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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Random Thoughts/Statements, as Usual

So it's been pointed out to me that some of my grammar/spelling was off in my "Tammy and Sammy" posts, and for this I wish to apologize. I turned the story in as a draft for a final portfolio, so I didn't go over it with a fine-tooth comb like I did with "Thin Red Lines" (which was for an application). I copy-pasted it from my original Word document and should have read over it.

If you haven't already gathered, I'm not that great with spelling (thank the Lord for spell check) or grammar for that matter, especially in my fiction. I'm assuming the reason for this is that when I read out my story to myself, I automatically correct any errors in my head and thus do not notice them on the paper; this never seems to happen for me in any academic papers, however. Alas, this is a poor excuse that I highly doubt will work on agents, publishers, and if I have an editor someday, he or she will hate me with a passion.

I need to better my grammar skills specifically, since my spelling is fine if I simply slow down and think before I type (much like I should think before I speak...), but with the grammar I only seem to miss it in my own work. Reading other students essays or stories written by peers/friends, I pick up on the grammatical mistakes instantly, though not to the extent of the "Grammar Nazi" English teacher I had freshman year of high school. I wish I was a grammar wiz and that spelling came easily for me. How can I possibly consider a career in the literary world if I cannot grasp basic fundamentals of the written language?

Anyways, enough about my pathetic pity party. <--Yeah for alliteration!
I'm sitting here in my kitchen, all alone since two of my flatmates are on a Geology field trip and the other is in London, surrounded by nail polish, scraps of paper (some fiction work, some school work), and a half empty mug of tea. There's this interesting manifestation of my life on either side of my computer screen right now. To my left, my Eurail pass, timetable, map, and my Japanese Philosophy notebook (mental note: don't forget the paper is due tomorrow at 2!). To my right, a stack of belated birthday cards from my sorority sisters and my best friend Michelle and her mom, "Mommy Rohrbacher." My two lives on either side, one I dread leaving and the other I miss more than words could ever express.

I do miss America, the Midwest, WiscAnsin (not WisConsin, people!), gangsta Iowa City (random note: spell check just recognized "gangsta" as a word), my best friend/sister Stephie, and all of my family members. I wish I could be there for my step sister's big play this weekend in which she has the lead role. I wish I could--crazy statement warning--be there to see my brother and step brother's soccer games. I wish I could see how well my younger step brother is excelling in school and the confidence I feel radiate from him when I see his face on Skype. I wish I could talk more to my youngest step sister and all the crazy, hilarious things she says. I wish I could go shopping and get my toes done with my step mom. I wish I could laugh with my dad and make random pop culture references. I wish I could be there as my sister finishes up her senior year of high school.

Home is a strange word to me, because when I think of home, I think of my physical house in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay where I've lived since my first year of middle school, though I've always lived in Whitefish Bay. But is that house my home, or is it Whitefish Bay? Whitefish Bay hasn't been my home since I left the school district and went to the all-girls high school, Divine Savior Holy Angels, or since I stopped working in the local Hallmark store when I left for college. Milwaukee feels like my home, but the city doesn't hold that much weight for me beyond some landmarks like Brewers stadium and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Wisconsin is definitely my home, but that's a rather large place to call "home." Is Iowa City my home? I don't think so; I know I won't be living in Iowa City after I graduate in a couple years. My physical house hasn't been my home since I graduated from high school and left for University of Iowa. Iowa City stopped being my home when I packed up and left for here: Cork, Ireland.

Maybe home is where I am, but that sounds egotistical. Home is where my family is? Well, my sister is going off to college in the fall and I'm already in college, and in only two years my brother and step brother will follow suit. Home cannot be that many locations...can it? It's so much easier when you're a kid; you know where you belong and where you feel comfortable and safe. I'm starting to think that that's what home is. I felt strange living in my house this past summer because my house was no longer my home; I felt like a guest overstaying my welcome. Hopefully, I won't feel as awkward this summer since I'm used to that feeling already.

My home is wherever I have friends who love and care about me, and right now that's Cork. In the fall, it'll be Iowa City. This summer, it'll be good ole Whitefish Bay, WI. My family no longer defines home for me since my mom died, because it made me realize how impermanent family is. They are the people you love more than anything in the world, yet they can be ripped right out from underneath your feet. Friends come and go, but they are a stable source even if they're constantly changing. I haven't outgrown my family--I don't think I could ever do that--but my home is now being defined by other standards.

So, I'm home now, I'm going home in a couple months, and will then get excited to go back home in August. Home follows me and my heart; as long as I'm open to it, I hope to make any place my home.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cosmo Magazine: My Love-Hate Relationship

Don't get me wrong, I love Cosmo magazine just as much as the next girl. From a young age I would sneak away from my mom at the pharmacy to go peruse through the pages and giggle at the dirty sex sections. Alas though, I was never allowed to subscribe to it as a teen...and probably rightly so.

My freshman year of college, my roommate brought a huge stack of Cosmos from home and we would read and re-read the issues many a weeknight, as well as stealing new issues form our friend down the hall. I had a boyfriend briefly at the beginning of my freshman year and thought that all of a sudden, Cosmo would mean so much more to me because I could possibly use the love advice. I had always read the sex sections with a naivete and blush of the cheeks, but the sections on relationships? Usually skimmed.

