Book or Movie: Hunger Games Trilogy

As I write this, the first two movies of the Hunger Games series are out. So, I will talk about those first and then my hopes, dreams and wishes for Mockingjay (even though it makes me crazy that they split the book into two movies. Seriously).

Hunger GamesCatching FireIn the interest of time and space, I will talk about the first two books in Suzanne Collins series together. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are quick, highly disturbing parts of a narrative that is disguised as a young adult series. Seriously, the whole premise of the first book – that we’ll take children and make them fight to the death so that everyone can remember how horrible and ugly the world used to be…even though the reality is that the world is still horrible and uglyit makes my stomach turn. I was introduced to this series just as the third book came out, so I could read Katniss’ whole story all at once. And, I basically did.

Collins creates a graphic, horrible, but well-written world. What I loved about these books was that it was entirely in my imagination and I could self-filter the really horrible parts into something less graphic and less disturbing in my brain.

I did, however, find myself increasingly exhausted by the love triangle. As my friend Allison said to me once, “does every YA book have to involve a love triangle?” Peeta, Gale. Katniss. For someone who seems completely able to make a decision about life or death things, wondering about boys is so out of character to me for her. And a little annoying to read, quite frankly.

But, the books are engaging and you want to know the rest of the story.

 

Now, the movies…

 

Hunger Games Poster Catching Fire Movie PosterTotal truth time here. Yes, the movie changes some major storylines in the book. Yes, there are parts that become way important later that are edited or left out all together. There isn’t much character development past the main characters, even once Katniss gets into training and the arena. It’s easier to root for her because you don’t know the stories of anyone else.

But, if I’m honest…

I liked the movies better. Especially Catching Fire.

There, I said it. The books are great, but there is something about the fast-paced story that plays out in a movie wonderfully. And, it worked especially well for me in Catching Fire. Middle books in a series tend to drag and do nothing more than set up the final installation. Therefore, movies made out of trilogies tend to do the same thing. I still remember watching the middle LOTR movie and it just stopping. And me being VERY ANGRY about that.

But in Catching Fire, the loss of extra story is almost welcome. The movie focuses on Katniss, Peeta, and the very dangerous game they are playing with the Capitol. As the world falls apart around them and the closing credit roll, you know one thing for sure – everything has just changed.

 

NOW, ABOUT MOCKINGJAY

Mockingjay Mockingjay movie posterI kind of, sort of hated the last book in this trilogy. It was more political and more depressing than I wanted the series to end up being. And, I still say Katniss’ character change is so abrupt and so completely unbelievable that I never connected with her in this story. She went from the girl willing to fight to the girl willing to be bossed around, and I don’t buy it. Not for one minute.

That’s the book.

The first movie comes out this fall. Yes, I said first. They took a relatively short book that could be a great two hour, intense story and instead decided to make it almost 5 hours of content. UGH.

Here are my hopes for the Mockingjay movie: Please let Katniss be stronger than she is in the book. Please let the scene with Peeta and Katniss, no matter how horrible it is, play out just as it is in the book. Please let there be something hopeful, something redemptive, something more to the story as it plays out on screen than it did on paper.

Please.

Final thoughts: The books are great, but really, you get the meat of the story (at least the first two parts) in the movies. If you’re not a reader, I wouldn’t pick them up if you loved the movies. My guess is you’ll be disappointed. If you loved the books and haven’t seen the movies, give them a chance. You won’t be sorry you did!

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Writing 101: Write What You Know?

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Do you remember the first piece of writing advise you were ever given? I do.

“Write what you know.”

And, I do understand the point. The blank page can be scary. It can be intimidating and frustrating and feel like there is so much to do. It can be overwhelming, so someone told me to write what I knew. Write from the familiar voice inside my head. Write where I am comfortable with what I already know.

After a few years of dreaming of writing and trying to write what I know, I’ve come to two separate but equally relevant conclusions:

1. my life is not all that interesting.

