It’s given me opportunities to serve and lead as the head of the kids department at for a season. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people whom have become friends, and heard some heart-changing sermons. The influence my local church has had on my life has been immense.

3. Get a big old journal. I love stationary and pens and journals- especially the big leather-bound ones that look like they have the potential to contain a piece of Voldemort’s soul. [Side note: during the apex of my 6th grade Harry Potter phase, I had a red leather journal that I wrote lines from the book right in the middle pages. My goal was to make it look as though the journal was Tom Riddle’s diary; a pretty red prop. The implications of my copy-cat Horcrux are…puzzling.] Knowing this, my sisters got me this gorgeous journal- leather-bound (just how I like it!), embossed with flowers- and a silver-tone pen engraved with my name. It was a spectacular graduation gift, beautiful and, as I’d come to learn, incredibly useful.

The book is HUGE, well over 300 pages. I started it last July, a month or two after I finished college, and still have thirty pages to go. It’s a cathartic space where I speak to God and pour out my heart, uninterrupted and uncensored. I needed-need– that vast space to chronicle the bevy of sadness and angst and confusion and happiness during what I deem my “Order of the Phoenix” year. (HA!)

4. Read all the time. Absorb wisdom. I love (and am very thankful for) Paul Angone and his book/blog All Groan Up. He had an article about how small choices add up to big ones, and one simple line spoke to me, which I’ve paraphrased here: choose to read. I’ve taken the free time I’ve had to just devour books, may they be about my faith, about the world, or are those fictions I’ve had on my shelf for ages but haven’t had the time to consume. I got a library card and relish Friday afternoon trips, each one so beautifully free of charge. My favorites thus far? Anything Erik Larsen (although they’re a bit dark; read on a sunshine-y day), the Hope Quotient (SERIOUSLY), North and South (favorite fiction EVER; better, I wager, than Pride and Prejudice!), The Ragamuffin Gospel (life-changer alert, seriously!), Just Do Something, and Adulting

I also like using my journal as a place to transcribe quotations that speak to me. It’s for that reason I love finding journals from years past, because I can see what I was reading by the pieces I copied down. It also offers an interesting glimpse into my state of my mind at the time.

At work, I like to listen to sermons or podcasts. I love Perry Noble’s sermons, as they are truth-filled and approachable (as well as funny).  Dr. Lane Craig’s A Reasonable Faith series is a bit more lofty and intense, but I like it equally as much as Noble’s work. As a thinker who has a considerable intellectual curiosity, it’s been fascinating to hear Lane Craig’s take on tricky questions individuals have about Christianity.

Also, I’ve really enjoyed taking a few minutes out of my day to read the headlines and understand what’s going on in the world around me. I remember reading somewhere- I forget where- that the author’s dear friend would read the news before he went to a party; that way, he’d have things to discuss when there. It’s a fabulous, albeit rather so-obvious-I-should-have-thought-of-it-on-my-own habit, and it really does make social interactions and work functions decidedly less uncomfortable.

5. Social media? In small doses. I hate Facebook, and I had to give up Instagram for a bit because I was *gasp* jealous of the fabulous nature of everyone else’s lives. I know, I know; it’s all filters and editing and who knows what’s really happening in anyone’s life, but the fact of the matter was that the snaps looked perfect and were inspiring envy in me. My heart couldn’t handle it, and I was happier without it.

Currently, I’ve had to say no to Pinterest. It’s not necessarily comparison this time, but rather discontent. Money’s tight for me these days, and seeing cute clothes and yummy foods and perfect couches and all the places I’m dying to travel  to makes me not appreciate the fact that I finally moved out and have a lot of good in my life right now, even if one of those things isn’t an overflowing bank account.

6. Finances. Speaking of $$, the best thing I ever did was read Robert Morris’ The Blessed Life and got pointed towards Dave Ramsey’s financial wisdom right off the bat. The former gets your mind in a great, Biblical place about managing your money, as well as how to tithe and why it’s important, and the latter shows you how to do it all well. I’m a far way off to being where I want to be finacially, but the Lord was good enough to put the right resources in my hands ot help me see how to handle it, and for that I’m so grateful.

7. Give yourself grace. I realized pretty quickly there was a lot about commons sense stuff I had no idea how to do, nor did I know a lot of adult terms actually meant, nor whom I ought to talk to about it, nor when to pay my water bill, and how does the process for ordering a new tire WHEN YOU POPPED IT ON THE CURB THREE MINUTES FROM WORK start? STOP. It’s okay. Breathe. This is a time for learning and mistakes and feeling silly and young  rather frequently. Pray, ask questions, and don’t hate on yourself as you figure things out, make friends, and establish yourself as a bill-paying-on-time adult.

8. Realize you might be sad, and that’s ok. This was a sad year. I don’t like feeling inept, I don’t like not knowing things (I’ve been struggling with life direction since graduation), and a combination of other factors have made my time of transition from Davidson into fledgling adult a bit rocky. I’ve been bummed. I’ve had some good cries and did my fare share of angst-y, confused real talks late at night with any friend that would listen. But, as Paul Angone and Ray Johnston exhort in their works, please please please don’t stay sad forever (and if it’s a melancholy you can’t shake, there’s no shame in asking for medical help; mental and emotional health is so important.). Perry Noble says it best: “It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.”

9. You’re not alone. Hey, there, friend that’s having a rough go of it: you’re not alone. I’m working out what I want to be working towards, too. I feel frustrated and confused (and poor!). Not everyone got glittering, six figure jobs and adorable apartments and student loans paid off straight out of college (although I know a few people from my alma mater that did; trust me, don’t dwell on it.). You’re not alone- please don’t forget it!

Know this: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” -Psalm 32:8. It’s a truth easier read than believed, I know. But the Lord, our love and our lamp and the One who knows us, will also be our Teacher and our Guide.

Also, this for listening.

Best,

Courtney