Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Seraph Seal!

"I'll stop the whole world from turning into a monster... Don't you ever wonder how we survived?"

This book, The Seraph Seal, is about eight very different people all sharing one thing in common: Their birthday, December 21st, 2012. The eight are scattered all over the world, and it is up to Paul Binder to unite them.

It is now the year 2048, and an ancient prophecy comes to fruition. The United States is falling behind in STEM technology, and Matthew Serafino is destined to change things. With all the Americas, it is quite necessary to be referred to as USAmerica. However, black-eyed Serafino pushes things quite too far with his intense determination, and soon people start to notice. A series of strange events follow leading up to the apocalypse. This changes everything.

At the start of his journey, Paul meets a beautiful Irish woman named Angela when he travels to London, England. Almost instantly, the two show a romantic interest in each other (I think). When they dig deeper, they realize that not only were they born at the 21st hour of December 21st, 2012. There's six others.

How will Paul and Angela find the others (and possibly, love)? And what can they do to save a world that's already dying?

My expectation of this book was that it would be non-fiction and extremely technical. I probably would never pick this book on my own, but there was nothing else available, so I reluctantly picked this one. However, this book wasn't as complicated as I thought and it was fiction. But, I would only say this book was good, not amazing.

I would only recommend this book to certain people because this isn't one of those sit-down-and-read-it-in-five-hours kind of books. This book will only appeal to a very specific audience. It's like "The Hunger Games" versus "Twilight". Or "Harry Potter" versus "The Chronicles Of Narnia". It's not a vampire novel that several teens would want to read or a magical world anyone would want to enter. This book is definitely for fans of technical, apocalyptic books.

This story read like a one third-fantasy, one third-apocalyptic, one third-science fiction. It reminded me of the "Harry Potter" series (although I've never read or watched a HP movie/book, I know my stuff). Matthew Serafino was the anti-Christ, so he'd make a perfect Draco Malfoy. Angela Krall would be a great Hermione. And Paul, well, he'd be Harry. So if you're a fan of that series, I think you'd really like this. If you like the "Left Behind" series, you'll like this. If you loooooovvvvvveeeedddd "Inception", you're really gonna like this.

As for me, the book was alright. Not a waste of time, but not something I'd read again either. It had its share of interesting parts, so much that I was crossing the street in Phoenix traffic reading this book. It took talent--- no lie!

My complaints? The book was a little big for my comfort, both mentally and physically. Looking at the book, it seemed impossible to finish--- more than 527 pages... that was a serious mental block! And sometimes, just holding the heavy book made my thumbs ache terribly. Also, the book had its boring times. I admit to sometimes skimming. The book got confusing, and even though it told you where it was, like it would usually say "Washington, DC" when referring to Matthew Serafino, but it would only say the place, so it leaves you like "Who is this?" And the dialogue sometimes was a little too fast-paced. Plus, it sometimes got the tenses messed up, like it would go from past tense to present tense and ti was very noticeable and unprofessional. Maybe it wasn't that obvious, but I'm a Language Arts junky, so I know my stuff. And sometimes, the plot moved a little too slow (maybe that's why the book is so big?). Yeah. I'm a little disappointed with the book.

Three stars, no doubt about it. I still think you might wanna check it out, but DON'T BUY IT. Rent it from the library, but do not purchase it. I think it would have been an awesome movie and if this was made into a movie, I would rush to the theater. But as of being a book? Not reading it again.

(more than) 527 pages.
Published by: Thomas Nelson.

Note: Special thanks to Thomas Nelson publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Lately I have hesitated to do what I've wanted to do, so I decided I needed to make a plan that will have strange, unknown consequences if rules are broken.

So, here's my plan:

  • Leadership. Once on the leadership team or squad or whatever, then I can focus on the other stuff. Try to focus on that for about a month.
  • Worship team. Signing up for that can't be too hard.... except for when the only "instrument" you do well is vocals. And then everyone has to hear you sing. No big deal... everyone's heard me sing before. I can do it. And Hope (yeah, I'm preaching to myself), try to join before you turn thirteen. If you don't get yourself to join, who will? Before you know it, someone else will step up instead. Don't be nervous or scared or whatever your problem is. Just do it.
  • Sports acrobatics. Now that I should have all the important stuff done (by now), here comes the semi-fun part. Funner than worship team??? I don't know. But, this is where I will hopefully get back in shape (I'm not pudgy, but I'm not exactly fit for sports right now if you see what I mean) and back in athletics.
Those above are my new school year resolutions. And I want it all done before the clock strikes twelve--- I mean, thirteen. I feel like it'll be much funner looking back at my life when I'm eighty with my eight kids and husband thinking, "Wow, I can't believe I did all that... and that's before I turned thirteen!" rather than, "Oh, I wish I had the courage to do that when I was younger. Didn't even join a worship team until my mid-thirties."

I'm already amazed at how much I've done. Fine Arts is one of those things that still amazes me. April 17th, 2011 was the exact day I sang the lead in the Christian Band (thanks to our actual leader being in Paris at the time... crazy, right?) in front of a good amount of the church's congregation and I had only been a singer for eleven months. My blog has over 10,000 pageviews. I must have done something right! Things are somewhat going my way right now, and I've done some amazing things like that 70 day fast I did nearly a year ago. It brought out the strengths I didn't even know I had.

