callistahogan: (Default)
 I just imported all of my LJ posts over here, as I want to get in the habit of posting here more often. It can't hurt to have two journals, after all! Twice the motivation, right?

Right. :D

Fiction

Mar. 18th, 2010 08:09 am
callistahogan: (Default)
So. In Creative Writing class, we had to write a story based on single-frame movie photographs. We were supposed to write a short "snapshot" of a story, and I really liked what I came up with. I thought some people here wanted to read them, so I decided to post them for some feedback.

Flowerbed )

Man and Woman )

The Woman in the Water )

The Old Man )

Man with Briefcase )

Yo La Tengo )

I felt very much like Hemingway writing some of these. More specifically, the second one. That one was inspired by a specific short story I read of his. Anyway, I really want feedback of these stories (I want to know if I fail at fiction), so *hinthint* comment *hinthint*?
callistahogan: (Default)
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)
I heard this song on Make It or Break It last night (that's actually where I got the idea to write about gymnastics for my Idol entry this week), and fell in love with it. It's currently on repeat.



To think that there are going to be months before Make It or Break It comes back on gets me very depressed. :(
callistahogan: (Default)
“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)
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)
So I might have some interesting news.

There was an assembly for the sophomore class at my school today, about the programs the vocational school in my town offers. The courses offered there are more hands-on, more practical, than the regular academic classes we get at school. Although most of the classes are on subjects like engineering, carpentry, etc., there are also cooking classes and -- what I'm personally interested in -- classes that enable one to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

I'd have to take Medical Science there in my junior year, because I think that's a requirement before you can take the actual course. But at the end of the nursing course in my senior year (that's one with lots of hands-on experience, going to nursing homes, etc.), you take an exam and, if you pass, you get a certificate that verifies you as a nursing assistant, and you can work in pretty much any state that accepts it.

I am thinking I'm definitely going to be taking the class.

Because I want to make a difference. I don't want to just sit on my butt all day and watch multifandom videos on YouTube, or procrastinate by watching episodes of Legend of the Seeker online. I want to get out there, make a difference in my community, and I think this is the perfect way to do that. I want to be able to help people, to talk with them, to give them someone to listen to. Although I still want to be an English teacher and (eventually) an author, I don't want that to be my only goal in life. I want to be a nursing assistant, someone who regularly interacts with people who might not be able to get that sort of love and affection in their everyday environment.

That's probably why the course appealed to me so much -- because I am a girl who wants to make a difference somehow and this seems like the perfect way to do it.

As soon as possible, I am going to talk to my friend about it, who also wants to do it, and see when we can both schedule a meeting with the guidance counselor to talk about it. Because this is an opportunity I am not going to let pass me by. I managed to let a chance to become a foreign exchange student slip through my grasp, but this time I am not going to do that. This time, I'm going to make sure I do something more with my life than just study and hang out on the Internet all day. I'm sure this is a popular course, so the sooner I get to talk to people about it, the better.

I am really excited, though. I almost can't wait until next year!
callistahogan: (Default)
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)
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)
“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)
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)
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: (Books)
Book: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
GenreHorror
Length816 pp.
Progress (pages): 1,139/20,000 pp. (5.7%)
GradeA

Amazon Summary: Considering the recent rush of door-stopping historical novels, first-timer Kostova is getting a big launch—fortunately, a lot here lives up to the hype. In 1972, a 16-year-old American living in Amsterdam finds a mysterious book in her diplomat father's library. The book is ancient, blank except for a sinister woodcut of a dragon and the word "Drakulya," but it's the letters tucked inside, dated 1930 and addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," that really pique her curiosity. Her widowed father, Paul, reluctantly provides pieces of a chilling story; it seems this ominous little book has a way of forcing itself on its owners, with terrifying results. Paul's former adviser at Oxford, Professor Rossi, became obsessed with researching Dracula and was convinced that he remained alive. When Rossi disappeared, Paul continued his quest with the help of another scholar, Helen, who had her own reasons for seeking the truth. As Paul relates these stories to his daughter, she secretly begins her own research. Kostova builds suspense by revealing the threads of her story as the narrator discovers them: what she's told, what she reads in old letters and, of course, what she discovers directly when the legendary threat of Dracula looms. Along with all the fascinating historical information, there's also a mounting casualty count, and the big showdown amps up the drama by pulling at the heartstrings at the same time it revels in the gruesome. Exotic locales, tantalizing history, a family legacy and a love of the bloodthirsty: it's hard to imagine that readers won't be bitten, too.

