Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Looking Back

Yesterday and today are big days for some church workers for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It is call day.

For those of you who aren't LCMS nerd like me, call day is basically when those at the seminary learn where they are headed after their studies. For those in their second year at the seminary, they find out where their one year vicarage will be. For those getting ready to graduate, they get their first professional assignment. It's a pretty big deal.

I went through my own experience like this when I finished my fourth year of college and was finding out where my internship would be. The whole thing is very Book of Mormon.

If you want to learn more details of how the whole system works just let me know. Heck, you can even ask it for the Q&A post I'm thinking of doing soon. ;-)

This year, one of my friends from college was one of those preparing to graduate and received his first call last night. Hearing about the service made me think back to our college days. He and I had been friends ever since our first week of college. Heck, I think we even met freshman move in day. We clicked right away and were basically inseparable until graduation day. Even after, he (along with another one of our close friends) went to the seminary in St. Louis and I had my internship only two hours away. That first year out of college was basically college all over again, only with bigger paychecks and I had a job instead of classes. 

I remember our group of friends always sitting around in various places on campus. It changed year to year or semester to semester depending on where we lived and which had 24/7 hours. Sometimes it was the local Irish pub or IHOP. A lot of our conversations focused on where we felt we were heading and what we wanted to change and the big dreams we had for the future. We were our own ministry dream team. 

Now, here I am, not doing ministry but at peace with it. Instead of sitting in the pews watching our other friends receiving their first calls, I'm finding out through text messages and Facebook. Some of us are far away in other states, some are right back where we started (or so it feels at time), some are happily married and looking for new adventures, and others are doing something completely different than when we first began.

Sometimes I wonder what that college girl would think if she met me now. Would she be mad? Sad? Disappointed? If I were to tell her full time public ministry wasn't going to be forever and it was a good thing, would she believe me? Would she be sad at how our small group of friends has dispersed? We all still love each other and care about each other, and I still call all of them my good friends. But those friendships look much different than I thought they would at this point in my life.

The friends I do talk to on a regular basis and I discuss this topic often. We are always amazed at how much has changed in these years since college. It's not a straight line to whatever our supposed goal was at the time. The goal changes. The road twists and turns. We meet new people and have new experiences those from our past may not know about or understand. 

All of these things are okay. It's part of life and growing and becoming an adult. But it's hard to adjust sometimes to these new situations and elements of life. Some people stay with us and are by our side the entire time. Others remain in our lives but their roles change. Others might just leave. Not because of a choice, but simply because you grew apart, and you still think of each other fondly. Some you might even rediscover somewhere along the line and pick up right where you left off. 

Jobs and dreams change too. I know I'm not the 18 year old girl I was when I began college and wanted to be in youth ministry and change the world. I'm happy with the person I'm becoming - at least for the most part. There are definitely things in my life I want to change. I get frustrated and have doubts about everything. But I'm also glad I'm not who I was. She was awesome and helped me to be who I am now. But I'm glad I'm not her anymore either. I don't want to regress to who I was in the past and keep moving forward.

People want solid because we fear change, but change means to evolve into one's highest self...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Let's do a bit of a life-catch up, shall we?

Currently I am...

Obsessing Over: my new Chromecast. I've been seeing commercials for it for a few months and finally decided to test it out today. Oh cow you guys, this is awesome! Yes, it will probably only be used for Netflix and YouTube, but now Sam and Dean Winchester will be on a bigger screen than my iPad or laptop. That's a win in my book.

Does anyone else have one of these? Or am I late to the party? Because I'm completely amazed.

Reading:  How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theater. This book is outrageously hilarious! It's about a teenager in the 80's, living in New Jersey, and trying to figure out how to pay for his Juliard tuition after his dad announces he won't be paying it unless his son goes into something boring like business. A book about a bunch of theater nerds? Yes, please!

How I Paid for College (Edward Zanni, #1)

I'm also reading a book for a review coming up on Friday, and listening to Magic Bites on audio. However, How I Paid for College is the best of the three thus far!

Mad About:  Have you heard of GOMI? (Get Off My Internets) It's a site basically where people rant about blogs and websites they hate. I've heard about it a bit and was curious. There was nothing on there about me (one of the perks of not being a "cool" blogger), but I did see some pretty awful things about some other bloggers whom I LOVE. Some I even consider to be friends, or at least have had some great conversations with. Don't you all have something better to do than rant about blogs? Seriously. There's enough hate in this world. Yeah, there are some blogs I'm not a fan of either, but I'm not going to rant about them for all of the world to see.

