This blog is a collection of a young woman's random thoughts, many tangents, and occasional
short stories and novel excerpts. Stay tuned for plenty of bull and brief moments of brilliance.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Verry Merry Post

Wow, that was a lame title, but alas "It sounded better in my head" is rarely a good excuse. On this Christmas day I am sitting on my bed having exhausted my Pinterest and Nook as of now. My Christmas goodies have been sorted and played with (or enjoyed rather, since I'm twenty fucking years old I don't have toys anymore) since last night. My family celebrates Christmas now on Christmas Eve, so Christmas day is pretty chill which I enjoy.

I am slightly regretting now not staying in my new Victoria's Secret PJ's as long as humanly possible.

I went onto my Pinterest to pass the time and started filling up more boards, specifically my "Favorite Places" one which was empty. I went to Google Images and typed in the various places I visited this last April-May and started pinning the pictures. There was this surreal moment I had when I pinned a picture of a black sand beach in Santorini. The red lawn chairs looked familiar, but what got me was the large rounded cliff on the left.

Then it hit me: though I was looking for a random black sand beach picture, I can stumbled upon the exact one my friends and I visited. Not only was it the same one, but it was the same spot. I remember the bar we went to for drinks for Cassie's 22nd birthday right behind those chairs and dinner we ate farther down. We spent most of the day there and were horrible sunburned (Natalie more than the rest of us), coming back at night to party. The Cork party scene wasn't much like home and Santorini offered us that club feel we had been missing. We danced the night away and stuffed ourselves into that cab at the end of the night.

Looking at the Google Images is strange, because I have to remind myself, "I was actually there. In that spot. In that beautiful place." While I was traveling, I remember telling myself, my friends, and even journaling about feeling zoned day after day. I knew someday I'd look back on that trip in awe when I had more prospective. It made for a wonderful tagline: "I visited eight countries in thirty days with three friends, barely enough food, a Eurail pass, and a backpack." Yet it felt like it was happening to someone else; it was too great to take in then and for months afterwards.

Only now do I think I'm able to understand how wonderful that trip was for me. My friends and I on that trip were close before, but it brought us (at times, perhaps too much) closer than we could have imagined. We learned more about ourselves and each other in that short time span than our whole time studying abroad in Ireland. Fending for yourself like that is frightening and looking back, I'm amazed I managed it at all. So much stress, tension, sadness, joy, insanity was in that adventure. More than before, I'm grateful for that experience.

In nine days, it'll have been a year since I flew into Ireland and made it to my apartment in Cork where I met Alicia, Cassie, and Natalie. It's nice having Natalie at Iowa with me since she transferred, but I miss my other girls off on the east coast. I knew I'd miss them, but strangely enough I miss them more with each passing month. All strangers, we bonded in a way that is tough to explain. It was out of desperation, in a way, to survive a new place we were apprehensive to explore alone. Like the first day of school, it reminded me of clinging onto one other classmate that you knew in a class or at lunchtime. The difference here though was we were expected for five months to eat, drink, live together, study, travel, make friends, and become a family of our own.

We shared many amazing times and far too many secrets. We bickered like adult siblings visiting for the holidays. We created a life for ourselves that no one can understand but us four. That's one of the hardest parts of coming back, and I can say that now with more credibility after a semester in Iowa: losing that world. After our trip even we were so used to each other we had to force ourselves apart and not talk about the trip to reintegrate back into our friend group. You realize it a lot at first, and I still do from time to time. I know someday I'll see my Irish lasses again and squeal about Eddie Izzard (hopefully with Alicia's British accent) over a glass of white wine. We'll indulge in some chocolate and watch many YouTube videos. I'll open up my scrapbook and we'll smile at the memories and the friends we made.

No matter how much times passes, nothing can take those memories from me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Awkward Tears in Dark Theaters

Last night I got to go see the Rep's performance of "Next to Normal" and though I expected to cry a bit, I did not expect to be so shaken. Oh, and by shaken I mean sniffling the entire show, going down to my basement the minute I got home to cry, and falling asleep exhausted.

If you do not know the show, I'll give you a second to go Wikipedia a plot summary. I can wait.
Got it? Yup. I knew the gist of the story but maybe should have looked into it a bit more before I started bawling, like I usually do I guess. I think what got to me the most was how much I connected with the characters and the music that sent me over the edge. Standing on the other side of depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and self-mutilation, looking back at a dramatization of some parts of my past was overwhelming.

The song that sent me into complete hysterics (seriously, it's a good thing I was biting the inside of my cheek) was the song "You Don't Know." I'll put the lyrics here, written by the brilliant Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey:
"Do you wake up in the morning and need help to lift your head?
Do you read obituaries and feel jealous of the dead?
It's like living on a cliff side not knowing when you'll dive.
Do you know, do you know what's it's like to die alive?
When the world that once had color fades to white and gray and black.
When tomorrow terrifies you, but you'll die if you look back.
You don't know.
I know you don't know.
You say that you're hurting, it sure doesn't show.
You don't know.
You tell me let go.
And you may say so, but I say you don't know.
The sensation that you're screaming, but you never make a sound.
Or the feeling that you're falling, but you never hit the ground.
It just keeps on rushing at you day by day by day by day.
You don't know, you don't know what it's like to live that way.
Like a refugee, a fugitive, forever on the run.
If it gets me it will kill me, but I don't know what I've done."

Among songs about love, loss, and trying to hold the family together, this one hit home. It hit home in a way I cannot explain, a way that hurts and helps to watch at the same time. It vocalizes what I try to say sometimes when I talk about my past and those darker days, but the raw intensity and utter abandonment of the lyrics stir something deep inside.

The scene with the therapists made me laugh at their authenticity, especially the awkward and impossible to answer question, "Tell me about yourself," or "Tell me your story." The drugs listed throughout the show were mind boggling since I knew almost every one of them. The adjusting of regiments, the constant promise that it's not an exact science but we'll keep trying, and the reassurance that we'll find something that will work. I was lucky enough to find something that did, but not everyone is so lucky or it takes years to find a combo effective enough for stability.

I never dealt with the numbness, but I can understand it in numbness I felt off my medication. Nor have I ever had the urge to go off my pills for I fear myself without their aid. Fear...fear is an interesting thing for me. The emotion saved my life in a way. I never carried through with any suicide attempt for fear of it not working and waking up in a psychiatric hospital. I think that was always my worst fear. I worried if I did tell of my thoughts and feelings I would be carted away, restrained, sedated, and force fed medications.
For reference, here's a picture of me in those darker times:
You see that girl? That girl, 11 years old, was hurting too much to tell anyone.
Looking back, perhaps I should have told someone during instead of after the fact. I'm lucky I didn't fall completely off the deep end and that medication and therapy worked.

The other thing in the musical that sickened me (literally, I had to look away) was the portrayal of ECT. Next to the hospital, ECT is another one of my hidden fears, since it's main use is on patients with untreatable chronic depression. I worried many times, "What if this medicine doesn't work? Will they do that to me?" Granted, it isn't used often and is seen as beneficial to it's users, but it still frightens me. I don't mean to say either that psychiatric hospitals are horrible or shameful places; rather my own twisted fears kept me from acting on impulses.

Overall though, my review for the musical in one word would be: beautiful. From the lighting (I'm a sucker for well-executed lighting), to the music, lyrics, acting, bare-bones set, and tense subject material, I loved it all. It struck a cord with me, yes, and made me reflect about certain things that I had left buried deep for a while, but I was moved. That's the point, isn't it? Great theater is what I have a passion for, the kind that touches every fiber of your being and electrifies your senses. This show had that element for me, and I'm grateful I was able to be a witness to it's art.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Five Down, Three To Go.

I gave myself two options moment ago: get another thirty minutes of sleep after two 6:30am work shifts in a row or write a blog entry for the first time in a month.

I'm crazy enough to chose the latter.

Why has it been a month? You tell me, because I sure as hell have no idea. I could use being busy as an excuse, but I even managed to blog briefly while traveling around Europe with few moments to have any internet connection. This I believe was because I didn't want to write.

Like many passions, there are things that take away that drive. Focus I have been lacking for a while now (apologies, Autumn Leaves), but drive I rarely lose. I haven't been very stationary the past month though, running around campus with some supposed purpose in mind. I wish I had something amazing to show for it but alas I do not. My grades for this semester will be complete shit which I already knew but am only now accepting.

My guess: Creative Writing--A, Fiction Writing--A, Film & Lit--B, Earth Science--C, Latin--F.

Good God, that looks pathetic written out like that, but thankfully the U of I second grade option will save my GPA when I retake Latin. The failing grade will be in there for now, but will be removed and replaced next semester. The title of this entry does not refer to exams (if it did, I would have hung myself by now) but rather semesters at Iowa, six in college in total.

I can hardly believe I only have three semesters left in college. Only a handful of papers remain in my future and exams will soon be a thing of the past. In honor of this, I am writing a mini-letter to past self for each semester.

Dear First Semester Freshman Molly,
I can barely think of what to say to you, you poser. Stop trying to fit into the hipster crowd because I can guarantee you that you do not belong. Please oh please get rid of that blue streak in your hair and invest in some makeup so people stop assuming you are sixteen years old. Leave the boys alone for a while and focus on those grades. As smart as you think you are, this is still college so shape the fuck up.

