My New Favorite Disney Movie

I saw Disney’s newest movie yesterday and, at the risk of extreme judgment, I have to say that I liked Maleficent more than I liked Frozen.

Now, before you come after me with pitchforks and torches, let me clarify. I really enjoy Frozen. It always leaves me smiling. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, or even that Maleficent is better. I’m simply saying that I personally enjoyed it more than Frozen. That is just my opinion and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Also, while it’s my new favorite now, two months from now it will probably be different. Here are five of the main reasons I loved Maleficent so much. 

1. Fantasy is my favorite genre. Yes, Frozen was about Elsa’s magic, but she was the exception, not the norm. There’s something about a world of magic, filled with creatures of legend that captures my interest. The magical world of Maleficent was beautifully built, reminding me of Narnia in some ways.

2. Realism vs. Idealism. This is a trend I’ve noticed in recent Disney movies; a move away from their traditional idealism towards more realistic stories. (Disclaimer: I’M NOT SAYING EARLY DISNEY MOVIES ARE UNREALISTIC.) There’s nothing wrong with more idealistic plots. I love Cinderella as much as the next girl, despite my problems with the plot holes (I mean, really, she’s the only girl in the whole kingdom who wears that shoe size?). I’m happy to ignore practicality in favor of happily ever after because it’s a movie. That’s what movies do. That being said, Disney has begun to move away from that. Brave explored the rocky relationship between mother and daughter. Tangled saw the princess falling in love not at first sight, but as she and Flynn experienced hardships and learned to be open with each other. Frozen showed the importance of embracing your identity. Maleficent follows this pattern and tackles some very deep issues like racism, dealing with betrayal, revenge, and forgiveness.

3. Sarcasm and dry humor. Okay, this reason is pretty shallow, but it’s still true! Sarcasm is pretty much my second language. The humor used in Maleficent is dry and witty, which fits the slightly dark tone of the movie. The humor isn’t distracting or overbearing. It’s subtle and clever. I absolutely love it.

4. Villain backstory. This is also a popular trend in media and literature: give the villain a sympathetic backstory. Now, I’ll admit I prefer Disney to keep to it’s usual pattern of clear cut black and white, good and evil. I was a little reluctant to see that happen to the villain we all love to hate, but I was so happy I went. They handled it very well. Maleficent is described as “not a hero or villain, but someone who was both.” I really appreciated that, because in real life, the lines are often blurred. I think the movie captured that well.

5. Lack of music. Now, if you know anything about me, you’ll realize this doesn’t make sense. I love music and especially musicals. However, despite how great the music from Frozen is, I am so sick of hearing it! There are no songs or musical numbers in Maleficent except the score. So bonus points for not having music that can be overplayed.

I highly recommend this movie. It’s a little dark, but it’s understandable. I could get into some deep discussion, but I don’t want to give anything away. Comment below and let me know if you have seen the movie and what you liked or didn’t like.

Until next time!

“May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!”

I Return!

Greetings readers!

I don’t know how many people still actually read this blog, but I’m back! I’m not going to bore you with my excuses for not posting the last few months, but I will make you a promise. For this summer at the least, and hopefully beyond, I will be posting here twice a week. I’ll post once during the week about life in general, things I’m learning or have noticed, and just general stuff. Weekend posts will focus more on writing, because I’m a writer. It might be a book or movie review, things I’ve learned about writing, or even samples of things I’m working on.

Something that will help keep me accountable: you readers, whoever you are. Please comment on things you find interesting: start a discussion, ask a question, argue with me. If I miss a post, nag me! It helps keep me on track if I know people actually read and care about what I post. 

So, yeah! I look forward to hearing from you as I focus on my writing. I’ll give you all a quick update later this week with what I’m working on and something exciting happening next week.

An Old Irish Blessing:

“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Writing Advice from a Pro

As some of you may have heard, I had the great privilege of sitting in a talk given by the illustrious Jerry B. Jenkins this afternoon. Most well known for his work on the “Left Behind” series, I was much more impressed by the fact that his 181st book was released this week. He had some great advice to the young writers who were sitting in the auditorium, eagerly soaking up his every word. Here are some of his most notable pieces of encouragement.

“If you aren’t moved, your reader won’t be either.” Jerry explained that the reader feels ten times what the author feels about what he or she writes. A writer shouldn’t be afraid to put passion into the writing.

