Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Blogmas 24: The End

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone. Is that the correct terminology? Is it Happy Christmas Eve and then Merry Christmas? Or is it Merry on all accounts? Merry Christmas Eve? Whatever, you get the gist of what I'm trying to say. Christmas is tomorrow and all is calm, all is bright.

So today's the last day of Blogmas. We made it guys. As promised, I write something every single day leading up to Christmas. I hope you all had fun and maybe learned a few things along the way. I definitely did. For one, I learned that I have really wonderful supportive people in my life who truly want the best for me. That's always a nice reminder, especially during this time of year. I also learned that blogging is a lot harder and more time consuming than people realize, especially when it's part of a daily routine. Serious props to professional bloggers who do this for a living.

In all seriousness though, I've loved Blogmas. Sure there have been days where I had no idea what to write and I felt like my creative energy was at an irreparable low. I did it though, and I'm proud of myself. If you stuck with me all month long, you should be proud of yourself too. We're a committed bunch. High five.

So now that Blogmas is over, you may be asking yourself what this means. Will I be taking a permanent break from blogging? Will I go on hiatus for fourteen weeks like a primetime TV show? Will I pull one last trick out my hat and drop in tomorrow? No. None of the above, guys. I won't be gone long, but I will be taking a bit of a breather. I'm only talking a few days though, so try not to miss me. I can guarantee that I'll be back within the first five days of 2015. Trust me, I love this blog too much to leave it alone for long. Now that me and this blog have been united by Blogmas, there's a severe sense of separation anxiety between us.

Well that's it, guys. It's been real. As I've said in the past, I appreciate you all so so much and your support means the world to me. You've made me feel heard and understood and brave and important, which is no small feat. I'll see you all again soon, and until then I'll leave you with my favorite Christmas song.

"It's time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I'd much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure." -Ernie Harwell


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Blogmas Day 23: Canned

Hello friends! Happy Tuesday! I had a really nice, very jolly day baking cookies with friends while listening to the perfect mix of 1989 and Christmas music. It was one of those days that made me thankful for the people in my hometown and how wonderful they are. Now it's time for Blogmas though, and I've been saving this one for a while. I wanted to share with you all a piece that I wrote for my creative nonfiction class I took this past semester. I'm really proud of the way this turned out, but I will admit I'm very wary to post it online, where information is readily available to whomever seeks it. This piece is incredibly personal to me and contains a large part of my soul, so needless to say it's taking a lot out of me to send it off into cyberspace. I think it's a good step though: this past year, one lesson I've really learned is being committed to the truth and allowing myself to be more in touch with the rougher parts of my past. I've come to the conclusion that being honest with people can show immense courage and encourages me to grow. As long as I remain truthful and transparent with what I say, then I shouldn't fault myself to bringing my story to the table. So with that vague introduction, I present to you...

My father has always been a drinker. To be exact, he’s always been a Natural Ice drinker. Five-year-old me waited in the parking lot of 7-Eleven countless times, buckled up in the front seat of his truck as he bought a twelve pack of the cheap beer and a gallon of whole milk. Sometimes if I was good, I got to come inside and pick out an ice cream sandwich from the fridge behind the register.
            “You can eat that now if you don’t tell Mom I let you have dessert before dinner,” he’d say, cracking open one of the beers he had just bought, positioning the can between his denim-clad knees for the drive home.
I didn’t think twice about this; I was ignorant to most of the questionable behavior my father exhibited when I was a child. When I got to see my dad (every Monday, Thursday, and every other weekend) I never sat in my car seat; he drank a beer on the ride home, and then had two or three more before he drove me to the designated “meeting spot,” where I would unbuckle myself from his car and immediately get into the backseat of my mom’s. My mom, stepdad, and every other adult I knew had a drink in the evening, so I didn’t see my father as any sort of exception to the rule. His constant shakiness and occasional temper were just personality quirks that accompanied his goofy smile and guitar collection. He was the cool dad who bought me new Barbie dolls for no reason and took me to my first concert; I held nothing against him because, as far as I was concerned, I had no reason to.
My perspective changed when he lost his job and the twelve-packs of beer in the fridge seemed to be disappearing quicker than usual. When I was twelve, I sat opposite him on one of his red Marlo loveseats, absentmindedly picking at the stuffing poking through the armrests. When I went to visit my dad, we generally spent a few hours together, watching TV and eating whatever he found in the fridge. That night he found a frozen chicken potpie, and while it warmed in the oven he nervously tried to initiate conversation.
Finally, taking a sharp breath, he said, “I want you to know I’m okay, but I’m going to be going away for a while.” In my middle school naivety, I thought he meant a vacation. He read the confusion on my face as he pulled a meticulously folded pamphlet from his back pocket. On it, an African-American woman in a pantsuit smiled under the heading “Northern Virginia Comprehensive Treatment Services: the Regional Leader in Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation.”
I stared dumbfounded at him, unable to compute what I was seeing. I had equated rehab with Hollywood starlets and crack addicts, not my dad, who just had a few beers a day. I never saw his behavior as anything other than adult; I never saw the copious amount of beer cans in the trash as a warning sign, and I certainly never saw him as an addict.
For the first time, I saw him as inherently flawed. My parents were my biggest role models, just shy of perfect all my life, and suddenly my dad was the model for what not to do. I had grown up memorizing the sound of my mother’s business-lady high heels and the clanking of my father’s fully equipped toolbox, equating both with the soundtrack of hard work and adulthood. Now all I could hear was the crushing blow of my dad’s failure, which sounded exactly like the dull crunch of a stepped-upon beer can.
I hugged him, because I didn’t exactly know what else one is supposed to do in that situation, and I felt my own tears forming tiny puddles on his wrinkled T-shirt. The mildew-drenched air was suddenly too thick, making it difficult for me to breathe as his jagged beard scratched against my cheek.
He told me I could ask him whatever I wanted to and I could visit him once he left, but that wasn’t the type of assurance I wanted. What I wanted was a way to take back all of the 7-Eleven visits, ice cream sandwiches, and beers drank on the car ride home. I didn’t want to bear this burden; above all I didn’t want my seventh-grade classmates finding out about the ordeal. There was a very selfish part of me that had no sympathy for the tears leaking from his heavy-lidded eyes. As far as I was concerned, him going away to rehab was not him bettering himself, but rather him purposefully hurting me.
As if to provide a moment of relief, the oven timer dinged, signaling an end to both the conversation and the cooking time of the chicken potpie. Too baffled to eat, I stayed put on the couch, silently damning the open beer on the coffee table two feet away. When I finally could speak, I didn’t offer condolences or well wishes. Instead I avoided eye contact and informed him that I wasn’t hungry and would prefer to go home early.
He didn’t offer a verbal response; instead the pink color drained from his face as he retched forward into the sink, his anxiety presenting itself in the form of vomit. I swiftly covered my ears, muffling the sound; other than this minute movement I stayed completely still, completely aghast. When he finished heaving, his watering eyes met mine, his expression pitiful.
“Okay, I’ll grab my coat if you’re ready to go now.”

