Lawrence Exercise pt. 3

That shut me up.  He told me about Peter’s car at the bottom of the cliff on Deacon Street, the scene I had passed earlier, and about how it seemed to be a suicide.  Worst of all, he told me that the parents, and a lot of community members, blamed me for failing him and “ruining his high school career.”   They say he was under a lot of stress lately and that’s what pushed him over the edge.

I knew it wasn’t my fault—I knew it…  And yet…  I fought the urge to be sick on the Haddenfeld’s lawn.  Roy quickly reached out and touched my shoulder, which would usually be awkward, but at that moment, it didn’t feel that way at all.  I may have just caused the death of a seventeen year-old high school boy.  I needed my big brother.  “No.  No.  I was on my way to…” I gasped, still doubled over and starting to sweat now.  “It’s not true—Peter, he… he…”

It wasn’t rational.  I hardly knew the kid.  He’d called me a dick the last time I saw him.  Why did I feel so awful?  Roy left me to sit on the porch as he talked to Mr. and Mrs. Haddenfeld.  Policemen also showed up to talk to Chief Blackwell; it was all so official.  I sat on the Haddenfeld’s porch for an hour and a half.  Finally, the policemen left and Roy told me to go on home and eat something.  “Obviously we’ll save the café for another time.  Just try to relax, okay?”

I nodded— the shock had left me, but my stomach was still in knots.  Seeing my sullen expression, Roy took my shoulder again, his face softening.  “I’m going to find out what happened, Randall.  Trust me.”  I didn’t even ask what he meant.  I drove home in silence.

 

I endured poisonous glares and murmured curses in the hallways.  The ones I recognized as Peter’s friends stopped attending my class, even though I saw them around the school otherwise.  The teachers seemed to have sympathy for me, but tried not to show their kindness too much lest they get on the bad side of the student body as well.  On Wednesday, I walked by Alice Fair, whom I could only assume was Peter’s former sweetheart, on my way to the offices.  I tried to give her a smile and ask if she was alright because she hadn’t been to school the last few days, but she merely gave me a startled stare and then stalked in the other direction.  My decision to move to Janisville was shaping up to be the worst thing I could’ve done with my life.  … And Peter’s.

Eventually, all the flak from the students and pressure from the community members, led by Mildred Haddenfeld who headed the Education Commission Board for Janisville, caused legal action to take place in regards to my teaching license and competency as an educator.  Now I was under investigation.  When Roy found out, he was livid.  I suppose in a town as small and interconnected as this one, these things actually happen.

That’s when the vandalism started.  On Thursday I walked out to my car only to find it covered in eggs, shaving cream, and other, more unspeakable, substances.  When I walked into class Friday morning, someone had written “FAIL ME AND JUST SEE WHAT HAPPENS” on the whiteboard in red marker.  That evening, I called my brother.  He agreed to meet at Johnson’s Coffee the next morning.

 

Roy still wasn’t there by 9:57am, almost an hour after our arranged time.  I passed the minutes by tracing the latte art in my third mug of non-fat vanilla latte with a stir stick and reading blog posts on my smartphone, trying to convince myself not to buy a chocolate muffin to go along with it.  Unsuccessfully.  When Roy finally arrived, I expected him to look serious, sympathetic, like he’d always been.  Instead, he practically embraced me and with a grin on his face he said, “The car was in neutral.”  It took me the time to chew and swallow my bite of muffin before I realized what he was talking about.  “Did you hear me, Randall?  Neutral!  Who drives off a cliff in neutral?”  He seemed borderline hysterical; up close, I noticed the bags under his eyes and the fact that he hadn’t shaved yet.  Had he been up all night?  I was so confused.

“Sooo… What?  That doesn’t really prove anything…” I tried to fight the sensation of relief beginning to swell inside of me.  I just didn’t want to get my hopes up without being sure—sure I hadn’t led Peter to commit suicide.  If it wasn’t a suicide…  “Then what really happened?”

Roy met my transparently hopeful look with confidence.  “Come with me.”

 

We were back at the Haddenfeld’s: Mildred and Gary, Roy, a few of his people from the force, and me.  Roy had explained everything to me and now it finally made sense.  Each piece of the puzzle was falling into place—all but one last…  The doorbell rang.  When Alice Fair entered the house, she caught sight of us and all color drained from her face.  “Mrs. Haddenfeld—you said you wanted—you wanted—”

“We had her call you over here,” said Roy, gently beckoning Alice to sit down.  Once all were gathered, Roy went into his presentation of evidence.  “Alice.”  She flinched as if he had struck her.  He kept going.  “Peter’s car was found to be in neutral drive at the scene of the accident.  On top of that, several small scrapes and dents were found on his vehicle that were determined to not have been caused by the fall down the cliff.  I have a witness that says she saw your car here the night Peter died.  Did you talk with him that night?”  Alice clenched her skirt and nodded.  “And what was it that you two discussed?  Did it have anything to do with his grades?  Or maybe football?  You can tell us,” he coaxed with a small smile.  My brother was one kind-hearted soul, even in this situation, I’ll give him that much.

That only seemed to make Alice more upset as tears began to well up and she bit her bottom lip.  I wondered if she was going to draw blood when she suddenly burst out, “He hit me..!  He wasn’t supposed to die—!”  Tears were falling in full forced now and Alice choked words through hiccupping sobs.  “I was just trying to comfort him—what Blackwell did devastated him!  Football was all he knew, he just wanted to make his parents—make me—proud… and you took that away from him…”  Her eyes burned into mine, but I held her hateful gaze until she again stared at the floor.  “It wasn’t his fault, but… he was so mad… he hit me in the face and I—I couldn’t think, didn’t think—I was so hurt…”  The room was so quiet save for her crying.  Mildred and Gary drank in every word of Alice’s confession with pained expressions, each one’s lips pressed together, holding each other’s hands.  “I took the bat and I… He had his back turned, he didn’t even see me.  Then I panicked.  I didn’t mean to hit him so hard—” She raised her hand to her mouth as a fresh wave of choke-sobs came on.  Roy sat patiently, never taking his eyes off her.   After a minute, she recovered somewhat and continued.  “I dragged him to his car and put him in the driver’s seat… I was so afraid someone would see me…  Then I set the car in neutral and I… I pushed it down the hill until—until it—”

“That’s enough.”  Roy looked at me in surprise as I stood and then knelt in front of Alice.  “What he did to you was unforgivable.   And I know you didn’t mean to hurt him.”  She regarded me with caution and red puffy eyes.  “He wasn’t a good guy to be around; he used you, but you didn’t want to leave him because he loved you, right?”  Alice stared at me with a curious expression, seeming to hang on my words now.  “When you’re young, love feels untouchable, desperate, perfect, dangerous, and devastating all at once.  I know, I’ve been there.  Peter was that thing that gave you purpose, you felt loved when it came to him.  It didn’t matter that he emotionally abused you and took you for granted.  You felt loved.”  I could hear the mocking in my own voice as I uttered the word ‘loved.’ I just stared at Alice.  “The fact of the matter is, you robbed this young man of the rest of his life and any chance he had to redeem himself.  The only possible consolation you have left is that he died with fewer regrets than you’ll ever have.”  Without another word, I left the premises, leaving my brother and his team to do their work.

 

Two months later…

“You sure about this?  Any chance I could bribe you with a gift card to Johnson’s or a Netflix Premier package?”

“Not a chance,” I laughed out loud.  With the phone squeezed between my cheek and shoulder, I taped up a box labeled “1st EDITION FICTION BOOKS” on the kitchen table.

The Peter Haddenfield case had calmed down considerably, and once the full tragic story had come out, I was no longer under legal investigation nor general abhorrence by the public.  I was actually starting to get used to the teaching gig, I hadn’t even spilled my coffee the last two weeks.  Nevertheless, I decided that Janisville would never be my home.  “I know things haven’t exactly been ideal for you since you got here,” came Roy’s voice, still trying to convince me otherwise.  “But I really think you should reconsider.”

“Roy, I’ve already told the school to start looking for a new teacher—I leave at the end of the semester, I’ve been looking at Seattle apartments—it’s a done deal, I’m sorry.”  I raised my hands in a sheepish gesture forgetting that that’s not how phones worked.  After a long pause, I assured him that my decision had nothing to do with wanting to get away from him, in fact, I was glad that I spent so much time with my bro.  Maybe under a few complicated circumstances, but still.  “Also, remind me never to call you ‘bro’ again.”  Roy laughed, encouraged by my promise to call often and my request to keep me updated on his family and job.  We met regularly at the café until term ended.

Despite all that had happened, I didn’t hate Janisville. Who knew that a po-dunk high school in the middle of nowhere Utah would be the place I learned more about myself and my family than I ever did in all my 26 years.  To me, J-ville became a place of urban legend where spiteful murders took place and where love and hate were sometimes two sides of the same coin.   It was just a little too much excitement for me to handle.

