“[James Cameron] wants to be a Billionaire, so fricking bad!”

So, I just realized that in the past 2 nights, I’ve managed to watch both of James Cameron’s epic movies of the decade: Avatar & Titanic.
Avatar was completely on purpose because I bought it yesterday, Collector’s Edition, for the golden price of $3.00. (A special thank you goes out to my boss for a Pine Centre gift card as a Christmas bonus!) And Titanic was completely by accident because I was bored and it was on T.V. Yes, it is now a T.V. movie and it lasts 4 bloody hours long due to commercials.
And then I thought, “What if Avatar and Titanic duked it out? What would that look like? Who would win?” And never wanting to leave a thought hanging, here I am to explore the idea.

Let’s begin with the obvious.
Genre:
Avatar is clearly a fantasy, and Titanic is “based on a true story.” They both win in this category for me because I love based on true story movies, and the more based they are in true story, the happier I am. Fantasy isn’t always my favorite, but Avatar went above and beyond in that category, and I’ll expand on that later.

Characters:
Titanic is a mixed bag for me. When I was younger, I was part of that crew that thought it was clever to call Leo “Retardo DiCrappio” instead. And Kate Winslet, from top to bottom, even to the way she said things, annoyed the yikes out of me. But you know what? I have gained respect for both of them. Especially recently, they’ve both taken on deeper, more complicated roles and handled them with intensity. They are selfish, annoying teenagers no longer.
Billy Zane makes a definitely hate-able bad guy, and Kathy Bates is fantastic as “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” And a very young Ioan Gruffudd has some great scenes near the very end as a compassionate sailor turned lifeboat rescuer. The rest of the actors, I can’t tell if they’re bad or if I just don’t like them personally because of who their characters are.

Avatar is a little more impressive because a lot of the main characters were yet virtually unknown actors and I really liked all of them. And to be able to convey strong emotional connection as you’re playing what appears to be a blue zebra-cat that walks upright…it’s golden. Special shout-out goes to Michelle Rodriguez who played the tough but lovable Trudy. She made me laugh out loud more than once with her badass attitude and I’m always sorry that she dies. And Neytiri will forever be one of my favorite savage women. (In the Collector’s Edition, there’s a moment where she and Jake are hunting and when he kills, he says “Hell yeah!” and she throws back her head and says “Hell yeah!” too.)

Script:
Not going to lie, both are kind of weak. For Titanic, it felt kind of like they were trying to squeeze 1997 attitude into a 1912 setting, and it doesn’t always fit. However, I do love the moment where Rose mentions Dr. Freud and what he has to say about men’s obsession with size and how it relates to the Titanic itself.
Avatar feels like it stole its storyline from about 5 other movies. Nothing at all seems very original about it except for the setting itself. I will say that I do get chills every time that Jake makes his “They-cannot-take-whatever-they-want-this-is-our-land” speech, and when Neytiri screams “Eywa has heard you!”

Love Story:
Cuz every movie’s gotta have one, right? =P Not. But anyways. Titanic’s love story kind of pisses me off and yet I understand it at the same time. Jack and Rose are young and impetuous to begin with. Add to it the angst that Rose feels of being trapped into an engagement with a brutal man she does not love, then throw her into a perilous situation where her hero saves her time and time again, and you’re just asking for her to throw all caution to the wind to be with a dude she’s only known 2 days. And Jack’s such a free spirit with no family to speak of that he probably sees Rose as somewhat of a project who he can help and feel good about himself at the same time. Plus, she appears to be the one girl who deflowers him before he dies – who wouldn’t be attached to that? Ultimately, I feel that if Jack hadn’t died, and they’d gone on to do all the things they talked about doing, they wouldn’t have lasted a year.

Jake and Neytiri from Avatar, I can put my faith little bit more in. They actually know each other for a few months before they start steaming up the screen, and it’s borne out of true friendship and although they are different, they are a strong team when they’re united. And I love that when they’re “mated”, it’s considered for life. I have the feeling that there would be a lot less fornicating happening among teenagers these days if they knew they would have to be with that person for the rest of their life. Hey, I think I just found a new form of birth control.

Music:
Amazing on both counts. I think it’s the same person, James Horner, who is also responsible for the Mask of Zorro – one of my favorite soundtracks – so that doesn’t surprise me.

Special Effects:
You can’t have stories like these and not have special effects. Personally, I think Avatar is better, but that could just be a matter of how far we’ve come in CGI and such since 1997. I believe they were both ground-breaking for their time.