That was the last time my dad and I spoke of his drinking for a while. You might think after someone admits they’ll be going to a rehab facility, the next logical step would be to actually go to said rehab facility. That never happened. For a while I didn’t say a word, pretending as though his tearful confession was a strange dream that faded from the foreground of my memory. He didn’t drink around me, but because I only saw him a few times a week, I couldn’t confirm if that meant he wasn’t drinking at all.
After a month or two of sweeping everything under the rug, he mentioned in casual conversation that he had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous. While not of the same extreme as in-patient sobriety treatment, it was a step in the right direction.
“I went to the rehab center for a consultation,” he told me, “and they said I wasn’t a good fit for them. I don’t need as much help as they give people, so AA is what I’m doing instead.” As a preteen I was of the belief that fathers never, ever lie to their daughters. Now I know he never made it to rehab because his cowardice got the best of him, but either way I was proud of any progress he was willing to make.
To his credit, my dad did attend AA religiously, which is fitting because his group congregated in the basement of a local church. I felt genuine pride as he showed me the plastic coins given to him from his group leader, each metallic chip representing another month sober. He must’ve accrued six or seven of those tokens when the cans started making guest appearances again. It started small: a crushed Natural Ice buried in the trash, an opened twenty-four pack in the backseat of his truck, the smell of alcohol on his breath as he leaned in for a hug. I turned away from the obvious problem in my lap as the pride I held for my dad crumbled.
His not-so-secret drinking continued for months; I never said a word for fear of unmasking his red-faced temper. It was only when I found a beer can in his shower--an unexpected companion for the limescale clinging to the tiles--that I was ready to enter that arena. I strode into the living room, my rage enveloping me like knight’s armor.
“So why is there a beer can in your shower?” I demanded.
My dad slowly blinked in response, his shame evident. But because he never learned to appropriately apologize or admit any wrongdoing, he instead furrowed his brow, preparing for battle.
“Why were you looking in the shower?”
“I was using the bathroom and the curtain was pulled back. If you’re trying to hide beer cans you’re not doing a great job.”
“I’m not trying to hide anything,” he spat, “I can have a beer if I want to; I don’t have a problem.”
I laughed loudly, my mocking tone communicating my disbelief.  Yes you do! People don’t just go to Alcoholics Anonymous if they don’t have a problem, actually.”
Though he knew I was right, he couldn’t bring himself to admit his defeat. I would imagine it’s humiliating to tell your child you fell off the wagon, but it’s less cowardly than lying to their face.
“I went to AA to learn how to better control my drinking. I was probably drinking too much before, but it’s fine now. I can have a beer or two without it being a big deal.”
Even at thirteen I knew the goal of AA was not to “better control drinking,” but I didn’t want to argue anymore, so instead I just nodded and changed the subject. I could feel a pain in my chest that I now know can be classified as heartbreak, but I told myself it was better to cry about it later than to yell about it now.

In the six—nearly seven—years since my dad told me he was going to rehab, not much has changed. It would be much easier for all involved if I could say “and then my dad got sober, the end!” but that’s just not the case. He drinks heavily, perhaps even more than he did when I was in middle school, and I’ve lost the will to talk to him. There’s a chance alcohol isn’t the hardest drug he’s into, but I’d rather not know. Especially being a hundred miles away from him, it’s easy to pretend like he doesn’t exist, which is what I do most days.

Every few months my guilt will erupt and lead me to dial his phone number, which always leaves me worse for wear. It will end in an awkward dinner, sat opposite him in a restaurant booth upholstered with cheap plastic, feeling extreme discomfort and biting the inside of my cheek. We don’t venture into tumultuous waters, instead keeping our conversations in chartered territory—nothing more controversial than the weather and how I’m enjoying my classes. I give empty answers as I stare back at him, noting the hue of his rapidly graying hair and the holes in the jeans he’s had longer than I’ve been alive. I never leave these meetings feeling absolved, but cry behind the steering wheel all the way home, collapsing into my mom’s arms like a toddler when I burst through the front door. No one more than me wishes this story could end like a movie: my dad, the underdog, rising up to defeat his demons and lead his best life. Rather, it ends in a depressingly un-cinematic manner: my dad sitting alone on that same Marlo couch, drinking cheap cans of Natural Ice to ease his shaking.

Thanks to all of you for reading this, if you made it this far. I hope you still know I want to keep this blog light and fun most of the time, but after nearly a month of us hanging out every day it's about time to open up to you a little bit. I didn't want to put a damper on your Christmases or Christmas Eves, so I thought today would be best to post this story as Blogmas comes to a close. Whether this is your first time reading this blog or you've been keeping up-to-date with every post, your support means the world to me. Thank you for your readership and for making me feel heard. I'll see you tomorrow!

"Children betrayed their parents by becoming their own people." -Leslye Walton


Monday, December 22, 2014

Blogmas Day 22: Why I'm Up Late

Hello friends! In one hour it'll be Christmas Eve Eve which is so hard to wrap my head around. I know I say this every day, but the big day really snuck up on me this year. Luckily my gifts are wrapped and my spirits are generally bright, but where did the time go? Before I know it I'll be heading back to school and starting another dreaded semester. That's still a few weeks in the distance though, so for now I can forget about my looming science classes from hell. For now let's talk about why Blogmas always goes up so late.

I got into the habit of posting late at night a few days before I came home for break, simply because with the whirlwind that is finals, packing, and checking freshmen out of their dorm rooms, I would only find myself with half an hour to spare right before bed. It kind of stuck though: somewhere along the line, I started working Blogmas into my late night routine, the first task in a series of hours spent awake.

Something about being home turns me into a nocturnal creature. It happens every time I come back to my parents' house, whether it's for a weekend or for weeks at a time. When I'm at school, I tend to get to bed around midnight or one AM at the latest, but in my childhood bedroom my eyes don't even begin to feel heavy until 3 in the morning. And I acknowledge that's a terrible habit--trust me the bags under my eyes are proof enough--but it's a habit I just can't seem to kick. I find myself awake all hours of the night going down the weird rabbit holes of the internet that only really seem like a good idea when all the lights are off and I'm burrowed under pillows. And no, before your mind goes straight into the gutter, I'm not talking about porn. I'm talking about "oh...I should watch all of Hilary Duff's music videos from the early 2000s and then see if still has those That's So Raven themed games I used to love." Random trips down memory lane accompanied by bedsheets and a midnight snack.

When I'm not wading through nostalgia though, late nights are reserved for the thoughts I'm don't address during the day. It's when I think about what I want out of life and when I panic about not being able to achieve my dreams. It's when I wonder why I'm single and why my bank balance is less than favorable. It's when I rehash old arguments and rethink old decisions. It's when I wish I had said something different and write a list of things I want to say to people who aren't around to hear it. When I'm about waist-deep in embarrassing memories and remembered regrets, I'll usually turn to Netflix or get some ice cream from the freezer downstairs, pretending like those thoughts never resounded in my head. I know: I have a very healthy way of coping with my problems.

