callistahogan: (Default)
2010-03-16 07:57 pm

LJ Idol: Week 18 - Adored

In fifth grade, I picked up the trumpet for the first time.

The trumpet itself was shiny and gold, not a scratch on it. I depressed one of the valves, letting a smile cross my face as it went down smoothly. The mouthpiece was silver and pristine, untouched. I lifted it up, pursing my lips, and blew. The noise emitted was weak, hardly even a honk, but I knew I would get better once I started going to band and learned how to play the instrument properly.

I put the mouthpiece down in its pocket, running my fingers along the cord tucked in a narrow crevice of the trumpet case. My fingers stilled as I closed my eyes.

He was playing. I swiveled in my seat, peeking over the pew. Pastor Don held the trumpet proudly in front of him, the music ringing through the sanctuary. I smiled, bouncing in my seat. I knew him. He was my pastor, and I was his little shadow. He looked so proud and happy up there, doing God's work, doing what he loved, and I couldn't tear my eyes away from him.

It was at that moment I decided to play the trumpet someday. It was for him—the pastor I had known in third grade. The man who had taken me under his wings without a protest, who didn't mind me following after him like a little specter. He was kind and gentle and sweet, everything a pastor should be, and he loved me like I was one of his own grandchildren.

My fingers strayed from the cord, necessary for cleaning the inside of the trumpet, and ran along the smooth surface of the trumpet itself. I imagined myself, just as powerful as he was, belting out songs, fingers pressing down the valves.

It was a tribute to him.

My role model, my second father, my pastor.

And here came another memory.

It was the first time we met. My father and mother introduced themselves to the pastor, but I hung back, clinging to my father's leg. Although I was a big girl—a third-grader, away from the little kids at the kindergarten school—I couldn't seem to muster up the courage to speak to him. He was my pastor, and I could trust him, but he was big. And I was small. And he was scary.

“And who's this?” the pastor said, looking down at me.

I let out a squeak, trying to be as small as possible (which wasn't that hard, considering I was tiny for my age). I didn't say a word.

“Well, let's see,” the pastor said. “Do we have a quiet one on our hands?”

“Yes, it seems so,” my mother said. She glanced down at me. “Come on, why don't you introduce yourself to the nice man?"

Because I'm scared of the nice man, I thought but didn't say.

A twinkle appeared in the pastor's eyes as he realized I wasn't going to respond. He continued to look down at me, trying to coax a conversation.

“You're a tiny one, aren't you?” the pastor said. “What's your name?”

I wondered why he wouldn't just go away. I didn't want to talk to him. He was my pastor, and he was supposed to talk to the big people, not me. I was supposed to be in the background, right? I played with my dress, twisting the fabric in my hands.

“Come on,” he coaxed. “It can't be that horrible.”

No response from me.

“I'm sorry,” my father said. “She's just shy.”

“Oh, I can see,” Pastor Don said. He didn't take his eyes off mine. “So, if you won't tell me your name, can you at least tell me how old you are?” He smiled. “Why, you're so tiny. You can't be more than four or five, can you? Are you in kindergarten?”

I couldn't help glaring at the man. I was not a kindergartener. I was in third grade. I shook my head.

“But you can't be older than that,” Pastor Don said. “Big girls talk, don't they?”

I didn't say anything.

I was a big girl. I was I was I was and I HATED him for making me feel like I was a little kid. I glared at the pastor.

Far from being as intimidating as I hoped, Pastor Don laughed. He teased that I would be a big girl when I could tell him how old I was. He turned back to the conversation with my parents, and I didn't have to talk to him anymore. But then the church service began, and I asked my father for a piece of paper and a pen.

I was a big girl. And I was going to prove him wrong.


I shook myself out of the memory, smiling as I remembered the little note I gave him. To Pastor Don Lock, I wrote—back then, I hadn't realized his name was spelled “Lough”—I am a big girl. I am in third grade. Not kindergarten. And I had doodled in the margins of the paper, then handed it to him at the end of the sermon. He had taken one look at it, scanning through the words, and burst into laughter.

And there it was: the beginning. Every Sunday, I found a way to send him little notes, and he found a way to always talk to me. And when I talked to him, I didn't feel like a little girl. I felt, strangely enough, like an equal, and I always wanted to be around him.

He didn't mind me following him around like a shadow. Even though I was young and he was the pastor of the church, he had a special place in his heart for me and my family. He came over to our house, he read all of my little notes I gave him, and he even baptized me.

I stared out at the congregation from the stage, shivering in my tiny robe. My legs shaking beneath me, I slowly spoke my testimony, looking down at the black words that I had typed on the computer. It seemed at once to take forever and to be over in an instant, and before I knew it, I was waist-deep in the cool water, and Pastor Don Lough's hands were behind my back and across my arms. My tiny hands plugged my nose shut tight.

"I baptize you," he said, "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

He lowered me down into the water, and I pinched my nose shut. My eyes closed, and I felt the water seep into my robe, wetting my jeans and T-shirt and drenching my hair. Slowly, Pastor Don Lough brought me up again, and I smiled up at him.


My fingers paused on the trumpet and I smiled as I remembered that day. It had been Easter morning and I had been in church since 5:30 for the Sunrise service. My legs had been shaking that entire day, both at the prospect of being lowered into a pool of water and having to speak in front of an entire congregation as a mere third-grader, but somehow, I always knew it would be okay.

Because it was Pastor Don Lough, and he loved me and cared for me and always had time to give me advice about my petty, third-grade issues. He wasn't a normal pastor. He cared for his congregation unlike any pastor I have seen since. He didn't ignore the little children, like so many pastors did, but he relished in the idea of helping them, supporting them.

He took me out to eat with his wife once. It had been an occasion both of us had been looking forward to, ever since we had brought it up months previous. He didn't even require my parents to go with me—which showed me, even at that young age, that he respected me. That he knew I was capable of being strong on my own, of behaving myself in a restaurant, without a parent present.

Pastor Don Lough and I had a special relationship. It is a relationship I have never had with anyone since.

It was a mutual respect. I didn't feel like a child when I was with him. I felt—to use a cliché, I felt treasured. And I felt loved and cared for.

I only knew him for a mere eleven months before he went on to a better place. He died suddenly, with little pain, one Sunday afternoon. That day, I hadn't made it to church; I fail to remember why. But he passed on with no suffering across from his loving wife, which is all I could ask for if he had to go.

I knew him for such a short amount of time, but I will never forget him. He was a special man. Everyone in the church cared for him, but only I have certain memories of him: of meeting him that one day, of seeing him play that trumpet and wanting to follow in his footsteps, of sitting next to him on a comfortable bench and eating Chinese food, and of following him around like a shadow every Sunday morning.

We occupied a special place in each others' hearts—and I can't wait to see him again. Because I'm positive that will happen, one day long in the future, and I think he'll be pretty proud of me when that day comes.

--

This has been my entry for week 18 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. If you liked my entry this week, please consider voting for me when the poll comes up? Thank you!
callistahogan: (Default)
2010-03-06 11:49 pm

LJ Idol: Week 17 - The Caged Bird

“And now for Callista Hogan on the uneven bars.”

I tightened my ponytail, smiling at my coach. I walked over to the chalk bucket, making sure my hands were fully coated in the substance. Then I took one deep breath, visualizing the routine in my mind, and walked up onto the mat. Start values were announced, but I kept my eyes focused on the bars.

I had to keep my focus. This was my one shot, and I couldn't ruin it. I had worked so hard for this moment, ever since I was three years old.

One more deep breath.

My hands met the bars, hard and strong and fast just like in all of my practices. My arms, taut and powerful, pulled me into my first rotation. Legs straightened and toes pointed as I moved into my first handstand. I held it—one shallow breath, two—and then swung around. My legs spread, toes pointed, as I moved into one more rotation. I swung around again, letting go of the bar—

I felt like I was flying through the short distance to the high bar. For a moment, all was still and silent as I wondered if I would reach it but then—strong. Sure. I landed the high bar.

The momentum pulled me into another rotation. I felt like I was flying through the air. The feeling was infinite; the bars against my hands, the strength of my arms as I held a handstand and then went spinning into a rotation, and my legs, stretched tight and powerfully together, completing my perfect lines. As I spun, faster than I believed possible, I spread my legs and then brought them together again as I came over the top of the high bar into a handstand.

I released the bar, spinning into a Jaeger. I somersaulted through the air—I was a bird, graceful and strong—and caught the bar again. Another rotation and another handstand, legs extended. My hands moved across the bar with a Nastia Liukin-like flourish, changing my position—a piroette—and I spun, gaining speed.

I let go of the bar.

Power, adrenaline—all coursed through my body as I landed the low bar again. I kept my legs slightly at an angle to the floor, toes pointed, and spun. The bar remained the sole stationary spot in my vision as I spun around it, everything else blurring. There was nothing but the bar. Nothing but my routine existed. Nothing existed but the feel of my hands on the bar and my body moving through the air. The flight to the high bar again made me feel invincible, impenetrable.

The rest of my routine was a blur. Another release move—this time, I let go of the bar, flying backward over the bar, legs apart, and caught it again. A perfect Tkatchev. I barely managed to spare a thought for my coach, most likely beaming with pride, as I swung around the bar. A handstand, another release—flying high over the bar, gaining air—and then I spun, ready to dismount.

