Today, I turn twenty-four.

My twenty-third year was emotionally and physically taxing. To name a few situations I faced, for most of the year, my grandfather was ill and I helped my grandma take care of him and hold things down at home until he passed away in August. I started the year with several doctor’s appointments, then had surgery in June (It wasn’t for anything terrible, don’t worry). I’ve also been in a year-long job search that’s caused me to experience every emotion between excitement and disappointment. I spent too much time this year feeling like a failure for not accomplishing everything I wanted by this age and for putting my blog on hold after I worked hard in 2014-2015 to update regularly.

twenty-fourWhen I’m going through a difficult time, I have a tendency to dwell on everything that’s going wrong and overlook the positive things. I know I’ve done too much complaining this year, even calling this the worst year of my life on several occasions. My family and friends have had to hear it all and I feel awful about that. Two days ago, I saw a viral Tumblr post that challenged users to reblog (repost) it on their own blogs and add something good that happened to them in 2016. Inspired by that post, I’ve challenged myself to name twenty-four good things about my twenty-third year. I recommend listening to “Twenty-Four” by Switchfoot while you read, which I’ve linked above.

  1. pearl-jam-fan-portrait-4-18-16My highlight of the year was seeing my favorite band, Pearl Jam, play in my hometown. During “Rocking in the Free World,” Eddie Vedder pointed to me and threw me a tambourine from the stage.

2. I finally had the opportunity to get a Pearl Jam Fan Portrait taken by the lovely Tanya Kang.

3. Though it was painful at times, I’m grateful that I could be with my grandfather in his last months of life.

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My Summer in an ’80s Movie Vacuum

This summer was a challenging one and movies were welcome mood-boosters, especially while I was stuck indoors recovering from surgery. I never set out to watch only 1980s films, but it just sort of… happened and I was transported to a pretty rad decade. It was a fun journey and I enjoyed re-watching movies I hadn’t seen in years, as well as discovering others I hadn’t seen before. Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to mention Netflix’s brilliant ’80s-set Stranger Things (I’ve been hooked on it), but I’ll save a full post on that for another day.

Here are some of the ’80s flicks I watched this summer:


Weird Science (1985, dir. John Hughes)

Weird Science is a film I’d heard about all my life but never watched until this summer. After viewing, I can say it’s not my favorite John Hughes film by far, but its humor is so over the top that it just works. In the film, two nerdy teenage boys harness computer technology to create the “perfect” girlfriend of their fantasies. Although some aspects of the film could be viewed as sexist in today’s climate, actress Kelly Le Brock shines in her role as Lisa and adds depth and nuance to the character beyond the arm candy the boys intended her to be.

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Rise Above It: Jon Foreman’s Lyrics and My Fight Against Fear

“How this works is that it’s like busking, except there’s no money involved.”


Jon Foreman’s solo aftershow on the steps of Grace Cathedral. San Francisco, CA – July 9, 2015

From the front steps of Grace Cathedral, Jon Foreman addressed the fans gathered to see his aftershow performance. Minutes earlier at The Masonic, a venue just steps away from the cathedral, Foreman’s band Switchfoot kicked off the second leg of the Tour de Compadres along with Needtobreathe, Colony House, and Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors. Foreman began playing “Only Hope,” and I was overcome with emotion as two realizations hit me: one, that I was in California, and two, that I was finally attending one of Foreman’s famous aftershows. As I sang softly along with the crowd, I hardly noticed the chilly air and occasional raindrops; a welcome change from the crushing humidity of Virginia. Continue reading

Smile, It’s No Coincidence

coin stackEarlier this morning, I was out taking care of some banking. I was the only customer in the bank at the time and two tellers greeted me. One said, “I’m liking your smiles this morning. Have you had a good morning?” I replied that actually, I’d had a rough morning. The teller who was handling my transaction asked, “Really? Why has it been rough?” I explained that just an hour earlier, we had to call paramedics to take my grandfather to the hospital. While the caregiver was helping him wash up, he became unresponsive and for a short while, stopped breathing. The first teller responded that he was sorry to hear about my grandfather, but glad to see that I was still smiling through the situation.

The second teller and I wound up talking for a few minutes. She offered her prayers, advice, and support. When I told her I was looking for full-time work, she mentioned that she knew of local business managers who were hiring. We exchanged business cards and she said she would keep me in mind next time she saw them. When my transaction was finished, the teller wished me a good day and told me she believed my grandfather would be alright.

I left the bank smiling – not because I was trying to put on a brave face, but because I felt so blessed by the teller’s encouragement and knew that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment. Had I gone to the bank minutes earlier or later, it may have been too crowded for the tellers and I to converse. After all, more cars began pulling into the lot as I left. How interesting that as I’m in the midst of a job search, I walked up to the bank teller who has potential employment resources. I don’t view these situations as mere coincidences or strokes of luck, but reminders that God is in control of our lives. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, He’s in control of mine. He really has meant for us to be in certain places at certain times.

I was also reminded of the ways God can use complete strangers to bless and encourage us. Today, my encouragement came in the form of two kind bank tellers. I just wish I knew their names so I could thank them again.

Image by Luis Llerena @ Stocksnap

Tuesday Tunes – “Speak To Me Gently” by Future of Forestry

Today’s song may be my favorite in Future of Forestry’s entire catalogue, and with several albums and EPs full of excellent material to choose from, that’s not an easy selection. Future of Forestry is the project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Owyoung. “Speak To Me Gently” appears on the band’s 2007 Twilight album. It’s a beautiful song about hope and healing that has helped me through some rough times. I don’t want to clutter this post with too many of my own thoughts because this is a song that speaks for itself. Sometimes it’s better to stop talking and simply listen.

