Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

Archive for September, 2010

On Coverage

Posted by flyingbk on 09/30/2010

In the book I just reviewed, there’s a subtle yet poignant scene. Minny Jackson, one of the black maids, possesses a nasty cut over her eye as a result of a struggle with her abusive husband. Aibileen, her friend and fellow maid, walks to her house and invites her to have coffee at Aibileen’s. As Minny prepares to follow Aibileen, she peels the bandage off her eye because she doesn’t want people to see it. In her own words: On some folks around here, a cut-up eye wouldn’t even get a comment. But I’ve got good kids, a car with tires, and a refrigerator freezer. I’m proud of my family and the shame of the eye is worse than the pain.

Check out what happens next: I follow Aibileen through the sideyards and backyards, avoiding the traffic and the looks. I’m glad she knows me so well.

So Aibileen, seeing her friend in such a state, makes sure to take a back way so that no one will witness Minny and her eye. Aibileen knows that Minny has a certain pride that would be wounded bit by bit as other people stared at her eye with mouths agape, wondering about its implications. Therefore, Aibileen covers her friend by choosing the alternate route.  This short episode spoke to me, and reminded me of a similar story in the Bible:

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness. (Genesis 9:20-22, NIV)

At first glance, it doesn’t appear that Ham does anything egregious. But Ham ends up cursed because of his lack of coverage: He failed to remedy his father’s condition. (NOTE: Many scholars differ over what Ham’s and Canaan’s sin was exactly.) Shem and Japheth perform a similar deed like Aibileen’s, and are therefore blessed.

Here is Noah, a patriarch, someone whom God singled out as worthy of saving before the flood. When a bigshot like him “falls” as in this story, how would we react? We can be like Ham who tells others, or we can be like Shem and Japheth, who quickly cover up and hope that no one else finds out about their father’s sin. Unfortunately, there is a nasty strain in the church today that loves to point out hypocrisy and sin in other people. Instead of covering up, we love to expose, whether it be via gossip and/or joking.

I know that the example from The Help is not completely analogous to this situation in Scripture. After all, Minny didn’t do anything wrong and is more of a victim. But I believe that the principle is the same. I admit that I have been far from perfect in this area; it’s so easy to make fun of people in front of others, and point out others’ faults. But, we should always be looking to cover others’ weaknesses. Let’s focus on building up each others’ strengths, and telling the good things about each other to each other.

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Bishop T.D. Jakes: Win.

Posted by flyingbk on 09/29/2010

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The Help is on the way: A Book Review

Posted by flyingbk on 09/29/2010

I was going to review The Snakehead, but I just finished The Help last night, and wanted to review that while it was fresh in my mind.

My favorite kind of pleasure reading is historical narrative; I have devoured a number of them this summer (such as Last Call, Hellhound on His Trail, Columbine, and The Snakehead). But I’ve also been trying to read more novels lately, and it’s helpful (pun intended) when that novel is set in an historical era that’s fascinating to me. Enter The Help, which was enthusiastically recommended to me by a couple friends and is set in Mississippi during the 1960’s. You know what that means: Oodles and oodles of racial tension! While reading, I was often reminded of two of my favorite movies from that era: Mississippi Burning and Ghosts of Mississippi.

The title is a reference to the myriad African-American maids who basically functioned as the role of the housewife in a plush white residence. They cooked, cleaned, polished the silver, did the laundry, and even did everything possible a mom is expected to do for her children without actually nursing them. Some were treated well by their white female bosses; many were treated as second-class citizens and criminals; all were expected to use a separate colored bathroom which was often located in a garage. There are scenes when the white wife freaks out because the help was using the white bathroom (usually to teach the white woman’s daughter how to potty; which bathroom is the help supposed to use in that situation anyway?).

