Sunday, December 16, 2012


Below is a little something I wrote a few years ago and stumbled upon in my backup files recently. I hope you enjoy it!

There is a line that separates my house from my neighbor’s. It’s invisible, marked only by pieces of paper that declares who “owns” each side. But, on the other side of that border, past the invisible line that our neighbors go to great lengths to keep erected, is a border of a different kind. Not visible to human eyes, but there nonetheless – a silent tribute buried a couple inches under the lush green grass. A tribute that, even after all these years, I cannot forget and have not talked about until now.

On our side of the invisible border, my dad keeps the grass green and well-cropped. He’s out there every weekend, mowing at seven in the morning with the other dads in the neighborhood. While I find their dedication admirable, I often grumble about how they should find a decent hour of the day to mow – preferably after noon. My dad is almost obsessive about it, to a newer level than before we had moved into our new neighborhood – it still, to this day, puzzles me a little. It must be a guy thing.

On the other side of the invisible border, there have been many neighbors. I wonder why none of them seem to stay for too long, and it amuses me that every single family has animals. The yellow-brown spots staining the otherwise green lawn is a standing testament to that. The newest family tore down a perfectly good wooden fence in the backyard to put another, taller, thicker wood fence in its place. I think that this is so that they won’t have to talk to us – they’re a real friendly bunch…

And yet, every year the same things happen in that yard across the border. The carpet of grass becomes more and more spotted as the summer progresses. The natural spring under the house emits a constant supply of water through the ground that will, every year without fail, flood the basement – so the neighbors installed a pump that re-routes the water away from the basement. Unfortunately, it seeps down the neighborhood (which is all downhill) and kills our grass and flower gardens.

And, I can tell every stray dandelion that has never dared to stay long in our yard that they can go right back to where they came from and be welcome there. A shower of white seeds blows from that yard every year, giving me a lot of entertainment in sitting on the couch and watching my dad walk around the house, looking out the windows and muttering under his breath.

My dog likes to eat the dandelions, I have no idea why, they don’t look very tasty and she always ends up spitting them out after they’ve been completely mangled. I think she thinks she’s giving me a present because she almost always does it by my feet. Since she is always following my dad everywhere (to my amusement, she even shoves her nose into the corners of the doors when my dad is on the other side and proceeds to breath heavily, just in case he didn’t know that he locked her out of the room while he was in there), she looks out the windows with him, too. When she does this, she drools on the windows, causing my mom to walk around the house later in the day and mutter under her breath about the dog being stupid for drooling on an otherwise spotless window.

The neighbor dog doesn’t drool on their windows, and doesn’t like to eat dandelions. Instead, he likes to cross that invisible border and wander into our yard incessantly. It’s funny how the neighbors yell at us if our dog crosses that border, but never care when their dog goes into our yard.

And still I think about that invisible border that separates our two very different lives.

When I was little, I was almost painfully shy. It didn’t help that there weren’t many kids in our neighborhood yet – our house was the second house built in our cul-de-sac. The only friends I really had after we moved were my sisters and it stayed that way even after more kids moved in. Well, as kids will do when left to their own devices, we ran wild, causing our parents no end of grief and filling our days with mischief and amusement at how our parents tried so hard to keep us more “tame.” It didn’t help when my dad gave up trying to civilize us and started encouraging us instead, showing us how to catch butterflies and put toads in buckets. We even caught tadpoles once and stored them in a bucket in our garage – I lost interest in them eventually since they weren’t growing fast enough, and we finally released them in a local pond.

The little things we managed to catch – mostly moths and butterflies – we learned to be careful with. It was a hard lesson we learned one day when we found out that once you’ve touched a moth or a butterfly’s wings, they can’t fly anymore and they die. It was harder still to have to bury our now-dead catch. We created a miniature graveyard on the border of our house and the at-the-time-empty lot next to us. Dad even buried a frog there once after we found it one morning half-mangled by the trash can after we moved it. I cried for the frog until my dad explained to me that it was suffering more by being alive and that he was happier in frog heaven because he wasn’t feeling pain anymore. The word “mercy kill” was introduced into my vocabulary that day.

That little unmarked graveyard, now covered over with grass, represents more than a lesson in loss and how things change. It’s the border between time; the time when I was a child and cried at the loss of a single butterfly, and time as I know it now – complicated, messy, and filled with the responsibilities adults have to face every day for the rest of their lives.

It’s a border beyond the tangible, the borders we hold in our own lives. That border separated us from our neighbors – not because of that invisible line that tells who owns the papers to the land, but because we had put it there.

It’s not something that is easily crossed, so we stand on the precipice and watch others cross it instead. It’s a crossing that we're sometimes afraid to make. What if on the other side there is no beauty? What if there’s only pain and heartache on the other side?

When we enter into the border, we go with the trepidation of being rejected and hurt,  and we get past it only to get pushed back into it again on the way back to our own side, experiencing the pain of loss every time, experiencing the soul-numbing sense of rejection. 

And after we’ve crossed the border that last time, only to get pushed back across it, we give up. We stop crossing the border.

But eventually, when we’ve been away long enough, we come back to the border and we stare at it. We wonder how other people can be so unafraid to cross it, when every time we cross it we're sent back to our own side, hurt. 

The seeds of friendship can cross the border, but they always die and when they do, we're sent back to our own side with the mess of what’s left all around us in pieces on the floor.

And yet, how is that any way to live life? To stay on your side of the border just because we’re afraid that things will get a little bit messy.

There is a sense of courage in being able to cross that border, even knowing that you might get hurt. And I think that’s how we should live, not in fear, but in courage.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Story of How I Survived the Renaissance Festival

In all of my (short-ish) years of life, I have never been to the Renaisance Festival - which is kind of a big deal festival-wise in Minnesota. So this year, I vowed to finally get on my horse and ride to the festival.

Well okay, maybe I'm being a bit fanciful, but it's the Renaissance Fair - who wouldn't want to be fanciful?

Planning ahead of time, my two younger sisters (who have both been to the festival before and didn't invite me!) and I plotted our costumes. After all, you can't just go to the Renaissance Festival without dressing up, right? So we donned our costumes (I found a nice gypsy costume [which won several admiring glances and genuine compliments throughout the day], my sister donned a belly dancing costume [which gained her several cat-calls by the vendors as we passed by the food stalls, among others], and my youngest sister dressed as a lady knight [which apparently no one else thought was an eye-catching outfit... shows what they know]) and headed to the festival in our chariot (AKA: car).

We got there pretty early (as in 9:30-10am), and there really weren't that many people milling about at first. But one of the first things we noticed was a peasant fishing in a puddle that had developed in the middle of the dirt road off to our left. If I were writing about this on Twitter or Facebook, that would have been tagged #OnlyAtRenFest.

As for the pickle guys, well what else can I say but that they were hilarious? The food vendors will do pretty much anything to get you to buy from their stalls in the morning, including sing songs about blue (the color of my sister's belly dancing outfit) being their new favorite color and proclaiming quite loudly that gypsies are welcome at their stalls (that would be me!).

And don't forget the wandering entertainers at the festival. My favorite was the guy with the "No Jingle Zone" sign that jumped out in front of us and gave us a hard time since my sister's costume was a bit noisy. As for the stay-in-place entertainment, we saw hypnotists, belly dancers, gypsies (my people! lol), and a "Conversations" booth where a "troll" puppet offered to have a conversation with you.

So, being slightly shy by nature, I let my sister (the belly dancer) spin the wheel. It landed on "kisses & hugs." She immediately changed it to "beaver shoes" and after a short argument about the topic with the 'troll,' the conversation began.

I don't remember exactly how the conversation went, unfortunately (it was hilarious because if anyone can out-talk or out-confuse a troll puppet set on confusing anyone, it's my sister), but the conversation eventually turned to why "bail" had been crossed off the troll's change-collecting cup and replaced with "tips."

It turns out that if you are an activist for troll's rights, the king will shut you away in the dungeon. But don't worry, we were talking to a "free troll," because, "you see, 'bail' has been crossed off. It says 'tips!" After that my sister made up an outrageous story about why she had been in the dungeon; the troll gasped at her confession and promptly turned the wheel to "Gossip & Rumors." I wish I remember more of that entirely confusing yet altogether delightful conversation so you could be laughing with me, but I unfortunately must have gotten a little too confused in the process of it.

