Merry Christmas ♥

So, once again, I'm sharing some beautiful words of wisdom from Pastor Matt, from my job. He sent out this email to the congregation. I thought it was beautiful and decided to share it with my friends.

Early in my ministry, I led a Christmas Pageant that featured an actual newborn infant in the starring role. When the two thirteen year old children playing Mary and Joseph walked onto the stage, holding her I heard a voice behind me say, with such joy, “Look! It's not a doll. It's a real baby!” A real baby. 

If anyone doubted that fact, a few moments later the real baby started to cry. And then holler and bellow. And everyone in the sanctuary sat up a bit more straight and leaned toward the infant, as if to soothe her.

Real babies make their presence felt. They alter lives. Their dependence, Rowan Williams writes, “is a matter of fingers clutching at ours when we'd like to be getting on with something; broken nights, hungry mouths. If God is with us as an infant – a real infant – He is not tidily gift wrapped or altogether functional. If God is with us as a child, God is certainly with us as one who calls out our tenderness and compassion, not with passivity, but with insistence, without shame or restraint." It is almost Christmas! God is coming to us! Let's all lean in, ready to care and eager to love. 

Merry Christmas, friends.

Roll Out the Red Carpet: Oscar Predictions

I wouldn't consider myself to be a "movie buff" per se, but I do LOVE movies. I enjoy following box office results, reviews, etc. So, here, I'm going to list the movies I believe will be nominated for Oscars. Now, I doubt that all of these will be nominated for Best Picture, but they should make it somehow on the list once all is said is done. These aren't in any particular order, btw, and I've included a "maybe" list. Also, just for my own pleasure, I'm gonna add some of my personal favorites and disappointments of the year. Enjoy!

Predictions for the 85th Annual Academy Awards:
Zero Dark Thirty
Rust and Bone
Life of Pi*
Django Unchained*
Les Misérables*
The Master
Cloud Atlas*

Silver Linings Playbook
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Moonrise Kingdom
The Sessions
The Impossible
The Deep Blue Sea
Rise of the Guardians*

My Personal Favorites of 2012:
THE AVENGERS (yes, in all caps)
The Dark Knight Rises
Hotel Transylvania (this movie brought me such surprising joy and laughter on a day when I just wanted to feel like a kid again. I had gummy bears, my 3D glasses, and lots of happiness)
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Men in Black 3 (seriously, Josh Brolin as Tommy Lee Jones? Amazing.)
Think Like a Man (Dude, this movie made me laugh so much. Plus, DJ and I got to re-visit Plato's Allegory of the Cave after watching it lol)
Safe House
21 Jump Street
The Words (this movie moved me in such an amazing way. I'll admit that at times, Bradley Cooper did not wow me...but man, Zoe Sandana, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, and Nora Arnezeder were just mind-blowing! And the music, oh my gosh! It brought me to tears. I hope that this movie wins things in the awards seasons, but it doesn't appear to be on the radar.)

Disappointments of 2012:
Wrath of the Titans
Dark Shadows
Snow White and the Huntsman
Total Recall
Red Tails
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Good Deeds
Alex Cross
Won't Back Down
The Man with the Iron Fists

 *denotes one of my personal favorites that are on my Oscar list, rather than my favorites list

The Semester is Over!

I survived my first semester of grad school, hoo-ray! This semester was particularly challenging for me. Being out of school for a few years, you don't realize how easy it is to lose your touch. I had to re-learn study habits, un-fog my brain from years of television and leisure novels, and figure out how to properly discuss my thoughts on our readings for class.

Including work for my research papers, I read a total of 73 books over the last 4 months, plus articles and other sources. In addition to that, I also was going back through my old Early America and Modern Europe notes (thanks Dr. Foote & Dr. Jones) to remember what the heck was happening for each time period. I did all of this while balancing (or attempting to balance) house work, church, and my 2 jobs...when I look back on it, I think to my the heck did I survive?

Really, it's quite simple. You make time for what you care about. Cleaning my house actually is very relaxing to me. I put my hair up, jam out to some great music, and run around like a mad-woman for a few hours. The end result can't be beat: a clean house, Christmas lights, pecan pie scented candles, and a happy Pam. And, finally, my two jobs are incredibly enjoyable. I love my work (and colleagues) at St. Pauls and the students I work with on campus at Loyola are so inspiring and awesome. Plus, I actually really enjoyed my studies this semester. So, at the end of the day, why should I complain?

So, the end result is that I'm smiling and happy. Life's good. And the break is much needed. However, I must say that since my creativity has been sparked with all the reading and writing I've done, it's difficult to turn it off...with that being said, be prepared to be flooded with blog posts and photos. In advance, you're welcome :)

Series of Thankfulness: UCA

UCA provided me with an outstanding undergraduate career. I was involved with many things, the most memorable being French, the Conway Animal Shelter (puppies! ♥), S.U.A.A.W., NAACP, and Phi Alpha Theta. Those groups were so meaningful to me.

