Putting My Words on the Page

In the years since I began writing, I’ve often wondered how other writers begin their works. Do they decide on something they want to write about? Does a character burst into the mind, full of passion for something? Is their attention caught by something they see on the television?

When I sit down to write, I always grab a notebook and a pen.  I have the option to type my stories, but I always feel a bit more connected when I get to physically write my stories. However, I am a bit of a procrastinator. Okay, a complete procrastinator when it comes to any work I need to do (especially dishes). Suddenly, I need to laundry, get a snack, or check my phone a million times for a text that isn’t there.

Usually, my procrastination happens after I get the initial spark of an idea out of my head. The idea itself comes at the most random times: at the grocery store when I see someone with an unusual outfit or hairstyle, listening to morning radio, watching an interview of my favorite singer (Ed Sheeran if you’re wondering). Sometimes it is the name of a place that sparks the start of a story. Other times it is hearing a name that I’ve never heard before.

Ed and his kitten Graham.

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Someone Worth Looking up To.

Have you ever given much thought as to why you look up to the people you look up to? Public figures, your family and friends, or even the literary and movie figures that you have grown up with. All of them have had some sort of influence on your life. It is like the lessons we learn from the books we read. The people around us have the same kind of impact on our lives, only their impact makes a greater difference.

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A lot of times in society we are shown images of the way we are supposed to be. Television shows and movies show us how we are supposed to act. We are told to be different and to be ourselves, but then shown that the way we look and act is not the norm. In a world that depends on looks for just about everything, we have learned to become even more critical of ourselves. It is not enough to look the way we look, we now must look like ourselves and like the size zero models in the magazine ads.

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Lessons Learned

These are the first chapter books I ever read, and consequently led me to become the lover of books that I am today.

I had not given much thought about the books I have read and how they have affected my life. It was not until a fellow blogger’s post about revisiting her favorite books and looking at the impact they have had on her life. After reading her post, I started thinking about how the themes of these books spilled over into my own life at the same time, but now I see how they did.

It was not until just now that I realized each book I have read, whether it be a series about vampires (vampyres?) or a single book about a mother and daughter, all have something in common. For the most part, they have the common theme of good versus evil. But there are always all of these underlying themes, about prejudices, grief, and forgiveness. It is hard to see how things as different as witches and wizards and a family dealing with a serious illness could have anything in common, but I promise they do.

It is almost impossible to imagine the world without knowing the name of Harry Potter and what he did. As the lead character in one of the largest book and film franchises worldwide, almost everyone could tell you something about the series (my twin could tell you nothing). Even if what they tell you is about the theme park that I will one day go to. However, it is probably safe to say that they have not read much into the themes of the Harry Potter series.

The characters in Harry Potter are put it situations that mirror those of the muggle world. The difference? Magic, mystical creatures, and the ability to have a (two-sided) conversation with a snake. The lessons, of course, are not ones that a person generally realizes when reading or watching the series.

For those of you that do not know, Hermione Granger is a muggle born. Because of this a lot of the pure blood (wizards and witches of only magical descent) thought less of her. Actually, those that look down on muggle born wizards also look down on actual muggles. A main plot throughout the series is centered on destroying the muggles and muggle born wizards. If you think about it, the prejudices held against muggles and muggle borns is the same type of prejudices we encounter every day. Harry Potter teaches us how to deal with these prejudices, and how to grow from our experiences with them.

On a more personal level, the Harry Potter series, as well as books like Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult, has taught me how important friendships are. I have learned that I do not need a large amount of friends to be happy. Some of the best friends a person will have are the select few that they choose to share everything with. These are the people who will follow us across the country as we try to figure out who we really are. They are the people that, when going on a suicide mission, will go with you because it is the right thing to do.

In my opinion, every book we read has a lesson that we can take away from it. The lesson itself may be a simple one that we hear all the time. Things like do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and take nothing for granted. They are still lessons that can be taken and applied to our lives on a daily basis.

The books I read have taught me how to deal with some of life’s hardest challenges. They have provided me with words of advice to help get me through almost anything that life can throw at me. The lessons I have learned may not always be of use to me right now, but somewhere down the road I will understand how a mother’s love can be more powerful than death itself.

For me, the books I choose to read always go back to having that same common thread. The lessons they have taught me might not correlate directly to each other, but they still have a moral, a life lesson that I can take away from them. It may not be something that you can easily pick up on, but I can guarantee there is a lesson to be learned from every book any of us read. I encourage you to take a look back at the books you have read and how the lessons from those books have made their way into your life.

Don’t forget to check back every other Monday for a new blog post! Also, follow me on Twitter!

That Thing I Plan to Do Forever

Writing, since the eighth grade, has been a huge part of my life. To be honest, I have no idea how it began. I cannot say that I picked up a pen and a piece of paper out of the blue and let the words flow freely from my hand. Nor can I say that I forced them out like a child out of bed in the morning. I just remember beginning a story and working on it any chance I got.

It has never been a difficult task for me to write. I have devoured books as though they will keep me alive for as long as I can remember. I always found English classes easy, and could not comprehend why people had trouble with them. In high school I enjoyed the reading assignments and writing papers while everyone else complained.

Most writers will tell you that the key to being a strong writer is reading all the time. By reading you see the way words fit together, creating a painting in your mind. Reading teaches you how to use your words to evoke emotion from people. Reading is a valuable tool that is essential in life any way, why not pick up a book and read it?

I don’t think there has ever been a time, since I started writing, that I did not have a story or a character dancing around my head. They are sort of like your neighbors that nag about the tree limbs hanging over in their yard. They are there when I wake up, demanding to be seen and heard. They are girls that do not like to be kept waiting; they would rather you show up early and write them down. However, the same does not apply to them. They are more than happy to show up as I am nearly asleep or having woken up for a drink of water. If I do not write them down, I usually forget whatever it was I was thinking about. If I do write them down, I can guarantee myself at least another hour before sleep finds me. Continue reading

An All New Meaning

In 2009, Mrs. Karen Black, a teacher at my high school, passed away from breast cancer. In her memory a charity event was created. Starting that year and following every year since, a Pink Out for Black (POFB) basketball game has been held. Shirts are made and sold with a different theme each year. The girls basketball team wears pink jerseys, the cheerleaders use pink pom poms and everyone wears pink socks and shoelaces. All proceeds from the shirts, necklaces, bracelets and the game itself are donated to cancer research.

There is a ceremony held between the varsity games where a check is presented to the American Cancer Society by the Student Council, some of Mrs. Black’s surviving family and a few other select students. There is also a ceremony for people to have their hair cut and donated to make wigs for cancer patients. It is a special moment in the evening where people come together to honor those that have lost their battles with cancer and those that are still fighting.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be one of the select few students that was there to hand over the POFB donation check to the American Cancer Society. I was honored to be able to stand there with all the students and the son of Mrs. Black and hand over the check. I was also able to donate my hair, and that was what I was most excited about.

My dad passed away from lung cancer when I was fourteen. It was hard to watch him go through the sickness, and even harder to lose him. Being able to donate my hair in his memory was a blessing. I will never forget sitting down in the chair in front of countless people to donate my hair for a person that could have had the same type of cancer as my dad. And I not only donated my hair, I donated my hair with my mom next to me donating hers as well.

This year, POFB held a little bit more of a meaning for me. I was unable to actually attend the game, but I managed to get a shirt and help with the fundraising that way. This year I am at college, and while LMU is just about fifteen minutes away from my old high school, my class schedule conflicted with the game. Not to mention, I had errands to do, thus causing me to miss the game.

About a week before the POFB game, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. POFB has always been special to me because of the fact that the money goes to help cancer research, but this made it even more special. Knowing that the money could potential help my mom through her treatments and find a cure for this is what POFB is all about. It is about being able to help those that cannot help themselves. It is about helping to make a way for people to honor the people in their lives that are battling cancer, and to commemorate the ones that have lost their fight. Continue reading

Journey to LMU

Growing up with LMU in my backyard, I never really thought about the school too much. When I started looking at schools during my senior year of high school I was completely overwhelmed with all the choices. I knew that LMU was where my sister wanted to go because of the Veterinary program they where getting, but I didn’t think it was the school for me. I would pass it almost once a week on my way to go get groceries, and I would think about going far away for college. That’s what college is for though, right? You’re supposed to go away to a college to not only get a good education, but to grow up and become independent.

When I started applying for colleges, LMU wasn’t even on the list of schools I was considering. I actually didn’t even apply. I got into my first choice school as well as a couple of backups. I didn’t think about the backup schools much, and quickly passed on their offers of admittance. I made it all the way up to graduation, thinking that I was going to go away to my first-choice school.

I received a lot of financial aid both from the school and the state, but it still wasn’t enough to completely pay for my tuition. I still owed over two thousand dollars that I had no way of coming up with. I’m not going to lie, I had a good, hard cry when I learned that I couldn’t go to my dream school. It was already summer vacation, and I had no idea what I was going to do. It took about two weeks to come up with a plan, or rather my mom come up with a plan that I was perfectly fine with.

I had two options, apply to a community college and go there for two years or apply to LMU and go there for the full-time. It made more sense for me to just go straight to a four year college, so I called to make sure I could still apply, and then waited patiently for a letter. Getting my acceptance letter to LMU was a huge relief. I was worried about not having the grades to get in, and not being able to actually start in the fall like everyone else. Thankfully, it wasn’t a problem.