The novel features three main characters. There’s Aibileen Clark, a black maid who has a special way with white children (and has lots of experience) and seeks to teach them to be colorblind with made-up stories such as the one about Martian Luther King, who is still a person to be respected even if he’s green. Aibileen exudes a sweetness that made her my favorite character, and not just because she writes out her prayers every night, ensuring that everyone on her prayer list is accounted for. There’s Minny Jackson, another maid with a sharp tongue that doesn’t belie her jadedness and often gets her in deep trouble with white folk; but there is no better cook in the hood than her. And then there’s Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (who will be played by Emma Stone in the upcoming movie), a young white woman who desires to make it as a writer and slowly begins to wonder if the ways of the Junior League (a group of elitist white women led by the devilishly delicious Hilly Holbrook) are worth her adherence.

Skeeter decides to embark on a dangerous journey; she sets out to write a book that features secret testimonies by the helps. She and the black maids who assist her obviously need to be very careful and try to do whatever possible to ensure that the other white ladies don’t find out that the book is about them in Jackson, Mississippi (the book’s author is labeled anonymous and the locale is fictionalized as Niceville).

My favorite part of this novel is the dialect used by the black maids (the book is narrated in first person by the three main characters). The author, Kathyrn Stockett, writes at the end of the book that she hoped to capture the thoughts of the maids well while insisting that she couldn’t know what it was like to actually be one during that discrimination-filled era in American history. Stockett grew up in Mississippi with her own help (a woman named Demetrie, who did function as her mother since her white mother was an absentee), which was the inspiration for this novel.

What I loved about The Help is that it’s not afraid to explore the bitterness and utter hypocrisy that shaped the South during that period, but at the same time there are various beautiful relationships that form. In the end, the book features not just the heartbreaking stories, but also the heartening ones that speak to the best of humanity (or at least the best humanity can do under certain circumstances). It is a work of fiction that I highly recommend; try out first 20-30 pages and I promise you that you will be drawn in by its warmth, which the helps provide in great abundance.

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Surf’s Up 9-28-10

Posted by flyingbk on 09/28/2010

So how about my Chicago Bears? Yes, I have been a proud Bears fan since they captured Super Bowl XX back in January 1986. Since I’ve been a fan, they seem to follow a similar pattern: They’ll stink for a couple years, then out of nowhere they’ll have a surprisingly good year (like their run to the Super Bowl 4 years ago). It’s looking like this is one of the good years. Yay!

SPORTS

It continues to boggle my mind how bad NFL coaches are in the area of clock management. Last night’s Bears win over the Pack is a perfect example: Late in the game, with the score tied, the Bears are facing a 2nd-and-goal at the Packers’ 3. Bears coach Lovie Smith should have his team take two knees in order to drain the clock, and then kick the game-winning chippie field goal; Packers coach Mike McCarthy should let the Bears score on the next play so that they can save a timeout and allow All-World quarterback Aaron Rodgers to lead his team on a game-tying drive.

Instead, it became a case of Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber. Smith tried to score twice (with two Matt Forte runs), and McCarthy had his defense play straight up and stop the Bears. The result: An easy 19-yard field goal splits the uprights with four seconds left, and the Bears win. Wow. How stupid can you be? And the sad thing is, most NFL coaches would have played it the same way; they’re really that dumb.

McCarthy’s explanation after the game:
“I did not consider letting them score at the end,” McCarthy said of the Bears. “I felt they [would miss] a field goal in the end.”

Everyone join me and LOL at him. You, sir, are DUMB.

Let’s give major props to Josh Hamilton, who decided not to celebrate with his Rangers teammates in a champagne-drenched locker room. God bless him.

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig lives the good life. Check out the money quote in the 4th paragraph.

A nice feature on Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis and his work to raise awareness of the Holocaust.

I haven’t watched the more recent ESPN 30-for-30 documentaries, but I will definitely check out this one on Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac. Draz was my favorite NBA player when I was in middle school; I was almost in tears when I found out about his tragic death.

I am not a Woody Paige fan, but I appreciated his candor regarding suicide in this piece.

PERSONAL

I leave for Newport News, Virginia in 11 days. I admit that recently, I have been wondering, “WHAT AM I DOING??” But reading this blog entry by Trevin Wax was a help. I also had a good talk with the senior pastor and education elder yesterday, which buoyed my spirits.