So, the message? You have a gift. Use it. I'm trying to use my gifts, and I am fully aware that the more I wait to use them, the more I'm missing out on. So, you out there, stop waiting to use your gifts, because no one will make you do it. The person who's really making you do it is you. The only person who has the power to drag you to the human video practice is you. God can do it, but I'm sure He wants you to be the one to step up. Just because God can force you to do something doesn't mean He will. When it comes to gifts, use it or lose it. I'm sure you don't want to lose whatever your gift is. I know I don't want to lose my ability to sing and remember stalker-ish details (I have addresses memorized, plus I can remember the exact date of the first day I saw someone and the time of day). So use it. Good memories are on their way, so use it because it will change everything. It could change you day. Who knows... it could change your life.

When your time comes, will you be ready?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Phoenix Days Are Held in a Photograph.

Over 300 pictures were taken in Phoenix, Arizona. I myself hardly took any, except for taking a load of pictures of the baby (at my first school orientation today, a girl said you can never take too many pictures of a baby) and I kinda regretted not taking a lot of pictures. Luckily, other people evidently took a lot of photos, and you know what that means? Blog time!

This is Baja Fresh. Lovely restaurant. Has gotten good reviews. Here's my honest review of the place: my burrito was a little dry, but that was partially my fault for not putting sauce on it. But, it was fresh! They also have 99 cent cups and you can get free refills FOREVER AND ALWAYS. Good place. Instead of saying something is fresh, I'm just gonna be like, "That's baja!"

This is the U.S. Airways Center. Basketball games are held there... yeah. When we were walking in the first day, we didn't know that bags had to be checked (it may have "airways" in its title, but it's not an airport), so Drew was walking in and this security guard pulled him back by the collar (creepy, I know. I may be exaggerating, but I don't think I am) and was like "Yo, all bags gotta be checked." Security guards? Still scary.

Okay, I don't what this was. From the left, Mark is holding a Baja Fresh cup (oh yeah!). Lauren is smiling. Now, Brian, Nathan, and Josh: WHAT WERE YOU LOOKING AT???? I'm confused. Drew's just being Drew. I look like I'm choking myself. Chris isn't even smiling. Mrs. Janette, the baby, and Pastor Corey look pretty normal. But this brings me to ask: Was this supposed to be a silly photo??? I'm lost.

What's reaching out without prayer???

This is me reading "The Harvest of Grace". Good book--- no lie! A little confusing, but good!

"I'm taking the chicken out your car!"

The view from Sky Harbor. I believe we were flying over Denver by this time.
Well, that's all the Phoenix pictures--- at least for now. Special thanks to the people that took these photos--- none of these are my own originals. I have an idea of who might have taken them, though. So yeah, thanks to you guys because without your pictures, this post would not exist, and I'm serious. Thanks a lot.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Phoenix 2011: No More Excuses!

One thing Fine Arts taught me: Stop making excuses!

For me, courage and confidence are two things that I'm not very strong in. But what Fine Arts did was help me realize how I can use my gifts to actually do something. I realized, "Hey! I can join the worship team! People say I sound good, so I'm guessing I do". I don't know where that idea came from. I've been singing for a year and some months now, but at the time I had only been singing for like, eleven months (in April, right before District FAF) and then our band's lead singer couldn't be at the showcase so I lead the vocals instead. It all seemed crazy--- I had only been singing for a few months and already wanted to join the worship team!

Again, I have no idea where the idea of joining the Youth team came from (I'm still not on it, in case you're wondering). It just randomly popped in my mind, and I was like, "Okay. I don't take my singing very seriously but since I obviously have a passion for it, I'll do it if I can". But, that's the problem. I can't. I make too many excuses.

I always find my way out of joining the team. I asked to join.... three months ago. And was too scared to go to practice. I think I just didn't ask at the right time, but it helped me realize I have a problem. I don't have a lot of courage, and I also discovered that this was forming a pattern.

I remember one time in fourth grade when I didn't want to go to JBQ (Junior Bible Quiz) one day, so I begged my mom to let me go to Faith's (my sister) Sunday School class. So, as me and Faith were walking there, I decided I was too scared to walk in, but she went in anyway because she thought I was tagging along (I wasn't).

Or singing. I became very interested in singing in fourth grade (but I don't think I was a good singer at all back then... it just sorta happened), but didn't sing one solo until May of 2010 in sixth grade. Or singing again, when it took two weeks to get myself to join the Christian Band. Who take two weeks to sign their name on a sheet of paper?

See my problem? It's not just courage, it's probably that I always like to make sure everyone's happy, and no one's thinking something bad about me. But now, it's like, someone's always gonna dislike you and you have to be okay with it. You can't stop living your life because of the way someone else is living theirs. If they choose not to like you, whatever. Whatever their reason is, one thing is for sure: they're missing out on the amazing person you are!

So here's my message: are YOU letting excuses control your life? Because I know I have. I know I'm not the only one who's been making too many excuses. "Rumor has it": we all make excuses. Compromises.

Ever felt like you had a gift from God, wanted to use with all you had, but just couldn't? That's me. With this whole worship team thing, I feel like my heart wants to join and give it my all, but my brain doesn't want to do everything. This is very much like when I got baptized (in water) on 10.10.10 last year. I kept putting baptism off to the side to where if it weren't for forcing myself, I could be forty years old and not baptized. But I did it, and I'm glad I did.

So, if I'm glad I forced myself to get baptized (I prayed about it, of course), I expect the same end result for singing. And every time I push it to the side, I miss out on more and more. The band got to eat before all of us at the youth retreat a few days ago. The band got to lead worship yesterday (some of them... the kid that would have sang was getting baptized so he couldn't sing up there, the adults sang, and I don't think he's comfortable with singing up there anyway). The band got to practice right after meals at the retreat while the rest of us did whatever. The band gets to have mid-week practices. The band is at church an hour and a half early on Wednesdays. And me? Singing from my seat (no pews in the youth room).

Not only that, but my stage presence (ew!). I'm guessing that I don't have to worry about that because I should be worshipping, but still. Me and my friend Sarah were singing "Excuses" with the rest of the band, and I was having so much fun... NOT singing into the mic, kinda. Then, she put the mic up to my face, and the moment I touched that microphone, I suddenly became kinda shy. It's like, I can dance, be crazy, anything. And then hand me a mic and I come back to Earth (not good for me!).

So, I'll just have to trust God on this one. I know I can do it. My voice is something I'm very confident in. I used to hate my low vocal range, but now I'm loving it! No matter how messed up my hair is, I can sing forever and instantly feel beautiful. That's what singing is--- beautiful. I've been talking and singing a lot over the weekend because of the retreat, but still I can't hold my raspy, tired voice back--- I HAVE TO SING!

So, how will I break out of my shell? Only time can tell. Just learn to stop making excuses, and start marching on.

"No other step than one foot right in front of the other. There's so many wars we fought. There's so many things we're not, but with what we have, I'll promise you that we're marching on..."


Six months of the same old song means it's about time I've written the lyrics out--- online.


Bring yourself and no one else,
You come alone or don't come at all.
This is your chance to believe in... something more than walls and ceilings.
Your saving face to be on Your way in!

Come on, come on!
Don't wait until the damage is done.
It's gone when it's gone!
Don't you wanna know what we could become?
On and on we run from life!
It's time we chase the smoke of our guns and we make this right.

Save yourself, now don't be scared,
I'll do my part and be right there.
I will probably come out running...

Come on, come on!
Don't wait until the damage is done.
It's gone when it's gone!
Don't you wanna know what we could become?
On and on we run and we run from life!
It's time we chase the smoke of our guns and we make this

Come on, come on!
Don't wait until the damage is done.
It's gone when it's gone,
Don't you wanna know what we could become?
Come on, COME ON!
Don't wait until the damage is done.
It's gone when it's gone,
Don't you wanna know what we could become?
On and on we run and we run from life.
It's time we chase the smoke of our guns
And we make

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Phoenix 2011; My Diary: Long Live Our Band!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011. The most important day of the year--- well, close to it, sort of.

Normally, I would have been crazily nervous, but in my mind, I was like, "It's just another practice... with a catch". Not to mention, that "catch" was forty plus people as an audience. But that's nothing... I'm sure Relient K performs in front of thousands every week, so how hard could this be? I'm still mad that I didn't get to see Relient K... they checked into my hotel the day after I left! They betrayed me even though I'm sure they don't know I exist!

Anyway, back to the subject. We put a lot of practice into this.

We also put our blood, sweat, tears, and prayers (as you see above) into this. Not many people bled and/or cried, but we put that into it too.

BLOOD: ("If I was out for blood..." Ah, I love Farewell Flight) Chris and Brian had blisters that they covered with green medical tape. Were they bleeding? I have yet to find out. 
SWEAT: If there was anything put into this, it was definitely sweat. You may think, "All you guys did was play guitar, drum, and sing. Why were you sweating???" Well, let me answer that for you. Sometimes, it was a little hot in the room we practiced in. We started practicing in March, while heating was still on. Then, there was a lot of movement involved... sort of. The drummer (Brian) sweated the most, I think he'd even agree. Plus, this is Arizona we're talking about. Sweat is one thing to expect from there--- I moved to Ohio from the state, Utah, above it (I was four, but whatever), so I'm guessing I should know.
TEARS: Um, I think there were some tears put into it. Mainly tears from laughter, though. See, if the funniest kids on Earth are in a band with you (Josh and Mark), you're doomed to tears from laughter. I cry pretty much every time I laugh. I cried last night from laughter, actually.
PRAYER: We didn't always remember to pray before practices. BUT! When we did, it usually ended up being a great day (or night, depending on whether or not it was a Sunday practice).

See! I wasn't kidding when I said we put blood, sweat, tears, and prayer into it! One thing we didn't exactly put into it was stage presence, but next year, we'll remember that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Phoenix 2011, My Diary: Hello, Sky Harbor!

Monday, August 1st, 2011. This day had been long waited for.

On a Sunday morning the band performed two songs ("Excuses", our Phoenix song and "Sing to the King", a song we always do in Youth on Wednesdays) and Nathan, as usual, broke a string. On a Sunday night I set my alarm clock to 3:45 a.m. (but actually woke up fifteen minutes later) so I could show up at the airport on time.

On a Monday morning I woke up at 4 a.m., got dressed, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got ready to go. Believe it or not, it was a process that only took maybe ten minutes, if not less than that. Then, I got in the car, arrived at the airport, and got ready to be checked , referring to both security and my bag.