As I rotated over the bar and then came back down, I released. I felt the air whistle past my face. I somersaulted through the air, body straightening as I neared the ground. My feet met the mat, solid and firm. A smile spread across my face and I raised my arms. The crowd cheered. As I stepped off the mat for the next girl to compete, my coach grabbed me around the waist and spun me.

“I'm so proud of you, girl,” he whispered. “You're going to the Olympics!”



It is an unfulfilled dream, this fantasy.

Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the girls who spun around the high bars. I was intrigued by the skills the girls utilized on the balance beam, with their standing full twists and leaps through the air and the way they made it seem so effortless. I wondered why they ran toward the vault, somersaulting through the air. How did they always land on their feet?

“Daddy,” I remember myself saying. “Can I go to a gym, please? I wanna be a gymnast!”

“Maybe,” my father said, smiling at me. “Let's see if we can find a good one.”

When I was five or six—maybe a little older, maybe a little younger—my mother and I used to watch gymnastics together. (Figure skating too, but I only paid attention to the gymnastics.) I would take the pillows off my couch and lay them on the floor.

“I'm gonna be like them one day,” I said. “I'm gonna be a gymnast!”

I arranged the pillows on the floor, content to somersault across them for hours. I leaped and danced across the floor, pretending I was one of those girls who could do those elegant tumbling runs. And when I got bored, I balanced on the arm of the couch, arms outstretched. When my mother and I went on walks, I would balance on the edge of the sidewalk.

I pretended I was on a balance beam. I was strong and graceful, powerful and sure. I could do the tricks. I could cartwheel across four inches of wood. I could jump off the beam and land back on it, straight as a pin. Handstands? No problem. Straddling the beam, bringing myself back up to a standing position, all with perfect balance? Of course. I could do that in my sleep.

They are so pretty, I acknowledged. They make it look effortless. I wanna be like them. I wanna be powerful and strong.

I want to be free as a bird, I thought as I watched gymnasts on the high bars.

Years passed.

I was five, six, seven and then eight. Deep inside, I knew it was never going to happen, but that didn't stop me from wishing.

“Dad, please enroll me in a gym, please?” I begged. “Mackenzie and Caitlyn and everyone else are doing gymnastics. Why can't I?”

There was always an excuse. Not enough money, he said. No good gyms around, he said. It's not the right time, he said. There was never enough money, never a good gym, and it was never the right time. As I grew older, the door began closing. People started gymnastics when they were three or four, not when they were pushing on ten.

I am fifteen, and I am already too old for one of my biggest dreams. Many of the elite gymnasts are my age—give or take a year or two—and they have been practicing since they were three or four. Maybe even two in the cases of some of them. It's taken them years to get to the point where they are now, and I can just imagine the way they feel when they are doing that which they love.

It must feel like freedom to swing around that bar, going into a Jaeger or a Tkatchev or any number of the other difficult moves gymnasts do every day.

They must feel like birds.

I see them in my hopes and my nostalgic What ifs. Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson competing in the 2008 Olympics are inspirations. They follow their dreams. Nastia Liukin with her perfect routine on the bars doing something no other gymnast in the world is able to do—Shawn Johnson pushing up to silver with her fabulous floor routine in Beijing—

Amazing women, both of them.

I long to be one of them, but deep in my heart, I know it is too late. The door is closed, the cage is locked, and I know. I was not meant for the bars or the floor or the beam. I cannot strike the bars hard and fast, like a cobra, and spin into rotations with my tension perfect, light and strong as a hawk.

No, that is not my path.

I am meant for the quiet room, my fingers tapping gently at the keys, exploring long-lost dreams and the wish for the future. I am meant to contemplate the ever-prevalent question in my mind:

What if?

--

This has been my entry for week 17 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. I hope you enjoyed this entry, and hopefully you will consider voting for me when the poll comes up!
callistahogan: (Default)
2010-03-03 05:45 pm

LJ Idol: Week 16 - Breaking the Fast

I think it's time to admit something.

It's been long enough.

I am about to share a part of myself that seems obvious to everyone who knows me in real life, but wouldn't be immediately obvious through the screen of a computer. And it seems like it is the time to lay all my cards out on the table, revealing a facet of my home life that hasn't yet been revealed.

It's simple, really: I have an obsession. Now, don't misunderstand me when I say this. It's not an obsession with drugs or drinking or any other bad thing you could come up with. It's not a “good” obsession with writing or this very game or doing well in school. Instead, it's something at once more enjoyable and yet more dangerous than any of the above.

The very beginning of my obsession is hard to pinpoint. All I know is that suddenly, I had to have It, and if I didn't have It, I was going to die. Or so I thought (I tend to be a little overdramatic).

“Did you get it?” I asked my father as I slid into the front seat. After a long day of boring teachers and the never ending torture that was gym class, I needed something to help me relax.

“Yes,” my dad said. “It's in the back.”

I grinned. “Thanks, Dad!”

The ride home was torture. I imagined the bag in the backseat, containing the item that was ready to staunch the flow of my obsession, and I couldn't wait to get home. We drove along the streets, much slower than I would have liked. Finally we pulled into the driveway of my grandmother's home, where we had been staying for the past four years.

I made my way up to my room. The wait was almost unbearable, but I had to wait. My dad was going to put the groceries away, and then he'd bring the bag up.

It had been a week.

If I had survived a week without It, then I could wait just a few more minutes.

The minutes passed. My dad made his way upstairs, the sound of the bag rustling by his side soon becoming too much for me. I jumped out of my uncomfortable red chair and bounded out of my bedroom, holding out my hands in expectation.

My dad smiled and handed the bag off to me. I smiled in return, clutching the bag tightly to my chest.

“Yay! Thank you, Dad!” I squealed, retreating into my room.

I sat back down in my chair, the bag resting against my thighs. For a moment, I stared at it, a smile curving up my lips. The anticipation killed; my mouth watered even as I just stared at the bag. Slowly, I took the contents of the bag out, throwing the bag over my shoulder and into the trashbin.

The remaining bag crinkled satisfactorily as I opened it. The sweet aroma reached my nose, and I inhaled deeply, ingraining the scent into my mind. There was nothing like it, I decided, as I reached inside the bag. After more than seven hours of my half-purposeful, half-inadvertent fast, there had to be nothing better than this—fulfilling my obsession.

I put the first chip in my mouth, closing my eyes, savoring the crunch of the chip as I brought my teeth around it. The paprika and salt exploded in my mouth, causing a wave of flavor (and calories, can't forget the calories) to spread across my tongue. My obsession was staunched, fading quickly as the individual flavors tickled my tastebuds.

Ah. There's nothing like the first barbeque chip out of a bag, wouldn't you agree?

--

This has been my entry for week 16 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. This topic was particularly hard for me, and this entry's not quite what I would like it to be, but please vote for me anyway? I just found myself completely stuck with this topic, and I hope that this isn't too bad. I'd really love to stick around. :(
callistahogan: (Default)
2010-02-20 09:30 pm

LJ Idol: Week 15 - Failure to Communicate

I see you everyday.
I guess we walk the same way
to wherever we're going.

Hi, I'm new.

The black words blared up at me from the computer screen, not yet the iconic light green I would come to associate powerfully with the kind, intelligent Australian. I bit my lip, fingers hovering over my father's keyboard, wondering if I should respond. It was a tradition with this specific chatroom to greet everyone with a warm, cheery “Ni” and our names, but my hands were frozen, resting lightly on the keys.

I let out a gentle sigh, watching as the conversation advanced. Introductions were made, and the new guy seemed to take all the insanity in stride. Soon enough, everyone was finished introducing themselves. But I remained in the background, an uncomfortable twisting in my gut. However illogical it felt, I couldn't introduce myself to the new person.

So I minimized the page. I opened up a word document, turned on my music, and got lost in my writing—but the twisted feeling in the pit of my stomach did not disperse.

A moment had arrived.
It was just the right time for conversation.
And he asked me:
What do you do?
What is your name?
Where are you from?

Tell me about yourself.

I supposed it was just the right time for us to have our first conversation. It was a week later, or I thought it was a week later. It could have been more time than that; the moments blurred together in my mind, obscuring the purpose of our first conversation. It might've been because I was bored. It might've been because he wanted to talk to me. It might've been the fact that I needed to talk to him.

In our first conversation, I had a classic case of self-doubt. How old are you? he asked. And where are you from? What do you like to do?

My answers were all typed out. The cursor blinked at the end of the sentence. Minutes ticked by, and then: Backspace.

My fingers at the keys again:

18. Maine. I like to write and read and hang out in the chatroom.

Two truths out of three—not bad.

That conversation, full of half-truths and carefully concealed statements (I wasn't stupid; I knew I shouldn't reveal everything to a near-total stranger), kicked off a series of events that would stretch all the way up to the present day.

No way of knowing,
I can't explain it.
But I'm not complaining.
If I'm happy or sad
If only we had
Just a minute longer than this.

My heart thudded its rhythm in my chest as he entered the chatroom. A smile stretched across my face as he struck up a conversation with a cheerful Hey! I had been waiting for him to come on all day, the minutes ticking by as it grew ever closer to 4 o'clock. He appeared between 4 and 5, and we talked for hours on end, about anything and everything under the sun.

It was during one of those moments that I realized one simple fact, the simple fact that had been in the back of my brain for ages, but only came to the surface at that precise moment.

