Merry Christmas Eve!

Santa is currently in the basement doing something that involves a surprising amount of scotch tape and the use of my personal scissors. He also requested a cookie and a smoothie with green apples, kiwi, spinach, broccoli, garlic, ginger, barley grass, and something else that didn’t not sound like it should normally go in a blender. It’s almost as good as the year when we were assured that all Santa wanted were fancy chocolate truffles and a martini, which Pippa and I very poorly prepared (apparently lime juice should only be done in small quantities and upwards of three small olives is deemed excessive).

Pushkin is trying to drink the water out of the tree.

Zelda has fallen asleep in a chair right where Santa is supposed to deposit Pippa’s gifts and is refusing to go sleep in her bed.

Maxwell is lying in my bed and testing the limits of how many times he can kick me before I make him leave.

And Pippa has been attempting for hours in an attempt “to make the morning get here faster.” However, she is still awake and reading Christmas picture books. Hopefully, this will mean that I don’t get leapt on at 6:30 this year.

And I’m settling down for a long winter’s nap not wearing a kerchief or a cap, but instead a knitted toque (my half-hearted attempt to be festive while unconscious) and my flowered nightgown that buttons up to my chin and hangs down almost to my feet. I’ve always felt that it’s best to look old fashioned on Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Christ has been born!

(And commercialization of the holiday reigns)

(Though to be fair no one is certain at what time of year Christ was born, and the date was probably only chosen because it coincided with the Winter Solstice.)

(Still. Jesus, everybody! Jesus was born today!)

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.

Two Thoughts for Monday

One:

Tomorrow, I am skipping school and going into the city with the seniors in the Executive and Judicial branch of our government small learning community. I’m giddy with excitement. So giddy that I’ve already picked out an outfit and packed my bag. It’s going to be great. Just great.

To commemorate this excellent happening, I’ve decided to make a Thoughts From Places video. The Vlogbrothers make these sorts of videos whenever they go traveling, and I just love them. They film bits and pieces of what they see and do and tell a beautiful story about it. Here are two of my favorites.

What ensued after this video is an amazing story that I will share with you another day.

The quote, “what if a child’s pool were enough to imprison you?” fascinates me.

The prospect of this project is terribly exciting.

Two:

At around ten-thirty last night, I got a tweet sent to my phone from Audrey that said that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. Naturally, I made a mad dash for my parents’ room that involved missing a step on the stairs and making a tremendous bang as my right foot and knee smashed into the treads. Skidding down the hall and through the door, I announced, rather yelled, the news. They looked at me and blinked as I tossed my phone to my dad and ran to grab my laptop. A minute later, my dad and I were standing in front of the TV as the news anchors confirmed it.

I opened up my Twitter feed and just sat there pressing refresh over and over and over again. It felt impossibly shocking. Then, the White House announced that Obama would be giving a speech soon, and I turned on the New York Times’ live feed as my hands shook.

My dad went back upstairs, and I wrote my blog post, half muddled in disbelief. Obama spoke, and my friends and I rejoiced when he said, “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.”

I turned off all the lights, curled up on my bed, went back to reading Twitter. Karen Kavitt, one of my favorite graphic designers, wrote, “It’s amazing how connected you can feel to the human population through Twitter when news breaks, even if you’re sitting alone in your room.” And it really was true. I wasn’t alone.

I wondered how it must have felt to receive similar news in the time before computers. Would I have called all of my friends to see what they thought, or would everyone just wait to talk until the next day and the arrival of the newspapers? My parents have seen both sides of the spectrum, and sometimes, I wish that I had their perspective. The dichotomy must be spectacular.

The Uncultured Project, one of my favorite charities, tweeted that Bin Laden had been killed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was sort of fitting. But it did feel rather odd that we were commemorating the deaths of thousands with another death. I really do wish that he could have been captured and made to understand the vast amounts of hurt he created. I desperately want him to feel remorse. I don’t want to fight violence with more violence, but I recognize that this was the way that it had to go. He never would have gone peaceably.

When I checked my phone after school, I saw that John Green had tweeted, “Like many people, I feel like celebrating. Remember this feeling. It is human and can help us understand when others express bloodlust.”

And while I do understand the importance of empathy and can validate others’ joy, I still feel caught. It’s horrible to celebrate a death, no matter how awful the person was. However, Bin Laden’s death also can be viewed as retribution for 9/11 and all the other atrosities committed by al Qaeda.

I don’t think that I’ll ever sort out how I should react to this event. And that’s okay. It really is. It would be worse to spring towards either end of the dialectic without acknowledging the truth of the other. Besides, I’m not alone. I know many prople are in the same tangled mess of emotions as me, and there’s never anything wrong with little confusion.

Though on a very practical note, I do hope that this event can help Obama get reelected. I love him so much.

