May has flown by, and with June comes summer camp. Honestly, it snuck up on me. I was surprised to realize that, next week, I'll be sweating and playing Human Fooseball with a bunch of other teenagers under the viciously hot Texas sun. It's fun, I guess, and I'm looking forward to it. But there are several aspects of camp I don't necessarily enjoy, and I know I'm not the only one.
First is the lack of sleep. I'm not like most teenagers. I tend to go to bed early (ish) and wake up early (ish). While waking up at 7:00 every morning is nothing I don't already do, staying up until midnight is a test of my ability to keep my eyes open. And that's under normal circumstances. When a full day of physical activity, broiling sun, and socialization is thrown in, I'm exhausted by ten.
I've found two solutions to this problem. First, wear earplugs--and bring extra just in case you or someone else needs them. Second, bring an extra t-shirt that you don't plan on wearing. This t-shirt is preferably plain and soft, without beads or sparkles or anything that could irritate your skin. Simply place it over your face when you go to bed and fall asleep before the lights are out. Or, you could always buy a sleeping mask. Whatever lends buoyancy to your aquatic vessel.
Another plague of camp is the fact that you have to carry things around with you. Not very many things, of course--just a water bottle, probably a notebook, and maybe some snacks. If you decide to buy anything from the camp store, you're stuck toting it around until the next time you're scheduled to be in your cabin. Last year, I invested in a camp knapsack. Any old backpack, tote bag, or satchel will work, but I like my knapsack because it's light and roomy. It's also nice to have something that goes on your back or across your body (like a crossbody satchel) so you're less tempted to set it down somewhere and forget about it.
If you're camping in the woods, odds are, there will be bugs. Here in Texas, we have three-inch-long grasshoppers, mosquitoes the size of small birds, and more types of spider than I care to count. Bug spray will work, but my mom found a citronella bracelet at Walgreens last year. I just put it on my ankle, forgot about it, and spent the entire week bug-free. Personally, I also think that citronella smells great.
Have I mentioned the heat? Texas is notorious for its high temperatures, but since summer camps obviously occur in summer, heat is almost guaranteed. I'm still not very good at beating the heat. I tend to do whatever outside work I need to do in the mornings and evenings and stay either inside or at the pool in the afternoons, but that's not an option at camp. Unless you get heatstroke and are banished to the nurse's cabin, you're stuck outside during the hottest times of day.
Drinking water is one of the few ways to stay cool. My camp has water coolers situated at all of the outdoor activities. I bring my own water bottle so that I'm never without hydration and refill it when needed throughout the day. My water bottle of choice is a simple disposable one so that if I lose it, it's no big deal. Sports drinks are also great and help replace your electrolytes.
Your choice of clothing in the heat is paramount. I, like everyone, recommend light-colored, light-fabric, loose-fitting clothing. Do not, under any circumstances, wear a tank top under anything. It's not only another useless layer, but also very tight-fitting, which doesn't allow heat to escape. If you can, wear workout shirts--and, if you don't need pockets, workout shorts. Just make sure they're up to dress code.
And as far as sharing a bathroom with seventeen other people goes...I can't give you much advice. Just try to shower at a time of day when no one else showers, even if it means going to dinner with wet hair.
What are you looking forward to at camp this year--or, if you're an adult, what's your fondest memory of summer camp? And have you found some workout pants with pockets? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
We speed through Brookfield, blowing red lights and stop signs and ignoring the honking of other cars we nearly hit. Valencia refuses to move into the passenger's seat, but stays on the floor, clutching everything in sight. "Max, you're going to crash and kill us both," she breathes.
"Would you rather drive?" I snap. I check the rearview mirror. A black Sedan is behind us, exceeding the speed limit to catch up with us. "We're being followed."
"What do we do?"
I glance at the Glock lying on the console. "Can you shoot?"
"Try anyway. Aim for their tires or their engine." I pass the car in front of us, earning another honk from traffic in the opposite lane. "Actually, don't shoot."
Valencia looks up at me. "Do you think they know where we're going?"
"It wouldn't surprise me."
"Then shouldn't we go somewhere else?" She jumps as Suzanne tells us to turn left.
We skid as I slam on the brakes and turn, earning a few more honks from oncoming traffic. "Where else can we go?" I ask, my teeth clenched.
Suzanne refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the situation. "In half a mile, your destination will be on--"
Her voice is drowned out by an earsplitting crash. My car jolts, Valencia screams, and we spiral out of control. We crash through the window of an abandoned storefront. The airbags deploy, trapping me against the back of my seat.
As soon as the airbag deflates, I grab my Glock. I look at the car that hit us--fortunately in the rear--and out of the back seat steps the deplorable New Yorker, Skylar Keeson himself.
Valencia fights against the airbag, shaken but not apparently injured. "Max...."
"Stay in the car, lock the doors, and call 911," I tell her. I clutch my pistol so my hand will stop shaking, and I exit the car to face Keeson.
"My men tell me disturbing things, de Angelis," Keeson says. He seems shaken too, as if he hadn't intended to hit me so hard. I see the driver of his car slumped over the steering wheel--perhaps dead, perhaps unconscious, but no one I can afford to be concerned with right now. What matters is Keeson, and Valencia, and keeping her safe.
"I am surprised," I say, "to learn you have the mental capacity to be disturbed."
"Shut up." Keeson aims a pistol at me, and I return the gesture. "Why can't you just do a job, de Angelis? How hard is it to rid the world of a single witness?"
"I'd like to think that you wouldn't kill someone merely because they caught you embezzling." An idea hits me, like lightning from God. "Then what else are you afraid she knows? You're into computer software. You aren't selling viruses, are you? Illegally collecting information? Rigging the stock markets?"
Beads of sweat form on Keeson's forehead. "I told you to shut up."
I hear the unmistakable click of a car door opening, and I wince.
Skylar Keeson smiles when he sees Valencia, only her head visible behind my car. "You truly are a master of your art, de Angelis. You got her to trust you. Now finish the job."
Valencia pales. "What's going on?"
"Massimiliano de Angelis. He's a hitman." Keeson glares at her, then at me, and fires his pistol at Valencia. She shrieks--which hopefully means Keeson missed, because a dead woman cannot shriek--and falls behind my car. Keeson cocks his pistol again. "A terrible one at that."
A siren wails in the distance, and it grows quickly louder. I smile, but my hands sweat. "Skylar Keeson, consider yourself arrested."
Keeson scowls and curses me. I want to shoot him--at least in the foot so that he cannot run--but I keep my finger off the trigger. "You failed me."
I glance at my car to see Valencia's frightened face hiding behind the front fender. "Only a sick man would take another's life to preserve the quality of his own," I retort. "And I find no pleasure in taking lives, especially those of the innocent. Valencia Marianne Beltramo is innocent, and so long as I draw breath, no harm will come to her."
The sirens grow louder before they stop. Car doors open and slam again. Keeson finds yet another gun aimed at him. "Freeze! Police! Drop your weapon!"
Keeson smiles--a sick, twisted smile--before pulling the trigger. Something rips into my chest. It hurts no more than a bee sting, but the world begins to spin. I hear the voices of police officers and see the face of Valencia Marianne Beltramo before my world grows dark, then disappears completely.
I bought myself something pretty cool the other day. I got a gift card to an online medieval store, and I decided to buy two things with it: a cloak-pin and a pair of bracers.
Bracers are awesome. They're arm-guards, usually made of leather or steel, and they look awesome while providing you with some protection while sword fighting or wrestling with tomboyish sisters. But then I looked at how big they are. And then I measured my arm. And sure enough, I was going to need a child's size--which, although less expensive, were far less cool.
I've been a twig for as long as I can remember, and I'm proud of it. I'm healthy, I feel great, and I look nice, too. And to be honest, I can't do anything about it. I spend most of my time sitting at my desk, I eat ice cream almost every night, and I've been known to pig out on pizza. God's just given me a high metabolism. But for all my friends and readers who are a little on the stout side--don't worry about it. Being skinny comes with its own share of troubles.
First off, everything hurts more. Have you ever rammed your hip into a countertop? It hurts even if you have a protective layer. But bones and wood-edged granite don't mix well, as my ten-year-old self found out time and time again as I practice rollerblading in our kitchen.
Even sitting hurts. My sister is into sports, and I've spent quite a few hours sitting on hard metal bleachers watching her. But my posterior is not very well padded. After the first half of the soccer game, my tailbone starts to ache. That's why you'll most often find me sitting on my jacket--if I bring one, in this infernal Texas weather.
