Society has this vendetta against being lost.

I’m reading The Road to Becoming by Jenny Simmons right now. It’s opening my mind to the fact that lost can be okay. I mentally made a commitment to read more books about lostness (though, I think that the majority of books are kind of, in a way, written about lostness in one form or another). I did re-find The Art of Non-Conformity in my room, though—The War of Art is somewhere I cannot find.

Fitting.

Yesterday, my friend Drew asked on Facebook “Since a lot of people check in on *me*, how are *you*?”

I replied,

I am far too awake for midnight, and far too content with being mildly misplaced in this season of my life.

Misplaced is really the same as lost. Lost does not always mean forever: misplaced and lost, in the sense of being, are very much the same.

I am pretty okay with being here. Here means there is room for ideas, for growth, for challenge and change and hope. It means I can try new things because the old things clearly aren’t reciprocating as they need to be.

Except society really isn’t interested in teaching twenty-three-year-old university graduates who are funemployed* what they are doing, where they are, is okay.

*Funemployed is a word that probably my cousin Dean invented (or stole) one summer when I was unemployed. I use it now to describe my sort-of employed state doing projects that only sort of count as employment and/or don’t pay me yet.

The Road to Becoming has a chapter called Iowa Cornfield, and the next called Lost Girl.

Some people are desperate for a detour. It’s a pretty good litmus test for figuring out if you are in the right place or not. if you can’t stand your current situation and secretly wish the road you are on would close in front of you so you can take a much-needed detour, it’s probably time for a life change. Don’t wait for the road to crumble; it might not ever happen. Pack your bags and get going. You have permission to write your own Road Closed sign.

I wasn’t interested in any of that Road Closed business. I wanted a road. My road. The original one that we had a map for. So my answer was to stay at the Road Closed sign until someone from the Iowa Department of Transportation showed up to explain themselves and cleared their stuff OUT OF MY WAY so I could continue on the road I planned on taking.

I will sit here until you build me a road. Take that, highway bureau.

The thing is, I’ve never been given the option to lay out the roads. The only choice I get is what to do when the road suddenly ends.

—Jenny Simmons, The Road to Becoming (page 99)

I don’t know much about Iowa cornfields, but as soon as I saw Lost Girl at the top of that page, I knew that this book landed in my hands right now for this reason.

Self-reliance, fully mapped out futures, and divine epiphanies; these were the things that young adults should strive for—not lostness. Accepting lostness as a viable way of existing, if even for a short season, is not a mantra our culture is familiar with.It certainly sounded backwards to a girl who was desperate to move forward.

[…] Time to accept the seemingly insignificant nothingness of the blank page in front of me.

—Jenny Simmons, The Road to Becoming (page 104-105)

Lostness is, perhaps, the fervent search to find where you are going right now. It does not matter for how long, maybe lost is a place after all, whereas misplaced is a temporary-ism without the intensity of lostness. To do things without having to commit to them forever, to get by, to explore, to do things you’d never anticipate because you are now that person in that place you never thought you would be because the world prepared you otherwise.

The world doesn’t prepare us for lostness. We prepare ourselves.

We don’t all get to be lost. Even fewer of us don’t all get to embrace being lost. I tried already to become found quickly, and through that, I’ve only discovered that found probably isn’t even where I want to be right now—and definitely isn’t where I need to be. Six months ago, I made the realization, again, that I am more happy discontent—at least in this season. And being funemployed for the last five months challenged me to learn how to embrace that discontent.

I am living inside a blank page, a blank canvas, a Word document with only the cursor blinking.

I am content in discontent.

One in ten Canadian kids has asthma—and a lot more than that have an affinity for soccer. Debbie Spring’s book Breathing Soccer (2008, Thistledown Press) focuses on both of these aspects in an approachable way that encourages kids to learn more about their asthma and find balance through developing an understanding of their disease, while not allowing asthma to hold them back. I received Breathing Soccer last week, and today had the chance to sit down to chat with Debbie about the book.

Breathing Soccer can be found on Amazon [Canada and USA], Chapters/Indigo, or directly from Thistledown Press.  Please continue the discussion by asking questions of Debbie [or I] below, and I’ll be sure to pass them on for her to respond to!

Disclosure: I received Breathing Soccer from Debbie for free after reaching out to her about the book; we agreed to conduct an interview following to my reading of Breathing Soccer–I was not required to provide a favourable review—I do certainly recommend the book, though :].

