Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Buffy Season Eight (Finale Opinions at the End)

I've been looking forward to the finale of BtVS season 8 in comics all month, but then the past two weeks were so crazy that I just got to read it today. Pre-today, I was a little mad at Joss. I felt like a lot of the installments in the middle fed into fandoms in an unhelpful, overindulgent way. Like, "Yay! Oz!" and then "Yay, Angel! And yay, Angel and Buffy having sex!" then "Yay, Spike!" plus the random, "What if Buffy had a fling with a girl?" plus bringing the Master in at the end . . . any one of the plot lines may have worked, but having them all made the season feel like it was one of those cheesy "reunion" movies where every random character is brought in just for the sake of making some kind of fake, laugh-track audience in the background cheer.

Plus, this was so much more frustrating because I loved the beginning. I wasn't one of those people who jumped ships because Buffy got it on with a random slayer girl. It lasted a couple of pages and seemed to be overlook-able in my book. It was around the point that they went to Tibet that I got upset. Oz being married just made me sad, because I have this horribly selfish, "If I can't see him with Willow, I don't want to see him with anyone," attitude, but the when Angel showed up and there was the sexisode between him and Buffy, I just got frustrated. There was no motivation for him to be Twilight other than maybe that the Powers That Be talked to him through a dog. Anyway, it wasn't explained well; in fact, it was hardly explained at all. Just Buffy going, "Huh, this is weird. I've never seen him like this before."

When Spike showed up, it was great, because obviously whenever Spike shows up--especially when he knocks something over with a large vehicle in the process--it's great. And I love Spike. But I couldn't help feeling like it was "Spike for the sake of Spike." Once again, I would have liked more motivation. More of a backstory. Better development in general.

Then, the worst developed thing of all (well, at least as badly developed as Angel/Twilight) . . . Giles dying. I'm not mad at Joss for killing Giles. I love Giles as much as any other Buffy fan, but I realize that on a narrative structure, Giles' death could be useful, powerful, and even aesthetically beautiful in the "wow, that was done well" kind of way. But it wasn't. Giles was underdeveloped throughout the whole season, especially his relationship with Buffy, so when he died, I was sad because Giles from the show died, not because Giles from the comic died.

I've been holding onto my Joss love for a long time, through what I thought were some weak stylistic moments in Dollhouse through most of Season 8 of Buffy. I was starting to consider, after issue 39, "breaking up with Joss," as one of my friends calls it. Or maybe not breaking up, because I still love him for everything but half of a comic book season. But I may have considered taking a short break and seeing other writers. Joss definitely saved himself from that in issue 40, however. So many things I loved. First of all, I mostly forgave him for the things that bothered me about the season because he actually did something with them. Giles leaving his estate to Faith and the Faith/Buffy moment . . . awesome. Plus, when Buffy got the Vampyr book, there were tears in my eyes. Angel becoming Twilight still bothers me, and the moral guilt thing he's going through now just seems, well, old. But I love that Faith has become "all about the forgiveness" and is being the strong one now. I didn't know what to think throughout the season with Dawn/Xander (felt like fanfic and not Whedon for most of it), but they were adorable in the finale and I liked them together.

Best, though, Spike definitely earned his keep in the episode. I love his relationship with Buffy, and his speech to her was beautiful. "Honestly? F*** anybody who thinks they could've done better. The world was on fire. The world is always on fire and you're always in the thick of it and the only difference this time is that people actually noticed. So they judge. And they carp, and debate--but put the scythe in their hands and they'd shake like trifle on a train."

So. Awesome.

Lastly, I'm really excited for where this can go. I really like the complications with Willow's character and the strain between her and Buffy . . . even though at an emotional level it makes me sad, at an artistic level, I respect it and it feels real. It wasn't a cheap sensational move on the writer's part. It doesn't feed into audience masochism like killing off characters and breaking up couples does. Joss is awesome at feeding audience masochism, but I think it's a cheep artistic move to make audiences "feel" the easy way. But it also doesn't feed fandom fantasies like getting Buffy and Angel back together for the first time in five seasons. It was a tough move that maneuvered between cheap pain and cheap happiness and gave the audience a real, powerful emotional experience. And it creates great potential for season 9.

OK. Those are my thoughts. Believe it or not, I have more. This is the restrained version. But enough for one night . . .

Friday, January 21, 2011

Craz(ier) Week: Accidents and (rambling) tornado feelings

So after the initial craziness of Tuesday's little ice excitement on the way to school and Wednesday being a somewhat stressful day from an overwhelming reading class to an especially confusing youth group time (not the students' fault, mainly me and my silly emotions), Thursday proved the craziest day of all. Long story, but basically I was going from campus straight to a youth group leadership meeting and ended up in an accident--thankfully not with any other cars, but taking out one of those shiny metal freeway posts on my way down into the ditch at 70 mph. Yep. Second time on the side of the road in three days. Except this time was much scarier because I was going way faster, was freaked out that it was the second time happening, and had way less control over my car. And it was dark. And below zero outside. Very unfun.

