Monthly Archives: January 2021

Let’s Talk About: Ranking the Hunger Games Movies

I started 2021 re-watching the entire Hunger Games series, and now I want to talk about it. 

Let’s just jump in because we have lots to cover…

1 Catching Fire (The 2nd Movie) 

What I Liked

The Quarter Quell 

I mean it’s pretty simple, without the fuel of the Quarter Quell (pulling victors back into the games) proving that the Capitol will never fully let anyone from the districts win the Hunger Games, the revolution probably wouldn’t have happened in the way that it did. Or at all. Not only does this twist for the 75th Games add fire to the revolution and a wrench in the plan that was Katniss and Peeta’s “happy ending”, but for many other reasons this becomes my favourite film of the series and possibly one of my favourite movies to re-watch of all time. 

The Arena 

The arena is a no brainer as one of the reasons why the Quarter Quell is so compelling. It’s so savvy, creative, and down-right terrifying. This gave the director (Frances Lawrence) so much to work with, and took the second games that we were seeing to another level. Bringing in previous victors is fascinating enough, making the combat and forming of alliances way more complex and mature, but adding that to the brilliance of the arena made these games so much more fascinating. 

Finnick 

The 3rd point I’ll make about why I love Catching Fire the way I do is just the pure existence of Finnick as a character. He (and the actor Sam Claflin) was my first movie-star crush and I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for him. Plus the casting of Sam for Finnick was so unbelievably spot on for how many of book readers envisioned him. The only negative I can think of about Catching Fire is literally that I would’ve liked more of Finnick’s back-story, but that’s just me being greedy. 

2 The Hunger Games (The First Movie) 

What I Liked

Sets the Stage 

It’s hard to not rank the first movie of any series high. It’s kind of like not recognizing the importance of the first Iron Man movie in the MCU. The Hunger Games movie really does a great job at setting the scene, establishing the universe and all of it’s conflicts and issues without too straight up dialogue-heavy expplanation scenes. With a few short explanations at the beginning of the film, the rest of the universe is laid out well through the narrative plot.

In terms of relationships, the Capitol-District dichotomy and relationship is developed well, and so are the personal ones between Katniss and her family, and between her and Gale, and even her and the Capitol as a whole. 

Tributes 

Although out of the 24 tributes we really only get to hear around 8 of them actually have any lines, I think they still manage to add a lot of levity to the story and made me itch for wanting to know more about them. 

What I Didn’t Like

Lack of Tribute Development 

While the tributes are one of the positives in this film, they always happen to be one of the negatives. The lack of their character development was a slight issue for me, but not a major one. Either way, most audiences will still feel immense remorse for most of their deaths given that they’re children and all. But knowing (and having seen) the deleted scenes where they showed several other tributes being interviewed by Casesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) was definitely a poor choice in my opinion (even if it was a justified one for production reasons). Those scenes alone really showed another side to the characters (or any side at all) that we otherwise didn’t see at all. 

Shakey Camera 

The second and only other negative to this first film that I will be addressing is the shaky camera. While most prominent in the exposition scenes of District 12, the camera remains with a slight tremor for a lot of the games and it really bothered me throughout the most recent time I saw this film. But by far the shaky camera in the first exposition shots bothers me way more. I understand the artistic choice but dang, it’s a lot. 

3 Mockingjay Part 2 (The Fourth Movie) 

What I Liked

Finale 

I mean, it’s the finale, it’s gotta be good. It can’t be ranked fourth of four. 

Action Packed “76th Hunger Games” 

One of my favourite lines in this film, said by my favourite character (Finnick, of course) is “ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 76th Hunger Games”. It truly speaks to how impressive the Capitol is at innovation and technology in terms of protecting itself, by constructing these deadly and creative pods all around the city as if it was an arena itself. This makes for a very deadly, high-paced storming of the capitol that I appreciated after the ‘breather’ that is the third film. 

