Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stand Up and Speak!

Now, I know that probably my most regular viewer is my sister, but just in case I get a few people from elsewhere, including my own college campus, I'm going to go ahead and post this, because, like Definition, not only did it need to be said, but people need to listen. There are real issues out there, that real girls/women face, and sometimes nobody wants to speak out about anything because it's like the subject is taboo. Like this is something that you know is going on, but you can't say anything because you don't want somebody looking sideways at you and wondering what issues you have that you aren't sharing.

This - This isn't about that. This is about raising awareness for those who might otherwise be clueless, and about saying that it's really okay to be different in any sense of the word. And when I get the lead out of my ass and write what's been rattling around in my head for quite a while, then you'll see what I mean a little clearer. Until then, there is this.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Do I have one? No. Does this still impact me? Yes.

Girls - especially the younger ones - get pressured from the media and semi-unrealistic views of how women should look. That they shouldn't be a specific body type - pear, hour glass - and that they shouldn't have too man curves anywhere or else they're fat. Gross over-simplification? Probably. But that's the way that most of us females out here think. It takes a long time to be comfortable with the skin that you're wearing, and seeing images of women that you can wrap your entire hand around and still have room to spare is not helping them go through that transition stage that we all hit, when we start growing in odd places. And some of us are still waiting, in some respects.

NEDAW is about respecting yourself, and saying, This is how I am. This is me. And I am beautiful for the skin that I wear, but more importantly, for the person that I am. And when we start realizing this, then we can start helping girls who think that they need to always watch what they eat or if they've eaten too much, throw it up, as a culture. Perfection is not attainable for everyone has flaws. When we start realizing that perfection on an individual level is in our flaws, and our uniqueness, then we can make headway into getting those who need help, the right help.

And we do this by standing up and speaking out.

Thank you for listening. Now I hope that you speak.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Words of Wisdom from My Buddy Murphy II

(This is the second half of the amazing poster that I have in my room. And Murphy's words of wisdom. Remember: He was an optimist. Again, bold ones indicate favorites.)

If you're feeling good, don't worry, you'll get over it.

90% of everything is crud.

All warranties expire upon payment of invoice.

Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit.

Never eat prunes when you are famished.

Nature is a mother.

Don't mess with Mrs. Murphy!

There is always one more bug.

Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.

Everything east of the San Andreas fault will eventually plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.

The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet.

The bird in hand is safer than one overhead.

If everything seems to be going well, then you obviously don't know what the hell is going on.

The light at the end of the tunnel is the headlamp of an oncoming train.

If more than one person is responsible for a miscalculation, no one will be at fault.

Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

Never sleep with anyone crazier than yourself.

Celibacy is not hereditary.

Never argue with a fool, people might not know the difference.

To know yourself is the ultimate form of aggression.

Beauty is only skin deep, ugly goes to the bone.

When in doubt, mumble. When in trouble, delegate.

In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.

You will remember that you forgot to take out the trash when the garbage truck is two doors away.

Murphy's Golden Rule: Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.

It is morally wrong to allow suckers to keep their money.

There's never time to do it right, but there's always time to do it over.

A Smith and Wesson beats four aces.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Crashing Courses

It was on my drive to my teaching placement this morning that I realized, along with my normal college education, I was getting more than my fair share of crash courses in a variety of interdisciplinary topics.

We'll start with my crash course in Economics. Yes, this is part of my BIDS class, the one about two cities, but I haven't taken any economics since high school (Macro, my senior year, and it was a nightmare) so this week has been one hell of a chuck, duck, and run.

Even better: This coming week is the crash course in Sociology.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have much experience driving in snow. Again, senior year of high school, when I first got my beloved Oldsmobile, dad would take a look out the kitchen window or the back door, and survey the road. He would then tell me, okay, give yourself a little extra time and drive slow, or, more often than not, he'd say, "Best trot your ass out to the mailbox, Binsk."

These past two mornings have been courses in winter driving on some pretty wonderful curves. There have been occasions when I was pretty sure I was going to put myself into the ditch, but you just need to remember to stay calm, keep two hands on the wheel, and stay in the pre-marked path that the poor bloke in front of you forged for you. If you panic - Fred ends up in the ditch. And you miss placement hours and have some explaining to do to mom and dad (which is after mom has said that if she has to put more money into said car, then said child is walking to said placement).

So, that's what the week has been like. Other than that - Louise is still happy, chill, and has a relatively low stress level. Also, she's contemplating taking a nap at the moment, because, uh, yeah, chemistry homework took until 2 this morning.

And did I mention it's Friday? It's Friday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thankful on a Thursday

This is one of the reasons that I'm thankful. And it was almost a Wordless Wednesday post.

(You like my mother's new living room curtains, right? Right? Yes!?)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

This must be a record for me. Another Wordless Wednesday post on an actual Wednesday. And in the same month, no less. So. I had a few to choose from, but because today has been exactly a week since I went back to school, I thought it would be fitting. So you get a view from the fourth floor corner.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Things to Know VII

This is the fifth day of classes, and, unlike last semester, I still have all my hair, my stress level is below manageable, and I generally feel good about myself and the world.

I have not procrastinated yet this semester (except for the physics readings that are partially over my head, but that's being rectified this afternoon/evening).

I am in love with Neal Caffrey. This is the picture currently on my desktop. Courtesy of USA.

I have had a crash-course in Economics, courtesy of my BIDS class (Two Cities). It was rather frightening, and oddly reminiscent of my senior year of high school.

Next on the agenda is a crash-course in Sociology. Reminiscent of shades of Chep, from high school (though I never took it).

I synchronized my phone and my Twitter account, so that I now receive Twitter updates via text. And can text them. Now I can cause general mayhem wherever I go and report it, too.

I have what amounts to The Three Stooges (or a derivation of them) in my chemistry class and lab, including the guy with the horrible hair cut (or lack thereof, really) who witnessed my Moment of Brilliance. Probably explains why I can't look him in the eye (or look at his hair - I think it's longer than mine).

The girl who lives next door to me was creeped on yesterday afternoon on our own floor. There have been numerous meetings, one of those rather vague campus creeper alert emails, and they are now considering putting locks on our floor because we're an all women floor. Which would mean another key to look after.

Cinnamon Streusel Frosted Mini-Wheats make a pretty good afternoon/lunchtime snack.

I have a bright yellow note to myself on the back of my door that says the following: LOUISE!! If it's a MONDAY or a WEDNESDAY, do you have a SNACK in your bag? AND: Any day, do you have you NALGENE (either one) and/or your TRAVEL MUG for COFFEE/COCOA?

Said notice has been successful so far.

Murfee, the Focus, is currently dancing his little furry behind off on the rug. And tripped over the Timberlands and wound up in the hall.

I have started reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet as a bedtime book.

A Study in Scarlet isn't even my book. It was one that I borrowed from LaM's shelf in her room my freshman year of high school and never bothered to return. I have no doubt in my mind that she knows I still have it, but she hasn't sent the hounds after me, and she hasn't showed up outside of my door demanding it back.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Sir Arthur, and also Jules Verne.

Speaking of Jules - I brought my large, heavy, wonderful A Collected Works of Jules Verne with me to college, as well. My favorites include Around the World in Eighty Days and A Journey of the Center of the Earth.

I'm planning either a movie night this Friday for everybody or I'm somehow convincing them to get out and about in the world and go ice skating. I am, however, not allowing them to be workaholic hermits on select Fridays and Saturdays.

My plan (yes, I actually have a semblance of one) is to have my work done for Monday and Tuesday on Saturday, so that Sundays are mine to do with as I wish, including, but not limited to staying in bed until I feel like it while watching cartoons I happen to find, reading whatever novel I'm reading, working on some of my projects (including Murphy and Me) and maybe editing/sending out things for my novel.

So, in the eternal words of my mother - I think I got a handle on it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Job Finally Done

This is the companion post to the previous, where it showed my messy, messy, yet-unpacked dorm room. Now, I give you the new, clean, put-away, and slightly rearranged dorm room. Because, yes, well, I told you I would. (I think.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Finally First Friday

I don't have a clue how I'm so productive on this blog right now. I think it's because I'm procrastinating on actually unpacking and putting away, and my Focus is still sitting out on the roof watching the squirrels in the tree next door.