And this would all be fine if it didn't impede on my ability to be productive during the day. The problem with staying up all night is I tend to sleep all day--right now I wake up around eleven AM at the earliest. Tangled up in blankets, I realize half the day is gone and the world is being productive without me. So I'll try to get out of bed and give back to the universe--go to the gym, run some errands for my mom, clean my room...but then before I know it it's 6 PM and I'm napping again. And of course I am on winter break, but I hate feeling like I'm not contributing to the world. The first day of break it was fun to tell myself "today has been cancelled, go back to bed," but at some point I can't help but feel like a freeloader.

And of course I could've gotten a seasonal job over the break to keep myself occupied, but I told myself I deserved a break and that I would use this month off to pursue my creative endeavors. I told myself I would read two books a week and write poetry and build my portfolio, yet here we are: all I can say for myself thus far is if I continue at my current rate, I'm due to finish The Office by Saturday. That's hardly an achievement.

So what's my point? I don't know. I guess I'm just frustrated with myself. I guess I wish life would slow down. Most of all I just want my sleep schedule to readjust. One day at a time, guys.

“I've always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.”  -David Benioff

I'll see y'all tomorrow!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blogmas Day 21: Last-Minute Christmas Tips

Happy Sunday! I hope you all had a relaxing weekend, because as of tomorrow it's officially the WEEK OF CHRISTMAS. For those of you who celebrate, I hope your trees are decorated and your presents are wrapped with bows. But let's get real, that's hardly the case for most of us: while the days leading up to Christmas should be stress-free and jolly as hell, odds are most of us still have to do some shopping, some baking, and some therapy before we visit our extended families. I wish you luck with whatever your to-do lists entail. May your patience and budget be abundant. That's unrealistic though, so today I thought I'd share with you some last-minute Christmas tips for the most wonderful time of the year.

1) Shop with a Mission
Let's get real here, y'all: you should've shopped online. So many options, so many niche Etsy shops. The real benefit though is you can get your shopping done without leaving your bed, assuming you keep your laptop next to you while you sleep (which I do if I'm gonna be honest). You blew it, though. At this point even expedited shipping can't help you: if you haven't finished your holiday shopping, prepare to brave the mall. You did it to yourself. Here's how you can make it easier though: figure out who you're buying for and what you're getting each person. That seems obvious, but so many people enter their local Macy's this time of year without a plan in mind. What a rookie mistake. Take a note from Santa and write a list (and check it twice). And if you're not sure whether or not you should get someone a gift, there's no harm in asking. It'll alleviate potential awkwardness later on and keep your budget in check. Speaking of budget: be firm with yours. I know it's tempting to spend more money than you should on that special someone, but remember the bank statement that'll be coming in the mail next week. That's why I think it's always nice to figure out exactly what you want to get someone in advance, so there'll be no surprises when that "perfect gift" doesn't have what you would consider a perfect price tag. At the very least, I always think it's best to figure out how much money you should aim to spend for each person you're buying for this season, even if the gift you want to get them is unknown at this point. That way it'll be easier to dial it back in the stores you're shopping in, especially because so many stores devote certain sections of their floor plans to items all marked with similar price points. For example: I went to TJ Maxx today to get a present for my mom, and I saw a bunch of 5, 10, 20, and 50 dollar displays. Perfect if you know you want to get your brother something "around 20 dollars." I can't stress the budgeting enough, guys. That should be a huge part of shopping. For me, I write it out and do the math with my paycheck in mind before I step foot in the mall. That may seem super boring and too calculated, but it's the safer route, I promise. Plus if you're a little more conservative with your budgeting early on, you might find you can spend a little extra on someone when everything's said and done. It's always better to have a little extra money to play with in December than not enough to get you through to January.

2) No Shame in Homemade
That said, buying presents isn't everything. You absolutely don't have to buy presents for anyone, especially if money is tight this year. Anyone in your life that is special enough to deserve a present from you should love you enough to not need much else from you. You're a gift in and of itself. But if you really want to say "Merry Christmas!" with a wrapped gift, I think homemade gifts are just as awesome now as they were in preschool. I'm not saying your 20 year old self should make your mom a macaroni necklace per say, but a scrapbook or a knitted scarf will move her to tears. Somewhere along the line there started to be a stigma surrounding homemade gifts, but I don't get that at all. I think it's even more special to give someone a present you personally crafted that they couldn't just pick up at Best Buy. Plus, everyone's usually so busy this time of year, so just the fact that someone took the time to make something for someone else is a sweet gesture alone. Trust me, if someone gave me a homemade batch of cookies for Christmas I'd be over the moon. Plus, a batch of cookies doesn't need to include a gift receipt that I'll inevitably lose.

3) Don't Get Pissed at Pinterest
I think Pinterest is most readily used during the holidays and during wedding season. That's about it. People everywhere turn to their virtual boards to find recipes, gift ideas, decor inspiration, and Christmas cocktails, and nine times out of ten the picture online is much prettier. That's okay. Pinterest is solely a site for inspiration, so don't worry if your interpretation isn't as perfect! Not all of us are Martha Stewarts (myself included), so don't beat yourself up if your decoupage Christmas cards aren't seamless or if your yule log is a little lumpy. Plus, the people who run those DIY websites devote their life's work to garland and twine, so you should be proud of yourself for even taking on the task. I guess what I'm trying to say in a very convoluted way is Christmas is very easily idealized, but in reality that's not always the case. Life can be messy, and the holidays are no exception. Embrace it rather than stress about it.

And those are my tips for tonight, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you found some of these somewhat helpful and your holiday seasons are going well. I'll see you tomorrow!

"How we perceive a situation and how we react to it is the basis of our stress. If you focus on the negative in any situation, you can expect high stress levels. However, if you try and see the good in the situation, your stress levels will greatly diminish." -Catherine Pulsifer


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Blogmas Day 20: Christmas To-Do List

I was starting to write my blog much earlier in the evening these past few days (read: 9 or 10 PM instead of 11), and yet here we are again at 11:15, rushing to meet my midnight deadline. Honestly, I don't think anyone really notices when I post my blogs later at night, but something about trying to hit that "publish" button before Saturday switches to Sunday makes me feel like I'm a real life professional writer getting the draft of my column to the editor before the clock strikes. That's very overdramatic, but whatever gets me motivated, am I right?

Well anyway, today went by incredibly quickly, which again is due to the fact that I took a 3 hour nap in the evening. Not a great habit. It's a habit I'm trying to break, though admittedly I'm not trying that hard. I just keep watching The Office on Netflix until 3 AM then wake up the next day at noon. And then I give into tired eyes around six and wake up disoriented and hungry. So yeah, my winter break is off to an amazing start. Lots of life-changing adventures. 

Okay but seriously, today I did get to go see The Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet, and it was amazing. It's incredible how they can tell such a vivid, rich story with only dance. I loved seeing all the intricate costumes and how beautiful all the ballerinas were. Plus, it amazes me how they can say en pointe for that long without their toes falling off. I got to go into the city with my mom, all dressed up in a skirt and high heels, feeling inherently holiday-esque. Which is saying a lot because lately I haven't been feeling that way. Christmas is only five days away, yet it feels further than that. Maybe it's the milder temperatures as of late or the daunting shopping list I still need to tackle, so any chance to get back in the festive spirit is welcome.

But I need to be more in the spirit! I need to be decking the halls and singing Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate. In fact, I think I need to make a list of holiday things to do before January. I'd say before Christmas, but that's rushing things a little bit.

1) Make a playlist of perfect Christmas songs and listen exclusively to that playlist from here on out.
2) Bake every type of Christmas cookie that exists. Decorate intricately. Potentially fail miserably.
3) Drive around looking at Christmas lights in neighborhoods.
4) Find that gift that will make someone's eyes light up. Wrap it with cute paper and tie with a bow.
5) Go visit a Christmas village or at the very, very least go ice skating.
6) Tell all the kids I come across that Santa isn't real
7) Definitely not number six. Nope. Keep that Christmas magic alive for the little ones.

So home friends: if you're reading this, let me know if any of that seems enticing to you. I'm totally prepared to go be festive on my own, but that's not fun at all. Plus, the holidays are only as fun as the people you surround yourself with.

"Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection." -Winston Churchill

Okay well now I should go. SNL is starting and my boys One Direction are the musical guests. I think it's safe to say that requires my full attention. I'll see you all tomorrow!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Blogmas Day 19: Feeling Alive

Happy Friday! I hope you all had a great week and your weekend is off to a good start. If you're me, your riveting Friday night entails drinking gin and tonics (not really, Mom! I'm not stealing your alcohol while you sleep in the room across the hall! I love you!) and listening to Ed Sheeran. It also means recounting the first truly good day in while, spent having good conversations and eating good food with good people. The day I had was surprisingly ordinary, but it made me feel particularly alive. You know those little things in life that make you feel really in your element and in love with the universe? Those moments are the best.

Moments like driving while blasting good music. I'm talking about the country songs that you usually only listen to during the summer months or the Fall Out Boy songs you haven't heard since middle school. As the iTunes shuffle gods would have it, those forgotten favorite songs come on right when you're driving a little bit above the speed limit with your headlights illuminating the pavement. And you're singing louder than your horrendous voice should allow for, but it's okay because the music is loud enough that your screeches are drowned out by the sound gyrating through the speakers. And it's 30 degrees in December, but you roll the windows down anyway--just a crack--because it makes the experience feel so much more authentic. And you're wearing a coat anyway, so you're barely catching a chill. The people in the next lane over think you're crazy or drunk on teen angst, but really you're just reveling in this moment, because soon you'll pull up in front of your parents' house or the perfect song will end; whichever comes first.

Or moments like a night spent with close friends, talking about your passions and your dreams and your favorite inside jokes. You're recalling embarrassing moments and laughing so hard your stomach hurts, and someone just has to bring up the way you used to dress in middle school. And your insides are threatening to escape, because that's how hard you're laughing, and you feel content with these people. You decide there's no place you'd rather be than with those people--the people you grew up with, who heard about your eleventh grade crushes and willingly sat in the passenger seat of your first car, even though you only just got your license and you're not that good at switching lanes yet. The people who wore the same mass-produced cap and gowns at your high school graduation and cried when you left for college. The people who are plastered all over your freshman dorm room walls in four by six pictures you printed off at the drugstore. The people who never left your side even when you mentally wandered and became jaded.

Moments like that concert you've been eagerly anticipating for months. When your favorite singer comes on stage and you're screaming along to every word because this very moment is what you were practicing for in the shower and in the car. Dancing like an idiot with people who are just as unironically enthused by the sensation of hearing that music live. Embracing your screams and whoops and hollers because you can't help but be that excited. And you can feel the beat of the song in your chest and you could potentially go deaf at any moment, but it's summertime and somehow it's really nice out for a night in July, even surrounded by strangers' bodies.

Moments like hospital waiting rooms that don't end in heartbreak and airport terminals that bring loved ones home. Moments like weddings and birthdays and parties thrown just because it's Saturday. Moments like love and life and excitement and euphoria. Moments when you wonder if your blood has always pumped with this much vivacity. Moments that make you wonder why you spent so much time being desperately sad and alone. Moments when you feel more alive than you ever have.

"I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive." -Joseph Campbell

Before I return tomorrow, go do something that makes you feel alive. That's an order.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blogmas Day 18: Resolutions Revisited

I read once that the best way to get kids to obey their bedtime is to slowly put them to sleep earlier and earlier every night until things are back to normal and they don't notice a difference. I think the same strategy can be employed here: every night it seems like I'm posting my entries an hour earlier than the night previous, so if I keep this up eventually I'll be writing at a normal time again. That's the goal at least.

Hey, guys! I hope you had a good Thursday! Mine went really quick--admittedly that's largely due to the fact that I slept until noon, but that's neither here nor there. I went to the gym for the first time since before finals, and while I could've done without all the old people giving me the side-eye (the gym I go to at home is majority senior citizens), it was nice to get my heart rate up again. It's crazy that once you incorporate exercise into your life how much your body begins to genuinely crave it. By getting my ass on an elliptical today I could feel my legs releasing a long-awaited sigh of relief. So that was good at least: even if I then spent the rest of my day in bed, with the brief exception of running to Target to buy conditioner, I can say I did something good for my body today.

So in the spirit of healthy habits, I thought it would be fun and potentially interesting if I went back and reflected on my New Years Resolutions for 2014. I made an entire blog post devoted to this topic last year, so through the power of modern technology I can copy and paste that entry here and comment on my successes and failures. Let's see just how badly this goes down in flames. (you can tell when it's over if the high was worth the pain)

1) Family and Friend Goals
-Be more easygoing. I find I often get very uptight when it comes to planning to hang out with friends or family and can to be less than flexible when it comes to being spontaneous or doing things differently than planned. It ends up causing me unnecessary stress.
I would like to say I worked really hard on that this year! While there's still room for improvement, I'd call this one a success. Still a work in progress, but ultimately a success.
-Check in with my family more often. Since I've moved away to college I don't talk to my parents every day, and sometimes I get too involved in my own life that I forget to say hello. This also goes for my extended family, especially my grandparents, who I really should call more often.
Yes. I do check in with my family more often. Especially living alone this year, I have more opportunities to call my parents and grandparents, which is nice and keeps me grounded through all the stress and chaos that is college.
-Be more patient with the people in my life and accept others' flaws with less reservation.
To be honest I don't even know what I meant by this, but it seems like it's still something I could work on.
-Try my best to be less jealous. I tend to feel very hurt or over-emotional when I don't get invited places or learn I was not included in things, which again only causes me unnecessary stress.
Ooh girl, this one is still very much a work in progress. Life is a process and we're never done growing, but this is something that I think I'll be working on for the rest of my life. I hope at some point, when I'm old and weathered, that I'll be content enough to stop comparing myself to other people. Ideally I'd like to reach that place much earlier than that. Maybe in 2015 much more progress will be made.

2) Spiritual Goals
-Try to find my own comfort zone with religion. I want to figure out exactly what I believe and how important these beliefs are in my guiding actions.
The thing that's funny about this goal is I definitely did take some time to think about my religious beliefs and "find my comfort zone" with God, but that has made me stray farther from figuring out exactly what I believe. I think the more I learn and the more life experiences I have, the harder it is for me to buckle down a working definition of religion and what that means to me. That's okay with me though, in as much as this confusion comes from a place of contemplation and spiritual growth. I'd rather be unanchored in my beliefs with good reason than blindly following a God without any understanding as to why.