My Thoughts: Although this book could be considered a horror novel, it is much more than that. It combines the Gothic with the modern, the historical with the fantastical, the straightforward narrative with the epistolary. It brings aspects of history, literature, and art together seamlessly, while creating a family epic that sprawls from the early to mid 1900s all the way up to the present day. It could be considered a thriller, an epistolary novel, a historical epic, a fantasy -- you name it, the book has elements of it.

At first, I was rather hesitant to read this book, because I heard it was about Dracula and I had not yet read Bram Stoker's famous novel. However, when my sister gave it to me for Christmas, I just had to crack it open -- and I was sucked in from the very first page. I understand why some people would not like it, because it does have a lot of history, and it does take nearly 750 pages to get to Dracula (hopefully that's not spoiling anything), but I almost found that I liked the journey better than the end result.

From the beginning, I was drawn to the unnamed narrator, because she reminds me of myself in certain ways. She is young, intelligent, with a close relationship with her father. She loves reading and is too curious for her own good -- which leads her to discover the mysterious book with the letters in it that would forever change her life. She hears -- or reads -- about her father's journey so many years ago, and in the process learns about his adviser's life.

The book does not go by quickly. It is one of those mysteries that slowly unfurls, revealing one strand after another, twisting them around and tying them all into knots until you are begging to know what happens but you just know that you have over 500 pages left to read and you can't just peek at the back of the book. In some books, I find that it doesn't spoil too much to skip to the last few pages and read them before I finish, but in this book, I just had to be patient, watching it unfurl, reading with careful eyes, making sure not to miss anything that could explain the mystery of Dracula and those mysterious books.

As said, this book has a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, which is a particular style used in novels that I enjoy especially. I enjoy reading about the way lives entangle together, and how the past can affect the future. I love reading about the lives of one person and how the lives of someone years older than them from decades long past can affect their own futures. It also contains letters, lots and lots of letters, which I found absolutely fascinating. Surely if the book had just been a straightforward narrative I would not have enjoyed the book as much as I did, but the way the book was put together was masterful. Absolutely masterful.

That said, there were a few small gripes about this book, although on a whole I thought it was a marvelous retelling of Dracula's legend that almost felt real. I did feel as though the book went by a little too slowly; Kostova could have cut back on a few more pages. I also wanted to hear more about Dracula himself -- the entire book was about him, sure, and I learned a lot about him in a roundabout way -- but I wished that the book had explored more of his goal. I felt that he was introduced too late in the novel, and that things could have progressed more quickly and the book would have been yet more gripping.

Those are only the few gripes I can think of. On a whole, I found that this book was exactly the sort of book I like: the long, sprawling epic novel spread out across countries and continents, bringing up themes of life, death, love, perseverance, history, and the power of words. I have heard this book compared to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, but this book is nothing like that. While Dan Brown is fluff reading, with no big overarching theme of humanity as a whole -- just a cheap thriller -- Kostova gives us a ride of our lives, if only we are patient enough to strap ourselves in for the long haul ahead.

In addition, this book made me look at vampires in a whole new light. While previously my only experiences with vampires have been through the world of Twilight, this book showed a new -- traditional -- side of the vampire, and I have to say that I like the idea of a bloodthirsty monster yearning for my blood better than the sparkly, brooding, angsty vampire who just wants to suck on animals and fall in love with normal human girls. I'm not saying I don't like Twilight anymore, because it is my guilty pleasure, but I just like the more traditional vampire better.

You know what that means: pretty soon I will have to be banging on my brother's door, begging for him to let me borrow Dracula. I need to delve more deeply into the vampire, thanks to Elizabeth Kostova.

I think it goes without saying that this book is highly recommended. It is probably my favorite read so far.

