Wednesday, January 11, 2012

a two-thousand-eleven year of words.

I'm a word nerd, simple enough. English major, editing minor (with an additional minor in French because, hey, they have some really great words too). I spend more time with grammar books and Shakespeare than pretty much anything else. And you know what they say about pictures... they're worth a thousand words. "A thousand words" sounds pretty great to me (maybe my novels would get written in less time if I just used pictures... I'll have to remember that).

So with all of these retrospective, let's-look-back-at-2011-and-remember-how-totally-dang-awesome-it-was posts, this is how I remember 2011.

2011 was a year of...

Golden couches and field trips for Indian food. Roommates that I loved. Way too many late nights talking about what's really important in life (you know, like boys and homework and how pompous college professors can be--the deep stuff).

Ice castles. Because, um, hello? They're freaking legit.

Building living room forts. And watching That Thing You Do in them. And taking naps. And just generally not doing homework because, let's face it, homework is really lame.

Ballroom dance competitions. Watching the big twirly skirts. Learning to Samba and Rumba and Quickstep and Waltz, and loving every minute of it.

Colors. Everywhere. And finding purple chalk in my ears and hair for weeks afterwards.

Having a really attractive family. I mean, look at these guys!


Saying goodbye to my little brother for two years. And also really digging his yellow tie.

Family. These people love me no matter what. I'm so lucky. I don't deserve them, but they just keep right on loving me.

New roommates. We're a band, actually. We're called "Kara and the Jessicas." Because, well, it's Kara, me, Jessica, and Jessica. And that was just begging to be a band name.

Jack-O-Lanterns like I haven't made since I was a kid. (Her name was Janelle, and she was the most adorable thing in the world. I know you all want one).

11/11/11. A wish at 11:11. Eggnog, floating cookies, and jacuzzi steam in the cold air.

A Christmas that changed my life around and gave me hope.

2011 was a year of smiles, laughs, Nutella, chick flicks, blankets, quote walls, firsts, memories, stargazing under picnic tables, Better-Than-Sex cake, agent querying, loving, losing, tears, miracles, prayers, family, and music.

You don't think I'm ready for you, 2012?

Bring. It. On.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

how to make your life awesome in ten steps.

1-Love to eat Nutella. And peanut butter. Together. On a spoon, possibly.

2-Wear sweat pants whenever you are at home. Because God made legs to be covered by sweat pants.

3-Stay up wayyy too late doing none of the important things you planned to do.

4-Drink milk like it's water. You'll have strong bones. Isn't an Osteoporosis-free life so great?

5-Take ridiculously long Sunday naps.

6-Like Justin Bieber. This is an absolute requirement.

7-Own a brand new pair of totally cute converse shoes that make you feel adorable whenever they grace your feet with their presence.

8-Quote YouTube videos more than you actually create your own sentences.
            -I recommend Kid History. Those videos are almost as important to the way I live my life as the Bible. True story.

9-Be a crazy person at dance parties. This will up your awesomeness by 10% at least.

10-Eat cereal for every meal.

Basically, just be me. Then your life will be awesome. :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

in which i wish i could be taylor swift. only not.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl.

She loved to steal chocolate chips from the kitchen cupboard when she thought her mom wasn't looking, she loved to get her little brothers into trouble, and she loved to jump rope like a maniac.

She also loved to sing.

In addition to that love for singing, she also had the ridiculous belief that if no one could see her, no one could hear her either. So she would go out into her backyard, climb up onto the swing her (ultra awesome) dad had set up for her, and pump back and forth and back and forth.

And while she pumped her stubby little legs through the air, she sang.

She imagined herself to be Christine from The Phantom of the Opera. So, naturally, she sang the kind of opera that the Angel of Music himself could be proud of. And probably could hear, too, all the way from Broadway.

The little girl continued to imagine that none of the neighbors could hear her, and that Mom and Dad especially couldn't hear her through the sliding glass back door.

The little girl has always had a problem thinking that her version of reality applied to everyone (But let's be real here, my version of reality is way better than real reality. Real reality is lame compared to the awesome sauce that happens in my head).

As she grew up, the little girl knew that show business was no place for her. The life she wanted did not include Hollywood. But sometimes it still slipped into her daydreams.

High school meant spending afternoons rehearsing dance numbers and show tunes onstage. It meant singing to the beautiful trees of New Hampshire under her breath (because she finally realized people can, and do, hear her when she sings loudly enough). It meant participating in choir concerts. It meant using her new driver's license as an excuse to play music from Wicked at a ridiculous decibel level in the car. It meant pretending she was Elphaba and that it was completely normal for her to belt out crazy ideas about defying gravity to the steering wheel.

This girl still loves to sing. Any of the 22 roommates she's lived with during the past 4 years of college could easily tell you that. She's recently started teaching herself to play the guitar, and wrote her first ever plausible song last semester.

And sometimes, when her roommates are all out doing whatever it is that roommates do when they leave the apartment, that little girl who is not so little anymore pulls out the guitar, sits up on the arm of the sofa, and sings her heart out.

Secretly she still dreams of performing, of getting the vocal training she would need to be successful, of showing the world what she's made of. Secretly she can be Christine if she wants.

But you know what? Singing all alone, just me and my guitar... that's all I need.

One day, I want to have one of my books published. That is one reality in my head that I can make a real reality. One reality that gives me the future I'm hoping for.

Until that day, though, I'll take a break from the monotony of life and sing like nobody's listening.
(Me as the tin man my senior year of high school. Hey, it's almost Elphaba, right?)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

memories of a paris that sang to the tune of old starlight

What is Paris to me?

It's a view out of an apartment window.

It is an icon.

It is delicious like nothing I've ever before tasted.

It's the way spring smells like a dance.

It's a fairytale reality.

It is history.

It sounds like the echos of yesteryear.

It is elegance.

It is like no dream I've ever had.

It is hidden pathways that tourists never see.

It is color.

It is a new family. And two little girls who stole my heart.

It is a home they let me call my own for a few short months.

It is rainy mornings and shining cobblestoned streets. It is the crunch of a baguette's crust between my teeth. It is slanting windows and carousels. It is hundreds of years and tiny moments. It is pigeons and tourists. It is nutella and bananas. It is a language that tastes like music. It is a city with lights like stars that sing if you simply open your eyes to its magic.

One day I'll return. Until then, I'll remember.

All photos are mine. Don't worry. And also, don't steal (or use without permission :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

exactly one year ago today

January 2, 2011
I can hear only three sounds.

The angry acceleration of an engine that growls louder and louder and louder.

Screaming, high-pitched and heart-wrenching.

Muffled shouting. Words. Words I should be able to understand but somehow can’t.

I open my eyes to the dark. I see a key hanging from a glowing orange halo above me. I see shadows. Shadows of hair, of a steering wheel, of windshield wipers, of something large just inches from my body.

I flex my fingers. They shake. They reach out for the object in front of me that shouldn’t be there. They touch it, feel it. Wood. Or cement. Hard. Solid.

My left ear bites fire into my head. Something wet slinks down my neck.

The engine is still roaring. An angry moan, it rises in pitch.

My throat aches. I realize the scream is coming from me. I cut it off with a shudder.

Now I can hear the yells from behind. The words batter my head and bounce against the inside of my skull. I stare at the glowing orange above me, at the keychain that swings back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Music is still playing. Classical music. I was listening to classical music earlier. Yes, the piano concertos. Before…

A memory punches through my vision. Headlights. A yellow dotted line on black asphalt. Something in the road.

I flinch and shove the thoughts away. I focus on the yelling, on making sense of the words. Who’s yelling?


I turn my head to hear better, and the cold glass crackles under my cheek.

“Turn off the engine!” he’s saying. “Turn it off!”


I look up at the hair hanging in the air from the driver’s seat, at her arms drifting across my line of vision.

“Devan?” I croak.

She doesn’t move.

“Devan?” I reach trembling fingers to touch her arm.

No response.

“Devan!” A jolt in my stomach, a clench in my throat.

“Turn off the engine!” Carter shouts.

"She's not moving,” I mumble, shaking Devan’s arm. “Devan… Devan, wake up!”

“The engine!” he says again.

The glowing orange circle bores into my eyes. I stretch forth a lead arm and twist the key in that halo ignition. 

The angry roar chokes and dies.

“Carter?” I squeak.