I loved him.

I was in love for the first time in my life, and it was powerful and all-consuming and seemingly unconditional. It made my heart flutter inside my chest. It made my fingers still on the keys, a smile spreading across my face as I saw him arrive day after day. His every word, his every conversation—he was perfect. Utterly perfect, with his kind words and his generosity and his willingness to consort with me, of all people, a shy little girl who didn't even know what it was like to be kissed in real life.

It was just my luck that he had a girlfriend. And every moment had a time limit, because we couldn't meet in real life, not unless I booked a thousand dollar flight to Australia.

And I was so frustrated,
in fact, devastated.
I feel happy but sad.
If only we had
just a minute longer than this.

Months passed, our relationship growing and my feelings blossoming and growing stronger than I had ever imagined. It was in my heart, it was in my mind, it swirled out of my fingers and onto the page. Pages after pages filled with the words I couldn't tell him. I could say I love you, and it meant something different to him than it did to me.

When I said I love you, he read I care about you so much. And to me, I love you was really I'm in love with you.

One day, I found myself speaking to him, and he told me that he was leaving. He was going away for a time—I'm worthless, no one cares, he said.

I do.

Why? he asked.

Because I'm in love with you.

I typed the words and pressed send.
.
I wonder.
I wonder what you think about.
Do you think about me?

Fumbling my way through my first real relationship was not as easy as I had envisioned. I had envisioned my first relationship gentle and loving, with a perfect first kiss, and not as a transcontinental relationship only borne out through emails and online messages. I didn't imagine my first kiss coming about through typing “/me kisses” into an IRC chatroom.

But we loved each other.

It didn't matter if people didn't believe me. It still doesn't matter now, if people don't believe me. We were in love, and every moment was a treasure. Yet—

It was not perfect.

There were fights—huge fights about religion and sex, evangelism and Discordianism—and there were many backspaced statements.

Tell me what you're thinking, he urged.

I can't. I'm sorry; I'm just closed off. I can't help it.

He sighed and typed. All right. Maybe tomorrow.

I could tell you,
if only we had
just a minute longer
.

We didn't have a minute longer. Through all our dreams—four years. That's all we have to get through. Four years, and we can get married—and our hopes and our fears and our conversations and our kisses and our love, it wasn't enough. You know the term “irreconcilable differences”?

It turns out a Discordian and a Christian don't mix, especially when the Christian was a young evangelist like me. Not to mention, our conversations often dissolved into fights, about him thinking I was pushing my faith on him and me insisting that no, I wasn't, I was just trying to explain to him what I believed. We didn't communicate; we couldn't communicate. Our differences spanned across too far a divide.

That wasn't even taking into account my hesitance. I couldn't tell him what I was feeling, because I worried constantly: What if he was judging me? What if things won't be the same if I tell him what I'm thinking?

We couldn't talk to each other. We tried, but the words never came out right. They were strained and tumbled together and wouldn't quite articulate themselves the way they should.

Our breakup was years ago now.
Maybe I'm a dreamer,
but I just believe
and I know what I see.
Forever wishing,
there would be another day.

I don't want to lose him.

I never did, but for a while, we lost touch. I moved on, dating other people, Satanists and jerks and douches who broke up with girls over the answering machine, and he dated as well. Yet I wondered. Did he think of me? Did he care?

After my heart healed (it's still not entirely healed; there's still the childish ache in my heart for my first love), we started talking again.

And there were the same issues.

I didn't talk as much as I could. He tried, nice and calm and patient, to talk to me, but I froze. Nostalgia burned up inside me. I remembered every moment, the kisses and the love and the long conversations, and it hurt to remember. I tried to talk to him, when I missed him so much it hurt, but then, our conversations fizzled out and we failed to communicate once again.

I talked to him today to ask his permission to write about our relationship. He agreed, and I said I wanted to talk to him again. It's true; I want to build a friendship with him again. I want to be there at his wedding, because I want to see him happy (God knows he deserves it). But I just want to be able to talk to him again, about everything under the sun.

As Delta Goodrem so aptly puts it in her song: Oh, if only we had, I don't care happy or sad—just a minute longer than this.

--

This has been my entry for week 15 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Thank you for reading! There is no intersection this time around, so our votes are separated. It's just me and my own writing on the line now. The song featured in this piece is "Longer" by Delta Goodrem. If you liked this entry, please consider voting for me? Thanks again!
callistahogan: (Default)
2010-02-15 03:45 pm

LJ Idol: Week 14 - The Place That Cannot Be

The dress is silk, clinging gently to my breasts and waist before cascading down to my feet. The hem swishes against the floor as I walk, my shoes clipping against the floor. The barest wisp of a curl escapes from my elaborate updo, brushing against the back of my neck like the touch of my lover. I make my way down the hall and slip inside a room, shutting the heavy door behind me.

A pair of strong arms wrap around my waist and I smile.

“It's about time,” the man whispers in my ear.

I laugh and turn, staring into my love's deep brown eyes. “Sorry,” I whisper, wrapping my arms around his neck. “Wedding plans.”

He laughs too, reaching down to plant a quick kiss against my lips. “Let me guess,” he says. “The queen's deciding whether or not to go with pink or red flowers on the table during the dinner.”

“Close enough,” I say. “She's deciding what color the flowers in my bouquet should be.”

I smile as he laughs again, leading me to the seats in the middle of the room. We settle into a loveseat, me snuggling against his side, his arm around my shoulders.

“To think that a year ago, we couldn't even be together,” he says softly. “And now, we're a month away from being wed.”

“I know,” I say. “It's hard to believe.” I glance up at him, a smile spreading across my face. “We're a month away from living happily ever after.”



The fairytale dissolves, leaving me blinking in the darkness of my bedroom. I stare around my room, at the messy desk and floor, at the computer resting on my bed's comforter, right beside my hip. It seemed real, I reflected, so very real. The fairytale atmosphere, the pressure of my lover's arms around my waist, the way he pressed his lips to mine with all the passion and love in the entire world.

But it was all fake. All a lie.

I knew that fairytales did not exist. I suppose I realized that when I was young and my family began dissolving. It was hard to see people talk about their families falling apart, or see your own get ripped apart at the seams, without being rather cynical in regards to the “happily ever after.” The idea of the perfect soulmate, the one person who would do whatever it took to be with you—did that exist? Or the castle on the hill, overlooking the city, with the perfect king and queen ascending to the throne—was that real?

No, of course not.

There might be someone out there for everyone, just one “fish in the sea,” so to speak. My sister's relationship with her husband proves that. Though their relationship had starts and stops, arguments and tears, they are the closest couple I can point to when someone asks me if I know a pair of people who are destined to be together. I can just see them, ten, twenty, thirty years in the future, still bickering, still arguing, still running the youth group, and still as madly in love then as they are now. I can see their children being proud that their parents are still together, after so many of their peers have single parents.

Yet, as perfect as they might seem, they are not. They have arguments—more arguments that I could count. They have disagreements. They do not have the fairytale or the “happily ever after.” They are not characters in a story book, where they get over their conflicts and then ride into the sunset. “The End” did not scroll over their story once they got married.

Their story continues on. There is excitement—my sister's second surprise pregnancy, for one—mingled in with the happiness. Events in their lives don't always work out the way they planned, like when they had to move in with my brother-in-law's mother for a period of time until they could find a place of their own, but they don't mind it. They don't mind the unexpected.

I can just imagine what would happen if their journey ended with the marriage. I can just imagine what would happen if “And they lived happily ever after” scrolled across the proverbial movie screen of their lives.

It would have been awfully predictable.

They get married. They find a house, move in, and spend a year or two getting settled in. My sister finishes college and gets the job she wants. My brother-in-law gets the job he wants, and they bring in all the money they need. After a couple years, she gets pregnant. Her pregnancy is easy, and she could go to youth group every Friday night. They have their first child, and the journey continues in the same predictable, easy mold. There are no conflicts; their child grows up successful, and they grow old together, sitting on the porch and yelling at those “lousy kids” who ride past their house on bikes.

It doesn't seem like a life I would want to live, even though it is apparently the ideal. After all, a fairytale ending is the culmination of all the drama that's happened and the realization that after this point, everything is smooth sailing.

Can you say boring?

Personally, I'd rather have the sort of life that is passionate. There are constant surprises, constant turmoil, and constant obstacles that I have to work through. I don't want the typical; I don't want the “Find a guy in college, get married, have kids” ending that it seems I should aspire to. I might not even want kids; how's that for a monkey wrench in your ideals for my life?

I might get caught up in the idea of a fairytale ending, but that's only because I am a typical teenage girl in that regard, when it comes to fancy dresses and balls and a handsome prince sweeping me off my feet. But if I look deep inside, I know that a fairytale is not for me, and to be honest—it's probably not for anyone. Humans need conflict; we feed on it. A fairytale cannot be. I can't live in a fancy castle with my prince.

Passion is what I live for. Passion is what I strive for.

Although I might get caught up in fairytales, when I think about my life and what I truly want, the image dissolves faster than I might imagine. I think about the handsome prince, and I say: Well, yeah. So you might provide me with a happily-ever-after. But that's not what I want or need. And my lips quirk as I imagine the progression of my story. I imagine jumping over the hurdles put in my path in order to pursue my dream.

