Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Reviews 2015, Part Three

I kind of don't want to write this post because I'm embarrassed by it. I had a goal at this beginning of this year to read 36 books. While I have met many of my other year-long goals, this one is definitely not going to be met. I'm barely caught up with where I should have been in June. Why? Because I'm lazy, basically. Don't argue with me on this. Reading books, especially books of my genre, is something essential, especially for a writer, and I haven't been doing it, and with very little excuses, too. It's hard to call myself a writer when I know that I rarely read outside of assigned reading for class. I'm definitely going to set the same goal for myself next year, and I will attempt to read a little more for the last three months of the year, and I hope that whatever is keeping me from reading, I can overcome it.

That being said, I did do some reading these past three months, so here are my book reviews for July, August, and September. My three book reviews, for three months.

THE ONE BOOK I READ IN JULY

14. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
This was a wonderful, wonderful book. I read it in less than a day. It tells the story of Simon, a high school student who loves theater and Harry Potter and has a pretty good social life, except for one thing: he's gay, and he doesn't know how to tell everyone. Also, he has a secret e-mail pen pal guy that he knows goes to his school that he's developing a crush on. So, basically, all the makings of a fun high school drama/romance. It was funny, it was cute, it touched on some serious issues, and, unlike a ton of YA (not that I would know, since I don't read books anymore, apparently), it portrayed teens very accurately. I really liked that- it was just so refreshing. So, I highly recommend it.

THE ONE, SINGULAR, INDIVIDUAL BOOK I READ IN AUGUST

15. Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale
This was the third and final book in a series I adore, the Princess Academy series. Starting with the Newbery Honor winning Princess Academy, a beautiful book about a mountain girl who learns to read and transforms her village, the series takes the protagonist Miri to the capital of her kindgom, where she participates in a revolution, in the second book. The third book turns the entire premise of the series on its head by introducing three mysterious sisters that Miri is required to tutor in their own personal princess academy. The new setting, the way Miri's character develops, the mystery and the political drama, and of course Shannon Hale's ever amazing writing style, all contributed to a really wonderful book. I'm only sad that there won't be any more books in this series.

THE BOOK THAT STANDS ALONE IN THE DESOLATE ISLAND OF SEPTEMBER

16. Dove Arising by Karen Bao
I was lucky enough to see Karen Bao speak at Ch1Con this August, so I went into her book already having some knowledge about her world-building process and stuff. I guess meeting her as a real human did not prepare me for how good the book would be. To sum it up, it's like if Divergent was way way better and took place on the moon. It's about a girl who joins the moon army to help pay her mother's bail for a political crime, and then realizes the corruption of the moon society. Like everyone, I'm getting a little sick of dystopians (not as if I've been reading that many, but still), but this was a very good one. While the world building was intricate and very well-done, what really drew me in was the character of Phaet, the protagonist. She was unique and incredibly well-developed. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat, as well. I can't wait to see what happens in the next book.

So... yeah. Literally. Three. Books. In three months. What's next? One book in three months? Zero? A couple pages and then giving up? We shall see. Just... please don't, like, be mad at me for calling myself a writer when I read this little. I know, I know how hypocritical it is. I don't even have "writer" in my Twitter bio or anything like that. So I'm just an un-literary college student who wrote some book reviews. Not infringing on the realm of true writers or anything.

I guess this was pretty short... I suppose I can recommend some of the media I actually did consume these past three months. Like... Ronan Lynch/Adam Parrish fan fiction, which I've probably read a book's worth of at this point. Actually, on second thought, I won't share any of those. Do you want to hear some of my favorite memes? I don't know. I started watching Steven Universe. Now there's something I can really recommend. The cutest, most wonderful, most whoa-I-came-here-for-the-smol-cutes-what-are-these-feelings? children's cartoon ever.

Seriously, though, if I don't read at least six or seven books over the next three months, I'll just skip the final book review post. Because it's just ridiculous at this point.

Thanks for reading,
Ariel

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On Change (With Poetry!)

