Tuesday, April 26, 2016

MovieQuote Meditation #3: 'Til the End of the Line

I’m not going to lie, I would have killed for a best friend like Bucky when I was in middle school. Like Steve, I was unpopular and didn’t really have any peers my age I could talk to.

But I’m older and wiser now. I strive to be a friend to others the way Bucky was to Steve and vice versa: loyal, kind, and willing to help the other person be happy.

The words “I’m with you ‘til the end of the line” don’t have to mean anything, and yet to an entire fandom they embody the boundless devotion and loyalty between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. They invoke the moment when it looked like Steve would pay the ultimate price for being Bucky’s friend. Steve uttered them to show that he was willing to let the Winter Soldier do what he was trained to--if that was the only way to reach the man he hoped was somehow still inside.
Via hollywood.com

To me, “til the end of the line” means that you are willing to support and stay with the other person no matter what. It’s true that this applies literally, but also consider this:  if they want to be alone, you give them their space but keep them in your heart.

Take Steve after his mother’s funeral in the flashback in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Bucky offered to let Steve come stay with him. Steve, however, wouldn’t hear of it. Though he had health challenges he made it a point to take care of himself, to stand on his own two feet. And what was more, he wanted to be alone with his grief for a while. But Bucky made it clear that he didn’t need to--and Bucky knew that no one ever has to suffer grief alone, not without a friend by their side.
Via sites.google.com

I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve had friends having a difficult time right when I wanted to do something else with them. But when I understood that my friends had different needs, I put aside my own expectations so they could take care of themselves. The fact that we didn’t end up hanging out quite the way I expected did not change the fact that we were friends. Showing someone that you are their friend means giving them whatever they need to deal with their challenges--and that can mean that you are letting them take their time. Through whatever the other person has to go through, through whatever they choose to do or how they decide to deal with it, you stay with them.

Captain America: Civil War coming out on May 6th marks the long-awaited day when Steve and Bucky will be reunited.  However, the circumstances of that reunion will be trying for both of them, and even without a war raging around them, our favorite super-soldiers aren’t going to automatically have a perfect relationship again.
Via newmediarockstars.com

Why, for instance, did the Winter Soldier leave Captain America lying on the bank of the Potomac and go off on his own instead of wait for the man he knew was his friend to come around? Why at no point before, during, or after the events of Age of Ultron did Bucky not turn up again? In my opinion, Bucky simply wasn’t ready. He had seventy-plus years of physical and emotional trauma and PTSD and heaven knows what else to deal with. He had to figure out how to live with himself and either hide or find some way of getting a normal life or both--and none of that is easy with a metal arm. He could have simply wanted to figure out himself first. In fact, he may even have been afraid to go back to Steve and didn’t want to at all. If that’s the case, I think Steve will understand--he might be frustrated, but he’ll understand, in the end.

Looking for someone who didn’t want to be found probably wasn’t easy for Steve or Sam Wilson or anyone else involved in the search. But when Bucky does turn up, Steve will be ready to do whatever it takes to help him. In fact, Steve will fight and die for his friend because in the past, that’s what Bucky did for him. Their relationship is unique because Bucky was Steve’s closest friend in the formative years of his life, and he’s the only friend, no matter how damaged, that Steve has left from his past. He was the ‘friend in middle school’ when Steve was the unpopular kid. Seeing Bucky become the butt of a government reprisal against superhumans, spearheaded by people that Steve considers bullies (and you know how Steve feels about bullies), will push Steve to the brink. 

