Actions in Activities, Musings

Don’t Give Up

Few things make me quite as nostalgic as a debate tournament. Now, I was never a fantastic debater. While winning two out of three rounds wasn’t a huge shock, it was still often a surprise. But I loved it.

I didn’t fall in love with debate right away though. My first tournament was epic. A thing of legend. It was terrible. My partner and I were both first year debaters and we really had no idea what we were doing. She didn’t seem to care that we were doing so poorly, and it drove me insane. But since she was more comfortable speaking and I just wanted to sit in the corner and pretend I was somewhere else, she gave two of our three speeches. I spent most of the time staring at my paper trying to figure out what to write down. When it was my turn to speak, I stood up, thanked the judge, timekeeper and peanut gallery, read the few words I may or may not have written down, stared at my mostly blank piece of paper for a minute or so, said “um” a lot, and sat down. That first tournament I got 1 out of 5 points in nearly every speaker category, in nearly every round. I swore “never again.” I was done with debate, speaking, everything. That was my first tournament, and I was determined that it would be my last. My parents had other ideas. I had to finish the semester and compete in the rest of the tournaments, but after that semester was over I could be done.

It still irks me to say this, (what can say? I inherited my parents combined stubbornness) but I’m so glad that I finished that term.

I learned so much in my time as a debater. It’s not just the obvious things you would think of either. Everyone expects that, of course, public speaking is a nearly universally useful skill. You use it in almost every profession, as well as jobs that lead up to whatever career you pursue (“Would you like fries with that?”). The critical thinking habits are obviously invaluable. But those aren’t the ones that meant the most to me. The lessons that meant to most to me were ones of confidence.

The thing about debate is, sometimes your team can win a round without actually being the better speakers. A first year debater can destroy a seasoned team by pointing out one logical fallacy. A timid speaker can turn a theatrical orator’s case into a colander with the right points. The confidence boost of a win, or even the possibility of a win, is indescribable and addictive. I’ve seen this happen as both a debater and as a judge, and it’s awesome.

When I first started debate, all I wanted to do was melt into the wall. By the end of my senior year, I was often in tears because I didn’t want it to end. Debate can be an amazing activity, but remember five things for me.

  • Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t feel bad when you make one, but when your opponent does, nail ’em. Politely. With a smile.
  • Conversely, when your opponent nails you for a mistake, don’t take it personally. Still be polite and try to remember to smile.
  • You will lose rounds. It’s not a reflection of your worth as a human being.
  • You will think of what would have been the winning argument for those rounds on your way home from the tournament. File it away and be ready for next time.
  • It’s just a game. You are not a lawyer. No one will die or go to prison if you mess up. Have fun.

And parents, please remember that these are kids. Don’t berate them for making mistakes. That’s part of learning.

Books and Movies, Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Saying “No” Isn’t Weak

Volumes of Rows is the only story I’ve ever finished, and I only finished it because it had to get out of my head. I came up with it as I was shelving in the library one day. Have you ever compressed a stack of paper and then let it go really fast? It makes this ominous creak that almost sounds like breathing. Now, our library isn’t all that large, so I knew I was nearly always in sight of the circulation desk, were something to happen. But what if I was alone? What if that creak actually was the books coming to life, but since someone can always see them, they can’t move? I came home that day and wrote down what played out in my head. The next week I had a gut check when I noticed that someone had left the large quilt book out.

After I finished trying to trip my sister, Meg, as she was learning to walk, I decided to torture her by other means. I attempted to convince her that aliens were going to come in our nearly two story high window, turn her brains to oatmeal and eat them with a straw. Now Meg, being very level headed and logical, had no reason to believe in aliens. I, on the other hand… have always had a very vivid imagination. I convinced myself of what I failed to convince my sister.

