7 reasons I’m grateful for my sister Ana. A love letter to all sisters.

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Bolivia, late 1980’s. Ana (on the right) and I (left) sporting, quite frankly, the same hairstyles we have today. 🙂

Today is my sister, Ana’s, birthday.

At this moment, Ana is backpacking her way through Bolivia and Chile—making her dreams of traveling the world come true one country at a time.

She’s capturing each place through her Canon camera, making albums of memories that are rooted in deep-seated childhood dreams of adventure and the search for meaning. “It all comes back to God,” she’s told me.

Next week, she’ll be giving out food and school supplies to children that live in the slums of Santa Ana, Bolivia–a personal initiative since 2010. This year, she decided to publicize the project online for the first time, so if you’d like to contribute, click here.

So yeah, she’s alright I guess. 😛

The truth? I miss her.

Below are just a FEW reasons I am grateful for my sister and bestest best friend. You can call this post a general love letter to all sisters. Happy Birthday Banana!

My favorite pic of the birthday girl, a registered nurse, during a humanitarian trip to Haiti with the Espwa Foundation. 

1. First things first, a soundtrack for this post.

If Ana were a song, she’d be “Apertura” from The Motorcycle Diaries soundtrack. Click to make it stick. 🙂

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2. Childhood, circa 1998.

Me, laying on the couch watching Boy Meets World and being the angel that I always am. 😛

From the other side of the room Ana suddenly lunges at me as she yells: “Who wants a pizza topping???!!”

A look of horror crosses my face and I immediately begin to shriek in a high-pitched voice that only dogs can hear.

Ana: “Who wants pepperoni???!!” She jumps on top of me and proceeds to squash me with all her might.

Me: “Mamiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!” (Translation: “Mom!” with added exclamation points to accurately express the depth of my suffering).

Ana: “Maybe some green peppers???!!!!!” Squash, Squash.

Me: “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

Years later, I would become the ultimate pizza topper and she, the defenseless dough.

3. I had a cool older sister (a senior!) in high school who took me (a freshman!) to all my classes during my first day of school–just so I would feel more comfortable.

A few days later, the U.S. was attacked on 9/11. I felt safe knowing she was with me.

Four years after that, she took me on a tour of the college campus we both attended. Once again, she was a cool senior looking out for her little sister.

No one ever asked her to do these things, that’s just the kind of person she is.

4. One of our many inside jokes as fully-matured adult women was pretending to be Forrest and Jenny from Forrest Gump and reciting the following lines from memory:

5. College experience= lots of indie concerts paid with her credit card.

“Live concerts are, like, so amazing. The 9:30 Club is by far the best venue in DC and has the best sound,” we would say while wearing skinny jeans and straightening our latest emo haircuts.

The turning point? P.O.D. in concert. Not an indie band, I know, but we wanted to give everyone a fair chance.

The members of the band wore prison uniforms buttoned up to their necks, the bassist was a really small man who tried to look meanly at the crowd, and the music was awful. After two songs, we stood there, wide-eyed and turned to each other for affirmation that it was time to go.

“The 9:30 Club is not so great for everyone, after all,” we laughed as we drove back home.

5 years later.

Ana: “I’m still paying for those.”

Ana and I

Ana and I, San Francisco 2014.

6. Moving Diaries

“I have the perfect name for this hallway,” I say as I carry a moving box along the sweltering corridor that leads to her apartment.
Ana: “What?”
Me: “Satan’s armpit.”
Ana. “I like it.”

7.  Game of Clothes

Me: “Do you recognize this outfit?” I twirl dramatically.
Ana: “Yes, because it’s my shirt! And my scarf! AND I GAVE YOU THOSE JEANS!!”
Me: “It is LITERALLY the same outfit you wore on your last trip. If people were to look at your pictures and then mine, they would say…’I’ve seen this somewhere before.'”
Ana: “You look REALLY GOOD, no joke. Here, take my jacket, it goes with the outfit. OH MY GOD, YOU LOOK SO GOOD.”

I love you Banana, have the most amazing birthday ever. 🙂

Let me know, what makes your sister special?

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Our latest photo together.

the four sisters

Can’t leave my other loves, my other two sisters and best friends, out. The four of us, Christmas 2013.

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28 Amusing Things About Having an INTP Personality. As told by gifs.

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe other day I was laughing like a crazy person at my computer screen.

The reason?

People at a PersonalityCafe forum titled “You know you’re an INTP when…” humorously described what it’s like to have this personality type. As a direct consequence of my laughter attack, I have collected the most amusing, true-to-life statements, and paired them with gifs (moving pictures, yay!) below.

You see, I recently discovered I have an INTP personality. What does that mean exactly?

INTP is one of 16 types of personalities that exist in the world, according to psychologist Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typological approach. Be aware that it might blow your mind (figuratively one hopes) about how eerily it describes you.

Want to find more about yourself? Understand other people? I highly recommend you take a free assessment at humanmetrics.com and then read more in-depth analysis about your type at 16personalities.com (thank you, Mary, for the resources!)

As for INTPers like me–“The Thinkers”–we represent just 3% of the population, and 2% of women.

The following are 28 amusing things about having an INTP personality. 🙂

1. People call you a walking-talking dictionary, encyclopedia, etc –AirMarionette

2. When you have a brilliant idea, but forgot it.– Sliad 

3. As a young girl, you were an old man. -ignite

4. Everything sounds brilliant in your head, but when you try to explain it… it’s a wreckage of words.- AirMarionette

 

 

5. Someone describes a typical emotional reaction to you and you respond with, “But that’s irrational.”- roaaoife

6. You take forever to make up your mind, but once you do, you stick with it. (Until it doesn’t work anymore.)- roaaoife 

7. Your room/desk/work space looks like a hurricane went through.-roaaoife 

8. INTP:”BUT WHAT IF -“
Other person: “Honey, honey… Shh. It’s okay. That’s just how it is.”
INTP: “BUT THERE’S SO MUCH MO -“
Other: “SHH.”-AirMarionette

9. A heavenly job is one where you have hours to imagine, weeks to work, and months to think – freely.AirMarionett

10. You go to Wikipedia to look up one thing and end up spending hours on the site reading.- skycloud86

11. When you have been reading something really interesting, look at a clock and notice that its 6 am. You started reading it at 9pm.-Espiculeas 

12. People tell you that you think too much- NeedsNewNameNow

13. When you come out of the lecture room thinking about the fascinating applications and theories that you learned in today’s lecture and realize you’ve left your bag in the lecture room. –Dooraven

14. Your grandmother has sent you a letter in the mail just to say hi because you have not answered your phone in months. Or you often claim, “this damn phone, I need to get a new one,” knowing very well nothing is wrong with your phone.- ignite

15. You spend five minutes deciding if you want to post something, then five minutes deciding how to say it, then another five minutes trying to think of a better way to say it, then finally just delete it entirely.- Dogod

16. If you become obsessed with something, nothing will stop you but…if you get distracted from it, there’s a good chance it’s not happening.-Dogod 

17. Your music collection is massive, or at least of every genre out there –mmmusicmmm0 

18. You’re attracted to people that aren’t easy to figure out- mmmusicmmm0

20. When someone asks you what color your toothbrush is, and you have no idea. –RedDeath9

21. “Has that sign always been there?”
“Yes.”
“Oh.” – AirMarionette

22. When you start daydreaming during driving and forget that the lights have turned green, wondering why the person behind you is beeping the horn.  -Windette  

23. When you are compelled by the idea of solitude so that you “can ‘truly’ be free with your thoughts”-artsavedmylife

24. Eating must be done while reading, listening to music or both. Exercise is bearable only in front of a television or with an audiobook. When all else fails (in the shower, for instance) focused thinking keeps you quite occupied.-LQ9

 

25. You know you’re an INTP when you’ve seriously been considering your plans for the zombie apocalypse –feefafo

26. When you overhear two people speaking about an interesting subject, you daydream about possibilities and contradictions to those possibilities. Once you’re ready to speak, five minutes passed and the subject changed.-KilgoreTrout

 

27. You’re quiet among new people, but enthusiastic around people you’ve known for a long time. -Kilgore Trout

28. You know you are an INTP when you take a test, it tells you you are an INTP, you begin researching everything about INTPs, then about every other jungian typology, then question your own INTP-ness, then realize it is a completely accurate assessment, but refuse to stop looking up things about typologies and anything remotely related. (this entire time you stopped everything else you had been doing). cjobrien7

8 Thoughts About Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. A Book Review

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special topics

Goodreads review: 2/5 Stars.

A teenage girl named Blue van Meer must find out what/who killed her teacher and mentor, Hannah Schneider.

Blue is an academic genius, has an equally brilliant father, as well as a group of popular friends nicknamed the Bluebloods.

The following are some thought about Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (2006). No major spoilers ahead, perhaps unfortunately, for those of you who decide to read this book. More on that below. 🙂

1. “I’m not wasting my time on books like this again!” That’s what I exclaimed to those around me right after finishing Special Topics.

As someone once said, life is too short for mediocre books. After waiting close to 600 pages for Special Topics to end, my eyes were red from exhaustion and I felt empty inside. Ramen-noodle type of empty. You youths know what I’m talking about.

-giphy.com

2. Not to say that the author, Pessl, isn’t talented. In fact, I’m slightly envious of any writer that can write a book, period. Special Topics has moments of cleverness, but it’s all a little too much.

3. How, you ask? Let’s just say the novel could have done without 2 or 3 chapters easily: maybe even the first 4/5ths of the book.

After all, what matters most in a book is the story—right? Am I crazy to think so? Here, the plot seemed to play second fiddle to Blue’s excessive analysis and verbiage.

“We get it, her intellect is unsurpassable. I’m tired of all the references, annotations and parentheses. I’m gonna cry if it doesn’t stop!”-Me, halfway through the book.

-giphy.com

4. Then again, consider what Stephen King once said:

 There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.

5. Considering this quote, I would say that the language in Special Topics was its greatest strength. Pessl has a way with words. Consider this passage:

 In the end, a man turns into what he thinks he is, however large or small. It is the reason why certain people are prone to colds and catastrophe. And why others can dance on water.

I’ll end up quoting that someday; I just know it.

-giphy.com

6. Its moments of humor, like Blue’s infatuation with a Peruvian landscaper? Brilliant! I wish Pessl had added more of those moments.

He ran his hand through his black hair, oily and thick.

YOU SAVE MY LIFE STOP ONE NIGHT I MAKE YOU COMIDA CRIOLLA STOP. (note: character speaks like an old-fashioned telegram.)

This gem had me laughing to myself like a crazy person.

7. I definitely don’t want to be a play-it-safer and have Stephen King look down on me. But again, life is too short. I’ll read what I want to read, Stephen!

-giphy.com

8. I just read this book, The Fault in Our Stars, We Were Liars, and Divergent in a short span of time (with other books in between of course). I’m done with reading YA fiction for the time being.

I want to read some books that don’t revolve around teenagers in high school.

War and Peace it is. Or does that have teenagers too?

 

-giphy.com

6 Reasons I’m Grateful for Frank Sinatra

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Frank Sinatra

Back in a time without Pandora, Spotify, or other Internety things to suggest new artists, I found myself browsing the music aisles of Borders Bookstores (R.I.P. dear friend) and buying my first Frank Sinatra album.

While other middle schoolers my age listened to the latest Limp Biskit and Eminem hits, I listened to Frank singing about that ‘girl in Monterrey’ and ‘Nancy With the Laughing Face’. I was full of geek and mirth.

I may have even written a poem about the man for my creative writing class. Title? Ol’ Blue Eyes and Me.

Yes, I was that girl. A future hipster in the making.

Years later, Frank remains a vital part of my music experience. He deserves to be listened to by everyone. Here are some reasons why I love him. 🙂

  1. Listening to him is like smoking a cigarette in those old timey movies. To listen is to travel back to a time when men wore fedoras, women used kid-gloves, and music still reflected the explosion of jazz just a few years earlier.

  1. His voice transfers and transforms one into a much cooler, swingin’, better you. Once you’ve heard it, it stays with you.

Have a job interview? Listen to Frank.
A first date? Listen to Frank.
Want to feel like you are on top of the world? Listen to the track below.

3.  Sinatra was indirectly responsible for creating one of the greatest scenes in movie history.

Johnny Fontane’s character in The Godfather was reportedly based on Sinatra, who was rumored to have close mafia ties.

You can act like a man, what’s the matter with you!?

-You, after watching this scene

  1. He could sing, dance, act, and even fly to the moon. Here he is performing with Gene Kelly–two geniuses at their best.

  1. Sinatra had the best posse in the history of posses. Jay Z had nothing on this guy.

The Rat Pack, as they were known, included singers Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Joey Bishop (not pictured below).

They were part of The Great Generation: men and women who saw WWII come and go and lived to see Elvis Presley and The Beatles change the music scene forever.

Their response to all these changes? Keep swinging ’til the end. 

6. Sinatra had a long and successful career until his death in 1998 (age 85). During his lifetime time, he accomplished several comebacks.

One of them was the release of the song, My Way, in the 1960’s. It was lovingly portrayed in the following scene from Mad Men this year, a TV show that is set during this tumultuous period.

It’s a lovely tribute to a the powerhouse that was, and will always be, Frank Sinatra.

(“My Way” plays on radio)
Don: You hear this?
Peggy: I know, they play it all the time.
Don: You think that’s a coincidence?

6 Thoughts about Gone Girl. A book review

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Gone GIrl

During a regular, uneventful day in a peaceful Missouri neighborhood, Nick’s wife, Amy, disappears.

Is she alive? Dead? What the heck is going on?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is the definition of a nail-biting suspense novel. It engrosses you like, say, the latest TV show you binge watched recently. That’s right, I’m talking Sherlock and Breaking Bad level stuff going on here.

Accordingly, I binge-read this novel because the plot is so engrossing and twisty, the characters so well developed, and the surprises. The surprises, people…

Here are some thoughts about the book. I’ve reserved major spoilers at the bottom with a “Watch out!” alert to warn ya’ll before you get there.

  1. Priscilla of Booktuber fame perfectly described the three parts of the book as “crazy, crazier, craziest.” The story alternates between Nick and Amy’s points of view and the ‘crazy’ dial moves up the whole darn time.

You think the story’s going down a certain path until that path turns out to be a train to Whut-just-happened-ville and guess what? You have a front seat with no seat belt on.

Happy travels!

  1. I want to leap into the author’s head to give her a mental hug. How do you come up with such bold, insane ideas Gillian Flynn?  Does it come to you in a dream? In a horrible, but highly entertaining dream?

In an interview for The Guardian, Flynn says

The number of mystery and horror writers I’ve met who are just the sanest and the nicest people … it’s crazy. Maybe it’s because the writing gets something out of the system? It seems like the darker the books are, the nicer the person is.” She narrows her eyes. “People say it’s the romance writers you’ve got to watch out for.

That’s right, folks. Nicholas Sparks is no angel.

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  1. It’s been made into a movie! Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Coming soon to theaters near you.

 SPOILERS starting now!

  1. Amy’s character sparked my interest in sociopaths. I went into the dark tunnel that is Wikipedia to understand this mental disorder a little better. One link led to another, and now I am terrified of anyone who seems too nice.

I’m looking at you, person at Starbucks who always says, “have a wonderful day!” No, you have a wonderful day.

  1. I still don’t know how to feel about Nick. I feel sorry for him one moment, but then ‘meh’ the next. He’s kind of a horrible person if you think about it. He’s too self-involved to notice how his actions affect the people around him.

Amy is perfect for him because she understands his level of narcissism the best.

6. I did enjoy the fact that they end up ‘miserably ever after’ at the end. They really do care about each other—even if it is to reassure that the other person never reaches any level of happiness.

Opening quote from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Credit: danicadawnt.tumblr.com

Opening quote from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Credit: danicadawnt.tumblr.com

In conclusion: I loved it. Read it of you dare 🙂

5 Reasons I am Grateful for The World Cup

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1. It really is The World’s Game. Meaning, anyone can watch it. And I mean, anyone.

The World Cup is the only sporting event I faithfully watch, and that’s saying something.

You see—God didn’t give bless me with the hand/coordination gene that He gives to most people. That’s the gene that is supposed to prevent basketballs from painfully hitting you in the face while wearing glasses during gym class.

Not that something like that ever happened to me 🙂

The World Cup is different. The four-year wait between tournaments creates a similar effect to shaking a bottle of soda.

All the excitement bubbles (ha!) over onto your life and you find you are not alone as you whoop and throw things at the TV along with other crazies around you.

In addition, it’s nice to know that your eyes will see the same game as people in China, Russia, France or maybe even the people in this video:

2. Bonding time with my dad and family. 

My dad’s excitement about soccer is contagious. In a household full of non-sporty women, the World Cup represents a time to connect with him on a topic he loves.

As first generation immigrants from Bolivia, my family still struggles with understanding favorite American sports like football and basketball (or sports in general as previously addressed). So, that only leaves soccer.

During the last weeks, bonding has taken the form of triple checking the quality of our cable signal, going to Best Buy to invest in a high-definition TV so that we don’t miss one drop of sweat on Messi’s adorable face (my observation), and discussing Mexico’s fierce and, let’s admit it, sometimes blind loyalty to Chicharito.

In addition, we are planning plenty of goodies to keep us munching while we watch some of the best athletes in the world compete for the ultimate prize.

If they can’t drink soda, then we will. If they can’t eat a potato chip, then gosh darn it, WE WILL. If not, what does their sacrifice all mean?

3. Screaming my lungs out.

A cathartic, primal yell always escapes me at every World Cup. I do not plan for it, but I like it.

Steps to achieve this:

  • Pick a team of your choice
  • Place all your hopes and dreams on them
  • Yell

4. It shines a spotlight on world events and our place within it.

In the larger context of world history, the World Cup is a monumental event that, along with the Olympics, has huge international implications.

During 1974’s World Cup for example, Chile’s National Soccer Stadium in Santiago was simultaneously used to torture, imprison, and kill political dissenters of Dictator Augusto Pinochet, as well as train the soccer team.

Credit: picc.it

The FIFA turned a blind eye to these events, and the terrified Chilean team went on to lose every single game in the World Cup.

In 1986, legendary star Diego Maradona was nicknamed “Mano de Dios” (Hand of God) after scoring a controversial goal against England. That triumph led Argentina to win the grand prize that year. It made a much larger statement against England however, which had just fought and won the war over the Falkland Islands.

Currently, police are firing teargas at transport workers on strike in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The government there will spend approximately 11 billion dollars on the tournament and many Brazilians are not happy with the corruption and high prices associated with it.

In a country plagued with high economic disparity among the rich and poor, the World Cup represents a bittersweet event for its citizens. As international attention shifts there for the next weeks, it’ll be interesting to follow how these stories develop.

Which leads me to the fifth reason:

5. Lovely Brazil

 Here in Brazil, especially during the World Cup, soccer is not only a sport. Brazil uses soccer as a way to prove itself to the world

-Geneton Moraes, Author and Filmaker, 30 for 30: Soccer Stories

Despite the social turmoil in the country, soccer is Brazil’s sport.

They love, breathe and live soccer.

One of my university professors led me to fall in love with Brazil’s complicated history and legacy. For example, did you know that Brazil never went through a violent revolution for independence like the rest of Latin America? Or that it was the last country in the world to abolish slavery?

The fact that the World Cup will take place there is enough to cheer for its team.

They’ve overcome a lot as a country and have created a distinct, rich culture that is full of joy even amidst hardship. Soccer has served as a background to these developments.

In short, their ‘joga bonito’ or beautiful game, as soccer icon Pele first coined, is a reflection of a beautiful country.

Can’t wait for this Thursday 😀

11 Reasons to Read The Fault in Our Stars. A book review.

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Goodreads Review: 5/5 Stars

One of the strongest legacies we can leave behind is that we were here once and that we were loved.

The Fault in Our Stars (2012) by John Green develops this idea through the story of a girl named Hazel who falls in love with a boy named Augustus. Both have terminal cancer.

Their lives intertwine in a funny, tragic, and ultimately hopeful way as they seek meaning in each other and their circumstances.

I saw the feature film based on the novel yesterday and have to say that while it was a lovely film, the main reason to read The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) is John Green’s writing. His ideas stick long after you are done and create an enveloping atmosphere that only good books generate.

More on that below.

I don’t have many spoilery things included in the following list, but advance with caution if you are particularly allergic to people ruining things with their big, spoilery mouths.

1. I think of books as songs sometimes, with their own melody, rhythm and even potential for dance. 😀 The soundtrack for TFIOS film does a great job of capturing the atmosphere created by John Green. Specifically, Wait by M83.

