Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Australia Trip Report

My first published travel article to add to my portfolio:

http://travelguide.affordabletours.com/Article/120/

*squee*

All pictures alongside article were all taken by myself or hubby.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: Random Magic

Publisher: Beach Books

Author: Sasha Soren

In this novel, Ms. Soren weaves a tale of adventure from the threads of common cultural references (Alice in Wonderland, book jumping, a bit of Harry Potteresque magic, etc). Alice in Wonderland has gone missing and Professor Random has appointed one of his students to find her. Along the way mischief and mayhem ensue. Eventually everything is resolved and wrapped up satisfyingly in the end.

Random Magic is available on Amazon.com

 

The plot is detailed, inventive and interesting. Combined with Ms. Soren's precision in utilizing adjectives and adverbs in nearly every sentence it would do well as the foundation for a witty screenplay. However, while professional actors can benefit from the abundance of adverbs and likewise set designers will be right on track with the numerous adjectives, the constant barrage of descriptions tires the novel reader. Likewise, the subtle British humor, innuendos, and doublespeak would play out beautifully on stage or on screen but can fall flat in print. (Imagine reading a Monty Python screenplay presented as a novel). This is unfortunate as otherwise the plot really shines. Perhaps a polished editing with the next publishing can improve the presentation. Alternatively, Ms. Soren might strongly consider transforming the piece formally into a screenplay and shopping it among producers.


A final note: Is Nicole Kidman aware that her likeness is gracing the cover?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pressing On

It's been several weeks since I've posted about my couch to 5k progress. I have been on the mat so to speak wrestling with the program. It took me 6 tries to nail w5d3 and that was my hardest goal to accomplish in terms of number of tries up to that point. On to week 6, I switched from the time goals to the distance goals so that I could master a 5k by graduation. D1 and D2 of W6 went by smoothly but it took 7 tries to succeed at D3. Seven tries! The distance goal was 2.25 miles and took me approx 28 minutes of running. Still, I refused to give up and I faced each session with a new dose of determination. It never occurred to me to consider quitting.


Then....then I went out to tackle W7d1 (2.5 miles) and failed spectacularly. I cramped up before even a mile. I was going backward in progress! So I tried again and made it just 1.5 miles. And again going 2 miles. Just the week before I'd done 2.25 miles and now it was a struggle to even get to 2! What was going on?! I was frustrated, but dug in and keep trying. I was now in New Mexico on vacation and dealing with higher elevation and regressed back down to a HALF MILE before I had to resort to addl half mile intervals. UGH PATHETIC. Next try, in NM, did a mile. I was so disgusted and angry with myself. The rest of the tries ranged from 1.2 to 1.6 miles before I felt frozen- either my calves were burning or I felt dizzy and pukey. I tried different routes and different times of day but nothing made an impact on performance. Every failure led to more anger and frustration. I felt completely defeated and would burst into tears as soon as I reached my wall and cry all the way home cursing myself. Running was stressing me out, when it's supposed to clear your mind and be restorative. I was so close to quitting.


Sat was a running rest day but I try to cross train on such days so I did a zumba class at the gym. Felt like a loser there too because while I've worked to isolate my hips and move them well independent of my abs I don't have that ability with my shoulders at all. I move like a stiff robot and wherever my shoulders go my abs follow when they're not supposed to. SO FRUSTRATING. I did a half hour of strength training after that and then came home. I was in an emotional funk all weekend. At some level that day I had totally given up on being able to EVER do c25k even though I'd not said so out loud yet and it made me sad and hate myself a little. I spent most of Sunday crying and feeling sorry for myself.


This morning I woke up and physically felt great. I really can't explain why. I don't think I suddenly did anything different. I went out to run but refused to get my hopes up that I could make it. I tried to pretend I didn't care and display a 'this means nothing' attitude. I told myself I was going to just run for 30 minutes regardless of the distance it would mark. And i did it. And still had oomph so I kept going until I got to 2.5 miles. I won't say it came easy, but I never hit a wall today. So of course I am feeling a renewed encouragement and a sense that I.can.do.it as long as I don't give up. Ok, so it might take a million tries but I.will.do.it.


My hope is that this long and winding monologue will not only expose a little bit about what makes me tick, but also encourage you not to give up on your fitness goals. I want to offer up a different perspective from all of the rah rah rah running is great and easy if you stick to it articles. Running is hard work. You have to push yourself to break through your goals. And you have to find a better way to dissipate your emotional responses to bad run days then I do - because I can assure you first hand that turning on yourself in anger and frustration just makes it worse and builds up stress. Obviously I am still working on that.