Wondering:  Two things actually. 1) I'm thinking of doing a Q&A post. I realized not long ago some of my newer readers don't know much about me (like my disability) and some of my other readers might have questions they've been wanting to ask. Anyone interested? 2) I also want to host a link-up soon, but the last time I tried it was a total flop because I messed it up. Can anyone show me how?

Wanting: My friend Julie to not have a meeting tomorrow. Wednesday is supposed to be our girls night, but she has a meeting. It's super sad.

Listening to: Or at least I'm wanting to listen to, the revival cast of Les Miserables. The actor who is playing Jean Valjean (Ramin Karimloo) sang on Katie Couric today and WOW his voice is amazing. I could listen to him sing "Bring Him Home" all day. He also was nominated for a Tony for his performance in Les Miserables this morning. So awesome!

Waiting:  to hear where my friends at the seminary are heading next. Today was "call day" where all of the students studying to be pastors find out where their first call at a church will be. It's pretty exciting.

Loving:  my new haircut! I've been itching to do a bit of a change recently and was finally able to this past weekend. What do you think?

So... how's your life?

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Circus Arrives Without Warning

I love that The Life of Bon does a book club each month. I don't always get to link-up, but when I do it's an exciting day. Especially when it's one of my all time favorite books. The Night Circus!

Summary:  Honestly, it's hard to summarize this book without giving spoilers. A majority of what makes this story so awesome is not knowing much about it. You uncover the plot and the characters as it goes. Basically... there are two characters (Celia and Marco) who are raised to compete in a magical competition whose setting is a circus. If you haven't read the book and would like to keep the story a mystery- read no further because spoilers are ahead!

Here are some of the questions Bonnie gave for us to answer:

+ Who is your favorite character in the novel and why?

Initially, being the hopeless romantic that I am, I loved Celia and Marco the most. Especially Marco. He's incredibly charming, even though he's also very manipulative. But I love Celia's strength to endure as well.

Then, when I read it again, I loved Bailey and Poppet and Widget the most. Once I got over the main story line of Celia and Marco, I was able to focus on the other three more. Bailey is your normal kid who happens to be the right person in the right place at the right time. He dreams of adventures and something bigger than the life he is already leading. Poppet and Widget are twins who befriend him at the circus and show him all it has to offer, and they have their own special talents.

Then yet again, I read it a third time, and I loved reading about the other side characters. Tsukikkio, Chandresh, the sisters, Ethan, Alexander is a fascinating character, and so many others, I love them all!   They're so wacky and out there and it makes it so much fun. 

+ What about the main romantic relationship (Celia and Marco) did you like or not like?

I love Celia and Marco. It might be at least partially because I wouldn't be able to resist Marco either. Beyond that though, it's such a unique relationship. The entire story they are writing love letters back and forth in the form of circus tents and spectacles. They grow together through their magic and collaborations. It's so unique and I love how it shows you can get to know others through what they create. Then there's the "forbidden love" element and you're rooting for them to be together in spite of the odds and the circumstances of the game. It's definitely an over-romantacized and (probably) unrealistic relationship, but I think that's part of the fun. The Night Circus is very much like a fairy tale, so everything is over the top and magical. The romance between Celia and Marco fit the feel of the story perfectly.

+ Did you like the writing style?  Why or why not?

I love Erin Morgenstern's writing style. As I said above, The Night Circus is like a fairy tale. In my opinion, fairy tales have a very different story-telling style than other novels and stories do. They're more over the top, magical, mysterious, etc. She created this magical and mysterious world where anything can happen. All of the senses are there. Even though you are only reading about it, you can almost smell the food and the air she describes. You can almost feel the fabrics of the circus tents. You can almost hear the people talking as they wander about the circus. She also adds so many other elements to the story beyond magic and a love story. There's fashion, engineering, food, storytelling, art, reading, friendship, family, and so much more. She pieces them all together to make one big mosaic. Yes, she gets very detailed and there are times it might appear over the top, but it works for The Night Circus and the feel she wants for the novel. It wouldn't work for other types of novels, but it does for this one.

+ What is the significance of Celia's and Marco's relationships with their father figures? (Hector and Alexander)  In what ways are these relationships healthy or unhealthy?

Celia and Marco have very different relationships with their father figures. Celia is with her father (Hector) all of the time. He never leaves her and is always pushing her. He uses some... unconventional... teaching methods for her to learn magic. She learns much from him, but he sees her more as a pupil than a daughter. His main goal is to win and doesn't take her own well-being into consideration often.

Marco on the other hand works with Alexander (or the Man in the Grey Suit. Alexander isn't his actual name.). Marco is not Alexander's biological son, and Alexander teaches with a more indirect approach than Hector does. Alexander relies more on books and letting Marco learn on his own. While Marco is growing up, Alexander comes in and teaches some. Then, once Marco is older, he almost completely disappears from his life. However, one could argue Alexander is a better father figure than Hector is. While the game is still his ultimate focus and isn't around much, he seems to care a bit more for the well being of not just Marco, but Celia as well, than Hector does. 

