A Lesson on Kindness

Hello everyone!

I found an image with the below little story while scrolling through Pinterest (yet another reason to love Pinterest!) awhile back and thought now might be the perfect time to share it! Honestly, any time would be a good time to share but, with everyone being locked away for the time being  (thanks a lot, COVID-19), why not give ourselves a chance to learn, reflect, and have the best chance at being even a little more kind?

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Imagine how nice it would be to emerge back into the world and it be a kinder place than we left it. 

Please read: 

As I was pulling into work, I was following this car. The sign in the back window saying, “Learning stick, sorry for any delay.” 

Knowing this information, I was very patient with their slow shifting, and honestly they were doing pretty well for still learning. Then I asked myself a tough question: Would I have been just as patient if the sign hadn’t been there? I can almost definitely say no.

We don’t know what someone is going through. We don’t wear signs that illustrate our personal struggles. You don’t see signs taped to people’s shirts that say, “Going through a divorce,” or “Lost a child,” or “Feeling depressed,” or “Diagnosed with cancer.”

If we could read visually what those around us are going through, we would definitely be nicer. But we shouldn’t have to see signs and have reasons to treat strangers with kindness. We should do it anyway, whether we know what is going on or not. Whether they deserve it or not.”

What do you think? Would you have been as patient if the sign hadn’t been there? What about even if it had?

Even if you answer “No” to the first question as I’m sure many of us will, I can only hope you 100% would have been more patient had the sign been visible. 

I’m not sure who the author of this little story is but I’m glad they shared their experience with the rest of us. They’re right: we don’t always know what each other is going through. Whether it’s the best day of our lives or the worst. Whether we’re thriving or barely getting by. Happy or sad, privileged or not — it shouldn’t matter. Our goal should be to treat one another with as much kindness as we can. It doesn’t hurt us to be a little more patient, to share a few more smiles, AND extend a helping hand when we can. 

(Notice the “AND” instead of the typical “or.” Why choose between different ways of being kind? Why not express kindness in as many ways as possible? A little goes a long way but more can go even further!)

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And we should do these things. Always. And if not always, at the very least as often as we can. 

You never know what someone may be going through. But you can help them get through it.

After all, small gestures tend to have the biggest and most long-lasting effects. Why not bring a little more kindness to the world? Especially now when we all need it the most?

 

Be safe, stay kind, and let’s get through this pandemic together 🙂

-T.

Grammar Quiz!

I’ll admit, I may be showing my true GRAMMAR NERD colors and taking things a little too far here but — sorry — it’s the English major in me! I can’t help it. 

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Lately, I’ve come across a lot of mistakes in peoples’ writing — grammatical errors and others as well — and while I don’t want to be the one constantly nagging about it, I figured it couldn’t hurt to create a little quiz to help others pinpoint the mistakes they might be making without even realizing it. Take it if you’d like or ignore it if you wish but, in my opinion, it never hurts to learn something new!

For the following questions, please select the correctly written sentence:

Question 1:

a.) Did you loose your car keys? I found these on the ground outside.

b.) Did you lose your car keys? I found these on the ground outside.

Question 2:

a.) I don’t want to hear it, Chad. You cheated on me so I couldn’t care less about anything else you have to say. We’re done!

b.) I don’t want to hear it, Chad. You cheated on me so I could care less about anything else you have to say. We’re done!

Question 3:

a.) You’re welcome.

b.) Your welcome.

Question 4:

a.) What a great night celebrating the happy couple! Thank you for making me apart of your special day. It was great to be included in the festivities. Cheers to your new marriage!

b.) What a great night celebrating the happy couple! Thank you for making me a part of your special day. It was great to be included in the festivities. Cheers to your new marriage!

Question 5:

a.) What are you doing over their? The penguins are over here! Look how there waddling around. Look at them carrying they’re little pebbles. How cute!

b.) What are you doing over they’re? The penguins are over here! Look how their waddling around. Look at them carrying there little pebbles. How cute!

c.) What are you doing over there? The penguins are over here! Look how they’re waddling around. Look at them carrying their little pebbles. How cute!

 

I apologize for my lack of creativity with these questions but let’s see how well you scored! I’ve listed the correct answers below with explanations as well. Maybe you learned something or maybe you scored perfectly? Either way, thanks for taking the time to test your knowledge!

 

  1. Correct Answer: b
  • “Loose” refers to the tightness of something whereas “lose” means to misplace. So, while you might have lost your keys because they were loosely attached to your keychain, you did not “loose” them.
  1. Correct Answer: a
  • To say you “could care less” would mean that you still do care because the only way you could care less about something is if you still care in the first place. However, if you “couldn’t care less,” that’s because you have no more cares to give because you no longer care at all. So if you mean to say that you’re over something or someone and completely done with them –that you’ve written them off– then “I couldn’t care less” would be the way to go!
  1. Correct Answer: a
  • If you don’t know this one by now, I thank you so much for taking the time to learn something new! “You’re” translates to “you are.” When we tell someone “you’re welcome” we are saying “you are welcome.” To say “your welcome” would be the same as saying someone is a welcome and that just doesn’t make sense.
  1. Correct Answer: b
  • This one is my biggest pet peeve! So big, in fact, that I wrote an obnoxious Facebook post about it since I couldn’t stand seeing it on all of my friends’ newsfeeds. But for the sake of learning, I’m going to share the same post again here so I can explain the difference between “apart” and “a part:”

