Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Failure

Hello, all!

Normally around this time, I'd be writing frantically in an attempt to finish my novel before the end of National Novel Writing Month. But this year, that isn't happening and I can't help but say that I'm a bit disappointed in myself. It seems like I've failed myself.

Failure is an interesting thing. It leads to feelings of inadequacy and shame and other unpleasant feelings. But it's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't be proud of yourself because the thing about failure is that it means you at least TRIED. (In most cases; the case could be made that failing at something means you didn't try hard enough, but I'm trying to be positive here...)

I think it takes a kind of bravery to say that you have failed at something. It's admitting to yourself and others that you didn't finish something you said you would. It's difficult to claim failure because it isn't something to be PROUD of.

Really cliche quotes always say that you can't do everything perfectly on the first try, and every failure is a step in the right direction-- a way to help you learn and grow as an individual. While I have a tendency to scoff at these quotes, I have to admit that there is some value in them.

I've "won" NaNoWriMo for the last two years-- both times I've attempted it. This year, I was hesitant to even begin but thanks to the persuasion of a few of my writing friends, I started a novel this month. I doubted my ability to finish, based on my failure at NaBloPoMo in September. Furthermore, finals are coming up and this month has been the one where I have had more work to do in every class. It seemed like an impossible task-- throw in a novel on top of all that? No thanks.

But I can't be too upset with myself for failing. I keep reminding myself that I at least tried and though I've given up on hitting the 50k goal, I'm going to keep writing this story. Failing at NaNoWriMo doesn't mean that I've failed at life and to be honest, the only person I've let down is myself, namely because some small part of me believes that I should have been able to finish.

The truth is, sometimes failure is inevitable. Sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes it's hard to figure out what to do next and sometimes things don't work out the way you expect them to. However, that doesn't mean it isn't worth a shot, because with that risk of failure comes the chance of success and I'm a firm believer of trying.

And yes, failure helps you grow. It helps you learn. Failing gives you a perspective on your life and a chance to fix mistakes when the opportunity arises to try again.

So even though I failed at NaNoWriMo (and NaBloPoMo), it doesn't mean I'm giving up. It just means I'm trying something else out.

And now, I need to return to work that needs to be done. Failure isn't an option.

-Aly

Friday, September 9, 2011

Movies

Hello, all!

This post is going to be short because I'm about to watch a movie with a few friends but I have a specific topic in mind for tomorrow.

Thought for the day: fall is exhilarating.

A demain!
-Aly

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chores

Hello, all!

I spent a lot of my time today feeling strangely productive and adult-like. I cleaned my room (it wasn't *that* bad by college standards, or even my own, but the emptiness of my room makes any sort of disorganization or mess glaringly obvious), vacuumed my room and bathroom, washed dishes, cleaned my sink (and the toilet... ew...), did laundry, and I even DECORATED my walls.

There's nothing particularly extraordinary about these things, or the fact that I did them (though my mother might tell you otherwise), but I'm finding it rather odd that I chose to spend most of my day doing things like that rather than simply wandering around campus aimlessly. However, it's not like I did those things alone, without people around, or did nothing else but that. My social life still existed during most of that. I suppose it must be a measure of how comfortable my new friends and I are around each other that we can turn the time during which I would be doing something monotonous and eerily similar to chores into a few hours of hanging out. I mean, you know you must be close to people when they see you sorting through your dirty clothes.

At any rate, I guess what I'm trying to say is that college today was a strange contradiction. It's weird to feel childish (some of that social time was predictably spent coloring in my Sesame Street coloring book. Don't judge me, it was a gift!) and strangely grown-up at the same time. It's also strange to realize that my dorm room, for the moment, feels more comfortable and home-like than my room at home did when I was there just a few days ago. Time spent here is kind of relaxing, and feels just as familiar as my house did.

I'm not even done decorating yet-- I need more postcards/pictures/posters to decorate the walls with and I'm kind of hesitant to cover a lot of the extra wall space I have now in case I get a new roommate... though I need more STUFF in here to keep it from being echo-y. I'm decorating in stages-- I'll post pictures when I have finished putting up everything that I currently have.

Anyway, that was ramble-y.

Goodnight!
A demain,
-Aly

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Vegetarian Challenge

Hello, all!

I don't have deep thoughts today, but lacking in philosophy, I have a bit to talk about so far as my actual life goes.

I might have mentioned this in my first post of the month, but I'm trying to be vegetarian this month. Last week, I messed up while at home (delicious grilled chicken... I couldn't say no to that), but being vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean eating healthily. I've had about five desserts today (butterscotch brownies + chocolate ice cream = heaven), and I've been kind of struggling to balance my diet enough so that I don't end up eating variations on carbs for every meal, or pizza for that matter, though honestly, the pizza here is fantastic and deserves to be eaten at every meal.

I thought, when I decided to become vegetarian for a month, that it would be a relatively easy challenge. My school makes it quite easy to eat vegetarian foods, but at the same time, the selection doesn't always seem to be that great. While there are plenty of carbs and variations on roasted vegetables, the truly "vegetarian" meal in the cafeteria doesn't always seem to be the most satisfying meal. There's the addictional problem of the fact that I actually like some meat. Pork, chicken, and turkey... the tempting smell of sausage nearly did me in this morning but I suppose that's why it is a challenge. There aren't always veggie-friendly substitutes for the meaty foods, much to my dismay, and though bacon is tempting, giving up on my challenge so soon into the month would defeat the purpose.

There's a bit of a story to why I decided to become vegetarian this month. The main one is that I have entertained the thought of becoming a vegetarian throughout high school and it never quite seemed to be the right time. Here, I figured that it would be easier and since I'm making my own decisions about food for the first time, it would be an interesting challenge to see if I am even capable of maintaining a healthy diet when I am not cooking for myself at all (unless you count Easy Mac), but have access to more options of food than I could possibly eat. And despite the strange conversations I've had about what is the point of becoming vegetarian for a single month, I still think it's a worthwhile endeavor. I have a few other reasons, and I'm sure I'll be articulating those at some point in time as I continue to try out this lifestyle.

Anyway, that's all for now.
A demain!
-Aly

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Downtown Tuesday

Hello, all!