I had been to LMU on several occasions. When I was in high school I stayed with a friend of mine during my spring break and went to classes with her. I was able to try the food and get a feel for what the campus was like as well as the classes. My senior year I toured the school twice, and then I went with my twin sister to her registration there. Walking onto campus for my own registration, though, was a very surreal feeling. It was as if I were seeing the school for the very first time.

I'm in white and Katie, my twin, is in pink!

I’m in white and Katie, my twin, is in pink!

To be honest, I still wasn’t completely sold on the school. It wasn’t where I had originally wanted to go, and I didn’t think I would ever be able to call myself a Railsplitter. I fell into my classes the way one might fall in love, swiftly without having given it much thought, only to realize that you have become someone completely different than who you were only a month earlier. I was a Railsplitter, and nothing was going to change that.

Today, I love the fact that I am a Railsplitter. I sometimes think about the other colleges, and wonder “what if…”, but I know that I wouldn’t be at LMU if I didn’t belong here. I love the fact that it’s close to home and that I know where everything is in the surrounding area. I know that most people from my high school never even consider LMU because it is so close to us, but I regret not having given it a chance from the beginning. I love my school, and all of the people I have been fortunate enough to meet since coming here. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to be at any other school!

I wish you all the best if you are looking at where you are going to be spending the next few years of your life. I know that it can be a very scary thing, but I can tell you from my experience that you will get through it and come out on the other side a smarter, better person than you were before. I hope that you don’t overlook the school that sits right in your own backyard. Who is to say that it isn’t the school that you are meant to be at?

Don’t forget to check back every other Monday for a new post, and be sure to follow me on Twitter!

A Fresh Start

Classes have finally started and I am getting back in the swing of things. It’s been hard getting back on a normal sleeping schedule, but I have found that forcing myself to get up early regardless of when I went to bed is helpful. It has been very hard, however, to not take a nap. I’m pretty sure there is something wrong with the way I take naps, I always feel way worse once I wake up rather than well rested. When I don’t nap, and just stay awake all day I feel much better.

I’m not sure what the weather has been like in most of America, but here in Tennessee we have been attacked by snow. It isn’t a whole lot, but it was enough to close LMU for two days. Even after school was open on Wednesday, the roads were still icy.  I’m a commuter student, and it was almost impossible to get out of my driveway. It’s straight up and was a complete sheet of ice. We slid quite a few times trying to get out, but we managed to make it out to a road that was covered in even more ice.

Getting back to school has been good. I’m back to a schedule, granted it is a different schedule than what I’m used to, but a schedule all the same. I’ve learned that my body functions better when I have a repetitive routine. I know what to expect and when to expect it, but I do try to leave time for things to go wrong, because they most certainly will. No one wants to be late to class because they waited too long for the campus shuttle to run, only to realize that you have missed the set time that it runs and then have to walk in the rain to class.

Being back at school also means getting to go back to work study. Work study, if you don’t know, is a form of financial aid where you work at a job on campus and earn money to be paid toward your tuition. I love what I get to do, even though at first I didn’t think I would. I work in the cafeteria, and I thought that I would have to serve food or wash dishes. However, I don’t do either of those things. I sweep the floors and refill napkins. At times I organize closets and other times I have to polish silverware and wrap it in napkins for fancy dinners. A couple times I was allowed to put out the desserts, but I had no idea what I was doing when I tried to help with marinara sauce for cheese sticks.

I love the people I work with, and I am so thankful that I managed to get an on-campus job where I don’t have conflicts with any of the people there. They were all so kind and friendly, and were very patient in teaching me how to clean the drink line and polish the silverware correctly. It was really hard learning how to do a fan fold napkin, but I managed to learn how to do it, after about four times of having someone show me. I can’t wait to be able to go back to work and see everybody again.

Last semester I didn’t have much of a social life. I focused solely on my school work, thinking that this would be a great benefit to me. However, it was not the smartest idea. I managed to make only a couple of friends at school, and starting this semester is like starting all over again. I feel as if I know no one, and I know that that could have been helped. This semester, I plan to make sure that I don’t neglect my studies, but also make more of an effort socially. Everyone should take a little time to get their mind off of their work and have a little bit of fun. I would love to have gone to the movies or out for lunch with my friends, but I was too focused on school work for that. I hope that this semester I can relax a little and get in some much-needed time with my friends…eventually, anyway.

I hope that for those of you who are back to school that things are going smoothly. Do your best and work hard, but don’t forget to have a little fun every now and then as well! As always, don’t forget to check back every other Monday for a new post, and follow me on Twitter!