It’s the perfect soundtrack for this review. Click to make it stick.

2. Initially, I felt weird about reading a young adult novel that has a teenage love story at its core. I almost gave up reading after the first chapter because of the moony-eyed descriptions of Augustus (flashbacks of traumatic Twilight fandom come to mind.)

This slight hesitation dissipated the more I read. The characters are wonderful and well developed.

Plus, they don’t glitter in the sun. I appreciated that, Mr. Green.

3. Speaking of John Green. Dude can write.

It took him 10 years to complete the book and it is obvious in the quality and depth of his writing. I envy his concise sentences and metaphors. It is a real condition, this Sente-metaphor-envianitis.

He also makes ingenious, funny, YouTube videos with his brother Hank. They are true renaissance men in every sense of the word, and are behind Nerdfighters, Mentalfloss and CrashCourse, to name a few.

Here’s one he did about TFIOS movie premiere:

4. Quotes, so many quotable quotes.

They stick with you long after everything ends. The following one about champagne came in handy at a gathering once. If you need good party quotes, then this is the book for you.

2013yearoflettering.tumblr.com

5. Hazel. She’s a witty, regular teenager with multiple flaws that are surpassed by her endearing qualities.

The fact that she watches America’s Next Top Model also made me feel better about my TV viewing habits. There’s a reason Keeping Up With the Kardashians is still on air. :: cough cough::

6. A Great Love Story with a Capital G  is at the heart of the novel. Best thing about it?

Hazel and Augustus bond over a book. A book! God, I’m such a nerd.

7. It’s so nice that I read it twice. Second time was in audio form. If you haven’t tried listening to an audiobook, do it with this one. It begs to be read out loud.

8. The relationship between the parents and their terminally ill children is not cheesy or over-sentimental at all. It’s real, funny and heartbreaking. It mirrors the general feel of the book.

9. Amsterdam is the new Paris. It’s a romantic, historic, dreamy, and incredibly symbolic backdrop for the story.

10. Peter Van Houten reminded me of those ingenious, crazy professors you encounter at least once in college. His work, An Imperial Affliction is the greatest book that never was.

11. The story is not depressing despite its subject matter. It does get incredibly sad at points of course, but it is uplifting throughout, which is the main reason I love it.

In short: TFIOS offers a revelatory view about an individual’s place in the world.

Every life leaves an imprint, a track in people’s lives, it seems to say. Especially with our loved ones whose memories remain long after we’re gone.

tfios

 

 

 

Why I am grateful for Megan Washington

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If you are like me when you find a song you love, you listen to it over and over again until your brain registers every nuance and chord change and your ears ache from wearing headphones too long. I look forward to those moments, as rare as they are. The last time that happened to me was with Megan Washington’s “Sentimental Education.”

“Sentimental Education” demonstrates everything I love about Washington, an Australian artist who will soon release her third studio album. Her voice is sweet, earnest, delicate and painfully beautiful at the right moments. Her jazz influences are evident in the way she phrases the words, as well as the subtlety of other musical choices. She is an artist in the truest sense of the word: one of those people you could never imagine doing anything else.

During a routine Internet search to update myself on her music, I found that she had done a TEDx talk in Sydney. More surprisingly, I learned she talked about her struggle with stuttering.

Stuttering? Megan Washington? I did a virtual double take when I read that and had to see the TED talk for myself in order to fully believe it.

“Singing for me is sweet relief. It is the only time when I feel fluent. It is the only time when what comes out of my mouth is comprehensively exactly what I intended,“ Washington says in the talk. “Somehow, through some miraculous synaptic function of the human brain, it’s impossible to stutter when you sing.”

While Washington is not as internationally well known as other musicians (a travesty that must be remedied soon), imagine learning that your favorite singer— say, Taylor Swift—had a stutter and you’d never noticed. Thanks to extensive therapy, Washington has found a way to cope with her stammer for interviews and other media. In this emotional TED talk however, she purposefully and vulnerably shows the extent of her stammer, which didn’t disappear in adulthood as she thought it would.

Washington’s talk inspired me to write about her because I’ve been reflecting on the value of weaknesses lately. Christine Caine, founder of A21 Campaign, an anti human trafficking organization, recently talked about how the very things we think disqualify us from serving the purpose of our lives may be the very things that qualify us to do so.

