Tag Archives: reading

what I’ve been into

TV that I’m into: “Playing House” on USA with Jessica St. Claire and Lennon Parham. I’ve been binge-watching this show, and I LOVE it. It’s exactly my sense of humor. It also has the added bonus of having Keegan-Michael Key in it.

TV that I’m looking forward to: “I’m Sorry” with Andrea Savage on TruTV

Books I’ve been reading: I’ve been reading A LOT lately, which is good. Just finished a historical novel called The Ghost of the Mary Celeste. It’s based on a real incident, and pulls a lot from history including the Spiritualism craze, Arthur Conan Doyle, and more. I just started my second Erik Larson book, In The Garden of Beasts. It’s about the American consulate in Germany during WWII and his family.

Work stuff: Just finished a book on Ethereum, which is Bitcoin’s competition. It’s unique in that you can create applications on its blockchain, it’s not just for currency. If that makes no sense to you, look it up, I’m not going to summarize the book again. I usually just get blank stares. Still working on the book for my Gildshire articles, too, just finished up editing and writing the intros.

What I’ve cooked/baked lately: Made no-bake brownies with black beans and dates. It’s more like fudge than brownies, but it’s delicious. Getting out a slice is kind of like digging for fossils, because they have to be frozen, but it’s worth it. I also made homemade tomato sauce the other day. It was a bit runny, but I can thicken it up by just reducing it some more. I didn’t make this, but we tried Ben and Jerry’s “One Love” ice cream flavor, which is banana ice cream, graham cracker, caramel, and chocolate peace signs. Chris says it might be his new favorite.

Fitness stuff: Still using the good ol’ mini trampoline and rowing machine most nights. I take just one day off a week. Also got myself a resistance band, which is very convenient. Looking forward to having the toned arms of my dreams. It’s been gross and hot lately, so haven’t been exercising outdoors as much as I (or Yoshi) would like, but what can ya do. I know weight isn’t the goal here, but I am happy that I’ve successfully went down to about 155 after plateauing at 160 for so long. Paying attention to macros and sugar has made the difference. It doesn’t matter if I’m eating just 1200 calories if way too many of them are coming from sugar.

Novel stuff: Still steadily working on my Harley Gray novel. I filled out one notebook, so I’m on to a new one. That feels like an accomplishment. Been focusing a lot on trying to actually picture my characters moving around in the world I’ve created, so I can convey that to the reader. That means writing a lot of stuff that won’t actually end up in the book. I’m still figuring out how to get that in the story without actually putting it in the story (like a character’s whole marriage, basically), but I enjoy the challenge.

So that’s pretty much it, that’s what I’ve been doing. Small group meets again soon. Chris’ parents will be visiting, which means beach day!

 

 

What I’m Reading Now: The Buddha in the Attic

The leaves of the trees continued to turn in the wind. The rivers continued to flow. Insects hummed in the grass as always. Crows cawed. The sky did not fall. No President changed his mind. Mitsuko’s favorite black hen clucked once and laid a warm brown egg. A green plum fell early from a tree. Our dogs ran after with balls in their mouths, eager for one last toss, and for once, we had to turn them away. Go home. Neighbors peered out at us through the windows. Cars honked. Strangers stared. A boy on a bicycle waved. A startled cat dove under a bed in one of our houses as looters began to break down the front door. Curtains ripped. Glass shattered. Wedding dishes smashed to the floor. And we knew it would only be a matter of time until all traces of us were gone.

Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic is short. It’s 129 pages. I read it in one sitting, on the couch, in the evening. It has a very unusual structure that some people really hated or found distracting, but I loved it. It’s first-person plural. We. It’s so important to the voice of the book, because it is a book about the shared experience of being a “picture bride,” a Japanese woman sent to America to start a new life with a husband she’s only seen in a picture. That being said, the experiences are very different, and the book accounts for that with contradictory statements, one after another. It’s almost like a list, but a lyrical one. In just a few sentences, Otsuka is able to paint an incredibly vivid picture of dozens of different perspectives. Sometimes the woman comes to America and finds out the man in the picture isn’t even her husband. Sometimes it is, but the picture was taken two decades before. The husbands are gentle, violent, awkward, loving, cruel. The women have to take jobs as maids to white women who don’t like Hispanic, black, or Chinese maids. Sometimes they become prostitutes. Sometimes they are farmers.

The book is divided into 8 sections, with titles like, “Babies,” and “The Children.” It explores how when the first American-born children get older, they reject their Japanese heritage, forget the language, and change their names. Then comes the chapter, “Traitors.” I knew it was coming. How could it not? But I wasn’t prepared.

Men start to disappear only days after Pearl Harbor. There are rumors of a list of names, but no one knows how it works. Wealthy Japanese men are taken alongside dirt-poor field hands. Wives start to pack bags and leave them by the door so when a husband is taken, he has a change of clothes. Chinese people get beaten up because people think they’re Japanese. Japanese families start to burn everything that would identify them as Japanese, but they can’t burn their faces. And none of it matters in the end. They are ordered to leave.

“Extraordinary circumstances,” is what the government says.

And I look around, I listen to the rhetoric going on now about Muslims, and it’s all too familiar. It’s happening again. It hasn’t even been that long, and we’re already surrendering to fear. Don’t watch silently.

To The Brokenhearted: Being a Christian with Depression

My first Kindle ebook is now available for purchase on Amazon. It costs $4.99 and is enabled for lending on the Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get it on your computer or smartphone using the Amazon Kindle app. Here are some instructions:

http://jeanienefrost.com/discount-ebooks/how-to-read-an-ebook-without-an-e-reader/

I hope some of you check it out!

http://www.amazon.com/Brokenhearted-Being-Christian-Depression-ebook/dp/B013HPUO00/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440533993&sr=8-1&keywords=to+the+broken+hearted+being+a+christian&pebp=1440533995385&perid=1CJ7SKS136KKVP032WFT

What I’m Reading: “Blessed Are The Crazy” by Sarah Griffith Lund

I knew I was going to love “Blessed Are the Crazy” when a random sponsored ad took me to Sarah Griffith Lund’s author page on Facebook. It had all the elements of books I am drawn to, and most vitally, it tells a story that it takes guts to talk about. Ms. Lund’s story begins when she was a child and her mentally-ill father wrecked havoc on his family, even when he and Sarah’s mother separated and he drifted in and out of her life. She goes through the years of confusion and fear about why her father was the way he was, realization of his illness, and gradually, slowly, learning from him. She also writes about her brother who seemed to “inherit” his father’s illness, which eventually cost him his wife, career, and emotional stability. One of the most profound parts of the book is when Ms. Lund acknowledges how brave her brother is by choosing to stay alive when all he wanted to do was die. This is something so many people fail to realize when it comes to severe mental illness, when just breathing is an act of heroism, the ultimate self-sacrifice. Also included in this little, extremely powerful book is the story of Ms. Lund’s cousin who was executed at age 30 and the evolution of her own spirituality.

As a person of faith, Ms. Lund works through so many thoughts and questions I have had other the years about God and mental illness. One thing I really loved was her thoughts on how everyone has a cross to bear, and for so many, that cross is mental illness. It makes songs like “Oh, the Wonderful Cross” fall flat and those little pretty silver cross necklaces trite. Ms. Lund writes, “…You can buy porcelain or jeweled crosses with Bible quotes….but what about a cross that looks crazy, that looks ugly? Not as reflective of a crazy or ugly God, but one that represents the craziness and ugliness of our burdens that we bear?” It made me think about what the original cross represented and looked like. It was where criminals hung to die. Jesus’ cross was painted red with his gore, his skin nailed against the wood with spikes. When he was forced to carry up the hill, he fell, and a man named Simon of Cyrene had to help him. Jesus needed someone to carry his cross with him. Imagine how much more do we need others to help us.

My family has been there to carry my cross of mental illness, and it has not left them without scars. Reading what I write about mental illness and my history with it is often extremely difficult for them. I wouldn’t be alive without them.

Finger on the Trigger

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I recently read one of many articles addressing the issue of trigger warnings in academia. A group of students at a university brought it up and the media was quick to jump on it. A “trigger” is described as an extremely negative response – such as PTSD flashbacks or urges to self harm – to pictures, text, video, and/or audio. Warnings serve to alert a person that what they are about to encounter might have content that could trigger them.

The comments on the article were astoundingly ignorant and insensitive. One person objected to using trigger warnings, justifying their stance by saying, “Life is a trigger.” Others expressed contempt for those who need trigger warnings, describing them as weak or overly-sensitive or having a victim complex. One commenter said people who wanted trigger warnings were incapable of using the Internet (and informing themselves about the content of a textbook), had not heard about cognitive behavioral therapy, and were just bored. A common thread I noticed was that people believed trigger warnings were in place before content that was “offensive.” That’s not what a trigger warning is about. Being offended is not the same as being triggered. At all.

I have been triggered. I immediately began having a panic attack and had to leave where I was and curled up into the back of a car, unable to stop shaking and crying. That episode subsided, but the next day, when I was back at my dorm, I locked myself in my room for two days. I was unable to do anything besides lie on the floor and fight the flashbacks. People had to bring me food. Being triggered disrupted my entire life, at at the end of the school year, had a negative effect on my final exams.