Overall Feel:
The final half of these movies, for both of them, leave me sitting with a knot in my stomach the entire time no matter how many times I view it. With Titanic, I put myself literally on the sinking boat with those people and think “What would I do?” I know that every person fights for their own survival, but so many times, my heart went, “Oh! Why didn’t they help that person? They could have taken 2 seconds. Frick, how could those first-class people be so selfish as to consider third-class not worth saving? Damn you, money!”
And in Avatar…I’m definitely not a tree-hugger hippie, but come on. Destroying an entire civilization’s home just so you can get access to a commodity like Unobtainium (and what kind of lame-ass name is that? Seriously!)….that is just not cool.
And never will be. End of story.
Avatar made me want to board a spaceship and go live on Pandora forever, and Titanic made me never want to board a ship of any kind. And I think I just contradicted myself.
I believe that about covers everything I’ve been feeling. This may be like the last thing you’d ever want to spend your time reading, but I had fun writing it.

So, who wins?

The answer is neither and both.
After all that.
Frick, James Cameron. Just take my money and run.

post-christmas love disorder

And just like that, it’s over.

Maybe I’m just getting older, but it seems like my perspective on time and how long it takes has changed.

Over the last number of years, since I was a kid really, the waiting for Christmas (and my birthday) was nearly unbearable. There were certain milestones along the way that made it seem not so far away. The first snowfall, stores advertising for Christmas as soon as Halloween was over, carols started playing everywhere, school was let out, unbelievable displays of lights started showing up and shopping commenced in crazy form.

This is the first year that I haven’t been involved in some sort of Christmas project for the community or church in about…5 or 6 years. It’s been all right; in fact, I appreciate the break, but I’ve noticed that it’s made some difference. See, those projects always started by late summer/early fall and by the time Christmas actually rolled around, I thought I would scream if I had to sing the Hallelujah chorus one more time.

This year, there were maybe 2 services I attended that had a Christmas flavor. Working in the mall was a pretty obvious reminder that it was coming, but when you’re trying not to pour hot gravy on your hand, everything else tends to fade into the background.

I don’t know. I guess I’m just saying that this year Christmas snuck up on me and now it’s already over. I almost feel like I missed it. Not the day itself, but the preparation. The milestones, the little signs along the way that said, “It’s that time of year again.”
When it comes down to it (and this is a rather rebellious thought), it’s not the day itself that I think is important. Yes, Jesus was born and it’s nice to acknowledge that, but I’m not entirely sure that December 25th is the $64 million dollar day.
Whatever. I’m not here to get into a theological/historical debate about the origins of Christmas. (And I probably will tell my children that St. Nicholas was a real person who did good things in history, just like St. Patrick, and leave it at that.)

I think I have a point. And I think it is, to borrow the lyric, “Don’t save it all for Christmas Day, find a way to give a little love every day.” I don’t think Christmas should be used as a reason to get together with family and exchange gifts of love and words…and let that be it because we paid our dues for that season. It may be super cheesy, but why can’t we act like it’s Christmas every day? Isn’t that what God commands us to do? Love him and love others, 1 day out of 365? Forgive literally only 70 times 7, until we reach 490? No. It is a 24/7, 365 days, 52 week, 525,600 minute gift we’ve been given and been challenged to give to others. (sidenote: before watching Rent, I never knew that’s how many minutes were in a year. See? Musicals CAN be educational!)

With that being said, I had a wonderful holiday. In some senses, it feels like I had time off, but to do a different task, so I’m still tired. Trying to get together with everyone that wants to see you and give all of them equal amounts of your attention that they deserve, and to fit it all into 5 days is a little overwhelming at times. But I’m glad I did it. With every year that goes by, I realize more and more just how freaking big my family is and none of them are blood-related. 🙂

Hmm…I sense my thoughts wandering into the inane and I should probably go to bed. As I face the new year, I’m ready to conquer any challenges that might be foolish enough to face me. I’m ready to be changed and molded into someone better. I’m ready to get to know everyone else in my circle better. And as difficult as it can be, I’m ready to have God teach me a little deeper what it means to love like he does.

“Heal my heart and make it clean; open up my eyes to the things unseen, show me how to love like you have loved me.
Break my heart for what breaks yours; everything I am for your Kingdom’s cause, as I walk from earth into eternity.”

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

Well, I made it! I worked for 3 weeks, got two paychecks, made friends with my co-workers and I definitely feel like I kinda sorta know what I’m doing now. And what has this earned me? 5 days off to spend in the winter wonderland of Smithers! I seriously cannot wait to see my family and eat all their butter tarts. And play in the snow and sleep in the Miller house with Annie the dog curled up beside me and visit lots and sing and give presents!

This afternoon and evening was kind of a flurry of just getting things ready to go. And developing random appetites and thoughts.

Thoughts: I would like to prank-call Quest (that sketchy late night “meet new people” phone line) and just yank their chains a little bit. Too bad it actually costs money.
Also, I forgot how much I liked Spanglish.

