Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crisis Situations

It starts out with a panic. A cold sweat, almost. You think about how this can't be happening, this can't be happening, can't be happening... It's almost like you dissociate.

Whenever I get scared, really scared, that's how I feel. I might lose my head over tiny things but bigger things... They feel unreal. I'm able to think, think more than usual, and feel like I'm away from the situation, almost like I'm watching it. I feel scared but that scare feels like it's far away. I think, Okay, I need to do this and then I do just what I told myself to do. And then, when it's over, I let the panic symptoms consume me. I let myself shake and I let my chest tighten and I let myself lose myself in worry.

Tinks got out today. My sister left the top of her cage open and she escaped in the middle of the night. My sister found her missing in the morning.

I was out in my living room with my parents, chilling. My serenity was broken when my sister came over to the rail, wide-eyed and told us.

Tinks was gone. Gone.

It's odd. I get anxiety attacks over my homework and worrying about my social life and screwing up my eye makeup and over so many other stupid things but when in crisis mode, my mind slows. I'm actually quite clear-headed.

We took our dog out and then we would go out. I thought of where I would look. My room, my parents', my sister's, the exercise room. I'm not that great at looking so I would have to get my parents to look for it.

I went up the stairs in shock. My dad kept exclaiming how he knew this was going to happen and how we weren't going to find her.

We actually did end up finding her in the closet of the exercise room. Of course, we had to fight her and she was too frightened to let anyone hold her. But it was good.

I've had other scares in my life before and the behavior is pretty much the same. Of course, the results didn't end up nearly so well and I ended up with often long-lasting, less pretty results. I'm just glad this one ended like it did.

Scares and crises can paralyze people. It leaves others with a cool head. For some reason, I think I'm beginning to end up in the latter category which is something that brings me immense relief (although I must say that having a missing hamster doesn't compare to a crisis that could end up with even worse results).

I'm starting to think this newfound cool-headedness is connected to this little ritual I do. Whenever I get in a car or go over a bridge or something like that, I always think about the worst things that can happen. It's like knocking on wood. I figure somehow that if I think about it, it won't happen to me. Somehow, it makes me feel better. Sometimes, I also think of what I would do if I was in a dangerous situation again and again and again thinking that, if I panic, something might stick if I was in that situation. I think of getting shot at, raped, killed in a car accident and I don't feel worry but relief. I think of how this must mean this will never end up happening to me. Of course, I know this is completely irrational and whatever but, to my anxious mind, it makes sense somehow. It makes me feel better.

Crisis situations are inevitable. I guess it always is important to come out with a plan (not to the extent I do, though).

Of course, we're keeping Tinks locked up and taking new precautions. I don't expect that to happen again. Still, I suspect that it will be one of the many things I'll worry about.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Hamster Named Tinkerbell and What She's Taught Me

Tinks! Apparently it looks like I'm suffocating her but she is quite hard to keep still.
I've been falling in love. She's my sister's girl but her cuteness suffocates me. She's just so soft and cuddly that I can't help but melt and lose myself when I'm with her. She's a hamster.

Her name is Tinkerbell (we call her "Tinks"). My sister got her about a week ago, filled with one of her weird urges. My dad, to my surprise, agreed to buy a hamster for her despite the wishes of my mother.

I thought it was a stupid idea too, one of my sister's strange fantasies. What can I say, though? I've fallen for her too.

When she first came here, she was terrified. She came in a Petsmart box and I could hear her clawing like crazy in there. There were holes at the side and sometimes she would put her nose up in there. My sister told me to watch over her as she went to buy a new cage for her (the one she had was too small). So I watched over her as I sat in the computer room.

She was clawing so much that I kept checking to see that she was alive and not having a heart attack. She wasn't. However, when I picked her up, her heart was hammering like a hummingbird's and she kept fighting me.

Eventually, my sister put her cage together. She told me that I had to ask her to pick her up and that she would be very upset if I let something happen to her (to say at the least. My sister would never speak to me again). Of course, she had to remind me of an incident with her fish a few years ago which I take full responsibility of and still feel quite guilty of. My short attention span and thoughtless actions do put me at quite a risk to do something that could hurt her.

In the beginning, she would fight us when she would take us out. I remembered trying to learn how to hold her and how she bit me in the beginning (I do admit that I was squeezing her. It was quite a stupid thing for me to do).

My sister told me that she would have to get used to us and to be patient. Yet I could tell she was upset when Tinks fought her off (I told her that she fought me off too, which she did. I, however, kind of forced her out). At one point, she told me to go in there and pet her and that we would have to hold her a lot so she would get used to us.

I don't know why I'm starting to grow attached to her. Lately, I've had random bursts of affection for furry creatures, my dog included. I just take them and start to hug them and then I start to feel all relaxed. I've even gotten attached to a beaver puppet that my mom got my sister as a gag gift after this weird movie we watched.

I think it's because she's just so small and fragile that I feel I have to protect her. She's just so furry and soft and easy to snuggle with. And when I feel her tiny heart pound when I hold her, it's just enough for this really odd feeling to come over me.

I think Tinks is teaching me how to be tender and how to let go of my worries and everything else. She's teaching me how to take responsibility of something (okay, Rachael's taking care of her because she paid for her, I admit, but I feel obligated to check on her and play with her every night anyway). Oh, and I've been getting better hand-eye coordination from the few times that she has escaped my grip or has leaped off of the bed that we're trying to get her used to (which, despite my clumsiness, I actually seem to be quite good at. I suppose that's from all the computer games I played when I was younger and all of the computer time I use now). She's also forced me to take risks and to think on the spot, both of which I find very difficult to do.

It's also kind of fun getting her used to the outside world. We're trying to get people to hold her so she can get used to it and we're trying to get her to crawl on my sister's bed (it's controlled and we block her when we see her going to the edges) so she can get out of the cage without having to go into her little ball.

Best of all, I think my sister and I have been bonding over her too. Despite her being only a year younger than me, we don't have that much in common so we don't talk much and she's completely different from me. Sometimes I feel that she overpowers me and I resent her sometimes for that. However, Tinks has forced us to work together and with her, we have one common goal. It's quite nice, actually.

Unfortunately, she only has a two-year lifespan. That means she won't even get to live to see my graduation from high school. This worries me but I refuse to think about that now. Tinks is forcing me to live in the moment.

Yep, I'm falling in love. Who knew it would come this soon?

Her cuteness will kill me one of these days.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Condensing Words

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

With just six words, Hemingway was able to get his point across and he was able to get it across well. You understand the story exactly. Baby shoes were bought for an expectant baby. However, there was either a miscarriage or a stillbirth and those shoes were never able to be worn.

Hemingway doesn't waste a word. It hits you with a quick punch and then it's gone. Just like that.

It's quite tragic actually. When I first heard it,  I was stunned. I assumed that only a brilliant writer like Hemingway could do it and that I would never be able to reach such a place in my writing.

I don't know why but the idea has been haunting me all week. A six word story. Six words.

Those six words, of course, have to be subtle but not too subtle. It can't sound like a synopsis or something corny or, God forbid, cliché. Basically, all of the usual restrictions apply except I knew a six-word story would be even more.

I told myself that it would be like a haiku. Except, of course, I would have even less to go on and I wouldn't have to worry about syllables.

As a poet, I know that economy of words is important. Condensing your words is key. In the case of a poem, less is more (but there has to be enough, of course, or else it lacks in description). Sometimes things are so simple and beautiful (or on the other hand, ugly and nasty) that a long-winded description just doesn't do them justice.

A poem is a snapshot. It's not meant to capture a life story (although my poems have often told stories) but they are just meant to capture a moment, a frame of thought and what has led up to that thought. While long-winded descriptions are appreciated and admired in the novel and short story world, a line that is too long and awkward just ends up flowing awkwardly.

Of course, there are other forms that require quick, sharp descriptions but poetry is the place where I find this the most apt. I almost saw this little writing experiment as one of these kind of moments so I had quite a bit of excitement over it.

I was thinking of that six-word story for some reason and then I decided to make my own. Of course, from that story alone, we know so much. I had to make my six-word story have that similar effect. I worked on it a while until a perfect six-wordn story sprang in my head while I was (in all places, of course) the shower.

I wrote one. Only then I got going and going and going. I knew right away that I had hit something good and I just kept tapping that creative vein.

Here are my six-word (some are seven. The first is also an acronym so I counted it as one word) stories that seemed good enough to post here:
Injuries sustained: Fatal head trauma. BAC (Blood Alcohol Content): 0.3
Obituary: A soldier's never coming home (you could replace "a solider's" with "my brother's" to make it more of a personal touch).
She's sobbing in the bathroom. Words hurt.
From the ambulance: a tiny bodybag

Those were fun to write. I also tried to do ones on other themes but it seemed the darker, sadder ones seemed to make it in (I suppose I've always done better on the dark side).

At least, six-word stories don't come with the same strings attached. You tinker with it a little bit and then you just write it.

I'm still learning the art of economy of words. It's a wait-and-see thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting Blog Traffic/Changing Things Up

Busy, busy, busy. At the very least, sometimes I get to come home and write to my heart's content though. I have a variety of options (which, as a writer, I'm kind of thinking is not a good thing. I need to stick to something) and often it's very relaxing after a stressful day. When I'm particularly angry, I can just vent.

I love this blog. Really. I can write about anything that I want without anyone trying to interrupt me or anything. The reason that I decided to start a blog was because I felt that it was something that a writer was supposed to do and I wanted to hone my writing skills. I also wanted to get the chance to speak about the things that mattered to me.

But then... I had that little urge for an audience. An audience besides the people I felt were obligated to listen to me.

I remember one of the bloggers I read (I got into his blog after his YouTube video about confronting the abortion protesters who were harassing his wife went viral) basically admitted that he blogged for views. He asked why else would we make it public? I do admit to making it public because of the small hope I'll get views but for the sole reason? Nahhh.

I felt like such an attention whore when I started to try to promote myself. Pathetic and a little desperate too, honestly, especially considering my attitude towards spammers. However, I figured that there would be no other way for anyone to find me. I mean, sure there's Google but what are the odds of that really? So I tried to post it on two dearly loved sites of mine (SixBillionSecrets and GivesMeHope/its branches) posing it as a secret/story. I also tried posing it as a question to Yahoo!Answers a bunch of times.
So I've been busy at work trying to get new traffic to my blog. So far, it seems that I've actually been somewhat successful so I've been keeping it up. I've seemed to have gotten new followers and readers though my sister scoffed at this ("Four followers. Seriously? Wowww." Ha ha, love you, Rach). In addition to this, I've decided to do a few more things to become a bit more well-known and things that will also make being a part of the blogging sphere more fun for me. Some of these were suggestions already made to me (okay, most) and some ideas were ones that I ended up coming up with on my own.

First of all, I'm going to definitely comment more on blogs that I read already and try to find even more cool blogs. It seems like good karma, to do that, and also I can get in some free advertising in the comments. In addition to this, I also get to see who is out there and I get to read a lot of great blogs that really make me think. Really, commenting and finding new blogs to read is a win-win situation that benefits everyone.

Secondly, I'm going to try to put more pictures on to my blog post. I worked a little on it today and I must say it truly does look better. It's like a complete visual transformation. Hopefully, it might get people to linger around for a little bit.

Thirdly, I'm going to try to find more sites where I can post the link to my blog without everyone Maybe some kind people can post this on their Facebook accounts or try to forward it via email? I would really appreciate that.

Hope it works!

By the way, thanks to all the readers I have so far. I really do appreciate each and every one of you and I hope I get some more.

I also really appreciated the comments that I got on my post about eating disorders. I'm glad that it was able to reach people and that it was actually effective. It's definitely a big problem that needs to be addressed more in the blogging sphere.

Blogging has been a wild ride. Tune in for some more stuff in the future.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Long Weekends

Long weekends are that glorious stretch of time where you have the world to yourself to roam. Even though school looms over your head, you are free for just one moment. It is as if, for a few brief moments, you are allowed to get a few breaths of fresh air. Long weekends are like an offering to a horse to graze after a long ride (except my fellow students and I are not horses of course, and we do not eat grass. Ha ha).

Long weekends give you two four-day weeks. On the first four-day week, the last day is Thursday on the on the second, you might end it on Friday but you get to come in on Tuesday and you can enjoy that Monday.

All I did in these four days was chill. I got to unwind in a way that I am unable to fully do on a weekend and I just got to generally enjoy myself. Of course, I went to CHOP as I mentioned in "Importance to Health" and I did a few errands but they weren't strenuous. It's not like I did anything that was super stressful. I even got to spend time with the new hamster that my sister got that she ended up naming Tinkerbell ("Tinks")!

Long weekends give us the break we students (and probably the teachers too) so desperately need. It gives us time to do whatever we want and not have to answer to anyone. Sure we have a few things that we have to take care of but that's not too bad when you consider everything. For the most part, my stress went way down.

I got to wake up early too and I got to do more. I have gained the opportunity to do more of the things I've wanted to do, for instance.

Those few breaths of fresh air and the greater opportunities I've had time-wise have allowed me to blog much more, for instance. I have went on a total blogging streak this week, blogging more than I have for a long time. This long weekend will probably offer up most of my posts because I doubt that I will be able to post in the coming week (it turns out that I will be busier than ever in my four-day week).

By the time Sunday came around, I felt like it should be Monday. I expected it to end. And by today, I was starting to get quite used to not going to school. It felt like a mini summer almost but not quite. I hope tomorrow won't be too rude for me. I hope it won't be too terrible for me but I'll deal with it tomorrow.

I'll have to absolutely savor the hours of peace and tranquility that I have left. I can already tell that it will leave me all too soon and I already feel myself starting to become frazzled and crazy with worry for tomorrow again.

I won't think about the tests tomorrow until I have to study for them. No. I'll have to be absolutely relaxed  about it.

Of course, even better than a long weekend is a Winter or a Spring Break. My school district even wants to cut that. That's a different issue, though. I'll appreciate what I have for now and worry about the rest later.

Eating Disorders

Note: Yay! I was able to publish this early. It was a work in progress.

Eating disorders. When the word is said, people are likely to think of a stick-thin girl on the verge of death. They might possibly see this girl as an adolescent or as a movie star. Of course, that's the stereotype. Stereotypes, of course, are caricatures of a distant truth and this doesn't apply to all who have eating disorders.

A few days ago, I was requested to give my opinion on eating disorders. Quite frankly, I think that any "opinion" that deviates from what is an eating disorder is ignorance. Eating disorders are eating disorders. They are mental illnesses and not "choices", destructive patterns of behavior that develop over a period of time by people who are using food to deal with problems in their lives. Unfortunately, eating disorders are given so much stigma in today's society that many do not realize them for what they actually are.

Before I begin, I would like to say that eating disorders can afflict just about anyone. Eating disorder sufferers are of all genders, races, ages and sizes. You cannot always "tell" that someone has an eating disorder and you cannot "choose" to have an eating disorder (a wannarexic is not an anorexic though they have problems of their own). This is not just a modern problem but has been a problem that has existed for centuries (the term "anorexia nervosa" was coined in 1873).

Below are the diseases classified as eating disorders. In order to understand what I'm talking about, you have to understand the specific disorders. It should be noted that I did not include pica and rumination because I did not think of them as pertinent to the discussion.

The disorders recognized by NIMH:
Anorexia nervosa- Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which the sufferer eats less than the healthy amount of food per day through intense weight to lose rituals. This is marked by low body weight, low self-esteem/distorted thinking and by a loss in menses if the sufferer is female. Usually, this is done in order to gain control and perfection. 20% of anorexia sufferers die as a result of their illness either by suicide (brought on by the depression the condition brings) or of direct physical complications of their illness. Also, a number of permanent physical complications may ensue. Most of its sufferers are female and the illness is likely to develop in adolescence though this is not always the case.