LimitsFor the past two years I have spent the weekends of October working at a corn maze. If you’ve ever been to a corn maze, you probably realise that there is a lot more to the attraction than a maze of maize. This particular maze features several rides and playthings, including a fairly tall zip-line. This year I worked the top of the line. I will admit, I wouldn’t have ridden this thing when I was little. I’ve never liked heights. As you can probably imagine, there were a lot of kids who would take one look and opt for the much shorter version. Most of the time the parents would suggest that they try the big line anyway. I loved it when a child who was scared at first grew to love the ride. You enjoy something so much more when you work for it. Seeing children overcoming obstacles is one of my favorite things. There’s a nearly visible shine on their faces.

Then there were the Shamers. The parents who would say some variation of “Don’t be a baby,” “He’s braver than you are,” or “Don’t be a sissy.” Some of these kids would eventually give in to their parents jeering. But some didn’t, and I applaud them all. The ones who did try because they faced their fears and the ones who didn’t because they took a stand. They didn’t give into name calling and pressuring. They ruled themselves and made their own decisions, even when those decisions weren’t popular. They set limits they were comfortable with. They had the strength to say “no.” Of course, they may later regret not riding. But, that’s part of growing up and making choices. You can allow yourself to be haunted by the Might’aves and the Should’aves, or you can learn from the experience.

My mind can be an eerie place. Because of this I have to be careful about reading or watching paranormal sci-fi or horror. If I give it the wrong encouragement, my imagination will run rampant and I can quickly lose control. There are times when I prefer movies to books, simply because my mind isn’t confined to a screen like a film is. I miss out on some things because I don’t enjoy certain types of entertainment. But I’m ok with that. To live a healthy life, you have to recognise your limits.

Actions in Activities, Musings

How To Be a Girl

“If I were a boy, life would be so much better. No one would care what I wore or what I did.” She looked up at the enormity of the sky outside her window, laid her small head of matted, mouse brown hair on a pink Barbie pillow, and fell asleep.

“I have hips. When did that happen?” She sits on an examination table in a cold doctor’s office, looks down and notices her own, fully formed body for the first time.

I went directly from being a little girl to being a woman. At least, that’s how it feels. Those years that most girls get to grow accustomed to their bodies were stripped from me. No, I get it. Everyone is awkward during puberty. But I wasn’t just awkward, I was resentful. From the time I was 9 until this past year, I resented and hated the fact that I am female. During those years, the only emotions I truly felt at all were anger and hatred, so of course that was the only way I could view myself or my body. My parents never taught me to think this way, it was the 905dfa71e173a5a222272b7585f56c14pervasiveness of the ideologies of the purity movement in our church and homeschool community that hammered it into my brain, but the purity mindset was still encouraged. I am the one who took the encouragement a step further. The feminine form was something to be hidden, if not ashamed of. I still hated skirts, because all things that are feminine were weak and therefore must be eschewed. So, I wore boys jeans even though I was beginning to get tiny teen hips and they didn’t really fit right. I wore unisex t-shirts and sports bras almost exclusively. It wasn’t hard at all. It’s easier to find clothes when you just need to cover your shameful nakedness and hide your seductive form.

I recently got cast in a play at school, and it’s been so, so good for me. I realised that I still often carry myself like I’m ashamed to be alive, even though I’m happier now than I ever have been. I slouch. I mumble. I look at the ground when I walk. I avoid eye contact. As far as I’ve come, I’m still not used to being a girl. But I noticed something else. One day at rehearsal our director was talking about not being ourselves on stage, but being our characters. Mrs. Martin is a very posh, English gentlewoman. She crosses her ankles when she sits, with her shoulders back and head held high. Whereas I sit hunched over with elbows rested on the desk in front of me, my legs either out in front or tucked up under my seat. The first time I felt this dissonance between myself and a character I was portraying was at comic-con last spring. I was cosplaying for the first time, and I had chosen Snow White from Once Upon a Time in her huntress get-up. As I walked through the crowded hallways I noticed my attitude. I was standing straighter, but walking more urgently. Like the hunted princess. I was running from the Evil Queen (who, incidentally, is by far my favorite character), and it was all I could do to keep from breaking out into a sprint.