When I'm old and graying, I don't want to be sitting on a porch with my love, thinking back over my perfect life. I want to be telling anyone who will listen about my life and the conflicts I worked through. When I am old and can barely see, I want to tell them this simple line:

Fairytales are overrated.

--

This has been my entry for Week 14 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Once more, it was an intersection week, and my partner was [livejournal.com profile] ask_a_sup. Our votes are tallied together this week, so if you like my entry, please read [livejournal.com profile] ask_a_sup's entry as well.
callistahogan: (Default)
2010-02-06 10:01 pm

LJ Idol: Week 13 - Sexual Ethics

“Did you hear? Sharon is pregnant!”

The person next to me on the hard orange bleachers turned to face the three of us. “Really?” she asked. “Who's the father?”

My friend shrugged her shoulders. “No one knows.”

“I bet it's with someone disgusting,” the second girl next to me—my acquaintance, since it was hardly accurate calling her my friend—said. “Did you see her teeth? Disgusting. She doesn't even take care of them. She can barely even take care of herself, let alone a baby.”

“I know,” my friend responded. “And her voice is super-nasally. Remember?”

“Yeah, I remember,” the second girl said. “I can't imagine why anyone would have to have sex with her of all people.”

Taking up my backpack and my laptop, I turned away from the conversation, heading to the doors of the gym so I could run from the hell-hole as soon as possible. As I passed by a group of freshmen, I heard “God, it was so terrible, I don't even know why I agreed to having sex with him.” I kept my head down, standing near the doors as I waited for the bell to ring. As it did, I heard a group of guys crack a joke—obscene, misogynistic, typical teenage boy crap—and rolled my eyes.

It was about time the day was over.

--

“So, don't tell your sister, but I was invited to go out to eat with Kara and Amber,” one of the youth group students, Martha*, said.

“And I wasn't invited?”

“You wouldn't have wanted to come,” Martha said. “It was really awkward.”

“Awkward how?”

“Well, she asked us if... we were virgins,” Martha muttered. “It was one of the first things she said too. It was like we sat down, and then she asked 'Are you a virgin?' And she asked us if we had ever held hands with a boy before, stuff like that. It was really weird.”

I agreed, shaking my head. It seemed that there was no escaping mentions of sex; even those self-proclaimed conservative Christians ended up butting into people's personal sex lives.

--

I live in a culture absolutely saturated with sex.

It's not often that I can tune into a TV show without some sort of hot couple steaming up the screen with their sexual tension or walk down the halls at school without some obscene joke. It's not all that bothersome to me, really—I've gotten used to it—but the big deal about it goes over my head. Why do people care so much about what people do in their bedrooms? And why has it become such a prevalent part of our culture (so prevalent, in fact, that most swear words happen to be sexual in nature)?

I admit, I don't have too much sexual experience. I am a virgin, as I expect to be until my wedding day, and the Internet is my major source of information about sex. My parents never had the “Sex Talk” with me (do parents even do that anymore?) and by the time my school started teaching me about sex, I had already run across my brother's porn files.

The thing that really blows my mind (pun intended) is the way that something that should be so private—or something I think should be so private—has become a nationwide obsession. All over gossip magazines, it's the same: who is sleeping with whom? And in TV shows, the drama regarding who is sleeping with whom and who is pregnant by whom is often the biggest plot line.

This might sound old-fashioned, but I'd prefer it if what started out behind closed doors would remain behind closed doors. Personally, I don't care who had sex with whom. I don't care if someone had sex with someone of the same gender or if someone got pregnant because they had unprotected sex.

I'm not in the position to say, considering I haven't even been close to having sex, but it strikes me as intensely personal. For the first time, you're baring all to that one person you trust, the one person you trust to give you pleasure instead of pain, or love instead of heartbreak. The one person you either want to get you off or the one person you want to love you forever. The one person who sees you at your most vulnerable, naked, stripped to the bone, all imperfections laid out. Every awkwardness, every small imperfection, every hesitation: your partner is able to see it all.

And it strikes me as highly intrusive to have that act, the most private of all acts we humans do, splattered across newsstands and TV shows and our conversations like it is so much old gossip. It strikes me as an invasion of personal space to decry a person for having sex too early, or too late. I don't understand why people feel the need to decry someone having sex for the first time at forty. To call a girl a “whore” if she has sex or congratulate a guy if he “hits that hot chick”... it doesn't seem right to me. None of it does.

Sure, I might be optimistic. I might not be realistic. I might not understand the whole fascination with sex since I am so very young. I might not know everything about sex.

But you know what?

I do know what I want, and I want to wait until my wedding day. Otherwise, I don't think I'd be able to bare my whole heart and soul to someone. I wouldn't want to have sex with someone just because I felt attracted to them for one day; I'd want to build a connection, to be so in love that I would want to give that piece of my heart to that one person—and hope that they don't break it.

And if they do, then at least I would know that I did what felt right. And no one could take that peace away from me.

*Names changed.

--

This has been my entry for week 13 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. This week was another intersection week, but there was a twist: we had to pick a new partner. My partner for this week was [livejournal.com profile] twistersflower. You can read her entry here. Our votes are tallied together this week, so if you like my entry, please consider voting for her as well. Thanks!
callistahogan: (Default)
2010-01-31 11:34 am

LJ Idol: Week 12—Who's That Trip-Trapping Over My LJ?

Throughout the nearly two years I've been on LiveJournal, I've met many people.

In the beginning, most of my friends were people I had met through various online communities, and they were people I had known for about a year and a half. My entries were predominantly centered around my Christian faith, since at that time I had just been to one of the best lessons ever given at my youth group, and it had changed my perspective. I wrote many entries dealing with the crucifixion, creationism, and many other issues besides.

During that time, the person who commented the most on my entries* held views completely opposite to my own. While I was a devout Christian, she was a strong atheist. While I read Left Behind, she argued with me about the accuracies enclosed in the book. While I argued my cases against abortion and gay marriage, she took the opposing viewpoint. I remember clearly the anger that swept through me when I felt belittled for my beliefs, and when I wanted to end the debate but she kept going.

Nothing we could say could sway the other, and after a while, the arguments escalated to a point where I had to ban her for a period of time. The ban was lifted, but at that point, I had felt so belittled and looked down upon for my beliefs that I couldn't handle it.

Little did I know, however, that things would change. I suppose it happened when I realized just how liberal LJ was; reading other peoples' entries made me realize that LJ was a leftist community—intensely so, in fact. It was probably then that my viewpoints began to shift. I was still strong in my opinions, but reading other entries about hate crimes did not make me feel comfortable.

One other person* who came to my LJ during that period of time in which my viewpoints were still conservative was a Christian like me. At the time, she felt like a breath of fresh air, away from the pollutants and contaminants that were injected into my faith while reading liberal entries. She understood me, agreeing with my previous opinions about gay marriage and abortion.

It felt like the sun was rising. The sun was shining brightly, and it felt right and correct to be holding the views I did. Nothing compared to the feeling of waking up to a comment praising me for being so wise for my then-fourteen years of age or a comment that said that she agreed completely with me.

It was at that point that I began thinking in earnest. I questioned the opinions that had been drilled into me since birth, almost, and wondered about the entries I had read previously. I read the comments of liberals who commented on my entries, and it seemed like they did have a point. For the first time, I realized that maybe I was being prejudiced.

I paid more attention to other peoples' entries. I remember several posts about abortion, in which some people brought up good points that I haven't quite forgotten—and both my liberal and conservative friends brought up points both worthy of merit. It was around this time that I started looking at both sides of the issues, and as a teen just figuring who the hell she is, I started to grow frustrated with the liberal-conservative war, wherein both groups try to prove to the other that their views are “right” and that their views will “save America.” Blah, blah, blah—it was boring to me. Boring, and pointless.

I realized that there was no point in butting heads with people whose views were different than mine. While I don't run away from debates—not anymore—I realized that it was pointless to be so stuck in my viewpoints that I couldn't change. Who was to say that the conservative view of things is the right thing to believe? And who was to say that the liberals got it right?

No one.

My breakthrough on one issue happened when I was called a bigot on one certain entry months ago. And not just a bigot, but a “bigoted cunt.” I received anonymous bashing when I wrote an entry after Maine legalized same-sex marriage. Although the anonymity of the people responding upset me, it almost made me realize hey, look here. My pants are down. Why don't I pull them the hell up?

Slowly, I realized that when I thought the sun had risen months ago when someone else outside of my immediate family believed in the conservative values I had been born in, it had in fact not appeared. If anything, the sun had set at that point, blinding me to all of the bad in this world that occur in broad daylight. Instead, the sun rose months after that entry, when I finally couldn't say: Well, I won't deal with this right now. I'll just say what I wish would happen and ignore that my ideal situation would never happen. The sun illuminated the fact that I had to finally make a choice. No longer could I stand in the background and shrug noncommittally. I had to do something.

All of the comments over the years took a toll. I would be lying if I said that my views would have changed if I hadn't been exposed to LiveJournal. For example, if I hadn't read the entries regarding RaceFail '09, I never would have realized how prevalent racism still is in today's culture, and I wouldn't have known to pull my pants up when my ass was showing.

I owe LiveJournal many things, but to me, it's truly been a way to meet people. LiveJournal exposed me to so many different people: liberals and conservatives and independents and Christians and atheists and pagans and artists and writers and straights and gays and bisexuals and bookaholics and fandom freaks, just to name a few. And everyone, from that very first person who debated with me on LJ to my dear assless sisters (inside joke) and the people I've met here on LJ Idol, has shaped part of who I am.

And now that my views are finally something I have a measure of peace with, I felt sunny and light—like I can take on the world.

Or maybe, you know, just make some new friends.

*Names withheld, because I don't want to point the fingers at anyone in particular.

--

This has been my entry for week 12 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. This week, we had to work with a partner. My partner was [livejournal.com profile] in48frames, and her entry is here. Our votes are combined for their totals this week, so if you like my entry, head over there and vote for her as well.
callistahogan: (Default)
2010-01-23 03:35 pm

LJ Idol: Week 11 - Run, Don't Walk

It was a gradual change.

I noticed more arguing, less love. I noticed my mother seemed different; she got angry about the weirdest things, and then all of a sudden, she would cuddle up next to my dad. During those moments, I remember sitting next to her on the arm of the couch, sharing a bag of popcorn as we watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. My mom had always been good at the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune; it only took her about three turns of the wheel before she had enough letters to figure out the answer. My dad would come in during Jeopardy, which he had always been a marvel at.

Perhaps that is one of my strongest memories of my mother when she still lived with us, because it was a picture of what we were: a happy mother and daughter. Although there were moments when we did not get along -- most particularly when she tried to convince me that reading Harry Potter was a sin because it contained witchcraft -- we were, at the heart, typical. I remember vividly watching figure skating and gymnastics with her when I was young. I also remember watching her work out to Denise Austin in the mornings before I went to school. I remember going shopping for my first bra, and how she seemed so excited to take me.

And then it all imploded.

It had been coming for a while, through small changes that would have been unnoticeable to all but our closest friends, but it hit the whole family hard when it finally did happen. One minute, I was in bed, watching TV, and then the next, I heard an argument break out downstairs. I thought it was nothing -- arguments were getting more common lately -- but then I woke up the next morning and she wasn't there. Things snowballed, faster and faster, and then suddenly my mother was living with my maternal grandmother or my aunt and uncle, and the word "divorce" came up with ever increasing prevalence.

Within six months, right after I went to junior high, my mother and father had divorced. We (my father and I) moved into my grandmother's house, where we still live today, albeit with my brother. My mother lived with family members for a while, and then she was placed in a home. It was primarily for her schizophrenia, I found out later when I could finally understand the situation.

It's hard being around her even now, because the little child in me can't help blaming her for breaking up our family. The adult in me knows that it's not her fault -- it could never be her fault -- but I can't help the awkward feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I see her.

Sometimes she makes me want to run. Run as far away as I can, so I don't have to remember the happiness I had felt in my childhood knowing that my family was always going to be together. I want to run during every family function, because she seems so young now. She acts like a teenager, squealing about Daniel Radcliffe and Harry Potter like she never considered the series a sin. It is hard being around her, to remember the way our family had been and think about how it is now. It is hard being around her knowing how her illness is affecting her life, and by proxy, my own.

Yet I don't run, because she is my mother.

Instead, I run away from the feelings she inspired in me when she got a divorce from my father. I run toward the possibility of success, both in school and in my writing. I run toward my goals, toward everything that I strive so hard to be. I might walk toward rebuilding that relationship with my mother, but I run headlong into the possibility of understanding her, of knowing that it's not her fault what happened to my family.

The relationship will come, even though it is a slow one. I don't understand her yet, and my relationship with my father is much stronger than my relationship with my mother. My sister managed to build a relationship with my mother, so I suppose it is only a matter of time before I am old enough, mature enough, and ready to help her in any way I can.

I just have to wait for the strength -- and when it comes, I will be ready to run, not walk, toward that relationship that I used to have with my mother, and the relationship I want so badly to get back.

--

This was my entry for Week 11 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. I hope you enjoyed it.
callistahogan: (Default)
2010-01-07 04:21 pm
Entry tags:

LJ Idol: Week 9 - The Better Half

I walked into my church, dressed casually and (hopefully) nicely in a pair of dark jeans that covered my purple wedges and a red and black plaid shirt that buttoned down the front. My sister and her husband entered behind me, laden with my niece, their church materials, and my sister's large black diaper bag. I clutched my Bible to me, noticing the raggedness of the binding, the way it slipped and slid if my hand moved to a certain spot, and the papers spilling out the top from many a youth group or Sunday school meeting.

I smiled as we made our way into the Sunday school room and slid into a seat. Our Sunday school lesson went by pleasantly, as I sipped my hot chocolate and nibbled on a cinnamon roll. My sister gave a good lesson, although -- as per usual, since we were teenagers, after all -- we ended up getting off topic. We discussed everything under the sun, laughing at my niece's antics and bemoaning both school and work, since it was a particularly bad week.

Finally, as the lesson was winding down, my sister talked about the Christmas play the younger children were putting together and told us the songs that we would be singing. She told us that we would be working on the songs during Sunday school, and we had to work hard because we only had a few weeks to get them down.

Although we dragged our feet, in typical small Maine town fashion, the play ended up coming together fairly well. I was certain that I couldn't sing, but I sang out as loud as I could. I made sure I attempted to keep in tune, at least, and enjoyed myself. That's the thing I remembered the least about that service, however. Instead, I remembered most the event that happened before the play began.

That Sunday morning, crisp and snowy, ended up being the 50th wedding anniversary of one couple in our church. The wife came up to the front to be recognized by the church and was told that there would be a reception in their honor following that morning's service. Then a few people entered the stage from the door behind the large Christmas tree -- and the pastor's daughter, beside me, whispered that it was the woman's daughter and the rest of her family from Florida. I soon heard that the church members have kept in touch with the woman's family, making sure that her children could be up for the holiday.

I smiled and clapped along with everyone else. How nice, I thought.

--

Flash forward to Christmas Eve.

My sister, although she was going through a severe bout of morning sickness, managed to slide into the seat next to me ten minutes into the Christmas Eve service, as we began singing an unfamiliar Christmas hymn. My brother-in-law ribbed me, glaring at me and just generally being obnoxious, as brother-in-laws are certainly programmed to do. I playfully glared back; I knew our relationship by heart by now, and both of us knew that underneath it all we did care for each other. This was just our way of showing it -- which was typical in my family.

Thankfully, my sister and brother-in-law did not miss the best part: a dance set to Christmas Shoes, put on by the newest members of our church, an enthusiastic couple interested in doing whatever they could in the church.

As I watched, my eyes almost filled with tears, as I listened to the heartrending lyrics of a boy who just wanted to buy a pair of shoes for his mother for Christmas.

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.

...

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great...

It was hard not to notice the feeling of fellowship and love flowing through the room at that moment and when we raised our candles, bright with our own tiny flame, singing Silent Night, it finally felt like Christmas to me. I felt a kinship with that tiny church I had come to call my own, full of joy and family and love.

--

I came down off the high brought from being at church, amongst the kind faces and genuine care, when later I glanced at my LJ friends-list. Low, lower, and finally lowest: it hit me as I was reading through certain articles about those "hate crimes" committed by Christians. How is it that those same people I had just seen -- or people with the same beliefs as those people I had just seen -- could be so nice to me and yet so indifferent, maybe even mean, toward those people who were different from us? How could they be so accepting of the trials and tribulations of the straight-laced Christian trying to be Christ-like, but not understand that to be Christ-like, you had to treat others as you would like to be treated?  How could they forget the Golden Rule, that rule which I had been aware of ever since I was five years old?

I did not understand how Christians could claim to be so, and yet not feel bile when they spoke casually about voting against gay marriage. I did not -- and still do not -- understand how they can say humans should not judge other people, yet go about judging homosexuals, women who have had abortions, atheists, evolutionists. I don't understand how they can say they're showing love to people when they vote against the very thing they are pushing to achieve, that very thing that will make them equals.

I see this half of Christianity all the time. I see it on the news. In fact, we probably all have. The most recent example in my own town is Question 1, but that is not the only time this issue has affected my own town. Although I haven't been there when this has been happening, I hear my dad tell stories about Christians standing in front of Walmart, holding signs.

"If you don't believe, YOU'RE GOING TO HELL!"

"If you've had an abortion, you're going to HELL!"

"God hates fags!"

"God hates atheists!"

"Repent or go to hell!"

Ring a bell? Yeah, I'm sure they do.

So often, this is the only half of Christianity that gets any air play. Sure, there might be a scene on the news that says a Christian organization donated to a charity, but more often than not, we hear stories of Christians barring the entrance to abortion clinics. Of Christians breaking up gay pride rallies with the aforementioned signs. Of the Catholic church, funding support for Prop 8. Of Christians displaying homophobia, sexism. Of intolerance.

Whenever I see these stories, I feel pity for those Christians who just don't get it. I sympathize with those people who are under attack for their lifestyle.

The "better half" of Christianity goes unnoticed under all this hate and bigotry expressed by TV fundamentalists, Catholic church leaders, and Baptist pastors who just don't understand that what they are doing is wrong. The better half of Christianity is made up of people like me.

People like me do not judge or try not to, at least. They are working to accept people for who they are, not who they wish they could make people out to be. They do not try to bar gays from getting married, because they realize by doing so they are taking away certain rights that every person should have, not just the straight male. They are willing to put together a reception, not only for a heterosexual couple who has been together for fifty years but for a gay couple who has adopted their first child. They are willing to welcome a young woman contemplating abortion into their church, to welcome and support her, even though they might not agree with her choices. They are willing to grow.

I want to say people like me, who grow everyday, learn everyday, and change their views nearly everyday to suit an ever changing world, are the future of Christianity.

I hope we are -- because I, for one, would like to see more generosity and kindness toward those different from the Christian norm.

--

This has been my entry for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Thank you for reading.
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-12-22 12:39 pm
Entry tags:

About LJ Idol

So this is my first time begging this season, but I feel it's warranted. :)

My entry this week was not my best, and understandably, I am right at the bottom. One vote either way could either keep me in by the skin of my teeth or kick me off the island, so to speak, so please, if you could, go here and drop a vote for me? I would be forever grateful and I am going to make sure I don't have such a terrible week next time!

Thanks so much to those who have already voted for me!
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-12-19 04:04 pm
Entry tags:

LJ Idol: Week 8 - Reprobate

I've never been what one would consider a reprobate.

In fact, I pride myself on walking the straight and narrow, keeping my head up high, fists at my side, eyes straight ahead. I have goals that I would do anything to achieve, and every step I take leads me closer to those goals. I don't make trouble, instead withdrawing into the background and being the perfect little student that never does anything wrong. My father probably doesn't know what to do with me, because I am by far the quietest and most well-behaved child in our family. I (very rarely) throw fits; I am world-conscious. By everyone, I am considered the perfect Christian daughter.

And indeed, I am. It's something I consider myself to be as well.

I am in sharp contrast with my oldest sister, Rhiannon*. She was born probably in what could be considered the golden age of my parents' marriage, before my mother got sick, before the rest of us came along, before everything just imploded in on itself when I was in fourth or fifth grade. Shortly after she was born, however, was when my mother got sick. I suppose, thinking back on it now, that is how things went wrong, because Rhiannon had to grow up in a situation that was anything but stable, when my mother got incredibly sick.

I don't remember what my sister was like when I was young, because by the time I was old enough to have memories of her, I hardly ever saw her. She was sixteen when I was around two or three. She was like so many of those teens I see now, who hang out with the so-called "wrong crowd," drinking and smoking, hanging out with someone more than twice her age. She started to date someone who was about thirty to her sixteen -- and she ran away when I was around three or four.

The only time I remember seeing her before she got pregnant was when she and her boyfriend took me to Funtown in Saco, Maine. I was probably three at the time, and all I remember of that time was me going down the enclosed black water slide and being terrified out of my mind, along with going back to their apartment and eating Burger King.

That is the last time I remember seeing her for all of my early life, except for one fuzzy moment at Christmas, when she came with her daughter, who was one and a half at the time. There were some web cam conversations, but never anything more than that.

She is the reprobate of our family, or at least that's what she can be considered. Although she ended up telling my other sister about Christ, I've never seen her act quite like a Christian. She is the black sheep, separated from the rest of our family. We all love her, but she doesn't quite... fit in.

She had two children out of wedlock, with a man who was about double her age. She is not completely deserving of the term "reprobate", but in terms of my family -- my conservative Christian family, with their strong moral standards -- she deserves reprobation. She goes in different circles from the rest of us, constantly getting into bad relationships, hanging out with "the wrong crowd," dubbed so by my parents and brother.

None of us are sure what she's doing nowadays.

She is a tattoo artist living in New Hampshire, but that's all we know. We know little to nothing about her life. For all we know, she could be a reprobate in the true definition of the term, rather than a reprobate in terms of being less morally "upright" than the rest of my family is.

We just don't know.

The difference between me and Rhiannon is striking. While Rhiannon seems not to have a plan, I have a whole ten-year plan all figured out. Get through the next two and a half years of college, get into one of those liberal arts colleges, get an English degree, and start teaching. Get married eventually, maybe have a kid. My sister, however, is completely different. She never got her high school diploma, had two kids before I was ten, and her only discernible ambition was to become a tattoo artist.

But her path is not wrong. Just different. I do wish she would come to church with us, get in touch more, but there's nothing I can do. The last time I saw her was this past summer, and that was only for a weekend. I saw a glimpse into her life, and she walks with those people my family (and my church) would consider reprobates.

She is not herself a "true" reprobate, though, and for that I am grateful.

--

* Name changed, as always to protect the innocent.

This has been my entry for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Not sure about this one; I'm not in the habit of writing, I guess!
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-12-12 12:56 pm
Entry tags:

LJ Idol: Week 7 - One Touch

"Daaaaa-aaad, come up and kiss me!"

Every night, that was my motto. I would trudge up to bed and get cuddled up under my covers, waiting for my dad to come up and place that whiskery kiss on my forehead before falling asleep. I remember it most clearly when my sister and I were sharing a room, and she was with her boyfriend. It was about eight o'clock, and like clockwork, he would come up, kiss me goodnight. If he didn't, my night did not seem complete.

I grew out of it, but somehow, somewhere along the way, years later, I find that I do not like being touched.

I don't know why, but it just happened. It might have happened because of my parent's divorce (which is a long story for another time) or it might have been something I was born with, because I don't remember wanting to be touched much before that. It's not that something happened to me in my childhood, because nothing did.

I just don't like being touched.

I shy away from it, in fact.

This becomes a problem every get-together, when my family expects a hug and I don't feel comfortable. It's for a reason I don't understand, but I try to pull away as quickly as possible. It is especially uncomfortable with my mother -- because although I love her, I hardly ever see her, and there's an illogical part of me that blames her for breaking our family apart -- but it turns out that I have to grin and bear it, pretending that it doesn't bother me.

My best friend, M, once had so much crap going on in her life -- and she still does, as a matter of fact -- and I hugged her then. With my ex-boyfriends, I didn't mind the physical contact, but regardless, sometimes it made me uncomfortable. Even though I don't always prevent physical contact outright, I don't actively seek it out.

I prefer words, although I don't always have the right ones. I prefer showing my affection in a different way. However, my family is completely different. Most of them are very affectionate, wanting hugs whenever we meet, which I oblige with. I realize that sometimes, I have to sacrifice my own personal comfort for other peoples' joy.

I realize this most clearly when I see my mother.

The last time I saw her was at Thanksgiving, when we went to my sister's house for dinner. My stomach was tied in knots throughout the whole thing, because I realized that my boundaries would get pushed once again. I know she's my mother, I know that she needs to know I love her, and that's one of the major reasons why, when I hug her tightly, I don't feel uncomfortable.

I don't see her that often, and when I do, it's only for a couple of hours.

And if one touch from me will make her healthier and happier, then my personal boundaries go right out the window.

--

Gosh, this entry was hard to write. I guess I'm just out of practice. Anyway, this entry is for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol . I hope you enjoy, and please vote for me. I hope to have a chance to continue writing!
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-11-18 04:11 pm
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LJ Idol: Week 5 - Bearing False Witness

Last year, one of my extracurricular activities involved being part of a small, three to four person book club. Run by our local Youthlinks, the club centered primarily on reading banned books. On the first day of the club, we received a list of all banned books, which included such classics like The Catcher in the Rye and Lolita. We were each instructed to pick five of the books we wanted to read during the six week period, and then we would decide on the two or three we would actually be reading.

Our first book was The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Heather* and I had both wanted to read that book for quite a while, but neither of us had gotten around to it, so it was exciting for us. We got to read a book that we had heard so much about. We knew about the controversy surrounding it, how the Californians had wanted to ban the book because they felt it portrayed the people of that time in an unsavory light. We knew about the Dust Bowl, the Okies, and how they had struggled each and every day for a way to survive. We knew the Okies were a fleeing people, and we knew the Californians were just ready to catch them and beat them down once again. I thought maybe it would have been better if they had stayed in Kansas or Texas or Oklahoma, because at least then they wouldn't get their hopes up about the chance for a better life.

So we started reading it. It was slow going at first -- I couldn't get used to the dialect, and I got distracted by the ragged copy of the book I had received -- but once I got into it, I really got into it. I got caught up in the story of the Joads and their struggle to survive. I felt their pain, empathized with their struggle, and found myself enjoying the book. Although there was one thing I could not understand.

Why in the world was the book banned?

Sure, it did not portray the residents of California in the most savory light, but why would it? Everyone alive during that time knew what was going on. There are numerous historical accounts, both written and spoken, that express the same thing that The Grapes of Wrath does. After the book came out, there was an overwhelming agreement with what Steinbeck spoke. The ending scene of the book was also questionable, but it was by no means graphic. Nothing in the book was graphic. Instead, it seemed like an honest portrayal of the time back then. It was full of heart, with a good Christian message.

So why in the world was it banned?

Because a group of people claimed that it bore false witness. They claimed that it did not speak the truth as it was, and instead demonized a particular group of people -- when we know now that their belief is anything but true.

My view is that it is not the book that bears false witness, but rather it is the people trying to ban it that bear false witness. The Grapes of Wrath expressed the struggle that the Okies felt and expressed it in an honest way that did not attempt to sugarcoat the truth. It exposed the world as it really was back then, and I'm positive it was even worse for other families.

This goes for all other banned books.

