Friday, January 13, 2017

The Incommunicable Past || My Ántonia by Willa Cather Book Review

Few books keep me up past midnight, draw me completely in, and tug on every single one of my heartstrings but My Ántonia by Willa Cather was one of those books. Something about the nostalgic first-person reminiscing of young Jim Burden resonated with me. His memoir focuses on his childhood, the golden days of his life, with the central focus being Ántonia Shimerda, his Bohemian neighbor who emigrated from the Czech Republic to the North Dakota frontier with her family around the same time the ten-year-old Jim, newly orphaned, moved from his parents’ home in Virginia to live on his grandparents’ farm on the prairie. Jim and Ántonia share various adventures and struggles together with their friends and family on the North Dakota plains and the memories they make together are grafted into Jim's mind as the best days of his life. 

What struck me about this book is the lack of climax in the storyline. Jim’s memories are meandering and selective at best, always coming back to his Ántonia. However, there is an inherent ambiguity to Jim and Tony’s relationship and it is this lack of resolve that kept me turning the page. I kept waiting for that moment of resolution but it never came and that was perhaps the most satisfying, heartrending, realistic aspect of this novel.

The title of the book is My Ántonia but in what way is Ántonia Jim’s? You never really know. It is never explicitly defined by the narrator. Cather gives the impression that Jim and Ántonia care for each other very much and toward the end of the novel Jim confesses to Ántonia’s children that he was once in love with their mother, but you never really hear from Ántonia what Jim means to her, though it is evident she cares for him very much. One of the most interesting speeches is shared upon Jim's return home when he hears of Tony's misfortune. Ántonia is living once again on her family’s farm, laboring in the fields and living in relative solitude and shame with the child she had out of wedlock after her supposed fiancée abandons her.

“Do you know, Ántonia, since I've been away, I think of you more often than of anyone else in this part of the world. I'd have liked to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife, or my mother or my sisteranything a woman can be to a man. The idea of you is a part of my mind you influence my likes and dislikes, all my tastes, hundreds of times when I don't realize it. You really are a part of me. 

Jim is disappointed in her and sad for her, but he still cares for her very much even though he is resigned to their prospective destinies that seem to constantly lead them down different paths...though always back to each other again.

There are multiple opportunities for Jim and Ántonia’s relationship to slip into the romantic realm and while the reader anticipates this, Cather bypasses each one of these opportunities and keeps their friendship platonic. While this leaves a certain amount of ambiguity to their relationship, it seemed to me that to suddenly romanticize their friendship would lessen it somehow. Ántonia was never simply Jim’s sweetheart but she was also never simply his friend. She was so much more than that.

One of the frustrating aspects of this book, at least frustrating to me, was the passiveness of Jim’s character. He obviously loves Ántonia. She influences his thoughts and opinions every day. The memory of her is his most cherished memory and he never encounters anyone else in his lifetime who could ever replace her. And yet Jim never acts on his feelings. He never asserts himself and pursues Tony. The reverse of gender roles is one of the defining characteristics of Cather’s novel. Ántonia is obviously the assertive one, assuming the manual labor of her father’s farm, boasting about her strength, maintaining her pride and independence, refusing to take orders from anyone, and ultimately carving her own path in life. Jim is the passive, almost submissive one but he is perhaps the more sensitive, empathetic, and introspective character as well.

Ántonia’s fortunes eventually change for the better, no doubt as a result of her persevering spirit and determination. But it was still difficult for me to read about her misfortunes and Jim’s disappointment without a slight disappointment in Jim. After all, might he not have prevented some of her misfortunes if he had simply come out and expressed his feelings for her and married her? And yet Ántonia never resents him for this. She never expects anyone, including Jim, to assume any responsibility for her. As with everyone she loves, she can never presume anything false or bad about Jim, even when he avoids visiting her for twenty-some years out of fear for seeing her aged. Just as Jim remembers her, Ántonia always remembers him to her many children with the utmost fondness and later welcomes him into her home as somewhat of a surrogate uncle in the family. Their relationship is never clearly defined, but this is perhaps what preserves it through the years.

“Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

New Year 2017 Goals and Resolutions

A lot happened in the year 2016. 