Maybe Civil War will be dark and gory and maybe it’ll take some uncomfortable turns for the development of all our favorite characters. But there’s reasonable hope, in my opinion, that Steve will be true to himself, be the good man that Doctor Erskine saw him as, the man who became a hero because he wouldn’t rest unless the best friend who had given him everything was safe.  
Via geeksout.org

The important thing is, do YOU know what you can give to the people you care about?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

MovieQuote Meditation #2: Have Courage and Be Kind

Growing up a Disney girl, I liked the original animated Cinderella but I was never super crazy about it. The remake that came out last year, however, is currently one of my favorite movies. I love that the characters are deep and three-dimensional. I love the music score by Patrick Doyle (because nobody can compose a waltz like he can).  I’m not a huge fan of the dress but the transforming scene is above and beyond equivalent scenes from other versions of the story. I love the all-star cast and being a huge MCU nerd I loved seeing Hayley Atwell and Stallan Skarsgard. I love, love, LOVE the fairy godmother because she’s a boss.

Via cinematiccrashcourse

But one of the things I love the most about Cinderella is the message:  “Have courage and be kind.” In the year that has passed since Cinderella came out, I have had a lot of time to reflect on the meaning of those words. In fact, they got me through some difficult times.

To have courage means to keep going in spite of opposition. Life isn’t perfect.  It is too easy, the moment we are confronted with something difficult, to just turn around and walk away, give up, and stop trying.  But when we have courage, we continue doing what we know is right. We keep on trying in spite of the odds.

Via playbuzz

One of my favorite parts of Cinderella is probably one of its darkest moments.  After her stepmother and stepsisters leave for the ball, Ella runs out to the well in front of the house and cries.  She is at the end of her rope.  We do occasionally give up and burn out, and that’s OK. When those moments come--not if, when--ask for help.  Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.  Just get back up.

Kindness is treating other people the way you want to be treated.  It is showing courtesy and respect to everyone in spite of the ways in which you are different from them.  You don’t put others down because you don’t know them, or because you don’t like them. And you have a cheerful, positive attitude about life, and not give in to the despair even when that seems like the most reasonable thing to do. When you are kind, you share your positivity with others. You see things, in the words of the narrator, “not as they are, but as they could be”--you see the world for everything that can be changed for the better, you see people for their potential. It is looking beyond appearances, because, as any lover of stories knows, appearances are often deceiving. It is withholding judgment.

Via thehunchblog

Ella first meets Kit when he is out hunting in the woods.  She’s having an awful day, she’s hitting her breaking point with how her stepmother and stepsiblings treat her.  She could have treated Kit with resentment or complained to him about her problems. She could have back-talked him because he looked like a rich snob in the same category as her stepfamily.  But she only rebuked him for hunting an innocent stag.  She recognized that he was showing gentlemanly concern for her and she showed him respect in return. Ella saw him for his goodness and didn’t balk at his manners and his dress. She saw that he only wanted someone to treat him as “Kit” and not a prince.  Being kind to Kit was what helped Ella to win his affections--not just her good looks, but her sensitivity. It is being kind and showing respect to others that opens doors and creates opportunities.
Via ABC news

‘Courage’ and ‘kindness’ aren’t words that are used very often together. But having courage isn’t just about facing things that are scary to everyone: it is facing things that scare you. Being kind is not allowing the threat to have power over us, it is not downplaying the threat, it is being considerate of others in how we respond to a challenge, not just worrying about what’s in it for yourself. 

Ella never stood up to her stepmother until the very end, because Lady Tremaine trying to keep Ella apart from Kit was neither right nor fair.  Before that point, Ella had nothing to gain from fighting back. And after that, Ella forgave her stepmother because she had no reason to hold onto a grudge--isn’t holding onto grudges and grief what poisoned Lady Tremaine’s heart in the first place?

Via whatsonnetflix

Lady Tremaine thought, perhaps because of her own upbringing and because of her own personal losses, that the only way to get what you want in life is to take what you want by force.  But Ella understood that if you have courage and be kind, then you will have what you need, and then the rest can take care of itself.  It is not the material things like ball gowns and titles and wealth that mean anything in the long run.  It is things that aren’t measured or counted that make the most difference.

Next week: Til the end of the line

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

MovieQuote Meditation #1: Your Focus Determines Your Reality

There are Star Wars quotes that stick with you from the first time you watch them, for instance “Do or Do Not, there is no try,” “Fear is the path to the Dark Side,” “Use the Force, Luke,” and so on.  And then there are some that, as time goes on, life gives more meaning to.

