Life Stories, Year Three

 Photo credits to my friend, Merlin, who took all of the soccer photos!

This is Merlin. Her hair is... well, let's just say that our group of friends didn't make a video about it for nothing.

To those who will worry: I washed my feet before I left school.

Summer vacation is finally here! Yesterday, "What Time Is It" from High School Musical, and (ironically) pouring rain and strong winds greeted everyone as the horde of roughly a thousand students pushed out of the classrooms doors when sun happily said hello the day before. I spent much of my time hugging friends goodbye, including an awkward montage of sprinting and tackling a friend who I wasn't going to see for three months and had taken on the supermarket during our lunch period.

Anyways, now time for one of my favorite posts of the entire year! Newcomers to the blog: this series is where some of the most comedic and memorable "snippets" of my school year get featured-- years one and two can be viewed here and here, respectively. It's a pity they had to get cut down only to my five best ones, when there are four times as much I'd love to share.

Without further ado, I present to you Life Stories, Year Three.

"This is our first meeting as a team, you guys!" The library, occupied only by five inhabitants, seemed eerily strange without the influx of students weaving in and out of it. Our competition coach shuffled the piles of question cards in her hands. "Now, I know all of you have read some of the books for the competition in February, but not all of you know each other. So, let's go around in a circle and introduce ourselves."

Not including one girl, most of us were familiar to one another and it was an advantage that came with participation in the event three years in a row. One of the seniors hardly looked up from her book about politics as she said, "Hi, I'm Anna & I'm a book person with a school problem."
The introduction flew to me next, and I bit the inside of my cheek. If the former introduction was an indicator of how the remaining individuals would introduce themselves... "Hi, I'm Abby--"

"Hi, Abby," the only freshman on our team drawled. I rolled my eyes in an expectant way. His interjections stood renowned amidst the upper right hallways of the school and sixth period Spanish class, where his whistling irked the teacher so much.

I pushed on. "Hi, I'm Abby, and I suffer from a vertically challenged problem." I nodded to the senior next to me. "Jace, go."

He leaned back slightly, and the hood of his red sweater wrinkled into a frivolous ball. "I'm Jace. I suffer a Tolkien obsession." Ah, the Tolkien obsession. He reminded everyone about his orange juice stained copy of The Fellowship of the Ring.

"And I'm Clark, and I have a 'really-annoying-older-brother-that-annoys-me-to the-point-of-day' problem." The two brothers shoved each other at the remarks. The two held little semblance to one another in looks or personality except for the affinity towards the geeky side: Pokémon, Gravity Falls, the usual and like.

Our attention shifted towards the unspoken member, donning a red senior sweater similar to Jared's and brown hair sweeping the course of her back. We all smiled friendly. Just because she hadn't been a member in the competition didn't mean she could integrate into the group. We wanted her to be.

"I'm Bella, and I... can't think of anything."

"Hmm..." I shuffled forward towards the edge of my seat. "You have a 'making up stuff at the last minute' problem?"

"Yeah? Pretty much."

My attention detracted away from the purple wall covered in cat, puns, and Supernatural memorabilia and rendered in towards the conversation before me. Sam and El, a duo I conversed frequently with, murmured to one another about the week’s homework, asking for the area underneath two line segments, a semi-circle, and another triangle. I pulled the paper closer and instantly frowned. “Sam,” I crooned, “you forgot d(x) on your integral.”

Both gave me signs of concern as they retrieved the paper from my grasp and examined the work. “Oh my goodness, Abby,” Sam said in mock annoyance, “it’s just d(x).” Exasperation slurred his words, “dee ex.”

“Still, d(x) is important!”

“Of course it’s important, but who cares?” His arms and shoulders frantically sprung to life, probably fueled by the same energy that powers his motorcycle. “That is d(x)! It is d(x), and no one cares about ‘the ex!’’ The three of us shared befuddled glances at one another. Did… did we just birth another math joke--- no, better, a math pun-- before 7:30 in the morning? A rupture of laughter burst aloud, cold and sad.

Our cackles simmered down. El piped, “Sam?”


“Never… never say that ever again.”

A group of fifteen students gathered around the table labeled, “Union.” The Civil War unit commenced twenty minutes prior, and right away, our teacher gave us a limited amount of info to strategize what each side of the war would do to fight and win. The blinds of the classroom were drawn low, but the sun ran its mischievous course, flashing behind and before the biggest mass of clouds in the sky and demanding when it will shine light.

“We’ll cover up any of their naval fleets by blocking the Mississippi. We’re also sending letters to other countries to let them know not to get involved…” One of the people in class, guiding a marker in hand, lettered down everything coming out of our assigned general’s mouth.

