Monday, June 30, 2014

10th - Shuffle

Day Ten! I have been instructed to press play on my music player of choice and write down the first 10 songs that randomly play. So, on the way to school this morning, I pressed play on my trusty, 4th generation iPod Nano (which seems to have been mocked at great length of late). These are the songs that were randomly chosen by the microscopic DJs in the machine.
  1. "Tearin' Up My Heart" - *NSYNC
  2. "The Woman I Love" - Jason Mraz
  3. "I'm a Believer" - The Monkees
  4. "Who Loves You" - Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
  5. "Rhythm of Love" - Plain White T's
  6. "The River of Dreams" - Billy Joel
  7. "One Week" - Barenaked Ladies
  8. "Sandcastles in the Sand" - Robin Sparkles
  9. "I Dreamed a Dream" - Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables 
  10. "Barton Hollow" - The Civil Wars
Personally, I don't think that's a bad mix. I enjoy singing along with all of those songs. And I have a little fun with "I Dreamed a Dream" by singing it as Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. Completely changes the meaning and tone of the song, but doesn't make it any less awesome.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Single Guy and the Wedding Road Trip

Once upon a time, the Single Guy received a wedding invitation. The blessed event was to take place on a Friday in Greenville, South Carolina. After reading the invitation's details, the Single Guy wondered if it would be possible to attend the ceremony. Turns out, he could. See, the company for whom the Single Guy currently works only requires him to be there Monday through Thursday. That means there's a three day weekend every week.

So he had the Friday in question off. The next problem lay in the trip to Greenville. Or, more accurately, the return trip from Greenville. Financially, it did not make a lot of sense for the Single Guy to get a hotel room for the night. But he was slightly concerned about driving back late at night after the wedding was over. At least, he was concerned about driving alone. That's where Grilled Cheese Girl and DJ Dr. Mac come in.

The trio all wanted to attend the wedding, but did not want to spend the night in South Carolina. So they made a plan to drive down and back all in one day. It would make for a long road trip, but not an impossible one.

They took the Single Guy's car, leaving at 12:30 on the day of the wedding, assuming the Google was correct about the estimated travel time of 4 hours, 28 minutes. Google would never steer them wrong, right?
The road trip was classic. It was filled with the kind of conversations that can only be had when three people find themselves in close quarters for four and a half hours. The ladies asked the Single Guy what guys really talk about. Funny enough, it's not far off from what women apparently discuss on a regular basis. Except, possibly, with more grunts and fewer emotional tells.

These conversations were fueled mostly by candy and caffeine. As were the sing-alongs made possible by the completely random collection of music provided by the Single Guy's iPod. One would think that 4.5 hours in a car would feel like a long time. To the Single Guy, it seemed to fly by.

The Single Guy, Grilled Cheese Girl, and DJ Dr. Mac arrived at the wedding site with time to spare. The venue was gorgeous. The happy couple said their vows atop a mountain chapel that was strategically built without walls, giving a wide angle view of an enormous valley below. It was kind of breathtaking.

Unfortunately, our heroes were unable to properly congratulate the newlyweds after the ceremony was over. They made their way to the reception to make a solid attempt at conveying their congratulations, but time marched on. They all knew they had the return trip to make. As 9:00pm approached, it became clearer that they would need to leave in order to make it back before sunrise.

They were all sorry to have missed the newlyweds' arrival to the ballroom, but practicality set in and made things real. Once again, they hit the road. Except they were all starving for real food. Sure, there were still plenty of sugary treats in the car for the midnight ride, but they desired dinner. Luckily for the Single Guy, there was a Krystal nearby. He got to enjoy those greasy little mini-burgers before jumping back on the interstate.
Once again, the Single Guy, Grilled Cheese Girl, and DJ Dr. Mac settled in for a long trip filled with late-night conversations and singing to the tops of their lungs. There was an attempt at rapping, as well as attempts at singing REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It" and Barenaked Ladies' "One Week." Very interesting renditions, indeed.