Most importantly, however, I have to acknowledge my academic department, the History Department. It was just so amazing to have a group of people who believe in your ability to succeed as a student. And not only believe, but come to expect the best from you. And to deliver that to them on every test and every paper and every discussion was my goal. In the end, I came out with a group of professors I am particularly close to, but, in addition to them, an entire department, professors that I never had or whom I didn't get the opportunity to get as close to but whom I admire, appreciate, and respect just the same, that believe in me. I left knowing that I have an entire department that I can go back to for advice and encouragement in my academic career. They gave me such a high honor upon graduating, as the Outstanding History Student of the Year. Amazing. AMAZING. I am so grateful for my experience there and would not trade it for anything! I'm looking forward to sharing my future with them. I hope to make you all proud! ♥

Series of Thankfulness: Family and Friends

I think I must be the most blessed girl on the planet. For, while I may not have lots of material things, I am spoiled with love. Always have been.

Starting with the family, I've been spoiled with love since birth. As the baby child, my big brudder (yay Peej!) and my parents have let me know how much I am loved. That I am special. That I am a child of the King. I'm so very grateful for them and all the marvelous ways that they love me unconditionally.

Next, I have to acknowledge my besties! I have been fortunate to have a wonderful group of best friends for many years! Gavin, Ashley, and Alana, I love you guys SO much! Sooo much. Even your families have embraced me as a daughter/sister. I am so grateful for it! I couldn't imagine my life without you!

Also, my NEW in-law, my sister Felicia, better known as FE FE! Love her soooo much as well :)

So, as I was writing this post, I was trying to name ALL my other close friends and it became inSANE. So, instead, I'm going to name groups. And even if I don't, if you've made a difference in my life, you know who you are. And for sure, you must know that I love you and hold you in a special place in my heart :)
New Life Church - life group & greeter team :)
AGS - students & co-workers (toniiiight, we are young!)
Mosaic Templars - you have a dear place in my heart, my friends!
UCA - So many close friends, great memories, successes and not-so-successes. I treasure it all and the friensdhips made along the way :)
North Little Rock High School -  So many teachers and friends made a difference for me in high school. My experience there prepared me for so much. I love you all so much!

Thanks so much to all of my freakin' AWESOME family and friends! You guys all rock, seriously! I am who I am today because of you!

Superhero: A Recap

So, there's been LOTS of hype around the new Batman movie, and while it is outstanding, I would not DARE go so far as to say "best superhero movie" of all time. Which got me thinking, what are my top picks? Well kiddos, here's my list. And obviously you don't have to agree, but here's my take on the Superheroes:

1) The Dark Knight and The Avengers - That's right, a TIE! These two movies were perfect in my opinion, 10/10 for both. The Dark Knight perfected emotions and action while The Avengers perfected comedy, action, and fantasy (and HOTNESS, geez!). They are the end all, be all of superhero movies for me. I'm not sure if any superhero movie will ever top them, but that's not to say that there won't be any FABULOUS movies to come in the future.

2) The Incredibles - YES, I did include an animated film on this list. But it's just so DAGGUM good! I still get chills whenever I watch it. The characters are wonderfully developed and portrayed, the comedy is good, the action is good. I seriously love this movie. While some may believe it doesn't "belong" on this list, I say forget that! I love this movie, and it's on MY list!

3) Transformers - Oh, SNAP, I loooove this movie so much! Shia LeBeouf, YES! I laughed, I cried (well, almost, when I thought they were going to kill Bumblebee). This is just an  OUTSTANGING film, all around! So good, soooo good!

4) Iron Man - Yes, Tony Stark has my heart and won't let it go. I remember being so moved by this movie, by it's raw emotion, comedy, and the thrills of this, for many, this new superhero. Well, new to the big screen, that is. Robert Downey Jr. outdid himself on this one, ladies and gents. He is Tony Stark Iron Man.

5) The Dark Knight Rises - Tremendous film, I commend Christopher Nolan and the cast and crew for just an outstanding film. And the ending, OMG! I was screaming in the theater lol!

6) Iron Man 2 - No extra details here, again, Tony Stark has my heart.

7) Thor - I tell you, there's just something about that Chris Hemsworth! Man, oh man! I loved this movie SO much. But, also, let me note that I love Greek mythology (so this was fun for me to thumb through my Edith Hamilton book to get the details on the actual mythological characters). In addition to this, I looove Kenneth Branaugh's work. When I heard he was directing this, I was so excited and it did not disappoint.

8) Batman Begins - 1st installment of Nolan's trilogy makes it 8th on my list, very enjoyable movie!

9) Captain America - This movie was just so fun. I'm a big Hugo Weaving fan, he's such a delicious, villainous character. I love to see him play the bad guy, he does it so well!

10) The Indredible Hulk - Fun, awesome films!

