15 Years Ago…

Fifteen years ago today, I was a freshman in high school.  It was just another normal day.  I was probably less than thrilled to be heading to my science class that morning, because I have never been big on the science.  I’m sure my friends and I had hung out in the commons or near someone’s locker that morning, I may have spent some time in the “band corner”, and now I had a couple of class periods under my belt for the day.

Fifteen years ago today, I walked into my 3/4 block period science class, Biology and Earth Science Studies 1, and the TV was either already on or was turned on soon after I got there.  The TV was tuned into CNN, because a plane had flown right into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Continue reading →

Hug Your Friends

I don’t know who originally said it, but every so often I’ll see this saying floating around Facebook: “Friends are the family you choose.”


My friends and I at Columbus Zoo Wildlights 2009. Front row (L to R): Chelly, Joey, Justin. Back row (L to R): Caitlin, Nate, Emmy, Janet, Jessica, me.

Chalk it up to the fact that I didn’t really have any true friends until I was in middle school, but I really believe this saying.  My friends are the family I chose.  Many of us have been together since freshman year of high school — a few in our group knew each other long before that, even, and a few joined our circle later.  We’ve been through thick and thin.  We’ve argued, we’ve bickered, we get annoyed with each other from time to time.  But we’re always there for each other, in the end.

Winter 2009 023

Me, Caitlin, Jessica, and Janet (with Nate in the background) on some New Year’s Eve.

We went to different colleges, some moved away.  And some have been in our tight little group for a few years before drifting away, as sometimes happens in life.

But even those who I don’t see on a regular basis anymore, or don’t talk to every day, they were still part of my little chosen family.  I still cherish the moments I shared with them.  I still smile at the pictures from the adventures we had together.  I still love them.

We have an ongoing Facebook messaging group conversation, but it only gets used if we’re planning something or sharing news.  Why not text?  Because two of our number live internationally right now.

Today I sent a simple four-word message to the whole group, in the conversation that hasn’t been touched for weeks:  “I love you guys.”

It’s one of those tough moments we’re experiencing together now.  A few weeks ago, an old friend of ours who used to hang out with us often, Joey, went missing.  This was unlike him.  He disappeared without a trace.  He didn’t show up for work.  A search began.


Joey at Columbus’s Red White & BOOM fireworks display a few summers ago.

The search ended this week, but in the worst way.  His body was found in the river that goes through downtown.  While I watched the news sites, waiting for confirmation of who it was, I hoped that it wouldn’t be Joey.  No one deserves that, and particularly not him.  We found out today it was him.

Joey was a sweet guy, always smiling.  He made us all laugh and he fit in with our particular brand of weird.  I doubt he ever had anything bad to say about anyone.  It’s been a few years since I last ran into him, a few years since he last came to one of our chaotic gatherings, but he was one of us.  He laughed with us, he goofed off with us, and he was just an overall good person — which is how I’ll always remember him.


Justin and Joey, when we all went to see the last Harry Potter movie.

First shock, then sadness, and it’s only a fraction of what I know his family and close friends are feeling.  All I can do is let the people in our group that were still close to Joey know that I’m here for them, but even then I know it’s not enough.

That’s what friends do, though.  Try their best to help each other through the tough stuff, offer a shoulder to cry on, share those funny pictures and happy memories of times gone by.  My little chosen family is hurting today, more than we have in a long time.

And when I see them in person next, whenever that might be, I’m going to give each of them a hug.  For now, I just have to be satisfied in the fact that they know I love them — each of them — for all their weirdness and kindness.


Joey and me at Red White & BOOM (the same year as the picture above). This photo belongs to my friend Chelsea.

Hug your friends.  Hug your family — biological or otherwise.  Let them know you love them.  You never know when it will be the last time.

Unexpected Goodbyes are the Hardest

If you’ve followed this blog for any significant amount of time, or if you’ve gone back through to read some of my older posts, you’ve inevitably discovered that from time to time I have trouble processing things.  And when I have trouble processing difficult things, it usually helps me to write them down.  (This is the case with not difficult things too, but the difficult things are the worst.)

This is another one of those situations.  Fair warning.

I always have trouble with goodbyes.  Loss and I don’t get along very well.  I’m one of those people that gets super sentimental when goodbyes come, and that’s even when I know the goodbye is coming.

When the goodbye is unexpected, my emotions and I really don’t know what to do.