Speaking of Texas, it's hot here. The sun is a flamethrower, the air is an oven, and the ground is one big frying pan covered in fire ants and prickly things. Having a high metabolism means that I burn off a lot of energy, usually in the form of heat. But I'm surrounded by heat, at least in the summer months. And that doesn't always go well.
And the winter poses its own challenges. I'm glad to have a high metabolism that heats me up when it's cold out, but it only works to a certain extent. I find that, when I'm sitting around doing nothing, my metabolism drops. I start to get cold more and more easily as the day goes on. One particular evening, I was sleeping over at a friend's house where the thermostat was set to 64 degrees. I about froze to death for lack of insulation.
High metabolisms have one more downside--that being, I'd be the first to die in a zombie apocalypse or any other survival situation. And it's not because I'm a wimp (I took karate for a couple years growing up). It's because high metabolisms require lots of energy (and, therefore, food) to keep going. In other words, I'm not really fuel efficient. If your body runs like a Kia, rejoice! If, God forbid, you're ever stranded on a deserted island without food, you stand a much better chance at surviving than I do.
The last downside to being skinny is something that most people probably wouldn't even notice. When I was thirteen, I broke my collarbone in a bicycle wreck. It's healed nicely, but now my right collarbone is visibly thicker than my left collarbone. If I wasn't so skinny that my collarbones weren't visible in the first place, this wouldn't matter. But I'm a twig. You can see my skeletal deformity, and I can't do much to hide it. But honestly, you shouldn't be looking that closely at me in the first place.
With so much pressure in the world today to have the perfect body shape, it's easy to think that thin people have everything going for them. In all honesty, we don't. There are plenty of actresses and celebrities who are far thinner than I am; I can't imagine all the skinny people problems they have. Is being a healthy weight worth it? Absolutely. But being too thin is no better than being overweight, and that 'perfect' body shape usually isn't worth the struggle.
I'm not going to ask you any weight-related questions today. Instead, tell me in the comments below how you plan to spend your summer! I'm hoping to get a part-time job and save up for my first car. God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
I arrive at Valencia's house at 5:00 that morning. She is awake, but barely, and I want to fall asleep myself after a mere two hours of sleep. But Valencia's eyes widen when she sees me, and her fear helps me wake up.
"Did you get my voicemail?" I ask her.
"No, what's going on?"
"Call in sick to work." I shut and lock the door behind me as I enter her house, and I make sure all her blinds are closed. "The man who wants you killed is impatient. Does the date November 15 have any significance to you?"
Valencia's eyes are wide. "That's his court date."
I shove Valencia's cat into the laundry room and shut the door. "Why is he going to court?"
"My husband--Dale--he was an accountant for Skylar Keeson's company. After he was promoted to manager, he found out that there were some--illegal things going on. The company was charging the employees fees for things like use of technology and breakroom supplies, but none of that money went to anything good." Valencia's voice trembles. I guide her to her sofa and place a blanket around her. She clutches it around her shoulders and takes a deep breath. "Two weeks after Dale confronted Keeson about it, we were eating lunch together, he started throwing up, I thought it was food poisoning--"
She wipes her eyes. I hand her a Kleenex, and she buries her face in it before looking up at me. "But not before he filed a claim. There was a hearing scheduled for November 15, and I was going to testify in Dale's place."
"You need to give that testimony now," I tell her. My eyes begin to water; I stand and rifle through her cabinets until I find a Benadryl. Then, I take a glass and fill it at her sink.
I glance up at the sheer curtain that hides the inside of Valencia's house from the rest of the world. It is a lovely cream color, except for a single red dot of laser light. Briefly, I scan the room for its source, but the dot moves as I do. My mouth turns dry.
Outside, something explodes. Glass shatters with an earsplitting crash, and something pricks my bicep as I turn to run. I grab Valencia by the arm and fly out the door into my car. More shots ring out, but they hit the ground around us. We zoom away, ignoring stop signs and speed limits, hopefully before whoever shot at us was able to recognize the make and model of my car.
"Max, what's happening?"
I take Suzanne off my dashboard and toss it to Valencia, who is sitting on the floor of the passenger's side. "Where's the nearest police station?"
"Just tell her where the nearest police station is. She'll get us there."
"Just do it!"
I'm about to reach the end of Valencia's neighborhood when I finally hear Suzanne's voice: "In point three miles, turn left onto Eleventh Street." I hardly slow down to turn. Someone honks at me, but I ignore them.
Valencia buries her face in the passenger's seat. "You almost hit that car."