Here's an excerpt from my diary entry that day:
When it comes to airport security, it's all fun and games until someone is questioned about their age. When I gave my boarding pass to a security guard, he asked me how old I was. "Twelve", I responded. He looked shocked. "You're seriously TWELVE??!!" he asked.
     "Yes, I'm twelve."
     "Prove it." (I freaked out there.)
     "Well, you see, I don't exactly have my ID with me (I'm not allowed to carry my military ID because it has my dad's SS number on it), but I really am twelve... I'M NOT LYING!!!"
     Thank God (for real) the man was just kidding. 

The flight to Denver was great. I went almost deaf for a little bit, but it was all good. Now, the flight from there to Phoenix??? Excruciating ear pain. And near-deafness. When I say ear pain, I don't mean pressure. I mean PAIN. A sharp, unbearable pain that turned into a mouth ache and a headache. Not a good feeling, people!

Now, about the whole "almost deaf" thing: it started on the way to Denver, mid-flight. The ear pressure went from mild to extreme very quickly, and I was gradually losing my hearing (temporarily, thank heavens). By the end of the flight, I was whispering because if I used my normal voice, it would be waaay too loud. No wonder Emmet from Switched At Birth doesn't use his voice.

And it was so weird, because I could just barely hear everyone else, but I couldn't hear myself at all, pretty much.

The trip is pretty fun so far.
Here's a little extra stuff from that day:

So, we were about to get off our plane when we arrived in Phoenix and I was talking about the Kardashians or something, and then Nathan was like, "You keep up with the Kardashians?" And I'm just like, "No, I don't. You see, I know a lot about them because of research---"
   "You did research???" Someone said.
   "Well yeah, because, it started out with a blog post---" They started cracking up.
   "---About Bruce Jenner, and then Kendall was in this magazine and... yeah."
BUT I DO NOT keep up with that family!

Just clearing my name.

August 1st, 2011: My grandmother's would-have-been seventy-sixth birthday. I already know she's having a happy birthday month in heaven, but I wish comfort for everyone in the family.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Phoenix 2011 series. I will post all about Tuesday, the day we performed!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Phoenix 2011: Lessons From the District

Do's and Don't-s in the Fine Arts world.
  1. When singing for the first time, do not pick a song with an extremely long instrumental. It will be awkward for you, even with good stage presence. I'm not saying you should pick an easy song, but I am saying that you need to pick one you're comfortable with.
  2. From that note, here's another tip for singing, dancing, and/or playing an instrument (or anything that requires music): Do not pick a song that twenty other girls/guys will do, especially when it comes to singing--- actually, specifically referring to singing. "How Great Thou Art" is classic, yes, but not classy. I'll bet seventy other kids (and that's only at District!) will do it, but only a few will be remembered. If you want to pick a song that everyone else will do, you should have massive skills and a lot of experience so that you will stand out. Same with instruments. If you're gonna do a commonly played song, add some extra stuff to it so that people are like, "Is that... Oh my gosh, it is!" when they discover that you're playing one of their favorite songs. I think you would agree: "Amazing Grace" is a little overplayed and could use some switching up.
  3. Do not eat ice cream before singing if you have articulation problems.
  4. Do not name a drama after the Fine Arts/Speed The Light theme. Big no-no.
  5. Do make time to tell kids from your church that they did great!
  6. Do remember to pray before practices--- it can make all the difference. That was something our band struggled with, but whenever we did remember to pray over our practices, it always ended up being a great practice. If we had only remembered to pray at every practice...
  7. Do talk to someone if you have certain insecurities that are keeping you from joining a group and/or trying a new category. If you tell someone what's holding you back, you'll feel a burden lift off your shoulders and it just might reassure you that it couldn't be all that bad to give it a try.
  8. Do be a leader. If something's wrong, let the actual leader know so that the group doesn't have to all suffer. In band, the day we performed at Nationals, the kids all forgot to print lyrics which are essential for the competition and can take off three points from your score if you don't have them. So, here's what I say: If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. I knew that that would probably happen, and even before then, no one was acting like they were gonna print out the lyrics, so I did it myself. That can make the difference between Nationals and "better luck next year".
  9. Do have fun! Enjoy the ride! If you're ever in a situation when you get to ride on a plane with some of your friends, be sure to bring stuff that will make the trip fun, even if that means a game of cards. And also, have fun while you're there! One of your top goals is to get to know these people you're traveling with--- you just might have the time of your life.
  10. Do not use NFAF week to land your crush! Now, if you're falling in love with your human video stunt partner, don't act on your crush until you've returned home! You only have a week to spend all this time with them, which is like heaven if you think about it... practically living in the same building as your crush for an entire week. But, use the week to get to know your crush, not to propose. You'll never know... you might discover that they make a better friend than boyfriend/girlfriend or you just might love them more.
  11. Do not doubt yourself! Anything is possible with God! Our band's first practice was terrible, and I thought Nationals was nowhere in reach. But then I realized, guitars are not easy to tune. Drums are not easy to keep a steady beat with--- it's a lot of multitasking, as I am currently trying to figure out the drums. Bass guitar is a lot more than just strumming four strings... it's just like a guitar with frets and everything (my daddy's bass is fretless because he's very talented in that area--- Beat that!), only it's strummed very differently and the strings don't break as easily. Piano is an instrument that you're lucky if you can correctly place your fingers on the keys. Harmonies take a lot of thought to create--- I should know! But then, within four practices we had kicked it in high gear! And then came my favorite part--- the callback that lead to Nationals.
  12. Do not get upset because you got one too many negative comments from the judges on your performance. Think about it like this: If you listen to what they're saying, you have an even better chance at going to Nationals next year because you'll have experience and you'll know what the judges want from you!
  13. Do let yourself be inspired by other performances! Start by watching random performances with your spare time. It might get you interested in trying that. I've done that, and it's inspired me to try an ASL category (okay, maybe "Switched at Birth" inspired that one), a possible Spanish vocal solo although I can't speak Spanish, and storytelling.
  14. Do remember what Fine Arts is all about! It's not about the college scholarship. It's not about being the best Christian Band in Fine Arts history (we're looking at YOU, Sherman Mountain Boys). Not about a killer human video that looks like a cheerleading routine. It's about finding your gift. It's about developing your talents. It's about reaching out. It's about God. Remember that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Phoenix 2011: This One's For the Leaders!