They got back to Blacksburg around 2:30am. Jacked up on SweetTarts and Rice Krispies Treats. Riddled with cavities. Exhausted.

The Single Guy would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

9th - The Importance of Education

Day Nine! How important I think education is...

Uh... I think it's really, really important. Really.

Seriously, though. I feel like I've gone on a rant about education before. Maybe it's one of those things that I've only ranted about in my mind. Some of my thoughts about the importance of education slipped into my Day Two post, where I felt strongly about something.

If there's anything in this country that our government should be pouring money into, it's education. That's the investment we should be making in our future. But instead of increasing the funding that goes to our schools, we have this tendency to make cuts. We treat our teachers as if they're glorified babysitters instead of the valuable people who are shaping the minds of the next generation.

Is there anyone out there who can't look back at their childhood and think of at least one teacher that made a huge impact on their lives? Thanks to a very good memory, I can remember each teacher that I had from preschool to college. A handful of those teachers stand out as people I can point to who influenced the way I see the world. I may never have the chance to properly thank those men and women, so I hope I'm able to show the teachers with whom I work how much I appreciate what they do.

Education is possibly the most important gift that we are capable of giving our children. Don't take it for granted. If you're a parent reading this, do everything you can to encourage your kids to love learning. Do everything you can to let your kids' teachers know just how much you appreciate them and the job they do.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

8th - What You Ate Today

Day Eight! Today's menu... I'm actually gonna go with yesterday's menu. It would have made more sense if I'd followed my original plan of writing this post this morning. But I overslept and then had things to do as soon as I woke up. Believe me, I have my reasons for oversleeping. A blog post detailing those reasons is forthcoming. Be patient. 'Til then, here's what I ate yesterday...
  • 2 Pop-Tarts, strawberry, unfrosted - Yeah, I like the ones without frosting. Occasionally I'll get the frosted ones, but I've gotta be in a mood for something sweeter. Oh, and I ate them raw.
  • 2 Rice Krispies Treats and a handful of SweetTarts - These were consumed during the first half of a wedding road trip. That trip will be more fully explained in the forthcoming blog post.
  • 4 Krystals w/ cheese and French Fries - Before heading back from Greenville, SC, my traveling companions and I stopped at Krystal. It ended up being a bad idea (the details of which I'll leave out of the forthcoming blog post), but was a delicious decision at the time.
Wow... I really didn't eat much yesterday. Nor did I make very good digestive choices. Pretty sure I've done better today. Maybe not with the digestive choices, but I've definitely eaten more.

Friday, June 27, 2014

7th - Five Pet Peeves

Day Seven! Pet Peeves... And I have to limit myself to only five... I gotta tell ya, there are a lot of things out there that really bug the crap outta me. Actually, that sounds really negative. I'm not as negative about people's quirks as I used to be. But some pet peeves never die.
  1. People who don't use a turn signal - I mean, really. How difficult is it to hit that little lever to let the cars around you know that you're slowing down to make a turn? Sure, slamming on your brakes for no obvious reason works just as well. It's just a courtesy thing. Oh, and when you're changing lanes. I'm much more forgiving about you cutting me off in the left lane on the interstate if you gave a signal first.
  2. People who don't turn their turn signal off - I'm a man of many contradictions. While I appreciate that you gave a signal to get in front of me in the left lane on the interstate, do you really need to keep letting me know for the next 10 miles?
  3. Dogs and/or cats wearing clothes - Dogs and cats already have clothes. It's called fur. And if you're dressing your tiny chihuahua because it gets cold in your New England winter, I don't feel sorry for you or your dog. That chihuahua is meant to live in a warmer climate. You, madam, are breaking the laws of nature!
  4. People who say they'll do something but never follow through - I don't care if you don't do something. Just don't tell me you're gonna do it and then not do it. That breaks the bond of trust between us. And I'm just not sure we can get that back.
  5. My cellphone's charging abilities - Sometimes I can plug it in at night and it'll charge right up. Other times, I'll gain about 2% on the battery life by morning. There's no rhyme or reason to why it works or doesn't work. I think it's probably a sign that the machines are nearing self-awareness. We should all just start stocking our fallout shelters now.
Okay, I know you're probably looking at number 3 and (if you read a couple days ago) thinking that I am once again contradicting myself. On Day One, I had to list five ways to win my heart. Number four on that list was "Love Animals..." But if I'm hating on New England chihuahuas, doesn't that negate my request that a woman needs to love animals to win my heart? No. Because the amendment to the "Love Animals..." rule is that you do not have to love chihuahuas. They're yappy and annoying. 
But they're soooo cu-- NO! Do not fall for this!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