Also, it's the first Friday of the school year, and I was done today at 12:10.

Also, this is the 101st Post for the Wandering Sagittarius. I'm kinda proud of that.

So, as you might have heard from the Focus in an earlier post, I did indeed get lost on Wednesday. Wednesdays are the days when I roll three classes in a row separated by ten minutes, and then the fourth (Stagecraft lab) within fifteen after the third (Two Cities). Last I knew, the Two Cities was supposed to be in one room - 201 - and I went cruisin' on up the stairs, and, whaddya know? The room is empty. Quick phone check: I've got five minutes to find this room, find a seat, and settle in without embarrassing myself further. So I go back downstairs, look around, and there's a class forming in 103, but I'm not entirely sure, and I don't want to go in and ask, so I ask a passing professor, and, indeed, we are in room 103 instead of 201. Actually, that's not entirely true. Mondays and Wednesdays we're in 103, and Thursdays we're in 201. If that's not confusing on the first damn day of the semester, I don't know what is.

On the other hand, we might change the time for my teaching Seminar from 7:30 in the morning on Tuesdays to something a little later in the day. I'm awaiting an email for a link to times the professor can have class, and then if there are times that everyone can make, we'll do it. So I'm pretty excited about that.

I'd like all of you to take note of what exactly this room that I'm currently sitting in looks like at the moment (for the purposes of a before and after type thing, like on the Style channel) and it looks like this:

At least, in all of this mess, I have a place to sleep. Other than that, everything else is up for debate.

So far, I'm making good on my New Year's Resolution to stay on top of my homework and not procrastinate. I am going to continue this fine tradition (not the procrastinating) later tonight and tomorrow, and hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, Sundays will be just for me. Days where I can do whatever my heart desires - watch movies, work on some writing projects, write in my journal, do my Blog posts about my weekend (if there's anything out of the ordinary to write about, or maybe just the ordinary, too) or anything else that might come up. Maybe I'll let my best friend drag me to Tango Club, and I'll see if I can make myself go positively scarlet. But, that's what I'm aiming for. I'm aiming for Sundays to be my days. As everything with me, we'll see how this works.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You. And Me.

This has honestly been a long time coming, really, and I've tried a couple of different ways to do this, and haven't really settled on anything (big surprise there, huh?) and figured that I would finally just sit down and write it. Things kind of have a habit turning out better when I do that, instead of really planning it. Though planning works too, but...Wow...Digression, much, Louise? Sorry, it's been a bit of...week, almost. Yeah. It's been a week.

Anyway, if you haven't guessed, I've made it back to campus. My room currently looks like the Midwest after an F-3, but the day after tomorrow is Saturday, and I can take as much time then as I need to and get unpacked and settled back in officially. Also, my rug really needs to be vacuumed.

Sometimes I really wonder why it is that I do the things that I do. I thought a little about this last night, coming back from seeing Em (and getting my Chem book back from Julie since I have reading and homework problems to do for tomorrow morning) and remembered that my Giants blanket (borrowed from off of my parents bed because my room up here gets cold) was still in the front seat of my Oldsmobile. So, I walked the length of JPR to the parking lot, and walked around the back end of a giant Cadillac, and tried to look as suave and cool as I usually do when I unlock my car. And dropped a few things, and hit my forehead on the top of the door casing, and everything was just great. And I looked around the parking lot, and yes, indeed, my car is still the oldest and most worn-in and well-loved looking one there. The hood is red with gray where the paint's worn off, and to me, in the light of the street lamp, he's beautiful.

The guy in the Cadillac probably thought I was a moron of epic proportions, but then again, so does my Focus, so that's really no big deal.

And it almost makes you ask yourself: What's a girl in an Oldsmobile doing at a school with a bunch of Cadillacs, Audis, Lexus, and 2010 Hondas parked around her?

The answer: She's getting an education.

That's the common denominator of all of us here is that we're getting an education. I can't say that we'll all be in debt up to our eyeballs, but we're all here to go to class and learn something. Though some might just be here for the booze on the weekends and the sports teams, most of us are here because we want to expand our horizons and this place was the best fit for us.

And it's tough academically. There's no question of that. I'm a Chemistry major who's currently enrolled in a bi-disciplinary class titled Two Cities: New York and Toronto, a combination of economics and sociology/urban studies. I'm a Chemist. Are you pickin' up what I'm puttin' down? Even better - I'm in there with a bunch of native New Yorkers (from the city) and people from around the Tri-State area, too. NYC is home to them. It's also its own entity and personality, and can be a damn scary place after dark when you don't have a ride across the GW Bridge, but it's also a beautiful place, too. And because it's a city with a financial district that does world business, and a business district that might well be moving toward global domination, the cost of living is steeper there than it is here.

As evidenced by the native that I sat next to in class today who had the University of Virginia logo (complete with crossed swords) embroidered on his pants. Which is one of those prep things that people do at this college, and that quite frankly, I don't see the point of. Do I honestly look like the type of person to walk around with embroidered ducks plastered all over my rear end? It's big enough as it is, thanks so much. It doesn't need a flashing sign that screams LOOK AT ME!!!

And this, all of this, all of who I am, is because I am from the country. I drive a car not because it's the newest and the best, but because I need a vehicle to get back and forth to work in the summer and my placement here at college, and Fred has four wheels, a motor, and some semblance of heat in the winter. He gets me from point A to point B and everywhere in between, and that's okay with me. My favorite shirt in my closet (well...two of them, actually) are my plaid button-ups. The one is red, and made for a woman, and the other is a green one from the mens' department at Wal-Mart that I sleep in because it's nice and warm. I have sneakers, one pair of heels that I wear when I absolutely have to (I wear my Converse when I'm at work, with my black pants, because it's comfortable) and I love jeans and t-shirts. I love layers and vests (I have a new blue plaid one and a black one) and, quite honestly, material things don't matter much to me. I don't care that I don't have the latest fashion advice straight from Paris, or that I went to a high school with only 97 kids in my graduating class, or that my grad party was underneath the white and yellow circus tent in my backyard. I'm not dirt poor, and I'm not rollin' in it, either. I'm in the middle. And I'm content to be there.

And I just found the pointy side of a push pin with my foot, under my desk.

Then again, that's me. That's what makes me different from them. I've got different priorities, and I've got them in a different list, too.

And if my Focus could get its furry ass inside the window, I might actually get something constructive accomplished this afternoon. I at least need to put my movies away, maybe my clothes. Get all my school stuff (books, etc) in the same place and have some degree of order and organization back in my life.

Also, if I crank my country music, it'll be like I never went on vacation for the rest of the floor. Welcome back and hold on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Adventuring Focus III

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

M and family had a rough few days. We came back today, to the big-brick place that she goes to and listens to people talk. Well...M rode in the car and strapped me to the roof, with aviator goggles and a helmet. And got a little too close to the truck in front, which, she moron, and windshield cleaner fluid tastes *bigyuckygaggy*

She go to many big-brick places today. M even got lost, too. Which, she do a lot, and she turned a bright pretty pink color and almost punt me into wall. Lucky me have me helmet. Me sit on her feet, and we listen, and she swear quietly because these two teacher-people kind of scare her because they new, and me like them. They funny.

Me mention now that M can't draw to save her life. She screw up stick-figure. She good with words, not so much with drawing. She forget one of the places in New York, too, and she not happy with that. She turn darker pink color and *chucklechuckleohdamn* to herself.

M have issues with her belly. Not *ohgodohgodohgodmegonnadieowowow!* but *stupidannoyingbellypainwhatthehell* and she not happy. She sad, too. We both sad. Me missing H's friend, and M missing family and having some issues. But she say this time be better than last time, and everything be okay in the end. Me trust her. And me help her do school-type thingies, and she let me crawl up with her, snuggle with E-gar, because the stuff on the floor might swallow me whole if me don't. Which, me almost broke me no-neck trying to get to the empty *stupidstupidemptycolduncomfortable* laundry basket. Maybe me sleep in hamper when she accidentally punt me out of bed.

Murphy and Me XVI

[Yup. Welcome back everybody - Louise has gone back to college.]

I hate the ER. No joke.