So, what now? Well, I have lines and blocking to memorize. Lines for Mrs. Elizabeth Martin, and blocking for Ms. Annie Hall. There is still so much character development in the works. Who is this girl with such a complicated past and such an ambitious future? How does she carry herself across this stage? She is a princess and a storykeeper. She carries herself with grace and love and confidence. What is her motivation? Life. Vivacious, glorious, abundant, splendid, Life.

Camp

Return of the Fire Breathing Pidgezilla, Part II

Seeing girls grow is one of the greatest things I have ever been a part of. One of my cabin girls started the week with red beads on her swimsuit,warning the lifeguards that she was a weak swimmer. She worked hard all week in swimming lessons. On Friday she ran into the cabin at the end of second activity and told me she had passed the swim test. I just about burst, I was so proud of her.

DSCF2112I taught nature to the Pathfinders by myself for the first time this year. I’ve assisted this class twice now, and it’s kind of included in my CILT majors. To be honest though, Grackle, the activities director, had more confidence in me than I did.

Pathfinders are seriously awesome. They are bouncy, fun-loving, and if you can win them over, you have a best friend. They also have had somewhere between 7 and 9 years to build up a huge capacity of energy. Sometimes we don’t have enough girls or enough classes for them to choose their activities. Sometimes nature is not an optional class. Most of the girls were fine with this, and probably would have taken nature anyway. Then in one of my classes, I DSCF2041only had one girl out of the four who didn’t scream bloody murder at some point.

One day near the end of week two, as we were walking through the woods I had an idea, and it was kind of the theme for my whole time at camp. One of the girls said “I’m not going any further. This is outside of my comfort zone. I have boundaries.” At the beginning of camp I felt exactly the same way. But then I realised, ” Comfort zones are like muscles. When you exercise a muscle, the fibers break, but they grow back. The new tissue takes up more room, and your muscles get bigger. Comfort zones are like that too. You break them a little bit, and they grow back bigger.” This was mostly over their heads, and I’m not sure how scientifically accurate it is, but a couple of them were begging me to go “just a little” further down the trail, so I didn’t have a chance to explain further. They still screamed every now and again, but even the squealers were much deeper in the woods than they had ever been before. Sometimes I still employed trick I figured out. Start belting ‘Love is an Open Door’ and they will stop whatever they are doing and join you. Dance along with it? You’ve got full on celebrity status and a herd of very short groupies. By the end of the week, this was mostly just for fun.

The campers weren’t the only girls stretching their comfort zones. You know what though? The more room you have, the more fun you can have. You know what else? I’m done telling God “I’m not going any further. This is outside of my comfort zone. I have boundaries.” In fact– take me deeper into the woods.

Actions in Activities, Camp, Musings

Staying Home After Highschool

Yes, I’m back from camp, and yes, a post about that is forthcoming. But for now, something is on my mind.

I graduated highschool last spring. Instead of going straight to college as per the popular course, I stayed home. While this isn’t unheard of, it still isn’t common. Most people I knew started at least taking courses at a community college, and a lot of them were moving away. I’ve had a  lot of people tell me it’s a good idea to stay home, or that they wish they had taken a break.

When I was technically “in school” I never really did a ton of book work. I learned from reading and by osmosis for the most part (we call it hippieschool). You would think, being that laid back to begin witfireworksh, it wouldn’t be a big deal to not do school at all. But, I had activities. I did Debate and Bible Quiz. Most of my time was spent in fly-on-the-wall mode, but I saw people and did things. Even though I was never much of a part of the action, this past year has been the loneliest one of my life.

But my loneliness hasn’t been solely because of lack of activities. We also changed churches last summer. I left friends behind there. A few times I tried getting together with them outside of church, but I ran into a problem. I’ve changed. I’m not the same person that they hung out with last year. I’ve tried getting involved with our new church, but I just don’t exactly fit in.

It probably sounds like I’ve had a fairly miserable year. Right and wrong. I probably have cried more in this past year than the rest of my previous years combined. But I learned so much about myself, and about my writing, and about the world, and about God that I wouldn’t trade that year for anything. It was the year I learned to Let It Go. I have figured out what I want to do, at least for the next few years, and it is totally different from what I had planned before (even though, in retrospect, it is something I’ve wanted to do since I was about 9 years old).