I ran my first 5K, traveled cross-country by train with my sister/roommate, and traveled and flew on a plane by myself (well, sort of by myself). I bought my first smartphone, read a lot of good books, road tripped to the North Texas Irish Festival with some dear friends, stood up as a bridesmaid in another dear friend’s wedding, and collaborated with my friend Nathan on our first debut cover and music video. We also released a Christmas duet, in case you haven’t heard it yet. I went back to school, part-time, got my wisdom teeth removed. I made new friends. I saw the Oh Hellos, Relient K, and Switchfoot in concert! I also saw a lot of other great artists/musicians live thanks to NTIF. :-) I was in a wonderful stage production of A Christmas Carol with an awesome cast, crew, and directors! I vacationed to the Gulf Shores in Alabama with my parents and siblings. And not necessarily in that order.

Last but not least, A Vapor in the Wind hit its three-year-anniversary (as of December 2013) and its 100th blog post this last December! 

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface, especially in comparison to everything that happened behind-the-scenes and all of the spiritual and mental growth and healing that took place by God’s grace. How do you summarize and measure a year? I'm not sure if I could ever find the words. Life, as always, is a contrast of sorrow and joy, pain and laughter, peace and turbulence. This year has come with its own measure of pain, disappointment, and heartache. 

Perhaps the greatest thing that happened in 2016 was my acceptance of this reality. I used to find the sorrow intimidating and scary. I used to tell myself to stop whenever I found myself spontaneously bursting into tears. Now it seems so natural for the sun to be shining on a beautiful day, for my heart to be happy, and then suddenly the tears come. Pain does something to your soul and suddenly happy things make you sad and sad things make you happy and you stop trying to distinguish between the two, you simply let the strange contradiction and intermingling of all the emotions be, let the tears run their course, take a deep breath, and go about the rest of your day.

A lot of other things changed inside of my heart in 2016. I started dreaming again and stopped dwelling on the past. The future began looking more hopeful than ever. I stopped emotionally regressing, well, mostly. I still have those days. I stopped avoiding the sins hidden inside the crevices of my heart and came face-to-face with whatever resentment, bitterness, selfishness and anger I had been harboring. I still have so far to go and when I think about what I want to accomplish in the year of 2017, the list goes on and on. I feel like I have reached the edge of a precipice and there is still so much in my life that needs to be overhauled, repentance and growth that needs to happen. Honestly it's a little intimidating....okay, it's really intimidating. 

My perception of time changed in 2016. I was told that happens the older you get. I guess I'm getting a bit older because months and years don't seem very long anymore. I remember when I used to measure the passing time with every arduous school semester and while I am in school again, the semesters fly by and a semester doesn't quite feel like a semester used to feel. The stress of every exam, assignment, and paying tuition rolls off my shoulders as I realize all of this will end very quickly. It's a little easier to be patient and wait. In the grand scheme of things, here and now is not very significant and somehow that helps me to focus on what really matters.

The year of 2017 is going to be a year with a lot of change and I am not sure if I am quite ready for it all. But then I remind myself, it's just a year. And soon it will be over and all of those mountains that seemed so foreboding and impenetrable on the distant horizon will soon be behind me. I have a lot of plans for this year and while I won't divulge them here and now, I am sure you will hear about some of them in the not-so-near future.

I have so many resolutions for 2017. As always, I am unrealistically optimistic about all of the things I will accomplish, how much exercise I will get, how healthy I will eat, how much money I will save, how many books I will read, etc. I was informed by a random blog article somewhere that the best way to start a day was by setting three main goals for the day and to focus on accomplishing those goals while also completing whatever other demands, tasks, and goals that arise as you are able. I guess I am kind of treating this year as a new day. I have several big goals I intend to accomplish and everything else that gets completed will be a lovely bonus, a sort of icing on the cake.

What are your goals for 2017? What are your resolutions? Did you accomplish all of your goals for 2016? 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot || New Year Introductions 2017

Hello dear readers,

To all of those who are new to my blog, welcome.

To the rest of you who have been following this blog for too long, welcome back.

Can you believe the New Year is already here? Twenty-sixteen flew by too quickly in a blur of transitions, change, growth, pain, and wonderful memories made. But the New Year has arrived all the same, whether I am ready for it to be here or not. I thought I would take this opportunity to reintroduce myself and this blog for those of you who are newer to A Vapor in the Wind.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Danielle Fisher, but I usually go by Dani. I am twenty-two years old.  I currently work as an administrative assistant while taking college classes part-time. I enjoy Community Theatre, writing, playing the piano accordion, piano, and penny whistle, spending time with friends and family, rest and worship on Sundays, memorizing Scripture, drinking copious amounts of loose-leaf tea (Harney & Sons, please), dancing (Irish Ceili, Contra, and all others I can manage), running (sometimes), travelling, and daydreaming about travelling.