 

*All Utah pics are from Google images

Lawrence Exercise pt. 2

As Tuesday rolled by and Wednesday came around, I got better at discerning the attitudes of my students.  Whenever I would pass around a quiz or homework assignment, I recited the names and traits of each student I passed in my head.  Today happened to be the day my students took their first big test, the Summer Learning Jumpstart College Credit Exam, so I went about my new routine.  Susan—always makes eye contact, Bryce—doodles during lectures, Peter—keeps a sheet of paper on his lap—wait, what?  A second glance confirmed my teacher’s instinct and my heart sank a little.  There was Peter with an answer key in his lap.  Too busy making eyes at Alice Fair at the back of the room, he hadn’t noticed that I saw.  The policy at Janisville High was that any student blatantly caught cheating on a National Exam was to receive an automatic F in the class.  The first student I manage to connect with and now I have to kick him out.  Dammit.

After the exam was over, I quietly held Peter back to discuss the answer key.  He was a good kid, he really was.  The look of horror on his drained face told me that much.  “It wasn’t me, sir, I swear—”

“We all make mistakes, Peter,” I interrupted, looking him in the eye to prove my sincerity.  “I like you, I do.  Unfortunately, this mistake is going to have to result in an automatic fail for my class.”  Peter stared at the floor, looking dumbfounded.  “But because it’s so early in the semester, we can enroll you in a different English class if you’d like—although, the F will still remain on your report card—”

“You can’t do this!”  exclaimed Peter, face shifting from white to red.  Suddenly, he seemed like a very different Peter from the one I met in the teacher’s lounge.  “I’ll get kicked off the team!  Do you have any idea what my parents are gonna say?”

Unconsciously, I distanced myself a few steps away.  “I’m sorry, Peter.  This is my job.”  Without another word, except a vulgar name vaguely thrown in my direction, he stormed out of the room, leaving me in silence.

 

Having to fail one of my own promising students my very first week of class was taking its emotional toll on me.  After watching Ms. Jackson and Mr. Truman play mancala for thirty minutes, wondering if perhaps my actions would earn me the title “Most Hard-Assed Teacher in Janisville,” I decided to at least pay Peter a visit to see how he was doing.  It was already Friday, but he hadn’t come to school the last two days— I was certain it had to do with Wednesday’s events.  The gossip in the halls also told me that the football coach heard what happened and told Peter that he couldn’t play that year.  High school athletics are harsh these days.

The morning of the following day, I drove to the Haddenfeld residence.  Nobody had answered when I tried to call that morning, but I figured I had a good chance of catching a teenage boy at home on a Saturday morning—besides, my visit wouldn’t take longer than fifteen minutes.  However, as I rounded the corner of Deacon Street, there was what had to have been half of the Janisville Police Force parked on the shoulder of an extremely sharp turn with a guard rail.  Well… Most of a guardrail.  I had time to realize that a huge chunk of it had been blown through before I passed and had to discontinue my rubber-necking.  Only a minute or two later, I pulled up to the Haddenfeld house and I was more than a little surprised to see my brother speaking to whom I assume were Mr. and Mrs. Haddenfeld in the yard.

As I parked and approached the small setting, a dozen questions dancing on my lips, Mrs. Haddenfeld spotted me and her face became manic.  I hardly had time to register her presence before she slapped me across the face.  “You—You—” she sputtered, unable to control her speech any more than her anger.  I instinctively touched my throbbing cheek and backed away frantically, praying someone would explain to me why I was suddenly the victim of a woman I’d never met.  “You incompetent bastard!”  I attempted to duck out of her reach as she swung again, but I didn’t need to because Mr. Haddenfeld, a brute of a man, took hold of his wife’s arms.

“Mildred, stop—it doesn’t do Pete any good!” The words of her husband seemed to tranquilize her somewhat and then he led her quietly back inside the house; I saw she was crying.  Still grasping my face, I stared at Roy.  “The hell was that—”

“Peter drove off a cliff last night,” he said.

The Lawrence Exercise pt. 1

In creative writing class, we were assigned to write a story based off what is known as “Lawrence’s Favorite Plot Exercise,” in which we were given a few details of a whole story.  Our task was to keep those given details and create an (almost) original story around them.  I won’t tell you those details, however, because I’m afraid it would spoil some of the major points. 🙂  So, here is the first part of my Lawrence Exercise. Enjoy!

New in Town

The wreckage smelled like hot rubber and metal mixed with the imagined metallic stench of a crushed body that had been removed from it not two hours ago.  The black Honda CR-V had landed nose first until resting upside-down at the bottom of a rocky cliff that supported the sharpest turn on Deacon Street.  This slant stood over seventy feet from base to road.  Roy stared up at the broken guard rail, unconsciously shaking his head in perplexity.  “Holy hell,” he sighed as he tried to absorb the tragic situation.  His police team on the road was analyzing tire marks and angles of propulsion while his people on the ground were finishing up their inspection of the vehicle, checking everything from brake wires to dash lights.  Roy almost wished he was back on the regular force for this one—that way he wouldn’t have had to be the one to break it to the parents.  God, the worst part of his job by far was talking to the next of kin.  It doesn’t matter how hardened you think your training has made you, something inside of your soul shatters when you tell someone their son isn’t coming home.

