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Skills I Learned from House Hippos

I have a confession to make. It is a terrible confession. Sometimes, nay, often, I consume media which contains positive discussion of things I don’t believe in.

*shocked gasps*

*looks of horror*

*people fleeing in the streets*

How dare I watch something which contains hints of sinful behaviour or discussion of alternate worldviews? Well, the trick is to not be mindless.

Don’t be mindless. It seems simple enough. Just actually think about what you’re reading or what you’re watching. It’s like that commercial about house hippos (which you can find on YouTube, if you’ve never seen this work of art).  Media should provoke you to think and to form your worldview, even if you end up forming it in opposition. I have trouble turning off my brain, and I love to analyse people, so this is easy for me. I can pull out interesting tidbits or questions from almost anything I watch or read, and I enjoy it.

It’s not that there aren’t things I read or watch purely for enjoyment, like watching a clean comedian or reading kids’ books (which I enjoy on occasion). However, media has great purpose, and it just so happens that it is also a huge part of my life. I love to read. I love stories, both telling them and hearing them. I love seeing how people react to stories and how something like that can shape their life. And I will read, or watch, and often appreciate, something that does not fall directly in line with my own beliefs. There are three reasons for this, which also are three benefits, which also are three personal exercises and ways of looking at the media you take in.

#1: Cultural Understanding and Relationships

a) I live under a rock. For an example of this, I will provide you with an anecdote. I learned the difference between Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth in… December? January? Because my sister actually convinced me to start watching Marvel movies. Before that, we got a Chris Pratt action figure in at the store (from Guardians of the Galaxy? I think?) and my co-worker wanted to buy it. A couple weeks later, I, foolishly, asked her “hey, do you still have that Chris Evans figure in your bin?”. Her: “It’s Chris PRATT! How do you not know this?” Me: “There’s like at least three of them. How am I supposed to keep track? I live under a rock!”

That is my story. Point being, I really don’t know most celebrities, but if they play a character I like, or are in a movie or show I really enjoy, I will probably know their names and faces. Now I know parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I have a greater cultural understanding with which to relate to, say, my co-workers, my sister, and people I know who really like superheros. I might be able to recognize someone in a magazine in waiting rooms, even if the magazine is dumb and/or full of lies and slander. This leads into sub-section

b) forming relationships can be hard, especially when you don’t have much common ground with a person. You build most of your relationships off of a common experience, like working together, or the fact that you both like skiing, or the fact that you both know the bride. A story, whether it’s Shakespeare or Supernatural, is like an artificial shared experience. We’ve never met, but we’ve both seen Jessica Jones, and now we can talk about that. It’s a beginning. Stories are a lot of my conversation starters. I don’t have to agree with a character to talk about them. In fact, if I don’t, maybe it’s a better discussion.

#2: Challenging Myself

Anyone who has ever done a sport knows that challenge makes you stronger. Say Lacey, our hypothetical friend, tells me that she wants to run a half-marathon. This is an excellent goal, Lacey. It’s certainly better than my fitness goals. However, Lacey isn’t much of a runner, so she’ll have to train. We set a smaller goal: run thrice around the track without stopping. Lacey begins. Now she has two options: remember, she’s really not in shape, so this could be difficult. Either she can stop, or she can finish it. If she stops running and gives up, then she wasn’t terribly invested in her half-marathon goal. If she finishes it, next time will be easier. And easier, and easier, and then she can run longer, and faster, and one day she can run a half-marathon, because her body is strong.

My body is not strong.

This idea of challenge applies to your ideas and beliefs, too. If we lived in a world where nothing we believed was ever challenged, we would still believe that the sun goes around the earth. My Mum likes to tell about how, when we were little, we all thought that pure cocoa would be the greatest thing, so she let us try some. Turns out pure cocoa isn’t that delicious. This is also a challenge: she set our idea against something tangible, and is turns out we were wrong.