It's an interesting look at teaching and parenting styles, however, in this novel both seem to be unhealthy. There are pros and cons to both styles, but neither are truly healthy relationships.

+ Anything else you want to say, add, admit, confess?  Now's your time to shine!

I cannot express how much I love this book. There's something about it which draws me in every single time. I feel as though it is one of the stories which speaks to my soul. This is now the third time I've read The Night Circus. The first time was with my beloved hard cover copy, and the other two have been an audio book. Each time I read or listen to it, I notice other things. Parts of the plot I didn't understand come together. I fall in love with a new character. There is always something new to be enchanted by or an old favorite to fall in love with all over again. Morgenstern has so many elements to it. I always tell people how almost everything which makes the world beautiful has some sort of representation in this book. Maybe it's because I love fantasy and romance and being enchanted, I don't know. But this is one of my all time favorite books. If you want to see some of my heart and what makes me tick, then read The Night Circus

The Woes of Bandit

There have been a lot of changes since Mom and I moved to Chicago. I know she has told everyone about moving here. But now it's my turn. Mom was slow in writing on here today and didn't write at all on Friday! So I am taking over and let me tell you, some of the changes I am not very happy about. Nope nope nope.

First of all, this was the worst winter in my little doggie existence. (Other than the time before I met Mom and lived in a cardboard box outside. That was bad.) But it was so cold! I'm little and don't like that cold. Nope. Not one bit. But Mom still made me go outside AND made me wear a coat. It was really bad. I'm just glad Grandpa had the fireplace on a lot because the Bandito likes it warm. Yes he does.

And by he I mean me.

THEN there's the other doggy. Indy. I like having someone to play with, but she is so wild, and she steals my toys. She also always gets to the door first when Mom gets home and gets petted first. It's not my fault my legs are short and I can't go as fast. I should be petted by Mom first because she's MY mom, not hers.

Speaking of Mom, she works a lot. I think she's home for the day, and then she leaves again. It makes me sads.

Another thing is, there's a cat. Yup. A cat. Peanut. She lives in the basement and lurks by its door all of the time. Mom and I lived with two really mean cats a long time ago, and I learned a valuable lesson. Cats cannot be trusted and are not friends of Bandits. Nope nope nope. Sometimes I see Mom petting Peanut and I watch very carefully. Mom says Peanut is nice, but I see her claws and I know better. So I always watch to be sure Mom doesn't get scratched (cat scratches hurt!) and whenever I see Peanut trying to leave her territory I make sure she goes back in her place. Mom says I'm being mean when I do that and I need to go to cat trauma counseling, but I don't know what that means.

I can almost sense her now as I type. I haven't seen her scratch anything yet, but I know she will someday and I think she's plotting against me. I must keep careful watch. Just writing this is dangerous enough, but I must take care of Moms blog because she loves it and have to put the story straight.

Although... Grandma does have better food. She puts soft food in your bowls every morning and not just the icky dry stuff. She also likes to pet me and always calls me "big boy". It's about time someone understood me. 

And there are a lot of comfy chairs to sit on. I love sits. And Grandpa is very nice and let's me lay next to him when Indy is too wild and Mom isn't home. We watch The Chew, Jeopardy, and Katie Couric everyday. 

I guess Indy isn't THAT BAD either. She steals my toys, but I plays with hers too and she gives me a lot of exercise.

Okay.... And winter is over. Now that it's warmer I can sit in the sun and run in the big yard as long as I want. Mom and I never had a yard before. We don't have a fence, but Mom lets me outside by myself if I have a leash. I've never been able to go out on my own before. 

Fine. I guess moving to Chicago hasn't been too bad. 

But there's still the cat. I must leave now to keep watch until Mom gets home. Then when she's back I can guard her by sitting on her lap during Dancing With the Stars. Even if she does make me dance sometimes. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Post-Lent ... AKA Easter... What I Learned

Remember a little over 40 days ago when I talked about Lent and all of this goals I had? I was going to post Love sightings everyday! I was going to start a devotional! I was going to focus on Jesus because Lent is SO AWESOME!

Well.... I failed.

Like, really failed.

Let's start with the more obvious one: the Love Sightings.

It was such a great idea at first! It had to do with my blog and I could keep reminding myself about how "Love actually is ... all around!" I was so excited! But honestly, it was really hard. I saw love every single day, don't get me wrong. But finding something new to post all of the time was difficult. Sometimes you see the same acts of love everyday. (Especially when you work with preschoolers.) They're all wonderful, but sometimes you just get lazy and run out of things to take note of. It's awful... but it's true.