I am looking forward to embracing the culture and way of life there, and this blog entry offers me some tips on how to do so.

Last week, I demonstrated how the New York Times pushed the fallacy of moral equivalence. Turns out that James Taranto and I were on the same page, as he noted the same thing I did. But he also makes another good point regarding the story about the violence aimed toward Christians in Indonesia:
Note the way he words that: Not Islamic supremacists attacked Christians, but their “rally” “turned violent.”

Ugh. And they teach you in journalism not to use the passive voice!

IN THE NEWS

A fascinating article on how Afghan women are forced to pretend to be males, and how it’s hard to switch back when it’s time to get married. The article reminded me of the movie Osama, one of the best foreign films I’ve ever seen.

Surprisingly, the super liberal San Francisco Chronicle refuses to make an endorsement in the 2010 California Senate race. I’d love nothing more than to see Barbara Boxer go down, but I am very skeptical. Maybe this non-endorsement helps, though.

Oy, what is going on here?

MISCELLANEOUS

Meet the original 40-year old Virgin.

You, sir, are an idiot.

Psych has been renewed for another season by USA! I love this show, it just makes me happy.

This is also good news, as I am a big Norm McDonald fan.

MUSIC
I leave you with one of my favorite songs these days, Fireflight’s “Core of my Addiction.” Every time this song plays on my iTunes/iPod, I got pumped. “I wanna live, but I would die for you… I’m addicted!” Awesome.

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The Good Ol Days…

Posted by flyingbk on 09/24/2010

have a good weekend!

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Let’s Get Radical, Part II

Posted by flyingbk on 09/23/2010

First, here’s a link worth reading about how Christians LOVE to take theological shots at one another. I never understood the desire of other believers to throw snowballs at bigshots such as Rick Warren. To me, it ‘s a manifest sign of spiritual immaturity, and I’m one of those who thinks that grace can sometimes be overemphasized at the expense of truth. You will most likely nod your head at the last few pargraphs. Now, back to Radical.

———-

Throughout the book, Platt declares war. War on materialism, war on easy Christian living. And he fully recognizes that it is a war that never ends while we’re on earth; there is a constant battle to resist temptation to have more luxuries and acquire more stuff. And let’s face it, often times we lose heart and don’t want to fight anymore, especially when we’re eying that awesome new electronics gadget or that new trendy line of designer clothing.

But Platt writes: The way we use our money is a barometer of our present spiritual condition. Our neglect of the poor illustrates much about where our hearts lie. But even more than that, the way we use our money is an indicator of our eternal destination. The mark of Christ followers is that their hearts are in heaven and their treasures are spent there.

After all, Jesus did say, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV). Therefore, we ought to store up treasures in heaven. But then the question arises, is it really worth it? We all know the ‘right’ answer, but this book illuminates that if we struggle a lot with this issue, we’ve been deceived by the lure of living a comfortable life. Jesus makes it clear to his disciples that there is supposed to be physical and material discomfort (even unto death) if one is to be fully devoted to him. But God ensure our security, and more importantly, He will be more glorified through us.

Platt does dole out statistics on poverty. Here are a few: More than a billion people live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day. That’s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on French fries for lunch.

But I am thankful that he does not throw these stats in your face nor does he deploy them as scare tactics; he is simply highlighting the utter need out there, and nudging us to quit ignoring the plight of many in the world.

Near the end of the book, Platt introduces the radical experiment, a simple fivefold plan for the believer to employ. You can read more about it at the book’s website.

1) pray for the entire world (i.e. using Operation World)
2) read through the entire Word
3) sacrifice your money for a specific purpose
4) spend your time in another context (i.e. one week on missions per year)
5) commit your life to a multiplying community (b/c you need people to help you!)