Appetites: Somehow, I went the entire day without eating something. Around 8:30, I realized that there were a few things I could get rid of in my refrigerator before I go. A little bitta this, a little bitta that – 20 minutes later, I had french toast and bacon whipped up and I was HUNGRY!! And when I say bacon, I mean like a quarter pack of bacon. Don’t judge me.

Merry Christmas, everyone! xoxo

a little more…

Three years before…

The Cortez household was in a bit of a kafuffle. It was a Friday night in April, it was Chelsea’s 11th birthday and their 3-storey house was about to be filled with twenty 6th graders. It had taken a lot of persuading on Chelsea’s part for Robin to agree to a sleepover; thank goodness not all of them could stay.
Every time Marius looked at Chelsea, he couldn’t help but beam with pride. She had grown up a lot this year, taking her first tap dance class despite her insecurity regarding that sort of thing. In the past 2 years, she had gone through a “chubby” phase; in reality it hadn’t been severe at all (Marius had experienced the same thing at that age) but elementary school children have never stopped making mountains out of molehills.
No, indeed, she was growing taller and the extra 10 pounds was distributing itself just fine. Marius was looking forward to seeing her dance recital in June; in fact, he didn’t care if she fell flat on her face or got all the beats wrong – the fact that she was displaying a bravery he knew didn’t come from him made him proud simply to know her and call her his. God had indeed blessed him with such a daughter and none of that would have been possible without such a wife, he knew.
It was days like these when Marius really appreciated everything Robin was able to accomplish. The time was 2:30; in one hour, the children would be here and she already had the house decorated, the exact amount of chairs set up, the ginger-ale chilling and the cake ready to be picked up. His only job tonight was to stick around for crowd control and operate the barbecue, which he was more than happy to do.
Eleven years old…his baby was turning eleven years old. Do not cry at this party, Cortez. It’s not considered cool.
Collecting his thoughts, he returned to his office to finish a few last minute touches on his sermon for Sunday.

Chelsea Cortez could hardly contain her excitement. This day had been one of the best ever: it was a Friday, so school was over for 2 days, and it was her birthday on top of that. Even the kids who were usually kind of mean had left her alone since yesterday and she wasn’t quite sure why. But she certainly wasn’t complaining.
Her mom had promised a really fun party but she wouldn’t know anything about it until she got home. It was like a surprise but not a surprise at the same – her mom had used a big word for it. Paradox? Something like that.
The final bell had rung, and Chelsea was collecting her things out of her locker as fast as she could. Her mom had said that Dad would be there to pick her up at three o’clock on the dot and she did not want to be late.
“Hey, Chelsea.”
She turned away from her locker and nearly dropped everything to the floor.
Alex Fairley, the cutest, most popular boy in school, was standing there.
And he had spoken to her.
Seriously, what was going on today?
“H-hey. I’m Chelsea.” You idiot! He just called you by your name!
He smiled, the kind of smile that was confident and butterfly-inducing. “I know who you are. I heard today is your birthday. Is that true?”
Chelsea still struggled to speak, to wrap her mind around the fact that this was her first year in middle school and she was having a conversation with a boy that had been here for a year already. Was he even allowed to notice her?
“Um, yeah. I’m 11 now. I’m having a party later.” But realizing that might not seem cool anymore, quickly said: “But whatever. My mom wanted to do it. It’s her kind of thing.”
“That’s cool.” Alex replied smoothly. “Did you like my present?”
Her heart started sending rapid-fire shots of confusion through her brain. “What present? You got me a present?” Chelsea started fumbling through her backpack, as though he could have smuggled it in there when she wasn’t looking.
He just wouldn’t stop smiling. “Yeah, I talked to some of my friends and we went and talked to some of their friends who’ve been picking on you since you started here. I thought you’d had enough, so I told them to lay off. Have they listened?”
So that explains it. It took another second to really register. Oh my gosh, he did that for me? Ooooh, I can’t look at him, I’m going to go red in the face! Think of something else…
She smiled for the first time. “Yes, they have, so far. It’s been a great day. Thank you for doing that…you didn’t have to…”
He leaned against the lockers. “Sure I did. You’re one of us now.”
Suddenly, Chelsea remembered her dad and looked at her watch. 3:05. Uh-oh.
“Hey, I’ve got to run, my dad’s waiting for me but…do you want to come to my birthday later?” She started sputtering. “I mean, it’ll probably be just a bunch of kids my age eating a barbecue and playing games, but it could be fun.”
Alex looked surprised. “Oh, you know that sounds great, but I actually have soccer practice tonight. Maybe we could hang out next weekend?”
Feeling the urge to go quickly but not wanting to leave this unbelievable opportunity, she started walking backwards, still talking. “Sure! My number’s in the directory. Or, or we could just see each other at school Monday, whatever.” You are so lame!
“For sure. Have a good birthday. And hey, don’t walk into that garbage can.”
Chelsea turned and fled so he wouldn’t see her burning face.