Dear Second Semester Freshman Molly,
You are growing up now, slowly but surely, but can you stop leaving such depressing Facebook statuses? In the future you can look back at those things (and your God awful poetry) and you'll wonder what was so horribly wrong in your life. I'm glad you're focusing on school and that you made the Dean's List. However, quit being such a drunk. Alcohol doesn't solve your problems and drunken makeouts do not make you cool. You are amazing without all of that.

Dear First Semester Sophomore Molly,
Wow, you've really matured a lot and I'm proud you decided to join a sorority. You're focusing on you, that's great, but remember to live in the moment more instead of living for next semester. You need to value the time you have with your sisters now; you'll miss them after not seeing them for eight months. Invest in some nicer clothing please and maybe a blow dryer. You're beautiful but I want you to start embracing your beauty.

Dear Second Semester Sophomore Molly,
Holy fuck you're in Ireland. Okay now, calm down, wipe away those tears. You're going to love it there, I promise. Those girls, Alicia, Cassie and Natalie? They are your lifeline and your soulmates. Don't take for granted all the incredible sights you will see while traveling. I'm glad you "found yourself" and learned to relax for once. Also, way not to learn anything the entire semester...I'm almost impressed.

Dear First Semester Junior Molly,
Hi! I can see your face! Kidding, that's creepy. But seriously. You need to go to the Calvin Hall now and drop Latin, go while you have the chance! Too late? Oops. Honestly, you're smart even if you don't always achieve perfection. It took you a while, but I'm glad you like your sorority house. And that Eldon kid: hold onto him. I'm thinking he's a keeper. Oh yeah, blog more often next semester. It's a great way to avoid studying but still feel productive.

Love Always, Molly Jane

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Time of Thanks

As Thanksgiving fast approaches (which just so happens to be my least favorite holiday for various reasons...) I am thinking about for what I am thankful. I look next to me on the couch in the living room in my Wisconsin house and think about how much I love her and so much else in my life. Here are some things I'm thankful for:

I'm thankful for my sister and best friend, Stephie.
I'm thankful for my sweet little bro, Nick.
I'm thankful for my daddy, the greatest man I've ever known.
I'm thankful for my mommy and her influence in my life.
I'm thankful for my dog Lucy and her never-ending adorableness.
I'm thankful for my DSHA friends for our seven years of insanity.
I'm thankful for Michelle and our coffee dates and TV addiction.
I'm thankful for Gianna for her loyalty and support.
I'm thankful for all of my sisters for being there.
I'm thankful for my family for their love.
I'm thankful for Eldon for making me smile and believing in me.
I'm thankful for DSHA for giving me a solid foundation.
I'm thankful for The University of Iowa for letting me explore.
I'm thankful for Ireland, Cork, and UCC for redefining me.
I'm thankful for my faith and somehow not losing it over the years.
I'm thankful for sunrises, sunsets, orange juice, ice cream, coffee, tiny puppies, hedgehogs, pretty dresses, twirly skirts, Converse, fluffy pillows, goodnight kisses, cuddly hugs, smiling, laughing, crying while laughing, standing in the pouring rain and looking up to the skies, stars that sparkle brightly, newspapers with awesome headlines, Facebook, online shopping, school and sometimes homework, glasses, chocolate, black tea, fresh December snow, presents, bold colors, words woven together so beautifully that they make my heart soar...and sleep. Quite thankful for that last one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Looking Inward

This week has ended up looking a lot more stressful than I originally anticipated, but if I focus and don't get too lazy, I should be okay. My relationship is solid, my friends are fabulous, my grades are decent, I still love my job, and I get to see my family soon for Thanksgiving Break. As usual when things are going so well, I take the time to reflect.

A couple days ago I noticed a few negative comments on some of my recent posts. I was saddened that someone could say such hurtful things and was also too cowardly to comment as anything other than "Anonymous." I don't get many comments and having four unnecessary ones made me think. You wonder when you're attacked what you'd say (and usually when you leave the situation, you think of a million other more clever things you could have used) that could be a biting counter, one that would send the other crying in the other direction. There's a fine line though between looking pathetic and petty in the face of childish behavior and standing up for yourself.

This will be my fine line, because I didn't want to leave them unmentioned.

One of the comments was on a random post and something I never expected anyone to say: the things that have gone wrong in my life are entirely my own, interesting. I also love that the person says I'm being immature even though I'm not the one commenting anonymously on some girl's blog that doesn't affect me at all, but that's beside the point. The last statement had to do with me being insecure and trying to convince others I am normal.

Both of those made me laugh. Try to convince people I'm normal?! The time I say I'm normal is when Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences and hug each other lovingly (aka not happening anytime soon). And insecure? Obviously. One could spend ten minutes with me and know without a doubt that I am incredibly insecure, something of which I understand and yet of which I am embarrassed.

It makes me feel weak to admit this about myself, but it is true. I could give thousands of bullshit reasons as to why I am the way I am and it wouldn't change a thing. Is recognizing your insecurity though the first step in the right direction? We are all insecure, some more so than others, but we all feel that pull toward negativity. Daily we try and prove ourselves to coworkers, friends, family, teachers, peers, and most importantly us.

"I'm not good enough."
"I'll never make it."
"Why would anyone love me?"
"I'm ugly and stupid."
"No one respects me."
"I'm sick of trying and failing."

We do it all the time, but why? Million dollar question, I suppose. I can be confident in my writing and other little things, but am I confident in me, Molly Jane? No. Will I be? Yes, someday. "Baby steps," I tell myself, "and you'll get there." So yes, I am insecure and not very confident, but I will be eventually. I have so many positive things in my life and so many people who love and care about me that it's an internal battle I cannot afford to lose.

This Thanksgiving season I'm thankful for all those amazing people in my life...and to the immature commenter on my blog. Thank you for reminding me of my flaws, of which I have many, and reminding me I am capable of overcoming them. I owe you a great big hug, or at least a coffee from Starbucks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Inscription of Hope

For anyone who doesn't know, music and specifically lyrics shape a large part of my life. Being the cliche person I am I love infusing lyrics into different situations. The first time I heard this song it moved me deeply and I still think of it from time to time...most recently an hour ago. Read the words carefully and take them to heart:

Inscription of Hope
I believe in the sun
Even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
Even when there's no one there

And I believe in God
Even when He is silent
I believe through any trial
There is always a way

But sometimes in this suffering
And hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter
To know someone's there

But a voice rises within me saying,
"Hold on my child
I'll give you strength, I'll give you hope
Just stay a little while."

I believe in the sun
Even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
Even when there's no one there

And I believe in God
Even when He is silent
I believe through any trial
There is always a way

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Perfectionist in Me Slowly Dying

Melodramatic title, but true.

For me, school was always an escape from the stress in my life: from the bullying, from the depression, from the truths I ran from for years. In high school, I was on honor roll all eight semesters, high honors for two of those. My senior years my grades were awesome, despite being in two plays back-to-back second semester, being a writer for Senior Production, and photo editor for the school online magazine.

In college though?

My first semester at Iowa sucked, no doubt about that. Stress with the insanity that was my floor in my dorm lead to my struggling grades.

Second semester was much better. Dean's list was where I ended up since literally all I did was go to the bars on Saturday nights, sleep, and study.

First semester my sophomore year, I had 17s.h. and was working 13hrs a week. Dean's list again.

Second semester I was in Ireland and it was practically a free semester. I passed my classes and my GPA was unaffected. Thank you, Study Abroad.

First semester junior year? Not quite as good grade wise. Latin is killing me; I'm hoping for a D+ at best. Earth Science is so boring I find it hard to bother much with it. I'm guessing B-. Film and Lit? B+, A-. Creative Writing? A. Basic Acting? A. That GPA? Would make my cumulative a 3.2. Not that terrible, but not impressive either.

So why then am I freaking out this much? My goal is to graduate with at least a 3.0 which is very likely still. I stress out like crazy though if I think I'm not excelling.

I feel guilt.

I feel guilty for many things, constantly, incessantly, always. Again result of early childhood but grades cause me much guilt if they fall below a B. I have to get beyond this self-imposed-grade-guilt I have that is helping no one. Stop blaming yourself, stop worrying about what your grades say about you, stop freaking out about not being on the Dean's list three semesters in a row. How much do my grades really matter, beyond the obvious of course?

But I can't, I can't stop questioning, I wrote something for myself to hang over my bed and read before I fall asleep:

Dear Molly Jane,
Look at yourself. What do you see? A writer, a fantastically gifted, driven, weaver of tales. You know you can do this; deep down you have no doubts. You see those concerns on the surface? You feel that building anxiety in the pit of your stomach? That constant wonder if you will fail, how you will fail, when you will fail?
You're better than your worries, as real as they seem. All those teachers, family members, friends, mentors, and classmates who read your work must be right to an extent. Some, yes, may be obligated to say kind things, but not all of them. Their praise is what keeps you going and you must internalize it if you want to contain that emotion. What I'm saying is...
"I hear you're something of a genius when it comes to writing."
"You have such a clearly defined voice which is difficult to achieve."
And the most important one from your dad:
"I knew from that moment that you were going to be a writer."
They know you can do it, you know you can do it, so for God's sake stop questioning yourself! Focus, buck up, and buckle down. You have this gift; do not let it go to waste. Don't listen to anyone who says you can't. Listen to your heart because you know you can.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Happiness Is...

