Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hold Onto Him

 We look at God as though He is everything. And He is. But what we do not often realize is that He is also our friend. He is not just this all-powerful force doing things we can't understand, He really does love us. What most people don't realize is that God doesn't just allow bad things to happen. We live in an imperfect world with heartbreak and tragedy, but something you must realize is that God never wants any of this to happen. He is grieving along with you, so don't pull away from Him. I know it's very difficult to trust Him in hard times, but I promise you, He is there. And while He is grieving and heartbroken just like you, He is still stronger - and you need His strength. It hurts Him when you turn away. You are his treasure.
   
Feeling abandoned by God is something many, many people feel and it's understandable. I understand. So talk. Talk to Him and tell Him that. Ask Him how you can feel closer to Him. He is your God, not a monster - so don't be afraid to speak your mind. He is your friend and your Father and He will listen. He didn't give us life because He wanted us to be wind-up toys. Always remember that you are his child, and you are allowed to talk to Him not just as a god but as your father, your friend, your diary.
God does things in very interesting, sometimes subtle ways. Sometimes we don't think He answers, but only because it's not right in front of us. A nice day, an unexpected joy, a kind word... any and all of these are actually His answers, His comfort.... We just don't look hard enough.
 The Bible is His and when you feel alone and abandoned by Him, read it. He will speak to you through it, even if you don't realize it.
 Believing in God can be difficult sometimes, even if you were raised with it. There will always be people who disagree with you, or even make fun of you for your beliefs. But if you look around, you will realize that our world is incredible. Most people look at the big picture, at the imperfections of the world, but don't you see? There are so many things that shouldn't even be able to happen, yet do. The way animals can survive, the way our very hearts beat and our bodies heal..... None of it should even be possible. Not even remotely
   I'm sorry - I feel as though I am rambling on, and I hate it when people do that. My message to you is this: Don't be afraid to talk to God. Don't pull away from Him in hard times, because you are under the misconception that He allows bad things to happen. He doesn't, and He hates it every bit as much as you do. He loves you and He will get you through this, if only you hold onto Him and don't let go.








A Single Shard

Image result for a single shard bookAwhile ago I read When My Name Was Keoko.  It was one of the best books I have ever read. A Single Shard is written by the same author, and it is just as good.
    In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters' village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.

Tree-ear is a young guy living under a bridge with Crane-man, his longtime friend who looks out for him. He's a very kind, very smart boy, and the book quickly establishes that he and Crane-man both have a strong sense of morality. 

"Tree-ear had been trotting along the road on his early-morning perusal of the village rubbish heaps. Ahead of him a man carried a heavy load on a jiggeh, an open-framed backpack made of branches. On the jiggeh was a large woven-straw container, the kind commonly used to carry rice. 
...The man had paused in the road and hoisted the wooden jiggeh higher on his back, shifting the cumbersome weight. As Tree-ear stared, rice began to trickle out of a hole in the straw box. The trickle thickened and became a stream. Oblivious, the man continued on his way. 
For a few short moments Tree-ear's thoughts wrestled with one another. Tell him - quickly! Before he loses too much rice! 
No! Don't say anything - you will be able to pick up the fallen rice after he rounds the bend...
Tree-ear made his decision. He waited until the man had reached the bend in the road, then ran to catch him. "Honorable sir," Tree-ear said, panting and bowing. "As I walked behind you, I noticed that you are marking your path with rice!"
The farmer turned and saw the trail of rice. A well-built man with a broad suntanned face, he pushed his straw hat back, scratched his head, and laughed ruefully. 
  "Impatience," said the farmer. "I should have had this container woven with a double wall. But it would have taken more time. Now I pay for not waiting a bit longer." He struggled out of the jiggeh's straps and inspected the container. He prodded the straw to close the gap but to no avail, so he threw his arms up in mock despair. Tree-ear grinned. He liked the farmer's easygoing nature. 
  "Fetch me a few leaves, boy," said the farmer. Tree-ear complied, and the man stuffed them into the container as a temporary patch. 
The farmer squatted to don the jiggeh. As he started walking, he called over his shoulder. "Good deserves good, urchin. The rice on the ground is yours if you can be troubled to gather it." 
 "Many thanks, kind sir!" Tree-ear bowed, very pleased with himself. He had made a lucky guess, and his waist pouch would soon be filled with rice. 
Tree-ear had learned from Crane-man's example. Foraging in the woods and rubbish heaps, gathering fallen grain-heads in the autumn - these were honorable ways to garner a meal, requiring time and work. But stealing and begging, Crane-man said, made a man no better than a dog. 
 "Work gives a man dignity, stealing takes it away," he often said. 
 Following Crane-man's advice was not always easy for Tree-ear. Today, for example. Was it stealing, to wait as Tree-ear had for more rice to fall before alerting the man that his rice bag was leaking? Did a good deed balance a bad one? Tree-ear often pondered these kind of questions, alone or in discussion with Crane-man. 

So obviously these are two pretty honorable guys. I mean yes, Tree-ear did wait until most of the rice had fallen, but he didn't really steal it. It was the man's choice to let him have it. Obviously this kind of question is morally complicated, but the cool thing is that the characters knew that and they felt guilty about it. 
 So, Tree-ear has always wanted to be a potter. He's been observing Min, the most famous potter in the village. When he gets too close one day, admiring a newly crafted vase, Min catches him and as a punishment (but to Tree-ear's secret delight), Min forces Tree-ear to work for him. But it's not the kind of work Tree-ear thought he'd be doing. Instead of helping to shape vases or craft pitchers, Tree-ear is doing incredibly strenuous work like hauling wood for miles and getting dehydrated and overheated. But he's a seriously good guy - he wants to learn to become a potter, to gain Min's trust, so badly that he'll put up with anything - including being treated horribly by Min. 
Min's wife is precious, though, and insists on giving Tree-ear water and food for his trouble. At the end of the ten-hour days he works, he comes back to the bridge and gives Crane-man half of his food. He's just a really good guy. 
I won't tell you the whole plot, but I love this book. The message is to follow your dreams, go above and beyond in all that you do, and always be moral and kind. Min continues to treat Tree-ear like he's worthless, and yet Tree-ear still does back-breaking work for him. And to answer your question - yes, the work does pay off. 
This book is a bit sad but it leads to something good, and it has a wonderful ending. Truly a worthy read; I'm even considering reading it to my brothers and, one day, to my own children. 














Sunday, December 11, 2016

Still Alice


Image result for Still alice bookStill Alice - one of the very best books I have ever read.
 This is a review I'm going to enjoy, so much more than Girl With a Pearl Earring. 
Still Alice was fantastic. Here's the synopsis real quick:
 

From New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes the definitive—and illuminating—novel about Alzheimer’s disease. Now a major motion picture starring Oscar winner Julianne Moore! Look for Lisa Genova's latest novel Inside the O’Briens.

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever. As she struggles to cope with Alzheimer’s, she learns that her worth is comprised of far more than her ability to remember.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.
    
So basically, this extremely intelligent psychology professor, Alice Howland, begins to forget things. At first it's just minor things, like where her phone charger is and how she apparently left her Blackberry at a restaurant table when she didn't even remember taking it out. Understandable, right? She's under a lot of stress, teaching lectures and family dynamics and all.
  But when she's out running, she forgets where she is. Completely. She has no idea which road she needs to take to get home, and it takes her awhile to remember. So naturally, after this she goes to the doctor and is pronounced fit and fine after the tests they give her. So nothing's wrong....right?
    But then it's even bigger things. She completely forgets what the lecture she's teaching is about - which is appalling since she was literally practicing it for the last hour before going to teach it. She has to ask her students which one it is.
 Her memory continues to fail her like this, and finally the doctors realize what's wrong.
   Alice Howland has early onset Alzheimer's disease.
 This was just so sad and scary to me. Despite being a fictional novel, this book reminds you that things like this really do happen, and it takes you through Alice's life as her Alzheimer's symptoms increase. Her memory begins to get worse. For instance, while at a party, she is introduced to the wife of one of her colleagues - and promptly forgets and introduces herself all over again a few minutes later to the poor woman.
It begins to get very difficult to do simple things like hold a conversation with someone, especially on the phone. It's like Alice's brain needs a lot more time to process things. She can understand words, but her brain has to take the time to process them, and by the time it has, the person is already saying something else. It's also very hard for her to remember simple things like when each of her classes are, and what they're about.
 One of the saddest parts is when Alice is watching her youngest daughter, Lydia, performing in a Shakespeare play. She completely forgets that this character in the show is her daughter, and at the end when Lydia comes up to them, Alice talks to her as though she were a complete stranger and just one of the actresses, unwittingly hurting her daughter.
You get to see what Alzheimer's does to Alice, what happens to her and how difficult it becomes for her to do simple tasks like read, run, and teach, because of her memory. She must quit her job as a psychology professor, and she can no longer go anywhere by herself without her husband John, whom I admired in this book because of his dedication to her and his determination to help her.
  Truly one of the best books I have ever read. I expected it to start off slow and be kind of boring, but NO. This book was never boring. Right away she is having memory problems, and not long into the book, she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I literally read this in a few hours. I would definitely recommend it. There were no inappropriate parts, nothing like that, so I think it would be fine for a teen to read. The writing was excellent and captivating.
 And - BONUS - there's also a movie!!! Starring Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin. Kristen Stewart plays Lydia. I haven't seen the movie yet but I can't wait.
















Girl With A Pearl Earring

Image result for girl with a pearl earring book Recently I read Girl With a Pearl Earring. I saw it at Goodwill and grabbed it, thinking it looked interesting because it was set in 1660s Holland (I love travel and culture). So I read it.
This book is about sixteen-year-old Griet, whose family is so poor that she has to go and work as a maid for the painter Vermeer and his family, just to support them. Understandable, right? Things don't start off very well. Everybody seems to have it in for her from the start. There are the children, who mostly keep out of her way except for Cornelia - who is the DEVIL. Seriously.
   Did I like this book?
No. 
Why?
This book may be a classic and based on Vermeer's famous painting, and I may not know much about him as a person, but this book did not do him any favors. When the book starts off, he's this mysterious person that we rarely see. He's supposed to be kind of captivating and secretive. But let's realize something: this guy is married to the woman who hired Griet (the woman of the house, Catharina) and she's heavily pregnant. Yet this guy practically NEVER HELPS HER. He hardly seems like a husband at all. The only time he actually interacts with her is eating dinner with the family, which happens only a couple of times in the book. He's never even present during the actual BIRTH of his son, because he's off painting or getting supplies for his artwork.
Seriously.
And there was also a romantic theme going on between Vermeer and Griet. Another thing I didn't like at all. This guy is married, has several kids and his wife is pregnant with another. THIS IS NOT  A SETTING FOR A ROMANCE, PEOPLE. And also, Griet is sixteen (later eighteen, since this book spans about two years), and Vermeer has to be in his late thirties, at least. Not a good match.
   Towards the end of the book, Vermeer is also portrayed as a very selfish, uncaring person, if you ask me. You want to know why it's called Girl With a Pearl Earring? 
It's not for a good reason.
  Vermeer has to paint Griet because of a request from a rich client who took a fancy to her, and after awhile he decides that there's only one thing that will complete the painting of her: his wife's earrings.
Yes. HIS WIFE'S earrings. How do you think she'd react if she found out that the maid was wearing her priceless earrings for the painting? Wonderful Vermeer doesn't even spend much time with her at all, and has never painted her - yet he's willing to paint the maid, wearing her earrings? Bad move, Vermeer. Bad move.
I'll tell you how she reacts - in a minute. WAIT FOR IT.
    After Vermeer tells Griet that he wants her to wear one of the pearl earrings, she tells him that her ears aren't even pierced. He blinks and says, "Then take care of it."
  Seriously. And because everyone in the house pretty much hates her, Griet can't exactly go to anyone for help piercing her ear. So she does it herself. And faints. Her ear swells and is extremely painful, yet she poses for the painting anyway. Then he asks for the other ear to be pierced. Which is extremely stupid, because you can't even see her other ear in the painting. He simply wants her to wear it because it's "a farce to wear only one." ?? So she has to bear the pain yet a second time, for no reason. He even ignores her when she begins to cry silently after piercing her other ear.
Again, not a smart move, Vermeer.
His wife does find out that he's painting this lowly maid with her earring - and by the way, she finds out from Cornelia, who deliberately leads her to the painting (I told you she's a devil). Anyway, the wife Catharina flips out completely, crying and going into a rage which causes her to go into labor and lose the baby she's carrying. 
This is a very dark book with the characters doing disturbing things, and I did not like it. Plus there were several innappropriate parts, which I did not expect and did not appreciate. One of the men in this book continually gropes her and tries to catch her alone. So don't let your teen read this book. 
  That sums up precisely why I don't like this book. The writing quality was actually not bad, and for the most part I didn't mind the main character, Griet. It was the other characters - particularly Vermeer - that I didn't like.
   So. There it is, ladies and gentlemen. Girl With a Pearl Earring.