Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My First Date

This is how prepping for it went, LOL
I had my first date Sunday. Not just my first date with this guy, but my first date ever. I wasn't going to write about this before, but what the heck, it's the end of the year.

There was the prepping before the date first. This took a considerable amount of thought: looking casual enough like I wasn't trying too hard, but not too casual that I wasn't trying hard enough. My sister helped me pick out an outfit and she also did my makeup. She went all out, adding bronzer and eyeliner (as well as a few other things, I'm sure, but I didn't keep track). She also straightened my hair in addition to blow-drying it.

Then there was finally the date itself. We decided to meet at my local pizzeria. This wasn't too bad for me, only five minutes away, but half an hour for him. Still, he graciously traveled the distance. He also graciously decided to pay the tab for the two of us (what a gentleman!). We were both really nervous, so that left a lot of awkward tension. It would have been nice to walk around town afterwards, but unfortunately it was raining (I hope that wasn't a bad sign or anything!).

He came up with the really good idea of making it a double date. I was a little worried that might take the charm out of it, but it actually really helped. His friends had been dating for a year, so they were more comfortable around each other. They really helped stimulate conversation and his guy friend was really funny. His friends came by a half an hour later, so we were by ourselves for a little while. I think it gave us the best of both worlds, which was nice for the first time. 

His friend's girlfriend ended up taking me home, with him trailing behind me. Of course, my family was bummed out that they couldn't meet him (or that we didn't have this romantic, movie-like kiss before he dropped me off). I don't want to scare him off, though. 

It's nice to take it slow. I don't want to rush things or make this even harder. Maybe the next date can be with just the two of us, but I think the double date helped. Maybe we can take it further later. 

I hope there's more of them in the future. Of course, there's going to be other challenges along the road if we do: meeting each other's families, getting to know each other, etc. For now, though, it's good as it is. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Decorating My Room

Over the holidays, I decided my room needed a little sprucing up. Previously, I had bought tons and tons of artsy postcards, so I decided to put them to use. Instead of having them in the corner of my room to look at every once in a while, I decided to put them all around the room for constant inspiration. Of course, some of the decorations were already there, but I embellished.

And so I did. I took some tacks and tape and posted them all around my room. I didn't feel like waiting to get my dad to post them up the right way, so I did it myself. I knew that is I didn't go and do it then, I probably wouldn't do it. 

I'm quite happy with the results, actually. It looks quite cool and is very inspirational to me. It really makes my room come alive.

Sometimes, decoration can really change things. The new decorations in my room has certain changed the aura and ambiance of the room. It now has this very artsy, nature-like feeling to it. It's much more exciting to look at as well, very fresh to look at. I also think I managed to exude quite a unique feeling to it as well, which also helped out quite a bit. Photographs really capture me in particular (I don't know why) and they really 

Also, the process of decorating really helped my creativity flow and flourish. I got to think of which postcards to use and where and also how to arrange it. It took a bit of time, but it was definitely worth it. 

The whole process of decorating has really showed me that sometimes, it doesn't take all of that much to do something. Sometimes, little things can end up doing big things or have a temporary effect that's really cool.

It was definitely worth it and pretty cool. My room looks pretty different now.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Celebrating the Holidays Without My Grandmother

This will be the first Christmas without my grandmother this year. Every Christmas, she and my grandfather would come up to open presents with us under the tree. But now it's just him. I hate to focus on the negatives of such a great day, but I couldn't help it.

I used to get her a Christmas gift every year along with my parents, other grandparents and sister. Indeed, this year I would have found the perfect gift for her: in the gift shop of the bird and butterfly conservatory we went to, all I could think about was how much she would love one of the pretty bird ornaments for Christmas. But what would the point of getting her one be now?

My family experienced this dilemma during Thanksgiving, although given how unpleasant Thanksgiving is for me, this was only one more unpleasant thing. It would have been more difficult if she were alive, because she could no longer take part in the cooking she loved and I would have had to see the pain on her face as my dad did it alone. Christmas is more difficult. Like I said, this morning when I opened presents without her, it was hard. Christmas has always been such a special holiday for me, and part of the reason it was so special was because she was in it. Now it's a little less special.

I guess I'm supposed to just try to take it as it is and deal with what comes. She would want me to just keep my chin up and celebrate it just as always. She wouldn't want Christmas to be less on her account. But still, she's all I can think about.

