I’ll Be Back

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

I started this blog almost two years ago, just fiddling with the idea of having a blog with little to no clue of how to go about it. February before last, I started writing posts weekly, and (hopefully) got better at the craft. But then life happened, and my writing energy started burning out. Blogging every week eventually turned into a chore, and there were even times where I just didn’t want to do it. Just a month ago, I realized that I had virtually no time for anything on the weekends except working on the blog. For two to three months, I spent the weekdays sitting at work, feeling excited about that chapter I was going to finish, and then it came to a screeching halt as I remembered another writing project looming over my head: the blog. “Okay,” I’d think, “I can write that up on Friday night, and then spend two days on the chapter!” Sometimes, I managed it. But for most weeks, it didn’t take me three hours to write something so much as three days. And on top of that, I still have yet to finish that chapter I’d get excited about working on.

So, after thinking about it and reading other blog posts about bloggers who’ve decided to take a break, I decided to take a page out of their books. That’s right. I’m taking a vacation from my blog.

First of all, I need it, and so does the blog. While reading through some of my past blog posts, I found that the ones I enjoyed the most were the ones where I touched on subjects I was passionate about, or ones that I’d been looking forward to talking about for a long time. I also noticed that these posts were a little earlier in my blogging folder. The ones I haven’t enjoyed as much were ones that I just wrote to get through the week, and I found that the longer I blogged, the more frequent these little weeds cropped up. A pattern that I’ve noticed in weekly posts such as other blogs or the Nostalgia Critic episodes is that great posts are often born soon after a brief hiatus. I’m not sure if that’ll ring true for my blog, but here’s to hoping.

Secondly, I have other writing projects that, unfortunately, haven’t been going well recently. Like I said before, I’d get excited to work on it for the weekend, and then my blog would get in the way, and the other writing projects spend another week untouched. One of the things I hope this hiatus will give me is the chance to focus my energy into these other writing projects. And seriously, that chapter I mentioned is driving me crazy. If I don’t get that finished soon, then I will lose it.

I plan to get this blog up and running again in four months, tops, which means I’ll be back in either late June or early July. Unfortunately, the email address I listed on my about page is experiencing technical difficulties, so I won’t be able to use it for a while. If you’d like to get in touch with me, though, you can still comment on the blog or look me up on Twitter. I’ll also take requests while I’m on hiatus, so if you have something in mind that you’d like me to write about when I come back, again you can comment on the blog or contact me via Twitter. If you’ve been reading my posts since I got started, thank you for the support and encouragement that you’ve given me so far. I really appreciate it. Thank you, also, for reading and understanding, and I hope to come back refreshed and ready to write weekly again.

Until the end of my hiatus, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”



Single and (trying to be) Unashamed

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

At first, I didn’t want to write this. For one, I didn’t think I had anything to say that no one else has already. And for another, romance is a touchy subject for me. I see/hear a lot of people saying how much marriage rates have dropped in the last few decades, and I think “Clearly, you haven’t met anyone from my college, because half of the students are either engaged or married less than three months after graduating.” I even have an uncle who, the last time I saw him, checked my ring finger to see if I was engaged, and then asked me why I’m still single. Most, if not all, of the reasons behind my singleness are personal, and I at least wanted to wait another year or so before answering that question.

However, a few things happened over the last few weeks, convincing me that this is the time for me to write about it. These things varied from small comments that annoyed me to whole blog posts dedicated to advertising marriage to young people that make me feel sick even as I’m sitting here thinking about them. It got to a point where I finally realized that this is something that needs to be written.

With that said, here are my reasons for being 23 and single.

1: My experience with romance is virtually nonexistent.

I’m not a social butterfly (and if you tell me all I need to do is be one, I will elect to ignore you), therefore my experience with romance hasn’t gotten past getting into the friend zone. I’ve never used online dating sites, and since they’ve never appealed to me, I don’t see any reason why I should.

2: I want to become the kind of spouse that I want to have before I commit.

In my last year of high school, I took a class on relationships (no, really, it was called “Relationships and Family”). Early in the semester, the teacher gave us a homework assignment that asked us about what kind of person we wanted to be with. Here’s the catch: that was only the first part of the assignment. The second part challenged us with the thought “Am I willing to be what I’m looking for?”