"In five miles, turn right onto South Brockett Street."
I move into the right lane. I check my mirrors, but I see no one following me. But just because I see no one does not mean that no one is there.
"Valencia, there's a zipper under the passenger seat," I say. "Can you open it?"
I hear the pocket unzip. "It's just seat stuffing," Valencia says. "What do I do with it?"
"Dig through it."
My face is set as I focus on the road, and on making sure no one is following us. Yet part of me anticipates Valencia's reaction to what she's about to find, and the other part of me dreads it.
Her voice is like a scolding teacher's. "Max, do you have a permit for this?"
I smile as I take the pistol she hands me. "I sure don't."
You'd think that, with summer here and absolutely nothing on my to-do list, I'd be doing a lot of writing. That I'd be churning out novels and short stories at lightning speed. But actually, I haven't. I've been crafting. I've loved it--I finally got the hang of tablet weaving, and I made a Norse frock to wear to my town's Celtic Festival next March. But then, as I leaned back from my sewing machine and picked up all the pins I'd accidentally spilled on my carpeted floor, I asked myself: "Why aren't I writing?"
My answer surprised me. "Because I don't feel like it."
And then comes the barrage of questions. Why don't I feel like writing? What's wrong with me? Am I losing my passion? I'm too young for this! And then come the theological questions--God, do You want me to write books or do something else with my life?
Yeah, I really need to work on approaching my crises more logically. I don't have time to do anything besides write and occasionally crochet during the school year. I was probably just excited to have more of my many hobbies available.
A great source of help during my logic-deprived insanity has been C.S. Lewis. I've been reading Mere Christianity, and it's wonderful. He mixes spiritual truths with a natural eloquence, great illustrations, and British-isms like a reference to driving on the left side of the road when people could drive just as jolly well on the right. Anyway, on a section on Christian marriage, he mentions that there are two types--or stages, rather--of love. The first is what we call "falling in love." You know, the Hallmark kind of love. Where everything is emotional and happy and "I would die for you" and all that mushy stuff.
But anyone who's been in a relationship knows that "falling in love" doesn't always work out. Emotions come and go. That's why Lewis talks about the second type or stage of love, which is literally a choice to keep loving that person even when you don't feel like it. This is how I love my sister. She's nuts and sometimes she scares me a little bit, but I'll take her to the park when she asks me to. Partially because I love her, and partially because she'd win an Olympic medal in nagging. And she's got really cute blue puppy-dog eyes when she wants something....
Do I love my sister? Of course. Do I feel love for her? Heck, no--at least not all the time.
The point I'm trying to make is, if I base everything I do off emotions, I'm never going to stick with anything.
That's why so many writers give up. They lose the emotion. They view writing as a chore rather than something they enjoy doing. And writing is tough. It's not a normal job where you put in your eight hours a day and get paid for it. Unless you work for a newspaper, writing is a gamble. I've been working on Where the Clouds Catch Fire for three and a half years now, and I've only recently begun to see meager financial returns. If you're not happy when you're writing, you literally have no reason to write.
But just like I'm not always going to feel love for my sister, I'm not always going to feel love for writing. And just like I'm going to keep loving my sister, I'm going to keep writing. And things are looking up. I've been obsessing over the color of a certain character's hair for about three days now, so I don't think I'll be giving up on writing anytime soon.
What are you passionate about? Your job? Your family? And what's your favorite work by C.S. Lewis--or any author, for that matter? I'd love to hear it in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers! Don't forget you can buy your own copy of Where the Clouds Catch Fire by clicking the "purchase" button on the top of the page. Shipping is free!
Sighing, I rub my eyes and glance at my laptop's clock. 2:38 A.M. When I'm in the midst of relocating someone, sleep is never assured. My client expects the job to be carried out swiftly, and I expect the job to be done well, and Valencia needs to be relocated before she decides to squeal to a friend or relative. I told her to start talking about her vacation to Italy. My plan involved her spending two weeks there, then telling her loved ones she had met and married an Italian man. Valencia objected. Anyone who knew her would know that she wouldn't marry anyone in two weeks, she'd said. She'd known her late husband Dale for five years before they'd married, she'd said. But although her objections were valid, I had to come up with a new plan, which involved Googling reasons to quickly move to a foreign country. She's too young to retire, she doesn't mind the despicable Chicago weather, and while she is Italian she knows of no relatives in Italy. So I sigh, shut my laptop, and leave the issue for another day.
What about a school, I wonder. Would she leave the country to pursue a career dream? Does she have one? I pick up my phone to call her, but I realize that it is 2:42 in the morning, when most sane people are asleep.
I leave my phone on the table and lie on the couch. I always sleep on the couch when I am working on a project like this; it keeps me from oversleeping. I despise the fact that, no matter how late I stay up, I wake up when the first light of dawn shines through my window. And yet I use it to my advantage on occasion.
A light floods my apartment--my phone is vibrating.
I stand and look at my phone. It's a 917 number. I hang up, but the number calls again. So I answer it.
"Austin Mortuary, you stab 'em, we slab 'em," I answer, more out of exhaustion than any real sense of humor.
"Stop messing with me, de Angelis," a cold voice snaps. "When are you getting rid of the girl?"
"Skylar Keeson," I say. "You do realize that it is the middle of the night?"
"Time difference. We need--"
"The time difference makes it 1:44 A.M. where you are. Unless you'd like to be added to my list of targets, hang up and do not call me again. How did you even get my number?"
"I've got friends, too," Keeson says. "Friends in high places--or should I say low places. Friends that are watching you. Friends that are making sure you get the job done right."
"Then ask one of your friends to kill Valencia Marianne Beltramo."
"My friends are good friends, but they're also stupid." I wonder what Keeson could be doing--pacing his bedroom in his pajamas, perhaps, or in his underwear depending on what he wears to bed. "They'll get evidence all over the place. You, de Angelis, are a legend. You work fast. You work clean. And I want you working overtime. Get the job done by November 15, or I will find one of my friends to do it for you."
"My deplorable friend, I suggest you don some pants, make your way to the nearest psychiatry office, and make yourself an appointment, or else ask one of your underlings to get you some Prozac off the streets. A normal person needs the help of drugs or a mental illness to speak to an assassin the way you just did."
"How'd you know I'm not wearing pants?"
"It is 2:49 A.M., rather 1:49 where you live, no one's wearing pants at this hour. Besides myself, rather." I do not see how anyone can have a difficult time relaxing in jeans; I regularly sleep in them. The only bad thing about them is how cold they are when you first slip into them on a frigid winter's morning. "Don't worry about Valencia. That's my job. Keep silent or I'll send you to the afterlife personally."
I hang up the phone, then immediately dial Valencia's number and leave a message: "This is Max. I'm afraid we'll have to move quickly, Valencia. Keeson contacted me. He has friends. Dangerous friends. It's very important that you do exactly as I say, or we could both face morbid danger."
That's what summer feels like, or at least it did back when I didn't have to worry about summer jobs or SAT's or summer classes. I guess it's still pretty fun. I'll be a full-time college kid in the fall, and having taken some dual credit courses, I'm here to share some of my own experiences and even offer a bit of advice. It might not be the best advice. But it's at least what I wish people had told me before I started my higher education.
1. The work isn't actually that hard. It was actually easier than some of the homeschool high-school level work I've done. The primary difference between high school and college, at least for me, was the workload (especially in my U.S. History II class, but more on that later). And the grading methods can be fairly lenient depending on your professor. Some give multiple attempts on quizzes and sometimes even tests; others grade on a curve. A few, though, are pretty strict and don't give much grace. (That being said, all my classes have been online to this point, and real-life classes might be different.)
2. Your college probably has free food. Eat it. My college has a Student Baptist Union that gives out free lunches on Wednesdays. And they're pretty good lunches complete with dessert. I've also heard about snack and sweet giveaways, but I've never attended them. That, I suppose, would be one of the advantages of living on campus.
3. You don't have to buy textbooks from the college's bookstore, but sometimes they're actually cheaper that way. There's multiple websites that will sell or rent you discounted textbooks. I personally have used both Chegg and Textbooks.com with pleasant results. Also, if you have the option to rent textbooks, do it. You'll never use them once your class is over, anyway. The only thing you'll most likely have to pay full price for are internet access codes for math hubs and things of that nature; those can easily cost over $100 but are usually less.
4. If you have the option to live at home, take it. After all, the food is free and you don't have to tell your dog good-bye. This is one of the many reasons community colleges are the best. I live about 20 minutes from my college campus, but since I have online classes, I only have to go there once a month or so for math tests.
