2013 in review

Soooo, I’m a little late at posting this. 21 days late, to be precise. I’m working on some roundup posts to get back in the swing of blogging again, but in the meantime enjoy the numbers and thanks for being an amazing bloggy audience!

 

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Let’s Chat About Money

God is a God who values logic and critical thinking. We see evidences of this in the Bible, such as the verse in Isaiah 1:18 where the Lord calls His people to reason with Him. In this case, the Hebrew word carries connotations of discussion, debate, conversation. The definite thrust of His call is that He wants to talk with His people, for His people to use their minds and talk through deep issues of salvation with Him.

 

This week, I’ve been studying the parable of the Shrewd Manager, found in Luke 16. The story itself is fascinating: a manager is called in by his boss and fired for mishandling his master’s funds. Because he sees no other options for his future, the manager moves quickly to lessen the debts that people owe to his (now former) boss, before any of the debtors find out about his loss of position. When the boss finds out about the ex-manager’s actions, he praises him for his good thinking! Even more amazingly, Jesus then goes on to look at His disciples and say, for all intents and purposes, ‘be like the manager.’

 

Say what now?

 

I’ll be honest, and admit right here right now that I was flummoxed by this story for many years. Is the ethical Jesus teaching us to cheat people even after they know that we are untrustworthy? Is He telling us to BE untrustworthy? This is all so confusing.

 

When you feel up a creek without the proverbial paddle, it is a good idea to look at the context, the situation in which the story is being told.

 

The parables preceding the story of the shrewd manager all deal with people who are searching for something they’ve lost. Loss taught the hearers about true value. In one case it was a sheep, in another a coin, in still another it was a child, but they all hold a uniting thread: they held value to the one searching for them. And the result of being found? Much rejoicing.

 

So, it seems a bit odd when Jesus shifts His storytelling to the disciples, and tells them about such a dishonest (though savvy) manager. But the real kick of the story comes in the application. Jesus turns His lesson into a series of if/then statements: IF you are faithful in little, THEN you will be faithful in much. IF you are unfaithful in little, THEN you will be unfaithful in much. IF you cannot be trusted with earthly riches (little), THEN who would trust you with eternal treasures (much)?

 

Ah, it makes more sense now. Take away our indignation at the manager’s dishonesty, and you are left with a story about a very smart man. He lost his job, no way around that. He knew himself well enough to know he wasn’t strong enough to go get real work, and he wasn’t humble enough to beg for his living. The only smart option was to create a situation where he looked good, his old boss looked good, people felt indebted to him, and the stakes would be too high for his old boss to undo the actions.

 

All in all, it was a brilliant plan. Which brings me to another question…when was the last time you used logic and critical thinking to that extent for any reason? What about for the Kingdom? When was the last time you plotted to make someone unsaved come to church with you? What was your last game plan for evangelism? Ouch. If you’re anything like me, the answers to those questions aren’t going to bring about any feelings of pride and joy.

 

However, Jesus doesn’t stop there. In all His infinite wisdom, He throws in another lesson application. “No man can serve two masters…you cannot serve both God and money.” At first read it is a seeming nonsequitor, but there’s a reason for the placement. Jesus just told His followers that they should be shrewd. He told them that they should wisely manage their earthly wealth to gain friends here on earth, and eternal treasures in heaven. But Jesus also knows that the siren call of money is strong, and that even those with the best intentions of use can fall prey to its evil enticements. How many ministries can you think of that have experienced set backs or fallen altogether because the leaders took the money they were managing for the Kingdom and funneled it into their own pockets instead?

 

This is the trap, this is the warning. Be shrewd, be sharp, be wise, be trustworthy with little and much…but remember that if you are serving the master of money, you aren’t serving God. In fact, Jesus further polarizes it by saying that you will LOVE one and HATE the other.

 

For me, this parable comes back to my rallying cry for Christians: don’t check your brain at the door! Jesus never asked us to put down our wisdom and take up our crosses to follow Him. In fact, wisdom is a gift He bestows on us, so let’s not waste it. Be as sharp as serpents, as harmless as doves, and may we never lose sight of the true treasure of all our eternities: the Kingdom.