6th - Mainstream Music

Day Six! Today's assignment: Your views on mainstream music.

I don't keep up with what the kids are listening to these days. Don't get me wrong, I like music. Love it, actually. And I'm usually willing to give anything a chance. But I'm actually not 100% sure what can be considered mainstream. If it's a general love of all things Justin Bieber or One Direction? I despise it. Okay... confession... some of the One Direction stuff gets stuck in my head. It's involuntary, but it's catchy. Same thing with an embarrassing amount of Taylor Swift. I'm never happy about it. I can happily report that Bieber never gets stuck in my head. If that ever happens, you'll know it because I will have attempted to give myself a lobotomy.

So I guess I like some mainstream music. Maybe I like a lot of mainstream music. I really don't know what's considered mainstream. I don't follow the music scene. I hear something and I either like it or I don't. I have a tendency to not listen to the radio. So I have a tendency to miss a lot of the new music that's out there. So I have a tendency to not know what the cool kids are listening to until about 6 months after the hits have come and gone. It's embarrassing, really. Not as embarrassing as getting Taylor Swift stuck in my head, but embarrassing nonetheless.

My iPod playlists have been judged by the people riding in my car. Recently, a very good friend provided me with a great deal of music that is considered good music. Probably great music. And a lot of it is new to me. Because I just don't keep up. It's nice to have friends that have their fingers on the pulse of what America is listening to. Or, at least, what the cool kids are listening to.

All that is to say, I really don't know what my views are on the mainstream music. I'm gonna plead ignorance on that one. Maybe tomorrow I won't be as ignorant.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

5th - Something for an Ex

Day Five! The assignment is "things you want to say to an ex."

I kind of have a problem with this. See, I don't have an ex. I mean, sure, I was engaged to Angie when we were 4-years-old. And I think I was able to call Sarah Ryder my "girlfriend" for about 2 minutes back in 5th grade. But, speaking as a grown-up, I've never actually been in a relationship. On the plus side, I've never had to deal with a break up before. Keep in mind that doesn't mean I haven't had to deal with a broken heart. That's right, I have one.

It would be nice if I never have to have an ex-girlfriend. I'm sure that's a fantasy. Hey, can't a guy want the fairy tale, too? But I'll play along. Let's say, hypothetically, that I've been through the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship. Now I have an ex-girlfriend. Here's what I would want to say to her. Hypothetically.

Dearest Ex-Girlfriend,

I understand. I really do. Believe me when I say I'm not angry. Things just didn't work out between the two of us. I don't blame you. I blame myself. I take full responsibility for what went wrong. You see, I finally realize... I'm just too awesome.

But that's something I can't change. It's who I am. I'm just going to have to find a woman who is equally as awesome. When I find her, you won't need to worry. Because we won't judge you for your lack of awesome. Not everyone can be as awesome as me and the future Mrs. Awesome.

I know you have an idea in your head that we will remain friends. But this is real life. This isn't How I Met Your Mother. This isn't Friends. We are not Ted and Robin, nor are we Ross and Rachel. I'm sure you want to remain friends, hoping that my awesomeness will somehow rub off on you. But, Ex-Girlfriend, awesomeness just can't be taught. It's kind of an innate thing. You're either born with it or you aren't. Sorry about that.