 

Five days earlier…

“Okay… Power Point, notes, coffee, homework…”  I hushed my murmured checklist as students began filing into the classroom, and tried to avoid eye contact with the curious onlookers who undoubtedly wondered what their new, hipster, Lit teacher would be like.  I stacked my papers professionally and kept a straight, but friendly, face.  First impressions are everything, Randall, I thought as I adjusted my glasses, stood up straight, and faced my class with a smile.

One faulty projector, a spilled cup of coffee, and a dozen snickers later, I found myself sulking in the teacher’s lounge, new cup of joe in hand, watching Ms. Jackson the history teacher and Mr. Truman the biology teacher play mancala in the corner.  Staring at the two moving around blue and green pebbles, I asked myself for the fifty-eth time why the hell I decided to move to rural Utah in the first place.  I’m 26 years old, single, have a Masters in American Literature Studies, and left the bustling city of Seattle to teach at this po-dunk high school.  The truth is, my older brother is the police chief of Janisville and he made a big deal recently about wanting to reconnect as a family and the great job opportunities here, yada, yada.  Well, I love my brother, and that’s why I ultimately decided to relocate.  Besides, I wasn’t going anywhere career-wise.  Who knows, maybe the small-town life will be a nice change… I grimaced down at my mediocre, lukewarm light roast.

Suddenly, there was a soft knock at the door.  “Mr. Blackwell?  I have a question.”  A student wearing a polo shirt and Sperry’s entered and I remembered him from my class.  On the football team…  Peter, was it?  “It’s about the homework.”

I quickly regained composure as I beckoned him in, a bit proud in spite of myself at the possibility of having a keen student my very first day.  Peter did not disappoint; he presented me with reasonable questions regarding due dates and research criterion, which I humbly answered while sipping my Styrofoam-clad coffee.  As he exited the lounge, I gave an internal sigh of satisfaction, reflecting that maybe the year wouldn’t be so bad after all if my students proved to be as earnest and diligent as Peter Haddenfeld.  That encouraging notion fluttered to the back of my brain as my gears shifted to the next major order of business for the week.  Dumping the remaining cold draught into the garbage, I remembered with reluctance agreeing to meet with my brother once a week to “chat,” or “grab a bite,” or some and such to facilitate familial bonds or something.  My mood dipped slightly, but I took comfort in the fact that Saturday was still five days away—plenty of time to not talk to Roy.  Little did I know that by the end of the week, Roy would be the one person I needed the most.

Catching Up

It’s been over three weeks since my last post… holy cow.  I guess you can say I got a little caught up or rather, that I completely forgot that I should, like, post stuff. Anyway, I figure I’ll cover some of the things that has happened since Spring Break, which is when my last post came out.

Most significant at the moment is the musical that my college is putting on– yesterday was opening night in fact. The title is “Working,” and I won’t go into a full synopsis or anything like that, but I will say that it’s a quirky monologue-based modern show about people and their various lines of work.  I play an enthusiastic community organizer and paranoid office worker.  While the show thus far has been SO fun to be a part of, having three hour rehearsals every night for the last two weeks has been brutal.  Truth is, I had never before been an actor in a musical (I’ve stage managed for one, but that’s beside the point), and I couldn’t believe how different it was from a regular stage play.  You mean, we have to act, sing, AND move around in specific patterns simultaneously?  Repeatedly?  Yes.  And it’s awesome.  Taking part in “Working” has reemphasized my love for theater these past weeks to be sure, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to be done with it!

Other, not quite as grand, developments include two new obsessions. 1. “Miraculous Ladybug,” an animated French children’s show that I started just before Spring Break, and 2. “Hamilton,” a recent, critically acclaimed musical by Lin Manuel-Miranda that is currently showing on Broadway.  I will likely make specific posts about each of these things under Current Obsessions, but for now, I shall prod your curiosity and leave it at that.

Luckily, I’ve had a few writing assignments from Creative Writing since I last posted, so those will come soon! They will include a sort of mystery-style short story and a Sherlock Holmes inspired screenplay scene.  I’m supes excited about both.

One last piece of my life that I’ve thought long and hard about over the past weeks, something that has instigated significant levels of stress, is, once again, pondering the decision of which college I will attend next year.  Ughhhhh.  The main change I’ve made to my plans is that I’ve nixed the idea of attending another private Mennonite school after graduating from Hesston.  As much as I love the atmosphere of these kinds of small, Christ-centered, artsy colleges, the price tags for them are, let’s just say, a bit much for someone who wants to go on a Japan May term trip next year.  So.  That’s okay!  After some thought and discussion with my parents, I’ve come to terms with going to a cheaper state college (most likely North Dakota State University, my mother’s alma mater), even if I don’t know anybody there.  I’ll admit doing that twice in my college career does not exactly sound spectacular, but on the plus side, a state college offers the language courses I want and various cross-cultural programs that I may not get the opportunity to be a part of if I were to attend a small private school.  Besides, I figure that even though the campus population will be much, MUCH larger, specific academic departments will be appropriate sizes to bond with my peers.  Let’s be honest– as an English major, I don’t think I need to worry much about the department being too large to connect with people.  Yay humanities!

Those have been just some of the things on my mind the past few weeks. I make no promises to post more regularly for the next month or so seeing as my sophomore year is winding down to graduation (a.k.a. hyper-panic time mixed with a counter-productive tendency to be unmotivated in any and all school work).  So for now, adieu!  And for all my collegiate or high school friends out there in the same boat, best of luck!

Writing Prompt2

Our latest assignment in my creative writing class was to write a 500 word story using only single-syllable words… It was a bit of a struggle, but so fun! (We were given three exceptions where we could break the one-syllable rule.)  Here is the story I wrote at midnight.  Enjoy.

 

In the Field

          “How do I work this thing..?”  Pel swung his new gun to and fro, but the beam was still locked and he couldn’t fix it for the life of him.  His spot by the wall next to the north door was hard to find, but it was lit well and would be hard to flee should he be seen.  Pel whacked his Sim mask, jarred his head, and tried to find the right prompt for his sole weapon on its screen.  All he saw were stars.  “…Ow.”  He heard yells to his left.  They were close.  He had to move.  Pel broke free from his spot and made for the far side of the course.  The red house was in his view; he could see the flag that hung from the third floor.  With a brief smile and then a quick curse, he once more smacked his gun on his thigh in the vain hope that it would spring to life.  “Come on..!  Work! Dumb piece of—!”  In the midst of Pel’s rant, he was met by three blue team grunts that blocked the one path that led to his goal.  All of their guns were armed.  Well damn.  They saw him immediately and raised their guns in sync.  Left with but one choice, Pel ran up the first rock he saw, reached for the switch on the back of his suit, and jumped as high as he could.  Thin red wings shot out from his sides.  The grunts fired beams up at him, but he dodged and turned his large wings so that they faced the ground and used them as a shield.  He knew he would crash if he flew like that, so Pel made the best of it and dove straight for one of the grunts—fist first.  By a bit of sheer luck, Pel wasn’t hurt and leapt up so fast, that the two grunts not on the ground didn’t know what hit them.  He took them both out with two right hooks and then ran for the house once more.  This time, he’d make it.  There was still time on the clock—he was so close.

“You’re a cheat!” came a voice from his ear wire.  “You can’t punch them, Pel!  Do you know how much droids cost?  That’s it—you’re out.  Get your ass back here.”

The dome lights for the whole room went dark and a voice boomed the phrase “YOU LOSE.”  “No— hey, Peach! My gun is dead, I had no choice!  Please turn the sim back on,” I whined.

“Toooo bad, so sad, Pel.  You should have just asked for new gear, you drap.”  Peach sighed.  “Maybe one of these days you’ll learn some sense and make lieutenant.  That’s what you want, isn’t it?  All you had to do was call for a new gun for god’s sake…”

Pel heard a soft laugh from his ear wire. He smiled.  “But this gun looked so cool.”

TESOL: Combining my Dream Location and Major

As a college sophomore, I often get asked the inevitable and anxiety-inducing question, you guessed it: “What are you planning to do after you graduate?”  First of all, I want to highlight the fact that I still get jumbled-brain syndrome and a rapidly increased heart rate whenever a well-meaning individual asks me this.  This particular question seems to imply that, as a 20 year-old, I’m supposed to know how to spend the fast-approaching career years of my life, with little or no actual experience or knowledge of how to function in the complex social gears of the regularly employed’s “real world.”  So I guess the Cap and diplomaanswer to that question for me, at this point in my life, is: “I have absolutely no clue.  I know the general idea of what I think I would like to do for the rest of my life- write books, be an editor, work for a publishing company…  But who knows?  That could very well change in an instant!”  I choose to focus my time right now on my education and not worry too much about trying to figure out what I want the next 45 years to look like.