Change Is In The Air

*peers around the blog*

*taps microphone*

*feedback*

Um, is this thing still on?

So, I know it’s been a while since you all have heard from me. A long while. A VERY LONG while.

In my last post, I talked a lot and vaguely about different paths and which one I should take. Basically, I had a decision to make in April: sign another year’s teaching contract and remain a Shift Supervisor at Starbucks, OR take a leap of faith, stop teaching for now, and pursue an Assistant Manager position with Starbucks. It was a really hard choice to make. I LOVE teaching, love my students, and love being in the academic world. Teaching is so much of my life and passion that the mere idea of just stepping away for a bit was devastating.

When all was said and done though, it became evident that teaching just wasn’t in the cards for next year. You guys have no idea the amount of pain and tears that happened during March and April. Once the decision was made it couldn’t be undone, so I threw myself into the last few months of my teaching career. Back in January the drama teacher had asked me to come alongside her class and help instruct on Shakespeare, since they were doing three parodies of his works. When those plays were finished, I was asked to stay on with drama and help out on the final production. It was a crazy, crazy time of dancing, fighting, and jumping off of cliffs (in a theatrical stage sense!), and I loved every moment of it.

You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a bunch of high school students try to talk over heavy rain on a tin roof.

With production finished, the next big hurdle in life was prepping for final projects and graduation. That took up just about every spare moment that wasn’t already consumed with Starbucks. Crayzhay.

The last day of classes was very sad. My students are awesome though, and they passed around this lovely little journal that anyone at the program could sign. I keep the little leather journal by my bed…such an encouragement! We also hung out in my classroom for most of the morning watching Jane Eyre and talking about Doctor Who. They are such good little Whovians!

It was hard going home that day, but I had a plan. I sat down at the computer, and applied for an Assistant Manager position in the next district over. An opening had come up the week before, and for the first time, it felt right. So, I applied. And interviewed two weeks later. And interviewed again two weeks after that. And three days later, my new District Manager called and offered me the position!!!

Can we all just stop and freak out about this for a moment????

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you, that feels much better.

On July 29th, I start my new position, at my new store, in a new district. It is all exciting, but all nerve-wracking as well. In addition, we also lost our Regional supervisor last month (and I am so sad about that, you all have no idea), so we have a new one taking over this week too! So much change, but I think that it is all for the better.

These past few weeks have felt very productive. I’ve finished a lot of personal development training, helped train our newest barista, and participated in a veritable bevy of coffee and tea tastings. Tea tastings…are a revelation. I cannot wait to see the effect that Teavana has on Starbucks!!! We need some more tea materials in the store, I’m just saying.

Open tea bags…Chai, Zen, and Calm.

So, what else is new? I think that is enough for now. The next 10 days will fly by, I’m sure, in a whirl of book clubs, nursery duty, phantom shifts, food service tests, normal shifts, and otherwise crazy schedules!!!! I am very excited to see where the next chapter of my life leads me.

Here goes everything!

And That Has Made All The Difference

There is a poem that, like it has for countless others, has always resonated in my mind. It is by the incomparable Robert Frost (Yes, I know he’s an American writer. No, in this case, I don’t mind.), and it speaks to the choices and decisions we make in our lives. It reads as follows: 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

Well, I am at that place in the woods. In less than two weeks I need to make a choice, and I am torn about what to do. Both options lie before me, each having an equal amounts of pros and cons. One path makes me feel more unsure about my future, but the other path locks me into a road I’m not sure I’m willing to be on for much longer.

I’ve put a lot of work and effort into both these ventures, and until now both paths have run, albeit tiringly, smoothly alongside each other. But now, there is a boulder separating one from the other forever, as far as I can see. My first thought was that if I could only figure out which was the one less traveled, I would know what I was to do. But, what defines less traveled? 

With an actual path, it would be the road that is overrun with grass, so long it has been since a human foot has trod on it. It would be the one with a smaller breadth, the one more often left off the maps. It is the one that only a few locals remember, and that even fewer know how to traverse. 

