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My Birthday: A Reflection

Some of you reading have never met me, but over the next year and beyond you will probably come to know me better, even if it is in a limited sense. Since I only now started blogging, I cannot point you to any posts with more details about the events and progress I am referencing in the body of this post. I plan to do this again next year, however, and there should be a plethora of blog posts about the events I mention in my reflection.

Today I am eighteen. Legally an adult. Wow. I still can’t believe it. It sure doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.

I could take this reflection in a direction similar to Life Is What You Make It, but that’s not what I plan to do. I want to look over the past year and how I’ve grown and some of the big things that happened. It’s really too bad I didn’t start blogging a year ago instead of only a week ago.

Last year about this time I was a recent high school graduate. I had procrastinated calling the local high school about my failed driver’s ed behind the wheel and so did not yet have my license. Once I did meet with the person in charge of the program, I found out I didn’t have to do anything and could go get my license.

I was hired at Panera Bread in late May shortly after graduating, but couldn’t take myself to work until after I got my license in July. Then in August I was hired at Walmart.

For a while I was a bit lacking in direction. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was not taking active steps toward it for the most part. At some point in the fall my friend Justine reached out to me about writing for a blog she wanted to start. Initially we had four people, two of them unfortunately had to leave the project for the time being. Justine and I were still committed to starting the blog, and we launched in February. That gave me some focus and it felt like I was taking real steps toward my goal of someday making money writing. Additionally, I applied to Praxis in October for the second time and was accepted. Between Over the Invisible Wall and my acceptance into Praxis, I felt like I had a clearer picture of the near future and that I was taking real steps toward my goals.

Around the same time that I was accepted into Praxis, I noticed that I had a crush on one of my co-workers at Walmart. We had orientation on the same day and were forced to hang out because of it. We’re both very introverted, but we were forced out of our shells in order to complete the various tasks/activities we were given. Over time, we interacted at work and became friends, though we only saw each other occasionally because we worked in different departments. After I became aware of my crush, I thought about whether I was interested in dating as a general. I did want to date him, but I was open to the possibility that he wouldn’t want to date me. We were merely friends and co-workers and didn’t know each other very well. Leading up to the night when I asked him to hang out in the breakroom for lunch and he later asked for my phone number, I noticed that he seemed to like me too. I’m not sure when we shifted from just dating to really being a couple, but we’ve been dating for seven months now. (I omitted his name at his request. He did not want his name included so I wanted to be sure to respect that.)

Less than a month ago I decided to commit to my decision to start a personal blog and launch in July. I knew that if I waited til I felt fully prepared I would never start, so I needed to jump in as soon as possible. At first I was only going to post at least once a week, probably twice, in order to have more time and be “comfortable.” I quickly changed my mind and have been posting every day instead.

So that’s about what my past year has looked like. I’ve taken some big steps forward from unfocused general goals of making money writing to actually working towards that. I can’t wait to see what the next year holds and how much things change between now and then. To everyone who is part of my journey now and to those who will join me in the coming year: Thank you. It’s been a wild ride and I’m sure it will continue to be.

My Thoughts on Hemingway Editor

I adapted the majority of the text for this post from a journal I wrote. It was rather rant-like and angrier than it needed to be. I apologize if any of it still comes across that way.

A while back, a friend of mine gave me the link to a website called Hemingway Editor. I don’t really agree with the premise of the website, that simpler is always better. So what I write is supposedly too hard for sixth graders to read and has some sentences longer than ten or so words. Is that really so bad? Does that truly make it hard to read?

When it was initially shared with me, I put several of my college discussion board posts into it, and one of them was rated a “grade seventeen” reading level; the site gives the grade level required to read the writing, not the grade level the writing itself is at. The website said it was “poor” because it was a grade seventeen. I might have gotten a really bad grade if I simplified it to about tenth grade like the website suggests!

“Simpler” is not always better. Using adverbs doesn’t mean you don’t have a strong verb, or that a verb exists that will give the exact nuance of the verb already used with an adverb modifying it. Passive verbs, yes, they should not be used much, but there are cases where they are necessary.

Additionally, the website thinks simpler synonyms are better. I’m not trying to be verbose by using larger or more complicated words, I’m trying to use the best word, or avoid using the same word too many times. Occasionally I do use a word as a “Hey, look! I understand how to use this word properly in actual sentences!” Normally I choose “harder” or “more complex” words because they are necessary for the sentence to convey just what I intend. Using the right word is much more important than using a word everyone knows that has a similar though not identical meaning. If someone has to look up a word, fine. I do it all the time while reading! It’s not a hassle anymore now that we all have access to the internet.