Bulimia nervosa- Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the sufferer goes through regular periods of binging followed by purging in order to gain control. Methods of purging include intense exercise, vomiting and laxative abuse. It can result in problems of the throat, teeth, intestines, muscles and more. Despite the common perception, many bulimia sufferers are of average weight or are overweight.

Binge eating disorder- Binge eating disorder is where the sufferer consumes large amounts of food in one sitting but doesn't purge.  This is often rapid, out of control and sporadic eating that is done because the sufferer is anxious and/or depressed. This is technically classified under EDNOS. While this eating disorder happens to be downplayed and its sufferers deemed as having poor self-control, this is a very serious eating disorder. The sufferers of this disorder have just as many underlying emotional problems as sufferers of anorexia and bulimia. They risk complications of obesity as well as risking intestine ruptures while they binge.

EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified)- EDNOS is where the sufferer does not meet the criteria for anorexia or bulimia. The sufferer may have anorexic behaviors but be of a normal body weight or they might still have their period if they are female. EDNOS includes purging disorder, in which the sufferer purges after only small intakes of food and binge eating disorder.

The disorders not yet recognized as mental illnesses but are considered by many to be:
Night eating syndrome- An emerging eating disorder that primarily affects young women, night eating syndrome is what it sounds like. The sufferers eat large quantities of food at night while skipping meals during the day.

Orthorexia nervosa- Orthorexia nervosa is when a person has an obsession with being "pure" and eating pure foods to the point of unhealthiness. It differs from anorexia nervosa because of the different goals of its sufferers though it appears similar. This is not yet officially diagnosed as a mental disorder.

Diabulimia- Diabulimia is a type of disordered eating in which someone with diabetes cuts off their insulin to lose weight. Its sufferers suffer many of the ailments seen in people whose diabetes remains untreated. Again, this too is not officially considered a condition.

Now that eating disorders have been lined out, it is important to consider the effect that this has on the sufferer and their families. Eating disorders cause the sufferers to lie about their food intake and become obsessed with their eating habits. The eating disorder literally takes over the sufferer's life and oftentimes, it ends it. While the eating disorders are different as well as the behaviors displayed by those who suffer it, an eating disorder signifies a severe emotional disturbance that should not be underplayed. Oftentimes, eating disorders are not really about eating and weight but are about gaining and losing control.

The idea that these disorders could be glamorized is sickening, especially when you consider the fact that many of these pro-mia and pro-ana people do not have an eating disorder at all. Eating disorders are deadly as well as physically and mentally detrimental. The true suffering of those who have it is what makes this so deplorable. One may choose to starve themselves and choose to engage in disordered eating but you cannot choose to develop an eating disorder. These behaviors show themselves over time.

Also, I do believe that the public has a number of misconceptions about eating disorders, the idea that they can be chosen only one of them. Eating disorders and their sufferers are both glamorized and reviled by today's culture when in fact both of these approaches are wrong.

First of all, the media does not cause eating disorders. They can certainly trigger eating disorders and cause low self-esteem but they do not cause them. Eating disorders develop over time, like I said, and they are also a result of long-term emotional problems. Models and actresses (and actors) are more at-risk to develop eating disorders simply because of the type of environment they are in. They also don't "choose" to have eating disorders though.

Secondly, not only do eating disorder sufferers not choose to have an eating disorder but they are not selfish. They are sick people in need of help who are acting that way because they are ill. Many of them are also depressed too. You can't expect an addict to stop getting high or drinking because you tell them to stop so how can you expect an eating disorder sufferer to stop their behaviors because you tell them to stop? It's pretty easy to take care of the physical problems for the most part if solved early but it's so much more than that.

I remember when Isabel Caro, a European model known for her shocking anti-eating disorder ads, died after a long battle with anorexia. Some of the comments were downright shocking. Commenters were calling her selfish, vain, stupid, ridiculous, ungrateful. They asked how she could have done that when there were people starving in Africa and who had been starved in Africa? Isabel Caro had a choice. These comments were shocking and only revealed societal stigma of eating disorder suffered.

At the end of the day, eating disorders are serious health problems that need to be treated as such. At the same time, eating disorder sufferers need to be treated as they are- sick people who need help. They deserve to be treated with compassion and their situation needs to be treated seriously.

Society needs to lose this stigma against mental illness. It's deterring progress and it's not doing justice to the seriousness of this problem.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spoiled Kids

Spoiled kids. They seem to permeated today's society and the structure of the family. Of course, they are the result of many things. It would be easy to blame the parents but I think personally it's much more complicated than that. Spoiled kids have been around for a long time; however, there seems to be more of them leading me to think that many of them might be in part a product of this generation. The popular video Facebook: for the troubled teen seems to be circulating the web recently, bringing this issue up to my attention. Perhaps I am a little late on the subject but I would like to give my two cents on it nonetheless.

Before I begin, I would like to state the difference between privileged and spoiled. Being privileged is recognizing the many things you have while being spoiled is not. Spoiled children usually want more while privileged children recognize what they have. This is an important difference. I would like to think of myself as privileged though I have my spoiled moments.

The spoiled child makes everyone's life a pain. Many of them do not have regards for the lives of others but can only think of themselves.

They believe that the world owes them something and thus they are responsible for nothing. They have a constant want for more, more, more. Their every wish must be gratified and if it's not, their parents suddenly become some of the most evil people in the world. They have absolutely no value for what they have so they will not think twice about leaving it out or possibly breaking these very objects. Usually they are of the middle or upper class.