My brother. In the back seat. He’d been playing on his laptop. Before…

My mind spins. I see the dog, black and white, in the road. Feel the jolt of my stomach as the car jerks, see Devan spinning the wheel in my peripheral vision, hear the words, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh” tumbling like blood from my lips.

“Carter!” My eyes fly open again. “Are you okay?!”

“Yeah.” There are crashes behind me. Shifting. Banging.

“Get your phone,” I say as I struggle to reach around the big wooden thing in my lap.

“I can’t find it!” Carter’s voice is panicked. “How are you guys?”

“Devan’s… unconscious…” How I hope that it’s true. I choke down a sob, squeeze my eyes shut and whisper. “Please, God, don't let her die…”

My ear stabs pain through the side of my face.

A drop of dark blood hits my hand. Devan’s blood. I shriek.

And then her hand flutters. I nearly choke.

“Devan?” I reach for her fingers. She grasps mine feebly, then lets go. “Devan!”

“I found my phone!” Carter cries.

“Devan, it’s okay, it’s okay,” I murmur as her arms flutter around in the air above me. “I touch her hair. Hold her hands. Thank God she’s alive.

She moans.

“Can you get out of the car?” I ask my brother.

I hear the crunching glass as he scrambles around in the back. “I’m going to climb out the window.”

Devan reaches for her seatbelt, and I realize I’m still strapped firmly in my own. I’d been meaning to loosen it. Before…

And then I feel the lurch of the car all over again as it dives off the road and into the brush. I see the trees and bushes illuminated by the white glow of the headlights. I’m still saying, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” A fence reaches its claws out of the darkness, dyed pale as bones. My stream of words turns into a scream. And then the world starts to tip…

I swallow down hard and try to focus. I have to focus. Devan needs me.

“Devan, sweetie, are you okay?”

She makes a gurgling sound, unlatches her seatbelt, and slides down on top of me where I lie in the broken and mangled remnants of a passenger’s door.

“Devan, you’re crushing me.” I push her hair back, see the footprints of blood on her cheek.

Her eyes are half open, her mouth droops.

“Can you hear me?” I say, struggling to ignore the way my voice quivers and the way my eyes sting with tears. My ear pulses madly.

She makes another gurgling sound and leans against the roof of the car.

Carter’s voice is loud outside. “I don’t know where we are,” he’s saying. “We rolled…”

My teeth are chattering. It’s getting cold. And my ear…

I want to reach up and touch it, see why it hurts so much. But what if there’s nothing there? My stomach writhes in my chest and I choke down more tears.

Devan’s face looks white in the stark moonlight that glares in at us through shattered windows.

I need to keep calm. Her breaths come out ragged. Her eyes are closed. Her knees dig into my ribs. I cannot breathe.

“Devan,” I cough out. “Devan, you’re crushing me. Devan!”

But she doesn’t move. Just breathes. In and out, in and out.

Glass digs into my arm. I squirm under her weight, gulping at the air.

Carter’s voice gets louder. “Jessica?”

“What?” I croak.

“Are you okay? There’s a pole sticking right into your seat...”

“It barely missed me.” I run my fingers over the pole. Thick as a tree trunk.

He breathes a deep sigh. Says, "Thank you," to God. Then, "911 doesn’t know where we are. I’ll be right back, I’m going to find a sign or something. Is Devan okay?”

Devan’s head moves. “Yeah,” she mumbles.

“She’s awake,” I tell him.

“Okay, I’ll be back in a minute.”

His feet crunch away on the ground until I can’t hear him anymore.

And I am alone.

The darkness presses in on me in this confined space. My ears ring. My head beats the pulse of my heart. Tears stream silently down my cheeks.

“Why am I bleeding?” Devan stares at the blood on her hands. “Why is there blood on my face?” Her voice rises in pitch. “Where am I? Why am I here? What happened?”

I squeeze my eyes shut, beg my ear to stop beating, struggle to keep the tears down. Then I reach out for her arm and pat it. “We just tipped over, sweetheart. You got a little scratch on your cheek. You’re going to be just fine.”

Her eyes widen, and she leans over my face. “Who is this?!” I hear a note of panic in her question. She slaps my face smartly over and over with her hands. “Who is this?! Who is this?!”

“Jessica, it’s Jessica,” I cry, shielding my eyes from her fingers.

Please, God, help me.

“Who is this?!” Her hands assault my face, my hair, my neck.

