Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Birthdays, Growing Older and a Thank You

Author's Note: Before I begin, I would like to thank Jade! Don't worry about being broke; this gift is awesome ;)

Also, thanks to anyone who clicked the link and gave this blog a try. Hope I don't disappoint anyone and please keep the comments flowing!

They come once a year in the form of a much needed break from reality. Of course, it only marks an anniversary They are supposed to be on one day but, if I'm honest, my family happens to celebrate them on several different occasions. It is typically celebrated with cake, presents and sometimes a party.

Today, I turned fifteen. I recognize that this particular birthday was acknowledged not only by people I know but people I don't know. I suppose I've pimped it out enough but I can't help but think about the philosophical implications.

Most of the time, my actual birthday is separate from all of the fanfare that accompanies it. Usually, it happens to be during a school day so I have to be there anyway. The actual birthday is so mundane for me that I often even forget that it's my birthday throughout the course of the day (as I did today, I admit). It's not like I really got any breaks or anything special (except even more homework than usual, of course).

I find it so strange, birthdays. Anyway it's not like there's this glow or anything but it just feels like any other day. When I was younger, they made me leap out of bed but now that I'm older... I don't know. It's not like I'm an adult and hate turning older but they don't make me excited anymore. If anything, I feel scared thinking about them in depth.

It's that one special day, just for you, though. I remember one of my teachers who even said that your mothers should be the ones celebrating not you. Being born wasn't an accomplishment after all (of course, growing up as a poor farmer boy, I doubt he had the same birthday opportunities). Birthdays are just a way people say, "I'm glad you exist."

I'm fifteen. That's still not a lot, especially considering that a lot of people live to be a hundred now. It's still a lot older than it used to be.

Fifteen is only three years away from eighteen and only one year away from sixteen. When I'm eighteen, I'm legally responsible for myself and when I'm sixteen, I'm able to get a permit in the state of Pennsylvania.

When I was younger, I wanted to be an adult so badly that it wasn't even funny. I felt that no one took me seriously as a kid and I wasn't allowed to do anything. Each birthday I became older, and I was one step closer to becoming an adult. Still, adulthood seemed so far away so I never really handle it on my own.

I'm not an adult yet, but I'm not a kid anymore. Such is the usual dilemma of the adolescent.

The idea of growing older terrifies me. I don't know if I'll be able to handle college or driving or getting a job. I don't even know if I'll be able to do every day activities (I still can't cook yet). Worse yet, what if I end up being a failure? I know it's stupid to think about it already but it isn't that far off. It's nice to think that my writing will be my job and everything but that's completely unrealistic and I know that (the statistics are quite grim, even for writers who are good and have ambitions).

I know I shouldn't have such morbid thoughts on my birthday and that I should be happy. Still, I'm an anxious person and my birthday always makes me think such thoughts.

On the bright side, I am going out for Indian food later on with my mom. So I can put those kinds of thoughts on the shelf for now. I have so many things to celebrate in the present instead of worrying about the future.

I'm going to let my hair fly back and unwind for a bit. It is my birthday after all, so life can resume a bit later.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Party! The word usually brings the image of hyped up kids and cheer.

There's nothing like a good party, especially among friends. Combine that with a sleepover and lots of sugar and you've got trouble. Oh and add to the fact that they're my friends and that adds to all of it.

Anyway, I've written about sleepovers here before and while that's applicable here, I believe the party element is more important here. It definitely has that vibe to it.

Of course, my birthday isn't technically until the 28th of March and not yesterday. But still. It was considered my birthday anyway and I was the birthday girl. I got the end of the table, the first piece of cake and a ton of different presents. And, of course, I got the wonderful honor of being the hostess and I didn't have to worry about being on the fringe of it all (that part, while demanding, was especially cool).

So, as I stated before, it took a little nerve for me to put this on. I was thinking about how no one would come and then I would have to go through the mortifying process of cancelling it. I was also super scared that it would suck and everyone would think that it was lame and hate me for it. Or that I would be a terrible hostess. And, of course, there was the planning part (which I'm not too good at). But I still did it. That part was good at least.

There's something nice about parties. If they are of the birthday variety, they only come once a year so they're super special.

Somewhere along the line, my birthday parties went from inviting the whole class to only inviting my closest friends. From carefully coordinated parties that only lasted a few hours to spontaneous sleepovers. Still, over the years, I've enjoyed them just as much.

I think the best part about birthday parties is that feeling of being at the center of attention. That probably sounds pretty shallow but it's true. You don't have to fight for it and you don't have to share it. It's all about you and that's something that I'm sure even the most modest person can appreciate. Being the center of attention makes you feel loved. I especially felt loved when I got my cards, many of them custom-made by my friends.

Not to mention it was super fun. One of my friends suggested we do this game we learned from acting class and we were cracking up at them. It was great! Not to mention that we all managed to make each other laugh and derp around quite well.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. Eventually, it fizzled out and we went home. Also, being the introvert I am, I needed a little bit of time to gain my energy and to recuperate from having a bunch of people over.

It didn't end there, though. I had my family come over for cake in the evening.

As my dad says, my sister and I have birthdays that never end.  I like it that way.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Small Victories

One plus one equals two. And then one more equals three, four, five and so on in a continual stream of numbers. It's kind of funny how things can add up into something special. When you can look at what you have done and smile. I seem to be doing that more and more lately and I've kind of proud of myself for doing that.

Lately, I've been working really hard on overcoming my anxiety issues, both about life in general and social issues. They would seem pretty small to the average person but it took a long time for me to get to that point. And it's gotten me thinking about what success really is. 

I used to think that success just simply was. That the alternative was simply failure. It was a 50/50 outcome, basically. In my moments of lower self-esteem, I just simply thought that I was a failure since I didn't reach it. My ideas of success and failure looked something like this:

Now I feel like I can have a much broader sense of what that can be, exactly. I know that it can be black and white and that much of it is how you perceive it. Nothing is rigid or set in stone but flexible. Even if you're not doing so well at something, you can always do things to make yourself better at it.

It adds up after a while. "Success" and "failure" are not concrete titles; they're not Heaven or Hell. They are simply current states that come in varying degrees.

And, of course, you cannot accomplish victory all at once. As with everything, it has to be worked at. A little there and a little there can add up to something big in the end that can actually end up meaning something.

So the little things do matter. You can look at things and realized how far you have come.

I've learned that acknowledging your own strengths and your own successes does not necessarily make you an arrogant person. I've also learned that putting myself down just to make myself seem more humble to people really isn't all that healthy, either. So I might as well work on putting that theory into practice.

My small victories that have made me think of this are as follows: 1) I'm learning how to manage my stress. Before, worry was a constant in my life and, at any given moment, I was worried about something. Now I have moments of calm and can even forget about them for a while. Today, I got out of school for this clubs and I wasn't constantly thinking about what I was missing and how I would make it up. 2) I've planned my birthday party and I've actually went through with it. I haven't changed my mind because I thought it would suck or that no one would come. 3) I went into town today after school until six-thirty with my friends. Before, I might have lied and said I couldn't come because I was worried about homework and upsetting my routine or I would put off thinking about it. I didn't worry as much about my routine, which I have a hard time changing. 4) When I looked in the mirror, I liked what I saw. I've been feeling that way more lately. 5) I stood up to someone who I felt was stepping on me way too much recently. This was the hardest of all to do and the one I take the most pride in. Before, I would have taken her blows even though I swore I was going to say something.

Even as I wrote those, I was worried that I was gloating and that everyone who reads it will think I was arrogant. I'm publishing it anyway, though.

Those are baby steps but they're good anyway. I'm sure I've had less noticeable baby steps because I've noticed that I've made in that regard at least.

I'm sure everyone else has that one obstacle, too. That one thing or a bunch of things they want to do but can't. Some things are easier to overcome than others of course. In this situation, it takes time and the little things to add up.

I guess it takes determination too. It took that one day for me to get up and say that I was sick of my anxiety taking over my life. It just took one of those small little things that added up for me to say that I had enough. While I recognized that not all of it was my fault and not all of it would go away, I was determined to do what I could to stop it from affecting my life negatively.

Of course, now I'm starting to freak out about my party even though I know it will be fine.

If you need that one scrap of encouragement to go on with whatever endeavor you're doing, take this as a sign.

Because all it takes are those small victories to keep on going and to win out in the end. Keep trying for them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Project Promotion

For those interested in theology:

I have embarked on a challenge. Not only am I going to read the Bible (I read a lot of it already) but I am going to summarize it. Yes, you heard me.

Not only will you hear my atheistic view of the Bible, but you'll also have the chance to hear about the Bible from a devoutly religious person. So don't accuse it of being biased. We also both provide commentary on what we read.

Don't expect some boring old textbook version, either. This is the Bible both spiced up and easy to understand. And much shorter too!

Follow me on my journey here:

I'm sorry if you're new to this site and find it bogged down by this ad. Just look at the one below if you want real content.


They spit, they whisper, they punch, they cackle, they taunt and they jeer. In this modern age, they type. You are that tall brick wall that they want to tear down, a once-majestic building defiled by grafitti. I recently just read Dear Bully, an anthology about writers who have opened up about their experiences with bullying.

In many ways, reading that book was painful. It wasn't my usual getaway experience from the world but it brought me back to many of the things that I was trying to escape from.

This is something that I've been wanting to write about for a long time but the opportunity has never presented itself to me. I guess now it has.

I was bullied. Multiple times. However so many adults want to just brush it off as some normal childhood ritual or whatever, it's not.

Yes, it has built my character. It also ended up tearing me apart at some point and it has left me with profound emotional scars. It still affects me today- whenever I'm at school, with my friends, or even certain times when I'm alone. I'm not one to be crying victim here but it's true. However much I want to deny what happened, I can't.

To be honest, I've repressed a lot of these memories. I don't want to think about it or talk about it  or anything. It's how I've moved on and how I've kept it from totally killing me every day.

I've always been different. I guess they picked it out, like a scent. There was a time when I wasn't the nicest of people to my peers but I think a lot of that was because I simply didn't understand that. I used to be pretty confident as a little kid too so I think some of them just wanted to tear me down because of it.

It took me a while to realize that it was bullying. A lot of it was exclusion actually, being barred from the girls' table and having kids refuse to play with me. There were a few times when people actually berated me and pointed out all my flaws (okay, more than a few times). A few of them even called me some nice, four-letter names I won't repeat here. I've also been shoved and had books thrown at me, but besides that, I didn't really have any serious bullying happen. I didn't really let it tear me down until fifth grade, when I had to face it every day, all the time, and I didn't feel like I could tell anybody the extent of what was happening. And then eighth grade (last year) came along and it tore away everything I had left. Right now, I'm just trying to pick up the pieces and find the courage to be assertive once again.

I remember teachers looking the other way at these sorts of things, despite how they went on and on and on to us about how bullying was wrong. I also remember watching various scenes of bullying as a kid and not doing anything.

So, from all of this, I do believe I am quite qualified in saying that so many things that I have been told about bullying are wrong. And this is moving past the people who think that bullying is some kind of sick induction into life.

First of all, ignoring it is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. They don't give up; they only get more determined. And they multiply like the plague and get all of their little friends to go after you. Also, in the meantime, it still gets to you. I also find this a particularly cruel thing to say to expressive people and young children who are not as great at hiding their emotions. It's almost like saying that it's their fault.

On a similar vein, people say that only you give those words power. Excuse me? Again, this is blaming the victim and it's not fair. We are social creatures as human beings, first of all, and being left out and alienated goes against all that we are set up for. Do you really think that if they punch you enough or say enough things that it won't hurt you? That I'm letting them hurt me? I think it's pretty much impossible not to let those things get to me a little bit.

Secondly, I also get annoyed when people say that bystanders get involved. That is definitely something inconsiderate. I don't blame bystanders (besides the teachers, who could have done something) for not stepping in. Really, I don't. My bullies could have easily turned on them and many of them also barely escaped these bullies' attention. Maybe they could have diffused it but maybe not. I don't expect them to take the risk for someone that they hardly know. It's one thing if you happen to be confident and have If I can't stand up for myself, how am I supposed to stand up for somebody else? It's no good to save a drowning person if you can't swim yourself. I don't appreciate adults trying to make me feel guilty for that.

So why don't I tell a teacher? someone might ask. Well, good question. The problem is the teacher will probably be lazy, reprimand the student once, and then have everything go back to the way it was but worse. Telling the teacher is often anything but compassionate.

In addition, they tell you not to defend yourself even if you are being bullied physically. You're expected to wait for some white knight to come and save you. Well that's bullshit. Everyone should be encouraged to keep their minds sharp and their fists too, if they ever are bullied. I'm not saying start an all-out fight but I am saying that you should have the right to defend yourself.

I also get annoyed at the promise of "it gets better". While I appreciate the intent, I have a few problems with that. One, why do you have to wait until the end of high school? Why can't you try to do something about the bullying now? If the administration won't do something, I strongly recommend you getting other friends around you to help. Fellow outcasts make great allies, I must say. Also, if you can get out of that situation, I'd recommend things that help you build confidence so (or the appearance of confidence) so that the situation can be prevented from happening again. Secondly, it really only gets better if you want it to. While it's great to tell a depressed person that it will get better, that's not a guarantee. A lot of the better part of it comes from changing your surroundings and getting away from the toxic people that make your life hell. Bullies exist everywhere, unfortunately and are pretty much a constant of life.

Bullying is a big problem today but it also has been for a long time. I've had adults say to me that they never had all of these mental illnesses when they were kids or that no one killed themselves for bullying. That's blatantly wrong, though. It was just something that was tucked away and not talked about.

Many teachers don't think it's their problem. But really, it's everyone's problem. Not only does it permanantly mar a person's psyche, but it is also a huge distraction in school. It's hard to study when you have rumors flying in the air and  bullies up your back.

Hopefully, everyone will at least not bully. Also, it starts with developing an accepting environment. This can be done by accepting differences and not being so judgmental of other people's lifestyles (whatever they may be).

All I know is that that book really did get me thinking and I appreciated it.

The cynic in me doubts that bullying will ever be solved. It's human nature for many and it's been taught too frequently. I do hope that it can at least be reduced though.

If anything though, remember this. They might spit, they might whisper, they might punch, they might cackle, they might taunt and they might jeer. They might type their words of hate and they might start up rumors that might tear you apart. They might do all of this, but it is not your fault. It's theirs. They might get you to believe that there is something wrong with you but it isn't. It's all them. They have issues in their lives and hearts making them do this and many will regret it later. It may be impossible for them not to bruise you up a little bit, but don't let them conquer you.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Research Papers

You sit at the computer, index cards stretched across the table, your fingers typing furiously to try to get it over with. You worry about in-text citations, and grammar and punctuation. They leave you up until the wee hours of the night if you happen to be a procrastinator. You don't want to do it but all you know is that you want to get a good grade in the class. This is the dreaded thing that is called a research paper, something that you are utterly trying to avoid. I'm not writing one now. I'm just writing helping to write my own sister's research paper again, since she's utterly clueless and I'm taking pity on her. We'll be doing it again next weekend, though, so that should be fun. All I know is that she's lucky her sister is a nerd, despite all the times that she's wished I was "cooler" and "more normal".

I've had a pretty lax Social Studies teacher this year so I haven't had to write any myself this year. Still I remember those days.

Of course, we only have the Internet at home to rely on for this. We don't even have the opportunity to get any encyclopedias or anything.

Research is something I've always been good at. While I haven't written any actual research papers this year, my crazy English teacher has given us a ton of PowerPoints to do that made us incorporate research (I hate public speaking so I would have much rather have research papers, actually) so I'm a pro at in-text citations. I can hear my English teacher telling us how he'll take half off and make us re-do it after school if we didn't cite something properly, pictures included, and looking around at us with those sharp, eagle-like eyes of his (I'm fairly sure it's something that will haunt me for the rest of my life).

So, anyway, I'm a pro. I was skimming the articles, looking up key words, using those links down at the bottom of Wikipedia that actually are useful... It was all good and my sister was waiting on me hands and feet. It was all well and good and didn't actually take that long to do. I thought I was in the Zone.

And then came the last part.

Before I go on, let me explain. My sister is supposed to write a paper to Alexander Hamilton about a current issue and how she would solve it. The issue she had to pick, of course, was debt (I am clueless on economics. Pick any social issue and I can give you current events about it and In case you don't know, Alexander Hamilton was the Secretary of Treasury, so this made sense.
Of course, my sister knew nothing about either of these.

Now, I don't really know enough about Alexander Hamilton enough to give my two sense on it and I am absolutely clueless about economics in general. So I was stuck.

I have to say economics is incredibly confusing. All of the articles were either A) filled with jargon I didn't understand or B) not helpful.

So we enlisted some help. Big mistake.

My uncle is super-smart and everything and he happened to be over for Sunday dinner. He told us there was no easy answer before going on and on and on about all the things that were to be fixed. I wanted to shoot myself. My uncle kept talking and the paper remained blank and I was like, "Curse you, Rachael!" Of course, despite the fact that this was her project and not mine, she had left and come back later. I ended up zoning him out and writing my own stuff.

I have to say at this point I am so sick of old American politics and that time era that it isn't even funny. Just the thought of him makes me want to scream and the thought of economics in general makes me want to just have a total meltdown.

And I hate research now. I absolutely hate it! Ah...

I'm off to float around in a richer world now. At least my characters don't need a works cited after every sentence they speak.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I started it in August. An article in The Writer inspired me and the more I thought about it, the more I decided to give it a try. So I did it. I took that leap and decided to write my blog. I told myself that I needed to flex my writing muscles and that every real writer had a blog. I had attempted to blog in the past but none of those attempts had worked out so I wasn't quite sure that I would this time. Still, I figured it was worth the shot. I had nothing to lose, anyway, right? I only had things to gain and to learn.

Well I suppose something stuck. It's been six months and one hundred posts later. This is my hundredth post.

Wow. I can hardly believe that, either. That's about a hundred pages worth on Word, give or take a little bit (of course, I'm sure I would be farther alone if this were an actual novel).

I've certainly come along. At least I can now write about more than my anxiety over the start of high school and natural disasters. That has to be something surely.

My blog looks better, too. At some point, I learned a little bit about how to promote my blog so that I at least get some readership and I've learned how to add pictures to make it more reader-friendly and engaging. Over the week, I've learned how to add gadgets at the side of the page to make it look more impressive and I've added a kick-ass picture that I made with a free online software. I'm quite proud of those little accomplishments, though I'm aware that the average reader would think nothing of it.

Blogging has taught me so much about writing. I've learned how to write something other than fiction, I've gotten better with organizing my writing and I've learned how to condense my words to make it look a lot fresher. In addition, I've probably gotten better with style in general and being able to depict different scenarios in a coherent fashion. This feels like a whole new way of writing.

Blogging also has had its personal benefits. Writing has always been a form of expression and, through writing, I have always felt the greatest kind of release. My blog has offered me a specific place to vent and to express myself and it has also given me the ability to do so publicly.

I've felt like I've entered a whole new world in the blogosphere. This doesn't just pertain to writing blogs but looking at other blogs. I've found numerous blogs that are captivating and interesting and have also taught me a lot about how to write my own blog. I've been grateful for those experiences also.

So this is my big thank you to the blogosphere and blogging. Without it, I don't think I would have gained as much insight into both myself and humanity in general.

It's been one hundred posts- one hundred expressions of me, one hundred learning experiences, one hundred chances to grow and so much more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Weather

Spring has come again. It has sprung up suddenly like a beautiful rose in the middle of the sidewalk. On top of the fact that the state testing the juniors have to go through cut my own school day in half, I was greeted with sun and a beautiful spring breeze. Mother Nature has definitely proven her bipolar tendencies, considering that I was shivering in a heavy coat just last week (global climate change, anyone?).
Unfortunately, I had to go to school eventually and I now occupy it presently (yay for slacking off in the presence of a sub!). However, at least the day was delayed and I got to sleep in. The school's heating and air conditioning have not caught up and I happen to be smoldering in this room right now. That's another unfortunate thing.

Never mind that, though. I'll be focusing on the positives of this beautiful weather and maybe if I imagine that I'm out there long enough, I almost will be there in actuality.

For the last two days, the weather has been great. It hasn't rained and it hasn't been scorching hot, either. No, it's just been picnic weather, blue skies and spring breeze included. Spring has come and it hasn't even come slowly. This has just come with a bang and has knocked winter out of the park and into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The air is crisp, the kind of crisp that you can taste. When I'm outside, I can't help but want to breathe and breathe and breathe just to taste it. I want to lay in the grass even though it's itchy and bug-infested and just roll around in it. It fills my veins with a vivacity I haven't had since last spring and I just want to skip home and frollic when I come home from school. The weather almost inspires me to get my lazy ass outside and actually exercise.

Not even the fact that my English teacher has given me a backpack full of homework bothers me. Whenever I'm outside, I can even let that slide.

I could literally hear the birds and the crickets chirp mingle with the sound of cars rushing past me and they just feel like they're a part of a harmony as I walked to the bus stop. A beautiful harmony that I'm in, something strangely natural. It's almost like The Sound of Music and I feel like someone should be breaking out in song any minute and skipping around with a big herd of little munchkins any minute ("Do, a deer, a female deer...").

Since the ice skating rink is closed this weekend, I'm almost tempted to ask my family to go to the park. For some reason, that feels right. The idea of a picnic or trying to learn to roller-skate surrounded by the trees and the breeze feels incredibly right to me somehow.

I'm sure this post sounds like I'm some sort of nature lover or something. I'm not. Just ask my family on the occasions we've went canoeing or done anything remotely nature-like. So I genuinely have no idea why I'm so in love. I just kind of am. Maybe it's the fact that I'm safely near civilization and can appreciate this natural/artificial hybrid of a world I live in.

Now, if you excuse me, I should probably be getting back to work. If I get to work and that goes by quickly enough, maybe I can enjoy the outside.
Me right now in this room. Damn the school heating system!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Beauty 101:  Your Makeup Removal Questions, AnsweredAmerican women depend on it. There are constant blogs, magazines, and shows dedicated to it. It fuels the media and the society that we live in. It is plastered on faces, billboards and advertisement.
I didn't realize how important makeup was to me until I had to go outside without it. I had to go out yesterday for various errands and my cold didn't give me the energy to go up the stairs. And so, I went outside with no makeup.

I swore that I would never become one of those girls who would become like this but, lo and behold, I have. Makeup has become the cornerstone of my day and, if something happens, it's totally ruined. I find myself worrying about whether it's gotten smudged or something constantly and checking the mirror all of the time in the hallways. When I had to swim in school for the first time, I was freaking out that I ruined it.

People rip into makeup all the time and say they like "natural beauty" and that "it gives girls low self-esteem" and that "it makes people dependent on it".

I've decided that it's harmless. I've had self-esteem issues regarding my looks for as long as I can remember. For the longest time, I've pretended that I wasn't feeling that way and just didn't look at mirrors. I told myself that caring about my appearance was stupid and shallow and that I needed to depend more on my looks. There was a nagging fear inside of me that even if I did lose weight and everything, I would still feel bad about myself. But then I came to realize that I DID care about my appearance and I decided to do something about it.

That something was makeup. And a makeover.
I started as an amateur so I bought colors that didn't really suit me. Up until that point, I only wore makeup on occasion with the help of my sister. Even though I'm olive-skinned, I bought light gold and brown eyeshadow. My lipstick was some kind of reddish orange color that didn't really work well. I didn't straighten my hair the right way so it had this weird little pixie look. Let's say that I'm definitely glad that it was over the summer.

It got better, though. I got plum lipstick, first of all. Even though I still went on using the boring eyeshadow, the lipstick definitely made my lips pop. I even got a few compliments for the shade, which made me happy.

And then my mom got me an eyeshadow kit. I got to pick out all sorts of colors so that they could match my clothes. I have to say, I definitely had fun with them a little bit. It was fun in the morning to pick out which color matched my outfit the best.

Over time, at least I didn't feel ugly anymore. I felt a little so-so with makeup like maybe I had a chance of things improving for me. I still had poor self-confidence some of the time but it was getting better. I actually felt pretty some mornings like I could feel free to go out and face the world. I stopped avoiding mirrors.

I think it made my spine a little straighter too. Before that, I didn't realize how my image about my appearance affected the rest of me.

Anyway, I suppose you have to ease into it. I have this one friend who absolutely refuses to wear it and swears it off entirely. Yet again, she doesn't seem to have the same issues I have. Makeup seems like such a personal thing to me. I always used to hate it when people would tell me to wear it so I would never tell that to her.

I guess the most important thing about makeup is to wear it for you. Not because everyone else is doing it but because you want to make yourself feel better.

Despite this, if anyone sees me through the window without makeup now, I WILL duck. Just saying.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Between the Lines Review

I felt the thrill in my bones at seeing Jodi Picoult. Then came the time when talked about the book she co-wrote with her daughter and she asked who was thirteen and I answered that I was fourteen. Seeing Jodi Picoult was exciting enough but feeling that book in my hand, knowing that I was one of the first to read it... Well it certainly was enough to get my heart singing.

Like I said I would, I'm posting the review of her book. This is mostly what I wrote to her (she responded to me. Ah!).

Between the Lines was about a fifteen-year-old loner named Deliliah. She pretty much hates school and only has one friend, a sassy Goth girl named Jules. Her only saving grace are books, especially this one fairy tale that she reads constantly. Her life changes when one day she finds one of the characters interacts with her and that she is one of the few people able to answer him. His name is Oliver and he is the prince of the story. She finds out that the characters act out a book whenever a reader opens it but have their own world beneath the book. Most are content with acting this out but he isn't. Oliver wants out and he wants Deliliah's help.

First of all, I just want to say that Between the Lines is different than a lot of books that I’ve read in a long time.  In a lot of ways, it was a breath of fresh air in the YA industry. Absent were the overwhelming angst and whininess, love triangle and vampires. It was certainly much lighter than many of the books that I usually read. It brought me back to the whimsicality of the books that I read as a child.

The writing style was fresh and engaging. While I could definitely sense traces of the style that Jodi Picoult has, it was definitely different. Her daughter has a true voicet hat really shone throughout the novel. I liked it

Overall, it was a cute read. I found myself glued to the plot and I really found myself rooting for Delilah and Oliver. I also really found myself wanting people to believe her when she was talking about her situation with Oliver The book was almost like a fairy tale in and of itself,which is always nice. It had a nice pace to it and flowed well; there were no slow spots.

The character of Deliliah was relatable. I really liked how she was made into a outcast type; that was nice. I particularly related with her on her love of books and her feelings towards most of her peers. I think she was very compatible with the character of Oliver, the brave prince and I swooned over their romance a bit.