Now that I am twenty and re-reading my beloved Cosmo with more knowledge under my belt, I find that the sex and relationship sections seem more like a guy's fantasy than anything to do with a girl. The sex sections are all about pleasing the man, or "helping" the girl figure out how to help herself without ruining the precious self-esteem of her guy. Very few times have I gotten anything useful out of those sections that wasn't common sense or something that I'm sure is utterly false. I love the fashion sections (though I'm a sucker for Vogue when it comes to fashion), the random real life stories about a murderer that seem to follow some dirty section on orgasms, and the steamy reads at the end are hilarious to me from a literary standpoint.

Asking guys to look at Cosmo and tell us if the "What He's Really Thinking" articles have and validity to them, the answers are, in my experience, usually no. I don't want to read about the reasons he justifies cheating to himself, why he thinks he deserves sex, and decoding his bad moods so I can give him a break from a tough day even if he's been acting like an asshole.

Granted, I have never been in a relatively healthy, stable, normal relationship, but I don't think that would drastically change my point of view. I love Cosmo, I really do, I just hope that women take what is said at face value; maybe something to whip out on an anniversary, but not to take the emotional suggestions for women too seriously.

I'd love a magazine that wasn't all about finding the perfect guy, how to find your future husband, how to keep your man content so his eyes don't wander, and how to make your body more appealing to him. A magazine about sex? Anyone who knows me well (or barely knows me, really) knows I have an utterly filthy mind, and Cosmo is essentially a sex magazine, but I'd be nice to see one that wasn't so misogynistic.

Anywho, mini-rant over; this does not change the fact that I still love Cosmo and will continue to read them, especially if Lea Michele is on the cover.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I Love My Sisters

I've mentioned before that I joined a sorority in the fall and I'm not sure if it would be appropriate for me to state which sorority it is that I belong to, not that I have anything negative to say about it! On the contrary, I'm writing today about a package I received from my best friend, Michelle, her mother, and my sorority sisters.

I had been told by two of my sisters that they had gotten cards signed for me and were sending them over, but it still was an amazingly pleasant surprise when I came home from my Japanese Philosophy study session (which consisted of three students asking a question, with the professor answering those three questions over an entire hour) and saw this giant box inside my apartment door.

The cards were simple birthday cards, and there was nothing overly profound written inside them, but it was seeing all their signatures and hearing that they missed me that really touched my heart.

Looking at me, I'm not the "sorority type," which there is such a thing to many people. I may have blond hair and am petite, but in no way am I some crazy party girl (not all the time at least...), drink constantly with frat boys, or am drop-dead-gorgeous. However, I'm not trying to say I think I'm ugly, just that I'm not that stereotypical pretty and am more, as a friend once put it, "quirky cute."

The truth is though that sororities aren't all about parties, boys, makeup, and naked pillow fights (sorry for the fantasy-ruin-er, men). These girls are kind, compassionate, hilarious, generous, and know how to have a good time completely sober, which cannot be said for most other college students I know. I was worried when I first pledged; what if the girls didn't like me? What if it turned out I made a horrible mistake and am stuck now forever? Thankfully, this has turned out to be far from reality.

My fondest memories with my sisters from the fall are not in bars or parties, but from my new member retreat, eating greasy food and watching movies late into the night, going over to the house to watch Glee on Tuesdays, decorating cupcakes, coffee dates, semiformal, and making gingerbread houses. This fall I gained seventy-some new friends, and I cannot imagine my life without them. I miss them terribly and can't wait to see them all in the fall for recruitment.

People look at me weird when I tell them I'm in a sorority, a confused look that says, "Really? You don't seem like an idiot slut to me!" It makes me sad that this is how we're viewed and even sadder that this is how I viewed sorority girls myself before I became one. Someone once asked me if I was embarrassed to wear my letters on campus or to lectures for fear that teachers wouldn't take me seriously.

No, not for one second.

I wear my letters and lavaliere on campus and to classes, in Ireland as well, with pride and have never been shown disrespect from any teacher or professional; it is only the students who seem to have a problem with the group of which I am a part. I hope that people can open their eyes up to Sorority Life and even if it isn't for them, at least to recognize that we are not bad or stupid people. We are college students and girls, just like you, just with a few Greek letters on our shirts.

I'm glad I joined my sorority. I wouldn't trade it or my sisters for anything.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Tammy and Sammy" Part II

So I finished some of my paper, am giving up continuing for the time being, and decided I'll type up/post the rest of "Tammy and Sammy." The second half is my favorite part, I have to say, so I hope you enjoy it as well.

"Tammy and Sammy"
***
Days, weeks, months passed by as Sammy slipped into a deep depression. Tammy diligently checked in on her sister more and more and became increasingly concerned about Victoria's torment; her bullying was very apparent in their high school by now. But what could Tammy do? All she knew to do was be there for her sister as much as she could, though theater was taking up most of her spare time. Tammy knew that Sammy was a strong person and that she could endure this as long as Tammy was there for her. The two sisters always believed that no matter what problem faced them, they could conquer it together. Cliche as it was, it had been true for most of their lives.

April 22nd, 2010 at 10:30pm, Tammy came home from a dress rehearsal and headed upstairs to check on her sister. The hallway light was on as usual for Sammy. Something was out of place though; Tammy could sense it. She has rushed home from school because she had this feeling that something was wrong. Tammy knew, staring down the second floor hallway, that Sammy was not okay.

Her door was shut.