We all know who these children are. We've probably met them in our everyday lives. For me, many of them are the stupid bitches I know in school who of course have every brand name and they are the troublemakers in school not accountable to the teachers. They have just about everything they want and they have no sense of how fortunate they are.

Of course, these children cannot be punished and are extremely hard to control the more they grow. When they grow up, it is even more difficult to control them and they have to wait a little bit to find out what exactly is coming their way. Often the spoiled child is set up for failure and, in a way, their parents are too (especially when they get older and these spoiled children cannot bother to be in their presence).

Now, what causes them? It's easy to say their parents. According to the many parents I've heard from, parenting is the hardest job in the world. It's extremely difficult to say no to a child and it's even harder to actually discipline them. Obviously, though, when this is not done and the child is not made to work for what they have, they become spoiled. There become a natural set of qualities that come to a child like this.

Yet I believe an underlying cause of this is the way society works today. In today's world, we are filled with gadgets. These gadgets are more expensive than most other toys. The Internet and the TV have inundated us with the message of consumerism, telling us to want more, more, more and that we deserve more. These messages do not teach us self-control but rather to blow caution to the wind. They teach us instant gratification instead of the virtues of patience and hard work. Thus, parenting becomes harder in this day and age.

There is also the problem of the attitude in modern society. At the very least, punishing your child was more acceptable in the past. I am definitely against physical punishment but at least that was something. Now, the idea of multiple chores is unacceptable to many. The idea of little Johnny's self-esteem becomes so important that this little Johnny is exempt from criticism.

While the actions of the parent in the above video were lauded by many, many criticized this parent as being emotionally abusive and of being too extreme. Personally, my only complaint is that this laptop was not wasted and not given to someone who actually needed it.

According to, emotional abuse is ignoring, verbally assaulting, rejecting, isolating, exploiting/corrupting, terrorizing and neglecting the needs of the child. None of these behaviors were exhibited in the above video. It could be argued that this father was isolating his daughter by his actions but I disagree. His daughter is still allowed to go to school and she will not be permanently grounded. It's not like the Internet is a right. Also, he had no idea the video would go viral in the first place so he had no idea of the embarrassment he might cause (on the other hand, she did humiliate him and the other adults in her life by posting that message on Facebook in the first place). I seriously doubt that anyone at her school will make fun of or even recognize her father; if they do know her, they'll be like, "damn, glad this wasn't me" or "your dad sucks". That's not how most teens think. People need to get real.

The idea of spoiled children is a serious issue in our society that needs to be dealt with. The welfare of my generation as well as those very kids depends on it.

By the way, I say kudos to that dad! His daughter's behavior, while normal teenage rebellion, was unacceptable and needed to be dealt with. His punishment will definitely stick and I'm sure it's made other kids think twice.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Importance of Health

Health. It is the physical state of your body, how well it is. When you are older, it tends to deteriorate. For most, keeping in good health does not require much more than going to the doctor's every once in a while and eating the right foods. But then there are the others. The others who treat their bodies poorly or have some organ shut down or something not work through no fault of their own. These are the people with bad health. These are the ones who know to appreciate good health because they have been deprived of it; the rest of us don't often think of it because we don't have to.

I thought about it because today I went to CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia), a visit that I had to wake up early for and everything. I went there to see this doctor that I've been seeing since I was little. Since I had a dislocated hip that went uncaught until I was a toddler and starting walking, I had to get two surgeries on it and I had to go see this specialist over there every year (every two years since I've gotten older). Today has been my last visit and, according to him, my hip should last for sixty or seventy more years. It will never be a normal hip but it's a healthy one.

Of course, this is great news. It's much better than what it could have been. I was ten when I got my last surgery. I still remember certain experiences of being in a wheelchair and what exactly it meant to be handicapped. Fortunately for me, my situation was quite temporary and quite easy to recover from with proper care.

Others aren't so lucky. Every time I go to CHOP, I am forced to face the reality that not all kids will have the life I have. Not all kids will leave the hospital and not all the kids will get better. Some of the kids I see probably won't make it to their eighteenth birthday. The hospital smells like antiseptic but there is also a strong taste of hope mixed with thin smiles and despair. Just sitting there can make me antsy particularly when I'm around one of those sick kids in the waiting room (it's a struggle not to stare at them or to pity them).

Healthy days are good days for them, I suppose. Healthy days are probably just being able to reach the goal they set for themselves.

It's amazing to me how much people take their health for granted. They go to tanning beds every week; they nonchalantly stuff their face; they wear their limbs out by doing all sorts of dangerous things. Many never even considered the possibility of illness unless they become sick or handicapped.  These kind of people just assume that good health is some kind of natural, God-given right instead of something they have to work for. Many of them just assume it will never happen of them and thus reject the possibility of organ donation or giving money to St. Jude's at the checkout counter (as if they can't really spare a few bucks) or even leaving that handicapped parking space open for somebody who actually needs it.

Having bad health severely limits your life and the things you can do with it. It makes most hobbies (particularly physical ones) impossible. When you're sick and tired, you never feel like doing anything so having a bad heart or feeling the aftereffects of chemo must be that much worse.

I remember when I was wheelchair-bound and how I realized how many little things I took for granted. Suddenly little things like going to the bathroom and going up the stairs became difficult for me. Going through my historical town was extremely difficult for me and even going through aisles of a store suddenly became difficult for me to navigate. The idea that I can't imagine the kind of life someone must have who is permanently like that or who have other conditions on top of that (like weak muscles or a bad organ).

The truth is that bad things can arbitrarily happen to people. We all could have been born with bad genes or a terrible condition just like we could have been born into any other circumstance; we can all have children or nieces/nephews with this someday. Every healthy person is lucky to be healthy and should keep the unhealthy in mind.

It's important to keep all of the things we have in mind. Good health should definitely be included with all of that.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Swimming. It gets your hair wet and your heart pumping. It's not exactly the environment you're built for as a human being but somehow humans have adapted to it nonetheless. People swim in swimming pools and in oceans, risking drowning and chemical exposure as they do so (as well as the other things they have to ingest when they accidently take a swallow).  Freshmen are required to spend at least one marking period of it. Of course, gym is every other day so every other day I am required to get into the water.

I actually like swimming today much better than most gym classes for some reason. Somehow it's more bearable in the water and I get exercise in without sweating. Unfortunately, we're taking up a lifeguarding class because most in my class voted for it which basically means less exercise for me (he expects us to "practice"). Of course, I have to say that it's producing and has produced quite a bit of anxiety in terms about having to worry about getting ready for it and everything but other than that, it's pretty great.

I had to make up a swimming class that I missed today. Even though I had acting (it alternates between gym and your elective),  I still had to go and swim anyway. Fortunately, I didn't have to go through with the lifeguarding aspect of it but instead I swam sixteen lengths of the pool (this translates to eight laps in my book). Because of the swim team, I got relegated to the lane that wasn't really a lane but the space between the other lane and the rail at the side of it (I was kind of freaked out of the possibility of drowning, especially since I was getting more tired and didn't have that much space to swim).

All of this, of course, got me thinking about everything about swimming.

Swimming has a lot of health benefits to the average person. It's good for your bone health, your flexibility, etc. Also, it even burns more calories than you would get on the treadmill or something because you have to work against the water.

I'm not going to say that doing laps is a great feeling. It's better than working out on the treadmill but it's still exhausting. It gets tiring pretty easily and it's not like you can't even drink any water. I was also a little embarrassed at my mediocre swimming skills and how pathetic is looks. On top of that, I had to deal with the waves the swimmers made and being splashed by them (in my tiny lane where I was afraid of drowning).

I do admit to getting in the zone, to feeling pumped. It was the greatest feeling having finished a lap and knowing that I was getting some exercise out of it too. Swimming is pushing your body as far as it can be pushed, though. It's of mastering the water and somehow making your way through it; it's pushing past physics to stay afloat and to trudge on.

I probably could have lied about my time. I did during the mile in gym when I cut a lap or two. At one point, my gym teacher even asked me if I was done because he wanted to make room for another swimmer. However, the reason that I didn't was because I figured I could get another exercise day in (I've been trying to lose weight since about May. So far, I've lost seven pounds or so). Once I was done, I was quite glad.

I survived swimming and got out of the pool. I have to say, I'm quite glad I did it and much prefer it to regular swimming.

I survived swimming, yes. I beat it and I even got some exercise in.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Anne Rice and Author Visits in General

I endured an hour of traffic, lines and carrying a beautiful but extremely heavy book to get signed and all on a stomach that was running on a small amount of hastily eaten food.  My mother, on top of all of this, had to deal with the paying of money to do this and worrying about her coworker and getting his book for his wife signed. While I was doing this, I had to fight off the growing feelings of excitement from consuming me whole.

I was going to see the mother of the modern-day vampire! I can't say that's something that one does every day.

After all that, I finally got to see her. Well, I should say I got into the auditorium where she was at least. Then I got to wait a little bit, chew on my Peanut Chews, listen and watch the library getting/ begging for money and listen to an apparent vampire introduce her. Then I got to see her.

It was well worth it. She was interesting to listen to and very passionate about what she was talking about. I must say that it really was a little strange to actually see her. She even looked nervous at the beginning although later on it was only her shaking hands that gave her away (obviously, she forgot that her fans appreciate anything coming out of her mouth as long as it's English. Maybe she was always nervous of that kind of thing, though).

Half of it was her talking and the other half was Q&A. Her answers to the questions were interesting and informative.

I was the last one to pose a question, too. It was great! The guy next to her was usually the one to pick the people out of the crowd. She specifically said, "How about the girl in the blue in the middle? She seems to be raising her hand a lot." I almost died of joy.

First of all, I would have absolutely loved to have a conversation with her but I didn't quite get that opportunity. I had so much to say. However, I did end up condensing one of my thoughts to one question. I asked her how it felt for her to deal with such personal issues when she was writing (she writes mostly fantasy books) and how she ended up dealing with it when that became too much. She responded that she had to write where the pain was and then talked about a few books that were particularly difficult for her to write.

I'd like to think that something about me or her question will stick in her mind but she'll probably forget me in a few days if she hasn't already.

My one complaint is that I didn't get the chance to get my book autographed. Despite the fact that my mom paid premium seating for the both of us, somehow the people from Simulcast (for all the people who didn't buy the tickets in time- it sold out, of course, so they paid to watch it in the other room) and other random people had priority. She called to complain at the unfairness of it and hopefully I won't have to go through a similar experience with Jodi Picoult. I ended up e-mailing her but I doubt that she'll respond (especially not when she's probably dealing with the Carpal Tunnel she got from writing all of those signatures!).