3) Health Goals
-Go to the gym at school 4-5 times per week. I did that last semester and I want to keep it up.
For the most part I'd say yes. Of course there were times where I was completely unmotivated or sick or overwhelmed, but if you want to calculate an average I'd say in 2014 I went to the gym 4-5 times a week. And that's something I'm really proud of: 2014 was the year in which fitness became a permanent part of my life that will stick around for the rest of forever, whereas in years previous it was a fad I fell in and out of love with.
-Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day and cut out soda entirely. Actually pretty much cut out all sugary or fattening drinks other than coffee. But we'll see how that goes.
I did that! I haven't had any soda at all in 2014! I'm really proud of that, because I used to be that person that had a Dr Pepper with every meal. I think now after a year of making it a non-option, I rarely crave it anymore, but there are some times when I wish I could have a soda; I'd resisted the urge all year though. I think in 2015, I'll allow myself to have one during those very specific cravings (which are rare), but other than that I don't think I'll suddenly integrate it back into my life. Part of me is secretly wishing I'll try soda again for the first time and I'll hate it after not having it for so long. That would make it a lot easier to keep up the habit.
-Rediscover my passion for fitness and healthy eating. I go in and out of healthy living phases, and for most of the last year I was definitely out of it.
I touched on this earlier, but I really have hit my stride in the fitness department this year. I've also been pretty good about healthy eating, and while it could be cleaner, I don't restrict myself and use food as a way to make myself miserable. There are so many things that make life no fun, and french fries shouldn't be one of those things.

4) Work and School Goals
-Get on the Dean's List at least once. That means either this upcoming Spring semester or the Fall semester of next year. Preferably both, but let's not get unrealistic here.
I did that!! I'm so proud of myself for making Deans List during the Spring Semester last year, and while this past semester I didn't quite make the cut, I'm proud of myself nonetheless. Getting on my academic grind is something I really kicked into high gear this year, and something that I'll make sure continues in 2015.
-Do 100% of the required reading for my English classes.
Hahaha no I didn't do that. To be fair, I wrote this when I was still an English major, so it's not that big of a deal that I didn't get my nose in that Norton Anthology as much as I should've.
-Find a job at school and line up a good paying job for the summer.
I did both of those things! Not much more to say about that.

5) Mental Health/Misc. Lifestyle Goals
-Keep up with my "Good Things" journal every day. (if that's confusing see my last post)
I keep a journal in which I write down what good things happened every day in 2014, and it's something I've kept up with pretty consistently all throughout the year.
-Read 50 books in 2014 and record them on this blog. These can be both books for school and for pleasure.
No. Not even close. I would love to say I read more than 10 books this year, but life got in the way. Maybe in 2015...
-Blog at least 4 times a week :)
See directly above.

Well guys, while I definitely fumbled on some of those goals, I definitely think I stayed pretty committed throughout this year. There's still about 2 weeks left in 2014, and I'm gonna make them count. I encourage you to do the same. Finish strong. I'll see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Blogmas Day 17: Creative Rut

Well, I can't exactly say this blog post is being written early, but I'm strangely proud of myself for at least sitting down to write before 11:15. Baby steps, guys. If you want to know a secret though, part of the reason why Blogmas has been going up so late these past few days is because I've been in a really bad creative rut lately. It's bizarre, because last week when I was in the middle of final exams and should've forced my nose between textbook pages, all I wanted to do was write stories and pour myself into my creative endeavors. Now, when I actually have the time to devote to writing, it seems as though all of those great ideas have left without a trace. It's like the stress of my finals caused all that creative energy to shrivel up, which is supremely unfair if you ask me.

But regardless, Blogmas must be posted even when I'm not feeling up to par. I could always skip a day (because I'm sure only a few people would even notice), but I'm way too stubborn to let that happen. I would rather write something terrible than write nothing at all. That's the question though: when in a creative rut, is it better to take a complete break from creative activities or to force yourself to power through? I can't decide.

On the one hand, I think there's something to be said for making good art. In other words, I think it can be worthwhile to be creative only when the idea falls into your lap and you hit a stroke of genius. That way only the best ideas see the light of day and the creator isn't forced to produce something they aren't proud of, but I also can't help but think that's a bit of a cop-out. Because sometimes the best ideas come out of hours of hard work, crossing out dumb anecdotes and throwing away carelessly painted canvases. Because sometimes being frustrated or upset or feeling empty produces the best work. Writing--or any other art form for that matter--is never perfect on the first draft or on the first haphazard try. Sometimes working through the rut is best: the only way out is through.

After all, us creative types love to blame our laziness and negligence on some sort of rut. Writers get writer's block, artists can't seem to find their "artistic vision." Then before you know it, weeks have gone by without a word written or a brush stroke made. And it's supposedly because of this "rut." As I just explained, sometimes I think that's valid, but a lot of times I think it's bullshit. Doctors don't get "doctors block," lawyers always seem to find their "legal vision." Who are we--as artists--to count ourselves out for lack of imminent inspiration? Who says we get to sit out for a few weeks while we "find ourselves" again? I don't know. I think for me right now, as an unemployed and unprofessional writer, it's not that big of a deal. I totally could allow myself some time away from keyboards and ballpoint pens, but something tells me I'd let that snowball out of control. Then next thing you know I have no purpose in life and I'm forced to pay back my student loans over the course of eighty years while I sweep floors for minimum wage. Whoa there, self, calm down. That was a bit overdramatic.

So what I'm trying to say guys is I'm trying. I can only apologize for the lackluster blog posts and hope tomorrow brings with it an amazingly inspired idea, but I wouldn't count on it. I'm just trying to plug ahead and work through the writer's block. Thanks for hanging in there while I do so.

"Writing about writer's block is better than not writing at all." -Charles Bukowski


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blogmas Day 16: Fourthward Thinking

Wow here we are again late at night, nearing midnight with me wearing a face mask. You didn't need to know that part, but I tend to be an oversharer. So today I thought I would do something kind of different to celebrate us being 2/3 of the way through Blogmas. Typing that it seems unreal--Christmas is only 8 days away. And for those of you that celebrate Hanukkah, that's officially started now. What I'm trying to say is the holidays are creeping up on us and Blogmas is nearly drawing to a close. So in memorandum, I've decided to post something I wrote for my Creative Nonfiction class that I took this past semester. This piece is about my fourth grade teacher and it's something I'm really proud of. The other piece I really worked on in that class was much more cathartic and is incredibly personal, so I'm keeping that one more sacred for now. I'm thinking though that as a finale to Blogmas I might post it, depending on how y'all feel about this one. Speaking of which...