Love waits for you. Never forget that.

For more on Future of Forestry: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Tuesday Tunes – “So So” by Gary Go

Sometimes you feel “so so.” Sometimes you hear yourself described back to you in a song. Sometimes those things happen at the same time.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been revisiting albums that I haven’t fully listened to in awhile. One of them is Gary Go’s 2009 self-titled debut album, also known as Of Youth / Of Beauty. I purchased the album as a senior in high school when his music made its way across the pond with the catchy, uplifting single, “Wonderful.” The album gradually fell out of rotation in my library over the next few years, but after coming back to it, I can say that Of Youth / Of Beauty is a strong, timeless pop album that I expect to hold up for many more years.

“So So” is a song that I appreciate more with age and experience. As a teenager,  feeling “so so” meant feeling bummed about having too much homework or having to write several scholarship essays to help with college expenses. A couple of years ago, I had a difficult “so so” period that was much closer to this song’s lyrics. I have a greater appreciation for Gary Go’s songwriting in “So So” because sadly – or perhaps fortunately – I’ve experienced some of these same feelings.

“When it’s too late to be late, I don’t show up at all. The gaps in my diary speak volumes about me.”

Man, oh man, can I relate to this.

“I’ve done something wrong. At least I’ve done something.”

This, too.

Even today, I’d describe myself as feeling a bit “so so,” although a brighter, more optimistic “so so” that’s pretty far from the “so so” I felt a couple of years ago. It mainly results from my current job search, which brings an assortment of feelings throughout the process. While I’m generally not fond of conjuring up feelings from that time, sometimes I appreciate those reminders because they remind me of how far I’ve come, how much stronger I am now, and how drastically my perspective has changed.

“I’ve found I’m bound only to me.”

This was a key realization for me in overcoming the “so so” period. Part of the problem was that I needed to get out of my own way. Once I did, things improved.

I may owe Gary Go solid gold for this song.

For more on Gary Go: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | SoundCloud

“So So” has been added to the Tuesday Tunes Spotify playlist.

Infallible: Top Ten Pearl Jam Songs Ranked by Fans

In October, a Pearl Jam fan named Andrew, known as @theboytemps on Twitter, asked his Twitter followers to rank their favorite Pearl Jam albums. Due to strong interest, he set up another poll to ask the “#PJFam” to rank their ten favorite songs by the band. “I did this one because people asked me to and took time out to submit lists of their favourite Pearl Jam songs,” Andrew said. “‘Black’ and ‘Release’ were undoubtedly going to be favourites but it was interesting to see such diversity in people’s other choices, which proved that Pearl Jam’s music reaches people on so many different levels.”

Tallying votes was easier for Andrew this time around with the implementation of Twitter’s new polling feature. Previously, votes had to be counted by hand as each individual reply came in. Here are the results in order from least favorite to most favorite:

*Full disclosure: I participated in the voting.

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Tuesday Tunes – “Black Sun” by Death Cab for Cutie

Today’s tune is one of my favorites from Death Cab for Cutie’s 2015 album, Kintsugi. The Japanese term “kintsugi” translates to “golden joinery” or “golden repair,” which is the art of repairing a broken piece of pottery with a gold, silver, or platinum lacquer. (Source) According to this philosophy, the repaired piece does not lose value for having been broken. The filled cracks are considered part of the object’s history and add to its beauty.

Frontman Ben Gibbard has said that “Black Sun” is about “squaring the past with the present.” The song also presents opposing situations that contrast beauty and brokenness, for example, “death upon the vine,” “an answer in a question,” and “hope within despair.” The music video expands on this theme, showing the opposing realities of a stuntman and an actress.

I think this video serves as a metaphor for a broken relationship. The stuntman shoots a difficult scene in the sun over and over, further hurting himself each time, and has to eat his meal and tend to his injuries alone. Meanwhile, the actress is given a styling team, a comfortable chair, and even has someone holding an umbrella to shade her from the sun. It’s a visual representation of someone giving all of himself to a relationship while the other person contributes far less. Eventually, the stuntman reaches a breaking point of sorts when his body breaks the car windshield he’s thrown himself onto. It’s only after the windshield breaks that the stuntman’s work is finished and the actress gets in the car. Similar to the concept of kintsugi, he will leave the set hurt and broken, but stronger and more beautiful for what he’s endured.

Tuesday Tunes – “I’ve Been Bored” by Superheaven

You’re missing the point again – aliens do exist! Well, at least they do in the music video for “I’ve Been Bored,” a single from Superheaven’s 2015 album, Ours is Chrome.

Despite its video, the song is more about humans than aliens. Lead singer Taylor Madison says that the lyrics reference being tired of bands following trends and copying other bands’ work rather than creating something original. (“I’ve been so sick of flowers on everything.”) In this case, Superheaven forgoes flowers and puts an alien sticker on their van instead.

For more on Superheaven: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

Tuesday Tunes – “Left Handed Kisses” by Andrew Bird & Fiona Apple

“I can’t write simple love songs. People are complex,” Andrew Bird said in a press release accompanying this single from his forthcoming album,  Are You Serious. “Left Handed Kisses” isn’t a love song. It’s a song about trying to write a love song. Bird collaborated with Fiona Apple for this duet. Her vocals carry the song into “call and response” territory, adding a sharp edge to Bird’s softer tone. “Left Handed Kisses” never allows the listener to get too comfortable, as both singers’ voices exhibit varying degrees of sweetness and bitterness throughout the song. It’s a perfect mirror of the human complexities that prevent Bird from writing simple love songs to begin with.

“Left Handed Kisses” has been added to the Tuesday Tunes Spotify playlist.