“GUYS! Out of love, I want to offer this PSA: to be ‘apart’ of something means you are separate/not involved. ‘A part’ is being connected to/involved in something. So when you say you’re ‘happy to be apart’ of something, you’re really saying you’re happy to not be a part of it! If you’re involved in something special, you’re ‘happy to be a part’ of it! That is all :)”

  1. Correct Answer: c
  • “There” is a location (think “here” but with a “t” added to the beginning of it), “they’re” is “they are” and “their” shows an association to something that has previously been mentioned. I think “their” is probably the most complicated out of all of the theres/they’res/and theirs. I’m trying to think of a trick to make it easier but all I can come up with is that “heir” is part of “their” and that an “heir” belongs to someone. Maybe there’s enough of a connection with that to make things a little easier to understand? If anyone has any other helpful tricks, I am all ears!

 

That’s all I have for now! If you have any questions, please ask and, if you find any mistakes in my own writing, feel free to call me out. I always appreciate the help!

 

Thank you!

-T.

Reading List #44

Bryan Stevenson’s, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

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Guys, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as informative, shocking, and ENLIGHTENING as the book Stevenson has graced our world with.

I don’t typically navigate towards the Autobiography and Biography genres but I think this might have to change because, while I love fiction and losing myself in new and unfamiliar worlds, I’ve discovered a newfound appreciation for learning more about the world that does exist and that I do live in. 

This book proves how shocking and unbelievable real life can be and, while it is sometimes outrageously frustrating to learn just how shockingly unbelievable real life actually is, it is for this very reason that being aware of the world around us is so incredibly important. 

Stevenson highlights a small number of the issues present in our justice system and, unfortunately, I’m sure there are many more than those listed in this novel. What’s that phrase,

“The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know?”

Yes, I’d say this book proves to us exactly that.

This book will surprise you, infuriate you, make you question everything, humble you, and make you feel a whole realm of emotions that I myself was entirely unprepared for. BUT, I believe the most important thing this book will do is inform you and present you with knowledge that will inspire you to put forth a real effort to make our society a better place.

One step at a time and maybe, JUST maybe, we’ll get there.

-T.

This book, for obvious reasons, has also been adapted into a film starring Michael B. Jordan. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet but based on what I’ve heard, it’s definitely a must see! Even if you’re not a reader, you can learn this story and I strongly encourage you to at least watch the movie. If it’s even half as inspiring as the book, then, believe me, it’s worth it!

 

Wellness Check!

Hello everyone! How we hanging in this crazy place our world has become?

Not that long ago, I feel like this whole Corona Virus outbreak was taken largely as a joke and nothing to be overly concerned about. Fast forward to now and, wow, things have definitely escalated.

But DON’T PANIC! For one thing, it’s unnecessary and, for another, wouldn’t help anything anyway. In fact, it would only make matters worse.

Much MUCH worse!

Instead, play it smart and play it safe!

First and foremost: WASH YOUR HANDS!

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I mean it: Scrub those things down! Twenty seconds – 20 – the same amount of time as the chorus to most of your favorite songs. Not sure of your favorite song? Ever heard of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?” Great, sing that twice as you rub a dub dub!

Next, be prepared! And by this I mean, have food but don’t hoard it! There isn’t a hurricane, there won’t be a power outage, and food and supplies will continue to be shipped in. Again, DON’T PANIC and go out and crazy buy shopping carts full of things you don’t need. Why? Because you don’t need it, it will probably expire before you get a chance to eat it, and you’re taking away from people who might not have it! NOT COOL!

I’m sure we all know about the toilet paper shortage. Guys, COME ON! No one needs that much TP and, if you do, I think you have much bigger problems. I’d recommend a visit to the doctors ASAP.

In case you missed it:

  • Diahherea or any excessive #1-ing or #2-ing is not a symptom of COVID-19
  • Toilet Paper is largely produced in the U.S.A., not China, so there’s no need to worry about it being contaminated by a foreign source
  • All you need is a couple of squares! Maybe bump it up to a few if things are a little messier than normal. For really messy messes, I bet there’s a shower just a few inches away from your porcelain throne!

And lastly, practice social distancing.

I know, I know, it’s funny to make this out like some big joke. I’m constantly hearing how it’s not a big deal and people are overreacting and blah blah blah. You know what? I can understand and even agree to a certain extent. I’m actually less scared by the actual virus than I am of how people are reacting to it. This crazy panic and pandemonium is frightening but the virus isn’t to blame for that, not entirely. It’s people overreacting to it. Like I said, DON’T PANIC. If you’re prepared and practicing safe habits for the time being — SCRATCH THAT! Safe and SANITARY habits for ALWAYS! Then there’s nothing to worry about and this manic behavior can CHILL.

So, with that being said: SOCIAL DISTANCING.

Guys, just do it. It’s easy, like ridiculously easy when it comes to alternative options.