Just for kicks, I put the body of this post into Hemingway Editor to see what it had to say. I have nine adverbs too many, three hard to read sentences, and two very hard to read sentences. Overall I was told this post is grade six.

What do you think? Is simpler better? Should writing be as easy to read as possible, avoiding adverbs, passive voice, and words that have simpler alternatives? Let me know in the comments!

Scene Challenge

A while back The Write Practice shared a post with scene prompts in several parts. I used a random number generator to choose each part of the prompt. Here is the result.


It was a normal Saturday afternoon for Sara Lanning, which meant she was at the nearby grocery store. She browsed the produce, considering what she wanted to eat for the next week.

Gala apples, or braeburn? she wondered. She grabbed a bag and opened it while she debated. I’ll get gala, she decided, grabbing four of them.

As she turned away from the display, she momentarily froze. Just across the way, by the tangerines, was a tall stocky blonde man. He looked perfect.

I should get some tangerines, clementines, or oranges, she thought. She twisted the bag of apples closed and set it in her cart. She steered her cart in that direction.

Mr. Perfect glanced up and met her eyes for a moment, then looked back at the fruit.

She was almost to where he stood when the lights flickered once, twice, three times, then went out. Sara furrowed her eyebrows. It wasn’t raining as far as she knew. She didn’t hear thunder or see lightning.

“Everyone, please leave your carts and proceed to the nearest exit!” an associate yelled. Other workers were doing the same and ushering everyone out of the store.

Sara did as asked, abandoning her cart. To leave, she had to walk past the citrus display she had been heading for.

Maybe I’ll run into him outside, she thought hopefully. She walked faster, hoping to catch up.

The only light comes from the windows around the edge of the store, and Sara knocks into something and falls. Right next to Mr. Perfect. He looks down through the near-darkness.

“Need a hand?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she takes the stranger’s hand and lets him help her to her feet. “Thanks.”

“No problem. What did you trip on?” he asked.

Sara flushed and laughed, “I think I tripped over myself. It’s hard to see with the lights off.” She couldn’t see his face and he didn’t answer.

They made it out of the grocery store and he started to head for his car. Sara stood waiting for a moment, unsure of what to do.

This is my chance, she thought suddenly. I might never see him again! “Hey, wait!” she called.

He turned and looked at her. “What?”

“Do you–” she froze. What am I doing? I just met him!

He raised an eyebrow.

“I’m Sara,” she said, offering her hand.

“I’m Mike,” he said, shaking her hand.

“Do you want to hang out sometime?” she blurted.

He seemed caught off guard, having opened his mouth right as she started talking. Then he smiled. “I was about to ask you the same thing.”

Sara smiled back. “Sorry I interrupted you.” She dug in her purse for a piece of paper and scribbled down her number. “Here, text me sometime and we can figure it out.”

“Okay.” He walked over to his car and drove away.

After he was gone, Sara asked an employee if the store was going to reopen. It turned out they weren’t, so she went somewhere else. At that same store, she saw Mike again. He was talking with a friend and didn’t notice her.

“I was over at the grocery store across town and this random girl asked me out,” he said.

“Was she hot?”

Mike snorted, “Pfft, no.”

“So what’d you do?”

“She gave me her number so I took it but I threw it away.”

Sara felt tears rush to her eyes. She ran out of the store to her car, crying.

Deleted Drafts “The Etaloniy Story” (2)

Five years ago I began writing a story about a girl named Etaloniy Whitlock. The result was quite the disaster of a story. Because it is rather long, I have split what I have of her story into three parts. Part one went up last Wednesday and part three will go up next Wednesday.

3: SCHOOL

We rushed inside and went to class. It was about the usual junk about our heritage, the Ruby Rains, and how beneficial Shanry E. Wheenman was to our country. (Shanry E. Wheenman was the monster of a man.)

After three hours we had lunch with extra dessert for everybody. (Including the people who brought their lunches.) If only the next day was a real holiday, then we’d actually enjoy the dessert, more anyway.