Robin was finally ready. It was almost 3:30; Marius should be home with Chelsea any minute and then the zoo would arrive. She was ready, wasn’t she? Long over were the days when you could get away with having 2 hours worth of cake, games, present-opening and then sending the kids home to their parents hyped on your sugar.
The cleaning lady had come today and Robin had decided to go ahead and book her for tomorrow as well. The sleepover was ending at 10am and by that time, Robin would be more than ready for a new recruit.
She walked through the spacious living room one last time just to make sure when she thought she heard activity in Marius’ office down the hallway. That’s strange. She quietly padded down the hall and cracked open the door. She could clearly see Marius sitting at his computer, typing away madly. She swung the door open.
“Marius! It’s almost 3:30! Why haven’t you gone and picked up Chelsea?”
He swiveled around in surprise and shock. “What? You never said anything about picking up Chelsea! I thought that’s what you were doing. I was just finishing up some sermon notes…”
Robin shook her head in frustration. “I don’t want to hear it right now, Marius. The kids are showing up at any minute and the birthday girl is not here! She’s probably freaking out right now. I’ll call the school and tell them you’re on your way.”
Marius frowned. “But you didn’t even ask me. You can’t act like this is my fault, like I was negligent somehow. You told me that my only job at this party was to be another adult and fire up the barbecue later; I distinctly remember that.”
“Okay, well forget what I did or didn’t say right now! The most important thing is just getting Chelsea here, now please go!” She left the office without another word. She was so flustered, she did not remember to call the school.

Marius was certain he was about to explode. Of all the days…Robin was pissed at him for “forgetting” nothing, it was a Friday so traffic was horrible, and his daughter had been waiting for him for 20 minutes already. His princess wasn’t going to get to her own party for another hour, at least. He hoped she would forgive him.

Chelsea looked at her watch for what seemed like the thousandth time. Her parents had been a few minutes late before, but now it was closing in on a half hour and a tiny little fear was beginning to knock at the back of her mind.
She didn’t know what was worse: being forgotten or hearing that there had been an accident. Of course, in the big picture of life, being threatened with orphan-hood was much worse, but with the increased amount of fighting that hadn’t been very well hidden from Chelsea lately, she was already starting to feel a little bit forgotten anyway. At least with an accident, she’d know that they’d loved her enough to recall her existence and had been taken away not by choice.
She shook her head, as though the physical action would shake the dark thoughts out of her brain through her ears.
He’s just late. It’s a Friday, the traffic is always bad. You know this.
Please, God, let it be true. This has been such a good day.

As though to answer her prayer, the forest green mustang convertible she knew so well rounded the corner. Her father’s face looked stressed, but as soon as he saw her, it melted away into a smile. He didn’t even drive all the way up to where she was standing; he got out and opened his arms wide, and she knew everything was okay.
“Dad!” She ran awkwardly with her backpack bouncing back and forth and nearly knocked him over in the exuberance of her embrace. “Where were you?”
“I’m sorry, baby, traffic was really awful today. But why are we standing around here, birthday girl? I’m pretty sure there’s a party happening at your house right now and your chariot a-waits!” He gestured grandly at the mustang.
Trying not to squeal with excitement because she was 11 now, Chelsea scrambled into the passenger side, throwing her educational burdens into the backseat. It could wait until Sunday night. In fact, as excited as she was, everything right now could wait. The sun was shining, the top was down, the radio was on and she was the centre of her father’s world.
There was no place she’d rather be.

Peace. For however brief a moment, Robin chose to grab it, sitting down in the closest recliner. The girls had all arrived safe and sound; Chelsea included, and they were now downstairs getting out the Twister board. She had roughly 30 minutes before she would need Marius to get the barbecue started.
Her eyes were just about to close when the doorbell unexpectedly cut the silence. Who could that be? As she walked to the door, she was mentally trying to count the girls versus the invitations that had been sent.
Opening the door, she fought to keep the surprise from her face. It was Tamara Willis, one of the church members, but Robin had never seen her look so upset in her life. Her face was red and puffy from obviously many tears, and as soon as the door opened, she all but collapsed in the entryway. Her body was shaking with sobs as Robin caught and held her.
“Oh my goodness, Tamara! What’s happened? Is Dan all right—are the kids all right?” Her brain raced through every emergency possible, but none of them answered the question of why she would come here. By herself and barely herself.
“K-k-kids are fine. I just…Oh, God, Robin…I have to talk to you and Marius. It’s…it’s Dan, he…he…” Her face crumpled again and Robin, while compassionate, could see why some men thought women, even pretty ones, were ugly when they cried.
“He’s just in his office, Tamara. Come on, I’m sure he’d be more than willing to talk with you.” She took Tamara by the arm, wanting to be a good friend but knowing she shouldn’t leave her daughter’s birthday unattended for too long.
She knew Marius didn’t like being bothered during his sermon-writing, but at the moment she didn’t care. She wanted to get Tamara taken care of and on her way as soon as possible. It was probably just a minor fight between Dan and his wife – Tamara tended to over-react about these things.
How wrong she was; nothing could have prepared her for the story that would spill from Tamara’s gut.