I love what Platt writes after he’s done making his second point. He anticipates that the reader will complain that the first two don’t appear so revolutionaryl. But for many Christians, actually reading the whole Bible would be quite radical for them! He writes: In our quest for the extraordinary, we often overlook the importance of the ordinary, and I’m proposing that a radical lifestyle actually begins with an extraordinary commitment to ordinary practices that have marked Christians who have affected the world throughout history. Amen!!

I am working on implementing his plan in my own life. I re-started a year-long Bible-reading plan one week ago, and I’m definitely going to plan a mission trip (I haven’t been on one since 1999, and that is FAR too long).

Platt challenges us to be like John Wesley, who identified a modest level of expenses that he was going to live on every year while giving away the rest. At one point, Wesley made the equivalent of about $160K a year, but he kept living on $20K; therefore, he gave away $140K that year.

You cannot read this book without then taking a hard look at your finances are spent. I’ll be moving down to Virginia in 12 days and for the first time in my life, I’ll be living all alone and furnishing my own place. Once I get settled, I plan on taking a hard look at how I use my money. And the main question I will ask is not, “How much can I save?” or “What else can I afford?” Rather, the question will be, “How much can I give? And can I give more?” May this be the main question when it comes to each of our finances at all times!

In conclusion, this is a book that comes along at an important time in our excess-laden nation. I heartily recommend it. It’s time for all of us in the church to rise up and fight against materialism, and get radical!

Next week, a look at The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream, one of the most poignant books I’ve ever read.

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Let’s Get Radical, Part I

Posted by flyingbk on 09/22/2010

Before my book review… RIP, Mike Celizic. I remember looking forward to reading The Bergen Record’s sports section as an acne-riddled teenager who had just moved to the foreign and intimidating confines of Bergen County. It was your columns and head shots (and Bill Pennington’s) that I looked forward to devouring and glancing, respectively, each day. It is not a stretch to say that your writing was a stepping stone that led me to work at your employer, oh, about seven years later.

Now, let’s get Radical.

I read most of this book while flying to the freshly sued International House of Prayer in Kansas City, and actually finished it in the prayer room. I had heard about this book through Christian circles, but it was David Brooks’ column in the New York Times that actually persuaded me to take it out from my local library. And I am really glad that I did.

Even before I began reading, I had been struggling with what the Christian life is all about. Let’s face it: In America today, it is just way too easy to be a lukewarm, materialistic, uber-comfortable, and yes, a carnal Christian. But of course, I know that being a believer is much more than securing fire insurance and a nonrefundable ticket to heaven; I just didn’t know how to verbalize what’s asked of me. So this book came along at just the right time for me.

Platt writes about the kind of Jesus that many in America serve:
A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are.

Then he drops the bomb:
The cost of not taking Jesus seriously is vast for those who don’t know Christ and devastating for those who are starving and suffering around the world.

I admit, that in the past, I may have resisted such words. “Who are you to sound such a vociferous alarm? Talk about being a Chicken Little!” But I’m tired of being jaded, and it’s time to be wholehearted. I am thankful for how this book pulls no punches regarding what Jesus really asked of his followers, and the high calling of noble sacrifice that has been divinely entrusted to the church.

Platt writes how there are two main charges directed at the children of God: to enjoy his grace, and to extend his glory. I have no problem living out the first, but I’ve noticed that we can get spiritually obese if there is no application of the second. Quoting Platt: We are not the end of His grace. We are not the center of His universe. God is at the center of His universe, and everything He does ultimately revolves around Him. May we always remember that it’s not about us!

But before he issues a clarion call to everyone who reads, Platt properly sets it up with a robust rendering of the gospel.
He spends the first half focusing on what the gospel is truly about, and he is punctilious about dismantling myths (i.e. universalism, and how those who don’t hear the gospel automatically go to heaven). He does well to mix in a plethora of personal experiences, and those of his flock at his church in Birmingham, Alabama.