The other one was the devotional I had bought. I really loved it at first. I was able to focus everyday and write my thoughts and prayers out. While I can do this at anytime, it was nice to have something specific to focus on every single day. Then, my schedule switched up. I ended up taking on more hours at a second job in the afternoon which took up most of my devotional time. Yes, I could have found another time to read and write, but I didn't.

Then, I struggled with the second part of the devotional book. It was divided into four parts, and the second one was labeled "Follow." To be honest, I've been having a hard time with following and listening to God's voice. In my mind I keep going back and forth about what it means for God to have a plan and how to follow. Everyday I was reading about God doing these awesome things and asking us to follow him and I would just get frustrated.

Here's some brutal honesty here.

I DID follow. God told me to do something else with my life. To leave everything and go. So I did it. I know it was the right choice and I'm glad I did it. But it's hard. I'm still not 100% sure where God wants me to go next and what he wants me to do. Which is fine. I don't need to know my next steps and I need to keep living my life. I don't want to just wait around for a big "sign" for where to go next. That's not how life works. Yet, I can't help but feel frustrated at times when I'm not sure.

Doubts are okay. Questions are okay. Not finishing a devotional for Lent is okay. God is big enough for our fears, questions, doubts, and failures. He can handle it. Do we get frustrated with it? Yup. Do we give up sometimes? Absolutely.

But praise God he's bigger than that. Thank God my salvation doesn't depend on how well I "do" Lent.

I do want to finish that devotional book, but it'll take me more than 40 days. Which is totally okay. That's what I learned.

Linking up with Oak and Oats for 40 Days of Lent.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Voices in My Head

Sometimes I wonder if I seek too many opinions. The people pleaser in me is always asking people what they think about what I do. If they like my blog, what they think should be next in my story, what I should work on next, etc. I want their feedback and ideas and to be able to bounce ideas off of others.

Feedback is an awesome thing. We can learn from the thoughts of others. We can improve our craft (no matter what it is) and grow as artists. I love being able to see what people enjoy and what they don't and how I can do better in the future.

Then sharing ideas and brainstorming with friends is one of my favorite parts of the creative process. There are so many times when I've been stuck on something and after talking it out with someone else I find a way out of the hole I've gotten myself into. Art (no matter what kind) isn't a solitary thing. It should be done with other people. 

Yet... I wonder if there is a line when we get too many opinions and get lost in what others think.

I follow a writing Instagram page and found this quote:

I may not have liked how Veronica Roth ended the Divergent trilogy, but I have to agree with her on this one. I think I get lost in all of the voices around me. I see what other bloggers are writing and doing and I try to be the same way. Or I worry too much about what others will think of me if I put something out there. While working on my stories I think about "but would this be marketable? Will agents like this?" Even in theatre I debate back and forth if I should join a community theatre because I worry about if others will think it's silly, there isn't any talent, or I'm not moving on with my life. I think about people from my past who might see a show and judge me for some reason or other.

But do those things always matter? Some of them are good questions to ask... but when does it become too much?

During NaNoWriMo this past year, I got major writers block and sought out the help of another friend who was a writer. We sat in his "man cave" for a few hours hashing out my story and thinking of new plot-lines and ways the story could go. I left feeling energized and excited for what was going to happen next. It was exactly what I needed!

Then, weeks, maybe even months, later as I was writing, there were some parts of that brainstorming session I began to second-guess. Would my character really do that? Is this truly the direction I want the story to go in? What was the point again? There were elements I definitely wanted to keep, but I had this feeling if I kept everything my friend and I had come up with, I would loose something. So, I'm going back to some other elements and parts my friend had told me to get rid of. The ones they felt were boring and lame. But when I think about it, I realized I still need to keep the heart of my story. It may not be everyone's favorite, but it's what I wanted. 

It's so easy to lose track of why we do what we do. Whether it's in art, our careers, family, friends, whatever. We get lost in the opinions of other people. We worry about the little details. The politics and business of whatever we're doing becomes overwhelming and we forget why we started in the first place. 

Sometimes, we need to take a step back. We need to listen to the voices, but also know when to shut them out.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Here Comes the Sun

Spring is officially here! While here in Chicago we've had some ups and downs with the weather, I really do think spring has arrived. Just in time for Easter too! Yesterday was absolutely beautiful. After church and getting things ready for dinner, I spent most of Easter afternoon sitting outside on the back porch listening to music, reading a book, and drinking iced tea. Even after dinner my sister and I sat out there for a long time just talking about life, friends, her upcoming wedding, and anything else which came to our minds.

To me, each season should have a soundtrack. There are certain types of music which makes me think of spring.

For some reason, anything Frank Sinatra/Michael Buble just screams driving around in the springtime with the windows rolled down.

A couple of weeks ago the Glee cast sang "Downtown" and I think it was part of my motivation to get into the city of Chicago more to really experience it. There's no better time to rediscover a city than in the springtime.

After this winter, we all need some sun!

I listen to this song every single year at Easter. It's exactly the song which helps me to celebrate the greatest day in history.

I LOVE this song from Tangled. The whole movie is about sunshine and light which is perfect for spring.

This is another song where I just have to turn up the volume and roll down the windows as I drive.

Spring and dreams go together maybe? I'm not sure. I just know it popped up on my iPod a week or so ago and it was a beautiful spring day and I loved it.

Since Frank Sinatra was at the beginning, I had to put Michael Buble in too!

Have you all seen Joss Whedon's version of Much Ado About Nothing? It's fabulous and I LOVE what they did with the song "Sigh No More." Maybe because it was in an outdoor party scene, but this song makes me think of relaxing spring days.

I love Lenka! Her music is light, sweet, and adorable. Just like spring.

How are all of you enjoying your spring?

Linking up with Meg for Mingle Monday!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Over It

Do you all ever have things where you're just like "Nope. I'm done. SO OVER IT."

I've noticed I have a whole list of them lately.

- Discussing the end times. I had this guy start asking me about if I was excited for the blood moon the other day. I was all "um... I guess?" Then he went on this whole soapbox about how something huge will happen because of the blood moon with God and the Jewish people and explaining how Jesus was very clear about end times and all of this stuff and I was just all "Um.... I think you're missing the point." I remember in college I skipped the day in my New Testament class about the book of Revelation.

 Which, I'm pretty sure the professor didn't even care because his attitude about the end times is basically "Jesus is coming back. Be ready. The end." Those are my thoughts exactly. I'm SO OVER IT.

- Christian movies. Guys, there have been SO MANY Christian movies which have come out already this year and are still coming. I can barely go a day without seeing the words "God is not dead" popping up on my Instagram and Facebook feeds. I get that some people are very inspired by movies like God is not Dead, Heaven is for Real, etc. That's fine. But I'm over it.

That being said, my sister did say she wanted to see Son of God, which I'm willing to try. I also kinda want to see Noah,, but that's because Emma Watson is in it. But if I don't get to see either one, I'll be fine.

- Divergent. I do want to see the movie, but no one will go with me. However, I feel like it's not worth all of the hype. It's a good trilogy and I enjoyed it (except the ending. UGH!), but there are other YA series which are better.

- Coughing and sick children. I've been coughing for weeks and I feel like at work I'm a professional nose wiper. It's disgusting and I'm shocked I don't have more diseases. The hazards of working at a preschool.

What are some of the things you all are just completely "over?"

Linking up for Humpday Confessions with Vodka and Soda!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's a Battle

Lately, I've been watching Dancing With the Stars every Monday night. It's one of those where I'll be a die-hard fan for a long time, then randomly stop for a few seasons. Then I'll watch it again and wonder why I ever stopped. This is one of those seasons. I love seeing how the stars grow through the season, becoming a fan of people I hadn't really known about before, and some of the professional dancers I've come to completely adore.

This season, my favorite pro dancer, Derek Hough, has a very unique partner. Amy Purdy.

Amy is an athlete, but lost her legs when she was 19 from Menengitis. She competed at the 2014 Sochi Paralympics as a snowboarder. Which... has some unique challenges. However, I was really glad she was paired with Derek. He's incredible talented and creative, and if anyone can work with her situation, he can.

I didn't want to be a huge fan of Amy and Derek. Not because they aren't awesome, but because I felt that it would be too cliche. The disabled girl loves the disabled girl on DWTS. Lame.

But I can't help it. Especially when it's Disney night and she does a beautiful waltz to "This is Love" from Cinderella. Her being paired with Derek doesn't hurt either since he's fantastic. (Obviously, since I've been fangirling about him this entire post.) The thing is, I can relate to her. I have both of my legs, so I don't know exactly what she's going through. However, I can relate to an extent.

Last night she cried about how discouraged she was about not having the right kind of legs. How what could be so simple for other people are incredibly difficult and she couldn't get it right.

When I was in college, one of my theology professors would teach ballroom dancing lessons on Wednesday nights. It was a huge hit with my circle of friends. More often than not I would go down to the Cougar Den with them and watch everyone dance. It was so much fun, but I always kind of wished I could dance with them. I have decent rhythm and such, but with my own physical challenges, dancing really isn't in the cards for my list of great skills. One of my friends promised he'd waltz with me someday. We never were able to, but I appreciated the thought.

