Monday, December 1, 2014

Truly Living

Lord, please be with the Swink family right now. Give them comfort and peace. I know it hurts You to see us in this pain. I know that sometimes no matter how much we implore, You have a plan...even when we cannot begin to understand it. It's in these moments that our trust and faith may barely hang on. We may even let go, but I know that You never let go of each of us.
We are Your children. As a child begs and begs his Father for something...sometimes the Father does not grant the request, despite how much it hurts Him to see the pain and sorrow of His child. The child gets upset and cries...but the Father understands. He reaches out, scoops up His little one, and holds him in His big arms, close to His heart, as He gently reassures, "It's okay, it's okay, My child. I know it's hard." He kisses the top of His child's head and whispers, "I love you."
Lord, I pray for the acceptance of Your will in all of our hearts. I know You understand if we cannot accept it right away...but help us to cling to You in these times, and not run away. We need You all the more.
Also, please please reveal Your plan to the Swink least someday...when You know the time is right. So that they may see what amazing things you have done, are doing, and will continue to do through Chandler.
We forget that our journeys are not all to be ones of 90 years. And we forget to thank You for the time that we do have. Thank You, Lord, for giving us Chandler and for the time that You have blessed our lives with him.
You did answer our prayer. Maybe not how we had expected, but You did. We prayed that he would live. Well now he is living in the fullest possible way.
From the moment we are born here on earth, we are dying. There exists suffering, confusion, and pain. But now Chandler is TRULY LIVING. He is living more than any of us the fullest extent with You.
He is living the everlasting life.
Father, we know that as deep as this pain is in our hearts, there is happiness and joy even greater in Chandler's. While you comfort us in our mourning and hold us dearly in Your arms, You also rejoice as You embrace Chandler with the biggest hug and welcome him home. You hold us with him, together in Your embrace.
Until the day when You, Chandler, and all others who await us greet us with the ultimate "Welcome Home" hugs...give us the peace that only comes from You.

Just before I heard the news tonight, my phone vibrated with the daily devotion:
"They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust The Lord to care for them." Psalm 112:17

Monday, November 24, 2014

Errare Humanum Est

Don't you just hate that moment? You know, where you realize you might be wrong? When after so long of believing a matter one way, you learn reality to be different. When something or someone you love so much, may not be quite as deserving as the pedestal you've placed them on. It's like when you first discover that adults don't actually have it all together and are not free from mistakes. Or when an opposing viewpoint actually makes sense. Or when you discover that one of your favorite authors may not have deserved all the credit for his genius work. That's the category I'm in now.

Everything becomes blurry. You resist, and deny it. But eventually, you start to have doubts. You begin to question your own subjective judgement on so many other areas of life. Guys, this hurts. Not just disappointing as in when the restaurant is out of onion rings after you've been anticipating the taste. This is painfully disappointing as in when you catch a family member or close friend in a huge lie. You feel betrayed. Confused. I know I'm not getting to my point, but I suppose that's because I'm still in the denial stage.

What do you do? On one hand, you want to seek the truth, right? Or at least you feel you should want to. But that means possibly opening yourself up to more heartbreak. This means admitting you were wrong. This means having to face and perhaps even speak unfavorable words regarding this ideal or person that you've loved, and with which you maybe even identified yourself. Wouldn't it be better just to not know? But do you really want to look up to or identify yourself with something false? (Or at least not entirely what it appears.)

However, what if you're only wrong right now? What if your source of unpleasing information is faulty? What if you made assumptions too hastily? What if you find that the situation was a misunderstanding, and your ideal or person actually had a valid reason for his actions? Other people could be making the same negative assumptions. There is no question. It is your duty to find the truth. Not only for your own knowledge or reputation, but possibly for your loved one's honor.

Okay, now that I have convinced myself to investigate this further, I may share what has stopped me in my tracks and sent me to a blank blog page. Or I'll wait until I've collected more information and confidently feel that my conclusion is as close to the truth as possible.

