The OCD Switch

Maddie's Room - Enter At Own Risk! I feel like I’m the type of person who tends to swing between the two extremes of cleanliness like the on-and-off switch of a light bulb. Half the time, I’m a slob who is perfectly content to live in my pigsty of a room with all my possessions strewn about the room like an extremely localized tornado whipped through my room and threw all my clothes in haphazard piles around my unmade bed. Other times, I’m like the ultimate, immaculate clean-freak, with my clothes starched, ironed, and hung delicately in my closet in carefully calculated order by style, then color, then alphabetically by brand name, my floor is vacuumed into carefully measured lines and every surface is dusted and organized.

Sometimes this OCD/Slob pendulum can oscillate simultaneously. In school, my books are carefully placed in order by subject and schedule in an intensely neat stack with all my notebook papers laying perpendicularly beneath my color coded binders. Sometimes I’ll even empty a disorganized box of box of crayons and organize them by color and size, just to satisfy the inner obsessive clean freak inside me. But, as soon as the books enter my backpack, everything becomes chaos. There are crumpled papers and gum wrappers and random knickknacks accumulating in random pockets all over my bag. I call my backpack a black hole because once something enters in, it doesn’t come out until the end o the school year when I shake everything out and realize “Oh! So that’s where my Biology homework from September went.”

Now this whole pendulum thing is kind of strange for me. Usually I am a person of extreme moderation (if such a thing as being radically non-radical can exist), I hardly ever dip to either of the dual poles of life, except when it comes to organization.

I wonder if I am really a hyper-organized person who is just really lazy and only realizes her true potential when her bursts of OCD are happening. Probably… the thing is, I don’t really mind messes I create myself. When I drop a shirt on the floor of my bedroom, its like I think, “Well, since I did that in my space, it’s OK. I’ll pick it up later… Right now I have important business to attend to. No one else can look at pictures of cats on the internet for me.”

Mary Poppins?

Mary Poppins?

My slovenliness is a problem that I have been working to resolve. I understand it is wrong for my to not take care of the room God has given me to keep up with, just like it is wrong of me not to take care of my body, which is on loan. I have been given so much in life and it is selfish and careless of me not to be grateful and take care of the wonderful things I’ve received. I also know it isn’t right for me to get obsessive about how clean things are (like maybe organizing my shoes in alphabetical order by brand and year of manufacture is a bit much). I think I can work on finding a happy medium, because no one likes an extremist in anything. But I do think I’ll lean more to the cleanliness side because, hey, everybody likes having a clean room and clothes that aren’t all wrinkly from being balled up and thrown under the bed.

I am excited that I have an opportunity coming to help my parents organize and clean our house. We are thinking of downsizing so I have a big job coming of getting our house ready for market and packing up our stuff in a way that’ll let us be able to find it again. For now, I’m going to do some Spring Cleaning (or late Summer Cleaning) to my closet. I think I feel a cleaning streak a-coming!

Organizing & Lists!

Organizing & Lists!


Courtesy Legendary Pictures

Courtesy Legendary Pictures

I am an unabashed movie lover. Ever since my father and I watched all three original Star Wars when I was barely a toddler and he pointed out all the elements that made Darth Vader scary (there I learned that “dum-dum-dum-dadada-dum-dum-dum-dadada means the Dark Lord cometh), I have enjoyed the magic of film.

I have written reviews on movies before, namely one on a Chinese blockbuster called Ip Man (which is an amazing movie) and Man of Steel (making Superman cool in a post-Nolan superhero world), but today I’d like to harp on a recent movie my family and I saw on pay-per-view called 42.

For those who do not know, 42 is a biopic about America’s first black Major League baseball player, Jackie Robinson. We had heard about it in April from several friends who raved about how awesome and inspirational it was, but with ticket prices at the old box-office being so exorbitantly sky high (the average price of a matinee at roughly half a forearm and 2/3’rds of a leg), we delayed seeing it until late July (when it came out on Comcast Pay-Per-View in which pay-per-view still rips one off but at least you have it for two days before you must pay $4.99 to re-watch it).

So, lets begin. When you boil it down to its fine, melty essence, 42 is a movie about turning the other cheek, even when one is being mobbed at all sides by a venomous mob of bigotry. In this movie, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is a young, promising baseball player who is selected to be the ballplayer to break the color barrier in the previously racially segregated national baseball leagues. He is selected by the general manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey (old, raspy voiced Indiana Jones), who wants to integrate baseball and defy the chauvinistic system.