I was homeschooled my entire life through high school and am still working slowly but steadily toward acquiring my college undergraduate degree. I am the fourth child of eight and love my big, crazy family very much! I write a lot about my family, friendships, and my relationship with God on my blog. My faith in Jesus Christ is primarily grounded in a realization of my own sin and need for a Savior as revealed through God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. My hope in this life is in the life and death of Jesus Christ on my behalf and his resurrection.

My blog A Vapor in the Wind started back in 2007 as a private journal blog available only to select friends and family. A little over three years ago my brother Ben died unexpectedly in an accident when he was seventeen years old. Since then my blog has been a public documentary of coping with grief and everything I have learned from my experiences, the Word of God, and His gracious providence since then.

You can expect a variety of articles and blog posts on my website, from opinion pieces, devotionals, memoirs, life advice, and the ocassional fandom post where I analyze the personality types of characters from my favorite TV shows and movies!   

I would love for you to join me in this journey as I share my story! Feel free to follow my blog, like my official Facebook page, or email me at You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter! Let’s be friends!!

Dani xoxo

Friday, December 16, 2016

Which Character from The Flash Are You Based on Myers-Briggs 16 Personalities?

I recently caught up on Season 2 of DC ComicsThe Flash and a Myers-Briggs evaluation of all the characters has been inevitably in the works for some time now. With all character evaluations, this is all pure conjecture and there is nothing really scientific about this whatsoever. But it’s still good fun. If you don't know your Myers-Briggs personality type, you can find out on So, which character of The Flash are you based on my assessment? Are there any characters you would have typed differently and why? Let me know in the comments below!

Barry is the brilliant if not chronically tardy crime scene investigator for the Central City Police Department. Ever since his father was sentenced to life in prison for being wrongfully convicted of his wife's murder, Barry has been obsessively searching for answers that will free his father and give him peace about his past. When Barry is struck by lightning in the middle of a storm generated by a Particle Accelerator explosion in Star Labs of Central City, he slips into a coma for nine months and wakes up to discover he has inherited incredible speed. His powers might just be the ticket to protecting Central City from meta-humans and giving Barry the answers he's been looking for all his life.

Dr. Harrison Wells is the founder of Star Labs, the creator of the Particle Accelerator, and the inadvertent creator of the Flash and every other evil or not-so-evil meta-human that roams the streets of Central City. When Barry awakes from his coma, Dr. Wells assists him in harnessing and honing his powers to become the fastest and most skilled speedster he possibly can be. He is perhaps the most intelligent human being on this earth and maybe all the alternate earths, rivaled only by his alternate-universe doppelgangers. Wells can be a conceited know-it-all at times and sometimes we wonder if he has any emotions whatsoever, but ultimately we know this Harrison Wells is on the right side, even if those other Wells, Thawnes, Reverse Flashes or whatever were evil. Wells maintains a cool exterior almost always. He keeps his emotions and feelings to himself, not because he doesn't have any, but simply because he does not want to show weakness. We all know that deep down inside, he is really just a big softy. 

When the Particle Accelerator exploded, Star Labs went down with it along with the reputations of Dr. Wells and his colleague Dr. Caitlin Snow. In spite of her disappointment, Dr. Snow continues to work for Dr. Wells and assists him in saving Barry Allen's life, preserving him while he is in a coma, and helping him understand his powers once he wakes up. Caitlin can come off as a bit cold at first, but there is no doubt that she cares very deeply for the safety and well-being of her friends and all of Central City. Instead of talking about her feelings, Caitlin prefers to demonstrate her love by finding pragmatic ways to help people. She has strong moral convictions and is uncompromising in her beliefs. We are all thankful that this responsible levelheaded and loyal woman is on Team Flash, because let's be real, Barry wouldn't be alive after one episode if not for her. Seriously. I have lost track of how many times she has saved his life. 

Cisco Ramon is the mechanic and brains behind pretty much every piece of equipment in Star Labs and every weapon utilized to take down the unpredictable meta-humans in Central City, including The Flash's speedster suit. We are not sure where Ramon gets the funding for all of his inventions or how on earth he is able to manufacture them so rapidly, but we sure are glad that Cisco always has a trick up his sleeve in any given crisis. You can't help but suspect that Cisco really has fun fighting villains and meta-humans, even if he is scared out of his wits or the world is coming to a near-apocalyptic-end. There is nothing Cisco enjoys more than a challenge and nothing he fears more than boredom. He is always lightening the mood of any given situation with his witty puns and jokes, cheesy villain names, and detailed descriptions of his latest invention or idea for an invention. Cisco is always full of ideas and always sharing his ideas, even if they never amount to anything. 