That being said, I surprise myself by actually having a short-term goal for my future career in mind.  Before I came to college, I had a vague mental direction for my long-term career-related goals at best.  English major, okay… I like writing.  And grammar.  Books?  Editing?  Voice acting also sounds cool…  Alright, sounds good; life goals= set.  However, thanks to a professor I’ve had the pleasure of studying under and getting to know personally, I was introduced to a field that I didn’t know really existed: teaching English as a foreign language in another country.  You mean, I can combine my fascination for Japanese culture and urge to travel with my (now) practical college degree and field of study??  Holy cannoli.  Sign me up.

Shrine wishes

People often write ‘wishes’ when visiting a shrine and hang them there in the hopes that their wish will be granted.

After multiple conversations with the aforementioned prof, and encouragements from others I now know have taught English in foreign countries (including Japan), I am now determined to dedicate the first year or two after college to this exploratory short-term career.  “It is, at times, extremely trying,” my prof, André, tells me.  “It’s a full-time job without a lot of money or free time.  That being said, it’s a an in-depth cultural experience that you will never forget.”  It’s this last part I can’t resist.  The rest are things to which I will just have to learn to adapt.

Sooooo me, now, a year or so after deciding this is what I want to do.  Fortunate coincidence would have it, André recently, as in last week, announced that he is leading a cross-cultural May term course taking place in, duh-duhduh-duhhhh~- Japan!
How delightfully serendipitous.
It includes 3 weeks in modern and historical Japan while students experience the culture and language of the Land of the Rising Sun.  This course isn’t yet available for sign-up, but I immediately  affirmed my full intention to go.

Kimnomos and sakura

A woman and child wear traditional Japanese kimonos and admire the sakura (cherry blossoms).

Teaching English in Japan is something that has taken hold of me.  As I continue my self-led study of the Japanese language and interactions with my dear Japanese friends here at college, I slowly but surely build up my competency as a traveler and teacher as well as a more culturally adept human being.  With TESOL, I have the opportunity to travel to new places, delve into a vibrant and unfamiliar culture, while working in a field that utilizes my degree and career interests.  I may not make a lot of money, but let’s be honest, I’m an English major.  Was this ever the goal?  I also may be thousands of miles away from my family and friends, however, I have confidence that outside of the several Japanese connections I’ve already made, I will create many new ones.  Overall, this sounds like something right up my alley, and I believe that I’ll get there someday.  きっと.

 

*All images were acquired through Google images and Pinterest.

A Town in Devastation

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I am a student at Hesston College in Hesston, Kansas.  You may have already heard about this on national news, but yesterday, there was a mass shooting near my school.  This post is a reflection of my experience.

_____________________________________________________________

“Oh, there’s a lock-down drill,” one of my modmates, Jessica, said to all who sat in my room at exactly 5:29 last evening.  Six of us, including my roommate and myself, were hanging out– studying, talking, buying time until supper.  This is a frequent ritual.  As I rose from my desk to take necessary precautions (shut and lock the door, turn off the light, close the window blinds– just like we were taught), Jessica spoke up again. “Actually… it’s not a drill– there’s an active shooter in Hesston.”  My body continued the motions, but my mind didn’t process this statement.  No… There’s no way.  That doesn’t happen here.  This is Hesston-middle of freaking nowhere-Kansas.  How it that possible?

As we all sat together in my room with the lights off, the news reports started coming in.  A shooter with an assault rifle had entered Excel Industries, a large factory about five blocks from campus, and shot it up.  2 dead– no 3?  Was he an employee of Excel?  At least 15 injured– no– as many as 20.  Relation to the shootings earlier in Newton?  Yes– same shooter responsible for all incidents.  Police request that people remain on lock-down until notified otherwise.  Suspect has been apprehended– no, still on the loose– shooter is dead.  They rolled in one after another during the next hour.  We kept our eyes on news sources and Twitter and also on our phones as we contacted fellow students and updates our families.

The lock-down ended around 6:45.  We all went to supper.  I could see everyone handling this sudden event in different ways– some were talking about it, some went through their routine in silence, while still others had more emotional responses.  I sat in relative silence, shoveling rice and potatoes into my mouth with a knotted stomach.  At this point, I was just shocked.  There were people sitting with each other and hugging each other, asking each other if they were alright and that they’re glad they’re okay.  Some of the college sports teams practice near the Excel plant.

Those of us involved with the school musical had rehearsal at 8, so we headed across campus an hour after lock-down had ended.  It was in rehearsal last evening that the force of it all hit me and all of a sudden I could hardly stop myself from crying.  A few of my friends who noticed asked me if I was okay.  “Did you know somebody?” they asked me as I tried to control my sniffling and choked throat.  “No,” I replied, guilty in spite of everything. I didn’t deserve to be sad.  Three years ago, I didn’t know this po-dunk wheat field town existed.  I’m not from around here.  I don’t know anyone affected by the shooting.  I have no “real” connection to what happened today.  One of of my concerned friends took hold of my shoulder, looked at me, and said, “Are you just sad?”  Such a simple statement held so much truth.  After all of this, I can’t describe how I feel about this shooting other than I’m sad.  Just sad…  It took me a while to accept that that was okay.