“I knew it had legs because I didn’t forget it.” At this point, Jerry was talking about his favorite book of the ones he’s written, “Riven”. He had the idea over 20 years before finally writing it. So if there’s an idea that you can’t get out of your head, chances are it’s a good one.

“You never want to feel like you’ve arrived. You always want to be learning.” I think this applies to anything, not just learning. You will never know everything, so it’s good to realize this and always strive to actively learn more.

“The more I write, the better I am at it.” As with many activities, practices hones skill. So it only makes sense that practicing writing will yield better results.

“Research makes for better fiction, but you don’t want to let the research show.” Jerry explained to us that for some reason, fiction has to be believable and non-fiction has to be unbelievable in order to be successful (he also mentioned something about a possible non-fiction book entitled “Chicken Soup for the Left Behind Amish Vampire”. That certainly sounds unbelievable to me). I don’t know why it works that way, but it does.

So there you have it. Advice for young writers from a professional. If Jerry B. Jenkins doesn’t know writing, I don’t know who does.

Back in the Saddle

Well, I’m all moved in to my dorm room. I am ready for my sophomore year of college here at Taylor University!

So, a little bit about my life at Taylor. I am actually beginning my first fall semester on campus, as last year I studied abroad first semester. So there are all sorts of exciting things I’m experiencing for the first time. 

I am a Professional Writing major. It’s a unique major, with only about 80 students in the program. I love it, though. It’s a group of people a lot like me. I know, that’s terrifying, but it’s nice to be able to hang out with people who understand my random thought process. 

I am also a Theater minor. Which means I get involved with at least one show a year. That usually leads to me living in the theater for a few weeks.

I live on the craziest, most entertaining wing on campus. At least, I think so. I’m surrounded by amazing girls who constantly make me laugh until my sides hurt, but who also lift me up spiritually. I’m so blessed to have them in my life.

Starting this year, I am also working in the campus library, which is really exciting! I mean, who doesn’t like getting paid? 

So that about covers what I do here at TU. It can be overwhelming at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Technologically Incompetent

That’s right, everyone, I’m admitting it to the world. I am at a complete loss when it comes to anything even remotely technological. And here is the perfect example.

I really did mean to go back to blogging twice a week. I promise I did! However, when I tried to get on the site last week, I was no longer logged in. And I couldn’t find a handy little login button. 

So yes, it took me over a week to figure out how to get logged in to this website. I’m not proud of the fact. But just so you know, it wasn’t my fault this time! I really will keep blogging twice a week! 

Unless the evil internet tricks me again….

My Biggest Pet Peeve

Everyone has pet peeves. You know, those little things that annoy you, sometimes for no reason. Of course, being the complete nerd I am, my biggest pet peeve has to do with words. To be specific, it has to do with one particular word and people who use it improperly. That word is “whenever”. 

I know it sounds crazy, but when I hear someone use ‘whenever’ incorrectly, it annoys me to no end. Usually it’s a simple case of “You should have said when, not whenever”. 

For example, if someone were to tell me that they had the chickenpox  as a three-year old, they could say it in one of two ways:

A) “When I was three, I had the chickenpox.” or
B) “Whenever I was three, I had the chickenpox.”

Most people probably don’t notice the difference, but believe me, I do. Option A is the correct way of saying it. Option B implies that anytime the speaker was three years old, he (or she) had the chickenpox. That would mean the person had the chickenpox for a whole year! While I don’t deny it’s possible, it isn’t something I’ve run into. 

Wow. Reading that makes it seem a little petty, but it’s something that bugs me. It’s a simple word. Just shorten it already! Anyway…now you all know a little bit more about me.

All Good Things Come to an End

Our last day in Liberia was Friday, July 5th. We spent the morning packing, visited a local Christian school, and finally headed to the airport. Travel was smooth and mostly on time. Security wasn’t a problem and we all got right through at all the checkpoints. It was a huge relief. 

I don’t have a specific quote, just two experiences from the flight. I have flown at night one other time, when flying to Ireland. This time, however, I had a window seat. I cannot properly describe the incredible sensation of looking out the small airplane window and seeing the pitch black sky dotted with stars. It was breath-taking. I felt like I was up there with the stars. The other experience was similar. As we were flying into New York City and JFK Airport, the sun was beginning to rise. The sight of New York City at night was an intense one, but seeing the sun begin to rise over it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. It’s moments like those that I remember than the Ultimate Creator makes all things with just a word. Nothing man makes can ever compare. 

