Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday is all KINDS of different. But also the same.

Christina: It’s always interesting to see what we forget!

Cassie: I love Mulan. It was a go-to-everyone-likes-it movie when I was a kid.

Who was I a year ago?

A year ago, I wrote to you about my “flagrant lack of romantic experience.” I had had my first kiss “six-odd short months ago,” and had just ended a very short fling with a fellow that I now laugh about occasionally with my incredible girlfriend of almost nine months.

I still get worked up about inequality and suicide, probably now even more than before, now that I’m almost halfway done with a counseling program. I see inequality and its effects on people in all sorts of situations in my current line of work, and I’m working to (among other things) help prevent suicide on the front lines, helping people directly when they are in need.

I wrote in my first post about my best friend. She was very good for me for a while, but we are no longer friends. The timing of this break coincided with her moving out of our apartment and the approximate time of my relationship starting with That Wonderful Hardward Store Employee—the latter event being, according to Ashley, the reason for our friendship ending, though this is incorrect.

I still have a lot of friends, more now even than before. I have had the pleasure of maintaining, and even cultivating, many friendships from my undergrad town, and I have made oodles of friends here in my new home at grad school.

I now have five tattoos, this year’s addition being a small asterisk on the inside of my right pinky. I’m also planning a few more.

I closed down my jewelry company. I still make things from time to time, but I was really sick of dealing with IRS paperwork and taxes when I never sold anything anyway. So that’s over.

In my third-ever post, I wrote about the uncertainty that I was comfortable with in life. I no longer have quite that uncertainty! I have a career path. I have a life path. I have someone to spend all that wonderful time with.

Finally, I am slightly ashamed to admit that I have not consumed a single but of Nerdfighter media in the entire year we’ve been at this. This surprises me, as I have enjoyed it very much in the past.

This has been a fun ride, everyone. I haven’t always wanted to blog on Wednesdays, but I’m proud to say that, while I’ve been late a couple times, I have never missed a week, and I’m going to miss it.

See you again next week!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday has been singing Mulan all day . . .

"When will my reflection show . . ." Yeah. Been stuck in my head All Day Long. Also, almost didn't write this tonight. It's been an exhausting day and I almost forgot it was Monday. Thanks to the boy for the reminder -- I haven't missed a single week, and I'd hate to lose that streak on the second to last week.

It's strange for me to think that after next week, I won't be writing a post each Monday.

Carlyn - I had a Xanga. I think we all did at some point.

Christina - I did a double take when you talked about being a freshman in high school nine years ago. "There's no way that's right," I told myself. Then I did the math. Now I feel old.

So, 50 weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy post about being a storyteller. I also failed at counting, as I said this project would end on the 16th of March, which is just wrong, Cassie from 50 weeks ago. Come on, girl. Look at a calendar.

I'll let you in on a secret now -- I'd been composing that particular introductory blog post for about two weeks prior to actually writing it. I worked for a really long time on it because I wanted to get it just right and make myself as interesting to you all as possible because I wanted to make a good impression. And I think, somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought I'd be putting that much time, energy, and effort into every blog post. Insert hysterical laughter here.

A year ago, where was I? Two months graduated, planning on moving to DC because my grad school plan had fallen through, and terrified of the future because I didn't know what it held. Now? Fourteen months graduated, planning on moving to Boston for grad school plan number 2, and still utterly terrified of the future because I don't know what it holds.

A year ago, I introduced myself as a storyteller, and I'd hold that that's still true. I've written 50,000 words of a new novel in the past year. I've revised a hell of a lot of stuff. I've written *mumblemumbledeliberatelyvague* pieces of fanfiction and one original short story. I've started working at a library (which, while I love it and I'm thrilled I'm getting the experience, isn't what I imagined). And then, of course, there's the fact that I've written consistently about myself once a week for the past year. That's a pretty big storytelling accomplishment in my book.

This project was my baby, and I'm proud to say I saw it through to the end. I'm proud to say that I got to know a group of really great people over the course of the past year, and I think I got to know myself a little bit better, too. Did the project work out the way I thought it would? Not entirely, no. We've lost a couple of our number along the way, and I regret that, though I know and understand that life can attack when we least expect it. But I think I'm better than I was a year ago because I've worked on this project. We didn't become the next Internet sensation or gain fame and notoriety, but I've enjoyed getting to know the four of you (even the two of you who have disappeared), and if you're ever in Bowling Green, Ohio, you should feel free to look me up.

So who am I? A lot of things, really. Daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin. College graduate, preacher’s kid, Harry Potter fan, Nerdfighter. Writer, actor, director, teacher. Part-time librarian. Bookworm. Storyteller. Blogger.

For the second to last time, this is Miss Monday, signing off.

Week 51: A Time to Reflect

Go back to your very first post here. Read it. Look at who you were a year ago when this project started. How have you changed? How have you stayed the same? What have you learned (if anything) about yourself?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dear past Friday...

I've written a couple letters to my future self, but I haven't actually received any of those yet. I'm pretty sure I was supposed to get one back when I graduated from high school, but that letter was never seen again. I think we did them in... fourth grade maybe? I'm not sure. We also wrote letters to ourselves in my AP English class senior year of high school. Our class president at the time is supposed to get those to us for our ten year high school reunion. I still remember mine pretty well at the moment, but it will be interesting to see what parts I inevitably have forgotten/will forget!

