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.

Short

First Day on Campus

I’m sitting in the commons area. The ebb and flow of students is nearly fascinating. Nearly. People watching is actually an interesting thing to occupy yourself with here. It’s amazing how different the population is so close to home. The populace of our small town is primarily WASPs in camo hunting gear. The town where I work is fairly racially mixed, but also fairly urban. In one corner there are several tables of people playing Magic: the Gathering and other card games. Along the walls there are dozens of faces lit by bright computer screens, or they would be if the window behind them didn’t create such a glare. Sprinkled throughout there are groups of old friends, catching up after a summer away from school. “Ashley! I didn’t know you were going here!” “Hey Jason what are you taking?” This world is very different from any I’ve been in before.

People speak disparagingly of freshman, but then asking simple questions that make me chuckle under my breath. What’s the difference between you and us, other than the number of years you’ve studied? If those years haven’t taught you some of these simple things, what do they really mean?

As the clock reaches the top of the hour, the hall clears out and the volume level drops, but only a little. I only have two classes on Wednesday, but they are 4 hours apart. While having a math class at 8 in the morning, half an hour away from home is primarily a pain in the neck, it does get me a good parking space. This morning after class was over, I tried to connect to the internet. Whether the problem was with my computer or the network, I have no idea. I really don’t care at this point though. I’m just glad to be connected.

So far it’s been an interesting first day. Let’s see what the rest of the semester holds.

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.

Farm and Family, Musings, Pictures

Freedom!

I started doing the Snoopy Dance early this month. I went in to take the GED. Since I took it on the computer I got my scores back right away.  I didn’t quite dare to hope to expect to pass math. I nonchalantly looked at my scores and asked a couple questions about scoring. Then I went out to the car. Then I started  Snoopy Dancing. Well, not actually dancing, at least I don’t think I was…

I passed math! 54th percentile! Then I started dancing  even more. I only missed a couple of the science questions! 99th! The more scores I read the more excited I got. All but math were in the 90s!DSCF9467

I didn’t get my writing score right away because it had to be graded by someone, but I added my scores up and as long as I passed I would have over 3000 points.

The freedom of not having math looming over my head is amazing. I really can’t describe how wonderful it feels to not have school work (other than reading that mom and dad want me to do)

I got my diploma in the mail a few days ago.DSCF9498

My online teacher recommended that I apply for scholarships. I never thought I could go to college. I’m not sure why, it just wasn’t ever something I had considered. I think part of me thought I wasn’t book smart enough.

To be brutally honest, this is the first year I’ve really done any school. Mom taught me to read for about 3 years and once it finally stuck I just read stuff. For science I read science books, all the way from basic anatomy place mats to dads college textbooks, and stuck anything I could find under our microscope. Social studies is the hardest to pinpoint. You just kind of pick it up. Math is, was and probably will always be my worst enemy. I truly just didn’t do it. I learned to add and subtract and the basic principle of multiplication and that was enough for me. DSCF9505

I think a key to this style of schooling is fostering curiosity. We’ve always had all kinds of books around the house, but the microscope has always been one of my favorites. What does this type of leaf look like compared to this other one? What happens when it is cut, torn or crushed? How are they different? Comparing different people’s hair or fingernails.

Curiosity is what pushes you to read a book you may not have otherwise. It’s what pushes you to build thing and unwittingly learn the physics of a pulley or a fulcrum. Life may be a classroom, but curiosity is what keeps you from falling asleep during class.

I’m certainly not saying I’m done learning or that our relaxed style is THE best one for EVERYONE. It would be hypocritical. Learning is not a one size fits all thing (scarves are about the only thing I can think of that are).

I can’t believe I’m done.