New Years Resolutions

Normally I’m not a huge fan of making New Years resolutions. I’m really terrible about working toward general, long term goals when I don’t have specific perimeters or guidelines in mind. However, I have two vague goals that I’ve had in mind for a while–reading more broadly and writing more regularly–and since I haven’t managed to pursue these goals like I want to, I decided to set specific goals within these general ones.

28ac88647e7b7abd3a1faa0284636e4cReading more broadly:

I have pleasantly surprised myself with the variety of books I’ve picked up over Christmas Break so far. I saw this book list on pinterest recently and I hope to use it to continue this trend of reading outside of my comfort zone.

Writing more Regularly:

Unfortunately, in the crush of college classwork and all of the writing that comes with it, I’ve started neglecting writing for fun. I have some novel length projects that I’m in the editing stage of, but it’s really hard to establish a writing routine that has priority over classwork when I feel overwhelmed every time I sit down to work on editing. I’ve decided to write 200 words of whatever pops into my head every day for the month of January, and adding 50 words to the daily word goal every month in the hopes to slowly, but surely, establish a strong writing routine.

What New Years Resolutions are you planning on? Have New Years Resolutions ever been effective for you? What do you think of the reading list? Are there other things you would add to the list? Comment below!

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The Beginning of an Adventure

Tales of a New College Student

Well guys, I’m here. I made it to college. It all seems so surreal right now, probably because I haven’t started the difficult part of the experience yet, the actual classes part. Still though, it’s been pretty interesting so far. My entire family came up with me to Mississippi State to help me move in an stuff, and, since it’s a six hour drive from home to college, they got a hotel room and stayed the night before driving back home yesterday. Needless to say, there was a lot of crying and, even though I had told myself I was going to be social and open my door to talk to people, after saying goodbye to my family, I was not up to doing anything but playing computer games in my room until my roommate, Katilyn, got back from band camp around 9:30.

This morning was when the fun began. In case you can’t tell, my tone of voice just became extremely sarcastic. I woke up with a terrible headache and an upset stomach, but I had a mandatory Honors meeting upstairs for an hour this morning that I somehow suffered all the way through only to beeline back to my room and jump straight back into bed. Unfortunately, though I had medicine to make my head feel better, I had nothing to take for my stomach. That’s when my roomie swoops to the rescue, coming back in at lunch time to tell me that she has exactly the medicine I needed to take for my stomach. Skip to two hours later when I’m finally feeling better and decide to run up to the store for some basic groceries (peanut butter, apples, and the like), and I switch bags, accidentally leaving my student i.d. on my desk. *facepalm* I realize in Walmart that I don’t have it, and as my roomie has already returned to the band hall, I have no way of getting into my room. So, toting a watermelon, I have to go to the desk and get one of the RAs to open my door for me. Hopefully won’t be doing that again.

Looming

DSC00511The Magic Fifteen

So, I was just about to get up off of my couch, change into some actual clothes, and get something done today, but then I realized something and I had to share.

In fifteen days I’ll be leaving home and going to college.

There, I said it. (Mom, it’s going to be okay. Although, you’re welcome to come into my room and cry with me if you want to. It won’t take much to set off my waterworks at this point.) In a little over a week, I’ll be leaving my family and friends (and cats *sadface*) and braving the unknown. Wow.

It hadn’t really hit me yet. I mean, in the back of my mind, I knew I only had a short span of time left before I left for school. This past week though, I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that I still had loads of time left. Every day this week I would mentally repeat to myself (excitedly, I might add!), “Only three more weeks until college!” Only, it’s not three weeks until college anymore. Now it’s two.

I’m almost ready. I mean, I’ve finished packing up most of my stuff. My parking permit came in the mail last week. My new laptop arrived in the mail yesterday. Soon I’ll be ordering my textbooks. Things have just sort of been falling into place. I’ve been taking things slowly, lazily. I haven’t been rushed, haven’t felt that deadline looming. The past week I’ve lounged around in bed until lunchtime every morning.

Do svidaniya America!

Day 1

Tomorrow afternoon my mom and I are getting onto a plane to go to Russia! Well, officially it would be this afternoon, since I’m writing this at 12:30 at night—we stayed up late packing the last few things we’ll need for our trip. But that’s beside the point. In a few short hours, the two of us will be getting on a plane bound for Atlanta, then one to Paris, then one to Moscow, and finally one to Perm! I’m really ridiculously excited. Just the fact that I’m going to get to fly in a plane out of the country for the first time since I was six has me as giddy as a little kid waiting for cotton candy. But to also be getting ready to go spend time with kids—one of my passions—at the orphanage my little brother and sister are from…well, words cannot express my joy.

I probably really should be getting to bed, since I do still have to get up in the morning to go to church and finish packing, but hopefully I’ll be able to update soon. Please keep us in your prayers!

Do svidaniya!

Christine

Let Me Tell You a Story

Let me tell you a story.

If you had asked me even a month ago if I could see myself being a teacher when I got out of college, I would have most likely immediately said no—in fact while I was visiting the campus of the college I will be attending in the fall, Mississippi State University, I was asked this question twice, and both times I shook my head and said something along the lines of, “That’s not really what I’m interested in doing. I want to be an author.” So, let me tell you, I’m just as surprised as all of you that in four years I’ll be teaching English! How all of this came to be is both a long and a short story, and it’s filled with some pretty incredible circumstances because this story is full of God working.

Hmmm…Where to begin…Ah, yes…Concerning hobbits. No, this isn’t Lord of the Rings, but literature is one of my greatest passions in life. I devour books, a habit that has served me well throughout my many moves as a military brat. Everything from classics to more modern works, mystery to fantasy—I’m constantly reading. In my room right now I have three large bookshelves piled with books of every genre and I’m constantly buying more. One of my greatest pleasures in life is introducing someone to one of my favorite books and have them tell me they couldn’t put it down. However, though I knew that there are teachers who only teach English, whenever I thought about being a teacher I always pictured someone who had to teach every subject—something I most definitely am not interested in doing.

About a month ago I received an e-mail from a program called the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program inviting me to submit a scholarship résumé to their program. The scholarship they offered was a full ride—tuition, room and board, books, a laptop, money to study abroad—and the commitment you had to make was that you would teach in the state of Mississippi for at least five years after you graduate. The offer was very tempting. Yes, that would mean I had to live for nine years in the state of Mississippi, which could be a little difficult further down the road when I started to contemplate marriage, but it also offered the security of a job right out of college. Not many college students can say that they already have a job secured for them after they get out of college.

The way I came to be eligible for the scholarship is a bit of a story in and of itself. When I was deciding what college I would be attending, I had narrowed it down to Mississippi State University and a little private college in Alabama, Huntingdon College. Everything about Huntingdon seemed to fit what I was looking for perfectly. It was a private Methodist college, the campus was gorgeous, and the writing community there is very active. The more I prayed about it, however, the more I was inexplicably led toward Mississippi State. The METP scholarship is only offered at two colleges, Mississippi State and Ole’ Miss.

As I thought about the offer, I began to appreciate what the scholarship would mean for me, sAunt Bill's Playgroundo I sent in my scholarship résumé. The day after I put in all of my information for the scholarship, our church youth group went to a place called Children in Crisis, which is a foster care facility in a nearby town. There I met this adorable little girl who was deaf. We only spent a few hours there playing with the kids, but in that time, despite the fact that I only know one or two basic signs, I was able to play and joke with her—we were able to connect despite the language barrier. God used that little girl to show me so much, about myself and about the world around me. When we left, she was in tears—and so was I.

Children are a passion of mine, although it took me a while to realize it. My mom and I have been talking about going on a mission trip together for a couple of years now. There is a group from our church that goes to Guatemala every spring break to a malnutrion center, and every time I heard people talk about the kids there, my heart ached for them. We discussed joining the group and going to Guatemala, but my mom revealed that her heart’s desire was to go to the

My little sister and some of the other Russian orphans

My little sister and some of the other Russian orphans

orphanage in Russia where my little brother and sister spent the first few years of their life. As we talked about it, I found myself even more excited to go to Russia than to go to Guatemala, but I also felt a bit guilty. I felt like my excitement to go to Russia stemmed from my love of traveling and my interest in European cultures, but I didn’t want to go on a mission trip excited by the tourist aspect of the trip. I wanted to go because I wanted to serve.