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I know this feels like a vacation, especially since so many people are just getting off of Spring Break. But consider yourself lucky to feel that way and not feel like you’re living in a hell where people are dying around you – friends, family, neighbors – because of a disease with no cure.

If you want to treat it like a vacation, fine! Do that! But think of it as a solo vacation dedicated to revitalizing yourself and by yourself. Only me, myself, and I (but you, not me. I’ll do the same thing on my own).

Regardless of how serious this feels to you, it is INCREDIBLY SERIOUS to others. So, even if you don’t believe it, how about you consider this before you go to your next party, or event, or public outing. Though the chances may be slim and feel even slimmer, how would you feel knowing that you made someone else sick?

To think that my lack of concern is the reason someone else gets sick, now that’s absolutely terrifying. More so than contracting the Corona Virus myself. More so than the panic. For it to be MY FAULT, I can’t even begin to imagine the guilt… It would swallow me whole.

It doesn’t matter that you felt fine and had no symptoms, the point is you passed it along and, BECAUSE OF YOU, someone is now sick with a virus that has no cure. You’ve put them at risk and, because of you, this person – who could be your mom, your dad, your brother, your best friend, your grandparent or a stranger who might be any of these cherished people to someone else – might die.

I know that’s extreme but extreme is a possibility here. That’s how serious this thing is right now. So why not simply play it safe? After all, no one loses this way. Actually, when you think about it, everyone WINS!

  • You don’t get sick (and, admit it, you’d be pretty mad at yourself if you didn’t follow these simple rules and got sick because of it!)
  • No one gets sick because of you
  • You have time to relax
  • You have time to be productive
  • You can read a book
  • Work out
  • Catch up on your favorite T.V. shows
  • Meal prep
  • Exercise
  • Pig out
  • Journal
  • Work from home in your favorite sweatpants
  • Work from home naked…
  • Whatever!

And you don’t have to cut yourself off from the rest of the world – not really! Social distancing isn’t a prison sentence. I can’t say this for sure butttttttt I do believe most of us have these pretty cool things called cell phones where we can talk, text, and even facetime our favorite humans. From there, the possibilities are limitless.

Want a party? Cool! Facetime a bunch of friends and drink together. Bonus- no one can bum your alcohol. Want to watch a movie/T.V. show with friends? Completely do-able! Call ’em up and keep the line connected.

LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES!

Take this opportunity to get creative while staying safe. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

Besides, the faster we all get on board with this, the faster it’s all over!

FLATTEN THAT CURVE and then:

YOU CAN REALLY PARTY IT UP & CELEBRATE!

Also, just throwing this out there and hoping I’m wrong but please tell me y’all are stocking up on soap the same way you are toilet paper. I’d like to believe it’s the crazy talking but can’t help but think soap is flying off the shelves because people didn’t have it to begin with????? *shudders at the thought*

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WASH YOUR (bleeping) HANDS!

Thank you 🙂

-T.

Reading List #43

The Stranger by Harlan Coben. 

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I’d never heard of Harlan Coben before stumbling upon his book so I was surprised to see “#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER” across its front cover. However, now after reading The Stranger, it’s clear why Coben has been awarded this title.

The Stranger is unlike any book I’ve read before. There’s mystery and thrill, shock and surprise, and just when you think you may have it all figured out, Coben hits you with a truth you never could have seen coming. 

I don’t want to say too much and risk giving the story away but, if you like a novel with multiple moving parts that somehow seamlessly come together at the end in the most unexpected of ways, then this is a perfect book for you and one I definitely recommend getting your hands on!

I’m a newer fan to the thriller genre — and an even bigger fan after reading this book — so if any of you have recommendations of your own, please let me know. I’d love to throw my mind through a couple more loops to keep me on my toes!

 

-T. 

 

Bonus: I just realized they adapted this book into a T.V. series on Netflix! Excuse me while I start watching NOW! (which I can do since I’ve accomplished my goals for today as per my L E N T ! requirement. Time to reward myself!)

L E N T ! (Part II)

Hi Friends! How we doing?

We’re almost two weeks into Lent/our 40 days-ish/6 weeks-ish period of goals. Are we feeling the pressure or feeling accomplished – perhaps both?

If you’re feeling that sense of accomplishment: AWESOME! You go, dude! If you’re feeling the pressure — a little or a lot of it — STAY STRONG! I’m feeling it a bit too but no worries! It’s totally normal and look no further because I’m writing this post to keep the motivation going!

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite quotes: the ones that always manage to re-ignite my spirits and remind me why I set these goals in the first place. I hope they can do the same for you 🙂

 

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Does it?

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*or him 🙂

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This one hit me in the FEELS!

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NEVER EVER

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Mental health is important. Physical health is important. (Coffee is important, too lol)

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FOCUS!!

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It all starts with you, my friend 🙂

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You do, you really do! We all do!

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DO! DO! DO!

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There’s no better time than the present!

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And perhaps the most important one:

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Progress is progress, no matter how small. Maybe it’s a few minutes of exercise, a few written words, a small salad instead of fries, a 40-day goal… 😉

We can do this, guys! WE’VE GOT THIS!

Here’s to the first step of becoming our BEST SELVES! And thank goodness for Pinterest supplying all the motivation!

 

Have some motivational quotes or images of your own? Share them with me! I’d love to see them!

-T.

 

Reading List #42

Reading List #42: A Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber.

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So I’m going to be honest, a lot of my posts aren’t in real-time. There’s a good amount of delay sometimes between when I come up with an idea or when I finish a book and when I’m able to finish writing a blog post about it. This post is a perfect example because, no, I did not choose to pick up and read a Christmas novel in the beginning of March. I do admit to being random but not quite that random. No, when I chose to read A Mrs. Miracle Christmas I did so during the Christmas holiday season. Now, weeks later (whoops) I’m finally getting around to publishing my post about it.

So here goes:

In a lot of ways, this Christmas novel is a lot like its holiday movie counterparts: predictable. But, honestly, what’s not to like about predictability on occasion? We all have seen Hallmark Christmas movies. We all know they’re going to have a happy ending. We know this even before the title screen is shown. But we still choose to watch them anyways and you know why? Because we like them! They make us feel good and give us that warm and tingly sensation and what’s the harm in that?! Especially around a time of year when all we want is to feel good!

So, if you’re like me and everyone else who watches these movies, I recommend this book. There’s nothing overly exciting about it but it’s sure to make you feel all the warm and fuzzies. 

Who cares that it’s no longer Christmas? I prefer to keep the good feelings coming for as long as I can!

I’ve heard that there are many Mrs. Miracle books which means I know exactly where to look when I’m in particular need of these good feelings. If you’ve read any of them yourself, please share your recommendations 🙂

 

Happy Reading (holiday or otherwise)!

-T.

L E N T !

It’s that time of the year again! Today is Ash Wednesday which officially marks the start of Lent and, to be honest, I’m so excited about it!

Disclaimer: Lent is a Catholic holiday. Additional disclaimer: I’m not even Catholic!

For those of you who don’t know (and from what I do of my limited knowledge – I’m no expert!), Lent is the practice of giving up certain luxuries for forty days as a way to honor the forty days Jesus spent on his journey in the desert in which he fasted and resisted the temptation of Satan (not to be confused with lint that can often be found stuck in some people’s belly buttons lol). There’s a lot more to it so, if you’re interested in learning, I’d recommend conducting some research of your own 🙂

“So why then are you partaking in Lent if you’re not even Catholic?” you may ask. SIMPLE: I like Lent. I love the idea of making myself better and proving to myself that I can accomplish the goals I set out to accomplish. I also like Lent because it’s the only time I am actually able to stick to my goals and resist these “certain luxuries.” I’m not sure why exactly this is but, while I’ve tried setting goals at other times, like for my New Year’s resolutions or just periodically throughout the year, it just never seems to work. But, when it comes to Lent, I’m suddenly able to make it happen!

So maybe my reasonings aren’t that religious but I think all people can appreciate a person’s effort to better themselves!

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So what’s so different about these six weeks? I think it comes down to a number of reasons:

Part of it has something to do with not being alone in my goals. A lot of people participate in Lent (many members of my family included) and, while our individual goals aren’t the same, all of us are doing our best to stick to our goals at the same time and for the same duration. This means that we all have a support group throughout the time we are trying to reach our goals and, from my own personal experience, having support definitely helps!

Another thing that helps me reach my goals during Lent is the fact that I’m held more accountable during this time. As the start of Lent approaches, a lot of conversations are about what people are doing for Lent and so a lot of people know exactly what you are trying to accomplish. Sharing my goals with other people makes it a little harder for me to break them because now other people know about them. As silly and ridiculous as it is, for some reason, I’m a lot more willing to break promises to myself than I am to other people, so having people know my goals makes it harder for me to break them. I’m sure this is something that applies to many of you as well!

I think the set length of Lent makes sticking to our goals easier as well. Rather than a goal that has no set timeline, everyone participating in Lent knows that there’s an end in sight: EASTER! It’s easier to stay strong when you know you only have to stay strong for so long. As the days pass, I get closer and closer to the finish line and find it easier to push myself for the last bit of the way.

Or maybe my success during Lent all boils down to the Big Guy upstairs. Since Lent is a religious practice — despite it not being part of my specific religion — the Big Guy stays the same. During Lent, my goals feel like a promise to Him and, if He’s the one I’m making a promise to, I’d prefer to keep that promise!

With that being said, let me get to the part where I share my goals with all of you!

In the past, I’ve always given something up for Lent. One year I gave up soda, another year I gave up dessert (that was the hardest one because, as many of you know, I LOVE ICE CREAM! So, yeah, this one was definitely a challenge but I DID IT and felt great for having done so!), another year I gave up Netflix, Hulu, and basically anything that allowed me to binge-watch T.V., and then last year I gave up beer and french fries (the beer wasn’t that hard to do but, being that I worked in a restaurant that had fries and LOADED CHEESE FRIES readily available, avoiding the fries definitely tested my limits). I’d say I’ve given up a lot of my “luxuries” over the years and, while I’m so glad I’ve done so, I’m doing things a little differently this year.

