Thursday, July 28, 2016

Come Live in the Light and Other Updates

So two weeks ago, my Notre Dame student e-mail was deleted. This meant an annoying process of transferring my past e-mails to a new account and e-mailing everyone I've ever e-mailed to let them know that I'd graduated. I finished it all just in the nick of time (even though I never finished downloading all my files from my Google Drive because I spilled wine on my laptop).

However, one thing I didn't anticipate is that it was going to delete everything that had connected to my account at all. So this meant it deleted my bookmarks, my access to the Hamilton bootleg (still crying over that), my passwords that I'd saved on Chrome (I can't pay my student loans if I don't have the password anymore right... that's how it works?) But the most devastating deletion was "Come Live in the Light"- my three year labor of love, my detailed documentation of my Notre Dame journey, my own little legacy. While I retired the blog after graduation (because it was sponsored by ND's Office of Campus Ministry), I had hoped it would exist as something to link back to, maintain as portfolio of my writing and thoughts, and to be the "pre-quel" to this current blog now.

And just like that- it's poof and gone! Luckily, I have every article saved on my computer- so it's not all lost (just you know the comments, pictures included, and reader count data). I'm hoping to set up some sort of archive for it in the next few weeks (hopefully before I leave for Ireland). This will definitely take a bit of time because it means going back through my e-mail archives to find the edited versions of each blog and then re-editing them. I'm unsure if I'll be able to get the right pictures attached, but hopefully the articles at least will make their way up to the interwebs.

I'll have more information on that when it happens. But I just thought I'd let people know in case they were looking for it. As for this blog, I'm working a few new plans for it including: travel guides (right now my Paris travel guide is a 6-page word document on my computer), more personal posts (preferably ones that aren't about terrible things happening in the world), Thoughts on Books for two more reads, and a July Month-in-Review. In addition, you can now follow this blog on "Bloglovin" and I'm working on finding ways to make this blog more followable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Blessed Are Black Lives

Six months ago, I sat in a lecture by Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi the founders of the Black Lives Matters movement. Their lecture began by recounting their personal stories. I remember being horrified as Ms. Cullors told the story of her brother being beaten by police and then disappearing. Their stories were difficult, but I didn’t go to a Black Lives Matters lecture because I wanted to hear about easy. In going to this lecture, I wanted to listen, to understand their pain. I wanted to bare witness to it.

Many things from this lecture have sat with me across the past few months.  I think about their pain as I drive from Grosse Pointe to Detroit, watching manicured lawns turn into abandoned buildings. I think about their worries as I pass a car with a black man in it, surrounded by three police cars. I think about the injustice they expressed when I hear a young white woman complain that her mediocre is better than a black person’s best. I think of their anger as I learn that police systems require arrest quotas to fulfill contracts. I think of their dreams when I play with my 7-year old best friend, wondering if one day if we can create a future that doesn’t fail her. As I look around at these moments of pain, I wonder what I can do to alleviate it. I recently read this beautiful article, about how, as white allies our job is not to take on immobilizing guilt, but active responsibility. We can start by speaking to others about why black lives DO matter.

It seems silly to me in many ways that we have to explain why a life matters. Why must our black brothers and sisters explain why their existence is important? Shouldn’t it be inherent to us? But somehow it isn’t. When people say “Black Lives Matter,” many more echo back with “All Lives Matters.” Yet, when people say “Police Lives Matter,” this same refrain is not echoed back. Why do we only add addendums to black lives? Why do we not regard black lives with the same worth as white lives? The fact we have to ask these questions is abhorrent, but maybe enforces more why this is important.

So as this is a blog with a spiritual twist, I hope to talk about this from a faith prospective. I’ve recently seen the above cartoon, which has helped me connect the Black Lives Matter movement with the Beatitudes. As you might recall, Jesus sat on a hill and preached about the importance of the lives of the vulnerable. He told us those who are poor, are meek, are persecuted. Are the black lives in our country not shaped by structural systems that allow for little upward economic mobility? Are not black lives forced into meekness by giving them lack of voice, oppressing them in the cruelest of ways for centuries? Are not black lives persecuted, seen as less worthy than white lives, sacrificed for trigger happy righteousness? Of course, Jesus sees the value of each and every life, but here, just like the BLM movement does, he specifically calls out those who are at most risk.

Faith isn’t it easy. It requires humility. It requires us to realize that sometimes what Jesus is calling us to isn’t what is going to help us personally. We have to let go of our own sense of righteousness. We need to see how we can use our inherent privileges to speak up for others. But, also, let ourselves be quiet so that the voices of the vulnerable can be heard. So we can all bear witness to the pain of people like Opal and Patrisse, but also our neighbors and friends.

Most important, Jesus says “blessed are the peacemakers.” We should aspire to be peacemakers. Jesus didn’t create peace with blanket statements that made everyone feel good, but with calling people to justice. We should all be working to create peace by taking on the pain of others, by baring witness to it. We should echo his beatitudes- Blessed are the Poor in the Spirit, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are the persecuted, Blessed are black lives.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Thoughts on Books: All the Light We Cannot See

Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthoney Doeer
Page Count: 530
Where I Read It: In 24hours, frantically trying to finish in time for skype bookclub (I finished in time)
Summary: (Adapted from GoodReads)

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Thoughts on Book:

Reading this book is like listening to an orchestra, or maybe watching a painting being made. It starts with simple lines, gentle brush strokes- it starts with scattered sketches that seemingly mean nothing till suddenly they are building, swirling, interweaving, and finally coming together to form a larger, more sweeping narrative. It’s fascinating. It’s beautiful.