Iris West has been Barry Allen's best friend and virtual sister ever since his mother died, his father was sent to prison, and Iris' father, Detective Joe West, took Barry Allen in and raised him as his own son. Iris is a fantastic journalist because she knows how to analyze any given situation or technical problem objectively, but also possesses the intuition to add the human element into her writing. She is a relentless idealist and romantic, always believing the best of people. She strives to bring out the best in everyone around her. Iris is emotionally invested in all of her relationships with her family and friends and is always willing to give a listening ear and a word of advice to anyone who needs it. Sometimes her advice can be intrusive and given when it is not wanted, but she always has the best of intentions and is motivated from a genuine desire to help people. 

Detective Joe West of the Central City Police Department has been a second father to Barry Allen ever since his father was wrongfully convicted of murder and imprisoned. While Joe might have a difficult time understanding Barry, there is no doubt he loves and cares for him very much. Joe is a down-to-earth man with traditional values and a pragmatic worldview, so he sometimes finds it challenging relating to Barry who lives in a world full of fantastic possibilities. Joe's first priority is caring for and protecting his family and the city he serves. He is always searching for practical, efficient solutions to any given problem. Unfortunately he can sometimes be close-minded, fail to take in all of the facts and act too quickly on his presupposed ideals. 

If Eddie Thawne ever entered as a contestant on the Bachelorette, he would win, hands down. When he is hired at the Central City Police Department as Joe West's partner, he inevitably falls for Joe's daughter, Iris, and this means the unfortunate friend-zone status for Barry Allen. Eddie is the kind of person who is so perfect it is almost irritating, but you can never dislike him because he is just too perfect. Detective Eddie Thawne is not only responsible, loyal, and practical, but he has a romantic, charismatic, and sensitive side to him as well. He probably has the biggest heart of all the characters on this show and as much as the Reverse Flash would like to convince us that he isn't significant, we all know that just is not the case. 

Prior to the Particle Accelerator explosion, Ronnie was engaged to Caitlin Snow and worked at Star Labs as a mechanical engineer. He was thought to have died in the explosion while trying to contain it. However, he later returns under the most remarkable circumstances, as a fire-wielding meta-human with an interesting co-dependent existence with scientist Dr. Martin Stein. Ronnie is one of the rare meta-humans who tries to protect Central City instead of destroy it. He is highly sensitive and introverted with an aptitude for solving technical problems. Ronnie is driven by a desire to protect his city and the people he loves and there really is no sacrifice he would not be willing to make in order to do this.

Pretty much everyone was affected by the Particle Accelerator explosion and for Dr. Martin Stein it meant a strange co-dependent partnership with Ronnie Raymond, a meta-human. Stein is perhaps the only mind in Central City that rivals the intelligence of Dr. Harrison Wells. His meta-human status and powers take him a while to get used to, but fortunately Stein is an open-minded genius and quickly becomes an essential member of Team Flash. 

Is he a good guy or a bad guy? No one really knows and I am pretty sure Snart prefers to keep everyone guessing. Snart is a seasoned criminal who inherits the name "Captain Cold" when he steals Ramon's freeze gun from Star Labs in order to stop the Flash. Loyalty is a crutch, in Snart's book. In spite of how intimidating he can be, we all love him anyway, because we know that once you get passed the thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie with daddy-issues, he really is a nice guy. The only thing Snart values more than his freedom and independence is perhaps his brother and sister.

When Patty Spivot joins the Central City Police force, she and Barry hit it off right away. Both of them are pretty sharp and kind of awkward in the most adorable way possible. It takes some time and a little coaching from Iris before they really connect. No one reads people better than Patty. She has an uncanny knack for knowing when someone is lying or holding out on her. That's probably what makes her such a good detective. Unfortunately for her and Barry, this means the untimely end of their relationship. It's just as well since no doubt she goes on to be a brilliant crime scene investigator.