I'm on dailymile.com (sort of like facebook but focused on fitness and you can share your workout details) if you're using the free site to track your workouts and would like to add me as a friend: http://www.dailymile.com/people/jenniparks

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Feeling Discouraged

Today I am feeling very discouraged about my personality.

I’ve always been a bit ‘different’. This difference is not just some imagined phenomenon wrought out of an emotional ‘nobody gets me’ teenage angst. It’s a well documented set of traits objectively observable by others around me. My husband told me while dating that it was my sincere and open/vulnerable kindness (a kind of sweet naivety in his words)  that drew him to me as he found it to be unusual. Friends often tell me I’m quite different than most others.

According to Myers-Briggs testing I am an ENFP, which is less than 8% of the population. ENFP summary: I wear my heart on my sleeve; I’m very passionate about things that spark my interest (and very unmotivated to tackle things that don’t); I have the strongest need to be liked/loved out of any of the personality types; I have a directed sense of purpose and require that my relationships and job work toward that purpose in order to feel ok with life; I am intelligent; I am kind; I don’t “do” sarcasm; I genuinely am an optimist; I trust people easily; I sincerely like people and hate confrontation. Yep, ENFP sums me up perfectly.

What I’ve come to realize over the past few years is how polarizing my personality actually is. I’m not sure if this is true for other ENFPs, but when people are exposed to my personality they either seem to become an immediate fan and *really* like me, or alternatively, they react with disgust and repulsion and can’t stand me. It’s so dramatic and black and white. Those that like me tell me that they find me inspiring and joyful; energetic and kind; refreshingly open and vulnerable. Those that have an aversion don’t often tell me why but occasionally I have been smacked in the face with their comments when they’re on their way out of my life: I’m too nice, too naive, too simplistic, too talkative,  and too optimistic and generally annoying. I have even developed some quick correlating variables- the chance that someone will like me is inversely proportional to how much they like the movie Office Space, appreciate sarcasm, consider themselves cynical or “realistic'”, and hate traffic jams and dealing with customers from a service perspective. Strange but true.

So today I have been feeling sorry for myself and wondering how I can be less polarizing. While I’d like to earn the respect or appreciation of the cynical “cool kids” crowd, at this point I’d settle for at least having a lukewarm personality that didn’t inspire NOR aggravate anybody. I did a quick google search to help me get ideas on how to change and adopt a more realistic, sarcasm loving cynical “adult” personality and it depressed me even more- the number of people who post on the internet that nice people make them sick is tremendous. There is even a facebook group devoted to the dislike of  ‘overly nice’ people: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2256074450 

I’m really tired of feeling different and disliked but I realize that I really don’t want to change myself to fix it.  I wish instead people could bend to my outlook. I wish everyone was nice and said what they meant in a kind way instead of relying on sarcasm. I wish people looked on the bright side more and committed to the principle that there is good in everyone and actively looked for it. I wish that people would be more trusting and be willing to be quicker in establishing intimacy in friendships. I wish that people would express a genuine interest in the customers they serve instead of dismissing people as idiots. I wish people would take the time to swing on swingsets and laugh more and curse traffic jams less.  I wish people would not be mean or harsh.

I wish for too much and feel sorry for myself that I don’t fit in. I don’t fit in with others in key ways that will always lead to people trying to treat me like a doormat and bullying me.

Friday, October 8, 2010

National Novel Writing Month and Life Decisions

This year I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The annual event occurs in November and the objective is to write a fiction work consisting of at least 50,000 words within the month.

I have begun to brainstorm plot constructs and thinking that it’s best to start from a base of ‘what-you-know’ I have decided to write about a woman’s life that followed the alternative path to mine. Then I got stuck trying to decide where to veer my character’s life off the course of mine. To make the decision easier, I sat down and mapped out (in decision tree form) all the major life decision points I’ve gone through so I could play with alternative choices.  While I’m sure there is truth to the claim that even the tiniest inconsequential decision can alter our lives irreversibly, I wanted to focus on the major choose-your-own-adventure moments.

Here is my tree. Here are over 30 decisions I made which changed my life. When I look back over these decisions I have some regrets of course. I also wish I could reach out to the hurting girl that I once was who  seriously contemplated suicide but passed on it only because she was too afraid of disappointing God. I’d reaffirm the value of her life and point her toward the future.

It has been a long and difficult journey just to get from where I started to where I am now and there are many more decisions yet to be considered as I progress toward my life’s end. Putting it on paper has helped me to see how God has carried me through everything all along and provides encouragement to keep striving.