Hey! So I just finished up my Yom Kippur fast, and I couldn't think what to do for tonight's blog post. I actually made a list of about 70 blog post ideas, but I scrolled through all of them and none of them sounded right. Because why spend two hours writing blog post ideas to actually utilize them? Anyway, I thought I should write about something related to Yom Kippur. I know a lot of my readers are not Jewish, so this is not going to be an in-depth theology post (as if I have the credentials for that, ha ha). Rather, I thought I would relate the things I thought about this Yom Kippur to other parts of my life.

The High Holidays are a time of change. It's the end of an old year, and the start of a new one. The vows we made over the past year are erased. We have a chance to ask for forgiveness and start over again. I thought a lot, during my fast, about metaphors to do with newness, and with religion, and forgiveness and starting over and a lot of things. During my poetry class last year, a visiting poet told us that humans use metaphors the way that animals use burrowing through the undergrowth. We use metaphors to feel our way through confusion, to place in a tangible context what is inconceivable to us. To me, religion is a lot like a metaphor. We use it to try and get a feel for what we can't really understand in our logical minds.

While I spent the day fasting, I came up with a lot of metaphors. I came up with metaphors to help me understand my relationship with God, which is complicated. I thought about the poem I read recently for class, "Tintern Abbey," in which Wordsworth talks about a strange spirit in the woods. Here's an excerpt from it:

And I have felt
      A presence that disturbs me with the joy
      Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
      Of something far more deeply interfused,
      Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
      And the round ocean and the living air,
      And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
      A motion and a spirit, that impels                             
      All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
      And rolls through all things.

When I read that excerpt, a few days ago, I thought of my time in the woods outside my dorm last year. How sometimes when I walked through the woods I would feel "the joy of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused." As though the wind and the trees were speaking to me. When I had a bad day- and I had a lot of bad days last year- going into the woods would calm me down, and lift me up, and remind me that I was OK and that the world was beautiful. I thought about "Tintern Abbey" and those times in the woods in services today, and it made me think that there are a thousand different ways to be spiritual or to be religious, and they can be walking in the woods, or reading poetry, or giving charity, or not believing in God but believing in humanity and its ability for empathy and kindness.

There are also different ways to look at Yom Kippur. For me, this year, it was about washing away the past. It was an ending to bad things, a beginning to good new things, a middle for good old things. There have been a lot of bad things in my life over the past year: depression, anxiety, bad self-esteem, little to no social life, procrastination, overeating, bad physical health, etc. There were also good things: a wonderful new school, working with Ch1Con, finally finishing the second draft of The Wishmaker, etc. And there are good things I look forward to in the future: a lot more work on The Wishmaker, making new friends, starting activist work, getting back into reading, etc.

So I wanted to let go of the bad parts of my past. A while ago, I wrote a letter to some of the people that bullied me in middle school, whose treatment of me was still in my head years and years later. Along with some other poet friends, I burned the letter, and I hope I burned the effect they left on me as well. I want to do that with the other things still in my head- the need to apologize for my existence, the waves of sadness, the anxiety attacks, the fear. I want to wash them away. I thought of another poem that I had written, in tenth grade, about washing things away. It's called "Letters and Numbers," and here's an excerpt of it:

"And letters and numbers
Untangle themselves
From their dark and stirring symphonies
To walk down the rainy sidewalk
Wherein is reflected the bright white sky.

I stand and watch the rain
Against our nearly bare earth
It rains in December, you see, before
The world dies and is reborn.
Our earth is nearly bare, but now
The rain must clean it free of leaves
Before that blanket of snow heralds in the new birth.

Wash away my past, oh silver rain,
From my bare-branched trees and
My dirt-smeared roads.
Wash away my troubles and my sins and my leaves
Take the dark in my soul down the gutter with you
And leave me, waiting for snow, all new.

Letters and numbers must take different paths,
you see.
Take yours and leave my light-filled sidewalk to me.

A leaf detaches from a branch
And spirals down to the path of running rain."


I want to wash away the things that held me back this past year. Not just because they made my life worse, but because they took away my potential to be a better person. I could have given charity, participated in activist work, made friends, been kind to others. But I was trapped inside myself, and I was afraid. I asked forgiveness for being afraid this Yom Kippur. I hope that in the year to come, I can be brave again.