After that, when I thought about the kind of person I want to be with, I realized that I myself don’t always meet the qualities I want in my significant other. I’m looking for someone who exudes attraction from the inside out; in other words, what makes him attractive comes from his heart, not from his looks. At the same time, that’s how I want him to see me, to be more attracted to the kind of person I am rather than to what I look like or how much money I have. I want him to be kind and compassionate, but I also want him to be a man of conviction. At the same time, I want to be a kind woman of conviction. I want him to care about me, but I also want him to care more about God than he does about me. At the same time, I want to care about him more than me, but I want and need to put God over everything else.

The last quality I mentioned brings me to my third and final reason:

3: I want God, not marriage, to be my number one priority

Just because I don’t dream of being married now, that doesn’t mean I never did. As a matter of fact, it was something that I obsessed over as a little girl and a young teenager. But the older I got, the more desperate I was, and it led me to making some stupid—not permanent, but still stupid—decisions that I still regret to this day. Once I got through college and started figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be, I finally noticed a pattern in the guys I crushed on and decided to pursue: Most of the time, I couldn’t answer if I liked them or if I was in love with being in love. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how wrong it was to put my relationship with romance over my relationship with God. And if I want to thrive as a Christian and as a person, then I need to put my relationship with God over everything else.

Those are my reasons for being single. Does this mean I’m against marriage altogether? Absolutely not. I know a lot of people who’ve been happily married for years, and that’s a sign of hope as well as reason to celebrate. If I do find someone I love unconditionally who feels the same way about me, and then marry him and have a future with him, I’d be thrilled. However, there’s also a chance that this isn’t what God might have in mind for me. And if that’s the case, I want to be okay with it. So at this point, I’m open to love; I’m just not looking for it, because there’s something else that I need to pursue and fight for first.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Photo source: http://www.livestrong.com/article/202126-how-can-a-single-woman-adopt-a-child/

Ten Random Facts: William Shakespeare

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Since this is the annual weekend of love, I decided to take my monthly segment to honor the master of literary romance, William Shakespeare. Even people who haven’t read his plays have at least heard about some of his love stories, such as Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, and Midsummer Night’s Dream. So what better way to celebrate the time of romance than to share ten random tidbits about the incredible life and work of Shakespeare?

  1. While we can’t say for sure how many plays and poems Shakespeare wrote in his life, scholars assume that his grand total was almost 40 plays, over 150 sonnets, and other verses.
  2. His wife’s name was Anne Hathaway. Sources disagree on how many children they had together, but the three known for sure are Hamnet, Susanna, and Judith.
  3. Thirteen of Shakespeare’s characters committed suicide in his plays. Coincidence?
  4. Shakespeare has been a big influence on the English language since his time, as well as English literature. According to his Wikipedia page, Shakespeare’s list of people inspired by him include Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, and—believe it or not—Sigmund Freud.
  5. You might hear an actor experienced in Shakespeare tell you about how Macbeth is a curse in the world of theater. If that’s the case, don’t be too surprised. Legend has it that disaster struck when a troupe of actors tried to perform Shakespeare’s darkest play, including—but not limited to—injury, failure, and even death. As a result, a lot of superstitions have cropped up surrounding the word itself. Some of these superstitions involve banishing the guilty party from the building, or quoting lines from Hamlet or Merchant of Venice. The story about the play is so controversial that it now has its own Wikipedia page. Don’t worry, I wasn’t in a theater when I wrote this.

Or was I?

  1. Shakespeare’s most popular, talked about (and arguably, most misunderstood) play is Romeo and Juliet.
  2. Though many English teachers might have their students study Shakespearean plays (for good reason, don’t get me wrong), this doesn’t mean that Shakespeare’s stories aren’t controversial. Most of them are, alluding to things like sex, racism, murder, political fraud, and even anti-Judaism.
  3. Two notable Brits who contributed to Shakespeare’s work (or at least, the two that I’m thinking of) were monarchs; one was Queen Elizabeth I, and King James I.
  4. April 23 is the day scholars agree was the day Shakespeare was baptized, though to this day many celebrate it as his birthday.
  5. If you haven’t gone to college, you might be encouraged by this: William Shakespeare didn’t either.