Look, we can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interest. Perhaps it's fate that today is the 25th of June, and you will once again be dealing with a break-up that you initiated. Not because of tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but because of awesomeness. I'm writing for my right to live, to exist. And should we win the day, the 25th of June will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice, "We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive!" Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

Okay, so I may have slipped into President Whitmore's speech from Independence Day. But that's just how awesome I am. I randomly quote awesome speeches from awesome movies. Captain Awesome, out!

That's the part where I drop the mic.

Monday, June 23, 2014

4th - Bullet Your Day

Day Four! How the time does fly. Seems like only yesterday we were on Day Three...

Speaking of yesterday, that's the day I'll be bulletting. (I'm fairly certain that bulletting is not a word. Spellcheck wouldn't allow it with one or two t's. It also doesn't recognize spellcheck.) Anyway, I'm listing yesterday because, as I post this, the day has barely begun. So, yesterday went something like this...
  • I got up.
  • Actually, I hit the snooze about a dozen times on my phone's alarm. Then I officially got up.
  • I showered, dressed, and packed my lunch. Basically, I got ready for my day at the school.
  • I got a text from a coworker letting me know that one of my regular passengers was sick. That meant one less kid to pick up. That meant I could leave a little later than normal. So I waited.
  • Then I left for work. And drove a long way.
  • I picked up the other kid that I usually take to school.
  • We arrived at the school and went in to the cafeteria for breakfast.
  • I was summarily dismissed.
  • Wait, that sounds like I was fired. I was not fired. We just had too many counselors for not enough kids today. So I got the day off.
  • I went over to Bent Mountain to start getting some of my things out of a friend's attic. Since they're moving, I need to find a new place to put my thousands of comic books.
  • I realized that getting these boxes out of their attic would take more than just me. It's not that I can't do it. It's just that, what if I find myself in an "I've fallen and I can't get up" kind of situation? Those friends are at the beach. I think I'm gonna need a spotter.
  • Drove back to Blacksburg.
  • I caught up on some paperwork that I didn't even realize I neglected to do. Oops...
  • I slayed a dragon.
  • I had lunch with Grilled Cheese Girl. But neither of us had grilled cheese.
  • I cleaned out my bedroom (a little).
  • I debated the merits of building a loft for my bed, thereby giving me a little more space in my bedroom.
  • I realized that there's not a lot I can do to make more space for myself, what with all the books I now have to have with me in my place.
  • I met up with a bunch of friends for dinner and darts.
  • I came home and watched Jeopardy! on the DVR.
  • Then I watched 24. 'Cause Jack freakin' Bauer never stops being awesome!
  • Pretty sure I fell asleep after that.
So... that was my day. I know it looks like I did a lot more than I really did. Bullet points will do that. See you tomorrow.

3rd - A Book You Love

Well, it's Day Three of the 30 Day Blog Challenge! Look, just get used to the exclamation points, okay? Today's topic is A Book I Love...

Anyone familiar with my blog is (probably) aware that my favorite book of all time is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I'm sure I've written about this book a number of times. Recently. I know it was a big part of my 2,000th blog post giveaway. But have I ever actually written about what I love about the book?

Now that I sit here to write something, I'm having a hard time coming up with the words. It's a fun story. It's a truly American fairy tale. I'm sure I'm wrong, but I kind of feel like it's unique in that regard. Are there any other fairy tales that originate in the New World?

Odds are, even if you've never read the book, you know the story. But, you have to be aware, the book has a lot of differences from the movie that most people are familiar with. In the film, you've got a girl who decides her best option when facing a difficult situation is to run away from home. Sure, she comes to regret it, but her journey throughout the movie is a discovery of how important her home really was.