If you have the time to carve out for this project, I hope you’ll consider doing so. I think it’s a useful self-analysis tool.

 https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B0AAu5mdlc_lOTg1MDA4NGUtZjY4MC00ODk4LTliMmYtZTc2MDkxOWIxMjhj&hl=en&authkey=CPf2gOcF

edit: I also realized post publication that there have been some other decisions that affected me deeply that I left off the first draft of my chart such as deciding to move my parents to VA and deciding to commit to fitness.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Breaking the Cycle of Misery

It breaks my heart the way the enemies of God are able to leverage the little agonies and injustices inflicted by the spiritually broken to perpetuate the brokenness over generations of a family. Look at such a situation from the outside and it seems helpless but I know that with God nothing is impossible. God is stronger than any of his enemies and he can break the inheritance of brokenness within us.

I pray frequently that God will affect this miracle in myself.

In Flight Philosophy

There is something deep and philosophical about flying above the clouds. As we cross over oceans, we have a chance for meaningful fellowship between ourselves, our God and his sky. Just like the plane hurling forward, our lives advance in an irreversible march toward our final destination. ‘Trapped’ in the modern metal cabin we are given the chance to reflect on what we really value. And when we eventually land halfway across the world and spend time in the local culture we realize (if we’re lucky) that our travel has broken through many of the artificial constructs of who “we” are (versus “them”) and shown us that we are all fundamentally people.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Review: Naomi and Her Daughters

Publisher: Zondervan

Author: Walter Wangerin Jr.

Many Christian readers are already  familiar with the story of Naomi and Ruth. It's often touted as one of the most beautiful stories of friendship in the bible. The sad recounting of the Levite who gives over his wife to the sex crazed mob in the book of Judges to protect himself is also known to most readers although structurally these story lines are presented as unrelated in scripture. Wangerin weaves them together brilliantly in ‘Naomi and her Daughters’, providing a back story of events in Naomi's life that propel her and Ruth together on a journey to Bethlehem.

Throughout the novel, Wangerin uses an italicized typeface whenever he directly quotes the bible. This is helpful for the reader to discern Wangerin's beautiful fictionalized embellishments from what's been lifted out of the Word of God "as-is".

Fictionalized accounts of historical events prove justice to their story when they draw interest so severely that the reader is provoked to research the story further. Wangerin accomplishes this with ease and I repeatedly compared his account of the events of that time against what is recorded in Judges and Ruth, finding it to be accurate in essence. Wangerin forces his readers to consider these historic events from a new perspective, personalizing the characters in a way that leads us to identify with them; to care for them; to realize the similarities of character that persist in man throughout the span of generations and geography.

From the beginning, Naomi is presented as utterly practical and wise. In chapter three she tells her son (who is heading off to war against the tribe of Benjamin) that she won't cry for him but will consider him dead until she hears he has come through the battle alive. And when the civil war seems to be lost despite God's urging that the men aligned against Benjamin continue, she reflects on the matter-of-fact truth that at that point God had simply told his people to go up against the tribe of Benjamin in battle; he had not ever promised it was to be their fortune to win. Still, she is balanced in character with a nurturing love for others. After her return to Bethlehem with Ruth she sets in motion a resourceful plan to provide for Ruth's future and her family's legacy. She also tends to one who is extremely undeserving, showing grace and mercy.

Wangerin is able to illustrate how the people of God in that time are fixed in their resolve in a way that baffles modern mindsets. They stand beside their traditions to honor and protect male house guests even though innocents will be brutally sacrificed by the action. They stand by their fields to harvest even though they are consumed with worry for their men who have gone off to war (Chapter 5, pg 36). They stand by their oaths made before the Lord, even though they were made in angry haste and will bring great pain to themselves or thousands of others. In this way, parts of the novel that seem to be the most unbelievable are actually the most representative of the corresponding passages in Judges and Ruth. As if in response to our suspect disbelief in such foreign reasoning, Wangerin gives these words to Naomi in Chapter 42, where Naomi is expressing the importance of recording and recounting her stories and what could happen if they are discarded: "God will be lost. People will think that love is all - a kindly, grandfatherly love. They will build their idols along the lines of niceness. Mercy, compassion. Not death. Not the requirements of covenants."

Perhaps the most well written chapter is number 38, within which Wangerin places the reader right alongside Ruth as she steps out bravely to embrace her destiny. Her trembling fear as she completes a daring and irreversible act that places everything at risk; her joy in the risk rewarded - these feelings easily transfer onto the reader who cannot help but be moved by the raw emotions of the scene.

Overall a great novel that spurs the reader to not only open the bible for a rereading of the corresponding passages but also Wangerin's other published pieces.