Today ended up being a pretty fantastic day. The weather was more-or-less perfect, but in contrast to yesterday's rain and gloom, it felt like a perfect transitional day. A bit of rain, a lot of sun... a good day for walking, which is lucky because I ended up doing a lot of that.

So, my friend Alec had an assignment to do for his anthropology class. He had to go observe people and write down his observations in order to write a two page paper (I'm not sure the point exactly but people-watching is fun), so we decided to walk downtown. That's about a mile or so to walk, up and down hills of course but not an unpleasant walk when the weather is nice and you have nothing better to do with an afternoon.

Watching people in Downtown Asheville is strange. It's not quite a big enough city for there to be the distracted-and-serious business people, and it's not quite bustling, but there's enough activity to make it interesting. It's relaxed downtown, and nobody seems in any particular rush to do anything or go anywhere. But like any other downtown area, all the people walk by, oblivious of their surroundings and so focused on their own thoughts and their own lives that they don't seem to notice the rustle of the leaves in the trees, the cool fall breeze that seems out of place in September but makes the day the perfect temperature.

It always strikes me when people watching, how lonely everybody seems. All these people, lost in their own thoughts, moving on autopilot... how interesting it would be to step into their mind for a second and see if they are even living fully. Even here in Asheville, the people walk by like robots, smiling to themselves and generally uninterested in anything outside of their own minds. I can't blame them for it, since I have days like that too, but it's just interesting to note the stark contrast between the lively community of the drum circle downtown on Friday nights with the sleepy monotony and loneliness of a Tuesday afternoon.

A demain!
-Aly

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thinking in Rainstorms

Hello, all!

So, I'm back at school now, and for once I'm alone in my room with my thoughts. It's weird... it seems to quiet and lonely in here without the companionship of my friends.

Today, I seem to have retreated into my own mind a bit. Caught in my own analysis of my surroundings and distracted by other stories or people or places, I'm not sure what I need to snap out of this silence. I'm unnerved by the fact that I feel like I'm neither here nor there, not fully present in conversations as thoughts whisk me to other places and reality snaps me back.

It's been raining lately, patches of torrential downpour and moments of gloomy grey sky. I'm enraptured by it, the noise and the feel of it... I've danced in it already, and I'm still cold and shivering. A moment of brief respite from my mind, though a few minutes of spinning around like a madwoman possessed by some undeniable urge to be strange for no apparent reason. Cold and shivering with rain battering me, it was easy to feel small and forgettable for a little bit. Unfortunately, this foolishness, though not regretted, was only a momentary escape before my mind closed around me again and I found myself at a standstill.

Sometimes, in moments like that, I believe that I shouldn't be around people at all. Like the presence of people I barely know but already know too well (it's a strange contradiction) makes the fact that I'm silently lost less legitimate and more like a show of my inability to decide how I should act or what I need to be doing.

These are scattered thoughts, but I'm thinking in terms of rainstorms, ideas and judgements and my own uncertainty... leaves tracked in by feet, unnoticed until they are scattered across your floor. I'll just keep dancing around in circles, embracing the rain until the world is a blur and my mind has settled.

A demain!
-Aly

Lacking Words

Hello, all!

Lacking words to describe today, or any deep revelations to share, I leave you with a few scattered thoughts.

This weekend felt like summer, prolonged.
Repetition of familiar trails isn't always bad; the familiarity is comforting.
Sometimes the best quotes are the ones that are embarrassing.
Moments between friends when seen by an almost-stranger are incredibly awkward.
It's hard to explain some things and still sound sane.

Goodnight!
A demain.
-Aly

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New and Old

Here is where the new and the old collide. Here is where there is only the unknown, and the possibility of a shift. Here, on this treacherous crevice of choices, I hesitate and wonder if I have the courage to jump off the edge or if I will simply fall backwards and trust the solidity of solid ground.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Home

Hello, all!

So, I know it's after midnight so it's TECHNICALLY September 3rd, but so far as I'm concerned, it's still the 2nd so this is still a daily post.

I'm back home, in my even-more-empty-and-echo-y room, and I can't help but feel a bit disconnected. This is home... my room and my bed (though it now looks freakishly small after dorm beds), my house, my car. This is my town, the place I've lived for the last eight years, but part of me doesn't recognize this as "home" anymore.

Home is in the mountains, in my little dorm room with few decorations and far too much window, where the sun wakes me up cheerily every day by shining directly in my face. Where I spend a lot of time wandering aimlessly with these friends that are already like family, and where we spend a lot of time doing absolutely nothing.

The thing is, a couple of them are here for the weekend. One of them lives in town, and the other is living in my house for the weekend so that she isn't alone on campus. They're my new home, these friends, and here they are, lurking in the home I've known for years. It's a strange disconnect and a strange sense of displacement. Our friendship is almost defined by the where-- the Botanical Gardens (the Botans), the Ridges, and even the mountains themselves-- but here, far away from mountains and far less shady, our friendship remains the same sort of comfortable companionship that makes it seem like I have known them for much longer than the time I have.

Driving around my town tonight, music blaring and banter flowing freely as it always does, it strikes me that home is never a set place. Home is everywhere that you find a place to be, where you are comfortable with yourself and your surroundings. And seeing home as a sort-of-stranger only seems to make it more magical, because it is not the physical place that matters, but how you see the place.

A demain!
-Aly

Thursday, September 1, 2011

And So, September

Hello, all!

It's September at last and as promised to a few people months ago, I will be blogging every day this month. There's a lot going on right now-- hence the fact that I have yet to post despite the abundance of things to write about lately-- but I think this is an important month. This is my first month of college life, and I've also decided that for this month, I'm going to become vegetarian, just to see how it goes. Granted, I'll probably make a few exceptions this weekend since I'm returning home (and cafeteria food is more vegetarian friendly, though not always the most delicious).

At any rate, this is just the short intro post since I'm running out of time to write today and I desperately need sleep.

A demain!
-Aly

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Too Many Goodbyes

Hello, all!

I'm done with high school. I've taken all my exams and finished my classes. I've started cleaning out boxes of stuff. I've been signing yearbooks, writing letters, reading notes written to me, uploading pictures to facebook. Everything is frantic, a last-ditch effort to claim ownership of a vaguely-familiar life. It's all leading to goodbye.

I hate goodbyes, I really do. And these goodbyes... well, I don't want to make most of them. I refuse to accept that this is the end, because endings can be sad more often than not.

I refuse to say goodbye to the movie nights that have characterized a seven-year-long-friendship.

I refuse to say goodbye to the stories I created when I was just beginning to write.

I won't say goodbye to the teachers that have made my high school experience wonderful, and I especially will not say goodbye to the ones that have made this year memorable and amazing.

I won't say goodbye to my unexpected friends, or the unexpected moments of beauty experienced with them.

I refuse to say goodbye to the friends with whom I found a home. Or the stories we wrote in our lives or in our minds, the ones that we never finished and the ones that we did because living is much easier than imagining, at least for now.

I won't say goodbye to these half-created plans, these fractions of thoughts and ideas that seem never to happen. I won't give up hope that they can happen, that these crazy dreams and plans and schemes are even possible-- because I want to believe that they will.

I won't say goodbye to the list of things I meant to do this year but didn't. Goals can change and shift and not accomplishing them is no reason for me to give up trying to make them happen in some form.

But mostly, I absolutely refuse to say goodbye to my life as it is now--- the people or this place or these dreams or these words, even. It is not yet gone and I am still here. And I refuse to say goodbye because I know I will return to HERE in my mind and in my future, to every aspect of this hectic existence.

Thanks for listening, as always-- sorry I've been absent, but as mentioned... frantic, crazy life. Sometimes I just need a break from my own mind, but sometimes I need to speak.

-Aly

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

FFB Guest Post: Peaches

Peaches Downtown

Hello! This is Jacky from Northwest Is Best, here to share with you my musical heroine as part of Feminist Fashion Bloggers.

Peaches is niche pop star within a niche genre. Her spat-out lyrics may be crude and her electroclash beats simplistic, but I love her. She's fearless, brutal and looks like she'd be a good laugh down the pub. At 44, she's over the hill in conventional pop star terms, but age doesn't define her. Neither does gender. Peaches - born Merrill Nisker in Canada, but now based in Berlin - is definitely a woman. Look at her. She has hips and breasts and hair. Lots of hair.

My main love for Peaches is her gender play in her songs and videos. Consider the above video stills from Downtown, a single from her 2006 album Impeach My Bush. She performs as a seductress stalking the corridors of a spacious hotel, all pillowy cleavage and stockings. Then she's a bellboy, hair slicked back and no make-up. At the end, she fuses the two - dressed as a man, pouting in the mirror from beneath a veiled hat.

And her lyrics? She's not ashamed of her body - how about 'I drink a whisky neat / you lick my crow's feet' from 2009's Trick or Treat. Or, as she tells Iggy Pop in their 2004 glam-shock hook-up Kick It, 'if you play Moses you need burning bush / and that is just what I got'. (I did mention the hair, right?) After four albums, she keeps getting stronger and continues empowering women through her Spandex-covered live shows. As she told The Guardian in 2006 'in my songs, the girl needs to be the antichrist'.

I'm not likely to follow Peaches' example and leap around in a silver jumpsuit, but I'm glad she's out there.

Thanks Aly for having me.

--------------------------------------------

Check out my guest post at Oranges and Apples and check out Jacky's blog, northwest is best, for Franca's guest post!

Check out a round-up of all today's posts here!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fears and Promises

Hello, all!

So this has been bothering me all day, and I'm writing about it so that I can stop thinking about it and actually focus.

I have lots of fears. Small fears, and probably irrational ones, but they're ones that continually make sense in the context of my life. Basically, I fear dramatic change that could end in me losing people that are important to me. I could elaborate much more on that, but I'd rather not.

This is partially because I'll be going to visit UNC-Asheville again on Friday, and since that's where I'll be going to college next year (unless something changes within the next month, which is unlikely but still...). Going up to Asheville again for the first of the many orientation-type sessions is like admitting to myself that high school is ending and my life is going to change very DRAMATICALLY, and much sooner than I'm prepared for.

It's scary. I mean, it's awesome and I'm excited, but I'm also terrified. The same old fears, the ones that show up every time you're thrust into a situation where you'll be meeting lots of strangers and what-if-I-make-a-fool-of-myself, what-if-nobody-likes-me, what-if-I-become-cripplingly-socially-awkward, what-if-I-get-lost... and there are so many more. Irrational fears. Silly fears, as though my brain has been transported back to the beginning of middle school or something equally traumatizing.

I can't get rid of them, though. I can't help but be anxious about these minuscule, potential problems. Because these are the small ones, the ones that I'm okay with voicing, and they don't even touch on the larger issues, being that MY LIFE IS CHANGING AND I AM WORRIED. I guess that's the easiest way to say it for now. I want to remind myself of things that I will remember to do, or at least, things I don't want myself to do. Promises, in a way, to myself, ways I want my life to be now and in the future.

I promise that I will not:
  • Forget about my close friends that I have now.
  • Let people think of me as an object or take advantage of me.
  • Lose my morals.
  • Follow blindly.
  • Have a closed mind.
  • Be afraid of new situations or opportunities.
  • Put myself into situations that I know are dangerous.
  • Abuse my body.
  • Shut myself off from the world.
  • Be afraid to make change in my life. (Even if it scares me.)
  • Pretend to be somebody I'm not.
  • Forget my dreams & ambitions.
At the same time, I will:
  • Be open to new friendships.
  • Explore.
  • Fill my life with things that make me happy.
  • Focus on others, not just myself.
  • Be honest with myself.
  • Treat the earth with respect.
  • Be kind.
  • Remember how it feels to do something new and exciting.
  • Be confident.
  • Admit my faults... and try to change them.
  • Ask forgiveness when I need to.
  • Make positive decisions.
  • Choose the life I want. (And not regret it.)
So, yeah. That's what I want to remember a week from now... a few months from now... a year from now. I want to remember how I feel now, and how I felt like in the past. I don't want to lose myself or lose the wonderful people that surround me.

I'm giving myself the freedom to change my life whenever I want to. I'm not afraid of my fears (thanks, FDR... *nerd jokes*), and I'll try to understand myself and my choices. I'll try to embrace change and choose the best path. And if I mess up, I'm going to try my hardest to correct it, rather than dwelling on it.