Keep me calm!

“I’m Jessica! We go to school together!”

“Who is this?!”

I can’t do it.

“Do you know Carter?” I say. Panic spasms through my body as I gasp for air and fight to keep from losing my grip.

“Carter,” she repeats. She stops hitting me. Her hands rest dully against my cheeks.

“Yes, Carter. He went to church with you in Texas. You remember Carter?”

She nods. “I know Carter.”

“I’m his sister.”

She looks blankly at me. I let out my air in a stream of relief.

“His sister,” she repeats.

I nod. “Devan,” I say, hoping she’ll be more responsive this time. “You’re crushing me. Do you think you can crawl into the back seat where Carter was?”

She blinks over at the back seat, and then nods. Her elbows and knees gnaw into my ribs and face as she makes her way to the back. I cough for air when she finally sits on her haunches in the glass of a broken window and peers back at me.

“It’s cold,” she tells me.

“I know.” My own body is convulsing in violent shivers. I reach down around the pole. My blanket is still there. I yank at it. “Here, let me get you my blanket.”

Carter is back. Sirens are blaring. Blue and red lights illuminate the twisted metal that serves as my prison.

“Put this around you,” I tell Devan, shoving my blanket into the back seat with her.

I stare at my blanket on her lap. I'd had it wrapped around my legs to keep me warm. Before…

And then there’s the screaming. And hot adrenaline that shoots painfully through my legs until my toes are throbbing. And the world tips as I watch it through the windshield. And then a sound like a gunshot as the car smashes onto its side. I shut my eyes, feel gravity spinning, hear the crashing, the cracking, the shattering. I chance to open my eyes again. I see a telephone pole. A building. The fence is closer. We are still rolling. And the screaming suffocates my ears…

I close my eyes. Sobs choke up through my body, tears burn down my flesh. I press my cheek into the glass and cry.

An officer peers in at me through the driver’s window overhead. “Are you pinned? Are you okay?” he asks.

“I’m okay,” I whisper.

But I’m not.

There’s another man in the back seat with Devan now. He’s lifting her out.

“Did this pole get you? Are you injured?” The man interrogates me.

I shake my head. It throbs.

“Can you move?”

I sob yes. And then I show him. I smash into the back seat and crawl into the other man’s arms. They lift my shuddering body out of the wreck and set me on the ground.

I walk barefoot to the police car. I look back.

The vehicle is on its side. The fence pole speared through the roof right into the passenger seat.

Where I was.

How did it not hit me?

I am crying.

I am praying.

People talk to me, and I try to understand them. But I can't tear my eyes away from that car.

They ask me what happened.

We almost died.

They ask me if I hurt.

Yes. Everywhere. My ear. Is it still there.

They ask me who was driving.


Was it just you two in the car?

No, my brother was there too. Is Carter okay.

The boy?

Yes, Carter. Is Carter hurt. Is he bleeding. Is he broken.

He’s fine.

I want to see.

He’s in the back seat. Just stay here. Do you need to go to the hospital?

I don’t know.

Do you need a doctor?

I don’t know.

They ask more questions, but I can’t make sense of their words anymore.

The vision of the car is branded like fire against the back of my eyes. It is smashed. And the pole...

I should be dead.

I can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t speak. Sobs tear their way from my throat. The red and blue lights of the ambulance blur in my warped vision.

“Aw sweetie, you’re okay,” a woman with a nice voice says. She’s wearing a flower nightie. She hugs me. I cry into her shoulder. I’m afraid I will get blood on her nightie.

There are people everywhere. They say things to me. Ask me if my parents are coming. Ask me if I’m okay. Ask me if I was wearing my seat belt.

I say yes over and over and over.

My mind keeps hurling one question around in my head so loud I can’t hear anymore.

How am I not dead?

Things worth naming today?
Seatbelts. Ambulances. Doctors.
A God who watches over me.
I'm alive.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

what's in a name?

My blog title.
Inspired by Brian Friel's Translations.
An idea made poetic and beautiful by Shakespeare.
Written in one of my better term papers for a Contemporary British Literature class.

What's in a name?
A name is so much more than a word.
According to science, we have a psychological need to name things that are important to us.

So... Without further ado... Welcome to my blog.

Here I will fill you in on the many things in my literary life that are worth naming

...because a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet.