Abrupt Horror


Everything affects everything.

Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why

I have a pretty good life. Not many bad things have happened to me. But recently I’ve had some breath-stopping, heart-pounding, stomach-turning moments.

“The baby has a heart defect.”

“They’ve found his body.”

“Something horrible has happened.”

Freeze. Feel the paralysis that abrupt horror creates. 

Most of these moments haven’t even been directly related to me. It wasn’t my baby. It wasn’t my family.

And in some ways, that makes these situations stranger for me. I’m hurt, I’m gutted, I’m crying, but there is nothing I can do. My coworker asks if I’m having a bad day, to which I incoherently reply, “No. Well, kinda. Yes, I guess so.” There’s no way to explain the small anchor on my heart, the tragedy that isn’t close enough to warrant stopping life long enough for grieving.

One of the boys I grew up with committed suicide.

He was the last person I would have expected. (everyone says these things) He was one of the happiest, kindest people I knew. (that light is gone and I can’t believe it) There was no warning, no signs. (there are almost always signs)

But I wouldn’t have known if there had been.

I went to college. He stayed home. We exchanged some Facebook messages, but to be honest, I probably haven’t talked to him in 2-3 years.

And now…well, now that feels like a mistake. Like something I could have done differently if I had bothered to care more.

A few days after he died, I reread 13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher’s seminal YA work on suicide. I read it first many, many years ago. I haven’t read it since because I was afraid it wouldn’t seem as powerful. I was afraid I would be disappointed. Then I heard Jay speak and with the timing, it seemed like a good read.

It was. It didn’t give me any answers (there aren’t any). But it reminded me–again–how important it is to care about the people around us. To go out of our way to show them that we care. To tell them that they matter.

A few days later, I read “Letter to an Ex, on the Occasion of his Suicide.” [Note: strong language, read with discretion.] It was as heart-breaking as I should have expected. Masha made sense of what I couldn’t:

The more time goes on, the more I think being a grown-up means accepting that you might have done your best, but still it wasn’t enough to prevent harm. It wasn’t enough. And for this I bear responsibility.

I want you to:

  • Read 13 Reasons Why
  • Act like you care about the people in your life
  • Care more
  • Breathe. Cry. Write. Fight.
  • Don’t ever forget.

 

If you came to my blog looking for standard book reviews, you can find them further down in the feed. This isn’t a typical book post, I know. But I think this is the soul of reading. Reading is often how we process, heal, make sense of our desperately painful world. I’m trying to be more intentional about showing that reality. Thanks for reading. 

Missing Poetry in the Sun


Today, if I were home, I would have coaxed my little sister outside. We would have toted food and books onto the sunny grass, sternly warned our puppy dog away from our lunch, and laid out in the sun as long as it took our parents to realize we should be doing school. For the two springs that we knew about national poetry month, we used it as a good excuse to spend our lunch breaks outside, leisurely eating, talking, and reading poems. We sampled from Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems and selections of Frost and Keats. Just last week I read “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams for a class – Mr. Keillor introduced me to that one. In my Creative Writing class, we’re finishing up a unit on poetry. Our reading included two chapters of poems….it was a joy to immerse myself the images, sounds, and deep thoughts. In the course of the last few weeks I’ve read authors from T. S Eliot to Langston Hughes and back again (yes, even some Tolkien). But I didn’t get to read them outside, on the grass, soaking up the sun, laughing at my little sister, and throwing food to my dog. College has its drawbacks.

What you should take from my rambling is that I’m happy for spring, I miss my little sister, and I appreciate poetry. There, I rolled all the relevant holidays into one incoherently college-fogged post. Aren’t you impressed?

 

 

My Vampire Encounter


I encountered and (sadly) escaped the vampires today. They were not sparkly, hundreds of years old, or fanged. However, they did want my blood. This week is the annual blood drive at school. My family has always (affectionately) referred to the Red Cross and other blood donation companies as “vampires.” (I say affectionately because everyone in my family donates, if possible. We understand the importance.)

I tried to donate blood. I really did. I ate foods high in iron (spinach, blech!), drank a lot, and scheduled an appointment. I went to the bus, sat nervously with my friend, and finally got called back to have my blood pressure taken. As she was wrapping the cuff around my arm, the nurse asked how much I weighed. When I told her, she kindly informed me that I am too small to donate blood. I did get a free blood pressure reading and T-shirt out of my humanitarian effort, but I’m afraid it didn’t help anyone else very much. I feel bad that I can’t donate, but it’s highly unlikely that I am going to gain 15 pounds anytime soon. But when I do, hopefully I will be able to go and donate my blood. I know that someday I could be very, very thankful for someone else’s blood.