Now, before you get all bothered and tell me that my life is not that boring, let me talk about what I mean for a minute.  My life is crazy busy. I do a lot of things I truly love. I am happy, well-adjusted and do my best to try and be joyful. My life is FULL. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I work full-time (plus, depending on the week). I read, I write, I play games. I volunteer. I walk my dog. I travel. I take vacations. I believe in trying new things. I live life to the full. But, my normal, everyday life? Not really worth writing about. I have been blessed with few tragedies and am stifled by few huge successes. What I know is deep. I am educated, and believe deeply that a person should never stop learning. But all those bits and pieces? They don’t make up the story I want to write. They are the story I want to tell with my life, for sure. But what I want to get lost in and write about? It’s not what I know…it’s what I want to know.

2. writing only what I know would be undeniably limiting.

See above. If everyone only wrote what they knew, there would be no science-fiction. There would be no fantasy. There would be no questioning of God, the universe and the stories around us. There would be no make believe. And, as an avid lover of fiction and writing that makes me want to believe in other worlds, my favorite works are often ground not in someone’s reality, but in their imagination. I believe if you’re writing non-fiction, you should tread carefully and write what you know – or what you’re willing to learn. But, when it comes the majority of writing, explore, envision, create new worlds. Look at the things you love about the world and incorporate them. What do you not like? How can you make it better? Write on, dear ones. Write the words and the worlds you can only imagine.

Throughout this series of blog posts, I will be sharing what works for me as a writer – and what doesn’t. I will be exploring my own renewed passion for writing and hopefully be giving you snippets and glimpses into the worlds I am creating. It’s going to be a fun journey!

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#MADMlinkup: One Girl

I’ve been excited to write this blog for weeks, and finally found the time today.

It’s Monday!!! It’s time for another awesome edition of the Make a Difference Monday Linkup!! And today I’m talking about one of the ways I’m making a difference in the world – and how you can do the same exact thing.

one girl logoFor several years now, I have been part of a great weekend for ‘tweens and teens called the One Girl Conference. The Conference is an off-shoot of a great book called “One Girl Can Change the World” written by my friends Claudia Mitchell and Kim Goad. One Girl is all about helping girls see that they are important; that they matter; that they were created for a purpose and that they truly can change the world.

This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. Without going into a lot of details, middle school was really, really hard for me. It was a dark time and I struggled with friendships, with relationships, and with knowing who I was. High school was a lot better, but still had moments of feeling like I couldn’t do anything and that I didn’t have a purpose and a plan. I could have benefited from a weekend like One Girl- a chance to know without a doubt that I was on this earth to DO SOMETHING and BE SOMETHING more than I ever thought possible.

One Girl is that conference. For an evening and a day, we pour into girls in 4th-12th grade. We tell them they are important. We tell them they were made with a purpose. We tell them they matter. We tell them that there is a big, huge, amazing plan for their life. We tell them they can change their world. We tell them they are loved by God. In big ways and little ways, we build up girls and then unleash them to the world.

One Girl, oh One Girl. I have served on the drama team and on the creative team in the past. This year I took on the crazy adventure of being the conference director, which is awesome and fun. The reality is that there is an awesome team of people who know what they’re doing, so I just do a lot of checking in to make sure they are empowered and encouraged. It’s a little stressful and a little crazy, but it’s also so rewarding. I’ve already gotten emails from leaders planning on bringing their groups to One Girl. I’ve seen the excitement in our high school students that will serve as leaders and teachers and just be loved on that weekend. I’ve watched people who’ve never led groups like this step up to be all they can be to help make this a weekend these girls won’t forget.

The conference is September 19 & 20 right here in Bloomington, Indiana. Here’s how you can help make a difference with this awesome conference:

  • Pray for One Girl! I am praying for 300 girls this year, which is almost double our previous attendance.
  • Send your ‘tweens and teens to One Girl! We’ve had girls from as far away as West Virginia, and we’re working on places for girls to stay and spend the night that weekend.
  • Volunteer to help at One Girl! Do you love serving ‘tweens and teens and can be available September 19 & 20? Drop me an email at director@onegirlconference.com and let’s talk!
  • Spread the news about One Girl to your churches, families and organizations. Go to www.onegirlconference.com for more information or to learn more about the conference.
  • Read the book and spread the message of One Girl with your small group.
  • Pray for our 2014 theme: IN PURSUIT. We are going to be talking about a God who pursues you, pursuing community and pursuing life change!