Snow vs. Katniss vs. Coin 

This trio dynamic, although only seen all together in person once, was such an interesting pinnacle moment in Katniss’ character development. The actors are absolutely phenomenal and carry on the tradition of the series of just absolutely spot-on, brilliant casting, pulling the characters right out of the pages of the books. 

What I Didn’t Like

Finnick’s Death 

He didn’t need to die. Straight up. The only reasoning is the demonstrate, yet again, the tragedies and sacrifices of war and of a revolution. But, c’mon… Just wound him or something.

Okay, fine, if you’re going to kill him for drama and heartbreak (that you most certainly caused considering how beloved he was by not only just me) at least make his death better than just fall into a pit of zombie-mutts. Really? He deserved more, enough said. 

Prim’s Death 

As much as this is a negative, since that’s super (super) sad. Her death had so much meaning to it and truly represents a death that was all of the “good” things a movie-death can be in my eyes: 

– Meaningful to the Narrative (the entire story begins with her being saved and ends with her being un-saveable) 

– Develops characters around her (Effectively ends the relationships between Katniss and Gale, drives her to do the right thing in the end which was to kill Coin, etc.) 

– Truly tragic in how did they die (Prim’s death may have been somewhat unnecessary but at the same time it effectively ended the war immediately, giving it meaning to the story and driving the story forward. She also died doing something meaningful in an epic sort of way). 

To loop back around, I personally don’t see Finnick’s death and fully qualifying to any of these points. 

4 Mockingjay Part 1 (The Third Movie) 

What I Liked

Character Development 

I love a good calm before the storm movie where we can take a step back and assess where we are. Many might say this film was ‘boring’ or even unnecessary. I’ll explain why it’s not to me using another film as an analogy. In terms of their positions in their respective series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (which I also love) is the same as Mockingjay Part 1 to me. Why? 

– The simplest explanation is they are both the second to last films of a series.

– They are both in between a period in the universe where everything is “seemingly normal” (Harry’s at Hogwarts and the Hunger Games are still running/the districts aren’t in full rebellion). 

– They both allow for the main characters and their counter-parts to become adults, learn about the past and drive the future of the rebellion/war forward (Harry, Ron and Hermione’s relationship develops while they hunt Horcruxes and learn about how to defeat Voldemort, while Katniss and Gales relationship plummets as she realizes her love for Peeta as she also becomes the driving force behind the rebellion). 

I could go on about their similarities, but no matter what I really appreciate these movies for what they are and the important places they hold in their respective series’. 

Tribute Rescue from the Capitol 

This is one of the only bits of “action” or suspense we get in this film (besides the very end) and I think this was done so interestingly. Getting to hear more of Finnick’s story and seeing a cumulative act come together where the sacrifices of individual districts has actually provoked real change was a great climax to this particular film. 

What I Didn’t Like

Not Enough Finnick 

This, alongside Joanna, can qualify for the 4th film as well. Of course not every side-plot in the books can be told in the movies, but I sure wish it was possible. 

Development and Explanation of 13 

Same goes for the development of 13. This is first time we as viewers (and from the perspective of Katniss) are seeing anything from 13 and I think it’s a shame that there wasn’t more space for the questions about it and monumentality of the fact that a whole society of people survived and are living underground when the Capitol thought they were long gone. That’s crazy and I would have loved to see more of their backstory.

Peer Review #1

Joao Paulo Alves’ Portfolio

For the first peer review of this course, I got to take a look at Joao Alves’ website. It looks like that he just created his blog recently and did not have a chance to update any feature on the website that best represents his online self.

Reading the title of the web page, which is “Joao Paulo Alves’s Portfolio”, I assume it will include contents supporting his portfolio. As for the menu bar, there are only 3 main sections created but none of them contain any posts and one of the sections is defaulted by WordPress. When I first saw his website, I noticed that the colours used are grey and white, which I think is also defaulted.

My first recommendation to Joao is to set up the “About” section highlighting his brand so that new readers like me would understand more about the purpose of the website. Once the mandate is identified, it would be easier for him to choose a suitable theme for the website.