But life is not as clear as a path. Sure, one way is more…shall we say, commercial? But does that make it more traveled? Often on this road so far, I’ve felt very, very alone. And isn’t that the earmark of a road less traveled, that you have few fellow travelers, if indeed any at all? And the other road, it’s “off the beaten path” to be sure. But it is also the safe choice, the road that has been with me the longest. It is the safety net. It is a road I’ve traveled for a long time, a road that I can be pretty sure of where I’ll end up.

So, what if I determine the path less traveled? Does this really help me decide my future? Look at that last stanza. The speaker says that maybe, years and years down the road, he might recount this choice in the woods “with a sigh.” Is this good? Bad? All the speaker really tells us is that by taking the road less traveled, it made all the difference. 

Unfortunately for me, this doesn’t shed any illumination on my dilemma. Any choice, any decision, any stance makes “all the difference” in a life. Is difference a good thing, or a bad thing? Can we say with any certainty that our lives will be truly better if we go one way, than if we go another? Can we ever look back and say “this was the right path”? I think that we want to be able to trust our decisions. We want to say that hindsight is 20/20 and we know for sure that we made a good choice, or that we can see now how we made a bad choice. But, did we really?

We can’t predict the future, and we can’t change the past. We can’t run parallel lives and find out how a different choice truly would have affected our life. So, we create this environment that says if a decision in the past, then we can make definitive calls on how it impacted our lives. However, just as we cannot accurately predict the future, I don’t think that we can absolutely read the past.

Maybe this is the point that Frost wanted to make. Maybe he wanted us to see that we cannot travel two paths as the same person, and we cannot know where the path we did not choose would lead us. All we can do is look, evaluate, and take those first brave steps down the road of our choosing.

Which doesn’t help me decide which path to choose, in the least. 

Miss Me?

So, I missed a few days on my blogging challenge. Thursday was a horrible day, Friday was awesome but crazy, and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were just needed for mental recovery from those two days. At some point I may go back and grab those posts, but for right now I’m just carrying on.

This blogging challenge has made me discover some things about myself. One is that I lack discipline sometimes. This is nothing ground breaking,but I had hoped I was doing better in the self-discipline area. The second discovery was how easily I get discouraged. In my mind, I missed Thursday’s post and almost gave up the whole project. Then I missed Friday and thought “there’s no way I’m ever catching up.” It wasn’t until today that it dawned on my little mind that I could just start fresh. I don’t need to make things up, I just need to finish to the best of my abilities. And so, that’s what I am going to do!

So, let’s go through a recap of the past few days.

Thursday: Let’s focus on the good first. Dad brought me lovely Valentine’s Day flowers, Mum got me a *huge* cookie from our school’s V-day cookie sale, and the brother got me ice cream! Sounds like an awesome day, right? Well, we should also add in the fact that I had a splitting migraine all day, my lovely little car ran completely out of oil and subsequently required $1100 of repairs, the rental car I borrowed was bare bones and made me a little nervous seeing as how I was driving around alone that night, rehearsal for drama ran very long, and despite having a performance the next day we were told that we couldn’t set up our stage before 10 am the next morning. Oh yeah…and after all that, I drove home, ready to sit down with a movie and the playlist for the performances…to discover that I left my garage door opener in the other car and no one was home to let me in.

*sigh*

Friday: This was an awesome day, made even awesomer  (yes, that is now a word) by how horrible the day before was. Because I really want to do a post just on Friday, I won’t go into it right now. But yes, this was a good day. A LONG day, but a good day.

Saturday: Sleep, work, sleep. Enough said!

Sunday: Sleep, church, work, sleep. Welcome to the scintillating pattern of my day-to-day life.

Monday: Monday was another pretty cool day. I was a little on the nervous side because I was up for my one year review as a Shift Supervisor. Unbeknownst to me, my SM also made time to go over my Partner Development Plan (PDP) with me and help me create a new PDP as I wait to start interviewing for my next position. I’ve had a rougher time personally these past six months than I have experienced in the past, so I wasn’t sure how things were going to go. Thankfully, my SM has really noticed all the hard work, time, and dedication I’ve been pouring out and she really commended me on it. It’s always nice to know that someone *is* seeing the good that you are doing.

