Saturday, September 6, 2014

Summer Reading Challenge: Me Talk Pretty One Day

     So put a crown on my head and call me queen! To do penance for my transgressions, I went above and beyond these past two weeks. Not only did I finish The Giver by Lois Lowry, but I finished the whole series! I read The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messanger, and Son! This series is beyond good. I will say they are all pretty compact which is why I managed to read all of them in two weeks. At first, the books seem like individual short stories, set in a dystopian world. Lowry slowly connects these stories and characters in a strange, unified tale, rife with symbolism and allegory. I would definitely recommend these books. I haven't seen the film adaptation of The Giver but judging on the trailer, after reading the book, I would say it lacks the depth and sophistication of Lowry's original work, but I will try my best to remain neutral and reserve judgement. It's going to be hard though, because I'm already head-over-heels-in-love with these books, and I'm going to be very difficult to please indeed!

      For the next two weeks, I'm going to be reading a series of essays and short stories, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I'm very excited to begin! 

I would love to know if any of you are reading anything at the moment, and if you have any recommendations. Maybe they might find their ways onto my next list. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Sister Is a College Graduate!


     Friday was my baby sister's college graduation! My sister Abby graduated the University of Limerick with a degree in Voice & Dance. Did I mention my sister is a dancer? A pretty dang good one too. I of course couldn't attend, what with my being in Wisconsinland, but a big sister couldn't be more proud. I thought I'd post pictures of my hautie family on the big day. Forgive me if I crow too loud but hey, these are my favourite humans in the whole world!


Yeah these hauties are related to me :)

The fellow spawn

Abby's graduation dress was absolutely stunning! She's always been a babe! I'm so proud of her smarts, talent, and beauty (inside and out). Congratulations sis! Wish I could have been there to celebrate with you. Just so you know, I drove my co-workers crazy singing your praises all day Friday!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I'm Just Thankful for a Dollar Store

      I don't want to come across as depressing, but I have to be honest with you, I've had a pretty wretched week. And I don't want to sound ungrateful, but this summer has been a strange let down. God has been very good, I know. He's given me a great job with Shepherds Ministries: a job where I'm helping others, and a job which comes with accommodation attached (for a displaced, foreign student that's a pretty sweet deal), and because of this I have at least some of my independence without being a burden to some family somewhere. There's a lot to be thankful for- really there is- and I am...but sometimes it's hard be. It sounds terrible, but it is. With my 25th birthday approaching fast, it's hard not to ask "is this all there is?" and  "ok when is my real life going to start?".

     Last week, I learned some rather distressing news, which could potentially keep me stationary much longer than I wanted or anticipated. Suffice to say, it kind of sent me into a downward spiral of confusion, and depression. While I know, I KNOW God's truth: that He will not forsake me, He hasn't left me, He has a plan; I couldn't grasp onto that truth for the life of me, and really believe it. I started to feel an overpowering idea: God doesn't love me anymore. God has left me alone.

     It is terrible to believe, even for a moment, such a odious lie. It is terrible to see it on the screen in front of me now. What a terrifying, alienating thought. How devastating to the soul it would be if true. With all the Bible education I've had, you would think I could snap out of the lie, but I couldn't. For a day I couldn't grasp onto truth. This summer, my job has tested my patience like never before, all too often I end up spending my free time alone, and church hasn't been an option. All summer, loneliness, and sin I can't seem to conquer have, for the most part been my constant companions. Last week, while discouraging, was merely an accumulation of many things. And it led me to believe that my heavenly Father had given up on me entirely.

      Slowly this week, truth has been coming back to me, not all at once, but bit by bit. What a reminder that I am not all brain, but also soul, and emotion. This part can take over reason, and I am no exception (I'm not exactly a- wear my heart on my sleeve-kind of girl). 

     This brings me to today. Over the course of the summer, construction of some sort has been ongoing across from my workplace/dwelling. It turns out to be a new dollar store. A bit of embarrassing Leah-trivia for you: I don't drive. That is to say I can't drive. It's the price I pay for being a professional wanderer. I usually catch a ride to the nearest Walmart, or I walk to the local grocery shop. This is a bit of a walk, but the weather is usually suitable. In the back of my mind though I've been wondering how I'm going to make the walk when the snow starts to fall. I figured my Walmart runs would have to do, and I would have to do without some things immediately.

       Today I checked out the stock of the new store which is a convenient, few feet away from my front door. It's not exactly a grocery store, but I can pick up a lot of essentials, without having to wait for someone else's schedule to clear. It may sound silly to you but I stood in that store today, and thankfulness just washed over me like a flood. It seemed like God built this store just for me. God hasn't abandoned me! He built me a store! For nothing more than mere convenience: not need. After all these tuition fees and loans, it wasn't my education that led me to truth today. God reminded me of basic truths with a convenience. It's silly, and small, but all I know is that today, I'm just thankful for a dollar store. 

"We give thanks to you, Oh God; and we give thanks for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds" Psalm 75:1

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, Oh Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of trouble I call upon you, for you answer me" Psalm 86:5-7 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Reading Challenge: The Giver

     So my first attempt at this challenge failed. I've finished The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, however instead of taking two weeks to complete, it took three. I have failed you! I am failure! But I did finish it, and let me tell you; as laughably campy as it is, the book gets downright creepy in some parts. Emily, our heroine is as dull as brick and faints like one too! Seriously I think one could invent a drinking game from the amount of times she literally hits the floor. The story is all over the place, and some plot points are terribly useless (i.e. the black veil, whatever happened to Manchon, the disappearance of Ludovico). And how much better would it be if this story was about Annette and Ludovico? These are two are the best characters in the whole book. Still Ann Radcliffe was a highly influential author, giving rise to some of the greats of gothic literature such as Edgar Allen Poe. If you're a literature-buff you might want to check her writing out.

     For the next two weeks, the next book from my list will be The Giver by Lois Lowry. I have very mixed feelings about dystobian, romance, Y.A. fiction-turned movie adaption shenanigans. However, this is a favourite of a reader who's opinion I trust, and if I'm going to watch a movie adaptation, I must read first! So wish me luck for the next two weeks! Hopefully I'll be able to finish in time!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Music Monday: Rivers in the Wasteland Review

      How can I describe the band Needtobreathe? How can I explain my feelings of love, nostalgia, and fascination associated with this band and their odd brand of cinematic, folk rock. They bring to mind some sort of crazy, shaken, cocktail of Mumford and Sons and the Kings of Leon (seriously Bear Rinehart sounds spookily like Caleb Followill). The first album that encompassed their signature sound, The Heat, was introduced to me during my Cornerstone days, and it brings back floods of memories of Cadillacs, and questionable twilight activities, of mindless humming, or spring break road trips. However it was their magnum opus entitled The Outsiders that made me a die-hard fan. This album was complete perfection, and Cornerstone choir tour in the "mafia van" would not have been what it was without it!

      Since this album, Needtobreathe released The Reckoning in 2011. This album was a stretch for the band, and while I liked it, I couldn't love it. It seemed as though Neetobreathe was trying too hard. Indeed the strain of the ambition of this album, and it's coinciding tour, almost ended the band. Needtobreathe managed to stay together, but lost their drummer Joe Stillwell (one of their best assets if you ask me). Now the band has managed to release Rivers in the Wasteland in 2014.

      Rivers in the Wasteland is a return to form, while still managing to sound fresh. The title track Wasteland opens the album quietly strumming "Oh if God is on my side, then who can be against me"  before breaking out in the chorus "In this wasteland, that I'm living, there is a crack in the door filled with light, and it's all that I need to get by." The song is appropriate given the bands previous trials. These artists have been in dark places, and many of the songs on this album honour that.

      State I'm In is a strange track (but fun) that is oddly reminiscent of 60's rock n' roll. It's a different sound for Needtobreathe, but there's enough alternative rock present to fit it in amongst the band's repertoire.  Feet, Don't Fail Me Now  is as hard rock as Needtobreathe gets. The song is edgy, but the catchy rhythm, and a funky guitar solo keep the track from descending into unpleasant territory.  Oh Carolina is a shout-out to Southern, folk rock and should get them feet dancing! Difference Maker gets in your head like no ones business. It is now the official theme song (official because I say so) of Liz and Matt's wedding. Leave it to Neetobreathe to write a clever hook, to puzzle the listener as to what exactly they're trying to say anyway. It's actually their thing.

