Saturday, September 20, 2014

Time Travel is Possible!

I was transported back in time last night while I sat on my couch and watched the movie that played on our television. I never believed in time travel but always thought it would be amazing if it were possible. With my son's most recent paycheck, he purchased the DVD for a movie he had seen a few months ago in the theater. Knowing how much I enjoy movies and thinking I'd really like this one, he was eager to sit and watch it with me. (I love that we share a penchant for movies.)

What was this movie that had the ability to return me to my childhood? Why, Godzilla, of course.

The story begins with a family living in Japan. The mother and father work at a nuclear power plant. An accident happens, and the mother is killed. Fast forward 15 years, and the son is serving in the military in the States. He must go to Japan to bail his father out of jail for trespassing in a restricted zone. He just wanted to go back to his old house and gather some of his belongings … and discs to prove the existence of an unknown species.

While in Japan, the father and son end up at the old power plant and come face to face with the creature (or its offspring) that was responsible for the prior destruction. Once this creature, which feeds on radiation, decides it has had enough of Japan, it travels to Hawaii, which just so happens to be where our hero, Ford Brody, has a layover on his way back to his wife and child in California. Honolulu is destroyed, and the military follows this MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object) to Las Vegas where it proceeds to decimate the city and eat anything it can find that emits radiation. Oh, and whenever it chooses, it can emit an EMP to wipe out everything electronic and shut down the grid.

MUTO backtracks (wait, it might actually be the other half of the MUTO couple … how cute!) to San Francisco where it meets up with Godzilla who has not really made any kind of appearance until this point. Of course, Godzilla knows that this is where the action has to take place since Ford's family lives there. There would be no suspense if it weren't for this fact. I guess the other millions of lives don't really matter.

Now, as I watched Godzilla last night, I tried to work at the same time. I wasn't getting anything done, so I closed my computer and focused on the movie. I was actually enjoying it, right up until the point when the male and female MUTOs had an affectionate moment. These massive extraterrestrial creatures that towered above skyscrapers met in the middle of a crumbling city and hugged … or kissed … or something. It was at this moment that I was transported to my childhood.

I was sitting in my living room watching Godzilla. Extremely poor Japanese actors played out the scenes with even poorer quality English dubbing over the original Japanese. Godzilla fought every strange creature that the creators of these movies could think of. They wrestled, they threw each other, they bit. It was like watching a WWE match before its time.

This 2014 version of Godzilla was only missing the dubbing. Godzilla and MUTO1 and MUTO2 threw each other into buildings with no regard for the people who would be crushed as the structure toppled. There are only a few times we are asked to care about the loss of human life. Once is when a school bus full of children tries to make it across the Golden Gate Bridge before Godzilla tears the bridge apart. It just so happens that Ford's son is on this bus. Another time we are asked to consider the human element is when Ford's father pays the ultimate price. If they had only listened to him when he was alive, they might have avoided all the mayhem. But, then, there wouldn't be a movie. And don't forget Ford's wife who is working as a nurse in an area hospital. She stays behind to take care of the sick (of course) and is almost crushed as Godzilla and MUTO continue to destroy the city.

I won't give away the ending of the movie, though I'm sure you can figure it out as it follows the same story line as those old Godzilla movies. I did find some things quite humorous as I watched this newest version (besides the kissing MUTOs). The military thought they could inflict their own damage on Godzilla with their puny military-grade weapons. Really? Godzilla is a gigantic creature covered in hard skin and scales who is known to eat his own fair share of radiation, which came in quite handy in his fight against MUTO. Out of nowhere, Godzilla breathes blue fire filled with radiation. He only does it twice, so he is not a show-off, but it seems strange that he is able to summon his radiation breath right when he needs it. If he didn't have this, would he have been able to win the battle?

There were points when I thought the movie might be truly frightening … if I could actually see it. We had to turn the lights out so we could see what was happening on the screen. Most of the action took place at night or in a city so dark from dust you couldn't see what was going on.

I feel like the writers worked hard during the first half of the screenplay but then chose to rely on the past for the second half. It was predictable, and it was hard to watch. I've recently seen a two-and-a-half-hour movie that felt like it lasted 30 minutes. I remember thinking at one point during Godzilla, "Wow, this is a long movie." It is 123 minutes long, and we were just over an hour into it. I suppose when a movie is predictable and replete with repetition (fighting monsters knocking over buildings) then it will seem long.