"No, no this can't be happening," Tammy thought. Before she opened the door, she knew. God, but she didn't want to be right! Her hand shook uncontrollably as she turned the door knob and swung it open, turning on the bedroom light.

In that moment, Tammy couldn't breathe, couldn't think, couldn't do anything but scream. She screamed and cried out for it to be a lie, for it all to be some horrible nightmare that she would wake up from at any second. She moved in slow motion, running toward her sister, stepping on the empty pill bottles at her sister's feet. Her father came rushing in and pushed Tammy away to cradle his baby girl in his arms. Her mother was close behind him, sinking to the floor right outside the door frame, unable to move any closer.

It was the day that Tammy's world ended.
***
She looks at her watch; it's time to go home before her mom starts to worry. Looking at her feet, still shuffling through the dead leaves beneath the bench, Tammy remembers what everyone was saying in school yesterday about Victoria.

Victoria has been discovered the night before, in her room, hanging from a noose. Half of the school is in shock, the other half isn't surprised at all. After what had happened to Sammy six months ago, Victoria surprisingly enough was overcome with guilt. It was the unspoken truth in their school, Tammy thinks, that everyone knew that it was because of Victoria that Sammy took her life.

It hurts Tammy, knowing that people are more obsessed with Victoria's death than her sister's, but in the end it doesn't matter to her. She does feel something, Tammy guesses: love. She loved her sister, her best friend. And without her...

She looks again to the tree with their carving and this time smiles. She wants to stop grieving, to stop closing up to her parents, to go back to theater and her other passions and enjoy her senior year. Suddenly, she senses something next to her and the being ever so gently touches her leg. Tammy turns her head and her face brightens.

"It took you so long today, why did you keep me waiting, Sammy?" Tammy says to her sister.

"Seriously, Tammy, stop being such a drama queen! I'm here now, right? Besides, I think you should stop coming here anyways, you don't want people to think you're crazy, you know, sitting on a bench talking to your dead sister's ghost."

Tammy nods, knowing her sister, as much as she hates admitting it to herself, is probably right.

"I'm sorry, Sammy, really I am, I just thought if I..." her voice trails off.

"Don't be silly, Tammy, how could I ever be mad at you? I love you girl, but seriously, go home to mom or she's gonna ground you again."

Sighing, Tammy nods to her sister, pulling the backpack off her shoulder to take one final inventory.

"I should probably go, you're right, I guess I'll be seeing you around then, Sam," Tammy says in sadness, knowing she can't come back here again to see her sister.

"If you would just go to sleep for once, maybe I could see you then, Tammy. I'll try tonight if you do, but only if you leave the hallway light on. I'm not coming in your room if it's pitch black."

Promising to leave the light on, she hugs Sammy and stands to leave their spot. Tammy unzips the backpack, grabbing her cell phone that's lying on top. She wonders once more, should she feel guilty?

She lifts the rope from her backpack that lies on top of the sharp kitchen knife she had used. Her fingers gently play with the frayed edges of the twine; its power resonates with Tammy as she wraps it around her fingers absentmindedly.

"No," she realizes, stuffing the left over rope further into the bottom of the backpack before zipping it up again. "I don't feel bad at all," she says with a grin.

She chucks the backpack deep into the trees and heads back up the bike path; she needs to get home soon or she really will get grounded. For the first time in six months, Tammy is looking forward to going to sleep tonight.



*The inspiration for this story came from a terrifying nightmare I had about my sister dying. I then started to wonder, "What would I do if someone hurt her?" FYI, I have never hurt or killed anyone for hurting my sister! This was more the idea of what a person is capable of when their family is threatened.*

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Tammy and Sammy" Part I

"Tammy and Sammy", far more than "Thin Red Lines", is the short story that I've written and of which I am most proud. I'm going to write up "Tammy and Sammy" in two parts, one posted today (I switched over my clocks for daylight-savings time already, so to me it's Sunday) and the other posted Monday, though part I is a lot longer than part II. Unlike "Thin Red Lines" which drew heavily from true events, the only "truth" behind this story is that the friendship between the two sisters is based off of mine with my sister. Beyond that, entirely fiction! Enjoy part I of the story I wrote at the beginning of this school year:

"Tammy and Sammy"
She clutches onto the rail of the overpass, letting her legs swing lazily above the few cars below. The sun is rising out over the river; she didn't sleep at all last night. That new, bright, orange, morning sun burns her eyes and she knows the early morning traffic would pick up shortly. Her place of peace will soon be disturbed. She needs a place to think, to straighten everything out in her never-resting, always running mind.

Her phone buzzes: four missed calls, all from her mom. Hm, she must have not heard her phone on vibrate in her backpack. The voicemail on her phone is probably from her mom, and she knows she shouldn't ignore it.

"Tammy, it's your mom," her mom says. "Please, honey, you know I don't mind if you decide to sleep over at a friend's house after school, but at least text me so I know where you are. This isn't like you darling, and I don't want you by yourself at this hour, no matter how mature you think you are! Honey, please, don't...don't do this to me, don't shut me out. We'll talk when you get home. At least get back before school starts, I don't want you going to school with no lunch. I love you."

She doesn't want to go home, at least not right now. Tammy hasn't slept well in six months; it has become a job. Lying in bed, she would focus on every muscle in her body and relax them, one by one. But her brain, her irritating brain, never relaxes for a night. It keeps thinking, asking her questions, demanding answers that she did not have. Thus sleep is a burden.