After we arrived in New York, we went through customs and security again, had a short flight to Atlanta where we had a two hour layover, and a quick hour flight to Indianapolis, where our families picked us up. It was a bittersweet arrival, filled with joyous reunions with family and heartfelt goodbyes to the other team members. 

And that, my friends, brings my recap of my Liberia trip to a close. If you want to hear more, please feel free to contact me by Facebook, Twitter, email, snail mail, morse code, or smoke signals (I can’t guarantee that I’ll understand or respond to the last two, though)! I could go on and on about the experience, probably longer than anyone would care to listen. Next week, I’ll be back to my twice a week schedule with random topics.

Thanks for listening to me ramble!

A Little More About Liberia

We celebrated the Fourth of July with a quiet morning before heading to the University of Liberia, where Gina spoke to a class of agriculture students. After that, we headed back into the main area of Monrovia to do some more souvenir shopping. We had dinner at a wonderful restaurant on the beach. After going back to the guest house, we had a long debriefing period, where everyone shared about their experiences. It was a great time to hear everyone’s thoughts about the trip. 

“The streets are just lined with people holding things to buy. It’s incredibly sad. I don’t know how they manage to scratch out a living. There’s no knowledge of business or marketing. Food is sold as soon as possible or eaten because there is no way to preserve it.”

It was eye-opening to see how the Liberian people had to survive. I would see people selling things on the side of the road that just baffled me. Kids were walking around holding wads of rubber-bands and bundles of scarves. People just stood by the side of the road, hoping someone would just happen to need what they were selling. Of course, that person would also have to choose to buy it from one of multiple people selling the same things. 

That’s why Gina’s presentation at the college, and Hope in the Harvest’s work in Ganta, is so important. Because of the civil war, an entire generation was essentially lost and many others left the country for safety. A lot of knowledge has been lost, and rebuilding that is so important. 

You Learn Something New…

We left Ganta on Wednesday, July 3rd and drove to Monrovia. It was a long day in the bus, about seven and a half hours. After our arrival, a few of us went for a walk on the beach. It was so much fun! Because we were so close to the equator, the water was the warmest I’ve ever felt in the ocean. I hadn’t planned on getting more than my feel wet, but well…let’s just say things didn’t go according to plan. The current was strong and the waves were big! I enjoyed myself, nonetheless. 

“I’m feeling solitary, which is hard after hours on a bus and being in a few rooms. It’s raining, so outside isn’t even an option….My introverted self is in shock. Two weeks with the same people nonstop with essentially no time by myself to unwind or decompress is really starting to get to me.”

A word of warning to anyone going on a missions trip, especially introverts; you get very little alone time. Chances are the quarters you live in will be close and cramped. There will be little time and few opportunities for you to have time to yourself. You will be surrounded by the same people day in and day out. 

I don’t mean to make it sound miserable. I ended up really enjoying being forced to be social. I got to know so many incredible people and I found out that talking to people for extended periods of time won’t actually kill me. Surprising, huh?

It’s Not What You See

Tuesday, July 2 was our last day in Ganta. I helped Kathy with a watercolor color class in the morning and the afternoon was busy. Kathy, Gina, and I went to the leper colony for souvenirs. Then, we were graciously invited to lunch by the Bangladesh UN engineer base. It was so cool to meet them and eat with them. After that, we toured the local hospital, which was absolutely heartbreaking. It was the most primitive conditions I had ever seen, with so many people crowded with very little privacy. The doctors did what they could, but they have very limited resources. After dinner, we attended a chapel with the college staff and administration, where we were gowned, or presented with traditional shirts for the men and dresses for the women. It was an incredible honor.  After we arrived back at the guest house, Pastor John, a local pastor, came to see us again and presented each of our team with gifts. Again, it touched my heart to realize how generous and thankful the Liberian people were.

“The corn is growing so quickly! It’s already about 2 inches high. When we got here, it wasn’t even a field yet! It’s so awesome to see the fruits of our labor in person before we leave.”

It’s always neat to see the product of your work. I was a little discouraged when we left though; while for the most part there were physical improvements, like the corn growing and the greenhouse that was built, I felt like it hadn’t been obvious that I had been there. Despite the amount of books I cataloged, there were probably hundreds more I hadn’t gotten to. But I had to remember that not all growth can be seen or measured. It’s something that I think we all need to remember at times. It’s not what you see that matters. It’s what you do.