It was probably the scariest thing of this type to happen since the tornado. And I hate the fact that I make that association, but there's a certain kind of feeling--that sense of fear and yet control--freaking out but knowing you can't panic and need to keep it all together--that felt similar. It was different than when I freak out because tornado sirens are going off or because I'm driving in a giant thunderstorm, or that sick feeling I get in my stomach when I see half-torn-down buildings. It's this sense of keep-holding-it-together, please-help-me-God desperation. The tornado was way worse than the accident, but it was the same feeling to a lesser degree, and I think it was that much more frightening because my head identified it as the same and connected it to the tornado.

I've felt it since the tornado and before last night in much smaller degrees, but those moments passed by so quickly that I never really noticed the similarity. And last night, when I realized what that feeling was, I started wondering if I'm always going to have that new oh-no-not-this-again feeling added to every this-may-be-a-near-death-experience feeling.

I'm being rambly and I know it, so I'll move on the the less rambly finish of the story. God was very good, he sent me a very gracious state trooper and a very kind tow man, my car is hopefully not going to need too expensive of repairs, and I'm safe even though I know it could have been a much worse accident. I'm home, safe, slightly scared of driving now, but mostly moving on. I'm exceedingly grateful to God for his protection. I just wish my silly feelings wouldn't over-react so much!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crazy Week

Tuesday morning, I felt so well prepared for the first day of teaching! I woke up early so that I could get to campus a couple hours before class started and finalize everything. Unfortunately, because my car had no snow and little ice on it when I got in, I assumed that the roads were likewise clear. I went the back way down Dubuque which I usually prefer because I like driving through farm fields and woods on my way to campus. It was soo slippery, and to make matters worse, my window kept smearing up with freezing rain and road grit. I rounded the corner near Grace, except that my car didn't want to turn and instead slid off the road toward a grove of trees. Thankfully, I turned soon enough to land in a snow bank instead of a tree. Also, thankfully, two other cars were on the side of the road with a tow truck. The tow dude let me get in line and towed me out, and I made it to campus in time to teach. Still. Not the way you want to start the semester.

Yesterday, I started my Romanticism class and . . . woah. So much reading. As in, we're frequently reading two novels per week, some of which are 600+ pages long! I keep telling myself that I'm going to feel like such a superstar grad student when this semester is over, though. We'll see how long that line works on me . . . I'm working through our first novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho right now. And when I get tired of it, I try to pretend that I'm Catherine Morland. It hasn't really worked yet, but it's worth the try, right?

I'm looking forward to this weekend. The first week of teaching and classes is always crazy, and this week has been extra exhausting. I want to sit around and watch TV shows for a couple of hours.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Awesome Weekend

I thought I was ready to go back to school at the beginning of last week. I thought "this week will be nice, but I miss structure and people." Then this weekend happened, and even though nothing "special" happened, it was an awesome weekend and I'm sad that it has to end. On Friday, I went shopping in the morning and found two cute skirts on super sale, which always makes me happy. Then, I worked, and decided to have "date night" by myself in the evening--i.e. movie and dinner. So I came home, made a yummy omelet for myself, and curled up with a favorite, Jane Austen Book Club. I love that movie. Any movie that has the line, "Are you here for the Buffy convention" in it has to be great, right?

Yesterday, I watched the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game and made cherry turnovers! I've been doing the very basic version of my elimination diet for the past week and a half, and I've felt great! But I wanted something other than my sunbutter cookies for sweets, and since I can't have wheat, rice, potato, etc. on this stage of the diet, I took out a chebe cinnamon mix and made dough for turnovers. And they turned out great!

Then, I decided that Friday night movie night was so much fun, I wanted to do it again. So I redbox-ed the new Shrek movie and ate turnovers. Another successful movie night. Then I took a bubble bath, which I will never grow too old for, and watched Jaynestown and reveled in its awesomeness. Good night.

This morning was church at Northbrook. I found out at my membership meeting that the structure and leadership of youth group was going to be changing, and I didn't know how to feel about it, but this morning, the guy who's going to be leading youth group with his wife invited me to join the vision meeting they're having on Thursday. It was nice to be included and know that I could be a part of the changes, too :-) Then, afterwards, I got to talk with some people and left feeling very happy with the sense of community and family I've found at Northbrook.