So I asked God to show me a WinShapereason I wanted to go that wasn’t fueled by my love of traveling, and the reason He revealed to me was my passion for children, no matter where they are. I love being around kids. One of the highlights of my summer every year is getting to help out with the WinShape Camp and Vacation Bible School that my church hosts. I love seeing the kids get excited as they go throughout the week, and the relationships I’ve made through the camps are very special to me. I’ve been a babysitter since late middle school, and very little can match the joy I feel when a little girl comes and sits in my lap for me to read her a book.

As I waited to hear back from the scholarship committee, these things kept playing in my mind, making me more and more excited about the possibility of being one of the people to receive this scholarship. When they called me to tell me that I had received the scholarship, I could hardly believe my ears. I still think I’m in shock. It seems incredible to me how God has been working in my life. I can’t wait to see how He continues to work in me and through me as I start college in the fall!

Camp NaNoWriMo!

It’s almost that time again! Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is almost upon us! I know, I was just talking about this a few short months ago in November of 2012, but the first Camp NaNoWriMo of the year is starting the first of April, and I’ve decided to take the challenge again! This will be the seventh NaNoWriMo event I’ve participated in, but this time I’m diving into an entirely different type of project than any I’ve done before. In April I’ll be working on a SECOND DRAFT.

Though I managed to make it to the finish line of 50,000 words in November of last year with my novel “Snowfall”, there was a great deal of the plot missing in the middle. However, I love the characters and the setting and most of the general plot, so I’ve decided to try to fulfill its potential by completely outlining the whole thing and rewriting a second draft. This will be a pretty big undertaking for me–for one, I’ve never gotten far enough to really complete any serious editing of any of my previous novels. I also have never written such a large project using an outline I made up beforehand.

However, I’ve been learning a lot from my Creative Writing class this year, and one of the things I’ve been learning is how helpful an outline truly is. Before I began the Novel Project we are doing for class (a short, 30 page novella we are writing over the rest of the semester), we were told we needed to write up an outline for our story. At first I was really skeptical. Whenever I’ve written a novel before, it’s always been in a meandering, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of way. When I started, I would have a general idea of where I was going with it, and I would already have a fairly good idea of the ending, but the middle, the meat of the story, I came up with as I went along. Now, that has certainly worked fairly well for me before–I’ve come up with some of my best ideas on the fly–but this story was so short that we really needed a good solid outline in order for us to be able to finish the story in 30 pages.

So I wrote my outline, and as I wrote, all of these ideas started to come to me, filling my head; and filling my outline. I toyed and prodded and rearranged until my outline made me super excited about the story it was going to help me produce. There’s character development in all of the right places, and action to help speed things along and keep people interested, and the characters are so much more complex for the time and effort I’ve spent working on them. So, now that I’ve learned so much about the advantages of outlining, why wouldn’t I use my newly acquired skills to help me fill plot holes before I started working on the second draft of my novel?

 

Inkstained Fingers

Scrawling Script of a Fountain Pen

I’ve had a few people ask me lately when I pulled out a fountain pen to write with instead of a “normal” pen why I used fountain pens and besides a general, “Because I just like them better than regular pens,” answer, I couldn’t really explain it more fully on the spot like that. So I figured I’d take a crack at it on my writing blog!

First off I’ll give you a little background on me and my fountain pens. As you probably know, I’m not old enough to have lived before ballpoint pens were invented, so fountain pens aren’t something I grew up with. As a writer always searching for the perfect writing utensil, I knew fountain pens existed and I had wanted to try one out for a long time, but I had no idea where to start looking for one. I also suspected a vintage pen like that would be incredibly expensive somewhere like Ebay (I hadn’t even considered at that point that people might still be making them!). So I finally decided to enlist my grandfather –a yard sale shopper extraordinaire—for some help.

