October Snow Storm

I thought today might be a nice day to share some photographs from the snow storm on Saturday and the aftermath on Sunday.

I took a very long bike ride today–over seven miles–and the entire town is just littered with downed limbs and wires. It looks the way I imagined the town to be after Hurricane Irene–nature utterly ripped apart by the weather. It’s so easy to look at a tall, wide, old tree and think, nothing short of a chainsaw could take this sucker down, and then along comes some frozen water and does the job without a wood-chipper and electricity. I’d have taken a picture, but I was far more focused on not having a branch land on me or letting any

But when you ignore all of the damage and the fact that the parks in town are going to be looking a little sparse, it’s incredibly beautiful. I heard today that it hasn’t snowed this early and with this ferocity since the Civil War, and to think that I’m alive to see this awesome (and I mean that in the awe-inspiring sense of the word, and not the cool-dude meaning) feat of nature that generations have missed is spectacular. The juxtaposition of the bright leaves against the snow, and the fallen beauty of destroyed trees is oddly lovely.

And I even have to admit that a huge part of me actually enjoyed the power outage. I like finally being able to use all of those half-burnt advent candles for something–watching those various lengths of pink, white, and deep purple wax jammed into candleholders and set up next to the stove so that we can actually see what we’re cooking. I like eating “Saturday night supper” with my parents, a meal I haven’t had in years. Nothing says New England like franks and beans, with a little bacon thrown in, of course. I liked contorting my neck into odd positions so that I could read lying down while holding a flashlight. And even though I was quite cold, it was fun having to pile loads of blankets on the bed and wearing long underwear, thick flannel pajamas, and my favorite flannel nightgown (It buttons up to my chin and comes down to mid shin. It may not be hip or very becoming, but it’s absolutely perfect) over all of that. I liked having all the cats huddled even closer to me than usual as we slept. But I must admit that it was wonderful to wake up and discover that we had power and–much more importantly–internet back.

Here’s the scene during the storm:

And here is Sunday morning:

Just for comparison’s sake, here’s a picture of one of the huge storms last winter:

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

The Day After Snowtober

After over fifteen hours without power and a day driving around town through the snow, looking at all of the downed trees, power lines, and telephones, it’s nice to be able to use the internet and sleep in a house that is around fifty degrees. I had to wear long underwear and two pairs of flannel pajamas to bed. The floral patterns clashed in the most spectacular manner, and I throughly amused my next door neighbor when I stepped outside in the morning wearing that ensemble, a bright pink bathrobe with hearts all over it purchased when I was eight*, and flowered boots.

*I keep announcing that I will replace it, as the sleeves are incredibly short and it looks ridiculous on anyone over the age of ten, but I never do. At this point, it’s just become so amusing to me that I couldn’t care less about what other people think.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

October Snow

 

 
This is Cecelia, bringing you a guest post today because Ella’s power is o-u-t out by virtue of the lovely storm you see above. That’s right, it is two days before Halloween and Mother Earth is already teasing us with promises of a beautifully arctic winter. I was trudging back from brunch, clutching a library book and several apples for later consumption, and this wonderful curtain of blissful white descended on Old Campus.

No matter how old I get, snow will never lose its magic. It comes and my heart dances and my eyes light up and I shrug off my hood and swirl around in an attempt to imitate the flakes. Mitten-clad freshmen rushed out of their entryways to take pictures or just to dance. It’s raining, now, and everything is a disgusting mess, but it’s worth it for the few hours of my favorite natural occurrence in the world.

 

 

 

 

The Results of Being Trapped

As it turns out, being locked in a room until five a.m. is an incredibly exhausting activity, especially if you weren’t feel well in the first place and hadn’t taken your medication. It will also give you chills and make you dizzy. In short, I don’t recommend it. You should also always check to see if a door has swelled before closing it tightly.

I would have very much liked to spend a portion day hanging out with Eliza instead of lying in bed, working and trying to warm up my hands.

In other news, why don’t we get Q.I. in America? It is seriously the best thing ever. I absolutely love it (and anything else involving the BBC and Stephen Fry). For those of you who don’t know, it’s a comedy quiz/chat show hosted by Stephen Fry with celebrity contestants.  Here’s one of my favorite episodes:

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Gets Locked in the Study ALL NIGHT LONG

I have just done something I have had nightmares about for ages.

No, I did not get kidnapped or have to watch Pippa be brutalized. I was also not forced to marry anyone against my will.

I did, however, lock myself inside of a room. The study, to be exact.

Somewhere around eleven thirty when Pippa called and I shut the door so that I could tell her SEKRIT things without being overheard and now, the wood in the door swelled, and now I can’t get it open. I’ve even tried that ridiculous thing where you put both feet on the wall to use all of your body weight (and also pretty much guaranteeing your general demise should the door spring open suddenly and your body go flying backwards into the wall). Nothing has worked.

But instead of going into full-blown panic mode, I’m mostly amused. I’ve written “I AM STUCK!!! PLEASE SAVE ME!!!” notes and slipped them under the door and out into the hall for someone to see when they wake up, and it’s not like I’m going to be stuck in here forever. It’ll just be until six a.m. And I can handle until six a.m.

It’s rather strange living out a nightmare. Being trapped is a lot less scary than I thought. My two biggest concerns are one, that Zelda will need to pee and she will refuse to use make-shift litter box I’ve made her (empty cardboard box that once held reams of paper, all the plastic things I could find to line it, and a ton of shredded paper) and two, that Zelda and I will sleep through the time while everyone else is up, and then we’ll be stuck in here until eight p.m. without food or a toilet. We do have drinks, though because I was smart enough to carry a whole carton of orange juice plus a glass when I first came in here hours ago.

In the meantime, I’m going to look up youtube videos of people trapped in elevators so that I can both give them proper empathy and feel better about my own plight.

Edit: This would be significantly easier if I hadn’t already spent pretty much the entire day in this same room. There would be things to EXPLORE.

Edit: After much yanking, the door finally opened at around five a.m. and I was able to sleep for a few hours. Zelda made an immediate trip to the litter box and proceeded to ignore me for many hours. I think she’s convinced I did this on purpose.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Real-Life Reactions to Tragedy and Cute Pictures of Baby Meerkats

I’m one of those people who is totally calm in the midst of a disaster.

Run away sailboat? No problem. I’ll concoct a plan and row the dingy.

Bus crash? Easy. I’ll get people to relax with the plethora of calming strategies I’ve learned over the years.

Bee sting? Bloody nose? Bad bicycle crash? Simple. Walk or limp calmly into the house or nearest location with a first aid kit and fix myself up. I’ve been locked in a garage with a mad hornet and not cried.

Death? Cancer? Alright. People need some comforting, I’m on it.

Unfortunately, this is not exactly a good thing. The gravity or sadness of the situation never hits me until later. For right now, I’m numb and pragmatic. It’s easy to be the calm one when other people are freaking out. It’ll just hit me later. Maybe a day from now or a week. It might even be a month or a year. But it’ll slam into me with the force of an eighteen wheeler carrying elephants, and I’ll breakdown. There will be tears and moping, just like everyone else the day of the incident.

And in a weird way, I feel tremendously guilty about this. I’m not supposed to be hit with adrenaline and start thinking of solutions when someone dies or gets cancer. I’m not supposed to think, Okay, it’s go time. Let’s do this. I’m supposed to mourn. This is the time for all the dramatics I seem to waste on stupid things like essays and airplanes. But no, that’s not the way my brain works. It’s never that I don’t care–I do tremendously– I’m just not showing it yet. Just give me some time. But for right now, could you use a cup of tea?

I’m sorry this is so scatterbrained tonight. We just learned that my maternal grandmother has bone cancer, and I’ve been busy collecting pictures of baby meerkats to show my mother and looking up trains to Florida.

I thought you all could do with some baby meerkat cuteness, too.

Aren’t their little, pink mouthes adorable. It makes me think of how Maxwell Perkins and his siblings looked as kittens when they had just been discovered by my cousin, abandoned in a hail storm in a boat by their feral mother. (I should tell the Max story at some point. It’s quite good. It involves benevolent pittbulls and bunk-beds.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

17-year-old Lola seems to have it all: an awesome best friend, a hot rocker boyfriend, and the coolest clothes. That is, until the dreaded Bell twins move back in next door. Cricket Bell is suddenly part of her life again, and her current relationship with Max seems to be developing some deep cracks. And what about the Marie Antoinette dress she’s making for the winter dance?

Stephanie Perkins’ sophomore novel is just as delightful and swoon-worthy as her 2010 Anna and the French Kiss, and readers who couldn’t get enough of Anna and Étienne St. Clair, will be thrilled that they make a reappearance that feels authentic and unforced.