Watching Amy and Derek dance makes me so happy. How, while I will most likely never be in the arms of Derek Hough in a ballgown waltzing to a Disney song, it's nice to know anything is possible. You can watch last night's video here. I really hope she goes far in the show. But I also hope she goes far because she deserves it, not because she's the "disabled girl."

When I was planning on writing this post, I wanted to talk about overcoming obstacles and how anything can happen. Which is true. But then... I had a rough day today, and it had to do with my disability. (Which, if you don't know about it, here's my post explaining everything.) My own insecurities came out, and I had to deal with some things which I hate talking about and feel like shouldn't even be an issue. 

It reminded me how while anything is possible, it's still a battle.

It's a battle to do what other people think is easy. It's a battle having to prove yourself every single day. It's a battle to not be bothered by ignorance. It's a battle to let it go. 

Most days, it's not a battle. Most days it's fine and it's not a thing. 

Other days... it is. And it's exhausting because it'll never really stop. 

There are times when you're dancing with Derek Hough and everyone calls you an inspiration. Then there are other days where... not so much. And that's okay. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Kind of Town


I have been in Chicago for almost four months now.

The entire time I lived in Missouri I missed living near the city and experiencing all it had to offer. Want to know how much I've done since moving back?


Granted - this was the most miserable winter ever and it has only been recently anyone has wanted to leave their homes. However, I still feel like this is pathetic. I forgot how easy it is to become complacent when you live here all of the time. You forget sometimes when you're bored, you can simply hop on the train into downtown and have a pluthera of things to do. I want this to change.

Now spring has finally arrived (although it doesn't feel like it today) I've decided I'm going to go out into the city more often. As a bonus - since I'm basically broke- I'm going to try and do as many free things as possible. In a city like Chicago, there are a ton of things to experience.

Who cares that I grew up here? I'm going to be a local tourist this spring and summer.

Here are some of my ideas so far:

- Go to a White Sox game (ok... more expensive, but it has to happen).

- Go to the Art Institute. They have free days on Thursdays and it's awesome.

- Visit a museum other than the Art Institute. That one is my favorite, so I easily just get into the habit of going there all of the time. But there are so many others in the city I haven't been to in years which are just as awesome.

- Listen to the Symphony Orchestra rehearse at Millennium Park

- Attend the outdoor classic film festival on Tuesday nights. (See classic movies for free in Grant Park!)

- Go to the Taste of Chicago. Can you believe I've never gone? It's usually so packed with people, my family and friends usually avoid downtown at all costs. However, I feel like I should go at least once in my life.

- Go to open mic night at the Comedy Bar

- See a play or musical. Because... have you met me?

- Research different festivals and events in some of the suburbs

- Visit a zoo (Lincoln Park is free, but Brookfeild is closer to where I live...)

Native Chicagoans, any other suggestions? Maybe some stuff that isn't quite as "touristy?" Or if you haven't been to Chicago, what's something you've always wanted to do and would like to see pictures of/read about?

Linking up with Meg for Mingle Monday!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Story

Yesterday, I finished listening to the audio-book version of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (read by Jim Dale who is one of the best audio-book readers EVER). I've gotten into the habit of reading or listening to this book once a year around this time. I know not everyone is into re-reading books, but when I comes to my favorites I love being able to revist the world and spend time with my favorite characters. There's something about Morgenstern's writing style and the story which draws me in every single time.

The Night Circus is actually the book of the month for Bonnie's book club, so when she puts her review up at the end of the month I'll do a whole post about it to link up. ( 

However, one of the big themes of this book is storytelling. One of my favorite scenes is the very last one. The character Widget is a storyteller. It's his gift, and it's not until the end which he finds out how very special that gift is.

It inspires me to think about my own writing. I love to consider myself a storyteller. Whether it's through writing, theatre, music, etc. Yet, I can't help but wonder, have I told my story yet?

I love the ones I've been working on and I'm so proud of them. I love the stories and worlds and characters I've created for my NaNoWriMo projects and everything I've worked on. I want to keep going with them and see what happens and where they end up.

Yet, I can't help but feel as though I haven't found THE story yet. The one bursting out which has to be told no matter what. The one which will really inspire me the way others have. (The Night Circus, Harry Potter, etc.) I think it'll come eventually. Or maybe something is already in the works and I don't know it yet. We'll see.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Word Vomit

Here's the thing about finally writing something you're proud of.

Suddenly, you no longer want to write a single thing because in your head you're all "But now everything else will be awful in comparison! I have no more ideas! I'm a terrible writer!I'm an even worse blogger!"

Therefore, no blog posts happened after last week Tuesday.

Womp womp.

I figure, the only solution to get me out of this writing slump is to simply write. Whatever is on my mind. Just type my stream of thought. Who cares if it's good or not? This blog post will get lost with the other awful ones I've written and be forgotten about before I know it. Then I'll get my groove back and something good will come along soon. Heck - I might not even edit this post before hitting "publish."

I'm such a rebel!

Cause you know, we bloggers tend to be rebels you know. That's just how we roll. Watch out Internets! Grammar nazi's beware because you never know what I'll type next!

I told you I was in a writing slump.

It also doesn't help that I have two dogs crowding my space. While this is super adorable, but it makes it difficult to type. They think my laptop is a pillow.

It also doesn't help that for the last two days I have been watching Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23. Why did it take me so long to watch this show? It's completely hilarious! I also now really want to watch Dawson's Creek but this time it'll be SO MUCH FUNNIER.

I never thought the primary reason I'd love a show would be James Van Der Beek. But there it is. You've gotta love an actor who can make fun of himself.

Also, I feel like I should be offended by the way they talk about people in wheelchairs... but I just find it completely hilarious.

Beyond TV and puppy distractions though, I think part of my problem has also been myself wondering why I blog. I love writing and I love the friends I've made through it and how I can keep in touch with people, yet at the same time I wonder why I do it. Am I just adding to all of the noise that is already on the Internet? Why does this little corner of web matter? I don't plan on stopping or anything, but I just can't help but wonder the why of all of this.

Yesterday, I was chatting with some of my friends at lunch about blogging. They have to write for their company blog and wanted some advice. They asked me what the purpose of blogging was, and I couldn't give them an answer. I said what I always do. "I've been writing my whole life and I figured, 'why not?' and if people wanted to read it, great! If not, that's okay too." Usually, I feel as though this is a sufficient answer. Then when I said it out loud and not just part of a blogging questionnaire, it felt so silly.

Because what do I have to add? Another story about someone in their 20's not knowing what their doing? Another site about someone fangirling over Supernatural?

But who could blame me on that one? Am I right?

Speaking of the Winchester brothers, I feel as though I haven't watched in forever. I'm in season 7. I'm sorry boys, I haven't abandoned you. I promise.

I keep looking at my phone. I interviewed for a job a few days ago and I haven't heard back from them yet. They said they'd call either way. It's driving me insane!

I also pitched a short story series to a website a few days ago and I haven't heard from them either. It's very frustrating.

Oh! This morning, I finished Days of Blood and Starlight by Lani Taylor and it's the second in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Guys, if you haven't read these books you need to. They're fantastic and the third one comes out this week. (I think.)

OK... enough of my rambling. I'm sure you all have had enough of it. But here's hoping I'll get back to "normal" tomorrow!

Linking up with Meg for Mingle Monday!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Writing Lessons from the Finale of How I Met Your Mother

Last night, we all gathered around our televisions to watch the end of a TV show many of us hold near and dear to our hearts. Tissues boxes at hand, we were prepared for the stream of tears which usually are a result of saying goodbye to characters whom we now consider to be friends.

If you are anything like me, you ended up having tears in your eyes, but not because you were sad. Oh no. It was because you were angry.

Naturally, I'm talking about the finale of How I Met Your Mother.

I know there are people who liked the finale, which is fine. However, I've found a majority of the people I have talked to are much more like me. We're mad.

In case you haven't figured out, this blog post will contain spoilers. I'm going to do my best to not have spoilers and speak generally, however, who knows if that'll actually happen. If you haven't watched the finale, you can hold off on reading this post. You can read this later. This is the internet - nothing goes away. My blog will be here when you're done watching.

I know there are probably a ton of people creating reaction videos and articles about the finale. It was pretty controversial and with a show this popular and had been running for so long, there's going to be a lot of different reactions and views on how it should have ended. Therefore, instead of writing something ranty and angry, I'm going to go a different route.

Writing Lesson from the Finale of How I Met Your Mother

Story and Character Arcs

A huge part of writing a story is creating arcs for the plot and the characters. You start in one place, the story and the characters grow and change, and they end up somewhere different. Somehow at the end of the story, your characters (especially the main character, your protagonist), are different than they were in the beginning. If your characters are in the same place as they were at the start of the story, you've done something wrong.

This doesn't mean the characters change and become completely different people. At heart, they are still the same person. However, there has been some sort of change. Some sort of growth. Think about it, even in real life we aren't the same as we were when we were born. As we get older and have different experiences, we grow and change.  This might not mean we have grown and changed for the better, but the growth and change is there.

The story works the same way. If your plot is in the same place as it was in the beginning of the story, you've done something wrong, and the story was probably really boring.

Here's a nice diagram in which this is kind of explained.
I personally feel as though the characters and the plot of How I Met Your Mother regressed at the end. The characters had been growing throughout the nine seasons of the show. The plot evolved and changed. It was awesome. I loved seeing how each of the characters were the same people at heart, but still grew as people. Then... in a single episode I felt like so much of it backtracked and progress was hardly made. Especially for Ted. He was in the same place as he was in episode one.

Some may argue "But that's realistic! Sometimes people don't change and we regress!"

Valid point. However, while good stories many time reflect "real life", telling a story is different than actually living life. Therefore, the writers need to approach it this way.

Plot Driven vs. Character Driven

I actually had a long conversation about this point with a friend just the other day. A lot of TV shows, movies, and books lately are very much driven by plot. How many plot twists they can put into their story and see what happens. In a way, this works. It keeps the audience interested and the story keeps moving. Also - you need plot to create a story. Otherwise you have a bunch of characters just sitting around and it's completely boring.

However, if your entire story is based on plot twists and turns, it's pretty weak. You need good characters to really have a strong story. I felt like How I Met Your Mother was good at this. Plot twists happened. Things turned in directions we didn't expect. Yet, it all was focused on the characters and their relationships. It was the characters who influenced the plot in most cases, not the other way around.

Until the last episode. Basically, it was all just a bunch of plot twists.

Write With the End in Mind

From what I've heard, the creators of How I Met Your Mother knew what the ending was going to be eight years ago. It was even filmed. That's great. It's awesome. I know when I write, if I don't know how I want it to end, I'm lost. I also can tell in other stories when the writer wasn't sure how they wanted it to end. The rest of the story was disjointed.

As this last season closed, I loved how all of the pieces from all of the other seasons fell together. It was seamless and fantastic. It was so much fun to see how everything worked together.

Then, in the last 20 minutes (or less) they turned everything on it's head and it fell apart. Basically, everything the show was pointing to didn't matter anymore. If you are going to do something like that, you need to have the rest of the story pointing to it as well.

Shock for the Sake of Shock

This is a huge pet peeve of mine lately in movies, TV, and books lately and it goes back a bit to the plot driven vs. character driven point. I feel as though a lot of writers are putting in crazy plot twists simply for the sake of being different or having some sort of shock factor. There is nothing wrong with a crazy plot twist and being different. It can show creativity and how unexpected life can be.

However, when you're writing a story your plot twist needs to have a purpose. If there isn't a point to it, then it shows lack of creativity. Actually, it also shows the writers don't have confidence in their story or their audience. If having a major shock factor is the main thing driving the story, there's something wrong.

In my opinion, the feel of the final episode was very much just about shock factor. Also, I felt like it was deceptive to the audience. There's a difference between plot twists and deceiving your audience. It might work for shows such as Lost or something, but not How I Met Your Mother. (Not that I've watched Lost so I could be totally off on that point.)

Be Flexible

As I mentioned before, from what I've heard the ending of How I Met Your Mother was planned from the beginning. That's awesome! However, over the course of 9 years, the characters and the show evolved and changed. Which is a good thing. I can't tell you how many times I've begun a story and then as I've gone on writing, it becomes something completely different than I had originally planned.

Sometimes this means I have to change my ending.

That's the creative process. Maybe when the show first began this ending was perfect. However, by the last episode it felt as though so much of it had been pointless and just filler for the big plot twists.

You need to learn how to be flexible when things are going a new direction.

Keep the Heart

When you read or watch a good story you get a sense of it's heart. I think of Harry Potter and if people ask "what is it about?" you can have two different types of answers. One answer would be "Harry Potter is about a boy who finds out he's a wizard, goes to wizard school, and has to defeat an evil wizard." The other answer would be "It's about love, sacrifice, growing up, learning, social issues, friendship, family..."

Do you see what I mean?

You can have a ton of twists and turns and great plot devices and fantastic characters to a story, but you also need to have the heart of it. What's the story really about? How I Met Your Mother had this awesome heart to the story with the friendships, navigating adulthood, and ultimately - meeting the mother. Meeting the love of your life. Never giving up hope.

Yes, the finale did do this to an extent. And when it was done well - it was awesome! Then there were other moments when I felt like they completely forgot what the point of the show even was and threw it out the window.

All in all, I have to become Mr. Knightly from Emma and say "Badly done How I Met Your Mother. Badly done."

I know there are probably a ton of people who liked the finale- which is fine. However, I think you can tell I did not like it. After nine years of an excellent show, they could have done much better and been more true to the heart of the story.

Also- I'm going to be honest. I'm slightly terrified to post this because I have no idea how people will react.

Also (again)- This article is a fantastic reaction.