Currently ReadingAlmost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger (I need some light reading after The Historian!)
callistahogan: (Default)
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: (Books)
Book: Burn This Book, compiled by Toni Morrison
GenreNonfiction (writing)
Length: 112 pp.
Progress (pages)323/20,000 pp. (2%)
GradeB+

Amazon Summary: In 11 short essays by some of the world's premier novelists, this volume explores a simple question: why write? Contributor Paul Auster may put the query best: "Surely it is an odd way to spend your life -- sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper." In response, Pico Iyer delivers a moving account of a Burmese trishaw driver living under political oppression, who for years composed (by candlelight) letters to the author, many of which were censored. Orhan Pamuk also explores this intense human hunger for stories and creative freedom with an anecdote from his March 1985 tour of Turkey, on which he introduced Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter to Turkish writers who had suffered "repression, cruelty and outright evil" in a military coup. Francine Prose, on the other hand, makes a lively attempt to separate literature from politics (in which she cops to her own political biases in her choice of examples). The disparate voices produce a complex of reasons that drive writers, though all agree that, as observed by Morrison (wearing both editor and contributor caps), it's a "bleak, unlivable, insufferable existence... when we are deprived of artwork."

My Thoughts: I was searching for a book like this -- something light, easy, that I could finish in an evening -- and this book delivered. My weakness in nonfiction is books about writing, and this was a perfect treat for me. I especially like to read compilations from authors, so I can see various authors' perspectives on writing, getting an insight into how they got started. It makes me realize that I am at once completely typical in the writing world and yet I feel pride that I can feel a kinship with these amazing authors.

This compilation puts together the writing of the following eleven authors: Toni Morrison, John Updike, David Grossman, Francine Prose, Pico Iyer, Russell Banks, Paul Auster, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Ed Park, and Nadine Gordimer. I had previously heard of most of these authors, but I have not yet read any of their writings. That is a fact that I am going to have to remedy very shortly, because there were some outstanding essays in this compilation.

While there were some that I did not quite like, as per usual in compilations, I found that some particularly touched me. In particular, I enjoyed Paul Auster's essay, "Talking to Strangers," because it expressed in a mere three pages why I write. It expresses that writers often write because they have to, because they have no choice. Nothing else explains it better than that. I don't know who I would be if I couldn't write, if I didn't want to write. I have a feeling I'd be entirely mediocre, going through life, sliding along without any discernible goal. But writing has given me that drive and ambition to strive to be better, which is precisely why I love losing myself in a story.

I appreciated the vast array of essays in this book. There were the typical "Why I Write" essays, but there was a particularly amusing essay by Ed Park that made me smile, because it was just so different. Toni Morrison's essay was the shortest of the bunch, heading up the collection, but it served as a backbone for the book. I enjoyed the stories Orhan Pamuk and Pico Iyer shared; it shows that the urge to read and write without fear of censorship is a universal desire. And last but not least, Nadine Gordimer's essay was a particularly pointed look at the writer's job to serve as a witness to world events, and brought up issues of race and the Western/Eastern division effectively.

This book would probably not interest anyone who is not a writer, though, and that is why I didn't give it a higher grade. I was hoping it would say more about censorship, but only a couple essays explored that issue in any depth. If you're a writer, I'd recommend this book, because as said, there are some amazing essays, but if you're not? This book wouldn't interest you all that much, unless you were interested in the writing process and what makes certain authors "tick."

Currently Reading: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (and I'm loving it. A vampire novel that goes back to the legends! Who woulda thunk we'd find one of those in the era of Twilight? Not that I hate Twilight, because I actually love it. *hides*)
callistahogan: (Default)
It's kind of amazing. It's making me go squee and "YES, that's it, exactly it" and "Oh my gosh, that's exactly what I think too!"

Just as an illustration of the amazingness that is this book, let me supply you with an awesome quote. The whole book speaks so truthfully about writing, and why we write, and the role writers have in society, and how writing has the power, and how our writing always has to be honest, and oh, gosh, just so great.

Just one of the little gems in this book:

"I don't know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn't feel the need to do it. All I can say, and I say it with the utmost certainty, is that I have felt this need since my earliest adolescence. I'm talking about writing, in particular writing as a vehicle to tell stories, imaginary stories that have never taken place in what we call the real world. Surely it is an odd way to spend your life -- sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist, except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice."
- Paul Auster, "Talking to Strangers," Burn This Book.

I saw that quote when I picked up this book an hour or so ago and I immediately knew I had to read it as soon as possible. And so far it has not disappointed. I should be done with it tonight -- probably in an hour or so -- and a book review will be coming shortly, where I will try to hold back my enthusiasm a tad.
callistahogan: (I write.)
The only problem is my brain is dead. Nothing is coming to mind.

*sigh*

I think I need a new LJ Idol topic. Or something. Maybe I'll go explore the free topics.
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Genre: Horror
Length
: 211 pp.
Progress (pages): 211/20,000 pp. (1.1%)
GradeA

Amazon Summary: There is no greater novel in the monster genre than "Frankenstein" and no more well known monster than the one that is at the center of this novel. However, the monster of "Frankenstein" is more than the common lumbering moronic giant that is most often represented. "Frankenstein's" monster is in reality a thinking intelligent being who is tormented by world in which he does not belong. In this depiction Shelley draws upon the universal human themes of creation, the nature of existence, and the need for acceptance. For it is without this acceptance that the true monster, the violent nature of humanity, emerges.

My ThoughtsThis was the book my English teacher assigned over Christmas break. At first, I did not expect that I would enjoy it, because horror is not my genre. I had heard of Frankenstein, of course -- who hasn't? -- but all I knew about the story was the common scene we all remember: Frankenstein standing over his creation, yelling "It's aliiiiiive" when the creature's eyes open for the first time. All I expected was the common monster story, but as it is a classic, I should have expected more than that. I didn't expect much from this book other than some sort of sick enjoyment, but I found entrenched in this novel statements about acceptance, creation, existence, and how people often judge purely on appearances without bothering to see the person beneath. I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

Frankenstein was slightly hard to get into at first, because I had to get used to the writing style and to be frank, the beginning was rather dry. Not much happened, and the letters at the beginning merely served as development of a character we don't see again until the very end of the novel. As the novel progressed, things got more interesting. I found the story of Frankenstein's past rather boring, especially his education, but as soon as we got to the parts about Frankenstein learning how to create life, I found that the book captured my interest. The unveiling of the "monster" was also very well-done.

The story really took off -- for me, at least -- when we saw Frankenstein and his monster confront each other for the first time. Although the death of two major characters, William and Justine, was a climactic moment in  the novel, the story of Frankenstein's monster intrigued me like nothing else. I felt for the monster. He wasn't created evil, but it was merely the neglect and hatred of him, based purely on his appearance, that drove him to become the bloodthirsty, murderous creature he was in the middle of the novel. His story made me wonder what could have happened, if Frankenstein had instead reached out to his creation, instead of pushing him away with cries of "Wretched creature!" because of his outwardly grotesque appearance.

The creature was not wretched -- not in the least. In the early years of his creation, he was gentle and kind. He took an interest in his "protectors," as he called them, cutting firewood for the poor family and clearing snow away from the door so that they did not have to do it themselves. He was interested in learning how to comprehend speech, and even learned how to read and write better than most of the humans of that time. He thirsted for knowledge, and he did not understand how people could be so harsh and cold toward each other. Just like every human being on the face of the planet, he yearned for acceptance from just one person, but no human could look beyond his appearance long enough to see the soft creature beneath.

The idea of judging people by their appearance is written deep into this novel. We see, time and time again, people harming and decrying the monster, simply because of his grotesque appearance. He is gentle, kind, and intelligent, but people do not see that. Instead all they see is a wretch, and in turning him away, the monster sees no reason to turn to those who do not accept him. All he wishes is to be accepted by one person -- just one, and maybe he'd be different, but even his creator turns him away. This creates the real monster, the one who wishes vengeance on the entire human race.

As said, I sympathized with the monster, who only wanted acceptance, just like everyone else, but was turned away by everyone. This book surprised me with the deep messages written into his pages, how it explored life, death, acceptance, deceitful appearances, and how very judgmental the human race is. The book certainly struck a chord with me, and by the end of the novel, I almost cried because of the way the creature had so much potential -- if only he had not been turned away by all humankind.

This book was a perfect way to start my year. It was not a simple horror story, which I appreciated. If it had just been a case of Frankenstein creating a monster that was evil from the start, I would have probably enjoyed the novel, but not as much as I enjoyed the exploration of the monster's deepest thoughts and yearnings for acceptance and joy. I certainly see why my English teacher assigned it; it has some deep messages that I know I enjoyed exploring. Highly recommended.
callistahogan: (Default)
I can't believe it is going to be 2010 in just six hours. It seems like it was just a month ago that I was ringing in 2009, and now it's the start of a new year and as always, it's time to reflect.

I'm not sure what to think of this year, to be honest. In ways, I could consider this year to be a ringing disappointment. Not only did I not finish any sort of full-length story, let alone write even 10,000 words of an original novel, but my goals of going out more sort of fell through after school started once more. I haven't made too many new friends, although I have met more people that I expected to. I was determined to update my journal on a regular basis, and now I'm lucky to update more than six times in a month. I didn't end up reviewing books promptly, giving up halfway through the year. I haven't become more outgoing, although that was one of my goals. I feel like I have just stayed right where I am; it seems like I haven't grown at all.

Looking under the surface, however, I see that so much has happened this year. For better or for worse, I am growing up. I am learning more about the world around me, becoming a woman. I had my first kiss this year, with a boyfriend that I did enjoy being with, although I haven't talked to him since he broke up with me over the answering machine in September, and the fact that there is no real closure there does not help my attempts to just stop thinking about it. My political views also evolved. Just a few months ago, I was sighing at Maine for allowing gay marriage -- but now I am in support of allowing gays to marry, after thinking seriously about the rights involved in marriage, and how everyone deserves those rights.

My writing has also improved drastically this year. Although I have not been doing a lot of writing, I find that I am able to express myself better. This year has taught me how to write a good essay, how to write a good short story, how to write a journal entry that people can relate to. I might not have written as much as I would have liked to, and even failed NaNoWriMo this year, but all in all, I am proud of my writing this year. I have written some good stories, and as a fifteen-year-old, it gives me a strong boost of confidence in my writing when people say that it is some of the best they have ever seen.

The thing that I regret the most this year is the way that I have fallen away from God. Although I am forever grateful to my sister for getting me to go back to church (although that might change, as she is now too sick to take me to and from church every Sunday morning), I find that I am not trusting in God the way I should. I regret that deeply, and I want to try and become a better Christian this year. And that does not mean going to church and reading my Bible. It doesn't mean that I am going to suddenly exclaim that everyone who doesn't believe exactly the way I do is going to hell. That's not the type of person I am, and that is not the type of person that God wants me to be either. I hope that by starting to read the Bible once more, I will be able to grow in my faith and become a gentler person, because I know that I haven't always been perfectly kind this year.

This year has been the year of the TV shows starting with a G. First, I discovered Glee, when the pilot first came out in May, I think? I enjoyed the first episode, but when it came back on in September (October?), I fell in love with it. Puck/Rachel is one of my favorite couples on that show, but it does not eclipse my OTP on another show, Greek. Although Greek is not as popular as it should be, primarily because of my other favorite show, Gossip Girl, which airs at the same time, it is a great show and Cappie/Casey are as cute as can be -- and they finally got together. Gossip Girl is also a show I just discovered this past week and clearly, it is everything I ever wanted in a TV show and more. Although season 3 is not quite as good as the other two, the fact that THE couple on the show, Chuck/Blair, finally got together is exciting.

So, all in all. This year has been a good year. I feel that I have grown in some ways, but I still have a lot of growing to do. I might have discovered where I wish to go to college (Amherst, Williams), but getting into those colleges is going to take a lot of work. I'm up to it, though, and I have a feeling that 2010 is going to be a good year.

Which brings me to my New Years' Resolutions. Although I do not entirely believe that they work, it doesn't hurt to make them, does it?

1. Read more. I haven't been reading as much as I would like to, so that should change in the coming year.
2. Update LJ more.
2a. Write book reviews in a timely fashion.
3. Start writing in my GORGEOUS paper journal that my dad bought me for Christmas.
4. Get out more (games, school events, church events, with friends).
5. Stop being so self-conscious about my appearance.
6. Eat healthier.
7. Read the Bible every day.
8. Make a new friend.
9. Discover at least one new TV show/author/band that I didn't know about prior to 2010.
10. Write more original fiction.
10a. Start work on, and finish, Yulian.

I think that's about it.

While I'm at it, regarding one of my resolutions: Since there are more people on my friends list than usual, are there any books you'd recommend me reading during the new year? I always look forward to book recommendations, and I am not quite sure what my next few books are going to be, once I finish Frankenstein and Team of Rivals. I did this same post last year, and I got some awesome recommendations. I like anything, by the way!
callistahogan: (Default)
I have a feeling that posting this song on Christmas Eve is going to be personal tradition of mine. I discovered this song last year, and fell in love with it. I'd say it's probably my favorite Christmas song, discounting "Away in a Manger." It's not explicitly religious at all, and I LOVE IT.




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