One of the things that made this novel so distinctive is the structure. The story is made up on short sketches, alternating between Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s lives, with occasional sketches from other characters such as Von Rumpel, the novel’s villain. In addition to this, the narrative switches between the climax of the novel and backstories of characters. This makes the novel fascinating because you are gripped in the action of the climax (where each character’s stories come together), but also intrigued as to figure out how they got there.

Another lovely thing about this novel is the imagery and symbolism. My friends and I really enjoyed discussing the use of light, radio, music, nature, birds, adventure books, and sight. It’s these things- radio, music, adventure books- that tie the characters together. Perhaps my favorite moment comes (tiny spoiler) when clair de lune played over a radio helps Werner find Marie-Laure. It made me think of the way that there was light in different ways for a blind girl. The song, the radio functions as light, which is fitting for a song about light. It also makes me think about the light in Werner. He’s a Nazi, forced into a life he doesn’t believe in, but doesn’t have a choice. But in this same moment, he’s also able to break free of that, to show the light (the humanity) inside of him that is struggling to shine. It’s an awesome moment in the book.

An additional outstanding part of the novel is the way it plays with myth. The novel revolves around this diamond that is part of a legend. Throughout the novel there is always a questions as to whether the diamond actually has some sort of magical powers. Is Marie-Laure just imagining herself into the sort of adventure story she reads about? Or is she actually part of such an adventure herself?

The only drawback to this dazzling book is that is very bleak. This is a WWII novel. Each of the characters start out with particularly difficult lives- Werner is an orphan, Marie-Laure becomes blind during childhood- but their lives continue to become worse across the course of the novel. Often I found myself wondering, “How could things get worse for them now?” Then something even more horrendous would happen. I found myself getting agitated while reading and having stress dreams from how dismal some of the moments of the book are. Even the ending is tinged with sadness, which makes it harder. I would advise reading it not as I did in 24 hours, but with a little more patience. I think that would make the trauma of the book less intense.

In all, it was brilliant. The writing is elegant. The characters are likable. The structure is carefully crafted. It’s just kinda sad, but the beauty of it makes up it.

Pair With: If the German side of the side story interested you, I say pick up The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzack. My friends and I all agreed that it gave us similar vibes. Werner definitely reminded me a lot of Rudy. If you were interested in the French plot lines, especially in fleeing occupied Paris, read Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky. Like this novel, it follows multiple stories of people during WWII- and bonus points because it was actually written during WWII.

Listen Along With: Indigo- Old Wave// Scare Away the Dark- Passenger// Clair de lune- (either the original orchestration or the funky Flight Facilities remix)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Month In Review: June

I haven’t posted in a bit. Not for any particular reason, I’ve been starting a lot of blogs that seem to get too long and complex for their own good, which then don’t end up getting finished. I also have been doing a lot fiction writing, which is amazing, but also sometimes when I’m really absorbed in writing a new chapter it’s hard to change my focus onto something new. I’m hoping to post a few this week, so keep checking back for more.

I’ve been reading a few other blogs and some seem do a “month in review” at the end of each month to look back on the good things that happened that month. I really like this idea, especially as a way of staying in contact with people that might not always get updates from me in person. Each month I’ll share 5 good things (big and small) that happened, simple as that!

1    Yoga- One of the first things I did this summer was sign up for a yoga membership at Full Lotus Yoga in Grosse Pointe Woods. Since then, yoga has been one of the highlights of my days. While I’ve been doing yoga for four years now, I’ve had the chance to try some new forms this summer- including hot vin, yin, and this awesome yoga/dance mashup called Nia. Staying active is really important to me, but it can be hard in the summer when schedules get so different. Currently I’ve been going two or three times a week, but I’m hoping to work up to going every day. Maybe by the end of the summer I'll finally have those yoga arms!

2    Gratitude Journaling- I’m always the first person to advocate for starting gratitude journals, but I’m terrible at keeping mine updated. This summer my schedule has lulled a bit, so I’ve had time to really invest in starting new habits. June was the first month I started writing in it every day. It’s really nice to look back and see the things that made each day so special.

3    Catching Up with Old Friends- Being home for the summer is amazing in so many ways, but the best part for sure is seeing my high school friends again. After 4 years of college, they’ve all grown into exceptional young women. It’s so exciting to hear about the new paths that their lives are taking- whether it’s to Baltimore to work for NASA, Yale to start musicology grad school, or to Ohio to start their first teaching job. I’m so happy that I’ve at the chance to get dinner/coffee/drinks with my friends before we each embark on our next adventures.

4    Sunsets at the Cottage- Each weekend my family visits our cottage in Port Sanilac, Michigan. It’s wonderful to spend time at the beach, the woods, the small town, and everywhere in between. My favorite part has been going down to the beach for sunset each evening I’m here. I always take way too many pictures- but how can I not?

      New Summer Job- Possibly the most exciting update is my new job. After a stressful summer job search (especially after I had no energy for anymore applications after this year), I found the most amazing summer job. I’m so excited to join Fairytale Friends, a company that brings fairytale characters to events and parties. I did my first party this week (okay technically July) as the Little Mermaid. It was so much fun and I can’t wait for more opportunities to bring magic to kids this summer.

June has been amazing. I’m so excited to see what July, my last full month at home, brings.