Well, without further ado, I think I'll write to myself as a high school freshman, at the age of fourteen:

Hey past Christina,

So you're fourteen, a freshman in high school right now. Your time at middle school wasn't the best years ever, probably the least enjoyable of your life so far. And (at least through my rose-colored classes now), high school is going to be a pretty good time. I know it's hard to imagine now, but you're actually going to be part of a sports team for the last three years of school. You're even going to get a few varsity letters and even wear a varsity jacket. I know, crazy, right? You'll even amass a few of those hoodies with your last name on the back like you always wanted. Living the dream. You'll continue with orchestra like you're planning (on that note, it really wouldn't hurt you to practice more. You know, actually put in some effort. You can play pretty well if you practice from time to time). Well, even without regular practice, you'll end up in symphony orchestra for junior and senior year. You're going to also be in pit orchestra for two musicals, Les Misérables freshman year and Once Upon a Mattress senior year. Fantastic job on choosing to be in pit, by the way. Those are going to be some great experiences and especially senior year you'll become really great friends with other pit members.

Speaking of friends, you're going to become friends with this guy named Kyle at least twice before it really sticks and you become bffs. It would've been great if you could have had the foresight to stay in contact all through high school, but it all worked out in the end, so I won't give you too much grief about it. It would be really helpful though if you could write some sort of note telling us when exactly we became friends. It's a question we've debated about many times.

I suppose I should also give you a bit of advice. The main thing I want to say: you should actually put more effort into school! Now, I know you don't really have to try that hard to get good grades. That makes it really easy to just slide on by, but imagine how great you could be if you really put in some effort. Let's see, Chemistry for example. You'll take Chemistry sophomore year and you'll actually put in effort and do some studying for that class and to this day you'll remember the satisfaction of memorizing the periodic table, balancing equations, and acing the final after all the hard work. You really should have tried it more. Oh, also, AP US History? Yeah, do the reading more than a handful of times. (And speaking of history classes, when you're in college please do not think it's a good idea to give history another try... it won't end well... yeah, too late, I know.) The other piece of advice I want to convey to you is just chill out. Calm down a little! Not about everything of course, I encourage you to be just as passionate and crazy as ever about Harry Potter. But, you know, don't worry so much about what other people think of you. Relax a bit, also open up a bit more. Talk to more people in class, go out a bit more, lighten up! This may sound weird now, but it turns out it's not that hard to talk to people whom you don't know too well. Of course, this is coming after nearly nine more years of life experience, so I shouldn't be too hard on you. (Wow... nine years, you're getting up there in age, eh? ... and apparently also have become Canadian.)

Well, little Christina, I think that's all I have to say right now. You're currently living in France (working as an English assistant at a high school) and you're leaving tomorrow to go to Cambridge for the weekend to visit your friend Simone. She's a foreign exchange student from Germany who you'll become friends with your junior year and then five years later will be visiting in England, where she's going to school. Life... right?

Best wishes,
Older Christina

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday has done a lot of changing

Christina: I love your song choices! Especially The Killers and Coldplay. They really ::are:: good. Deal with it : )

Cassie: I don't know why this has not happened. My dragon-sense is tingling. This must be rectified. Also, your letters are awesome.

So, for this post, I really, REALLY wanted to pull a Cassie and reveal an actual letter to myself in the present, written in the past. I have several such letters, all stored away in the safety of the Internets on my online journal (it's a Xanga... don't judge, ok?)--OR SO I THOUGHT. Somehow, the password I have saved for it is wrong. It's just all wrong. And I have no idea what email I attached the account to, so I have no recovery for it. I filled out the little form thingy requesting lifesaving password recovery assistance, but I am forcing myself to consider the possibility that my eight years' worth of journaling are lost. ::quiet sob::

Anyway. Now that I have exhausted my time reserves for the night sifting through password attempt after password attempt, I am going to write a letter to my Past Self. I'll pick... 13-year-old Carlyn, in the middle of her eighth-grade year.

Hey, Self!

It's Me! Or... Us! It's Us!

We're writing to us from the future.

Or, rather, I'm writing to you from the future.

Let's see what I can remember about you as you are right now...

As I type this, your family is doing really well. Grandma and Grandpa Campbell have both passed away, but Grandma Powell is still alive and kicking. Call her more often; it makes her life much happier. Besides, she's going to give you her Beetle. Calling once in a while wouldn't kill you.

Mom and Dad are doing really well, even though you and Ellie are off at college (Ellie went to Kent, like they did). They enjoy each other more than ever. Dad comes up with some really silly-sounding hobbies. You're going to like sharing them with him. Mom works hard at her job, and she's really good at what she does.

Oh yeah, and we all have tattoos now. Dad was the first to get one, and now he's the one with the fewest. His is "Good Grief" in kanji. Mom's first was "Good Grief" in braille down her leg, and her second was birds on her shoulder, just like you'll have on your shoulder and Ellie will have on hers. Ellie has a total of nine (ten? more?) tattoos of various natures. By the time you turn 22, you'll have five.

You're going to do some fun traveling! You've been to Australia already. In fact, you probably remember a lot of that trip. Savor those memories; they're gone by the time you write this letter. I remember throwing up on a boat and being friends with people I didn't like. But you will stay vaguely in touch with a bunch of (other) people from that trip! In a couple years, you'll discover something called Facebook. It will get important. That'll all make sense before long.

The summer you turn 16, you're going to go to Europe with the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony (which you'll get into! I know it doesn't seem like it now). It's going to be a great time. Later, you'll travel to Mexico with your youth group to teach English. That'll be fun, too. By the time I write this, most of the people you went with will be married, and some will have kids. This will freak you out.

That reminds me--music. You're not going to do that forever. You'll go to college for it, but then you'll realize that your heart isn't really in it. So you'll spend some time floundering around, but you'll settle on psychology for your major. And then you'll go to graduate school for counseling, and you'll learn a lot and enjoy yourself quite a bit.

Right now, you're in the eighth grade! In the future, you will look back on this as the worst, loneliest, most awkward year of your life. So, if you're happy now, know that it only gets better from here.

Don't get me wrong--there will be sad times. Heartbreaking times, even. You'll fall in love for the first time, and it will end in utter despair. You'll be only partially functional for a little while. It's going to suck A LOT. But eventually, you will heal and be much, much better than you were before. You'll learn more about yourself than you knew there was to learn. And you will love again.

Goodness, you will love again.

And she--yes, she; you're going to have to trust me on this one--is going to be incredible. She will be everything you ever needed. She will bring her complete personhood to your complete personhood, and you will make each other better. There's really nothing else I can say that will prepare you for this. The timing will work out exactly right. One word of advice: Don't be afraid to write that note telling her how you feel.

This all leads me to an important point. You're going to be an atheist. I know, I know--this thought fills you with revulsion and terror. But it will all be okay. You will learn beautiful, wonderful things about yourself and the world, and these things will lead you to new, challenging, and exciting views on what life is and what it means. It seems impossible, but I assure you, it will happen. You will be fulfilled and happy and wanting for nothing.

You have an interesting life ahead of you, Young Self. Don't be afraid of changing; it will make you into who you were always going to become.

I am so very excited for and proud of you for all the progress you're going to make.

Live this life, Kid. You get one chance; don't screw it up for us! (I know you won't. : ) )

-Carlyn, 22.5

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dear Monday

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Carlyn - How have we never geeked out over Anne McCaffrey and Pern? Why is this not a thing that has happened? This must be rectified.

Christina - Thank you for your list! I love hearing new music, and sunny day songs are helpful right now.

So, this week's topic was actually a meme than went around on YouTube a couple years ago that I tried to bring to Facebook but wasn't terribly successful at. But that's not what prompted the topic this week. What prompted the topic was clearing out my desk and finding a letter that went the other way -- from my 11-year-old self to my 21-year-old self.

When I was in the sixth grade, my talented and gifted class did a project where we wrote letters to ourselves ten years into the future, put them in the care of our teacher, and ten years later (which was a year and a half ago), he mailed them to us. So because I've already done the ten points, I'd like to respond to that letter. Which means I'll have to type it out for you . . . you're welcome.

Feb 2, 2000
Dear Me,

In ten years, you will get this letter. This is your life now in 2000. I (you) am in 6th grade at Hillsdale Middle School. I am in Accent. My (your) best friend is your (mine) cousin, Heather. You are in the spelling bee. My favorite food is German Pancake. I play French Horn and piano. My favorite song is the Tarantella. I love acting. I am in 4 different plays right now. My favorite books are the Harry Potter books. The fourth one is about to come out, My penpal is Kate Steen. My dream was to go to Bowling Green State University and get a PhD in drama like Dad. Mom's a minister. Matthew's 15 and Jeffrey's 8. They are annoying!! I am in soccer and softball. Also an acting class. I wonder, are Matthew and Jeffrey still very, very annoying or just a little annoying? Oh well. They're my brothers and I have to put up with them. Dang. have you met up with M.B. (I can't write his name out) yet? I hope it works out all right. I hope your life is good.

Signed Yourself,
Cassandra Marie Guion
aka Cassie

[and on the back, I drew a self-portrait, you know, in case I'd forgotten what I thought I looked like back then]

So now, I'd like to respond to that letter.

Feb 20, 2012
Dear (11-year-old) Me,

Twelve years ago, you wrote me a letter. A year and a half ago, I received it. and I just want you to know, I forgive your fault tense agreement and questionable grammar at times because, hey, you were eleven. And that's not a courtesy I extend to a lot of people, but you know. We're the same person and all.

It is 2012, and I (you) am 23 years old. I have fond memories of Accent (although I still cringe every time I see a copy of Gathering of Days). I'm not in school at the moment. I graduated in December of 2010 with a BAC in Theatre from BGSU, just like Dad. And now I work for a youth theatre group here in Bowling Green as their Interim Managing Director. I've directed three shows for them, and taught lots of classes akin to Story Theatre and Hal McCuen, and it's really the best thing I could be spending my life doing. 23 and getting paid for doing what I love? That's the dream, girl. I'm looking at grad schools right now, Boston specifically, for a masters in Children's Literature, so that I can combine more of the things I love into my career.