For Megan Washington, her stammering led her to discover the power of music, which transcends language and culture. Her weakness in speech didn’t limit her purpose, it augmented it. She remains one of my favorite artists not only because of her musical compositions, but also because her story is an important reminder of the value of weaknesses in shaping the purpose of our lives.

Above all, her music is fun and just plain good. She rocks. She dances. She sings. Just like I do when I listen to her 🙂

Book Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Goodreads Review: 3/5

Verdict: Take it or leave it. Loved the TV mini-series, felt ‘eh’ about the book

I agree with Charles Dickens. I feel the need to twirl a mustache I do not have after writing that sentence. Dickens, a contemporary of Gaskell, was “apparently infuriated by (North and South’s) lack of focus”, writes Ben East at The Guardian.

When I saw the 2004 BBC miniseries based on the book (Netflix/Amazon) I shook my fist at heaven having never read it. The miniseries has the perfect elements necessary for a good period film: a great soundtrack, romance, conflict, and happy ending. It works. Watch it. Tell me if you see train stations the same way again afterward.

Mr. Thornton looking down and then up. Like a boss.

I thought the novel would provide more insight into the narrative, as books usually do. North and South (1855) is the story of Margaret, an independent young woman who moves from a picturesque, country town in South of England to an industrial, smoky town in the North. She meets a dark, brooding manufacturer named Mr. Thornton there and they have a tortured will-they-won’t-they relationship that does not find a resolution until the final chapter. Their romance is set in the background of social clashes among the working, trade, and genteel classes of the town.

A lovely story? Yes. But…so…slow…

The novel offers more of a cultural context for class conflicts by including A LOT of social discourse, but does not provide the same depth of understanding for the characters. It does the former through long passages that draw a reader away from the ‘focus’ of the book, as Dickens put it, which makes the novel too long for its own good.

It took me three years to actually read the book after I seeing the miniseries, and about three months to finish it—a long time for this book nerd. I would pick it up, read a little, find my attention veering off, and leave it for a few weeks. I went through a lot kettle popcorn this way.

In summary: to people who shy away from reading classics, I say, “not all classics are like this!” You just might want to avoid this particular one. To people who enjoy classics: read on. To the rest: take it or leave it.

 

New Series: ‘I am grateful for _______.’ Today, it is new beginnings.

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Hope is a dangerous thing.

I was watching the scene in Annie (1982) where our curly-headed heroine in a darling red dress sings, “The sun will come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow, there’ll be sun”. I’ve heard that song more times than I can count (and have made fun of it even more), but leave it to me to actually hear the lyrics in a whole new way this time around.

A little orphan singing about the promise of a brighter day during 1930’s, Great-Depression-ridden U.S.? If my face was an emoticon, it would have had puffed cheeks, a few tears, and a few onion ninjas nearby to lay blame on.

The real question is: who hasn’t cried with this freckled friend?

You see, the promise of new beginnings comes down to hope. Hope is a dangerous thing because it requires positive expectations during times where circumstances might look grim. Furthermore, we all know that the longer one lives, the more one has to overcome. You have to have courage to hope.

I am grateful for new beginnings for this reason.  Every day is new blank page on a book, and we hold the pen (metaphor applause sign appears here). While previous chapters may influence or inform the outcome, it is never too late to change the story. That is one of the reasons I am starting this ‘I am grateful for’ series (an idea I credit to my sister/friend). I am determined to look at my past, present and future with—you guessed it— hope. Like many people, I fail to do this enough. I want to change that.

In summary, this will be a personal exercise in thankfulness. It won’t all be cheesy. Some of it may—scratch that—some of it WILL be silly. Above all, I hope that it will uplift, encourage, comfort, and provoke a smile here and there. I realize the opposite may also occur depending on one’s annoyance threshold. “Exciting times people, exciting times,” as Chief Webber from Grey’s Anatomy would say.

I also imagine him narrating my day as though I were a penguin in a Morgan Freeman-narrated nature documentary. “The glasses-wearing female reaches for another handful of M&M candies. ‘Why are you so delicious, gosh-darn-it, why?’ she yells at herself while crunching down on chocolate death.”