It’s bizarre that people believe that those who want trigger warnings are sensitive or even naive. More than once I’ve heard people say that life is hard, suck it up, you can’t be protected forever. It’s not like these students are unaware of life’s suffering. They have literally already been through trauma, including rape, abuse, eating disorders, and self-harm. They are the opposite of naive. They would just like a head’s up so they don’t have to relive these painful memories without warning. A professor at a college in New York says that most decent professors essentially already warn students, in his syllabus, he includes a brief note that makes it clear that some of the material in the class may be difficult for certain students, so if they need to excuse themselves, they are free to do so. They are responsible for the material missed. In a film class on violence I took my third year, we watched some intense clips. My professor always told us that what we were about to watch might be too much. For one film in particular, she emphasized just how brutal and disturbing it was, so I simply did not attend the screening at all. For the essay we were assigned on that film, I simply read a brief summary online and went from there. Students are masters of this, which is often called “bull-shitting.” It’s why cliff notes exist.

A criticism of having trigger warnings in academia is just how far this will go. People love the slippery slope argument, and in the article’s comment section, people were spinning wild presumptions about the kinds of content that would be labeled. “If a book has a troubled relationship between a father and son, will that be labeled too?” If that relationship includes sexual or other physical abuse, then yes. There are well-known triggers that encompass a wide range of content (sexual abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, emotional abuse), so that’s a good place to start, and it isn’t asking too much. Movies have MPAA ratings that specifically outline why it has that rating; this is not a new concept. It’s strange that people are so opposed to implementing warnings, it’s incredibly easy, something that any decent professor is already familiar with, and saves students from being surprised and sent into a full-blown anxiety attack or from self-harm.

I use trigger warnings. At least two of my posts have included a warning at the top. I do this because I care about those who have been through trauma, and because I don’t want anyone’s experience of my writing to be overwhelmed by negative memories. Any distraction from a core message (in movies, books, etc) is problematic, and a distraction that disturbs and triggers someone can completely override any positive effect the movie/book might have had. Sure, you could tell that person to just get over it and enjoy everything else, but you would be revealing your ignorance. This person would love to “get over it,” but it isn’t that easy and they weren’t necessarily prepared to be dealing with their trauma in this way at this time. A classroom isn’t really the ideal place to be hashing out your past.

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Sources:

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/inside_higher_ed/2014/05/hostos_community_college_professor_angus_johnston_explains_why_trigger_warnings.html

http://www.my-borderline-personality-disorder.com/2012/11/what-does-TW-mean-on-twitter.html

 

Take A Look At What I’m Reading: Lovecraft and Sinclair

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H.P. Lovecraft and Upton Sinclair both wrote about horrors – one played in the world of the imaginary and the other waded through the muck of reality. I wanted to read Lovecraft because he is an icon of classic horror and I recently read Richard Matheson, whose stories inspired Stephen King and have been made into television, movies, etc, and so I went even further back with Lovecraft, who created Cthulu and Arkham, which now lives on in the Batman universe. I remember reading a section of “The Jungle” early in high school and it was free on my Kindle, soooooo. I’m also super into social justice and such.

Lovecraft published all his stories in this pulpy fiction magazines and they are just packed with delicious cliches, like creepy crumbly castles, horrifying monsters, space creatures, cults, bad dreams, and reasonable-minded narrators who gradually go insane. It’s all very campy and fun. My favorite stories in the Lovecraft book are: “The Colour out of Space,” “The Thing on the Doorstep,” and “Dreams in the Witch-House.” “The Colour out of Space” is the story of a family whose land is strangely morphed by a mysterious meteorite-type rock that falls from space. The vegetation glows, grows bigger than normal, and moves without wind. The family also begins to exhibit strange behavior and a friend of theirs grows increasingly worried about their well-being. The fate of the family is horrifically mysterious. “The Thing on the Doorstep” involves possession; a man is convinced that his wife’s soul is switching bodies with him, and also that his wife isn’t quite human. When the “thing on the doorstep” is revealed in the story’s last paragraph, it is pretty deliciously creepy. “Dreams in the Witch-House” features a brilliant student who purposely rents a room where a witch lived many years before. He is a math genius, and believes that it is possible to open portals to other dimensions through knowledge of numbers. At first, he isn’t bothered by the room, but he then begins to see the ghost of the old woman and her little devil-creature. Night after night, they grow clearer and clearer, and the young man has strange dreams involving a cult that demands he sign a mysterious book in his own blood. What will happen to him?? Probably nothing good.

“The Jungle” is almost absurdly depressing, but it also rings so true, that it’s impossible to not feel moved. Unless you’re in denial about the evils of capitalism. The story is engrossing and even though it feels kind of unsatisfying  at the end (the last part of the book is essentially Sinclair’s defense of socialism), I really felt connected to poor Jurgis and his family.

Very different books, but both good reads.

First Love

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First love is a wholly unique and strange creature. It’s like seeing a new color or hearing an unfamiliar, but beautiful birdsong. Some run to it with open arms while others are more cautious, almost suspicious of their feelings and of this potentially untrustworthy thing. I was somewhere in between.

