Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011! With Thoughts on Baby Jesus and Chrismas Carols

I have something to say. It may be the same as what I said last Christmas, but I'm too lazy to check. First, Jesus came as a baby. The baby of a poor family who had to work for a living. Second, Away in a Manger and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day -- good Christmas carols. Third, Merry Christmas. Now, I shall elaborate and/or repeat myself.

First, I made this point last year, but I don't think I made it well. In fact, I downright forgot what I was going to say during last year's Christmas post. Jesus came as one of the little people. By this, I don't mean elves, but I do mean babies and the so-called lowly people of society.

Society seems to view some people as less valuable than others. Think about fast food workers, invalids, or infants. Now think about scientists, surgeons, or statesmen. If you don't personally hold such a view, you can probably sense how the world holds the people in the latter list in higher esteem. They're considered more useful, they become more famous, they get far more pampered, and their deaths are more widely mourned. People dream of becoming like scientists, surgeons, or statesmen. People fear becoming like fast food workers, invalids, or infants.

Even I admit to thinking in this mindset sometimes. I tell myself that once I'm an engineer -- successful, rich, maybe even famous -- it'll show those people I hate, those enemies who'll never be anything but bad stay-at-home parents and unoriginal, unimaginative teachers and office workers. It'll show everyone I'm better than them. I secretly know it wouldn't really mean that, but I hope at least THEY think it would, and I hope it'll hurt them to see me held in society's high regard. I know this is really mean, and REALLY condescending to stay-at-home parents, teachers, and office workers, but. . . Well, I don't have an excuse. It's a bad behavior I fall into when I want to make myself feel better. I let myself think like society does, like some people are better than others because of their social standing.

People had such a mindset back in Jesus' time too. And God knew it. But He came as a baby anyway. Like everyone else, He was small, weak, helpless, and "useless" at one point. But that didn't mean He wasn't important. He was the most important figure of all time. He was poor and had to work a regular job that any other regular person could have taken over, a job for which he'd never be rich or famous, like frying burgers. But that didn't mean He wasn't important. It didn't mean He didn't matter.

You must be able to see that this can't have been a random choice God made, to come into the world as a baby, a poor person, and a blue-collar worker. I think He made this choice in order to illustrate His new Law, how we should help even those who can't help us back, serve ALL people, be merciful and kind, and respect the meek. Because they're important; they'll inherit the Earth. If the King of the Universe could be a Nobody on Earth, it proves that no one can be worthless because they are weak, useless, poor, or lowly.

This message, the one of Jesus coming as a baby, gets so much airtime because it's really beautiful. It means that no matter who you are, no matter how weak, useless, or lowly you are, you are important. You matter. Isn't that wonderful?

Secondly, my favorite Christmas carol is Away in a Manger, mostly for this line: "I love Thee, Lord Jesus." That line is just sweet, simple, and true. People are always talking about how great, glorious, powerful, and amazing God is, and it's all true. But how often is it just "I love You, Jesus"? Isn't that refreshing? Just spitting it out? And every single time I hear that line, I come to the wonderful realization that it's true. I love You, Jesus. It's such an intimate thing to say, and that's how it should be. I often feel distant from God, and it doesn't help when people talk about Him as a third person and His greatness as an abstract concept. It helps to say "I" and "love" and "You" in the same sentence.

Away in a Manger is written in the voice of a young child. A young child doesn't think about all the wonders of the universe that prove how great God is (although those are good things to think about). A young child loves someone for the right traits -- kindness and love. That's who Jesus is. I know it in my soul, but I'm often scared to believe it, feeling obligated to see God as some awesome unapproachable being. This song reassures me that God is comfort and warmth, which all children naturally want to have because it's good.

Therefore, the song makes perfect sense when the child entreats God with the following lines: "Look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh. Be near me, Lord Jesus. I ask Thee to stay close by me forever. . ." When I think of Jesus as a tender, loving God, that's exactly what I want to say. Grace me with Your presence. Stay with me. Protect me. Comfort me. Forever.

The song goes on: ". . . and love me, I pray." I feel like churches always ask Jesus for forgiveness, but not for love. It's almost like they want us individuals to think we're unworthy to ask for love. Well, I think we ARE unworthy. A lot of people feel that way, like they can't ask for love from anyone, let alone a perfect, all-powerful entity. But I think God wants us to feel worthy, and asking Him to love us is, not only acceptable, but good. This song reminds me of that. I am allowed ask a beautiful, perfect Person to love me and I am allowed to find my worth in that love.

This song gives an impression of love as a simple, perfect miracle, eternal and complete. The child loves Jesus because Jesus loves the child and Jesus is good. Goodness incarnate just fits like a puzzle piece in the child's soul, and that is love, and that love just IS. It doesn't need anything more added to it. It is. This is, in a way, one of the most romantic songs in existence.

I Heard the Bells is a hopeful song that doesn't ignore despair. It was just a couple years ago that I really listened to the words for the first time, and they are so true to me. "And in despair I bowed me head. 'There is no peace on Earth,' I said." I may never have said that, but I felt that every single day. Not "there's very little peace," or "there's no peace in countries at war." There. Is. No. Peace. Anywhere. Anytime. All people suffer physically, emotionally, or both. No one ever has true peace. "For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on Earth, goodwill to men." When I first heard the words, it shocked and relieved me that someone else felt as much despair over it as I did.

Then, the song even continued with, "God is not dead, nor does He sleep." That's right. He came back from the grave. And you say He's conscious and attentive to what's happening here on Earth? "The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on Earth, goodwill to men." Sometimes, just hearing it out loud can reassure and comfort you. A little bit.

Finally, I wish you a happy holiday for celebrating the birth of kindness, love, truth, and all goodness, in the flesh. Merry Christmas!

(By the way, I saw my grades today, and it was the best Christmas Eve gift I got. I got three A's, two A minuses, and a B+ in chemistry. I'm going to keep my scholarship, and I'm happily surprised at myself, which is the upside to having low expectations. My family, by comparison, seemed to assume I'd get all A's, and they were congratulatory but not nearly as excited as I was. Still, I think I did wonderfully. Thank you, God.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

So Much Has Happened in My First Semester, Part 1

It feels like so very much has happened, but I suppose nothing life-changing has. I finished my first semester of full-time college, I'm very proud of me, and now I'm on Christmas vacation for three weeks. I have time to post! I apologize for my absence, but I guess I'll start by describing how freaking hard college is.

For the past couple months, I've slept an average of 2 hours every weekday night, and maybe 6 hours on weekend nights. I had most of my finals the week before last week (which was ACTUAL Finals Week), and I didn't sleep at all on probably three of those nights. My dad and brother acted like this was my fault. Well, I could have slept more. A lot more. But then I wouldn't have gotten any of my work done and I'd have failed my classes. I just had too much to do.

This semester, I took 16 credits, but I spent more time in class than that would indicate, because in addition to my five regular classes, I had one weekly class that counted for just one credit and three that counted for zero. Most of those classes were "lab components" that took 2+ hours.

When not in class, I worked virtually round the clock. I studied and did homework, taking a couple hours maybe every other week to do something strictly fun. Engineering is a hard major. It's easier for fast people, but I'm a slow person. That's part of why I haven't slept much lately, but hey, I've done really well for myself. I'm still waiting on some of my final grades, but so far, they look good. And you know what? I've loved it.

I loved working and learning and doing. I think I was meant to work hard, because I feel healthiest when I do. It reached a bit of an extreme this year, with the no sleeping thing, but I love having something to do. It just feels good. And I hope that one day, very soon, I can find a balance between physical health and hard work.

I needed the motivation college gives me, with the threat of poor grades, with people who expected to see me in class every day, and with a schedule that can't be pushed back or ignored. I still need it. I'm lazy on my own. Maybe one day, I'll find a way to motivate myself, but right now, I need college to do that. That's the main reason I ever went. I could learn on my own, but I need to be motivated.

I've loved learning, too. Did I say? I loved being challenged and discovering new things about the world, which is probably why chemistry was my favorite class. Most of the students hated it, and I do too. A little. It's hard. I did rather badly in it the first half of the semester, but I liked it even then. It was the most advanced class I took, with the most new information, and it helped me develop my recent interest in nanotechnology, which I'll get into in a later post.

Anyway, I loved being active academically, loved the actual working of problems. Even during finals week, I was so nervous while taking my tests, but as I got further into each one, I found myself having fun. I'd studied, so I kind of knew what I was doing, but it was still a challenge, not too easy and not impossible. I loved the feeling of competence, the exhiliration of surmounting difficulties.

One aspect of college I didn't enjoy was the teachers. Either they were nice but couldn't teach, or they weren't approachable, or they were downright insane. My writing teacher was probably the latter. I felt sorry for her, but she gave everyone bad grades until she (reportedly) got complained about enough and got in trouble for bringing down all her students' GPAs. She seemed so nice most of the time, but now and then, she'd say something that normal people just don't say. On my early papers, she'd give feedback that made little, if any sense, so I didn't know how to write to please her, which made it extremely nerve-wracking to write at all. I've always procrastinated writing, because I've always felt pressured to write really well, but I've always liked it too. She made me almost hate it. I'm definitely glad I'm done with that class.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the academic parts of life these past few months, even if I hated how little sleep I got.

To be continued in Part 2 . . .

Friday, October 14, 2011

Skulduggery Pleasant Released as ebook for the US!