And those are my ten random tidbits. If you’d like to know more, I’ve attached my sources used below. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy my favorite Shakespeare play of all time: Much Ado with Emma Thompson. Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Photo source: http://guardianlv.com/2014/04/william-shakespeare-happy-450th-birthday/

Sources used: http://absoluteshakespeare.com/trivia/facts/facts.htm





Top 12 Best Love Stories

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

It’s February. For most Americans, that means it’s the month of love. And since I already had my say on the top 12 worst love stories of all time, now it’s time for me to tackle the best. Not all of the selections below are centered on romance. Some of them don’t even involve romance at all. Most of them either teach something valuable about love, casual or romantic, while others pay homage to different kinds of love (for example, the love of family, or the love of virtue). And some of these selections are tolerable at best, like the number 12 spot here:

12: Old Norna by Louisa May Alcott

Old Norna is a play that Alcott wrote with one of her sisters. It’s your average melodrama with Louis playing the hero, his love interest Leonore, and Count Rodolpho being the devious villain who wants the girl for her money. I’d call it a “so bad it’s good” story; there’s no logic, it’s overdramatic beyond all reason, and anyone can have a ton of fun making fun of it.

11: Castle

Yes, I know this popped up on my Top 12 Worst Love Stories post. So why put this among the best as well as the worst? Because there’s one element of the relationship that works: the teamwork. Castle and Beckett work well individually, but when you put them together, they’re unstoppable. She saves his life just as much as he saves hers, and his bouncing-off-the-walls, childlike personality evens out when meshed with her feet-on-the-ground, realistic demeanor. Sure, their differences butt heads, but they learn how to use these differences to their advantage. And that’s what couples should do; explore each other’s differences and use them to make each other stronger.

10: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Yes, this is another sample from my Top 12 Worst Love Stories, moving on. The Katniss and Peeta romance is on this list for one reason: playing homage to the trilogy’s commentary on celebrity gossip. The first book illustrated how the Games is reality TV to the Capitol. And the key to kids leaving the arena alive is getting the audience to like them. It’s like celebrity gossip. The more drama you create, the more people talk about you. And the more people talk about you, the longer you stay in the media, and—in the case of the Games—the longer you stay alive. Yeah, the romance got worse later in the story. However, I give it credit for continuing the theme of how the love story is a survival technique even after the Games are over.

9: Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The feedback on this story is varied, to say the least. People either write it off as a pretentious Nicholas Sparks knock-off or a poignant love story involving teenagers with cancer. I think it’s a little bit of both and sum it up with the word ‘overkill’. On one hand, it does knock you on the head with the message, which readers can tell early in the book is “it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” On the other hand, the romance is believable and memorable. It could’ve used a little more development, but as is, it’s commendable.

8: Shrek 2 from Dreamworks

The romance in the first movie isn’t a solid love story. They start hating each other, there’s conflict, they fall in love, they get married, the end. Strangely enough, their romance evolves in the sequel, which is a what-happened-after-I-do story. They come back from their honeymoon and learn that Fiona’s parents want to meet her new husband, unaware of them both being ogres. Things go wrong, and it’d be easy to see it fall apart. However, Shrek’s love for Fiona drives him into turning them into humans, not to please her parents but to make her happy. And while she’s touched by how far we went for her, she gives up her humanity to be with the ogre she fell in love with. It’s one of those few sweet endings that deserve the round of “aww.”

7: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

While her other books aren’t terrible, Austen had a habit of making none of her characters likeable aside from the leading lady, her best friend, and her love interest. Emma went in a different direction, making Emma cocky and meddling, though the romance there isn’t that great. And then we have Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy is haughty, unfriendly at first, and not skilled in the art of self-perception. Lizzie Bennet is prone to judge based on first impressions, doesn’t believe in second chances, and proud of her judgment of others. A romantic connection is impossible between them until they both learn to overcome their biggest flaws, let their guards down, and—at the risk of sounding corny—seeing each other for who they truly are.

6: West Side Story

I don’t think I’m the first or will be the last person to criticize most adaptations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. By focusing on the poetry of star-crossed lovers instead of where the tragedy really was (which I won’t discuss here, since the Nostalgia Critic does it so much better in his editorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngd9XVIMotE), the people behind these adaptations earn money without feeling the need to understand what they’re adapting.