The book is slightly different. Dorothy wasn't trying to run away from home when she got swept away to Oz. She was just trying to make sure Toto made it into the storm cellar. Then the house got carried away. In the book, Dorothy is decidedly more courageous and determined than Judy Garland's portrayal. Dorothy wants to get back to Kansas and will do anything to get there. The literary Dorothy faces a lot more obstacles than the film version and comes out stronger in the end.

Before Joss Whedon gave us Buffy Summers or Suzanne Collins gave us Katniss Everdeen, L. Frank Baum gave us Dorothy Gale. She's a sweet and innocent little girl who, under the surface, isn't content to play the victim. Pretty awesome for a character created at the turn of the 20th century.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again. If you haven't read Baum's original novel, do yourself a favor and pick it up. And if you get a chance, read the other 12 Oz books that he wrote. Some of them get extremely weird, but they're interesting nonetheless.

Also... I was asked by my pastor, Jeff Noble, to write a guest post for his blog this week. Go check it out, then stick around to see some of the posts he's written. It's good stuff, I promise.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

2nd - Something You Feel Strongly About

Welcome to Day Two of Carp Dime's 30 Day Blog Challenge! Again with the exclamation point...

Before I get to today's topic, let me give a shout out to Vanessa over at Butterfly Reflections. So far, she's the only blogger (that I'm aware of) to accept the challenge. She's a day behind me, so head over to her blog to get caught up on her thoughts about the challenge.

Today's topic, if you didn't notice from the title, is Something I Feel Strongly About.

There was a time when an answer to this would not have come easy to me. There were a few years, more than I care to admit, where I just had little to no passion about anything in my life. I was numb to most things, basically just floating along wherever life took me. It's kind of miserable. I saw a bumper sticker once that said, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." Sounds kind of cheesy, but it's possible that there's some truth to that.

Life is different now. I'm in a position where I work, on a daily basis, with little kids who don't seem to have been given a fair shot at things. I know, there's no such thing as a fair shot. Life isn't fair. But working in a school, working with teachers, working as a counselor, working in ministry... these things have given me a certain passion for kids. It's frustrating and heartbreaking, but I have this intense need to stand up for children, especially when they aren't able to stand for themselves.

That's been pretty vague, right? So what is it about these kids that I feel so strongly about?

I'm not a parent. I don't have kids of my own. So a lot of the time, I look at what real parents are doing and I think about how I would do it differently (or the same) if I were in their shoes. In my day job, I see a lot at the low end of the parenting spectrum. I see parents who don't care about their kids in the way that their kids want to be cared about. I see kids who are hurting and just want to be loved, but they've been born to people who, for whatever reason, don't have it in them to be responsible enough to show the love their children so desperately desire.

So I feel strongly about the welfare of those kids. As adults... As the people who are in the best position to make this world a better place, it's our responsibility to do just that for the next generation. They can't do it for themselves. And if all they see in the adults around them is that it's okay to be lazy and apathetic toward the world at large, that's what they'll grow up to be as well.

I also feel strongly about the education we're providing for that next generation. School funding gets cut here and there and few people stand up and take notice. A lot of the time, it seems like the few that do notice just don't care. Again, a problem that we, the grown-ups, should be very concerned about. So many people can get on Facebook or Twitter and shout about climate change and social injustice, but no one is taking the time to teach our young people how to make an impact on their world. They see your rambling status updates and grow up believing that typing in 140 characters or less is the perfect way to change the world, one tweet at a time. That's just not how it works.

Parents, I beg of you, take an interest in your children. Take an interest in what they're interested in. Take an interest in what they're learning, both in and out of school. Invest in them every chance you get. It will pay dividends down the road. Not just to you, but to their community... to the world.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

1st - Five Ways to Win My Heart

Welcome to the 30-Day Blog Challenge with Carp Dime! I'm sorry. I shouldn't have used an exclamation point there. I'm trying to be more enthusiastic about this thing than I actually am. I've been in a blogging rut lately and it feels like there isn't much I can do to get excited about it again. Maybe the next 30 days will help. So this is Day One... starting on June 21... This might get a little confusing. Day One's topic: Five Ways to Win Your Heart.