I’ll end this section with one of my favorite illustrations from the book. In 1952, construction on a $80 million Navy troop carrier was completed. In 1952, construction on a $80 million Naval troop carrier was complete. At the time, there was nothing like it: The ship could outrun any other and travel nonstop anywhere in the world in less than 10 days. But she never actually carried troops. Eventually it became a luxury liner for the pleasure of presidents, heads of state, and other celebrities for 17 years. The S.S. United States was designed for battle, and yet it was only used as a place of material enjoyment. Platt concludes, The purpose of the church is to mobilize a people to accomplish a mission. Yet we seem to have turned the church as troop carrier into the church as luxury liner. We seem to have organized ourselves, not to engage in battle for the souls of peoples around the world, but to indulge ourselves in the peaceful comforts of the world.

Ouch. But it’s true, no? Part II tomorrow, when I look closer at what Platt is specifically calling each of us to do. If you don’t want to wait, you can read about it here (spoiler alert!).

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Surf’s Up 9-21-10

Posted by flyingbk on 09/21/2010

I caught the series premiere of various shows last night as the new fall TV schedule began in earnest. I watched Hawaii Five-0 while at the gym yesterday, and while I enjoyed it, I can’t see myself investing. Lone Star was fascinating, but then I remembered that I don’t really like primetime soaps. Mike and Molly is a comedy about fat people, and while some jokes were painfully obvious, I’ll give it a second look.

On to the links! Feedback is always welcome!

NOTE: This week will have more links than usual because I’ve been storing some of them up for a while (I decided to re-launch this blog a few weeks ago, but I didn’t get around to it until yesterday since I was traveling).

POTPOURRI

Most of you know about the Korean fraud ring in Bergen County, NJ. If not, click accordingly. The Korean community is ashamed, according to councilman Jason Kim, AKA my old hakwon boss back when I was in high school.

I really enjoyed this article on the Trader Joe’s business. It’s amazing how popular this grocery chain has become; when recent news came out that TJ was planning to open two new markets in the Kansas City area, a few of my Facebook friends residing there reacted euphorically as if the rapture had occurred! I admit, when I found out that there’s a TJ right by where I’ll live in Virginia, I was excited as well!

Christopher Hitchens, the famed atheist, skipped out on his own prayer day. It appears that he’s determined to die a proud atheist, but many Christians continue to pray for him. I’m reminded of a quote by Hitchens in the Times book review on August 15, 2010. It regards whether he should look to God now that he’s dying:
This subject is one Mr. Hitchens has mulled over since childhood, when he decided, as he wrote in “God Is Not Great,” that it was “contemptible” to rely on religion just for comfort if it “might not be true.”

I loved this opinion by Camille Paglia in which he savagely attacks Lady Gaga. I could not agree more; I find Lady Gaga highly repugnant, although I acknowledge (and lament the waste of) her great talent.

Is Kim Jong Il ready to pass the baton of oppression?

Here’s a long piece on the havoc that pornography is wreaking in our society.  The author writes about how we not only have an obesity problem in America, but how we also have a ‘sexual obesity’ epidemic. There’s a lot I could excerpt from the piece, but I’ll go with this one about addiction:
Although academic experts may continue to battle over exactly what is meant by “addiction,” surely the tremendously defensive response in the public square by itself settles the question to any reasonable person’s satisfaction. What does it tell us that, when faced with any attempt to make the case that this substance should be harder to get than it is, some reliable subset of defenders can be counted on to respond more like animals than like people? If such is not the very definition of addiction, what is?

POLITICS

One major problem I have with liberal publications is their insistence on moral equivalency. Nicholas Kristof is a columnist I respect (mainly because of his humanitarian work), but James Taranto calls him out for recently written nonsense.

More moral equivalency in the NYT, from this article on Christianization in Indonesia:
Last week, one day after Americans opposed to the construction of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan pledged to “Stop the Islamization of America,” a group of Islamists rallied in Bekasi, outside the Indonesian capital, to fight the “Christianization” of Indonesia, by blocking the planned construction of a church.

See what the Times just did? The two groups are set side-by-side, as if they’re made of the same moral fiber. Except that the one near Ground Zero by Christians was nonviolent, while the one in Indonesia by Muslims involved Christian leaders being “stabbed in the stomach” and “hit in the head with a plank.” Sigh.