Jesse is the daughter of the good Dr. Harrison Wells and if you don't know what I mean by that, well, you will have to watch the second season to find out. Jesse is perhaps the reason not-evil Wells is not evil. She definitely inherited her father's natural genius, but she does not let her curiosity and thirst for knowledge compromise her moral convictions. She prefers to avoid conflict and is slow to assert herself, but this girl has a mind of her own and a strong streak of independence along with the scientific genius she inherited from her father.

Wally West is the son Joe West never knew he had, literally. Thanks to poor communication or more like a complete lack of communication, Joe West does not know about his son's existence until Wally is all grown up. He might have a bit of an attitude at first, but Wally ultimately wants to know his father and have him in his life. Characteristic to his personality, Wally is a bit of a thrill-seeker. It takes him a while to settle down and he finds it difficult to make long-term commitments, especially when those commitments look like a lot of long hours studying and completing homework assignments. But after a few wake-up calls, Wally proves himself to be remarkably reliable, intelligent, and creative. 

My assessment in no way implies that I think all ENTJs are psychopathic villains, though knowing my ENTJ friends, they probably would think it was really cool that I typed them as a psychopathic villain. ;)  Jay's character was too complex, especially in comparison with most of the villains in this show, to simply pass up. Jay is evidently mentally disturbed and with good reason. Unfortunately he has all of the intelligence, drive, energy, and ambition to make him a really intimidating threat. We can take comfort in the fact that somewhere out there in an alternate universe are plenty of alternate earths with good Jay Garrick doppelgangers. Also, did anyone else keep mistaking this guy for Captain America's evil twin?! 

Serving twenty-some years in prison after being wrongfully accused of murder might break any other man, but not Henry Allen. He is perhaps one of the most forgiving and optimistic characters in this entire show. He lives in the moment and never gets caught up in the past for too long. In spite of everything he has been through, Henry always finds the strength to move forward. His strength inspires and supports Barry during his imprisonment. Henry values his independence, but is always there when his loved ones need him.

There is not much we know about Nora except for the limited memory Barry has of her. But we do know that Barry is no doubt very similar to his mother, especially in personality. Henry often says how much Barry reminds him of Nora and from the little we see of her, Barry obviously inherited his kindness and empathy for others from her. Nora's love and care for Barry made a lasting impression on him and while her death causes him a lot of grief, we know it is because of how much they loved one another.

See also my Myers-Briggs personality assessments for the following fandoms: 

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Gift-Giving Guide || Friendship 101

I am not the best when it comes to gift-giving and gift-shopping. Unfortunately I am caught up in a crowd of siblings, friends, and relatives who always find the perfect gift, whether it’s for a birthday, Christmas, get-well-soon, or simply a spontaneous gift. Naturally I the pressure is on every Christmas season. Not only do I want to find the perfect gift for everyone, but I also have to take my limited budget into account. 

While I am no gift-giving expert, here are a few creative and budget-friendly tips I have picked up in the last few years that might help you if you are suffering from gift shopping block (it’s like writer’s block only for gift-givers).

1. Custom-Made Gifts. Do you like to knit? Crochet? Sew? Whittle? Bake? Whatever your specialty is, utilize it to give custom-made gifts this Christmas. Handcrafted gifts are the best because they take time and unique skill to make. Even something as simple as a handmade card or handwritten letter is especially meaningful.

2. Give What You Already Have. Shopping stresses me out because there are simply Too. Many. Options. Before you hit the mall, take stock of what you already have and see if you have anything stashed in the closet or the bookshelf that one of your friends or relatives would be interested in. I for one know younger sisters always appreciate hand-me-downs, especially in the form of pretty dresses and jewelry.

3. Explore Antique Malls & Resale Shops. If you are looking for a unique gift that is friendly to your budget, go and explore an antique mall or a resale shop! Antique malls are also a fantastic place to find gifts for your friends who have unique tastes *cough*hipsters*cough*.

4. Give Your Time. Instead of stuff, give someone your service or an experience you can share together. These kinds of gifts are probably my favorite to give and receive. You can’t put a price tag on service and shared memories!
  • Tickets to a concert, movie, musical, ballet...whatever your taste!
  • Coupons for household chores, meal preparations, and back-rubs (my mother always loves this)
  • A project / craft you can work on together
  • A board game or card game the whole family can have fun playing together
  • Go caroling together, bake Christmas cookies, watch all your favorite Christmas movies together, and spread the love this Christmas! 

What are some gift-giving tips you have? Does Christmas shopping stress you out? I would love to hear your ideas! And believe me...I need all the help I can get.

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