It's been a "normal" weekend, but I've felt abnormally happy and content. Which is great. And while I don't want to head back on Tuesday, I'm so glad I've got another day and a half to enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Whatever" Prayers

I have my membership meeting for Northbrook tomorrow, so I spent over an hour last night writing my testimony. As it is, it would take at least twelve minutes to share, so I might shorten it. But maybe not. We'll see. It was the first time I had formally written or planned to share my testimony in quite a few years. Sharing my testimony in everyday life is usually just sharing snippets as they seem relevant or helpful to the moment. So it wasn't until I sat down to write my "updated" testimony that I've realized how many things have changed and how different my perspective on my own life has become.

One of the biggest things I was challenged with was the fact that it's a lot harder for me to pray "Do whatever it takes" prayers. One of the last times I prayed one of those, a giant tornado destroyed 2/3 of student housing and damaged most of Union's buildings. While I look back on that event and say, "Yes, God, you were good and you did awesome things through that," it still makes it hard to pray another one of those "whatever" prayers. God gave me the strength to make it through the tornado. He gave me the strength to make it through CFS and some torturously hard semesters of being sick. He's given me the strength to overcome some huge personal struggles and make it through some other really difficult situations.

Somedays, I'm just tired of being strong. I want to grow closer to God, more passionate for him and his kingdom, but I'm afraid of the "whatever it takes." The last few "whatevers" took so much out of me that I sometimes fear that I don't have enough energy for the next "whatever" that might result from my pursuing God.

Looking through my testimony, though, I remembered that everything I've gone through has been to teach me not to rely on my own strength and sense of control, but to let go of my "control" over life and give it over to God. I don't have the strength to make it through a single day, let alone the "big" things that happen in life. But God gives me the strength for day-to-day things and he'll give me the strength for future "big" things. In 1 Cor 10:13, Paul writes, "God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." And even when the big situation is not temptation specifically, God's character is good, and he is faithful. Even if a challenge I may face is too big for me, it will never be too big for God.

Friday, January 7, 2011

God's Timing

Patience isn't my strong suit. I like anticipating and planning and knowing things ahead of time. And I like doing things. But sometimes it's good when God says, "Wait." One of my favorite "new" verses (or new favorite verses?) is Psalm 130:5-6: "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits for him, and in his word I hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchman for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning."

I felt called to pursue overseas missions after I graduate three months ago. And because I don't graduate for another two and a half years, that means doing a lot of waiting right now. When Kenya became a possible option, I wanted to jump on a plane right away and go visit and make connections this summer. Then, God--and finances--said to wait. Or at least be okay with waiting if that's what's best. Next I got to get together with someone and talk about the university. She suggested I email a missionary with any questions I might have, but I felt like God was saying "wait" again. So I gave it a month and took the time to pray and make sure that I wasn't rushing into something just because it was new and exciting.

Today, I ended up emailing the person in Kenya. And now, I'm waiting again. It nice, though, that when you wait on God's timing--even for the little things--you get a sense of peace when you finally do things.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm Back!, aka, Apparently I Don't Write Enough for my Day-Job

I thought I was finished regularly blogging. I took the cultural cues from HIMYM that blogging was so early-2000s, I decided that my blogging was mainly a college thing, and when the fall became the busiest semester I've ever experienced, I mostly forgot that I even had a blog. Then, though, I'd have those thoughts through the day that made me think, "Ooh, I should blog about that!" And then I'd be sad because I didn't have a current blog to blog on. So, now that life is a little less crazy, I'm back. Because apparently I don't write enough as a rhetoric instructor and English PhD student . . .

What's happened since my last post? Obviously, a very, very busy semester. I'm so glad that I went to Pittsburgh and went to the doctor this summer, because I barely made it through with improved-health working for me. I also decided that I should use my "getting better" to serve God and minister to others, and not only selfishly use it to make my life more fun and comfortable. As much as I love that it has made my life both more fun and more comfortable. So, I prayed, and I felt called to start working with the youth group at church. Although it included changing some of my romantic illusions of what it would be like to be the cool, hip, 20-something youth group volunteer, it also has been really great. I haven't been for the past month and a half because of sickness/school, but I'm really looking forward to going back.

Shortly after beginning to work with the youth group, I started considering the bigger picture of how I wanted to use my much-improved life to glorify God and serve people. I remembered how I thought I might go into missions after grad school when I first started but then quickly assumed that overseas living, at least, was out of the picture if I had CFS. So I thought that might be an option again. In youth group, we were reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love. A few chapters at the end reminded me of the way I felt about things like life, money, and missions when I was younger. My passion for resisting the allures of comfortable, middle-class American life was renewed, along with my desire to go overseas and live a crazy life of sacrifice. So I started pursuing overseas missions as an option after grad school. I still have 2.5 years of grad school left, but even at this point, it's both an exciting and scary process.

Anyway, I'm back. And hopefully this is enough catch-up that I can blog stuff, now, and it will make a little bit of sense.