That will be a future post, I promise. (To be honest, you may find it something so small and hard to believe that it has affected me this way.) Right now, I just want to focus on this fork in the road that splits our hearts like this.

This whole situation emphasizes a point. You cannot idealize or put all your trust in any one person or idea, because they will let you down. It's inevitable. I'm not being pessimistic, I'm just saying that errare humanum est. To err is human. Actually, the less-famous second half of that Latin phrase completely sums up what I'm trying to say.

“Errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum: 'to err is human, but to persist (in the mistake) is diabolical.” - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

This goes both ways. You'll make mistakes on whom you see worthy of dignifying. Likewise, that person will make mistakes, because after all- he or she is human. But after learning of these mistakes, to persist in aggrandizing this person is simply diabolical.

There is only one exception.

Imagine how the disciples of Jesus felt when the man that they had left everything (and I mean everything) to follow is ridiculed, tortured, and put to death. His promises of everlasting life and his professing of being the Son of God...all seemed to be false at that point. Their Rabbi, Leader, and Lord was just made a spectacle, nailed to a cross as some criminal, and killed. Their own judgement seemed to have been very wrong at that point. But three days later, when His body was found missing from the tomb, their faith would be confirmed and their Messiah triumphant.

Jesus is the only person in whom we can put all our faith and the only person who will never fail us. Not even the leaders or people of the church can have our full trust and faith. While we should look to them for guidance, we must also understand that they are human too, and not free from error. We cannot abandon our belief and faith in Christ when a human makes a mistake.

This goes back to idol worship, which often days come in the form of celebrities, money, status, sports, hobbies, and other materialistic and worldly things which distract us from Him.

People and things let us down, but He never will. All those we follow on twitter and instagram or friend on facebook...will inevitably disappoint us. So follow and friend Him.

(Btw, in case you were wondering what spurred all of this, I found out that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not entirely come up with the concept of Sherlock Holmes on his own. There was much influence and inspiration from Poe's Dupin. But that spirals into the concept of what is truly "original" and whether or not everything is simply some form of a "copy"...which I'll save for another post.)

Monday, November 17, 2014


I just read the first line of an English assignment, and hurried to a blank page before reading nay further. "THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal." (HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. ). My immediate thought was Equal? Like equal equal? As in there are no differences? Or as in everyone has equal worth?

I immediately picture a world of Storm Troopers.

In the next couple sentences I learn to what degree the author was speaking.
They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.
I have not read any further because I don't want to influence my train of thought.

The human race has two major obsessions: differences and equality.

Ever since the beginning of time there has existed prejudice, hatred, and mistreatment between people of different cultures, race, religion, gender, appearance...or whatever other category that sets people a part.

It's either focused on as a source for war, or the prejudice is used as political leverage.

Obviously people will claim to be against the prejudice, but really they just use it as another way to be prejudice and show hatred towards more people. These people are constantly talking about the need for "equality" and how we all need to be "equal." I disagree.

Before you get your undies in a bundle (where the heck did that phrase even come from?? I don't think I want to know) let me clarify what I mean. All people deserve equal respect, and all people are of equal worth. But no two people are equal. In math terms, two shapes may be exactly like each other, however, they are still not equal but congruent. (The closest analogy this would apply to in human terms would maybe be identical twins, but even then, they are still two very different people.)

These same people who obsess over differences and repeatedly recite the mantra of "everyone is equal!" make themselves feel better by acting like they are blind to differences. It's almost considered "politically incorrect" to describe someone by certain characteristics.

You just can't win in this world. They tell you to "stand out" and "be yourself" and "be different" but then they shoot you down or talk behind your back when you don't act they way they act or wear the clothes they wear. They pick on your differences. And I bet you they are the same people who like to announce how they feel everyone is equal.

So let's talk about this "perfect world" where everyone is "equal" (if such a place could even exist); a place where nobody is "smarter than anybody else," where nobody is "better looking than anybody else," or where nobody is  "stronger or quicker than anybody else."

What a boring world.

It would be a pointless and lifeless world. There would be no ingenuity. There would be no advancements. There would be no communication. Everyone would have the brain power and strength of a person on life support. And since "looks" are subjective, and because nobody is "better looking" than anyone else, everyone would look the same. We'd all be lifeless clones.

--Now I have read the story--

The author, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., addresses this in an interesting way. Since everyone is not naturally born with equal skills, each person is required to wear handicaps to limit their abilities.

For example, George who is exceedingly intelligent, is forced to wear a small government-controlled radio in his ear which transmits noise every 20 seconds to interrupt his thoughts. This keeps him from being able to think critically and reason. He is also mandated to wear a 47 lb. bad of birdshot padlocked around his neck to keep him physically equal with others. When his wife, Hazel, suggests that he take some of the pellets out to give himself a rest, he reminds her, "Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out," said George. "I don't call that a bargain."

His seven-foot-tall son, Harrison, is required to wear headphones which let out a constant sound to disrupt his thoughts, glasses which distort his perfect vision, and so much hardware and metal "car parts" in order to restrict his physical abilities.

George and Hazel watch ballerinas on their tv screen, noting how they really were not all that graceful or talented. They were "burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot" and they wore ugly masks "so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty
face, would feel like something the cat drug in."

The somewhat ironic thing about all of this is that everyone's handicaps were very far from equal. When a news reporter is unable to report due to his serious speech impediment (which all reporters had), the ballerina takes over.

She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men. And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. "Excuse me-" she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive. 
These handicaps meant to compensate for superior characteristics and make people "equal" simply put everyone back on the scale. If a person is given an extraordinary amount of handicaps, you can know that they must be naturally extraordinary.

The worrisome matter is that today, 53 years after Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. wrote his extreme projection of what life would be like 120 years into the future (67 years from now), we are not far off the track from this future.

We are the most distracted society. Our thoughts are constantly interrupted by tweets, notifications, iphone games, the latest technology, commercials, the news, television, fictional tragedy, shocking music...from one instant to the next we have some alert going off, something lit up in our face, or some noise, opinion, or thoughts being interjected through our ears.

Those who work hard and earn a higher income for themselves are taxed more.

Children's soccer games and other sports are becoming "non-competitive" where "everyone is a winner" and no one child or team is allowed to be considered "better" than another.

While teaching a catechism class of fourth graders last year, instead of giving the students a paper and pencil review sheet, I split them into two teams and held a "game-show" in my classroom. When I told the kids how they could win, more than one said to me, "But that's not fair. Some of us may lose."

This push of a false "equality" grooms children into adults who are unprepared for the competitive real world. These adults are left on their own, still believing that they are entitled to a participation trophy. They think they are entitled to a decent sum of money, comfortable house, iphone, and whatever other items their hearts believe will make them "happy."

You don't get a trophy for participation. You have to play the game of life. (...and I don't mean the Hasbro game.)

From retrieved on 11/17/14
"Harrison Bergeron" is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Rooster Crowed in Physics

Something pretty cool happened in  my physics class last week.

"Write your name down on a piece of paper," Professor M. instructed. The class grumbled. "Don't worry, I'm not making you take a quiz." He slyly smiled. "I want you to answer this: Where do you get your freedom from?"

From where do I get my freedom? I thought this was physics class, not history. Some students quickly scratched down an answer, while others sat thinking.

Well, God gives us our free-will...but I'm pretty sure that's not what he's looking for. Okay mind, pull up those files from government class...I know this is in some founding document. Let's just go with the Bill of Rights since the Amendments gives us all those rights. That should cover it. I should still mention free-will though, because we still have the freedom to break laws and ignore the rights of others.

"We have natural freedom because of free-will. Much of our freedom and rights were established in the Bill of Rights."

Yeah, I'll agree that it was a pretty lousy response. But my brain was on frictional forces, not founding fathers.

He collected and silently reviewed our responses while we went back to physics problems. At the end of class he said, "Just as I suspected--a typical class. Many of you said that the soldiers give us our freedom, or the government. The government can't give you any freedom--if anything they take it away! So where do we get our freedom from?" he asked again.

"As written in the Declaration of Independence: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'" He recited with eloquence.

Then my physics professor said, "You get your freedom from GOD."

The room was silent.

The student to my left shifted in his chair and began to rapidly tap his finger on his notebook before challenging, "What if you don't believe in God?"

Professor smiled, "He gives you that freedom to not believe in Him."

The agitated student then pointedly asked, "Which god?"

To which my professor firmly replied, "THE God."

All the while I sat in my chair beaming with admiration. His answer was so unexpected and refreshing, especially in today's society where God is pushed out of the public place, particularly from schools.

We no longer recite our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of this nation united as one under God. "In God We Trust" is no longer on the face of the dollar coin, but on the edge. This clearly makes the statement that soon He will be pushed right off the edge. There are countless stories of students being reprimanded for even saying "God bless you" when someone sneezes, or for praying before their lunch. Coaches are getting suspended for encouraging prayer before games...the list goes on and on.

I see it in myself. As I walked down the hall after class, I reflected on my answer. Why did I not write down my original thought? Evidently, I too have fallen for the "God doesn't belong in school" mantra. This upsets me. What was I afraid of? Government? The school? A scoff? ...I was fearing these things above God.
56 And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” 58 A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59 After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.”
That's right. I, the one who refers to herself as the "transformed rebel," is more like a "conformed coward." It's not even like I live in the Middle East where I, like Peter, could be facing death for acknowledging Him. Here I have the First Amendment right to freely speak and practice my religion; a right that I should be exercising regardless if it is given by the government or not. An unalienable right that I should be exercising because it is a freedom given to me by God.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Go Fail at Something (I mean this in the most encouraging way.)

There are two very important lessons in martial arts that a student is taught from day one. The first is to keep your guard up. The second is how to fall. These are not just basic and practical lessons for safety, but valuable lessons for life.

Always be prepared. How did I learn to keep my guard up? I was punched in the face. repeatedly. After feeling your brain rattle in your head a few times (more like a few hundred), your hands will learn to stay in front of your face. But the thing is, if I hadn't taken so many head shots, my guard would still be down protecting my stomach- which only prepares me for a battle with an angry eight year old, an elf, and maybe a disgruntled hobbit.

We all have to keep our guards up and be prepared in life. Yes, it's okay to "let your guard down" around certain people. You don't need to constantly be on the defense at every waking moment, walking around looking like the Fighting Irish. Just be able to defend yourself. In sparring, an opponent may occasionally (for whatever reason) throw a kick or technique that could not possibly reach you (I'm guilty of it too). Do you need to block that kick? No, let the person waste their energy, and spend your energy on defending something that is an actual threat.

However, the only way we can ever be truly prepared for anything, is if we're knocked up-side the head when we are not prepared. This could be a poor grade on a test, not having paperwork ready for a meeting, being late, or writing a blog post moments before the deadline. My Worst Blog Post Ever two weeks ago was definitely an example of dropping my guard. I was not prepared and "hit in the face" at the last minute with writer's block. However, I learned something about myself and how to break through that block. Plus, that post, which I was hoping no one would see, has become one of my most-viewed in a single week posts! I even received feedback from a big-time writing blogger.

Learning how to fall.

Learning how to fall is a scary thing. Stand up. Now jump to the floor. Okay, we don't quite start there. We start on our knees. Exhaling keeps your diaphragm from collapsing. Practicing to land "finger-tips to elbows" overcomes the instinct of reaching for the ground, which results in broken wrists. We turn our heads to look behind us to protect our face (and perhaps see an attacker). After getting the wind knocked out of me, bruises, and a fractured wrist (snowboarding...attempt), I eventually learned how to fall. It was a great feeling when I tripped on the stairs and naturally caught myself correctly. Falling has become second nature.