I've accepted her passing, of course. I've moved on, mostly. I don't expect her to come upstairs anymore; in fact, my sister prefers sitting in her chair now. Thoughts of her don't bring me into all-consuming grief, but are natural. Still, I usually think about her every day for whatever reason. Reminders of her are everywhere.

A lot of kids don't think anything of their grandparents. Sure, they might see them once or twice a year, but it's more of a chore than anything else to them. She was never a chore to me, though she often said she felt like one when her failing health caused her to lose more and more of her independence. No, she was like a second mother to me. I could always turn to her for love, advice and some of her dry humor.

There are so many things I wish I could tell her. What I would do for a day to talk to her! I wish I could tell her about Daisy and Buttercup. She probably would have been squeamish around them (to say the least), but it would be nice of her to know them. They've helped me so much; I know she would have appreciated that. I wish I could tell her that I go to a wonderful school now and my days are finally "good". More than good, in fact. Before, whenever she asked me how school was, I said they were "alright" or "crappy". She always looked so disappointed, saying how it was such a shame someone as bright as me hated school. I wish I could tell her that a boy just asks me on the date and it looks like I'll finally get a boyfriend. So many things. I'm sure there will be plenty more.

A lot of my family members believe in Heaven. It was a belief they did their best to force on me too. I wish I could believe that sometimes, but I don't.

So I'm coping, moving on. Christmas is still fun, of course, even if it's not the same. I'm sure it will get better with time. 
Me (left); her (center); my sister (right). We took this picture last Christmas to put in the frame we gave her. She passed away a few months later.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Importance of a White Christmas

I didn't know how important a white Christmas was until I went to the Keys right before the holidays. Don't get me wrong, the vacation was great, but there was such a weird disconnect. Like, "This isn't Christmas; it feels like summer." So despite the occasional carols on the radio and in the shops, I quite frequently forgot that it was Christmas, so much so that it feels weird that the holidays are coming around the corner. All of this reminds me how important the cold and snow is to my idea of Christmas.

Half of the story is the setting. Seeing Christmas in tropical weather is like watching a historical movie and suddenly watching the characters pull out their phones or iPods. No, it's worse. Half of Christmas is the cold weather. Maybe it's because, growing up in the cold Northeast, cold Christmases are all I know. The cold, however unpleasant, is just as important to the idea of Christmas as the Christmas tree or the presents. It's impossible to get into the Christmas spirit without it.

Adding snow to it every year is even better. It adds to the feeling even more, the general ambience of it. It doesn't always happen all of the time, but when it does, it's magical. Before I left on vacation, there was snow all over the ground. It helped me get into the spirit while I was still here and it really helped. I thought the snow would stay and this year would be a white Christmas. Alas, no. There was a heat wave and the snow melted. It looks like this year won't be a white Christmas after all.

White Christmases are the true Christmases. Recent events have showed me that. I might have taken them for granted, but I sure won't now.

Much better

Christmas Tree Rituals

The tree is essentially the centerpiece of Christmas. It is a common symbol of joy and mass consumerism. So obviously it's going to be a big deal. It's a huge deal for my entire family, especially my sister.

It's not like we can just settle for an artificial tree. It would sure be a lot easier, of course, and save us the hassle of having to trek out tree-hunting for the whole year. Oh no. No, it's not the same. So tree-hunting we go.

It definitely is a unique family ritual. Sure, millions of other families do it, but we make it our own. We have to find the _special_ tree.

It's mostly my dad and my sister who are the tree nuts. Mostly, they're the ones to fight over which tree to get. My mom and I just go along with what they say and try not to roll our eyes. We're supposed to take turns picking out trees every year, but it's usually my dad who gets the final say.

"I want that tree!" my sister says.

"Too tall," my dad says. Or scrawny or whatever. He always finds some excuse for a tree he doesn't want.
This year, the tree really was tall, scrawny and ugly. Not to mention, it was laying on its side, so some of them jutted out at odd angles.

"How about this tree?" my mom suggests. The tree she likes is usually short, fat and cute.

"I like it," my dad says.

"Come on, that's pathetic," my sister says. "It's the tree version of Tori."

"Shut up," I say. "It's a cute tree."

This time, my sister fought so much for the tall, scrawny tree that she won, but she usually doesn't.

That battle out of the way, we had another battle to fight: putting the ornaments on the tree. I'm sure that this sounds like a relatively simple task, but that's not so with my sister around.