The pictures in the book were also pretty cool and brought me back to childhood reading. I especially liked howthe pictures related to the text. They really jumped out at you and enhanced myreading enjoyment. There was an Obama/cat hybrid picture relating to Jules made me chuckle.
However, the character of Delilah is abit young in her behaviors for a fifteen-year-old. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing but many readers might not like it. I like that she was bookish and a reject but I'm not sure she was acting like a teenager. It's perfectly possible to just see her as immature, of course (especially considering the audience). This isn't just the fact that she reads a fairy tale book, of course. She just doesn't seem to have many of the characteristics of teenagers like worrying about her appearance (not necessarily to the point of being shallow but just because she likes Oliver and wants to please him) and occasionally cursing. Like I said, I don’t mind reading young characters but I think that’s a point to consider. At times, I sometimes felt that was a bit much.

I do admit that there are a lot of things that I don't like about fairy tales but I just found this so refreshing. It reminded me of the book Inkheart a lot.

I would really recommend this to those who like fairy tales and romances and kids who are advanced readers but aren't ready for much of the concepts in most Young Adult literature.

Jodi Picoult truly is a phenomenal author and I look forward to seeing what her daughter can produce also.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jodi Picoult (and the Difference in Crowd)

When you think, Jodi Picoult you think "controversy". Well, at least I do. Most people probably just think of My Sister's Keeper.

The memories of my first Jodi Picoult book almost feels like home and certainly brings back nostalgic memories. I remember my first experience with Jodi Picoult. It was the summer before seventh grade as I was just beginning to delve into "taboo" books. The movie for My Sister's Keeper was just about to come out. Since I wanted to see it, I figured that I'd give it a try.

Well, Monday night I was off to my second author visit from Philly Libraries. I must say it left me utterly ecstatic. At the very least, I did get an autographed book by her (three. Thanks so much, Mom!) that I saw her personally sign so that at least is a step in the right direction.  It actually gets even better than that

I can't help but think of the chain of events that led me there. I probably should have gotten into this earlier but now I'm thinking about fate and everything. Especially because I'm thinking about that one little detail that got the ball rolling.

This whole book tour thing started with an e-mail. Not even to Jodi (though I did write to her and she did respond. That was before, though). It was to Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why. I had read the book in six hours because I absolutely could not put it down (I would have read it sooner but I got it at audio at the library since the actual books were all out. Like I said, jumping into a book about suicide and any other "taboo" subjects made me reluctant. I was just getting over the shock of the birth scene in Breaking Dawn at the time). Anyway, I still felt viscerally connected to the book and I needed to do something with that energy. After countless searching on the Internet, I found his e-mail address and wrote to him. I signed the e-mail "From a Fan in PA." Not only did he respond to this but he told me that he was doing an event in PA in Philly Libraries. Yes, it was beautiful and I even got to talk to him face-to-face. I've been connected to the library chain ever since.

This all brings me to my fourth author event, the one with Jodi Picoult. The one that made me squeal last Christmas when my mom got the tickets for me.

Anyway, we came an hour early so we were just sitting around. I was getting increasingly excited as I waited for it. One of the things that struck me was the difference in the crowd that Anne Rice and Jodi Picoult drew. Everything from their clothes to their ages were different. While Anne Rice's crowd tended to cater mostly to those in their mid-thirties who often dressed in a rather relaxed fashion or sometimes a unique one. Jodi Picoult's fans tended to dress more conservatively and be mostly middle-aged women. Also, I noticed (from the snippets of conversation I heard. Reading in class gets me attuned to these things) that instead of just talking about life and Jodi's books, they talked about politics. Occasionally, I heard them talk about Jodi's books but when they did they talked about certain points in the book.

And then she entered the stage. She went out to the podium and she began to speak. At the sound of her voice, I wanted to squeal. I was actually seeing Jodi Picoult!

There was one marked difference that I immediately noticed between her and Anne Rice. For one, Anne Rice had someone introduce her and speak for much of the time (and ask her questions). She also sat down and her hands were fidgeting and shaking quite a bit (which kind of gave me a sick kind of relief. It kind of affirmed that introverts can make it in the book world and still be loved). Jodi Picoult, on the other hand, only had a podium set up and there was no one with her. My mother was originally afraid that there would be no Q &A and thus acquiring an autograph would be that much harder.

Well, she actually read her book first. First of all, I must say that this kind of scared me. While she was an excellent reader and really made the book (Lone Wolf) come alive, I was kind of scared she would be just reading for the whole time.

That wasn't the case, though. She later began to talk. Most of it was research pertaining to her new book, particularly research on wolves (which was important because of the theme of wolves in the book and what they meant for one of the characters). She discussed how you can tell if a dog is a beta, alpha, tester or numbers dog by the positions they get into (and how this might be useful to you when you buy a dog). At one point, she even showed the audience how different wolves (different as in ranking) sound when they howl by getting audience volunteers. Those who participated cute wolf beanie babies in the end.

I must say that she is a fabulous speaker. She's clear and articulate and uses hand gestures to engage us. She didn't look afraid of talking in the slightest.

My mom left just when things were getting good. She wanted to make sure that our books would actually get autographed that time, unlike the situation with Anne Rice. I felt bad about her getting up and making that sacrifice for me but I really wanted those autographs.

Anyway, I didn't even get the best part yet, though.

At one point, she started to talk about the book that she and her daughter wrote together called Between the Lines. Just as I was whipping out my phone to write down the title, she asked if there was a thirteen-year-old in attendance. No one raised their hand. I took on the attitude of "carpe diem", calling out and saying with a shrug, "I'm fourteen." I had no idea what was going to happen. She told to come up there and I did. Then she handed me a book. One of the very first advance copies of that very book, which is coming out in June. She told me to e-mail her and tell her what I thought. I didn't know what to say.  I just took the book in a blissful kind of shock, hearing murmurs in the audience.

As I adjusted to the feeling of the book in my hand, the Q&A section of the program began. I was still in touch with my environment enough to remember that one question that I wanted to ask her. I didn't know if I should because my mom said that it was "personal".

Once the questions started, the differences from the questions asked to Anne Rice were vividly apparent. I got the impression that Jodi Picoult's crowd were composed of scholars and avid readers, rather than aspiring writers. Because of this, I noticed that the questions were not only less in number but more about her books than about the aspects of writing/the publishing world.

Eventually, I took up that attitude of carpe diem once again. After all, how often do you get to ask a question to an author standing only hundreds of feet away from you (as opposed to hundreds of miles)? There also seemed like she would definitely be able to answer all of the questions that were asked.

I asked her, "How did your son coming out affect the writing process of Sing You Home [that dealt largely with the rights of LGBT Americans]?" I wondered about this ever since I read about her son coming out via his college application essay on her website and then reading some reviews on Amazon about Sing You Home that called it too biased (I imagined that having a gay son would definitely impact her view on the issue).

I was so afraid that she would be angry or taken aback or something (though, in hindsight, I don't know why). She wasn't. 

She thanked me for asking that question and then proceeded to talk passionately about it. When I heard her talk, I felt like I had struck gold. She talked about the story about her son coming out and how that went from being some abstract issue to one that affected her personally. She also talked about the responses in her family to this (all positive. I actually thought about the reactions in my family if I happened to be gay. My poor grandma is already praying over my soul for my atheism). Her voice morphed from tender to wrathful and passionate when she talked about the kids who went up to her and told her that they had been kicked out of their homes, having their college not paid for, etc. and that they told her that that book made them feel like nothing was wrong with them.

After it was over, I DID get an autograph. My mom was in the front of the line and I met up with her there (she, having seen everything, wanted to see my copy of the book). Then I got to talk to Jodi Picoult for a bit, who signed all of the books I had and told me to e-mail her when I was done to review the book.

And then, it ended, just like that. I called my dad afterwards and told him everything about it although I suspect my mom already talked to him.

It's a shame meeting your favorite author is such a rare event.

I'll post the review part of the e-mail that I'm going to send her since I'm planning for it to be about the size of this blog post. I must say, though, I definitely really like the book so far.
No, not mine. All my pics were from my phone and not of the best quality.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Shopping. It's the ultimate hell, being dragged from store to store to store. Your feet hurt and you're tired  but no one seems to care. You are just left on your own, your day spent on the whims of some lovely woman.

The lovely women in this case are my mother and sister. Occasionally, this includes one of our family friends or my aunt but not always. All I can say is that the more people come, the worse it ends up being and the longer I must endure it.

Yes, I am a girl who hates shopping. Hates it with a passion. I am that rare anomaly. Growing up did nothing to change my hatred for this accursed pastime.

I should say that I hate clothes and shoe shopping, which encompass most of the things people shop for. The only things that I like shopping for and feel free to spend my money on without guilt are the following: books, music, jewelry. I buy notebooks and pens for my diaries and poetry books but I don't like spending too much money on that. Anyway, I don't really consider them in the true shopping category anyway.

No, it's clothes and shoe shopping that are in that time slot. It's just so boring trying things on, taking them off. Trying things on, taking them off. It's so tedious that it makes me want to cry. Ugh! It's a pain too, particularly because I happen to be lazy and I don't feel like taking things off. I have a million other better things to do- there are interesting YouTube videos to watch, people to talk to, books to write and books to read. Really, in the scheme of things shopping isn't important at all. When we go with other people, I bring my book and read. The only problem with that is that it goes on for hours and hours and hours.

Book reading gets old, unless the book is A) Really, really good or B) Easy enough for me to read without getting tired. I enjoy it for an hour but not for half of a day. I also like being in a reading-friendly environment and malls and shopping centers really don't cut it for me.

I dread the hour it takes in my local mall. Today, though, my mom felt the need to drive an hour away from my house for shoe shopping. Shoe shopping, of course, for comfortable yet cute walking shoes for when we go to Utah (is that even possible?). I got comfortable walking shoes for New Orleans but my sister called them ugly and they earned me the nickname "Mandals", coined by some idiotic boy who is the size of a fifth grader.

Anyway, it wasn't any better this time. We went from store to store to store, trying to find a place with walking shoes that weren't ugly. We tried Timberland, which had plenty of walking shoes but none that were good-looking (we found out later that they were all men's shoes). Then we went to Steve Madden and Nine West. Nice, expensive shoes there but they all looked like they would HURT. And then, of course, we had to go to Juicy since, according to my sister, "You can't go past a Juicy and NOT BUY ANYTHING." Oh, how terrible that would be! That was another fifteen minutes of my day wasted.

Anyway, at the point, I was so sick of the sight of shoes that I wanted to scream. Scream and find a warm place too at the same time (it was an outside mall, of course, and it happened to be freezing outside).

Long story short, at that point I wanted to shoot myself and put myself out of my misery.

At that point, my stomach was growling like a Chihuahua, begging me for food. Since my dad offered to pay, we went to Ruby Tuesday's (we were going to go to Subway's but there was nowhere to sit. I'm sure my dad would have liked that better).

Eating was all well and good and delicious but we still had to buy shoes. Of course.

There was still one store left. Well, actually there were two more stores around it so I feared the worst. My mom said if we didn't find anything we would have to try our local shoe store (why didn't we do that the first time, reader? Well, I have no idea).

Anyway, so we went in. I figured Skechers was promising, since it did have some nice-looking sneakers. I hoped they had sandals too.

It turned out that I got two pairs of shoes there.

Of course, we realized that we should have went there before but we didn't. If we did, we probably could have saved a few hours.

After that, the hell ended. We got to go drive an hour back home.

At least my sister and I got frozen yogurt out of it. It still sucked though.

Next time, I'll pick iceskating.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Family Gatherings

The tiniest excuses can bring them on. Birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings. You name it and they have a chance of being there. Even vacations can make them come running. Results are varied and definitely not guaranteed.  They produce smothering relatives, relatives you haven't seen in years and of course the drama that everyone likes to pretend isn't there. In my book, the less people that are there the better it is for all of us. But hey, I can't say I always get my way with things all of the time.

Anyway, this special occasion is the birthday of my maternal grandmother. She turned seventy five on Thursday.

It should be a small thing this time. I don't know, though. There's my aunt, who can be a little histrionic to say at the least. And, of course, there's my grandmother herself. As loving as she is, her comments can be a little embarrassing to say at the least.  I don't know about everyone else but....

There's usually so many people. So many. Take, for example, the people at our house. I think I said this when Thanksgiving came around but... I do NOT like a bunch of new people coming around my house. It gives me the creeps. I don't know why but it does. It's loud and noisy and I have to interact with a bunch of people all at once.

And then, of course, there's the kissy people and the small talk. The kissy moments are more of a grin-it-and-bear-it kind of thing but I suck at small talk. I suck big time at small talk. Of course, every once in a while I actually have a deep, intellectual conversation (not with anyone on my mom's side, of course. Usually this happens with my Uncle Billy, who is my dad's brother) but that's not the norm. A lot of the time I honestly don't know what to say to people so I feel like I have to run and hide.

My issue with small talk honestly does not compare to drama. Oh, the drama! My family members are some of the most dramatic people in the world and they can stir up a lot of different crap. People say stupid things and get people pissed off or in fights, new situations are brought up that people didn't know about, old family resentments are brought up... All sorts of lovely things. Oh and of course, my cousin is getting married and weddings bring a whole different kind of drama (my sister and I can't go to the party because they don't want to pay for us. That made my grandma angry but I don't care. I just won't go to the wedding).

I love my family, of course, but I much rather prefer them in small doses. That way the sanity of everyone can best be preserved and no one ends up too pissed off. They're much easier to handle that way.

This is rather small, of course. It's also over my family's house instead of my grandmother's much smaller one so I won't be as claustrophobic. But still. Who knows? There's always that risk of family members inviting myself or my aunt inviting them over (she's that kind of person).  I can already imagine it quadrupling. Ahhh!!!

It will probably be fine. Like I said, it's small. Still... I'll be prepared.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The End of the Week

Me right now
 As you fight sleep and stress and boredom all at once through the day, you are also somehow supposed to make it out with good grades on top of it. By the end of the week, you are absolutely begging for some sort of release where none is.
It's super long but almost hopeful too. It seems so far away, the end of the day, yet so near. It's so much harder to wait because you know what's around the corner. It's almost like a hopeful kind of wait, especially when you have to muck through other stuff.

Technically, I'm supposed to be reading from the lifeguard manual in school right now (because my gym teacher is absent and doesn't trust our sub to diligently watch us. Teachers of all kinds never trust subs with anything so they are basically just overpaid babysitters) but I am so bored and tired that I cannot find it in me. If you read my previous post, you know that crisis situations aren't my best thing. You know, because I'm kind of oblivious and clueless. I also happen to be not to be the best swimmer, doggy-paddling through class. That's a different story, though.

Anyway, stuff like this is good. It's the kind of stuff that I would want to have every day but especially on a Friday (or maybe a Monday). It's the kind of stuff you crave by the end of the day after all the hard subjects. A movie is even better of course but it's better than one of those worksheets. I kind of wish there was a button for that, that you could just press when you need it. Unfortunately, the universe does not cooperate with my needs. It kind of ignores me on will.
What I'm SUPPOSED to be doing right now

What I AM doing right now
By the end of the week, you're nodding off. For me, I can nod off and not even realize it. Stuff like this, though, isn't the most important so it's okay. That knowledge alone fills you with an incredible kind of hope, I must say. The week can fill you with an incredible kind of craziness (especially with the projects and homework assignments they shove on our plate. And let's not forget after-school activities, which make life even more hectic). By the end of the week, you're dying.  You're looking for a beacon, a release. You're looking for some way to get through the day.You keep telling yourself that Friday is coming all week but by the end of the week, you feel its presence looming over you. It's that sweet fruit you're not quite high enough to reach.

And then it comes. That beacon is there. It comes every Friday at the end of the week. At that point, you are overjoyed. Friday is that drop of water to your thirsty self.  That alone is enough to make you want to utterly rejoice at the top of your lungs.

It's beautiful. Quite beautiful. I feel excited right now, waiting for it and I must say that this day isn't ending quite as quickly as I had hoped but I'm already mapping out my weekend now.

All I have to do is hope.


The end of the week is sweet. I just need it to come right now so that I have some sweet version of freedom.