Waiting, in Silence

I am a problem-solver. Not a particularly good one, but a problem-solver nevertheless. Have you heard that dumb interview question, "Which would you rather have: a problem or a blank piece of paper?" I will always pick the problem. If you hand me a blank piece of paper all you're going to get is 11 poorly drawn cubes, maybe a spiral, and blood from the two papercuts I'm basically contractually obliged to get.

But when you give me a problem, I spring into action. I love problems because I love answers. And I love answers because I love knowing exactly what to do.

In the middle of uncertainty and struggle, then, I immediately go into problem-solving mode. When money gets tight, when sickness enters the family, or when I can't stand the thought of working another day at this damn job - I start googling, drawing charts, building spreadsheets. I make contingency plans. And if that fails, I begin calling people - the boyfriend, someone from church, my Dad - someone who can tell me what to do.

I've been dealing with some personal battles for the past couple of weeks, and I desperately long for someone to give me answers. At this point I might even take a bad answer, so long as I have one. But, for the first time, as I began writing the text or an overwrought email, I stopped myself.

As much as I want a plan, and as I sit in the still, small, and necessarily intimate space of my 450 ft studio apartment, I have felt the quiet conviction that God wants me come to Him instead. Where I would text someone, He wants me to sit down. When I start googling, He wants me to be still and pray. When I want to cry to a friend, He is asking me to cry out to Him first.

I felt affirmed in my conviction as I was reading Lamentations the other day. Of a suffering man, the author writes,

Let him sit alone and be silent
Since He has laid it on him. (Lamentations 3:28, NASB)

I don't know why I found this verse so profound, because as I mulled it over, I realize God has been speaking this message to me again and again, year after year, across the pages of His word.

The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent. (Exodus 14:14, NASB)

Cease striving and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10, NASB), or
Be still, and know that I am God. (NIV)

Whom have I in heaven but You? (Psalm 73:25, NASB)

I don't have enough words within me to explain how hard and lonely it is to recognize and give up a reliance on human assurance. To put down the phone, shut off the laptop, and get down on your knees. To pray to a God that at times seems distant, while earthly advice seems so tangible.

But, at the end of the day and at the end of your life, it comes down to you and God. No one on this earth can fight the battles you will face. There is nothing in this world that can save you from your worst fears. The only hope you have is in Christ. God alone is the blessed controller of all things, and He demands your submission to His sovereignty.

So. We sit in our tiny, intimate rooms and quietly place our trust in a God who is far wiser and promises that every minute of waiting is for our good and His glory. We pray and cry out to a God that allows our suffering and sometimes meets us with silence, because we know we will not wait forever. We rely on a God who leads us down paths we do not understand, because He assures us that He is prospering us (Jeremiah 29:11), restoring us (1 Peter 5:10) , and fighting for us (Exodus 14:14).

We cease our striving and sit alone and wait on our God, because we know that our hope is not here.



Where'd You Go, Bernadette and the Art of the bRob Book Review

I adore book reviews. I honestly enjoy reading book reviews more than reading actual books, which is probably a shame, but I can't bring myself to feel too badly about it. I've always wanted write book reviews on this site but haven't had a clue where to start, and also I'm terrible at reviews. That said, if I had to be so bold, I would propose that the first step to writing any solid book review is maybe reading the book. (I'm going to give you a moment to take in that overwhelming knowledge bomb.)


Though studying for the GREs is a legitimate excuse for holding off on pleasure reading (that's what my parents always called non-school/work reading, though it sounds a little weird if you ask me), sometimes it's a struggle for me to actually get back into the habit of reading books. After all, Twin Peaks is on Netflix and also naps.

But I think the root of this reluctance to read may also be a form of perfectionism. A diligent reader would use her time to read something meaningful, right? So I should probably start by reading The Grapes of Wrath or A Brief History of Time or some sort of self-help book about meditation and not being so late all the time. The thing of it is, I'm learning that if I wait until I'm ready to read the "right", best book, I'm probably going to turn on my laptop and goof around.

This is where the Quick Win enters the scene. A Quick Win is any easy task on your To-Do list. You complete it, and suddenly, before you know it, you've done an entire thing! Theoretically you will use this accomplishment as a catalyst for working on bigger, badder things, and soon you will probably be an Expert Doer of Things. The concept applies similarly to books. Whenever I find that I am reluctant to jump back into reading, I start with something simple - brain candy, vacation reads, and then maybe next week I'll move on to Faulkner (hah. HAH.).

This week's Quick Win is Where'd You Go, Bernadette. I've noticed this book at Target time and time again, which means it must have mass appeal and be generally entertaining. I toyed with the idea of buying it, but buying books brand new often leaves me with a "Shouldn't Have Bought That" hangover that can last for weeks, so I typically just avoid all bookstores and head towards the thrift store a few blocks from my apartment.

It's kind of a hodgepodge in there, and at any given time the the thrift store has less than one hundred books. You essentially go there to get lucky, not to find anything in particular. Fortunately for me, I've been extremely lucky. I found The Book Thief for twenty-five cents (I think I use the word 'cents' about three times a year because nothing costs so little anymore) and a brand new hardback copy of Where'd You Go, Bernadette for only ninety-nine cents! And I also found a huge embroidered flower still life for only five dollars, if that is a thing that is of interest to you.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is the book that has finally convinced me I do not enjoy the epistolary style; it is written as a series of correspondences between different characters in the novel, some of whom, quite frankly, are colossal tools.

I dislike book reviews that simply rehash the entire plot of the novel, so, at a high level, this book is about a family of odd-balls, some of whom have their acts more together than others. The family members are at times disappointing and at others wholly endearing.

The first third of the book focuses on Bernadette's general instability, the cruelty of her peers, and a family slowly unraveling. In the interest of full disclosure, I hated her predicament so much that, combined with all the cheesy emails and letters, I almost stopped reading the book. But, being that I was on a business trip and hadn't packed any other books (rare) and also MY MOMMA DIDNT RAISE NO QUITTER, I rallied and continued.

By the halfway mark I was so infuriated at the "gnats" (Bernadette's sworn enemies) that I simply had to keep reading, primarily in hopes of a resolution. Good always wins, and all that. If writing is able to anger you to the point where you are ready to physically fight the author, I suppose it's not a bad book and Maria Semple probably knows what she's doing.

Happy Endings via 
WYG,B officially suckered me in when team Bernadette made their way (spoiler alert) to Antarctica. There's nothing more sublime than a book that makes me want to travel, and if a book can convince me I should spend $30,000 dollars to go visit the godforsaken wasteland that is the Antarctic, well, then that Semple has officially earned 3 out of 5 stars. Technically I would give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars, but Goodreads doesn't let you give half stars, and I round down because I'm mean.

Now the fun part: A Giveaway!
Since I got this book on the cheapety-cheap and would generally recommend it as a Quick Win read, I would like to give you, dear reader, the opportunity to win my copy of the book. All you have to do to enter is comment on this post with a book you've read or are planning to read with a one- to two-sentence synopsis by 6/5/15. I will research all book recommendations and pick my favorite as the winner. I'll then mail you the book within the next week or so.

Sound kosher?

Happy Reading,


What We Learned (or Didn't) from the Girls of the Gilmore Girls

Because I spent an inordinate amount of the past month binge watching all seven seasons of the Gilmore Girls, I feel I have garnered the appropriate qualifications to spend the remainder of this post overanalyzing and reviewing the single most formative show of my teenage years.

It's a show that's made me laugh, cry, and scream violently at the television. And I would like to think that, after 7 seasons* 22 episodes/season*42 minutes/episodes (please don't do that math), I've learned a few things. I'd really like to think that. I'll let you read on and be the judge, though.

First and foremost...
Why Rory is a Terrible Person and You Won't Learn Anything from Her

You will not learn anything from Rory. Don't try. Inasmuch as she is the main and title character of the show, see if you can ignore her, as it'll improve your viewing experience.

  • Rory is boring. She is the equivalent of hotel art. Her character is inoffensive to the point that it is completely devoid of personality. She likes all the music. She reads all the books. She eats all the junk food. She dates all the boys. She is beloved by all the people, though for the life of me I can't tell you why. In seven years of Rory's life, I can name about two or three times I heard her express marginally controversial opinions. Grow a personality, you drip.
  • Rory is a snob. I realize the cast of Stars Hollow is supposed to be this eclectic mix of people who are cause for eyebrows raises galore, but Rory is constantly throwing major side eye at their antics. While her mother can pull off shade and side-eye because of her McSassy personality, Rory just comes off as judgmental. 87% of Bledel's acting involves an eyebrow raise, an "Okayyyy", and a "Oh jeez"-laugh. She doesn't bother developing sincere relationships with any of the weirder characters in the series; she's too busy getting irritated (see: yelling at Shawna for having the television on in another room) or living in her own self-involved world to give a single thought to anyone else. Remember when she admitted to her parents that she doesn't hang out with any of her staff at the Yale Daily News? It's not a full-time job and you're not a real boss, you egomaniac.
  • Rory is a hypocrite. Whatever the show likes to assert about Rory's childhood, Rory has had everything handed to her on a silver platter. While she might not have been born with a silver spoon in mouth, she's probably about two degrees away. She went to a high-falootin' private school, complete with a uniform and fencing classes, and continued on to the humble Yale University...on her grandparents' dime. She did not have to buy her first car (compliments of an overindulgent and annoying boyfriend), or her second (a brand new Prius compliments of overindulgent and extremely wealthy grandparents). There's nothing wrong with having money or being related to people with money, but Rory does an excellent job of simultaneously scorning people who have money. In season 7, Logan invites Rory to attend an admittedly lavish party full of his business associates. He kindly and thoughtfully introduces her to a successful writer, for whom she immediately writes an article ridiculing the party and its attendees. Please note that she openly mocks the rich and wealthy at a party to which her rich and wealthy boyfriend invites her, and then proceeds to go home to the apartment for which her rich and wealthy boyfriend pays. Dang, Rory. Dang.
  • There's Just No Way. Rory did not hang out with her shut-in of a best friend, go on dates with her overly-attached boyfriend (Dean you're just so gross), indulge Paris' mandatory study sessions, visit her grandparents for dinner on Friday evenings, eat 73 pounds of junk food and have movie marathons with her mother on Saturday nights, attend every single town meeting and festival ever, constantly shop for used books and cd's, drink coffee at Luke's every single morning, read every single book in the history of ever, endear herself to the entire Chilton school body, get eight hours of sleep, and graduate as Valedictorian. I call bull. As a society, we've talked about the unrealistic physical standards Barbie sets for little girls. Why aren't we talking about the unrealistic standards Rory sets for students?
  • Rory dated Dean. Gross.
You may ask, then, why I spent so much time watching a show about a girl I can't stand. Despite...Rory, this show is rich, colorful, and, while not quite on par with Aesop's Fables, brimming with lessons. 

The Most Inspiring Women of the Gilmore Girls and What We Can Learn From Them
*Please not that Emily Gilmore, while one of my favorite characters, did not make the cut. Emily is what I would consider a Lawful Neutral, waffling between light villainy and thoughtful generosity. Despite her extravagance and lavishness, she is actually kind of relatable. 

5. Lorelei Gilmore

Lorelai Gilmore misc. - lorelai-gilmore Photo
Lorelei is at the very bottom of this list because she shares a lot Rory's hamartias. I mean, it makes sense, being as they're a family and all, so they can be snobby and entitled and judgmental together. But while her rebel-without-a-cause schtick is grating and overdone, and though she constantly exploits the kindness of her fellow townsfolk, Lorelai demonstrates a fierce and constant and exemplary love for her daughter. She supports Rory through every heartbreak, every setback, and every failure, which, if you think about how awful of a person Rory is, is pretty impressive. 

4. Lulu

Anyone who can date Kirk deserves a mention. If loving the unlovable is an acquired skill and an art, Lulu is a master.

3. Sookie St. James

Sookie St. James nella cucina del ristorante.
Sookie is a true artist, and she is dedicated to her craft. As the resident chef at the Independence Inn and later the Dragonfly Inn, she is constantly challenging herself to create unique and bold menus while maintaining the integrity of her food. While on maternity leave, Sookie has her staff sneak her some of Luke's cooking and calls him non-stop to critique his dishes. Obnoxious? Certainly. But that sort of unwavering commitment to excellence is something for which we should all strive, don't you think?

Also, how much does she love Jackson?? Her self-sacrificial love for her husband is truly heartwarming. For those of you who don't know, Jackson is the produce supplier to the Inn, and therefore works closely with Sookie. When a rival vegetable man (which GG would have you believe is a legitimate career option) offers Sookie some vegetables that are far superior to Jackson's vegetables, Sookie chooses Jackson's. She is a top-notch chef whose cooking is her pride, but she chooses to support her husband first and foremost. There's something really precious about that.

2. Paris Gellar

Of all the characters on this show, Paris is the one to whom I most closely relate, or at least the character whom I would most like to be. Yes, she is cutthroat, dramatic, socially oblivious, and occasionally irrational. She is also ambitious, savvy, and aggressive in the pursuit of her goals. I realize that I'm supposed to find her whiteboards and laminated itineraries excessive and borderline crazy, but in all honesty, I admire that she is able to find so many opportunities and take advantage of them, and candidly, I'm jealous of her stamina. Her short-lived decision to break up with Doyle, while sophomoric, highlights the purity and depth of her ambition.

Additionally, Paris is actually a pretty great friend. In their final years together at Yale, Paris pushes Rory and holds her accountable in a way no one else will. When Rory quits Yale, self-indulgent brat that she is, Paris hunts her down and tries to change her mind. As graduation nears, Paris encourages (...ok, forces) Rory to apply for innumerable scholarships and grants. Paris watches out for Rory. We could all stand to have a friend like that - one who pushes and pulls us towards greatness.

1. Ms. Kim

Stick with me on this one. Ms. Kim's entire character is a parody of religion. It is often offensive and always hyperbolic. I have strong opinions about the representation of religion, especially Christianity, on television (see: Ann, Arrested Development; Marsha, Parks and Recreation; Dale, Greek; etc.), but let's set that aside for the moment. Ms. Kim is severe and unrelatable. However, there is one defining moment of the whole series that completely changed how I thought about her.

Ms. Kim's daughter, Lane, is kicked out of the house for joining a band and breaking pretty much every one of Ms. Kim's rules. When Lane's band has run out of opportunities and is on the verge of breaking up, Lane crawls back to Ms. Kim's house and asks to be allowed back. She swears to follow all of Ms. Kim's rules and give up the band. What happened next brought me to the brink of tears: Ms. Kim turns to her and asks her, isn't the band her dream? How dare she give up so easily!

In that moment, Ms. Kim epitomizes the adage 'Love the sinner, hate the sin'. (Let it be known that I do not think playing in a band is a sin, but Ms. Kim does.) Her daughter has rejected her and her lifestyle, but when Lane begins to give up on her dream, Ms. Kim steps in. She spends the remainder of the episode using her connections to help the band plan a tour. Ms. Kim's love surpasses her disapproval, and though she may wish for different things for her daughter, she fights for her daughter's success.

I've enjoyed this series for many reasons, but Ms. Kim's forgiveness and grace towards Lane is perhaps the most beautiful and profound moment of the Gilmore Girls.

In my humble opinion.



bRob the Romantic

Hi Webs -

I don't want you to feel sorry for me or anything but i did write this on Valentine's evening from the inside of an airport hotel room that smelled vaguely of oldness. I trust you're grateful I spared you all my Valentine's Day whinging on Valentine's Day proper, because that's the kind of thoughtful person I sometimes accidentally am.

As the snowpocalypse reigned supreme over in NC, my red-eye flight was delayed and I finally groveled my way into a ticket on Saturday morning.

via imgur
Which, if you do the math, leaves me in my airport hotel over Valentine's day. Being single on Valentine's Day is obviously not the most fun way to spend a holiday devoted to romance, and sitting alone in a hotel room spilling an ungodly amount of Thai food  (the lady offered me three sets of utensils. I'd probably find that amusing if it weren't such a cliche) all over the bed kind of exacerbates the whole ordeal.

After a lot of that ^^^ and about 3 hours of this  on repeat and just general all around self-pitying, I decided the best thing I could do to cheer myself up is to give back; giving back is so rewarding. Or so I've read.

In that generous spirit I have compiled some free romantic advice loosely based on a date I may or may not have had with Office Pervert, formerly know as OC for those who have followed along religiously.

How to Romance the Ladies, Probably

by bRob

1)  Practice saying "You look good" in a way that doesn't make me think you might have ladies' body parts stashed in your basement.

2) If a restaurant serves wine in a plastic glass, I promise you don't need to swirl and sniff before delicately sipping. That wine most definitely came from Wal-Mart.

3) Maybe don't hype up and make reservations for a restaurant that serves wine in a plastic glass.

4) Don't take me somewhere where your friend works and is going to make lewd gestures and point every time I turn around.

5) Also, if a girl does not seem to appreciate you staring at her chest, and if she's told you to stop grabbing/stroking her upper thigh ten times, the next best thing to do is not to grab her butt and yell "goosed you!"

It's my fault, really. I should have punched him the ninth time he grabbed my thigh.

6) Collecting pinball tables in your living room is not impressive. It's embarrassing and seriously makes me question your financial sense. And your sense in general. HOW old are you?

yeah no, not interested in seeing pictures.

stop texting me.

7) You: "What kind of Christian are you?"
Your gorgeous date: "Uh I guess I was raised Southern Baptist?"
You: "You might find this interesting. I'm going to the Vatican this summer."

Don't say that.

8) Did you just bring up marriage within a week of meeting me?

9) Know your strengths. If you take a sophisticated lady to an improv show, and if you aren't actually on stage, you are not a comedian. I cannot emphasize that enough. Do not try to be louder than the comedians. Do not get jealous and pout when I laugh at the comedians. They are funny. You are not. Deal.

10)  Because hope springs eternal and because i am a romantic at heart, i leave you with what highschool bRob considered the height of romance. Tip number 10 - just do this.

Oh, and here's one for the ladies: Drive yourselves. So important to have an escape plan.

I hope you feel a little loved today.


The 2014 Short List

If you follow my tweets and statuses religiously, which I expect you do with bated breath, you'll recall that I rang in the New Year in Vietnam (on Cat Ba island which is technically not in the gorgeous Halong Bay but kind of is).

Now that I'm back Stateside, I suppose it's time to formally kick off the new year on the blog. I should let you know, however, that I am relatively anti-resolutions. Not your resolutions, mind you; kudos to you for making plans and the like. I personally never have the wherewithal to stick to these sorts of things for more than five minutes. And there's this perverse part of me that bucks as soon as I feel like I have to do anything, so establishing resolutions is merely setting myself up for failure.

In fact, let's look at the picked-up and put-right-back-down five-minute activities from this past year:

1. Ukulele

At one point I knew three chords. Presently I couldn't even tell you the string names.

2. Cross-stitch

That was an adorable albeit bloody month.

3. Dragon Boating

I'm on the winning boat, at least.

4. Pie-ing

I'm going to try keeping up with this one. In fact, I need to recreate this Triple Berry Pie tomorrow for Grandma's birthday...

I want to be realistic and not over-commit in 2014, and I'm 3 times less likely to do something if I feel bound by obligation, so in lieu of a set of resolutions (ew), I have put together

My 2014 Bucket List
Doesn't that sound more fun?

1. Go to Jordan and visit Petra (maybe tour Iran as well).

Or tour Italy. Doesn't Cinque De Terre look so dreamy? 

2.  Start learning a new language...Chinese maybe? Or Korean? I feel like Mandarin would be more helpful as I grow my professional network (<<< dweeby)...but I think Korean might be easier on my linguistically-challenged brain. Do any of you-alls have resource recommendations?

3. Learn to speed read.

4. Actually sit down and watch these psychology lectures from Yale.

5. Learn how to properly contour and highlight my pasty, acne-studded face. I've tried looking up tutorials and the like but as soon as some girl pulls out 12 different makeup brushes and 17 different types of concealer and foundations, I freak out and go through this five-minute self-affirmation process about how beauty is what's on the inside or something.

6. Learn how to cook a few southeast asian dishes. I really do need to stop spending all my bitcoins on Thai food. 
JK. Don't own bitcoins. 
7. And on that note, try cooking some healthy dishes. Maybe one a month. Again, not trying to get carried away here on the self-improvement train...

8. Move out of North Carolina. Thinking Boston? Also thinking I need to buy a real coat.

9. Spend less money on books, not because I want to get fewer books but because I need to find better alternatives to spending too much percent of my paycheck on them. Fortunately I'm starting to use paperbackswap.com. Obviously I'm really excited about it, given that I've told everyone I know about this website approximately 10 times. I've already mailed out a few books and I've requested another.

UGH Is there anything better than getting books in the mail?? No of course there isn't, duh.

10. Maybe post pictures of Vietnam. Maybe.

I was going to add train for a half marathon to this list, but this morning I was unceremoniously chased down by a pitbull while soft-j-jogging, so bRob's gonna hold off on that....maybe "Get pepper spray" should be added to this list instead.

What are your goals/aspirations/bucket lists for 2014? And, if you're trying to learn something new, such as coding or a language or taking an online course, how do you manage that on top of your regularly-scheduled workload? I thought about trying to devote one hour each evening to learning one of the aforementioned topics, but I can already tell that's gonna be a bust...

Happy Belated New Year, kiddos.
- bRob

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