I don't play the French Horn or the piano too much these days, but I do play in the handbell choir in church. I don't remember if you've started playing handbells yet, but it's lots of fun. I've also given up soccer and softball, but the acting thing is, obviously, still going on. Good on ya for the four shows at once. Keep it up. It'll be stressful, it'll be crazy, but it'll be worth it and your life will never be dull.

My best friend at the moment is Meghan Johannes. You'll meet her sophomore year of college when you pledge a fraternity (don't give me that look -- just trust me on this, okay? I'm older and wiser than you are. Things change. Also, theatre fraternity.), and she'll be the best friend you've always dreamed of having. You'll even write her into a novel. Oh, yeah. We've started writing. A lot. Five novels finished so far. Nothing published yet, but I'm working on it. We'll make it happen.

Harry Potter is still one of my all time favorite book series. The final book came out . . . God, five years ago. Man, I'm old. You'll love them. They'll change your life. Also, long about 2003, you're going to start writing fanfiction. That's good, it's really going to help you grow as an author, but might I make a suggestion? Don't post the first things you write online, okay? Just . . . save yourself the embarrassment.

Sorry to say I haven't had much contact with Katie Steen in the past 12 years. I think we fell out of penpalism shortly after your letter. In fact, there's not much contact left with the Illinois folk or the Chesterville folk or really the people you're going to graduate from high school with. On the one hand, that might be a little sad, and yeah, I get nostalgic sometimes, but the friends you're going to make in college? Those are going to go the distance. And they're going to have miles more in common with you. Keep Kevin around though. Right. You don't like Kevin right now. You hate his guts at the moment. That'll change. Again, don't give me that look. I'm serious. Kevin Obrecht is the only person from your class you keep in regular contact with. Life goes down crazy paths. Just let it.

About Matthew and Jeffrey . . . how do I say this? They are neither very, very annoying or just a little annoying. They're actually two of your best friends. It takes awhile, but I promise you they end up being worthwhile people.

And about MB. Oh, sweet little 11-year-old me, you make me smile in a sad sort of way. I'm just going to put this out there straight for you and not sugarcoat it, okay? You'll never talk to Michael again, not really. A passing message exchanged on MySpace early in college, but other than that, no. And you know what? It's time to let him go, kid. It's been two years, and that's life. He was your best friend, but your path lies a different way. Let me assure you on this. And I'll let you in on a secret:

In December of 2009, you're going to start to get to know a guy. His name is Chase. In early 2010, he's going to ask you out. You'll be hesitant to say yes because it's not the crazy romantic sweep you off your feet love story you've always dreamed of, but go for it. Because in fifteen days, Chase and I are going to celebrate our two year anniversary, and I couldn't be happier. So I can say with confidence that it's going to happen to you someday.

Keep your chin up, girl. Life isn't always going to be an easy road for you, but you'll come out on top. Oh! And when you have the opportunity to start a collab blog with these four girls you'll meet on the internet, take it! Because it's been a year almost, and I've had a blast. Not to mention getting to know these people better.

Signed Yourself,
Cassandra Marie Guion

Girls, I'll see you later.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week 50: Dear Self . . .

Well, girls, as we near the end of this project, it's all about reflection in a way. At least, it is for me. So I thought I'd give us a topic that I first encountered a couple years ago.

Write a letter to your younger self, say about 10-12 years in the past. What are ten things you'd like your younger self to know? Nuggets of wisdom, things you wish someone had told you, etc. Take this time to think about who you were then and how you've changed since. I look forward to them!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday's Top Ten "Songs for a beautiful day"

I love lists, so I love this week's theme! I'm pretty bad at getting my thoughts down on paper; I get all caught up in what to say first, how to say it, etc. and I like writing lists because, for me, I don't really have to think about how to say something, I can just say it.

There's something wonderful about beautiful, sunny days mixed with a great song. For me there are few things that can compare to that feeling you get when a great songs comes up on shuffle while you're walking outside/driving/riding a bus/what have you. So, I present to you my top ten list:

Songs for a beautiful day (in no particular order)

1. "Eddie's Gun"- The Kooks - link

2. "Mr. Brightside"- The Killers - link

*My all time favorite song of all time. OF ALL TIME. (I love it so much that I feel the need to drag out old, tired memes.)

3. "Baby Fratelli" - The Fratellis - link

4. "Blacking Out The Friction" - Death Cab For Cutie - link

*Not as peppy as the others, especially good for driving and bus rides.

5. "Ready My Mind" - The Killers - link

6. "Time to Pretend" - MGMT - link

7. "Hurts Like Heaven" - Coldplay - link

*As David Tennant would say, "Coldplay.... are really good. Deal with it."

8. "Friday Night" - The Darkness - link

9. "Crooked Teeth" - Death Cab For Cutie - link

*Just brings me right back to spring/summertime in high school.

10. "12:51" - The Strokes - link

Enjoy! Maybe you'll even find some new music!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday is... mystical

Christina: What a wonderful trip! I love your photos.

Cassie: Good list. I read Hunger Games the other day--amazing, as I expected it to be. I don't know why/how it took me so long to read it! Far overdue.

And now, my Top Ten List! Honestly, in no particular order, the best Mystical Creatures:

10: Ghosts. They're all over the place, in gazillions of different cultures. They're evil, good-natured, vengeful, and leftovers of real, live human beings. And, from my very well-researched (read: completely un-researched) point of view, one of the most commonly encountered mystical creatures.