"Oh, I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one who speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God"

     Rise Again, Where the Money Is and Brother all contain the signature cinematic Needtobreathe sound. New drummer, Randy Harris, does his best to keep up, but it just doesn't sound quite the same: the album's one downside. The Heart, bar Difference Maker, is probably the best, and catchiest song on the album. It's perfect folk rock sensibility and should be the ultimate, summer road trip track. 

     Multiplied is indie transcendence, and the album ends with the acoustic More Heart, and Less Attack

     To sum up, Rivers in the Wasteland can hardly reach the heights set by the sublime Outsiders but really what can? I'm still holding out for that level of perfection from Needtobreathe in the future, but for now Rivers in the Wasteland is enough to bring a smile to my face, and fun to my road trips and reunions. This album shows the band maturity that only dark experience can bring, and development and growth as artists. Give this band a try, if you've never listened to them. You're road trips will never be the same! 

Oh! And before the weekend I joined the club pixie and cut my hair! What ya think?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Introducing: Summer Reading Challenge

     I can't believe July is nearly over. It seems this summer has flown by without me noticing. Thus this challenge is a bit redundant seeming as the summer season is drawing to a close. Still, reading is hardly seasonal! Some of you may have noticed that I have a reading list on my blog sidebar. I pick away at it during the year, but I told myself that I would really make a dent in the thing during the summer months. Alas, summer classes and work and general laziness have shot that horse in the face. But it's never too late to try, and like I said, reading is not seasonal. So, introducing Whats Left of the Summer Reading Challenge (and extending to other seasons too).   

      This challenge is a commitment to read a book every two weeks for the rest of summer. After which I may start afresh with an Autumn Challenge. To be fair to myself I have checked a few books off the list this summer (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and A Picture of Dorian Gray), but keeping within a two week time frame, should speed things a long, and keep me on track. My hope is that you guys will join me, either by following my list with me or by making a list of your own. Every two weeks I will try to update you. Either way, reading is a deeply personal journey, and I hope to widen my horizons, delve into adventure, and keep my mind awake: all those other wonderful things that reading does...but I do hope you guys join me! It will make this challenge so much more fun to learn what you're reading too! 

     Technically I'm still finishing up books I started during the school year such as Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and The Eclipse of Faith by  Steve Whigham, and goodness knows when I'll ever finish War and Peace  (it's going on almost 4 years now: a word of advice, you really have to commit when you pick up anything by Tolstoy), but I'm not going to count those as part of this challenge, seeing as they were started months ago. For the next two weeks I'll be reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. I've already started it and so far it contains a lot of French scenery, and follows a dedicated minimalist and his daughter (who is very delicate and innocent and faints a lot!). It's a classic, gothic novel so I'm looking forward to the eerie stuff. 

     Hope you're all having a wonderful week. I can't wait to see how this pans out. 

Carpe Librium! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Music Monday: The Morning Review

     Lewis Watson is just one of the many talented, young, twenty-somethings from the UK making their mark on the music industry.  After growing his fan-base from the youtubeland up, and having released three Eps, Lewis Watson has finally released his first full length album In The Morning. Sounding like the lovechild of Ed Sheeran and John Legend, Lewis Watson's melancholy, whimsical songwriting promises great things. His Eps were fantastic, but The Morning truly shows how Watson has grown as a musician. 

     The opening track Stones Around the Sun combines Watson's usual folk, acoustics with just enough synch to make it into something new. The song is a strong and convincing opening, drawing the listener in with quiet beginnings and building slowly. New tracks Holding On, and Stay are great new additions, along with old songs from his EPs. Old track (from his EP of the same name) Into the Wild is perhaps the strongest on the album, both simple and poetic. Outgrow is a gorgeous song about the tragedy of growing old. The album weakens slightly (but only slightly) near the end with Close and Sink or Swim which are let down by weak vocals and lack-lustre instrumentation. This is not due to a lack of talent on Watson's part, just a lack of passion. Watson's vocals and songwriting are just good enough to make his art unique, however, something is wanting. Watson's debut is charming and enjoyable, but after awhile his music is just a little too sweet and too unoffensive to be really innovative. However, closing track Castle Street reminds the listener why Lewis Watson has a recording contract. An artist is only as good as his/her second album and this is, at the end of the day, a very promising beginning. After all, he's only 21 you guys!

     To sum up The Morning is worth a purchase. If you don't feel like forking out $9.99, Spotify has the goods. What I want to know is what is going on with the Brits? Where is our Irish youth?! Orla Gartland?

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