First of all, I have to mention that Derek Landy is finally re-releasing the Skulduggery Pleasant books in the US! Not that it was his fault that it took so long or anything. He's said that the boring covers on the American versions of the books probably didn't help sales, and I think he's right. I don't believe in judging people by their covers, but that doesn't keep me from judging books by their covers (and titles), and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Released as ebooks this time though, the Skulduggery Pleasant books have awesome covers again, covers I'm sure no one could overlook. I don't get comments from Americans, but my stats tell me I get more American readers than readers from any other nation, and Skulduggery Pleasant Book 1 is one of the main searches people come to my blog by. That takes them to my reviews of the books, usually book 1. I hope at least some of those people coming to my Skulduggery review are Americans, and I hope this post helps spread the word about the American Skulduggery ebooks, because they're amazing! Go here The first book's free for October! The others are awesome too! Read them! Love them! Nerd with me over them! Does that sound weird?

Anyway, I also want to say that I'm sorry I've posted so little, but that's probably not going to change anytime soon. At least, not until summer, and probably not even then if I get an internship. I'm guessing my followers are all pretty busy too, judging by how there was no avalanche of blog updates on my dashboard. Well, maybe a small avalanche, but quite manageable. That's good. We'll all just keep busy till we can get back together again like old times. =)

Also, just in general, school's going ok, but I feel like I don't really know the chemistry I should for my second exam on Tuesday. I need to study, but I have a ton of other stuff to do this weekend. I'm tired, and I want to say something. The last couple posts? I'm not proud of them. I mean, I'm not terribly ashamed of them, but usually, when I post something, I'm proud of it. Even if I said something completely embarassing and personal, I felt better for it. This wasn't the case for the last posts, and I think that might be because I don't feel I was completely honest. I like the attention from the boys who've given me attention, even if I do hate being cliche and and don't want my life to get any more complicated, which it will with these boys being all...them. But it's not as big a deal as I thought. I haven't done anything about my situation with my cafeteria freind, even though I'm quite sure now he likes me, just from the way he flirts with me all the time. But I really like him and talking to him, and he seems to get over people fast, as he was interested in my other friend just a few weeks ago. I'm not going to stop talking to him, and I'm sure he'll eventually just get over whatever he has for me. On the other hand, the 29-year-old guy who hit on me is still creeping me out, but he hasn't really done anything to creep me out. Not really. So I feel a bit mean for being creeped, but I can't really help it. He's, well, creepy. I've met a few other nice boys who seem to like talking to me, one (nearly lovable) clown who flirts with everyone, and one guy who saw the pink (formerly blue) streaks in my hair, walked right up to me, and said, "I'm James. I love your hair. We should hang out." It's all good I suppose. I worry less about it now.

I think the biggest theme of the past few days has been that I can't really do this. I can't pass my chemistry exam. I can't get all my other work done. I'm going on 2-3 hours of sleep most weekdays. Last week, I had to deal with a somewhat disturbing drama with a writing teacher who gave me an F, told me to come into her office, and then asked me if I was threatening her when I told her, "Other students are confused and upset, too. [About how low she's grading us.] I just thought you should know." She told me I was welcome to withdraw from the class, so I asked some office people about switching sections, and in the end, I took the administrator guy's advice to "reopen the door" with the teacher. I wrote an apology for making her feel threatened, read it aloud to her, she accepted it, and afterwards, I couldn't decide if I'd been mature or cowardly. Either way, it was upsetting and a tad humiliating. And my point is that I'm overwhelmed and can't do all I need to do to get by. Lately, I've been waking up in the morning and thinking, "It's too heavy for me." This whole burden. So I've been realizing that I have to let God carry it because I flat-out can't. I mentioned before that I realized I was never really in charge of how well I do in life anyway. God is. But that doesn't stop me from worrying and trying every day to carry this burden I can't. I know this sounds a bit unoriginal, but it's true. If God wants me to pass the chemistry exam, He'll help me do it. Otherwise...well, I just don't want to think about "otherwise." That's why I keep worrying about carrying the burden myself. But I can't, and now, I'm just trying to trust God and stop worrying.

Well, I'll post again when I can. Thanks for reading my posts, my faithful readers of posts. =)

Friday, September 23, 2011


Okay, so I haven't posted in a few weeks. It feels longer, but I've been terribly busy. This week was the worst. I had my first chemistry exam, among other big school projects. I got 73 on the exam, and I've been weird and upset about it, but you know what trumps even that? And it is so lame, I swear. It's boys.

Go-lly, I hate saying that. Someone shoot me. I suck.

Right now, it's this guy who works in the cafeteria. I just got back from talking with him. I've been talking with him every week day for a week or two, and he's always seemed really great. He always made me feel important, every time I saw him. And I really need that. I shouldn't need that. I should be able to make myself feel important, and I CAN, given time and sleep, but it really helps to have someone else do some of the work for me. It can be a lot of work to feel important. And he's the kind of person who treats everyone like they're important but not like they're the same. Especially this last week when I was REALLY sleep-deprived and felt like crap a lot, he made me feel better by giving me his full attention, really TALKING to me, and just being happy to see me. You know you're important when someone's that happy to see you. And it wasn't weird. I mean, I was awkward around him a fair amount of the time, but awkward in a familiar way, like I get when I'm around really fantastic people who still treat me well even though I'm so awkward.

Yesterday, he sat with me during his break and told me about how he wants to get far away from this town to get away from the people who bullied him in school and now try to be buddies with him. I told him I want to travel too. He told me he's bored in this town, and I told him how I'm starting to be bored with my classes and that's bad. He told him how he's doing better than any of his brothers, and I knew he was that kind of person. Someone like me. Someone who is their own person. Most people honestly aren't. Only the people who suffer and still have the heart and brain power to look at themselves and make a choice about who they are, instead of just letting everthing affect them as it will and growing up to be as their parents raised them. People like that are nice to other people for reasons, because they believe it's right, because they like the people, etc. Not just because they were raised all nice. And I knew he was that kind of person.

Then today, he told me he doesn't really believe in God, and it didn't surprise me. It made me sad, but I reckoned he'd be that kind of person too. It so often seems that the best, brightest, kindest, most accepting people, the ones who act more Christian that Christians do, are the people who don't really believe in God. Ironically. So we talked over the cafeteria food island thingy, and I told him some of the stuff I said in the Agnostics, Atheiests, and Scientific Christianity post. He seemed just a bit stubborn about it, but it's understandable to be a bit stubborn.

And anwyay, I was tired and I knew I didn't look so good, and I was talking in my "loud voice," which I hate, to be heard over the noise, and I got nervous and blushed and shook a little, and part way through our conversation, he told me I had something on my face. All awkward enough, but not more so than I'm used to. And then I told him that some friends and I are going to see The Lion King tomorrow. He talked about how he loved The Lion King and wanted to see it also. I invited him to come with us tomorrow, but he said he was broke and suggested NEXT weekend, and I said yes. *Head-desk* First of all, I don't have the time to go see a movie two weekends in a row, and secondly, the way he smiled then, looked at me, and said, "Okay, sounds like fun." The way he did it. Geez, I'm pretty sure he sees it as a *whispers* date.

No! I didn't want this. I do really like him. But I didn't mean to ask him out. I really, really hope that's not actually what I did. But I may have. I could be wrong about what that look meant, but I'm often right about people. I was right about him a lot. I hope he doesn't see it as a date, but I expect he does because I hope for the best and expect the worst.

I don't see him that way. Okay, maybe a little, but overall, I already KNOW he's not perfect. He's a bit irritating and tries to fix my problems by contradicting me when I tell him about them. Not to mention he doesn't believe in God and I do. Golly, that's a foundation for a terrible relationship. Okay, maybe not TERRIBLE, but I won't settle for anything less than perfect. Anything less than perfect is terrible to me.

Just yesterday, I was feeling all proud of myself for liking him a lot but not wanting or expecting him to be, like, my boyfriend. That seemed very mature and helped me believe I was overcoming the lameness of me + boys in earlier weeks. I just wanted him to be my friend, my bud, my amigo. See, though?!!! Doesn't that sound like one of the oldest, moldiest cliches ever, "I just want to be friends."?? It's cliche on one person's side and painful on the other person's. This whole THING is cliche, me as a young girl, going off to college and having boy issues. And I HATE being cliche. It's so lame! So. LAME! That actually is what hurts me the most, feeling like a cliche girl. I know it's selfish of me to let that bug me more than the thought of how it might hurt the guy to hear that I don't want to date him, but I guess...I'm selfish. But don't let that make you think that I don't care how it might hurt him. It scares and hurts me enormously to think that things might have to be weird between us from now on and that I may have to hurt this guy who's been really nice to me.

Plus, I have to think about my mom and how it needles me that she may have been right. Before I left home, she told me, "If you have to fall in love, fall in love with someone who loves God." And I thought that was the stupidest thing ever. It sounds like she thinks I'm a stupid girl, which is another reason I hate feeling cliche. Cliche girls are stupid (cliche girls, not real girls), about many things, but especially boys. They fall in love for no reason, and it's not real love. I'm waiting for a soul mate, the one person in all the world who's meant just for me, and you don't find one by moving a couple hundred miles away. I was so not going to fall in love. I'm still not. I kind of refuse to. If I do, I guess I do. But I refuse to con myself into thinking I'm in love when I'm not. My mom made it sound like I have no control over myself, and I do. I used to think it would be easy to ignore boys, and girls like Taylor Swift were the dumbest, but that was during the past few years when I was pretty isolated and didn't come into contact with boys anyway. Of course, it was easy not to think about them, and I felt smart for it, but I guess I always remembered in a corner of my mind how I was when I was a kid. I was indeed a tad boy-crazy, and I hate that part of my past self, and that's probably why I also hate it in other people.