Cecelia’s Triumph

On Wednesday of last week, Cecelia was accepted into Yale. Naturally, I saved her text, jumped up and down, and practically (okay, literally) leapt on her when she arrived at Foreign Language Night twenty minutes later.

Now, I’ve been told that I am not allowed to make a really huge deal about this, but I really can’t help myself. It’s Yale. It’s one the best universities in the country. My parents went there; her mother went there; most of my parents’ friends went there. (And, well, George Bush went there, but I try to forget about that and how many soldiers lives he ended by sending them into useless combat.) Her grandfather even taught there. In my mind, it’s the university to end all universities and the loveliest academic place in the world.

Every late night that Cecelia spent doing homework, the many weekends that she gave up to do work, all the times she pulled all-nighters, and the immense stress has created something. Something beautiful and tangible. She’s reached the goal that everyone has been working towards since sixth grade. Seven years of hard work has paid off. She did it. Cecelia really, really did it.

Many would argue, and I would agree, that the American educational system has devolved into one that simply focuses on the outcome of tests and getting into the “right” college. Creativity is stunted, and those who don’t fit the norm are left on the wayside. But the problems with education shouldn’t mask the magnitude of Cecelia’s triumph. The failures of our educational system can’t be changed overnight, and there is victory in surviving something that’s broken and reaching its objective.

Maybe I’m foolish for feeling dizzy and joyous–she’s much externally calmer about this than I am–but the prospect is immense. It’s very rare that you accomplish something that you’ve dreamed about for years, and it should be celebrated until the party hats lose their elastic, and the balloons stop floating and become wrinkly. So until I get yelled at to shut up, I will be blowing party horns and playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I highly encourage you to join me.

Euphoria on an Island

I thought that instead of writing about medication for the umpteenth time, I’d tell a story.

Instead of going to Junior Prom last year, I went to Audrey’s summer house. That trip was the best two days of 2010.

I begged my parents for weeks to let me go. I had only just gotten back to school, but I was stable and done with my outpatient program. Everyday was sunny, and I loved being surrounded by classmates again. It all seemed too perfect to be real.

After a half day at school (which actually I didn’t attend due to a doctor’s appointment), we were off.  We had to ride on two trains and take a ferry to get there, and the farther I got from home, the more excited and happier I got. The whole way there I imagined exactly what it would be like, adjusting my mental image as we got closer and closer. On the ferry ride, our hair flew all over the place, and I tried to reassure myself that the ferry wouldn’t sink or flip over.

Once were on the island, we walked to Audrey’s house. I could feel little grains of sand under my feet, making scratching noises against the concrete path.  The houses were raised a few feet off the ground and were low structures made out of wood. Finally, we rounded a corner and walked down a small street that ended at the beach.

Audrey’s house was lovely. The kitchen, dining room, and living room all ran into each other and felt both spacious and cozy at the same time. After setting down our bags and changing, we immediately headed down to the beach. I slapped myself in the face when no one was looking to verify that this was all really happening. I felt happy the way that I do when I’m hypomanic, but this time I was entirely in control.

Audrey wore my shorts that say “COCKS” that were purchased at University of South Carolina, home of the Fighting Gamecocks. I find them amusing, especially when I combine them with tee shirts from church. On the beach, I watched Cecelia and Audrey dash in and out of the waves while Alexandra and Grace ran around on shore. I took pictures and laughed.

Sometimes, there would be a huge wave that would wash all the way up and stop a few yards away from my towels. I watched the pieces of foam it left behind. It felt springy underfoot.

Grace and I drew huge patterns in the sand.

We went back to the house once everyone was worn out and hungry, and Cecelia and I cooked dinner. Sitting around a table on her back deck, I thought to myself, all those months out of school and the week in the hospital were worth it if it means that I am going to have more and more days like this.

We walked all the way back to the landing where the ferry had docked and watched the sunset. I held my glass bottle of Ginger Ale and let my feet dangle over the side. We played on a playground, and I thought about how ironic it is that I hate heights, but I love swing sets. I watched Cecelia clown around, and then we headed back. I tried walking toe, heel, toe, heel.

Back at the house, we did the dishes, eight hands scrubbing, rinsing, drying, and putting away. Water spilled down our fronts. In the living room, we curled up on the couch, watched episodes of The Office, and ate ice cream. I didn’t look at the nutrition facts.

And at midnight, I turned 17. Sadie called to wish me a happy birthday, and I unwrapped a beautiful white tank top from Audrey. It was perfect and wonderful and lovely. Later, when I was lying in bed, I couldn’t sleep for about an hour; I was too happy to relax.

The next morning, we packed up, I made lunch for the road, and we took the ferry and two trains home. Cecelia and Audrey went to my house to get ready to leave for my beach house that evening. But that Memorial Day weekend story is something separate and special and a tale for another day.

When things get difficult, I have to remember these moments of euphoria. I need to cling onto them tightly, hold them close, and drape them around me. I must remember how I felt in this picture.


With my dress billowing out behind me, I ran, full of hope, happiness, and optimism. For that day and a half, nothing was wrong with the world.

On Writing, Reality, Favorites, and Vulnerability

As of today, I have officially been blogging for a month (and two days). I’d wax poetic about how much I love this and why I keep going when I’d rather take a day off, but today that just doesn’t sit right. All I’m feel up to say is: I think that the posts that I am the most proud of are Love and Spider-Webs and A Christian’s Take on Gay Rights. Read them. They make me feel like a half-way decent writer and less like a run-of-the-mill teenager wannabe. Especially Love and Spider-Webs.

I promise that I’ll write about what happened today a little later on, once I get to that point where I finally understand that everything that happened today is reality. Instead, I leave you all with a video of one of my favorite TED Talks. God, I love TED Talks.

This one helped me with therapy quite a bit, and the things she talks about are things that I think that we should all explore in our own lives.

On a side note: I can feel the air currents when I sit on the floor, and it’s freaking the BEEGEEBUS out of me. It’s all cold and flow-y.

It’s Been One Snow-Filled Month

There has officially been snow on the ground for a month. One WHOLE month. And the weather has decided to celebrate this month-iversary? (weirdest term) 1/12 anniversary? by hitting us with yet another snow storm. I’m positively ecstatic.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking about snow a lot. I’ve actually been counting down to this day for the last two weeks. I mean, there were a few days where I thought, if these 37° F days keep happening, it’s all going to melt away! There was this one snow-free patch in the corner of the backyard for a few days and all the snow on one side of the garage roof melted twice, but it kept snowing and snowing and snowing all month long. A small part of me thinks the only reason it’s lasted so long is by my sheer force of will, and that same part of me feels more than a little bit smug.

And because this is all I have thought about it, it’s also been all I’ve talked about and all I’ve obsessively checked on the internet. Here is a list of today’s snow-related things:

Number of times I have looked out of the window at the snow: ∞

Number of times I have informed the public that there has been snow on the ground for a month: ~50

Number of times I stated the obvious and announced that it’s snowing: ~30

Number of times I have checked Weather.com: 17

Number of times I have told anyone in the general vicinity of the latest weather report and accumulation predictions: 17

Number of times I have checked the school district’s site: 14

Number of times I have seen the red banner and gotten tricked into thinking that they’ve cancelled school tomorrow rather than announcing that today’s after-school activities have been cancelled: 12

Number of times that I have announced to whomever is listening that that banner NEEDS to be in a different color: 12

Number of times I have refreshed the page to see if it’s changed: 12

Number of times it’s remained static: 12

Number of times I went through my text inbox and internet history to compile this highly scientific and useful data: 6

Chairs Like Kidney Beans

So here’s my aforementioned Regionals run-down:

It all started with the outfit. The way I’ve always seen it is that if I am at least somewhat likely to muck everything up, I ought to at least be well dressed. Vapid and petty? Somewhat. Major confidence booster? Absolutely. So I spent 45 minutes trying things on and bothering my mother with my “western business attire” fashion show: “See, I like these light grey pants, but I don’t think that they compliment this navy blazer. How about my black one with them? Those lines would be a bit cleaner. Nah, I ought to go with a skirt”. But I did eventually settle for an outfit that made me feel as competent as Michelle Obama (Gosh, she dresses so well).  Because, hey, if you’re going to be participating in a simulated Congressional hearing, you need to look the part. (Also, I love the long, straight crease in dress pants.)

This is how nervous I was on Wednesday:  I was manic and couldn’t focus on diddley squat. This is how nervous I was Thursday morning: I had gone around the bend and had started to feel strangely calm and like I was going to throw up and faint at the same time. But everyone else felt anxious too, and it is sort of nice not to be the only one on edge.

We had to take a cheese bus to the University for the competition. The last time we all got on cheese buses for a school trip, the brakes on one of the buses failed while going down a very steep hill, and the the bus crashed into a tree and nearly tipped over. Thankfully, I was not on this bus, but Cecelia, Audrey, Doc, etc were. So let’s just say that no one was ecstatic about our method of transportation. The moment that everyone sat down, you could hear a chorus of seatbelts clicking shut, and the first time we hit a big bump and the bus rocked, everyone braced for impact. But we arrived in one piece and even survived a long COLD walk across the icy campus paths.

And I have to say that the actual competition slid by in a haze. My heart rate was akin to what it is after I have run three miles, and I couldn’t stop muttering to myself about National Defense Acts and the different Congressional committees. We stood around in an atrium and sized up the other teams and glared at our arch history/debate rivals. The fact that all of the other teams weren’t dressed as well as us gave me more encouragement that it should have. Still, it never fails to amaze me that some girls interpret “western-business attire” to include four-inch heals, their prom dress, and sun dresses. (But I’m not judgmental or anything…)

And suddenly there we were, sitting in a hearing room, perched on kidney bean shaped and colored chairs that were attached to the desks, because if a metal bar wasn’t holding the seats in the world’s most awkward and uncomfortable position, people would steal them. (Kidney bean desks go for a lot on the black market.) There were two “U”s of stadium-style desks, and each group was going to descend to the lower tier to present to the judges in the “pit”. When I wasn’t panicking and flipping through our binder of hundreds of pages of notes and muttering to myself, I was glancing around the room, my eyes wide, catching the gaze of my equally anxious classmates.

It began, and we watched Unit One present while we all held our breaths and willed them to give the right answers. They were good, so much better than they had been in class. In between  presentations, we all huddled around in groups and you could hear people  beating themselves up for not remembering the year of a court case correctly or hurriedly running through possible questions.

When it was our turn, I felt that weird adrenaline-driven focus descend, and I felt ready to lift up a car, or, you know, answer the judges’ questions. And after shaking Doc’s hand vigorously for God knows what reason, looking at Cecelia with crazy eyes, and constantly asking Milky and Chip if they thought that we were good enough, the judges came into the room, announced that we were going to be answering the question about committees, and introduced themselves. I mispronounced my own name (but I suppose if I had to pick a time to misspeak, that was it), but I read clearly and slowly during the presentation-portion. Then, there were the questions, and there was nothing about Monica Lewinsky.

I remember quoting Woodrow Wilson, referencing legislative reform acts, and talking about legislative efficiency, however the only the only thing I can directly remember saying was something long the lines of “after a bill is placed in the hopper, a Speaker of the House or the Senate can send the bill to as many committees as they deem necessary…”. I also remember saying the “the floor in the Senate or the House” while doing something very strange with my hands every time I was referring to whole body debate. I was nodding along with what our other group members were saying, and at some point I thought, I wonder what would happen if that projector just fell from the ceiling onto the old judge in the middle.

But when we crawled out from the second tier desks, heads reeling, Lily (I have to write a whole post on her sometime soon, because she amazes me. I honestly have the best friends.) and Noah said that it was our best one to date. Our teacher was pleased, and the rest of my group was satisfied. Unfortunately, little old me was convinced that I hadn’t spoken fluently and had given too many of our answers. But it was over. Over, over, over!

We later found out that we won (AKA moving onto the state competition), and I took my first genuine deep breath in a week.

Ultimately, what is the most important is that WE WON, AND I DIDN’T FREAK OUT! I may be too “emotionally-disabled” (not my words) to do a lot of things that my peers do, but I managed to participate in an incredibly stressful activity without having a panic attack or screwing up. I’m giving myself two points in the victory category for that. Now, I just need this winning streak to continue for when we go to States on the fourth of next month.

How’s that for a long-winded explanation? I think I’m a bit too verbose.

Regionals

WE WON! (Rather, we advanced, but winning sounds so much more impressive.)

Usually, events never turn out the way that I anticipate. I hype up holidays and parties so much in my mind that I always end up being disasterously disappointed. Or I build something up to be so horrible that, as I described in Back in the Game, I am shocked when I end up enjoying or at least being able to tolerate it. However, regionals ended up being exactly how I expected it to be. I was nervous, excited, petrified, and scared, but it ultimately was a good experience.

You know how after you turn in a huge project, take a final, or do a large presentation you’re always really tired and don’t know how to redirect your energy from the thing that you’ve been working so hard on for ages? Add on an awful visit to the doctor and that’s how I feel right now.

I’m going to post more about today’s victory tomorrow when I am not so worn out.

Happy Birthday, Pippa!

Today is Pippa’s sixteenth birthday, which means that she gets a BONUS POST all about her!

Pippa, you should be very proud of yourself for making it to sixteen. I must admit that I thought my attempts to finish you off when you were a young child would be a success. Kidding! But if you look back at all that I did (slamming your hand in the screen door, breaking your finger with the window seat, cutting your head open when I pushing you into the coffee table, etc), they were largely accidents.

Along with the two CDs I gave you, which I promptly uploaded onto my computer (They’re both quite good, by the way), I have made you a list of some things that you can do at sixteen that you couldn’t do before.

1. Get your permit/license at school (but not at home)

2. Donate blood (because you love needles)

3. Drop out of school

4. Get an adult job and retire your never successful lemonade-selling ventures

5. Say you’re sixteen without lying

One last thing: Remember our dance routine to this song that we used to perform with the gang when I was ten and you were eight? I think it involved wearing bathing suit tops with velour bell-bottoms and jumping up and down on my bed. Anyways, it’s applicable now!