For Twenty-Twenty, I’m not giving anything up — at least, not exactly.

For Lent this year, I’m focusing on doing, not not doing. As much as I hate to admit it, I waste a lot of my time watching T.V. and scrolling through social media and, in doing so, I lose my chance to focus on my priorities and other goals.

AND THAT REALLY BUGS ME!

Sure, sometimes I have excuses — some of them even decent ones (I mean, I do work two jobs so things get especially busy sometimes) — but bottom line is they’re still excuses: tired after working, already being sore from a previous workout (an excuse I use occasionally for not exercising), needing to give my brain a break, wanting to see what my friends and family are up to online, …

So I get home from work and get onto my phone…

And then I stay sitting on my phone…

Not accomplishing much else…

And before I know it, it’s time for bed and I find myself repeating the loop the next day. It’s not always like this! I COULDN’T STAND IT if that were the case.

But it is often enough. Too often!

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know the things I want to prioritize more:

WRITING!
READING!
EXERCISE!
JOURNALING!
THIS BLOG!

Do I really want to say that I didn’t accomplish these things because I couldn’t put my phone down? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

So for Lent this year, my goal will be to PRIORITIZE MY PRIORITIES! I’ve done it before but never consistently and never for forty days/six weeks at a time.

THAT CHANGES NOW!

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But remember, I did say I wasn’t giving anything up. And, I’m not. While prioritizing is my goal for Lent this year, those excuses I mentioned before do hold some weight. Like I said, they are true sometimes but the key is to not use them as excuses all the time. That’s me being LAZY. I won’t be denying myself T.V. or Social Media but I will be cutting back and LIMITING it. For the next 40 days/roughly six weeks, I’ll only allow myself T.V. and Social Media time between the hours of 8:30pm and 8:30am — only when I’m settling down for the night and waking up/getting ready in the morning. I’ll give myself a little leeway on the weekends and allow more T.V. time but only if I’m doing something productive like getting ready for the day (I like to watch T.V. while putting on makeup. Honestly, at this point, who doesn’t watch T.V. while getting ready for their day? Props to you if you don’t), exercising, cooking, or doing some loose writing. As for social media on the weekend, I can check it in the morning around when I wake up since there’s a slight chance I MIGHT sleep in (but I doubt it). But, after that initial check, I can’t look again until after 8:30 that night.

By limiting my T.V. and Social Media time, I pretty much have no other choice but to focus on my priorities. Actually, I’m leaving myself no choice at all because I’m making the rule that, if I do reach the ultimate level of LAZINESS and do find some other way to not be productive for those 3 plus hours between when I get home from work and when I go to sleep, then regardless of when 8:30pm rolls around, I still don’t get to watch T.V. or hop on Social Media.

ZIP! NADA! NO SOCIAL MEDIA!

It’s time to get myself back on track! NO EXCUSES!

To keep track of things, I’d like to list where I am starting off so I can see how much I’ve accomplished at the end! My current stats are as follows:

WRITING: I’m on page 162 of 333 at 137,342 words of my novel that I am currently editing. Let’s see how far I get!
READING: I’m currently on page 176 of the book Just Mercy.
EXERCISE: I’ll keep track of the days that I exercise.
JOURNALING: I’ll keep track of how many times and/or pages that I write in my journal.
THIS BLOG: Let’s see how many new blog posts I write and schedule between now and Easter Sunday!

That’s it! These are my goals. You can love them, hate them, judge them, whatever! But those are my goals and they work for me 🙂

I encourage you to set goals of your own! Start them now and keep them going until Easter. Let’s see what we can accomplish together!

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Happy Goal-Meeting!

-T.

 

Reading List #41

Stephanie Meyer’s, Twilight.

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I can already hear the groaning lol. 

If you’re not a Twilight fan, no hard feelings. You can stop reading now and I won’t hold it against you. I also promise my next post won’t be vampire related so no need to avoid reading my posts in the future 🙂 

For those of you who are a fan: HI!

I first read Meyer’s debut novel back when she was still in the process of finishing the fourth book of the series, Breaking Dawn. I was in middle school and, goodness, that was forever ago! I’ve read the books multiple times over the years and have watched all of the movies (even though we all know the books are better) but I can’t remember the last time I’ve read them before now. It’s been at least three years (maybe around the time I moved home after graduating from college) but I think it might have been even longer than that? Maybe even back when I was still in high school? Although that seems like too much time since…

ANYWAYS, I read the first book again and, it’s official: I still like it!

A lot of people express their distaste towards Meyer’s famous series but the truth of the matter is: the Twilight Saga is famous. Whether you claim to be a fan or not, the series was a hit phenomenon selling over 25 million copies worldwide and had stayed on the bestsellers’ list for a combined 143 weeks. If that’s not enough to convince someone of its success, then maybe the fact that it was adapted into movies that grossed — let’s just say A LOT of revenue — on top of the mountain of money the novels had already made, should do a fair amount of convincing. Unless you think millions of dollars isn’t anything to get worked up over, by most accounts, that would qualify the series as more than adequately famous. Besides, even if you don’t like Twilight, you still know about it — enough to argue it’s validity, at least — and that puts you into one of two categories: 

Sorry about your luck lol.

I think most people’s distaste stems from Bella, the human protagonist, who many comment on being too dull of a character and one who’s too invested in her high school boyfriend who happens to be a 100 something year old vampire. The main example being when she completely shuts down when Edward — her vampire boyfriend — breaks up with her (granted, this happens in the second book of the series but everyone knows about all of this by now). To be fair, I understand the negative response to an extent. Crying in the woods for hours after being dumped and shutting down from the rest of your life for months afterwards is beyond ridiculous – vampire breakup or not. I won’t defend Bella and say these were her shiniest of moments but I also don’t think it’s fair to base one’s entire opinion of a character or book series on a single moment either.

[Bare with me here as I explain]

The most common grievance about the series seems to be how people don’t believe Bella to be a good a role model and, therefor, no woman should aspire to be like her. I AGREE: no woman should be so tied to a man that she breaks down crying in the middle of the woods and basically acts like a zombie for months after her relationship ends. However, this is only one particular part of the series and to judge our opinion on this one instance would mean that we were judging the books off of the assumption that Meyers wrote a character for the sole purpose of being a role model.

Let me just say, I don’t think writing for the sole purpose of creating a literary role model was Meyer’s intention. Her goal was to simply tell a story of a seventeen year old girl and a boy who had been seventeen for “Awhile.” (If you know, you know).

In one of her interviews, Meyers tells about how Twilight was inspired by a dream she had of a young couple talking in a meadow and how she woke up wanting to know what they might have been discussing. Besides that, I haven’t heard or read much else about what Stephanie Meyer’s intent was for the characters in her series. My guess is that she didn’t intend for much specifically except to write a story for readers to enjoy. And in addition to that, while there are many who don’t believe she made Bella to be inspirational, intended or not, I do believe Meyers wrote a character many of us can relate to OR would have been able to relate to at one point in our lives. If nothing else, when Bella acted the way she did after her breakup, it wasn’t a whole lot different than how many of us acted the first time our hearts were broken.

The main reason I think we’re so harsh in our judgement of Bella is because we have so many other great literary female role models in our generation‘s literature. We’ve grown up reading about Hermione in Harry Potter, Katniss in The Hunger Games, and Tris in Divergent. And thank goodness for that because these fictional women are obviously incredibly AWESOME! But I don’t think Twilight and these other series fall into the same genre and, as such, cannot be fairly compared.

The difference between Twilight and all of the other novels is that the world of Twilight is pretty normal (at least as normal as a world with vampires and werewolves can be). Unlike the other book series, Twilight isn’t some highly fractured dystopia or a world in the middle of a magical war between good and evil. There is no worldly chaos ensuing, only struggles that occur in Bella’s life specifically. Everyone else remains largely oblivious to the supernatural happenings them.

Once the Cullens leave, that’s kind of it in terms of Bella’s world news. The town of Forks returns to the sleepy town it has always appeared to be and there isn’t any other great imminent danger (at least, not yet) or world crisis going on that Bella has to remain strong for in order to survive. Besides the vampire bit, she’s been dumped by the love of her life and is now left heartbroken. Yes, crying in the woods and shutting down is overly dramatic but, honestly, what teenager isn’t dramatic? Between all of the hormones and first loves and everything else going on, their reactions tend to be a little theatrical. I think if we all took a moment to look back on our teenage years, we would remember a reaction or two of our own that was definitely cringeworthy and a bit ridiculous.

When I think about it, I don’t think any of the other main characters from the other novels I mentioned experienced a break up with the person they loved. Sure, Harry Potter and Cho Chang stopped dating but they hadn’t been in love. Same with Hermione Granter and Victor Krum. Ron Weasely and Hermione did have their fight in the final book that made Ron leave but they hadn’t been dating at that time and they had other things to focus on so I’d say their situations was different from that of Bella’s and Edward’s. In the Divergent series, there wasn’t a breakup. (Spoiler ahead!) Tris did die (which SUCKED) but we didn’t get to see Four’s initial reaction, only him a few months after the Tris’s death. Being how different these situations were, I don’t think they are comparable to Bella because we don’t see any of the other characters experience this particular life event.

ACTUALLY, in The Hunger Games, when Peeta had been taken, Katniss did have her own emotional breakdown that included hiding away from everyone and cramming herself into tiny spaces. Granted, Peeta had been kidnapped by the Capital so his life was in danger, but my point is she behaved similarly to Bella in a way that we can argue isn’t very admirable but it is understandable!

Just like breaking down as a teenager after being dumped by your first love (sort of is). Look, I’m not saying my argument is perfect. All I’m saying is Stephenie Meyers and Bella may deserve a little more credit.

Back to Bella.

I think Bella brings a healthy dose of relatability back to us. As much as I want to be as intelligent as Hermione, or brave as Katniss, or as bold as Tris, sometimes I can only be average. I’m human, and sometimes as humans, we break down.

And then, little by little, we get back up.

And so did Bella.

Besides the first half of New Moon, there are plenty of other aspects of Bella that I think qualify her as a strong female character (even without magical abilities, archery skills, or being “Divergent” (again, proving a point, not roasting any other books or characters because I truly love them all)). For instance:

-Bella ran away from her dad in Forks to keep him safe from a sadistic vampire named James.

-Bella chose to go directly to James – even though she knows it means he will kill her – in order to save her mother from him.

-Bella was willing herself to keep quiet when Victoria, another crazed vampire, decided to kill her in the hopes she would do it quickly and leave Bella’s father alone.

-Bella confronts a group of guys (who turn out to be werewolves), when she thinks they’re threatening her friend, Jacob.

-Bella offers her life as a replacement for Edward’s in order to keep the Volturi from killing him.

-Bella cuts herself with a rock to distract hungry vampires and is willing to sacrifice herself in order to save those whom she cares about.

-Bella commits to a pregnancy she knows will kill her because she’d rather her child live than herself.

Sure, Bella might do some pretty idiotic and questionable things on occasion BUT I think she deserves more credit for the fact that she more often is willing to sacrifice herself in order to save the people she cares about. And, while I am fully aware that all of this is fiction, I do think the fact that Bella is a human surrounded primarily by the supernaturally superior says a lot about her character. Just because she is the weakest link, doesn’t mean she doesn’t do her part to help.

In terms of the other fictional literary worlds, everyone is on significantly more level ground with those around them than Bella is with those around her.  

That’s all I’m saying.

I love all of these female leads! Without Hermione, there is no way could Harry have beaten Voldemort, and the worlds of Katniss and Tris would have been far worse places if not for them and everything they sacrificed (Tris gave her life to her cause!). I’m not taking anything away from them by defending Bella. All I’m doing is giving Bella and Stephanie Meyers the props they seem to be frequently denied. In my opinion, Meyers created a well-rounded, relatable, and human character.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could be even half as smart as Hermione, half as daring as Tris, and half as strong as Katniss. But I would also be proud to be as half as brave as Bella. In some cases, maybe I could rise to the occasion. If it means protecting my family, I know that I would at least try. But whether I was or wasn’t, I would hate to be judged solely on my bad days and never given credit for my good.

Honestly, what’s the harm in crying everyone once in a while? The world can get a little tough and, every now and then, it really does help to let it all out!

 

So bring on the comments and let me know what you think! I’m ready for them.

-T.

A Breakdown of Hozier’s, “Take Me To Church”

Hozier’s, Take Me To Church.

Blog post

(Disclaimer: Guys, when I first had the idea to write about Hozier and his song, Take Me to Church, I had every intention of keeping the post relatively short as is my usual style. However, I’ll admit, short is not how things turned out. Evidently, I had a lot to say so I wanted to give you a fair warning before you tread any further. Also, I ask that you keep an open mind as you read. I’m sharing a lot more than I usually dare to do over the internet but I hope you know that my intent isn’t to offend or impose my beliefs on anyone else. I’m simply sharing my thoughts and encourage you to do the same but in a kind manner, please 🙂 Thank you!)

The first time I heard Hozier was when I was in West Palm Beach at the Sunfest music festival back in May of 2015. Work Song was the first song I heard of his and I was hooked right then and there. In a span of a few seconds, Hozier had gained a new fan. 

Fast forward five years and I’m still a fan. So when someone hit me with, “Did you know Hozier’s, Take Me to Church is really about sex, not church?” you know my mind has been boggled and I’ve got some research to do.  

When I read over the lyrics, it became blatantly obvious that my friend was right and even many (if not all) of you are probably thinking, “Duh! How could you not have realized that?” But what can I say? Sometimes I get lost in enjoying the music and singing along that I don’t stop to think about what’s really being said. Plus, nowadays, what song isn’t about sex in some way or another?

But now, seeing the lyrics in front of me, all signs definitely point to sex: 

My church offers no absolutes/ She tells me, worship in the bedroom

Yeah, I’d say that makes things pretty dang clear. (And, by the way, I don’t mean to sound prudish about this at all. Hozier wants to sing about sex? More power to him! I’m simply commenting on how I didn’t realize a song with “church” in its title was about sex. Then, once I did some research, I was thoroughly intrigued and wanted to share my findings. That’s all. 🙂 ) 

But I realized my friend wasn’t completely right about the meaning behind Take Me to Church. It isn’t that Hozier’s song is all about sex and nothing about church. In fact, it’s a lot about church, too, and the issues Hozier has with some established religions. 

I decided to jump down the rabbit hole and see what I could find on the internet about it. Needless to say, there was plenty.

I came across the article, What does ‘Take Me to Church’ by Hozier Mean? by Clifford Stumme on the “The Pop Song Professor” website that I think made a lot of good points. But before I get into those and my thoughts as well, I did want to share this particular statement of Hozier’s:

“I’m not condemning the church or religion on the whole, just that one policy [the anti-same-sex marriage policy], which seems so wrong to me. And obviously, I’m not alone in thinking that.” So it’s not religion that Hozier has an overall issue with. It’s the church’s policies that prioritize rules and prejudice over love and acceptance, not the institution of the church in general. I thought it was important to highlight this distinction first and foremost. 

To be honest, I don’t disagree. 