At the end of the overpass is a bike trail that is almost always deserted. The gravel of the trail crunches so nicely under her Converse shoes, complementing the silence that the trees offer from the noisy highway. Looking at her watch, Tammy knows she should be heading home in about an hour or so to talk to her mom. She hates what she is doing to her, what this is doing to her, but she can’t help that she isn’t as talkative as before and doesn’t believe in therapy. This will be dealt with in her own way on her own time, not on the time of a shrink or school councilor.

Their bench is up ahead and Tammy feels her heart beat a bit faster. Its cool wood comforts her in a strange way, one she cannot place, but Sammy would have understood. Tammy sits on the bench, the morning condensation slightly dampening her thin sweatpants. She is so tired and her eyelids beg her to give up and close. But she can’t.

“Maybe that’s why I cannot sleep,” Tammy thinks. “The inside of my eyelids are too dark, too empty, too…nothing.”

Sammy hated the dark, Tammy remembers, probably more than the average fifteen year old should. Most children at some point fear those unknown shadows that bounce off their lamps in the most menacing ways, that unnamed monster that most definitely lives under their beds and is in cahoots with the other one in their closets. Yet a teenage girl should not still be climbing into her older sister’s bed at two in the morning. Tammy hadn’t mind most of the time, since she has a queen size bed, nor would she ever admit to herself that she was an enabler.
***
Tammy and Sammy were only two years apart and, for much of their young life, they looked like twins and endured their mom’s obsession with matching rainbow sweaters and paisley dresses. Their dad said that Tammy was protective of Sammy from the moment she came home from the hospital. She would interpret Sammy’s baby gibberish to their parents. They played “house” for hours, Tammy being the mother and Sammy being the daughter, or girl and dog respectively if they were reenacting scenes from the musical, Annie. Tea parties were frequent on their grandparent’s back patio when they visited.

As they grew older, pretend shopping turned into real trips to the mall, painting each other’s nails—even if Tammy’s hands were a bit shaky—and slumber parties with friends usually were combined. People thought they were strange, Tammy and Sammy, but being best friends was far more important to them than worrying that they didn’t fit into that standard, “sibling rivalry” model.

Being in different schools once Tammy got to high school was difficult, so Sammy’s freshman year was a great source of joy for the two sisters. Tammy was an upperclassman by then and wasn’t too concerned about potential taunting her sister could endure in high school. Sammy—as sweet and as caring as anyone could be—was na├»ve to a fault and far too trusting of others. Everyone has an awkward phase, but Sammy’s confidence overshadowed it and she was blessed with many friends in middle school.

Sammy, who wanted to be just like her big sister, went to the public school and not the private school where all her friends chose to go. Knowing her sister was such a great person, Tammy worried little about her sister’s survival in high school and decided to give Sammy the space she needed to conquer the world on her own. Things were great the first couple months of her freshman year and the two sisters, while still best friends, learned to grow separately.

Tammy thought this day would never come; her sister had always been clingy, obnoxiously at times. She was relieved in a way, but couldn’t help feeling bad for wanting her own space. Being seventeen and trying to figure out who she was was difficult enough; she had no time to help Sammy figure out her identity.
***
Shifting slightly, Tammy remembers how their trips here declined in high school. She pulls the straps of her hooded sweatshirt tighter to block the cool October breeze that scatters the fallen leaves. The action is out of habit rather than need; Tammy has felt little in the past twenty-four hours. The only thing she feels is this sensation that coats her arms, legs, chest, and brain in powerful warmth that is unexplainable. It’s intoxicating, and the only thing fueling her body right now. She knows she feels something, but cannot place the emotion or perhaps refuses to search for its location.

Breathing slowly through her nose, Tammy stares at the carving on the tree near her that reads T+S=BFFF—Tammy plus Sammy equal best friends forever—and neither smiles nor frowns, just looks. It doesn’t change or move and the tree doesn’t start talking like in the Disney movie, Pocahontas, but it gives her something to do that doesn’t involve going home just yet or having to close her eyes.
***
Sammy really only had one friend, another transfer freshman named Victoria, but their close bond was satisfying enough for the young girl. They were inseparable, that is, until the beginning of second semester.

Sammy had a huge crush on a guy who sat in front of her in her and Victoria’s American Lit. class who, coincidentally, had gone to the same private middle school as Victoria; sometimes, she would rush to Tammy’s table during lunch just to say he smiled at her, to which Tammy smiled knowingly. Also being a private-to-public-school kid gave them something talk about and soon, he asked her out to the movies. Victoria had dated this boy in middle school and he had dumped her, but Sammy had no knowledge of the situation. So when the boy finally got the hints that Sammy was dropping and asked her out, Victoria was less than pleased.

Never being good at reading people or social situations, Sammy remained oblivious to Victoria’s obsessive behavior. Sammy would have to call Victoria at all hours of the day and, frequently, Victoria would become jealous if Sammy was talking to other classmates than her. The two sisters would discuss the situation, but Tammy, enjoying her new-found freedom from being her sister’s constant babysitter, assured Sammy that many freshmen acted this way and it would pass. Sure, Tammy only half-believed what she was saying to her sister, but young teens bickered constantly, right?