But anyway, I lost some confidence in my control over my feelings when I had that weird crush on that one boy, but I still know that I have control over whether I let myself believe I'm "in love" and what I do because of it. I didn't realize, though, that it's much harder to control the impulse to date someone because I believe I really like them and don't want to hurt them. I hate how complicated this all is.

And what's worse is I knew it would be complicated, sort of. When I first came here, I thought boys would see me as just a friend, as I would see them. However, then there was that Catholic boy. I spent a couple days just wishing to see him. I actually ached to see him, and then I did. We talked and I decided he was a bit conceited, and it hurt how he sometimes just ignored me. It took a while to sort through my feelings, but I think I wanted to see him so badly because he was a mystery, not because I had any real feelings for him. I don't know many people like him. He's a Sagittarius, which sounds crazy to some of you I'm sure, but I think people often are much like their star signs. I only know one other Sagittarius. Anyway, I just couldn't put my finger on what kind of person he was, so he seemed ethereal and untouchable, which I may have confused with me liking him. I know now he's a bit uppity (he thinks engineers are smarter than other people, whereas I think they're smart in different ways), and I like him but not that well. But it's still weird, because of the weirdness in the beginning and because he still only says hi to me some days and not others.

Even more confusing than him, though, I talked a few times to this guy I thought was gay. I wasn't certain. I just knew he talked like Adam Lambert. I do hate myself for stereotyping, but anyway, one day, I saw him down the sidewalk and said hi and that I wasn't stalking him and he said he wouldn't mind if I did. And then he offered to study with me and give me his phone number, and I'm pretty sure now he's not gay. And he's 29. Age doesn't matter if you're really in love, but I'm not, and it's creepy to have a 29-year-old hit on me. I'd had enough after that and decided to basically stop talking to boys, except my cafeteria friend because he was smart enough to let us just be friends. Or so I wished.

And then, I think, "It wouldn't be so bad dating him." No, it wouldn't. He's way more interesting and unusual and real than any of the other guys around here, or most other places I know. I haven't had such honest conversations with anyone else here, and not in a long time. I guess I used to have conversations like this with my older brother, who my cafeteria friend reminds me of a lot. And he just seems so much more upfront than anyone else here. He talks about things that other people just don't talk about, important things that should be talked about, like God. I can talk to him and somehow come away feeling like that really happened. Not that I feel like I'm just imagining my conversations with other people, but it just feels more concrete when I have conversations with him. I think because he's honest and his own genuine person. But, "not so bad," is the stupid part. A lot of people settle for "not so bad" when they should realize that only Perfect is worth it. I never want to lose sight of that, and I almost do sometimes, which scares me. I'd regret a mistake like settling for "not so bad" for the rest of my life. Not to mention I don't really trust the guy yet. I know how long and how well some people can fake niceness, and though I don't really believe it, he could be tricking me.

Besides, the only reason I know my friend is because he and my other friend were good buds first, and I'm pretty sure she was kinda sweet on him. And I thought they'd be adorable together. I wanted them to get together because they get along so well. But she hasn't talked to him much lately, and I wonder if she decided she didn't like him so much. And I wouldn't expect her to get serious with him now that I know he doesn't believe in God, and she's a devout Catholic. But I used to think it would be so cool if those two could get together, and I could just have them both as friends.

He's awesome, and I love him in the sense that he's awesome, and I find him attractive because of how awesome he is, yes, but I'm not in love with him. I'm just not. But I'm freaking out about what to do about the Lion King.

I just thought of something. I'm supposed to go home the weekend after next. I can tell him that. But...I think I'm just gonna have to tell him what I've been thinking, because I do want to go to the movies with him. It will be fun, but I don't want it to be a date. I'll have to tell him that I don't want a boyfriend, and if he wasn't thinking "date," I'll look incredibly stupid, but if he was, I have to say something. Then, if he's hurt, the worst part about all this will be losing my friend who could make me feel important on all the worst days.

So. Freaking. Cliche.

Monday, September 5, 2011

College: My First Two Weeks Overall


I told you about the quiz, but that was an incident. It represents a couple of days in my life. If I were to tell you about college overall, it would sound different. Less intersting, actually, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. Suck it up. =)

Basically, through most of my first two weeks, I had no idea what I was feeling. I was terrified the first night, after a "personal safety talk" that reminded me of all the reasons I was scared to go to college. But after that, I'm not sure if I just didn't feel anything, or if I just didn't feel anything I'm used to feeling. It didn't feel like it usually feels when I don't feel anything. Maybe, it was just that I didn't know the names of the emotions I felt. Wow, I'm being confusing. But my current emotions became mild, at the least. And at the most, my usual emotions abandoned me. I didn't feel terrified, although I wanted to avoid the loudmouths outside my door and window. I didn't feel annoyed, or inconvenienced at having to share a bathroom with other girls, a bathroom with shower stalls that had only curtains for privacy where I would have preferred frosted glass doors. I didn't act silly. I didn't feel embarassed. Much. I did have an incident where I dropped a yogurt, and some people next to me cleaned it up and told me to, "Put your stuff down. It's easier." Which was also annoying because I hate when people tell me what to do, but they were partly right. Partly. It's not exactly easier, and who asked you anyway? Hmm?! I'm not a child, I don't need you to tell me it might be easier, that's obvious, I made the choice to HOLD my stuff, don't question my personal choices! Just because you cleaned up yogurt without being asked doesn't give you the right to patronize me!!!

Anyway, I think part of why I had no idea what I was feeling may have been because I was tired. My brain was filtering out a lot of material to keep me focused on what I needed to do to survive. Or something. Anyway, it was very strange and unnerving, and it lasts somewhat to this very day.

I could never sleep very well because college kids were shouting and making a ruckus outside my window and door every hour of the night, and it was hot, so I had to keep the window open. I didn't have a lot of water to drink because the tap water's terrible and never cold, and bottled water was expensive and hard to lug from the store, so it never felt like I had enough, and I'm used to drinking a lot of water. The food was usually not very good and didn't agree with me, and I had heartburn a lot because of the lack of water.

I didn't miss much from home. I hardly ever miss people. With people, it's out of sight, out of mind. I did miss my pets, though. I'd see a cat here and there, and I'd get cat-sick. I saw basil growing in a pot in the cafeteria and got plant-sick, missing my own basil plants, and tomato plants and flowers. But mostly my cats. All the objects I invested the most time and care into. But I still didn't miss them that badly. I didn't ache for them. However, I think the lack of cats also contributed to my lack of sleep. I sleep better on days I pet cats.

It's hard to say how my classes are really. They're not yet even in "full swing," as they say. I still have to have the first real session of one of my regular classes, one they didn't hold for the first two weeks for various reasons. Otherwise, the classes aren't challenging concept-wise. They're mostly review, but there's a lot of work involved, and I'm left wondering if I can do it all and if I can do it all well. The pressure is the hard part.

I met some nice people, girls and guys I get along with, but mostly girls. The first couple of days here, people actually seemed TOO nice, and I felt like I was in some Twilight Zone episode. Probably an overreaction once again caused by lack of sleep. But still, I was kinda right. It couldn't and didn't last. People are still nice, but less smiley at least, and it's less creepy. I know better how to react. I think they were just putting on their best faces for the days freshmen arrived. My electrical engineering professors still seem nice, and I think they truly are just laidback people, but I'm not actually taking classes from them yet, and the rest of the people are just less creepy when they don't try to be nicer than they really are.

I think one of the boys here likes me, and he doesn't even know me. I think he almost sorta nearly asked me out. He asked me to go rafting with a few other students, but the way he said it. "Are you doing anything this Saturday? . . . If you want, you might want to come. We're going rafting this Saturday. If you want." I hate rafting, so of course, I said no, but being asked was the most bizarre occurence that's ever happened to me. And it could just be my delusions. And it's sort of difficult because he seems awfully nice, and if he was indeed sort of asking me out, and if he does indeed like me, I'm flattered beyond words, because I've never been asked out before and he seems really nice, albeit in an awkward way. But that makes everything complicated because I'd hate to hurt his feelings but I'd probably wouldn't go out with him if he asked me. I'm waiting for my soulmate, which he couldn't be, because my soulmate wouldn't ask me out when he didn't even know me. I may be imagining that he almost sorta nearly asked me out. I hope so. That makes everything much less complicated.

For my own part, I have been weird recently concerning a boy, which is so very not like me. I don't know him. He's Catholic and majoring in some field of engineering. There. That's certainly no basis for any feeling, and I think I have a crush on him. That is so juvenile. I was so sure I'd outgrown having crushes that I didn't even know I was that sure. I just was. I just think about him far more often than I would most people, and obviously for no good reason. He's moderately good-looking, like most of the students. He's nice and friendly, and not in an awkward way. And he's possibly gay, just based on the way he talks and the rainbow bracelet he always seems to wear and the pink shirt he wore the first time I saw him. I hate myself for thinking that, because I believe people should have the freedom to behave in opposition with common gender roles WITHOUT being called gay, but that's another rant. I think part of why I like this boy is because he might be gay, and I've always sort of liked gay people, if I'm honest, because I partly believe that gays are all nice, respectful people, which I also hate myself for because that's also stereotyping. Golly, this is getting convoluted. I hope this crush can also be attributed to lack of sleep, and the first time I see this kid on a good night's rest, it will all be normal for me again. Otherwise, I may be forced to conclude that I've lost my mind. I'm actually terribly ashamed of this crush, but this is where I talk about what I'm ashamed of.