Today I look at the faces of the Emergency Medical students in the cafeteria and I can’t stop imagining how they feel.  Going into a building full of shooting victims, trying their damnedest to save the lives of those who were bleeding out in front of their eyes.  Having to walk over the body of the shooter and his weapon.  Chaos, death, despair.  I see their empty eyes and their haunted expressions.  Some of them are only 18.

I don’t really have much to say about this event– what we should do or what will come next.  All I know is that my heart aches for Hesston and my prayers go to the families who have been affected by this heart-breaking tragedy.  The victims’ and the shooter’s friends and families are hurting.  Before we start talking about gun laws and racial tensions, we would all do well to remember that this happened.  This happened to us all.  What we need right now is not a debate or an agenda, but to know that we are all part of the same community and to comfort those who deeply need it.

Current Obsession: Boys Over Flowers

Almost Paradise~~~! Achimboda deo nunbusin
Nal hyanghan neoui sarangi onsesang da gajindeutae
In my life~ nae jichin sarme kkumcheoreom
Dagawajun ni moseubeul eonje kkajina saranghal su itdamyeon~”

Of course I can read almost none of this.

Above are the first lyrics to the opening song of Boys Over Flowers, a 2009 Korean drama for which I currently possess an admittedly unreasonable obsession.  Actually, this will be the second time I’ve watched this drama, well, at least the Korean version; I first watched the original Japanese Boys Over Flowers drama, which was in turn based on a manga and then anime series (both of which I read/watched after watching the J-drama).  This is my current obsession and I shall share it with you.

The plot!  Boys Over Flowers, or in its original Japanese: Hana Yori Dango, tells the story of a financially poor high school girl who gets the opportunity to attend an extremely prestigious academy.  On top of feeling out of place with all of the spoiled, rich students that ignore her existence, she almost immediately finds herself tangled up with the most powerful and popular all-boy clique at the school: the F4.  From vicious bullying to infuriating love-triangles, her dealings with these 4 unbelievably wealthy (albeit spoiled beyond belief) men are amusing to say the least.  It follows that the heroine struggles to find balance between her over-bearing family and frugal way of life, and the extravagant world in which her friends and the one she loves reside.

I’ve hardly breached the surface of this series, but if I were to debrief it in its entirety, it would take pages.  The good points that I find make this show compelling include: an amusingly awkward heroine, a genuine and innocent-hearted love interest that is both easy to laugh at and scary at times (not to mention very attractive), a boss soundtrack (I’m speaking for the K-drama), and a unique plot that keeps me constantly wondering “What ridiculous thing is going to happen next?”

There are, or course, things I dislike as well.  The heroine is extremely obstinate and often frustrating to deal with, the main love interest is prone to solving his problems using violence for much of the show (though I would also argue that this aspect is  part of his character development), and many of the sub-plots and situations are ridiculous and, I almost needn’t say, TRAGICALLY UNREALISTIC.  I mean, who kid-naps someone and whisks them away to their private island for a vacation?  Does that really happen?  If so, I’d like to know.

That beings said, I really do love this show so freaking much…  In fact my ultimate OTP comes from  Boys Over Flowers.  I find it adorable, heart-breaking, addicting, and I am currently re-reading the manga in between episodes because I cannot get enough– after all, I am a proud and self-proclaimed fangirl.

If you’re into anime, manga, J-drama, K-drama. or just want to try a new genre of entertainment, I recommend checking out this show.  So different. So cheesy. So cute. ❤

 

*The featured image was obtained from Pinterest.  I own nothing that relates to Boys Over Flowers or its respective company. 🙂

The Pulchritudinous Pixie Cut

Recently, I’ve made the questionable choice to let haircut videos and Pinterest photos featuring trendy pixie cuts consume a lot of my time.  A LOT.  Some might say (correctly) that I’m a little obsessed.  My current hair is just above shoulder length and it looks decent.  But the truth is, I’ve been wanting to get a pixie cut for a number of months now– the draw of short, strategically unruly locks won me over and now I can’t wait until my next hair dresser appointment.