“Wait, hold up.” She leans forward and scrunches her nose. “How do you spell ‘Mississippi’?”
Almost on cue, everyone’s heads snapped at the writer at the edge of the table. The sun transcended behind the clouds. The outdoors, our only source of light diminished significantly. Everyone else jarred forward, chanting in sharp and dissonant tones, “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.”

The sun trailed out behind the clouds and the writer blinked. “Um… uh, okay.”

“Gosh, guys,” a girl said. She turned the cap from her sticker covered Nalgene bottle. “That was scary. That sounded like we were trying to summon, like, a river spirit or something!”

"Grab a sheet of paper." Everyone groaned. The pile of leaflets dropped on my desk, and I passed them on to the next person.The agenda in fifth hour had been swiped clean the day after our final exam, and once the seniors left, our willingness to do anything dropped below zero. "The game rules are simple. The first person writes a sentence then folds the paper down. Then the next person will read the sentence and try to draw it, then pass it on. The next person will interpret what they think the sentence is from the drawing, and the whole game cycles."

"It's kind of like Telephone, but with drawings," someone on the right side of the classroom cleared up. People on the sides murmured.

"All of you think of a sentence." All eleven of us focused on our own pieces of paper. Chuckles and squeals of annoyance withdrew from others' mouths. My hand balled up a fist of hair. Think, Abby. What's a sentence that's drawable but isn't too easy. The four guys, pushed towards the back left hand corner, kept jostling one another and boasting their sentence was the best. The teacher signaled a couple more seconds before the paper would be passed, so I wrote down the first thing that came to mind: A platypus flounced down the baby aisle at a supermarket.

Our rotations began. Some of the sheets of paper I received made no sense. Pictures of a dinosaur, someone kissing a mushroom, and bad grades came in my direction, but I did my best to respond them them. I etched a person laying down from the wind. "The boy with a baseball and soccer tee kissed a mushroom." "This person gets bad grades... wait, does it say on the book 'self-esteem'?" By the time my paper rotated back to me, I couldn't even glance at how bad the drawing and sentence interpretations pounced to life.

"Okay! Let's read the original sentences." Some of the original sentences and how far off-tangent they arrived drew out a humorous air. "This sentence said, 'Rachel Carson is the mother of Environmental Science,' and then went all the way down to 'Avatar, the Last Airbender,' taken from a person holding all of the 'elements.'" The teacher read them all off one by one.

"Wait, what does this one say?" He took my paper with the original sentence and read it out loud. "I can't read it."

"Um, 'A platypus flounced down the baby aisle at a supermarket.'" He set down the sheet of paper for everyone to see, and they all burst down laughing.

I hadn't read through my paper properly, but the interpretations were awkwardly horrendous! A platypus lost its beak in the etching process, proclaiming it to be a beaver and a baby sitting side by side, then the beaver eating the baby, all the way down to the last line. My mouth dropped as I read the words, in red ink, "We are all animals."

How dark and deep this drawing quickly became.

“What is a noun?”

“Um, a noun is a person, place, or thing,” I responded. Evening time dawned on our town, and out of a small pool of movies to chose from for the weekend played Divergent on the television screen. My brother’s finals drew closer as the weekend’s lifetime edged closer to a near end and his hands covered the yellow notebook he organized for Language Arts.

“You’re forgetting something.” Up on the screen, Tris Prior crept through the streets of Abnegation the day before aptitude testing. My mind became too entrapped in the movie to divert any attention back to my brother.

“Uh… I don’t know what I'm forgetting.”

“It’s a person, place, or thing or a physical object.”

“Okay... but isn’t this your test though? I don't have to be quizzed on this...”

He cataloged through the notebook’s neatly written Roman numerals and letters and dismissed my thought. “Hey, look, it’s Looking for Alaska!” My mind revolved around. The information my family held about John Green limited down to The Fault in Our Stars. Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines-- none of his other novels rang a bell. “Do you know about Looking for Alaska?”

“Yes, I do. I know for a fact it has nothing to do with the state of Alaska. She's a character.” Tris’s brother, Caleb, emerged from one of the Abnegation apartments and greeted his sister. My mom, who emerged from the kitchen, inquired whether “those two” were in another movie together. “Yes, mom."

“Well, I’m going to quote him now. ‘So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.’”

“Wait a second!” The screen towards the sixteen-year-olds gathered in the testing center. “You’re quoting John Green now?”

"Yes. His words have such a way of..." I couldn't handle any more of this and burrowed my forehead in between curled pajama legs. This is going to be another long summer.
Now you tell me a story about something that's happened over the year? Which story was the most hilarious? Have you gotten out of school yet?

I'm still open to doing post collaborations with bloggers! Also, here's another thing: I'll be open to doing blog designs, as well! Just shoot me an request via my Contact page and I'll get back to you shortly!

I'M A RISING SENIOR AND SCARED + Summer Collaboration

 I've been reading a ton of good books lately, especially ones about World War Two.

DO NOT BE FOOLED BY THE BUN. This is hardly holding up by a ton of hairspray and twenty bobby pins.

The beginning of each conversation I have with my freshman English teacher always constitutes him peering his eyes at me in confusion and asking, "Are you a senior?"

I laugh and shake my head. Compared to the rest of the freshman, as the class consisted of students in all four grade levels, some level of maturity elicited this facade of being well-grounded when clearly my actions outsed me as a panicky freshman. The directions of the first paper assigned, a twenty page monologue encompassing Socrates, were misheard and came back finished the following day... when we had two weeks to work on understanding it. "Uh... no."

"Huh." He leans back in his swivel chair. "I thought you were."

Time hop several weeks in advance to two weeks crammed with enough busyness to make one irked by the workload, like what took place these past two weeks. AP tests shoved for their attention, and the afternoons following suit caused collapsation and sleep on my bed immediately after I came home, watching episodes of Glee, Downton Abbey, and Doctor Who.

 Children just bouncing around in their perfect buns are ADORABLE.

Besides Italian and Filipino food, Japanese ties for first.

On Saturday, I spent a wonderful day filled with a choir competition, dance recital, and volunteering at a silent auction in a fancy but (according to our town's urban legend) haunted hotel, all back-to-back. The entire ordeal was rather fun! I assisted children with their makeup, snuck around the local college campus music rooms with our mini ensemble and teachers, where some of the rooms may or may not have been off-limits. Also, we encountered some local birds, as the silent auction was meant to fundraise for a new facility and explored the basement area of the hotel, scented chlorine due to the athletic rooms and vegetarian pizza. Mother's Day passed.

Monday held a whirl of Trouble rounds as all thirty-nine honor marshals waited in the VIP room, bathing in the heat of stage lights and the mingling energy of charade movements, and it wasn't until then that it hit me: my senior year is coming right up. The only words my mind said is,

"What in SHISH KEBABS. I am almost an adult*."

 Funny story about the snowy owl! Almost everyone arrived for the reception and I tidied up the sign in desk. This lady stood for a good hour and a half discussing information about the snowy owl on a mat meant to collect the poop in case the owl decided, "I'm going to defecate right now!" As I was ready to leave into the dining hall, she stepped off the mat to greet her boyfriend, and BAM! The poop fell all over the uncovered floor tiles. She and her boyfriend panicked until he decided to get the welcome sign... and have the stand on top of where the owl did his thing.

I'm not good at Trouble. I almost got in "Trouble" in my first period for screaming when my only piece on the board get sent back home.

*Adult means not really adult since I'll still be underage after graduating and entering my freshman term, but still that means the time when late-blooming coffee lovers become coffee-lovers.

The weight of senior year hanging in balance terrifies me because everyone expects all the seniors to have their life in order when the tendrils of priorities, some beneficial and others a tiny bit detrimental, when in actuality, we don't have everything in check in an Excel sheet sat next to old phone photos. I wish more people would know that we don't need to have everything perfectly planned out or following the traditional set out blueprint of life after high school, because our plans will get altered somehow by numerous aspects and we need to be able to grow and adapt.

Anyways, no need to get sappy. I have one more year! At the same time, I don't want tunnel vision, either. I want to enjoy the people currently in company, and nature. Nature and the mountains is another aspect I'm going to incredibly miss. My family says nature is the same everywhere, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. There was a senior who was literally my twin (!) for being incredibly into writing (!!) and having the same values that I have (!!!) that I was discussing the environment with, since both of us love nature, and she agreed when I said, "By commenting that every tree is the same, you are undermining the tree's individualism, which is not okay!"

Much going to happen over summer... after school gets out in less than three days!

When are you getting out of school? Juniors, what are your thoughts about becoming rising seniors? Have any of you gone to graduation? Seniors, how's life going finishing school?

GUYS I'm looking for people to collaborate over the summer! I really work with bloggers, particularly those who are new to my blog... if you're interested, comment below. I'll also be sending out messages to a couple of you your way...

Five Ways to Improve Your Photography

Photo from an old photography group session I attended several months ago which was pretty fun!

Good afternoon, everyone! Today, I'm collaborating with Amelie from laughing in the rain in her week of collaboratives by posting, "Five Ways to Improve ___," and today, I'll be talking about photography.

Photography has been one of my hobbies that almost started synonymous with blogging. It's cultivated to become something that I dearly love and enjoy over the span of four years-- which is a long time. While I'm still an amateur in regards to skill sets, there are important aspects to consider and remember when trying to improve photography skill sets. For the sake of this post I have left all but one of the photos unedited except for size.
Contrary to popular belief, point-and-shoot cameras can produce quality photos as well as DSLRs or mirrorless cameras do. The camera model is not the reason why photos are necessarily "better," per say, but rather because the photographer has taken the time to learn and understand all of the various buttons and settings that makes their camera their own. There are two ways to do this: one, to read the camera manual, and two, constant practicing. Learning takes time.

This was one of my first cameras that I’ve used over two and a half years—I got to know it well.

What is the subject you want to highlight in the photo? Are they placed near the side with a rather noisy background but you want to take a photo up close? Having the subject in the center and faced straight on may not portray the mood that is meant to be portrayed all the time. Sometimes, it's okay to zoom up, which if you are, try to step close to the subject as close as possible before kicking out the zoom.

Instead of taking a photo of the biggest leaf on a tree with a messy background that detracts from what’s meant to be highlighted…

Get close to the subject as close as possible and then zoom in!

Natural lighting will become your best friend. One of the best lighting comes from what is known as "the golden hour," which is that hour after the sun rises and before the sun sets. This lighting allows the features to appear softer, unlike in harsh direct daylight. In comparison to human-made lights, direct lighting is better, because sometimes, human-made lighting can reflect a reddish, blue, or green tint, depending on the light bulb.

Here is a comparison of unnatural lighting (also known as my room lighting)

And natural lighting (lights off, windows open). The colors are more natural.

Big seems better at times, but for photography, smaller is stronger. And don't hesitate to experiment with your photography-- who knows? You may adjust the setting to something that initially appears as an accident, but reveals to be a way to get that certain aperture and ISO ratio!

Always remember that there's the post-shooting process, also known as photo editing! Sometimes, the photos don’t always pop up the way that they were supposed to, like the lighting was dim, or maybe within the midst of editing you wanted to give a facial expression in the background the spotlight. It’s a way to make a photo better by bringing out the best parts and emphasizing aspects that you want to emphasize—after all, these are your photos, and you’re the one telling the story.

Thank you so much Amelie for this wonderful opportunity!

A Care Package

1 // A clean, empty itinerary. Disregard the flashing panic signs rousing your head into a heightened state. Wash everything away. The essay deadline, the need for crickets in your science project, the waning and waxing schedules of school, work, and theatre. Know that demands by others are there, but you and your well-being are ultimately the most important things. Do not be afraid to put the foot down. Today, this is the time for you.

2 // Deep breaths. Lay in bed for an extra hour, in that tranquil state where there are no plans and you can just glance up to the sky and ceiling and breathe in because / you can relax. / Now is the time to seize the day.

3 // Stress food. Tea, water with fruit, a smoothie, this is up to you. It is your choice. Choose your fuel well. "Toh-may-toe, to-mah-toe..." Bonus if cooking or baking are stress relievers for you, because it is a dual combo that can kill the anxiety. Boom.

4 // Friends. Call and ask them to embark on this journey with you. Kindred spirits and adventurers, that's what they are, and today the plan they face is uncharted. The plan, of course, contains wisps of uncertainty and daring poking away for discovery. A small party is enough.

4 // Relieving activities. Mop and slide on the semi-dry floors with wet socks. Spend some time reading and discussing. Watch foreign films, listen to TED talks. Bake, dance, organize your room and uncover embarrassing drawings from sixth grade. Dress up your dog (or cat)! Or perhaps, lay around and do nothing. Society may argue that it is incandescently wrong to stop in place in a world where the only movement is forward, but you have that ticket, the ticket to rejuvenate yourself.

5 // Go outside and explore. Follow the small pathway in the forest behind your woods. Bike along the neighborhood. Engage in the fun vigor the street kids on the cul-de-sac used to have until the demands of adulthood pull them away. Draw along the driveway, spray the water hose upward, do the blind makeup challenge outside. Yet why stop at home? Visit a matinee movie showing, look at the museum's exhibition on recycling, drive out and hike the mountains.  Engage in a scavenger hunt at the store.

6 // Fight back those stress-inducing calls some more. They will keep beckoning you. "Come back!" "Remember to do..." "You need to buy..." Just stop, stOP, STOP listening to those voices, at least for today. You are free from major obligation. Just as you told yourself in the morning, now is the time to seize the day.

7 // Take another deep breathe. Inhale, exhale. Good. Now drink some water.

8 // Sleep. Sleep, knowing that your aching creaking bones that hold the weight of life's crushing demands on your two feet have been rejuvenated. Sleep, understanding that while you have obligations and something that the world demands from you, that you are entitled to a good night's sleep. I hope you dream sweet dream, my friend, and have a good night.