Sometimes I watch something that I know beforehand I will disagree with, or I read a book because it will probably have an opposing viewpoint to my own. I just enjoy a challenge. My life, now that college classes are over, consists of working retail and sitting at home reading. Every once and awhile I go out and see people. But if it weren’t for the voracious way I consume books, TV shows, blog posts, and TED talks, I would be bored. Instead, I take something in, and then I take my time to process the opinions presented. I contrast them with my own. I do a bit of research, sometimes. Then I can find out if maybe, I was thinking about this one way and I would prefer to take another look. Sometimes, I decide I’m still right. In some situations, I live in the uneasy middle ground where I’m still looking for answers. But in any of these situations, my beliefs and ideas are stronger because I have investigated them. They aren’t based on ‘this is what I’ve always been told’ or ‘this is what I read in a Facebook opinion post with zero actual references’, and they start to be ‘this is what I learned reading source material’ and ‘after taking in multiple viewpoints on this matter, I find my values aligning with this perspective’.

This does not only happen with non-fiction. This can just as easily happen with fiction, where I might be forced to ask ‘is this a just war?’ or to say ‘I know Natasha Romanov is supposed to be a good guy but also she’s an assassin; what do I think about that?’. These are the hard questions of life.  

I spend a lot of time pacing around the kitchen, eating peanut butter toast and carefully forming arguments and counterarguments. Or, occasionally, angrily forming counterarguments, but I try to keep my anger to my lonesome pacing, and bring my calm, rational side into human discussion. Which leads to our last point.

#3: Dealing with Difference

[This sounds like a catchy title for the curriculum materials for a grade three conflict resolution class. This section may read like a grade three conflict resolution class.]

Look, there are two truths we need to acknowledge. One: The world will never be perfect. To anyone. Until the end, when the world has passed away and we’ve all settled into our eternal life, we will have to live (and probably die, too) in an imperfect world. Nobody will get to look at the world and say ‘this is perfect, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everyone agrees exactly with my way of thinking and the laws enforce it.’ I’m sorry, that’s just how it is. Two: you can’t just ignore or walk away from everyone that disagrees with you on something. You will find it very difficult to keep friends if you do. I’m a little bit socially inept, but I know that much. Sometimes you will disagree on little things, like whether Tangled is better than Frozen, and sometimes it will be bigger things, like religion or politics. But if you want to have healthy relationships, you have to figure out how to navigate these things.

So, the question becomes: ‘how do I live in this imperfect world? How do I interact with these people when they don’t accept everything I believe as the unquestionable truth?’ Well, my friends, it’s difficult. As a culture, as a group as well as as individuals, we are doing terribly at this. Look anywhere on the internet and you can see people behaving like elementary school children who aren’t getting their way, complete with name-calling, insulting people’s intelligence, and using the excuse ‘it was just a joke’. YouTube comments are renowned for this, but it also shows up in blog comments, and in comments sections on news sites, which presumably is where the adults are. These places are like a ‘what not to do’ manual for civilized discussion.

All these things said, I often practise my ‘Dealing with Difference’ skills when I’m consuming media. These skills do take practice, because we don’t like it when things don’t go our way, and – I was going to say we don’t like it when others are wrong, but perhaps I should rephrase. We do like it when other people recognize our superior knowledge. But they are necessary skills.

Skills like ‘How to not automatically walk out on someone when they express an opposing opinion’. When I’m reading blog posts or watching videos, this may mean that I read or watch to the end of an article without plotting what I would say in response. These are listening skills, the ability to believe that other people, who are different from you, might be valuable, and their thoughts and experiences are worth your time.

‘How to know when is an appropriate time to start a discussion and when you should let something lie.’ Especially online, many places are not a good forum for rational discussion. Some places are, but you have to find the right community, and you have to abide by their rules. Places with rules of engagement are much better for this, because they encourage you to follow the same rules you would in in-person interaction, like ‘be polite’. I play ‘know the difference between a video meant to spark debate and a video meant for a community to agree with’. Like music videos. A YouTube video that’s just a place to hear a song: not a place for argument. You don’t have to go to a concert if you don’t like the band’s message, and you don’t have to finish this video either.

‘How to find commonalities between yourself and others.’ For example, take the character Captain America. There are some things we disagree on. Cap is a fighter, and he kills people. I don’t think that’s right. Another of Cap’s well-known character traits is that he doesn’t like bullies. I, too, try to operate on the foundation that we should be kind to each other instead of tearing each other down. From that basis, we might be able to come to an understanding of each other, should I ever meet Captain America. This is closely related to

‘How to find reasons and ways to respect others even if you don’t always agree.’ Like Hank Green and I do not share religious beliefs, and sometimes I watch a video of his and find myself disagreeing. But I think he does a lot of great educational work online, and he encourages people to be curious and to pursue their passions, and he’s intelligent and funny and generally kind to the community formed around him and his brother. All of these are things that I respect, and I think he’s someone I would like to know.