Honorable Mention: So, I'm pretty sure that V for Vendetta isn't a "superhero" film, per se, but it is certainly heroic! If I could put this movie on my list, it would be probably #2 or 3. Seriously, one of my favorite films of all time. The main character, "V" is just amazing. And a serious butt-kicker! Love it!

That's it, folks! Thanks for reading :)

Series of Thankfulness: AGS

Where to begin...I mean wow. AGS has been a part of my life since the summer of 2004 when my big brother Perry (yay Peej!) went there for Instrumental Music. From spending a good amount of time visiting there, I knew I wanted to come. And the following summer, I went there for Drama. AGS helped me through a dark and difficult time in my youth. The freedom and the awakening was beautiful. And I knew I wanted to help recreate that experience for others. The following summer, in 2006, my brother was back there helping with the gospel choir and I tagged along in spirit. Then, in 2007, my time of working there began.

For six glorious summers, I served as gospel choir director for AGS. Meeting amazing students, singing, worshiping...seriously, some of the best experiences of my life. In addition to the choir, I filled MANY other roles, Resident Assistant, Office Assistant, Music Room Monitor...and whatever else was requested of me. It has been an absolute pleasure working with my colleagues at AGS. I seriously canNOT think of a better way to spend my summers since 2004. In fact, now that I'm in Chi-town, I have NO idea what I'll do with my summers lol. But, I know God has a way of working these things out, and I'm excited to for this journey :)

It has truly been a glorious time indeed at AGS! I seriously can't imagine my life without it. A blessing and an all-around fabulous learning experience that I wouldn't trade for anything :)

Series of Thankfulness: Workin' Hard for the Money

Part  of my Series of Thankfulness is focused on work. I feel that I have been really fortunate in my jobs, specifically at US Pizza and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. I'll talk about AGS in another post :)

US Pizza was sort of a surprise for me. I hadn't really planned on waiting tables, I simply saw a now hiring sign outside of the new restaurant in Conway and went in. I was interviewed on the spot and left with a job. DJ eventually worked there as well. The owners, Hunter and Esther, are great people. It was an honor working with them and seeing how passionate they were about the restaurant and their customers. My co-workers were PHENOMENAL. I remember when I got sick and had surgery, they sent me a huge card, they checked on me all the time. It's the way that people make you feel, that's what you remember. And my regular customers (some of whom I still see when I get the chance to drop in US Pizza) and my co-workers were the best. I had a very enjoyable year there.

Now, on to Mosaic Templars. Wow, what an experience! I never would have guessed that I would end up working at a museum, teaching African American history, but I am so glad that I did. God really blessed me to work with some amazing women who literally changed my life. It was so awesome to be able to talk about life with other married, Christian women! Rachel, Jennelle, Key, and can't leave out El, you're all AMAZING! I love you ladies so much. I loved being able to inspire young people to reach for the stars, to relate to older African Americans who fought in the struggle for equality and lived the history I taught. Words just can't express my gratitude and how much I'll miss being there.

Stay tuned for the next part :)

Book Review: Passport Diaries

A few weeks ago, it occured to me that very soon, I'm going to be reading nothing but history books for the next few years. In a panic, I went searching for regular books to take advantage of while I still could. Luckily, Hastings was having an incredible book sale and I just went nuts. This could be the first of many reviews, as I have already read 4 of my 7 books. You've been warned.

So, I read this pretty cool book called Passport Diaries by Tamara Gregory. Here is the plot of the book:

  "When the good men are all gone, or turn out to be gay or just not good at all, what's a girl to do? LA district attorney Kia Carson - beautiful, brainy and very very single - has the answer. On the eve of her 35th birthday, with not a decent man in sight to help her celebrate - and a career that has suddenly sprung a major leak, the stylish sister hatches a plan with her best friends. A Girl's Night Out. To Europe. Her friends enthusiastically agree. Then bail. Undeterred and alone, Kia embarks on an extraordinary odyssey to London, Paris and Greece - where she finds a little bit of trouble, a whole lot of laughs and something she didn't realise she was looking for in the first place - herself.”

It was a really easy read and very entertaining. However, I felt that Gregory was lacking in descriptive details. She was taking us along on this journey with Kia to all of these beautiful and exotic places, yet, from reading the book I couldn't "transport" myself there mentally. I enjoy, when reading a book, when an author uses desciptive details in such a way that you can vividly imagine what the characters are seeing. I felt that this author sort of left me hanging on that. But then again, the lack of descriptive details made the book a lot shorter, and once again, a really easy read. One of my favorite parts of the book was being able to see life from the perspective of an affluent black female who comes from a pretty wealthy family, in a wealthy neighborhood, etc. yet see her struggles with race and how the environment she grew up in helped to create her perspecitve on race relations. It almost reminded me of the movie Something New with Sanaa Lathan.

Overall, I would give this book a 3 out of 5. Very entertaining, enjoyable read, definitely worth a look if you're looking for something that's not too complicated.  

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