But this past weekend, I went home and got some real sleep, spent time with my mom, said hi to my pets and plants. They all still remember me! Well, except the plants. They're just terrible with faces. But I was scared my cats wouldn't remember me. The ones I've given away have acted distant to me, like they didn't know me, and I thought it could happen with the ones I left at home too. But it was like I never left to them. We just picked up where we left off. It was tremendous. I had a good time with my mom too. I know it probably didn't sound good, the way I talked about her in the last post, so I need to say that I love my mom. I truly do. I even like her and get along with her, when I'm not trying to talk to her about anything that's important to me. No, I don't mean to sound like that exactly, but she was the one who made me realize that the people you love aren't always your friends. You can't always trust them, if ever. And it's like you have no control over when you remember that fact. Much of the time, you get along swimmingly and you can't help but forget what you know, and it get hammered into your head again the next time they break your heart, only so you can forget it again and again. It's just complicated, my relationship with her. She was once my best friend, and I'll try never to forget that, and I'd die for her, but...I'll have to post more about it later.

Anyway, I got some sleep, and I'm hoping to be more reasonable now. But I know it won't last. I'll be sleep-deprived again by tomorrow morning.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Quiz

August 29, 2011

Well, I've been in college for over a week now. I have lots of classes. I've been working 8 hours or more (usually more) on schoolwork for each of the last 7 days. I felt like I was doing pretty good. I was working. Last time I was in school, I couldn't even bring myself to do that. I was too scared and discouraged and convinced I couldn't do well. Over the summer, I prayed that God would just let me WORK, and work hard. It seems He answered my prayer, and I'm grateful. But I always harbor this feeling that it will all end in a minute or two, my ability to work. That's scary. And today I think I almost came close. First of all, I'm very tired, and when you're very tired, it's often hard to tell how tired you are. You're no longer sleepy, just tired. Even on days I try to sleep in, it's usually too hot. And it's definitely affecting me. I've made some really weird typos and mistakes in the last few days.

Yesterday, specifically, I tried to take my first quiz of the year. It went far too slowly, and I ended up with a pretty bad score. Well, at least, I thought it was 75 all last night and today, but my teacher just told me it's actually about 90, which isn't so bad. Anyway, I was awfully discouraged and a host of emotions attacked me. It's just the first quiz, not that important, I know, but it was a pretty easy quiz, and if I can't even do well on that...It just seemed that my first quiz would set the tone for the rest of the year. I was hoping it would go well. The other students all did well, as far as I heard, and I couldn't?

I tried talking to people about it and got no real sympathy. I tried talking to this boy I knew from my online classes. I chat online with him now and then, but just a few days after I moved to the dorms, we actually talked about topics of importance. I told him the college kids outside my window were being loud, stupid cliches, and he didn't even have to ask what I meant. He knew, and he wasn't shocked or worried, but sympathetic to the right degree. Then, we talked about college kids, how I could hear them having sex in the next room, summer camps, how the kids at camp didn't like me, which I felt ok telling him because he didn't seem able to be shocked. I didn't have to tell him not to worry, but he sympathized nonetheless.

And instead of any ordinary reply like "That's too bad," he told me this rather personal story of how kids used to call him gay and he didn't know what it meant. This was something brand new, someone telling me something that PROVED they knew pain like I did. I don't think I've ever before met someone who could make me actually feel better about anything. I'm dead serious. I didn't even hesitate to then tell him about the snobs in the online school who ignored me and made me feel like I didn't exist. He still wasn't shocked. He listened and sympathized and didn't seem to think anything ill of me for complaining about our schoolmates. He was the first and only person (I know) that I've told. I could never really tell anyone else.

I went to bed that night, not in love in the sense you might think, but thinking maybe I'd found my True Friend. You don't know exactly what I'm talking about because I haven't published my post on Love yet, but I'll post that someday, and then, you'll know. Anyway, after that, we chatted every day for two or three days, and I told him how I feel stupid even though everyone's always telling me I'm smart, and from what he said, he does also. I did realize he couldn't be my True Friend when he said he wasn't into cats, but I'd pretty much expected him NOT to be my Friend, so it didn't bug me much, and I decided to just go with the hopeful, giddy feelings I'd been having. I often have such feelings (not usually about people, though; about books, movies, etc.), and I always know they'll fade away, and it hardly bothers me anymore, to be honest. I consciously knew that they wouldn't last, but I could plainly see that he could be a good friend, if not my True one. I knew that much was truth, and not giddiness. I was wrong.

When I told him about the quiz, he gave me a smiley face. =) Seriously, and that's it. I mean, I didn't say exactly how distraught I was, but I mentioned it, and that deserves a mention in return. An emoticon does not count as a mention. The same thing happened with my mom. I emailed her about the quiz, this whole long story, and she gave me a two line reply that said NOTHING about it. I seriously wondered if she was mad at me for doing badly. She's financing me, keeps saying how my education is an investment because I'll get a good-paying job afterward, keeps saying how I need to get good grades. After that terse reply, I actually believed that she didn't really like me, that she wouldn't like me when I wasn't doing well in life. I know now she probably wasn't mad at me and didn't stop liking me, but I'd believe that she was and did, and what exactly does that say?

The quiz made me realize that the boy wasn't my True Friend or a good friend, but a person in the class of people I put my mom in months ago. These people are not friends, but friendly. Not good, but okay. Not people to trust, but people to be kind to.

After the quiz, I started to feel again that I can't do this. College. I don't think I ever really believed I could. I felt hopeless and alone and sad, all of which was worse because I was tired. I'm STILL tired. I should be sleeping right now, but I'm writing, and hopefully this will make me feel better. Last night, I kept thinking about. . . everything. Earlier in the day, I'd noticed how you're never really in control of how well you do. I mean, you are. But you aren't. I've often felt completely confident I got a question right, and it turned out wrong, and I've heard stories of people who studied as hard as possible and still failed their tests. And sometimes, like on the SAT, I've felt I would completely fail but then I did very well. So, I was thinking about how God must control all that, not you or me.

On one hand, it's extremely comforting to know you don't have to worry, because you'll succeed when you're supposed to and fail when you're supposed to. On the other hand, it's disturbing that maybe I'm not in charge or responsible for how well I do. See, just that thought could keep me from working hard. You ARE supposed to work hard. God tells us to, but why? If He controls how well you do in life anyway. You're supposed to "Seek first the kingdom of heaven" and not worry, because everything else you need will be given to you. I suppose you seek the kingdom by working at what God has given you to do, and if He's landed you in an engineering college, I suppose that's what He's given you to work at. It still doesn't explain why you should work hard when He controls how well you do. I guess you're just supposed to show you're dedication. I don't really know.

But a lot of thoughts went through my head in the last 48 hours, many of them God-related, many more than usual. This could be a good development. I've wanted to feel closer to God. He was the only one to comfort me last night, with thoughts of why I need not worry. He usually IS the only only one to comfort me.

I was even a bit grateful for the emotional turmoil. See, I was scared when I envisioned the next 9 months of full-time studying, 9 months of sitting at a desk not actually DOING much. I was scared I would become static, stop changing as a human being. I don't want to be static. I want change, not just for what surrounds me, but for me. I want to become better. That happens when I meet trials. I'd forgotten I can still meet trials from studying all day. I can change, just from the emotions of quiz-taking.

I started thinking about it, and I know it's cliche, but I realized grades aren't important. I really am just going to college to learn. And I'm not failing at learning. I've learned quite a bit. I'm only taking classes because I need to know the path to becoming an engineer -- basically what books to read -- because they motivate me to do physical learning, and because they give me a sense of time. On days without classes, all the hours blur together and I don't get much done at the leisurely pace this causes. I may need to graduate to get much of what I want, but a C is good enough to graduate, so even if my quiz grade had been as bad as I thought, it would have been okay.

I need to have more faith that everything will be okay. I need to have faith in God.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top 7 Lessons of the Summer

Top Seven lessons I learned or internalized over the summer:

1. Sometimes you have to make a conscious decision not to give up. Not giving up doesn't come naturally to all people. Not to me at least. When I have trouble with something right at the start, I usually quit right at the start. But I realized that's keeping me from doing things that are important to me. I quit my very first job, at McDonalds, and I didn't earn the money I could have, the money that would have made me more independent. I want to be indepenent. If I was working just to earn friends, it wouldn't be worth it, and I could quit because I don't truly want the everyday sort of friend. But I truly want to be independent. So when it comes to that, I have to say outloud that I won't give up. It worked with navigating the streets of town. I got better at it every time. It worked slightly with driving cars. I got minutely better at it every time. And these things will help me be independent. They're worth it.

2. I CAN keep myself from giving up if I make a conscious decision not to. I know now that I CAN keep myself from giving up on college. Before, it often seemed that giving up was just something that happened to me, but it's not. I can control it. Somewhat. I can also get better at controlling it. It worked on crossing the street and driving. It can work on college.

3. Everyone goes through what I go through at some point. If you start thinking you're abnormal, you'll make every twisted experience and emotion worse. And usually for no reason. When I worked at McDonalds, I stood on the other side of that terribly intimidating counter for the first time and saw how hard it was, but also saw that many people acted the same as I used to when I went to order at such a counter. Afraid of making a mistake, overwhelmed by the options, confused by the terminology, shy. (Fast food menus really are too complicated.) And I realized I wasn't weird, I realized it was okay to feel that way, and I realized that couldn't be the only area in which more than one person felt that way. Because I knew that, I could finally stop feeling that way. I could be more confident, just knowing other people do that too.