Only this time it was Mac with me, instead of Murphy. We were waiting for X-Rays to come back on my ankle. There had been five minutes left in the game, I'd gone to clear the ball which meant that my left was planted, and some - some - some asshat slid into me after the ball was halfway down the field, and through the ankle. Asshat got a yellow and I got assisted off the field by Mac because there was no idea how much damage was done.

Which was why Mac and I were at the ER. Fabulous.

"It's not broken," I said, gnawing on my thumbnail. "Can't be broken."

Mac looked at me, reclining in the hard chair with his feet on the side of the bed. "If it's broken, it's broken. We'll deal."

I looked at it, the it, being the ankle. The damn joined was swollen and purple - almost the size of a softball. The more I looked at it, the more I realized there was the distinct possibility that it might be broken.

"Can't be broken," I muttered.

Mac slapped a hand over his face. "Okie...." It was practically a growl, a clear warning and yeah, I ignored it.

"Mac, it's not broken." My head thumped against the pillow, right leg hanging off the side of the bed. I'd changed out of the uniform and into sweats and a long-sleeved shirt, and then Mac had driven me. And we waited. Which was another reason to hate hospitals.

"Olivia. If it's broken, it's broken, and we'll deal," he said. He looked at me. And looked like he was missing something. He was, actually, but he's a smart man. He'll figure it out, and then this is not a conversation I want to have with Mac in the freakin' ER.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I didn't have to look to know it was Murphy.

U ok?

Well...that was up for debate. 'Where are you?' I typed.

He got back to me pretty quick. Fishbowl. liam & i need to come get u? sasha told me.

Mac gave me a suffering look as I typed. 'No, Mac's here. I might need some help when I get there.' And there were also a few things to talk about. Things to come clean on.

"Olivia Karizslowski?"

I stuffed the phone in my pocket. That was me in all my Polish glory. The ER doc stood in those puke-green scrubs in the doorway with a folder - mine - and it was pretty thick. "It's not broken," he said. I would have jumped for joy if Mac wouldn't have murdered me right then and there. "But, in the long run, you might have done better to actually break it outright. It's badly sprained. I'm putting you in an air cast with no weight for four weeks, and then you'll see an orthopedic doctor and go from there." Hadn't noticed the air cast he was holding. He snapped it on with ruthless efficiency and produced discharge papers. A nurse came along with crutches. I signed the papers, balanced on one leg so they could fit the crutches to my short legs, and then hobbled out with Mac.

"Someone going to help you up?" Mac asked once I was loaded in the car.

"Yeah," I said, staring out the window, hangin' on to my control by my big toenail. And that was putting it mildly. I dug out my phone. 'We're almost there, can you meet me at the door?'

Mac pulled up in the parking lot by the building. "See me tomorrow before practice."

"Can do." I got out. "Thanks." This was not my first time walking with armpit legs.

Murphy was absolutely beautiful. He opened the door from the inside as I hobbled up and then hugged me once I was in, crutches and all. "Not broken?"

"Sprained. Bad."

He let me to go to kiss my forehead. Devan appeared behind him in the stairwell.

"I'll take your crutches, Ollie," he said, snatching them before I could protest. No doubt he and Murphy were in cahoots. "Ours or yours?"

"Mine, please." I looked at Murphy, trying to keep my balance. "I have some things...I have some answers for you."

"Oh-Kay." Murphy took my hand and squeezed. "How's a piggy-back ride?"

I nodded. He turned his back and sort of squatted, his hand under my left thigh and caught the right one when I pushed off. I clung to his back, arms wrapped loosely around his neck and we ascended the stairs. My ride was spent mostly freaking out about things: Calling my mother and telling her I was out of action once again; explaining my pill bottles to my four-day boyfriend; trying to figure out how to do normal things like showering and even getting in and out of bed (the thing has the mini-fridge under it, so it's about three foot in the air, not including the thickness of the mattress) and a whole bunch of other stuff. There was the distinct possibility there was an ulcer in my future, too. After the heart attack, of course.

Devan had left my crutches leaning by the door and fished my keys out of my pocket and draped them over Murphy's shoulder.

Oh, yeah, also, my boyfriend was about to enter my corner single. And I couldn't remember if the place was picked up or there was stuff strewn everywhere.

Murphy pushed open the door and flicked on the light. It crackled into existence, humming contentedly from the ceiling. He nabbed the crutches and, once he let me down and I had them in my possession, hobbled to turn on the semi-illegal Medusa lamp in the dormer. Murph turned off the overhead and I sank into the moon chair.

The door shut. Rather anticlimactically, too.

"This is it," I said, heaving myself to my foot and hopping to the bed. Murph wrapped big hands around my waist and assisted me up. And yes, there on the floor, not quite in the dirty clothes pile, was my sports bra. Fabulous. If he noticed, he didn't say anything. He just kind of rose up on his toes and simply sat next to me. Long-legged football boy.

"It's nice," he said. I had some posters up, and some photos. He gently took one from my Vera ribbon board. It was small and square, with rounded corners; a man and woman in a church.

"That's my parents." While he was distracted with that, I reached over to my dresser and with dexterity born from waiting tables, retrieved my various bottles. He put the photo back; I dropped the bottles between us with a rattle. "I was really sick last year. I had pain here," I touched my lower belly, "and nobody could figure out why. I had tests and blood work, more pokes and prodding and Gyno visits, and I had surgery." I swallowed. Explaining this was sometimes really difficult and semi-embarrassing, and other times it was something that showed an inner strength. Not sure which occasion this was. "I have three scars on my belly. Two on the sides and my belly button was cut in half." I raised the hem of my shirt to show him where my umbilical cord had been cut nineteen years ago, where it was sliced neatly in half from the bottom going back. "Please ignore any lint."

He chuckled, reaching out to tickle my side until I caught his hand. "That what the OTC stuff is for?"

"Nope. I thought I was okay, and then I had more issues and had to see a GI doc. Who did another pleasant medical procedure, figured out the problem, and gave me the stuff to take to keep me functional." Took a deep breath. "I take ten pills a day for a crazy-straw digestive system, can't stomach white pasta, and soda. Actually, can't do anything with carbonation. And that's me."

He squeezed my fingers. "And you take these and you're good to go?"

"Every day. Or I can't function." Which was the bare, simple truth to the entire situation.

"And you're seeing if I'm okay with this?" He looked at me curiously; my stomach dropped into the laundry basket beneath the bed. "Don't get me wrong, ten pills is a little scary, but they have a function: So you can do what it is that you do. And I like you, so...yeah." He shrugged. "Weird things happen, especially to the human body, but you make the most of it."

"I know." I did, really. I knew that. Shit happened. Sugarland wrote a song about it that become my theme song over the summer. "But I don't want to have to tell my mom that I'm not okay again." And that's what it always came down to. That was the most difficult thing: Telling my mother I was some variation of sick again. Or, more accurately, in this case, telling her that I couldn't even stand on my own two feet without the left one probably collapsing.

"You should." Murphy scooted closer. "You know that you have to, and if you want, I can leave or I can sit right here and hang on." He squeezed my fingers. He pulled out his phone with his free hand, leaned in, and kissed my forehead again.

My wobbly lower lip was permission for him to keep his ass planted where it was. And this - this form of - caring (which was awesome, definitely) made me more jittery and edgy and I really wanted to hit him with one of my crutches.

"And please don't whack me with a damn crutch when you're done," he said.

Was I seriously that transparent? No, actually, I was just a moron who was mumbling to herself again. Go me. Must be the Polish-ness.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Merely Mortal

In this day and age the media is dominated by futuristic movies like Star Trek, The Book of Eli, and that truly nawful 2012. On the other hand, media and pop culture is also dominated by something a little darker, a little edgier. Vampires. I believe that most audiences like the ideal that vampires give us - namely, living forever. Becoming immortal. And while there are other ways to become immortal (like being a great writer, for example - Poe, Tolkien, F. Scott Fitzgerald), we, as a society really like vampires because they are a way to cheat death.

This, however much we like to dream about, simply cannot happen.

"Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die." Neil Kleinbaum wrote this line as dialogue for John Keating in Dead Poets Society and it's the same line that has been running my head all day. Or variations of it.

A death in the family is never easy, including one so sudden. The life partner of my grandmother by marriage passed away this morning, and the rest of my day has been filled with tears, memories, and gathering in support.