We went back to class and listened to the teachers drone on and on. Finally school was over, and I rushed to the bus before anyone could say Etaloniy Whitlock. I hurried (as usual) to the very back of the bus. My friends and I always choose the back so we can sit close to each other, and as I’m always the first person on the bus I save our seats.

My friends show up right before the bus is to leave! They burst onto the bus and run to the very back with me. Ameria knows they’re in for it, really bad this time. Ameria is the “leader” of our friend group, she’s not in charge she just helps us settle disputes in an orderly fashion. (Not that we have many disputes.)

“Hey, where were you guys?” I ask.

“We were… uuh it’s a secret,” said Emalagy after seeing Ameria shake her head.

“Why won’t you tell me?! You are always keeping secrets from me!” I almost shout before I can stop myself.

“It… It’s a surprise,” replies Nadolina softly.

“Nadolina! You weren’t supposed to tell her!” says Ameria angrily.

After that no one said anything the rest of the way home. I was glad to ride in silence until the doors opened to my neighborhood. Bran, Maglina, and I jumped out and ran home, eager to see Preana and Clamal.

4: PREANA’S PROBLEM

We arrive home and rush into the kitchen.

“Mom can we have a snack?” asks Bran eagerly. (He’s always hungry so Mom has to pack him an extra large lunch for school.)

“Yes. I made a cake for your snack today.”

“Where is it?” asks Bran checking all the places he thought the cake would be in.

“In the freezer, Bran,” says Mom as she walks out of the kitchen.

Bran pulls out the cake and goes after the knife rack, when I reach out and stop him.

“Bran, you know you’re not allowed to use the cake knife. Let me cut the cake,” I say.

He reluctantly steps back towards the cake knowing that I’m right. He’s four years younger than me, but acts like he thinks he’s four years older than me.

I grab the knife carefully; then head back to Bran. I ask him to get plates as I carefully cut the cake into twelve even pieces.

“I get the first piece!” says Maglina before Bran can, because he always gets the first piece.

“Bran, go see if Clamal and Preana would like some cake.”

“Fine,” he sighed.

He rushed upstairs and knocked on their doors. Then I heard his feet pounding as he came back, panting.

“They’re… They’re… they’re not there.”

“Of course they’re there. It’s been about thirty minutes since school got out.”

“No they’re not there.”

“How can they not be there? By now they are here!”

“Go check for yourself then!” he snapped at me.

I ran upstairs and tried opening Clamal’s door — only to find it locked. I knocked loudly to no avail. I decided to ask Mom for help.

Mom!” I yelled across the house.

“Yes, Etaloniy?” she said coming over to me.

“Clamals’s door is locked,” I said jiggling the handle for emphasis.

“She must want to be alone, sweetheart.”

“Well it’s urgent.”

“Fine, I’ll get the key for you. Meanwhile go tell Preana to come downstairs.”

I walk down the hall and try to turn the door knob. Also locked. “Drats,” I say under my breath. “Preana open up! Mom wants you downstairs!” I shout quickly and loudly.

“You don’t need to yell! I’m right here!” she told me appearing at the top of the stairs.

“Sorry,” I said blushing.

“I brought the key,” she told me, calming down.

I take it and unlock Clamal’s door. I open it slowly and dramatically for emphasis. I look in and find it empty.

“Mom can you get the key to Preana’s room?”

“It should be in Clamal’s room. Although I don’t want you snooping in her things.”

“Mom! I’m worried about Preana and Clamal!”

“Fine. Get the key. And hurry about it,” she gave an exasperated sigh.

I went in saw her key ring on her dresser, and grabbed it and left.

“Found it,” I say as I go unlock Preana’s door. I open it quickly, then walk into her maze of a room.

“Preana! Preana are you in here?” I shout into the messy void.

I wait, still making my way inside, but hear no response. I head back out and close and relock her door.

“Mom, I’m going to town!”

“Wait a second!” she calls after me as I round the corner at the end of the street.

I must find Preana! And Clamal, but right now Preana is my priority.

I rushed to town square covering my head with my hands because it’s raining rubies a day early!

“Oh, Preana! What did you get yourself into this time?” I wail.

I soon reach the town square with bleeding hands (a lot of rubies hit me). I quickly scan the area, and spot Preana chained to a police rack!

(The police rack is like a bicycle rack that police officers chain prisoners to while the officers is arresting someone else.)

“Preana! What happened?” I ask in a stupor. She looks at me with a pained look in her eyes. Her eyes quickly widen and she shakes her head fiercely.