My blog posts are becoming farther and few between, but I blame this on my insane schedule rather than my lack of desire/ability to write worthless babble.
Monday- class 2:30-8:30pm
Tuesday- class 9:30-5:30pm
Wednesday- work 6:30-11am, class 2:30-4:45pm
Thursday- class 9:30am-1:45pm
Friday- class 2:30-3:20pm
Saturday- work 11am-3pm
Sunday- work 11am-3pm

Somewhere in there I need to find time to keep myself from failing out of Latin III, study Earth Science, compose analytic emails for Film&Lit, and write responses for Creative Writing stories in which I have little interest. Oh yeah, and work on the minimal amount of homework for Basic Acting. Beyond this I need to see my best friend once a week to catch up and spend enough time with my boyfriend (one month and counting).

I'm making up my "possible" schedule for next semester and I'm liking it a hell of a lot better. I put possible in quotes since I have an early registration date so I will most likely get all the classes I want. What I want to take: Shakespeare, Religion&Pop Culture, Roman Poetry (Latin IV), Basic Acting II, Performing Autobiography. Looks like a great semester, right? My two toughest classes will by far be Latin IV (obviously, for me at least) and Shakespeare.

The class is with one of the better known English professors on campus and I hear she's a GPA crusher...and also a genius. As a rather huge fan of Shakespeare myself, I knew from my freshman year I wanted to take a class--this class specifically--from her. I've had to wait til now because she won't let you in if you are an underclassman. I only have one more English class after Shakespeare til I'm done with my major which is exciting and saddening. I need to push myself and challenge my abilities, and taking a class from this professor will be my needed kick in the ass or my downfall. Here's to hoping it's the former.

Insanity aside, I'm happier right now than I have been since I left Ireland, happiest in Iowa since maybe my freshman year. If you guessed why, you probably guessed right: my boyfriend Eldon. Last night, we were laying in his bed listening to the music coming from Studio 13 near his apartment and I leaned over to his smartphone to play a song on YouTube: You and I by Ingrid Michealson. And yes, to add to the cheesy-factor, it is "our song."

He turned to me and said, "I have a hard time telling you just how much I love you...'I love you' doesn't seem like enough."

I nuzzled in his chest and smiled at his adorableness as my heart soared. How did I get this lucky? People like me don't get this kind of shit landing in their laps. Somehow, I lucked out and got the sweet guy who gets me, loves me for my imperfections, and doesn't mind me in sweatpants with no makeup. He makes me feel safe and beautiful all wrapped into one. I couldn't ask for much more.

So yes, I may be a bit head-over-heels right now, but I'm hoping the ride isn't slowing down anytime soon; I'm not ready to get off yet. It's been one month today and I feel like we just met and like I've known him forever. I truly love him and yeah I may be insane (actually, definitely insane), but I'm okay with that for this moment. In this moment now I am happy and sometimes that's all I ever ask for.

Thank you God for giving me a reason to smile: family, health, friends, and someone to love.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oh How Time Flies

I love fall (when it's not 80 degrees, but I'll take it), with the leaves changing, apple cider, Halloween, pumpkin carving, and (usually) sweater weather. My favorite part by far though is the changing of the leaves. I love the beauty in their dark and bold coloring and crunchy exterior. I remember being young and someone telling me the leaves were dead when they changed and fell to the ground. While at first I found this depressing, I've come to see the magic in the statement. There's something amazing about beauty in death, in the last moments of life. Our true colors show at the end and in our leaving of this world and into the next, we leave something beautiful behind.

It is three and a half years ago today, on April 11th, 2008 at 7:22am, when I woke up to hear my dad screaming and to discover my mom was dead.

Seeing that written out doesn't feel weird since after almost four years, that statement is habit by now. Accepting that the above statement is true took a lot longer. I look back on the years since then and can hardly believe how much I've grown; my mother would barely recognize this new Molly. She though, more than anyone else in my life, did understand me even when I thought I didn't understand myself.

I can imagine her reactions and advice for certain things over the years, from the tattoo, to deciding to study abroad, to boyfriends, to love, to heartbreak, to stress, to blue hair...
I knew her almost as well as she knew me. She hated to see me grow up and was definitely more of the mother-with-the-shotgun than my father is when it comes to men. She would have been terrified to let me study abroad even though she would have supported me. She would have listened intently to all my drama, gossip, and missteps. She would have hated the tattoo (sorry, mommy), hated the blue hair, and hated even more the idea that I wanted a couple more tattoos (sorry daddy). She would have loved University of Iowa.

Memories of my late mother pop up constantly, many of which my sister and I share with each other:
~Listening to "Life Would Be Dream" on the newly paved road in the van
~Sitting in the penthouse laughing in Door County
~Seeing Wicked together for my sweet sixteen
~Matching dresses, matching pants, matching sweaters, matching everything...
~The awkward pre-homecoming party she threw for me and my friends my freshman year
~Telling me I couldn't date a boy because she "didn't like his bite"
~Throwing me the Care And Keeping Of You book when I asked to have "the talk"
~Family vacations, road trips, and trips to our grandparent's condo on Green Lake
~The goody bags she insisted on putting together for my 16th birthday party
~Our basement which had sections for scrapbooking, beading, stamping, and knitting
And oh so many more.

Anyone who knows me will say I talk a lot about my mom, which is true, though it's because she was such an instrumental figure in my life. Without her, I literally would not be sitting here unable to sleep. She was the most amazing woman I have ever known and probably will ever know. She loved me to the depths of her heart, and made sure I felt that love every single second of every single day. Not a moment went by when I wasn't smothered with her love and cookies. She was the best mother any girl could ever wish for, and I feel selfish at times wishing I could have kept her longer. She graced my life with her presence for seventeen years and perhaps that's all I could take of her awesomeness before the world imploded.

A few years ago, I wrote a little something to my mom that still rings true: "Because of you, mom, I am alive. Because of you, mom, I'm still standing. Because of you, mom, I smile. Because of you, mom, I never gave up. And because of you, mom, I never will."

Call up your mother and tell her how much you love her or give her a hug if you can. Never let her forget how amazing she truly is. Love you, moomookins, miss you every day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

concentrate, Concentrate, CONCENTRATE!

As a person who usually excels in school, slacking is not something with which I am familiar, nor is performing poorly on exams for which I was clearly unprepared. It would be one thing if I had studied my ass off and still did badly, but coming into a test with little work put in makes me nauseous.

Not doing actual studying since December is a contributing factor, but hardly an excuse. Classes starting at 9:30am and going through 5:30pm is annoying, but not a reason to slip. What's going on with me? I wonder...

Maybe I'm getting early senioritis (I got high school senioritis my junior year as well), wondering why the hell Latin and Earth Science even matter to me, wanting to focus on enjoying myself just for once, bladyblahblahblah, excusesexcusesexcuses.

I'm cracking down now, for real. Last year this time I had another wake-up call when I got an F on my Latin II midterm and a C on my Age of Dinosaurs midterm. I worked like crazy, got my Latin grade up to a C+ and straight A's in all my other classes and on the Dean's List for the second semester in a row.

What I mean to say is this: I can do it.

I didn't do well on my Latin III exam which is to be expected since I haven't reviewed much since Latin II, and Earth Science was a C with the curve. Did I study for either exam? Sure. Did I study well and long enough? Hell no.

Last year when I did "buckle down" and made a weekly assignment sheet divided by hour each day, I had little social life. Was it possible for me to balance both and just stay up past 11pm? Yes, but I didn't bother. This semester, however, I have things that are also important to me: personal relationships and close relationships (mainly my boyfriend and my best friend, Michelle).

I'm not saying my friends are more important than my grades, hell to the no, I'm way too much of a nerd for that to be the case. I tend to slack when things are going swell and I know from the past that stress drives me. I'm a pain in the ass when I'm constantly stressing/freaking out, I know, but that keeps me on task and actually caring about my performance in the classroom.

I have a lot to be grateful for though right now, and that was the bulk of my prayer last night when I lay in my bed watching the shadows from the streetlamp outside dance off my angled ceiling. My health which has been a problem in the past (i.e. freshman year with swine flu, mono, kidney infection, allergic reaction to kidney infection medication...) is solid right now minus a slight cold that's almost gone. My friends are loyal and understanding. My family keeps in touch. My mood is more optimistic than in previous years and I wear a genuine smile on my face.

Since I have so much to be grateful for, I think I'll use this to drive me forward instead of only relying on stress and the brink of an emotional break. This may be a slightly more healthy approach.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stop Questioning the Smile. Now.

I write random shit when I'm happy, sad, or pissed off, but rarely when I'm bored. When I'm bored, I rarely do what I need to and once I am, that is when I want to write. Stupid fucking vicious cycle. Yet I try and save everything I write even if it seems melodramatic and ridiculous in hindsight, and reading it later is satisfying and greatly unsettling at the same time. Mostly, I write when I'm sad or angry and they are the most entertaining. I feel better though reading them and realizing that I'm no longer in that place.

And then I wonder why I always expect to return.

Letting myself be happy is a struggle, probably because I was conditioned to question love, affection, and loyalty from anyone. Years later I am better with this in female relationships, but with men? I'm a late bloomer so to speak, and need to remember how I got past it before. The problem is I don't remember. A basic "calm-the-fuck-down" suggestion is not only unhelpful but counterproductive. The more I calm down the less I consider what I am doing. Going with the flow cannot be my MO to a certain extent.

