Parodies

Once upon a time, I found I possessed the skills required to write decent parodies. Granted, they aren’t perfect; they don’t always feature rhyme schemes, and occasional words must be sung rapidly. But I manage to tell a story; a new story with old music. I think that’s rather cool.

Because I think that’s cool, I write parodies more often than I should. “Why, Lexi,” you ask. “More often than you should? What’s that supposed to mean? That’s great that you can write them, you should write them all the time, just to have them.”

Yeah. Wouldn’t it be awesome if my brain worked that way?

Instead, my brain decides that we need to play it on guitar.

And after we learn how to play it, we practice it.

After we’ve mastered it, we record it on our phones and share it with people.

After we have a basic recording, we want to record it for real.

When we record it for real, we want to mix the audio nicely.

Once that’s done, we want to make a video to accompany it.

You see how this works?

No matter what it is, I end up putting an incredible amount of effort and passion into things. I can’t just write a song and think, “Huh, that’s cool.” No, my brain will not rest until it has finished the project. This leads to unfortunate lapses of sanity, as I latch onto multiple projects and try to see them to completion all at once.

For example, I published a book recently and am making efforts to market that. Meanwhile, I’m pondering what I’ll be doing for NaNoWriMo this year and doing tiny spurts of research. Yet, I’m dividing another share of time to another series I’m working on planning out.

Four different plans of my own for Robotics are fighting for my attention, while several other necessary aspects of being a part of the leading committee are also tugging at me. Occasionally, camp will lean in and whisper a remind in my ear of something I need to be doing. School has started its incessant pounding and pulling; and smaller, enjoyable responsibilities begin to adopt the role of “chore”.

Welcome to the creative mind.

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Fear Faced

I have returned from the valley of shadows, where deep fear and insecurity lurk. Perhaps you will find much amusement in my story.

As you may know from my previous post earlier today, I was on TV today. That was my focus. It was live TV. I was up early. I traveled far, I was underprepared (not by my own choice), and I wanted to do well. I feel that I did, and if you’d like to hear about that, go ahead and click the link.

If you’d like to hear about what happened after that took place, read on.

I had a few hours to unwind before the meeting tonight. The meeting where I would face my fears and attempt to be elected into a position. The meeting I chose not to prepare for because the last time I prepared, I bombed my speech.

I get to the meeting. I can already tell I’m getting a little loopy–I’m touching my friends’ hair and complimenting it; I’m repeating random words; I’m saying things in my loopy voice; all very good signs that my brain is starting to lose it after little sleep, a lot of awake, and the pressure of the day.

The meeting starts. As I mentioned–I was kind of out of it. I don’t remember if we really had any transition into elections, but I remember being asked if I wanted to give my speech first and saying, “Nope.”

Then, my friend got up to give his speech. It was amazing. It was eloquent. He did an amazing job presenting his case for election, and I was super proud of him. Then, he stepped down and it was my turn.

I put my sweatshirt down onto the chair I’d just vacated (since apparently my body was a little confused, too), stood in front of them, and tried to recall my three simple points. It was going to take a max of twenty seconds.

And then I drew a complete blank. It was like my rational thoughts had floated to the ceiling. I assume that’s where they went, as that is where I was looking when I wasn’t speaking some sort of intelligible words and making eye contact with people. I couldn’t say anything, except really poor attempts to make people laugh. They also didn’t work: it was like a stand-up comedy routine. I felt as if I’d come out of some kind of coma and didn’t remember basic English. My brain was macaroni and cheese. And then I sat down. Though I hadn’t intended to, I’m pretty sure I’d just made the case for my friend. “Here, vote for me as your leader! I…um…lemme think of a reason why…”

The mentors went to count the ballots, and he and I both sat through an informative meeting regarding an upcoming event. Both in agony. Me, that I might have somehow managed to win an election against someone who gave a charismatic speech. Him, that I might have somehow managed to win an election that had previously been set for him to win.

AND FINALLY. The verdict came. He was elected.

The chorus of hallelujahs went off. Yes! I had accomplished my task! I wasn’t elected, I had faced my fear, and my friend had put more thought into his choice and was going to be a better leader because of it. Hurrah!

Oh wait. Now we have more elections. See, now I was running for the position I wanted originally. The position I was passionate about. The position I’d been preparing for without even having anything approved yet because I was just so excited. This. This was my moment.

As long as I could form an intelligible sentence.