And, it's quite ironic because I'm usually sitting behind my laptop, composed and with some sort of inkling as to where my posts are going, and I quite frankly can't seem to make much sense of this. I think what's really shaken me so much today isn't so much the death aspect (though, trust me, I'm still working on getting a handle on that since it's an inevitable part of life) but what do you do when you see your father cry? Fathers are heralded as the foundation of a family (traditionally, though I know a few different cases that can blow that out of the water) and my father is a man who is not easily rattled. The house could quite possibly cave in, but as long as everybody was fine and safe, he'd look at it and go, "At least we've got a wood supply." I think I truly can't articulate how difficult this was for me because my mind can't wrap itself around this. And I've been trying all day.

I think I'll leave it at that because I've been trying to form something relatively coherent all day, and I'm still failing miserably, and the only thing that I can think to end on is that when something like this happens, we are forcibly reminded of our own mortality, and the question that we ask ourselves at the end of our years: What have I done with my life?

When you're twenty, in college, going abroad, and trying to figure everything out, you get blindsided with: What exactly am I doing?

And you realize, you're still trying to figure it out. And you will continue to try and figure it out until you confuse yourself and finally say to hell with it and just live.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Murphy and Me XV

I have what's called the "Basic" meal plan. Fifteen meals a week, $100 in snack money (good for the cafe or the Pub) and three guest passes. I use these fifteen meals by eating breakfast and dinner during the week. When the mood strikes, I eat lunch, and only if some of the girls are eating with me.

To recap my weekend: It was interesting. I had lunch with Murph and Liam in Murph's room (the smell of food made Dev turn an unhealthy shade of green, and he didn't come back for a while after nearly mowing Liam down to get to the door), spent some time doing homework in the pseudo-lounge outside my door, and went to dinner with the girls.

And, of course, texted Murphy.

I got plenty of sleep in my own dorm bed, and go up well-rested and ready to take on the universe bright and really freakin' early Monday morning. And everything was gravy until I agreed to meet Sasha, Cara, Em, and Mel for lunch.

The issue wasn't the food (though sometimes it can turn into one, if you get my meaning) because it was chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries. I doused both liberally with honey, and after getting a glass of water, was headed down the main ramp to what is known as the third tier because it's...well...the third tier in our dining hall. There was a table of soccer players to my left, and a table of football boys on my right. I didn't see any that I recognized, but hot damn did they apparently know me by sight. They knew my name, too, and me being the genius that I am, I stopped and waited for two of them to get up and walk over.

I was suddenly very keenly aware of what I had chosen to wear that day (jeans, t-shirt) and that they were significantly taller than I was. Which meant some craning.

"Hi." Once again, I stunned myself with my eloquence.

"Hi, Olivia," the one on the right said. "Look...We know you're tight with El - Murphy, but..." He struggled for words. If I were a man we would not be having communication issues - he would simply verbally expel what he was thinking, grunt a few times, and wait for my answering response. Simplified? Very. Realistic? No so much.

His buddy took pity on us. "What he's tryin' to say is don't hurt Elf."

I blinked. "Oh - Okay." This was not a conversation that I had expected to have with Murph's football buddies in the middle of our dining hall. This was the conversation I was expecting Sasha to give Murphy, only with threats of bodily harm, too.

"I'm not gonna hurt him," I blurted. I had no intentions or unintentions of hurting my bo - Murphy. Murphy. No inclination to hurt Murphy.

The redhead on the left rolled his eyes. "That's what the last one said."

I'm not her." I looked between the two. "I am not going to hurt him." I gave him my most sincere smile - it looked a lot like the one I wear on a regular basis, especially around Murphy. "Really, I'm not. But I would like to eat my chicken nuggets."

They flushed; the redhead winced. "Yeah, sorry. Just - Just - "

"Warning duly noted, gentlemen," I said, and side-stepped around them. And I did get the warning that was there because it was the same one that Sasha was inevitably going to deliver.

I sat down at our table like nothing had happened knowing full-well that most everybody had probably stopped to stare. It was a natural cue; uncomfortable, self-conscious girl in the middle of the cafeteria, let's watch her freeze when not one but two boys stop her, and talk to her. And everybody stare right now.

Sasha nudged my leg as I chonked chicken nuggets.

"Was that Murphy?" Cara asked.

"No," I mumbled. "That's not Murphy."

"Who's Murphy?" Em asked.

"Guy who lives on the third floor," I said, hoping like hell they would leave it at that. 'Course they wouldn't.

"Her boyfriend," Sasha supplied cheerfully.

"You have a boyfriend?"

"When the hell did this happen?"

"His name is Murphy?"

"Does he have a brother?"

This was the point of me having lunch with them? I sat back as attempting to eat was futile. And they were all looking at me like I'd been keeping a huge secret and had just promised them the gory details.

"Okay," I said, rubbing my eyebrow. "First, Murphy is the guy I met during pre-season and he lives downstairs from me." I looked at Mel. "He does have a brother - a twin. Liam, who I've met because of mine and Murph's disastrous Saturday night." I paused, wracking my brain. "I think that's it."

Silence reigned. I looked at each face.

"Does that mean we can get rid of our poster board?" Mel asked.

I resisted the urge to bang my head on the table. "Please tell me you don't actually have one of those." I searched eight pairs of eyes. "Really?" It was a sort of joke between us. I had a habit of crushing hard on guys, but not a habit of being brave enough to talk to them or get a date. Mel had come up with the idea of making a poster so she and the rest of the girls could keep track of all them. Em had suggested colored dots one night at dinner and I had turned an interesting shade of red.

"We were thinking of doing a Flavor of the Week, but now..." Sasha shrugged.

"I hate that board." I moved sweet potato fries and nuggets around in pools of honey. "It makes me sound like such a slut."

"But you're not," Em said, sipping hot chocolate. She loved hot chocolate any time of the year. And this stuff was good - it came out of a Nestle machine. "It's not like you do anything with them."

Which was true. It's not like I slept around. I just looked.

Now that Murph was in the picture, though....

"So, what are you and Murphy anyway?" Cara asked.

I took a deep breath. My phone buzzed in my pocket. "I'll let you know when I know." I dug it out and opened it. New text. From my knight-in-shining-armor, Murphy. I stood. "And Murph wants to meet me for coffee." I slipped my bag on my shoulders and gathered my dishes. "I'll see you guys later."

The chorus of "We want details!" followed me up the center ramp.

Murphy knew from our many texts and conversations that I was a coffee snob. Between Green Mountain and Starbucks, Starbucks was always going to win. That's why we were meeting at the Pub.

I went down the stairs and into the dim atmosphere. Murphy sat at one of the tall tables for two to the right of the door, biodegradable coffee cup in front of him. I dumped my bag in the chair across from him and went to get my coffee. There were only two people ahead of me - both girls - and I ignored their inane chatter in favor of trying to keep myself together, and did one of those long glances around the room. There were a few soccer guys in the corner, and some other students plugged into iPods while doing homework.

"Can I help you?"

Startled, I turned and stepped to the counter. "Can I have uh, a, uh, an iced mocha with skim milk and no whipped cream." She slid my card, taking it out of my snack money.

What did Murphy want to say to me? Was this the part where he said, Alright, you're cool, but you're not quite my style?

I took my drink back to our table, tipped my bag onto the floor, and climbed into the chair. I took a sip of the mocha.

"How were classes?" he asked.

"Good," I said. "I hate physics." Really, I did. I was a biologist, not a physicist.

"There's a reason I'm in history," he chuckled. "Olivia...."

I nearly peed myself in anxiety. My knuckles were white where my hands clutched at the edge of the table. He slid a big hand over to one of mine and pried my fingers loose so he could hold them, rubbing his thumb over my wrist bone.

"I want to take you out again," he said, hazel eyes wide and nervous. "As your boyfriend."

If I hadn't been sitting I'd have fallen over. He was leaving this - us - up to me. Whether there was an us or not, he was leaving that up to me. Now was the time to ask myself what I wanted. What did I want? I wanted a normal year, that's what I wanted. I wanted to stay out of the ER, I wanted to stay healthy, and for once in my life I wanted to be romantically happy. I wanted somebody to replace the hurt Bobby had left and restore my faith in the opposite gender. I wanted...well, I wanted a lot of things, really.

And I was going to start with Murphy.