When you have to relearn basic social skills in your early teens, resorting to what feels right and comfortable is usually damaging; it has been for me in the past. Making the conscious decision to trust and let your guard down is one thing. Making yourself believe that not everything will inevitably turn to shit is another.

I sometimes wish there was someone who actually understood this or went through this who could explain to me what I need to do. I've made it this far on my own, but the solo journey is a lonely one. I'm tired of losing people. I'm tired of being tired. I want somebody to make me feel special because I’m tired of having to do that on my own. Won’t someone else carry me, just this once? (<--the last four sentences were taken directly from some of my melodramatic writing, but...nope, just sounds weird).

I guess the point of this post is to say that right now as I sit here in my sorority house (and for this past week), I am "happy." The word is in quotations because I don't want to jump to it too quickly. Am I happy? I think I am, my heart is floating and my cheeks hurt from smiling. I feel focused on my school work (if you count still needing to write a paper for Thursday, do Latin parsing/translation and read two stories for tomorrow, and read the play for my monologue as focused...) and am trying to stay connected with friends.

The main source of happiness at the moment is thanks to one of my friends setting me up on a blind date. I've only known him for a week, but my new boyfriend definitely makes me smile. I'm trying to look at this as the fates turning in my direction as they have been for the last year or so. Maybe I should stop thinking too much, or at least find some sort of balance between relaxing and freaking the fuck out. Everyone's different--for me that seems to be an understatement--and I think that's what's best for me.

Who the hell knows, really; I tend to live in a world of learning by doing. I'm the kid that would have to burn her hand on the stove to make sure it was hot even if her mom told her it was on. You learn more about yourself that way, or at least that's what I tell myself to sound less insane. I'm excited for my dad to come visit me for dad's weekend in two weeks and I hope having him around will remind me of whatever it is I need to remember. His awkward humor, insight, and unwavering support has been my saving grace through much of my life. Besides, as always, I have plenty of stories to share with him...and of course I could use a trip to the mall.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Laptops in Class are a Problem

Sitting in my Earth Science lecture, obviously working very hard on...whatever it is we are talking about (okay, it's geological time, I know that much!) and obviously grasping this complex concept. Having taken this class in high school and rocking it then four years ago, I'm not that concerned for my exam Thursday. Or maybe I should be? Not quite sure.

What I am sure about is the exam I failed yesterday in Latin. I think it's funny I want to get a tattoo in Latin someday even though I suck at the language. I love Latin, I honestly do, but translation has never been my strong point; when I did German my freshman/sophomore year in high school, I excelled until we had to start speaking almost exclusively in German. Fuck that shit. So I switched to a language that did not require such oral exams (don't let your mind go dirty mine does...) and did well until translation. Translation is the death of many Latin students for I am convinced it is more challenging than most languages (minus the Asian languages which are challenging for various reasons). Latin was once described to me as a giant puzzle; each word, participle phrase, sentence, poem is its own jigsaw puzzle.

Too bad I hate puzzles.

Well, only two more semesters to go and hopefully my professor will be merciful when I beg her forgiveness upon return of our exam papers. I excel in English classes, hence why I became an English major. It makes sense to me. I can handle math and science to a point but once the ideas go beyond my general knowledge, I shut down. Math bothers me for it demands one, specific answer. I like a certain amount of ambiguity. Science is even worse for it employs the dreaded math with the added need for comprehension.

I often wonder how much these things will be beneficial for me in the future. Beyond helping your children with homework...I can not give you an answer as to why I need two science classes with one being a lab. Part of me wants to figure out a way to use this shit so my time isn't entirely wasted.

Side note: currently the professor is talking about half-life. I think I grasped this concept freshman year of high school. Ugh.

My weeks are filling up quickly, with homework, studying, papers, and what not. This semester, I have five classes, two of which require attention (Film&Lit and Earth Science), one that requires a great deal of attention (Latin III), and two I expect an A in (Creative Writing and Acting).

Then I need two CDC events for my scholarship, two meetings with my CDC adviser, keeping in contact with my friends, keeping up with my friends from home, theoretically finding some sad excuse of a romantic life, and going out at some point.

Sometimes I miss the good old days of high school when my biggest concerns were when I would have time to watch all of my many TV shows that were on at the same time on school nights. I miss free time; not "Ireland" type of unlimited free time, but a bit would be nice. I know deep down though that stress and a busy schedule keeps my grades up and my spirit perky. Stress fuels me. Yippie.

Maybe I should pay attention for the last fifteen minutes of class...or do a bit of online shopping for dresses...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Holy Crap...I'm a Junior.

I remember high school sophomore year when my older friends told me that junior year was a bitch; they were right. Now, my junior year was difficult for many reasons from the basic studying for the ACT, to college research, to theater (and evil directors), to challenging classes. Beyond all of this though, it was at the end of my junior year that my mom died.

This means now it will be four years in April (3 1/2 October 11th) which is mind-blowing enough, but also means I'm feeling similar stresses as a junior in college. Fingers crossed I don't have to deal with a death this year. In high school, your main worries are boys, getting into the "right" college, getting good grades, and having some sort of a social life. In college, they are quite parallel except for one important difference: we are not hearing back from colleges in the spring.

That's right, we as juniors, as we did four years ago, have to start thinking about our future. Thinking about my future four years ago consisted of college and day dreaming of what I'll do when I'm "all grown up." Even now I find me and classmates catching ourselves when we talk about growing up. We are in the midst of it and will soon be entering this so-called real world. Some (actually, many) of my friends and classmates are applying to grad schools and internships in the summer or early next year.

I get scared thinking about this because...I am not.

I'm not going to grad school since having a masters in English was never my plan. The "plan" was to get my BA, get a reasonable out-of-college job, polish my manuscript, and find an agent. From there, hopefully I'll be picked up by a publisher and begin working with an editor. Since it'll be my first published piece my monetary offer will be small, but I accept that. As soon as a publisher picks it up and begins the long publishing process, I'll start working on my next piece. After this one is published hopefully a couple years later, I can begin my next and, depending on its reception, propose the possibility of selling it as a trilogy. Following my trilogy (I'll most likely still be working odd jobs throughout this time) I'll propose my memoir and following this, my next piece. Hopefully at this time I'll have garnered some sort of minor name for myself and can maybe venture into the world of children's literature.

So there you have it, the above is my "plan" but really more of my dream. I believe in my heart I can make the above happen if I work hard enough, but the reality of it is terrifying. This is no longer years and years down the line, its only a couple summers away. I'm not stupid enough to think these epic opportunities will land in my lap right out of the gate; I'll have to work my ass off. Though I'm more than ready for my life to begin progressing, I'm still scared.

Sometimes I wish I had grad school and another ten years of schooling/practice to have before I had to get all responsible and shit...but I don't. I simply don't have the time to spend in an institution when I could be out making real connections to advance my career. I can talk a big game (or seem completely arrogant at times) and act like I have it all worked out, but I don't. I have a good game plan, and as with all plans it'll change and evolve over time.

Every so often I'll hear or see something that will scare the shit out of me, send me running to the fucking hills. I'll walk home from class with a blank stare on my face, wondering what the hell I think I'm doing. Other times, less often but far more important, I'll feel something glowing in my heart or my brain that gives me hope. More than hope actually, it gives me faith. Faith that I can makes something out of myself. There are plenty of people that I want to prove right and prove wrong, as anyone does. I think that belief that I will succeed is amplified by the idea of showing this world what I'm capable of doing.

I want to prove to the crazy girl from high school theater that I am indeed smarter and more talented than she. And yes, I am crazy, but at least I'm not as crazy as her which is a plus.

I want to prove to my sadistic AP English teacher that I do have balls and will make it, and she'll have to teach my books in her classroom. No longer will she sneer at me when our paths cross; she'll have to respect me.

I want to prove to the bitches in the past and present (and future) that I may not wear makeup or have awesome clothes, but I'm prettier than they'll ever be on the inside and it'll shine through in my writing.

I want to prove to my dad, my sister, English teachers and professors, my theater teacher and mentor, and all my friends that they were right to stick by me and support my dreams.

Personally, that last one is the most important and will be the most rewarding in the end.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Written Perhaps Too Quickly

I wrote this three page microfiction story for my Creative Writing class in about 45 minutes which I think may be a record for me. It's supposed to be in "wacky mode," meaning something surreal is happening but presented as plausible. I read it back to myself and I can see obvious signs for improvement, but since it's not being graded or workshopped and I have a shit load of other stuff to get done on my plate, revising isn't on my radar. However, this class is forcing me to write small pieces of fiction at the drop of a hat, something of which I particularly struggle. Being a perfectionist has it's downfalls. Anywho enough sidetracking, here it is:

"The End"
She sat in her dreary apartment, waiting for him to text back. He'd been out for hours now searching the town for the last loaf of bread, most of which was deserted by that time. As she started to nod off, her phone buzzed: Success! I'm about to take one last quick to join me? She smiled, closed her journal, and headed out the door. Momentarily she considered grabbing her purse but then remembered there was no use; her phone was in her pocket and people didn't use money anymore. No one was around to make or spend any kind of income.

When she reached his apartment she burst through the door, kissing him before he had a chance to breathe. Previously, this type of behavior would have electrified him, but he was worried that she was thinking again about tomorrow morning. He gave his usual you-sure-you-are-alright look and she ran her fingertips slowly down his shoulder blades.