Jim Treacher rightfully asks, how come the media isn’t covering more concerning the plight of Molly Norris? That crazy preacher from Florida gets all this press, but Norris is ignored? Hmm, I wonder why… If you don’t know, feel free to read up about an inch or so.

TRAGEDY

Stunningly sad news regarding a Broncos’ wide receiver.

The pastor of a church and his wife, and four others, died on Saturday near Woodbury Commons in a freak church van accident. There are a couple bittersweet tidbits in the story about how the pastor made a difference in others’ lives. The name of the church: Joy Fellowship Church, a similar name to the church that most of my friends and I attend. Weird, right? My thoughts and prayers go out to this church.

SPORTS

A fan at Amazin’ Avenue is writing up a post-by-post review of the 2000 season. It’s a nice time to wax nostalgic since the current iteration of the Mets isn’t very good. Here is Part I, Part II, and Part III. How can you say no to Benny Agbayani?

Mascot throwdown!

Another crazy fan stomps onto the field at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia (apparently trying to look like Superman). This time though, it’s not a taser gun, but Matt Diaz to the rescue.

Gregg Easterbrook’s TMQ is always a must-read for the football fan. This particular column tackles the need to be more proactive in preventing concussions.

Football Outsider’s Quick Reads is essential fare as well, especially for those of you who think that Michael Vick played really well on Sunday.

Word is that the Nets are frontrunners to acquire Carmelo Anthony’s talents. That’d be pretty sweet, in light of the fact that Knicks fans have been dreaming of Melo since Lebron jilted them.

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Bob and Weave 2.0

Posted by flyingbk on 09/20/2010

It’s funny, I just read my last blog post from over seven months ago about how I was determined to re-start blogging. In the second-to-last paragraph, while making note of my laziness, I mention that it is time (RAHHHHH!!!) to begin writing regularly.

Yeah, that didn’t really work out. But after reading most of Do Hard Things by the Harris brothers, I am convicted afresh to try this blogging thing once again. I will review the book at another time, but its general point is that we don’t stretch ourselves out of our comfort zones enough. I’ve realized that I simply need to write more if I am going to maximize the writing gift that I believe God has given me. I always tell people that I plan to write books one day, and that doesn’t just happen overnight.

We all know how paralyzing fear of failure can be, but I wonder if the fear of mediocrity is far more insidious and therefore fatal when it comes to our self-development. Some of my blog posts may be brilliant, some may be wretched; the vast majority will be in-between and closer to a C+ than a B+. That’s OK, though. One of my new goals on this blog is to just pump ’em out, even if they ain’t that great.

And I believe the stage is set for me to succeed: I’ve been reading a ton this summer (16 finished books by my estimation), which means I’m making better use of my time. (Take a look at my left sidebar; I will be updating that section regularly). Gone are the days of fiddling around on VirtualNES (the worst was when I was almost done beating The Legend of Zelda in one sitting only to click away from the page by accident) or browsing the web like a drunken sailor.

Also, in order to help me write more regularly, I will be instituting a weekly structure. The first blog post of each week will simply be a smorgasbord of links (with smidges of commentary) that I’ve read in the last week. The second will cover a book that I’ve read, and what I’ve learned from it. The third will be an open topic, with the word “on”; it could be anything, from politics to the spiritual to the personal. Finally, my last blog post will be more light-hearted (i.e sports!). My thought process behind this structure is simple: It’s to cater to my 9-to-5 readers. I’m thinking that on Monday, you’ll want something more chill, hence the links. By the end of the week, you’re dreaming about the weekend, so I’ll want to write in a more blithesome manner.

I am hoping that my new blog will fulfill the following goals:

1) Give glory to God
2) Hone my writing abilities
3) Raise awareness on various issues and what’s worthwhile
4) Encourage my readers!

As I re-launch, I hope that you will join me. My blog may make you mad, it may make you laugh, it may make you cry (although I’m not sure how), but most of all, I hope that it will make you think, and that you will enjoy!

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