"Yes," I said, grinning stupidly. My other hand nudged the table in my excitement. The mocha wobbled, then tipped, splashing across the table and our joined hands. He laughed, grabbing a handful of napkins, and I'd sufficiently broken the tension, if accidentally.

My first thought in all of this was Yay! Relationship to Murphy Baptism by mocha!

The second: Shit. There goes my caffeine for the day.

And Murph? Pretty sure he was used to this. And it could only get worse as it got better.

From The Archives III

[I honestly don't know why I do something like this. I think it's because I can see the progress that I made through the years, in terms of my writing, and, not to mention, before the Big Honking Project (aka the Novel) started, I did a lot of other little writings and such.

This, however, comes not from creative writing or anything. This, my friends, is my college application essay. The one where they say, "Tell us about yourself in so many words or fewer." This was actually one of those papers that we worked on in AP English, too, which meant writing a draft, giving it to LaM and letting her have at it with her red pen, which is decidedly creepy at points. (But she was a good teacher who taught me quite a bit about academic writing, and I actually learned things and my AP credit from that year is the only thing that transferred, so Thank You.) So, here's the application essay that got me accepted to Nazareth, HWS, Mansfield, SUNY Potsdam, and wait-listed at the University of Rochester. I'm still trying to figure out that last one.

It's dated December 12, 2007.]

The more money you have, the better stationary you can afford to send out.

That's the way it seems in the publishing industry, a truly tough nut to crack when you're on the outside looking in. As a seventeen-year-old writer who is trying to get my manuscript published, I have a pile of rejection letters sitting on my dresser next to my lava lamps, ranging from plain printer paper to expensive, heavy stationary. I follow the same routine as others do: write a query, send it out, wait anxiously for over a week, and then open the self-addressed stamped envelope with my own address written on the front in my own handwriting and read the usual bad news. "We're not accepting manuscripts at the moment" or "I'm sorry, this isn't the right company for your type of book" or any one of the other fifty standard messages that publishers send out to first time authors trying to make it big. Unlike them, I'm not out for the glory of it, the money or the publicity. I'm simply trying to fulfill a dream and prove that no matter where you come from in life, you can do anything.

I started writing at an early age. I was about six when my family got our first computer. It had a basic word function and I would happily spend an hour pecking out the letters on the keyboard. My punctuation was horrible, my spelling was atrocious, but the idea, the storyline, was good. But those stories never got off the ground and ended up crumpled in the trashcan. Years later, when I was fourteen, I started another one that I was determined to finish and publish. It was about fifty pages, a record for me at the time, and I was proud of it. I'd stuck with it, but that one, too, fell by the wayside.

The summer before my freshman year of high school changed everything. I made a horrible decision that put not only myself at risk, but my teammates and my family. While it didn't scare me at the time, I was naively conversing with a stranger through the Internet. A mean nearly two hundred miles away knew nearly everything about me, including where I lived. The realization of what could have happened was more than stunning. To deal with the turbulent emotions that resulted from my stupidity and the personal hell created by my guilt, I found it easier to write than to talk. To keep myself in one piece, I wrote daily, starting yet another story. Yet this one was different; this was born of forceful human emotion and more a form of therapy in the beginning than anything else. Later, as I healed and became more comfortable with what had happened and learned how to deal with that situation and life at the moment, what I was writing grew into something large and unexpected. One composition book turned to two, which turned to three, and so on and so forth until it now stretches through eight and a half. Somewhere around four or five it stopped being a tool for me to calm my feelings internally, and became something of its own entity, a story that was started and now begging to be finished.

Sadly, with a hectic and full senior schedule, I'm finding it more difficult to make time to write than previously. My priorities have been shuffled and reshuffled until writing has put on the back burner, schoolwork on the front, and the task of getting published lying somewhere in the middle, a filler for when I have pockets of time to change the addressee on the query letter, write out envelopes, and walk to the mailbox. I have no doubt that my rejection letter pile while continue to get deeper and the wait for news is agony. But there's something satisfying about sending out a piece of mail, and it's almost like playing the lottery. Instead of a dollar and a dream, it's gritty determination and a letter of a story from a small town girl looking to make an imprint.

Wordless Wednesday

For once in my life, I'm actually doing a Wordless Wednesday post on a Wednesday. Hehe...Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while, huh? [My father loves that phrase, especially because I'm one of those people that has a tendency to not be able to find things without explicit direction, unless you don't want to see me for about fifteen minutes while I search. Anyway..]

Looks mighty cold, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Things to Know VI

There is nothing more embarrassing than having the pap smear/pelvic exam conversation with your doctor in which your doctor asks about your sex life (or lack thereof). And your doctor is male.

There's nothing quite like catching up with a friend you haven't seen since high school and spending about two hours trying to mash two years into a single conversation.

inkpop formatting drives me up the freakin' wall!

I'm not a fan of one-line comments on my work that tell me basically nothing except that I really liked this!

Even better is when said comments aren't capitalized and don't use proper sentence structure, grammar, or punctuation.

I really like listening to Disney songs/Broadway music when I write.

It's still impressive that, even after almost two years, seeing the right face can back a world of memories, and the pain that goes with them.

I'm ready to go back to college. Even bought my school supplies, too. Including a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats for a snack while running between buildings on campus.

What's really frustrating is when your new chemistry professor hasn't put up any books for you to buy, but hasn't said if you need the one from Chem 110, either.

I'm not even sure where that book is, or where my Calculus book is, either. I think Julie has them.

I have been medically cleared and notarized to go to Wales.

I'm trying to figure out if the paper I signed saying that I will attend all academic meetings/classes pertains to this semester here or next semester abroad. Or maybe both.

I will most likely take my sister out to lunch either Thursday or Friday. The specific day is up to her because she has to work and I mostly sit around on my rear end, instead.

Have I mentioned I'm ready to go back to college?

I'm not entirely sure if I still have the same next-door neighbor. She was thinking about transferring.

If the place next to me is empty, then that means I can play my country music in the morning without fear of waking someone up.

I miss my dorm bed. I keep trying to find the rest of my mattress with the one I'm sleeping in now, and there's nothing more there.

Chuck needs to update with something more intelligent than his last post on New Year's Eve. But that's just my personal opinion.

I have a week before I move back in.

I'd like a purpose again - getting up and going to class, taking notes, doing homework. Not that vacation isn't nice, but I'd like to actually do something with my days again, please.

Did I mention I might take my sister out to lunch later this week?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Spring Semester Ahoy!

[I am well aware that I have used the phrase "Ahoy" in two posts now, and I know that you'll forgive me.]

So, after an e-mail yesterday that quite frankly scared the crap out of me in terms of my schedule (they took one of my classes from a two day a week meeting and went to three a week) and thinking I was screwed because of my labs, I have for you my complete schedule for Spring 2010. However, this does not include the placement that I have to do for my education seminar, because I don't know where I'm going yet. Other than that, feel free to comment on how much I'm going to be running from one end of campus to the other on a daily basis.

Chem 280 10:10 - 11:05
Stagecraft 11:15 - 12:10
2 Cities 12:20 - 1:15
Chem Lab 1:30 - 5:00

Education Seminar 7:30 - 8:30
Physics II 10:20 - 11:45
Ice Skating 11:55 - 1:20
Physics Lab 6:00 - 9:30

Chem 280 10:10 - 11:05
Stagecraft 11:15 - 12:10
2 Cities 12:20 - 1:15
Stagecraft Lab 1:30 - 5:00

Physics II 10:20 - 11:45
Ice Skating 11:55 - 1:20
2 Cities 3:00 - 3:55

Chem 280 10:10 - 11:05
Stagecraft 11:15 - 12:10

And this is where you say, Louise, you're absolutely nuts. And don't forget to wear your walkin' shoes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Murphy and Me XIV

I think this was the most warm and comfortable that I've been in a long time.

And I wasn't even in my own bed.

And there's something warm and breathing snuggled against me.

I opened my eyes. Sunlight peeked in through underneath the window shade. From the sound of it, Devan was back and pulling nails from the ceiling, and had been for a while. I was starting to think that the lump at the small of my back was Smokey.

Which meant the soft hair under my chin belonged to Murphy.

My arm was between his neck and the pillow we shared, my other one over the one he had wrapped around my waist to lay on his back. He moved and I froze.

"Olivia?" he croaked in the vicinity of my neck.