After that, we wandered around just looking at the things and I think the scariest thing that day happened just after lunch. There was a moving 'statue' that would move if you put coins into his collection bucket. Except the mask this statue was wearing was the creepiest thing I've ever seen!

He was staring at us. So my youngest sister, probably thinking she was hilarious, asked me for some coins. Being the pushover big sister that I am, I gave her the coins. Immediately, my mind started flashing with bright, neon red and white lights. I could see "WARNING" written across my eyeballs. And I think my stomach must have jumped out of its normal place in my body and run around a corner to hide.

As soon as she dropped the coins in the collection bucket, he started moving. Nothing fast or sudden, but for some reason, slow and sinuously hypnotic movement coming from something not completely human-looking that stares at you like you're a tasty meal is definitely more terrifying than fast, abrupt, scream-inducing actions.

First thing the statue did - and which definitely confirmed all of my fears of being eaten (hey, it's a legitimate fear when you have that thing staring at you like a predator!) - was look at my youngest sister (in the lady knight costume) and rub his belly. If the jaw on that thing had been able to move, I swear it would have been smacking it's sharp teeth together repeatedly. I think my morbid fascination with the thing was enough to sear that little detail permanently in my mind - because I swear I remember its mouth almost moving as if to do so.

Then he stared intently at my other sister (the belly dancer) for a while, but finally turned its gaze on me. Where it stayed. My stomach, which I had previously thought a deserter, very definitely was still inside way down in there somewhere because it promptly jumped up into my brain, jumped out of my body, and ran away as if the devil himself were chasing it.

And that's when my heart decided it didn't like where it was and tried to jump up my throat. One look at the statue, though, and it "slunked" back down in place and decided to beat ten times harder than normal. I thought I was going to pass out.

Then the statue moved. It's hand went to the place where I suppose a heart is supposed to stay and patted it, then reached forward as if asking for my hand. The eyes on that thing glittered maliciously, though. I was for sure going to be eaten alive in front of my sisters. What would my parents say?

Maybe I should have told my sisters to go away so they didn't have to watch a carnivorous monster violently eat their older sister, but I was too terrified to talk, let alone move. The only thing that scared me more than taking the thing's hand, though, was that it would follow me if I just walked away. So I held my breath and moved forward a little bit to take its hand.

Logically, I knew there was a person inside that suit, but when you're in the thick of things, logic consigns itself to some dark little corner at the back of your mind and only decides to come out much later when the coast is clear. So the only option I was left with was this thought that kept flashing across my brain like a news broadcast: I was going to be eaten.

Luckily, I narrowly escaped with my life, since the statue just bowed a little bit and then reluctantly let my hand go. But, despite the knowing that I was being a bit mellow-dramatic, I couldn't help but feel a great sense of relief when I finally turned the corner on that thing to search for my missing stomach. The knowledge that I was quite suddenly free to live the rest of my life - with all of my limbs intact, to boot! - was one of the best parts of the day.

All in all, I'd say it was a successful first venture to the Renaissance Festival. I wonder what next year will bring?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11

A year ago today, I was in London for the tenth anniversary of a day that I will never forget. Whenever someone mentions the attacks, I always see the buildings burning in my mind. A mental replay of the images shown live on TV that day eleven years ago.

I was only in fifth grade, but I remember it like it was yesterday. My younger sisters don't really remember, they only know what they've seen as the years have passed and their awareness of these things becomes more defined.

But I remember. Last year, the remembering happened with a piercing clarity that was made ever clearer with rumors whispered that London might be a ten-year-anniversary target for another attack. And though nothing happened (thankfully!!), it was a somber anniversary as tourists from around the world remembered. BBC News covered all of the ceremonies happening here in America. Everyone knew, how could we forget?

(Read about my experience of the ten-year anniversary here:

And this year I continue to remember the people that died that day, the people that lost loved ones, the heroes that are now suffering under illness bourne of the ash that rained down on them that day, a nation bleeding and weeping, a nation uniting in the face of devastating tragedy, and the terrible emotions that marred the date "9/11" for a nation - for the world.

In the face of such tragedy, how can words be found to describe such a thing: the loss, the horror, the pure emotion, the questions?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe this will put into emotions what I cannot say in words today.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Thing in the Corner

I moved into my dorm room in January not knowing what to expect. I didn't know any of my roommates and was terrified that they would be very "Mean Girl"-esque, or just horribly anti-social (like that awkward girl from Gilmore Girls). It turns out, none of us had to worry (my roommates were terribly anxious that I would be awful as well). After our required time of being around each other long enough, we all decided we were okay and, thankfully, not serial killers.

But here's the interesting thing about my room: we have a habit of losing things in the black hole that sits in the corner of our room. It hides from us most of the time - we can't actually find it, though we've tried looking - but it comes out at night when we're sleeping, or when we're not in the room during the day.

And it eats things.

Like our remotes.

We, as a room, have bought three or four new remotes for the TV this semester alone. And over the course of the semester we've tried several ways to avoid losing it.

We have a penguin stuffed animal (one of those hilarious little penguins from the movie Madagascar), and one of my roommates - in a burst of true genius - tied the remote to the penguin. TO the penguin! We called it our penguin remote and were actually very happy with it (this is not sarcasm in case anyone thinks it is, we're very serious about our penguin remote) until the poor remote was somehow detached from the penguin. And, (surprise!) it got lost into the miasmic maw of the black hole almost immediately...

I keep waiting for it to eat other things. Like my final papers ("I'm sorry professor, the black hole in the corner of my room ate my paper, I should just get an A"). Or the DVD remote (apparently it doesn't like the taste of the DVD remote because we only lost it once and then it mysteriously turned up again a few days later...). And I especially keep waiting for it to eat the extra slices of pizza my roommates left on the counter from this weekend but don't want to throw away... but, nope, it just likes the taste of the remotes we buy.

So, moral of the story: tie your remote to a penguin and it will be safe from remote-hunting, predatory black holes .

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sexy and We Know It

We've all heard the song "Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO. But how many of us have seen the music video?

It features men walking around in animal-print fabric that is painted onto their bodies and includes a special cameo of them shaking their willies at the camera.

But because it's sung by male musicians, it's funny. We laugh and emulate this behavior, especially the ten-year-old boy my roommate nannies. But if this song were to have been sung by a woman? Admit it, your mind jumped to skimpy clothing and booties shaking all over the place, right?

So why is it okay for men to stand around shaking their willies (I thank the Brits for this hilarious word) everywhere on-screen, when it would be considered promiscuous for a woman to do the same? I don't hear any huge public outrage over this music video when there would have been if a female artist had done the same thing (Lady GaGa, Beyonce, Madonna, Britney Spears -- you name the female artist and you'll find she's been criticized for being too promiscuous).

A question I'm not sure I should answer outright (although I might get more comments if I did). Intriguing, isn't it?

Personally, I find LMFAO's song hilarious and their music video ... interesting. I think that's a safe word, one the conservatives can't condemn me for and one the liberals can't interpret one way or the other in order to accuse me of liking it. Men running around in barely there animal-print speedos just doesn't do it for me (just to clarify), but the fact that there hasn't been some huge outcry at the inappropriateness of it says a lot about our culture. If it had been women in the same skimpy attire (with a band-aid-top in concession of perceived modesty), would people have reacted as indifferently?

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Short Reflection on Traveling Abroad

I'm back! My three and a half months in the U.K. and Europe were amazing! For more about that, check out my travel blog here: 
(P.S. I'm still working on getting it finished, so be patient and I hope you enjoy what's up there so far.)

I must say, being back in the States has been very weird for me. On the one hand, it was such a relief to fly into New Jersey (probably the only time I'll ever be thankful to fly into New Jersey -- I'm a New York person, I think). But it's very bittersweet; when I finally sleep-staggered off the plane, I already missed the calm British voice saying "mind the gap."

Being abroad has widened my perspective of the world and I have a lot more topics to write about now, so keep following to see more of all that fun stuff. Thanks for following me; enjoy!