Pastor Corey, Mrs. Janette, Mrs. Sandy, Mr. Steve... THANK YOU to everyone that made the Phoenix trip possible for our church!

Thanks to the people at National Youth Ministries, also! You guys made the trip possible for over 10,000 students!

And thanks to the people at Ohio Youth Ministries (we're looking at you, Pastor Becky) for making a District Fine Arts possible for all the Ohio kids! And the judges there were awesome (not just saying that because my church's Christian Band placed second)! Even the ones that gave me poor scores on my writing and singing, they taught me precisely what I need to work on, both for Fine Arts ministry and my own personal ministries. The writing judges taught me how to improve my writing for next year, but it has also improved the way I write my books that I hope to put on the market within the next five years (Don't think I'm crazy. I'm serious!). The middle school-aged female vocal solo judges helped me a little with working on my range, articulation, and breathing. They helped a lot.

Frontier Airlines. Hmm, what should I say about you? Without you, we would have been driving for days to get there. I mean, HELLO, the convention was in Arizona. We live in Ohio. Thanks to your careful pilots and nice security guards.

To wherever and whoever Josh rented his guitar from, thank you SOOOO much. Without you, we would have had one less man in the band.

San Carlos hotel. Thanks for letting us basically live there for a week! I loved it there and although the shower didn't always have a consistent temperate that sometimes hurt a little, the food was really good and I loved the electric grand piano in the lounge--- I touched that piano, and Matt Thiessen touched it just a few days after! We touched the same piano *gigglegiggle*!

Starbucks. You kept a lot of us awake at the airport and after performing. Your double---or triple, it was 5 a.m., why would I remember?---chocolate brownie really satisfied my craving, but it was a little strong. And then your fruit cup took away the chocolaty guilt. And your chocolate croissant that I had at the convention center.... mmmm.....

Dear Judge Number 2 at Nationals for the Christian Band, I really liked the score sheet you gave us. Not just because it said the vocals had tight harmonies that I'm proud to say I did. Just because you're an awesome judge. Only because you rock. Nothing special...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone that made Phoenix possible.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Phoenix 2011: The Statistics

Number of times Mariah suggested her younger sister (Natalie!) perform the song "What Love Really Means" by JJ Heller: Two, I think.

Approximately, Brian complained about drumset: Five times at the least.

Amount of times Tracey the Tree's name was brought up, mentioned, and/or the possibility of her winning Fine Arts merit: I don't even know.

Times Lauren said "Intrigue", "Intrigues", or "Intriguing": Six.

Number of escalators and de-escalators that Mark sang on the moment he touched them: Forty times? Nah, probably more.

Number of strings Nathan broke: In Phoenix, he broke ZERO. So proud of him--- the previous week, he broke (at least) four strings.

Times we mourned that Relient K would be in our hotel the day after we leaved: Twelve, just a guess.

The words "Baja" and "Fresh" used in the same sentence: Thirteen times at the least.

Approximately, trains passed and Hope (me) quoted "You're waiting for a train..." (you know, from "Inception"): Twenty-one times wouldn't be enough.

The baby, Ella, got picked up: Several, several times.

Amount of items Hope bought from the vintage booth in the Exhibit Hall: Two. One was a floppy hat (you know my weakness!), the other was a rose hair clip.

Chances I've had to go to Phoenix for a Youth Convention: Just one.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Phoenix 2011: Say It!