Jackie is told from the very front that this attempt to break the unwritten rules of the color line will put him up against a storm of ingrained racial prejudice, and that many people would be whipped up into a frenzy of hatred. Jackie knows this, but even so, he wants to play Major League Baseball and he has amazing, God-given talent, and is willing to expose himself to all the hostility and antipathy the world will throw at him in order to break the barriers for others.

Our Living Room

Our Living Room

Throughout the movie, the white community confronts Jackie with complete contempt and degradation. It seems like everybody is out to destroy him, from his fellow teammates who sign a petition refusing to play ball with him, to hotel managers who refuse to let him stay, even when his other teammates are allowed. He receives death threats, is constantly barraged with abuse, and is put under the immense pressure to be superhuman by an entire country of people who are rooting for him to fail. And Jackie can’t even fight back because even if he loses his temper or composure in a completely justifiable situation, he will loose everything he and many others have worked for. Jackie must turn the other cheek constantly. In fact I’d say the entire movie is a study in the always humble, but extremely bold character of Jackie Robinson, a deeply religious young man who discovers the strength to go up against a corrupt system by being strong, staying under the authority of his equally brave owner, and ignoring the hounds of hell that try to destroy and discourage him along the way.

Many of you will catch the spiritual message in this movie, intended or unintended by the moviemakers. There are lots of little nuggets of truth that are very plain to find in 42, like how a little boy prays for God to give Jackie the strength to withstand the taunts, how Branch Rickey encourages Jackie when he is completely exhausted from all the abuse he is dealt to follow the example of Jesus and withstand the flaming arrows of the world. Jackie and his girlfriend Rachel keep themselves pure until marriage, and have a beautiful and loving relationship in which his wife lifts up his arms and supports him in everything, even when times get hard.

Jackie’s struggle and success parallels that of Jesus. His boss chooses him to endure terrible suffering, endangers his life and reputation in order to prove false the lies of the counterfeit and open the doors for others to follow the path he trailblazed. Jackie always remains above reproach, turning the other cheek to the barbs of his adversaries and always remaining calm and focused.

Overall, it’s a fabulous movie and I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to watch something uplifting, inspirational, and full of such amazing symbolism and parallels. Jackie Robinson is genuine testimony of how an ordinary man with a bit of talent , and great faith in God can change the world and make miracles happen.

P.S. This movie is set in the 1940’s, and deals with Black History and the Civil Rights movement. Obviously, there are heavy amounts of racism and derogatory slurs that are thrown at Jackie, so parents may want to save this movie for older children. It’s a very good movie

The College Conundrum

The Stack!

The Stack!

My mother’s enormous pile of library books slammed onto the table with a deafening smack. I looked up from my skimming of the Sunday funnies page to stare up the towering monolith of dense treatises on college advice that cast a looming shadow over my cowering frame. The volumes ranged from a delightfully colorful self-helper called How to choose a College Major to a particularly imposing publication on SAT preparedness that brought my previously ignorantly blissful, or at least, desperately evasive psyche back to the sudden reality that that the imminent storm of my junior year was brewing in the sky ahead and with it would bring the intimidating trials of my ever impending growing-up.

College is a cheeky little shadowbeast that hides in your closet for most of your childhood and only occasionally emerges from its hiding place in the distant future when particularly forward-minded adults decide to quiz uninformed children and laugh at the impossible and illogical answers (like mine when I was 7 was to go to Harvard School of Law to major in princess studies with a minor in unicorn mechanics). The sneaky secondary education shadowbeast stays in the darkness of destiny for a while, before pouncing on unsuspecting middle schoolers when they take their first PSAT’s. Then everything you learn in school, every test, every grade, every extracurricular becomes irrevocably linked in the minds of once euphorically unaware twelve year olds to the ominous college transcripts.

When I’m in school, every test result below an 89 becomes my life sentence to eternal hobo-dom. I remember coming home one night in tears like it was the end of the world when I got a 60 on a Geometry test. “Why?” I sobbed into my mother’s arms with not a small helping of melodrama, “Why did God not give me the natural ability to understand cosines?”

“Well…” My eternally patient parents said slowly, “God gave you other gifts. You just need to pray for His lead and talk to your math teacher.”

I did, of course, manage to pull through Standard Geometry 1 with an 88, after many wooden-headed questions about basic I-should-of-learned-this-in-5th-grade math to my long-suffering teacher and a heaping pile of prayer (I definitely don’t think I could have done anything without massive help from God).