"Seriously, forget about a shower right now," she whispered into his ear, "All I want to do is fuck you, right here right now. We don't have time to waste."

He wanted to protest, talk to her about her language that he had forbade her from using a month after the Rapture Day. Ever since more than half of the population disappeared without a trace, people understood what would happen in the coming months. Most were dead from famine and disease by now and they promised each other--he made her promise him the day he told her he was in love, five month ago--not to think of this as the end.

They had to act as if each day wasn't to be their last. But that bleak late afternoon was, all the signs were there, and she knew this was one of the last times their lips would touch. He wanted her to forget her troubles, even if only for a short while. Picking her up and wrapping her legs around his waist, he pushed her roughly up against the wall as he ripped open her blouse. Her mind wanted to stop worrying about the next twelve hours, to stop wishing for time to slow down, to enjoy this moment.

As soon as she was on his bed and his hands ventured teasingly lower and lower, she knew why she kept coming back to him. Often she wondered if they had clung onto each other out of desperation, for fear of being alone at the end of days. Sex during these times was an escape--one she knew he didn't mind--but to her it had become more than feeling his hot breath on her neck; he cared and wanted her to be happy. It's hard enough to find an unselfish lover in everyday life but in a time like this? Finding a warm body not infected with one of the many plagues was difficult.

She awoke early around 4am when his body twitched violently next to her; she feared he had fallen ill while out in search for food. He tossed from side to side, a thin beat of sweat developing on his forehead.

"Let her live. Please, take me instead. Just let her live."

As much as she wanted to remind him that she was fairly certain that was not how this whole "end of days" thing worked and that pleading would get him nowhere, she opted instead to stroke his back reassuringly. He shot up and almost hit her out of surprise. He was mad at himself; he must have been having another nightmare and she had seen him in distress. Resting his hands on his face with a long, strained sigh, he felt her arms snake around his neck as she peppered his upper back with light kisses.

When they had sex that early morning there was something different. Frustration, desperation, sadness, and confusion all wrapped into one. He kissed every inch of her shoulders, chest, and face, pausing every so often so they could pant softly into each others ears. Her fingers clawed at his back in vain, trying to draw him as close as humanly possible.

They kissed more that time than ever before and they weren't only the passionate ones out of the heat of the moment; they were tender, pleading almost. When they came together they cried out, their voices filling his bedroom. There was more than a literal release when their bodies shook and fell together. There was a goodbye in every kiss, every sigh, every thrust. Dripping from each touch was the growing realization of what was going to happen next.

As she lay on his chest with him stroking her hair, she stared out into the glowing red skies. According to most predictions, they had less than an hour to live. Part of her wanted to run away from him, from what this meant to her, spend her last moments on earth by herself, and pretend that she only used him for the distraction and food in her time of desperation. Was she afraid though of admitting she loved him? She'd never said it back those months ago and she knew deep down that it hurt him. She didn't know how to love him the way he loved her.

Was this love though? They made each other happy, laughed and cried together, told secrets in the dark of the night, opened up more than to anyone else before. He looked at her and he knew, he always knew, what she was thinking. The words didn't need to come out of her mouth for him to know that she loved him back; that look of contemplation was enough. He held her close and breathed in the scent of her fading perfume.

"Do you remember the first time I met you?" he said into her shoulder. "We were running from the explosion and you fell into my arms. I thought I was in heaven. You gave me a look of disgust though and continued to run screaming. I found you passed out a few blocks away minutes later."

Laughing genuinely the first time in a long while, she nestled closer to his chest. The sky was growing redder by the second; she placed her lips to his forearm and kissed him gently.

She was glad she had found him, even if only for a short while.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scene from "Little Golden Cross"

For this week in my Creative Writing class, I had to write a scene between two characters showing tension without revealing the true reasoning behind it. I'm thinking I probably gave too much away in mine, but I love it nonetheless. "Little Golden Cross" is a short story I'm going to start working on within a month and I'll eventually post the full version of the story up here. Now, for the scene:

Excerpt from "Little Golden Cross"
Ester sat at the kitchen table, playing with her bowl of Cheerios. Her hair fell in front of her eyes and she didn’t raise her hand to move it; the strands of her golden hair dangled right above the lukewarm milk in her cereal bowl.

The footsteps coming down the stairs weren’t loud, but intentionally strong as though the steps were demanding a respect of their own. Ester smelled her father’s shampoo before he rounded the corner to the kitchen.

“You’re up early,” he stated as he sat with the paper under his arm.

Ester felt him eying the clothes she had worn the day (and the night) before. Normally, Ester would smile and enjoy a quiet but peaceful meal with her father, but something in her compelled her to reply.

“Yes, I got back early,” Ester said, “haven’t had the chance to change or anything yet though, father.”

Her father’s lip quivered, but they let no sound pass between them. She smiled to her bowl because she knew—they both knew, really—he would never say a word of what had actually happened; the shame was too much for the preacher to handle. Something about that knowledge thrilled Ester even though she could imagine the possible lecture that would come after church. For now however, Ester could see on her father’s face the words of his sermon running in a reel through his mind.

The early morning sun was rising higher over the trees and into the small kitchen. Ester expected to see the gleam of her cross necklace off the window pane that, most Sunday mornings, shot the sunlight straight into her eyes.

There was no sparkle, no shimmer, no hint of light bouncing off the object that most surely was there. She turned slightly in the wicker chair to her right, away from her father, and glanced down to her chest; only a few purplish marks lay on the skin at the base of her neck replacing the small golden cross. Ester looked at her father, neatly shaved, hair perfectly in place, staring intently at the same paragraph for ten minutes.

He must know I’m looking, Ester thought, yet she knew he had noticed the necklace was gone. That look of shame a young girl receives from her pastor hurts enough, and ten-fold when that man is her flesh and blood. Not ready to take that look, she was grateful for his little show. Why then, she wondered, did she want so desperately for him to look away from his paper and into her eyes?

As much as she hated that she hurt him, she felt no guilt and she wanted him to see that, see that she is the person he saw and not his little Ester anymore. She felt free, flying higher than her small Nebraska town and away to the place she only saw in daydreams. Then she felt a weight pulling her back down, back to the town she resented so discreetly for their hateful prejudices far too long, back to the small kitchen usually warmed by the morning sun. Covering the kitchen today was a chill of frustration, of humiliation, of ignorance to the truth.

Ester’s eyes looked out to the pale blue sky as her mind searched for her necklace’s location. She remembered now tossing it haphazardly on a dusty copy of As You Like It in that dim backroom of the bookstore, the air heavy with soft sighs sweeping down the rows of darkened novels. In that room, Ester felt the warmth she missed so desperately on this Sunday morning.

Beside her, the pastor cleared his throat as he folded up the paper. He rose, closing his eyes briefly to stop his hand from shaking, and left to grab his bible. Ester stood soon after and followed her father’s previous footsteps until she reached her bedroom. Rubbing her eyes, Ester yawned briefly before looking at her clock; she had twenty minutes to get ready for church.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Finally At Home.

It's been a long eight months since I've been in Iowa City, but it's feeling great to be back.
This week has gone by incredibly slow and I think I'm getting a good idea of how heavy my course load will be (not that much), my semester stress level, my available free time, traveling, which classes are awesome and which suck, etc.

That last one has become obvious by four days into the semester. World of Cicero (i.e. Latin III) will be my most challenging course, but I am beyond grateful for a classroom setting instead of doing independent study. My film class is slightly challenging jargon-wise since I'm not a film major; my professor's enthusiasm though makes up for any difficulties. Basic Acting is probably the only three hour night class I could handle and the people in it are fun with the added bonus of the teacher being my freshman Academic Adviser. Earth Science, as I guessed, is fucking boring as hell, and a repeat of everything I learned four years ago in my high school class. DSHA was thorough in their teaching which at times seems on par with college instructors, so my level of focus in this class will be zilch to none. Hope I can crank out a decent grade. Finally, I love my Creative Writing class since I know people in it, my teacher's cool, and I'm working on a short story idea that I think will turn out quite nicely.

Beyond school though, I'm pumped to be returning to work at Tropical Smoothies. My bosses are great (and thank the Lord Jesus Christ they've been so understanding about my recruitment time commitment), the employees are great, I love the smoothies, and the hours are flexible. You couldn't ask for much more in a college job on campus. My free time is enough to get shit done but not so much (*ehem* UCC...) that I go crazy at my boredom. Somehow I end up being bored at the most inconvenient times, nonetheless, even when I have plenty of crap on which I could be working (like now, for instance).

I miss writing papers = nerd alert. It happens to be one of my favorite parts of being an English major. As for my abilities in analytical writing, I look back at papers I wrote last fall and am both impressed at them and baffled at how I came up with the stuff I did. Hopefully, I can replicate the work ethic I did before that allowed me to take 17 s.h., work 13 hrs. a week, handle sorority obligations, and still somehow hang out with friends. My work load this year is less (only 15 s.h.) but I'll still be just as busy.

All this boring, monotonous shit aside, I've been in this weird funk since I came back to IC. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be back and beyond the heat the weather is fantastic. Maybe I miss Ireland still, miss the streets of Cork, miss my roommates, miss my friends, miss a particular friend...

Whatever it is that is making me like this, I need to snap out of it soon. I'm thinking it's that I've changed so much since I left America eight months ago and everything here is still the same. I have to integrate what I've learned about myself into the life I've had here for almost three years now. Happiness is fleeting for people like me (why the universe has decided this, I have no idea) yet Iowa City has been able to be that foundation for it that I've been craving since I was thirteen.