Those are just a few of the way you can help with One Girl. I’d love to talk to you more about the conference, the book, and the message for 2014!

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make a difference monday

#YesAllWomen

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(I feel like WordPress doesn’t want me to post this blog, since it ate the first one I wrote).

I do my best to keep my blog a place of light-hearted energy. Make a difference Mondays. Book reviews. Random, sometimes deep, thoughts on love, faith and becoming the woman God has created me to be. But, last weekend something horrific happened; and the response was both horrific and hopeful. You see, despite our culture being way more used to shootings than they ever should be, we still found our collective hearts breaking when another shooting happened on another college campus. Part of me sighed, part of me cried, part of me, sadly, was less shocked and mystified than I should have been. Because we’re too used to this. It happens too often.

But that is not the point of this post.

The response quickly went from tragedy to absurdity as the truth of the story came out. A man had killed and injured over two dozen people because, in a long, twisted, dark 140-page manifesto found online, because he was rejected by women; because women said no to dates, to sex, to him. He thought it was okay, then, for him to kill. Now, I am 100% certain that there are other demons in that young man’s life, but the message was still the same. And, in a moment that could only be created by a social-media driven culture, women stood up and said, ENOUGH.

The #yesallwomen hashtag was born.

It was born out of frustration. Out of horror. Out of exhaustion. Out of pain. Out of fear. Out of strength. Out of bravery.

All around the world, the tweets started flowing in, angered at the fact that any of this is still an issue in our culture. In 140 characters, women exposed the darkness of their own lives. They remembered the times they were called “whores” and “sluts” and “teases” and worse. A simple social media site put voice to millions of inappropriate touches, looks, messages and expectations.

Because, it’s true: #yesallwomen have experienced something that made them uncomfortable, something that made them feel like they didn’t have a right to say no, something that devalued their spirit and made them feel like a piece of meat. No matter what you think the stereotypes are, the reality is it is all women. If, by some stroke of luck, you are a woman reading this who has not been the victim of cat-calls, whistles, lewd comments or gender stereotyping, I want to know how you did it.

As I talked to friends and watched the twitter feed, I was amazed how many stories were the same. We have all been there. I have a vivid memory of sitting at the local public library in 5th grade, with a couple of the boys from my class. One of the boys, apparently, liked me. He sat there, reading a comic book, his hand outstretched on the table. I was oblivious to what he wanted, though. I got up to get another book, and his friend followed me into the stacks, “He wants to hold your hand, dummy,” is what I was told. Oh. Okay. That “relationship” lasted all of a few days, but the boy in question turned into a young man who I was never comfortable around. He thought he could have me. He thought I was his. It came to a head years later, when we were both working at the local DQ. I thought we had moved past that, to at least a civil working relationship, until I was cleaning out the ice cream buckets at the end of the day. He came to the back of the room. Words were exchanged. Threats were made. He was angry because I … simply … existed. And I had said no to him too many times, apparently. To this day, I am thankful that we weren’t the only people closing down the store, and that I was immediately able to tell my supervisor what happened and we never worked together again. The situation, looking back, could have been so different.

And that’s just one moment, one isolated incident in my life. I could pick many other examples.  And it makes me sick. It makes me sick that a man went on a killing spree and some of the first words I heard were “well, if she would have only gone out with him, none of this would have happened.” Really? Who can say that? Who’s to say she wouldn’t have been killed? That he wouldn’t have done this anyway. This shooting, and the way so many people still treat women, is hard to articulate well.

No, not all men treat women like this. I am lucky. In my adult life I am surrounded by men of character and integrity. I am surrounded by people who love an honor and respect the roles women play in the world. I am supported and encouraged and loved in many ways by many amazing men. But, that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like to walk my dog by myself, even in the middle of the day, because I don’t know who else might be on the trails with me. That doesn’t change the fact that I lock the doors and windows tight in my car and at home. That doesn’t change the fact that on the nights when Tim works late, I am anxious about every sound that comes from the cul-de-sac.

#yesallwomen is real. Not all men are at fault. Not all women are blameless. But all women, no matter what, have a right to say no to a suitor, to refuse a drink, to leave a party alone. We have to change the rhetoric, because we are dangerously close to a line that, once crossed, can never be uncrossed.

As the musical “Into the Woods” closes, the Witch sings these words:

Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
And learn.

Children may not obey,
But children will listen.
Children will look to you
For which way to turn,
To learn what to be.

Careful before you say,
“Listen to me.”
Children will listen.

The change starts now. It’s time for us to teach our children that #yesallwomen have a voice and that not all men have the right to control them. It’s time to teach and lead by example, because the next generation, the generation that wants to change and to be changed, is watching, listening, and learning by how we respond to moments in time like this.

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Why I Stopped Hustling

no hustleOnce upon a time, I drank the “you’re not doing enough fast enough” Kool-Aid. I believed that in order to really follow my dreams, I had to be willing to get up early, stay up late, sacrifice time with friends and family and live my dream, all while trying to keep up with my full-time job and other responsibilities. I believed that I was never doing enough and that I would never be able to say I’d given enough to my dreams because I wasn’t hustling enough.

I can’t tell you how many times over the last two years I’ve read, listened to or been bombarded by the word hustle. Even now, just typing the word makes my heart beat faster and makes my palms a little sweaty. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t moving at warp-speed through projects. I wasn’t sacrificing enough sleep and enough time to my dreams. I felt like I had to say no to everything that wasn’t focused on making me a success.

And then I hit the wall. Hard. I stopped hustling. I stopped doing pretty much everything. I got burned out because I felt like, no matter what I was doing, I wasn’t doing enough. I felt like the fact that I enjoyed spending time with my friends was taking away from my hustle. I felt like the fact that I don’t function well when I get up in the wee early hours of the morning was ruining my chances at being all the things I wanted to be. I felt rushed. And, I also felt ashamed, because I wasn’t doing enough. I even started to think that maybe, just maybe, my dreams weren’t right because I didn’t have the burning desire to get up and hustle every single day.

So, around February 1, I stopped hustling. I stopped feeling like chasing my dreams was a spring to the finish line and started embracing it, instead, as a marathon. I stopped worrying about the hustle and started worrying about the dream. What can I do, big or small, to help my dreams come true? What avenues can I approach for writing and speaking opportunities? What time can I spend more wisely while still honoring my friendships, my community, my husband and my own health? What can I do to make myself proud today?

So, some weeks I hustle: I write a lot. I research guest blogging opportunities and think about what kind of writing I’d really like to do. Some weeks, I don’t hustle all that much. I spend time with the people who shape me into the best version of myself. I rest. I read. I watch some TV. I sit, happily, with my dog and do nothing. And, in that balance I’ve found what works for me. Sure, it may take me a lot longer to get to where I want to be. It might take me a long time to be published, to be a speaker, to do the things I love full-time. But, I used to believe that if I didn’t spend every waking moment chasing my dreams, I would regret it. Now I’m starting to believe that my dreams are just part of who I am. Sure, they’re a big part, but they’re not everything. And, I can’t chase those dreams if I’m not present and active in my life.

Maybe I’m selfish and just don’t want to make the sacrifices some of the experts say I need to make to be a success. And, I’m okay with that. Because, at the end of the day, every day, I want to be proud that I took the time to help a friend, answer that email or just be around, even if it puts my dream off another day.

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These Feet Were Made for Walkin’…I Hope

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In a moment of insanity, I let my lovely friend Jenni talk me into walking the Indianapolis Mini Marathon. Prior to this, I can sum up my athletic ability in about 2 sentences: 6th grade basketball, 7th grade cheerleading, and I think I ran track for a bit at some point, but that was probably elementary school. Since then, semi-regular walking, an attempt or two at jogging, and the annual Race for the Cure with my mom. That’s about it. So, I thought this would be a great challenge, and something I could check off my 40 before 40 list.

And then this winter happened. And the bitter cold. Which has made training really hard, but still doable. A few miles here and there, thinking it was just mind over matter because it’s JUST WALKING AND THAT’S NOT HARD.

Except, turns out walking 13.1 miles at a pace that won’t get you picked up by the slow mover truck isn’t really easy, at all. And then, you add to that the fact that I have been plagued by horribly painful shin issues, and its even harder.

Today, Jenni and I went out to do some miles in an attempt to knock some time off our average. Instead, I was as slow as I had ever been, and in good pain, for the first 2-2.5 miles. Honestly, about a mile in, I just wanted to cry. I felt like a failure and I was just holding Jenni back. I tried to tell her she could leave me and I’d catch up, but she wouldn’t. She’s awesome like that. Instead of being frustrated or annoyed at my pain, she kept telling me I could do it and she was proud of me. It was a humbling experience, that’s for sure. It’s not everyone who would turn down their routine, just for someone else. It’s not just anyone that refuses to let you give up on a challenge, just because right now it’s hard.

Thank you, Jenni. For believing in me when I don’t believe in myself.

So today is coming to a close. My legs are still tired and sore. I’m fighting feeling like today was a failure, even though I still did 5 miles and we cut almost 2 minutes off from the first mile to the last. I want to finish the mini. I want to say I did it and be proud. Even when there are days when it feel like it’s going to be a lot harder than I ever originally thought!

Correction, I WILL finish the mini. Because I’m stubborn like that.

I Called Upon the Lord: Jonah 1 & 2

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In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.

Oh, disobedient, Jonah! What a beginning to a story. God wants to send Jonah somewhere he doesn’t want to go, so instead of following God’s plan, he jumps on the next ship heading the opposite direction. Storms happen. He realizes that he is causing serious harm to the people around him. He is thrown into the sea, swallowed by a big fish whole and left to contemplate his decisions thus far.

It’s eerie how much his story sounds like our own sometimes, isn’t it? Sure, we’ve never been swallowed whole by a large mammal. We’ve never sat in the belly of a fish, surrounded by stink, and left to think about what we’ve done. Have we? Now that I think about it, maybe it’s a little more familiar than I’d like to admit.

God asks me to do something.

Maybe it’s go on a mission trip. Maybe it’s applying for a job. Maybe it’s talking to the person I don’t know that just sat down next to me in church. Maybe it’s something else entirely. But, it’s definitely something that makes me a little uncomfortable and something that makes me feel like I’m not qualified to do it.

I don’t want to do it.

It’s not in my plan for my life. I don’t want to do it. It makes me uncomfortable. It’s a risk I don’t want to take. I don’t want to try to do it, because what if it doesn’t work out? What if I fail?

I run away.

I pretend I don’t hear the calling on my heart. I pretend I don’t see the proverbial writing on the wall. I turn my back on the good stuff God has planned for me and I run away. I do what I think is best, as if I know the world better than the One who created it.

Running away hurts myself and others.

Invariably, running away makes a bigger mess than just doing what God wanted ever could have. I make a mess of my life. I make a mess of the lives of the people around me who are trying to protect me and trying to watch out for me. I make a mess of my faith because I put myself where God should have been.

I’m stuck in the belly of my own sin.

Sure, it may not be a whale, but there I am, stuck in a place I should never have been. It smells. It’s rotten. It’s dark and dank and there is nothing to do there but think about the big fat mess I’ve made of my own life.

I call out for forgiveness.

It doesn’t really take all that long to realize what a mess I’ve made of my life. I know that I shouldn’t risk doing it on my own. I should have listened better. I should have listened at all. I should have trusted that God wouldn’t ask me to go somewhere without a plan to get me through whatever scared me. I realize that I do nothing but make a mess of my own life. I call out to God. I ask Him to forgive my ridiculous and wandering heart.

God is faithful. Always faithful.

Because God is good and God is faithful, He answers. He redeems. He forgives. Every time. Even when the cycle repeats and I try and take over my life. He still forgives. He still allows me to start over. He allows me to make my mistakes. And He listens when I call.

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