Anne Rice was the fourth author that I got to see so far. I have also seen Jay Asher, Shannon Hale and Suzanne Collins (well, maybe more if you count the school visits though Jordan Sonneblick is the only one of those whose books I actually read). I missed an event with Melissa Marr in my local Barnes and Noble, something I'm still kicking myself over.

Author visits are especially informative to me as a writer. It's so interesting to see the different points of views of the writers on being a writer and to see them talking about their books. Often, the writers give an insider's perspective on the characters and you see things in a totally new way, in a way that you don't really see them before.

Author visits are also that one thing to look forward to. That one thing to count down and get super excited about when things seem to be especially boring. It's so much fun to go in the city because even though it's much more stressful than going to our local Barnes and Noble (especially since it usually ends up in my mom getting lost and in bad neighborhoods), it gives it a more exciting and foreign feeling to it.

Of course, none of those visits would have ever been possible without my mom. She feeds my lovely artist brain at any chance that she can and so much of my experiences wouldn't have been possible without her. When my mom was growing up, her parents were confined by a specific brand of Spanish chauvinism that dictated that women were meant to be homemakers and the ones to rear the children, making higher education ridiculous (training as a secretary was fine, though). They've been much more flexible about this and have changed many of these views once they saw what my mom was able to do but that doesn't change the fact that she did it pretty much on her own. That's why I'm even more impressed by her. My dad's supportive too but he doesn't like it as much and she's the one to organize things usually.

I absolutely cannot wait until March for Jodi Picoult now. I must say that she has a pretty high standard to live up to now, though. I'm hoping that the fact that it's realistic fiction she writes doesn't make it less interesting.

Bottom line is that author visits are awesome. Anne Rice is pretty great too and I'd suggest watching her YouTube videos and reading her books if you haven't already.

Not my event! I have pics but the quality didn't turn out good enough and they were a little small.

Friday, February 10, 2012


When you play a game, only two options can come about. You can win or you can lose. Unfortunately, I seem to lose a lot when I play games (most likely due to the fact that many of these games are sports-related). Losing is a part of life, the default to winning.

For example, I made it to semis Wednesday but I lost. And, also, sometimes I don't always get what I want. Sometimes I have bad days and I forget homework assignments which I considered losses by their very nature.

Losing. A game, life, something. For me, it's sometimes meant that I didn't do something right. I used to think that losing was connected to failure and that failure was connected with losing, with not doing things right. Losing is sometimes connected to hoping and then feeling that hope fall and knowing that things will never work out.

It's a disappointing feeling, feeling your heart sink in your chest. Some people don't respond gracefully to this and make a big fuss about losing and others just nod and say that it was a good game. Some people don't even care if they win or lose but they just want to have fun; those people don't take it personally when they lose and they don't feel like it reveals a flaws in them.

The worst part about losing is acting gracefully afterwards. Acting like everything is okay and you're not thinking of all the racing thoughts.

I remember the election of '08 and how close it was. I thought about how McCain must have felt and how hard that must have been for him. Still, he didn't insult Obama or anything but he took it with grace. This must have had to apply to him also and that doesn't really compare to my debate issues of course.

I now know that losing and making mistakes aren't failures but simply a part of life and growing up. Everyone has to go through them, at one time or another. Sometimes these are over simple things and sometimes they are over big ones.

Every day is a new day, though, I suppose. You might lose big one day and win big the next day and then have everything start all over again.

On the day I lost semis, I got my first A in Math class this year in my current class. It wasn't even an A minus but an A. I suppose it is possible to win big and lose big on the same day, in that case and you might as well take what you can find.

When I got into the car with my dad, my couch told him that I did great that year and he hoped that I would come back next year. I didn't feel like I did great in debate at all but I actually felt like I did a pretty terrible job. I suppose what he was trying to do was reward my efforts because it didn't matter that I won or lost- it mattered that I tried and I went to all the practices and I honestly tried to connect to the other people on the team.

So, I suppose, I didn't lose so much. I gained a new experience and a new way of thinking; I met new people that I had interesting conversations with; I had fun once I got past all of the stress and anxiety I put around it. Best of all, debate taught me that it is quite possible to get past my anxiety and insecurities even if I did suffer quite a few panic attacks for it.

Maybe you never really lose. You always gain some sort of lesson.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Course Selection

Course selection. It's an excuse for kids to leave classes and teachers that they despise for something so easy to them. It's the one time many sit face-to-face with their counselor since an introduction meeting. The counselor sits on the computer and talks about what the classes are like and college and everything.

It seems quite odd that I'm already thinking about next year's classes but I figured that I would give it a shot.

I did it with my mother yesterday. Still, as more kids left yesterday, it got me thinking about a few things.

It was done in twenty minutes. It was something that was such a big deal and would totally impact my life for next year and it was done in only a few minutes. I went up to my classes in no time and it was like nothing had happened.

Next year, I will be a sophomore. The year after that I will be a junior. And then, after that... I will be a senior and then I will graduate. That's a lot of stuff for me to think about, although I'm sure that it will be something done gradually but still... It's a scary thought.

I'm already thinking about college now. In fact, college is the driving motivator for my thoughts now and everything. College was a driving motivator in which courses I selected and I thought about how it would look.

This just means I'm moving up. I heard the sophomore year's a lot harder but apparently it's simply more work. Junior year will be even harder and it has even more testing thrown into the mix (let's hope I survive!). Plus, Math will probably be the hardest that year if I truly am returning to Algebra from Geometry (it all depends on how it works out).