There are a few things I have opinions on—a lot of the time I just shut up, but sometimes I get argumentative, and sometimes I get argumentative about my opinions with people on Twitter. We are usually quite civil about it, but this is the first time I ended up reviewing a book out of the scenario. I connected with author Lira Brannon last week—connected is a nice term, in retrospect, I did interrogate her a bit about the “inspirational” nature of her book A Different Kind of Cheerleader, and the type of “inspirational”-ism that was implied, as the book is both centred around disability and Christianity. As I said on Twitter, “Disability isn’t inspiration: it’s life”. Lira, however, dealt with my interrogation well, and when I asked if I could receive an electronic copy of the book for free in exchange for a review on my blog, she agreed and quickly hooked me up with a Kindle download code.

Trigger warning: The later aspects of this review mention self-harm and suicide.

Three-sentence summary: 
The main character, Tansy, is a thirteen-year-old with a spinal cord injury [SCI] from a skateboarding accident in her childhood. Now a paraplegic, Tansy has all but abandoned the dream she and her best friend share of successfully qualifying for their junior-high cheerleading squad. As she starts junior high, she is introduced to a variety of new people who change her perceptions about what she believes she is capable of—and what she thinks about God, and who she was created to be, and to become.

Target age:
I’d throw this one in the 10 to 15 age-range—but, I personally enjoy teen fiction, so go with what works for you/the kid you’re trying to buy a book for.

Thoughts:
Overall, while the core aspects of the plot were fairly predictable, there were enough twists in the core of it to keep me interested and guessing—I started reading the book late Thursday evening, kept going until 1:30 AM, and finished it off the next morning [and people, my Concerta would have worn off at 11:30 or so—it was the book keeping me going].

While the core aspects of the book include Tansy’s desire to become a cheerleader independent of her disability, the author paints a very clear picture of the rest of Tansy’s life: starting at a new school and dealing with how her teachers respond to a student using a wheelchair (i.e. the typical ‘I can’t walk, but I can hear’); Tansy’s feelings towards her disability (anger, resentment, and eventually acceptance); responding to how her friends perceive her disability; relationships with her mother, brother, friends, physical therapist; and how her SCI and using a wheelchair pose additional contemplations within the already complicated life of an adolescent trying to figure out her place in the world.

Though I slated the book for younger ages, there are some themes including self-injury, attempted suicide, and suicidal ideation present in the book that may be more suitable for slightly older readers. The mentions of these aspects are brief, however, they were a source of confusion for me as I didn’t think there was enough detail preceding or explaining the circumstances in which Tansy’s acquaintance from rehab, Meg, was hospitalized following a suicide attempt (this may require a re-read on my part). While not comorbid, I appreciated that the author intentionally mentioned the mental health aspects associated with living with a disability and/or following a traumatic injury.

The storyline brings Tansy to interact with a variety of people who become a part of the bigger story unfolding—pressures from different people lead her different directions: some into finding the confidence to try out for cheer, others who cross her path in unexpected ways that help teach her about God—and through these conversations, more about the people around her. While some characters seemed slightly out-of-place [i.e. I don’t care if he’s the coach’s son, why the heck is the youth pastor hanging out in the middle school gym and at cheer tryouts all the time?], for the most part, the interaction of the themes surrounding Tansy’s daily life learning to more fully coexist with her disability, and the journey towards believing in God, was well structured.

I thought, despite all the #inspiration[al] tags, that overall the author did a decent job at not sensationalizing Tansy’s accomplishments, and allowing her to both succeed and screw up as much as a character without a disability would have, with a few exceptions of circumstances that wouldn’t have arisen if not for Tansy’s disability […which obviously is realistic]. In terms of the realism of integrating Tansy into the cheer team, I [being an adapted physical activity nerd] felt that Lira addressed the types of “wheelchair tricks” Tansy was able to learn well, but would have enjoyed reading more about how she became a true team member and not just a possible story of oh you’re in a wheelchair, we’ll let you on the team even though you blah blah blah through more concrete examples of how she used her chair as an asset and not an inspiration–such as how she would be integrated into team and more gymnastic-type and how existing routines were adapted. But, like I said, I’m a nerd that way.

Reading Guide:
A question guide is provided in the back of the book, which prompts the reader [or an educator or youth leader, etc.] to reflect on what they’ve read. The questions are evenly distributed between faith, friends, family, and Tansy’s disability. Though I never use reading guides on my own [because, what is this, school?], it’s definitely a nice bonus feature.

Recommendation:
A Different Kind of Cheerleader is geared towards older-school aged kids and younger-teens—an easily approachable read, with enough plot twists and serious/more mature themes to keep older readers engaged Cheerleader would be a great way to approach the topic of disability in a variety of settings. As both faith and disability are core-topics [and often very confusing], I’d recommend younger kids (under 12) be supported through reading this book, by a parent, mentor or educator, to best facilitate learning and enabling kids to ask questions and form a better understanding of their own thoughts on both core themes.