Fourthward Thinking
            My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Moore, definitely studied Machiavelli at some point in her life. She was the perfect embodiment of the notion that “it is better to be feared than loved.” She held her head above the disdain of elementary school students as careened the halls in her stark white tennis shoes, her mauve-tinted glasses attempting to distract from her severe lazy eye. Before Mrs. Moore and I had ever met, I was already primed to fear her, as the older kids on the bus told me stories about her that rivaled horror movies and monsters under the bed. When we finally did cross paths--the year before I was enrolled in her class--she overheard me say “Oh my God” in passing conversation. She loudly corrected me in front of my friends.
“Don’t ever say ‘Oh my God’; say ‘Oh my!’” The command seemed out of the place in my liberal public school, but I spluttered an apology nonetheless, my cheeks enflamed with embarrassment as she shuffled past.
            That next August I remember bargaining with God as my mom drove me to school for Open House: the day students find out what teacher they’ll have for the upcoming year and parents can sign up to join the PTA. I promised Him I would “never, ever blow off my math homework again” in exchange for any teacher other than Mrs. Moore, who in addition to correcting my phraseology the year prior had a reputation for making her students cry. You can imagine my ten-year-old disappointment when I found out God hadn’t held up His end of the bargain; maybe He really was upset that I had used His name in vain the year before, and this was my penance.
            Mrs. Moore was a big believer in ornamentation. While most teachers adorned their walls with motivational posters and their shelves with ceramic trinkets, she decorated her classroom with dead marine animals in jars and violently realistic posters of the American Indian Wars. The most gaudy of these decorations was the taxidermy deer head mounted on a plaque by the dry erase whiteboard. Occasionally she’d hang her purse on one of the deer’s antlers or decorate its nose with a red sticker to resemble Rudolph at Christmastime. That was as carefree and whimsical as Mrs. Moore got.
            Her eccentric style did not just stop at her classroom décor. Sometimes she’d surprise us with a bizarre new vest or hat. One time in particular, the class went on a field trip to the Kennedy Center to attend a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra; we were all instructed to “look nice.” Mrs. Moore’s personal definition of looking nice was her usual garb—a button-down shirt with pastel pinstripes paired with khaki pants—but today she accessorized the ensemble with a sunhat that had a life-sized stuffed vulture perched on the wide brim. Imagine the type of hat one might wear to the Kentucky Derby, and then add a huge bird of prey. That was Mrs. Moore’s chosen aesthetic.
            In contrast, I wore dark blue jeans and a long-sleeved shirt featuring a design of Mickey Mouse printed on the front. Now I can’t remember if I forgot entirely about the dress code, or if jeans and Mickey Mouse was my naïve definition of “looking nice.” Either way Mrs. Moore was not impressed by my choice of wardrobe. She pulled me aside and said in her trademark condescending tone, “That’s not an appropriate outfit, Lauren. The president comes here all the time, and I can guarantee he doesn’t wear jeans.” I nodded and timidly shuffled back in line, but in my head all I could think was well, Mrs. Moore, I can guarantee he doesn’t wear dead birds on his head, either.
            When Mrs. Moore talked to you one-on-one like that, she was almost always correcting you for some minute wrongdoing. She’d catch your attention by snapping and hissing “eye contact,” as she stiffly formed a V with her index and middle fingers, pointing first at her own two eyes and then yours. Her critiques ranged from “don’t call him names” to “no whistling”; the latter I know from experience, as I had to sit out during recess for an entire week because I was caught whistling in the lunch line. In retrospect, this need for complete control was probably a direct result of her empty-nest syndrome: as she made sure to mention at least once a week, the youngest of her three sons had started his freshman year of college that August prior. With no impressionable kids sitting at her dinner table or neglecting their curfews, she redirected her stern nature to the classroom. We were not only her students but also her pseudo-offspring, meaning we got slammed with a double dose of discipline.
            Among her other glimmering qualities, Mrs. Moore had no patience for forgetfulness. Our homework on the first day of school was to write down and memorize our parents’ daytime telephone numbers. This was because every time we forgot to complete an assignment, we were required to use Mrs. Moore’s desk phone to call either our mom or dad and inform them of our negligence.
Of course fourth grade was the age at which I had the absolute worst memory; thinking back on it now I even shock myself as to how I could be so forgetful. There were multiple instances in which I would fail to complete major school projects, only to be informed that they were due as I entered the classroom empty-handed, seeing all my classmates comparing book reports and science experiments. Needless to say, I was required to bother my mom at work almost every morning for the majority of the year.  For the first few weeks, she would just sigh through the phone and say, “Okay, Lauren, just try to remember tomorrow.” But once the cold weather started to kick in and I was still neglecting to write down my assignments, she started to lose patience just as Mrs. Moore had.
On what had to have been the twentieth time I called my mom to tell her I had forgotten to do yet another math worksheet, I felt tears forming as I picked up the receiver. It wasn’t that I was purposefully not doing my schoolwork, it’s just that more pressing matters would arise at home that pushed the assignments from my mind. To be honest though, when I say, “more pressing matters at home,” I really just mean marathons of Full House on TV.
Trying to steady my breath, I impatiently awaited my mom’s trademark, “Thank you for calling The Washington Post, this is Lynne.” By the time she answered, I was sobbing before she could even begin to tell me how disappointed she was. Choking on my tears and snot as my voice heaved a meek apology, Mrs. Moore stopped class and came over to where I was standing. I felt a hand on the small of my back, and I was sure she was going to say something comforting. Given her track record, though, I don’t know why I was surprised when she instead told me to go into the hallway until I could compose myself. On my way out the door, she made sure to call across the classroom, “Let this be a lesson, Lauren; every time you get home remember this moment and check your homework folder!” Her comment was accompanied by my classmates’ snickering and truly evil thoughts resounding in my head.
            Eventually as the end of the year approached, Mrs. Moore’s expectations had been drilled into our ten-year-old brains; she actually had a good handle on our motley crew of troublemakers, kiss-asses, and those that fell in-between. But it seemed as though there was always room for improvement. Once it got warm enough for us to start playing outside again, she informed us all that we needed to learn a lesson in personal hygiene. Some people may say it’s inappropriate for a teacher to tell her students they collectively smell bed, but Mrs. Moore wasn’t just any teacher. She could get away with things like that, and she did. I can vividly remember standing in a silent, single-file line (because Mrs. Moore would have nothing less) waiting to come inside after recess. She took one whiff of us and asked if anyone in the class wore deodorant. When no hands were raised, she marched us back to the classroom and instructed us to all retrieve our daily planners as we found our seats. Mrs. Moore scrawled on the whiteboard “I will purchase deodorant for my son/daughter”; underneath this line of script she drew an X indicating space for a signature.
            “Everyone, copy this into your planner and have your parents sign it when you get home,” she barked, reaching in her huge purse to retrieve a warm can of Diet Coke, as was her routine in the early afternoon (she drank a warm Diet Coke in the afternoon and a carton of warm buttermilk in the morning, both pulled from the depths of her seemingly bottomless bag). As we all hurried to reproduce the sentence, she continued, “I want all of your parents to buy you deodorant tonight; I’ll be checking for their signatures tomorrow, as well as a receipt. It’s about time you all start to take care of yourselves.” I’m sure my parents would’ve been surprised had it have been any other teacher that assigned such a peculiar task, but at that point they too were used to the way Mrs. Moore did things. She was the captain of a tight ship and she would only tolerate respectful, intelligent, and pleasant-smelling sailors.
            Now, I won’t lie and say that I think about Mrs. Moore often. She’s not a recurring character in the film reel constantly playing in my head. It’s usually when I’m discussing my elementary school years—which are seldom a topic of conversation—that I’ll remember her. I’ll say something along the lines of “my fourth grade teacher was deranged, I swear” as I gain control of my giggling to tell one of the funnier anecdotes that comes to mind. The only other times I’ll think of Mrs. Moore is when I catch myself behaving in a way that she conditioned. When I apologize to my Christian friends after I let an “Oh my God” slip into conversation. When I show up underdressed to a party or family get-together. When I forgot to do the reading for class. When I’m buying a new deodorant at Target and my eye is drawn to Dove’s Original Powder Fresh, which was the exact product my mom bought me when I was ten, thanks to Mrs. Moore’s prompting. It’s only in those little moments that I remember how she started to mold me and so many other young people into respectable adults, and it’s then that I’m actually thankful for her influence. She expected ten year olds to behave as though we were already grown, and while maybe that’s expecting a bit much, she forced us to mature in the best ways. She trained us to behave with dignity while still allowing us to find joy in childish endeavors. She’d never tell us we couldn’t play kickball, but she did tell us we couldn’t cry if we were on the losing team.
With the changing face of discipline in the classroom, the modern elementary school would classify Mrs. Moore as a sadist, as they give children stickers to keep them from asking questions adults can’t answer. In order to reach benchmarks and receive funding, public schools nowadays force information down the throats of students only to be regurgitated on standardized tests. But even as today’s ten year olds fill their heads with baseless facts as they watch these empty accolades amass on their permanent record, they won’t learn to be accountable like we did. Maybe I can’t tell you the function of a plant cell’s chlorophyll, but I can take responsibility for myself. So in a weird way, I commend Mrs. Moore and wouldn’t change any of the harsh words she directed my way. I maybe could’ve done without the tears shed and the days suspended from the playground, but I’ll take what I can get.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading some of my more "highbrow" writing and you'll tune in tomorrow for my usual drivel. Let me know in comments below or via Twitter (@asauerpatchkid) if you'd like more of this stuff! Have a good night guys!

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." -John Dewey


Monday, December 15, 2014

Blogmas Day 15: Old Lady Lauren

I swear, one of these days I'm going to start blogging before 11 PM. Every day for the past week, I've thought to myself around two in the afternoon, "I really need to write my blog!" and then before I know it it's almost the next day. Where does the time go? Today it went to watching How I Met Your Mother and baking cookies and peppermint bark. Another riveting installment in "Lauren Comes Home For Winter Break." Maybe tomorrow I'll watch 30 Rock while I fold laundry. Crazy stuff, man.

Anyway, today's blog post might be a bit on the short side yet again, as my bedtime is vastly approaching. If I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning before 10 AM to get my day started, I should hit the hay soon. I'm being totally serious here. Look, I can tell from your furrowed brow and questioning expression that you don't believe me, but I'm an old lady at heart and I don't care who knows it. That's what I wanted to talk about today.

I've always believed myself to be an "old soul," as people say, but I've never fully understood what that meant until this time in my life. I've always been that kid in a rush to grow up and settle down with a house and a lap dog, not taking a second to "enjoy my youth." It's just not something I'm really interested in compared to most of my cohort. This used to be a huge cause of anxiety and insecurity for me, and at times it still makes me annoyed with myself, but overall I've come to terms with being a homebody.

Give me a home-cooked meal and a movie over dancing and drinks on a Friday night. Give me slippers and hot coffee over last night's mascara and a headache. Give me day trips to Target over nights out. Shopping for kitchen supplies over shopping around for guys on Tinder. Bubble baths over bongs and close friends over sweaty strangers. Everyone reading this between the ages of 16 and 24 are probably rolling their eyes, but I can't help how I find solace. An introvert by nature, I need to be alone and take things slow to recharge. If that means skipping out on a few weekend plans to spend some quality time with myself then so be it.

I don't want this to come across as negative, though, because that's not it at all. I don't want you to think I'm passing judgment on people that do act their age, because I swear I'm not. I'm in no place to tell someone how to live their life; I'm just providing my perspective. I find oftentimes people think it's weird or antisocial that I'm so eager to be elderly, but I really don't think that's it. I'm not saying I never go out, because I sometimes do. I'm not saying I don't drink, because I sometimes do...sometimes more than I should. I'm not a stick in the mud that refuses to be impulsive. Generally though, my own, slow-going routine is much more appealing to me. I have plenty of friends who don't feel the same way, and that's fine by me. Life isn't about seeing eye-to-eye with everyone all the time and having a constant companion, but rather about surrounding yourself with people who understand your needs and don't pass judgment on your inclinations. If my needs and inclinations resemble that of your mother's, then at least you can go out knowing I'll be here to bail you out of jail if the going gets rough.

So on that note, guys, it's Granny Lauren's bedtime. I hope you're all well and are having a good week thus far. I can't believe Blogmas is more than HALF WAY OVER. I'm honestly shocked as to how fast the time has gone, but excited that the end of Blogmas also brings about Christmas Day. There's that silver lining.

Be good to yourselves! I'll see you tomorrow!

"I like old movies, screwball comedies, vintage clothes, and basically I'm an old-fashioned gal." -Zooey Deschanel 


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blogmas Day 14: My Ten Most Fanscinating

Happy Sunday, everybody. Yet again Blogmas is coming at you just before the clock strikes midnight, so like Cinderella at the ball I'm rushing around to make sure I leave the right impression before time runs out. I had a genuinely good, lazy Sunday in which I got to wake up at nearly eleven o'clock in my own bed. I slept more soundly than I have in weeks, which is exactly what I needed to get back on my feet. Amidst decorating the house for Christmas, going to the grocery store, and eating dinner with my parents, I had the type of homebody day that I dearly miss when I'm away at school.

Among those staple suburban activities, tonight my mom and I watched Barbara Walters's "10 Most Fascinating People of 2014" annual special, and honestly it was lackluster.  Of course we tuned in for Taylor Swift's segment, which was too short and too surface if you ask me. Barbara must be losing her touch, because it seemed as though this year she picked her most fascinating people by closing her eyes and spinning around in circles with her pointer finger outstretched. Her pick for the coveted Most Fascinating position went to George Clooney's wife, which in addition to being an odd choice is almost disrespectful toward all the truly fascinating people that would've better deserved the title. For all of these reasons, I've taken it upon myself to rewrite the list and present to you Lauren Sauer's 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014.

In no particular order (because you can't make me choose)

1) Jimmy Fallon
Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Jimmy took over the iconic Tonight Show after Jay Leno stepped down (for good--throwback to when he teased Conan O'Brien with the hosting gig for a few months) and has taken network TV by storm. Successfully hosting Late Night in years prior, Jimmy brought his energy to The Tonight Show with his trademark sense of humor and charm. In addition to boosting ratings, he boosted New York morale by bringing the show back home to the greatest city in the world. He's changed the game of talk show television by being just as interesting as the huge stars he invites on, which is no easy task. 2014 was a big year for Jimmy, and it doesn't go unnoticed in my book.