Marius always made sure his office was well-stocked with tissues for just such occasions as these. His job as one of the pastors of a large church meant that not only was this a place for study, it was a sanctuary, a secret-keeper. A hiding place.
He sat Tamara, her sobbing only broken by the occasional hiccup, down on the leather couch and Robin joined her, one arm wrapped around Tamara’s back and the other hand clasping Tamara’s own. Marius smiled a little on the inside; her compassionate care was one of the reasons why he had married her.
But what Tamara had to say would wipe every smile from Marius, inner or outer. It was hard to understand some of her words through her tears, but he was able to gather that Dan had confessed that he was in love with another woman he’d been secretly seeing for a year now, and he would be leaving Tamara and their 3 children by Monday.
Marius’ heart felt like it was being clenched into a fist that would love to connect with Dan’s face. How could he do this to Tamara, to the kids? The church had had their fair share of dealing with situations like these, but it was never pleasant and there were rarely good results. Oh God. His heart cried. Give me words for this breaking woman. How is it we never see how our choices will hurt someone until after we’ve made them?

Robin stayed in the office for 15 minutes as a support to her husband and Tamara, but after that, she used the birthday party as an excuse to get away from the rock of discomfort that had been sitting in the pit of her stomach ever since she opened the front door. Unfortunately, nothing could bring her focus back to the special day. All she could hear were snippets of Tamara’s bewildered questions.
Why wasn’t I good enough?
I know I gained some weight with our last baby, but he said I was still beautiful…
How can he do this? What am I going to tell the children?
What am I going to do?

It was like Robin was no longer a wife, a mother, at the age of 35.
It was like she was 15 again, and Tamara’s words were her own mother’s.
Damn you, Dad. And damn you, Dan Willis. This world would be a much better place without men like you in it.

a “new” chapter. *disclaimer: mature content*

Every human, whether they know it or not, has two hearts. Not in the same way that cows have four stomachs or the common housefly has millions of eyes. No, there is one heart to keep you physically alive, obviously. Its existence is rarely seen by the naked eye or felt unless pressed against; we hardly even think about it, yet if it suddenly decided it wanted a break, we would be in a sight of trouble. It’s kind of like we have our own God, beating away in our chests, shouting to be acknowledged and rarely getting the credit.
The other kind of heart, the kind that makes you soften your anger after a child tearfully apologizes for their wrongdoing; the kind that makes you stop and help a stranger; the kind that makes you still feel a multitude of emotions despite the fact that it’s been cut and bruised nearly beyond repair – that kind of heart had been cut out of the chest of Robin Cortez and packed on ice (in case she ever needed it again) since, well, roughly an hour ago when she discovered her husband had been conducting a 3-year love affair during their 16-year marriage. Nearly a quarter of their union had been stolen, usurped, by, by whom? A woman – a friend – who even now was probably cradling her bastard child to sleep, smiling at how she’d gotten what she wanted: a tie to Marius Cortez that would not break no matter how great a machete Robin tried to bring against it.
The sun beat down mercilessly on Robin’s head, trying to melt her into the sand as she ran along the California coast. She preferred to run here instead of the boardwalk or the concrete; the slight give of the sand beneath her feet made her feel that she was not only running, but climbing at the same time. The rush of the ocean filling her ears, the sprinkling drops it left on her golden calves refreshed her and filled her with new purpose…normally.
Today? She wanted to pour herself into it, to turn into water, until all the questions were answered. Typically, she thought, the biggest one would be why? but for her, at this moment, it was how? Breathing heavily, the one heart she had left pounding like a hailstorm, she stopped running and lowered her trim figure onto the hot sand, only able to stare at the pulsing waves and contemplate this question.
How could Marius have done this to her? And with – Robin couldn’t even formulate the witch’s name in her mind.
How had they managed to keep this undercover for three whole years? Along that same line, how had she been so blind? She recalled all the times that the Woman had been invited over for dinner, all the times Robin and Marius’ daughter Chelsea had come home, still laughing after a great evening spent at the movies with her adopted aunt, all the times…suddenly, it felt like the blood had left Robin’s face and yet was pounding through it, expanding it until it exploded at the same time. Bile filled her throat.
Chelsea, her beautiful 14 year old daughter with Marius, had been the bastard’s babysitter. The dark-eyed cherub had been bounced on Robin’s own knee at various times.
A sperm bank. The lie seemed so hopelessly full of holes now. How had she looked and not seen? The eyes staring back at Robin through the infant were the same eyes she’d been staring into and falling in love with every day for the last 18 years. The eyes that had been filled with laughter on their first date when Robin had dropped a shrimp in her lap and hoped he hadn’t noticed…the eyes that had welled with tears when she said yes and again when she married him. When Chelsea had been born, something unidentifiable had been in those eyes – a mixture of absolute joy and definite terror.
But above all, they had been her eyes. Hers because they belonged to him and she belonged to him. Hers because she’d learned to see life how he saw it.
His chocolate brown eyes and her sea-blue eyes had become one pair. Before this day, Robin had often wondered what color that would make between them.
Now she knew. It was an unending palette of black.