I don’t regret staying home, but it wasn’t like I thought it would be. So, if you are considering taking the year off, go for it. But, don’t just not do school. Write. Create. Think. Do things. Learn what you want to learn. It isn’t easy. You won’t  be the same person you were when you graduated. You will be much more of a person though. I’m a lot happier one.

Books and Movies, Musings

Read It And Weep

I talk about books all the time. We know this by now, I hope. Honestly though, if you think it is bad online, you should see me in person. Sometimes, if there is a really awkward silence, I will just randomly ask someone if they have read A Wrinkle In Time. But I haven’t always had this relationship with words.

I’ve never been tested, but I’m positive I have some sort of learning disability, and possibly a bit of dyslexia. I didn’t read independently until I was about 9 or 10 years old. Mom did everything “right”. We had books everywhere. She read to me. I knew my alphabet. Heck, in college she majored in journalism and Dad majored in history. There was no lack of joanofarcexposure to books of all kinds. Mom started working with me when I was about 6, but it just frustrated me. We played the phonics game, read the Bob books, and all kinds of variations of the two. I remember her writing out the words of a Bob book on 4×6 index cards one word at a time because those three words were too overwhelming.

She was incredibly patient. Eventually, she just left me alone. The books were still there. She would still read to my younger sisters, but didn’t force me to join. Every once in a while we’d work on it again, but for the most part, Mom just let me be. And that is when it clicked. I remember distinctly. One day I opened up the Dorling Kindersley reader version of Joan of Arc, and I just read it. I was kind of surprised, but I just read. Soon after that I started writing poetry, and jumped straight to thick chapter books (A Wrinkle In Time being my first favorite.)

This is how school always was for me. Mom would sweat over it for a little while, try to teach me, but in the end, I learned on my own, on my own time. Not during a set school time. Not with a set school book. Not with a set teaching tool or lesson plan. She figured this out, and pretty much left me alone. We were talking about it a few weeks ago after I got back some test scores, and I really only did about 3 years worth of actual schoolwork in those 12 years I was “in school”. And yet, I’ve never really gotten what you would call “bad marks” when I’ve tested.

So, to the moms who are stressing out over their kid’s academics, don’t. Sometimes they don’t need a different curriculum or a more strict lesson plan. Sometimes they just need space. Your child is learning about life, maybe they need that more than multiplication right now. Keep the books around, but don’t push them. And for all that is good and decent, do not take away the fun. Let them play. Playing is learning how to live. Books will come later. You are doing a great job. Just keep loving your child and getting to know them.

Musings

Fear

Another pair of weeks went by without a post. You know, this time though, I did write. I actually wrote several full posts, but I didn’t put them up. I was scared. Scared for a bunch of reasons. Scared that my thoughts wouldn’t be well articulated. Scared that they would be inflammatory. Scared that they wouldn’t be.pinkdotsquote

I do that a lot. I’m scared of the future. Really scared actually. I want to pursue a certain field of work, but I’m not sure how good I’ll be at it, even though I’ve wanted to do it since I was little. I want to study for a certain degree, but I’m scared I won’t be able to pay tuition, even though I know I’ll work something out. I’m scared I’ll fail, so I don’t even take the test. I’m scared I’ll succeed and then be expected to replicate that success.

But this doesn’t get me anywhere.

I don’t need to be scared of failing. If I am, I’ll never even try. I need to do everything I can to prepare, but when it comes to it, just do it.

Being scared of success is even worse though. If you do well at something the first time, how will you do the second time? What will people think of you if you fail after that? What if that first one is a fluke, and you aren’t actually any good? This is pointless though! You have to try!

Fear is paralysing. Grace is freeing. If you fail, it’s ok, everyone does. If you succeed, congratulations, now try again. You can’t do anything great without doing something really dumb first. In fact, the dumber you start out, the greater the great thing will be.

I feel deep in bones that I will be good at what I want to do. The fact that I’m pretty unqualified and inexperienced will only make it even more awesome when I succeed.