Set against the backdrop of San Fransico, Perkins makes the city feel as dynamic as the characters themselves. You too will feel like you’re walking around the Castro district and living in an old Victorian just like Lola. One of the novel’s greatest strengths is how Perkins portrays Lola’s family. Lola has two gay dads, and by avoiding preaching about LGBTQ rights and presenting Lola’s family as perfectly normal, Perkins ends up makes a bigger statement. Additionally, unlike so many young adult fiction romances, Perkins’ characters are wonderfully realistic with legitimate shortcomings and quirks, and the love story unfolds in an incredibly lifelike manner.

It will be impossible to finish this novel without also falling in love with the boys and dreaming of creating outfits as awesome and daring as Lola’s. Move over Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins just might be the new queen of YA romance.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Cleaning Grey Matter Out of a Keyboard Is Not a Fun Task

Somedays, the writing comes easily. Other days, I feel like slamming my head repeatedly into the table while groaning dramatically.

Today fell on the latter side of the spectrum. But because I was a Starbucks, and not at my house, melodramatics weren’t exactly an option. I had also used Freedom to turn off my internet for the next three and a half hours, so I couldn’t even escape to the world of never ending news articles. I thought my head was going to explode.

It didn’t.

But I still spent a very large amount of time imagining what would happen if it actually did. Unfortunately, because I did not have the internet, I couldn’t come up with something very accurate. (How on earth would my skull shatter from the pressure of an exploding brain?) So I just thought about how the person next to me would look with bits of gray matter dripping down onto their glasses and keyboard. They were not going to be very pleased. No one likes organs on their face, and getting blood and tissue out of a keyboard is probably near impossible. And then I was going to scar the  little kids sitting at the counter for life.

After five minutes of this, I got back to work and chipped away at writing a review and working on a scene. It was not fun, but there were words written and about seventy percent of it was at east mediocre.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Dear 16-Year-Old Ella

Dear 16-Year-Old Me,

First of all, dry your tears and march your sorry self back from the street sign at the top of the street. It may feel like an escape right now and the New York City skyline is always pretty, but for God’s sake it’s nearly midnight, and no matter how far you run away, the hurt is not going to leave you. Besides, it’s your birthday, and you should not be spending it sitting on damp grass while your parents wonder where you are.

Things may suck now, but you haven’t seen nothin’ yet. Your life is about to collapse around you. Everything you’ve become obsessed with and are working towards—Yale, the perfect grades, a million activities, being president of CGI, having a boyfriend—is going to very nearly kill you. Literally. But you are a million times stronger than you think. You’re made of steel and diamonds, and you are going to learn to stop lying to yourself.

But before you discover exactly how strong you are, things are going to feel impossible. You’re going to try to jump out of windows and overdose on pills and cut yourself with razors and gouge a surprising amount of skin out of your left arm (you will see those scars everyday for years and hate yourself for it). You’re going to have panic attacks where you can’t breathe and think you’re going to die. You’ll get slapped with a million labels. They won’t just call you depressed and anxious. Now, there will be bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anorexia, ADHD, OCD. You’re going to have to leave school and a life that you’re equally in love with and hate to go to an outpatient clinic for close to six months. You will make the choice to leave, and it will be the right one. Trust your gut.

You’re going to learn that everyone has demons and that just because someone looks intimidating, it doesn’t mean that they are. Speak up whenever you can and offer people advice when you’re participating in the groups. Then, listen to what you’re saying and apply it to your own life. Stop being such a hypocrite. And don’t get yourself backed into a corner in the supply closet by that creepy boy. He will say awful things, and you’ll be too scared to yell.

That time your gym teacher told you that you were overweight if you could pinch an inch of skin on your hip is, honestly, one of the most ridiculous things ever. You need to eat more than one cup of yogurt a day, and don’t start pretending it’s a game. The weight that you will lose won’t be pretty. Your ribs are going to stick out, and your arms and legs will get incredibly weak. And if any of the traditional logic about the importance of nutrition doesn’t convince you, listen to this: None of your bras are going to fit anymore, and you will have to go back to wearing the ones you got when you were 14. It will be embarrassing. You will also have to constantly see doctors who will ask you all kind of questions, and your mom will get hyper-involved in your eating and drive you crazy.

You will also have to spend a week in a hospital. Don’t freak out about it, even when they draw your blood in the emergency room and drive you in an ambulance through a snowstorm. Instead, use the week to meet interesting people and collect observations for later writing. When they stick you in that windowless room without heating, a clock, a window, or a chair, do not hyperventilate. They will keep you in there longer. Also, stand up to that cow of a psychiatrist. She will be wrong about everything and unnecessarily cruel. Furthermore, don’t sit there silently when they try to force everyone to watch Sandlot even though one of the girls was once raped while the movie was playing. She will freak out the entire time, they won’t do anything about it, and you will regret not doing something. And wear your prettiest outfits the whole time you’re there, you’ll feel much better when you’re cute.

CGI will be what makes you want to come back to school. Return with all the glory of General MacArthur, but know that senior year is going to be rough. We the People will at first suck monkey balls, but then become your favorite thing ever. You will say stupid things in the process. Apologize for them. Your English teacher and class will make you so happy you want to cry. Trust her when she says good things about you. She will be the first teacher to really, truly like you without any ounce of pity. You will also win awards at Penn Model Congress, thanks to brutal determination and an award at RUMUN, thanks to an amazing teammate. Use this as proof that you are capable and strong.

Your case manager at school will be your hero. Believe everything he says. He will be responsible for your graduation and every good thing that happens in school that year. Thank him profusely and know that even that won’t be able to express your gratitude.

Discover youtube and The Vlogbrothers. John and Hank Green will change your life. You will become an infinitely better thinker and on several occasions put off self-destruction because tomorrow one of their videos is going to be posted, and you don’t want to miss it. Also, find and read as many authors’ blogs as you can. They will give you so many healthy adult role models and get you through nights when the self-loathing feels oppressive and paranoia is on the rise. They are worthy of demi-God status, but don’t forget that they are as human and real as you are.

Write. Write a lot. Write even when it doesn’t make sense and the words seem to come out all wrong and awkward. People will somehow like it, and it will sometimes be the only thing you like about yourself. That idea about starting a blog: do it and don’t give up, even when you don’t feel like you have anything left to put into it. You will somehow fall into the world of books and authors and publishing, and you will feel at home for the first time in years.

Additionally, do not let yourself be talked into things you don’t want to do. Just because someone tells you you’ll like it in a month, does not mean that you will, and it does not matter how much you think they’re going to be angry or hate you for it. Just don’t do it. It’ll bother you to no end when you’re older, and it will create horrible habits. And don’t take medication you don’t want to simply because adults and doctors recommend it. You will get knocked out, get confused, become manic, and sleep through important things if you don’t start using the word no. It doesn’t matter if someone has a million diplomas from fancy universities in their office or is the leading doctor in a field, they don’t know you best—you, however, do. Even if your parents say they are going to kick you out of the house if you don’t take one more pill, say no. They won’t end up doing it, and you’ll feel better, both physically and mentally.

But most of all, love. Love with everything you have. Devotion and passion and compassion will bring you everything beautiful in the world.

Love your friends and treat them well. They will hold you together when you’re falling apart at the seams. They will become the only reason you don’t kill yourself on multiple occasions. And they will make you happier than anything. Also, trust them, sometimes more than you trust yourself. They are very rarely wrong and will love you back, no matter what happens.

Unconditionally love your family as they try do the best they can to help you. Be nicer to Pippa. She deserves it. Treat your cats as if they were your children. You will discover that they can make any situation infinitely better. Don’t give up hope: Pushkin will eventually become less skittish and one day start sitting on your lap.

Love things and places and people. Just let yourself do it. The world is a million times better when you love it.

And learn to love yourself.

You’re gonna be alright, somehow, and you’re going to live an extraordinary life. I just know it.

Finally, get over yourself and stop wearing those shapeless, shiny soccer shorts when you go swimming. It isn’t a good look.

Love,

Ella

_____________________________________________________________________

I decided to write this letter after discovering that an updated version of “Dear Me” will be coming out soon. You can get to the book’s website by clicking here. Basically, the book is a collection of letters to and pictures of various famous people’s 16-year-old selves. It’s beautiful.

Earlier in the day, I had read Laini Taylor’s latest blog post, “Creating Your Life,” which can be found here. She writes about the importance of having the courage and passion to live out your daydreams and not to let them become passive thoughts in your head. And she uses two amazing quotes. The first one is by Mary Oliver, and I have also loved it for a long time.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

And the second is this:

Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.

It’s by Hafiz, and so impossibly wonderful. I love it. She even made a picture with the quote on it.

Lovely, no?

Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors and people, and I would love to be able to live a life like hers. That post was so beautiful and inspiring, I cried. It got me thinking about how I would go about living out my “one wild and precious life,” and writing this letter was a nice reflection on how I’ve gone about that in the past and what I’m doing to live an extraordinary life right now.

About fifteen minutes later, I checked my youtube subscription box and discovered that George Watsky, one of my favorite youtubers, had made a spoken-word poem/letter to his 16-year-old self that he had performed and filmed. It’s wonderful, and you can watch it just below this text.

If you also want to write a letter to your 16-year-old self and make it public, I’d love to read it. Just leave a link in the comments.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Writes About Desperately Wanting to Be an Author

It’s way too easy to be young and want something terribly.

Heck, it’s also easy to be old and want something terribly.

And it’s also easy to be not quite young and not quite old and still want something terribly.

More than all of that, it’s even easier not to get it.

I want to be a writer and not just an I-write-things-that-a-few-people-like writer. I want to be the real deal, the type of writer that gets things published in magazines and gets book deals and travels the country doing signings and readings.

But the chances of that happening are slim to none. More likely than not, I’ll end up working in a publishing firm, talking about markets and commercial appeal. And truth be told, I wouldn’t mind that too much. I’d still be firmly implanted in the magical world of books, but I wouldn’t be what I’ve wanted so terribly for years and years and years.

I was eight when I won my first writing contest. It was for the D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose, and I got to stand on a step stool behind a huge wooden podium and read my piece to around sixty people. I had my hair in high pigtails, tied with ribbons with tiny roses, and wore a huge corduroy jumper with even bigger rose prints. Everyone was staring at me, and I loved it. I had done something good. I had a skill. I was valuable. And the moment I glanced up after reading my first sentence, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to make up stories that would make other people love me and make me love being alive and having an imagination. Because goodness knows that the only other thing I was good at that age was bossing other people around and reading, and you couldn’t make other people like you or like yourself for doing that.

So I wrote story after story. Sometimes, I took requests from my classmates. There was the story of a girl whose mother got blinded by a tree branch. The boy who died from leukemia. A family of cats. A girl who played the violin far more beautifully than I could ever hope to.

There were other contests I won. Beginnings to novels. An attempt to write a memoir at the age of ten*. That time when I was thirteen and thought that I was going to write the greatest YA romance on the face of the earth**. The idea for the novel I’m trying to write now. Experiments with writing in the second person. Short stories. Way too many scribblings in notebooks. A terrible first draft of my current novel. The deleting of that first draft. This blog. Epic length letters and emails to friends.

So here I am at eighteen, churning out word after word of bad to mediocre writing, wanting something terribly that I probably won’t get. I know that I’m not very good. I know that my chances are so impossibly minimal. But I can’t help but want it with a hunger that eclipses my need for food or books. I’m obsessed with this idea of becoming a real member of the book world as an author. I think about it constantly. I talk to my characters in my head. It’s what I wake up to and what I go to sleep to. I read YA like the novels are textbooks. I always carry something to write with and on. I take notes on what makes writing successful. My entire life revolves around becoming an author.

But one of the biggest problems with this pipe dream–other than its unlikelihood–is that everyone seems to have it. Everyone wants to be an author, and I’m just another member of the crowd. I want to jump up and down and yell, “But I’m actually serious about this! I’m special! Believe in me! Love my work! Let me be the best! I am so much better than everyone else here!” But unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works. I am just a member of the yearning crowd, desperate for success that probably won’t come.

I wish I had some sort of conclusion for this post, some sort of moral or happy note to end on. But that just isn’t going to happen. I have to keep on truckin’, writing as much as I can, because maybe around the three, five millionth word, maybe something will click, and maybe when my fingertips touch the keyboard, something worthwhile will appear on the screen. It feels gloomy and depressing a lot of the time, but I keep at it, sometimes if only because I’m not very good at too much else.

*I don’t know what I was thinking with that one. I have about an hour of video tapped footage of me reading a section of it in which I made up a story about the horrible injustices done to me by my mother and Pippa. I read it in a very dramatic voice, and I know that at some point someone will rediscover it, and I will be horribly embarrassed.

**This particular story has since been destroyed, but involved a lot of treehouses, dramatic ultimatums, and a scene involving Medieval England. Amusingly, there was absolutely no kissing, and I believe the story ended with a triple marriage ceremony.

In other news, every time I hear a plane flying overhead more loudly than usual, I freak out and have to keep checking the news to make sure it hasn’t crashed into any buildings in the city. And then I come up with multiple escape routes from my room in case it misses and hits my house. Currently, climbing out onto the roof, lowering myself from the gutter, and dropping into the middle of a patch of flowers is my preferred alternative route.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.