4. Be proud of your terror. This might seem a tad contradictory to the above lesson, but when I was learning to cross the city streets, I was terrified. I was extra terrified when I vaguely remembered that "scared to cross the street" is possibly some way to referring to a scaredy cat. I think. It's like "scared of her own shadow." I've never been scared of my shadow, and it's perfectly rational to be frightened to cross a street jammed with cars that could crush you in a single go. But it bugged me still, that I might be in the same category as Afraid of Own Shadow. But then I realized I was doing it anyway. I was terrified, and I was facing that terror. If I was extra terrified, I was also extra courageous, and I should be extra proud.

5. Move and talk slowly. I move and talk fast when I'm nervous, but if I control myself even then, I can eliminate many mistakes I'd otherwise make in a rush, and I can actually calm myself.

6. People will like you for being yourself, and even when they don't, you won't care. When you're being yourself, it's like you're standing on solid ground -- if you'll please forgive the cliche on the basis that I should already be in bed. If you're fake to please others, you set yourself on a cardboard sheet between skyscrapers. But if you're you, you're powerful. Even if people hate you, they can't topple you. It just is.

7. You can turn loneliness into empowerment. Like many people, I've wished for someone to help me through everything I've been through, and all I will be through. Whether it came to emotional turmoil in the safety of my home or that that came with walking alone around town, past cars and scary-looking people and non-scary-looking people who can be just as dangerous (hey, I'm scared of people, I admit it). Like many people, I had no one. Just me. But then, sometimes as I thought of this, I'd recognize a strange feeling. I'd think, "Hey, no one else got me through my pain. Maybe no one else could. But I did. I'd think now and then that, if anyone helped me out, they'd be like Superman to me, but I just kept going, and now I'm out of those places I wanted Superman to help me out of." I think of this, and for a little while, I feel like Superman. It makes you realize that you don't need anything you might lose, only the one thing you can't lose: you. This is more complicated that it sounds. According to my religion, I didn't really get myself out of anything, because I'm powerless without God. I do believe that, in the end, it was all Him, but that's not how I feel. And I'm not saying it's best to be lonely. If I had my way, everyone would have their One True Friend to help them out their whole lives. I'm just saying there is a bright side to being alone.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Final Edition of Summer 2011 To-Do

Greetings. I hail from my college dorm room. Where I am terrified. I wish I'd been able to post this yesterday or the day before, so that it could have the light-hearted tone I wanted it to. I was busy packing and trying to fix my very troublesome computer and saying goodbye to family. All preparation for today, my first day at college. Anyway, it will still be mostly light-hearted. Forward ho! I'm continuing my Summer To-Do Lists. Coming after the first, and the second, this is the third part. . . Is that obvious?

1. Finish Skulduggery reviews and ask Derek to read them

I surely did. Definitely one of the high points of my summer.

2. Find another fantastic series to read (it's excruciatingly hard to find fantastic fantasy books)

I half succeeded. I found The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which isn't exactly a series, and I found the Theodosia series by R. L. LaFevers, which I don't precisely love, but it's enjoyable enough.

3. Read, read, read (Just relax and read. I haven't done so in many summers.)

Not so much. When I did read a lot, near the start of summer, I was also working on my tan so I wasn't really relaxing. And then I read less and less as the summer went on.

4. Write at least 13 short stories

Sigh. Sadly, no. But I started one I like.

5. Finish any other stories


6. Watch, watch, watch (I love movies. So many movies, so little time.)

I watched a reasonable number of movies. I think I watched all the new releases I wanted to see.

7. Blog, blog, blog (So many ideas, so little time!)

I'm pretty disappointed in how little I blogged.

8. The stuff I SHOULD do (reading physics, reviewing chemistry, preparing for college)

I'm not as disappointed in how little I did this, but I still didn't do it much.

9. Try to meditate (see, 'cause I'm not even sure what that entails)

I finally did the day before yesterday, using this article. It was fun.

10. Try to make habit of drinking hot beverages every morning (to avoid colds like I have now)

I made a habit of doing it sporadically. I really have to start working on it, though, if I want to stay healthy through the school year.

11. Do new stuff, it's fun (Doesn't have to be "exciting," as long as it's new.)

I think I did a good amount of this, and that's partly why I didn't do a lot of the other stuff. I think I really meant, "Do SPONTANEOUS stuff," stuff I never really thought about doing but did when it presented itself. I think I did well. I went on a couple trips with my mom to historic and/or scenic locations, went to several movies in theaters, got my first pedicure, stayed at a distant friend's house for two nights, walked around town by myself and got much better with the crossing of streets and such, got a comment from Derek, planted tomatoes, went wading when our roads flooded, went bowling, water-baloon fighting. looking at tiny baby frogs at the pond, and lots of other little activities where I just went with the flow.

I learned a good deal. I changed a good deal. Overall, this summer was a good deal. I'll have to post more about it later, but I'm tired now, and being tired isn't helping me feel better after five minutes of an overly depressing Personal Safety talk that was part of my first day. I'll have to post about that too. Geez, so much to post about, so little time, and seriously, so little time. I can't gaurantee how often I'll post once school starts on Monday, or even before then, but I hope to post enough to help me get through it all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Agnostics, Atheists, and Scientific Christianity

I understand the Doubting Thomases of the world, the agnostics who don't believe one way or another, because they need a reason to. I understand needing proof, logic, reason, not just blind acceptance. I staunchly support needing reason. Many people -- really stupid people -- just believe whatever their parents, teachers, peers, and governments tell them, and the world would improve infinitely if those people would be Doubting Toms. If they were smart enough, they'd find a lot of so-called "truth" has no logical basis. If they were smart enough, they'd find the truth that does. If they were smart enough, they'd question something -- anything -- in the first place.

Nonetheless, generation on generation has just accepted what the previous generations have told it. With this approach, they've accumulated a heap of invalid beliefs. This is why abused children often grow up to be child abusers, terrorists' children to be terrorists, over-spenders' children to be over-spenders, polygamists' children to be polygamists, etc. They don't stop to think: Were their parents and religions right, really? We face quite a task in discerning what's true and what isn't. So the best, safest, smartest policy is to Question Everything. That's my motto. With it, I can tear down lies and reinforce truth. (Of course, I can't question everything, but I TRY.) Do you know how annoying it is when someone believes something stupid, and you ask them why, and they either have stupid reasons or no reasons at all? Even more annoying, they usually won't budge from those beliefs, because "my daddy told me so," or whatever. Some might say that's what leaders are for. But everyone's wrong on at least SOME points, because they can't know everything. Therefore, leaders compound their invalid beliefs on their followers. It would be best if everyone was her own leader, influencing and allowing influence from others. Influence. Not dictation. Question everything and let others influence you with true ideas they too have come by through questioning everything.

You may have noticed that "Everything" includes God and Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ as God. Doubting Thomases make such inquiries.

The problem is "Doubting Thomas" is usually considered a negative mark, as Jesus said people are blessed if they believe without seeing or feeling, even though the proof IS there to see and feel. It always is when something is true.

I think God put the proof there, in the physical world where it still remains, specifically FOR the Doubting Toms. Just like the original Thomas, if they doubt, they can find proof. I think the Toms are also blessed, as is anyone who believes in the truth, and Jesus Christ is the truth (the way and the life too). People are probably MORE blessed if they never question Jesus' divinity, but I feel like they're just blessed in different ways. I don't think Jesus blessed those who believe anything without question, even if they happen to believe in Jesus as well. Those people probably don't believe in Him any more strongly than all the other blahblah they believe in. I think Jesus blessed the people who just know the truth from birth. At least the truth about Jesus. Maybe they still have to question most things, like the Toms do, but they instinctively know the one truth that is Jesus. Of course they're better off for it, but the way I see it, they were just born that way. (Please don't think Lady Gaga right now, I'm not talking about the kind of stuff she is.) They were born believing, not because they were told about Jesus, but because they felt Jesus in their hearts. The way I see it, can you really blame people for NOT being born that way? Well, Jesus seems able to blame them, but that's how I feel about it. Anyway, Jesus didn't exactly condemn Thomas by blessing someone else. Thomas was blessed too. So, if you ask me, one should not be ashamed of being a Doubting Thomas. The world would improve massively if everyone was. Not only would they avoid countless errors, but just like the founder of this prestigious title, they'd eventually believe the truth. Sure, the world would be BEST if everyone believed without question, in Jesus Christ, but that would be perfect, which we all know isn't in the budget.

Hence, I get Doubting Thomases, but I don't get atheists who attack believers when they have no more proof that God doesn't exist than we have that God does. In fact, they have less.

Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity by Jay L. Wile.

From extensive examination of the title, our forensic experts have determined that this book endeavors to present scientific evidence in support of Christianity. Ah, forensic experts know such wonders. Anyway, probably many books attempt to do the same, but I've only read this one. Perhaps I should have been more interested in learning such defenses, but I never doubted God back then and wasn't interested. I'm still not, in spite of doubts I have now, which I'll get into later. If I remember correctly, this book presents evidence against evolution and FOR the Bible's validity. For instance, spontaneous processes would need to overcome odds of about a million to one (can't remember the exact numbers) to put together the sequence of amino acids needed to form even the simplest protein, let alone all the proteins needed for life. Yes, other people have claimed to be God, but only Jesus made so very many people believe. He did die on the cross because both blood and water flowed from the spear wound, which is medical proof of death. He did resurrect because a great number of witnesses saw Him. Also, compared against every other book of its time, the Bible contains the fewest internal and external contradictions. Don't be intimidated by the science. It's well-written and easy to understand. I read it when I was maybe thirteen, with no problem. If this book isn't enough for you, I recommend you find more of its sort. See if they make a difference.

So there's the science. Now for the more instinctual proof, emotions, confessions, and personal doctrines.

Without God, we have no reason to protest wrongs done unto us. Without God, we simply have no way of knowing right from wrong, or that right and wrong even exist. Without God, we have no absolute -- no consistent and unchanging grounds for doing anything. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but it rings ever true. Suppose one person decides it's okay to murder another, but the other begs to differ. He doesn't want to die. Who's to say which is right if no God exists? Some say the government decides right and wrong. But that's no reliable absolute. Suppose you murder someone and the cops think you were wrong, so they take you to jail. You happen, however, to be very rich, so the judge decides that, as long as you pay her, you were right to murder someone. See? If atheists cry for justice, how can they claim they don't believe in a Divine Decider of right and wrong?

To be honest, I understand some atheists. I don't understand those who mock believers for defending God, a God we believe loves us so much He died for us. He has feelings too. How would you like it if someone treated you like you didn't exist? Especially after you died for them? I don't understand the mean, immoral atheists who seem to be atheists only so they don't have to live righteously and kindly. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to be good and kind. I don't understand the people who are atheists because they need proof to virtually pounce at them without effort on their part, or because they were raised that way, or because they consider it "modern thinking." I DO understand the ones who see an evil, cruel world and think, if there is a God, He must be evil and cruel. They don't want to believe in an evil, cruel God, so they believe in no god. I think I thoroughly understand that.

I really struggle with this, especially these past months. Now, I almost blurt out these words: "You may want to avoid the Old Testament, especially if you're just beginning to believe. It could, as they say, shake the very foundations of your faith." I can't say that though. Ignorance isn't true bliss. I hate when people turn a blind eye to the facts, and I insist on turning a seeing eye to them. I need to know truth. Besides, if you read the Old Testament, you might be the one to explain it adequately at last and finally set my mind at ease. That will never happen if I keep you from reading it. Still, be aware it holds some absolutely abhorrent ideas. I mean, divorce, polygamy, slavery, prejudice against illegitimate children and emasculated men, the whole doctrine of an eye for an eye, just to name a few. It's all bad, but what hits me worst is the cruelty to women. I used to think it was bad the way the New Testament (the letters from the apostles) talked about women and expected them to be treated and behave. At one point, I thought I couldn't be a Christian if I was supposed to do all that. But the Old Testament -- Well, it's a thousand times worse, and it's like God ENCOURAGED cruelty to women. God allowed it and commanded certain things. It's terrible. What kind of God does that?

Sure, later on, Jesus repealed all that. He repealed divorce and taking an eye for an eye specifically, and He repealed all other wrongs with Love Your Neighbor As Yourself and Do Unto Others As You'd Have Them Do Unto You. Concerning divorce, He said, "Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard." Presumably, He allowed everything else because the Israelites' hearts were hard. But what kind of God does THAT? However, He did say Moses did this, which puzzles me, but also kind of confirms my theory that people like Moses and the disciples often gave commands based not on what they heard straight from God but on what they thought would go over best. Anyway, the fact remains, God let Moses do that.

He allowed such cruelty and evil in the Bible, I think. But then I think, He allows such cruelty and evil in present day. At the core, He's taken the same action. God has the power to stop evil and command good every day, just as He had the power to do when the Bible was written. But He didn't and He doesn't. Because I know this, I understand how people can look at the world and decide God is evil. (Still, personally, I take the Old Testament harder because the Bible seems a more official statement than the everyday world is.)

I always think how stupid ancient civilizations were to follow such evil gods. They only had to see that evil and choose to leave it. Hence, I look at my God in light of the world's evil, and I almost wonder if I'm a hypocrite. Almost. But not really. I don't follow an evil God. Jesus Christ never commanded evil, He commanded good, and I follow Him, a good God. Still, my stomach literally aches when I think of the ancient peoples' cruelty to women. That's always been bad enough to make me feel like I have the flu, but when I have to wonder if God -- MY God -- supported it? My stomach aches like an eternal paper cut. I can't believe in a God like that. I'm still figuring it out, the Old Testament. Jesus didn't specifically repeal every old law, so how do I know what the God of the Bible really thinks? I've based my morals on Jesus' words, which are words of the Bible, but if they contradict, how am I to know?

Of course I know cruelty is wrong. Jesus DID repeal cruelty with Love and Do Unto. Nonetheless, more and more these past years, I've needed proof. I can't operate on what I feel alone. I know and feel with all my heart that all cruelty is wrong, but I once felt that people could rightly kill in war and/or in defense of other people. I found that somewhat in accordance with Love and Do because you're loving the people you protect. I knew it wasn't completely in accordance though, because you're not loving the people you kill. (Actually, back then, Love was a more secondary reason. I mostly thought of the commandment not to murder, and the fact that the ends don't justify the means.) Though it pained me, I concluded that it's wrong to help anyone by hurting someone else. I AM immensely grateful to soldiers and everyone else who protects people like me, but that's another post. Right now, I'm pointing out that the truth is often more complicated than it feels, and I can't just act on my feelings. Now, of course -- OF COURSE -- I will never believe in cruelty to women or children. I will die first. Regardless, I'll always need proof, if only so I can defend my opinions to others, and especially so I know the truth about the God of the Bible.

This might seem like a tangent, but it concerns how I view God in the Old Testament. To me, it feels like everything you've done still represents you, as does everything you will do. Every action remains frozen in time and stretches parallel to all other actions. Once you do something, you can never undo it. It stands there forever. The same goes for everything you will do. You will do stuff, and it will be whatever stuff do. Though you always have a choice, you will choose whatever you choose, and there's no escaping that. Mere mortals such as I can't predict anything more specific, but no matter what you do, you can never undo it, so it might as well be happening now. It's complicated, but I just feel that your whole life represents you, no matter where you start or where you end. I realize that's, well, wrong because Jesus does erase your sins. I feel this way nonetheless, especially about God since it's actually true of Him. Supposedly, He never changes. He's as much today who He was in the Old Testament.

What if that fact forced me to believe the God of the Bible is cruel and evil? With no good and true God, human beings have literally no reason to live. Or die. Or do anything. If I ever believed He was evil, I'd probably lie in bed and starve myself. However, in that case, I think I'd eventually realize I simply don't believe in the God of the Bible. I do believe in a good and kind God and always will. Always believe in goodness and kindness. That belief resides in -- no -- that belief IS the very core of me. Of course, if I decided I didn't believe in the God of the Bible, I'd still be silly. The good and kind God is Jesus Christ, the God of the Bible. Jesus is the one person in history to do nothing wrong and everything righteous, the only good being, goodness incarnate. I will never stop believing in goodness, I will never stop believing in Jesus. Jesus instilled morals in me which I could only believe because I had faith in them, faith Jesus gave me. He's corrected my beliefs because I believed His principles. It's a confusing circle of belief, and both my brain and my instincts play parts. (I've never been the person who only wanted the truth to validate what she FELT. I've always toiled to find the objective truth and deal with it, even if I don't feel that way. Looking through this post, I think you can see that. Just before this post, I decided I simply wouldn't believe in the God of the Bible if I decided He was as He seemed in the Old Testament. It put my mind out of the confusion I'd felt before, stuck between the rock and the hard place I hadn't consciously acknowledged. Either I had to admit the Old Testament morals were true and good and therefore worth following or I had to admit my God was evil. If my heart won't allow either, what can I do? Maybe this is one of those times people talk about, a time I have to let faith lead me.) For the record, I'm not terribly close to believing the God of the Bible was ever evil. I know how the Old Testament looks, but as I said, I'm working on understanding it. Right now, I know only that the Old Testament is the same paradox that is the whole world, in which a good God holds all power but allows evil anyway. It doesn't make sense, but it doesn't mean God is evil.

I have to believe some good exists somewhere. Even if you believe all people are somewhat good -- a controversial idea, but I believe it -- you must admit all people are somewhat bad. If they are both, they are not good. It's like when you mix spring water with dirt. You get mud. And mud is not spring water. It's the same with people. They have good in them, but they are not good. They are mud, and mud is mostly bad. (By the way, it's not exactly Christian to call people mud, like they're worthless or something. Jesus specifically said we are worth more than many sparrows -- a casual way of saying we're worth His life, death, resurrection, and whole existence.) I think this is why many atheistic religions are full of unhappy people. How could you be happy, how could you even live, unless you believed some good existed somewhere?

Concerning different religions -- from Mormon to Buddhist -- I don't hold anything against them. I do if they teach cruelty, but at the moment, I can't think of any that do. Islam maybe, but I've heard conflicting reports on it, and since I haven't studied it myself, I can't really say. Most religions, though, don't exactly aim for cruelty, and if they promote love, they're on the right track. I think Buddhism is, as is any religion that centers on Jesus' teachings. If a person believes in love, that's all that really matters. (You understand I have not been talking about romantic love all this time, right?) Even those persons that don't follow a specific religion -- if they believe in love, they believe in the true God (whom I call Jesus, but what's in a name?).

I cannot say who is going to Heaven. No one but God can. You can't judge a person on the details that separate religions (protestant from catholic and so on). Protestants and Catholics both believe in Jesus, and personally, I never felt the other points mattered much. Other religions believe in love, and that's the same Most Important Belief. If someone worships a good God, it must be my God. There's only one, after all. You can't even tell from the way someone acts whether they're going to Heaven. Well, of course, you can. Sort of. But it's complicated.

You can't always -- or even often -- tell, because, for instance, a horrible person could very well change before they die. A good person might be good for the wrong reasons, and they might change before they die. If you believe in love, you will be a good person, but people have lapses and what about the people who are good most of life, and at the very end, lapse? I believe that any loving person will go to Heaven, but consider the definition of love. It's Love Your Neighbor As Yourself and Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You. That seems simple, and it is, but it can get complicated when you think of how some people WANT to die, or get hurt, etc. Because they want that, perhaps they feel justified in killing of others. (They're not. After all, there's still Do Not Murder and Do Not Steal, which Jesus gave us to guide us along the broader concept of Do Unto.) Most people love themselves pretty well and desire pretty decent kindness from others. But what about the freakish few who are trying to love in the wrong ways?

What about the people who try to do right but have wrong ideas? Anyone who believes in cruelty is wrong, but I think Mormons still believe in polygamy, and that's wrong. Polygamy would be blatantly cruel to some people because they'd know they were hurt, but it may be more subtley cruel to others who don't mind, because they don't know any better. How do you know if polygamy's cruel enough to condemn a person? And the people who do evil even though they know it's evil? Certainly, they might change, and if they don't, they may merely sin in ways like gluttony. They may be chronic gluttons and still go to Heaven. It's easy to imagine since that's not such a bad sin, but all sins deserve condemnation, and Jesus never listed them in order from least to worst. How can we say a chronic murderer isn't going to Heaven too?

I can't truly believe that would happen, but technically . . . it's a possibility . . . right? Well, maybe not. Or maybe. No way. Could it be? . . . Seriously?! It's extremely confusing. Maybe I should have shut up about this till I knew better what I thought, because I really don't think a chronic murderer would go to heaven. One must believe in Jesus, and if they do, they'll be good and loving. Murder isn't. At the same time -- please, please don't hate me for this -- I think soldiers TECHNICALLY murder people for a living. I do NOT think soldiers are going to Hell, though, see? At least, not for being soldiers, because soldiers do what they do for good reasons, usually. I am not trying to hurt or offend soldiers or cops or anyone. I have several family members and a childhood friend in the army. I trust they're all going to Heaven, but see the double standard? I can see a soldier going to Heaven, but not a classic murderer, and basically, the two are different in their motivations. If good intentions mean you're going to Heaven, we must remember the suicidal killer mentioned above. He might think love motivates him. Will He get into Heaven? Murder is not loving. But neither is gluttony, or rudeness, or pride. What have I to prove gluttonous, rude, prideful people will go to heaven and not murderous people? I just don't know. Just take these last three paragraphs as a list of why we can't judge where a person's going when they die.

I'm not saying there isn't a definite right or wrong. There definitely is, some sins are definitely worse than others, and God frowns on them all. Everyone sins, though. They can't help it. They'll do it all their lives. But some of them are still going to Heaven. If some sinners are and some aren't, how can we say which? It's far too complex a calculation for human brains to perform. Bottom line, we don't know other peoples' hearts. We only know our own, and we can only have faith that our faith will last. We can also trust and hope for others, but I don't think we can KNOW.

We need not all have the same opinions to go to heaven. Of course not. For example, I mostly believe in the gospels. I've read them a few times each, and I base my morals on them. I've already stated why I don't base my morals on the Old Testament (except where it coincides with Jesus' words). Jesus repealed the Old. (By the way, it's obviously possible for the Bible to contradict itself when it comes to rules; however, I trust its accounts of basic history not to contradict, though it may have certain details wrong, such as the Sun orbitting the Earth.) Also, I trust the New Testament when it comes to basic prophesies, but I only trust its rules where they logically follow Jesus'. The New Testament often doesn't follow Jesus where it concerns slavery, capital punishment, and much about women. I haven't read the New Testament letters from the disciples very thoroughly, but I have read parts that didn't agree with Jesus' principles and parts that did. Here's what I think. With their letters, the disciples laid down rules to the best of their understanding, whereas with the gospels, they chronicled words straight from Jesus' mouth. They each saw events differently. I simply trust them to have gotten the basics right. Therefore, I look to the gospels for guidance, and the rest is take or leave. I've been regarded as a heathen for this view before. Other Christians quote "all scripture is inspired by God" at me repeatedly and usually exclusively of any other verses. (A movie can be inspired by a book and still send the exact opposite message -- The Neverending Story for example.) For ideas like mine, I'll probably be called a heathen again before my life ends, but if I'm wrong, God will forgive me, and that's all that matters.

Some Christians are just far too opinionated. I believe in a definite right and wrong, and I believe I know a little of it, but I also believe in listening to others to see how correct their logic is, to see if they can change my mind. Some Christians seem to believe in NOT doing that. Some Christians are obstinate, snobby, small-minded, monkey-see-monkey-do individuals (as are many non-Christians...and the whole world). They hate me for looking completely to the gospels, and they actually appear ignorant of the words of Christ, for whom they're named. I think that repels some people who are considering what religion to become. I get it. Even I see that and want to distance myself from those Christians any way possible. Nevermind, though. Don't let them keep you from becoming a Christian. If you become a Christian, do it because you believe in Jesus Christ. Forget about everything else.

When I was little, I asked my mom, "Why do we believe in God? So we can go to heaven?" She shrugged goodnaturedly and said, "Yeah." (I think she thought I was too young to have a more in depth discussion about it.) That never felt right, though. If I believe in someone just to get to paradise, I'm just using that someone, just doing something for Him so He'll do something for me. That's not why we believe in God. We believe because we are meant to believe, because belief is belonging and belonging is becoming one. We belong with God. Water is SUPPOSED to be wet. We are supposed to be with God. We are supposed to believe in Him/Her. (I do believe God "the Father" and the Holy Spirit don't have a gender, but I usually say "He" to save time.) By doing so, we're just setting the universe right, as it was always meant to be. It's hard to explain because it just IS.

You know, at a certain point, maybe you do just have to believe. Say Scientific Case for Christianity convinces you there IS a God, but you still have to decide whether He is a kind and good God or a cruel and evil God or a crazy and neutral God. You just have to make the choice to believe He is kind and good. Maybe that's the point where proof stops, and maybe that's why it's called faith.

For questioning everything up to that point, however, long live the Doubting Thomases. (I hope that's the correct plural form of Thomas. I may edit this more later, but I really needed to publish it already.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

I've Gone and Gotten Myself a Blog Award!

Well, Amyrose just GAVE me a blog award out of the goodness of her heart. I didn't do much for it (except be glorious, but still, it was mostly Amy's generousness). And now, I can do that thing people do where they put the awards they've won down the sides of their blogs. Heehee! It doesn't get any better than this. =D

Everyone say "Yay Minnie!" . . . Or don't, that's up to you, but now I think I have to post seven facts about myself and pass this award on.

1. I really like when I empty the garbage (not so much the emptying part, but the following part) and I put in new liner and it's all clean and empty and I throw in the inaugural garbage and it kind of disappears in the white slack of the new garbage bag. I just really like it.

2. I have brown hair and brown eyes, and I love both, though I recently got blue streaks put in my hair just for fun.

. . . Hmm. So many facts about me. It's hard to pick.

3. I always get inspired when I go to Barnes & Noble and browse, even quickly, over all the books, their pretty covers and imaginative premises.

4. Spiderman's my favorite superhero. I mean the Spiderman from the 1992 TV series, Spiderman. He's so snarky, punny, deep, persevering, heroic, handsome -- all tall and muscular, with those big, expressive spider-costume eyes -- and I relate to him a lot.

5. Hannah Montana was a terrible show, and High School Musical was a terrible movie, but I love their songs. Why are you looking at me like that? They're fun, they're upbeat, they're dance-worthy. . . I'm not weird.

6. I'm hungry. That's a weak excuse for a fact, though. I mean, how long will THAT last. Um, I once had braces. I was really excited for them beforehand, and I never really grew to hate them -- though relations with the teeth-correcting apparatus were difficult on days the orthodontist adjusted it. I mean, sometimes they were green, sometimes blue, sometimes glow-in-the-dark. What a way to express individuality.

7. I AM still hungry. But more importantly, my favorite color is purple. It's rich, deep, and regal, just like me. Well, I'm rich in spirit, and regal at certain intervals, but almost always deep.

Now to pass this on. I could pass it on to a few people, I suppose. But I don't actually talk to some of the bloggers whose blogs I read, and I'd feel weird giving them an award.

I know one for sure though! (Unless she already has this award?)

Eleanor Roscuro of Apostrophe

Yep, Eleanor's blog is probably the first one I really got into that wasn't by someone famous, and she opened my eyes to the fact that un-famous people can still punctuate a sentence and to the fact that someone else feels what I do. =) Thanks, Eleanor. (For the record, I don't care that much about punctuation or spelling, but when people don't punctuate or spell correctly, it often means they don't care about what they're writing.)

Now, I wasn't going to do this at first, but...why not, you know?

Derek Landy of Derek Landy Blogs Under Duress

Yay! He's not a follower of mine, and I'm not sure I'm allowed to pass this on to non-followers. I'm also not sure he'll bother with this whole award, seven facts, pass it on deal. But he's extremely nice, and I'm sure he'll appreciate it when I pop up on his blog and say, "I'm giving you the One Lovely Blog Award. It's a thing, really, and I'm giving it to you." =) Yep, yep.

I really regret not posting more this summer, but I have a new post coming very soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer To-do and Summer Done

Continuing my Summer To-do List...

1. I published those Skulduggery reviews I promised, got a comment from Derek Landy himself (!!!!!), and got three new followers. Thanks, Kallista, Queen Nessie, and Legolas!