And somehow, by the grace of God, I did! I nailed that second speech! I got up there with confidence, beamed the smile I’d been flashing at strangers all day out of pure joy, and I put my heart on the line. This is what I can do for you all. This is what I want to do. This is what I’m good at. It was even in English.

And hurrah! I was elected! The hallelujah chorus sounded again, and I celebrated internally.

So there you have it. My absolutely hilarious recount of tonight’s events.

Or maybe it isn’t funny.

As I’ve already told you, my brain is mac’n’cheese right now.

I Was In the TV

About two weeks ago, I saw a link on Facebook. It was for an “Author Spotlight” on a show called Good Day PA; and the lady featured had written a children’s book. My friend who does my covers had illustrated one of her books, and I watched the interview for fun.

Then I saw the button. “BE A GUEST”, it said.

Well, how can you not listen to a button like that?

I clicked it, and followed the consequent steps to possibly appearing in this segment of their show. One mailed package and several emails led to another, and I was scheduled to appear on August 25th, 2016.

This might be a fun time to mention that I had yet to figure out this was a live broadcast, and just because there was no studio audience didn’t mean that it was pre-recorded.

But anyway.

I got there an hour after I wanted to be–and technically a half an hour later than they’d asked me to–but I’d emailed while I was stuck in a miserable interstate traffic jam to let them know what was going on, and they were very gracious about it.

So I sat. Nervous. Terrified, even; in a little conference room with professional, older women who had official businesses or doctorates. And I tried not to be incredibly stressed and panicked.

But all went well, dear readers! I think I did rather okay. If you’d like to see my interview, the link is right here.

They misspelled my name, but I’ll forgive ’em.

Facing Fear

Once upon a time, I ran for a position in my Robotics club. Long story short, I wasn’t elected. So, I ran again, at a different election, for a similar position. Didn’t get that one, either.

Those were dark days for me. I had spent weeks preparing what I would say to my peers. Determining how I could serve them and how I would express it. But when the time came to give my speech, I froze. I lost all trains of thought and was overcome with nausea. And despite my willingness and preparedness, I had no official position of leadership that year.

Now has come the time. Tomorrow, actually. Tomorrow is the day when I will face my fears.

I cried, see. I was very upset. I couldn’t contain my hurt, and I ran out to the car to have some kind of privacy. (This sounds very petty of me, and I can’t justify why it wasn’t without getting into particulars, which I don’t feel like doing. So trust that I wasn’t crying without some kind of emotional provocation.)

When we announced elections this year, I wasn’t going to run. In my experience, those elected were elected based on popularity. I had witnessed it more than five times. I didn’t want to be in that vulnerable position again. In fact, the whole event has been so unfortunately traumatic for me that it would take something more important to get me to run.

My friend asked me to run for a position within the new committee we’ve established. I said I’d think about it, but I eventually agreed, after continuously exhausting any possibility of more popular opposition. In fact, everything was set to go very well; there were two people running for the two spots I was running for; about three for another position with two spots; and only one for the head of the committee.

The one running uncontested was my friend. And as I reflected over the past months, I became more and more nervous about his running without any conflict. It was some sort of guarantee. From everything that I had observed, he needed someone to run against him. To be a threat of sorts. To make him think beyond where he had been thinking.

An unfortunate bout of miscommunication prevented me from talking to him. After wondering what I could do to help him–because he is my friend, and I honestly think he is one of the best choices for heading up this committee–I realized I had to do something that I was terrified of.

I had to run for the position myself.

After the last election, where I was pitted against both him and another member; where I had lost in both arenas and had felt misunderstood and a myriad of other nasty emotions; nothing could tempt me to run for this head position. I am going to be incredibly busy this school year. I have many responsibilities weighing on me. Above all, I did not want to run and be put down again, whether my fear is justified or not.

But watching my friend’s attitude and demeanor slowly change from what I’d known it to be; that was apparently enough incentive for me to run for a position I was afraid to run for.

Tomorrow, I face my fear. I will look into a sea of faces, of people I know and care about and desire to see grow. I will state my case, I will wait, and I will be able to face any kind of acceptance or rejection.

Possibly most reassuring of all, my friend does not feel I have stabbed him in the back, which was an accompanying fear.

So sometime, I will let you all know what happened. And let you know what fear looks like when it’s been crushed beneath love.

Also, the Blimey Cow video is kind of unrelated; it’s just hilarious.

EXCLUSIVE – Steady excerpt

Interested in reading Steady? Here’s an exclusive, free excerpt from the novel.