Via MotorSports Archives

Jedi Master Qui-gon Jinn gave Anakin Skywalker some advice on how to use the Force before the Boonta Eve podrace. “Your focus determines your reality” may have just been said in passing. However, that quote has been on my mind a lot recently as I have reflected on what kind of a world we live in and what our state of mind should be. It is the things that you think about, the ideas and thoughts you give your attention to, and the activities that you chose to give your time and attention to in your waking life that define, really, what your life is about. It’s what you choose to bring to the table and not what everyone else has.

Looking at the Star Wars saga, we can see how Qui-gon’s words were verified. Anakin Skywalker focused on everything that he thought was unfair about his life, how he thought the Jedi Order was restricting him and controlling him when he wanted to be more powerful. Because he chose to focus on that, and put his efforts into expressing his frustration, that became his reality: his anger and frustration motivated him to make poor choices and eventually consumed him when he chose to go to the Dark Side. If you choose to focus on the negative, then your existence becomes only negativity. If you focus on pain, your life becomes painful. If you focus on doubt, your doubts take control of you.

Anakin’s son Luke Skywalker may have grown up under different circumstances, but he had to make some of the same choices. He could have chosen to become bitter about the deaths of his aunt and uncle and Obi-wan. He could have been angry about how the Empire was treating his friends and how Yoda was telling him not to save them. He could have hated Darth Vader for being literally the worst dad ever.  But Luke saw none of those things.  He saw, under Vader’s mask, the potential for goodness that his father still had inside of him.  He focused on the love that he had for the father he’d never known and wanted so badly in his life. That focus, in the end, helped him to make the choice to save his father.

Seeing the good isn’t necessarily optimism. It’s making things that are good and uplifting a part of our life.  It’s choosing to emphasize the good aspects of something over dismissing it as entirely bad.  We must interpret the world around us in such a way that we do not become part of its evil but we become a force for good within it.

Last September, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed the women of the church with a parable entitled “A Summer with Great Aunt Rose.”  A little girl staying with her great aunt discovers that her aunt that is loved and respected by their community, who is always so perfect and positive, has not had a perfect life.  Great Aunt Rose became who she was because she chose to have faith that even though she could not have the life she had always wanted that she could make the best of the life she was given.
She focused on the positive, and it became her reality.

Via LDS.org

The center of this parable is a painting of a pioneer girl skipping down a sunny path. A pioneer girl in the mid-nineteenth century did not necessarily have an easy life--in fact it would have been filled with all kinds of hardships and trials. And yet the little girl is surrounded with sunshine and bright colors--not from the world she saw but from what she chose to see.  The moment depicted in this painting is not what the girl’s life was but what she made it.

That’s not saying that we should look at everything through rose-colored glasses.  There is evil in the world and it has to be acknowledged. But it does not need to be embraced.  

For instance, I like a lot of movies that people would consider violent. I liked The Martian even though there’s an f-bomb on every page and they dropped at least three in the movie. I read (and loved) several books in college with sexual or textual content that people would consider objectionable.
The smarter or easier thing would be to eschew all entertainment because all of these little flaws.  If I carry through with my OCD thoughts, then everything that entertains me has a worldly message that I should show by my actions cannot be tolerated. But just because a piece of entertainment is imperfect does not mean it has no value.  Some of those novels I read in college, for instance, are important to me personally because of what I learned from them.  

I still have standards, I know better than to watch movies/TV or read books with outright sexual portrayals or other things that don’t agree with me.  When it comes to the things that are easier to question, I focus on why I like them--the storyline, the humor, the moral interpretation that I bring to the table.  

There is a lot of evil in the world, but there is also good--lots of good. We are commanded in the scriptures to lay hold upon every good thing.  Good things that fall in line with my standards, good things that I can share with my family and friends. Good things that bring me joy and make me a better person.

My life in general is like that. Even though my circumstances are less than ideal and it would be easier to give up, I have faith that if I focus on doing good and making the most with what I have, then everything will work out. I put my faith where I want my focus to be--on reaching my goals, and on the joy I find in the journey.

Next Week: Have Courage and Be Kind

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Lizy Reviews: 'Stolen Magic' by Gail Carson Levine

After Ella Enchanted, A Tale of Two Castles is arguably one of Levine’s best works. The recent sequel Stolen Magic, however, fails to live up to the standard.

Image via Goodreads

Elodie returns to her home, the island of Lahnt, in company with Meenore the dragon and Count Jonty Um the ogre.  As they are traveling to reach Elodie’s home, they visit the Oase, which is the home of the High Brunka Marya, the guardian of Lahnt and the Replica that protects it.  They are quick to discover, however, that the Replica has been stolen.  Unless they find the thief and its hiding place, the volcano Zetrum will erupt and destroy part of the island.

Unlike A Tale of Two Castles, Stolen Magic shifts perspectives between Elodie, left behind at the Oase, and Meenore and Jonty Um, who are travelling to other parts of the island to investigate. Elodie’s perspective mostly views the tension between the guests and the servants (“bees”) at the Oase while the refuge is in lockdown mode, and unfortunately it’s not very interesting to read.  On the other hand, the perspectives of the Count and the dragon are fascinating because we get to explore their characters more in depth.

I felt like Levine sprang the brunkas on the reader too quickly.  Brunkas are magical creatures of her own invention, short and humanoid and able to create rainbows with their hands. On the isle of Lahnt they and their assistants help out the inhabitants.  They refer to their enlisted servants as “bees”, which is really a confusing term since other than being in a brunka’s service they aren’t really remarkable.  Stolen Magic is definitely a well-constructed mystery but not that engaging of a book.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Lizy Reviews: The Bluestocking and the Dastardly, Intolerable Scoundrel

After the success of the Jane Austen Diaries and the Fairie Tale collection, Jenni James is taking on the Regency genre. Jenni is off to a great start with the first title in this new endeavor, The Bluestocking and the Dastardly, Intolerable Scoundrel.

The reclusive Lady Lacey Lamb, Viscountess of Melbourne, receives the mortifying news that Lord Alistair Compton has placed a wager to win her love by the end of the social season. Lady Lamb, of course, has no such intentions towards Compton, a gentleman who hovers on the edge of society and quietly regarded as a scoundrel. Lady Lamb sets a wager of her own, that Compton will fall for her instead, and that brings Compton to her townhouse to engage her in what he thinks will be a game of affections.  Instead, they both quickly discover that playing society’s games is not for either of them. Lady Lamb, passionate about the causes of social reform, needs Compton’s friendship and understanding to confront a ton that is eager to watch her demise.  And Compton needs Lacey to show him that there is more to being a Bluestocking than taking an interest in politics. Lord Compton and Lady Lamb in the end are not enemies but people who bring out the best in each other--including true love.

Image of the Cover courtesy of the Author

Bluestocking is a short and sweet romance that is definitely fun to read. It is enchanting how Lord Compton and Lady Lamb are genuinely trying to help each other even before they fall in love. One of the most gripping parts of the book is Lady Lamb’s arrival at the ball. The author does an amazing job portraying her tension and anxiety, and the reader definitely feels as if they are in Lacey’s head.

More importantly, people forget that the Regency era was not just about romance and society but also about people who were trying to bring about change in the world, and Bluestocking is a nice nod to that. The characters’ perspectives on the future of England are realistic in light of these pending changes. Our Bluestocking’s story is not timeless but a tender, personal moment in the midst of a changing world. The Bluestocking and the Dastardly, Intolerable Scoundrel is stupendous, both entertaining and moving. Jenni James brings her personal touch to a period romance and the result is delightful.

Bluestocking is available for Kindle and is currently a Regency bestseller on Amazon.