9. Angels. Probably almost as widely spread as ghosts, angels have lots of purposes. They can be our sources of guidance and enlightenment, or they can bring news of the Immaculate Birth of Yonder Messiah. Any way you spin it, angels are all over the place and very important to those who believe in them.

8. Demons. Right on par with angels in terms of belief and import, demons can be torturous or indwelling. They are the attributed cause for many a possession in cultures all over the world.

7. Chthulu. I don't really know anything about chthulu, but I do know that its/his name has the same first four letters as the word "chthonic," which is pronounced in ignorance of the first "ch" and means "of or pertaining to the underworld." So Chthulu is pretty cool in my book.

6. Unicorns. The animal Noah left behind. Horses with horns. Awesome.

5. Vampires. The sparkly ones don't count. Reference: Underworld, other reputable vampire movies.

4. Werewolves. Jacob doesn't count. Reference: Underworld, other reputable werewolf movies.

3. Fairies. Tiny little mythical beings. Reference: Pan's Labyrinth, other reputable fairy movies.

2. Perfect Mates. They simply don't exist. You can have someone just perfect for you, as I'm pretty sure I do, but no one human being is perfect. It simply does not happen. If you want a perfect significant other, try pursuing Chthulu. More tentacles, less imperfection. Or something.

1. Dragons. I was raised on dragons, in the late Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. In this series especially, they're awesome: they bond to one human exclusively, forming a lifelong telepathic bond and teaming up to fight the forces of evil (embodied here as Thread, burning evil that falls from the sky and must be burned to be vanquished).

So that's my Top Ten List. As I write it, I have had one (read: more than one) beer, so it may be just a little bit silly and more than a little bit underthought. But I enjoyed it, and I hope you do too!

Happy last few weeks, all! I'll miss you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Has Monday mentioned that she reads a lot?

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Carlyn - I do not envy you your psychopharmachology or whatever it's called class. My brain revolted just from half a sentence. Good luck!

Christina - I'm eaten alive with jealousy! Your photos are absolutely breathtaking and beautiful! I can't imagine what it's like seeing all that in person!

I don't know if I've mentioned this or not, but I read a lot. I've been right in the thick of it lately, with my story theatre classes and my twelve mile long list of books to read for them, as well as the children's novels I'm going through at work for possible book discussions later in the spring. It's February 13th, and I've read 13 books so far this month. Granted, most of them have been around or under 200 pages, but still.

And you might think, with all that reading, that the last thing I'd want to do would be to talk about books some more, but if you think that, then you really haven't been paying attention, have you? Let's talk top ten book series!

Yes, this is my top ten of the week. You get plenty of top ten book lists, but I haven't read a lot of top ten series. Now, here are my criteria:

1. "Top Ten" is a mixture for me of best, favorite, and most influential. In other words, I'm taking all that into account, as well as how the series functions as long-form storytelling and how well connected and maintained it is.

2. I'm defining "series" as three or more books dealing with a continuing or connected storyline. Also, I have to have read all of them.To that end, Honorable Mentions!

Honorable Mentions:
The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy by Jessica Day George and the Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore. Why honorable mentions? Because the third of each doesn't technically come out til later this year. But in each case, the first two of the series have been masterfully done, and I have the highest hopes for the final installments.

10. Ann Rinaldi's Quilt Trilogy
Growing up, I read a lot of fantasy (you'll see a trend in the rest of the list). My historical fiction reading was limited to American Girl and Dear America books (which, don't get me wrong, are both excellent, and probably would have made a Top 15 list). But this series was my first foray into historical fiction for an older audience, and I have to hand it to Rinaldi; she knows what she's doing. She knows how to make history interesting and how to really bring the characters to life. I also love that the series spans three generations and doesn't always give the characters the happy endings we want for them. In a YA series, that takes guts.

9. The 39 Clues series
The brain child of Rick Riordan, this series has 11 books in it, written by, I think, 8 authors, and has spawned a sequel series that will eventually have six books. Geared toward a slightly younger audience, the story was nevertheless complicated and intricate, if at times slightly predictable and not quite believable. It's a dangerous thing, asking so many authors to write in one world, because not all of them are going to do such a great job (*coughPeterLerangiscough*), but overall I really enjoyed this series, and I'm anxiously awaiting the next book's release.

8. The Arrows of the Queen trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
So, I have absolutely no idea how many books Lackey has written in her Valdemar universe. I know for sure I haven't read all of them. But I've read a decent amount, and whenever I come back to the world, I come back to the books that first plunged me in. This is one of those series that my mother introduced me to in high school, so it holds a special place in my heart for that. But it's also an intricate and unique world with very strong characters.

7. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
 I am constantly trying to find the words to describe these books and I am constantly and consistently failing. I have no idea how to do them justice and no idea what to compare them to. Frail and dreamlike and haunting are the words that keep coming to mind. I encountered these in high school and early college, and the last book came out the same year as Deathly Hallows, and I wanted it almost as badly. So that might tell you something.

6. The 500 Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey
Yes, she has two on the list. The woman is brilliant and multi-faceted. This is one of two fairy tale series of hers, and the reason it's here and not the other is because this series is stronger as a whole. The number is up to six now, I believe, and they're all wonderful. Lackey takes fairy tales places that I would never think to take them, and she combines mythology and thematic elements seamlessly. I love this interconnected world she's created, and I love that she's touched on so many different folklore traditions.

5. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede
These books were my childhood. My parents read them to me when I was eight, and they influenced basically everything I did with my imagination through the age of 13. I reread these books almost every year, and they are entirely timeless. It takes a special author to write a series that has a villain made out of jelly and weapons like the Frying Pan of Doom and still tells an incredibly powerful story.

4. The Giver Trilogy by Lois Lowry
Sadly, the fact that The Giver has two companion novels is an often overlooked fact. And it's really a shame because they're both wonderful. I mean, Messenger changed the way I read novels. It's the simplicity of the stories that really makes them great. They're clean and simple and elegant, really, all while dealing with very complex issues in a very graceful and real way.

3. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Are amazing, really. What else is there to say? I've said it before and I'll say it again, Suzanne Collins is a masterful author for the incredibly honest and complicated way that she portrays love and relationships. The series leaves me on the edge of my seat as I'm reading it, completely caught up in its world and its characters, and it's positively exhilarating.

2. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
The narration. Oh my goodness, the narration. I really do think that's what sets these books apart from so many. It's the way that Riordan balances "I'm an adolescent boy and I think like an adolescent boy" with "I'm a demigod and I have to go save the world now." Also, each novel is so intricately done! Riordan's done his homework. To pull from and keep track of so much mythology is just downright impressive, and what it all comes down to in the end . . . brilliantly done.

1. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
It seems almost like cheating to put Harry Potter in the number 1 slot. Honestly, a part of me feels like I should have some brand new, non mainstream, scarcely heard of series for my number one, but then I look at my criteria and there's really no other choice. Some of the series above may have more intricate stories, they may be more haunting, they may have a stronger pull into the world. But it's Harry Potter that changed the course of my life. I wouldn't be who I am today without this series. And a lot of that is because of how masterful a storyteller JK Rowling is. Each book is entirely connected with the rest. Tiny things that get barely a mention end up being crucial to the way the story plays out. The characters are real and relate-able, the books are highly quotable, and yes, it's made me laugh out loud. Add to all that the fact that this series changed my life? No contest. Number one.

I look forward to your lists.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week 49: Top Ten

All right, girls! I want to see some Top Ten lists! I don't much care what your topic is. It can be Top Ten Favorite Tropical Fish or Top Ten Reasons Cheesiest Pick Up Lines or Top Ten Reasons Why Downton Abbey needs to be released faster, but I want to read some top ten lists this week!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The last Friday JAB...

My last JAB, I really can't believe it! It seems like it was just a couple months ago, not nearly a whole year, that we were talking about this and thinking about when to start! I was still writing my thesis and completely freaking out about how I would ever finish... and now it's a year later. I'm really going to miss hearing from you guys each week. It's become an engrained part of my weeks, reading what you've got to say each week. :)

Let's see, nothing too eventful happened during the actual week, but I did go to Amsterdam last weekend with my friend Beth, so I can talk about that!

Amsterdam at wintertime
Amsterdam was beautiful during the winter. I arrived by train on the day which, most likely, will have received the most snowfall all year. As the train was approaching Amsterdam, I watched the level of snow slowly build up until there was about five centimeters on the ground. It was very pretty (especially on the first day when it was still perfect and white- see photo above), but also very cold and wet. I'd love to go back to Amsterdam in the spring or summer when it's sunny and warm and it's easier/more enjoyable to ride bikes around the city.

I've been to Bruges, Belgium twice now and the architecture there reminds me of the architecture in Amsterdam. The main difference I'd point out, though, is the height of buildings. Belgium has the same distinct, side-by-side buildings, but the ones in Amsterdam are about two stories taller than Belgium's, from what I noticed. I love how each building is a different color and has a slightly different appearance. And they all have so many windows!

Pigeons and snow 

Some of the places Beth and I went included the Van Gogh Museum (which I LOVED, but couldn't take any pictures in- this is probably actually for the best since it really puts you in the moment), the Amsterdam Museum (which was slightly informative and very much weird), the Anne Frank House (which was very moving and sobering), and the Cat Cabinet (a museum dedicated entirely to cats!). The Cat Cabinet was so much fun; it was full of cat statues, paintings, posters, and anything else you could think of involving cats really. And also: real cats! There are six cats living there, according to the website, but we only saw two while we were there. There was also a cat who lived in our hotel (who had a cute little stubby tail) and cats in two of the restaurants we ate in. Amsterdam loves cats, apparently. And I love cats too, if I hadn't made that clear.

We learned that Amsterdam has over 200 bridges, here's one of them.
We were definitely in Amsterdam during its off-season for tourism, it was very easy to get in everywhere we went- museums, restaurants, etc. We also stayed in a more adult hotel, so we didn't see the traditional college students there to partake in Amsterdam's... delicacies, so to speak. Though they did just pass a law that you have to be a Netherlands citizen in order to partake, so we wouldn't have been able to even if we wanted!

All in all it was a really nice trip and one of the best parts was getting to spend the weekend in Europe with one of my best friends!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday is classy

Christina: I have never been to Amsterdam! I have heard it is a must-see place, though. How very cool!

Cassie: I'm glad to hear auditions are going well!

So. My JAB week. My last JAB week.

I'm not sure what to write about!

So I guess I'll write about my classes and how they're going so far.

I should preface: 75% of my classes this semester are taught by the same professor, Dr. N. The remaining class is taught by Dr. E. I'm not sure why that was important to say at the get-go, but I should also say that I am delighted to have, for the first time possibly ever, a professor in every class who actually knows the material. Whether he or she is an apt teacher of that material is almost (upcoming pun intended) immaterial; for once, they actually know what they're talking about. This is freaking unprecedented.

Okay. So. My classes.

On Mondays from 6:30 to 9:10, I have psychopathology with Dr. N. So far, this class is just a load of fun (for real). We get to learn about all sorts of mental disorders, how they're classified, how to start treating them, etc. Dr. N knows this stuff, and he is a very good teacher of it. And my classmates are pretty awesome, in that they also know a lot and are willing to discuss it. So it's pretty great.

On Wednesdays from 6:30 to 9:10, I have techniques of group counseling with Dr. E. Now, I'm not sure yet whether Dr. E will be an effective professor or try to treat class as an overgrown group therapy session, but this woman knows her group counseling. She actually likes--nay, prefers!--group counseling to individual counseling, which is relatively unheard of in this profession. And, at the very least, I find her enthusiasm contagious, and the texts are enlightening. It gets a bit old when she reads directly from the Word doc outline of notes (most of which consists of direct quotes from the reading anyway), but it is a good time to catch up on reading or Fruit Ninja on my iPad.

Thursday from 2:00 to 4:40 is psychopharmacology, again with Dr. N. This class is, broadly speaking, about psychotropic drugs (that is, drugs that affect the mind) and how they do what they do. It's hella intimidating. I'm hella glad I didn't go into pharmacy, as did some of my more ambitious friends. I'm enjoying it so far, and Dr. N is a good teacher of this material as well, but pretty soon it's going to turn from "This is the brain! It has nerves!" to "Now, acetylcholine is an agonist for this and that and OMG SO MANY THINGS TO REMEMBER WHAT IS GOING ON." (The latter was in my reading for tomorrow's class, and I really don't know whether acetylcholine is an agonist for anything. The only reason I know I spelled "acetylcholine" right is because there is no red squiggly line under it as I type.) So that should be fun.

After that, Thursdays from 5:00 to 9:00 is spent in practicum. This is where we get to the meat of counseling--I get to see actual clients. I get to influence actual people, with actual problems, who are going to come to me for an actual session to get actual therapy. I don't have a client yet, but many of my classmates do. I feel pretty decently prepared to do a pretty decent job once I do get a client, as long as I don't get thrown a curveball.

(Example of a curveball: One of my friends got a client who had previously been in therapy with an older student who graduated and therefore passed his clientele onto younger student counselors. When last the old counselor saw Client, things were going ostensibly well. But then, during my friend A's first session with Client [his first-ever client], Client disclosed that he had attempted suicide during the intermission between counselors. Cue faculty supervisor intervention, etc. And as if that weren't enough, in their third session together, Client [a minor] disclosed that his alcoholic mother's boyfriend had punched him. Cue calls to Child Protective Services, etc. My friend A is feeling just an eeeeensy bit like he was tossed into the deep end hitched to a cinderblock.)

So that's where I am. I'll have an update in the upcoming weeks about getting a client, if the Fates have me in kind sight.

And if the Fates are being very kind, my first session will not include disclosures of self-harm.

Happy days to you all!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday has spent much of her recent time reading...

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

So, I spent a lot of last week's post talking about the things I would normally talk about in a JAB post, in terms of my stress levels, but that doesn't mean I don't have things to talk about this week, too!

Thankfully, my stress levels have decreased noticeably since a week ago. This is due to many small changes -- my classes are now closed, so my rosters have settled; one class is at least two weeks ahead of schedule; we had one very successful afternoon of one act auditions, which provides good hope for tomorrow; and I got my first paycheck from the new job, so was able to do the grocery shopping I'd been putting off for about a week. And there's something about full cupboards that helps put minds at ease.

My classes and Horizon projects are my life at the moment, so I hope you won't mind if I go on about them. Who knows? Some of it might be interesting to you.

I am teaching two Story Theatre classes, whose objective is to adapt part of a work of children's literature for the stage. One class has nothing to report but a list of books still forty titles long. The other, though, is miles ahead of schedule and has their top five selections already in place, ready to choose their selection next meeting. They have a tough choice, between The World's Worst Fairy Godmother by Bruce Coville, The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forrester, Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer, "The Lost Girls" by Jane Yolen, and any of the Harry Potter books. Which means I have five books to read this week and find possible scenes from!

My original story class is formulating an interesting world. I was fearful for the first few moments of discussion that they were headed down the same path as every group of twelve year olds seems to come up with -- secret super powers and conspiracies. But after some gentle steering away from that, they've created a world that is actually very interesting to me. They've imagined a United States 600 years in the future, after we have reached the pinnacle of technological advancement and realized that all quality of life had subsequently disappeared. So society destroyed itself and built a new world out of the rubble, returning to pre-industrial society, where use of technology is taboo. The rest of it is too complicated and unsettled to get into, but the core idea is very interesting to me.

And, as I said, we had our first day of auditions for one acts today, and 20 students showed up! We'd like to get about 35-40 altogether, so if tomorrow pans out and is equally successful, we'll meet out goal! Which is very encouraging, especially since this project is brand new and my baby, and things like this are always a crapshoot in terms of how many students and what ages will show up.

And that's pretty much my life at the moment. Casting and scheduling and reading recommended children's books and typing up script selections. But the balls in the air are now at a manageable level. Also, I've started watching Downton Abbey, and I love it, which is bad, because I only have one episode left in season one, and that's as much as they have on Netflix. Why does British TV have to be so good???

The boyfriend has also been reading The Hunger Games. He's about 3/4 of the way through Catching Fire, and it's been immensely amusing to hear his commentary as he goes along. I can't wait for the movie!

I hope life around the globe is going well for all of you!

A late Friday...

I'm sorry for not posting in Friday! I was in Amsterdam Friday-Sunday with my friend Beth and I completely forgot to post before I left. I remembered in the hotel room, but it was too late at that point... sigh. I live about four and a half hours away from Amsterdam by train and Beth was in Amsterdam for a business trip. She was able to stay the weekend after her business was done and we got to have a mini vacation! Neither of us ever thought we'd end up in Amsterdam together and it was a lot of fun. We also happened to end up in Amsterdam on what could end up being the one weekend out of the year when they got lots and lots of snow. Well, lots of snow for Amsterdam- about 5 inches or so. The trains and public transport were just a complete mess, so I think we got a unique Amsterdam experience!

Okay, well stress, let's see. At the beginning of the weekend my stress level was very low because I had a whole fun vacation weekend to look forward to and I was going to get to see one of my best friends! I also already had all my lessons ready for Monday, so I wouldn't have to worry about any work over the weekend. The train delays and weather added a little bit of stress, but I knew I'd get where I needed to go eventually so I wasn't too stressed out about it all. A bit of stress did get added of course when I realized I'd forgotten my blog post, but I tried to not stress about it too much because I knew there wasn't anything I could do about it at the time. My stress right now is a bit higher because I have another week of work ahead of me and I need to plan some lessons. I also need to start preparing for the GRE in a more serious mindset and do some more grad school research. My assistantship will also be ending in about two and a half months, so I really need to think of options for the year before grad school starts (assuming I get in)! So all those little things mean that my stress level is probably about a 4 out of 10. Not too high, but still detectable.

Overall I think I deal with stress pretty well. In college I was the traditional procrastinator, so I suppose you could say stress was necessary for my work. Occasionally it would overwhelm me, but for the most part it helped me get my papers and projects done. I try not to let stress get the better of me because that won't help anyone really, will it?

And wow, is it seriously our last JAB this week? I can't believe how fast this went by!

Week 48: One last jab

All right, guys, it's our last JAB week of the year (of this project), and with five weeks left . . . we're dropping like flies.

I know people are busy and stressed and halfway around the world with spotty internet, but it would mean a lot to me if this didn't just die a fizzled-out death at the end. Let's end strong and put as much effort (me included; I've been slacking) into the end of this project as we did in the beginning!

Thanks, girls. I can't believe it's almost over. Here's to going out with a bang!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday is a point on a stress continuum

Christina: What a story! I’m glad nothing worse befell!

Cassie: Post-Its are amazing. They have saved me in many a stressful situation!

My current stress level is perhaps 3.5-4 out of ten. I’m a solidly chill person, and I’m pretty good about dealing with things as they come to me, so it generally takes a lot to knock me above about a 6 on the stress scale.

A 0 would be the first day of maybe three days of knowing I have absolutely no obligations—nothing currently on my plate, and several days ahead of me that I know I will be in the same mindset—and the freedom to spend my time doing what I want with the people I want to be with. It would also involve knowing I have some structure and obligations to look forward to, so I don’t have to deal with the stress that comes with having nothing to work for and no prospects.

A 5 would be the third day of maybe five days of semi-closely-packed scheduling obligations, interspersed with time set aside to work on preparations for those obligations. I’ve already successfully gotten through two days of hard work, and I have several more to go, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I feel prepared to tackle what’s coming.

A 10 (mind, I’m not sure I can recall a time when I’ve been at a 10) would be the third hour of maybe several weeks of overscheduled, ambiguous obligations, without enough time between obligations to be prepared for the next. I’ve started full-speed-ahead, but it’s only been three hours, and I’m already beat, and I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next few weeks, or even what I’ll be doing, even though I know there’s a ton going on. In fact, even thinking about the 10 is making me think more stressfully about what I do actually have going on at this moment in time. So I will take a step back.

Right now, I have a clearly delineated list of things that need to be done before tomorrow, and my classes are getting into their full swing, and I feel prepared to handle whatever they can throw at me. That, and I have a great weekend to look forward to—my eight-month-iversary with that lovely hardware store employee is this Friday, so I’m going to my college town to spend some time with her (so, Cassie, I’ll be in town this weekend : P).

And with that, I’m going to go get things done before tomorrow so I can have a stress-free night and look forward to my weekend.

Hope all is well with you all! Have a very pleasant February-beginning.