So, one last excerpt from a poem I wrote in junior year of high school, called "Dauntless."

"

I stand on the edge of a cliff,
gazing down at the brilliantly sparkling blue waters below,
and the glorious sky spread above,
with its golden-white star.

I’m scared to jump,
but I have to trust that I can fly.
Because I can.
I have to trust that I have wings
Because I do.
"

Thank you for reading. I'm sorry if any of you are really not into Jewish stuff or religious stuff, but that's what I felt like writing about today. I hope it was somewhat relatable/interesting/at least you got to read some cool poems anyway.

Thanks again,
Ariel

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Common Writing Advice that I Disagree With

Hello, everyone! I know some of you guys are young writers, and as a young writer myself, one thing I come up against a lot is writing advice. (In fact, I give out a lot of it on this blog). Writing advice can be a good thing when it comes in the form of suggestions or ideas. It helps to get a new perspective, a new lens through which to look at your writing that might help you out, a tip that might make the process easier. I know I've gotten plenty of writing advice during my years of writing that stuck with me and helped me out for years.

On the other hand, a lot of the advice I got did not stick with me. And that's OK. Some things that work marvelously for one writer just won't click with another. What I don't like, however, is advice that suggests that This Is the Only Way, or that it's some sort of hard-and-fast rule. (A lot of this applies to grammar and stylistic choices, annoyingly. I know I'm nitpicky about grammar but not all of it is set in stone).

Unfortunately, it seems like people are going to keep on giving terrible writing advice, and young writers are going to keep feeling bad about their writing because of it- or worse, screw up their writing because of some really bad advice. I realize me blogging about it isn't going to stop that, but it's fun to rant about it. Get ready for a lot of sarcasm...

"Never use 'said.' And certainly don't just NOT use a dialogue tag. You must describe the exact manner in which your character is speaking. Or better yet, just use any word that sounds really big from the thesaurus. Remember: the dialogue isn't important. It's whether the character shrieked, rasped, or titillated."

 UGGGGHHHHH this is my least favorite one. Probably because people say it SO MUCH. Listen to me, right now: you can use "said." In fact, the vast majority of the time, you should only use "said." Actually, the most preferable thing is to not use dialogue tags, and make it clear through your characterization who is saying what. The reasons to use a dialogue tag other than "said" are not: being creative, mixing it up, impressing your reader, or because it's the rule. The only reason to use a dialogue tag other than "said" is if that word is necessary. Yes, it sounds stupid to have a line like this: "'AAAHHH! I'M DYING!' he said." In that case, you can use 'screamed' or the like. But dialogue needs to speak for itself. Dialogue tags are supposed to not even be noticed.
(P.S. I don't think "titillated" is even supposed to be a dialogue tag. But I can just see someone using it as one, and I'm so mad about that hypothetical situation.)

Adverbs are illegal. Prologues are illegal. Dream sequences are illegal, etc.
  
This advice seems to be more common among publishing circles. It starts from a sort of well-intentioned place. Yes, it's true that a lot of agents/publishers dislike prologues, adverb-muddled writing, etc. Yes, it's true that a lot of the things that people say you should "never do" are often overused and can be written really badly. But in my opinion, nothing is banned from writing. The key is to figure out what works the best for your book. If a prologue is truly necessary and makes your book better and more readable and more appealing, then use a prologue! If your dream sequence is an irreplaceable piece of your plot, then keep it! If the sentence flows beautifully with an adverb, then you can use it! Just be ready for the chance that you're wrong and it's actually not necessary. But don't restrict yourself because of what someone on Twitter said.

Never use cliches.

Julia Byers recently wrote a blog post about this. Like a lot of writing advice that has "never" in it, what it really means is "be careful." Cliches are so easy to fall back on, because they're the way that we know stories: through archetypes and similar themes and plot devices. But, as it says in Julia's post, the reason cliches are bad are not because they're a cliche- it's because they feel cliche. When you read a book, you want it to feel new and fresh and exciting. Even if it's got a Cinderella story and a new girl at school and a vampire boyfriend, if you write it in an original way, your cliche book can be great.

There has to be a reason for that character to be black, Asian, gay, etc. Everyone knows that unlike the real world, the fictional world is populated entirely by white straight abled people and anyone else is the exception.

This advice particularly annoys me because the consequences of someone following it are twofold: one, it makes your writing suck; and two, it continues making media unrepresentative of huge portions of its readership. So let me make this clear: if you want to make your character something other than white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical, American, or anything else that people think is the "default," for WHATEVER REASON, go ahead. (If you're curious what those terms mean, type them into Google and a definition will probably pop up.) There are so many different kinds of people in the real world, and if fantasy worlds were to exist, there would be lots of kinds of people in those worlds as well. Any kind of person can be any kind of character; that's sort of the point of fiction. The media is already not representing tons of groups of people; don't let your book be part of that problem.

You need to be good at grammar and spelling to be a good writer.

Being a good fiction writer is about being good with stories. Being a good nonfiction writer is about being good with stories, sometimes, or with explanations. Being a good poet is about being good with words and ideas. (Obviously this is simplifying all these genres, but I'm trying to make a point here.) None of those things require grammar and spelling knowledge. However. Before submitting stuff for publication or handing it out to critique partners, proofread your work, or if you are terrible at grammar and spelling, get someone else to proofread it. Your work needs to have coherent grammar and spelling so that readers understand it, but you personally can suck at that stuff and still be a great writer.

Don't make your story too weird.

This is like the "don't use cliches" one. It's true that sometimes people weird up their stories so much that you can't even tell there's a plot in there anymore, and it's not enjoyable to read at all. But it's all about knowing what works for your story. If your story works best with an outlandish, super-original plot that is unlike anything you've heard before, go for it. Write a good story and people won't care if it's weird. Also, if your goal is to get published, I'm pretty sure agents and publishers are looking for something they haven't seen before, and there is definitely a large population of readers whose book type can be summed up as "weird stuff."

Don't bother writing if you haven't been dreaming of being an author since day one. Only child prodigies can succeed in this harsh business. Your first words better have been "this 87k young adult contemporary has series potential!" or else you're not a real writer.

This one's the one that annoys me the most, probably because it came from me. I said stuff like this all the time in high school. I guess it just irritated me so much that I had been writing novels since I was eleven, and suddenly people I knew popped up wanting to be writers at age sixteen or seventeen, or worse, twenty-two or thirty or even in their retirement. And they were getting success and attention! I wanted to get some sort of prize for being a writer first. I can excuse myself for having that holier-than-thou attitude when I was fifteen, because, you know, I was fifteen. But when published adult writers say this stuff to their impressionable fans, it's not OK.
I was lucky enough to understand my passion when I was six years old. Not everyone is that lucky. For many people, it's a long journey to find out that they want to write. The age you started writing is not what you're supposed to be proud of. Whether your writing affects people is something to be proud of.
Granted, becoming a good writer takes time, and starting earlier gives you extra time. But some people learn quickly. And it's OK for that time to be ages 23 through 26 instead of ages 10 through 15. Also, we're all still always learning, and sometimes those of us that just started are better than those of us who've been at it for a while. Focus on improving your craft and expressing your stories, not whether you're the right kind of writer.

OK, I think that's enough. I'm sure I can think of others so there may be a "part two" to this someday. If there's any writing advice you hate, feel free to rant about it in the comments. (Which do not work for some people- thanks, Google. You can just throw your comments into the ocean, I guess.) (Don't do that. Pollution is bad.)

Thanks for reading,
Ariel

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ultimate Bucket List for Fall

Hello, everyone! I'm currently melting into a lake of my own sweat, so that's fun. I've made a decision: if I get rich after I graduate, I'm donating a giant check of money to this school. And much like Barbara Walters earmarked her donation to my school for a campus center in her name, I will earmark my donation. But it will not be for a campus center. It will be for AIR CONDITIONING IN ALL THE BUILDINGS! I WILL BE A HERO

Anyway, so suffice it to say, I am VERY ready for summer to end. And of course, when summer ends, it's time for autumn. I love all the seasons equally, as you may know, but I do not dislike them equally. That is to say, there are many things to hate about all the seasons, but there are the least things to hate about autumn. Winter's cold, summer's hot, spring's allergy season, and what's autumn? Also allergy season, but not as bad. But it's made up for by all the cool stuff!

So, because I'm really really excited for autumn, I decided to make an ultimate autumn bucket list. There are a lot of things you can do in the fall, and I'll probably do a couple of them. But I'm not making a realistic bucket list, just like I didn't order realistic nachos that time I regretted my life decisions. I ordered ultimate nachos, and this is the ultimate fall bucket list. With all possible things one can do in the months of September, October, and November to fully enjoy that autumn-y feeling.

I've categorized them into a handful of lists, so here you go:

Outdoor activities

1. Go apple picking at an apple orchard
2. Go pumpkin picking at a pumpkin patch
3. Go to a corn maze and solve it
4. Go on a haunted hayride, or a regular hayride
5. Attend a fall festival or street fair
6. Go leaf collecting
7. Take an autumn hike through the woods, or in a park
8. Go outside and collect all sorts of symbols of fall: fallen leaves, acorns, beechnuts, chestnuts, pine cones, pine needles, etc.
9. Take pictures to document the changing of the leaves
10. Rake the leaves in your yard and jump into a pile of them
11. Take artsy hipster selfies of you in the autumn scenery, or take photographs of the books you're reading with autumn leaves and stuff
12. Write down observations of the changing weather
13. Stalk squirrels/chipmunks/etc to observe their behavioral patterns during the changing season. Maybe even locate a squirrel nest or chipmunk tunnels!
14. Watch birds migrate.
15. Go on a nature walk at night to observe that spooky autumn night life.
16. Go out to see the harvest moon.

Indoor activities

1. Sit by the window with a warm beverage
2. Read while you watch the leaves or rain fall outside
3. Curl up under the blankets during a storm
4. Try on fall outfits, like sweaters, scarves, boots, leggings, whatever
5. Bake/cook autumn foods (see next category for some of those)
6. Spend a day (or a few hours) in the library
7. Knit sweaters and stuff
8. Stand by the window mysteriously while the wind howls
9. Go to an animal shelter to pet cats (cats feel like a particularly autumn-y animal, I guess because they're cozy and because Halloween). Feel free to pet the other animals too, of course.
10. Write autumn poetry (this can be indoors or outdoors, technically)
12. Don't forget to do NaNoWriMo, and maybe make cute little calendars or posters for it.

Foods to eat and drinks to drink

1. Pumpkin spice everything- pumpkin spice bread, muffins, lattes, cocktails, cookies, pizza, whatever else you can think of
2. The apple category:
-Applesauce (especially hot applesauce with cinnamon and nutmeg)
-Hot apple cider/cold apple juice
-Apple cake
-Cinnamon apple strudel
-Apple donuts
-Apple cookies
3. Pancakes with maple syrup. Or waffles with maple syrup. Or straight-up maple syrup
4. Maple syrup candies, especially those that are shaped like little maple leaves
5. Actually... fried maple leaves are a thing in Japan
6. Maple donuts
7. CIDER DOUGHNUTS!!! THIS IS THEIR TIME TO SHINE
8. Coffee with weird flavors. Don't stop at Pumpkin Spice, everyone. Do other stuff.
9. Hot chocolate
10. Soup! Including but not limited to: pumpkin soup, minestrone, harvest vegetable soup, squash soup, tomato soup with grilled cheese, spicy lentil soup, potato-leek soup... as long as it's cozy
11. Squash recipes! Including but not limited to: squash pizza, roasted squash (either sweet or savory), squash soup as aforementioned, stuffed squash, etc.
12. Those amazing little cookies they gave you in elementary school with pictures of pumpkins on them and they could fit in your palm. If you can find those, tell me where.
13. Halloween candy, especially stuff like candy corn. I am firmly pro-candy corn, so all you candy corn haters can just go to the dentist to preach about how great you are.
14. Soft pretzels. Not sure why.
15. Thanksgiving foods, like cranberry sauce and pearl onions and green beans and I guess turkey for you omnivores out there.
16. This whole list of Halloween-themed beverages

Crafts to make

1. Leaf rubbings, of course
2. Autumn wreaths to hang on your door
3. Those Thanksgiving hand turkeys. Who cares if you're an adult.
4. Halloween themed crafts, including but not limited to: bats with movable wings, spiders, ghost crafts, pumpkin crafts, and more. Look online or use your imagination.
5. Centerpieces made out of pinecones and acorns.
6. Draw a tree trunk on a piece of paper and cover in colored bits of stuff to represent autumn leaves.
7. Owl shaped anything.
8. Make a mug out of clay.
9. Autumn-themed jewelry, whether it's just a leaf/feather pendant on a long string, or a whole bunch of multicolored beads.
10. Cards for the various autumn holidays.

OK, this is the "recommendations" section of this post, so this is my personal preference. If you want, you can totally make your own list of autumn books/movies/etc, maybe inspired by the themes in my list. (and possibly share in the comments?)

Books and stuff to read (NOT including poems because I'm making a post for that later)

1. When Autumn Comes by Robert Maass- cute picture book with good photography
2. Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson- ADORABLE picture book with beautiful illustrations
3. Any collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, but particularly Fragile Things or Smoke and Mirrors. There's a lot of horror in there for the Halloween theme. I like "October in the Chair" and "Sunbird."
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is also wonderful.
5. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente- middle grade/YA crossover kind of thing.  I will never stop recommending these. Their whimsical, dashing fantasy make for a perfect autumn read.
6. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater- I promise this isn't just going to turn into a list of my favorite books, but these young adult books are supernatural and mysterious. And Blue Lily, Lily Blue actually takes place in the fall, so.
7. Excerpts of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling- Read the autumn-y bits. And then probably the rest of them, too, and cry.
8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell- a cozy New Adult read that talks about starting college and is also just great in general.
9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo- a YA fantasy that's perfect for a chilling Halloween feel
10. The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley- you got all your fairy tales there, and it's a fun and awesome middle-grade series.

Music to listen to 

1. I'll start with my autumn playlist, because obviously I have one. I think I could probably edit it a bit but here it is for now.
2. Anything from the Bombay Bicycle Club album "I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose." Particularly the song, uh, "Autumn."
3. "September" by Daughtry
4. Halloween-themed music
5. "Back to Hogwarts" from AVPM, obviously
6. "Autumn" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
7. "Wake Me Up When September Ends" by Green Day
8. "Sweater Weather" by the Neighborhood
9. This list of Harry Potter themed ambient noise

Movies/TV show episodes to watch

1. Horror movies and Halloween movies, if you like those
2. The Addams Family/The Munsters, in that vein
3. Dead Poets Society, for poetry, prep schools, and Robin Williams
4. Kiki's Delivery Service, for an adorable movie about a young witch
5. Parks and Rec episodes about Halloween or autumn: Greg Pikitis, Flu Season, Harvest Festival, Meet 'n' Greet, Halloween Surprise (!!!)
6. How I Met Your Mother episodes about Halloween/Thanksgiving/autumn: The Slutty Pumpkin, Belly Full of Turkey, Swarley (there's a pumpkin latte mentioned and it's just a great episode anyway), Monday Night Football, Slapsgiving, Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap, Canning Randy, Blitzgiving, The Slutty Pumpkin Returns, Disaster Averted, The Autumn of Breakups
7. The episode "Girth" from Pushing Daisies, but also, all of Pushing Daisies
8. How to Get Away with Murder, the whole show
9. I haven't watched Supernatural but I think there's some good Halloween episodes on there

Back-to-school specific activities

1. Go back-to-school shopping, either for clothes or supplies
2. Arrange your notebooks, folders, pens, etc.
3. Prepare new outfits for school.
4. Do your homework in the autumn scenery.
5. Make a study playlist.
6. Make after-school snacks.
7. Sing "Back to Hogwarts" really loudly.

Halloween-specific activities

1. Go trick-or-treating
2. Buy Halloween candy to give to trick-or-treaters
3. Decide on Halloween costumes, try them out, buy them, make them
4. Halloween costume fashion show!
5. Decorate your house for Halloween
6. Go out on Halloween night at midnight or something
7. Tell ghost stories
8. Go to a Halloween party for the scariest story of all... socializing
9. Go to a haunted house

Thanksgiving specific activities

1. Tell what you are thankful for
2. Go to Thanksgiving dinner
3. Watch the Macy's parade or apparently watching football is a thing?
4. Eat Thanksgiving foods
5. Spend time with your family, or if you hate your family, spend time with your friends/pets/alone
6. Do something to give back to the community, like volunteer at a food bank
7. Educate yourself about the true and horrifying history of Thanksgiving, for some less fun times
8. Make a giant poster for people to write things they're thankful for on throughout the year. My family does this and it's great!
9. Sing Thanksgiving songs.
10. Go on a hike to get autumn stuff for the centerpiece for your table. Then decorate the table.

Other holidays in the autumn and what they're about- you can research them or join someone who knows more to celebrate them

1. Labor Day and Columbus Day: They're about getting out of school/work. Labor Day is to honor the laborers of our nation. Columbus Day is stupid and pointless.
2. The Jewish High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the days of atonement and the beginning of the Jewish year. I'm not going to get into them any further for fear I'll get something wrong and my mom will correct me in the comments. But the former is a good excuse to eat food, and the latter is... not, definitely not time to eat food.
3. Diwali: The Hindu festival of lights. From what I learned last year, it's considered by many to celebrate Rama's return to his home city. But there's a lot more to it.
4. Halloween or Samhain: Besides being the fun secular holiday we've turned it into, it's also a  sacred holiday for some religions. Wiccans and pagans celebrate the end of the harvest on this day, and plenty of other spiritual stuff.
5. Dia de los Muertos: This is a Mexican holiday to celebrate the dead. There are many traditions associated with it that I don't know about.
6. All Saints' Day: That's the day after Halloween. Christians celebrate saints on this day.
7. Sukkot: Another Jewish holiday, where we go outside and build huts called "sukkot" that we're technically supposed to sleep and eat in. It's a celebration of the harvest and also remembers our time in the desert when we lived in temporary abodes. Again, look to the comments for my mother's corrections.
8. For more, check out this Wikipedia page that might lead you to more educational links.

So, hope you enjoyed that. That took me only five million years. And now I'm hoping to take a shower and go to bed in this horrible summer heat. I almost forgot how awful the weather was while writing this post... :(

Thanks for reading!
-Ariel

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Things that Calm Me Down After a Bad Day

Recently there's been a string of unbearably hot days. For me, this has been amplified by the fact that I just moved into my new dorm this week. It's a great dorm- good room, center of campus, nice roommate, only three people to the bathroom- but it's also an old dorm. So we have no air conditioning (much like almost everywhere on campus). And since I've been running around campus for the past few days to do our special Sarah Lawrence registration process, I have been really tired by the end of the day. To be clear: I haven't been having bad days. Just long and tiring ones.

But it got me thinking about what cheers me up/calms me down after I have a bad day. For whatever reason: actual bad events, pointless depression/anxiety attacks, being sick, periods, the weather, exhaustion, etc. I made a list of the things I turn to that bring me to a better state after being shaken up by a bad day. I found that there was a pattern. There's a lot of things I like, even super love, that would be terrible for me after a bad day. (Like... I don't know. How to Get Away with Murder, Harry Potter analysis essays, discussing feminism, eggplant salad?) And some things comfort me but after a bad day are just TOO comfortable... like Disney Princess movies, hot showers, etc. The things that do help me both calm me down and cheer me up. I don't know what other qualities help with that, but I'm going to try and identify them throughout this post. I'm hoping that by doing that, maybe you, the readers, can try and pinpoint what would best help you after a long day.

So... list time! :) (it's gonna be super long so in case you're like me and you get compulsions to read the entirety of things: feel free to skip around, only read the things you recognize, look only at the gifs, whatever) (APPARENTLY BLOGGER DOESN'T LET GIFS WORK SO OK, FORGET THE HALF HOUR I JUST SPENT FINDING BEAUTIFUL GIFS INSTEAD OF WORKING. DAMMIT GOOGLE!!!) Have fun!

Parks and Recreation re-watches