 

Chapter One:

Quinn Smith’s shortened red mane swished as she turned her head towards the door. Her sister mirrored this action, also scanning the crowd of church-goers for a certain someone. With a mutual sigh, they redirected their attention to the bulletin.

“He’s late again,” Erin murmured quietly, flipping her paper over to absent-mindedly scan the back.

“I wonder if he refused to get out of bed this morning,” Quinn whispered. “Bethy told me that the last time she tried to get him up, he just rolled over. He wouldn’t even acknowledge her.”

Erin bit the inside of her cheek. “I wish I knew how to help him.”

Quinn shrugged dejectedly. “I wish that too, but I don’t know how we would. Besides, he was closest to her. That must be why he’s taking it so hard.”

After a moment of silence, the two jumped at a hand on Quinn’s shoulder and whirled around.

“Hey,” Gabby Baxter, Quinn’s best friend, smiled sadly. “How are you two this morning?”

Seeing Quinn’s contemplative face, Erin attempted to perk up. “We’re okay. Quinn’s a little cold, what with her hair cut and all.”

Gabby’s smile spread a bit. “Yeah, I can see that. It looks nice, Quinn.”

“Thanks,” Quinn tried to meet her friend’s eyes, but faltered.

“He’s not here yet, is he?” Gabby murmured.

Erin shook her head. Without another word, Gabby slipped away to rejoin her family. The spot she left was quickly filled by Jimmy Carr, another friend of the Smiths.

“Hi,” Jimmy said, searching their surroundings for his best friend. “Is he late again?”

Erin sent him a worried look. “Yes. I don’t know what to do for him.”

“If you don’t know, then I definitely don’t,” Jimmy sighed, running a hand through his short blonde locks. “He keeps clamming up when I try to talk to him.”

“Same,” Erin’s face reflected a deep sadness within her.

A quiet moment passed, and Jimmy laid a hand on Erin’s shoulder. “I’ll see you guys in Sunday School, okay?”

The sisters lifted their arms in a half-hearted wave. Erin directed her attention to rereading the bulletin, while Quinn watched the families enter the sanctuary. Several friends from her youth group strolled in, chattering and laughing. They felt Quinn’s gaze and became respectfully silent as they passed. The Stephens family, and their friend David, stepped inside slowly. They were still introducing Anthony, their foster child, to the church. The young man seemed awfully uncomfortable, stiffly walking alongside Mrs. Stephens, holding the hand of little Lucy as if it were an obligation or an anchor. After noticing her stare, David sent a small smile to Quinn.

Quinn rested her head against her arm and continued to gaze towards the doorway. Cat Patches entered with her mother, and Quinn immediately turned to face the front of the room. Neither Mrs. Patches nor Cat seemed to notice.

I wish Melanie was coming, Lord, Quinn sighed to herself. I know she’s tired after the move, but I need someone to talk to. And where is Becker, Lord? Why is he late, again? It seems like he’s getting worse instead of better. Why did it affect him so much more than me or Erin?

Like an answered prayer, Becker Miller slipped into the sanctuary. Erin sensed her cousin’s presence and immediately turned to eye him. He continued his stroll past them, avoiding her stare. Erin began to motion for him with a threat in her gaze, and Becker’s path slowly redirected until he plopped down next to her.

“Where have you been?” Erin hissed, her green eyes bright with anger.

Quinn put a hand on her sister’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Becker. But don’t you think you should have gotten out of bed earlier?”

Bethy materialized next to her brother. “Whether he thinks it or not, it’s the truth.”

Becker let out a shaky sigh, swishing his blonde hair out of his face. “I just didn’t want to get up this morning.”

Erin pushed her harsh words to the side. “Becker, it’s been a month.”

Becker’s face contorted in a flash of a moment. “I know. It’s still hard, though. Isn’t it hard for you?”

Aunt Heather appeared behind the children, stroking her son’s hair. “It’s been hard on all of us. Everyone has had trouble dealing with this loss. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, Becker.”

Erin compulsively rested her head against her cousin’s shoulder. “We’re going to be okay, aren’t we? We’re going to make it through, right?”

Becker’s head lay against hers, and for the moment, Erin felt the weight of the world upon her. A long, heavy sigh escaped him, and he breathed, “I sure hope so.”

The moment ended as quickly as it began. Becker straightened himself, while still seeming like he could keel over at any moment. Erin moved her head to her sister’s shoulder, and Bethy snuggled against her mother.

As the service started, the pastor’s words began to soak over them, and the family felt a special peace settle around them. After brief announcements and a testimony, the children were sent off to Sunday School. Quinn was reluctant to stand up, but Erin tugged both her and Becker along beside her.

A crowd formed as the youth walked through the hallway to their room. Little Lucy Stephens and the other smaller children bounced off to their classrooms, and the throng shrunk. Anthony, David’s foster brother, tucked his hands under his arms, having lost the girl who held his hand.

“This is Anthony,” David explained to his friends as they walked to the end of the hallway.

Erin raised her eyebrows. “We know, David. This is his third week here.”

David blushed. “Well, you guys weren’t saying anything to him. I thought maybe you forgot.” He awkwardly clapped the boy on the back, and Anthony seemed to draw even farther into himself. He was tall and thin, but still seemed strong in stature. His curly hair was very dark, reflecting his demeanor; his bright blue eyes seemed to dim with each step.

Jimmy tried to smile at him. “You’re in eighth grade, right? I think we have a few classes together.”

Anthony’s head bobbed into a nod in the expanse of time it takes to blink. The group quieted.

“Mel moved this weekend,” Quinn offered to Gabby, who strode beside her.

Gabby’s eyebrows rose. “Again?”

Quinn opened her mouth to explain, but the group of teens had reached the end of the hallway and was entering their classrooms.

“Hey, Anthony, I’ll see you in about an hour, okay?” David called as the high school and middle school students separated. In the chaos, he didn’t hear a reply.

With a sigh, David turned to enter the classroom. His eyes scanned for a seat at the lined tables, and he spotted one beside Quinn. As he moved toward his friends, a manicured hand pushed past him and plopped into the chair.

Cat examined her nails with a critical eye, ignoring him completely. David sat himself in the nearest empty chair, crinkling his eyebrows.

Meanwhile, Quinn eyed the girl beside her. “I think David was going to sit here.”

“Sorry,” Cat shrugged, resuming her nail inspection. “I didn’t even notice him.”

Quinn reopened her mouth, but the Sunday School teacher spoke before she did.

“Okay, everyone,” Mr. Rory called out over the crowd, hushing their conversations. “It’s time to get started. We have a lot to cover this morning. But first, let’s pray, shall we? Can I get a volunteer, please?”

A few whispers started up among the group, but not one teenager raised their hand.

“Nobody? Ah, David, thank you,” Mr. Rory winked at the exasperated sophomore. “Does anyone have any prayer requests?”

Entreaties sprinkled the air, and Mr. Rory scribbled each down on the whiteboard at the front of the room. “Awesome. Let’s bow our heads and close our eyes, everyone. David, go ahead.”

“Dear God,” David began, clearing his throat to increase the range of his voice. “Thank You so much for this beautiful day You’ve given us. Thank You that we have the opportunity to be here, learning more about You and how to be close to You. I pray specifically for Martin’s big Spanish test this week, and I ask that You would be with him while he takes it, and that he would remember everything. I also ask that You would be with Melanie, whose parents are trying to sort out their marriage right now. Lord, I know she doesn’t yet believe in You, but I ask that You would work miraculously in her heart. Comfort her during this time. And God, I also ask that You comfort the Smith family, who lost their Great Aunt Kelly a month ago. I know she’s in Heaven with You, and that she’s singing, Lord. But please comfort those left behind and struggling. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

“Amen,” the room chorused together. Mr. Rory busied himself with cleaning the whiteboard, and small talk resumed.

Cat shot a sideways glance at one of her dearest friends. “Your aunt died?”

“Yeah,” Quinn swallowed. “Didn’t you know?”

Cat’s forehead wrinkled. “No, I guess I’ve been pretty busy.”

“Oh,” Quinn replied, playing with a shortened strand of hair. She waited for Cat to say something else; to say she was sorry like everyone else had; to explain what had happened this school year; to suggest they have a Girls’ Night In to catch up; to mention her haircut and tell her how great it looked using one of her crazy invented words.

Cat turned to the table behind her and started to discuss nail polish with a few of the girls.

Lord, I can’t believe how much changed in a year.

~

Becker pushed his door open with a shoulder, kicking his shoes off near his desk. He wrenched his polo shirt off and threw it at a chair. Hopping across the room towards his bed on one foot, he ripped each sock from his feet, balling them up and tossing them. Then he dropped into his bed, pulling the comforter up over his head.