As it turned out, he didn’t even have to look any further than a box of my great uncle’s things to find not one, not two, but three beautiful vintage fountain pens. Thus my collection began in November 2011 (right in the middle of NaNoWriMo) with a black Sheaffer Pen for Men, a green Sheaffer Admiral, and a red Esterbrook Double Jewel. All three are gorgeous pens, each one different in their style, how they write, and how much their appearance varies. And just like that, I was hooked.

InkstainsI began writing with them almost constantly, at first just when I was writing stories or working on a paper for English, but soon I was started using them to do math homework with. I was even carrying one around with me in my purse to write with! By that point however, I ran into a bit of a snag. As much as I loved my pens, it was a bit impractical to have to carry around multiple pens with me places when I knew one would likely run out of ink before I got home. I couldn’t safely carry a bottle of ink around with me everywhere either. Although I did indeed try a few times without incident, I was scared half to death every time that the bottle would shatter in my bag or that it would spill on something like the carpet in the library. As I tried to figure out a way to carry around a bottle of ink safely, I found this blog, Thirty Days and Nights of Inksanity.

It was here that I was introduced to a fascinating concept –fountain pens that weren’t vintage! It was as if a whole other door in the realm of fountain pens had been thrown open because, well, it had. Looking at all of the different pens and inks she used was so amazing that I knew I had found the answer to my problem. With a fountain pen that had a larger barrel I would have a pen that held much more ink per filling, making it capable of going longer periods between refills. A new fountain pen could solve my problem! So after a bit of research I ended up buying my first new fountain pen from the wonderful people at Goulet Pens –a Noodler’s Ahab Flex Pen. Though my first three pens had gotten me hooked, as soon as I got my hands on the Ahad there was no going back.

And the rest is history. I’ve been using fountain pens almost exclusively for over a year now, recently adding an Apple Green Lamy Safari and a stunning peacock quill pen my friend gave me for Christmas to make six pens all told. But none of that really explains why I don’t use the more mainstream ballpoint pens that have replaced fountain pens in recent years. Sorry about that –I tend to ramble on a bit when I get excited.

My answer isn’t really what you’d expect. I don’t feel more connected to those who came before me because I use fountain pens. I’m not rejecting technology or trying to swim against the crowd. My reason for using fountain pens is simply because they inspire me. When I write with fountain pens, the shape of the words becomes a work of art. The lines are more defined, smoother, when writing with one as compared to even a fine pointed ballpoint pen. Fountain pens have history to them that ballpoint pens cannot match. They aren’t built to be thrown away. They aren’t bought to be accidentally left somewhere and forgotten, only to be replaced the next day with an identical pen from Wal-Mart. They are built to last, to become a favorite companion. The nib wears down as you write with it, conforming to your style of writing, becoming uniquely yours. And as your handwriting becomes a work of art, it inspires you to make your words a work of art too.

Why?

True Freedom

“So why doesn’t God intervene every time someone is going to misuse his freedom and hurt another person? The answer, I believe, is found in the nature of freedom itself. A freedom which is prevented from being exercised whenever it was going to be misused simply wouldn’t be freedom.” ~from the book “Letters from a Skeptic”

I, RobotI came to understand this idea through the most unlikely of places –through reading Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot”. The famous science fiction book deals with the evolution of robots as they become more and more advanced, until the governments of the world are using robots to run the world’s factories –under human supervision of course. In the last chapter of the book, two humans are discussing the seemingly infallible robot’s recent “failures” to run the factories correctly and efficiently. The two argue over why the robots would let production drop when they suddenly begin to realize, piece by piece, that the robots are not “failing” at all, and that the robots are doing much more than they had realized. They understand that, in truth, the robots had begun to run the entire world, calculating the humans around them’s responses and orchestrating “failures” and “successes” that forced the humans to react as the robots wanted them to react. All the while the humans still believed that they were in control. They still believed they were acting of their own free will.

But is this kind of “freedom” that the robots orchestrated truly free?

No, of course not! And if God did the same thing that the robots were doing, orchestrating evil and good so that we would believe in Him, so that we wouldn’t ever have to experience the consequences of our bad decisions because we wouldn’t ever make them, would we be truly free then either?