I can recommend the first half of Godzilla but not the second. It's just not worth it. I feel bad. My son loves the movie. I enjoyed watching it with him, but unless you're a die-hard Godzilla fan, it will seem to be lacking some … things. If you're in it for a chance to just kick back and forget about reality, then go for it. If you're looking for a plot, you might want to look elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The 7 Minute Life Review

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

As a highly disorganized person, I am always looking for something that will help me to become more organized. Since the Schoolhouse Review Crew hasn't asked me to use and review a personal assistant, I decided to try the next best thing: The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner. This spiral-bound, 270-page daily planner sold by The 7 Minute Life is marketed as more than just a daily planner; the website says I can change my life in just seven minutes a day.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner works under the premise that people typically have an attention span of seven minutes and can only remember seven pieces of information at a time. The planner opens with 14 pages of instruction. You can also watch a 12-minute video to learn how to use it. Now, I don't have a lot of free time. I like my instructions to be concise and simple. Fourteen pages was just a bit too much for me.

We are also asked to perform a self-evaluation of priorities and purpose. I've got to tell you, if I'm looking for organizational aids, I'm not usually interested in evaluating my life purpose or my strengths and my weaknesses. I've taken spiritual gifts assessments. I know these things. I want to organize my life. That's it. I've got three jobs. I homeschool. I have a junior who is dual enrolling but doesn't yet have his license. I have a daughter who helps teach dance classes on Tuesday but has her own classes on Thursday. I assist with youth group on Wednesday nights and have my own Bible study on Thursdays. God is my first priority, then my husband, and then my kids. Though most of what I do revolves around my top three priorities, I still have to work. I enjoy my job immensely, and thankfully I am able to do it in and around all of the other things. So, priorities are in order. I need to organize. At this stage of my life, simplifying isn't really an option. All of the things on my list need to be done. I don't think I'm doing anything that is superfluous. Things that aren't important simply don't get done here.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

The daily progress reports allow you to track your daily contacts—those people you attempt to contact. I can also give myself points for various contact activities. Like I said, I want simple. I don't want to add another thing to do, especially one that has no value for me. In my job, I have two people I contact on a daily basis. In my life, those contacts change on a daily basis—sometimes zero, sometimes a few. There is no rhyme or reason. When I think of someone I need to call, I usually just write the name down on an index card. When I make the call, I throw away the card. I'm not sure why I'd want to keep track of people I tried to call. There is a section for choosing three people to connect with. While connecting with three people every day is a great and wonderful thing, I hate talking on the phone and don't have a lot of time to visit. I email or text as I think about people; most of the time it is just one sentence to let them know I've been thinking about them. 

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

There's a section for appointments—this is a section I use. But I don't use the "What I Spent" section. I've got a checkbook for that. I don't like the unfinished tasks section; it depresses me to see what I haven't finished. Likewise, the question at the bottom makes me feel guilty: "Did I do what I said I would do today?" Let's look at the rest of that green box. I am supposed to write how many hours I sleep, minutes I exercise, minutes I reflect, and minutes I read. Most days I will only have a number in sleep. Some days I'll have some reflection if I count Bible, which can also double for reading, but there are days when they'll be blank. Besides the fact that this gives me something else to have to keep track of, it makes me feel like a failure when I see blanks or low numbers. There is a section on the next page of the daily progress report for thank you notes and one for voice mails. I'm not going to send a thank you card, let alone three, every day, and I have no need for writing down my voice mail messages. They are saved on my phone. 

The last section I haven't mentioned yet is the "What I will do … 5 before 11" section. This is a doable section for me. I am simply supposed to list five simple tasks that can be completed without having to spend an hour each on them, things like organizing a drawer, dusting the bookshelves, cleaning the glass on the French doors, etc. Accomplishing these tasks among the bigger tasks of the day give me a sense of pride.

The 7 Minute Daily Planner is $24.95. Many other products and videos are available on the website.

While many folks have used this and have changed their lives through it, I simply don't have the time for all of the different tasks that are contained within it. I want a planner that just allows me to list my job-specific tasks, times when the kids need to be somewhere, and appointments. The 7 Minute Daily Planner is not for me.

The 7 Minute Life on Social Media:

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Heirloom Audio Productions - Under Drake's Flag Review

Analytical Grammar Review
After a summer of fairly heavy reviews, I was looking forward to being able to kick my feet back and listen to a great story. Heirloom Audio Productions has created a wonderful audio version of G.A. Henty's novel, Under Drake's Flag. This is not your typical audio book, however. This is audio theater. The story is told with more than just a narrator; there is Ned, Mr. George, Gerald, Sir Francis Drake, Master Holyoake, Master Taunton, and others. Each character has his own voice. Each scene has its own music and sound effects.

The story follows the adventure of Ned Hawkshaw who leaves the comfort of his home to become part of legendary hero Sir Francis Drake's crew. Along the way, he must face an angry sailor, an angry shark, and the equally angry Spaniards. His faith is tested, and he learns to trust wholeheartedly in God even though it might mean he'll die. The scene with the shark was probably one of the most riveting (for me) in the whole CD. It was performed very well, and the music included was perfect to add suspense to the scene. The scene when Ned and Gerald are facing certain death at the hands of the Spanish for not recanting their faith was very realistic. I could almost see it unfolding before my very eyes. I could feel the dankness and darkness of the prison. I could sense the boys' fear. I understood the anger Ned felt at having his father's sword melted and made into an instrument of torture. The only thing I didn't like about this production was the accent of Donna Anna. It just didn't sound truly Spanish; it sounded like an English person faking an accent.