The date of the movie with the boy came and went; he never showed. Sammy was obviously devastated, never letting herself consider the fact that it may have been Victoria that scared him off. That following Monday in school marked the beginning of the worst three months of young Sammy’s life. Everywhere she went, Victoria ensured her life was made a living hell. She was well liked by her classmates and Sammy, who had instantly clung on to Victoria at the beginning of the year, was exiled from her entire grade.

Tammy had no knowledge of the gravity of situation, but knew something was up when her sister started to leave her door only ajar at night; Sammy enjoyed the light in the hallway that penetrated the blackness of her room. She would knock at her best friend’s door, and ask her sister if she was alright. Ever-grinning and smiley Sammy refused to let it show what was going on during school. Her sister was blossoming and was heavily involved with theater by the end of her junior year; Sammy took it upon herself never to be a burden to her sister in high school.
***
Tammy knows she should, but can she? Can she feel guilty for what has happened? Her foot brushes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, across the wet leaves under the bench. She ponders her lack of remorse and why she isn’t feeling how a normal person should in a situation like this. Pondering normality makes Tammy smile; Sammy always assured her of her sanity, even when it was lacking. If the two ever did something weird or stupid, Sammy would say,
“It’s okay, we’re sisters!”
She knows she should feel uncomfortable right now, uneasy, but she can’t bring herself to feel it. But should she, and more importantly, can she? The wind is a bit colder than before, biting forcefully at her cheeks.


There you go! Look for part II some time Monday!

If You Haven't Noticed Already, I'm Rather Cliche

As the title says, I am. I'm far from ordinary (at least, I don't think I'm that usual) but sometimes the things I say or how I look at things is cliche. My sister puts it perfectly: "You are a very cliche person." It's the truth and said with love, but I think it keeps me optimistic at times, which brings me to the focus of this post.

Hope. I feel hopeful, even about things currently that should make me want to curl into a little ball and rock back and forth or bawl my eyes out or scream at the supposed injustice of it all, I'm still hopeful. I'm hopeful that I'll find what I've found here in Ireland back home, that the whole world isn't a total shit hole. I'm hopeful that I will actually make some progress on my writing, as I realize I've written more meaningless crap during lectures here than I wrote in total at any point of last semester in Iowa. I'm hopeful about...well, everything right now! (Even the possibility that I will close Facebook and start working on my essays that I am continuously avoiding...)

Happy. I am happy *whew!* it's been a long time since those three words have come into my brain. The sun is shining even through the rain-streaked sky and a smile, genuine smile, creeps across my face even if there's a tear on my cheek. There's something about this place--Cork, Ireland--that has given me a new outlook on my past, present, and future. Something about Ireland and Europe as a whole seems so full of promise and ambition, lighting the fire under me as well. I've heard people describe America as that, the land of possibility, but I feel it here more so than home. There are loads of reasons I think I feel that way, a more obvious one being that this is a place so far from my home. Most of all though, I think it's because I'm growing up and instead of looking at my adulthood with impending gloom I feel excited, giddy, ready to take the world by storm.

Sixteen days. Sixteen days until April 11th, the three year marker of my mother's death. More than anything in the world, she wanted me to be happy again and worked for that for many years. I am proud to say that after all those years of struggle, heartache, and setbacks, it's finally true.

Thank you, mommy, mama, moomookins, for giving me the tools to allow myself to be happy. When I talk to you at night, I hope you see how your years in my life were not in vain. You have made me strong, confident, able to live my life without the fear that every step I take I will fall. Thank you moomookins, Happy (early) Mother's Day, I love you, and miss you with all my heart.

This is something I wrote a while ago in a poem to my mom that explains myself perfectly:
"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."

Give you mother a hug today <3

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Epilogue from Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves is a story I've been working on since my sophomore year of high school when it was suggested I turn to pen and paper as a coping mechanism; strangely enough, it worked. And here I am, four years later, getting oh so close to the finish. I wrote this epilogue a while ago (though it's been tweaked since), because even though I didn't know every little thing, I knew how the story had to end. The rest of the story is in 1st person even though this chapter is in 3rd; the novel is a story Autumn Sumners wrote about her own life. The epilogue is set two years after the events of the novel. Without giving too much away about the details of the story, I'll give you a taste of it with this short chapter:

Epilogue- "Free"
She closes her laptop when she hears her alarm clock go off. Sighing, she knows she is done writing her story. If only happy endings were true. Picturesque, fairy tale romances didn't happen for people like her. Jake was great but deep down, she knows she made a mistake sleeping with him two years ago. She rushed into it, the intimacy was forced, and she had not been ready to open herself up fully to anyone, let alone a man. They still remained friends, but they knew that when they broke up it was for the best.

She is a sophomore now at Northwestern, majoring in Sociology. She finally called Dr. Paula Franks her freshman year and is beginning to take her therapy seriously, understanding now that the road to recovery is a lot longer than she anticipated.

Looking in the mirror, she lets her long strawberry blonde hair fall to her shoulders. Her reflection smiles sleepily back. She wonders, "Do I like what I see?" She sighs again knowing the answer: no. Nevertheless, Autumn has hope, hope that someday she will look in the mirror and see someone beautiful instead of someone tainted and broken. Someday, she will no longer be the girl who was raped, the girl who was shot, the girl who was the hero. Someday, she will be Autumn.

She grabs her backpack and flings it over her shoulder. She thinks about Jake momentarily, as she does from time to time, and scoffs at her thought. Then she pauses and reconsiders, "Can we ever be together again?" "Maybe," her therapist always says to her, "Maybe."