So, I’ve given you three things. Three reasons for watching or reading something that expresses a different viewpoint, or even displays behaviours I don’t encourage in a positive light. If I am not a passive consumer, then my habits can not only not be harmful, but can be actively beneficial, encouraging me to think about what I believe and understand it, to learn how to deal with it or engage on the topic, and to go out and talk about it. I think that, for most people, the things that they object to in any given media are things that are real world issues, like violence, sexuality, and politics. Being a mindful consumer is a good way to learn, and developing the skills and knowledge to understand and navigate issues is essential. I highly recommend picking  up something difficult and/or controversial this summer.

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Posted by on June 16, 2016 in On Media

 

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The Cake Mistake

Some background on Bob: Bob is invisible, and he is my twin. He came out of a rather silly conversation between myself, my brother, and my grandma. My brother mentioned Bob, my twin, and I just kind of ran with it. Invisible Bob is a spy, so he is rarely home, but this adventure occurs in one of his rare visits.

—This report is confidential. Please do not reveal these details to the public.—

Invisible Bob and the Cake Mistake

It was a chilly Monday morning in January when Bob came home for a brief visit with his family. He had, in an unfortunate turn of events in rural Venezuela that involved twelve professional dancers, a very secret message, and a displeased chicken farmer, missed Christmas. He felt rather bad about it – and worse, he was due to fly back to Venezuela (there was some cleaning up to do) early in the morning on the thirteenth: mother’s birthday. So it was that he slipped in on the eleventh and announced his presence to me, his loving and visible sister, in the cruellest of ways; namely, by tapping me on the shoulder and cackling maniacally. This is his favourite way of letting me know he is home.

Of course, we exchanged pleasantries. I was very excited to see that he was home safely, or course, and I let him know how disappointed we had been not to have him at Christmas. Once we had been happily reunited, he told me his plan. “I figured I would be able to tell Mum ‘Happy Birthday’ and all that, even if it is a day or two early. And I could make the cake, if that’s alright?” Now, I am not a particularly good cake-maker, so I caved easily. The Incident happened while I was away.

In the afternoon, while Bob was making the chocolate cake, I decided to go for a walk. I would have stayed to converse with my beloved and often-absent twin, but Bob immerses himself fully in whatever task is before him. He would not so much as speak when he is trying to make the perfect birthday cake. I decided a walk would be more productive. When I got back, Bob had one layer left to attach to the cake, and the cake was a disaster.

“Bob!” I exclaimed, “What happened to the cake? I thought you could manage this!”

He laughed at me, but it was a nervous, preoccupied laugh. “Well, it’s actually kind of a funny story…” he began. “So, look, a few months ago, I blew up a cake shop in… well, I had better not say where – but I blew up a cake shop.” I must have looked disappointed because when he next spoke it was defensive. “It was a mafia front, okay? I made sure there was nobody inside first. Even the mafia members who were there escaped via secret tunnel. I had to chase them down to arrest them. But that isn’t the point. The point is the cake shop – there was one, and now there isn’t. You can see how people would be upset. Well, that may or may not have something to do with today.” I waited patiently for him to get to the point.

“So, I was just setting the second layer on top of the first, right? Yes. You left the door unlocked, which I mean is fine because I was here and all, but turned out worse than we really expected. The enemy just waltzed right in while I was looking at the cake. I was only slightly concerned for my own safety, in fact, I was going to go right along with them, only I wanted to finish the cake. I told her that, I said ‘look, I’m not sure why you’re here, but can you just let me finish this cake for my mother? Then I’ll come right along.’ Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, they weren’t here for me. My comment about the cake seemed to infuriate them.

‘Cake!’ they exclaimed, ‘what makes you think you deserve cake, after all you’ve done!’