But the point is, the weight of getting into college and how to pay the rising tuition costs really weighs down heavily on many students. At my school, my fellow academics (of which many are much smarter, skilled, and driven than I) must claw their way to a very exclusive top 10%, which is where most of the scholarships are to be fought for like an educational Hunger Games. It is a very foreboding process for a young person barely out of puberty to process. We feel like we have an expectation to decide what the rest of our lives will be like, what major to choose, what path we’ll be set on all before the tender age of 18. I have seen freshmen only 14 years old fret about how they’ll pay for college and weeping when their SAT scores are too low. I have witnessed kids my age (and sometimes even myself) obsessing themselves neurotic over 0.25 points on their GPA, thinking that a 3.75 is going to make every employer scoff in disdain when they come in to ask for a job when it says right there on their college transcript that you got a B in 10th grade Biology.

Well… I don’t want to be scared anymore. I have made a resolution that for my junior year, I am going to try my best in my studies, but I’m not going to be consumed by them. I will be the best student I can be by respecting my teachers, listening intently in class, and doing my homework, but in the end, I think my main job right now is not schoolwork, though it will be very important, but my central priorities this year and for the rest of my life will be furthering my relationship with God, serving my family, friends, authorities, and community, and of course, finding my gifts. I think if I put God first in my life and obey what I am being taught, He will take care of me, and my future career if He allows me to have one. I’ll be looking forward to how He leads me!  And now, back to the books…

Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions


I Love Reading!

Typical Day At The Brentwood Library

Typical Day At The Brentwood Library

I believe God has made me a voracious reader. During my fourth grade year, I single handedly read all the books in the classroom and devoured whole sections of the library in middle school. I would read anything, from Tale of Two Cities to Jane Eyre to the Iliad and everything in between. Instead of grumbling and bemoaning my misery in life when my English teacher assigned reading books to us, I eagerly anticipated each turn of the page and lamented when they forbade me to read ahead. I have had a deep love of the written word ingrained into my very soul, and even now, at sixteen, I still fastidiously pour over books and articles with engrossing zeal. Nowadays, I choose to spend more of my brainpower on research, often by reading article after article on Wikipedia (which in my opinion, is an excellent and mostly reliable site) in what I regard as a guilty pleasure of absorbing information on a myriad of subjects.

My rapturous delight in reading mostly comes back to my parents, I suppose. Every night, and I mean EVERY night, my dad or mom would put me to bed and read me a book to sleep. Now although I’d like to say my parents were reading me War and Peace and The Wealth of Nations when I was just a little tyke, in actuality, my childhood perusal was more on the lines of Beep Beep Sheep in a Jeep and The Little Engine That Could. But regardless of the sophistication of my reading material, my parents certainly took on an often trying endeavor of instilling in me a love of education and learning. I looked forward to reading with my parents, be it scriptures from the Bible or National Geographic articles, with great anticipation and as my reading improved, soon I was reading to them.

My reading skills escalated when I graduated to chapter books and started reading the first Harry Potter book with my parents when I was seven. We were going through tough financial times then, and one of my most cherished memories as a child was cuddling up with my parents in their bed and reading the Bible, then we’d read a chapter or two of The Sorcerer’s Stone. I would beg my amused parents in vain that we read the next chapter, then wait in eager anticipation for the following night when I’d hear more about misadventures at Hogwarts.

I suppose the Harry Potter Series was like a gateway drug to hard literature because after that, I began reading all sorts of books, classics included. I quickly tore through the Little House on the Prairie series, then moving on to bolder fiction like To Kill a Mockingbird, Frankenstein, All Creatures Great and Small, and The Swiss Family Robinson. I read the Bible cover to cover three times.

When I entered high school, the demands of classwork and my studies began to force me to postpone reading for a while, and I was devastated and suffering what I most keenly refer to as “withdrawal symptoms”. But being absorbed into the hustle and bustle of school did not mean I stopped reading, I soon took to pouring my entire devotion into my assigned texts. I compelled my mind to find harder, more blatantly philosophical books fascinating, like 1984, Catcher in the Rye, and Lord of the Flies. The more I read these more difficult books, the more my vocabulary grew until it reached its zenith with Pride and Prejudice, where I learned how to dance around a sentence’s meaning with long, descriptive words like “providence”, ”thus” and “hitherto” until it took my gracious readers a couple rereading’s to understand the stated sentiment of my declaration.

My love of reading is what I think has given me a love of writing. How else is one supposed to learn to do something well if one does not study the works of the greats? I hope I can impress in my children a love of reading and writing, because I believe that an appreciation of writing is essential in being a well-rounded person. I thank God for giving me a love of reading and wonderful parents who exposed me to it.

Please leave a comment with your favorite books!