2. Find new series. I was literally about to give up on finding any books to love, when I found The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. It's not a series. Yet. I hope it turns into one though. I look for books that make me care. I care about characters, so I look for books with phenomenal characters, but it seems whenever reviews praise a book for its characters, it's a dull book with bland characters. However, Neil Gaiman praised this book for its "heart," and I think maybe that's what I'm looking for. J. J. Abrams also described heart, as when he sees a movie and FEELS something. (He was speaking of his movie Super 8, and it did have some heart, but to be honest, it wasn't that great). When I started Girl Who, I thought it would be a quirky story with creative puns, settings, and concepts. It is, and that's enjoyable enough, but it also encompasses several original yet universal insights into the human condition, and its heroine, September, is likewise original yet relatable. And that's what made me really care. Not the cities of cloth or elaborate fairy feasts or intriguing plot points, but September and her friends and enemies and the insights they provide. I've read books that made me care MORE, it's true. Nonetheless, I had to go through at least a dozen books (half way) to find one book that made me care. In other words, it's pretty worth the read.

3. Read, read, read. Like I said, I was discouraged by all the boring books out there. Maybe I'm just picky, but I tried many popular books and wasn't interested.

4. Write 13 short stories. No good. I didn't get a single one written yet. We'll see how this month goes.

5. Finish any other stories. No good. We'll see, once again, how this month goes.

6. Watch, watch, watch. Was doing okay with this. I loved The King's Speech. But now the Wii isn't working and I haven't been to the rental store in a couple weeks.

7. Blog, blog, blog. I could be doing perhaps slightly better, but it's hard to top my performance during the last few weeks. =) I have a post on God and religion coming up. Just as a warning.

8. Stuff I SHOULD do. I did a bit of that last night in fact, but I should be doing more.

9. Try to meditate. Not so far.

10. Drink hot beverages. Not so far.

11. Do new stuff. Um, yeah. I guess. I did try loitering, but as I'm not familiar with it, I was properly baffled by those obstacles called "streets" and the guides known as "Walk/Don't Walk." You can probably guess I don't spend a lot of time in town. I actually tried to get a tan this year. Most years, I don't worry about it, because it leads to wrinkles and I like my skin pale just as much as I like my skin tan. But this year, I had a book to read outside (Girl Who Circumnavigated) and I thought it might be fun to get that glow I see on kids who spend every moment outside. On them, a tan looks like adventure. Let's see if I can fake it. Not the tan. The adventure.

(By the way, I used to add a Fact of the Day to every post, but I think, from now on, I just do that now and again.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review of Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 1

In the book Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Stephanie Edgley faces major changes. When her uncle dies, and a scary killer man breaks into her mansion, and an undead skeleton mage named Skulduggery Pleasant rescues her, and a sorcerer with a scary name threatens to restore evil gods to the planet, what else is she to do but save the world? Well, stay home and live normal, I guess. But that's not what Stephanie does!

Major spoilers in this color. Because I like it better than red.

I've read few books that were better than Skulduggery Pleasant. The dialogue was hysterical. The plot was action-packed. And most of all -- Skulduggery Pleasant.

Skulduggery Pleasant!

I loved him. He was hilarious, charming, unusual, friendly, and the complete opposite of what I expected a horror story's skeletal protagonist to be. A delightful suprise, he wasn't sweet in the way I'm used to admiring, but he was amazingly nice. He was no snob. He treated Valkyrie as a friend and an equal. He didn’t look down on anyone as stupid or unworthy of his attention or conversation. He was a breath of fresh air because I'm tired of the Common Jerk Protagonist. In fact, Skulduggery acted very morally, usually. For instance, even when he'd only known Stephanie for hours, he cared about her, frantically urging her to run from danger when he was trapped and couldn’t help. I can picture so many characters doing so much less, either for want of a heart or for want of an author who cares to show their reaction. This author, however, siezed an opportunity to show Skulduggery's character. He didn't always have the upper hand, and when he didn't, he thought of Valkyrie first. He didn't want anyone -- even near-strangers -- to get hurt. Furthermore, although he saved her quite a bit, he never treated Stephanie like a millstone. And although the book's villain was Skulduggery's archenemy, Skulduggery didn't fight for ulterior motives. He didn't even pretend to. He fought against evil because it was evil and protected people because it was good. For example, Serpine had hurt Skulduggery in the worst possible ways, but Skulduggery didn’t kill him. That would be revenge. He put Serpine under ARREST. That’s what the good guys are supposed to do. Well, I mean he DID kill Serpine, to save Valkyrie, but who cares? He wasn’t going to if he didn’t have to. Overall, Skulduggery led the story as a likable, heroic main character, and it is supreme.

At the same time, Skulduggery wasn't a boring perfect character. He had weaknesses, failings, and flaws. Most are called out, which is more than can be said for the Common Jerk Protagonist. While cordial most of the book, Skul could get crabby when, for example, the Elders chastised him and didn't believe him about Serpine. Actually, Skulduggery is apparently quite unpopular with the magical community, which endears the bony outcast to me all the more. He's also not so scrupulous all the time. He stated he had trouble keeping friends because of his . . . misdeeds (although, just admitting it isn't good enough for me; I hope he actually changes somehow). Nevertheless, he stays friends with Valkyrie, and though he's her mentor, he's not an all-wise, all-powerful type like Professor Xavier who can inexplicably freeze all the humans in a museum. Skulduggery is much more interesting. He himself gets in trouble, has to be saved, and struggles to defeat the bad guys. They pose an actual threat to him even though he’s the veteran crime fighter and Valkyrie is the novice. That makes every obstacle a challenge and much more exciting. He's also NOT the wiser, smarter, more mature of the duo. He and Valkyrie are pretty much on equal footing, except when it comes to martial arts and magic. So he's a nice protagonist, an imperfect hero, a good skeleton, a happy detective, an only semi-wise and semi- powerful mentor, and a moral . . . vigilante? He seems all the more real for breaking all these stereotypes.

Sadly, in a couple parts, Skulduggery acted in ways that contrasted with his caring manner toward Stephanie and annoyed me because he wasn't called out on them. First, he described a partner he had who died on their first mission. "A messy death too,” he said, but not very remorsefully it seemed. This made me think he didn't care. Maybe he stays strong through his heartaches by acting light-hearted. Maybe it doesn't mean he didn't care about his other partner, but it still bugs me that he can talk about it like that. Secondly, later on, Valkyrie was captured by a monster, and Skulduggery was left to attack the villain, which he promptly took off to do. Does Skulduggery care about Stephanie or doesn’t he? One on hand, perhaps stoic Skulduggery was just sticking with the mission -- for the good of the world after all. On the other hand, you’d think he'd worry more about Valkyrie. Then again, maybe he knew she was alright. Who knows?

Stephanie (or Valkyrie Cain, as she comes to call herself) is merely likable. I and many other kids relate to the fact she wanted more than her dull, ordinary life. Other than that, she was nearly perfect and made few mistakes, which isn't relatable. She was mature, witty, independent, smart, and capable. She got herself out of as many scrapes as Skulduggery got her out of, and she got him out of a few. This is all great but not terribly interesting. Though refreshingly competent, Val had few surprising traits, no serious personal or psychological issues, and no vices to overcome. These would help to make her more human, more singular. Still, she was an adequate heroine, not grating like most main characters and the following.

China Sorrows is evil. She put a spell on Stephanie so she couldn’t help Skulduggery when he was captured, and by the second book, everyone seems to have forgotten. Plus, her character is kind of stiff and boring. I'm being totally mature and not holding a grudge about this, but it's the simple truth. She's evil. Just had to say it for it is pure wisdom . . . PLLLBBTT!!! Take THAT, China!

The author crafted a fantastic but rather frightening plot. Well, at least for a sensitive blogger like me. For the good of my nighttime thoughts, I skipped a couple chapters, chapters I will not go into, because I can't, because I skipped them. Regardless, from what I did read, the book was fast-paced and enthralling.

With its humor, action, and amazing characters, Skulduggery Pleasant is the one book you search through 50 to find. Thank goodness I helped you find it! Okay, I probably didn't have much to do with it, but just in case.


Review of SP Playing with Fire

In Skulduggery Pleasant Playing with Fire by Derek Landy, Stephanie Edgley is now Valkyrie Cain, descendent of the Ancients, apprentice in magic to Skulduggery Pleasant, and determined to save the world from another evil sorcerer with a scary name (Vengeous).

Coming second in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, Playing with Fire was much like the first book but even more action-packed and hilarious.

After the first scene, I expected Skulduggery would disappoint, as so many favorite characters do. He again seemed uncaring. He came to Valkyrie's rescue late because he had to tie his shoelace. Granted, he said he knew she could handle it, and she did, but it was unnerving. Maybe, though, it only showed that he was irresponsible, not uncaring. (Valkyrie would seem less foolish for trusting a sometimes-irresponsible person than for trusting an uncaring person.) However, Skul soon became as friendly and funny as in the first book. He acted superior to no one. Not even Vengeous, with whom Skul exchanged witticisms for threats. Besides producing some of the funniest lines in the book, Skulduggery showed he wasn’t mean, pathetic, or cliché enough to return insults and he wasn’t above talking with evil people like they were people.

I had one problem concerning Valkyrie. She fights crime almost daily, but I got the impression she runs on two hours of sleep a night. She’d pass out doing normal stuff on that much sleep. Maybe I'm wrong, though, or maybe she used magic to compensate for lack of sleep.

At the core, the plot was similar to the last one, but this isn't a book I’d read for novelty of plot. I read it for the side-splittingly hysterical dialogue and lovable characters. Everyone should. Read it, I mean.