Prelude To Italy!

Packed & Read To Go

Packed & Ready To Go

Prelude To Italy

I  have been given a rare opportunity, one that I can hardly believe. A chance of a lifetime one might say, to partake in the good fortune of travel abroad. Two weeks I will spend on distant Mediterranean shores, soaking in a strange sun and immersing myself in a foreign land. A fortnight in Italy will be my lot, following in the footsteps of ancient poets and captivating texts as I traverse the narrow cobblestoned streets of the most illustrious and fabled cities of old. What joys, what dangers, what experiences of extraordinary diversity shall I encounter on this forthcoming maiden voyage? How shall I cope with the uncertainties and hazards of life so far from my native land? How can Maddie Kurtz traverse the world yet still remain true to her inmost self?

If you cannot tell, my prose has already been heavily affected by copious doses of Vergil, Dante, and Boethius. After being obliged to read all of the Aeneid in a week to keep up with the accelerated schedule of a Maymester class at the MTSU Honors College, I can hardly write anymore without invoking the Muses and going on long diatribes about fate and ritualistic sacrifice to appease the Furies. The trip itself is part of a four week class studying Classic Italian Literature Before the Renaissance and I currently find myself embroiled in the first two weeks of breathless reading before we depart of the ancient land of the Roman Empire.

Inferno Reading

Inferno Reading

Yet besides my heavy reading load and weekly essays, I must also pack for two weeks abroad, considering all contingencies and planning for the fact that my hair will likely decide to form Spartacus-style rebellion on my scalp as my American curling irons and straighteners will likely commit an explosive suicide if I force them to adapt to Italian plugs. Stupid racist curling irons! Just accept European electricity!

So follicle insurrection must be considered as I frantically try to plan an entire 15 days worth of clothes, beauty products, and toiletries to survive in the fashion capital of the world without looking entirely pathetic in the wake of the famously stylish Italians (I have had a recurring nightmare that I try to purchase a scarf in Italy, but the venders see my split ends and wrinkled shirt and laugh at me, and then they force me to take a test on Calculus to make up for my lack of panache but its written in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Mussolini is there just eating a big bowl of gelato and staring at me with his crazy eyes… Maybe I just have weird dreams).

Cram Session

Cram Session

I must also consider the fact that all my 15 days worth of supplies must fit in a 20 inch bag and weigh under 50 pounds including stuff I will presumably buy in Italy as I revel in absolute wonderment of all the incredible things I want to purchase. My father then reminds me that I must not try to buy all of Italia. Forgetting that such a thing would be impossible, if I was to attempt to bring home a whole peninsula the TSA would probably decide to invade the boot-shaped nation and lay waste to all products that cannot fit into a three ounce bottle or a plastic baggie, consuming all the gelato and espresso in the world in front of my very eyes just to spite me. But I digress.

This trip is a very big deal to me, and the truth of this matter becomes increasingly apparent with every passing day that brings me closer to the date of departure. I have never been out of the country before, I have scarcely been separated from my parents for a period longer than a day or two. My mother and father are trusting me to go halfway around the globe for two whole weeks! The weight of the responsibility weighs heavily on my heart, the forthcoming glimpse at the approaching separation gives me pause. It will be up to me to make good choices or bad ones, flourish in my faith or let it wither, be instilled with amazement at the glory of God’s creation or collect a cynic’s jaded view of it. The freedom feels daunting indeed.

How can I remain connected to my life at home, with my family, church, and friends, when my body will be thousands of miles away across the vast Atlantic Ocean. How can I be a godly person when my spiritual strength is tested with the exercise of physical distance? It is a supreme test, one I pray that God will give me the grace to pass.

How will I do this? First I must approach this task like Queen Esther, through prayer and fasting, striving to leave home without any regrets. Second, I must remain connected with my loved ones at home. Luckily, I no longer live in the times of Paul when my messages would take months or years to travel long distances, and I have the blessing of having Skype, WhatsApp, and Google Hangouts to keep me well within the bosom of the Saints. Third, I must look at this trip with the right mindset. This trip is one of a primarily academic nature, with the fourteen other students and I am mainly there to observe the fascinating cultural heritage of three thousand years of Italian civilization, yet it is also a chance for me to show the reverent behavior that I have been learning at Remnant Fellowship.

Ms. Gwen often talks about acting “royal,” which means displaying a splendid sense of wisdom and love to everyone we meet, having the best manners, most gentle spirit, and kindest actions. That is my goal and inspiration for how I want to act in Italy. I want to display the Christ-like spirit of total love and righteousness that I have seen in so many people I know here, not only for the next two weeks, but for the rest of my life. I feel like I have the opportunity to be an ambassador for not just my school and country, but also for my faith, and I am striving very hard to be a conduit for God’s holy love, like all the beautiful examples of purity I see every day.

Right now I am studying and praying very hard so I am prepared both in mind and heart for this upcoming trek. I want my every action to glorify God, whether through my studies, or my actions, or my words. I also want to keep a detailed record of my trip that I can recount to people. My goal for the fifteen days of my travel abroad is to send a recap of each day back to Tennessee via the wondrous Internet so I can fully appreciate this amazing opportunity that God has allowed me to have. I hope that this little travelogue can be fun and entertaining as I voyage across the world!

So I say ciao for now! Till we meet again!



The 18 Year Old Spinster

I don’t have a boyfriend. Like Beyoncé circa 2008 and Kraft American cheese, I am indeed single. I don’t have too much of a problem with it. After all, I think half my academic success can be traced back to not having any distractions (also being homeschooled my last two years of high school and being a total nerd). The only problem with being a woman of no attachments is Day Camp… specifically when my 8-year-old charges relentlessly mock me for not being married already.

As surprising as that sounds, I and my fellow counselors are bullied relentlessly by our fifteen tiny Yentas for not “finding a find or catching a catch.” Maybe it is a phenomenon just associated with little girls raised on a steady fodder of teen brides and Disney movies, but they seem to have ridiculously high standards for my romantic achievements. During my first year of camp, when I was merely 15 years old, one of my girls actually asked me if I was married yet and had children. She seemed rather disappointed in me when I replied that I didn’t even have my driving permit, much less progeny. She hoped that I was at least engaged. When she learned I was neither betrothed nor soon-to-be-betrothed she got very worried and said I should better get on that or else I would never have babies and she would never get to babysit them and what a tragedy that would be.