I can make these promises now and hopefully I'll remember them later, and if I don't, somebody will hopefully be around to remind me. (Thanks in advance! :))

So... what are your fears? What promises do you want to make to yourself?

-Aly

P.S. Thanks for reading, as always! Even more thanks for the comments on my last post-- everybody was so encouraging and understanding. Love to all of you. <3

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FFB: What I've Learned

Hello, all!

I missed last week's FFB post because I was busy-- and I nearly missed today's, too. So, with 40-something minutes to go in the day, I'm sitting down and writing this.

Over the past month, the wonderful ladies of the FFB have shown me what "feminism" is today. It isn't just about women's rights-- but the rights of everyone. It's about seeing clearly, seeing how the world nudges us in certain directions and trying to understand the implications of yielding to them. It's about knowing your role-- the role you are expected to have and the role you DO have, and knowing what role you WANT to have. It's about embracing who you are, making the choice to stand for something. It's okay to wear dresses and frills and lace and to feel beautiful, but it's also okay not to shave your legs or wear baggy clothes or hide yourself because that's how you are most comfortable.

The modern feminist movement isn't one of extreme action. It's small behaviors and watching, speaking up when you see the traces of sexism or gender bias or stereotypes, and trying to do something about it. It's about not being afraid of the title "FEMINIST", because you may not see yourself as that or you may be reluctant to accept a word that has such a history and stereotype to it, but knowing what you stand for anyway. Feminism today isn't just for women-- it's for everyone that has been limited or pushed or prodded into becoming someone or something they didn't choose to be. Because feminism today is about making a choice for yourself. Choosing your role or your title or your clothes. It's about communicating and reaching out to others, being open to discussion but willing to fight for the truth. It's an all-encompassing movement: you may not be able to pick a Feminist out of a line-up, but that doesn't mean that they aren't or couldn't be.

This month has taught me that feminism isn't a movement of the past. I can be a feminist, and I don't have to be ashamed of it. I'm allowed to write about my feminism and express my views and embrace the opportunities I have been given-- and acknowledging how lucky I am to have them. I haven't had to fight for these things; other generations, other women-- stronger women-- have fought for my rights and my voice and my body to be my own. But their work isn't done, and I can take up their cause, their words, their mission, and translate it into my own life and the world where I live.

Feminism hasn't died. It's changed and altered, sure, but the spirit of change and community of feminists is still here. We're all over the world and we may never meet, but we are united in this.

-Aly

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

FFB: Fashion & Feminism


Hello, all!

So, today is the big blog event day! The FFB's question for today is the big one: How do you express your feminism in the way you dress?

Admittedly, I'm not a fashion blogger, and few people would believe that I have any sort of interest in fashion. The thing is, I care about how I look and how I present myself to the world. I think that is why fashion (and personal style) is important, but I am still unsure of how my beliefs and how my stylistic choices interact.

I've been trying to figure out the answer, though, and the best thing I have is that I show my feminism by dressing for myself. I dress in a way that makes me feel confident. I have my own style, even if I can't always define it very well.

In case you missed it, I'm young. I still have a lot to learn about what the world, and even though I am interested in fashion in the sense that I am interested in the perception others have of you, it seems rather difficult to figure out how your thoughts translate into fashion.

I used to be one of those girls that wore t-shirts and jeans every day-- running t-shirts, mainly, but also ones from vacations, and occasionally ones that proclaimed my political beliefs. My favorite t-shirt, I'd say, was the "1 Sky" organic cotton one that my dad picked up for me at some environmental fair. I have no issues with wearing clothes that proclaim directly what you believe. But, though I was always comfortable and happy in those, I was afraid to wear my (really fantastically designed) OBAMA shirt, because I was afraid of the debate that would inspire, simply because it was a VERY direct statement of my political beliefs. I didn't feel like I had the right to wear it, because at the time, I was too young to vote anyway.

Since then, I've resigned those shirts to running-wear (makes sense, at least for the running shirts)-- partially because I don't feel the need to force myself to look pretty or anything when running, and when I'm running, I feel confident. I'm not ashamed of my beliefs or my body, and wearing shirts that label me clearly as an environment-loving liberal are not silly or stupid. But they made me feel awkward and like I would be attacked for the passive expression of what I think is important.

Again, I'm not discrediting that, but these days, I dress to feel confident. I dress according to my whims and emotions; some days, that means a shirt that says "OBAMA" across it over a very pop-art inspired picture of his face. Most days, however, I dress more-or-less like a European. My style has been influenced heavily by my time in France, and so I dress in a way that makes sense for me based on those experiences. I dress according to the weather, and in a generally sensible manner-- but I want to feel pretty.

Sometimes I wonder if I follow fashion blogs a bit too much. Maybe I pay too much attention to clothes and people and style, especially since few people would recognize me as having that interest. Is it damaging to look, to be inspired, or to covet things? To allow myself to fall into something that is stereotypically "female"?

I don't think that's the case, though. I think that it is okay to love fashion and style, without it being my only interest. I am not a stereotypical female, and just because I have an interest in clothes and appearance, does not make me superficial or vain or any of those things. If anything, that interest allows me to live in a way that I enjoy and to feel good about myself while doing so. I don't care about such things because I'm supposed to, and I think that's what makes the difference. I dress myself not to please others-- I mean, I wore a Hogwarts uniform to school one day when it wasn't Spirit Week-- but to feel happy and confident about myself.

Maybe I can't define my style, and maybe when people see me they do not automatically see "FEMINIST" emblazoned across my shirt, but I don't have to have that direct marker to be a feminist. I can feel pretty and strong in a skirt, and appearances aren't everything anyway. I am a feminist not because of my clothes, but because I know what I believe and I won't allow myself to follow stereotypes blindly: I choose my clothes, and I choose my beliefs. I can choose feminism and fashion without feeling like a mindless follower-- I choose both for myself, not because I am expected to, but because I want to.

-Aly

Find the other posts on this topic here, check out the FFB here, or find links to some of the past posts here!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Staying Informed

Hello, all!

I don't have time to keep up to date on all the news. I hear about most things from the internet, but rarely do I actually poke around enough to actually understand what is going on in the world. But since Japan is dealing with a major disaster right now, I want to be informed. I can't just allow myself to be blind to current events, not in a world where everything is fast-paced and there are major issues to be addressed and environmental disasters to confront; problems to solve.