“Preana I can’t leave you!” I tell her, “By the way where’s Clamal?”

Preana nodded her head over to where the police had a teenage girl pinned agains the side of a nearby building.

I gasped loudly, “What happened?!”

“Miss I’ll have to ask you to leave the crime scene,” I gruff police officer told me.

“Can you tell me what happened first?”

“This girl here was inspecting some rubies that belong to Shanry E. Wheenman and smashing them on the ground to obtain the valuable middle section of the ruby.”

“What about the other girl?” I ask pointing to Clamal.

“She said that she was this young ruby thief’s sister and asked if we’d let her go if she returned the rubies. Obviously we couldn’t do that. Right now officers are trying to find the rest of the girl’s family to put them under house arrest.”

“Thank you for telling me. Is there any way I can help you find them?”

“Do you know the family?”

“Couldn’t say. She looks too young to go to school with me as I’m only thirteen.”

“Well then you be on your way then, but if you see any of her family members let us know,” he told me as I walked away.

I pull out my cell phone and call Mom. “Mom, come to the square quickly. Preana and Clamal have been arrested.”

“They what!” she shouted in my ear.

“Ow! They got arrested,” I said enunciating carefully.

“Oh no! That’s terrible! I’m coming to give those police officers a talk.”

“Mom you can’t they’ll arrest you, too!”

“What are you talking about?”

“I talked to a police officer acting like I didn’t know Preana and Clamal. They only arrested Clamal because she said that she was Preana’s sister.”

“I’m still getting Preana back! If it takes getting arrested, then fine. They can arrest me if they’ll let Preana go!” Mom tells me and I know that I can’t stop her from trying to do just that. I’m about to respond when I hear the phone click on the other end, telling me she hung up.

Nooo!! She can’t come to the square! She’ll get arrested, and I can’t let that happen. I scream in my head knowing I’d get arrested for screaming it out loud.

Then Mom showed up in the square yelling at a police officer in another language.

“Mom! Mom, thank goodness I’ve found you!” I shouted in Nargatolan recognizing it instantly.

“This is your daughter?” the police man asked it sketchy Nargatolan.

“Yes, sir. Thank you for your help,” he seemed to understand even if he didn’t speak Nargatolan.

“Where are Preana and Clamal?” Mom asked, switching to another language that was less common in our area.

“Over there,” I responded in the same language and tip my head in their direction.

Mom’s response is almost immediate, and I have to grab her arm to keep her from rushing over to save the day.

“Mom, if you tell them who you are they’ll arrest you.”

“Etaloniy, you should know me better than that. I am not going to go over there and get myself arrested.”

“Then what are you going to do?” I ask, feeling relief.

The Adventures of Caramel and Fudge: The Arctic

This is a collaboration between my younger brother Aery and I. Aery is eight. My parts are in blue and Aery’s are in green.

Caramel and Fudge are our dogs. Caramel is a pitbull and Fudge is a Boston and fox terrier mix.

Parts of this story or other adventures with Caramel and Fudge will be published on this blog under Aery’s Corner as more is available.

Chapter One: Hide and Seek / Walruses and Polar Bears

In the arctic, Caramel and Fudge found some walruses and made friends with them. The three walruses were named Bob, Joe, and Elizabeth. The walruses liked the ice block they were on and had staked it as their territory before Caramel and Fudge came to the arctic, but offered to share it if Caramel and Fudge could get to it. Instead, Caramel and Fudge made a fort with the walruses on the bottom of the ocean.

While they were in their fort, the dogs and walruses decided to play hide and seek. Elizabeth was “it” first. Then she found Bob. Bob hated being “it” and cried that it wasn’t fair that Elizabeth looked for him first. He threatened to quit if she didn’t find someone else and act like she found them first instead of him.

She said no. And Elizabeth said, “Fine, next person I find is ‘it.’” She found Bob again, and Bob rage quit.

Frustrated, Elizabeth said it wasn’t fair for him to quit just because he didn’t want to be it. She told him he now had to find everyone else instead of her, because he was it and she wasn’t. And Bob said he was going to go take a nap so Elizabeth was it, and she found Fudgy, but Caramel was in the best spot. Joe, however, got tired of hiding and was scared that Elizabeth would never find him and came out of his hiding spot on his own. This was deemed to be cheating as the whole point was for him to be found, not give himself up. Elizabeth found him out of his spot and asked, “Why aren’t you hiding?” But he was still it and went right past Caramel and missed her. Caramel watched as Joe swam over her hiding spot, smiling to herself, because she thought it was really funny.

Joe said, “Come out wherever you are and I will find you!” and that was it and he published it as his new song.

No one took his song seriously and instead kept hiding because the whole point was for him to find them, not for them to come out and find him. And Joe thought they were using the whole ocean and he left the fort and they noticed and went out of their hiding spots and started looking for him. He found a volcano. Soon, Joe noticed that the water was really warm, but he didn’t understand why. He looked around and noticed that the ocean floor was glowing red. Instead of leaving, he swam towards it, wondering why the ocean floor was lit up like that. And he almost swam into the lava, but then Caramel attacked underneath him and Joe didn’t know who it was, and he swam away like Caramel was a mean monster that attacked him like “go away from my land.” And Joe went home. And then everyone else went back to their hiding spots. When Joe got back he found Bob.

Bob said, “I’m not playing anymore, go away.”

And Joe rage quit cause Bob wasn’t playing. And said, “You have to play.”

Bob said, “No I don’t.”

But no one knew that Joe was quitting because Bob wasn’t playing, so they went on hiding. And then Joe dug a hole inside the fort and went inside it and buried himself except his head. And then Elizabeth noticed him and that he wasn’t playing.

“Why’d you quit?” she asked.

“Bob quit too,” Joe said.

“You can’t quit without telling someone because you’re it.”

“I told Bob,” he said.

“Bob’s not playing,” Elizabeth pointed out. “You have to tell someone who is still playing that you’re quitting.”

“No I don’t.”

And Joe unburied himself and left the fort and made a little shed very far away. And he lived in it.

Caramel and Fudge went onto the ice so they could breathe again cause they had been holding their breath for a very long time. Elizabeth found them and told them that Bob and Joe had quit playing so the game was over. And when Caramel and Fudge went up for air they went back to their own house to get their super unlimited lasting oxygen tanks to go look for Joe. What they didn’t realize was that Joe’s shed was not underwater. But really their super unlimited lasting oxygen tanks were really just gills that they connected to their bodies so they could breath underwater and above water cause they had gills and lungs.

Caramel and Fudge returned to the fort with Elizabeth and Bob.

“We need to find Joe,” Caramel said.

And a polar bear came and said, “No we don’t.” And then the polar bear left because he was scared of walruses.

Caramel and Fudge watched the polar bear leave, very confused about what had just happened.

“How did he get in here?” Fudge asked.

Caramel asked, “Why are you running away? We’re friendly, polar bear.”

The polar bear didn’t answer and instead kept running.

A Moment

All those days you’ve been waiting

for a moment.

Waiting for a moment

to change the world,

to set things right,

to start a fire that’ll burn so bright,

Burn it all to the ground.

But why,

why,

and when,

when?

Will the moment ever come

and how will you know it has?

Instead of waiting

why don’t you start now?

Change the course of history,

this world we’re in right now.

The good it could do,

you have a dream, a goal,

move towards it,

don’t idle,

wake up,

stop wasting time during which

you really don’t need to sleep.

Thief! (A Short Story)

This is a relatively unimportant, though fun, bit of backstory for two of the characters from my novel-in-progress. It was initially based off a prompt, but I do not recall what it was.

~~~~~~

Mara, five at the time, was at her neighbor and best friend James’ house. Well, as she would be quick to point out, James was one of her two best friends, but regardless, she was at her best friend’s house. His mother, Mrs. Richards, had given the pair a plate of several freshly baked cookies.

Each of them quickly gobbled down most of the cookies they had snatched from the plate. James was about to to grab the last of his cookies when his mom called to him from the kitchen.

“James, you need to clean up this mess!” James glanced towards the kitchen.

When his back was turned, Mara stole his last cookie and giggled while she ate it. James glanced at Mara, eyes widening as he realized what horrible thievery she had engaged in–while his mom was talking to him, no less!

“Mommy! Mara stole my cookie!” He glared at her, crossing his arms over his chest.

Mrs. Richards peeked out of the kitchen, “I’m sure it’s alright, James. You had plenty. Now please bring me the plate and clean this mess you left on the floor.”

He huffed, earning a stern look from his mother.

“Coming, Mommy.”