But here’s the rub…  I have very fine hair that doesn’t always cooperate.  It frizzes easily and I have some curl as well, which as all my curly-haired ladies know, can be difficult to work with. That being said, I understand that I also run the risk of lopping off hair that might actually make me look like I have more hair than I do currently.  I definitely don’t want to look like I have even less hair, so I plan on going with a forward-swept slightly layered shag style cut and dye it a bit darker than my natural shade of brown.  I’ve done my research and along with this cut I know I’ll likely need to get used to blow-drying my hair and using special products (shampoos and texturing wax) to get the look I want and maintain my hair’s upkeep.  All’s well, right?  Not exactly.  There’s another rub.

“Don’t cut your hair short, you don’t have the right head shape for it!”  “It’s not going to look good on you, that’s all I’m saying.”  “Why do you want to look like a boy?”  Some of my friends have comments about my hair-related ambitions.  I have to admit, I tend to value people’s opinions more than I should, so some of these comments and persuasions not to go for a pixie are discouraging and almost make me want to change my mind.  Although, I have friends that say the opposite: “I can’t wait– it’s gonna look so good!” “Dude, go for it!”  Or in the wise words of my friend, Erika: “This is what I usually say when someone claims that a person ‘doesn’t have the right face shape’ or whatever for a hair style. ‘Do they have a face?  Does it have a shape?  Do they want the hair style?  Therefore, they have the face for the hair style.'”

To be honest, part of me agrees a little with the nay-sayers; my head shape doesn’t really look like it would be optimal for a very short hair cut, especially because my hair is so fine…  But meh.  I’ve felt the urge to cut my hair for a long time now and I’ve decided that I don’t really care how it looks in the end.  I have faith that even if a pixie isn’t necessarily “flattering” on me or it “makes me look like a boy,” I’m just going to learn how to style it in a variety of ways and not give a flying flip what other people say.  I have a head.  It has a shape.  I want the pixie cut.  Therefore, I have the head shape for a pixie cut.  That being said, don’t let people discourage you from doing what you really want with your hair.  Besides, it’s hair– it will grow back! I say if you’re an adult you should be free to experiment and find out what you like instead of being afraid to try new things if you really want to. Just be you!

 

* The word “pulchritudinous” is a word that means beautiful for anyone wondering.  I just like fancy words. 🙂

My Fascination With Steampunk

I warned you this blog would get nerdy. Get ready.

For anybody who is not familiar with the trend of “steampunk,” here is a brief description of my interpretation of what it encompasses.  The canon of steampunk takes place in the Victorian era; it imagines a world where the level of technology never exceeded steam power, humanity existing in a constant state of the Industrial Revolution. Steampunk machine
Electricity is also in heavy usage– think of exposed light bulbs, Tesla coils, and even electric vehicles.  This is where it might get confusing: while the level of technology does not surpass the steam era, the individual technological innovations that came after the Industrial Revolution, like airplanes, motorcars, and even computers, are still possible in the steampunk canon.  The only difference is the type of technology used to power them.

Back to the term itself– why is the word “punk” tacked onto the end of this newfangled compound word?  While “steam” refers to the main source of technological power of this fictional universe, the “punk” aspect comes from the particular fashion undertones that go along with it.  Aside from classic Victorian dress, elements of punk rock, circus performer, pirate, and cowboy (among many others I’m sure) are popular themes pervading steampunk style.  Steampunk victorian womanTo be honest, this can be difficult to picture, so I’ve included some images to help you out.  As far as I’m concerned, the “punk” element refers to the edgy look attributed to most steampunk fashion– to be honest, it’s freaking awesome.Steampunk pilot cosplayI won’t go on and on about how cool this topic is, this post is just a very brief introduction into what the world of steampunk is about.  It will serve merely as a reference point for my future posts pertaining to steampunk, because I will likely not go into great detail explaining a lot of background.  I’ll just say it.  And you will already know what steampunk is.  That is the plan.  I would also like to emphasize that fact that there is SO much more to steampunk– I can’t even begin to describe it all! So if you’re really interested, I encourage you to go and look this up for yourself– there’s a limitless number of concepts to explore.

I will finish by mentioning my most recent steampunk
obsession: DIY foam accessories!  I’ve discovered a YouTube channel called “Lost Wax,” featuring a guy named Chris, who makes tutorials on how to create your own “realistic-looking” steampunk accessories (quotation marks added due to the fact that steampunk doesn’t technically qualify as real).  His videos make me want to take a trip to Wichita just to buy the needed material and crank out some sweet gear.  I especially feel the irrational geeky urge to make his diy gas mask… (featured pic on right).

Lost Wax- gas mask jpg

YouTube channel “Lost Wax.”  *found on Google images

The steampunk revolution is real.  Anyways, I hope you now have at least a very general basis for what we mean when we use the term “steampunk.”  Who knows, maybe you’ll look into this unique canonical universe and find you really dig it.

*All images used are found on Pinterest unless otherwise specified. 🙂