Sure, I may be busy, but what is the excuse for not staying informed? I am a citizen of the earth. I live in a country where I have the right to vote now-- my voice has power now. And I haven't been living up to my duty to understand the details of what is happening here in the United States and abroad; I have been living in the bubble of my own life. I can't do that anymore. I cannot allow myself to be blind, seeing only what people tell me about when the situation is desperate or what I see for those few seconds of the day when checking my email.

Anyway, I'm trying to learn. To see what is going, understand what it means, and what the consequences are. But part of me is still using the (other) excuse that I don't know where to look. That's a complete lie, because, again... the internet.

- The New York Times. (Because I feel that this is most legitimate way to stay informed.)
- My local newspaper. (It's not the best, but it does have local news.)
- Google News. (So convenient!)
- Greenpeace. (Call me a crazy liberal, but Greenpeace does have current news about environmental issues.)
- The Nation. (For political news. Besides, we recently learned about the Nation in AP US History!)
- Earthjustice. (To know about political campaigns regarding the environment.)
- Educated Earth. (Granted, I just found this today and need to poke around a bit more, but it seems like a pretty good place to get news.)
- Congress.org. (To know about what is going on politically.)

The things I want to know about are related largely to politics and the environment. I want to know about things that I am passionate about, and things that affect me. So, that's what I'm going to do. Since I can't be uninformed, I am going to seek out information on topics that are important to me, and I won't shy away from supporting causes that I think are just.

Have you heard about the House of Representatives bill that would cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood? I'm sure you've heard about the Union bill in Wisconsin by now. What about the situation in Libya and Egypt? Do you ever think about Haiti? Darfur? You should know what's going on in Japan. Do you know about the bills that are currently in Congress that attack the Endangered Species Act?

And if you do know about those things, what are you going to do about them? Does it matter to you?

I might be 18, still in high school and relatively limited in what I can do to help out, but I can stay informed. I can write letters to Senators and Representatives, I can volunteer, I can vote in elections, but most of all... the thing I CAN do every day, is to read and be informed.

So, what do you read to know what is going on in the world? Do you look for certain types of news or certain issues?

What will you do to help?

-Aly

Monday, March 7, 2011

FFB: My Body Entirely

The start of a cross-country race.

Hello, all!

So the FFB topic for today is really just to discuss one of the topics that have been addressed in the discussions on the group page. One of our discussions was about body image and plastic surgery, and since I've been doing track, I've been thinking a lot about body image.

I am a runner, and I have been for the last four years; running has completely changed how I see my body and I will not allow myself to hate my body. I might not like all the features of my body, but every imperfect bit of it is part of me. Running has given me the ability to look at myself not in terms of beauty but in terms of function-- I am healthy. I'm strong and capable of movement.

My elbows are bony and my calves are too big, my thighs are impossible to fit into pants, and I am not built to be a runner. Yet I am, despite that... My elbows allow my arms to move, pulling me forward faster; my calves stretch and contract with each step, carrying me up and down hills; my thighs are mostly muscle, propelling my runs. I am not these pieces of myself; I'm a whole. Every part of me has a function. My body is a beautiful, efficient, running MACHINE.

My body carries me on journeys-- across the globe (mostly in a plane, but STILL), up a mountain, around a track, down a street, up a hill, across a stream; distances farther than I used to believe I could run. I am not the fastest, but I can move fast, every part of me screaming for oxygen and straining. And at the end, I may be hunched over and struggling to breathe, but I survived, despite the pain. My body allows that. It enables my adventures, and it endures ridiculous amounts of pain as I push myself to some new limit.

That's why I don't understand plastic surgery. Not fully, anyway. I can understand wanting to perfect your body, but for myself, it would never be an option. I could never forsake the body that is healthy and strong. I understand feeling like you're not good enough or not pretty enough, but can you not see, when you look at yourself, how beautiful you are? In function, if nothing else?

I mean, obviously, there are exceptions. Maybe it isn't about body image, but a medical thing. If it is necessary, then yes, go for it. But I think that plastic surgery and our negative views of our bodies are feminist issues.

Everywhere around us, we are compelled to think that our bodies are flawed. That we are flawed. That our hips are too wide, our bellies too fat, our arms too flabby... the list goes on and on. If you told me to name 10 imperfections about my body, I could probably make a list in 10 seconds flat, but that isn't how I want to live. I don't want to be critical of my HEALTHY body, to allow myself to submit to these insane rules of how my body should look when I know that the way my body looks isn't the most important thing about it. I can't allow myself to be brainwashed into thinking that I am not good enough and that my body is not up to the standards of society.

What if my standards of beauty are different? What if all I want from my body is the ability to run and to feel free?

Can you look at your body and appreciate it for what it is; it's strengths and weaknesses? That's you. All of it. Everything. Your body, your terms. Improve upon it if you must, but it is better to be healthy and accepting of your body than hate yourself. And maybe it's just the runner in me, but when you move, feel it fully. Sink into every joint and jiggle and take a deep breath-- feel how your body flies over the ground or stumbles along, how your lungs expand and sweat covers your skin. Embrace it, how alive your body is-- how it is nothing fake. You are fully real. You are fully yourself.

Run. Breathe. Dance. Sing. Hug. Do something, move. Your body doesn't have to be anything else. It can do everything you need it-- or want it-- to, and you don't have to feel bad about it.

That's all I guess. Just what I've been thinking about, and my view on it.

-Aly

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FFB: A Feminist Icon

Hello, all!

So, it's the big day. The FFB blogging event (Feminist Fashion Bloggers). And I still have no idea who to write about.

Not for lack of icons-- or feminists-- we've been studying the 20s and 30s in AP US History at the moment, and there is no lack of strong women that changed the world in history. The problem for me is narrowing it down to one woman who inspires me. I keep coming back to the same ideas though: my "feminist" icons might not be feminists at all. They were strong, individual women with goals. They made a difference in the world despite limitations or expectations, and in whatever way, they made their voice matter.

Since we're currently studying the 1930s, I was thinking about Eleanor Roosevelt. Or maybe even Amelia Earhart... Margaret Sanger... there are so many to choose from. But as always, my mind strays towards the kind of woman I admire: authors. (Well, and fictional characters, heroines... but that would need its own post altogether.)

Namely, two authors-- Rachel Carson and J. K. Rowling. You should recognize at least one of those names, and if it's the former, you are officially awesome and we should be friends. J.K. Rowling would be a fun icon, but Rachel Carson... well, she changed the world. And if you don't know her, you should know about her.

I did a paper on Rachel Carson in 8th grade, which is why her name always comes to mind. She was an author-- an environmentalist, actually. She wrote a book, Silent Spring, that opened people's eyes to the problems that pesticides cause, the damage they inflict on ecosystems. She went to college, something unusual for her time; she studied marine biology and worked for the government. When she noticed that something was wrong, and voiced her opinions-- she was ridiculed. The media, the chemical industry, and even the government was cruel but she was strong. Her words sparked something in the people that read them-- a response. A reaction, and a desire to do something. Rachel Carson was more-or-less the beginning of the modern environmentalist movement, having convinced Congress to pass legislature that regulated pesticide use for the environment and for the inhabitants of the earth.


Again, I don't think she was a feminist. But her words and her life were dedicated to the pursuit of a worthy cause, which is something that the feminist movement has been doing for a long time. Any person-- male or female-- that has ever fought passionately for their beliefs, especially when faced with severe opposition, is an icon in my book. Rachel Carson just happens to be a female.

For me personally, though, Rachel Carson is an icon. She was a writer, as I still hope to be one day. But more than that, it was her words that made a difference in the world, and my ultimate dream is to be an environmental lawyer, and if I can achieve that... I'll be walking in her footsteps, in a way. Using my words to enact change, to fight for my beliefs and to fight for the environment. A cause I think is always worth the fight.

So, I leave you with one of her quotes.

"If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life."


(That quote is from here. Information about Rachel Carson can be found here.)

A bientot!
-Aly

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

February Round-up!

Hello, all!

I just blogged every day for the month of February. If you missed one of the posts, here's the list here!

Feb. 1st: Return to Middle School-- musings about who I am now versus who I was in middle school & the passage of time.
Feb. 2nd: Forgotten Posts-- a list of things I had written about in the past that I had forgotten to publish.
Feb. 3rd: Guest Post: Claire on Music -- Claire talks about music and learning to play instruments.
Feb. 4th: The Seven Stages of Procrastination -- a short list about how I go about procrastination.
Feb. 5th: A Barely-Golden Sky -- a short narrative inspired by a picture.
Feb. 6th: Super Bowl Sunday -- where I reveal how I spent my day. (This one is really insignificant.)
Feb. 7th: That Kind of Day -- a day when everything felt odd and I once again retreated to the library.
Feb. 8th: Warning: (Religion) Rant Ahead -- exactly what it sounds like.
Feb. 9th: The Math Class Narrative -- where I share a narrative I wrote about my math class.
Feb. 10th: Wrock Concert -- where I reveal what I was actually doing on February 9th, and share a wizard rock song.
Feb. 11th: Five-ish Friday Links -- where I share links to sites I spend way too much time on, and things you should know about.
Feb. 12th: Secret Project! -- a short post about how I spent my day sewing, though I have yet to actually finish the video I promise in the post... whoops... (This one is insignificant, too.)
Feb. 13th: Lost Ideas -- musings about inspiration folders and ideas that we lose.
Feb. 14th: Happy I'm-Single-On-Valentine's Day -- where I talk about love, just not the romantic kind, and why I like Valentine's Day... and write a list of people ten people I love.
Feb. 15th: An Excerpt from the Locket -- I share an excerpt from my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel.
Feb. 16th: Balance -- musings about my New Year's Resolutions, how to prioritize, and my inability to do so.
Feb. 17th: Incoherent Poetry -- a short poem that describes my day.
Feb. 18th: Feminism -- where I rant about what I think feminism means.
Feb. 19th: Simplicity -- an even shorter, incredibly simple poem.
Feb. 20th: To New Readers & Old -- where I thank you for reading, and reveal that I have no idea what this blog is anymore.
Feb. 21st: The Inevitability of Death -- musings about death & our fear of it.
Feb. 22nd: The Senses -- where I talk about the senses, sight, and perception.
Feb. 23rd: Highway -- I find a poem I wrote in 2009 and share it.
Feb. 24th: An Unsurprising Confession -- where I reveal my love for Shakespeare.
Feb. 25th: 100 Happy Things -- in honor of my 100th blog post, I write a list of 100 things to be happy about.
Feb. 26th: Out of my Comfort Zone -- I blog after an awkward dance and muse about trying new things.
Feb. 27th: Mindless Reading -- where I share my shameless pleasure of reading books that don't require me to think.
Feb. 28th: Nearly March -- where I unveil the new blog design, talk about what to expect, and ask you what you want me to blog about!

Well, happy March, everybody! I'm glad you stuck around for NaBloPoMo, and if you're a blogger, you should definitely consider doing it some month-- I promise, it's not nearly as scary as NaNoWriMo!

Question for today:
- What was your favorite post from this past month? Why?

(Mine, in case you're wondering, is the 100 Happy Things.)

A demain for the FFB event! :)
-Aly

Monday, February 28, 2011

Nearly March

Hello, all!

I just redesigned my blog. Though I loved the whole Eiffel Tower thing, I decided it was time I change it up again. This is kind of less pretty, but it's simple-- it kind of goes with me not knowing where this blog is going. It still has a bit of the Eiffel Tower, and the banner (I made it with Paint and Word...) is made up of some of my favorite pictures from France (and one from Italy). It's interesting, if anything.

Making that banner made me think that I should do a round-up of my favorite pictures from France. I already have a pretty good list, but I have THOUSANDS of pictures. Not really sure what else to do with them, so maybe sometime in the upcoming months, I'll make that.

I don't think I'll be posting daily in March. I have a few posts that I know will be coming up soon-- tomorrow, expect a round-up of all my February posts and on Wednesday, I'm participating in an FFB blogging event, so that will be posted then. But other than that, I really don't know what is in store.

I've really enjoyed writing every day for the last month, and I would definitely like to continue that. It's been awesome to see how many people have been reading my posts, and I've had so many great comments from you guys. I'm incredibly thankful, and I'm glad that my words made you feel the need to respond. I hope you continue with the commenting, because it makes my day every time! It's like I'm getting to know you guys, and part of me just wants to call you all my friends (some of you are already), but either way... thanks, friends :)

OKAY. I'm going to stop being ramble-y now, because I have things to go do (and books to read, I just got two more from the library today... it just feels like a reading week for me), but I'll see you back here tomorrow!

Questions for today:
- What do you think about the new blog design?
- What do you want me to write about in the future?

A demain!
-Aly

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mindless Reading

Hello, all!

So, today is the second-to-last day of daily blogging! And I really did nothing of interest today. I wen to the library and re-shelved books for a while (volunteering is FUN.), and then I wandered down to the YA section to see if they had any of the books I've been wanting to read.

After yesterday, I was just thinking too much about too many things, which seems to be the norm for this month, so I purposefully sought out books by authors I like and some of the silly, mindless chick-lit that I gravitate towards when I am reading with the express purpose of NOT thinking too hard.

I hate to be a stereotypical teenage girl here, but... it's like Chick Flicks. A shameful secret, but I do kind of adore the sensation of engrossing myself in a cutesy-vaguely-romantic story, even if the writing is awful. Also, I'm completely okay with books that I can read quickly and not have to dwell on for long after. It's exhausting to have to analyze everything in a book, sometimes.

So today I picked up The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (I keep seeing it at the used bookstore that I love, but I didn't think it was worth spending money on...) and Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel (I've read another of her books before, and I wondered if this was any better. And I admit, I kind of love books that have a main character that blogs, because I wonder if I can relate.) I got exactly what I bargained for: crappy teen romances with little substance. Kiss and Blog was particularly poorly-written and frustrating, and I'll probably be reviewing it on Goodreads later.

I don't feel bad about wasting several hours of my day on these books. It's nice to read for fun. But at the same time, some of the issues I found in the books are ones that rile up the feminist part of me and I wonder about the quality of literature and of female characters, and even the validity of "chick lit". What an awful name, too-- chick lit-- as though it's somehow inferior to other literature. (Though in this case, it was... I mean...)

I'll be participating in an FFB (Feminist Fashion Bloggers) event in a few days, so look for that. But I think that I could definitely write about Chick Lit and female protagonists sometime, but since today is my day of mindless reading, I am not going to go into a rant that requires actual brain power.

What do you do when you don't WANT to think? Do you have any shameful pleasures that you usually don't share?
(Also, if you know what goodreads is, you are AWESOME.)

A demain!
-Aly

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Out of my Comfort Zone

Hello, all!

I'm emailing this to my blog from my phone because I kind of doubt I'll want to write it later when I get home. It's very possible I'd forget to post altogether.

If you know me in real life, you know I'm awkward. Even more so when you put me in a situation that is out of my comfort zone. Case in point: tonight.

Every year, Habitat for Humanity hosts these dances for local high schools, and the cost of the tickets goes towards their work. It's a win-win for area teenagers-- you get to socialize and "dance" with the added bonus of seeing people from other schools and pretending that all of that is merely to benefit charity.

I avoid such things on principle, but I kind of regret missing out on some of these events in the past. Tonight, however was the neon dance, and for the first time in my high school years, I went.

I can't say I was really impressed. It was exactly what I expected, and I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn't even fully enjoy it.

I fully believe that everybody should try something out of their comfort zone at least once. But, I understand the reluctance, too. Because doing something completely different from what you would normally is TERRIFYING. It's awkward and you look around constantly, searching some other option-- like escape.

There's nothing that quite makes you feel so powerless (and, again, awkward) as being in a room full of people that know what they're doing while you cross your fingers and your arms and try to maintain the carefully constructed mask of indifferent confidence. Especially when all you really want to do is bury your face in your hands and run from the room, maybe even screaming, but potentially crying because it's AWFUL.

But you don't and you walk around and breathe (in my case, breathing in the heavy scent of sweat, body heat, and booze...) and hope that by the end of the night you find some semblance of courage.

The thing is, even out of my comfort zone, horribly and awkwardly out of place like christmas carols in July, there is something to learn in moments like these. However, I have yet to know what, exactly. I'll let you know :)

A demain!
-Aly
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, February 25, 2011

100 Happy Things

Hello, all!

Well, this is the 100th post. Not much, is it?

I wasn't sure what to write about today, but I keep posting relatively heavy things, so my friend Lindsey suggested I write a post about things to be happy about. I figured that was an appropriate celebration of my 100th post, so...

