Brother, Sister Part 1

Since I’m writing a novel this month, here’s a short story to tide over my avid readers. This is part one:
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Our mom was on the other side of the store, promising to return to the toy section as soon as she finished stocking up with groceries. We had a solid thirty minutes to blow running around looking at Legos, Hot Wheels, and Beyblades. I’d never been into Barbies. I was always more interested in the boyish things because it gave me a good reason to spend time with my younger brother.

I threw the ball; he caught it. He threw the ball; I caught it, barely. He had always been more adept at sports than I. He was faster and sometimes smarter, but also younger. It was the only time in our lives that I was stronger than he. His speed only helped him win in tickle fights.

Next, we picked up the plastic swords hanging on the aisle. They awkwardly had cardboard hanging off of them that clashed as we swung them towards each other. Neither of us knew anything about sword-fighting, but we had seen the movies, so we knew enough. Despite the cardboard, these plastic swords were much better than the pool noodles we used at home.

After I’d gotten both a hand and a foot “cut off” I surrendered my blade and moved to the next aisle. He lingered behind to look at the newest Pokemon cards. I was only gone for a minute or so. There wasn’t much interesting on the next aisle aside from pool toys and water guns. We had plenty of those and I didn’t care to have more. I could, however, go for some more Pokemon cards to add to my collection.

When I returned to the cards section, my brother was no longer alone. A much larger boy loomed over him, hair a mess and cheeks red. My brother was just looking at him quizzically. He never had been one to say much.

“Give me those cards,” the bigger boy hissed.

“Why?” My brother replied. “I was going to get them.”

“Because, they have my lucky Pokemon on the front. I can’t get any other ones. Those have the best cards. All of the others are crap.” The boy held his hand out expectantly as if my brother would hand over the card pack he was clutching.

“I don’t think they do it that way,” my brother whispered. He wasn’t helping his case.

“Give me the cards, kid,” the boy growled.

My brother shook his head.

The boy moved quickly, shoving my brother squarely in the shoulders. A string of insults left his mouth. They were all elementary school insults—butt face, two-legged freak of nature, and the like—which are harmless enough, but were enough to infuriate me. No one touched my brother. No one insulted him. Except for me and, occasionally, our dad.

The Waiting Game

There are many difficult things to find in life, but patience is one of the most difficult to come by. I confess, I have been extremely impatient of late. I keep waiting for things to happen that I can’t even really rely on. Things never quite go the way you expect them to and rarely go the way you want them to.

So you fall into the waiting game.

You know, that stupid game your parents made you play when you had to wait for something. It has no rules and no prizes and was really just a ploy to make you sit still and shut up so you’d stop bugging them.

The waiting game is tedious, difficult, and the time it lasts is often indefinite. In fact, a lot of times it drives me crazy. And anything could be on the other side of the waiting: disappointment, celebration, a surprise, a doctor appointment, the end of school, a broken heart, etc. A lot of times, the result of waiting is entirely uncertain. That’s another thing that makes the waiting game so hard to win: uncertainty.

The best way to win the game is to trust that, even if the result isn’t what you expect or want, it will be for the best. This isn’t easy either. It also usually involves even more waiting. Once you finish waiting to receive the results, you have to wait to see how it will be for the best.

Okay, waiting sucks. But it’s a necessary part of life. The only thing that makes it much easier is to trust. Things do work out when given time. Sometimes a lot of time. But the waiting game does eventually pay off.

Flowers That Never Fade

When I met my best friend in the world, the first thing I noticed was how perfect her teeth were. Turned out, we had a ton in common: we were both huge nerds. She was the artist to my author, the perfect friend. Ten years later, and we are still best friends, without question.

This is particularly amazing considering we have both moved several times over the years and now we find ourselves on complete opposite sides of the state. The distance didn’t matter, we just keep up on the phone and visit each other whenever we get a chance.

I encountered the same thing when my high school friends and I parted ways for college. They almost expected to lose touch and I was the only one who refused to let that happen. Because that’s what it boils down to: lasting friendships are a choice.

Sure, distance makes communication difficult. Busyness makes it hard to find time to spend together. Hardship stirs conflict, even between the best of friends. But if both parties are willing to maintain a friendship, nothing can come between them.

Friends can spend time away or not see each other for years, but if they are open-minded they can reconnect as if the time had been mere days. Friends can choose to keep a small link open: texts here and there, Facebook wall posts, a voicemail, even when it’s not possible to converse. Friends can face huge conflict that would tear people apart but if each is willing to communicate and forgive, the conflicts can be overcome. The open-mindedness, the willingness, the effort are all choices. Things can be worked out. Friendships can last.

My mom used to have a throw pillow that said “Friends Are Flowers That Never Fade.” As a child, it was one of my favorite quotes. Now, it only means that much more. I am blessed to have many valued friends and I never want to let them fade.

Living Like Dying

Let’s talk about death for a moment.

Don’t worry, I’ll try not to get too dark or depressing or down.

But there’s nothing like a bad car wreck to put everything into perspective. I didn’t almost die. I am—miraculously—completely fine. My car is not. Just, if one single thing had gone differently, I might not be typing this post right now.

It’s a cliché to say: “live like you’re dying.” “Live like there’s no tomorrow.” “Live every day like its your last.” The clichés wear on you after a while and the sayings lose their meaning. After this week, I wish they didn’t.

I can’t say I’ve had a better week than this one, after the wreck. I was grateful for every second I had this week. The little things in life found more value. I had a second chance to be grateful for what I had. I got a chance to figure out what I most regret and resolve it. I want to leave a positive legacy and not have any regrets. To do that, though, I’d have to set aside my inhibitions. I’d have to stop being afraid of stepping on toes and simply be the best I can be! I’d have to resolve potential regrets as they come and reconcile with everyone who might find issue with me. I might die tomorrow. Everything in life is unexpected, why should death be any different?

It’s not about not about living in fear of what’s to come, it’s about relishing what you have while you have it. Because you never know when the things you value will be gone. And you never want to have regrets.

Chocolate, Roses, and Ice Sculptures

I am so incredibly happy.

And not just happy, like my smile is stretching my face and I want to dance and skip everywhere. I want to sing every time someone reminds me of a lyric. I want to make those around me happy too! It hasn’t been this way for a while.

There is something beautiful about being single. Sure, relationships rock too, but I needn’t be down because I’m not with some guy right now. I am taking this time and growing as an individual. Working on my identity. Becoming a better person. Writing and creating like crazy. Developing my faith. And I couldn’t do that while having obligations to someone else or linking myself to some random relationship. Single’s Awareness Day, though? Nah.

It’s called Valentine’s Day. I don’t have a boyfriend, but really, what does that matter? It isn’t the time for that. A new relationship may even be detrimental to me and those around me. Relationships have to be created for the right reasons, else they will not work. So, no, I don’t have a significant other. Still, I used yesterday to celebrate love! It gave me so much joy. I tried to spread my smile where I could. I stayed confident. I enjoyed every second of the day.

Not long ago, I was in love. Then I was heartbroken. I lost something valuable to me. But I didn’t lose love. I still have my family. I still have my friends. I still have social media followers! (Thanks you guys.) They still love me.

So, smile! Because you have love too. I promise. Even if you don’t see it right now. That love will get you through pain and heart ache and loneliness. February 14th is a beautiful day for what it represents: not couples and lovebirds and relationship statuses, but true and honest love. Enjoy that, even if you are single. I had no idea a single person could have as much fun as I did yesterday!

And happy belated Valentine’s day from me to you!

Good Reads, Bad Reads, and the In Between

Reading isn’t for everyone, just as much as math isn’t for everyone. Cards on the table: I’m not a math person at all. I’m a writer and, therefore, a reading person. I have to be. Literature is crucial to writers.

It’s important to know what’s out there. So much about style and prose can be learned from classics. So much about the latest fad can be gleaned from contemporary pieces. So much about “what-not-to-do” can be taken from poorly written fan fiction. (Nothing against fan fiction, but since there are no restraints to what can be written, some stories get… crappy…)

With the rise of self-publishing and e-books, authors have greater opportunity to publish their works. They don’t necessarily have to achieve the approval of agent, editor, and publisher. They can make their books available for whatever price they please. However, since they don’t go through the whole process, some of them turn out like the poorly written fan fiction. Some of them are undiscovered gems with great plot, few grammar issues, and relatable characters, but certainly those are harder to find.

Since receiving my Kindle as a gift, I use it all the time. I have bought several cheap, self-published books, along with the more expensive published books (when I have the money). I’ve found I’m inspired by both the superb books I find, as well as the terrible ones.

When I read an incredible book, I’m inspired to write one just as good. I want to write words and worlds, and wonders. I want the plots to be complex, the characters to be real. Reading a good book gets stories flying through my head.

When I read a terrible book, I’m inspired to write a better one. From these books I learn what doesn’t work. I learn what to look for, what to focus on, what the reader will be looking for, and it improves my own writing. Sure, sometimes I have to torture myself to make it through reading just a few pages, but it always makes me want to pull out my latest story and to improve it.

Reading can, of course, be good for those who aren’t writers as well. Authors always have a motive for writing that often includes morals, lessons, of social statements. Books weave words together to incredible effect. That is what I want to do. I want to write a story, good or bad, but hopefully good. I even think I can, if I keep reading, learning, working, practicing, and seeking inspiration from the works of others.

Seatbelt Checks

Once upon a time, I knew this guy. We were friends for no more than a year. He and I were never on the same page. In fact, we may as well have been in different books in different libraries. Still, he was a constant in a down time for me and—though a lot of it was unintentional—I took a lot away from our friendship.

When we heard his words—”Seatbelt check!”—we would immediately prepare ourselves. I would curl up and wait for the sudden jerk. My legs stayed pressed against the seat as I would brace myself for the van to stop. He would slow down and then speed up again until we all relaxed. Then all of a sudden he would brake, sending us flying forward. (I mean, honestly, who wears seatbelts in a church van?)

It’s such a pain to experience something so unexpected. Especially when you should have seen it coming. But I guess, every now and then it happens: life throws us a seatbelt check. Everything halts and you’re taken completely off guard. You thought you were safe. You let your shield down. Then when everything stopped working smoothly, you were unprepared. You were thrown forward, jerked around, and maybe even feel like you went through the windshield.

This last year for me had a seatbelt check waiting for me around every corner. I was slammed by so many surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. “Hurricanes,” health problems, drama, and important people leaving my life. It was hard, not going to lie.

But after a seatbelt check, my friend would just keep driving. Everyone in the van would straighten themselves up and some would even buckle up in preparation for the next sudden stop. Just because life hit the brakes, doesn’t mean it’s all over. The road still lies ahead and there are plenty more opportunities on it. Just because I’ve past a few or left a few behind does not mean I’ve lost hope.

I don’t really know where I’m going yet. Hell, I may not know until it’s right in front of me. I guess that’s just the fun of the adventure: the unexpected, the unanticipated, and the uncertain. All I know is that, even after seatbelt checks, I’m still heading on down the road.