Moving up and away from things is simply a part of life. I will have to accept that I will not be a part of high school forever.

I kind of want to be though. High school has offered me so many experiences I never experienced and I really enjoy the clubs and everything. I'm not sure I'll get the same experiences in college and that's a little sad.

I can get over it though. I just have to think of everything in a positive light.

I'm sure many would find it odd how I'm thinking about college already. This should probably be one of those times where I should really apply "carpe diem" here. I have to enjoy things, not think about when they're going to end.

Course selection. Of course, it's subject to change but it basically means that my entire sophomore year is mapped out for me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Susan Komen and Planned Parenthood

It was a battle between two powerful forces. The media responded; the Internet responded; the people responded. Now, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has now reversed this decision and will now continue to fund Planned Parenthood. However, the issue was far from over. Perhaps I'm a little late in writing this but I figured I'd write it anyway.

First of all, the Susan G. Komen Foundation only gave Planned Parenthood a small portion of their funds. According to ABC News, the Susan G. Komen Foundation gave 2,000 organizations $93 million and of that money, Planned Parenthood only received $680,000.  Still, it was the symbolism behind this. Planned Parenthood has often been the center of controversy. They have been defunded by the government and by various other organizations. Their aims and operations have frequently misunderstood.

Planned Parenthood is most known by the abortion and contraceptive services that it offers. This has mostly been the reason why it's considered as evil and sinful by many right-wing Christian groups. There has been a midst of erroneous claims about including the idea that 90% of Planned Parenthood's services are abortions and that the government funds abortions at Planned Parenthood. However, abortion and contraception services are only a small portion of what Planned Parenthood offers and only part of a larger picture.

Only 3% of Planned Parenthood's services were abortions both in 2009 and 2010 (I couldn't find one from 2011, although I'm sure it hasn't changed that drastically). Only about a third of their services were contraception services.

So how was Susan G. Komen involved?

Well, it turns out that approximately 15% (note- I'm taking in both the 2009 and 2010 figures) of their services are for cancer screening. Specifically, the Susan G. Komen offers Planned Parenthood money for mammograms.

According to the foundation, they were cutting the money for Planned Parenthood because there was better, more mainstream services out there. Of course, it's impossible to deny the controversy that has surrounded the organization and it's hard not to wonder whether or not that was factor in their former decision.

It seems like lately everyone is cutting access to Planned Parenthood. The reason why that is so terrible is that Planned Parenthood offers services to those that are unable to get it- the poor and uninsured, teenagers ashamed and often getting these services in secret. It offers their services for free or at a very low price. When people say they want to cut Planned Parenthood, they are ultimately taking away the necessary health care of millions.

It's always a shame when the lives of women (and men! Planned Parenthood offers STD screening and cancer screening for them too) become just another political ploy. This is not just another distant issue but ones that affect real people.

The public uproar over this was fantastic and shows that people really can connect over issues they care about. Hopefully, the conservatives who bust on Planned Parenthood will be able to see the value of (and maybe even use) their services.

Friday, February 3, 2012


They say the truth sets you free. I'd imagine that the idea behind this is that once you tell someone the truth that the boulder you've been holding inside of you that is so big will be released. However, I am not always sure this is the case. Sometimes, the truth can bring a whole new set of complications. Sometimes, people don't always like honesty.

I dream of living in an honest world where I could just stop pretending. You know, a world where I wouldn't have to pretend I didn't like someone or that I'm always okay all the time or that I don't really, really want to be someone's friend. It would also be kind of nice if other people were honest so I could see the real version of them and understand. This honest world, however, will never happen I suppose so I will stop pretending.

Still, what if it did? What if we were all truly honest?

I know a boy who can't lie. He blurts out things and sometimes people laugh or look at him strangely. I don't blame him for it, though. In fact, I admire and like him as much as I feel bad for him in these moments.

I don't know if I could ever have the courage to be totally honest. Still, it is an interesting thing to look at the pros and cons of honesty.

I know that honesty is my first step to being assertive. You know, telling people how I feel and everything. It can tell people that you are not to be stepped on, that you have feelings too. In these kind of situations, I suck at being honest. These situations can make others unhappy with you but it ultimately is what makes you feel better. It makes the above situation definitely valid. That situation, for me, has always been nerve-wracking but freeing when it's always occurred. In this case, honesty causes better communication and thus better relationships.

Yet, at the same time, the truth can hurt. As in hurt I mean hurt both involved- the teller and receiver. Sometimes the truth can sneak out or just be blurted out. This is what white lies are often for but still... Sometimes this can be a necessary thing. Necessary but painful nonetheless. Sometimes it simply must come out but its coming out benefits no one. Also, sometimes it can simply embarrass and ruin a person.

At the same time, sometimes it can hurt and heal. Sometimes it can mean coming forward or confessing a long-hidden truth.

I suppose the best thing to do is to tell the truth consistently, so the little ugly truths don't get buried under the rug and rot as they build up. Telling the truth consistently leads to better communication and ensures no one gets stepped on. In the end, the truth is better.

I was thinking about this topic for a variety of reasons- my continual need to be assertive and urge for honesty, writing about hard topics that need to be heard like bullying, watching the scene of Glee character Santana coming out to her abuela after it was mentioned by YouTuber Brittanysoficial.

Honesty, though hard, is important I guess. I only need to learn how to speak the truth aloud.