I hope in the next couple of weeks, Joao will be able to settle his page, make more adjustments to match his professional self and successfully present his brand to the readers.

http://jpalves.com/blog/

David Granirer Talks Comedy and Mental Health

*This article was originally published in The Runner on April 28, 2017*

David Granirer came to KPU to give a presentation on comedy and mental health on April 5. Granirer is a comedian, counselor, author, and the founder of Stand Up For Mental Health, a program that teaches stand-up comedy to people with mental illnesses.

Granirer’s presentation was a mixture of live comedy, videos featuring comics that he has coached, and important information both about his program and the positive effect comedy has on mental health.

“The ability to shift your own mood by using humour and by making people laugh is a wonderful coping mechanism,” says Granirer.

Granirer founded Stand Up For Mental Health in 2004. He has trained comics in over thirty-five cities in Canada, The U.S., and Australia. He and his comics have performed over five hundred shows to date.

“Start with one or two people that are close to you, and once you’ve done that, hopefully it will give you more confidence to talk to other people.”

Granirer also says that he realizes that, due to the stigma still surrounding mental health in our society, it is not always safe to talk to those around you about your mental illness.

“I remember at one point one of our comics said, ‘I have to quit this program because I’ve just gotten a job and I really need to work and it’s got great benefits, and I don’t want them to know that I have a mental health condition. I’m afraid that if I do shows with you guys, we’re so public about it I’m afraid that they’ll fire me.’”

“In an ideal world, I would have said, ‘Don’t worry about it, just be yourself, let everyone know.’ But it’s not an ideal world, so I said, ‘I totally understand, your job comes first,’” says Granirer.

Prior to Granirer’s presentation, representatives from KPU’s peer support program and disability services team put on brief presentations to show students what sort of mental health services are offered on campus, including counseling, academic advising, services for students with disabilities, and the peer support program.

“April 7 is actually world health day, and the topic of the year is depression,” says Kat Roussakis, fitness and wellness coordinator for KPU Sport and Rec. “Seeing as it’s a university, and depression is prevalent amongst university students, we figured this would be a good opportunity to bring light to the topic, and to showcase the programs that we offer to students who are suffering, maybe in silence.”

“[World health day] also falls into that whole exam period, the high-stress point in the semester,” says Nick Bransford, the communications and event coordinator with KPU’s student services. Roussakis and Bransford co-organized the event.

Bransford also reminds students of the various clubs that KPU has to offer to help students stay involved with their university.

“That’s why we do things like this, just trying to get the word out and keep awareness up,” he says.

The post David Granirer Talks Comedy and Mental Health appeared first on Keely Rammage-Scott.

Who are KPU’s Rivals?

*This article was originally published in The Runner on March 23, 2017*

Most students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University can agree that there are some pretty great advantages in attending a smaller institution, but how does our unviersity compare with other postsecondary schools in the area? Who are KPU’s real rivals, and for what reasons do they choose to compete with us? Can we compare ourselves to schools such as SFU and UBC?

First on the list of schools that comes to mind is Douglas College, our old sister school. Douglas and KPU certainly share a few similarities, such as smaller class sizes and a lack of on-campus residences, but one way they have us beat is in their varsity sports teams. KPU’s teams were cut a few years back due to budget cuts.

KPU, however, excels compared to many schools in regards to our trades programs, which are largely held at the Cloverdale campus. Some of the more notable programs at KPU include ferrier, brewing and operations, acupuncture, and even marijuana management programs

Next on the list of rivals is the University of the Fraser Valley. UFV shares small classes with KPU and Douglas, and they also have varsity sports teams, but it’s their student union building on the Abbotsford campus that gives them a competitive edge. In it, you can find a student-run dine-in or take-out restaurant as well as a radio station.

Whether or not their student life is better than ours is debatable, but UFV provides much more opportunity for social lives. Unlike Douglas and KPU, they do have a university residence, and their cafeteria provides a wide variety of options, whereas we only have Sodexo, Tim Hortons (run by Sodexo), and the Grassroots.