I rubbed his left shoulder blade. "It's me." I grinned into his hair. "I take it you didn't die in the night."

He snorted. "Yeah, that's always a good thing."

There was an odd buzzing sound that I knew from experience was a phone on vibrate next to the mattress. Murphy winced and tried to stuff his neck further into my jugular. Apparently his head hadn't let up.

"Will you get that?" he mumbled.

I reached over him and fumbled for his phone, disconnecting it from the charger with one hand. I settled back again. And flipped it open.

"You have a new message," I said, and opened it after his grunt of agreement. "From Liam."

u alive?

I read it to him. He shook his head.

"Nope," he said. "I'm awake though."

Which was most definitely not the same as being alive. So I sent back something along those lines and called it good. It was then that I realized that the noise of the chainsaw had been sputtering on the other side of the room. It was quite amusing because he snored like my father used to, before dad got his breathing mask. It also reminded me of the old house.

"Head still hurt?" I was not aware that the hand that rested on his back moved up to start carding through his hair. Not aware until I started doing it.

"It did," he muttered. "Now, not so much."

I smiled. Devan gave a truly remarkable snort that sounded like he was dying painfully.

"Dear God, is that Dev?" Murph groaned.

This time I chuckled. "Yeah, and you wonder why I live alone."

"Not really," he said.

The phone buzzed again. I flipped it open. "He's coming over at three. And he'll bring food."

Murph shuddered. "Not really hungry."

I didn't say anything. Instead, I slid carefully down so that we were sharing the pillow nose to nose. I also pulled Smokey out and settled him between Murph's chest and mine. I bit my lip. This was as intimate as I had ever been with someone, and though I had last night's rumpled clothes on, I might as well have been naked as the day I was born.

"Murphy," I said. He cracked open his hazel eyes. "Why didn't you tell me you had a brother? A twin."

He didn't try to hide from me. Didn't try to say anything to deflect my question. There was no excuse, nothing he was trying to dodge.

"Because I didn't want to pressure you," he said. "I didn't want to make you nervous."

He was sincere, like always.

"I have a sister," I said bluntly. "She's thirteen years older than me and has a husband and a kid."

Murph smiled. "Liam's older by four minutes. Or so he says. I don't know - and Ma won't tell."

I chuckled. "You'll just have to guess then. Fight it out."

There was a grunt from across the room, followed by a sickly, "Murphy?"

"Oh, God, the beast has woken," Murph mumbled to me. "Yeah, Dev?"

"Did - Did you get Ollie home last night?"

Murph bristled, most likely at the insinuation that he couldn't take care of his girl...friend. Was that what I was? Seriously?

He poked me, his eyes gesturing to his roommate.

"He did good," I said.

"Oh, well, that's - " Dev paused, and then said, "You've been here all night?"

"Yup," Murph and I said together.

Devan laughed and then choked. "Oh, please tell me you', jeez..."

Murphy's eyebrows crawled up his forehead. "Our clothes are still on."

There was a thump, a curse, and an unintelligable sound. I slipped Murphy's phone under the pillow and pulled up the comforter. Despite what I'd like to think of myself and my coping skills, I could not handle this at the moment. I was still tired, and hadn't had my coffee, and my boy...friend's roommate had just thought that we had probably done all sorts of...things.

Yeah, I was goin' back to bed.

Murph scooted closer and draped an arm over my waist. "Sounds like a plan," he murmured. "Delivery at three by Chef Liam."

"I can handle that."


I got my new Seventeen magazine today. Yes, I still get Seventeen mostly because I haven't had the balls to get something older (like Cosmopolitan) and they are still in my age range, actually. Their stuff is still relevant to me.

Anyway, there was this sidebar ad that caught my attention about the second page in. It was for this site called inkpop. inkpop is slated for rising stars in teen literature - a community for up and coming writers.

In my quest for getting published, if not the novel then at least something that I've written, I thought what the hell, let's give it a shot. So, I have created an account (under the name of thewanderinsagittarius) and, probably after I tool around for a bit and check the place out, I'll look at what it takes to submit things.

Probably the only reason that I'm sniffing around here with some sort of hope at all is because of this sentence on their home page: inkpop members play a critical role in deciding who will land a publishing contract with HarperCollins.

Now you realize why I have an account.

My main issue is that the editorial board that probably controls all of this, only looks at the most popular ones. And you only get to be most popular when people read and vote. Which, honestly, reminds me a lot of my high school elections.

Namely, it's a glorified popularity contest.

That I'm still going to enter anyway.

It's not that I don't have confidence in my writing. It's just that, well, things are different there.

They have a step-by-step process for adding a new "project." They ask you first to have an original title for your project. We'll start this interesting thing with The Sunset Girl and see how that works. Reading further, there comes a slight snag in my plan so far. Something along the lines of heads up, book authors: books must be at least 10,000 words. We're not going to classify my CoF story as book, because it's really a short story (to me, then again, I'm the moron who works with about 700 pages of manuscript and is on composition book 11). And I don't really want to have the hassle of doing the other thing and splitting it up into chapters, as in kind of mandatory if you're in the "book" category.

Okay, next step is to have a short pitch - like the back blurb of a hardcover book. Wait, my bad. Short pitch is a sentence (25 words), in which case I'm going to pick a sentence that I think is powerful from the story and go with that.

My next issue is the 200 word full pitch. I've never been good with synopsis and things like that. Never. I have issues with short pieces - probably why the novel is around 290,000 words. Okay, but we can do this. This can be figured out.

I thought that went quite well. Now they would like me to choose a cover. They have some for you to choose from. I found one that works quite well, I think. Everything else has gone swimmingly. As usual, it's formatting that is killing me.

Well, she's out there now. Lord have mercy on my soul.

Maybe this won't be so bad.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From the Archives II

[Yes, this is another "From the Archives" (when Louise was in High School) that I've dug up from my closet and transposed with some editing onto my blog. Hopefully I can find a home for it somewhere where it can be published and others could read it. I've also realized that this is yet another one that doesn't have a title. Actually, most of the work I did in my creative writing class isn't titled, and yes, this another one of those could-be-positively-nawful prompt pieces. This time, it was a photo, and when I return to school and have use of my printer/scanner, I will upload the photo for you to see. (Or maybe my sister has a similar photo.) The photo that this is based off of is of the two apple trees closest to the backyard at my old house (where my sister lives now), at the very beginning of October. There are little, minute splashes of color in the green of the trees, which are the apples, and it was a very nice, very calming, glade-like photo. And it was the inspiration for the following. And if anybody can think of a decent title for this damn thing, send me an email or a comment, or an IM or a text or something. it be. Another one from the Archives.]

The glade hadn't changed much in two years, except for the inevitable passing of the seasons. Now, deep in the heart of summer, the apple trees were in full bloom; large, red fruit hanging heavily from the branches, leaves casting gently moving shadows on the cool grass below. A line of pine trees, solid and unwavering, stood like soldiers to the west of the glade, a shadowed barrier. Though it was the height of the afternoon, the space between the pines and the other, smaller trees and brush was awash with darkness, hiding away from the sunlight in the depths of shadow.

Vincent knew all about the darkness, and its many myriad forms as he stood beneath the apple tree, staring at the pines. The day the sunlight had stopped shining so brightly stood clear in his mind. The day he had lost his older brother, the oldest of the four of them, to what the papers had called a freak accident. A tragedy. A drunken driver. The epitome of a car license at sixteen - don't drink and drive. Carter hadn't. Someone else had.

It had been two years ago, in the hospital, that he'd perfected his first coin trick. He'd made one of his father's silver dollars dance between his knuckles while waiting in a clean, sterile white chair for news of his brother. There was a nagging voice in his head, and an accompanying ache in his chest that said Carter wasn't coming back from the darkness that always threatened. It had been too long; too hard a struggle for him. Francis sat next to him, rosary dangling between his fingers, praying feverishly. Francis had been the devout one, the one to follow blindly, the who believed the most in a God that Vincent had lost faith in. Vincent had lost faith in Carter's ability to bounce back, to wake up from the sleep that had him as the seconds dragged on.

Vincent knew it was over the moment the white-coated doctor appeared from the room. He knew, before anything was said, that Carter was gone from them. Gone to a better place, Francis would say tearfully, and maybe Lance, the youngest, would agree for a little while. Vincent never would. Carter's place had been with his brothers. He remembered, in that moment, while the doctor was dreadfully informing his mother that she had lost her eldest son, of the pact they had made together when Lance had ridden his bicycle into the ditch out back of their house. It had been a hospital room much like the one Carter was in, and they had made a pact that they would always stay together, always stay strong for each other. They were the Westchester brothers, and nothing could tear them apart. Quintuplets from birth, quintuplets till death, was what they had promised.

The promise lay broken. Carter was gone.

Vince wandered into the shade of the apple tree, peering up through its branches. The birdhouses that his father had made his mother still hung there, full of twigs and branches. Maybe baby birds. There was life in those branches, life in the house behind him, yet there remained little in him. He'd been Carter's best friend, and he'd lost part of himself when Carter had slipped away from them. Away from Vince. Francis and Lance had lost something, too, but Vincent hurt the most, the deepest. It was Vincent who returned to the glade every day, even in winter, because that was where he best remembered Carter.

It was Vincent who found Kimmie and the Nevren.

He'd had the shock of his life, second to losing his brother, when he entered the glade and found the little girl there. She had been idly playing with a few butterflies as they flitted around her long, sun-touched blonde hair. She had only looked at him when he was but a few feet away, white irises surrounded by cloudless blue. There was an ethereal beauty to her; her almond eyes and flawless white skin. She was little, only seven or eight.

Vince, still raw from having lost Carter, sat in front of her, walking a coin across his knuckles without much thought. He asked her what she was doing. She replied that she was merely sitting there, listening to the earth and the butterflies. The butterflies were telling her stories she had never heard, and she'd heard him coming a long way off. There was a sadness in him, she said, something that darkened him. When he told her of Carter, she sighed.

"Nobody loses things in Nevren," she had said. She pointed to her left, to the shadowy pines. "Everything is always there."

"Carter's dead, Kimmie," Vince had pointed out flatly. He hoped to forget that maybe, just maybe, Carter lived on in some forgotten place. It went against everything rational and true, and still Vince had gone with it. He went to Nevren, under the guise of helping Kimmie return home. There, in that place of darkness upon darkness, he heard the voice he'd thought he'd never hear again. Carter. Alive. Well. Vincent had stayed, crying onto his brother's shoulder. He stayed as long as Carter would have him, before he was told he had to go back out of the shadows and into the real world. Once there, Vincent delved deeply into the art of illusions, because he was convinced that somehow, Carter in those pines was simply that. An illusion. His living brothers worried for him, his parents worried, and at times, Vincent worried for himself, as well. Still, Nevren was the only way to see Carter, to stay with his brother, even as it took him from the rest of his living, breathing family.

He struggled for two years with the notion to disappear forever into the world of darkness or remaining with the loss and emptiness Carter's death had wrought. Deeper and deeper into the world of illusions he delved, until he hit the wall - a stunt gone wrong that nearly killed him.

In a hospital bed, Francis's rosary around his bedpost and his brothers beside him, he realized how far down he had fallen. He had life, while Carter would be forever eighteen. Vincent had passed his twentieth birthday, older now than his big brother by two years. Two years that he'd spent in darkness and shadows, sifting through what was real and what wasn't, and not knowing the line between the two. Two years he'd spent with the Nevren, hoping to freeze the clock and stay forever with Carter. It was then, in the hospital bed, identical to the one that Carter had taken his last, struggling breath in, that he realized Carter wouldn't want him to live forever in the past.

After some rehabilitation, and with the strength of his brothers, Vincent stopped retreating to the glade. Instead, he found his illusions again, the simple art that he had once perfected. He made silver dollars dance for his own enjoyment, and for that of children at the local elementary school. Now, as he stood in the glade, facing the pines, he found that, with the right angle, he could see the trunks. There was no Carter there, no Kimmie. No Nevren. Carter lay at peace in his heart, like a brother should. Vincent lived firmly in reality, the Nevren nothing more than an illusion of the past. Perhaps that was what it had been all along.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

From the Archives

My project for this winter break was to edit the crap out of about 400 pages of my novel and look into sending it to a publisher or two. My sister even had some that she'd found for me, and they're saved in my bookmarks.

Well, I probably haven't spent as much time on editing as I could have, mostly because I've hit book 11 and have been rolling along with that. (This damn thing will be finished before book 12, dammit!) And I've been toying around with trying to do something with the short story that I wrote for my Craft of Fiction class last Spring, The Sunset Girl, and I decided, it's the New Year, why not go for broke off the bat?

I sent it to The New Yorker. We'll see what that turns up, but I'm really it's something positive.

Which, invariably, got me thinking. And let to me digging out the 2007 copy of The Writer's Market and, after looking through the table of contents, found this nifty section titled Contest/Awards. Most of them are geared to short fiction - short stories.

The one mentioned above comes in at a whopping 10,120 words, which, for most of the suggested contests, is too many.

Then I had another thought. I took Creative Writing my junior year of high school, and did a bunch of different stuff over the course of the semester. After some digging in my room and the hall closet, I cam up with some of the better stuff that I had written - which is actually really short. We're talking three pages, max, and there's actually some stuff that I can use other than resorting to some of my old AP essays (which I'm not touching with a ten-foot pole unless I get extremely desperate and even then, I'm going to look at them, be reminded of my English teacher from senior year, and shudder violently) with some moderation. There's also this really interesting thing I did, for my final project, called Memorandum from Eternity: A Brief Look into the Past, Present, and Future which looks at my journey through my writing career (mostly The Crossing) and finding bits of myself in my characters. I think it explains a lot, and I'm really curious as to what you all would think, and it's one of the better written things to make a reappearance.

So, into the proverbial archives we go.

The first thing that I thought of was this funny little thing that was originally written from song lyrics. It was one of those creative writing prompts (which leads me to this - Thank You to my junior English teacher, Mrs. Lasko, who also helped me start the process of getting published and was a major help in my first cover letter [my only cover letter, really, that's undergone some interesting changes and modifications]) where you think of a song that you really like, that really speaks to you, and you create a story from the lyrics. I've always had a soft spot for the Canadian band, The Barenaked Ladies, so I ultimately went with one of the songs off of their album Stunt, which was the first BNL album that I owned. The song that I picked was "Who Needs Sleep?" and it turned into something really fun and easy. It's also one of the ones that I want to revamp a little, probably edit, and find a home for it, because I really like the concept.


An insomniac is a person who suffers from insomnia. The definition of insomnia is the chronic inability to sleep. I've never considered myself an insomniac, but that may be changing soon. My first attempt to go to sleep happens around ten or ten-thirty, and I sleep for about an hour. After that, I'm free game for the sandman's evil twin brother, Walter, who runs around sprinkling anti-sleep dust on people's noses. He visits me every. Freaking. Night.

By the time five-thirty rolls around (five twenty-nine, to be exact) my eyelids finally close. Less than sixty seconds later the alarm goes off, blaring the same song every day: The Barenaked Ladies Who Needs Sleep? Funny. It always starts at the same line - "Who needs sleep? Well you're never gonna get it. Who needs sleep? Tell me what's that for..." Every day it does this. And since I have to be at school by seven-thirty via a bus that comes around six fifty-five, it leaves me no other choice but to get up and get around. Lack of sleep, however, does wonders for the human body. It makes me sluggish and eventually grumpy. If I'm lucky, then later on in the day I'll be slightly wired. This, however, will be a temporary high, and I'll crash somewhere around three, right in the middle of softball practice. That doesn't mean I actually lie down on the floor and try (pretend) to sleep, but the necessity to do so is there. All I get from that endeavor is a weird look from the coach.

School is a completely different story.

I do believe it was yesterday that I was running on maybe an hour of sleep, and we were having such a boring, and uninformative history class, that I figured, why not, and put my head down on my next (actually, it was more like it fell down with a solid thunk) and inevitably drifted off. My dream could have been classified as more than slightly insane. It was probably more along the lines of downright certifiable.

I was in this little room from the sixties, all tie-dye and swirls, and psychadelic mojo, and Walter was there, sitting on a bench. Now, Walter looks nothing like you'd envision a sandman looking like. No, Walter actually looks more like a carbon-copy of Oogie-Boogie from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas - pillowcase-looking body, maniacal grin, and this little pointed hat that reminds you of a garden gnome (or demented Cherub). Walter carries a bag of anti-sleep dust thrown over his shoulder, and even though he's only four feet tall, nobody in their right mind wants to mess with him. So, why do I carry on conversations with him? I'm such a freakin' insomniac that we know each other well enough to be considered friends. It's a weird friendship, but it's still a friendship.

"Whatcha doin', Walter?" I asked him, taking a seat on the bench next to him.

"Waitin' for you, Harriet," he said in that creepy drawl of his. "I brought a song I thought you'd like to hear." He turned on the little CD player by his feet that I hadn't seen before, and cranked the volume. I recognized the song immediately - it's the same one that plays every morning when my alarm goes off. Instead of being irked by it, Walter and I started singing right along with it, belting out lyrics such as, "There's so much joy in life, so many pleasures all around/But the pleasure of insomnia is one I've never found/With all life has to offer, there's so much to be enjoyed/But the pleasures of insomnia are ones I can't avoid!" The chorus came racketing around again, Walter and I doing a parody of a tango, and for a second it was like I was hit with some vertigo. The music wavered, but we were still singing right up to the point where the room wiggled and folded into blackness. The music was still playing in my head, of course, and in my head, I'm still singing. Which explained why when somebody shoved my shoulder and my head jerked off the desk, the first words out of my mouth, in perfect continuation with the song, were, "Hala hala hala."

My face turned the same color of the fake apple on Mrs. Blackstone's (our esteemed history teacher) desk. I also had the lovely feeling that said, you're screwed.

Mom yelled at me for falling asleep in class again when she got home from work. I shrugged it off, like I normally do, and went upstairs in hopes of falling asleep around eight-thirty. Sure enough, at ten, Walter was back with his damn dust, sprinkling it merrily across my cheeks. Only, I'd finally had enough. My already horrendous grades were starting to suffer further. In one swift motion, before Walter could react, I reached out, took his bag of anti-sleep dust, and dumped the lot of it over his head, the deserving bastard. Apparently, it must have a reverse effect on its carrier because Walter hit the carpet with a thud, snoring before the last of the dust had settled on the floor. I picked my little...buddy...up and put him in my moon chair - a great circular thing perfect for curling up and reading in.

Completely mindless of the fact that it was nearly quarter after ten on a school night, I broke out the Dyson and sucked the rest of the dust off the floor, surrounding clothing, boots, etc. that it had collected on. I even vacuumed my nose until I started giggling too hard and momentarily got it stuck to my cheek. Once the Dyson was back where it belonged, I took one last look at Walter and shut off the light. It was so peaceful, and I was tired. Bone tired. For the first time in what seemed like years, I finally drifted off to sleep. I even had one of those ridiculous smiles that you seem on people in Lunesta commercials.

My last thought, before sleep claimed me completely, was how cool my friends were going to think I was for having a four foot tall replica doll of Oogie-Boogie in my chair.

In case you were wondering, the lyrics mentioned in the above piece of fiction are as follows:

"Who Needs Sleep?"

Now I lay me down not to sleep
I just get tangled in the sheets
I swim in sweat three inches deep
I just lay back and claim defeat

Chapter read and lesson learned
I turned the lights off while she burned
So while she's three hundred degrees
I throw the sheets off and I freeze

Lids down, I count sheep
I count heartbeats
The only thing that counts is
that I won't sleep
I count down, I look around

Who needs sleep?
Well you're never gonna get it
Who needs sleep?
Tell me what that's for
Who needs sleep?
Be happy with what you're getting
There's a guy been awake
since the Second World War

My hands are locked up tight in fists
My mind is racing, filled with lists
of things to do and things I've done
Another sleepless night's begun

Lids down, I count sheep
I count heartbeats
The only thing that counts is
that I won't sleep
I count down, I look around

Who needs sleep?
Well you're never gonna get it
Who needs sleep?
Tell me what's that for
Who needs sleep?
Be happy with what you're getting
There's a guy been awake
since the Second World War


There's so much joy in life,
so many pleasures all around
But the pleasure of insomnia
is one I've never found
With all life has to offer,
there's so much to be enjoyed
But the pleasures of insomnia
are ones I can't avoid

Lids down, I count sheep
I count heart beats
The only thing that counts is
that I won't sleep
I count down, I look around

Hala Hala Hala

Who needs sleep?
Well you're never gonna get it
Who needs sleep?
Tell me what's that for
Who needs sleep?
Be happy with what you're getting
There's a guy been awake
since the Second World War


Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 Ahoy!

Hello to new readers who have stumbled upon this by accident (or by design, I'm not really picky either way) and welcome back to those who have been following for a while! Welcome to the bright and shiny New Year. Though, while the new year may be bright and shiny, the people in it are necessarily not following the dress code.

Which is why, in a lot of cases, January brings a myriad of changes and plans to change on multiples levels. Normally you write resolutions.

One of the first resolutions that I'm doing this year is I'm going to be more organized. Truthfully, this has been on my resolution list since my freshman year of high school, but I might actually pull it off this semester because, honestly, last semester wasn't exactly a box of chocolates and I am in no hurry to repeat it. It was not pleasant.

It's common to gain weight when you go to college as, most of us who were three sport athletes, suddenly find ourselves without much physical activity. As a result of this, most of us put on a little bit of weight. In terms of me and my weight, in light of the recent trying-on of the dress that I am going to wear in my cousin's wedding, it was not a size that I really...liked. Namely, it was the size for my hips, but not for up top, which isn't really unusual for me, but this is not good.

Since most resolutions deal with people wanting to lose weight (I have yet to find someone who wants to gain it) I've got a few of my own. I've thought about these, and they're simple things - things that don't involve spending ridiculous amounts of money on over the counter weight loss drugs (I already do enough of that when I have to buy the stuff to keep my GI tract running smoothly) - and things that I can do in the comfort and relative safety of my own dorm room. Namely, I don't need to be firing up the car in the middle of the snow to get to the gym to do some work out that I should have been doing since August. I know what works for me, and I have a plan when I come home for Spring Break and for those last few weeks before the wedding when I get back in the weight room in the high school with Ralph at 6 in the morning and have my ass kicked into shape. I can explain about that later, or maybe it's in the archives. Probably in the archives.

Anyway, I'm going to share with you my resolutions. I'm going to do this for a variety of reasons, namely, the more I write them down, the more likely they are going to stick. Also, by sharing them with you, and my blogging, most likely I'll talk about my progress. I mean, I'm not Jack who has made himself a goal and a promise and made strides and is just plain awesome, but there are things that I can do, and if I do them with regularity, then I should see some of the me still in there.

And I get the feeling that most of that above paragraph is completely at odds with Definition. But there must be brownie points for me realizing it. Right? Yes?

Well, as you can plainly see, my Focus hasn't come back from vacation yet. Actually, I have no idea where the little scamp is, which is entirely different story altogether.

So, on to the resolutions that only took me half a page to get to. Can't help it - Focus is on vacation.

As part of my resolution to get more organized, I'm starting with my resolutions.

Fitness Resolutions:

-Dessert only on Sundays. (This allows me to still have Sundae Sundays at college with the girls, but gets a handle on my sweets and snacking.)

-Some sort of ab exercise every morning and night. (Something simple - planks, crunches, things I can do on my floor.)

-Push ups? Yes. That sounds good. (And they're Ralph's exercise of choice, too!)

-And some sort of activity at the Fieldhouse (Probably indoor soccer, just because well...that's still part of me, somewhere.)

Academic Resolutions:


-Better time management (Not getting sucked in Twitter, Crackbook, Blogger...etc) and actually doing my work the day that it's assigned.

Erm..I think that's pretty much it on that account.

Other Resolutions:

-To be comfortable with myself in any and all situations.

-To be more courageous.

-Try new and different things.

-Worry less (otherwise I'm going to have a heart attack by age 25 and nobody wants that).

-Flirt more.

-Have fun, convince my friends to have fun, and generally just have a blast at life, college, and the world in general.

Which, honestly, is a life goal. And should be, for everybody.

It's a whole new year, a whole 12 months of new possibilities. Bring it on.

[A holiday wrap up post is coming - I just need my computer, Blogger, and my internet to cooperate so I can get some photos up at the same time that I have text.]
"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz