The movie that makes you wonder, “Did that just happen?”

My cousin Kristine used to be obsessed with Tom Hanks. As a kid, I didn’t get it. I had crushes on Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Rick Moranis. You don’t see what those three have in common? Charm, folks. Come on now!

It took me years to really understand that movies were about more than the cute boys and dance party scenes. Movies are really about amazing stories that move us to tears and challenge our ways of thinking. They make us happy, sad, unsettled, and frustrated. Movies are a form of art that help us make meaning of our existence.

My view of movies may be a tad idealistic. I’m starting to realize that some movies have absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Horror movies, for example, have no value. I know, I know. The macabre is fascinating. But real, what about 90s horror films such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream? The only purpose of those movies was to keep teenagers from doing drugs and getting pregnant. And though it may have worked for smarty pants like me, statistics show that those films didn’t keep the kids from my high school out of trouble.

Fortunately, there are many films and many actors who play in amazing films. When Tom Hanks played in Castaway for example, he showed the raw reality of what a person would go through living completely on his own for several years. I, for one, would probably shrivel up and burn my skin so badly before throwing myself to the fish. Even in Sleepless in Seattle, his performance brought romance back to thousands of marriages across the nation. There is one of his films, however, that leaves something to be desired. Joe vs. the Volcano is a film with absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Even I, a woman who can make meaning out of paper found in the recycling bin, have trouble making any sense of this Warner Brothers disaster. The Burbs has more to say about life than Joe’s brain cloud disaster. I had my Eureka moment about The Burbs just yesterday and I texted my brother-in-law to share: “After watching The Burbs for the 50th time, I’ve figured out the moral of the story: paranoia and judgment of one’s strange neighbors is always legit AND anyone with a basement should be put under surveillance.” He totally agreed with me. One can’t miss out the brilliance of classic Hanks. But the brain cloud nonsense and the big fake out about death and jumping into a volcano… Did I really just spend an hour and forty minutes of my life watching that… again? I did. For some reason, even though I know it is a terrible movie, I’ve watched it several times. I don’t know if it’s the pure ridiculousness than reels me in or if it’s the fact that they ride a raft next to a giant moon, but time after time, I borrow my parents’ old VHS and throw it in my VCR for another round.

There’s definitely more to life than this. I’m just going to have to get rid of my own brain cloud to figure it out…

Tata for now.


Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

Unadulterated hatred. It fueled the Cold War. It took rational thought from the minds of lawyers, politicians, and even the everyday American. Fear overtook a nation and created an intense paranoia that led to injustice, inhumane acts, and a legacy of distrust towards people from the eastern parts of Europe.

Watching Bridge of Spies was an emotional experience for me. I don’t mean that I cried or that I laughed. The emotions the film brought out in me are from my core. It brought out my values – equity, inclusion, harmony, and justice – and they were on the line. A few people have told me that my values conflict with one another. That may be, but I believe in the magical Utopia where human beings live together as friends and neighbors rather than competitors or even worse, enemies. This magical world does not exist. Reality is more like the Cold War depicted in the film.

Bridge of Spies is set in the 1950s, in the middle of the Cold War. Rudolf Abel is arrested as a spy. At the time, all Americans were teaming up to hate the Soviets and the general consensus among the people was to put Abel to death. In order to save face and pretend to be just Americans, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is recruited to defend the “traitor.” The story that ensues is one of justice, negotiation, critical thinking, and a better world. I don’t know if Matt Charman and the Coen brothers got all the facts straight in their script, but I found the film incredibly believable.

At times, we claim to be a nation above the rest, that we are the most developed country, and that we know how to treat people the best. But then we take one look at history and can see that we are an imperfect nation, full of fear, cowardice, and bureaucratic political moves. To be honest, we don’t even have to look very far in our history. We can just read the daily news.

Bridge of Spies is worth the full price of admission. Heck, I might even be swayed to go watch it in theaters again. I highly recommend that people who care about justice, history, action, and critical thought go see this film. And afterwards, let me know what you thought.

Tata for now.


Pirate Day

International Talk Like A Pirate Day is September 19 every year. I know this because when I was in college, my chaplain would stand up in front of us and preach like a pirate. This is a bit of an oxymoron because pirates don’t really preach or pray or really recognize a god other than gold and rum. Perhaps I’m generalizing a bit too much. I’m sure some pirates prayed to god right before they’d light fire to villages and slit throats and such…

Captain Rece

Captain Rece

I’ve always thought pirates were pretty groovy. I think this is because I grew up with pirates as a mascot at school. Either that or I was just super jazzed about riding on a giant pirate ship like Captain Hook.

Today, I am dressed like a pirate. It’s been sort of embarrassing, what with wearing my striped tights on a public bus, but it’s also been kind of fun. My office, part of the Student Affairs Division on LBCC’s campus engaged in the campus Halloween festivities this year. Apparently, it’s a very big deal. I feel sort of out of place with the hat and giant cape I borrowed from my sister, but I’m also super excited to be part of a group of people that really engages in the quirky things in life. However, I have learned from Seth Meyers that Halloween costumes are inappropriate for people over thirty. Though I totally believe Seth has a point, I’m embracing the weirdness of the situation and wearing my pirate costume with pride. I mean, when I look this good in a pirate costume, why wouldn’t I?

Tata for now, maties!



Third Space Boise

Have you heard about a third space? According to a quick Google search, a third space is: “in community building, the third place (or third space) is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home (“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”). Examples of third places would be environments such as cafes, clubs or parks.”

My third spaces tend to be coffee shops, friends’ houses, places with swing sets, or parks with statues. I sort of have “a type” of third space. This type usually includes alternative music, men with beards or light facial scruff, cool art, and plug-ins for my computers.

Third Space Boise Snacks! Yum!!!

Third Space Boise Snacks! Yum!!!

This morning, I spent some time in my “third spaces” in Boise, Idaho. What are the places I love? You wonder. There are two: the delicious Guido’s pizzeria and Flying M Coffee House. I’m not really sure how legit these count as third spaces because I’ve never actually lived in Boise, but still – they’re my favorite places in the capital city of Idaho. I discovered these delightful spaces when I was a college student at Northwest Nazarene University.

I spent four years of college in the city of Nampa. In case you’ve never visited Nampa, let me tell you a little bit about it. It is very… churchy. Though today downtown Nampa has its own Flying M Coffee Garage, when I was in college, there was only one cool coffee shop in town. It was called One More Cup and the owner played Christian music inside. I hung out there once, but no more.

Well, because Nampa didn’t have a whole lot for us to do, during my freshman year, my RA took us to her hometown of Boise to show us the town and teach us about life. Did we go out to bars and use fake IDs? No. We went to eat pizza, drink coffee, and drive in circles blasting music from our old cars. We were awesome. And we stayed out of trouble. Those random, ridiculous nights out in Boise became the highlights of my college experience. If I weren’t doing that, I would be studying: writing papers or reading books. And if not that, attending Bible study. My life, of course, was the stuff you see in movies… not.

I tried to explain the significance of Flying M and Guido’s to some work friends this week. They didn’t get it. Boise has great bars and beers downtown, they told me. That’s great, I tried to reason, but… Guido’s and Flying M are so… me. They take me back to ten years ago when I was a sweeter, less intelligent, much more naïve version of myself. Those places are full of memories and dreams and when I go back, I can’t help but feel at home.

I’m sure Boise has other great haunts and I know one day I’ll need to check out the great beers they’re serving downtown, but for now, I’ll keep my two third spaces close to home. Because really, when you have a third space, it’s yours to keep.

Tata for now.


It’s Coming… (the great ThanksCringing)

It’s nearing the end of October. This means that in a little over a week, it will be… November. In November, many things happen: people put away their Halloween decorations and pull out window clings of turkeys and pilgrims, some begin to plan to exercise to avoid the “holiday weight” and fail, men take on the challenge of “no shave November” to look more ruggedly handsome thus increasing the number of women who have summer babies, and my Facebook friends spend thirty days counting down what they’re thankful for on their walls for the whole world to see. Of all those activities, the one that irritates me the most is the thankfulness. It’s not that I’m an ungrateful person or that I am ridiculously hateful in general, I just get annoyed when I see a friend post something so sweet and wonderful about her family or children right after I get an “Ugh” text from her about how much life sucks. Am I being judgmental? Absolutely. Do I realize that I’ve being a jerk? Not until my oldest sister calls me out on it.

So as not to be annoyed the entire month of November, I’ve decided to try this whole grateful thing in the month of October – today, in fact, on this very blog. I mean – I know the Facebook posts are coming. There’s nothing I can do about them. So… what’s that saying? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?

Here goes.

Things I am grateful for this 23rd day of October in the year 2015:

  1. Kleenex – to clean up my snotty nose
  2. My computer – for allowing me to type so that the carpal tunnel that is surely headed my way from writing arrives a little slower
  3. Television – for rotting my brain when real life is getting a little too real
  4. Bath & Body Works – for making the lotions and body sprays that continue to make me “smell amazing” so that people enjoy my presence
  5. Earth – for giving me clean water to drink
  6. Watches – for looking so much cooler than cell phones and giving me the upper hand on knowing the time so I’m not “that girl” who always pulls out her phone when out with friends (though I know I do on occasion)
  7. Text messaging – for helping me communicate and avoid talking on the phone
  8. Washers & Dryers – for cleaning my clothes, because let’s face it – the three years living in Ukraine without these machines were rough
  9. Gala apples – for tasting better than all of the other kinds of apples
  10. Flannel pajama pants – for getting me through tough winters year by year
  11. My parents – for the usual things parents do like giving me life, teaching me to hand sew, sheer sheep, and of course stay positive
  12. My siblings – for consoling me during the sheep sheering lessons on the farm
  13. My friends – for not asking me to replay the years of sheep sheering on the farm and essentially never identifying me with those awful creatures called sheep
  14. The State of Oregon – for issuing me a birth certificate
  15. Life in general – I can’t really imagine what existence would be like without this one thing

There you have it, folks. A list of things I’m grateful for. Now that you’ve read my list, I promise to smile and read your lists on Facebook all of November without a single cringe.

Tata for now.


Yes, I know that #BlueLivesMatter. Now let’s focus on the real issues.

There is a sign on Highway 34 that catches my attention every time: #BlueLivesMatter. It bothers me. It reminds me of the continuous streams of #AllLivesMatter around the nation over the past year. When author Tim Wise visited Linn-Benton Community College this past week, I finally found the words to explain my frustration. When we, community members, hijack a movement such as #BlackLivesMatter and say that our lives matter too, we’re missing the point. Our lives have always mattered. Blue lives have always mattered. Cops matter. I’ve got to ask, when haven’t blue lives mattered in our society? Don’t most Western films create idols of men behind the badge? And don’t our lovely tax dollars go towards salaries, pensions, and funerals of men and women in blue who may or may not have been shot in the line of duty? I think it’s safe to generalize that blue lives have always mattered in our society. But black lives? That’s another situation altogether.

In the state of Oregon alone, we’ve become famous for the exclusion laws forbidding African Americans from obtaining the same rights as white folks in the state. Even today, our state continues to lack the cultural and ethnic diversity that can create globally and racially divergent communities.

If we truly believe that all lives matter, we’ve got to do something about the systemic and institutional racism that flows through our daily existence. We have got to recognize our own biases and rethink the way we do things. In grad school, I learned a lot about the true whiteness of one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. My friends of color didn’t eat turkey, didn’t know what cranberry relish was, and definitely didn’t see the value of marshmallows on sweet potatoes. So when we’re planning a food drive for Thanksgiving, doesn’t it make sense to consider those families that don’t subscribe to the hegemony of white American culture? Can’t we collect cans of hot chilies, beans, or perhaps bags of rice to provide the staples families might like for any day or holiday? Do they have to celebrate the fourth Thursday of November the way TV commercials and Friends episodes demonstrate? Is it ok to be different?

It’s time to be ok with different, y’all. It’s time to embrace the fact that Black Lives Matter. It’s also time to accept the fact that it’s ok to be white. We may mess up a lot. Our ancestors may have created a system that created gross inequities for people of color that continue to this day, but it’s our chance to do something about it. It’s our time to rise above the #AddingInMoreBeforeLivesMatter to actually do something that challenges the racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, and all the other isms that are firmly engrained in our society.

Are you up for it?

3 AM thoughts on the death penalty

During my senior year of high school, I started to apply for college scholarships. Though it has been 15 years since that time in my life, I still remember one scholarship application in particular that challenged my way of thinking. The application essay required me to share my opinion on capital punishment. Back then, I wasn’t a snazzy googler so I couldn’t type in “What is capital punishment?” to learn about the policy. And, my high school classes didn’t exactly inspire critical thinking or debate over political issues. So, I went to my mom and asked her what capital punishment was all about.

As a 17 year-old, I didn’t have much context for the idea of capital punishment. Most books I read were fiction, most of which were Christian romances that upheld the principles of the church I grew up in. In my literary world, protecting life didn’t really apply to adults who murdered but rather to the fetuses that had not yet made it to term. Thus, as I wrote my essay for the deadline that week, I didn’t have a full understanding nor had I developed a complete opinion on the topic.

That changed during my freshman year of college. During spring semester of that formidable first year of college, I took Dr. Shaw’s Foundations of Political Science course. In it, we read Dead Man Walking, among other books. Sister Helen Prejean’s book about life, death, and social justice changed my entire way of thinking. Though I grew up with the “eye for an eye” talk, I started to see the messiness of our justice system and the injustice people face on death row. Have you ever noticed that the people sentenced to death row come from the lower socio-economic classes? People with money take pleas or they can hire fantastic storyteller attorneys who woo the jury to finding their defendant innocent of all crimes. Humans have faults and none of us have sound judgment at all times. So, why have we created a system of punishment that allows a jury to decide if someone is guilty or innocent? Do we not realize that our own moral biases affect the way we sit in judgment on one another? And why does the death sentence assume that offenders are incapable of rehabilitation?

It’s weird to be having these thoughts at 3 AM on a Wednesday, but when insomnia awoke me from my sweet slumber and I saw an AP news blast about a woman’s execution in Georgia on my phone, my brain started churning. CNN reported that all federal appeals failed. Even the Pope’s letter requesting clemency was denied. So Kelly Gissendaner was executed.

My frustration with capital punishment continues to grow. Some people have asked me if I would feel differently if a person murdered a family member of mine. I honestly don’t know how I would feel, but I do know that I understand Samuel L. Jackson’s character in A Time to Kill. When the law is unjust, as it is, things get complicated. However, despite how I would react to a crime against my family, I still believe that capital punishment is outdated and unjust. And, I hate that the U.S., a “first world country,” continues to perpetuate the problem by continuing the inequities of our legal system by allowing the death sentence.