  • "You're waiting for a train. You know where you hope it will take you..." -Hope
  • "...Tracey the Tree..." -Most commonly said by Nathan, other times Natalie
  • "Are you dealing with a big monkey man?" -Mark or Natalie, sometimes Hope
  • "White people can do bad, too." -Josh
  • "That's intriguing..." -Lauren
  • "Ooh, check out this song..." (and just then turns on their iPod) -Brian
  • "Okay, so my kids are gonna be named Peter, Susan, Edmund, Lucy, and..." -Hope
  • "Hope, you should totally get cornrows." -Drew
  • Two words: "STAGE PRESENCE".
  • "...With exploding buildings right behind me..." -"Excuses", originally performed by Deas Vail. Our band covered it for the competition/festival and the rest of the week, that was the only line we cared to sing. Sounds out of place, right?
  • "If you're gonna do it easy, you're gonna do it right." -Hope, referring to gymnastics moves and swimming pools
  • "That's the power of Pine-Sol, baby!" (You see, our hotel smelled like Pine-Sol.)
  • "De-escalator, de-escalator..." -Mark
  • "Your dad is a cool man." -Josh, and who's dad was he talking about? Mine! I'm that awesome, right? I guess I get it from Daddy.
  • "Are you breathing, Christian???" -Mark, and you know what he's quoting.
  • "Baja Fresh", and that pretty much speaks for itself. Awesome restaurant, even though certain students (but not me) went through some stomach upsets (*COUGH* diarrhea *COUGH*).
  • SOMEONE IN MY GROUP: "Can you speak Spanish?" ME: "Um, yeah... uh... Aloha???"
  • "There was a GORILLA next to A SMALL CHILD!!!" -Nathan
  • "I was a loser [in Fine Arts] back in '92... well, who's the loser now?" -Matthew West
  • "What the no!" -Am I quoting myself a little too much?
  • "Who's gonna be in the Christian Band next year?" -Nathan. I love that quote because I'm doing it again, y'all! The band that placed 2nd in Ohio is coming back! MWAHAHA!
Quotes. They are what pull us together and tear us apart. But these are the ones that will pull us together years after the closing ceremony.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Phoenix 2011: What I Like About YOU!

I decided to take a step back and think about at least one thing amazing about every FAF student.
Mariah: You have a beautiful voice and awesome hair. Plus, you're fun to talk to. If you could be my vocal coach, I'd sound AMAZING!

Brian: You're the best drummer our band could have asked for. Yeah, you had some problems keeping the beat, but... you're still awesome and you reminded us to "get pumped"! You're also very outgoing, and you're very fun to talk to. I can't believe I've known you since I was four years old!

Nathan: Who could've been a better leader on guitar (sorry, Josh)? Not only were you the lead guitar, but you were much like the leader of the band. A little bossy at times, yes. But you kept us on track, you were always the leader, and I---and many others, I'm sure---admire that you were definitely born a leader. When I joined the band, I thought you would actually be shy. But NOOOO.... you're very, kinda, um, loud. And you have a sense of humor that is hard to forget about, and talking to you is very easy. You're awesome!

Lauren: You're an amazing poet (can you help me with my poem next year?). You're another person I expected to be shy, but nope. Not shy at all. You're a very fun person to be around, and I can talk to you about a lot of things because first of all, you're seventeen and I'm twelve, so you're a lot more mature than the girls my age. Plus, you're very trustworthy.

Mark: Marcus, Mark-ey, Albino (even though you're a brunette), Dr. Mark. There is no official nickname for you. You're an amazing pianist, so when I found out you would join the Christian Band (you're already on the worship team), I was like, "Oh, yeah..." But a part of me also knew that our practices were gonna be crazy. I knew you were gonna be loud, and I knew this would be the start of many jokes, like Yoga Farm. You're hilarious and very talented, Dr. Mark.

Chris: Everybody hates LOVES Chris. Now, lately it has seemed that you've been more shy than you used to be. Which is great, because, everyone in the band is loud to some extent, so it's nice to have someone who only talks when it's important. You're awesome on bass and in life, and you know it!

Drew: Oh, my Drewbie. The photographer with five different cameras. I don't know what you do with that many cameras, but it sounds like I've got a photo buddy! You are very energetic and can bring out the fun side in anyone. Working with you in the childrens' ministry is really fun, too! I could totally see you as a famous photographer someday. You're a great friend, Drew! And no matter what you say, I'm not getting cornrows! :)

Josh: JOSHUA! You go beyond rhythm guitar. You double as the life of the party (er, band practice). Some awkward kid you can be, and that's what everyone loves about you! Whether it's pulling out and/or smelling someone's hair, twisting words, or just plain being Josh, you can always make someone smile. Keep it up, Joshie!
And thus concludes the blog post. I'm gonna start saying that (I'll tell you where I got it from later)!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Phoenix 2011: The Students

Mariah: Has been a singer for as far back as she remembers. Is prone to sun-poisoning. Also plays piano. Sings on the Youth worship team. Her Fine Arts solo song was "Unredeemed" by Selah. Is headed to college---an AG college---in a few weeks.

Brian: Played drums in the Christian Band. Is tanner than me, although I am black and he's Asian. Also plays guitar and bass, and I think he can do piano. Is on the Youth worship team as well. He will be a high school senior this year.

Nathan: Played lead guitar in the Christian Band. Is the same skin-tone as me, although I am black and he is... white. Has an intense fear of Tracey the Tree (just watch and see... I'll tell you who she is later). Also plays bass clarinet, has played piano for two years now (and is already playing songs like "Mad World" and "Shoreline", both of which are very impressive songs), and can probably play many more instruments. Plays guitar on the Youth worship team. Will be a high school senior this year, along with my sister--- they go to the same school.

Lauren: Wrote poetry for Fine Arts. Has amazing curly hair. She is quite social, but sometimes can be a little quiet. Is the main greeter on the Youth leadership team. Will be a high school senior this year.

Mark: Played keys for the Christian Band. Is obsessed with math and started taking college courses in the eighth grade, but now he does it as part of PSEO. He's been playing piano since he was really little, but started lessons in fifth grade. Plays piano on the Youth worship team. Will be a high school junior this year.