By comparing KPU to these two schools alone, our lack of a sports team really leaves us in the dust. Sports provide a sense of togetherness and friendly competition with other schools. It’s difficult for KPU students to feel involved with the community without friendly competition through sports. It almost feels as though we’re being left out.

When it comes to larger schools such as SFU and UBC, I don’t think that a fair comparison can even be made. We aren’t as big of a school, and we certainly don’t get as much funding. If we want these bigger universities to notice us as a competitor, students need to start advocating for change at KPU.

If the cafeteria food can’t even hold a candle to schools that are supposed to be on our level, what can we do about it? If we feel like our student life is suffering, only we can do something to change that. KPU students need to show involvement in our school environment.

In the academic force, we get just as good of an education as students who attend schools such as SFU and UBC, and we even get to know our professors better. KPU students receive just as many job prospects as those who go to UBC and SFU. We have the ability to stand on the same level of schools nearby. What’s stopping us?

The post Who are KPU’s Rivals? appeared first on Keely Rammage-Scott.

Kwantlen First Nation sets up a GoFundMe page

*This article was originally published in The Runner on March 22, 2017*

The Kwantlen First Nation created a GoFundMe page in opposition to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline on Mar. 5. The page allows supporters to contribute directly to the KFN’s water and land protection fund. As of Mar. 19, the page has raised $375 of its $4,000 goal.

In addition to listing its donors, the page explains that the Kwantlen First Nation’s traditional lands and the Fraser River are both in the way of the pipeline plans. Page creators say in the description, “We have a strong strategy for moving forward but need your assistance in making the resistance happen!”

The page was started by Kwantlen First Nation member and aboriginal artist Brandon Gabriel.

“When we first heard about the pipeline it was about five years ago,” says Gabriel. “Kinder Morgan had sent representatives to our community to give a very brief, very vague [explanation], and there was no detail as to what the plan was, and where the actual pipeline was going to go through.”

The Kwantlen First Nation’s land that would be affected by the pipeline construction is in Fort Langley at McMillan Island. The pipeline plans show that it’s expected to cut through the Fraser River near the Port Mann Bridge, and continue southeast towards Fort Langley before cutting through Indigenous land.

“When they came here five years ago, there was an initiative that was started by Kinder Morgan, and it was called the community gifting program, whereby they offer a certain amount of dollars to the community in exchange for support for their pipeline development,” says Gabriel.

“If you support their pipeline, you will get money for it. That’s without it having gone through the due processes with the National Energy Board and their policies and then the provincial standards, which there were like one hundred and fifty conditions set out by the provincial government, and there were five conditions that had to be met by the federal government.”

When this offer was first put on the table, it was important for the KFN community to explore their options.

“The next steps for us were to do our own investigation into the merits of their offer,” says Gabriel. “There was a certain dollar amount that they had offered us for our support.”

The Kwantlen First Nation website reads, “through learning, family, health, our culture and traditions, and looking after our lands and resources, we are tireless in our spirit to make a better world for our future generations.”

“We looked at ecological impacts. We looked at our historical presence on the land,” says Gabriel. “We also took into account the fact that the pipeline would be crossing over the Fraser River, which is a very important economic hub for our people in terms of people making livelihoods in the salmon fishing industry, not just out of the industry itself, but also for ceremonial and food purposes as well, which are also protected in the constitution of Canada.”

Gabriel explains that, in the end, the Kwantlen First Nation decided they were not going to accept the money, describing it as an outright bribe.

“We respect any nations’ right to voice concern about our expansion project. We remain open to meeting with any nation who might have interests potentially affected to incorporate their feedback and enhance the planning and execution of our project with their participation,” says Lizette Parsons Bell, lead stakeholder engagement and communications representative for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in reference to the KFN’s concerns about the pipeline.

The post Kwantlen First Nation sets up a GoFundMe page appeared first on Keely Rammage-Scott.

KPU Langley Hosts Fraser Valley Guitar Festival

*This article was originally published in The Runner on March 10, 2017*

Kris Schulz performs at the Fraser Valley Guitar Festival on Feb. 25, 2017. (Keely Rammage-Scott)

The 20th annual Fraser Valley Acoustic Guitar Festival, which is the largest festival of its kind in Canada, was hosted on KPU’s Langley campus on Feb. 25.

The event’s feature performance showcased three different finger-style guitar players, American headliner Michael Chapdelaine, Israeli world music guitarist Itamar Erez, and local guitarist Kris Schulz.

“I don’t remember not playing music,” says Schulz, whose parents were both musicians. He says that, when asked about his own songwriting, “the songs that mean the most definitely come from the most emotional places.”

He describes the guitar as a “texturally satisfying instrument,” and says that his love for the guitar, especially finger-style acoustic, comes from the fact that “the music is literally vibrating in your fingers.” While Schulz notes that he loves the electric guitar as well, he feels that the acoustic instrument has an organic feeling associated with it that cannot be replicated.

Throughout the night, Erez played multiple different styles of classical guitar. His set was diverse, featuring everything from a lullaby he wrote for his son, to a love song he wrote based on a friend’s story, to a song bordering on flamenco-style classical guitar.

Michael Chapdelaine, who won the National Fingerpicking Championship and the International Classical Guitar competition, excels with classical nylon-stringed guitars, and has put a spin on many well-known songs with his own interesting arrangements.

This was not Chapdelaine’s first time at the Fraser Valley Acoustic Guitar Festival, as he had performed at the event about 10 years earlier. Festival founder and Chair of the Music Department at KPU Don Hlus said, at the beginning of the night, that he usually refrains from inviting artists back to perform a second time in order to bring attention to a variety of musicians, but that he just had to have Chapdelaine return.

Chapdelaine started off the night with a unique cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together”. He continued to rearrange well-known tunes throughout the evening to fit his style of guitar playing, while throwing the occasional original tune into the mix. One was a song he had written about being out for dinner with his family back home.

KPU music students Robert Crews, Kyle McEwan, and Lucas McKinnon also performed a series of short pieces during the intermission, showcasing the talent of the KPU’s Music Department. Schulz, a graduate of the program, offered this advice to the students:

“I think with so many options out there—and I understand in going through a music program you do have to complete your assignments and whatnot—the bigger picture is your personal snap, your soul, and really trusting your heart with what you love about music. Because when you’re learning it there are a lot of routes you can take.”

“There’s this core pull,” he adds. “If you listen carefully, you’ll find what it is you’re supposed to be doing, and no matter what anyone else says, that will get you the farthest.”

The post KPU Langley Hosts Fraser Valley Guitar Festival appeared first on Keely Rammage-Scott.

Canadians Are in the Front Lines in the Protests Against Trump

*This article was originally published in The Runner on March 1, 2017.*

Canadians have made it clear that Trump will not just be on the front cover of American newspapers for the foreseeable future. He’ll be on ours as well.

In the few short weeks of his presidency, Trump has already begun to repeal Obamacare, and has attempted to ban the citizens of seven muslim-majority nations from entering the United States. There have been signs of Trump supporters withdrawing their support on social media, some of whom did not know that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were the same thing.

The defiance against Trump and his associates has become a constant part of Canadian society. The CBC recently wrote an article about a Vancouver yoga studio declaring that they were a “Trump-free zone.” Studio staff say that people are free to talk about their feelings on the matter, but should leave direct conversation of Trump-related stories or events outside of the space.

Have some Canadians already admitted defeat? Do they believe that our protests and voices will no longer be heard, or that they are not making an impact? Is it time for us to stop concerning ourselves with what is going on in the United States and focus on our own issues?

The fact is that if we stop talking about it, the Trump government will become normalized, and this is not at all normal. Labeling an entire religious group at terrorists cannot be normal. Showing blatant homophobia, racism, and sexism cannot be normal.

The attention generated by women’s marches across the world means something. It gave women a voice, and it brought them together. People continue to rally against Trump, not because they think that they can change how the system of government works, but because they want their voices to be heard above the chaos.

All kinds of people were brought together at airports across the United States in order to protest what social media has called the “Muslim Ban.” Lawyers volunteered their time just to make sure people already on their way to the United States could not be turned away at the border.

Canadians continuing to protest Trump will not cause any harm, so there is not any need to discourage those who want to continue to express their anger. The situation we find ourselves in is not acceptable, and I will continue to say so until people understand. Political moves that Trump and his affiliates have made are violating basic human rights for those who are trying to come to the United States for a better life. Many American citizens have openly stated that they feel unsafe in the country while he is in office.

You cannot silence the masses. You could not have told them to dry their tears when Trump won the election back in November, and you cannot tell Canadians to keep to themselves if they feel the need to express their dissatisfaction.

Are our voices being heard? Yes. Are we making a difference? Who knows? It doesn’t mean we can’t continue to try.

The post Canadians Are in the Front Lines in the Protests Against Trump appeared first on Keely Rammage-Scott.

Let’s Talk About: Tenet

Where do I even start? 

As much as I would love to try to set this movie up for those who haven’t seen it and see it to you, I really honestly have no idea what it’s about, even after watching the whole thing. 

With a running time of just over two and a half hours, Tenet will surely throw your mind for a twist and somehow make Interstellar look super straightforward. To add onto it’s run-time, the fact that the plot is beyond baffling makes it feel even longer. At just half way through I remember thinking “wow, I really have no idea what’s going on and the movie’s probably almost done!” It wasn’t. And I continue to have no idea what was going on for nearly another hour. 

And this isn’t trying to say the movie felt too long. For reasons I’ll soon discuss, this was still a visually fantastic film and I never found myself bored. Just super confused.

Now let’s talk about a few aspects of the movie that I can actually discuss because they have nothing to do with the plot. 

The score is amazing. Composed by Ludwig Goransson, the guy who brought you the music behind Black Panther and The Mandalorian, the Tenet score works so unbelievably well with the action-packed scenes and mind-bending cinematography. For lack of a better description, the score has tech-y futuristic undertones (which fits well with the technology-from-the-future-plus-time-travelling plot-line) and works the entire time to build tension, even when the audience might not really understand what is truly happening. 

Speaking of cinematography, Hoyte van Hoytema does not mess around. Hoytema, known for his work on Spectre, Interstellar and Dunkirk (not exactly films you don’t want your name on), made the movie what it was, which the plot couldn’t do for me throughout most of the film. Usually, with tense, mind-bending plots like these where most of the time I sit there confused, there has to be a pull that keeps me hooked until I can figure out the story. For example, with Interstellar, I had no idea (have* no idea, sadly if I’m being honest) what the bookshelf scene was and why it was necessary but the entire movie was visually so eye-catching and fascinating that in the end I was hooked in enough to see it three times and kind of figure it out. Same goes for Tenet. While I truly had no idea what was even happening at all until the last 45 minutes (and that’s being generous), I had no intention to stop watching because the half-backwards, half-forwards action scenes tied together with some unbelievably cool shots made it all worth it. 

Now I don’t want to drone on about how confusing the film was for too long, so I will keep this conclusion short and sweet. While it wasn’t Nolan’s best film, it sure as heck was a Nolan film, and one with fantastic performances from John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Pattinson at that.

And as one of the only big blockbuster, not-made-or-released-by-a-streaming-service films to be released in 2020, Tenet does double-duty, not only with it’s length but the fact that I’m pretty sure to understand it all you have to watch it twice.

Healthy Oatmeal Yogurt for Healthy Diet

If you ever feel like you want to go on a diet but still want good food at the same time, I would recommend you to try this Oatmeal Yogurt recipe.

Ingredients that you will need for this dish:

Oatmeal of your choice

Greek Yogurt

Milk of your choice

Fruits of your choice

Instruction: First, scoop a decent amount of the yogurt in a bowl then mix it with some milk (I usually use soymilk but you can use any kind of milk that you like). The yogurt milk mixture would be not too liquidy but also not too thick. For the fruits topping, I prepared fresh cut strawberry and banana with frozen raspberry and blueberry. Frozen fruits are also a good choice if you don’t have fresh fruit in your kitchen. You can cover it all with oatmeal or fit all the ingredients on top of the yogurt.

That’s it for a healthy dish that you can eat for breakfast, brunch or as snack!

Have fun cooking!

2020, a year of God’s sovereignty

2020 was a year of unexpected happenings. I had envisioned a comfortable year, but what transpired were events that could not be foreseen: a global pandemic hit, the dynamics of some of my friendships shifted, and studying to become a teacher challenged and stretched me in ways I did not anticipate. I struggled with an ocean of emotions and wrestled with a million questions throughout this period of time. However, looking back now, each of these events revealed to me a new thought that collectively pointed me towards God’s character.

When COVID-19 hit in March, not only were social interactions suddenly prohibited due to lockdown, but it affected the way we knew life. Routines had to be adapted to adhere to safety guidelines and downtimes were either spent quietly at home or out in the natural world rather than in regular social spaces. It was as if the world took a pause. The standstill was suffocating at times, but it forced humanity to rest. As a result, these questions came to my mind: What is the purpose to life if busyness is removed from our lives? What are humans without productivity? Prior to the pandemic, I had always been “too busy” to spend time with God. Distractions or a feeling of hurriedness would usually deceive me to move onto the next thing on my to-do list, but the sudden abundance of time allowed me to ruminate. Finally, I was brought to the conclusion what the pandemic only emphasized: God is the purpose to life and humans are worthy not because of productivity, but simply because we are created and loved by Him.

While the state of the physical world was strange, my personal world had also turned upside down. What I thought would remain constant changed, and what I worried would change stayed the same. I read the book of Job to gain insight on how Job dealt with the turn of events in his life. I did not find the answer to my questions by the end of the book, but I did learn three things: nothing that happens goes unfiltered through God’s hands; it’s okay to not know the answers; and the process is the point, as most growth tends to happen during the process of our suffering. To this day, I still do not understand what purpose the shift in my friendships served. I can only hold onto the assurance that they did not occur by mistake.

The third way in which 2020 took me by surprise were the obstacles that I faced during my short and long practicums. I felt the most hopeless I had ever felt, questioned my future, saw how weak my faith is amid trouble, and learned more about who I am through my reactions to situations. I recognized how prideful, selfish, ignorant, and ugly my core self can be. It was an eye-opening and frightening experience. Had I never noticed? As being my own saviour was impossible, God came to be mine. In my disfigured and broken state, He came to my rescue by remolding me. I had to start by changing my ways of thinking, then my habits, which then led to my actions. The process was difficult, but my God had the ability to transform me with His strength.

2020 was undoubtedly one of the most difficult years; yet, it is one which I strongly believe displays God’s sovereignty. No one could have predicted or controlled the events in 2020 nor will anyone be able to do so for 2021. However, this only makes more evident the supreme power that God possesses. We were never in control of our lives anyways. He is the King who holds the scepter for now and for forever and we are to be brought low in humility.

Romans 5:3-5 and Isaiah 55:8-9 are verses that became a running theme for me this year. The former one reminds me that none of our sufferings go to waste, while the latter one reminds me of my place in relation to God’s:

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”– Romans 5:3-5

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”– Isaiah 55:8-9

Phil Wickham’s song, Battle Belongs, is also my song of the year. The battles I faced this year which had seemed impossible to overcome were only overcame because of the One who was fighting them for me. Instead of doing more in my own efforts, I learned to “fight on my knees.”

Despite the challenges of 2020, there were still many highlights that marked my year. I got to spend much time with my family, outdoors on my patio, writing, exploring the beauty of Vancouver, eating homecooked meals, and building both new and old friendships. I am grateful for the health and safety of my friends and family members and for the lessons I learned through God’s grace.

2020 marks the end of a chapter for me. I have completed my years as a student and am about to embark on a new career. In addition, hearing about my friends’ engagement plans, and seeing some of them get engaged and married has been been hitting me how fast the process of growing up is. I feel a mixture of curiosity, excitement, uncertainty, and nostalgia starting 2021 – curiosity for what is to come, excitement for the stories yet to unfold, uncertainty for the obstacles I will face, and nostalgia for the days I am leaving behind… Suddenly, life feels like it is moving very fast.

I hope that I will carry with me the reminders that direct me towards God’s sovereignty while I move into the unknowns of this year with courage, resilience, and discipline. May 2021 be a year of fresh beginnings, growth despite discomfort, truth in love, and gratitude.

Blog Post #28: Didn’t See That Coming Review

Hey folks! What is this? Another post this week? Yup. That’s right. I’m trying to make up for the fact that I’ve been neglecting Four Purple Walls for 6+ months.

So… This post is going to be a review on Didn’t’ See That Coming by the one and only Rachel Hollis! I’ve written reviews on her work before, which you can read here and here.

This book evidently is different from Hollis’ other, self-motivating novels I discussed previously. In Didn’t See That Coming, Hollis talks about how to navigate and move forward from difficult situations life hurls your way, even if it initially seems impossible.

In addition she shares very personal experiences as examples while also incorporating a bit of humour along the way. For example, as soon as you turn to the first page, the novel begins with her divorce from her husband, Dave, that happened last year. She also takes us through the day her brother tragically took his own life, as well as Hollis’ mother and father giving up on parenting their three other children afterwards. But, despite the heaviness a lot of the content in Didn’t See That Coming carries, she always manages to crack a smile from me, like when mentioning her accident of the fecal-matter kind.

As usual, the advice included is hard-hitting and straight-to-the-point – what I love about Rachel Hollis. The main lesson I took away from this book was essentially, the reminder of how individual the picking-yourself-up-when-your-down process is. Bottom line: Address the situation in front of you by taking an avenue that you think works best for yourself, but don’t EVER give up. Overall, these hardships make us truly appreciate the good things life has to offer as well.

I think so many people can learn from this book. Whether you’re currently in the stages of experiencing a life-altering event, recovering from it, or feeling long-lasting guilt, taking the tools she provides will definitely help.

Check out more of Rachel Hollis’ work at Rachel Hollis Lifestyle – a better life in simple, achievable steps (msrachelhollis.com)

Blog Post #27: Dancing Girls Review

Happy New Year! Oh my gosh, it’s been forever. Hi everyone! Long time no see. Trust me when I say that I’ll definitely try to update this blog more often. I apologize again for being MIA.

Well… Now the wait is FINALLY over. This week I’m reviewing Dancing Girls. Someone mentioned that they wanted to hear my thoughts on any work by Margaret Atwood, so…Hazzah!

Dancing Girls is a collection of short stories all following the theme of people encountering normal and relatively common human experiences. However, these experiences are enhanced by Atwood’s clever as well as extensive use of metaphors, which draw readers’ attention to significant problems about life that ironically, often remain overlooked.

Some examples include two people choosing marriage as an obligation rather than possessing a genuine desire to be a married couple; therefore the relationship is stuck in a rut, with both questioning why they’re staying together, and a woman coming to terms with the status of her professional and personal ongoings when having a heavy nosebleed. (I used to get nosebleeds ALL THE TIME so I can definitely relate to her in that sense)

Additionally, another overarching idea rooted in these stories is discovering a critical attribute of oneself through unexpected means. The discoveries made by the characters in Dancing Girls really inspire me to be more self-aware and pay attention to unhealthy patterns or anything about my surroundings that maybe are not helping me grow as a person. Its funny how, often, the seemingly little things in life have the biggest impact on us. Unfortunately, because they’re always put in the background on account of their monotonous nature(s) and we’re constantly preoccupied with other responsibilities, it takes a certain world-turned-upside-down kind of event to bring them to light.

I’ve known for a while that Margaret Atwood has written many critically acclaimed novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale, (I heard of the TV series first, then later found out it was based on a book) but haven’t read her work until now. Although I concluded that Dancing Girls overall wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, Atwood evidently is an extremely talented novelist, and I liked the topics she covered.