I have this feeling, as crazy as it sounds, that something amazing is going to happen to me this semester, this year. What, I do not know, but I can feel it in my bones. Perhaps I will find love again, have a writing epiphany, make a friend who changes me, gain a leadership position that gives me a sense of purpose, thrive in classes I once feared...or all the above. Whatever this year brings me and the journey it carries me on, I am looking forward to the ride.

Get ready Iowa City: Molly Jane is back in town.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Foul Mouth

I have frequently described myself as a "lovable dork with a foul mouth" and for the most part, it's a pretty accurate representation of myself.

I created this blog as a writing outlet but more importantly, if any potential agents/publishers research me in the future, they will see what my writing is: honest. My books are littered with profanity, but only in the certain context. I think back to a passage in Steven King's book "On Writing: A Memoir" in which he says swearing in literature when necessary is perfectly acceptable if not a must. Substituting fake swear words (oh sugar, shut the front door, darn it, fudge, etc.) is insulting to the reader and takes away from character development.

In my own life though, this theory can somewhat apply to my daily choice of language. I never swear at work, in public places (loudly...), in front of my young siblings, in front of company or my parents (excluding the occasional slip-up of "bitch"), or in any professional situation. Why? I'm not an idiot. With my friends though, they best be anticipating plenty of f-bombs and other colorful words filling the air. My friends have learned over the years--especially my high school friends who have been dealing with this for six+ years--that attempting to censor or lower my voice in general is futile.

I swear because I want to, not because I think it makes me seem cool or edgy. For fuck's sake, I'm twenty years old and that excuse for my coarse language is only usable for pubescent teens. For some reason though, some believe this isn't a good enough reason and I'm not even trying to argue the shitty, "Free speech, man, free speech!" point which has been beaten to death repeatedly. Yes, I can understand that I should watch my language on my Facebook page since I am in my twenties now and should be treating it more professionally. Yet what does that have to do with my own life?

Many hate the idea of swearing because of the social acceptability. I have never understood the problem since being afraid of a word or series of words is beyond ridiculous. Words can hurt and certain ones said in anger can hurt more than anything. For me, I can never utter the n-word and even reading it in a book is uncomfortable, and the c-word still makes me cringe and I was surprised by its commonality on college campuses.

Though above all of these words, I believe the one that hurts me the most is "whore." Am I saying I've been called this before? Sure, many girls have (which is just the start of the issue), but when said in complete sincerity it can dig deep. Slut, on the other hand, I feel is a word girls can take now and make positive as women of a post-feminist era. This however is different than me screaming "FUCK!" when I stub my toe or run into something (which does happen far too frequently).

I think what I'm trying to say is this: "fuck" is my favorite word in the English language; I have mad respect for this magical four letter word. If I was writing an honors thesis and could somehow do one that wasn't Creative Writing, it would be on the history and development of "fuck" throughout the years. It can be an adjective, verb, noun, pronoun, adverb, and pretty much any part of speech. Yet the use of this one-syllable utterance can cause huge waves in the world. I find this hilarious.

Anywho, this post has ended up being more scrambled than I hoped, so here are the points I think I was trying to make:

1) Swear words are words, period.

2) Words can hurt, so chose yours carefully.

3) Speak how you want to as long as you are not harming anyone else, including yourself.

4) Don't swear in professional situations or in front of family because, like many other things, we change ourselves to be more reserved in this company for our own image (professional) and sanity (family).

5) Think about how you're using said words and if you are doing it to get a reaction or try to seem cool. If you are and above the age of twelve, ...I have nothing to say.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"All We've Got" -Story Idea

Looking at my schedule for this semester and am pretty happy with it: Topics in Film and Literature, Creative Writing, Basic Acting, Intro to Earth Science, and World of Cicero (i.e. Latin III). The film class will be great because it focuses on analyzing films I've been meaning to see, like American Beauty, and because I love any excuse to watch some movies. Basic Acting will be a good test to see if I really do have a passion for theater or if that flame is gone. Intro to Earth Science is...well, its the last science I ever need to take, so thank the Lord Jesus Christ for that. I took Earth Science in high school and absolutely hated it; hopefully college Earth Science will be a tad more interesting. World of Cicero is one I am worried about because I struggled with independent study for Latin I and II the last couple years. What if I'm far behind my classmates? The professor is the wife of a professor I had for a seminar freshman year, so if she is anything like her husband I think I'll be okay.

Creative Writing will be interesting since its almost a slap in the face to take another basic class instead of one of the advanced courses reserved for the Creative Writing Track students. I love writing classes though and am looking forward to trying one besides Fiction Writing. Looking at the course description however, and seeing I'll have to come up with another story idea. That is on top of coming up with one for the Creative Writing Track application if I decide to reapply. October 11th is the deadline, so my dreams better start getting more helpful.

Speaking of dreams, I had one earlier this last semester that I'm thinking would be a good book premise. I would use it as one of my short story ideas, but the development of the characters that I want to create will need more than five or ten pages. This story (which I will write after my current one, Kay Kiyou, and after all the Mystieks books) will be the first one I do that has two equally important main characters and will focus heavily on each person's arch over the course of the novel. Besides Sir in Kay Kiyou, none of my stories are about digging into the psyche of a character (Autumn to a certain extent, but not in the same way). I'm also thinking the story shows my growth from plot-driven to character-driven.

The idea came to me in a dream I had January 29th, 2011; the next morning I ran to my computer to get it all down before I forgot. Most of my story ideas (except Kay Kiyou) come to me in a series of dreams--like Autumn Leaves---or one hugely detailed dream--like the first Mystieks--which is great and horrible at the same time. Great because my subconscious does most of the work, horrible because I have to sit around and wait for my dreams to become useful. Anywho, enough babbling, here is the rough idea, a bit scattered, but here goes nothing:

All We've Got
Story of two siblings, brought together by the rapidly declining health of their father. Brother and sister, Joseph and Josephine, had their mother die shortly after Josephine was born and their father, devastated, turned to alcohol and was thus emotionally absent most of their lives. The brother and sister are grown now--Josephine is 28 and Joseph is 30--both single and struggling with their individual lives. The siblings had an on again/off again relationship growing up and as life threw as much as it could at each, they grow further apart and deeper in their resentment toward each other.

Josephine: Josephine remembers from a young age being sent off to friends' houses many times by her older brother whom she looked up to for much of her young life. At the age of 16, she was raped by a group of her classmates one night when Joseph was late picking her up from school; he has stayed late to practice with his band. Josephine still blames her brother for her rape, for her subsequently dropping out of school at 17, and for turning to prostitution when she was kicked out of the house since Joseph wasn't there to protect her (her father heard she had sex with five men at once [i.e. her rape]). Josephine says she turned to prostitution because it was the only job she could find but in fact she was afraid that after the rape, it was the only thing in which she could ever succeed. Her dreams of becoming a ballet dancer were ruined that night when her foot was brutally broken in the rape, just days before an important dance school audition. After getting HIV from a "client" at the age of 24, she turned to stripping and still does as well as bartending during the day.

Joseph: Joseph knew his father blamed Josephine for their mother's death and that he frequently went to beat her. Afraid of her fate, Joseph made sure she was out of the house when their father went into a violent rage and took the beatings for his sister. As they grew older, Joseph spent much of his time staying home and caring for his sister and father, bypassing many opportunities to advance his career with his band as a guitarist/singer. Once 18, Joseph moved out of the house, resenting Josephine for holding him back. He worked odd jobs until he was 20 when a record label contacted him saying they had heard his music and wanted to sign him, but as a solo artist. Filled with greed, he abandoned his band mates at a chance for fame. After a fight with his sister when she was 21 that revealed her dark past, Joseph was overcome with guilt and resentment toward his sister for still affecting his life so much that he turned to cocaine; he lost his record deal after only three years. Homeless for almost four years, he's just starting to get back on his feet, working at a coffee shop and teaching guitar lessons on the side.

Josephine: She did realize the sacrifices her brother made after seeing her father's temper firsthand following her brother's move-out. After a year on the streets, she took her brother's old demo to one of her clients, a major music tycoon with rage issues of his own.

Joseph: Once Josephine finally told him what happened to her when she was young, he tracked down the men who attacked his baby sister and violently scarred each man; the attack is what eventually triggered his drug abuse. He wanted to leave each with a constant reminder of the harm they caused years ago.

Josephine and Joseph go back and forth, ruining their own lives and blaming the other for their losses while still doing whatever possible to help their sibling. The story ends with their father dying and brother and sister feeling a sense of relief, for they realize the source of their burden stemmed from him. They look to strengthen a bond that, though always there, was shielded by years of anger and guilt. The story aims to show that the bond between brother and sister is powerful and one that can withstand life's tribulations.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

All the World's a Stage.

Since I was young I saw my life as a movie. Upon reflection, it was probably a defense mechanism to alter my reality into a fantastical world where the hero always wins and someone gets fucked. Good triumphs over evil. Light conquers the darkness. Those years when I was in that web of deception, abuse, and utter confusion were partially shielded from my consciousness by my creativity.

Yes, I have been told countless times that I'm a creative person, but it's a compliment that many do not take seriously. Recently someone told me I have an "incredibly vivid imagination" (the context it was in is not important at the moment...) and teachers have never been lacking in their praise for my ability to spin a bullshit tale. The significance of this imagination of mine--besides the fact that I'm hoping it will help me realize my dreams and support me (to some degree) financially--was not known to me until earlier this summer when I was driving through Whitefish Bay.

My hometown has the nickname of "Tree City USA" and though I have a feeling that it bestowed this title upon itself in its own pretentiousness, there is a tree every couple feet. On some streets the trees are thicker and higher, and others they are more spread out. My favorite streets though are the ones that have trees with long, wispy branches that bend toward the road creating a canopy above your head.

On this one street in the village, when you come up over a moderately sized hill, the sun shines through the leaves perfectly. As you drive down the street, the leaves and branches seem to pull back, revealing the next tree behind it. The leaves continue like this until you reach my house and the trees are all standing relatively straight.

To the average person, this would be any other obnoxiously manicured avenue in my town, but I see something different. I see fans. They're large, extravagant, feather fans pulling away faster and faster to reveal the main event on the stage. It makes me feel like I'm a Broadway star about to have her first moment in the spotlight, or any star having a huge breakthrough. There's this magic in those branches and the nature-produced stage.

I frequently have a soundtrack going for my life and think of songs that would work perfectly with any moment. Many, especially my sister, tell me how cliche I can be when it comes to sentiments. Singing to my mirror can go on for hours and when I'm alone, I constantly talk to myself.

My life is a movie but as I've gotten older, I've learned that the movie doesn't always end the way you want. Sometimes, the music slows as the romantic lead walks away dramatically. Other times, everything stops and the main character falls to her knees in silent hysterics. And other times still, the audience checks their phones wondering why certain scenes are taking so goddamn long.

The thing is though, I'm okay with my life being a bit of reality and fantasy. The story doesn't end after 130 minutes and there are no credits...yet. My movie, play, musical of the century is still going strong. I love that I sometimes see the world through rose-colored glasses, because so much of the time I focus on the shit surrounding me.

It's a pretty good show so far if I do say so myself: great secondary characters, moving music, compelling plot, plenty of wit and humor, shocking (yet slightly predictable) twists along the journey, and of course a charismatic protagonist.

Damn, it would cost a hell of a lot more than $14 for that in 3-D.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Accepting What the Mirror Spits Back

Turns out, my "brother's" laptop (pretty sure it's the family one but he insists that I am misinformed) is sitting around fairly often so I may still be able to post regularly until the first couple weeks of school.

I was thinking today while cleaning the kitchen cabinets about girls and the dreaded identity crisis (I would talk about boys but since I have a female brain and interact with them more regularly, I will focus on the she). From a young age I remember being told daily by my mother how beautiful and special I was, but quickly learned that it was only okay when someone else said it to you; you yourself were not supposed to run around proclaiming your awesomeness to the world. Never understanding this social grace but wanting to conform to it, I made and still do make an effort to compliment friends, family, and strangers.

Sometimes people think I'm lying or am seeking a compliment in return, but in reality I simply like pointing out people's strong points. Seriously, how awesome do you feel when your dad notices your new dress, when your friend tells you how funny you are, or when a random guy at the bookstore tells you you're hot? The best. We seek constant praise but seem incapable of praising ourselves.

Where, I wonder, along the way did it become not okay to love who you are? There are a nauseating number of books, blogs, magazine articles, and movies about this issue, but are they really? The movies portray people changing and then becoming accepted. The articles feel unrealistic with the proclamation what you're unique...just like everyone else. We tell children they can be whoever they want as long as they try, but as they grow older we tell them how to change.

I have always been bothered by the obsession with tanning beyond the fact that it is horrible for your skin. Tanning lotions and spray tans aren't much better since they are still perpetuating the idea that darkened skin is healthy and that those that do tan are a symbol of great skin care. I have obnoxiously pale skin and embrace it.

Why do I never see celebrities or movie stars with glasses? I got glasses in 8th grade and have never had the desire to wear contacts or get eye surgery. My mom got it and suggested I do the same some day, but why change that? I think glasses can be sexy if worn with confidence. I wish people with eye problems would embrace their spectacles.

I hate on myself all the time like many other girls I know and the worst part of these negative comments we tell ourselves is that we are counteracting any praise others show us.

"Who cares if you're a size five? Your stomach looks like shit."
"You see that pimple? Everyone else can."
"That girl over there is so much hotter than you. No wonder you're single."
"Why do you talk so much? Just shut up."
"You annoy everyone with your constant perkiness, just calm down!"
"You just don't have 'it' and that's why boys ignore you."

See?! No matter how many times my dad, stepmom, friends, sister, or anyone tells me good things about myself, these comments manage to weasel their way in. Yet what about the things I like about myself? Is it okay to like my personality and how I look, or is that conceited?

When I was thirteen and in the darkest years of my depression, I remember making myself say three positive things about me on the way to school, physical and personality wise. If all you girls out there could try this now and again when you're feeling down, I can promise it'll make a difference. I don't know any magical cure to make those pestering negatives go away, but I do know how to fight back. Let me try for today:
"You have an adorable dimple on your right cheek when you smile."
"You have great legs."
"You may be little, but you're fun-sized."
"You're hilarious; listen when people tell you that you're funny."
"You're a good writer and you know it. Own that."
"You are smart and you are worth it."

So there you have it, my positives for today. Hopefully anyone who reads this can try doing the same for themselves. Don't let fucked up people tell you that you're less that amazing, because everyone is beautiful in their own way.

And I promise you, that is not bullshit.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lack Of Laptop Leads to Reflections

Yup, that's right: I spilled a whole cup of tea on my wonderful laptop, my lifeline and my baby. After two days in a fucking huge bag of rice (which was unsuccessful because I forgot to remove the battery first...), my step-mom's IT people at her work concluded the motherboard was fried. All my writing, pictures, and what not though, were saved. THANK THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Lesson for the nth time: always always always back up your shit. I did on a flash drive, but my dad says now is the time for an external hard drive as well as some internet program that stores your files online. Still, I am thankful my stuff has been saved.

I have reevaluated my goals for this summer, mainly the funny notion of having any. I cannot work when I am bored or not busy (i.e. Ireland) and thus my plan to finish Autumn Leaves has failed miserably. It needs to get done before I graduate; this goal I have always had at the back of my mind. I psych myself out with these shorter term goals that I rarely meet and am disappointed when I fall short.

Last summer was stressful, for various reasons, and my mind refused to focus. This summer has been amazing in that I've gotten to see my friends so often and had some great mini-adventures. Nevertheless, my reverse culture shock and my constant sadness of the absence of my former Irish home and my Irish friends has left me apathetic about my work. I can still close my eyes and open them, expecting to wake up on my creaky mattress in my grim apartment. I can still see the smiles on my friends faces and the glow of the low lights in the pub on Wednesday nights. I can still look up and anticipate random bouts of rain and bothersome mist. I can still taste the bitter, fruity aftertaste of the 5euro wine I drank so frequently. I can still feel his hand around my waist and how happy I was in Cork...

I do find myself remembering random stories and wanting to share them with someone, but am working harder now at stopping myself to keep my friends from stabbing me while yelling, "Stop fucking talking about Ireland!" If I keep it up, it's bound to happen, I'm sure. Anyways, I decided I'd write a couple of my random memories from the semester down here. I don't know how frequent my posts will be with no steady computer and recruitment stuff coming up quickly, but here's a little something for now:

I remember the first day of school at UCC and calling my dad at 11am Irish time (hadn't quite gotten used to subtracting 6 hours for US central time...), sobbing hysterically about how homesick I was and that he had to get me home now. I looked fucking ridiculous and had many students staring at me in the Student Centre. Eventually I pulled myself together, but on the walk home from classes that day I started feeling like shit; my roommate had gotten the stomach flu and now so had I. Not that great of a first day if I do say so myself.

I remember my first couple trips to the climbing wall and my first hike with the Mountaineering Club, how nervous and awkward I was per usual. In awe, I watched the other club members climb the wall like total beasts and run down the mountainsides like experts. I thought to myself, "Well, fuck, none of these people will end up being my friends. I can only pretend to be athletic for so long." Little did I know that I wasn't fooling anyone and for some reason, they still wanted my company. Perhaps having the talkative, scrawny, feisty American around was good for the club's morale, but whatever the reason I was thankful.

I remember leaving for our trip across Europe with my next-door-neighbor Natalie and the first day in Paris. We wandered without a clue and carrying our luggage around aimlessly. The next day when my roommate Cassie joined us, that nap we took in our friend's dorm room was the best thing in the world. How the hell Natalie and I were able to sleep like ying-yang on that tiny mattress with our clothing as a pillow, I will never know.

Naps are particularly memorable parts of our trip for how much we looked forward to them. When in Vienna staying with our couchsurfing hosts, we walked in that first morning and saw one futon and four of us. After some squabbling about who was a "big spoon" or a "little spoon" (by the way, I was sort of born to be a little spoon since I practically sleep bunched up in a ball), we all were packed together, side-by-side, like sardines.

I remember that night we got back from Turkey into Cork and decided we were going to go surprise our friends at the pub. I ran in with one of the girls to drop off our luggage and left the taxi stalled outside. When I got back in the taxi after quickly spraying a bit of perfume on, my roomie Alicia squealed, "Oh my God, you smell so good!" It was that moment that we realized how stale and nasty we all smelled/looked. I have a strange feeling that we were (except for a couple of the guys) more excited to see everyone than they were. It was like any other Wednesday night and that familiarity after all our insanity was so comforting.

Yes, I remember plenty of sad moments as well or good memories that tug at my heart strings, but these make me smile. I hope I'm getting to the point, slowly but surely, where I can smile back on those amazing five months instead of sulking about how it is over. I'm more in the moment about the summer now (not such great timing since it's almost over) and though I may not be as blissfully happy as I was with all my friends there, I am still feeling pretty good with the occasional sighting of my old friends around these parts. They make me feel like I'm in high school again, and I know I'd be lost without them. I just hope they don't end up stabbing me before these next few weeks are up...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Borderline Problematic Obsession

Harry Potter. As many adults around my age, the series was fundamental in our upbringing and childhood in general. For me, the books were what kept me sane for many of my childhood years.

I remember reading the first two in school with my third grade class and having my mom purchase me the third book that Christmas...only to forget about it on a shelf in our living room. The following year I went to the public library for a book reading, which just so happened to be the opening chapter to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My mom refused to buy it for me until I finished the one collecting dust on the book shelf. I thought this was incredibly unfair at the time, but finished the third one within a week and the fourth within another when my mom made good on her promise.

When I got to high school, I was surrounded by people who were not afraid to admit their obsession with the boy wizard. My 15th birthday, I brought a cake and decorations to the Quad at school in Harry Potter theme. After Daniel Radcliffe was on stage for Equus in the nude, my friends posted photos of him by the bubbler knowing people would assume it was me due to my intense crush on the actor. I got replica wands my 16th birthday as well as a t-shirt and scarf the following Christmas.

By my sophomore year, by mania was in full force. I had created the small DDIND club (Dumbledore Is Not Dead, or "dind") with some of my theater friends, even though we were sadly proven wrong the next summer with the release of the seventh book. I discovered that year as well as MuggleCast, the weekly podcast that I would download onto my iPod every Thursday or Friday. My iPod was one of those brick, first generation ones that died the minute you turned on the neon blue backlight. It was so old I would have to plug it into my speakers, insert my headphones, and sit there to listen. Those were some of my happiest after school hours.

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, you can believe that I was there and for some reason was one of the only people over the age of ten in costume. I thought to myself, "Move over bitches, you weren't even born when the first book was published! Get to the back of the fucking line!" But I, not being a complete asshole, controlled myself. I even got on the news for my Ravenclaw ensemble and still have the news segment saved on our TV (my mother being in the background is another added bonus to the footage).

For the fourth, fifth, and sixth, I read the books as fast as possible. Usually locking myself in my room or in the attic with a box of Cheez-Its, I would read furiously and become agitated by the necessity of things like sleep and meals. Yet for the seventh I took my time and stretched my reading period out to a whole week. My books are still in my bedside table, with many illegible scribblings, highlighting, and dog-eared pages. I had a notebook full of my own theories for the seventh book and of the philosophical, ethical, and historical, and mythological references/aspects of the books individually and as a cohesive piece.

In my senior year of high school, I created the Harry Potter Book Club (which consisted of me as president, sophomores Alexia and Katerina as VP and secretary respectively, and junior Sarah as treasurer) which actually attracted more members than I had anticipated. The club continued on for two more years after I graduated and they even went on to create their own t-shirts. The sophomores in that club with me its first year just graduated in May which is frightening to me; I remember them in their capes and plastic wands by the Art Wing on one of the last days of my senior year reenacting the final battle at Hogwarts.

With the second part of the seventh movie almost here and the recent discovery of my old cape in our basement, my sentimental and nostalgic side in regards to the series has resurfaced. I've been in love with Daniel Radcliffe since I was eleven years old (most successful relationship thus far, boo yah!) and in love with reading since those school days in Mrs. Brooks' third grade class.

Oh, Harry Potter, I would not nearly be as nerdy as I am today without you.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Want You to Know I am My Hair!

Me and my hair...a touchy subject as many know by now. It is unbelievably thick, yet straight. Since a young age I've kept it short because it is easier to take care of, style, wash, and live with on a day to day basis. This does not mean, though, that my hair was always as short as it has been in the past couple years.

When I was young, I remember being in Ballet/Jazz classes and having to tie up my hair into a bun; it was just long enough to tie up, but too short to be done smoothly. I would have to bend over a chair so my hair would hang off the edge and my mom (and the teacher sometimes) would have to squeeze my shortish locks into a ponytail holder, which never held long since my hair was so heavy. I remember the headaches I would get with that hair pulled tightly at the back of my scalp to keep from slipping.

When I was in grade school, the crimping craze of the late 90's hit and my sister had a crimping birthday party. You can imagine what the photos of my crimped hair looked like: an electrified lion that just saw a ghost. In my 4th grade school picture, I wanted my mom to curl my hair like some of my friends were for there's. She did, though she warned me it might not turn out like the other girls' thinner hair. She was right; the curls bunched into two giant curls on either side of my head, making me look like a fucking ram.

At the age of eleven, a stylist at my hair salon requested using me in a hair styling piece in a local magazine since its texture intrigued him. "Cool!" I thought, "I'll be famous for my hair!" Unfortunately for me this stylist had no experience with my type of hair and kept cutting...and cutting and cutting. Soon he realized that as you cut thick hair like mine, it expands. I ran out of the place in tears and endured much teasing from classmates. My brother, six at the time, told me I looked like an alien.

By the time I hit high school, I had found a hair style with which I was comfortable and stuck with it for years. At every step of the way though, there was someone telling me to grow it out and how amazing it would look. Nothing irritated me more than being told by people that they knew better. To me, it felt as if the people were saying, "It's not good enough." How dare they?! How dare they try and squander what I worked for years to find, some stability on top?

Now though, my theory is more of "What the hell!" What do I really have to lose? So I'm growing out my crazy ass, strawberry blonde with a tint of brown, thick hair. No, I am not doing it because people have been asking me to for years, or because I think it looked horrible before. I liked and still do like my hair short, but at the age of twenty I think it's time to take a chance. I need a change in my life and I hear the best place to start is externally, with hair and clothing. Clothing is a work in progress (here's to hoping my sorority sisters can help me a bit on that front) and the hair? Longer now than I remember it being for about four years.

My face looks strange right now with my lopsided puffy cheeks from losing the wisdom teeth, but I'm liking the hair so far. Maybe once it gets long enough, I can get it cut/styled a bit to try something really new. I'm excited at the prospect of a change...and I like where it's taking me.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Lacking Any Wisdom She Once Had"

Yes, those were the words of my father at the pharmacy while we were picking up my pain medication after getting my four wisdom teeth out. This also was after he asked if I was thirsty...because I looked a little cotton mouthed. Thanks dad, thanks. He did, however, take out my first set of bloody gauze and for that I do thank him.

I've had horrible luck when it comes to dental matters. Many of my baby teeth were pulled because of over crowding. For eight years, I had braces on and off to correct an overbite and crossbite. The majority of my molars came in with holes, so I am no stranger to Novocaine or that god-forsaken drill. This procedure though was one of which I was frightened.

I went in this morning and one of the nurses helping told me she was new and that the dentist would be talking a lot through the extraction. I thought no big deal...right? Nope, I got to hear, in detail I may add, exactly what he was cutting, pulling, drilling, and breaking. Pleasant. Overall though it wasn't too bad and I'm still alive here.

Sitting on my parents bed with an ice pack on my cheek (propped up by my teddy bear so I can use both hands to type) and my computer before me. I was going to spend the day watching movies, but for some reason the fucking On Demand isn't working up here and I'm too lazy to relocate myself. What am I to do then? WRITE, GOD DAMN IT!

The time has finally come when I am forced to sit with nothing to do (ignoring the videos piling up on my queue on my Hulu account) except work on Autumn's story. I think I mentioned that I wrote about 400 words like a week ago which can sound impressive...except it's about a half page single spaced. More pathetic than anything, if you ask me.

The story is at a weird place right now in that I know where it needs to end up, but I cannot run to the finish line like a crazy fucker; this needs a slower pace. Trying to describe (without explicitly saying anything, of course) an emotional breakdown is difficult. How far can she fall at each step of the way? How much other stuff can I fill in between chapters? How do I display this pivotal point of the piece without ignoring my secondary characters and letting them become flatter than three day old soda?

I worry too much internal dialogue will make it seem forced, where as too much conversation will not only weaken what I've already created, but undermine the battle within her character that should be exposed. I do have some ideas to fill in between where I am now and Autumn's confrontation with Stacy:
~Dealing with her mother and the media.
~Going back to school.
~Hearing about the court case.
~Clinging to/pulling away from Jake.
~Avoiding her friends.
~More frequent and detailed flashbacks.
One of my better ideas is a shower scene in which Autumn freaks out that she is "unclean" and starts scrubbing her skin harder and harder, until she slips in the shower and sits curled up in her towel, sobbing. That display of utter despair will be fun and challenging to write, but right now is the awkward phase. The main problem with this though is it can't be awkward or readers will end up skipping through it. I cannot make it tedious since it's so critical to the plot.

Maybe I'll wait till tomorrow when I'm a bit less tired. The doctors say the pain is the worst the second day, so I'll be wanting to keep myself busy. Here's to hoping losing these wisdom teeth can help me fill in the blanks.