Chris: Played bass guitar for the Christian Band. Is tanner than me (I guess Asians are really tan...). He can also do guitar and possibly piano (?), and drums maybe. I'm pretty sure he's on the Youth worship team. Will be a high school sophomore this year.

Drew: Entered his photography in Fine Arts. Looks like Justin Bieber, sort of. He can play guitar and piano and wants to take vocal lessons. Wants to be on the Youth worship team. He also does poetry and has a blog that he doesn't really use. Will be a high school freshman this year (my Drewbie is growing up!).

Josh: Played rhythm guitar in the Christian Band, backing up his brother (Nathan). I think his hair is awesome, but he won't believe me when I say it (I guess he thinks I'm making fun of how long it is?). He can probably play other instruments, I just don't know about them. Played on the worship team for one night, and might join again. Will be a high school freshman this year (and my Joshie is growing up, too!) at my sister's school. Good luck, Charity and Nathan... we all know Josh is a little rambunctious.

Hope (me): Did background vocals in the Christian Band, backing up Mariah. Very light-skinned to be fully black, screams like crazy (that milkshake incident... flashback...), loves to read. Can play guitar (sort of) and string bass. Wishes she could play piano. Wants to be on the Youth worship team but isn't on it for a few reasons (I was talking to Josh about why, but he just like "Talk to Nathan about it". I kept talking anyway, because it feels good knowing someone's not listening so you can tell them anyhting because they don't even care... just think about it and you'll see what I mean). Will be in eighth grade this year and was the youngest Fine Arts student this year, currently is the second-to-youngest Youth member.
That's us for ya. So, if you combine all these kids, it's quite a combination. Especially Mark, Josh, and Chris, three "very reactive chemicals" and you put them together and it's this massive explosion. Phoenix was fun with those kids, and I'm still trying to get used to my home time zone. I miss Phoenix, and even though the last time I saw these kids was Sunday, two days ago, it feels like forever because I've gotten used to seeing them everyday. You guys are awesome.

And thus concludes the blog post.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Harvest of Grace!

"We're all guilty of the same things... and I know that I have been forgiven and I just hope you can forgive me, too..."

First, I must say that I recommend The Harvest of Grace to anyone.

This book is about Sylvia Fisher, a young Amish woman. Although she hasn't joined the faith yet, she lives the Amish way. She has a strong connection with her sister Beckie and boyfriend Elam until the unexpected happens.

When Elam proposes to Sylvia, she hesitates. Although she says that she needs more time, instead Elam proposes to her sister, Beckie, and they get married against Sylvia's wishes. A path of betrayal follows, leading her to move far away from home to find work and get away from Elam and Beckie.

While away, she meets Aaron, a former alcoholic (now sober) who just got back from rehab. Things aren't looking up for Aaron as his parents don't trust that he's changed and they love the new farmhand (Sylvia) like their own daughter. While Aaron is trying to escape the farm life, Sylvia wants to keep the farm running. While both focused on opposite goals and dealing with their own struggles, will they ever find peace (and even love)?

Sylvia is learning to forgive Beckie and Elam, Aaron is desperate to be forgiven, and Cara Moore is trying to forgive her formerly alcoholic father who abandoned her at a young age. How will they learn to forget their past and forgive what they've done?

I honestly thought this story would be boring. I really did. It's not often that I look at an Amish book and say, "That looks interesting"! Amish books have always come across as rather boring to me, so had I not been apart of Multnomah's reviewing program, this book would have been easily overlooked. This is one of those books that I wouldn't have picked up unless there was nothing better. And there was nothing better because this book was amazing!

I recommend this book to anyone interested, even slightly interested. If you like the show "Switched at Birth" (Did you catch the summer finale?!), you'll love this book by Cindy Woodsmall. I recommend it to anyone ages 12 and up, and I think teenagers and young adults would find this book interesting. You don't have to love romance to love this book, GUARANTEED. You have my word for it.

This book was just awesome. I read it poolside and the pages are all wrinkled (Phoenix flashback...), and while reading the first chapter, Mariah (band's lead vocalist) was leaning over my shoulder just trying to get a glimpse at the drama going on in the book (specifically, when Sylvia found out about Beckie and Elam). I crossed the street while reading it in Phoenix traffic, even--- dangerous, I know. But I couldn't get my eyes off of it.

My complaints? Well, it sure didn't take long for the book to catch my attention, but the first chapter seemed a little climatic to be only the first chapter. And it was a little confusing, switching from character to character and plot to plot so often that I was like "Who am I reading about???" Just slow down a little.

I would give it five stars, but if there are complaints, that automatically moves it down a little. Because there were two complaints, I will give this four stars. But I did enjoy the book. Good job, Cindy.

Paperback! 344 pages!
Published by: WaterBrook Multnomah!

P.S. Thank you, Multnomah, for providing me with an awesome book that I wouldn't have read without your involvement. And being a reviewer for you has its benefits... I'm being paid in books!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

You Missed Me???

I'm BAAAAAACCCCKKK! Oh, so many good memories from Phoenix 2011. The Big Monkey Man (I'll explain that later), Tracey the Tree (that one will need some serious explaining later), performing, and swimming... good memories that just can't fit in one blog post. They just can't.

It's crazy. I woke up this morning in Phoenix, Arizona. I ate lunch in Denver, Colorado. Right now I am blogging from Dayton, Ohio. Some crazy stuff.