I'm sure I can come up with five ways to win my heart. But they'll actually just be theories. Because no one has ever, in reality, won my heart before. I keep it too closed off to people most of the time. Yeah, I'm working on that. Have been for years. Ladies, if you're looking for a definitive list of five foolproof ways to win me over, I'm not sure this will be it. But it might be some good ideas.
  1. Quote Movies to Me... If you fluently speak movie quotes, you're on the right track.
  2. Be Sarcastic with Me... I have a very dry sense of humor. If we can't get along on the sense of humor level of things, we may as well not even try.
  3. Sing with Me... I love to sing. So if a girl is willing to sing along with me, it might just melt my heart.
  4. Love Animals... I don't expect you to go overboard and adopt dozens of cats and dogs just because they haven't found homes yet. In fact, that may be too much for me. There might be a fine line on this one.
  5. Love Jesus... This one should actually be number one. It's pretty important. My faith is a big part of who I am, so if you're gonna win my heart, it will have to be a big part of who you are too.
Like I said, these are mostly theories. Maybe they're just things I'm looking for in a woman. I'm not saying that a woman who shows up on my doorstep with all five of these qualities will trigger an intense need to fall madly in love. That may involve a 6th quality, the ability to break down the walls I've built up over the years. Yeah, I'm working on that.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A New Challenge to Accept

It's been a long time since I've participated in any kind of 30 day blogging challenge. I think the last one I did was put out there by my Texan friend, Amy. This time, I found one on Pinterest. Thing is, I haven't been blogging much lately. I feel like, when I do blog, I'm finding reasons to explain why I haven't been blogging lately. I'm sure I have more excuses, but why rehash what's already been said. I'm busy. I'm slacking. I'm somewhere in between. Take your pick.

But I hereby commit to posting something every day for the next 30 days. Now, I haven't thoroughly looked over the entire list yet. I just pinned it to one of my boards and decided to go for it. So I'll be listing each day's topic below. If I deem any of them inappropriate, I'll make adjustments, go get it energized.
  1. Five ways to win your heart. Maybe that should be ways to win my heart. 
  2. Something you feel strongly about. Let's assume all of these will be about me and not some hypothetical you that's reading the blog. 
  3. A book you love.
  4. Bullet your whole day.
  5. Things you want to say to an ex.
  6. Your views on mainstream music.
  7. Five pet peeves.
  8. What you ate today.
  9. How important you think education is.
  10. Put your music player on shuffle and write the first ten songs that play.
  11. Your family.
  12. Five guys whom you find attractive. I'm gonna change "guys" to "girls" when I actually write this. Not that I can't objectively, as a heterosexual male, find other dudes attractive. I just don't find any of them as attractive as the ladies. No offense, dudes.
  13. Your opinion about your body and how comfortable you are with it.
  14. What you wore today.
  15. Your zodiac/horoscope and if you think it fits your personality.
  16. Something you always think "what if..." about.
  17. Something that you're proud of.
  18. A problem that you have had.
  19. Five items you lust after.
  20. Your fears.
  21. How you hope your future will be.
  22. Your academics.
  23. Something that you miss.
  24. Five words/phrases that make you laugh.
  25. Something you're currently worrying about.
  26. Things you like and dislike about yourself.
  27. A quote you try to live by.
  28. Somewhere you'd like to move to or visit.
  29. Five weird things that you like.
  30. One thing you're excited for.
Anyone else want to jump on board? Could be fun. Not holding my breath though. But if you do play along, let me know in the comments that you're accepting the challenge and I'll link to your blog.

Thursday, June 05, 2014


It's been a while since I've done my own movie review. I've seen plenty of movies. I just haven't felt the need to write down my thoughts on them. Actually, I haven't been writing down my thoughts about a lot of things lately. A blog post two days in a row may or may not be a sign that that's changing. Who's to know?