This morning, I received a call from my mom.  As it’s the weekend and I’m not at work, this isn’t entirely unusual.  I thought maybe she needed help with something before my cousins arrive to visit, or maybe something had come up.  I really wasn’t expecting to hear from her that Diane Stanley, our church bell choir director and a long-time family friend, passed away this morning.

There are many pieces that makes this news hard to swallow.  First of all, Diane was quite young–about my parents’ age–and had been perfectly healthy, all things considered.  Second of all, this week she came down with a cold or a virus that made her miss bell choir rehearsal–it was just a normal illness, one much like anything any of us gets from time to time.  And lastly, I’ve known Diane almost my entire life.

Diane and I go way back.  When I was around 4 or 5 years old, Diane was the director of the little kids’ choir at my church for a short time.  I was a member of that choir.

When I was in early elementary school (I’d have to check with my mom to be sure what age exactly), I started taking piano lessons.  Diane was my piano teacher.  She was the person who taught me how to read music, gave me my first foray into the world of instrumental music, and she was a wonderful teacher.  I gave up piano lessons before high school, for time commitment reasons, but that was an important part of my life.

Around fourth grade, I joined the kids’ bell choir at my church.  Diane was the director, and was also the one who very actively recruited me.  That bell choir no longer exists, but I made several friends that I still have to this day–and quite a few of us graduated up into the adult bell choir while we were in high school or college.  Two of us are still ringing together, and we still reminisce about the times we spent with Diane in the kids’ bell choir.

In high school I joined the adult bell choir–the Chancel Bells.  I’ve rung with them ever since.  Diane had been the director of that bell choir for years, for longer than I’d been a member, and those of us who had been in kids’ bell choir with her would still play the same pranks on her that we did in the kids’ bell choir.  It was a thing.

Through all of this, all of those experiences, Diane was an amazing teacher, a great mentor, a fantastic role model, and she became a great friend.  She laughed along with us when we were being difficult and sarcastic during rehearsals.  She was a good sport when the younger group of us would, say, steal her director’s baton or change the tempo on her metronome.  Rehearsals (and lessons) were always fun with her, she was always smiling, and she was easy to talk to.  I saw her go from crazy cat lady when I was a kid to being the crazy dog lady once I’d grown up.  She loved animals, she loved her students, she loved teaching music.

It’s hard for me to imagine the world without her in it, especially since I didn’t expect to have to face that world for many, many more years.  Diane has been a huge constant in my life and had a large impact on my life as well.  She was loved by many, and I know she’s going to be missed.

But none of that, none of it, makes any of this news easier for me to process.

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are lead to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.

It’s Been a While…

I know it’s been a while since I posted on here.  My mind has gone in about a thousand different directions since I last posted…I blinked and suddenly it had been two months since I’d written anything here.  Oops.

So here’s a general idea of what’s been occupying my time and attention:

  • Writing:  I’ve been working on a first draft of a Titanic story.  I’m determined to finish it.  Not necessarily because I think the story itself has merit, but because I’ve tried to write so many different Titanic stories, but never finished one.  This is something I need to do.
  • Revising: I’ve been continuing to revise the sequel to the novel I’m querying, and I’m also considering revising the novel I wrote the first draft of during NaNo last year.
  • Reading: So.  Much.  Reading.  But it’s been fun.
  • Irish Dance: The Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, OH is at the end of the summer.  This means my dance group is in intense rehearsal mode.  Add in that I’m planning to compete again this year…and I’ve been Irish dancing up a storm.
  • HPA: I’m on the Blog Team for the Harry Potter Alliance now, and I post things over there on Wednesdays and Fridays.  It’s a large possibility that that has been taking most of my blogging energy.
  • LeakyCon: Okay, so I’m really not THAT preoccupied by LeakyCon yet, but it’s something I’m REALLY EXCITED about.

So I’ve been keeping pretty busy.  But I’m going to try to keep this sucker more updated.  Or, at the very least, not go this long without posting something.

Get Back Up and Dance Again

Three weeks ago, I wiped out at dance class.

All things considered, I had it coming, really.  I’ve been doing Irish dance for nearly three years and I had yet to fall.  It’s like when you go ice skating–inevitably, you will eventually fall.  For Irish dance, skipping around on the balls of your feet, crossing one foot in front of another as best you can, and then adding in all the other complicated footwork that comes with more advanced steps…yeah, you’re just going to eventually hit the floor.

So I wasn’t exactly surprised.

Our dance teacher had decided to start drilling those of us planning to compete in August on our solo steps.  Reels, to be exact, but likely very few of you will know what that even means.  For competition, we have to do two full steps, back-to-back.  I somehow came out of my first step weird, and when I went into the start of my second, my ankles twisted around each other and I fell sideways.