I didn't blog all week because:
  1. I desperately needed a break
  2. I was too busy having fun with the acquaintances whom I now call my friends
  3. Wi-Fi wasn't working the first day
  4. Time change was really messing me up...
  5. Performing and attending service.
See! Those are all legitimate reasons! Here's some sad stuff, though.

Relient K. My hotel. The day after I leave.
Who loves Relient K? This girl! Well, this fan of the band found out that they walked the same halls that their favorite musicians are about to walk. Josh was wearing a Relient K shirt and well, Nathan saw some hotel lady and she was like, "Were you wearing a Relient K shirt?" and he was like, "No, that was my brother" and she was like, "Well, those guys are coming [to San Carlos hotel] after the Warped Tour for a little after-party on Sunday." 

So, Nathan told me about this. "You know, the Relient K guys are staying in OUR hotel---" (I gasped...) "On Sunday." (...I sighed.) Problem with that? We left the hotel today. No Matt Thiessen for this girl *whimpers*.

Some airport guy called me "sir" today. I may have really short hair, but I'm pretty sure I look like a girl.

Waiting for a train....
You know I love my "Inception"! Well, downtown Phoenix has a lot of urban trains (kinda like subways, but above the ground) that are always going. Every time one passed, I was like, "You're waiting for a train. You know where you hope it will take you. But you can never be for sure..." Trains passed so often, the last time I said it, it was, "You're waiting for a train. You know---"
"HOPE!" People cut me off before I could finish. Told ya, I get annoying after a while.

"The History kids are coming, they're coming down the street..."
The History kids song. Brings back amazing memories. Well, it's always been an inside-the-History-club thing, but when I took my seat on the plane next to Nathan (who was not in the club), I heard him start singing:
"The History kids are coming. They're coming down the street. There's Robbie, Mark, and Jonathan and Hope and Hannah and Maria and Caitlin and Faith".
I was just like, how does he know that song??? Turns out, Mark was singing it on the escalator and that's how Nathan knew it.

The National Fine Arts Festival Diaries.
Want more? Can't get enough of Phoenix 2011? I'll spill two things:
  1. Fine Arts (Nationals) will be held in Louisville, Kentucky next year. Come on... why not Honolulu???
  2. Next year's STL/FAF theme will be "Relentless".
Still need more? Don't worry, more is coming--- more is coming, and you will hear everything from a day-to-day basis--- exactly what happened on each particular day (including a Matthew West performance). You'll just have to wait and see.

I already miss Phoenix. I spilled lemonade on my pants back in Ohio today and was thinking, "If only I were still in Phoenix, my pants would have already been dry within three minutes". I was at a county fair and passed something that smelled just like San Carlos, the hotel I was in. Then, me and Drew were watching the Disney Channel on the plane today and some kid was standing in front of the U.S. Airways Center--- where our Fine Arts ceremonies and services were held! Then I unpacked my bag today. Looked at some photographs. I couldn't help thinking about the festival and couldn't deny the feeling: I miss Phoenix already, and I haven't even been home for twelve hours. Arizona, I will come back for you!

Last but not least...
Never forget "Excuses".

This song makes me sad now. Not because our band didn't get called back (oops, wasn't supposed to tell you until I posted the diaries), but because it's over. No more Sunday band practices. It makes me sad because of how it united six teenagers plus one twelve-year-old (me) to become a band and maybe even great friends.

It makes me sad because all those memories are no longer being lived.

They're now locked away in a suitcase, ready to be unveiled when the time comes to hopefully ignite a spark, bring back a laugh.

I greatly enjoyed going to band practice every week (no matter how bad practice was). Even if I had the most terrible week, something about band practice lifted my spirits and I never missed a practice, never left one without a smile on my face or joy in my eyes (or tiredness). I could just go to band practice and all the emotions that were holding me back from being my happiest were gone.

Music unites people in a special way. That's why it's wonderful how we can worship God with music. How we can use something we've all grown to love for Him. The FAF band practices are over. But we can continue to use our gifts way past Fine Arts. There's a worship team and so much more.

Everyone has a gift.

Everyone has to ability to DISCOVER, and the determination to DEVELOP. But do you have the courage to DEPLOY?

Monday, August 1, 2011

We're Ready to Respond!

This week is Fine Arts week.

There was a showcase in Sunday Morning service, and my stage presence? Getting better! Now, all that is required is a smile.

The band had to do a worship song, "Sing to the King", in service. At first I was like, "Oh, not that song" because it happened to be my absolute least favorite worship song. And I mean least. At the bottom. I could sing a dozen hymns instead of that song. You see, it's one of those stand-there-and-clap songs. But now, it's actually one of my favorites! It's no longer at the bottom of the food chain!

I want to say that I am proud of every Fine Arts student, even the ones not going to Phoenix. And to "my boys" (there's another girl in the band, but you know what I mean): Can you believe we made it this far? We started practicing in March and I remember our first practice at the back of my mind, which I'll admit was horrible. But after the second practice, we all caught on and kicked into high gear! And now we're going to Nationals! I remember talking to one of you back in May about Nationals, but it just seemed like a distant city and a far-off holiday (er, competition). But it's really happening. This is a huge once-in-a-lifetime (or if you're lucky, six times in a lifetime) chance. Music ministry is a calling I've always been fascinated with. I'm ready to respond, but are YOU?