As the years went on, the haranguing only got more intense. The girls made it their mission to butt in every time I was so much as standing in the same general vicinity of a guy my age and ask if their dear Sister Maddie had finally decided to leave the convent. I said no, I’ve never even talked to that guy and no we are not getting married. But I was within three yards of that young man at church, surely we must be tying the knot now? No, just being in a hundred foot radius of a person does not make us romantically involved. The miniature matchmakers were never satisfied. As long as their dual obsessions about weddings and motherhood went unfulfilled, I would be the target of relentless mocking.IMG_0940

“Maddie, when are you going to get a boyfriend?” One of the girls sitting on my lap a couple of weeks ago asked. I looked at her pointedly and glowered. “I’m never going to get a boyfriend. I’m a strong, independent woman and I don’t need no man.” The little girl ignored my feminist declaration and continued on her train of thought. “You should get a boyfriend. Then I can be in your wedding as a flower girl” she replied sweetly. “What if I don’t get married till I’m 30?” I replied snarkily, “You’d be pretty big for a flower girl in twelve years.” “That would be terrible!” She exclaimed, “You’ll be a grandmother by then!”  “Are we peasants in Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages? Do I need to worry about my dowry and the coming winter making my presence in my parents’ household a burden on our grain supplies?” I retorted, “Nobody nowadays gets married before they’re in their 20’s!”

“Madison and Christian  are getting married, and they’re only 18.” The little girl countered, as if the one extreme was the rule. To be honest, just the idea that people my age (or even younger) are getting married (or even considering it) is deeply distressing to me. While I’m sure they have excellent reasons for getting hitched and are probably a million times more responsible and mature than I am, it is still extremely troubling when I imagine what I would do if I was in their shoes. First of all, I am 18 years old and I live with my parents. I do not have a job and I am pretty much a full time student. My car is messy and I don’t know how to make meatloaf. I enjoy playing Minecraft and reading novels about the Zombie Apocalypse. After working for a CPA for five months I still have no idea what a deduction is. Does that sound even remotely like a mature adult ready to make a lifelong commitment to you? I can’t even decide what t-shirt I want to wear, much less who I want to spend the rest of my life with.

The Author Hard At Work

The Author Hard At Work

Please, 8-year-old children! Stop pressuring me to get married! I’m not even old enough to drink alcohol! I can’t even rent a car! I know you think I’m really pathetic for not having my whole life together right now, but for goodness sake I’m 18!  Who expects an 18 year old to be an adult?! Ok the US government does with all the voting rights and ability to smoke and join the Army and whatnot, but my government doesn’t even trust me with a beer so don’t go around judging me all condescendingly with your disapproving little 4th grader eyes when I say that I shouldn’t be trusted with a husband. Seriously, I will probably forget to feed him or something. Husbands are like goldfish, right?

But in all seriousness, while I respect and even applaud the choices of some of my peers to become responsible grown-ups with responsible grown-up responsibilities, that kind of life is not for me, at least not for me yet. I’m not fully personified yet. Maddie is still cooking, you guys! If you serve her now she will probably give you food poisoning! It’s dangerous, don’t do it! And even though I disappoint my pint-sized matchmakers, I do not have someone in my life at this point that I’d want to marry. So for right now, I am quite content with being an 18-year-old spinster, I know God has the right person out there for me. The kids can mock me all they want but I’ll just laugh back at them because they’re short and they can’t drive. I’m a free-range chicken and I roam free! *Guitar Riff* *Laugh Hysterically* *Sob Uncontrollably*

My Family Is OK With It All

My Family Is OK With It All

Growing Up – Volume II


Homeschool Graduation

Homeschool Graduation

There is sadness at the end. I seem to be feeling it more and more as the days of summer ebb quickly away, that soulful undercurrent of sorrow that seems to swirl around me. Most of the time I can barely perceive the melancholy tide until it surges around me and I feel overcome by the grief of finality.

I know it probably sounds rather melodramatic, but I have felt such deep sadness of late. I am at the very last page of a chapter. My childhood is truly gone, completely and utterly, and I stand here now as an adult without any last vestiges of my springtime of life left to hold. Perhaps it is having been a voracious reader since I was a toddler, but I have always been aware of how my life’s seasons were slipping by as I turned new pages and started new sections.

There is a grief to growing up, a grief that aches and longs. I don’t know if most young people feel it now like I do, but I am sad to be leaving childhood behind. I keep thinking about how I used to lie on my back and watch dust settle, or spend hours in the fields outside picking ragweed and thistles and pretending to be a wizard-apothecary, or even just spending late nights laughing with my friends over games of Truth or Dare and Mafia. My dad recently mentioned that it made him sad to realize that he no longer gave me nicknames anymore. When I was younger he used to give me a new name each day: Pumpkin for Monday, Little Rat for Tuesday, JoJo for Wednesday, Spunks for Thursday, Madagascar (my least favorite) for Friday. Now the nicknames are ending. I’m his adult daughter now. Even if I’ll always be his little girl in his heart the reality is that I start college in four weeks.

Summer Day Camp has also come to a close. Each year it seems to go by quicker and quicker. Catching the days going by is like holding a handful of sand; pretty soon you are left with palms empty. It was my tenth summer I spent at Day Camp, my fifth being in charge of young children. This was the year I graduated from being a Junior Counselor and became a bona fide Counselor Counselor. It was an amazing experience of joy and pain, frustration and exhileration, pride and humility. I loved my team so much, from the girls I got to watch grow up from toddlers, to the amazing JCs who worked tirelessly in my stead. But beyond that I loved Mariah and Hannah, my fellow co-Counselors, and most importantly Ms. Carmen Snyder, my leader for the past five summers and one of the most godly, selfless, wonderful people I have ever met. They all make me want to be a better person in every way.

Like A Little Child

Like A Little Child

It’s over now. It was a hard summer but a beautiful one and now it has come to an end. I didn’t think I would be as sad as I am about Day Camp ending, with all its long days under the hot Tennessee sun and constant refinement in every area, but now that it is over I feel like I just want to cry because I miss it already. I managed to keep my composure on the Last Day in from of the kids, but I watched them crying as we cleaned out our cubbies and hugging their friends who would go back home to a different state and I felt their heartache. This chapter has closed. The school year will begin in moments. Everything is about to change. Even the dark grey storm clouds over our heads seemed to echo the sentiment of loss that we all felt.

I know that my melancholic nature over growing up must practically be a recurring joke in all my writings. Sometimes I wish I could just be like most teenagers and have no nostalgia or lamentations over the fleeting nature of life until I was at least out of college and drifting aimlessly in an attempt at discovering my identity. But I have always been a melancholy person; a pensive sadness has always been at the center of the Maddie Experience. Underneath the snarky humor, the wide-eyed enthusiasm, and the bookish intelligence, my personality has always been undercut by a mournful grief over how quickly time passes. It is a quiet current, it doesn’t try to obnoxious, but it is merely there as a reminder of how life goes on inexorably without my consent.

Ben & Jean

Ben & Jean

Perhaps this is why I admire brave people. There are people out there like my Uncle Ben, who has fought cancer for over 30 years and has never stopped living life to the fullest. Or my mother, who puts herself out there without any concern about her self. Or even my friends who push down that scared little voice inside them and banish their insecurities away so they can go on adventures and behave gloriously. I have always been fascinated by people who dive into something head first, grabbing the bull by the horns and going all in to everything they do. That courage is inspiring and it makes me want to be a braver person.



The next season of my life is arriving. It is kind of funny that I’m ending the summer of 2015 to enter the summer of my life. College stands before me as this exciting, yet terrifying beacon, moving ever closer. So much is about to happen in these next four years that I can scarcely comprehend it. Adulthood is here and I am finally coming round to accepting it fully. Yet I don’t think it is bad to feel sadness over what I have lost. I’ve grown up and I have lost parts of myself to time, but I think now is the time to enter a new period of expansion. Now I must mold and shape my identity into what it will likely be for the rest of my life as God leads, yet I must also never forget who I am, who I’ve always been. This is a time of change but it is also a time of preservation, and even though I am sad, I believe I am ready.

Cinderella: A Movie Review

Courtesy Disney

Courtesy Disney

I think it is kind of crazy for me to admit that so far, my favorite movie of 2015 is a live action remake of a Disney Princess cartoon from the 50’s. I did not have high hopes for this movie when I went with a gaggle of girls to see it a few weeks ago for my buddy Anna Jackson’s birthday. I mean, as a sprouting movie buff with a potentially devastating arsenal of criticism and analysis, I went into the theater with knives a sharpened, ready to gleefully eviscerate the bloated corpse of an obvious Disney cash-grab with extreme prejudice. As the many advertisements and trailers ended, Disney presented a Frozen short. I got the impression that the fullness of the theater was directly attributed to the promised glimpse at Anna and Elsa of Arendale. Since Frozen was still an undeniable cultural behemoth even a year and a half after its release, it didn’t surprise me that its many, many fans would pay good money to see a third rate Disney remake if the shrewd producers dangled a tantalizing short in front of us as bait. The short, Frozen Fever was decent enough. Elsa had allergies or something, which I as the proverbial bubble child greatly related to. It ended to a thunderous applause by the many female fans in the theater and I waited with complete certainty that the feature, Cinderella, would doubtlessly flounder and die. I licked my lips, mind ready to pounce.

I watched the movie. The credits rolled. I applauded thunderously with the entire theater as I clapped with an enthusiasm that would have made the Maddie from two hours ago do a double take. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, to find that this “third-rate cash grab” was made with an appreciation and warmth that is almost nonexistent in the modern moviesphere so inundated with cheap, effects-laden remakes and soulless, grittily-rebooted blockbusters. They made Cinderella (an animated movie from 1950 that most people slept through) actually enjoyable! In my opinion, this recent remake was even better than the original (now I suppose I must turn in my hipster badge and irony firearm because I have just admitted that a modern reboot was better).

Princess Party 2013

Princess Party 2013

Look, I like every other girl in America, watched all the Disney Princess movies. I had a princess birthday party, a bunch of princess dolls, and all the VHS tapes (remember, this was the early 2000’s) of the Disney movies on repeat. Of all the animated movies, my favorite was Beauty and the Beast (duh) and my least favorite was Cinderella. I just had a really hard time relating to Cinderella’s character. In one word, she was BORING. I know the whole happy-even-though-she-is-being-brutally-abused thing is an integral part of her character, but come on! In the original movie she contributes nothing to the story. She is a completely one-dimensional, passive character who just sort of lets stuff happen to her. Now I know that’s sort of a product of the times, 1950 wasn’t really known for its spunky heroines who define their own futures, but even Snow White from 1937, who spends the Third Act of her own movie comatose had a 100 times more personality then the animated Cinderella. Snow White gets stuff done.

She successfully organizes a house populated by seven bachelors just because she can. Cinderella’s hard-working for sure, but she doesn’t really do much. By far the worst character in the animated Cinderella movie is the Prince. The guy literally does not have a name, even in official Disney merchandise. He and Cinderella just sort of dance around and boom, in love. Not even a single conversation passes between them. I think the prince only has one line in the entire movie which is “Where are you going?” The dude is eye-candy plain and simple. A waltzing Roomba could replace his character and there wouldn’t be any difference in the story. The original Cinderella is pretty and pointless, which is why I had really, really low expectations for its modern adaptation. Well at least it couldn’t be worse then Maleficent.


Courtesy Disney/Wikja

Courtesy Disney/Wikja

The 2015 version of Cinderella was amazing. It blew all my preconceived prejudices and biases out of the water. First of all, it was amazingly well made. I’m talking Oscar-worthy costuming and set design. The few months I spent working with the set team for V2 made me really appreciate how much work goes into the costumes and set pieces in a production. The dresses, the scenery, the little tiny touches in the furniture and paintings were all absolutely breathtaking. Cinderella’s blue gown, the one she goes to the ball in, it was absolutely stunning. I’m letting my REALLY girly side show on this, but good gracious Lord that dress was beautiful. I read an article that said Cinderella’s dress used more than 270 yards of fabric, with 10,000 Swarovski crystal sewed into it. It took 18 tailors 500 hours to make. I usually don’t think clothes are worth squealing over, but darn it I’m going to squeal over that dress. It was gorgeous, all the costumes in that movie were gorgeous. Sandy Powell, the costume designer, deserves her fourth Oscar for that one.

The Dress - Courtesy Disney

The Dress – Courtesy Disney

But even beyond the wonderful aesthetic production values, the story and acting made me really connect with this ancient story, retold for countless generations about a poor, downtrodden girl who rises from the ashes and wins the heart of the ruler with the help of a little magic transformation. Cinderella was still the same good, selfless girl who did thankless tasks and took heaps of abuse with a good attitude, but this time around we got to see why she was able to do that. It takes a lot of work to be good and selfless in the face of ugliness and evil. This version’s Cinderella, played convincingly by a sparkly-eyed Lily James, shows us her early life marked by happiness and kindness that was ingrained into her by her parents, who told her to “Always have courage and be kind.” When that childhood abruptly ended and left her an orphan under the oppressive rule of her wickedly manipulative and cruel stepmother, Cinderella uses her parents’ lessons to keep out of despair and protect her ancestral home. But what this movie shows is how hard cruelty can be, even to the most selfless of people. When her stepmother refuses to allow her stepdaughter to even eat with them at breakfast and mocks her disheveled appearance, Cinderella flees to the forest in tears. But fate allows her to run into a royal hunting party led by the handsome (and this time named) Prince Kit. When she intervenes for the sake of the stag the party is hunting, Kit becomes enamored with her kindness and courage, and by the fact that she does not recognize him as the prince and speaks freely. I was taken by the great chemistry shared by Cinderella and Kit even in this early scene that made the whole love at first sight shtick palpable to me, the jaded modern viewer.

Thus proceeds the classical Cinderella story of a ball, the stepmother refusing to let Cinderella go, the fairy godmother’s intervention, and the gorgeous dance between the prince and the mystery woman, Cinderella. But also added is the relationship between Prince Kit and his father the King, who sees how Cinderella’s outlook of courage and kindness has made his son a better man and future king. He allows his son to marry a common girl for love rather than a princess for advantage.

Courtesy Disney

Courtesy Disney

There is the search for the girl with the glass slipper, but in this version, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother sees the initial profit to be gained by letting Cinderella become queen, and offers to let Cinderella answer the prince’s summons if she makes the stepmother head of the palace household and puppet master of the Prince. But Cinderella, knowing that the safety of the kingdom and the freedom of the Prince would be jeopardized by such a situation, refuses the stepmother’s offer and is resigned to her life of drudgery as a result.

But the prince finds her and even with the revelation that his true love is nothing more then a poor scullery maid, he choses her as his bride anyway. Before she leaves to become queen, Cinderella turns to her cruel and wicked stepmother and forgives her for the years of torment, destroying the woman’s cold exterior and making her see how evil she truly was. The bible teaches about not being a slave to unforgiveness. Forgiveness has truly great power!

I thought this version gave the old story an emotional element yet unseen. It had high stakes and high tension but a big payoff in the end. It was a beautiful movie that kept the traditional fairy tale heart intact in a world populated with revisionist twists and gritty reboots. I thought that was quite the achievement to craft a fairy tale that would appeal to the modern view. It was truly a wonderful movie that will delight anyone. Cinderella is for once a great role model, strong and selfless and well as courageous and kind. She suffered, but that suffering only refined her into a more empathetic person who could understand the pain of others, even those who were unkind to her. It is ironic that this kindness to those who may be cruel to you is exactly what we were learning at church. I saw the film again a few weeks later and it was even better the second time.


4 out of 4 stars

The Love of a Cat - Hobbes

The Love of a Cat – Hobbes

Fry Food Fight


Are All Fries Created Equal?

Are All Fries Created Equal?

I consider myself to be a connoisseur of French fries. Considering that they are A) my favorite food other than sushi and B) wonderful, it is no surprise that I have eaten a wide variety of starchy oil soaked potato fingers in my time. But as a devoted patron of the tuber arts I must attest that not all fries are created equal. In fact, the quality of two separate types of French fry can differ so drastically as to merit an entire criterion that a hopeful fry must pass if it wants to deserve its title as my favorite food. So fast food joints and eateries nationwide, send me your tributes and I shall judge them according to their character! Let those who be found wanting be tossed aside into the garbage! Let those who deserve mention be lifted up for all the world to see as the Greatest Fry in the Whole Wide World! Let the Hungry Games begin!

Some of the contenders

Some of the contenders

1. McDonalds: To start of my list, I will discuss the basic, All-American fry from our friendly neighborhood Mega-Corporation, Micky D’s. If you are alive in 21st century, it is pretty much certain that you’ve eaten a McDonald’s French fry. If you haven’t, well then I welcome you to the future person-who-went-into-an-underground-bunker-during-the-Cuban-Missile-Crisis-to-escape-the-wrath-of-the-Radioactive-Mole-People-and-has-just-now-realized-that-the-world-didn’t-end-in-the-60’s. I hope you enjoy living in a world with Wi-Fi because you have a lot of catching up to do. For everyone else, you’ve probably had mixed feelings about McDonalds and its possibly-Soylent-Green “food”. On one hand, you’ve probably heard the horror stories about Pink Slime and disgruntled fast food workers spitting on every fifth patty, but on the other, good gracious Ronald McDonald, this Big Mac is delicious! But all other menu items aside, McDonald’s fries are actually really good. I mean, they are certainly not going to win best cooking any time soon but as for a yummy fast food item that is almost always very good, the old clown delivers. What McDonald’s understands about fast food is that people eat at McDonalds for a reason. They want greasy, salty, deliciously unhealthy food. Their fries are well salted, crispy and delicious.  Final Score: 8/10

2. Wendy’s: I’m going to just go out on a limb here and say that the reptilian part of my brain has an inherent distrust towards fast food trying to be healthy. I know a lot of people care a lot about what they eat, but as I stated in the aforementioned McDonald’s section, I do not eat French fries to be healthy. I eat them for their deliciously sodium filled fried potato flavor so when a company decides to make their product “healthier” I get suspicious. Wendy’s is one such company. I suspect that Wendy’s went in this direction with their Natural Cut Fries with Sea Salt to save on all the wasted potato skins they were just throwing away previously. I am wary of people who want to save potato skins. They are weird folk.      Final Score: 5/10

3. Sonic: Just to be clear, I do not think it be a far-fetched estimate to declare that the average Brentwoodian eats at Sonic at least twice a week. We love us some Sonic here in the ‘Wood (which to clarify is what I assume cooler people than me call Brentwood). I love me some Sonic and I think their tater tots are boss. I know a tater tot isn’t technically a French fry but SHUT UP! SONIC TOTS ARE DELICIOUS YOU PHILISTINE! I CAN INCLUDE THEM IN MY LIST IF I WANT TO!    Final Score: 11/10 because TOTS!

Tots Rule!

Tots Rule!

Now Five Guys is a bit fancier than the other, more plebeian fast food joints. If a McDonalds french fry is wearing a T-Shirt and Sweatpants, a Five Guys is wearing a spiffy suit and tie. They’re a burger joint for people who want actual burgers, so it is to be expected that they’ll go above and beyond to give us a proper fry to go with their proper burgers. I must say that I quite enjoy Five Guys Spicy Cajun Fries, especially when they’re piping hot and just out of the fryer. They are the metaphorical bomb! Basically a perfect fry in my opinion. But I do take certain issues with the Five Guys method. First of all, they just dump all your fries in the bag like some sort of barbarian heathens who are against neatness. They have a cup in there that in theory should hold your potato sticks, but in reality it is just a futile scooper drowned in a sea of spices and potato. In order to eat them you have to stick your whole arm in the bag and get your elbows covered in spice dust. Have you ever tried licking spice dust off your elbows? It doesn’t work. Secondly, they give you a bajillion fries. It is very generous but I don’t want every potato in Idaho, thank you very much. Because of these problems I dock a point off of an otherwise perfect fry because I am a spiteful and capricious person.   Final Score: 9/10


5. Burger King: I don’t like them. Especially those crinkle cut Satistfries. They are incredibly lame. The normal ones are barely passable in my experience. They are usually limp and flaccid and need a lot of ketchup to be palpable. I also distrust their Mascot the Burger King. He creeps me out. Final Score: 3/10

6. Popeye’s: Every time my family goes on a trip, we’ll usually stop at a Popeye’s for one of our meals. Besides having some of the best fried chicken on the fast-food market (eat your heart out KFC), Popeyes has the best Cajun french fries of any fast-food joint. Perfectly battered and covered with the ultimate blend of spices, Popeye’s has their recipe down. Unlike Five Guys, Popeyes does not dump the whole container of spice on their helpless spud fingers and that is why I give them a perfect score. Good job Louisiana Kitchen!   Final Score: 10/10


7. My Dad’s Homemade Fries: OK, I’ll admit that I am little biased, but I will attest to one universally acknowledged fact: my father is the best cook on planet Earth. You might cry “Harumph” and “Partiality, good madam!” in your silly fancy voice but I will simply chortle blithely at you. Like gravity of inertia, my father’s amazing cooking skills are a fundamental natural law of the universe. The French Fries that he makes are sublime, but I must dock off half a point because he doesn’t make them often enough.   Final Score: 9.5/10

8. Connection Cafe: For those who don’t know, the Connection Cafe is the restaurant run out of the Weigh Down building manned by the magnificent Leaman family and a host of volunteers. Besides being THE destination for godly fellowship, the Connection Cafe also has some pretty spectacular food that is portioned perfectly for those finding hunger and fullness for the first time. My personal favorite is their spicy shoestring fries that are fantabulous and always piping fresh. Whether you want to listen to the life-changing lessons on the Weigh Down radio show or just grab some fellowship time with a saint, the Connection Cafe is the perfect destination, and it doesn’t hurt that they have great food to eat within God’s boundaries as well.

Final Score: 10/10

Fries are great, but even better is the ability to sense what God is leading you eat and how to sense when your body is satisfied. Thanks to the Weigh Down workshop and the teachings of Gwen Shamblin we can eat real food and know that we aren’t overdoing it because we are looking for God’s lead in everything. It is so much fun!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my post on french fries. Please post if you have a contender you’d like to rate, or you think I’ve wrongly misjudged an innocent tater. Fry On!

The End

The End







See how I lost 40lbs. at

Turning 18


New Born






I am now a legal adult. Man, I just felt chills run up my spine. Even though I turned 18 three weeks ago it didn’t feel real until now. In the eyes of the US Government and the law I am no longer a child, but a full-fledged, autonomous American citizen with the power to vote for the wrong political party, join the Army and become a pitiful excuse for a soldier, or buy a pack of delicious Marlboro cancer sticks from the local 7-11. I’m a grown up. When did this happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was learning my ABCs and how to properly panic during a tornado drill? It feels like only a few moments have passed since I was a snaggletoothed tot with a bowl haircut and an unhealthy obsession with cats whose only real concern in life was debating the merits of playing house or playing tag. When did I get a bank account? When did I start caring about this country’s oil reserves? When did I become a major instead of a minor?


I’m 18 years old. That’s like 126 in dog years! I’d be the oldest person in the world if I was a dog! I know most 18 year olds probably think it took FOREVER to be 18, but for me it all seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. Maybe its because I’ve always been hyper aware of my own mortality. I can actually think back to a moment when I was about, say, six years old. I was lying on my back in my old house in Indiana and I was literally watching dust settle (I’m an only child, we make do with the entertainment options we can get). I stared up at the ceiling as I saw the tiny particles dance around the thin rays of afternoon sun beaming through the slits in my Venetian blinds. I imagined each minuscule speck was a tiny little person, floating through the world on a tiny little glider. They would soar through the unimaginably big chasm of my room, slowly flying in lazy circles on some never-ending journey. What does the world look like when you’re that small? I would muse to myself. How big must I look to those people. I must look like a huge mountain range that slowly becomes bigger with each inhale. I would sit up and grab one of my books about space. I would flip through the glossy pages and see a size comparison of the earth to the sun, then the sun to Sirius, then Sirius to a red hyper-giant star. The sun would be a tiny speck on the page, barely a pixel in diameter. If the sun itself was a mere speck in the universe, what was I? I didn’t even really exist then.DSC_0381


I looked back up at the particles of dust floating through the air. If I was nothing in the vast expanse of an infinite universe, what were they? I thought about a new concept I had learned the day before in my first grade science class. Apparently everything in the world was made up of billions upon billions of atoms. Everything I was, even my idea of self-awareness was just a cluster of trillions of tiny elements knitted together by God to make a person. How could the universe vary to such extremes? How could there be something as tiny as a carbon atom and something as huge as a galactic cluster of stars sending twinkling out to us from a thousand light-years away? Yet here I was, a little six-year-old girl closer in size to a particle of dancing dust than the magnitude of an atom. I was in the middle between infinitesimally small and unfathomably huge.

In Black

As I laid back down on the carpet I tried to feel the earth hurtling through space at a mind boggling 1,000 miles per hour. In less than 8,760 hours, this little six-year-old would be seven and this little blue planet, so minuscule compared to the magnitude of the sun it spun around, would continue to revolve unimpeded by my existence. I realized that each second ticking, the globe would move another 1500 feet and I was a second closer to the inevitable end of my existence.

As I sat there on the floor I came to grips with the fact that I was getting older just laying here. Even though the changes were minute and undetectable, I was slowly creeping into adulthood. Time ticke4 yearsd by without any control on my part. I began to cry. The dust had settled, all the graceful gliders had floated down to earth and the sunlight hid behind a cloud. I was alone in my darkened room, thinking about how huge the stars were.

Twelve years later I lie down on a different floor in a different room and watch the dust settle. I think about how huge the future looks with the rest of my life ahead of me, a mystery I am about to explore. Has anything really changed since I was that strange little girl contemplating the universe that she was such a small part of? The world around my swirls and spins and transforms but I am the same. I am still me regardless of the differences in my environment.

18 is an arbitrary number, just a count of how many times this silly kid has traveled around the sun on this planet we call home. Does it make me an adult? No. If responsibility and self-awareness make you grown up, then I’ve been grown up for years. If immaturity and uncertainty make you a child, then maybe I’ll never be truly full-grown. Whatever life brings I think I’ll always be a thinker, a person who sees the universe in a speck of dust. I wonder what God thinks when he sees all us dust particles blowing through life? Love.


The B



A Toy’s Journey – A Tale of Lost and Found Treasure

Check out my first book now on and!
This is the true and imagined story of a little girl, her beloved doll, and what happens when a childhood love is lost, but how it miraculously turns up forty years later to the now grown up adult woman. It is also the story of all the wild adventures the small Father Christmas doll was on during his four decade absence. Maddie Kurtz was ten years old when shoe wrote this beautiful tale of lost and found treasure that is really all about love. It’s not just a holiday tale; it is a story for children of all ages! Some things that are lost really can be found.

Barnes & Noble:



Origami Friday

The Art of Origami

The Art of Origami

It’s a bit hard to explain the allure of origami to the uninitiated. You take a piece of colored paper, fold it into convoluted geometric patterns and somehow (perhaps through a bit of black magic or a blood pact with Cthulhu) you end up with a paper thing that sort of resembles a not-paper thing. It’s not exactly rocket science, but when most people face the terribly complicated world of squash folds, waterbomb bases, and “sinking the tip,” it is easy to cry “Impossibluh!” and accuse enthusiasts of this ancient Japanese art of being paper-folding sorcerers hell-bent on hoodwinking the populace into frustrating itself as countless would-be origamists throw their crunched up ball of paper into the wastebasket after a disastrous attempt at making a crane.


For most of my life, I have viewed those people capable of such a confusing art as somewhat inhuman, as if only a demigod could decipher the baffling code of vague instructions that was origami. But yet I was still absolutely fascinated by the pictures I saw of brilliantly colored flowers and animals and boxes all made out of paper. They were beautiful and intricate and I longed to be able to create such gorgeous artwork out of nothing but a square of paper and my own two hands. It was like magic watching the videos of skillful fingers folding the paper into simple creases over and over again until they fashioned something incredibly complex. It was like witchery, how such effortless movements could produce such beauty.

I vowed to myself that I would learn this art, but lacking an instructor, special paper, or even a particularly coordinated set of hands, the odds seemed to stack loomingly against my favor. Thus I turned to the ultimate source of knowledge, the almighty Google, for help. A few keystrokes later, I was on an origami instruction site browsing the instructions on how to make a simple bird.

It helps to have great nail color!

It helps to have great nail color!

Armed with my raggedly cut square of copy paper I had pilfered from the printer, I followed the first step in making the bird, which was folding the paper into a triangle. Easy enough! I said to myself with a smug grin. I have been folding triangles since pre-school! Maybe this whole origami thing isn’t so hard after all! I looked at the screen of my computer for the next step.

“Now squash fold the triangle to create the square base.” The instructor in the video calmly said as she made a quick movement with her hands and suddenly magicked the formerly triangular piece of paper into a square piece of paper. I was flabbergasted as I rewinded the video and tried to make sense of whatever trickery the instructor had done to make her square.

Maddie teaching Ms. Jean    Michelle

Maddie teaching Miss.Jean & Michelle

“Squash fold” she repeated as I kept on replaying the same two seconds trying to spot what on Earth she meant as her disembodied hands made the movement over and over again. I finally managed to smoosh my paper into a vaguely square-ish shape and continued the video onto the next step.

The Fold Is Everything!

The Fold Is Everything!

“Now fold the four flaps of your square diagonally to create a kite shape.” She said as I desperately tried to find the flaps. Unfortunately, my square wasn’t squash folded so those flaps didn’t exactly exist in my realm of reality. I tossed my paper and started fresh with a second piece. This time, I managed to fold the square base and summon the four flaps into this dimension. I had a kite that looked like a similar, if messy version of the one on the video.

“Now open the flaps of the kite back out and fold them in.” The instructor insisted. I was taken aback by this as I had just been gloating over my victory over the nefarious folded flaps and I was now being instructed to unfold them. This is kind of futile, isn’t it? I thought to myself, all this folding and unfolding. But I obeyed the instructor and reluctantly unfolded my flaps.

“Now we are going to do a petal fold and bring the flaps inside the kite.” The voice ordered. The instructor opened up the paper and did a confusing maneuver and suddenly the flaps were on the inside and the paper was diamond shaped. I grimaced and tried to copy the maneuver but I ended up opening my paper completely up and folding it into a sort of bizarre rectangle. As this current incarnation of folded paper was never going to look anything like the one in the video, I quickly crumpled it up and I hung my head in defeat. I’m never going to be able to do this! I fumed as I tossed my aborted creation into the trash. I looked back at the picture of the haughty completed crane that seemed to be laughing snootily at my inability to copy it. It was mocking me with it’s elegant, perfectly folded wings, graceful arched beak. It was daring me to quit. I furrowed my brow and narrowed my eyes at the infernal paper bird on the screen.