With that said, West Side Story makes up for this common misunderstanding. The music is great, the setting is cool, and the characters they use to shadow those from Romeo and Juliet are interesting choices. But there’s one line that sells this as the best adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, and it comes from Maria—the shadow for Juliet—at the end of the play:

“All of you! You all killed [Tony]! And my brother, and Riff. Not with bullets, or guns, with hate. Well now I can kill, too, because now I have hate!”

There. That’s the line. That’s the part that summarizes what Romeo and Juliet was about. Those are the words that earned this musical the #6 spot on the list.

5: Much Ado About Nothing

This story features two romances; Claudio and Hero, and Benedict and Beatrice. Claudio and Hero make the couple that fall in love at first sight and agree to marry in a week. Benedict and Beatrice make two rivals of wit who both swear they’ll never marry. In the case of Claudio and Hero, misunderstandings and deceit show how easy it is to break them up and get them back together, not just once but twice before they marry. On the other hand, Benedict and Beatrice took their time and knew each other long before they finally decided to tie the knot. They have a lot more chemistry, and they’re more complex, independent, intelligent, and realistic. Not only does Much Ado show the downsides of the impatience and drama that make Claudio and Hero, but it also shows the upsides to the time and depth that make Beatrice and Benedict.

4: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Another European classic that tells two love stories, as well as another story that portrays patience as the most crucial ingredient in a successful relationship. In this case, you have Levin and Kitty making one romance and Anna and Vronsky making another. On one hand, Levin and Kitty didn’t get involved with one another right away. In fact, she had at first rejected his marriage proposal. And when they do marry, the first few months isn’t all rainbows and daisies. Over the course of time, their relationship continues to bloom and their marriage grows stronger as a result. On the other hand, Vronsky impulsively declared undying love for Anna, and even followed her home to convince her to have an affair with him. But the more time they spend together, the more their relationship deteriorates. Eventually, he’s bored with her to the point where he spends more time out in town than alone with her, and she’s distrustful and jealous of him to the point where she commits suicide as a sad attempt to escape the tragedy.

3: Harry Potter by JK Rowling

This is one of those selections where the focus isn’t on romance, but rather on love in general. It shows the power of loving virtues and people. The Weasleys were poor, but they found joy in simply being a family, and in the end they were rewarded for it. Dumbledore expressed his views on how it’s better to do what’s right rather than what’s easy, and how important it is to have the capacity to love others. Even when others disagreed and sought to discredit him, he stuck to his guns and became one of the most beloved characters in the story.

2: Beauty and the Beast from Disney

Some people say that this is a case of Stockholm syndrome, while others say it’s a story that makes girls think that they can change the bad boy if they date him. I’d say that Beauty and the Beast isn’t either of those, instead going along the lines of Pride and Prejudice. They start the story hating each other, and any chance they have of a romantic relationship is slim to none. But through the course of time, they let down their walls and get to know one another, forming a friendship that eventually turns into a romance. And technically, Belle wasn’t in a relationship with the Beast at until the third act, well after the Beast stopped being mean and started being more of a gentleman. Heck, she doesn’t even say “I love you” until the end.

1: The Graduate

Based on the book of the same name written by Charles Webb, The Graduate focuses on a college graduate named Benjamin, played by Dustin Hoffman, who has an affair with an older woman and later seeks to marry her daughter Elaine. Again, the Nostalgia Critic dissects the story in his editorial (which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSS7Wyi6gb8 ), so I won’t repeat what he said. However, I consider The Graduate one of the best due to the issue it tackles: rushing into something (like marriage) without counting the cost and making sure it’s what you want. Especially around Valentine’s Day, we receive the message that our lives will never be complete unless we’ve made a romantic connection. And it’s knocked into our head so many times that some of us choose to believe it without asking if it’s in our best interest or not. I consider it one of the main reasons for why so many people rushed into getting married and then ended up divorced later. Here, the romance(s) serve as a warning, a story of what can happen when you rush into something without realizing what you’re committed to until it’s too late. And whether Webb and director Nichols meant to or not, they taught how important it is to act with patience, not with impulsivity, when it comes to getting married. And that’s why The Graduate gets the number one spot on this countdown.

Photo sources: http://www.assentpublishing.com/breathlessbooks.aspx