Eventually, she makes her way out onto campus and into the sunshine. It's so bright that it blinds her. Maybe someday, this too will no longer be a burden. Someday, she knows she will be free. And with that she travels down the streets of campus and is consumed by the glorious autumn sun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Procrastination, Essays, and Unexplainable Smling

Somehow, I need to stop telling myself, "Don't worry, Molly, you can crank out a 1,500 word essay and/or 2,500 word essay in like two days. Why bother working on it now?" Something tells me this is not such a good idea.

Wrote a kick-ass introduction to my Roman Imperial History essay...until I talked to my teacher who said not to focus on any one role of imperial women (I had chosen to focus on wives and mothers). Then, mister professor, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO ZERO IN ON?! Pretty sure I'm just going to go ahead with it anyways; I didn't exactly explain my thesis that well to my professor in class today.

Japanese essay: finally think I understand (or at least well enough to attempt a 7/8 page paper on) the life-and-death concept and how I could, hopefully, connect it to euthanasia.

So great, I know where I'm going with both papers, I have all my sources relatively organized, one intro paragraph down, and I don't have to technically turn either paper in until next Friday.

Hm, I just tried to convince myself to do my work, and somehow just talked myself out of it.

I cannot concentrate at all today (though there may be other reasons for that one...) and was completely consumed by the gorgeous weather outside. The birds chirping, the flowers blooming, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the brilliant blue sky made me smile incessantly. I cannot stop smiling today, but why?

There are loads of reasons, I guess. Here's three things I came up with:
1) The weather, as I've already said. I'm not seasonally depressed (that's more of a year-round thing), but the sun is rather invigorating. Getting used to the rain of good ole Irish-land is like getting used to the crazy ass ice/snow storms in Wisconsin: if something is around for long enough, you learn to adapt. Nevertheless, when the dark clouds subside and the snow melts away, you think to yourself, "Holy fuck, why did I ever tolerate this for so long?!" Look at me, cursing myself *knock on wood* as though I've seen the last of rain in Cork. Even so a beautiful sunny day makes me almost feel like I'm back at home.

2) My spring break trip is only two weeks away. I'm spending the month of April (that's right, we get a whole month!) gallivanting across Eastern Europe with my housemates, and boy is it going to be one hell of an adventure. It's getting down to crunch-time; finding accommodation and figuring out timetables is doable, but it's the little things that you forget about. Also, wrapping my head around the fact that I'm going to be visiting eight countries in the span of thirty days with little to no sleep is daunting, frightening, and exhilarating! The work put in will be worth it all, I'm sure, it's just the anticipation that's got be all giddy.

3) Thinking about how much fun I've had in Ireland and how excited I am to be going back home in two months. This is a definite double-edged sword because as much as I love Ireland, I miss Wisconsin/Iowa even more. And as happy as I will to be in America again, I'll miss everyone I met here in Cork, the beautiful country, and the freedom this semester has brought me. Anyways, it makes me smile because I think about what I'm most excited to go back to in Wisconsin and/or Iowa:

WI- My sister, my brother, my step-siblings, my parents, my doggie, my bed, the local mall, Forever 21, Panera Bread, Brugger's, Alterra, my neighbors, my old high school friends, Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair, Lake Michigan

IA- Which Wich, Java House, Teaspoons, Pancheros, B-Dubs, Jimmy Johns, Pokey Sticks, the Old Capitol, the English-Philosophy Building, my bestie, my Delawarean-lover, my sorority sisters, our sorority house, Silver Spider, CVS, walking by the Writer's Workshop with a mixture of awe, sadness, and hope

Most of all though? STARBUCKS. Seriously, I have a problem; an intervention is probably in order.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Thin Red Lines"

Here's the story. If I don't get accepted into the Creative Writing Track, I'll probably find this story depressing in the future, but it's still a pretty good piece of work. Enjoy!
*NOTE: while some of the themes are partly based on true events, the majority of this short story is a work of fiction.*

"Thin Red Lines"
You sit at your opened laptop, randomly skimming over your newsfeed on Facebook. Couples breaking up that you barely knew, so-and-so is sad and just, "doesn't know why," followed by thirteen comments asking her if she's okay, and that guy you met at a party one night took a quiz to check the sexiness of his name. But that's not why you signed on today.

Slowly, you type, "Rebecca Huntington," and press enter. Stupid wireless at school takes forever; your dorm walls are paper thin, yet concrete-thick when it comes to wireless signals.

She's easy to find since you have a couple of mutual friends. Her profile picture is of some Pokemon character, so you know you'll have to click on it to see her face. Double click, it's that simple. Yet you know it isn't; it's taken years of therapy and cocktails of medications to get you to some definable stability. Your most recent therapist was surprised you weren't a blubbering pile of mush after what you went through.

Her privacy settings are minimal so all her photos are viewable. You have to be strong, whatever that cliche means. What are you expecting to get from this? Closure? Some new, enlightened sense of superiority? No, you know better than that; you're just curious is all. You haven't seen her for seven years.

Part of you wants her to be exactly the same, as though it would be some sort of proof that it really happened. You were so young, so very young, and no one believes kids at that age. They believe you now, or at least they say they do, because you're willing to show the scars and have memories to back up your word. You can verbalize what happened.