We also got a chance to have a good, long talk about things going on in the district and with the company. The last thing I want to do is go blindly blundering into a position if I don’t feel like I’ll be able to support the direction that things are heading. While some events looming on the horizon make me very sad, overall I feel like things for the future are bright. All we can do is wait and see, but in the meantime we are working on plans to push our store’s potential to the max! Go team, go!

That’s where I’ve been for the past few days! What have you all been doing?

In Which We Discuss Handsome British Actors

Gentle Readers,

Tonight I came home from work to find the family watching the 2008 version of the Agatha Christie’s Murder Is Easy. It is chock full of some of our favourite character actors: the evil Bingley sister from the A&E Pride and Prejudice, the brother from My Family and Other Animals (incidently, he’s in some Doctor Who as well!), that one brother from Notting Hill, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Now, now, stop laughing at his name. Because, in my opinion, this man is singlehandedly changing the face of British book adaptations. Namely, Sherlock Holmes. He plays a stunning Sherlock, brilliant and true to the original character even though the show is set in the modern day. He is edgy, sharp, brilliant, funny, nuanced, and just the right amount of “off.”

To be honest, he’s good in pretty much everthing I’ve seen him in. Take Murder Is Easy as an example. He doesn’t have a huge role, but when he is on screen you notice. Not in an annoying way, but in an “I have presence and know how to use it” way. He’s good! Awesome! Great!

So, what’s the takeaway here? What’s the moral? Here it is: if you haven’t already, watch Sherlock. If you’ve seen Sherlock, watch is again. Revel in the awesome Cumberbatchyness of it all! You’ll be glad you did.

Until tomorrow,

Miss W

image

(Photo Credit Unknown)

Ladylike List

Top 10 Things I Love About Downton Abby, Season One:

10. The horses. So graceful!

9. The shots in the library. Oh, to have a room like that one day!

8. Anna and Mr. Bates. They make me smile.

7. Mrs. Patmore’s flutter of kitchen activity and the food she sends upstairs (10 second rules and all!).

6. The setting. Starting with the sinking of the Titanic is historically brilliant, and the physical estate is breathtaking.

5. Mrs. C. I admire her spunk, fortitude, and kindness.

4. Matthew. He’s been dealt an odd hand, but he is willing to make the most of it.

3. The Dowager Countess. Her dry, biting humour is just what the show needs most of the time.

2. Sybil with her new frocks and radical political ideals. But I love how she is still more mindful of other’s feelings than her own wishes.

1. Those costumes! Those lovely, detailed, vintage, classic costumes. They honestly don’t make clothes of that beauty and quality anymore. Some of the costumes really are 100+ years old!!!!!!

What do you like about Downton?

(No spoilers, please! I’m still in season one!!!)

A Mad Man In A Box

Gentle Readers,

Looking over the past few years of posts, I’ve noticed a horrifying lack on one subject. A subject near and dear to my heart…s. No, just heart. A subject that is timeless…or is it? A subject…oh, I’m too excited to keep this up.

Today, we are going to talk about Doctor Who!!!!!!!!

For those of you who are still staring at your screen blankly, allow me to explain. Doctor Who started in England 50 years ago as a children’s fun, sci-fi show. It has super humble beginnings – cardboard and tinfoil sets and aliens put together with string and rubber cement. Even with these obvious setbacks, the show became quite the hit. In fact, it is rare to find a British character actor who has not appeared in at least one Doctor Who episode.

One of the things that has kept Doctor Who around for all these years is the great back story to the show. First of all, the main character is not “Doctor Who,” like a name or a title. His title is The Doctor, his name is known only to a select few. You and I are not yet in the select few. When you have a character who is over 900 years old, it takes longer than 50 years to build up enough trust to reveal his name. Oh yes, I said that the Doctor is over 900 years old. See, the Doctor looks like a human, but he’s actually a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Time Lords are complicated to explain, but basically they control/influence/move limitlessly through time and space.

They do this through Time and Relative Dimension in Space machines, acronym-ed TARDIS. The Doctor’s TARDIS is a blue phonebox from London, but that’s a whole story for another time. However, you should know that she looks like this on the outside:

Image

(By the by, I found this awesome image here!)

Cute, yeah? Oh, but you have to watch the show…she’s so much bigger on the inside.

So, back to the Doctor himself. When you are 900+, the body can sustain a bit of wear and tear. When you’re constantly throwing yourself into battles with alien forces (usually in an attempt to save the Earth), then you *really* put some mileage on the old body. So, Time Lords have this awesome power: when they die (or come super close to dying), they regenerate. Same person, same mind, same memories, same knowledge, but different bodies. So far the show has tracked 11 regenerations, but only three since the reboot in 2005. (A reboot is when an old show comes back with a fresh start. Doctor Who didn’t air new episodes from the late 1980’s until 2005.) Oh, and Time Lords have two hearts, which comes in handy more than you would imagine. They are also super smart, quick witted, and brave.

The last three actors to play the Doctor were Christopher Eccleston (Nine), David Tennant (Ten), and Matt Smith (Eleven). Since I don’t have nearly enough time to rave about them, they will each get their own post in which we will chat about what I think they bring to the character of the Doctor, and standout episodes from their seasons.

We also need to talk about bad guys, good guys, worlds, companions, Christmas specials, and some all-important story arcs. But no worries, we will take this a step at a time! So, the important things to learn from this post? Here we go:

1. This is a 50 year old British sci-fi show.

2. The main character is called the Doctor, not Doctor Who.

3. The TARDIS is a time machine.

See??? So easy. I can’t wait to share my next Doctor Who post, because it will get us closer to me being able to share why I love this show so.

Until tomorrow,

Miss W

Children and Cards

Gentle Readers,

Today I made Valentine’s Day cards with the preschool Sunday School class. We had all the fun stuff: pink and red paper, multi sized hearts, flower foam stickers, glue sticks, markers, crayons, and scissors. (For the record, I kept a hold of the scissors.)

They are sweet children. Two girls, two boys, all as different as can be. The sugar rush must have started early this year, because they were WIRED today. So wired. But I digress.

There’s really not much point to this post. Only, as I watched these children put all their scattered attention towards making something sweet for their parents, I found it touching. They are young. They have energy galore. They want to explore everything. Yet, in the midst of all their life discoveries, they were genuinely excited to make something all their own for their Moms and Dads.

This is what love looks like.

Until tomorrow,

Miss W

The Cake Is A Lie

It was inevitable. I heard about it for ages. People told me it was great. I listened, I nodded in understanding, I forgot.

What was it again? Tunnel? Hallway? Hatch?

Oh, right. Portal.

Then, I started hearing about Portal 2. This somewhat peaked my interest, but not too much. Fine, fine, another game. Yes, great, one day I’ll get around to playing the first one. One day. Maybe.

I might never have gotten to it, except that Teefury (this amazing site that puts out a new geek-themed shirt every 24 hours, for 24 hours only), released an awesome shirt on the day Portal 2 debuted. Only, I didn’t know yet just how awesome it was. See, it said this:

How cool is that??? But, what did it *mean*?

As it turns out, in Portal there is this cake motif where they promise you cake…but there isn’t really any cake. Kind of a bummer, but it sounded quirky. And yummy. Except, now I want cake. Hang on, I’ll be right back!

*picks up crumbs* As I was saying, the game sounded interesting. So, I texted my friend to get my Steam username again and downloaded the free trial. (For those of you who don’t know what Steam is, the best explanation I have is that it is iTunes for computer games.) I WAS HOOKED.

The same awesome friend gifted me an extra copy of the full version he had lying around on his computer, and I’ve almost beaten the game. It’s getting to the intense part, so I’m only playing it a few minutes at a time (lasers make me nervous, okay???).

It’s not your typical computer game, either. You have to use logic and math and physics and stuff to advance through the game. I got stuck on one level for hours because I couldn’t figure out the right angle approach to a certain jump that would give me the required velocity to breach the wall. See, just playing the game makes you sound smarter. Or, at least it makes you think you sound smarter.

So, I shall end my fangirling with a link to the song from Portal. It is quite sarcastic and amusing. If you get the chance, definitely try the game out! You might even get cake.

Still Alive