A light knock came from the open doorway. Becker ignored the sound, turning himself towards the wall.

“Becker?” Bethy’s small voice came muffled through the blanket. “Becker, we need to talk.”

With no response, Bethy marched herself into the room. She grabbed his desk chair and dragged it next to his bed. With a plop, she was eyelevel with her brother, who was still ignoring her presence.

“Look, I know you aren’t asleep. You haven’t even been in your room for a minute,” Bethy laughed lightly.

The lump beneath the covers moved slightly.

“I just want you to talk to me. We’d been doing so well with that, until…well, you know when,” Bethy paused. “I miss that, okay? I don’t like this feeling, the way things were a year ago. When I didn’t even know if you loved me.”

Becker’s form rolled towards her, and a few muffled words escaped.

“What?”

He pulled the blanket down off of his face and peeped at her through his mop of straw hair. “I said I was sorry you felt like that.”

Bethy shrugged. “Becker, we’ve been over that. I know you’re sorry for that. What I said is that I’m feeling like that again.”

“Look, Beth, I love you,” Becker’s big baby blue eyes bore into his sister’s. “But I just lost someone I was really close to. Just because I’m grieving doesn’t mean that I don’t love you.”

“I was close to Aunt Kelly, too,” Bethy countered. “I’m fine. I’m a little bit sad, but I’m okay. Why is it that you aren’t okay, Becker?”

The covers went back over Becker’s head. “I don’t really want to talk about it right now,” he called clearly.

“Okay. Fine,” Bethy sighed. “I’m here when you want to talk, okay?”

The bump beneath the blanket shifted back towards the wall. Bethy returned Becker’s desk chair to its rightful place. When she looked up, she saw the photos he had taped above his desk. There was a picture of their family on vacation at the beach a few years back: she was scowling, her arms folded over a book. Becker was grinning as he stood in the sand, and the same smile carried over throughout the rest of the pictures. Jimmy, Becker, and Erin stood in a line in front of the elementary school: their last year there. David giving him a piggyback ride, with the girls in the background, staring in horror. Erin and Becker posing with a ketchup bottle and a can of Campbell’s soup. A youth group picture from the first year Mr. Rory taught. A very young Bethy, sitting in Becker’s lap, while Uncle Jake read them a story.

The smile haunted her now, clearly displayed in hundreds of memories. Yet, that self-same grin; she hadn’t seen it in over a month.

And who knew when it would make its return.

~

David passed the spare room while he walked down the hallway to his bedroom. He paused, and retreated to the doorway to look inside. A set of bright yellow walls greeted him, with the small red racecar bedframe of his childhood. At the foot of the bed was a big blue chest, filled with stuffed animals. A wardrobe sat in the corner, and in the other, a lamp with a moon-shaped pulley stood.

They were supposed to get a preschooler, a boy about Lucy’s age. His mother had spent weeks finding the right touches for the tiny spare room, the perfect space that he could call his own. Lucy was ecstatic for a new playmate, and David knew he could handle a little boy. Just before the foster child was to arrive, the placement agency called. There was a desperate need of a home for a thirteen-year-old. Of course, their family took him in.

Shortly after Anthony’s arrival, it became abundantly clear that the spare room wouldn’t suit him. Not only was the bed too small, it wasn’t enough space for a teenager. Mr. and Mrs. Stephens quickly made room for him in David’s bedroom, despite Anthony’s willingness to stay in the spare room.

The space which was once expansive was now adequate for two teenage boys. The dark blue walls, sprinkled with sports decorations, now looked upon two small beds, on either side of the room. An extra dresser was shoved into an empty corner. Anthony’s only request was a bookshelf. After digging in the garage, they found a small set of shelves, which he placed at the end of his bed.

David remembered watching him unpack. He had some nice dress shirts and pants, but they were clearly too small for him. He folded them meticulously and placed them in the bottom drawer. The clothes that fit were bland, and Mrs. Stephens had fussed that they would go shopping that week. Anthony only nodded and continued unpacking his bag. He pulled out book after book, arranging them in a special order on his new shelf. A worn copy of Ruby Holler was laid on his pillow. Then the small talk began.

Mrs. Stephens did everything in her power to make him feel more comfortable. She prattled about the house, his new family, when she would take him shopping, and what was for dinner. Then she grilled him about himself, and all he would say was “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am”.

David closed the door on the spare room, moving himself back on the path to his room. He briskly knocked at the door, not wanting to startle Anthony with his abrupt entry.

With no answer, David pushed the door open. Anthony was sitting, cross-legged on his bed, his back against the wall. He was clearly engrossed in a book. David walked to his own bed and sat down on the edge.

“Hey,” David interrupted carefully. “How was church today?”

Anthony offered a shrug with no eye contact and resumed reading.

“That’s good, I guess,” David scratched his nose. “Were the kids nice to you in Sunday School?”

Another shrug ensued.

“Who did you sit with?”

The roaming, reading eyes paused for a moment. “No one.”

“Oh, do you not know their names?” David pressed with a smile.

Anthony didn’t respond.

“Well, next week, you should try and sit with Erin and Becker and Jimmy,” David finally interjected into the silence. “They’re really nice.”

After his last statement sat for a least a minute, David slid off the edge of his bed and left Anthony to read in peace.

~

Erin rolled over, retrieving her diary from under her bed. She hadn’t written for the longest time, but she was in the mood to read what her past self was like.

Starting with the first page, Erin threw back her head and laughed. She hadn’t been quite sure how a diary worked when she first started, and she sounded so incredibly awkward. There were huge gaps of time from when she’d forgotten to write.

“Dear Diary,” she read aloud after flipping through several pages. “Today, Becker and I got into a huge fight. A pillow fight, that is! He says he won, but I totally beat him. I hit him on the head at least four times, and he only got me once. We had to stop once he misfired and hit Bethy in the face.”

Erin began to snicker, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. “I remember that day, Bethy was so mad at us! Oh, here’s another one. Dear Diary; I built a fort in the basement with Quinn and Becker today. Aunt Kelly said…”

She bit the inside of her cheek. “Aunt Kelly said it was the best she’d ever seen.”

Lord, why did You take Aunt Kelly from us? I don’t understand. She was one of the kindest people, the most helpful. She believed in me when the rest of my family didn’t. And now she’s gone…

Erin cleared her throat, shaking her head to shoo the memories away. “Dear Diary; Quinn told me all about some boy from school today. She went on and on about how cute he is. Bleh! She got pretty mad when I told her that was gross. But it is, so what was I supposed to say?”

A burst of laughter escaped Erin’s mouth. “Lord, I remember that conversation. I remember when I didn’t even notice boys like that.”

She quickly flipped through the pages, looking for another good memory. “Oh, here’s one about the play last year! Dear Diary; today, I met the rudest boy I have ever seen in my life. His name is Ned Moffat, and he’s just plain mean! He made fun of me and my Sallie Gardener costume. Worst of all, I have to dance with him during one of the scenes. He’s kind of a jerk. He better watch it, or I’m gonna have Becker beat him up.”

Erin burst into crazed laughter at the end of her sentence. “Oh, my goodness—Becker, beating someone up.”

She continued to cackle uncontrollably, trying to draw air in. A concerned Quinn threw the door open and took in the sight of Erin, snorting over a small journal.

“Erin, are you okay?” Quinn began to chuckle at the spectacle that was her sister.

Erin patted the space beside her on the bed, and Quinn climbed up next to her, brushing her bob of red hair out of her face.

“I’m reading old diary entries,” Erin’s breathing finally returned to normal. “Here, listen to this one. Dear Diary; so, Ned Moffat isn’t as much of a jerk as I thought he was.”

“Ned Moffat?” Quinn interrupted, her eyebrows raised. “Isn’t that the kid from the play in seventh grade?”

Erin huffed. “Yes, he is: let me finish.”

“Sorry, go ahead,” Quinn smirked, her arms crossed.

“Except for a slight case of let’s-smash-Erin’s-toes, he’s actually pretty cool,” Erin’s voice broke with a smidge of laughter. “At the very least, he’s a gentleman. He holds doors open, is polite, and doesn’t stuff food into his face. It’s kind of sickening.”

Quinn snorted. “Erin, you are the funniest bird. He sounds like he was a pretty nice kid.”

“Yeah, he was,” Erin smiled slightly.

Quinn’s eyebrows shot straight up. “No.”

“What?”

“Oh, Erin, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

“What?” Erin shrieked. “What did I do?”

Quinn’s face split into a huge grin. “You liked him, didn’t you?”

For a moment, Erin’s mannerisms took on their characteristic rage. She looked like she was about to declare her immaturity, blast her Veggie Tales music, and deny the idea of growing up. However, just as quickly as it had come, it went, and her face softened. “Okay, maybe a little bit.”

“Erin Monica Smith, you actually liked someone?” Quinn nudged her sister with her elbow. “You’ve blown my mind.”

Erin’s eyebrows knit together. “Yeah. Mine too.”

~

Melanie carried the last box into her new room and closed the door with her hip. With a sigh, she blew her chocolate bangs out of her eyes and stared at the newest mishmash she was to call home. Her candy curtains were neatly folded and ready to be hung along the windows. Her cat bedspread was in a heap on the mattress. Her clothes were stuffed into a tiny closet. Nearly everything else she owned was packed into the four giant boxes strewn on her floor, except for Manny, her dog, who was nestled in a corner.

Exhaustion poured in with the very thought of unpacking, so Melanie plucked a single can from one box, strode to her pink bean bag, and plopped herself onto it. She fingered the decorations on her old container of Pirouettes before gingerly placing it on her windowsill. Melanie glanced at Manny, who was sound asleep in his bed, before closing her own eyes.

Her rest was abruptly interrupted by the appearance of her mother, who threw the door open.

“Dad’s making dinner,” she loudly called across the room with a bright smile. “Come out in about ten minutes, okay, honey?”

Melanie’s eyes shot open, and she returned the smile with a degree of exhaustion. “Sure, Mom.”

Mrs. Walker nearly skipped away, and Mel slipped back into a peaceful rest. Her eyelids had nearly pulled her under into a dreamland when she heard a shout.

For a moment, the fear of an injured parent had her heading for the kitchen, until her ears captured the returned yell. Melanie’s eyes closed automatically, and she paused in her trek to the door. The back-and-forth rose a degree in volume, and Manny ears were perking up at the sound. Mel hurried to close the door.

It only muffled the sound. She scurried to her bed and buried her head under the blanket. No improvement. She pushed her clothes to the side and crouched inside her closet. It was even louder. Noticing Manny had fallen back asleep, Melanie finally shuffled back to her beanbag, pressing an ear against it. The noise was almost eradicated.

I am going to be spending a lot of time in this corner.

Cyber Schooling Debunked

About a year or so ago, I opened up YouTube and typed in “Cyber Schooling”. I was looking for anything. I’m a big fan of Blimey Cow, and they’re well-known for their homeschool videos. I had to wonder if any other YouTube channels featured videos about cyber charter schooling.

My findings were quite disappointing. I found a commercial from a few years back, and a handful of poorly made videos from students. YouTube is a major resource for people. How was anyone supposed to understand what cyber charter schooling actually is?

That’s when inspiration struck me. I could make videos myself, and explain what cyber schooling was. The benefits and drawbacks. Share things from my own life. Help to educate.

And after some talks with the teacher in charge of senior projects, I had found my graduation project.

My channel currently features a couple of videos about aspects of cyber charter schooling: flexibility and friendship. I have many more planned that fall in that line. I also have other videos planned in other styles, like vlogs and interviews. I’m hoping my channel becomes a fun and educational resource for people who are considering cyber charter schooling, or who want to know more.

If this interests you at all–or you’d just like to see how awkward I am on camera–go ahead and check out “Cyber Schooling Debunked” on YouTube.

Honestly, YouTube is something that has interested me for a long time, and video producing is a skill I’m happy to learn. I love inserting my strangeness in random places, and with each video, I gain a little bit more skill I can apply to things like Robotics and writing.

Thanks so much, and have an awesome, beautiful, wonderful, fantastically blessed day.

Sleeping Bag Delivery Boy

I’d packed just enough for the weekend. I had one extra shirt in case of emergency; a sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants for the evening campfire; and a single bath towel. I threw my pillow in my duffel and drug the bag to the van: it was time to go to camp.

In the frenzy of getting my belongings to the car, I’d forgotten one crucial element. My sleeping bag.

When I arrived at camp, I grabbed a top bunk and slapped my pillow on it: my pillow, my only bedding. I thought I’d be fine, but I think I fell asleep around 4 AM. (I forgot my clock, too.) On the bright side, I found the best way to retain my body heat (although it made me nauseous). And, I awoke at a lovely 7:30 AM and went to the kitchen to help serve breakfast, where I had two tables of hungry teenage boys who wanted more bacon (but that’s a story for another time).

Saturday afternoon, we cleaned the campground and had a quick meeting before a ton of free time.

“Do you still have your Dutch Blitz cards?” I asked Jill.

“Yeah, I do!” she replied.