Marius Cortez had been pacing the walls of his office for at least an hour, fairly certain that the words last spoken there were bouncing and repeating off the walls. He couldn’t escape them, no matter where he went in the house though. Might as well stay where he felt the most welcome.
He had hoped this day would never come, but hopes were nothing compared to the power of rumor and his guilt. He had walked into this morning with no sleep and even less than the usual spring in his step. At the age of 40, Marius had been priding himself on his energy and verve for life; Robin had always appreciated it as well, but he was sure that after today, she would consider that he’d had a little too much energy and verve.
Marius ran his fingers through his still-full head of black, curly hair. Ah, who was he kidding? He’d be lucky if Robin cared to appreciate or consider anything about him anymore after what he’d done.
“You bastard. You fucking, cheating bastard!” She’d screamed. “I thought…I thought we promised each other we weren’t going to end up like all our other friends, Marius! What were you thinking? And with her? Have you lost your mind?”
“I know, baby, I just—“
“Don’t call me baby, dickhead. I just want the facts. You better give me everything, Marius, or I swear to God—“
Marius felt a spark of anger. “Watch your words carefully, Robin. God is in this room now. He can hear what you say against him.”
Robin’s mouth dropped open in shock. “Is he, Marius? Is he here? Do you think he cares more about what I say or about the fact that you trampled the vows you made before him into a grave beneath that whore’s bed? You tell me, Marius Cortez, ordained giver of the Word, almighty beneficiary of the Light! Wait until your congregation finds out what a hypocrite, how full of bullshit you are!” She almost laughed, until she felt a slap across her face that she never saw coming.
Marius instantly regretted it, but would not back down. “Now you listen to me. The church does not need to know about this. I have acknowledged that it was a mistake and a sin, and I believe I’ve made my peace with God on that matter. But you have to think about Chelsea, the fallout that everyone knowing would have on her. Think of this house, the cars – I will lose my position if this gets out. You want to leave our home? You want to go back to eating with food stamps?”
Robin touched a hand to her red face. She looked at him, her eyes filled with tears. Saying nothing, she left the office, slamming the door behind her.

Marius was shaken out the memory by the door opening, seemingly as quickly as it had been closed. Robin re-entered the office, her body shaking and covered with sweat, her blonde hair hanging in wet tendrils around her face. At any other time than this, Marius would have found her desirable; however, he wasn’t a fan of angry lovemaking.
“I’ve thought about what you said. And as wrong as you’ve been, you are right that Chelsea doesn’t need to suffer for her father’s mistakes. I won’t tell the church – I won’t even raise suspicions by leaving you – but I have one condition.”
Marius’ stomach paradoxically rose and sank. “And?”
“You must send that…that woman and her child away. I never want to see them again, I never want you to see them again and I never want to hear their names even spoken. That’s all. I should ask for your testicles in a vise, but that might make for awkward conversation with your parishioners.”
His throat closed but he forced the words out. “I…I can agree to that. But you have to give them time to find another place to live; you have to understand that you’re asking her to leave her job, her life, everything behind. And I want to thank you for being so merciful and forgiving; you’re more Christ-like than I have been…” Tears of regret filled his eyes, but Robin was not moved.
“No, you understand me, Marius. I am merciful, and I will continue to be your doting wife for all appearances. We will live in the same house, share the same bed and raise the same daughter.” There was fire in her eyes. “But I will not forgive you.”
He couldn’t hold it in any longer; a sob broke past the barrier in his throat, followed by another and another until he felt like he couldn’t breathe. His second heart was being ripped away from him piece by piece and there was nothing he could do but sell it over to keep his life intact. The woman and the child, oh, the child, were all but sewn into the fabric of who he was; yet so were Robin and Chelsea. It was as though he had been made with two co-existing threads keeping him together; to undo one would only destroy the other.
Oh, my God, what have I done?
This thought echoed through his mind long after Robin left, long after the sun had gone down. But, unlike other times, there was no answering reply.

a still, small scrub.