2) John Green
Courtesy of The Wire

Sticking with the theme of lovable, father-figure semi-inappropriate celebrity crushes, John Green had a big 2014. One of my favorite authors since my angsty high school days, John has finally entered into the pop culture arena. His books Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns (which has an accompanying film currently in production), and Will Grayson, Will Grayson all achieved notable success as bestselling young adult fiction novels. Nothing compares to his most famous work though: The Fault in Our Stars. Though it was released in January 2012, (which I remember vividly because that trip to Barnes and Noble was one of the first places I drove myself with my newly-obtained license) TFioS, as it's commonly referred to, robbed the tears of people all over the world with a new vivacity in 2014. With the movie release this summer, the average person aged 12-50 is now hard-pressed to find someone they know who isn't utterly obsessed. The heart-wrenching story of two teen cancer patients finding love may seem contrived from its summary, but it's a worthwhile read that has turned into a global phenomenon. So much so that I'm starting to wonder if John Green hasn't published anything since then for fear of following up such an iconic novel.

3) Laverne Cox
Courtesy of National Review

When Netflix's original series Orange is the New Black became the show to watch in 2014, audiences became fascinated by Sophia, the aloof beautician and transgender woman. Before now, transgender people--especially transgender People of Color--were not commonplace in television, so to experience Sophia's fictional narrative was a learning experience for many. Beyond that though, the actress behind the incarcerated former fireman is much more fascinating: Laverne Cox, a transgender woman, speaks openly about her experiences and identity to educate America. 2014 was truly the year in which we experienced, as Time says, "The Transgender Tipping Point," in which our Western culture has been forced to familiarize itself with this legitimate identity and understand it from a new perspective. Before now, it was commonplace to throw around the word "tranny" in pop culture for a cheap laugh; thankfully America has now grown to understand the severity of the t-word as a slur. That's just a small example, though: the transgender community is complex and is demanding to speak for themselves, and with strong women like Laverne Cox at the forefront of the conversation, they're finally saving their turn to talk.

4) Meghan Trainor
Courtesy of Vevo

Meghan Trainor has all the makings of a pop sensation: blond hair, bubbly personality, catchy hit problem though: "she ain't no size 2." That's okay though, because 2014 proved to be "All About That Bass." Meghan's self-written song about body positivity took the world by storm this year and fueled a revolution. The 20-year-old sings about being "perfect from the bottom to the top," encouraging young women to love themselves regardless of how their waistlines compares to that of Victoria's Secret Angels. The catchy song sparked a bigger conversation of self-love that is beneficial for people--especially girls--all over the world. While the song has received some backlash for its "skinny-shaming" subliminal messaging, the intent is pure and the song is a hit.

5) Ben Affleck
Courtesy of

Trust me, I'm as surprised to be writing this as you are to be reading it, but it all adds up: Ben Affleck had a big 2014. In addition to his starring role in Gone Girl, in which he reminded us that he can act his butt off (literally...there's a split-second nude scene in the movie) he also made a splash in the political end of the pool this year. Ben publicly debated many times on television about the legitimate issue of Islamophobia, (the hatred or mistrust cast upon all Islamic people as a result of largely unrelated terrorist activity) bringing the issue to the attention of many. When celebrities use their stature--especially when they're being given the spotlight for a film, album, etc.--to promote issues of importance, it gets a gold star in my book.

6) Lupita Nyong'o
Courtesy of US Magazine

An absolute vision on every red carpet this year, Lupita Nyong'o wowed the world with her poise, beauty, and intellect continuously. Winning the "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar for her performance in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita brought to life the brutal truth of the American South in the years before the Civil War. In addition to her acting, Lupita has spoken on behalf on young black women everywhere in order to redefine classic beauty and broaden the horizons of representation in film. Her grace makes her an amazing facet in today's Hollywood and hopefully gives more room for women like her in the years to come.

7) Kimye
Courtesy of The Huffington Post

You don't have to love them, but you have to admit they're fascinating. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West got married in 2014, making official what many call "The Most Annoying Couple in the World." She's famous for creating a empire out of a sex tape. He's famous for thinking himself to be God. A match made in heaven. Their relationship is of much scrutiny and open for the world to see, and I won't lie and say I've turned away from my window into their public lives. Plus the cherry on top of the cake: they named their daughter North West. Only them.

8) Robin Williams
Courtesy of Inside Movies

I'm unsure if including the recently-deceased in this list is in poor taste or in good form, but something is urging me to include Robin Williams. Robin passed away due to suicide this August, leaving an everlasting scar on Hollywood and the hearts of many. His death came as a complete shock to the entire world, who saw him only as the Genie from Disney's Aladdin and the dad-in-disguise in Mrs. Doubtfire. And while he was both of those things, he was also deeply depressed. His death sparked a conversation and awareness about mental illness and the appropriate ways to seek treatment. And while it saddens me greatly to see the death of a comedy legend, the dialogue that followed is ultimately productive and I'm sure has saved at least one other person's life in the process. At least, then, his death was not in vain, but he is sorely missed nonetheless.

9) Taylor Swift
Courtesy of E! Online

I tried, guys. I tried really hard. I don't want to be that girl that keeps bringing Taylor Swift into the equation, but 2014 was her best year yet. You can ask anybody (Hell, even ask Katy Perry) and they'll tell you the same thing. Taylor's 5th studio album 1989 had the best first week sales since Eminem's album in 2002, she's the only female artist to have 3 albums debut at number one, and she's the only artist this year to have her album go platinum. Remove my crazy fangirl bias from the equation and just look at those stats alone: Taylor Swift is a remarkable force to reckoned with. And of course while I don't know her (but man do I wish I did) she seems to remain levelheaded and genuine throughout her immense level of fame. That's truly fascinating to me, and makes her a shoe-in for this list. I know, guys...I really tried to resist the temptation, but I just couldn't Shake It Off. (I'm ridiculous and that joke was too)

10) The People (and Supporters) of Ferguson, Missouri
Courtesy of

I don't like to use my blog as a means to spew off my elementary-level political beliefs, so I won't get into my own perspective, but the People of Ferguson and their supporters couldn't not make this list. In the wake of the murder of Michael Brown, (who, at the time, was 18) the grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, proving there to be a severe racial bias in our justice system. Oops, there I go, letting some of those political beliefs slip out. In the wake of the decision, Wilson has since resigned (with enough money from his supporters to retire at the young age of 28), and the conversation about modern-day racism is on everyone's mind. The People of Ferguson, especially the family of Michael Brown, have remained strong and sentient in these past few weeks, forcing Americans not to push this issue aside. Because the fact of the matter is not all people have the privilege to just "push this issue aside."

And on that note, there's my list of the Ten Most Fascinating People of 2014. While Barbara Walters is entitled to her opinions, I think my picks trump hers, but I'd like to know what you think. If you think I forgot to include someone important, let me know in the comments below.

"I think what makes people fascinating is conflict, it's drama, it's the human condition. Nobody wants to watch perfection." -Nicolas Cage