Part of you wants her to be completely different and failing at life. Be a college dropout. Do blow or meth. Or...or be, you know, what you used to be. Sad.
***
It wasn't the giggles from the other students at school or the faces the lunch lady would make when you went through the lunch line that hurt. Those were scratches, little kitten claw marks, nothing too damaging. It was her, Rebecca.

From preschool, you and Rebecca were inseparable so you saw no need to have other friends. After a few years, it was less of a choice and more of a fact of life: you couldn't have other friends. She wouldn't allow such disloyalty. How were you supposed to know any better? As far as you were concerned, this was what friendship was like and as long as you were with Rebecca, you were safe. Deep down though, you knew it was the opposite.

Your parents went out of town frequently for business and Rebecca's parents were more than happy to take you in and let you stay for the weekend. Sometimes you had fun at Rebecca's. Being an only child, Rebecca had more toys than you knew existed. Her dad was a toy designer who constantly bribed you with new dolls and play jewelry to come over to their house.

Cloaked in a veil of rainbows and sunshine, her house was a prison; you could never leave. One time, you left in the middle of the night because you were hungry and Rebecca wouldn't give you anymore food. That look she gave you, one that haunted your nightmares up until only a couple years ago, let you know that that would not be an option in the future.

"Best friends don't abandon each other because they don't want to hurt the other one's feelings. You don't want to hurt me, do you? Of course not, because you love me, and I love you."

From then on, you knew it wasn't safe to leave. You were safe with her and her only; it's all you'd ever known. It's the hunger that got to you, that pain deep in your stomach that ate away at your sanity. Rebecca started with snide comments about how your jeans were getting tighter and that you might want to exercise more, but you ignored it mostly. She was disgusted with you though, throwing your dinner away when her parent's weren't looking to inspire you to lose weight. You were seven years old, how were you supposed to go on a diet?

The hunger pains were incapacitating on the weekends and on the weekdays, you would eat whatever you could find. You could feel your stomach rejecting the food but you needed more, like a squirrel hoarding nuts and acorns for the winter. Unpleasantly full, you would survive weekends with Rebecca. By the time you were nine, even your parents were noticing the sudden weight gain. You used to think it was Rebecca being Rebecca, but could it be true? Were you fat?

On your tenth birthday, you had a sleepover at Rebecca's since it was Saturday night and your parents were in Vancouver. That night, she found your Snicker bar stash in your backpack under your clothes. The fury on her face, the way her limbs trembled uncontrollably, her nostrils that flared violently, all sent you shaking to the ground. You had upset your best friend; she had trusted you to work on your problem, and you betrayed her. That was the first night it happened and it continued from time to time. The cut.

It was never enough to bleed profusely, just enough to leave a scar right below your belly button on the fattiest part of your stomach. "The final step of motivation," she called it, but it only made you hate yourself more. Now, even if you did lose the weight, your stomach was scarred forever.

Soon you learned doing it to yourself kept Rebecca from cutting you, so you took that cuticle clipper and dug deep into your skin. As you did you would picture a better world, a world where you were free from her wrath and one where you were strong enough to stand up for yourself.

One night though, you dug too deep. Fainting in your room, you were lucky your mother found you minutes later and rushed you to the emergency room. You were only thirteen. Therapy began the next day and, after hours of interrogation/intervention, you told the doctors and your parents what Rebecca did to you. Unfortunately, you also admitted to cutting yourself, so there was no way to show which scars were at Rebecca's hand or your own. You also couldn't or wouldn't, upon further questioning, remember if Rebecca had ever even touched you.

You changed schools after you got out of treatment and started eating normal again, but it was hart to understand and believe that no one was going to take your food away. Even as the pounds melted away, the fat girl in the mirror lingered for many years. The doctors said that once you remembered, you might start seeing the real you.
***
You remember now. You remember so much it hurts all over again, Rebecca and blood haunting your dreams.

Her face. That face. She hadn't changed a bit. Rebecca's hair was longer and lighter and she had a nose ring, but beyond that, it was like looking through a time machine. Browsing through her pictures, you see she's happy, Rebecca; you'd know that look of contentment anywhere.

Turning toward your mirror, you asses your changes over the years. Briefly you see those chubby cheeks, your double chin, and your bloated stomach, but then you see the truth. The real you, the one that Rebecca worked so hard to suppress. You see your thin frame and the freckles sprinkled round your eyes. This is you.

You think for a moment, lifting up your t-shirt and running your forefinger over the thin, red lines. These are your lines; they tell your story better than you ever will. The doctors in the hospital seven years ago suggested plastic surgery to smooth them out, but you told your parents that you wouldn't do it. If the scars were gone, it would be like it never happened. Without a reminder that you were not insane, how could you ever heal? No, those scars were a part of you; they made you who you are today and remind you of how far you've come.

Happy...happiness, such an odd, ambiguous term to you. Pulling your shirt back down, you stare blankly at your reflection.

So, are you happy?

My Lack of Drive Right Now Astounds Me

Last week of classes and it's only March?! Crazy, I know, yet somehow this isn't making me any more productive. The same thing happened last year around this time actually, when I first created this blog, when I don't have enough going on and any sort of work I do have can always be put off. That is, until I eventually have to do it. I have two essays due next week, one for Roman Imperial History (1,500 words) and one for Japanese Philosophy (2,500 words). Am I the only one who despises word counts?! I enjoyed them in journalism in high school because they, logistically, made sense and they were a challenge. For papers? I would prefer a page number; it helps me plan out my essay more effectively.