Last night I went to see Maleficent, Disney's new live-action fairy tale. Side note: if you haven't seen it and don't want to read any spoilers, stop reading now. Just know that I thought the movie was pretty good overall. If you keep reading, I'll get into the details of what I thought was good and what slightly bothered me. Seriously, spoilers on...

While I'm not always a fan of revisiting old stories and remaking them for modern audiences (I'm looking at you, Footloose!), the trend of taking old animated properties and doing them with live actors is one that I'm enjoying. Well, maybe I'm just enjoying the idea of it. The actual results are usually somewhat sketchy (I'm looking at you Snow White and the Huntsman!).

Maleficent pulls it off. For the most part. First, the good... Angelina Jolie is fantastic as Maleficent. And I'm not even an Angelina Jolie fan. She presents the character as a tragic heroine turned villain turned heroine. Her journey to the dark side is full of heartache and might even bring a tear to one's eyes. I'm admitting to nothing, by the way.

Aside from Jolie, I'm not sure the other actors are worth mentioning. It's not that they were bad. I just think, compared to Angelina's performance, they just don't have much of a chance to shine. And I'm okay with that. It's called Maleficent. It should be about Maleficent. And it is. It's all about her. Yes, the story involves her relationships with Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) and King Stefan and even the three good fairies who wind up raising Aurora.

If you go into this movie expecting a faithful retelling of Sleeping Beauty, you'll probably be disappointed. Personally, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was sort of hoping for something a little closer to the original story, but this definitely was not that. Here, we're introduced to a young Maleficent who is a powerful fairy living in a land full of magical creatures. Those creatures are wary of humans and rightly so. As a girl, she meets Stefan, who is initially a thief, attempting to steal jewels from the Moors (the magical fairy land). Maleficent and Stefan develop a friendship over the years and may even fall in love. Maleficent definitely falls for Stefan, but we later see the true nature of Stefan's heart, which makes the audience question whether or not he was ever truly in love with her.

In his ambition to become king, Stefan takes it upon himself to kill Maleficent at the behest of the current ruler. He's unable to kill her (I guess he felt something for her after all), but instead cuts off her wings as she sleeps. He presents Maleficent's wings to the king as proof of the deed, allowing him to become the heir to the throne. Of course, not killing the fairy would haunt him. This is where the story we're more familiar with begins.

Maleficent is hurt by Stefan's actions. Her heart is broken and her wings have been stolen from her. She is filled with hatred and vengeance. So she takes it out on Stefan's firstborn daughter. We all know how this turns out. But, of course, there's a new twist. Maleficent watches Aurora as she grows. She actually does a better job of taking care of the girl than the good fairies do. Those fairies, by the way, are portrayed as complete morons. Over the years, Maleficent develops a sort of motherly affection for Aurora and even grows to regret the curse she placed on her as an infant.

Like I said earlier, I felt like the movie was very good overall and is definitely worth the time and money to see. But I do have my own issues with the way things were presented.

First of all, aren't there any villains that are just flat out evil anymore? Why do we always need to discover that the bad guys are sympathetic characters that have genuine and understandable motivations behind their evil actions? In the animated Disney classic, Maleficent calls herself the Mistress of All Evil. You don't just give yourself that title because someone wronged you and you're taking your revenge. In that case, whether it's true or not, you feel justified in what you do, no matter how despicable the action. I realize that most villains would consider themselves the good guy of their own story, but after the way Stefan treats Maleficent, the audience feels pretty good about rooting for Maleficent as she takes out her anger on the world. You feel bad for her and want to see Stefan get what's coming to him.

I didn't like Philip's role in the movie. This was the first Disney prince to have a name (other than Charming). In Sleeping Beauty, he was a fairly well-developed character who became an actual hero in the story. In Maleficent, you blink and you miss him. I'm not sure why they spent the time or money to even cast the role.

Like anything else, I'm sure I can pick the movie apart and find more little things that I disliked. But I hate when I do that. Especially when movies are meant to be entertaining for entertainment's sake. And Maleficent was definitely entertaining. Even if you take away all the amazing special effects, Angelina Jolie's performance makes it worth seeing.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

On Staff

If you had asked me two or three years ago if I ever thought I'd be on staff in a church, I'd have probably laughed at you. Back then, there's a good chance I'd have laughed if you just asked if I thought I'd be attending a church regularly. Because back then, I was the guy that wrote this... Feel free to click back and read the post if you want.

But if you'd rather not, it's a post I wrote after making a very conscious decision not to attend church on Easter of 2011. Let's just say I wrote that when I was in a very bad place, spiritually. I'd had plenty of negative experiences and had lost a great deal of faith in the people that make up the church. My grandmother was very disheartened after reading that and later told me how much she worried about me.

Fast forward two years later. That's last year if you can't find your calendar. I found myself longing for the kind of fellowship I enjoyed as a kid and as a student. Sure, while I was at Bluefield, I really didn't have a church home. But I had Christian friends who challenged and encouraged me. I had a campus minister who provided discipleship. These were things that I turned my back on for several years in my adult life. These were things that I deeply missed, even though I didn't know it yet.

Early in 2013, I found Northstar Church in Blacksburg. I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked through the doors of the school where the congregation met. I had few expectations, really. I knew not to get my hopes up. Experience taught me that raised hopes only led to disappointment. I needed to go into this church visit with the knowledge that this church, like any other, was made up of people. People will let you down. But God won't. Beyond anything that I could look for in a church body, I wanted to be where God could use me.

Northstar turned out to be the place I needed and I really believe God directed me there that first Sunday. Thinking about the way this has worked out, as I write these words, is actually causing me to tear up. I'm not sure if I'm getting emotional because of the years I wasted feeling bitter about the church, or if the joy of rediscovering God's path is overwhelming. Maybe a little of both.

Anyway (he says, blinking away the tears), I got involved. I made a conscious effort to get involved as quickly as I could. I didn't want to just be one of those guys that shows up on Sunday morning and forgets that church even exists the rest of the week. I wanted to join a small group. I wanted to serve in the church in whatever ways I was able. I wanted to put myself out there and join a community that would challenge me to grow in my walk with Christ. I wanted all that before I began attending Northstar.

Then I got to Northstar and discovered that their slogan was "Don't go to church. Be the church." If that wasn't exactly what I was looking for, I don't know what is. It's as if God placed that desire to serve in my heart and then led me to a place where I would be pushed into roles of service.

I started out by helping with set up and tear down. As a church that meets in a school, a fair amount of work goes into getting things ready on Sunday mornings. Another fair amount of work goes into making sure the school looks exactly the way we found it by the time the service is over. I also got involved in Jumpstart, a part of Northstar's children's ministry that focuses on elementary aged kids on Sunday mornings. I can honestly say that teaching the kids on those Sundays has been the most fun I've ever had in any area of ministry.

Last month, I noticed the children's ministry assistant position was being advertised on the church website. I didn't know if it would be a good fit for me or not. Despite knowing just how much I loved being involved with Jupstart, I wasn't sure if I would be the right person for a staff position where I would be even more involved with children's ministry as a whole. So I prayed.

I asked God for direction. At the same time, I reached out to the Charlatan, who has been working full time in children's ministry for years. He told me to go for it. He said it would change my life. I still wasn't sure. But every time I thought about the possibility of being in that position, I felt excited. So I went for it.

I interviewed. I was hired. And today I attended my first staff meeting. I cannot express how awesome it is to be involved in ministry like this after so long. I probably shouldn't be amazed, but I can't help it. It amazes me that God can take someone with a heart as hard as mine had become and break it, mend it, and reshape it. Ugh... it's happening again. I might need to go cry for a while.