We recently read The Catcher in the Rye in school. While I could see people banning this book for its language and content (specifically the scene in which Holden hires that prostitute), a good message is present. It exposes the phoniness of the world today, shows how people try so hard to fit in with society, to grow up and be an adult. It tells us that people are different, and that by having a different face for everyone we come across, we are being hypocrites. Holden bemoans the phoniness in his life, but he is phony himself. The book exposes the hypocrisy and the phoniness in today's society -- but people cannot see that because they do not look beyond the swears.

As a writer, I go to books to escape to a different world and uncover some truth that I might not have known about. I go to books to see the world as it really is, without the rose-colored glasses that I so often wear. I go to discover a section of culture that I did not know about before. I go to learn about life.

But I ask: How can I learn about life -- how can anyone learn about life -- if there are books we cannot read?

I strongly believe that each banned book has something we need to know, something that we need to understand. Take Lolita as a prime example. It is a heinous book, full of terrible viewpoints and a truly villainous main character, but do people really believe that there are not people like that in today's society? Because I know there are, and by banning the book, it is like sticking your fingers in your ears and singing "lalalalala" whenever something bad happens.

So often, life is sugarcoated. People like to think that nothing bad ever happens, so they can exist in their own little bubble. But bad things do happen, and saying anything contrary to that is bearing false witness and omitting details people don't enjoy thinking about. By not allowing teenagers especially to learn about life as it truly is, how do they expect us to grow up to be upstanding members of society? If we do not learn now about what life is like, then we can't expect to know what to do when we get thrust into the world at large, where people do starve, people are pedophiles, people are phony assholes.

Books are often a window into the souls of the unsavory, a portal to the dark things we do not want to know or think about.

But if we do not think of them, we exist in a bubble.

And eventually that bubble will be popped, you know, so better sooner than later, in the comfort of your own home.

*Name changed for protection purposes.

--

This is my entry for week 5 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Thanks go to Writer's Block for giving me inspiration for this topic; otherwise, mine would be quite cliched!
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-11-14 04:16 pm
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LJ Idol: Week 4 - Moments of Devastating Beauty

It started out like any teenage romance, all awkward smiles and covert glances and small gestures, like paying for my lunch when I didn't have any money or buying me some candy at the store when we all went together as a group. We hung out together, playing Lord of the Rings Monopoly, shooting small smiles at each other across the board, teasing each other whenever we lost, and when we finished the mural project we were doing for the library, that was the true beginning.

The day after we finished the project, we walked down to the beach. We held hands the whole way there, then placed ourselves on the benches that overlooked the ocean. We watched the parents lounge on the beach as the children splashed in the surf, and then he pulled me into his arms and let me lean against him, his arms around my waist, my head against his shoulder. It marked a first in my life: first cuddle, first time being with a guy who actually seemed to like me.

He was my first kiss.

I remember the moment perfectly. The day before, we had walked to the town's lighthouse, then walked back to the beach. We had cuddled under our tree -- the thing I remember most being the heart-shaped leaves that I would pluck from the branches -- and there had been moments where we had almost kissed. But neither of us were ready for it yet, so he simply held me.

"Do you want to go out?" he asked me after there had been silence for a few minutes. The sunlight streamed down, warming my back. I kept my eyes trained on the beach.

"What do you mean?"

"Do you want to go out with me?" he asked. "Be my girlfriend?"*

I felt a smile twist up my features, and I moved closer to him. "Yes," I said. "Of course."

The next day, we had our first kiss -- and for all the build-up to it, all the worrying about it, all the research online about how to know when it was the right time**, it happened quickly, so quickly in fact that I didn't know it was happening until it did. And the kiss was awkward, uncomfortable, nothing like what I had read about in books. Suddenly, his lips were on mine, and we were kissing, and my brain went on overdrive, thinking a thousand thoughts a minute as I tried to figure out what to do, where to put my hands, how to keep the kiss going, how to finally break away when I needed to breathe.

That day, we kissed several times. Each time, it was shy, hesitant. Neither of us really knew what to do, and there was more than a little awkward positioning, teeth clanking together, nothing quite like the fairytale kiss I had always imagined my first kiss to be like. But truth be told, it was perfect.

As I walked home that day, lips still tingling from the pressure, I couldn't stop the smile spreading across my face. I felt a spring in my step, to use a cliche, and I couldn't stop smiling. My lips could still feel the pressure, my waist could still feel the way his arms wrapped around me. I remembered the way time had flown when we had kissed, when it seemed like we had only just started kissing and in reality, ten minutes had passed.

It was a typical summer romance, full of kissing and cuddling and losing ourselves in a relationship that we knew would end eventually. The relationship involved talking on my cell phone until almost all of my minutes were gone, then talking on the wireless phone for hours on end. It involved me waiting for him to come back from his lakehouse, waiting to see him again. It involved careless kisses under our heart tree, him pulling me closer.

The relationship did end, in one of the worst ways possible, but like all summer romances, the beginning and the middle were moments that I would not take back for anything in the world.

It was an awkward relationship, full of stops and starts and silences and tickles and talks and kisses, but that was what made it beautiful. And looking back on it now, it was far from perfect, and far from a whirlwind relationship. But as I remember us kissing under our tree for the first time, I can't help but think that what we had was beautiful.

It might not have lasted forever. In fact, I did not want it to last forever. But there were moments of beauty and compassion and, yes, even love, and because of that, I refuse to look back on the relationship with regrets.

Even if he did break up with me over the answering machine.

--

* Not exactly the right words, but I don't remember that conversation as well as I could have.

** I'm a dork, I know, but it's true. I did look up "How to have a first kiss" on Google. And I found some awesome advice there, by the way.

--

This was my entry for week 4 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. I hope you enjoyed it.
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-11-06 05:12 pm
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LJ Idol: Week 3 - Smile

The weeks leading up to November 3 were conflicting ones for me.

Wherever I looked, I could see Yes on 1 and No on 1 signs peppering the green lawns with yellow, white, and more green. As the vote grew closer, I could hear more people talking, and depending on where I was, the opinions differed widely. At church, everyone seemed to be pushing for a "Yes on 1," but everywhere else, on TV and in school, on news websites and LiveJournal, seemed to be pushing for "No on 1."

On my Facebook, the majority of the people are Democrats. Every day, I see several people join the "Gay Equality for Maine" groups and yet, at the same time, there are quite a few people who are Republicans. Most notably, my sister, my brother-in-law, and the people I know from church often get into debates via comment threads about whether or not gay marriage should be legalized, culminating in an end result wherein both parties end up hurt and upset.

During those few weeks after the intense furor started, I kept my head down. I did feel a slight twisty feeling in my gut whenever I saw one of those "Yes on 1: Stand for Marriage Maine" signs or when I heard my pastor talking about how we had to go out and vote for what we felt was right, but I did not mention it. I started growing more anxious as the elections grew closer, and I found myself asking my father what he thought the results would be.

He thought the results would turn out exactly as they did -- and I felt an even twistier feeling in my gut when he said that. I just nodded and didn't say a thing, although I almost wanted to.

And so November 3rd came around. I was anxious, nervous. I saw my best friend's sister join two events: "Wear red if Maine votes No on 1" and "Wear black if Maine votes Yes on 1." I hovered my cursor over the "RSVP to Event" button, but I ended up not clicking on it. Not because I didn't want to, but because I didn't have a black top to wear. It seems a petty reason, but otherwise I would have clicked it with little hesitation.

There was less conversation in school about the election that day than I thought there would be. I thought there would be a huge uproar, teachers talking about it left and right, students talking about it all through lunch, but it was surprisingly quiet. In fact, I was surprised when I seemed like the only one nervous about it, although I was sure I was not the only one. I found myself waiting for nine o'clock to arrive, when the votes would start being tallied. I brought up numerous vote-tracking websites, finished all my homework, and then perched myself in front of my computer to wait.

I waited.

And waited.

Imagine my shock when I started getting excited about the results when I checked around 9:30 PM and No on 1 was winning by quite a big percentage. And imagine my shock when I realized I was disappointed when I woke up the following morning to find out that Yes on 1 had won.

This is coming from the girl who, no more than a year ago, was about as conservative as a person could possibly get. I was the girl who stuck her head up her arse just a few months ago when I learned that same-sex marriage was legalized in Maine. This is coming from the girl who grew up in a family where everyone either would have or did vote Yes on 1.

I never expected it, but I have grown up. I have realized that everyone deserves the same rights. I have realized that everyone deserves the chance to see their loved one in the hospital. I have realized that every partner, straight or gay, should have first rights if their partner has died. I have realized that, although I believe that love is not the best support for gay marriage (because love does wear off in most cases), I believe that rights are. And there are intrinsic rights involved in marriage that I believe everyone should receive.

So one fact remains, a fact that I have just learned about myself.

If No on 1 had won, if gay marriage was legalized...

I would have smiled -- and worn more red than a person would believe a girl could own.

--

This entry was written for week 3 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. I took a risk this week, but I'm happy with this entry!
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-10-30 04:12 pm
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LJ Idol: Week 2 - Uphill, Both Ways, Barefoot

Humble beginnings.

Is that not where most people say the best stories start? With the girl (or boy) coming from the family with nothing except the love they hold for each other in their hearts. The girl (or boy) goes headfirst into whatever is required of them, because they know it is the right thing to do. They know that they have a chance to make something of themselves, to give themselves a name, to show the world that they are not just the same as the cookie-cutter people around them.

I am that girl.

My family is traditionally Baptist. Every member of my immediate family is a Christian, although the eldest has strayed a bit. My mother and my father taught us to love and trust in both ourselves and in God, and my sister has taught me so much about life. My family has not always had the most money in the world, and in fact there were some years when I wasn't sure we would even have a Christmas. Just a year ago, we had to struggle just to have one real meal in a day, not counting school meals.

Regardless, my family has always urged us to pursue our dreams.

A framed photograph of my father's has the following inscription on it:

"A dream fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12

Whenever I look at the photograph, I remember every ache, every itch, in my body that is telling me to write, to get my words down on paper. I remember the way I was inspired to write my very first story that I never finished, and the way I got so angry with my brother when he "accidentally" wrote over it with something else. When I was 9, I wrote my first Harry Potter fanfiction, and it is so horrible that it makes me cringe to think about, and yet I love that little story because without it, I would not be the writer I am today -- not even halfway close.

I remember the joy I feel whenever my fingers fly across the keys and I feel words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and stories coming together. I remember sitting with my dad in restaurants and brainstorming, and then sitting in a coffee shop with my best friend, figuring out the nuts and bolts of a novel that I believe has bestseller potential. I see myself as an author, of holding that one book in my hand, and feeling that heady rush --

-- and then I am reminded of how far away I am.

Except I know that it does not matter how far away I am.

All that matters is that I keep trying. All that matters is that I don't give up on NaNoWriMo this year, because the feeling is unlike anything else in the world. It is an uphill battle, trying to keep myself going, and sometimes it feels like I am going up and succeeding in my dreams when I am really going uphill the wrong way. I end up trying to make my writing perfect, which is impossible on a first draft. That's something I have to realize.

And I do.

Writing piles of crap is sometimes the only way to go about things, just as trudging up a steep mountain to get to the top is the only way you can see where you really are. And if you go about it with nothing but the fluff inside your brain and your birthday suit, then I'm willing to make a fool of myself. There is nothing more humbling than realizing that you can't go about anything, let alone writing, with extra baggage weighing you down and making you try to be perfect so that you do not mess up again.

Being overly cautious is often unhelpful. Just like you can't go up a mountain with a hundred pounds of gear, you can't go into your writing with a ton of baggage and no place to put it. Sometimes you just need to put everything away and let yourself go. Sometimes you need to remember your own humble beginnings, remember where you came from, and know that sometimes it is better to just be free to run up that mountain.

So why not run up the mountain stark naked, screaming with pure joy?

--

This entry was written for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. Hopefully you will vote to keep me in. I had a lot of trouble with this entry, but I'm fairly happy with what I came up with. Hopefully it's enough to pull me through. :)
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-10-29 03:24 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

I might take a bye for this week of LJ Idol. I just have no idea what to write, and the entry is due tomorrow. Eek. :(
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-10-16 01:38 pm
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LJ Idol: Week 1 - Empty Gestures

I go through cycles.

It all starts when I am at my lowest point. I find myself not being interested in anything. Schoolwork is boring, TV is routine and monotonous, reading is uninteresting, and writing? Well, my logic is that if I don't have any inspiration, then I'll have nothing to write about, so why bother? And my faith? Psh. That's on hold.

After a few weeks (sometimes even months) of this, I end up getting fed up with myself. I glance at my schoolwork and see a small spark of something ignite, and I wonder if perhaps there's more to this pile of bull my teachers give me. I read an amazing book review, and think that I might want to read that book sometime. And I stare at an empty word document, feeling the words roar up inside me, growing louder and louder, but my fingers just remain stationary on the keys.

That is when the magic happens -- when something occurs and makes the passion flare back into my life. It might be an interesting homework assignment, an original TV show, or an idea that makes me want to race to my computer and start writing as soon as possible. It might be a lesson my sister or brother-in-law teaches us in youth group, when I feel so guilty for being lukewarm and not going out there, being the person I feel God wants me to be.

When I get to this point, it feels as though nothing can get me down. I am happier, more excited, feeling that nothing in the world can possibly bring me down if I have a good book by my side or my fingers on the keys, flying across them faster than I believed possible. My sister and brother-in-law comment, noticing how I am getting out and doing more things. I force my father to listen through endless tirades about my dream of being published or my gushing about that fantasic television show I am watching at that moment.

Yet, deep down, I realize that this phase will not last.

And it doesn't.

Everything starts turning routine, no matter how exciting my habits were at the beginning. I find myself bored with the story I'm writing. I finish the book I'm reading and can't get into the next one, no matter how hard I try. School is boring and embarrassing in turns, and I fall behind in reading my Bible. My sister and brother-in-law ask me to do something, and my answer is: "I don't know. Maybe next time." My father and my brother ask me if I have started writing my original novel yet, and I say, "Not yet. Maybe next month or the beginning of next year."

I promise my sister and brother-in-law that I will be active. I will change, I promise. I do mean it too, when I say it. I see the friendships other teenagers my age have, and I am jealous. I feel like the outsider, like Charlie Chaplin's character in Gold Rush, who just didn't fit in with the rest of the population. So I make a vow to get out there and make friends. I will talk to people. I will be nicer, and speak up in class. I will ask if I could be on the praise team at my church. I will audition for the school's spring play, I will be the lead character in the skit we will be doing in youth group.

The only problem is that I never end up doing any of it.

I am dedicated to starting anew. I am determined to become the person inside of me that is trying to come out (pardon the cliche). I want to take risks, but in the end, I never do. I say I will, and then I end up procrastinating. I say "I'll do it tomorrow" and "Not this time, maybe next time." I say I'll go out and do things tomorrow. I promise that I'll read my Bible tomorrow, or that I'll stop baiting my brother next week.

But I don't. I end up maybe doing good things for a while -- reading my Bible, reading amazing books, writing until my heart's full to bursting -- but it never lasts.

And I'm left with a handful of empty gestures.
callistahogan: (Default)
2009-10-15 02:40 pm
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I know it doesn't count yet...

...but vote for me?

I'm in tribe 1, and I'm doing fairly well so far. However, if you have a few extra seconds, go ahead and read through all the entries and vote! There are some awesome introductions!


callistahogan: (Default)
2009-10-08 02:35 pm

LJ Idol: Week 0 - Introduction

Compared to most people in this competition, I have had very little life experience. I am a teenager, not yet halfway through my high school career. I have only been outside my home state once and that was when I was much too young to remember it. I have lived a very sheltered Christian life. Most of my time I spend holed up in my room, reading novels, surfing the Web, and contemplating the sad state of the world today.

There is not much I can tell you about my past, because to be honest it is a lot like my present. Sure, I am a little older, a little wiser, but I am still just a girl. I am a girl who is trying to find her place in this world, and a girl who finds it increasingly difficult to do so. I read to escape to a different world -- just as I did at eight or nine, when I read the Harry Potter books for the first time. I write to express myself, to show the parts of myself that I often do not let anyone else see. I yearn to show the world what I have to offer, and to show people that I am so much more than a stereotypical teenager.

I am proud to call myself an Independent. As you will see if you read my journal with any regularity, I used to be a Republican, but after seeing the pointlessness of the whole Republican/Democrat war, being an Independent seemed like the choice to make. That doesn't mean I am not a strong Christian, with strong Christian morals, because I am. It simply means that I prefer to form my own opinions, without worrying what either party is saying. I don't want to feel pigeonholed into believing this is the solution to that, or that this is the only solution to that other thing.

Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about me is that I am a writer.

First and foremost, my goal in life is to be an author. Not necessarily a published author, although that would be nice. I just want people to read something I have written and feel something, whether it be sorrow, joy, or maybe even confusion. If just one person looks at what I've written and is touched by it, then in my mind, writing a hundred stories to get to that one touching moment is worth it. Writing is the way I show people who I am, and without it, I wouldn't be where I am today.

I have been writing since I was about six years old. It suppose it all started in first grade, when I learned to read (or when my teachers first started teaching us how to read, that is; I was probably reading before then). I remember wanting to write, although I wasn't sure how at the time. My first story, which was written in second grade, was entitled "A Sour Skittle Story" and underwent several alterations as time went on. It was never finished, and for a while, writing was on the back burner until I started writing fanfiction. Bam, the passion was back.

That was six years ago.

I have been writing for more than half my life.

Perhaps that's why I entered this competition in the first place. I am a writer who yearns to tell people who I am, and what better way to do that than being in a competition of this magnitude? 

I want to tell people about standing on a picnic table in front of my apartment when I was three or four after my family's washing machine broke. I want to tell people about sleeping in my own room in first grade, with the bugs attached to the window and the cockroach I found on my blanket that one night. I want to tell people about taking speech lessons in third grade, and being disappointed in fourth when my teacher didn't seem to like me. I want to tell people about fifth grade when I met my best friend, and sixth grade when I truly became friends with her. I want to tell people about seventh grade, when I spent a whole month researching creationism and evolution and writing down page after page after page of Internet articles. I want to tell them about my experiences in English classes over the years, and how my teachers have -- in one form or another -- showed me what I have to do to fulfill my dream.

To be honest, I just want to tell people the fact that I am a fifteen-year-old Christian Independent girl who has dreams too big for her heart, and a heart too big for her mind.