My parents were too lazy to do it, so they left it up to the two of us.

My sister and I can never agree on how to decorate the tree. She wants only the lighter ornaments on the tree and she clumps them all in one spot. I want them to be more spread out and I also want a bit more of variety. So, naturally, we fight, with her asking me how i'll ever be able to do anything in life. This time, I almost knocked the ladder onto the glass table, which gave her more of an opportunity to drive in the fact that I am a clumsy buffoon.

I was the one who stuck it out until the end, insisting on using all the ornaments. My sister gave up, so it was my father who finally stopped me.

"If you put any more on, the damn tree will fall over," he said.

But it was missing something. I realized later that something was tinsel.

"That is a sad-looking tree," she said.

And... that's my family's tree ritual. Nobody's perfect.
Written December 18, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013


We have all felt the judgmental stares of another human being. Sometimes, this is over how we look or something we say or simply who we are. You want to try to say, "Wait" and explain the whole story, but you can't because they've already made up their mind. This is the judgment of human beings, rash and unfair.    

Everyone tries not to be judgmental. The most judgmental people in the world will tell you that they aren't judgmental at all. But they are. Almost everyone is judgmental, often without realizing it, myself included. It is part of what makes us who we are. We categorize people and then we box them away. Time and time again, we have tried to rail against this, saying things like, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Yet we rarely heed our own advice. It is only when we are confronted with our own mistake that we feel guilty about this.
Some of these judgments keep us safe away from people who would otherwise harm us. Our judgment better helps those like us. Yet most of the time, it only seeks to tear us apart, to divide us from our peers. That, to me, is a great tragedy. It is human nature, but it is still a tragedy.

Judgment, especially harsh judgment, is something that deeply hurts other people. It isolates them from others, makes them feel utterly humiliated. Dealing with this repeatedly can cause so many mental scars, especially if they are from those close to you. So many people are judged simply for who they are.
We can't really judge people, though, at least not accurately. There are so many things going on in everyone's life and we can never really know them. Given that, it's hard to judge them as people. Sure, we might be able to judge them for their individual actions, but not for them as a whole.

In our society, judgment is hard to escape. It is given out freely and encouraged. Yet perhaps if every day we try to keep track of the judgments we make, things might not be as they are.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cursing as Expression

You know what's a big deal? World hunger, disease, violence and things like it. You know what's not a big deal? Someone using a "curse word", or a random word society thinks is bad. I've touched upon this in my other article, but I feel like it deserves a post of its own.

Some people get so upset in the face of curse words. I don't really get it. Words are just words. They have the power that we give them. Deciding that one word is more vulgar or taboo than the other is so arbitrary. I mean, who decided that "freaking" was more appropriate than "fucking"? One is supposed to be the cleaner way of expressing anger (although it cannot adopt the meaning of "having sexual intercourse).

Like I said, words are just words. It is human beings and society who decide the weight that those words have. When people say "words hurt", it's not the words they are discussing. Rather,it's the concepts those words introduce and the intent those words provoke that are truly hurtful. Some people focus on making their language frillier rather than actually eliminating hurtful concepts from their speech. I think they're missing the point. For example, many people hold The Westboro Baptist Church in a special kind of contempt. This is not only for their cruel actions, but their use of slurs as well. However, many evangelical groups have essentially said the same thing, but in different terms and they've gotten away with it. Yet are they really better? Are their messages any less hurtful?

Rather than focusing on if someone has said a taboo word, we should focus on the concepts that they introduce to other people. There are plenty of ways to deliberately hurt another person than to use curse words. That's much worse than using curse words. Those who hold themselves morally superior for not cursing are guilty of either passive-aggressively putting people down or using/saying hurtful messages to make people feel worse about themselves. Indeed, I would rather be around a nice person who curses like a sailor than a mean person who does not. The emphasis should be changed.

A lot of people argue that cursing makes you look less intelligent and may decrease who you're friends with. You know what, though? If someone is judgmental enough to drop a friend just because they speak a little profanity, that says more about them than it does the person in question.

Indeed, there are actually benefits to cursing. It decreases stress and causes certain chemicals to be released in the brain.  Perhaps it's in the knowledge one is breaking a deeply held taboo (I certainly don't get this when I'm cursing in Spanish, a language I'm still learning.

Of course, more formal situations require more formal language. Yet in informal situations, I don't see how it should matter. Cursing is only a form of expression.