I’m told it was a very graceful fall.  For me, it just seemed comically slow.  I had enough time between my ankles getting knotted and finally hitting the ground to think “huh, I’m falling.”

After I fell, I sat back up and waited for my dance friend to finish the step I’d epically screwed up (hint: I wasn’t supposed to faceplant).  My poor dance teacher, who seems frequently afraid of breaking us, was freaking out a little, asking me over and over if I was okay.  I kept telling her I was.

“I’m fine!  Really!  I’m good!”

I got back to my feet, ignoring the twinging in my ankles, and went back to the spot on the floor where we’d started.  My dance teacher suggested nervously that we try the steps again.


She looked at me warily for a while before then asking if I really wanted to, making sure once again that I was okay.

“I’m good!  Back on the horse!  Let’s go!”

(To note: I really was talking with exclamation points.  It’s likely, looking back on it, that I was slightly hysterical.  And I feel like my voice was about an octave higher than it usually is when I talk.  I don’t know why this was.  Feigning confidence, perhaps, or maybe I was trying not to laugh.  Whatever the case, it’s no wonder my dance teacher seemed worried that I had done myself more harm than I had.)

She kind of looked at me like she didn’t really believe me, but let me carry on.  We did the two steps again, and this time I didn’t screw it up.  I danced the remaining 45 minutes of class on two sore ankles.  In retrospect, this was a mistake, because I really should have wrapped my right ankle (my notoriously bad ankle) right away.  As it was, I only put my ankle brace on for the walk to the parking garage after, then iced my ankles when I got home.  A few days of ankle pain later, I was good as new.

This past week marked the release of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist list (there’s a connection, I promise.  Stick with me).

I never really thought I had a chance to make the top 50 of the YA category.  In fact, I’d been pretty freaking surprised when I’d made it to the Quarterfinals (top 250 out of 5000).  So while I was nervously waiting to see if somehow a miracle would occur, I was mostly panicking about the looming Publishers Weekly review that was going to come with the announcement.

I hadn’t been panicking, though, until I read an old thread on the ABNA discussion boards where last year’s Quarterfinalists were sharing their PW reviews.  And then I suddenly realized how unbelievably harsh some of the PW reviewers are.  That’s pretty much when the panic set in.

I’d more or less decided, since I never expected to make Semifinals anyway, that my degree of disappointment would be contingent on that review.  If I didn’t make it, but my review was either good or, at the very least, not mean, then I’d be okay.  If I didn’t make it, but my review was one of the ones that makes people go “OUCH”, then I’d need a whole lot of chocolate.

So the Semifinals list was posted.  I wasn’t on it.  I kind of got over it quickly, though.  Then I, and 499 other writers, waited anxiously for the posting of the reviews.

And waited.

And waited.

They finally went up about half an hour before I left work.  Good thing, that, because…well…it meant I could stock up on chocolate on my way home from work, rather than having to make a special trip.

My review was definitely an “OUCH” review.

So after I got over the shock of getting a review like that, and after I purchased much chocolate, I went home…and that night I revised a chapter in the novel I’m currently fixing.  Part of this was because I wanted to submit something to writers group for Saturday, and hadn’t realized that I hadn’t fixed this one chapter after my critique partner had looked over it several weeks ago (oops).

But part of the reason was because I needed to prove to myself that I could.  I needed to get back on the horse.  I needed to get up off the floor and do the steps again on two sore ankles (see?  Told you I’d connect it).

I didn’t let myself mourn the bad review until the next day.  That’s when I let myself feel the heartache.  But my immediate response to getting such a harsh review, other than eating chocolate, was to write something.  Anything.  Even if it was only a handful of sentences.  Even if it was just fixing a chapter I should have fixed weeks ago.  I had to do something.

So I did.  And then I wrapped and iced my wounds and am now letting them heal. 

In a couple of days, I’ll be good to dance the writing dance again and I’ll just be able to laugh and say that it was inevitable I was going to fall eventually.

It’s just what happens when you put your writing out there.

Wasn’t Excited At All

I wasn’t excited for The Hunger Games. No, not at all.

I haven’t been following the movie news ever since the production was first announced and casting was first done.

I didn’t start rounding up my friends two months ago, trying to figure out who would go to the midnight premiere of the movie.

I didn’t re-read the book and make a mental list of all the scenes I was most looking forward to (or most dreading…or both) seeing.