*I hope none of these thoughts appear like heresy. Please feel free to leave comments.*
For the last few days, I’ve been wrestling with a question. It is simply this: if we feel the urging that God wants us to do something specific, and we say no, is that it? Does he still love us, but on the inside he’s a little bit pissed that we resisted his will?

My friend Megan and I had what seemed like a ten minute conversation about this topic the other day, but really it was more like 2 hours. She shared with me some really amazing stories about how she had been praying in her living room one day and suddenly felt this inexplicable need to go driving. So she got in her car, and having no idea where she should go or what she should do, she started following another car just to see where she would end up. Eventually, near an intersection, she drew near a woman walking down the sidewalk with bags of groceries in her hands.
Stop. And give her your Bible. Without hestitation, Megan stopped her vehicle on the side of the road, grabbed her Bible out of the backseat, chased this woman down, and in a hurried breath explained that she was a Christian and she hoped this wouldn’t freak the woman out, but she felt like God was telling her to give her the Bible. At that exact moment, the unknown woman’s grocery bag broke open, spreading groceries on the concrete. Megan grabbed this opportunity to offer the woman a ride home and begin building a relationship with her. Cool, right? It doesn’t end there.

When they arrived at the house, Megan learned that the woman, Trudy, was living with her mother Norma who was in the middle of dying from cancer. They had been practicing all the positive “white-light” strategies they could think of to heal her, but to no avail. To make a long story short, Megan offered that she would be praying for Norma, they exchanged numbers and didn’t see each other for a number of weeks.

Megan struggled to tell the next part. She said that in the following days, she was constantly feeling urged to call Trudy, call Trudy, call Trudy as soon as possible, but some unknown fear held her back. The boldness in her previous actions had left her; she was now plagued with the idea that she had come on too strong, and that right now, they just needed some family time. And yet she knew that every time she said no, she was disobeying the Lord’s spirit in her life.
I believe it was by no mere coincidence that Trudy made contact with Megan soon after that. Trudy and her sisters had noticed that Norma seemed more peaceful after Megan had been introduced to her, and they wanted her to come back to the house and actually pray for her in person. What an opportunity! And this time, Megan took it.

Over the next few weeks, she developed such an interesting relationship with this family. They ceased their “white-light” prayers over their mother, confessed that they believed Jesus was a great man that could be prayed to, but that even though “he wasn’t the only way to be healed, perhaps he’s the right way for our mom.”

Not long after that, Norma passed away. Megan doesn’t know if she had any death-bed conversion, and probably never will. But she does know that whenever she prayed or sang or read the Bible to her, something in Norma’s spirit responded, as drugged as she was. There was a peace that overcame the darkness in the room, and the True Light was having an effect.

When Megan finished telling me, I had tears in my eyes. I knew in my heart that all of this, no matter how brief, had been orchestrated by God.
“But now I feel like I didn’t do enough. Like, if I’d said yes to God the first time he urged me to call them again, perhaps I could have made more of an influence on Norma and Trudy and her sisters. What if she didn’t get saved because I held back?”
“Megan, if I were you, I would struggle with the same thoughts. But because I am sitting in a more objective spot, I can honestly say that I believe that no one, no matter how big of a choice they make, has the absolute power to disrupt and overthrow God’s will. No matter what you say yes or no to, God will not be wringing his hands in the Heavens declaring, ‘If only she had said YES, then this good thing could have happened. Too bad!’ I think you were brought into their lives for that specific time and purpose and if you had tried to pursue anything before they had contacted you, they might not have received your influence so warmly. You may never know the results of your work, but maybe you’re the seed planter. Some day, someone else will come along and water it and so on until it’s harvested. You never know.”

Even as I said this, I felt like my words were lacking a little something. I knew from my own life that I resisted God’s voice telling me to get baptized for over TEN YEARS before I said yes to him. And when I finally did, there was no guilt, no condemnation – just the absolute conviction that now was the time, here was the place and I could not go another day without heeding his call. Even though I had disobeyed him for a decade, it was still the right time for everything to happen the way it did that summer.

And I wonder, why? How can disobeying God be anything but unbeneficial? And then the other day, at work, it came to me.