In the interest of disclosure, I’m a Christian and have considered myself such for pretty much my whole life. BUT up until recently,  it had been years since I’d attended an actual service. Part of the reason I hadn’t been going is the simple fact that life gets busy. This isn’t new information and I’ve said this before. Between two jobs, making time for family and friends, trying to write a book, and all of the regular day-to-day things, it’s hard to make time for a weekly commitment on top of all of that. 

But it’s even harder to convince yourself to go when there’s so much negativity surrounding some organized religion. It’s unfortunate to say but there are a lot of people who use church as a way to encourage hate and disrespect and, if you’ve never been to any church before, I’d imagine it could be hard to choose which to try. 

Luckily for me, I’d already gone to the church I now attend so I knew what to expect: respect for all people, regardless of choices some might not agree with. 

The music video for Take Me to Church portrays a gay couple being assaulted by a group of men. (You can find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVjiKRfKpPI ) While Hozier has expresses an obvious distaste for church-fueled shaming, he uses his music video as an attack on homophobia, “If you feel offended or disgusted by the image of two people kissing, if that’s what it is, but you’re more disgusted by that than the actual violence…I think you should take a look at your values, maybe.” Hozier and I share the similar opinion that choosing to be violent towards those who act against the norm — a “norm” that is quickly becoming outdated, by the way — is far worse than committing the act itself, especially when it is an act of love. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone can feel so much hate towards a love between two people. If people are acting out of love — regardless of anyone’s race, gender, the timeline in which you engage in acts of love, or any other supposed criteria — how can it be such an awful thing? If God is supposed to be a great source of love, how can you not feel closer to Him when you are sharing your love with another human being? I don’t understand.  

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but my belief is that the only way in which anyone should react is out of kindness and respect. We should be permitted to do what makes us happy — within reason, of course, and in a way that doesn’t cause harm to others or ourselves — and, if someone doesn’t agree with that, then fine. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions but we all need to respect the opinions of those around us. 

Honestly, I don’t understand why this is such a hard concept to grasp but people can agree to disagree. It’s entirely possible thing to do! And I think a lot of us could benefit from learning to do so. In fact, I think it would give us the chance to understand one another a lot more, if only we weren’t so preoccupied with cramming our opinions on others or fearing that they are trying to force theirs on us. Imagine having a simple discussion about the matter. Think of all that we could discover about those around us! Or, if that isn’t something you’re ready for, move on from whatever topic you and whoever you have disagreed about. I know it might seem unfathomable but arguing isn’t necessary. If you happen to disagree with someone, nothing more needs to be said or done. Both parties can simply go on living their individual lives. 

Anyways, let me get off my tangent and get back to my point. Part of the reason I was hesitant to return to church was because of the strong opinions associated with organized religions; absolutes as Hozier points out (My church offers no absolutes/ She tells me, worship in the bedroom). Thou shalt not judge is a prominent ideal associated with the bible and yet, somehow, it seems like that’s all some religious groups do. (Please note I did say, “SOME.” This is not true of all or even most churches and I am in no way trying to say that is the case.) In my opinion, church should be an encouraging place full of positive vibes and understanding so that people who choose to attend can feel welcome and seek what it is they’re looking for. It should not be a place where people are shamed and put down for their past indiscretions, especially when they’re trying to do better (I’ll tell you my sins, and you can sharpen your knife). Being kind to all people is a train I’m happy to ride. As for the others that stem from a place of hate rather than love, you won’t find me anywhere near it. Luckily for me, the church I attend is all about spreading love, no mention of hate or unacceptance — poison, as Hozier refers to it– whatsoever (Every Sunday’s gettin’ more bleak/ A fresh poison each week). 

A kind place — now that’s my kind of place!

Unfortunately, the world isn’t always kind and, I’m not going to lie, that’s why part of me is hesitant to share this post. I stand by my opinions but, while I’d easily discuss them with the people I trust, it’s an entirely different feeling to share these ideas with strangers, especially those on the internet. Not that I don’t appreciate every one of you — I’m so grateful that you’ve read this deeply into my ramblings lol — but I think we can all agree that there are some not-so-nice people lurking behind the safety of their computer screens. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to willingly expose ourselves to their wrath.

To wrap this up, I wanted to discuss one final thing and that’s an interview Stumme came across where Hozier says “[his] song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love. Turning your back on the theoretical thing, something that’s not tangible, and choosing to worship or love something that is tangible and real — something that can be experienced.” To an extent, I can understand where Hozier is coming. HOWEVER, I will only turn my back on the theoretical thing that shames and punishes those who go against its prejudiced rules, not the theoretical thing that encourages goodness. Having a little bit of faith — even in something we can’t see — isn’t a bad thing. I don’t think it hurts to believe in a higher power when that entity promotes goodness in the world. But I also agree with Hozier in that it is incredibly important to love what is right in front of you. Those things that you can see and feel. I don’t believe we have to choose between what is tangible and what isn’t — they aren’t mutually exclusive — and to deny ourselves either one would put us at a loss. It would mean limiting our capacity to love and no one benefits from less love. In fact, the world could use a whole lot more of it.

Kindly share your thoughts with me. I’d love to read them!

 

Thanks, 

-T.