The Roman History essay is so fucking straight forward that it's bordering on difficult. Having a hard time treating the imperial women as a whole and discussing all the issues that faced them...as a whole. I need something to zero in on for my ADD mind, but what? I'll bullshit an intro today and ask my professor for some clarity in class tomorrow.

The Japanese essay is on the other end of the spectrum: so broad with little concrete structure. These are the kinds of essays I'm used to though in my English classes back in the States. Many of my fellow classmates in my 19th century American Sentimentalism class took The Scarlet Letter and tried to compare the sentimentalism present to some broad topic, like the educational system. Good luck trying to slim that down! I went what some would call the easier route and chose another contemporary sentimental novel, Twilight, and compared the positives and negatives used in sentimental literature. Bing bang boom. Done. A on the essay. It wasn't the "easy route" but just a narrowed focus. So for my Japanese essay, instead of comparing the idea of the self in Dogen to that of Nishtani, I decided to look at Buddhism's perspective on euthanasia. "Great," my professor said, "but be sure to connect it back to Dogen." WHAT?! HOW??? So I read everything I had on Dogen and what I could find useful at the library. Maybe my professor was referring to the concept of life-and-death? On the surface that sounds like it could connect to euthanasia and the end of life, but that specific concept is the idea that there is life and death in every moment. Maybe? Pretty please be on the right track? Today I mentioned it to my professor and he said that that was the right direction, but to be careful and not lose sight of the original purpose of life-and-death. Oh shit, rely the basis of my essay on a concept I only marginally understand? Bravo, Molly, bravo.

I guess this is what I get for doodling throughout my Philosophy class. Philosophy has never been a strong point for me--I learned that after taking a beginning class my first semester of my freshman year--yet I felt compelled to take Japanese Philosophy...why? Awe well, last week of classes, nothing I can do about it now.

Anyways, I'm thinking of posting my shortshort story, "Thin Red Lines," I mentioned in yesterday's post. I'll type it up here and post it in a couple hours. Hope people like it (if anyone's bothering to read this stupid thing...)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wow, I fail. Majorly.

Until recently, I had almost completely forgotten that I even had a blog, let alone that it had been almost a year since I last wrote an entry.
I'm still a college student and an unpublished writer, have made marginal progress on Autumn Leaves, but am more determined than ever to finish this manuscript by the end of this coming summer. However, this does not mean I have stopped writing by any means.
I wrote a short story, (my first real one that wasn't a novel idea or an excerpt!) "Tammy and Sammy," that turned out quite well even if the title seems a bit lack-luster. Tammy is mourning the loss of her little sister, Sammy, who took her life six months previously. Transitioning between scenes of contemplation and reflections of their childhood through that faithful day, the story brings the reader to the present with a chilling discovery. Now, as much as I want to reveal this, I will not! It took a bit of tweaking to make the ending more clear once I realized people were missing the big finale, but the final product is something of which I am proud. The instructor who read this short story as well as an excerpt from Autumn Leaves has given me some of my best feedback to date. In response to the novel excerpt, he said I had a very refined voice, of which is very difficult to come by in beginning writers. My exploration of the mother-daughter dynamic was met with much praise in my workshop, as well as my use of pop culture and dry humor.
Around December, I started worrying about my fiction piece for the application to Iowa's Undergraduate Creative Writing Track. From my freshman year, it has been my goal. Do I trim down something I've already written or start from scratch? The page limit was five, so the first was out of the question, but I had few short story ideas brewing up in my imagination. Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks, as most of my stories do: "Thin Red Lines." This is the story of a girl looking back at the abuse, physical and emotional, she suffered at the hands of Rebecca as a child. Her scars from her youth are her reminder of her strength and courage, but after all these years, is she happy? The reader is left to decide. The main character remains nameless and the voice is in second person, something of which I have been warned many a time is impossible to do. For a full length novel? Probably. Five pages? Possible, and I'm hoping it'll set me apart from the rest of applicants. The subject material for "Thin Red Lines" is based on my own childhood, though my story is far less severe than that of our unnamed character. It was the first time in a long while that I've put those emotions onto paper and reminded me how much else is still locked up inside me.

Anyways, life update: I'm studying abroad this semester in Cork, Ireland, and actually only have a week left of classes. The month of April will be spent gallivanting across Eastern Europe and May will be spent studying for exams. This last fall I joined a sorority, and am missing my sisters very much. I miss Iowa/Wisconsin terribly, but my time in Ireland has given me what I needed it to: inspiration. Sure, I was hoping that would manifest into major writing breakthroughs and progress on my novel, but at least I now know, in-depth, how Autumn's story will end.
Ireland has taught me much about myself. I learned that I can live on my own. I learned that life is really fucking expensive. I learned great friends can be found across the globe. But most of all, I am reminded time and time again of my love of writing. My "future" is coming closer my the day and yet I am not wavering in my life's goals. Ireland's vast natural beauty has given me more than enough to work with for The Mystieks and possibly Kay Kiyou. I cannot believe I'm leaving this beautiful country in almost two months, but my time here has been worth it all.
And as most of my posts, I'm ending nowhere near where I started, on a completely different tangent, but hopefully this post will be a reminder to keep writing my complete bullshit.