"I would die without books" -Thomas Jefferson

“I would die without books”
-Thomas Jefferson

My Favorite Things

IMG_1672There are a few, tiny, minuscule, totally insignificant daily experiences that make me feel very happy. These little things are not grand sweeping events that have any real impact on my life, personality, or relationships; they are just small, everyday occurrences and moments that I find totally awesome. Sort of like in that song in The Sound of Music, “My Favorite Things”, my list of the Most Awesomest Occurrences is in a similar school of thought. It’s all just the itty-bitty happenings that make me smile and praise God.

When it is 98° F outside, and you are exposed in the blazing sun of our notoriously sticky and sizzling Southern summers, any relief from the heat feels like what I imagine heaven to be, the feeling of a draft of air conditioning icily blowing through a closing door and washing over your sunburned face glistening with sweat. When it’s hot, walking into a building with AC gives one an almost indescribable feeling of euphoria and relief. As that comparably frigid first blast of cold air envelopes you with sweet chill, the soothing coldness over your skin feels like jumping into a cool pool of air. Your struggling lungs can breath again and your body suddenly goes lax in utter bliss. When the door closes, you are left with a lingering sense of joyous comfort before the blazing heat overcomes our nerves once again.

When it is Sunday morning and your alarm goes off a 6:00 AM and you groggily grapple out of the soft arms of slumber, your entire body exhausted and tired. It takes every iota of mental fiber to force your body to struggle out of your impossibly comfortable bed that is begging you to stay in it’s warm pillowy embrace. There is an incredible feeling of relief when you suddenly realize that it is the weekend and you have no plans that morning and you don’t have to go anywhere. You get to sink back into your warm covers and lay your bedraggled head back down on your downy pillow and relax because you don’t have to rush to throw clothes on and run out the door.

When you are feeling absolutely filthy (perhaps after a long day in that 98° weather), your face covered in the smeared remains of makeup, grime, and perspiration, and you finally can step into a steaming hot shower and wash away the encrusted remain of a long hard day. That first moment when the water hits your face and suddenly all the problems and worries of the day seem to wash away down the drain, and you are finally clean again…. It is magical.

When you hear the ping of the Remnant Facebook Youth Chat with a new comment to one of the Tuesday night posts and you can read one of the hundreds inspiring and uplifting messages from another godly kid and be totally encouraged. The stories of tests passed and scriptures read give one a feeling of unity and support in this race to run after God.

These are a few of my favorite things. There are so many other wonderful blessings in my life, both big and small, that give me such inexpressible joy. I love the life I live and the people I get to be around.

Please comment with your own “Favorite Little Things”! I’d love to see what anyone else finds absolutely heavenly!

The 4th of July

The Fourth of July is our celebration as Americans. of not being all British and stuff. As one of our multiple national holidays devoted to blowing explosives up, Independence Day proves to be the sizable number of times of year when I can hear a terrible Earth-shattering blast like someone’s dropped an atomic bomb on my quiet suburban town. Strangely enough, it feels completely normal to hear sounds of exploding chemicals and gunpowder in a scene more characteristic of Beirut, because on July 4th, it is our solemn patriotic duty to set off bombs of fire in our backyards.

Not that it needs to be Independence Day itself to hear people detonating fireworks haphazardly, for the past few nights the sounds of cracking blasts have reverberated across Brentwood in what seems to be a week long celebration of pyrotechnic finesse. Sitting on the deck with my ridiculously fluffy dog Boca who barks in terror at each blast, I am taken by the sudden realization that Boca has no earthy idea what a fourth of July celebration entails, and that the horrifying sounds of pops and loud bursts of noise are not the unholy armies of bicyclists, deer, and veterinarians, whom Boca suspects are the Axis of Evil, trying to murder us all with thunder-fire.”Its OK, Bokie,” I say reassuringly as I stroke his soft ears as he whimpers and whines with each blast. “It’s all intentional, I promise.”

How exactly did we Americans decide that fireworks and hamburgers were the best way to celebrate the signing of a document that cut us off from our British overlords? Its strange how these customs evolve over time, so why do we spend our Fourths picnicking and terrifying small children and/or animals with snapper crackers rather than say… putting on tricorn hats and powdered wigs and having reenactment parties where everyone signs a Declaration in the heat of summer with the air conditioning off (realism people, realism), like how some people dress up like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph at Christmas… Say… If anyone’s planning an Independence Day reenactment party, I totally call being John Adams (“Vote for Independence, YES!” too many flies, too many flies!).

We are a strange people, us Americans, but I have to say I’m uber-excited! There is nothing more wonderfully patriotic to me then eating watermelon while watching fireworks on fourth of July. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!