I rushed to the game room to drop off my backpack. I stepped back into the gym to find Jill again, and my eyes locked on a wandering puppy, carrying a sleeping bag and looking absolutely lost.

It was my friend. My friend, who hadn’t been to camp in years. My friend, who’d gone to a robotics event with my parents that morning. My friend, who I hadn’t seen in months, had come to the campground, and searched the buildings and various lawns for signs of English-speaking life.

Dad had asked him to drop off my sleeping bag at camp, since it was on his way home. And he did, even though it was completely out of his comfort zone. He’d tried finding out where to go by asking the Spanish-speaking guest group, and had received the answer, “This is not who you’re looking for.”

So, I slept in my sleeping bag that night. Hadn’t slept better in days. And I didn’t even care that I had to wrap it up the next morning.

“Just Another Book”

I often feel this is the attitude people take with me. Lexi published another book, look at that. Way to go. I might read it if you give me a copy.

While writing does get “easier” with practice, I find each book just as miraculous as the first. I remember publishing my first book. Everything was new and exciting, and it was thrilling. This may not be “new”, but it’s still exciting, is it not?

Steady didn’t just appear on my computer, and the cover didn’t just spawn from the ground. It took hard work to write, hard work to edit, and hard work to publish. I wasn’t the only one working towards getting this book on the market.

So, here it is. Midnight, and I’ve published another book. I refuse to look upon this with monotony. This is a beautiful thing! The cover is lovely, thanks to my dear friend; and it’s free of errors, thanks to several other people.

I hope you’ll take the time to look into it. This book is dear to me, because my characters are growing up. When I was first designing the plot, it was depressing for me, because they’ve been my babies for so long. The book itself isn’t depressing, but it was hard for me, in some cases.

If you’ve read any of my other books, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

Senior Year

As I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, I saw my school had posted a countdown clock to the first day. I don’t know who’s marketing idea that was, but goodness, that picture was depressing. Maybe for the elementary ages, still with wide eyes and a love of schooling, they jumped for joy at the realization that classes are right about the corner.

Me? I’m going into my senior year. There isn’t any jumping going on over here.

You walk down the street, casually browsing store windows. As soon as you return home, you have to clean your room, but for the moment, you have twenty minutes to kill by looking at trinkets and treasures you can’t afford. Just as you’re stopping to admire a giant, overstuffed teddy bear in the corner window, you’re surrounded by flashing lights and overlapping chatter. You struggle to keep your eyes open as someone shoves a microphone towards your face.

“Can you tell us what it’s like to be going into your senior year of high school?” someone asks.

The crowd doesn’t await your reply. “What college are you planning on attending after your graduation?”

“How are you preparing for your impending adulthood?” Another microphone is shoved towards you.

“What area of study are you pursuing?”

“When do you plan on leaving your employment in the local fast food chain?”

“What field do you want to go into?”

“It was featured in a recent article of Family Christmas Letter that you don’t yet have your driver’s license. Are you making plans to acquire that in the near future?”

“How many SATs have you taken? Do you have any scholarship offers yet?”

Question after question pelt your ears, leaving no opportunity for reply; the only thought you have is, When did I become some kind of celebrity?

Eventually, someone chases the news teams and paparazzi away, and you check your watch. It’s time to head home to clean your room.

This is how I feel about senior year. I was just checking out a giant stuffed teddy bear, and all of a sudden, I’m supposed to have my life together? Following basic and accepted American procedure, I should have spent this summer doing college tours. I should have a college, major, and occupation picked out. But I don’t. I spent this summer working, and the word college makes me cringe.

You go into your final year of public high school education, and a spotlight is put on you. “Surprise!” a random announcer voice calls from somewhere in the auditorium. “Your childhood is coming to an end, and the rest of your life is beginning: welcome to adulthood. Get your life together.”

My senior year was supposed to be a break from crazy scheduling: I worked my butt off the first three years, under the impression that I could have a calmer final year. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. I meant to take the minimum of courses in my school, and dual-enroll in a community college, or get a job, or spend time developing my writing. Surprise! You can’t do that anymore, and I now have a full-course load. Meanwhile, I need to be figuring out which socially approved (and unique) college-box I’m hopping into for the next phase of my education. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to pay them tens of thousands of dollars a year, for classes that aren’t vital to what I’m doing with my life, so I can go into massive student debt.

Perhaps that’s cynical of me. Oh, well. You know what the spotlight does to celebrities.

Crazy.