100 Things to Be Happy About:
  1. The beauty of weather.
  2. The ability to see and interact with the world around you.
  3. Bizarre conversations that have no purpose.
  4. That moment when you realize that somebody else knows EXACTLY what you're talking about.
  5. Not failing at high-fives... or even better, high-tens.
  6. Unplanned meetings with friends in the middle of the hallway.
  7. Hearing a song that feels perfect for that moment.
  8. Knowing how to be alone.
  9. Planning for the next great adventure.
  10. Alternatively, planning nothing at all and just DOING.
  11. The moment right after a hard run or a hard day when you realize that you survived.
  12. The scent of spring on the air, and the first flower buds emerging from the ground.
  13. Writing poetry.
  14. Reading a book that distracts you completely from your life.
  15. When people listen to what you have to say and offer exactly what you need in response.
  16. Baking and cooking for pleasure.
  17. Dreams of the possibilities of the future.
  18. Meeting new people & making new friends.
  19. Getting past the awkward getting-to-know-you stage.
  20. Learning a new instrument and not even caring how terrible you are.
  21. Feeling confident.
  22. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and not regretting it.
  23. Days when worries are forgotten.
  24. When you find yourself smiling for no reason at all.
  25. Laughing uncontrollably.
  26. Chocolate.
  27. Dancing in the rain.
  28. Spending a day watching favorite movies.
  29. Reading outside.
  30. Creating something beautiful.
  31. The first moment of summer vacation.
  32. Reconnecting with old friends.
  33. Achieving a goal.
  34. Catching 11:11 and making a wish.
  35. Being reminded that you are loved.
  36. Overcoming a challenge.
  37. Having an epiphany.
  38. Eating the last bite of something delicious.
  39. Giving presents...
  40. Especially for no reason at all.
  41. Waking up and knowing that today will be a GOOD day.
  42. Fresh, clean towels.
  43. Modern medicine.
  44. Learning something new.
  45. Re-reading favorite books from your childhood.
  46. Following a recommendation.
  47. The warmth of sunlight.
  48. Cuddling with a pet.
  49. Finding a hidden treasure.
  50. Remembering something you had forgotten.
  51. Traveling by train.
  52. Feeling invincible.
  53. Dancing around the house when nobody else is around.
  54. Singing loudly in the shower.
  55. Feeling beautiful.
  56. Looking through photo albums.
  57. Wearing awesome socks.
  58. Expecting the worst but hearing the best.
  59. Pleasant surprises.
  60. Inside jokes.
  61. Sharing once-embarrassing stories.
  62. Forgiving somebody.
  63. Being forgiven.
  64. Volunteering for a worthy cause.
  65. Doing something for yourself, not because you expected to.
  66. Knowing that people have heard you.
  67. Finding the perfect "thinking spot".
  68. Reading old journals or stories.
  69. Going barefoot when the ground is damp.
  70. Snow days.
  71. Daydreaming.
  72. Blasting music in the car while driving.
  73. Staying up late and actually accomplishing something.
  74. Watching movies in the middle of the night.
  75. Counting down to an event.
  76. Watching movies with friends.
  77. Holding hands.
  78. Trying on silly hats.
  79. Having a clean room.
  80. Taking pictures of nature.
  81. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
  82. Picnics.
  83. Meeting somebody you admire.
  84. Receiving mail.
  85. Starting to write in a new notebook.
  86. Finding old notes from friends.
  87. Writing nonsense songs.
  88. Whispering secrets in the middle of the night.
  89. Filling your day with happy things.
  90. Walking through a park.
  91. Being optimistic.
  92. Beautiful quotes.
  93. The internet.
  94. Testing a new recipe and having it fail-- but enjoying the process anyway.
  95. Saying "I love you".
  96. Enjoying the silence.
  97. Being complimented.
  98. Having an honest debate about opinions without getting offended.
  99. Light.
  100. Just... living.

Well, I could probably go on for a long time, but... this is just 100 things I thought of that I think you should be happy about. These are things I am happy about, anyway!

Thank you so much to Lindsey for inspiring this list, and to all the people that have inspired particular reasons to be happy on this list. To all the readers-- the one about being heard-- that's for you. Thank you all so much for commenting and reading!

A demain!
<3
-Aly

Thursday, February 24, 2011

An Unsurprising Confession

Hello, all!

I'm not sure what to write about today. This is my 99th post and all I can think about is how today was just a good day. Not a memorable day, but just a good day-- or at least good enough that I feel good right now.

I have a confession to make. Nothing bad.

Tomorrow, I have to turn in the title to an essay I have to write for my Shakespeare class that is due in 4th quarter. I only had one idea-- the role of women in Shakespeare, particularly Ophelia in Hamlet and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. They're two VERY different characters, and it's kind of along the lines of feminism (which I've been thinking about MORE lately since I joined FFB). However, over the course of a quick conversation with my teacher, my new topic will be Sociology in Shakespeare, as in how does Shakespeare represent societal issues, stereotypes, and ideas in his works? Like antisemitism in the Merchant of Venice, religion in Hamlet, women in any of his plays (but particularly Taming of the Shrew), racism in Othello... I'm already really excited about writing it, though I wonder how I will fit all that I could find to say into a four or five page paper.

I'm sure it's obvious by now, my confession is that I'm a bit of a Shakespeare nerd. It's completely unsurprising, actually; I've talked about my Shakespeare class a lot over many posts, and I love spending time at the bookstore looking for books that are inspired by some of his works. I find his sonnets to be beautiful, his plays to be wonderfully complex, and his language to be enchanting. I love his characters, and they're written so well that I can't help but marvel at his mastery. I mean, granted, some of his characters annoy me to no end, but I think that's a good thing-- they're so real, enough that I respond emotionally to their stories.

Earlier this year, I had never read Shakespeare before (my education has been lacking; usually freshmen read Romeo and Juliet but my class didn't). I had only heard about the class from some of my friends over the years (all positive reviews), but I've also heard bad things about Shakespeare's works-- how it's confusing and complicated and overwhelming and the language is dull or hard to understand. My mom is particularly fond of informing me that she couldn't make it through three weeks of Shakespeare in high school and she thinks I'm insane because I love it.

The thing is, I wanted to learn Shakespeare. I wanted to take this class, if anything just to read classic literature (I love most classics); as a writer, I figured learning the stories that are ingrained into our culture would only help me. But taking this class has been one of the best decisions I've made in high school. I doubt that I could have started reading Shakespeare on my own, and I doubt that I would have loved it as much if I had just read that one play as a freshman; I fear that my view of it would be skewed by the opinions of my classmates and a general reluctance to understand. But as I spent time in France (and had to read a bit of Shakespeare to French class... in English...), I thought about how sad it was that I had never read anything of his. How sad it was that I was missing out on such an important part of English literature. So I signed up for Shakespeare 101 and 102, which turns a semester class into a two-semester class and I have enjoyed every second of it.

At the beginning of the year, my teacher asked us if we had read Shakespeare before-- most had read Romeo and Juliet-- and if we had a favorite. The answer was no, we didn't have a favorite, due to lack of exposure.

I still don't know what my favorite would be. I still can't choose. I love his comedies (we read the Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado about Nothing)-- the puns and insults are hilarious! The Tempest (one of his romances) was powerful and there's that one speech... The Merchant of Venice forced me to think and sparked incredibly interesting debates in my class. Henry V is a history, but the tale transcends generations (also, comparing the movies was fun). We spent too much time on Hamlet, but I really didn't mind because I still love it despite the fact that I spent 9 weeks working on it in English and in Shakespeare 101. And now we're reading Othello and there are mysteries to be solved in each character of the play. I'm intrigued. The point is, I don't know if I will ever be able to choose a favorite.

Anyway, now you know. I'm a Shakespeare nerd.

Confession time is fun. Any confessions about nerdy pursuits? I'd love to hear them, especially if you share my love for Shakespeare!