I was washing the dishes. We have plastic containers that are filled with gravy, cheese sauce, etc. and after they’re warmed up and put in the serving pots, we have to wash and sanitize them. But sometimes, in the cooking, parts of the gravy or cheese will have crusted on in the corners and when I’m washing, I have to get rid of whatever I can right away, then let it soak in the water for awhile, and then come back to it to see if it’s loosened up anymore. Perhaps that’s how it is with God’s voice in our lives. We know there’s something difficult or challenging he wants us to do but we’re not ready to do it yet. He suggests it, and then leaves it for us to think about. He comes back later – are we ready yet? Perhaps not, but a little more resistance has come away with time. More soap, more hot water, more waiting. Are we ready now? No, but we’re closer. And God’s gentle spirit will keep working away at us until we’ve reached the point that we can resist him no longer. In that time of waiting, that time of resistance, we’ve been completely worn down, cleared out, cleaned up and ready to be used. We could say yes to God right away and that wouldn’t be bad either; we just might make more mistakes along the way because we haven’t learned as many lessons yet. But eventually, either way, God gets his man. Just like Elliott Ness.

I get by with a little help from my friends…

Okay, the melancholy is leaving and the Christmas spirit is starting to kick in.

It could have something to do with the *amazing* rum cake I had this evening.

In other news, I am officially a “paid $9 an hour” girl now! Life is pretty good. However, January will be the test month to see if I can survive rent, groceries and government examinations.

One of my resolutions so far? Write more and buy less. Or, when I buy something, give away something else I don’t need anymore. Simplify, simplify would be a good motto to undertake.

I thought the awkward stage of my life was over, but apparently not. I don’t mean my teenage years, I mean the question I get asked when I meet someone new: “What do you do?” and all I’m thinking is “Yikes, that is a loaded question; are you sure you want the answer?”
Yeah, I thought that was over now that I have a job and am starting to form a life for myself. But, as evidenced this evening, my life story is still quite the topic-changer in party conversation and I can’t get away with telling just one part of it. No, it ends up that I monopolize the entire conversation without meaning to.

But, on the bright side, by doing so, I’m gathering a bigger list of people who want to buy my book. 🙂

Here’s to more rum cake!

I am sitting in most likely the fuzziest, warmest comfort possible. This couch has what I call “taco seats”, where you sit down and instantly your backside becomes the filling of the taco shell surrounding it. Also, I’m wearing my new hoodie and sweat pants from BlueNotes – 50% off! Christmas is a bad time to be working at the mall. *sidenote* My pants are an orangey-pinky-peachy color and I don’t feel at all inconspicuous in them. Bonus.

Anyway, it’s a Friday night and I’m a little bit sad. I’m not entirely sure why. My tummy is full, and like I said, I’m perfectly warm and comfortable. Maybe it’s the fact that all I did today was work and cross-stitch some more…and I miss some very important people.

Oh! “500 Miles” by the Proclaimers just came on, and so did my happy factor, if only a tidge more.

I think it’s just that time of year. Winter is settling in and there’s change in the air. People are finishing up their studies and preparing to go home, running to and fro Christmas shopping. I don’t know where I fit in that world – I don’t think I’ve ever really known. In that feeling, there is incredible loneliness. Don’t get me wrong – my life has taken a fantastic turn lately – but now I don’t know what to do next. I had those goals in place for so long, and now they’re completed for the most part, I feel a little lost. And as I see all the activity unfolding around me, it sends the message that everyone else is not lost. They have places to be, people to see, things to do, so obviously they must be fulfilled.

At least, that’s what they’d like me to think.

Maybe I’m just tired but I miss so many things right now. My confidence in who I am gets so easily shaken, simply because there are things that I used to have that are gone, things I placed my identity in. Is that ever a healthy thing to do? I’ve never wanted to say that one thing/person was the centre of my world, but I can tell when they’re missing.

~ Laurie. Right now, she’s in the midst of planning a trip to come see me in May and it will be the first time we’ve seen each other in person in roughly 15 years. I’m unbelievably excited for that to happen; right now, it just seems like it’s going to take forever.

~ Kat. She’s the only other person I call my best friend besides Laurie. Right now she feels far away physically and emotionally. I’ve never stopped caring or praying for her; right now, I just wonder if I’ll ever see results.

~ Christina & Amie. Right now, they’re in Africa, just loving the heck out of those little children. Changing lives as well as their own. I know it’s something they needed to do, and I love hearing about what’s happening over there; right now, it feels like an eternity before I’ll able to say I’ve done something similar.

~ My mom. Right now, I actually don’t know what she’s doing. And that’s the worst because we used to know everything about each other. She was my world; that’s probably where I learned to avoid that tendency.

~ Dad. But how can you miss something you never had?

~ Jesus. We’ve been walking together for the last 12 years of my life, and right now, it’s like I’m not in love anymore. He’s just…there. I can clearly see all the amazing things he’s done in my life and those things still move me, but there’s something missing and I can’t quite figure out what it is yet.

I apologize for such a melancholy first post. It won’t be like this all the time, I promise. But these feelings, plus some other inspirations, are what caused me to start this thing anyway.

Even if there are no answers to these missing pieces in me, at least I know I’m not the only one out there.