The Hunger Games and Box o' Books

So, I'm taking a little break from my study abroad blog to let you all know how AWESOME The Hunger Games is. I read the first book on the flight to France, and have been frantically searching for the other two (in English, hopefully) while I'm here. Maybe when I return to Paris...

Also, I recently found the blog called Book Brats. There are amazing reviews, and there's also a giveaway of a WHOLE BIG BOX OF BOOKS.
So that's super exciting. If you're interested in winning a free box of books, you can check out the blog here: http://www.book-brats.com/great-box-o-books-giveaway/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BookBrats+%28Book+Brats+Reviews%29


New Blog for Study Abroad

Hello, neglected blog!

Thought I'd let you know that even though I failed miserably, I'm going to attempt to ACTUALLY update my new blog that will be dedicated to my study abroad adventures in France.




"I respect you enough to not respect your idiotic beliefs."

Oh blog! I've missed you! Sorry I've been so neglectful! I've had so many thoughts of what to write in you, but all of them get stuck in my head!

So here I am. With many Thoughts. Big, big Thoughts.

I had the absolutely amazing opportunity this past week to enjoy a small Q&A session with Richard Dawkins (and 100 other OU students). It was so thought-provoking.

For those of you who might not know, I was brought up in a Christian home, and up until only a few short years ago I also considered myself as a Christian. Many people ask me what changed. The only answer that I can give is that I grew up. I started thinking. And once I started thinking, religion (particularly organized religion) just stopped making sense.

How can I (or any other person) dismiss easily hundreds of other religions and gods as "wrong" without any proof other than the Bible--no proof but a feeling? More still, how I can I dismiss so many other beliefs without even batting an eye, and expect that every single believer of those religions is not doing the exact same thing to mine? How to reconcile the idea that so many beliefs can be dismissed without proof? How can we ever know what is the true religion? Is there a true religion?

So, dear readers, these are the questions that have been floating around in my head for quite some time now. Imagine my surprise and awe when Professor Dawkins answered, almost simultaneously, all of these questions. The answer is, you can't. One religion has no more proof than any other religion. Believers have nothing more than faith and a book (in the best case scenario) that support all of their assertions.

I was beyond amazed leaving the lecture. Professor Dawkins made many fine points, the most entertaining of which was definitely "Science: It works, bitches." But for me, the most poignant thing he said was in response to a question about how to respond to avid believers in our lives:
"Be sarcastic, be ironic, be mocking; but never indulge in hate speech."

I wish that more of the religious people I knew abided by this simple rule. In fact, I wish EVERYONE abided by this rule. But I also wish more people were willing and prepared to engage in honest and factual debate. To hear everyone in my life defend Christianity by saying "Well, it's faith" lends no credence to religious arguments. Faith is not enough. I can have faith that Harry Potter is real and is, in fact, the savior of humanity, but just because I have faith and the Harry Potter book series doesn't mean that it isn't a stupid belief.

I want more open discussion. More intelligent debate. Arguments based on more than "faith" and a work of fiction.

I want truth; I want reality; I want less delusions, less hate speech, less discrimination, less war for "God", less bigotry, less misogyny. And therefore I am left with science. I am left with rationality. I am left with Richard Dawkins.

And I think that's a pretty good place to be.


Falling Off the Bandwagon

So I was going to write a Harry Potter post, but I decided this was more important. (Harry Potter post coming later, promise!)

I recently read an article in Psychology Today magazine (absolutely brilliant! I recommend that you check it out, even if you aren't a psych major) about how relapse can actually help an addict--how it's a good thing, and totally normal on the road to recovery.

Now, I'm no coke addict, but I consider my overeating an addiction. And considering the past month or so, I know a thing or two about relapse. Here's how my last couple weeks have been going:

I tumble off the Bandwagon:

Then I'm like, "Hi Bandwagon!"

And Bandwagon is like:

Suffice it to say that I have relapsed into lazyness and overeating for much longer than I'd really care to admit. But what this article made me realize is that sometimes it's a good thing. I've learned to control my impulses more--so even when I'm not watching what I'm eating, I'm still eating better than I would have just six months ago. I've learned that eating shitty food makes me sluggish; it makes me want to be even lazier.

So I've learned, through relapse, what not to do. And what I should be doing. And I've seen that I can pick myself up and start over. Relapsing once doesn't mean that I'm hopeless - it means that I'm human.

With this knowledge, go forth, friends. No matter what you're relapsing on, nor how long you've been relapsing, you can get up. You can get yourself back on track. Don't let one bad decision turn into another because you think you've blown it all--you're never ruined.


Peppermint Tea

I have recently found the most delicious thing in existence is peppermint tea.
And the only way it can get any better is if you ice it. Yes. Peppermint iced tea is God's gift to humanity. It's such a life saver on these hot days. It's really fresh and has zero calories. A nice change from water, for sure.

I use Tazo Refresh tea and just brew up a big batch and put it in the fridge. Yum!

It's been super hot here lately. I really want to go to the beach and just soak up some vitamin D, but my life is just not having it.

Well, that's all I've got for now. There's not terribly much interesting happening at the moment. So if it's as hot wherever you are as it is here, keep cool!


"Books are, at their heart, dangerous."

I was, am, and always will be an avid reader. And as a teenager, I got my hands on some books that my parents would probably kill me for reading. There were books that used foul language and had sexually graphic scenes and violently graphic scenes. My parents would not have wanted me to read those. They probably wouldn't want me to read them now, even though I'm an adult.

So here's the thing: parents don't always know what's right for their children. Were the books I read risqué? Yes. Some of them. Did I suffer because I read them? Get horrible terrible ideas? Lose my innocence? NO.

There are many parents (always have been, always will be) who think that they are somehow doing their children a favor, sparing them, by denying them access to the most crucial of literature. No, I'm not talking Dickens or Chaucer--I'm talking about young-adult fiction.

I was, and still am, an avid reader of YA fiction. I love it. Can't get enough. Sometimes I have to read "grown-up" books for my literature classes and I find them boring, unrelateable. But hand me some Libba Bray, some Ann Brashares, and I'm in heaven. Not because they don't challenge me, but because they do.

I've recently read an article basically calling absolutely all YA fiction absolute garbage that promotes violence, sex, and vulgar language because YA fiction is starting to deal with hard-hitting topics that are affecting todays teens. Parents are saying that their children shouldn't read these books because they will get ideas and go have sex and become depressed and lose their innocence.

I'm saddened. I understand that parents want to protect their children. But at what point have you stopped protecting them and started harming them by not allowing them to see reality? How harmful is it to stop your child from reading a book about something they've experienced, telling them (through those actions), that their feelings aren't valid?

I went through a lot of things as a teenager that I wouldn't have dared to tell my parents about. They didn't know about the heartbreaks, the self-harming thoughts, and the voicelessness I felt. How could I have told them? The only place I ever found solace was in books. If my parents had taken my books away and replaced them with, I don't know, "Cindy Loo-Who Talks to God about Puppies and Kittens", I'd have been devastated.

Certainly parents have an obligation to watch what their child is doing (WITHIN REASON)--letting your 10 year-old read sexually explicit novels is probably not a good idea (though my parents once bought me a romance novel when I was 10 or 11 that had some pret-ty racy stuff in it, and it by no means did me any harm). But at a certain point, you have to TRUST YOUR CHILD to know what they can and cannot handle. You have to TRUST that they're making good decisions (even if they aren't ones that you agree with).

I can't sum it up any better than Libba Bray (one of my favorite authors):
"[...] I genuinely believe that these articles are hurtful, that they goad banners & keep much-needed books out of the hands of the teens who should be reading them. Books are, at their heart, dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Because they challenge us: our prejudices, our blind spots. They open us to new ideas, new ways of seeing. They make us hurt in all the right ways. They can push down the barricades of "them" & widen the circle of "us". And when one feels alone--say, because of a terrible burden of a secret, something that creates pain and isolation, books can heal, connect. That's what good books do. That's what hard books do. And we need them in the world."

If you're interested in the original article, you can find it here


Making Time

Since starting my fitness journey a couple months ago, I've learned many things. The most important thing is YOU make time for what YOU think is important.

Every day has 24 hours. It's the same for everyone. For a long time in college, I found time for three things: going to class (sometimes), watching TV while stuffing my face, and sleeping. In only three short months, I have now started finding time to go to class (EVERY time), work out, go to work, sleep, spend time with my boyfriend, see my friends, and cook myself something nice every now and again.
It's not that I have more hours in my day. (Sometimes I wish I had more hours in my day.) It's that I've figured out what is and isn't important. And I've learned to maximize my time--I do squats when I'm standing around at work with nothing to do, I read on my lunch break.

So here's the thing, guys: figure out what's important. Figure it out now. And make time for it. You're the only one who can. Things aren't going to be easy--in fact, filling your life to the brim with activities you love is sometimes going to be very trying. You'll have to give things up. But in the end, you'll be happier for it.

Go do it. Whatever "it" is. Do it, and do it to the best of your ability.

What are YOU going to do with your 24 hours?