I didn’t buy a ridiculous amount of merchandise from Hot Topic, nor did I buy the soundtrack the second it came out.

I didn’t dye my hair last Wednesday night for a costume, or spend hours making Hunger Games-inspired food for a dinner party.

I didn’t tweet obnoxiously all day on the day of the midnight premiere about how excited I was for the movie.

No…not me…

Okay, you caught me. I was INSANELY excited for this movie. Insanely. And as is my norm, when I’m insanely excited for something…I may go a bit overboard. But I love every minute of it.

As I said above, I made a costume. Katniss. And, yes, I dyed my hair for it (to be fair, though, I’d been kind of wanting to dye my hair anyway). I also had a Hunger Games dinner party with a few friends the evening of the premiere…just because I had a few recipes I’d seen online that I’d been wanting to try anyway.

The most important things learned at the dinner party:

  • lamb actually doesn’t taste much different than beef when in stew
  • syrup tastes great on drop biscuits that only contain three ingredients
  • goat milk actually just tastes like…milk. Huh.
  • Peeta was definitely onto something when he was dipping rolls in hot chocolate
  • customers in retail suck

All important things to know, of course.

The adventure officially started when I had to call one of my friends (Jessica, I’m looking at you) and talk her into getting her butt to the movie, regardless of how tired she was from work. My argument? “Know what will make you feel better? Watching teenagers kill each other!”

This made her laugh. So I won.

We left for the movie. Janet headed off to kidnap (er…pick up) Jess, and Caitlin needed to swing by her house to get a jacket before going to the theatre. Kathleen (one of my roommates) and I were driving separately. We were like, “we’re TOTALLY going to beat everyone there! We’re going straight to the theatre! Weeeee!” And then I got all excited about deep discussions regarding fandoms and cross-overs and how people totally underestimate the passion of the Hunger Games fans, because we’re just quieter than other ones…and totally missed the exit for the theatre. Oops. So this required us to go another couple miles down to another highway, and another couple miles down THAT highway, before we could turn around and come back.

We STILL beat everyone to the theatre. (This is why I need a GPS even in my hometown. At least the GPS lady would have been screaming for us to get off at the correct exit.)

Half an hour later, most of our group had arrived and we discovered that…barely anyone else in the theatre was in costume. The down side to being one of five people in full-on costume is that you get a lot of strange looks and you feel kind of ridiculous. The plus side is that people REALLY notice your costume, which is pretty epic.

Fast forward to the previews. One of the first previews was for the next Twilight movie. Between the little 13 year old girls sitting behind us screaming at the top of their lungs IN MY EAR, and my friend Caitlin throwing an anti-Twilight shit fit three seats over…I couldn’t hear a single word of the trailer. Which was vaguely annoying, because I was kind of curious what was being said (it’s really grating to see people’s mouths move and have no idea what’s going on).

The 20-somethings got their revenge as the next trailer started. First, there were humorous comments from the 13 year old girls about the “disaster related horror” warning that came before the trailer started. And as we were all wondering what on earth this could be for, we saw that famous opening shot of a little underwater robot descending into the deep unknown.

At which point all the 20-somethings in the audience started cheering and freaking out about Titanic.

And the 13 year olds were clearly VERY confused as to the freaking out. Which was hilarious.

I went into what I loved about the Hunger Games movie on the Fiction Flurry blog, but I will say that I thought the movie was exceptionally well-done. It was a great book-to-movie adaptation, I loved the cast, and I just can’t get over the amazingness. There was one moment toward the end where I jumped violently in my seat and made some weird quiet-screaming sound, which made my friend Jenn nearly pee herself because she was laughing at me so hard (I’m easily startled…I still jump when the Inferi grabs Harry’s ankle in the Half-Blood Prince movie and I’ve seen that sucker a hundred times).

All in all, it was a great midnight movie experience.

And then, two days later, I saw the movie again.

No…I wasn’t excited AT ALL.

Titanic: One of Many Writerly Fascinations and January 1912

When I was in the fifth grade, the movie Titanic was released into the world. At first, I didn’t have any particular interest to see it, although I thought it sounded interesting. If it hadn’t been for my cousin, I likely wouldn’t have seen it for years. The Thanksgiving after the movie came out on home video (that sounds so long ago, a time before DVD and BluRays), my cousin and her family brought it to the holiday at my aunt and uncle’s house. It was the first PG-13 movie I ever saw (which was a big deal for a 10-year-old). My cousin, me, and the adults all stayed up late watching it. I fell in love.

That was my favorite movie for a few years. I watched it at least once a week. I loved the story, I loved the characters. And, because of that movie, I grew an immediate fasciantion with all things related to the Titanic. I read as many books on the Titanic as I could possibly get my hands on. I knew nearly any obscure fact about that ship and about what had happened the night it sunk. I was a wealth of Titanic-related knowledge.

After a few years of this, I got away from it. I got fascianted in other things. But then the summer before I went to college, the Titanic Exhibit came to Columbus. That old spark reignited, and I insisted that I go. I went with my mom and sister and the second I stepped into that exhibit…it all came flooding back. All the obscure information I knew, all the facts I’d learned, everything.

The fascination has never died. I would love, one day, to write a novel about the Titanic…but it’s not my time yet. One day, perhaps.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic. My little Titanic-fact-consuming brain is going to be working in overdrive, just because of this. So I’m going to try to share some of that 100th anniversary thoughts with you.

January 1912

The lifeboats are installed in the davits on the Titanic…sixteen wooden lifeboats and two Englehardt Collapsible lifeboats. Originally, 32 lifeboats were ordered, but Bruce Ismay (the Titanic’s owner) requested only 16 be installed. This was all the law required at the time (a law that would change after the tragedy). The ship’s original designer, Alexander Carlisle, had also originally proposed that 64 boats be on the ship, which would be enough for every person on board, but this proposal was never seriously considered.

Also in January 1912, the Titanic was given its call letters for the Marconi Wireless System: “MGY”. These letters would identify the Titanic to other ships listening in on transmissions.

(1912 Facts About Titanic: Revised Edition by Lee W. Merideth, pg 36, 37)

Change Write Now: Week 2

Here we are. Week 2 of Change Write Now. I survived week 1. Huzzah!

How are things going for Team For Our SAKES? Things are going well! We’ve got awesome goals for this week and I’m so glad that I get to talk to these girls every day. Some have added on additional, unofficial goals for the challenge…like writing ones…and now I’ve taken to bothering said team member on Twitter to make sure she’s getting her writing done. I’m truly LOVING this team. Do we rock? I’m fairly certain we do!

How are things going for me? I’ve made a goal to work on exercising more this week. I did pretty well last week, but I need to do even better. Also need to blog more. Thus, this. I know, you feel very loved.

That’s all for now, folks!

Revisiting My (Novel) Baby

Over the last couple of weeks, I somehow got the bright idea to send a couple of chapters from my re-re-revised first novel to a couple of email penpals I have. The novel centers around a radical religious cult (and if you look back waaaaay to the beginning of this blog, you’ll see me talking about it A LOT), it was the first novel I ever completed to satisfaction, it was the first novel I ever queried, and it was a novel I worked on all throughout college.

This novel is my baby. And while I’ve decided that other projects I’m working on are much more marketable than this one (not to mention just…better…as my writing style has changed since I finished my pre-querying revisions on this one), I still would love to see this novel in the world someday. Down the road. Maybe.

Anyway, for some reason, I decided to share the first few chapters with my two penpals. We share writings with each other from time to time, as two of us are writers, and it’s just fun. Since I stopped querying this particular novel, I started revising it again, trying to make it better and make more sense and make it sound more like my current style. I only have about four chapters (out of twenty-three) re-revised currently.

In sharing the first few chapters with my penpals, now they want to read more. What does this mean? This means I need to actually open my notes for this novel back up (I had to fish them out from under my bed last night after my one penpal DEMANDED more. Yes, in all caps and everything), and get back to my very slow re-revisions. If nothing else, at least then this novel won’t just be sitting in the back of my mind, nagging me to pay attention to it like it has for a while now.

So here’s to revisiting old projects, just because.

Change Write Now

I’m embarking on a new challenge this month. It’s called Change Write Now and it’s a habit-changing challenge taking place in the writing community. The basic idea is everyone has been split into teams (Go Team “For Our SAKES”!) and is competing to earn points each day…for eating healthy, exercising, creating one good habit, and breaking one bad habit.

My eating goals revolve around losing some weight I put on over the course of last year (which also goes hand-in-hand with a different weight losing competition I have going with my dad currently). Luckily, many of my teammates have similar weight loss goals, which is going to be great motivation for me!

But the good habit I’m trying to pick up is in posting on this blog more often. I’m aiming for three times a week, at least to start. Hopefully that will work out!

Anyway, this was just a quick post to introduce all of this fun and let you know what’s going to be happening for the next couple of months!