We learn to how to fall so that we don't injure ourselves and become unable to get back up. Falling isn't a bad thing. It is okay to fall; it is not okay to stay down. If I never fell from a kneeling position, I would be a lot more fearful of falling from a standing position.

Knowing how to fall is freeing. I'm less afraid because I know that if I fall- it's not the end. I know that I can get back up. This allows me to be more bold in taking risks (as long as I take that risk with my guard up.)

I know this is nothing new or exciting. We all know that life is full of falling and failure. But I also know that we all need to be reminded of that sometimes.

So this may perhaps seem like a very de-motivational post...but go fall down today. (Figuratively speaking. Unless you do know how to break-fall...I'm not suggesting that you intentionally go physically throw yourself to the ground. You might concern some people or break something.)

Go fight something you've been fearing.
Be prepared. Keep your guard up.
If you fail- good!

 Just get back up with the wisdom to now avoid whatever made you fall.
As my sensei, Mr. Rehn, would tell us, "Seven times down, eight time up."

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Have to Confess

So God gave me a kick in the pants today.

Allow me to explain...

Since Sunday I've been trying to get a blog post written. Once I was finally in the writing mindset with a mediocre idea, it was already 3 o'clock. The InterVarsity Christian club was about to start, and last week, after my first time participating, I had said that I would try and make it back. I decided that I would go again and see what happens. After all, wasn't I just telling my 4th grade catechism class last night that we need to become "BFF's" with God and give him more time?

I mean, what kind of friend ignores you all the time, except for maybe an hour or two once a week- and even then they tune you out? What kind of friend takes all the gifts that you give them without ever uttering "thank you" or showing any appreciation? What kind of friend is embarrassed to say that they know you, and act like they don't when they're with other friends?

Honesty time. ...I'm that friend. That's how I often treat God. I've been so caught up with school, teaching, studying, friendships or whatever other excuse there is to insert, that I find myself saying, "I don't have time to pray right now, I have to get this done." In church, my mind is on my to-do list, or that girl's shoes, or what I'm going to wear tomorrow. ...He's talking. I'm not listening.

He gives me gifts EVERY  day. Heck, He gives me the gift of every day. Here I am, not saying a simple "thank you"- not even recognizing the gift, but just taking it for granted like I have some deserving right to it. HA! Right, like I deserve to be alive more than that woman who battled cancer, or the man who was killed in a car accident, or that child who was lost to leukemia, or the one who was lost in the womb, or the one beheaded in Iraq.* ...What am I doing with my life?

That's a scary question. No, that's not true. The question isn't terrifying me. My own answer is. I don't like it. I don't even know what my answer is...what is it I'm doing besides the routine items listed in my Sherlock planner. That's not how I want to use my one life- my one gift. Sure, school and whatnot is important (no worries, I'm not dropping), but I need to change my focus. I need to reevaluate why I am doing what I am doing with my life. I need to make more time for the Maker of time.

Finally, and this one hurts most of all to admit- I'm a friend that pronounces my love to Him, and then turns around and acts like I don't know Him. A backstabber. Sure, I've mentioned to people that I'm Catholic/Christian and I've had conversations about God. But most of them were Christian themselves- where is the courage in that? And even when speaking to those who do not share my same beliefs- I may say that I know Him, but I sure don't always act like I know Him.

So...despite finally getting somewhere with my blog post, I would pack up and go to the Scripture study for an hour. Who knows, maybe I'll get some extra inspiration or something. (<or...just write an entirely new post.)

I arrive. The lights are off. There are three people in the room, but it was supposed to have started two minutes ago. A member comes informing us that instead of doing Scripture study we were going to invite others to join us.

Automatically I start saying to the other person, "Ohh, well if we're not meeting, I reallyyy should be getting this blog post I don't think I can."

Excuses. (I mean, I did have an overdue blog post to write, but truthfully I was not so disappointed about missing out on talking to "random" [lol, so NOT random] people about faith, joining the club, "and all.")

As I was returning to the library, hunched under the weight of my backpack, I was about to pass their table. I guess I could join for a little bit. After all, I did block out my hour for this. They were asking passing students "What is love?" (baby don't hurt me...nah just kidding.) Well instead of hanging out for a couple minutes, I stayed for a couple hours, having an in-depth, insightful, and dynamic conversation with some pretty awesome people.

After the table was packed up, and most of the members gone, a few of us stayed around talking. I noticed a girl sitting at the table closest to us seemed to be listening to our conversation. At first I couldn't tell how she felt about it, but regardless she seemed interested. I kept looking to her, hoping for a break in the conversation so I could invite her to join us. After we had made eye-contact a few times, she did join us. She explained that she had a bit of anxiety talking to people, but then said, "I just love God..." and shared her incredible story. I'll just say that she's a walking miracle with some pretty unshakable faith. (I don't want to share her story here without her permission. Plus, I don't know it well enough to possibly do it justice.)

In the end, I was put in the position to practice what I preach. Somehow in just two hours, I rekindled and strengthened my friendship with God (He's that sort of Friend with whom you can just pick up where you  left off ;). I also made some brand new friendships. My reluctance turned out to be the spiritual kick-in-the-pants that I've needed. Will I grumble about doing stuff in the future? Of course! But maybe I'll be more inclined to take a chance and do something even if I'm not overly-excited. I'll tell you, every time I do, it changes my life one way or another. And after all, I was given this life. I want to do something great with it.

So my words to you- when you are feeling reluctant or not in the mood to do attention. It could end up being life changing. Perhaps in a major way, perhaps in a minor way, and perhaps in a way which changes the life of someone else. There are actually people and things to do here outside our comfort zone and hobbit holes.
Stop making excuses. Start making time. Thank God. Listen. Share. Do something with your life. It's is a gift. You only have one.

lord-god-courage-trust-quotes-pics-holding-on-life-quote-sayings-pictures-images.jpg 480×650 pixels

*I know God doesn't work in a "you do good-good things happen to you" way. That's a different conversation.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Worst Blog Post Ever

Don't expect much.

Yes, that's what you read. Yes, that is arguably the worst way to start a piece of literature. Yes, I'm feeling rebellious. Who knows. I may even break some other grammar laws. Maybe use a fragment. Or two. Perhaps I'll use some nonstandard English or somethin' just cuz I wanna.

(Okay, that last "sentence" is making me twitch.)
One may ask, "Are you trying to make your readers Mom and Professor Soper uninterested in reading your post?"
I'm just being honest with you. I sort of forgot about my blog post being due for English tomorrow (well- today). Thus, you're getting the product of this sleep-deprived procrastinator. I'm not even going to bother editing out the little comments I make to myself while writing. This is unedited. Raw.

 I totally understand if you would rather go youtube cat videos. In fact, I encourage you.

So I just finished my very rough first draft regarding how martial arts has molded me into who I am today. (It's due Monday too. Yeah, we already established that I suck at time management.) Martial arts has formed me into a person who seeks self-improvement, loves a challenge, knows how to fall, and will do whatever it takes to reach a goal. *Cue "Fanfare for the Common Man"* (Actually, I think I may have just found my thesis statement.)

Whoo hoo. Don't we all.

All of that sounds find and dandy,  but it's really not all rainbows and butterflies. Not when you become fixated with doing your absolute best, and are unable to call something "complete" until you're satisfied. Ah yes, "perfectionist," that's the word. And as Miley Cyrus said sang (Oh lawd I'm quoting Miley Cyrus. This IS bad.) back when she wore the blonde wig and clothes, "Nobody's perfect."

So why the heck do I set myself to false expectations? (Maybe Freud would say I have too strong of a superego...oh look my psychology lessons decided to join us. I'm going off on a tangent. <and there's my math pun.)

It just all goes back to my stupid pride. I'd rather stay up until 3am and deprive myself of sleep than not meet that goal or let people see something of mine before I feel satisfied "enough" with it. That's why I'm not going to edit this post. (well that...and I'm really tired.) You could call this a self-intervention. I know I have a problem. I know I'm not perfect. I know that's not my problem. My problem is- I need to know that I don't need to be "perfect." For once I need to cut myself some slack. (I feel like some moderator between myself and myself.
MeMod:"Now, what do you say to yourself?"
MePerfectionist: "I'm sorry."
MeMod: "And?"
MePerf: "You did pretty good today with what you got done. That was a challenge in of itself."
MeMod: "Good. Now what do you say to yourself?"
MeSleepy: "Thanks. Let's schedule our work better next time. And get some sleep."

Wow. Some people talk to themselves, but a three-way conversation? I need psychological help.)

Okay, I actually had a half-decent idea for this post about the blank page waiting to be filled, but apparently I just decided to go completely downhill. Face first. On broken skis. Into a giant cactus.
I apologize for letting my mind wander without a leash.

. . . 

I'm really going to regret this.
Well. Here it goes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Scars of the City

September 11, 2001. A day we shall never forget.

Thirteen years... Today is the annual day on which I cannot write the date at the top of a page without pausing, reflecting, and feeling many things. For a moment, everything around me is silent, and I feel numb. As I stare at the date, a plane crashes into the the two penciled ones. Eleven falls. Black smoke rises. My heart twists, and I feel angry, sad, and still in shock. I was five years old when it happened. But I remember it so clearly. I just cannot even fathom what this day induces in the hearts of all those who were there- those who witnessed and who lost.

I visited New York City with my family three years ago, in 2011, ten years after the horrific event. As we stood near the not-yet-completed One World Trade Center building, our tour guide informed us different facts regarding the tower. He mentioned things such as that it would stand 1,776 feet tall (note the significance of that number. Hint: it's a year ;) making it taller than The Empire State Building, and the new tallest building in NYC. Then someone asked, "Where were you...when it happened?"

A graveness passed over his face and immobilized him. He no longer spoke in his tour guide voice, but with one that was very distant. "I was in my apartment on the twentieth floor...watching. I saw it all."

He then cleared his throat and pointed out different places of damage. There was a large cross-walk structure above us. On its side was a large scrape. The tour guide explained that what was destroyed was replaced, but those certain damaged sections were still able to serve their structural purpose, so they were left as they were, defiled.

He told us how the 18th century chapel, St. Paul's, just across Dey street from the World Trade Center, though blanketed in debris and soot, somehow still stood, untouched.

Then he pointed to a large, round chunk of metal, that looked like it was dug up from a junk yard. However, once he explained what it was, it became so beautiful and moving. The battered bronze orb had been the sculpture at the very center of the World Trade Center. It was salvaged from the rubble.

The Sphere by Fritz Koenig. My photograph taken 10 years after 9/11.
Before 9/11, The Sphere, by Fritz Koenig. Photo credit: Mark Lentz
The artist, Fritz Koenig, designed and created the sculpture as a "monument to world peace through trade.If only he had any idea, as he formed his piece of art, how much it would fulfill that meaning; and how it would become a memorial and symbol for so much more.

Of course, not only was Koenig's Sphere bashed and scarred by the events of 9/11, but God's Sphere as well. We too, as a nation, have been rescued from beneath the collapsed towers and debris. We too, have a gouge in our heart. We too, still stand- indivisible and scarred.

Image source: HuffingtonPost

Photograph of The Sphere after 9/11 is my own. Photograph of The Sphere before 9/11 is by Mark Lentz. Source:

For more of the story of The Sphere
Regarding St. Paul's Chapel, I referenced this map, and this National Geographic article.
Information on One World Trade Center:

Here is my Never Forget story and remembrance of that frightful day. (click link)

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Bequeathed Death

This is the first of two writing submissions which earned me the Distinguished Artist Award in Creative Writing at Hope College. I hope you enjoy it!

The following is an excerpt from my short story, “A Bequeathed Death.”

"CLIP-CLOP-CLIP-CLOP." My shoes responded to the hard wet pavement. The thunder rolled and raged, while the rain unsuccessfully ordered the bellows to silence- "SSHHHHHHHH" I was on my way to the Manoir Mortelle for the distribution of my deceased wealthy uncle's possessions. As I approached the grand, cold, iron gates, I noted that although I had gained a good foot or more in height since my last visit, the unwelcoming gates still towered well above my head. While one would expect gates of a property and house of this size to keep trespassers and criminals out, I always had the sensation that these bars served to confine something in. For not a soul with a bit of sense would dare to place their foot onto those grounds, across those boundaries, by their own will. I frequently visited as a young boy in obedience to orders or for family occasions, but never of my own want. I suppose I had grown accustomed to the spectral surroundings- that is- as accustomed as one could be, yet I never ceased to tremble as I unlocked the stiff, gloomy gate. I thought this as I cast my glance to my aged hands, which trembled all the more. I began to apply pressure to the lethargic wall of spears, which squealed as they reluctantly created a gap just enough for me to pass. "SLAM! CLUH-CHING!" They locked me in. Although many years had passed, I was still startled by that rushed latching and locking of the black iron fence. I slowly turned my attention to face the once-dwelling of my late Uncle Audon. The mansion could very well have been the house of Usher before its fall; perhaps Mr. Poe found his inspiration in passing this house one similar day. My shoes continued to click and clack against the weathered cement as if they were a metronome. The walkway to the entrance was long, yet it never seemed long enough. I dreaded the moment of having to stand once again on the cold, heavy, fractured slab. I raised my hand from its warm pocket to the chilling brass knocker. "THUD. THUD. THUD." It struck the tall ebony door three times. Nothing. After a moment of hesitation, I began to raise my hand to repeat the action. "CLICK. CREEEAAK." The door unlocked and opened enough for a cat to pass. I touched the massive door lightly. It gaped some more. "Hello?" I searched for someone or something with life. The patch of light entering the mansion from the doorway slowly increased, and there stood Mariette. She nodded her head towards me. I stepped off the cold wet slab, through the threshold, and onto the cold dry slate. After closing the large door behind me, Mariette stepped in front of me and motioned me to follow. Her short, black heels rhythmically echoed as they percussed the stone. My own steps echoed as well, although not as precisely as the maid's. She had lived in the manor ever since I could recall, yet she still to this day had neither changed nor aged one bit since I had first met her, forty-some years ago as a young lad. It did not cross my mind initially, since she always seemed a part of the old house, but as she walked I could not help but ponder her age. She wasn't a young woman now, nor was she then. Her gray hair was still loosely pulled back into a bun beneath her white lace headpiece. Her long black skirt reached down to her ankles, her black blouse reached up to a white collar around her neck, and her black sleeves reached down to her wrists, ending in white cuffs. She wore a white apron which began at her waist and ended a few inches above her long black skirt. Her feet walked in simple yet sophisticated, black, leather, one-inch heels.
I followed her into the grand, once extravagant, dining room. Held by massive marble Corinthian columns, the two-story ceiling towered my head. I walked across the antique, heart-pine wood floor, and onto the rustic, regal, rug. Around the long walnut table, in chrisom, tapestry, chenille chairs, sat my mother, brother, aunt, cousin (whom I had not seen in decades), and a man whom I presumed to be the lawyer. There was a plethora of scattered papers in front of him. I received nothing more from my family than nods acknowledging my presence.
Although my uncle had died six months prior to our solemn reunion, all of us present had each received a copy of his will only the week before. The lawyer explained the delay was due to the probate process, to ensure its validity.
"Now that we are all present, we may begin dividing the estate of Audon Ruelle Voclain according to his last Will and Testament. Under most circumstances, I take it upon myself to retrieve and deliver the bequeathed property to the beneficiaries. But I simply can neither find nor gather all of Monsieur Voclain's belongings and requests. Thus, I have asked you all to come here today to seek and divide his property according to the orders on this will."

enter, if you dare

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