Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Agoraphobia Musings and Strangers

I wasn't always shy.

I used to be adventurous.  I never wanted to be at home; it was always: run, go, do, see, explore, create.  Never just "be."  Everything was open to me.  The world was my oyster.

Slowly, though, the constraints of school and life and growing-up crept closer and closer until going and doing and seeing and exploring were very low on the priority list.  Then, I moved to Rome.  What a dry patch!  For a year, I had no friends except the ones I had to be on the computer to see.  Home became the theme.  I rarely left the house unless I absolutely had to, and even then, I would get anxious about all of the people and everything I wasn't used to and I would hurry back into my shell.

My personality changed.  Being in a place where being American is uncommon muddled my thoughts and made me shy.  I didn't want to stand out, so I backed into a dark corner and hid as best as I could.  My thoughts were just a series of commands.  "Walk tall.  Don't look him in the eye; he's sketchy.  Pronounce Italian better, dummy, they're going to think you're an idiot.  Don't make eye contact; that lady might start a conversation and that could get awkward."

So I would stay inside.

I became a homebody.  I would groan when we left the house, or if I had to go somewhere by myself.  And I was immensely frustrated with this new development.

And then it all changed.  I moved to Brussels and made some friends who happen to live a good distance away.  In order to see them, I have to walk about 5 minutes to the bus stop, take a 15 minute bus ride to the train station, and then ride the train for 45 minutes to their town.

This has forced me to purchase train tickets, figure out arrival/departure times, talk to people, and maneuver around a foreign country all by myself.

I realized one day how agoraphobic I'd become when my dad made me go out.  He told me I just needed to leave the house and do something, to conquer a few fears, so I took the bus to Starbucks and went to my favorite little bookstore.  When I found out the bookstore was closed, I walked right back to the bus stop and came home.  I didn't explore or try to find somewhere else to see something new; my first instinct was to run home.

Yeah, that had to change.

My agoraphobic tendencies still often outweigh my exploratory ones.  I still think too hard about every detail of everything I do in public, and I occasionally panic when something that's routine gets twisted up and I have to change my modus operandi.  But, I've been getting better.  I find myself caring less and less.  How sweet coffee tastes when I've ordered it in French without passing the duty onto my friend.  I'll hug my buddies all the harder when I take the train and the bus to their house without any incidents or mild panic attacks.  I'll have a conversation in what I like to call "Frenglish" with the sweet girl who sat next to me on the train.

Perhaps the dulling down of my adventure-sense was a good thing.  Maybe it broke whatever could have been irrational or overly-enthusiastic in me.  Now, I must build a bit of it back up; I need to break the cycle of shyness and self-awareness in order to blend those warring spirits happily within me.

I'm learning how to talk to strangers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

So, it's been a while.

Hey, it's me.  I know.  I haven't posted since July.

Let's just pretend I've been a good blogger and move on, shall we?  I've still been posting occasionally at Dressing Room Door, so you can go check that out.

Mostly, I wanted to show you my room!  I've basically finished decorating, and I love it.  It's my favorite room in which I've lived, and it just screams Caroline.

First, my little "study nook."  I live on the top floor of our house, so I have a slanted roof on one side of my room with a big window in the middle.  To the right of my window, underneath the slant, I sat an Ikea desk.  This is where I do school and all my big thinkin'.  My mom put this desk together all by herself.  The little drawer was missing a back, and she crafted one from packaging styrofoam.  I'm proud.

Our land-lady let me pick the paint color for that one wall before we moved in, and I love it.  It matches perfectly with the sheets and quilt that I already had, and now I can just build upon the theme.  I love happy white furniture, especially when I have a big window.  It makes the space really airy and relaxing.  Assuming my room is clean.

Next we have the wall to the left of my desk.  I've got a big, big whiteboard upon which I write song lyrics that I like, things I must do, etc.  This time, it's lyrics to "Plant Life" by Owl City.  Speaking of which, I'm going to go to an Owl City concert on Friday and I'm more than a little excited.  :)  

That little lanyard on the side is one that I wore at the gathering for my online school, but I blurred out my last name from the preying eyes of internet strangers.  Sorry, creepers.

Here I have my inspiration board.  I expect it to get really full of random pinnings, but it's still a pretty new thing.  I cut the Topshop label off my shopping bag, the big piece of paper is "The Seven Ages of Man," the postcard is from the college to which I'm applying, Covenant, and the little paper nub on the left is a ticket to the London Eye.  The little cutouts are Taylor Swift and some random model from a magazine who looked to happy not to cut out and paste up there, and then there's a mask from Venice.  I can't wait to put more good things up there.

This is my cozy little bed and my horribly unattractive wardrobe (there are two standing side by side.  Military issue.  Not pretty, but I've made due).  To zoom in......

This is Beau.  My brother won him for me at Dave and Busters once, and I'm sort of obsessed with this huge hippo.  Why the name?  My thought process was:  Hippo.  Translates to Hippie.  Translates to Bohemian.  And from there, Bo.  I spell it Beau because I'm fancy.

This is a little board that I got at Ben Franklin once for about 10 dollars.  It's a bit nicked in spots, since I've had it since I lived in Hawaii, but I love it.  I cut out some Audrey Hepburn pics that were from a 2009 calendar, which, for obvious reasons, I can no longer use.  I hang my necklaces on the hooks.  (And may I just thank my father real quick for hanging all of this stuff on my wall?)  

And then I have a pretty little wicker bedside table with a stack of books underneath and a candle on the top.  I love candles, and need to find some yummy scented ones somewhere.

Moving on, we have my bookshelf/dresser  Yup, that's a flute on the bottom shelf.  And that little tree is holding my bracelets and earrings and rings.  I like having my jewelry on display because it makes me more likely to actually wear it.

And no, my room isn't sideways.  Blogger is just rude.

And finally, we have my funky little rocking chair, which just hangs out by the door that adjoins my room to the guest room.  I don't really go in there, so I don't have to worry about blocking the door.  I've also got my white wicker laundry basket from Ross next to it, and although you can't see it, I've got a full length mirror on the wall next to the guest room door. 

And you betcha I've got me a shaggy rug.

That's all for now, folks.  I want to blog more, it's just that lately, I feel as if I don't have anything important enough to say.  We'll see where this goes.  :)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

My summer thus far

Things have been quite a whirlwind, lately.

I've made some friends who already feel like family.  I'll spend days at a time at their house and we can do nothing and everything, all the while being wonderfully entertained by each other.  There's no end to the amount of laughter ringing through the halls of our houses when we're together.  I love them already, and am so blessed to have tangible friends after a painfully dry period in Rome.  After a year of learning how to keep myself company, and teaching myself how to be alone, I'm now reaping the benefits in that I now stand in awe of the glory of friendship.

We've found a house and moved in... for the most part.  There are still boxes here and there and we need to go to Ikea and get some storing containers, but we've figured out places for a lot of our things..  We're in a lovely four-story row house, and I'm at the top floor.  Fifty-three stairs from my room to the very lowest level.  I do believe I'm going to be getting into excellent shape, and fast.

Tomorrow, we go to London for the weekend.  I'm thrilled to pieces about it because London is one of those extraordinarily dreamy places to which every young lady wishes to go.  I do believe I'll practice my English accent, and I plan on going to Harrod's, TopShop, and to ride the London Eye, if we have enough time.  And tomorrow night, we're going to see Billy Elliot at the theatre!  It's this girl's dream come true, I tell you.

I turned seventeen a little over a week ago, and I genuinely feel it.  Everyone always asks if you sense any difference on your birthday, and no one ever really does.  But for some reason, I woke up and thought, "Wow.  A year from today I'll be getting ready to go to college."  I've realized lately that my life is, everyday, a little bit more structured around my own independent plans and schedule.  I can move from place to place pretty well on my own, and haven't needed much help from my parents to get things done in unpacking my room, or much else.  Suddenly, I'm not a kid.  It's a terrifying prospect, but I'm enjoying it, too.

I haven't been blogging much, as you've probably noticed.  Lately I've just been trying to move through my summer and detox in the most stress-free way possible, and the blog has fallen to the wayside.  I'm headed for an incredibly tense year of school, and I'm wanting to make the most of this time that I have without a set schedule and assignments.

This has been my summer so far!  I'm loving Brussels, I'm loving my friends, I'm loving my family, and this is shaping up to be a terrific summer.  I hope you're all having a great time in the sunshine as well!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

To be at Peace

Lately, something has been slowly stirring inside of me.

Some sort of quiet ambition... a desire to change my own mind.

I'm very good at worrying.  I think I worried away quite a few days in the past, and I did so for nothing.  Worrying never moved me forward; it just kept me stuck in a pit.  And once you're stuck in that pit, you merely get mired deeper and deeper into it.

Worry is a terrible thing.  It consumes you and expends mountains of energy, and that energy is usually meant to be used for something else; something productive.  Mainly, my worries have always been about how my adulthood will turn out.  What college I will go too, the people I will know, and what I will end up doing.  Even since I was little, I've just fretted in my own head about how I will turn out.

But lately, I've realized how foolish this is.  There's no magic number of "being there."  If I spend my youth worrying, there's a high likelihood that I'll spend my adulthood doing the very same.  There will never be a time in my life where I have everything perfectly figured out.  That fact proves my tendency to be entirely fruitless.

I have a new mantra, readers.  It's rather cliche, but when I say it to myself over and over, it genuinely makes me analyze my heart and release my worries.

What will be, will be.

No amount of agonizing over the future will change it, and that's ultimately because I'm not the one in control.  Is that not a beautiful thought?

I don't have to worry about "creating my own destiny."  I simply must follow where I'm called to be, and everything will work out for good.  For instance, I don't have to worry about friends who are far away.  I simply keep talking to them and loving them and staying as connected as I can, but in the end, those who are truly meant to be my forever friends will end up being just that.

There is nothing I can do to undo God's grace and plan for my life.  I can't make one wrong move, like picking the wrong university, and suddenly throw my life off course and ruin everything.  That idea brings me peace beyond comprehension.

This new mantra has also taught me to slow down and listen very carefully to the direction in which I should be heading.  If there are a multitude of reasons why I shouldn't go to a college, but I want to dig my heels in because I have friends there or it seems like an exciting place to be, I have to release that and understand that perhaps that's not where I should be.

Worrying has wasted much of my energy; but no more will I allow that to be even a tiny facet of who I am.  I want to be a young woman who can rest peacefully in the knowledge that I'm not in control, and do not have to fret over trying to make everything perfect.  The only one who can do that is God, and I must learn to put that into his hands.

I don't really like the term "living in the moment," because when I hear that, I think of people who misunderstand the phrase and disregard the fact that we must also be listening to the will of God and looking ahead towards our futures.  But in a sense, I do wish to more enjoy my moments and days, even if only because they are free from worry!

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:34

 "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" -Luke 12:25

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad. -Proverbs 12:25

Friday, June 24, 2011

A list because I'm still jet-lagged and the idea of paragraphs is daunting

Somehow, I feel like Belgium and I will be great friends, and here's why.

1.  Belgium is very central.  We can easily get to so many different countries in Europe, and that's something I haven't done before.

2.  The Belgians don't knock back tiny espressos and hit the road like Italians do.  They sit, with a human-sized mug of coffee, and a croissant, or something to that effect.  I very much appreciate this.  (Not to mention, Brussels has two Starbucks, and that makes this little addict quite happy.)

3.  Streets and sidewalks in this city are wide.  This may seem like small potatoes, but once you've been nearly hit by itty bitty dumb smart cars on extraordinarily narrow, cobblestone streets, it becomes a big deal.

4.  There are flowers everywhere, and everything is so green.  My mom and I love this particular aspect.

5.  Though there's a little bit of spray paint action, the graffiti-to-wall ratio is significantly smaller in Brussels than it is in Rome.

6.  The style!  I know this is so girlish of me, and I apologize, but the girls here know clothes and elegance.

7.  French.  I've always wanted to learn it, and now I get the chance.  It's a beautiful language.  But I am having trouble remembering to say "Merci" instead of "Grazie" and "Oui" instead of "Si."

8.  The diversity of food.  In Rome, you really only eat either Italian food or Chinese/Japanese fusion.  And that's really just unacceptable.  Here, they have excellent pub food, they have Mexican food, they have all sorts of Asian cuisine, they have Italian, they have French cafes.... it's all good.

9.  I'll get to learn to drive, I'll get to act, I may take a few classes at an international school, I'm going to try to get my first real job, and I'm going to go through my last year of high school here.  It's pretty monumental.

10.  The houses are so cute.  Suburbs aren't a bunch of matchy-matchy buildings... it's a bunch of different townhouses in either the French or Dutch style, and it is just so quaint, and charming, and full of soul and character.

These are my top ten reasons for enjoying Belgium so much.  It's just a place that... suits me.

Have a great day!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I need one of those "I heart NYC" t-shirts except for Brussels.

Bonjour! We've arrived in Belgium, and I blogged about it over yonder.

I have to say, this city, Brussels, is absolutely beautiful.  The architecture is very clean and... somehow different from the Roman aesthetic, though I can't quite explain why.  It's very French!  I love the wider streets and all of the cute cookie and candy shops.  It's a good thing that my savory-tooth is a stronger force than my sweet-tooth, because my waistline would not thank me for it later if I took advantage of all the sweets this place has to offer.

I love the accents, I love the French style (which I blogged about over yonder), I love the weather, I love the fact that they have Mexican food and burgers and Italian food all next to each other, I love the architecture, and I love the fact that it's a colorful city.

Basically, I've fallen in love with Belgium and I've only been here two days.  And I have slept through majority of that time span.

My parents are a little bit jealous that I went to bed at 10:30 last night and slept in while they were running errands.  When they returned from said errands, at 2:00 in the afternoon, I was still asleep.  And there was not one single second throughout that time that I even lifted, or even THOUGHT about lifting, an eyelid.

Being a teenager with the capacity to sleep when given a soft bed and a pillow is pretty much the best thing in the world.

I'm going to take some pictures soon, but every time we've gone out, I've been overwhelmed by just taking it all in and have thus become forgetful of my camera.  But I'll be sure to snap some soon!

And, oh happy day, a family from my online school lives very near Brussels.  But not just a family.  One of the sweetest, most wonderful families I've ever had the privilege to meet.  Also, I may be able to attend a school here starting in the Fall, just to take math and science while I'll continue to homeschool for the rest of my subjects.  Plus, the British theatre scene here is apparently fantastic, so I'll try to inject myself there.  Suffice it to say, I don't think I'll have any trouble making friends!

I have to unpack and get ready for bed (It's almost 10:30 and the sun hasn't even gone down), but I'll catch you on the flip side.

Au revoir!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Twilight, Part 4: Manipulation and False Valor

I'm back working on my Twilight review!  If you missed the first three parts, click here, here, and here.

**spoiler alert**  (Some themes in this post may not be appropriate for younger readers)

One of the main reasons that so many Christians support the Twilight series is the notion that the story supports celibacy until marriage, and that the characters in the story, though troubled, have better morals than characters in other modern tales such as these.  And to an extent, it's true, because the two do wait until marriage.  However, one really can't give them much credit for it at all.  In fact, the book is almost racier than it would have been if they had not waited!

Let me explain how this works.  I credit the author, Stephenie Meyer, for being brilliant at the psychological manipulation of young girls and their parents.  Many parents look at the books and see two teens practicing good moral behavior, while teenage girls read this book and become emotionally invested in characters who are deeply in love.

One has to understand that boys and girls are different.  While a boy reading this book wouldn't get much of a thrill from the whirlwind love affair of the two main characters, a girl reads this and is deeply effected by this so-called perfect love.

Another impressive fact about Meyer's authorship is that she pushes boundaries of moral behavior in a way that can effect readers, but not so far as to really be accused of being too racy.  But I challenge this, and say that the Twilight series is, in fact, incredibly inappropriate!

When one removes the harrowing aspects of the story, you have a teenage girl who allows her boyfriend to sleep in her room, though they do not do anything other than talk and sleep.  Kisses are in every chapter, and the description of the emotions Bella feels is lofty and deep.

In my rhetoric class early in the year, we were all discussing Twilight, and I took some notes, as I had been planning on doing this review for a while.  One of my good friends, Santiago, said "It's like the line between holding hands and... having babies."  After we all had a good laugh, I realized what a true statement that really is.  The two characters in the book, though they abstain from actual sex, are so emotionally invested and are constantly kissing, etc.  It's not that I think kissing is a sin, necessarily, but you have to read the book to understand how often and how significant each kiss is... It pervades the entire story, and attempts to create an anticipation that, I think, is unhealthy.

Not to mention, they have to abstain.  Bella wants to become a vampire, but Edward doesn't want her to be one until after they get married.  He's afraid that if they were to do more than just share kisses, that he would be tempted to bite her, thus making her into a vampire prematurely, though Bella actually tries to initiate romance on more than one occasion.

Now, when you put it that way, doesn't it just sound like a ridiculous story?

The characters in Twilight are no more moral than any other characters out there.  They remain celibate solely out of necessity, and the anticipation built in the story is unhealthy for young people to read!  It gives no moral reason for waiting; it simply forces the heroes to do so.  Stephenie Meyer has cleverly tricked many through her manipulation of emotions and morality.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Week

As we flew down the road towards our destination, my stomach twisted.  Would this all be what I had dreamed?

I flashed back in time as we slowed behind the Amish buggies, and I grinned at the sweet little covered heads of two little girls on their way home from church.  But all the while, through all the new scenery and beautiful landscape of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I couldn't focus.  My mind churned back and forth; mingled excitement and nervousness distracted me.

Mom and I pulled into the hotel and lugged our bags upstairs.  I swore I couldn't eat a bite, but found it extremely easy to gobble that delicious lamb and feta burger...

Nerves drove me to distraction and I had to remind myself to breathe evenly as I strode into the lobby to meet some of my friends for the first time.

As I hugged each of those boys, two from my classes, one being a family friend, and one being a brand new friend, any flicker of doubt I had was pinched out.  I was euphoric as I got ready for bed that night, so looking forward to meeting one of my teachers from last year and my very best friends.

The week passed in a whirlwind of meeting new people, positively tackling my best chums with affectionate hugs, and creating memories fantastic enough to last me well into the next gathering.

The founder of my online school and, honestly, the reason I have so many forever-friends, made a great point.  We students of Veritas Press are a new generation.  We came to this gathering with the great anticipation and delight of meeting our best friends; some of us for the first time.

My Spanish teacher from last year noted how beautiful this really is as I cried in the hallway last night.  It wouldn't be right to leave out this aspect of meeting new people and loving on other peers completely!  We, though often apart from our best friends, are nevertheless learning how to love others and to keep friendships. 

I had to leave a while before most, so I missed church and the final picnic.  But the hugs I received last night were each one so meaningful and they made me smile.  I laughed through tears as I held onto these people who mean so much to me, and I thanked God for bringing them all into my life.

I’ll post pictures and go into detail later, but for now, I just wanted to check in and let you know why I was gone.  I’m writing this as I fly away from those friends whom I love, and I’ll admit that there’s a mist beginning to cloud my eyes.  But that week with these people was absolutely worth any pain that the good-byes may have wrought.

I love you, my friends, and I am so blessed that you’re a part of my life.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In which there are copious amounts of exclamation points!

Hello, friends!

I was going to post yesterday, but of course, blogger was shut down for several hours.  At least this time it's not my fault that something technological broke.

I'm not kidding.  I've completely set back a few of my Rhetoric II classes because I just don't understand technology.  We had to do class on Skype one day just so I could get my video to work!  I really don't know what to do with tech... I can work it insofar as to have a blog, go to classes, fiddle with basic HTML; after that, though, I am merely clueless.

So I ask you, friends.  If you have any ideas as to where/how I can get a fun new blog look, please let me know!  I've played with Picnik headers and the built-in template designer, but it's just not right.  I want a second opinion and a fresh eye.  If you have a suggestion, please either comment on this post or email me at pastaandwaffles(at)gmail(dot)com!

Moving on, I'm more busy than I've been in a while.  And I am still working on the next Twilight review installment!  But you guys.  I've got some fantastic things going on right now.

  • Studying for final exams
  • Taking final exams
  • Completely finishing junior year
  • Packing up my room and filling a suitcase with enough to last me a few months... while still being under the weight limit for airplanes.  (Hold me.)
  • Movers are going to come and box up our belongings.
  • In about two weeks, my mom and I are flying to Lancaster, PA, for my online school's end of the year gathering.  I'm so excited about it!
  • After the gathering, we will go see my family in Georgia.  And I'll get to seem my favorite puppy in the universe.  And, oh yeah, my brother.  ;)
  • Once we've thoroughly steeped in the glory that is the United States of America (I really miss America.  Not to be confused with "Miss America."), we will beheading to Brussels and looking for a house.
So obviously, this is a season of change in my life.  And I'm incredibly thrilled!

I'll get to meet some fantastic people whom I love dearly.  And I think you'd like to get to know them, too.  ;)

Amanda is one of the sweetest girls in the world.  She listens better than anyone I know, and really, truly cares about all of her friends.  Plus, she's completely hilarious.

Emilyann is... how do I explain?  She's incredibly funny.  I mean, girl makes me crack up.  She really likes hippos?  And I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of hug your heart out moments.

Annie is a brilliant photographer, and utterly gorgeous.  She's sweet and funny, and I think we'll have the absolute best time!  Plus, I'd very much like to steal her hair, if I could?  :) Her sweet little sister, her parents, and her great brothers, Santiago and Nikko, will be there too!

Lillian is such a sweetie.  She's got a great sense of style, and I think we're going to have a wonderful time goofing off together!

Lizzie  and Sarah Layne.  I sort of have to put them together, because they're attached at the hip!  I've met Sarah Layne in real life, and she's a doll.  I'll be glad to see their antics!  ;)

And my friends without blogs, Josie, Jordan, Ashley, Alex, and Jon, I can't wait to see y'all!

Sadly enough, my wonderful friends Valentine and Lauren won't be able to go.  I'm so upset about it, but I am determined to find a way to meet them in real life!

And with that, my friends, I will bid you adieu.
You see, my dear readers, I have studying to do!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nice n' Easy Does It

I'm loosely taking a format, for today, from one of my favorite bloggers, Katie.  :)  I needed some inspiration, and hers is perfect!

Quote I'm Loving:  "I am stupid with facts about other people's lives.  My eyes sting from the smell of typing ink.  My fingers are striped with paper cuts.  Who knew paper and ink could be so vicious?"  - The Help, Kathryn Stockett

Music I'm Loving:  Frank Sinatra.  It never gets old.

And a meme, also stolen from Kate.  She's inspirational, that one.

Age:  16.  17 in July.
Bed Size: Small.  Very, very small.
Chore you hate:  Cleaning the bathtub.  Ugh.
Dogs:  I want one!
Essential start of your day:  Breakfast.  I have to have breakfast.  I may pass out on you if I don't.
Favorite Color: Purple.  And I liked it before Justin Bieber did.
Gold or silver:  Silver.  Gold, though I do wear it some, doesn't quite enhance my fair complexion.
Height: Five foot eight.  Or nine.  Not sure.  Taller than I want to be, for certain.
Instruments I play (or have played): I play guitar.  Sort of.
Job Title: Student and babysitter.
Live: Rome, Italy.  Soon to be Brussels, Belgium.
Mom's Name: Anne with an e. It's very important, you see.
Nickname: Liney, Loopy, Pinky, Babygirl, Caro, Carrie, Carolina... the list is forever long.  I love my nicks.
Overnight hospital stays: Hmm.  I've had three surgeries but I don't know if they were overnight.  I was little.
Pet Peeve: Sleeves touching my wrists, confusing "less" and "fewer," and people touching my sides.
Quote from a movie: "She put herself in your place- all you have to do is put yourself in her place and your BOUND to bump into each other in somebody's place."  Maggie Prescott - Funny Face
Right or left handed: Right handed.  Only normal thing about me.
Siblings: One big brother, who's in college.  Or at University, as those Europeans say.
Time you wake up: Usually 7.  6 if I'm working out.
Underwear: Quite, quite.
Vegetables you dislike: Squash.  Zucchini.  Sweet Potatoes.
What makes you run late: Stuffing things in my purse that I think I need and end up not using.
X-rays you've had done: On my ankle... and at the dentist.  I can't remember any other ones...
Yummy food you make: I have a mean brussel sprouts recipe, I like to bake, and I like cheese.  Cheesy everything.  And spaghetti Bolognese.
Zoo animal:  Lemurs.  They intrigue me.

And today, the weather's warm! I flung open the windows and made some citrus iced water.  Days like this make studying for finals much less daunting.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Twilight, Part 3: The Self-Centeredness of Bella Swan

**spoiler alert**

Thinking about Bella Swan makes me sigh inwardly.  From the minute she got entangled with Edward Cullen, she became thoroughly unlikable.  I rarely despise the main character of a story, especially when that character is supposed to be revered.  But Bella is a whole story unto herself.

At the beginning of the book, I was pleased to find that she was more enjoyable than her character in the movies.  In fact, most of the characters were.  I would do a movie review, but I think it might be a bit redundant after I finish this series.

Bella was slightly sullen, but she was a hard-worker and she wasn't as moody as the movie makes her out to be.  She moved to Forks to live with her dad, because her mom had gotten remarried to a traveling baseball player.

The first thing that agitated me about this book was the relationship of Bella and her mother.  You see, Bella's mother is all over the place.  She's disorganized, forgetful, goofy, and childish.  Bella has risen to the occasion and is now, in essence, her mother's mother.  This infuriated me, to be entirely honest.  This sort of theme is common on TV and in movies, but it just gets to me every time.  I can not tell you of a single teenage girl that I know that is more mature than her mother.  I do not know a single girl who keeps up her own schedule as well as her mother's, cooks dinner every night, and surpasses her mother in brain-power.  I'm certain that there are girls like this in the world, but they are simply an unfortunate minority.  It's not realistic, and it lowers the standards of parents in today's society.

Second, I will describe Bella's personality.  She's rather introverted, but with a streak of wit.  Being a very pretty girl, she is constantly asked out on dates or to prom by sweet (human) boys in her new friend crowd.  Seemingly "too busy," she simply turns them down at every opportunity because she's so fascinated by Edward.  I found this to be disturbing.  It displayed a self-centeredness in Bella.  She was allowed, and encouraged by her mother, to date, so the fact that she made excuses and wrote them off without even a kind explanation made me cringe.  The book even shows how hurt these boys were, and how lovestruck!

This is not to say she should have gone out with a boy in whom she wasn't interested, but I think girls have an obligation to be kinder to the boys who display affection, even when the feeling isn't mutual.  Bella instead was annoyed by their forwardness and wrote them off from the get-go.  This isn't the proper attitude, and it niggled at me.  But Bella's self-centeredness goes much, much further than this.

After all was said and done and Bella and Edward had fallen madly in love, Edward came to stay in her bed with her every night.  They did nothing but talk and she slept (vampires don't sleep; he just watched her), but at the same time, I was appalled.  Later on in the series, Bella's father had set a curfew for when Edward had to go home, and as soon as Mr. Swan was asleep, Edward hopped right through her window again.

In the book, Bella's excuse was that her father couldn't possibly understand that all they were doing up there was talking and that there was nothing sinister about it, but that just isn't good enough.  This made me think, are we only to respect our fathers when the understand?  No father can fully know what's going on in his daughter's heart, but does that give us, as daughters, an excuse to break his rules?  Mr. Swan never finds out about it in the book, but it's incredibly clear that he's not the smartest man in the world, either.

And yet, Bella's self-centeredness goes even further.  In one book, Edward makes the decision to leave Forks for Bella's own good, which I believe is the most honorable thing he did in the whole series.  Bella becomes depressed, but realizes one night that when her adrenaline is incredibly high and she's being faced by danger, she can hear his voice.

In short order, she's doing every possible dangerous trick she can do in order to hear him once again.  I found this incredibly selfish.  If she had died in the process, it would break the heart of both of her parents.  Not to mention, she is so depressed that she doesn't treat her friends and family well, which is selfish.  However, she becomes close to another boy, Jacob.  He's a werewolf, because humans just apparently aren't good enough for Bella...

They become best friends and he helps her do dangerous and exciting things.  But I have to say, he was my favorite character in the book.  He was happy.  He was the most like a normal teenage boy than any of the ones in the book.  The trouble, though?  Bella Swan was too wonderful, and he fell in love.

This is where the whole "Team Edward" and "Team Jacob" scenario comes into play.  I'm personally on Team Jacob if I have to choose at all, because though he's a reckless boy in some ways, he's also normal.  He's not particularly moody, he would do anything for Bella, etc.  He's just a normal kid, despite the fact that he can morph into a wolf. (Oddest sentence I've ever said, I must be honest.)

Finally, Bella chooses Edward over Jacob.  This is rather complex... Edward's "sister," Alice, can see the future.  She saw Bella jumping off a cliff, which she did.  However, she was just cliff-diving, and not actually committing suicide.  Alice tells Edward, and Edward thinks she has died.  Edward goes to Italy to the leading vampires of the world, the Volturi, and plots to display his vampiric nature to the townsfolk.  If humans find out about a vampire, the Volturi kill that vampire.

Bella and Alice race to Italy and are almost too late.  As Edward is about to step into a crowded plaza in the sunlight, where everyone could see his sparkle (I'm sorry, is that not funny to anyone else but me?), Bella runs up to him and forces him back into the shadows.

There's a lot more detail to the story, but all you need to know is they decide to never be apart again, etc and so on and so forth.  Here's the kicker.  Bella makes the decision to become a vampire in order to be with Edward forever.  Edward is hesitant to put her through that, but he promises that he will make her one after they get married.  She becomes pregnant with a beast of a half-human, half-vampire, and almost dies in a graphic scene in which the baby basically claws its way out of her.  In order to save Bella's life, Edward bites her and she eventually transforms into a vampire.

This act of becoming a vampire, however, is selfish.  In this situation, there wasn't much choice because they have to save her life.  But, she was planning on becoming one anyway.  Bella would have to distance herself from her mother and father for several years before she becomes strong enough to not... eat them!  And even after that, she'd look so different that she can't really ever let them see her.  Bella is only doing it because she can't bear to part with Edward.


This was quite the whirlwind of a post, but the story is very complex, and this is just the basics!  But in essence, Bella cares about only herself and Edward.  Some may say that's just so entirely romantic, but should this mean, then, that they are free to alienate the rest of the world so that they can be together?  Bella's parents, to some, are a small issue, but I was gravely irritated by her treatment of them.  The love of a parent for their child runs incredibly deep, and the fact that she can so easily separate and never look back was one of my main issues with her.

In the end, I was horrified at the character of Bella.  You would have to read the book to truly see what I mean, but she is a terrible example of a woman for girls to look up to, and I'm deeply saddened that so many girls do.

And don't even get me started on Kristen Stewart in the movie......

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Twilight, Part 2: Edward Cullen

**spoiler alert**

I am going to first address the male lead in the Twilight series, Edward Cullen.  First, I will explain how the book portrays him and how most girls my age see him, and then I will explain why I’m less than thrilled with his character.  I will also discuss reasons why his character is admirable, in a few ways.

Edward Cullen’s life stalled at the age of 17, when he was turned into a vampire by a Dr. Carlisle Cullen.  Edward’s parents had died of a serious illness, and he was on the verge of death as well.  Carlisle, a vampire himself, made the decision to save Edward’s life by making him immortal.

So fast forward.  Edward’s in the 21st century in a little town called Forks, where the sun rarely shines.  (Vampires sparkle in the sun, you know.  Very manly.)  Edward and some other young people Carlisle saved are posing as a family with adopted children, with Carlisle as the father and his wife Esme as the mother.  The other vampire “children” are Emmett, Rosalie, Alice, and Jasper.  However, they aren’t actual siblings.  Emmett and Rosalie are a couple, and Alice and Jasper are another.

This leaves Edward on his own, in a sense.  So he meets Bella Swan on her first day at school, and is met with a surprise.  He can’t read her mind, but he can read everyone else’s.  Not to mention she smells, really, really great. (It's a vampire thing.)  It becomes difficult for him to be around her because he has the urge to go all Dracula on her, but he tries to stay away.  At the same time, he feels the need to protect her... and so he follows her everywhere.

In the book, he is portrayed as a loving, albeit troubled, young man with a burning love for a girl.  He’s other-worldly, with unmatched good looks and impeccable manners.  He plays the piano with great skill, and is always considerate of others.

Young ladies today absolutely can’t get enough of this character.  He’s almost like a god among men in this book, and Bella, too, falls under the spell.  Interestingly enough, he watches her while she sleeps, even after she finds out.  He is always, always around, even when she can't see him.

At one point, he even tells her that she needs to be afraid of him.  That he’s dangerous and that she should never have contact with him again.  But she doesn’t listen.  A simple “I’m not afraid of you,” and they throw caution to the wind and fall in love.

Basically, I believe that Edward Cullen is an unhealthy character for young ladies to read books about.  He is portrayed as this perfect being, and he seemingly treats Bella so well!  However, this does two things to young girls.  One, it makes them assume that unless a boy lives up to these perfect, all-consuming characteristics, he’s not good enough.  Two, the story makes girls believe in a dangerous relationship.  Though Edward is good, he’s still technically the archetypical bad boy because he’s so dangerous and volatile.  I think that this is one of the reasons girls get into so many abusive relationships.  They act like Bella and follow the emotion that they feel they need, and end up getting hurt, even physically. 

I was shocked when I realized that this book is basically promoting this unsound type of relationship.  Certainly, Edward hates that he has urges to hurt her, but at the same time, I’m sure real boys who injure girls have a level of self-loathing. 

Edward is portrayed as the Renaissance man, but it really makes girls crave this dangerous, seemingly unattainable specimen.  He keeps her safe by watching her while she sleeps and following her around (which in itself is creepy, and gave me chills), but at the same time, he’s not healthy for Bella.  He’s all she can ever think about, and later on in the story, she becomes nearly suicidal when he goes away for a while.

So, tell me what you think.  Explaining these traits in Edward Cullen, does he not seem to you like a dangerous stalker?  Bella is driven crazy by her level of feeling for him, and she throws her entire life away for this on boy, and I will go into that in further detail later. 

Many who dislike the book still praise Edward Cullen for being a model young man.  However, I disagree.  He’s selfish in taking Bella so thoroughly from her life, and he remains near her no matter how dangerous it is for her.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Twilight Review, Part 1

A while back, I read the Twilight series.  For you.

I had adamantly sworn that I would never read it, but my curiosity piqued enough… and so I did.  I thought it would be a great blog post or two, and so I dug through the books in about two weeks.

Let me begin with my first impressions.  I have been told regularly that the writing in these books is absolutely phenomenal.  However, I disagree.  And at the same time, I fully agree.  As I read, I noticed that the authorship was plain.  It was simple vocabulary with a few choice words thrown in here and there.  However, it wasn’t spectacular by any stretch of the imagination.

At the same time, I agree that the writing is skillful.  Reading in as neutral of a mindset as I could muster, I found myself being pulled.  My heart would alternately soar and fall as the story did, and I had to really think about the story in order to continue reading.  I knew I was in this to give an honest review, and I needed to focus.

The author’s ability to reach into the mind of a young girl is absolutely stunning.  Though the writing is simple, it’s still amazing how Stephanie Meyer manages to tug the heartstrings.  You follow the characters with reckless abandon unless you stop and truly think. 

Once I began to consider the actual story as opposed to the frippery and romanticism and feeling that it evokes, I was shocked at the message. 

Girls, especially teenage girls, have a natural craving to be safe and protected.  In this case, this protection comes in the arms of a mysterious, Victorian-esque vampire.  The main character, Bella Swan, is the very image of  a down-to-earth young lady… or so it seems.  I actually find her to be unbalanced and foolish.

This is a basic summation of my thoughts in regards to the Twilight series, however, I will continue with an analysis of the main characters and then a final post in conclusion.

Get ready!  It’s going to be a biting review.  (See what I did there?  Haha.  Hah.  No?  Ok.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Capri and Sorrento

My parents and I took off for the weekend.  It was pretty much our last free weekend before we leave Rome, and boy, was it well spent!

We took a roughly 3 hour drive to Sorrento.  I do not remember the first two hours, because I was asleep.  I believe my vehicle narcolepsy kicked in about 4 and a half minutes into the drive.

Once I was done checking my eyelids for light leaks, I watched Naples fly by as we zipped through.  I can't say it's a very pretty place; or at least the majority of it isn't.  But really, I can't honestly give a good picture because you can't see anything for all the rubbish piled along the streets.