I said ‘look, I won’t even get to eat this cake. Why don’t you just hold on and we can talk about this.’ That attempt was unsuccessful. They pulled a nano-bomb from their belt and started the detonation countdown, which fortunately was at four minutes and fifty-five seconds. Then, they threw the bomb into the cake.” Here, Bob paused, probably to breathe. I waited. “As I said, the countdown started at about 4:55, which was plenty of time. The enemy agent left immediately, probably because, should that bomb have gone off, the entire house would be flattened. Rather importantly, I would be dead, and there is a matter of national importance that absolutely requires my presence in Tibet in two weeks. There is no getting out of it. Imagine, a bomb in a cake causing Canada to be at war! Of course I immediately fished the bomb out of the cake – hence the mess on this side here – and took the appropriate measures to disarm and dispose of it.”

“That is a rather elaborate tale,” said I. Bob said nothing for a moment, and I had no cues as to what he was thinking. He continued to spread icing on the side of the cake. “Not that I don’t believe you,” I went on after a while. “It just all seems rather far-fetched.”

“That cake,” Bob said with certainty, “Is a national hero. Imagine what would have happened if the cake hadn’t been there to distract my enemy: it would have been a shootout instead of an averted explosion. I would have died.”

I nodded very seriously in response. “A hero indeed. But is it still edible?”

“Absolutely,” Bob confirmed. “Perfectly safe. My hands were clean and everything. The only thing wrong with it is that is a bit misshapen.” he sighed. “I only hope Mum likes it.”

I felt around a bit, then patted his shoulder reassuringly. “I’m sure she will like it just fine when I tell her what happened.” I assured him.

“Yes,” he sighed. “That’s my neck,” he said next.

“Right,” said I, removing my hand, realizing that he must be bent over to finish the icing, “Sorry.”

“Anyhow, the cake is about done now. It’s, um… it’s as good as it’s going to get, I think.” We both contemplated the cake for a moment. Then, Bob sighed. “Just put my name on the card, alright?”

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in From My Pen, Short Stories

 

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How Many Blessings in a Smoothie?

Thanksgiving was this past weekend (for those of us in Canada) and I wanted to write something about it, but I was busy with family and work and midterms. I’m still doing midterms, but whatever. I surfaced from my reading to make myself a smoothie for lunch, and as I was eating I had an idea. I am thankful for smoothies, and this is how I make them:

  1. Banana. My mother has always put a banana in our smoothies. Maybe because they have a lot of potassium? I don’t know why. But bananas are not from here, not from my home. I am thankful for the wide world, and everything in it. I am thankful for the variety of life. I am thankful for the advances that have opened the world for us to explore and enjoy.
  2. Mixed berries. Raspberries and strawberries and blackberries and blueberries all go into our smoothie, and these all grow here. I have picked them myself. I am thankful for the bounty of the earth, for the way that God provides for us. I am thankful that I live in a bountiful, beautiful land, because not everyone is so blessed.
  3. Yoghurt. So, I wasn’t certain what I was going to say about yoghurt. I’m not really a fan of it outside of smoothies. So, I looked it up, looking for some metaphorical meaning. Turns out yoghurt is really cool. The word yoghurt is from the Turkish. Pliny the Elder wrote about yoghurt. Then there’s the science of milk fermentation, etc. So what? I am thankful for learning, and for the opportunity to learn in fascinating and varied ways. Also, I am thankful for whoever came up with frozen yoghurt, because that is awesome.
  4. Orange Juice. It may seem strange, but orange juice, besides being delicious and healthy, reminds me of my family. When I was little, we almost always had orange juice on the table at breakfast, and breakfast is my favourite meal. Most of the time we’re all at home for breakfast, while other meals are touch and go. I certainly remember it at Sunday breakfasts, with the biscuits and the jellies. I am thankful or my family, and the little traditions that we have, and the love that keeps us together.
  5. Memories. Before I could make my own, a smoothie was a treat for summer afternoons. Smoothies make me think of the warmth of sunshine, and the free feeling of Sunday afternoons with nothing to do, of dirt on my fingers from planting flowers. Now I am older and I have other memories, of going out for smoothies with friends, of being the smoothie maker for my family when my mum is busy. And I am thankful for all of these things: for my friends who are such great blessings (including the ones I haven’t yet gone for smoothies with), for growing up and learning how to provide, how to cook and how to care for those around me. I am thankful for simple pleasures like sunshine and seasons. I am thankful for a good memory that reminds me how blessed I am.

Of course, I am thankful for a good many other things. I am very blessed. But this simple meal brought back to me that in everything, even the little every day things, we should remember to thank God. There are a lot of things behind my lunch today, and I am glad of all of them.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in Little Adventures

 

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Quote

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Always Something There to Remind Me.”

I was too young to remember it when my mum sang Amazing Grace and rocked me to sleep as a small baby, but I do remember the years of my dad singing me to sleep. My dad can’t hold a tune, but five year old me can’t tell, and his voice and his presence reassure me. He sings familiar songs: Kumbaya, Micheal Row Your Boat Ashore, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. When I grow older and I bustle around some nights tucking my sisters into bed, I will sing those songs too. But now, before Dad leaves me for the night, there is one more song I want to hear.

“Almost heaven/West Virginia/blue ridge mountains/Shenandoah river…” 

This song will always be calming to me, will always sound good in my dad’s voice. When I meet my uncle, the country singer, I will ask him if he knows this one. And now, it will put me to sleep.

“take me home/Country Roads” 

———-

“There’s a storm across the valley/the clouds are rolling in/the afternoon is heavy on your shoulders…”

Every time I hear this song, it’s like driving along a Saskatchewan highway in the winter. The heat in the van is on, my younger siblings are asleep, and the dark outside is not much deeper than the gloom inside. Frost has formed on my window and I trail a finger across it, then press my palm there hoping to cool down a bit. The slow melody lulls me and I curl up in my backseat, letting my eyes fall shut. The only sounds besides the music is the hum of the engine, and I can almost sleep. One song shifts into another for hours yet, until we pull up at my grandparents’ house in Saskatoon. But when we crawl into our beds and I do fall asleep, this song is the one still running through my head.

———–

Even in South Africa, this song makes me feel at home. I close my eyes and I smell spaghetti sauce cooking on the stove, I see the bright lights of our kitchen and hear my dad singing along tunelessly.

“…strangers, waiting/up and down the boulevard/their shadows searching in the night…”

I feel my sisters’ hands in mine as we dance, see their grinning faces as I spin them. My father is jumping up and down with a spoon in his hand, now. This is his favourite song. I like it because it is his.

————

To this day, Puff the Magic Dragon makes me think of Viva Puff cookies, and the couch in my grandparents’ sun room, warm light coming in through the windows, the sweetness of the marshmallow and jelly, and my Papa telling me I may have two.

————

“every time/I close my eyes/it’s you/and I know now/who I am/yeah yeah yeah/and I know now…”

This song somehow is a comfort though it feels so lonely. I listen to it and I feel my head rattling as it rests on the bus window. I hear it and I’m staring out over English countryside at herds of sheep. Somehow, along with it come the sounds of forty band students chattering and singing, and a feeling of anticipation: what will we see today? Where do we play? Who will we hear?

“You don’t know you’re beautiful!”

One Direction comes on next.

————

Any song by Shania Twain will do it, but Rock This Country is the strongest. I’m back in my grandparents’ basement, the Christmas my cousins got a karaoke machine. My oldest cousin got a Shania Twain CD to go along with it, and I’m certain this was our favourite song. We sing along as best we can and dance like maniacs, jumping around and laughing until our stomachs hurt. It’s just the two of us down there: the boys have wandered off and the little girls are still very little (if they’re born at all). But we are loud and excited and overflowing with energy; we don’t need anyone else to have fun. Just two cousins, rocking out, having a blast. But what I remember the most is that she is herself; loud and happy and energized and fully in that moment. And in that moment she is still alive.

*****

The song lyrics used in this little collection of memories, in order, are the following:
Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
Back Home Again by John Denver
Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
Dream Catch Me by Newton Faulkner
You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful by One Direction

Memory Playback

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2015 in Blogging 101

 

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A Letter to Jack

I have never before written a fan letter. But the Blogging 101 assignment today was to write with someone in mind. This may not be what they had in mind, but I do think it still reaches out to my target audience as it is about reading and writing. 

To Mr. Lewis,
It has been a long time since I first discovered your books. They were my introduction to the world of fantasy, the first books I wished I could stay in forever. I still remember coming to the end of The Last Battle and laughing with delight, doing a cartwheel across the living room. Yes, it made me cartwheel. I read that particular book over and over, finding myself quoting along with Lucy to repel Tash as he stood in the barn glaring down at Tirian.
And I just want to thank you. Thank you so much for setting out the story of Narnia for the world to see. I hear it all started with a picture of a faun with an umbrella – and Tumnus remains an iconic figure of Narnia, representative of all the brave creatures we can encounter there. The world would be much poorer has Tumnus never encountered Lucy in that snowy wood.
I would be very different. For when did I first learn that a story can be more than idle amusement, if not when I read the Chronicles of Narnia? It was Lucy who taught me faith, she who always trusted Aslan, and who knew Him well enough to see Him when nobody else could. Do I have the integrity of Tirian, to confess my sins, and to stand strong for what is right, until the bitter end? Am I as brave as Peter, to follow even when I know nothing of how to begin? And how better to understand redemption and unconditional love than through Edmund’s eyes? In Edmund our own selfishness and temptations are brought to light, and when he is saved we too feel the price of our rescue. How profound, how terrible and yet wonderful was it for me, as a child, to see this comparison for the first time!
Just last night, my sister and I sat down to a new experience of an old story. We put on the Focus on the Family Radio Play of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and listened to it straight through, for two and a half hours. All these things came rushing back to me as I listened. When Beaver first told of Aslan, a thrill of hope and light shot through me. When Aslan revealed Himself, alive again, to Susan and Lucy at the Stone Table, I got a feeling like a building, laughing roar, the kind I imagine Aslan gave as the girls chased Him around the table. Your friend Tolkien speaks of the word eucatastrophe, and I think the ones in your books are some of the best ever (if we don’t include their real life counterparts, obviously).
While we’re here, I would like to express my admiration and appreciation of your other works as well. Mere Christianity, which I read this past year, gives such a clear picture of things that I before struggled to explain. Screwtape forces us to consider the war we are in. The Space Trilogy, which I have not yet finished, intrigues me and I look forward to reading more of it.
Mr Lewis, you cannot know what an impact you have had on me as a writer myself. You have challenged me to know the Truth, and to ensure that in everything I do I reflect it well. I am sure that my writing will not do half so well as yours, but I can at least do well by the small gifts that are given me.
So, thank you, so very much.
Yours,
Sarah

P.S. I would like to know what happened to Susan, in the end.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2015 in Blogging 101, On Media

 

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On Going Somewhere Else

I have always understood the desire to escape, to leave real life behind for a while. It’s not that my life is so bad that I need to get out. I’m thankful for my family and friends, for the roof over my head and the food I always have enough of. Despite my shyness and tendency to prefer books to people, I was rarely picked on. On the occasions I was picked on, it was usually because I didn’t get the joke, and once I did get it, I often felt more mature for not finding it very funny. So no, bullying didn’t scar me.

So why leave?

I don’t know.

And yet, I do. I love new places – I love the thrill of them, the beauty of them, the strangeness of them. France was never high on my destinations list, but I did an exchange there the summer before grade ten. Even stepping into the airport was fantastic, and seeing Paris was a delight. Imagine the joy, then, of a small town in Normandy, of a room on the top floor of the house next to the tall stone church, of the ruins of an abbey just down the street. What curiosity to get breakfast from the baker’s each morning, and to always have apéritif before supper. That month was when I knew I would have to see the world. With my family I saw France again, and Germany. South Africa was the latest step in this, and I loved that, too. None of this on its own satisfied me, though. I reached further away, always thinking about where else I could go, what else I could see.

I know, though, that escaping started even earlier. I can’t remember the first time I wished myself into a story, and I hardly stopped. Narnia, Middle-Earth, Malkier, Regency England, Hogwarts, A Galaxy Far, Far Away, the TARDIS… places that grew in my mind. I have a very vivid imagination, and stories never ended where the pages left off. There was more, and I could step into those lands and be a part of them. They were rich and bright and full of life. They were new and exotic, with hidden dangers and brilliant delights. I wanted to see them and they welcomed me in. When I really settled in, I found the darkness along with the delights. I saw monsters and terrible men. I felt an awful fear. Yet the joy always outweighed everything else, and at the end of all things I found myself in Aslan’s Country or in Valinor, where nothing terrible could last.