So no vampires today. Do you have any vampire stories?

 

An anecdotal birthday present


My father’s birthday was this week. I missed it, because I’m at college. If I were home, I would have given him a hug. I’m not a daddy’s girl, but I do miss those sometimes. But since I am here, I am going to write instead.

I never considered my parents to have much to do with my reading, particularly my taste in books. Looking back now, obviously I see a lot more of it, but it is true that for the most part, I chose a lot of the things I read. However, in the last year or two, I have realized that my dad affected my taste in reading quite a bit. As a kid, one of the only things I knew how to talk about was books. So I was constantly talking about what I was reading, and then regularly pestering my parents for any suggestions of books to read. On one such occasion, my dad suggested Lloyd Alexander’s books. I took his suggestion, and as my title evidences, they became favorites of mine. I have read everything of Alexander’s that I can get my hands on (well over half his writings) and loved every moment. Somewhere in the train of my adolescent history, I forgot that my dad lit that spark. When I remembered, it became something precious, a point of connection that we seldom make, and certainly never vocalize.

My father also started me on sci-fi. He suggested Fahrenheit 451 and Isaac Asimov. I read and loved both. From there, I continued to read science fiction. He also suggested Brave New World, which I still remember and will still read at some point.

If you asked me today what my favorite genre was, my answer would likely be either fantasy, or fantasy/sci-fi, since sometimes they blend together inseparably in my mind. In either case, I have to acknowledge that my father probably started me on the path to loving both genres. That is something for which I am unspeakably grateful – small moments that have shaped me in innumerable ways.

Chances are, he doesn’t even realize the impact his book suggestions had on me. He may not even remember suggesting them. But I do. For that, I thank him very much.

Sound of Summer in the South


In the south, you can hear and see the heat. Every summer, the ceaseless background noise is the humming of cicadas. As a kid, I actually did think the noise was the sound of heat. There are lots of cicadas where I live, and they have this undulating buzz….a constant up and down, like the way heat looks over pavement. The heat is all-encompassing – hits you like a wet wall when you walk outside, you can see and hear it in waves. I love it – it is invigorating to soak up the sun. It can also be exhausting….it’s impossible to keep from getting sweaty…that can happen in the time it takes to walk from the door to my car.

The cicadas have been a staple of my childhood. They leave these awesome shells, completely intact, around the trees. My sister and I had fun finding and collecting them. The actual cicadas though, we don’t see very often. They stay up in the trees. I did see one though….on a trip to camp. 😀 I was in a cabin with 7 other girls, sharing two showers. When I shook out my towel one morning, a cicada fell out. They look pretty scary, especially to a junior high girl….this big black bug. I knew what it was though, so it didn’t bother me. But I did purposely leave it in the shower when I got out. The following scream was quite satisfying. 😀 In the end, I was the one who took it outside, because I was the only one that knew it was harmless. My final comment about cicadas is that they may be ugly, but they have really pretty iridescent wings. Note: there are many species of cicada all over the world, so everything I’ve mentioned is simply my experience with the cicadas in my area. If you’re curious, I suggest you check out the Wikipedia article I linked earlier. There are great pictures, recordings, even a video of a molting cicada.

This is just one aspect of Southern summer that I love. People complain about the heat here…constantly wish it would be cooler. But I love it. I soak up the heat….wouldn’t trade it for anything. I could never survive up north. I’m a southern girl raised on the summer song of the cicada.

What’s your favorite thing about summer in your area?

How College Spoiled Me Rotten


That sounds so wrong, doesn’t it? College spoiling someone…college is the place of wretched roommates, life-sucking tests and projects, dreaded final exams, and suppers of grilled cheese made on irons.

But that’s where we are wrong. Let me list a few ways college spoiled me.

1. Routine. I come from a house where the only routine is…no routine. Over the years, I’ve caught glimpses of the frustration that lack of routine can cause, but never fully appreciated it. I couldn’t understand why my older sisters came home from college with this annoying habit of constantly cleaning and wanting everything to happen right away. But now I understand. I love my routine at college. It keeps me sane. Every day, I wake up, shower, eat breakfast, go to work or class, and from 8 to at least 5, my day is planned. My evenings aren’t fully planned, but I always have a mental agenda. At home, it is nothing like that. And yes, it drives me insane. If we’re making supper, I want to make supper, eat supper, go on to something else,  not talk about what we might have for supper while browsing Facebook…..and eat 2 hours later.

1a. Cleanliness. This is not the case at all schools, but at mine, we are required to have clean rooms 6 days a week. Seriously. Our rooms are checked and there are penalties for not meeting standard. So things are almost always reasonably neat and clean, and if they aren’t, they will be within 24 hours. Not so here….and I find myself impulsively straightening things as I move about the house.

2. Access to everything. At college, I am a 5 minute or less walk from a gym, library, game room, snack shop (with 3 restaurants), dining common, soccer fields, running track, art museum, and planetarium. Here…..I have yet to figure out a work out schedule. I don’t want to pay for a gym for 3 months. I can’t walk into a dining common full of food choices, take my pick, and leave my dishes for someone else afterwards. This can be extremely frustrating.

3. Adulthood. This hit me just Sunday, but at college, everyone treats me like an adult. All of my professors are extremely respectful. They never treat us like children. The environment is one of respect and professional civility. Just two days after returning home, I took my sister and some friends (all high schoolers) out to eat. The typical southern endearments of the staff (“sweetie” “young lady” “darling”) caught me off guard. I’m no longer used to being treated like a little girl. Some might argue that in southern culture, they weren’t even doing that…just being friendly. In that case, I am simply no longer used to being treated that casually.

This all boils down to one thing: focus. I have become accustomed to everything in my life being focused on a single goal: making college work for me. When I’m at school, I seldom have to worry about anyone but myself. My only focus is success. Be that cleanliness, organization, agenda, or just a relief from all domestic duties, it is justified because my focus is school. At home, I have no idea how to cope. I’m still taking classes, so the focus is still there, but it fights with my family, boyfriend, books, British TV shows, and a full-time job. I just don’t know how to mesh that all.

How’s that for a first college post? High schoolers, go to college, it will spoil you! But you may have no idea how to live with normal people again…

Musing’s End


In between celebrations, Christmas is a good time for reflection….considering the past year, appreciating family and friends, and planning for the next year. For me, it seems like this is especially important this year. Many, many things have changed in my life over the last year. Starting college is the most obvious, but it has been a year of huge growth for me in other ways. All of these changes leave me with a lot to sort out. A few things stand out from all of this mental/emotional sorting.

1. I am very, very blessed. There are things about my life I don’t like, but in the big scheme, I have a very good life. I’m in school, doing well, paying for it from my jobs, fully supported by my family. My friends are amazing, always there for me. I have a spectacular boyfriend who came out of the blue and brings unbelievable amounts of joy to my life. I am in possibly the best period of my life right now, with nothing to really complain about. It’s important for me to remember that in the midst of the “growing pains” all of these changes bring.

2. I like being challenged. Christmas break is great, and I definitely needed the rest, but I find myself antsy, unsure of what to do. It’s hard to fathom, this freedom, after having to do homework practically every night for the last few months. I’m working 40 hours a week, but still feel slightly lost in the evenings.

3. I like learning. I never particularly liked school until college. Tying right in with the challenge point, I like being challenged to learn something. I could turn into a professional student very easily. I have to remember that when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to get out of bed or off, say, Pinterest. I know that learning is good for me, I just have to get off the couch and do it.

4. I still have a lot of uncertainty. Making decisions about issues in my life has only opened more questions about other issues. There are still many issues that I just haven’t decided. This sometimes frustrates me…in a way it makes me feel like an immature or weaker person. Which is probably an unwarranted feeling, but there regardless.

5. I was well-prepared for life. My parents and youth pastor repeated these mantras constantly about life. Do this, don’t do this, etc. Now that I’m on my own, I find myself realizing how true all of these teachings are. In a way, it makes me feel like such a typical child. At the same time, I am extremely grateful for such good raising.

Looking past all the annoyances and uncertainties, I am so happy with my life. I don’t take the time to acknowledge that often enough. This Christmas, think about what is wonderful about your life. Yes, your relatives may drive you insane. You may have had any number of disasters. You may have even had recent tragedies in your life. In that case, my heart goes out to you. But in general, I encourage you to be happy with life. It is magical and good. 🙂