I read a few pages of The Help on my Kindle, which is a fantastic read so far.  Once we got to the bottom of the mountain, the beauty of the Mediterranean was breathtaking!  However, we were in for quite an adventure.  As we wound our way up, the TomTom (whom I HateHate) went on the fritz.  This resulted in a terrible journey through bumpy roads and narrow streets.

Naturally, my hands were over my eyes, but it was still harrowing.

Once we arrived at our hotel, we plopped our bags down and got some pizza.  I had mozzarella and anchovy pizza.  I seriously can not eat enough anchovy pizza.  It's an illness.

Saturday, we awoke to a wet canvas of earth, but we carried on.  I will forever bless my saint of a mother for urging me to wear my coat.  The day got so chilly that I also had to purchase a scarf.  I thought my boat shoes would be PERFECT for a rainy day, but I'm pretty sure they're still damp.

My mom got a fancy camera for her birthday, so if she ever had a free second, she was taking pictures.  And she took a LOT of pictures of me.  These are just too hilarious not to share... I wouldn't normally post so many pictures of just me, but these were just too hilarious.  I didn't get any pictures on my camera, because I'm a geek, so instead I will assault your eyes with these.

Why am I poking my face?  I really couldn't tell you.

Evoking the goofy tourist pose.  Whilst sopping wet.

When the camera's flashing over and over, you have to get creative, you see.

So thank you, mother.  Now I have something to look back on and to laugh at when I'm old and gray.  And now I've realized that my dad and I have the very same eyebrows.

Over all, the trip was so much fun, no matter how cold and wet we were.  And we bought some Sorrento lemons, which are... not small.

THAT'S a lemon.

And now I won't post another picture with my face in it for 4 more years.

You're welcome.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Clothing and Christian Women

Hey, y'all.  I wrote today on my other blog, Dressing Room Door, and thought I would also share it with those of you who only read this one.  I've been thinking about this post for a while and a discussion this morning prompted me to write out my thoughts on this topic.  Feel free to comment on whether or not you agree or disagree!  And I'm also proud to announce that all of the pictures in this post were taken for me by my dear friend, Annie.  Go check out her blog, Annie Pliego Photography, and leave her some comment love!  The sweet girl in the photos is her little sister, Isabel.  :)




1.  The quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.
2.  Regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
3.  Simplicity, moderation

Modesty is a widely discussed and debated topic among Christians; especially among women.  There are extremes on both sides of the spectrum, and it's our duty to think carefully in regards to how we should dress.

As I was discussing this post, with my mother, and how I should go about writing it, she suggested that I research what the word "modesty" even means!  I didn't expect it would be what it was, to say the least.

When Christian women think of modesty, they think of a way of dress that covers one's body in all the places that should remain private.  However, it's actually much more than that.  Only briefly in the definition of the word is the term "dress" mentioned.  What, then, does this mean?  How are we to be truly modest?

I believe that modesty is not only a covering of our bodies, but it is also a mindset.  Thinking and praying about this post for a while, I have even had a change of heart in what I believe about fashion, as well!  

Modest dress should not be shocking or flashy.  

1 Timothy 2:9
"Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control."

If we look at the definition of modesty and this verse combined, the word "self-control" really points out what many pass over.  As modest women, should strive for, as the dictionary states, simplicity and moderation.  Does this mean we can't wear something fun and different and colorful?  Absolutely not!  

Phillipians 4:8
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

John 5:44
"How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and edo not seek the glory that comes from fthe only God?

So the key, here, is to examine our hearts.  Are we wearing these clothes on our backs to seek attention, or are we wearing them because we truly find them to be pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent?

This is where the extremes come into play.  There are many Christian women that believe in only wearing long skirts and long sleeved shirts, and other than this code they do not believe in any sort of care for our outer appearance.

I fully agree with these women in that the inner beauty is far more important.  However, these outfits can actually be, in a sense, immodest!  When a non-Christian sees one of these women, it draws attention.  My mom made an excellent point in saying that when these women go to the beach in their long-sleeved swim suits, they draw far more attention to themselves than a girl in a simple one-piece!

In that sense, dressing in a way so far distant from the culture can in itself be immodest.  Now, there's another extreme.  A lot of Christians today have so separated themselves from those women that they wear what they like, so long as they don't look cheap and so long as they don't show too much skin.  This idea can be acceptable if done correctly, but it's dangerous.  A girl could be covering up her body in purple sweatpants, but if they have "Juicy Couture" emblazoned across the behind, that's also a form of immodesty.  It draws attention to a part of the body that should not be put on display.

Modesty cannot be a set of laws.  Rules such as "skirts can only be so short so that they reach tip of the middle finger" or "shirt straps have to be at least 3/4 in. thickness" really do not get to the heart of the matter.  Certainly, covering our bodies is important!  But when it becomes distracting to be so entirely covered that we separate from the world a very great distance, it is simply another form of immodesty, and can actually prevent us from bringing our message of the Gospel to the world.

In conclusion, my main points are that we must cover our bodies in a way that prevents others, especially boys, from falling into the trap of temptation.  We must do so, however, in a way that does not make us so different from the world that we call attention to ourselves, because that, in and of itself, can be a form of pride.  We must strive to ensure that we are dressing in clothing that is lovely and excellent, but that also displays self-control.

I do hope that this post was something that made you think, and I ask that you please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts on the issue.  Have a great day!