Final thoughts:
A Different Kind of Cheerleader is an approachable and engaging book for readers in their younger teens [and, if you’re me, early twenties], presenting a variety of opportunities for critical thought on faith and disability. With multiple quick unexpected turns in the plot, Cheerleader is easy to get lost in for a few hours, and would be a suitable way to begin a discussion on teens’ thoughts on what it means to live with a disability—and hopefully, one that can help realistically assist them in contemplating how to restructure their thoughts on a variety of different topics.

A Different Kind of Cheerleader can be found on Amazon. You can learn more about Lira on her website, and through connecting with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of the book, A Different Kind of Cheerleader, from the author, Lira Brannon, which I offered to review prior to finalizing the agreement. I was under no obligation to provide a favourable review.

On the 12th of each month, a bunch of bloggers from around the world take 12 pictures of their day and blog them.  Here are my pictures for February 12th, 2012!

12 of 12 - february '12

8:50 am – church. Yeah, we currently have a giant Rubiks Cube [each edge is six feet] hanging in church to accompany the IT’S COMPLICATED series we just began. It’s pretty awesome.

12 of 12 - february '12

10:05 am – church. Between services, scouting out the recycling bin for my Starbucks cup. [My friend forgot the non-fat, no-whip bit, but I love her anyway :)].

12 of 12 - february '12

12:24 pm – church. Who did you meet this week?  Snapped a picture of this after taking care of the 3 + 4 year olds :].

12 of 12 - february '12

3:13 pm – kitchen at home. I hung out with my cousin, Dean, yesterday and we went to our grandparents’ for dinner. We brought dessert, except my grandma made PUMPKIN PIE, so we had leftovers. So I got to bring dessert home.

12 of 12 - february '12

4:48 pm – kitchen. Final exam schedule for the term. Is it over yet?  Midterm madness tomorrow and Tuesday, so really it is only just beginning.

12 of 12 - february '12

4:57 pm – kitchen. Energy systems anybody?  This stuff is all on my Principles of Coaching exam tomorrow. I am kind of scared, but not nearly as scared as I am for my Physical Growth and Motor Development midterm on Tuesday.

12 of 12 - february '12

6:03 pm – kitchen. Pizza for dinner. It involved various coupons and my mom and I having to go in separately to pick up two pizzas.  Also I ran into a guy who graduated high school a year before me and is dating somebody I graduated with, so we got to make small-talk. That’s always fun.

12 of 12 february '12

6:34 pm – kitchen. Probably the most ridiculous BBM conversation I have ever had. And perhaps the most ridiculous conversation I have had with Dean [and trust me, that says a lot].

12 of 12 - february '12

6:48 pm – kitchen. Charging my fitbit for the week or however long this thing lasts. Love it.

12 of 12 - february '12

9:33 pm – kitchen. Currently reading Matthew Good’s book. It’s so weird. I thought it was going to be like a memoir or whatever, but it’s basically a bunch of short stories and/or he is teaching you to fake multiple personality disorder or become an anti-nausea med addict.  Probably fictionally, but since I will never try I will never know.

12 of 12 - february '12

10:29 pm – kitchen. Yes, I feel like I haven’t left my kitchen all day.  Also I’ve been eating these cookies off and on all day. They are so good.  Freaking studying.

February 12 of 12

10:56 pm – kitchen. This is my pile of studying crap and textbooks I don’t actually read much.  That’s an issue and I need to work on it the next half of the term.

I’m on the road of least resistance / I’d rather give up than give in to this.

Promises Promises, Incubus

Over the summer, I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield [yes, please note: The WAR of ART, not The Art of War], on recommendation by my friend Drew.  As one of the reviews says, it is a kick in the ass.  Unfortunately, it seems that I have left my copy of the book at the cabin.  Fortunately, the website for the book provides the exact section of the book that immediately hit me the hardest and forced me to read it several times in a row to fully comprehend.  This is the section on defining Resistance with a capital R.

Late at night, have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is. […] To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

(Read more here)

Occasionally, the thought of Resistance-with-a-capital-R comes to mind.  Resistance is the force within me, or the forces around me, that freeze me.  Every time I skip a day of push-ups, every time I have “writer’s block”, every time I start a paper 48 hours before it is due, every time I hesitate on sending that e-mail that might dig too deep for somebody, every time I don’t write down a thought . . . this is Resistance.

No benefit comes of Resistance.

Each time Resistance wins, I lose.  The benefit from acting now might be small, but the loss from giving in to Resistance all adds up.  Now could have added up to hundreds of pages of writing, hundreds of good conversations, and more minutes of time with a positive impact within it.

“I’d rather give up than give in to this.”

It is now that I have.