“I am going to make you, you stupid paper crane!” I hissed. Taking a third sheet of paper and praying fervently, I replayed the video, stopping it at each second mark to copy the instructor’s motions with almost fanatical exactness. I mastered the squash fold and narrowly overcame the petal fold until I had the base of the bird completed to look exactly like the one in the video.

I bit my lip nervously as I clicked on the play button. I had never come so close to completing the bird and the tension was running high.

“Now take the right leg of your base, and diagonally inner fold it to the top.” The voice instructed, completely unaware of the mounting suspense I felt as I copied the motion. The picture of the completed bird taunted me to mess up and my fingers were practically shaking as I slowly folded my crane into being.

Ok, careful now Maddie! I whispered to myself as I folded up the head, you’re almost there, don’t lose it now. The head was up now all that was left was the tail.

“You can’t do it!” the crane in the picture jeered. “You stink at origami!”

You’re wrong Origami Crane! I mentally retaliated, I can do this!

You Can Do This!

You Can Do This!

Then in one smooth motion, I lifted up the tail of my crane and to my amazement it went to the right place. I whooped in delight as I held my completed paper creation in my hands. I was rough all right, and compared to the crane in the picture it looked like one of the after-pictures in a drug PSA, but it was a bird and I had made it and my sense of personal achievement was undiminished.

In that moment, I decided that origami was possible and that I liked it. Placing my crane on the top of my computer I clicked on the next video for another design. My parents came home that day to a kitchen covered with a myriad of paper creations and I furiously folding long into the wee hours of the night.

Once you start...

Once you start…

The cool thing about origami is that it is all about making something out of nothing. All you have is your hands and a flat piece of paper, but with a little bit of folding and a lot of prayer, you can create something really lovely. There is so much to make and figure out! Happy Folding!

Father's Day crane for my dad. Look close, Happy Father's Day written in every space!

Father’s Day crane for my dad. Look close, Happy Father’s Day written in every space!


Maleficent Not Magnificant

Courtesy Disney

Courtesy Disney

Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has always taken me to see movies. It was a part of the very fabric of my childhood, the films, actors, and stories all intertwining like thread in the tapestry of my pop culture education.

Last week, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, my dad looked at me and said it was a good time to go see a movie. We decided on the recent summer blockbuster Maleficent, an alternate look at Disney’s classic animated Sleeping Beauty from the viewpoint of the titular evil sorceress Maleficent, played by the incredibly high cheekbones of Angelina Jolie. As a huge fan of Broadway’s wonderful Wicked, the story of The Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the viridescent Wicked Witch of the West, I was super excited about learning the backstory of one of Disney’s most elegant and charmingly evil villainesses.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, I’ll give you the chance to cover your eyes and ears and scream “LALALALALA!!” at the top of your lungs because here be spoilers. Like serious spoilers. I’m basically going to be giving away the whole plot of the movie so if you want to be surprised when you see it don’t read on.

Maleficent begins with the voiceover of an elderly Princess Aurora (the narcoleptic heroine from the familiar tale of Sleeping Beauty, which for those who have lived under a rock for the past 300 years is about of a fifteen year old girl who’s deathly allergic to spinning wheels and somehow manages to prick her finger on the only spindle in the entire country) narrating the tragic tale of Maleficent, a powerful fairy who cursed the infant Aurora with eternal slumber. In an attempt at Wicked-esque revisionism, she gives us a backstory on the delightfully immoral witch.

We first see Maleficent as a young buffalo-horned fairy-girl, innocent and kind in her dealings as she lives in the peaceful democratic fairy paradise that is Sweden… I mean… the Moors. She meets and falls in love with a human boy named Stefan. But Stefan is very power-hungry and ambitious and he later betrays Maleficent by cutting off her wings so he can become King of the humans.

So Maleficent, in her revenge, crashes the christening of Stefan’s newborn daughter and curses her with the whole Sleeping Beauty shtick, except in this version, Maleficent, not the third blue fairy, who adds on the whole true love’s kiss clause.

Aurora is sent to live with the three imbecilic fairies who don’t even know what babies eat and Maleficent ends up raising Aurora herself because otherwise the three fairies would have long let the child toddle right off a cliff.

Of course, Maleficent grows to love the kid but she cannot break her own curse. Her punishment on Stefan for revenge has given her no satistfaction and has harmed her even more. Aurora ends up pricking her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel and in a move directly copied from Frozen, it ends up being Maleficent, not her dashing Bieber-like prince, who gives her the true love’s kiss that wakes the doe-eyed princess up.

Maleficent’s whole deal is that she wants to protect her people, the fairies, from the encroachment of humans. She also hates Stefan’s guts for totally breaking her heart and crippling her. She’s got a lot of hate going on and it’s very justified. Stefan, of course, has always had bad guilt about how he cut Maleficent’s wings off, but now the girl he used to love has just cursed his kid so he is totally justified to hate on Maleficent. The thing is, they both have bad faults and they both have sinned against each other. Now when I saw this movie, I was constantly expecting it to be a meditation of the corrupting darkness of revenge in the lives of two former friends. It definitely goes into that. Maleficent only becomes truly evil after she curses Aurora and Stefan really goes to the dark side when he tries to destroy the Moors to avenge his cursed daughter.

But I ended up being really unsatisfied with the ending of this movie. I had liked it a lot from the beginning to the final act, but it ended without any real redemption for Stefan. Whenever there is a story about revenge, the only way to make it satisfying is through the redemptive power of forgiveness. Maleficent never forgave Stefan and he never forgave Maleficent. They took their hate right up to a climactic tower battle in which Stefan ended up plummeting to his death because he could not forgive her. His character, which could have been as complex and multifaceted Maleficent’s, ended up falling flat (no pun intended) as just another power-hungry psychopath. I know the whole thing about this movie is role reversal, but isn’t the point of a gritty reboot from the bad guy’s perspective to show that there are no true villains? Stefan’s character in this movie was just as two dimensional as Maleficent’s in Sleeping Beauty. Power drove him crazy and he stayed crazy through the whole movie. He never got his moment to forgive Maleficent. He was never a sympathetic character.