This particular story is ideal for ages 6 to adult and is two hours' worth of entertainment on two discs. The two-disc set, which I received, comes with a prayer and a short study guide. A more complete study guide can be downloaded to expand upon the ideals and the history contained within these discs. The small study guide that comes with the CDs includes questions about each chapter (there are 19), vocabulary, and three Bible studies: Godly character, True Manhood, and Confessing Christ. There are several options available for purchasing this program. A downloadable MP3 is available for just $20. Those who purchase this will also receive the study guide and the printable prayer. For $29.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling, you can receive the two-disc set, the downloadable MP3, the study guide, and the printable prayer. The best offer, as described on the website, is the family four pack which includes four copies of the CD sets for $99.97. This offer has some freebies to go with it: an e-book copy of Bill Heid's book Echoes of the Dragon's Drums about Sir Francis Drake, the MP3 download, the original G.A. Henty story as an e-book, a two-lecture MP3 set about the life of Sir Francis Drake, the discussion and study guide, the printable prayer, a 30-minute DVD behind-the-scenes documentary about the production of this audio drama, and, finally, unlimited access to Under Drake's Flag membership website.

I started listening to the story in the car with my kids as I was driving, but they very quickly asked to turn it off. When they were younger, we only ever listened to Adventures in Odyssey on CD, no other audio drama. They got used to movies and video games. They are not as impressed with audio drama as I am, unfortunately. Heirloom Audio Productions did a wonderful job with this, however. I didn't get to listen to it with my feet kicked back, since I was always driving while I listened to it, but I did get to listen to a great story. I highly recommend this product!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ever Wish You Could Have a Do Over?

Do you ever wish, as a parent, you could have a do over? Not everything, but just certain things? I don't want to start over at the very beginning of each of my kids' lives, but I wish I could fix the mistakes I made as a parent.

I know. Every parent makes mistakes, and most kids turn out just fine. God is gracious and will help our kids become the people He wants them to be. However, I can't help but feel some remorse for the things I have done that have fostered attitudes like anger, selfishness, and rudeness.

Do you think I'm being too hard on myself? I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't. I've been in the car with my kids and listened to them, for the umpteenth time, bicker over insignificant things or ask each other to stop humming because it was irritating them. They fight over who is going to sit in the front seat. Why? It isn't that amazing.

We are all born sinful. I get that. But I believe that if I had stayed silent more often than I expressed my opinion or remained calm more often than I groaned out of frustration I may have helped my children to be more peaceful. The attitudes that I display are more often than not learned by my kids.

I wish I had had a crystal ball when I was pregnant. I could have seen how my kids were going to turn out. Don't get me wrong, they are great kids, but there is this undercurrent of entitlement I wish wasn't there.

All the little sarcastic and caustic comments I made when they were little about seemingly insignificant things went straight to their hearts. They heard me say them, and they learned that it was okay. I helped to water the seed of sin. I am guilty, and I must ask forgiveness.

They are teenagers. They have learned the habits. Those things are ingrained in them. What can I do now? Will it do any good to work on my own anger and selfishness at this point? You betcha!

When we turn from our sinful ways, people around us are changed. It may not be a noticeable change at first, but they will realize there is something different. I have found myself lately looking to give people the benefit of the doubt, to believe there is another layer of the story than what appears on the surface. Joe isn't being a jerk just to be a jerk; there is probably something going on in his life that is causing him frustration.

If I show more love towards others, then perhaps my children will show more love towards others (even their siblings). If I find a more constructive way to work out my frustration than with my words, perhaps they will have more peace.

I wish I could do over the parts when I got so mad that I yelled. It was usually over really stupid things. I wish that I could do over the parts when I said something not-so-nice while I was driving. I have no right to judge.

I realize now that as a parent we often have to do things that go against what comes naturally for the sake of our children. If you aren't a parent yet or are expecting, please heed this warning: Your children will be like you—in the good and the bad. Do what you must to prevent the sin that is within you spilling over into your kids. Fight the urge to spew venom when someone cuts you off. Fight the urge to be negative. Life is too short. The time we have with our kids is too short. Those formative years are even shorter.

Of course, for all of our greatest efforts, our kids will still have weaknesses and sins in their lives, but do what you can to keep from giving them yours. I will strive (through prayer) to become more Christ-like, to give my kids an example they can follow, a mom they can be proud of. Hopefully, this will help them to be parents who are positive and peaceful and selfless.