The first book I loved was Jacob Have I Loved, ironically enough. All my previous reading had been dominated by grand old fairy tales from every continent, Shakespeare, and classic fantasy. Sara Louise was unlike any of the women in those books. She was awkward, bitter, passionate. She wore overalls and spent her time crab-fishing and running around with her best friend, Call. She admitted her spite for her twin sister Caroline, who was adored by everyone. It was the first time I had seen jealousy – a real jealousy – written in such blunt terms. There is no concrete resolution of the twins’ relationship. It was puzzling to me. I knew happy endings didn’t always exist in real life, but in the books I’d read, it was always clear one way or the other. The prince marries the princess, Romeo and Juliet die, and the one ring is destroyed. Sara Louise’s story is more obtuse. It’s a story about identity and growing up. That honestly wasn’t clear to me at first. I finished the book feeling dissatisfied and a little lost. There was something there though. I was intrigued.

It wasn’t until some time later, in the midst of my own identity story, that my love for the little book set on an island called Rass fully bloomed. I too felt awkward, out of place, and overlooked by the world in favor of more confident girls, girls with blue eyes, straighter hair, longer legs, and sparkly lip gloss. I felt like Sara Louise. Finally, we understood each other.

Take A Look At What I’m Reading: “Evolving in Monkey Town”

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Rachel Held Evans is my spiritual soul mate. I first heard of her when “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” was released and she was on the morning talk shows trying to explain to confused journalists how and why she spent a full 12 months living every biblical instruction for women as literally as possible. Some called her a fundamental nut. Others said she was making a mockery of the Bible. It’s pretty rare for a person to be accused of being two polar opposites. It was clear that she was courting controversy and I love that.

My mom gave me Rachel’s first book “Evolving in Monkey Town after she read “Womanhood” upon my recommendation. “Monkey Town” is resonating with me on a frighteningly deep level. Rachel went to William Jenning Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, home of the famous Scopes trial. As befits a college named after the man who tried to defend creationism in the Scopes courtroom and fought secularism his whole life, Bryan College taught Rachel a “biblical worldview.” Everything – from economics to literature – can be learned with a Biblical base and she was taught to question every non-Christian belief before she even personally encountered them. She is essentially describing my high school. She even mentions my textbooks and talks about performing skits mocking the New Age movement. It is EERIE. Most significant to me however, is that she describes a crisis of faith that I have begun to experience in the past few years. Why does a “Biblical worldview” bear such strange parallel to a “Republican worldview?” When having a conversation with an actual human person, does saying “So you are saying there is absolute right and wrong? Where do you think that comes from?” when they bring up the injustice of a rape/murder case ever not stop a conversation dead in its tracks? When looking at the world in terms of black and white absolutes, where does that leave mercy, grace, or compassion of any kind?

One section in this book especially struck me. After watching the execution of a Muslim woman, Rachel finds herself wrestling with the question of salvation. Zarmina was accused of murdering her abusive husband and despite the lack of evidence, was shot in the head by the Taliban. According to everything Rachel (and I) have been taught, this woman should be burning in hell right now. After a lifetime of punishment by a cruel world, she now faces the wrath of God.

“That’s not fair. How was she supposed to know any different? All her life she was taught that Islam is the one true religion, just like we were taught all our lives that Christianity is the only true religion? God didn’t really give her a chance.”

“Isn’t that why missionaries are so important,” Sarah (Rachel’s roommate) asked.

“Yes, but missionaries can’t get to everyone in time. There are millions of people, past and present, who have had no exposure to Christianity at all. Are we supposed to believe that five seconds after Jesus rose from the dead, everyone on earth was responsible for that information? How is a guy living in, I don’t know, Outer Mongolia in 15 AD supposed to figure out that Jesus died on the cross for his sins, was buried, and rose again on the first day. It’s impossible.”

It is impossible. I’ve asked this question and people always point to that line that Paul wrote that says that people are without excuse because of how beautiful the world is, or something like that. But that isn’t really talking about Jesus, specifically. It’s more about the existence of a God who created the universe. Well, other religions are kind of all about that. There isn’t a culture that is founded on atheism. So then are we saying that it isn’t the right God, so it doesn’t count? Native Americans who worshiped a Great Spirit while Paul preached in Greece are all just doomed because they weren’t born in the right place? Or the right time?

I think about another incident with Paul, where he saw a monument made “To A God Unknown.” He looks at his audience and says, “This is the same God I worship. You’ve been worshiping Him all along, you just didn’t know His name.”

Jesus never said we were supposed to have all the answers. That isn’t how Christians are supposed to be defined. Let them know us by our love. In my experience, the people who always have an answer, who feel the need to “fight the culture,” and “spread the truth,” are some of the least loving people around.