I know that the whole theme of the Maleficent/Stefan relationship was to show them as complementary opposites, but I felt so dissatisfied seeing his broken body lying in the ruins of his castle as his former friend turned enemy looked down at him impassively. In my mind, it would have been more moving to see the two old enemies forgive each other. To me it seemed like the entire movie was aiming for them to overcome their mutual betrayals and forgive but it missed the mark. In the end, Maleficent got her revenge from Stefan, who even had the clichéd villainy to try to stab her in the back after she tried to make peace so he could die truly evil in the eyes of the audience. It’s like the whole debatable of making Greedo shoot at Han first in the original Star Wars movie to make him “more heroic”. The whole point of having anti-heroes is that their morality is not drawn on such staunch lines. Everyone has the capacity to make good and bad decisions in life. For a gritty reboot that lauds itself as seeing a story from a different perspective, Maleficent ended up drawing the lines of good and evil just as arbitrarily as the movie it was trying to make more realistic. The whole theme the movie was trying to get at was all about how unforgiveness enslaves the soul and corrupts it. The only thing that can end the endless cycle of revenge is forgiveness, but no one really forgave anyone.

What made me mad with this movie about character complexity was that by the ending, nobody but Maleficent was complex. Take the character of Aurora as the wide-eyed ingénue. The girl got whatever she wanted in life without ever lifting a finger. From her birth she was blessed by the fairies with extraordinary beauty and the literal gift (not joking) of “everybody always loving her”. Want to live in the magic fairy kingdom that no human is allowed in? Sure you can, Aurora! Here’s a hot prince who is desperately in love with you as a side!

The thing I disliked the most about Aurora was that she never made any sacrifices or had to give up what she wanted. All her life she wanted to live in magic fairy land. Since she’s never actually had to deal with a hard situation in her life, I expected the end of Maleficent to show her growing up and taking the responsibility for the human kingdom she’s just inherited via tower pushing. Since Stefan had basically oppressed the humans into oblivion, I thought the ending would show Aurora selflessly sacrificing her childish dreams of a perfect paradise to do the hard thing in the real world that is leading her flawed people who need her. Everyone is always talking about what a good person Aurora is, so why not use her caring, compassionate personality to turn around the human kingdom and make it good again?

But the thing about the ending of the movie is that after the big battle is won, we never see the human kingdom again. Aurora becomes the queen of the Moors (you know, the magical fairy democracy which made a big point in the beginning about needing no king). Yeah, she says the two kingdoms were united under her rule, but all we see is Aurora prancing around in magic fairy land, leaving the people in her actual kingdom to presumably suck it up while their queen indulges her own whims. Aurora sacrifices nothing.

Maybe I’m looking at this too deeply (and I must admit that I have a problem with psychoanalyzing fictional entertainment), but I felt like none of the themes the movie was trying to make actually came full circle. It talked about sacrifice, and betrayal, and forgiveness, and redemption, but it never really dived below the surface into what those things actually mean. The ending of Maleficent, despite being garishly happy and full of big smiles and colorful flowers, did not do it for me. It ended up not satisfying me emotionally or mentally because it did not go deep enough into what writer’s call the “human condition”. Of course, not being deep isn’t what was the problem. I like absurdness and fun just as much as anyone, but the thing about Maleficent is that it was claiming to give us depth. It wanted to be serious and hard hitting but it missed.

I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t see the movie, though. It was good. Perhaps I, like Maleficent, ironically misjudged things. Please submit your own analysis below! Have a great day!


Spring bursts over Tennessee suddenly, like someone pushed a trigger and life explodes around us. Our winters are mild and very tentative most times. There may be only one or two storms a year that blanket our rolling hills with white, and even then, the covering is usually thinner than half an inch. Winter is a time punctuated by inconsistency. It may be so desperately cold one day that a person must wear their winter coats inside only to be followed by a day in shorts and flip flops.

When I look out the window and see the tender green sprouts start to shoot out from underneath the brown Bermuda grass there is a sense of hope. There is a general feeling of renewal and rebirth in spring that you don’t feel any other time a year. Spring is the season of life before the burning summer sun scorches the dry earth into submission.

Though I stand under the cool winter night now, soon I will lounge out in the warm sun, feel the rays soak into my pale, sunshine-starved skin. It won’t be too hot yet and the sunlight won’t meet my face and decide to sting it red as a reprimand for slinking around inside for the last six months. I do enjoy the look of spring, and the warmth of the nearing equinox driving away the shivering of Polar Vortexes that have frozen the land for the last few months. Spring has a certain energy about it, like you can almost feel the thrumming of life vibrate the air, thickening and intensifying with each passing day. Soon the world will burst with color, the dry twigs on the dogwood trees suddenly erupting with crimson flowers and the shoots of thousands of bright yellow daffodils will claw through the earth and bask in the sun.

The streams will gurgle with fresh spring showers as the lifeless yards of suburbia will be transformed into a hive of desperate activity as bags of fertilizer and seeds fill every minivan. Children will begin protesting attempts by their mothers to make them wear jackets outside and will most certainly catch the plague as a result. Millions of allergy sufferers across the nation will feel their hearts seize in terror as they now must face the dreaded spring allergies with all the stuffy noses, hacking coughs, and loud sneezing such a season entails. College students embark on their week of debauchery and/or studying. Easter paraphernalia has long since invaded all the stores; as soon as the Christmas supplies are shelved, out come the bunny-shaped chocolates. People emerge from the darkness of their winter caves and begin spring cleaning. The world is awake with optimism and activity.

Winter and all its worries melt away like the snow. A fresh new feeling takes root in the heart. The slumbering stumbling in the dark is over and it is time to step out into the sun again, regain your consciousness. The world is stirring with action and it is time for you to flurry with life once more. The sun is bright and the air is thick and it is time to move and leave the winter nights behind.

I take one last sad glance at the darkened winter sky, so clear and cold, the stars shining out through the thin bracing air with a certain clarity that cannot be paralleled. They look like someone’s taken a bag full of diamonds and flung them across velvet. Winter is confining but freeing in a strange sort of comforting way. Nothing is immediate and everything seems to slow down when the air is frozen.

But spring is here and life must move on. It is time to leave the mysterious winter stars and let the sun rise over the world, bringing with it the hustle of spring.