I found I loved the person that I was there. I was bolder and stronger. I have always been smart but here I learned what I wanted to and knew whatever was needed. My friends and family in real life were great, but few, and in my head I was recognized (though in real life I feared recognition – and still sometimes do). People sought my advice and let me into their lives. In short, I became a hero. But with that, I ‘grew up’. A hero knows that war is not glorious but something to hate, even when you are standing against creatures of pure evil. The fortunate friend and confidante knows what it is to have your heart cry for the pain of others.

I am sure this is the story of nearly everyone who reads good stories.

When I went away on outtatown this year, I found a place in the real world for the first time. I saw many new places and enjoyed everything about them that was good and amazing. I learned about their darkness, too, and knew to fear it. I found a place among friends where I was recognized for my gifts and taught to grow – what a blessing! My family grew enormously this past year, and I know better than I ever could have imagined what it feels like when your heart cries. For a while, I didn’t have to go into a story to be someone I loved. I was bold and strong and knowledgeable and ready to grow in all of those things.

Now I’m home, and I feel a bit out of place again. I can still see my place in this world quite clearly, and I can see that I have it in me to be everything I imagined I could be. But I often feel held down, and I reach out to the familiar places I have never seen, to the friends I never knew who know me inside out.

And so I will uphold the value of escaping, because without first running away, I would not ever have chosen my own adventures. I would never have imagined I could be more than a meek, geeky girl. And I would never have known that there was something more to reach for. This world can limit us to our hometown and the person everyone thinks we are. I think the Enemy would like us to stay right where we are and never reach for what could be. J. R. R. Tolkien said it better than I:

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in Blogging 101

 

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Introduction

A bit late, I know. Blogging 101 wanted an introduction post, which I suppose is smart. Part of this is also on the page titled ‘Where am I?”

I am Sarah. I’m not much of a talker, but I think blogging will be a good communication method for me because a) I like to think before I speak on anything important and b) my thoughts sound much better written down. But this blog isn’t primarily for my thoughts, it’s for my stories and poems. I admit that the posts on here will be varied, because what I want to share varies, and I can’t be bothered to run more than one blog. That’s a lot of work for my little ideas.

I want to hear from readers and writers. There are people in my non-internet life who read my work sometimes, and they love me and tell me how great it is. This is very good for building my self-esteem but not for improving my writing. So I would really like to hear what people think I’m doing well, and what I could do better. It’s good to hear from readers who know what they like, and from writers who know what they’re doing.

As for what I want to accomplish, I’m not sure. I just want this to be a growing experience for me and for my writing.

So, you clicked on a link and it brought you here. Where are you?

You are Elsewhere. Why? Because I’m on a journey. Elsewhere could mean we’re encountering God in Africa or on the streets of Vancouver. It could mean we’re falling head-first off a bridge with only a bungee cord to catch us. It could mean we’re fighting dragons or evil overlords. It could mean we’re discovering what it is to live in an internet-connected world and what we do with the power of connection. Wherever this takes me, I’m sharing it with you.

I’ve always had a lot to say, but I’ve rarely shared it. I only started this blog because I was going on an adventure: to South Africa with the outtatown program. But I’m here, and I’ve decided I like this idea of blogging. So I guess you need to know what this blog is all about.

Writing is not only how I communicate, it’s how I understand the world. For me, writing is a process of exploration – looking into the world I’m creating in order to see not only something new, but a reflection or revelation of the world I live in. I don’t often share what I write, but for the most part, that’s what this blog will be about. Writing and reading, because words and stories are a big part of my life. If I have adventures, or something comes up that I want to talk about, I will. My posts from the past year are adventure-type posts, after all.

I don’t know if this will ever amount to much. I’ll be honest, here. I’m not that interesting, though I hope my writing is more interesting than my life. I just want to give little insights and make little impacts by going where God leads me. He gave me stories to tell, so here I am.

It’s nice to meet you,  by the way. I hope you hang around and leave me something to say hi. If you’re reading, I would like to hear back from you. Your thoughts might be more interesting than mine!

Sarah

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in Blogging 101

 

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