5. Read your syllabus. Don't just say, "Oh, I have a test coming up," no, you need to look at your syllabus and circle the date on your calendar (preferably a physical copy) in a red marker. Or whatever else floats your boat. But seriously, I spent 6 hours in a single day studying for my history final because it was due on Tuesday when I thought it was on Thursday. And I also drove the 20 minutes to take a math test the week before it was due, just because I over-trusted my professor's to-do-list emails. In other words, trust but verify.
6. Go back over your tests to mark what you got wrong. And question things. If you think that a problem is right even though it's marked wrong, look it up in your textbook, and email your professor if the book supports your answer. I've gotten multiple points back because of it. Just be respectful in doing so, and don't expect your points back. Sometimes, you're wrong even when you think you're right.
7. Use your study breaks, especially during finals or midterms, to do housework. And I'm not just saying this because I secretly enjoy making people suffer. (Unless you're a fictional character, that is; I'm pretty sure I rival George R.R. Martin in my character cruelty level.) Neither am I some superhuman who enjoys cleaning things. My room looks like it hasn't been cleaned since 1890. But I would take a 5-to-15-minute break every hour while I was studying for finals to do some laundry. It's nice because you get to rest your brain, work your body, and get something done in the process. Besides, there's little chance of getting distracted and spending hours on chores like there is with social media.
8. Take time to do things you enjoy. You'll go crazy without them. Just do everything in moderation. If you love watching YouTube, like I do, try to restrict it to after your work is done. And even if you're typically a couch potato, go take a walk. Do some jumping jacks. Learn the Macarena, whatever it takes to get you moving. It's easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape.
9. This is the real world. You're going to learn about controversial things. My government textbook talks a lot about abortion, guns, and "marriage equality" (if you know what I mean). Of course, if you're coming from a public high school, you're probably already used to stuff like this. But as a homeschooler who grew up fairly sheltered, it came as a shock. I can get uncomfortable at times. Maybe you will, too. But it's really not too bad, and it is something we all need to get used to in this day and age.
10. Never ever, under any circumstances (unless you have no choice), take anything with a 2 after it. In my experience, English Composition II wasn't terrible. And that's not to say that U.S. History II was insanely more difficult than U.S. History I. It's just that we were expected to do twice as much work in the same period of time.
What tips did I miss? What do you wish someone told you before you went to college? Please tell me in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
Guess what? It's Finals Week for Yours Truly, which means I haven't had a chance to work on "Target Twenty-Eight" recently. I'm super sorry, but I can promise you that we're heading towards a bigger climax than any of the short stories you've already seen on my blog. That being said, I encourage you to go back and read some of my previous short stories. Or, you know, pick up the nearest book and read it.
Or don't, because the closest book to me right now is my 1100-page history textbook, of which we've fortunately only covered half this semester. You know what, I'm pretty sure Wendy's has fifty-cent Frostys right now. Go treat yourself. It's a lovely and incredibly hot day outside. At least it is here--for the first time this year, the temperature has passed the 90-degree mark.
I really had better stop procrastinating and get back to studying...
"Why do we worry so much about what other people think of us?" asked the guest speaker in Youth Group. "Why do we change who we are to earn their approval? Why do we put so much effort into our appearance, trying to impress others?"
I understand that a lot of kids in youth need to hear that message. And I learned quite a few things from it, too. But after ten years of homeschooling, it'll take more than hormones to get me interested in my appearance.
Okay, that's not to say that I absolutely don't care about taking care of myself. I shower normally every day, except for some Fridays when I stay up surfing YouTube until 11:00 and it's not worth it anymore. I brush my hair and use generic Proactive on my face. I have my own personal style in clothes, which is best described as Utilitarian Country. I will wear a limited amount of makeup to church, and I will wage a holy war against any pimples that dares show itself on my face.
But what I look like definitely isn't the most important thing in my life. And why should it be? When you're homeschooled, you don't need to try to impress anyone. My parents don't care what I look like. Neither does my sister. Heck, I actually get dressed every morning, which is more than can be said for some homeschoolers.
And this is one of the things I like about homeschooling. I didn't grow up with the pressure of having to impress people. I wore what I wanted to. I spent my money on things for my American Girl doll rather than saving up so I wouldn't be the only kid without a phone. Heck, I don't even know if most kids my age had phones. I just knew my friend Jessie, who lived behind us, had a TV in her bedroom, and that Mom said it wasn't good. Besides, who needs a TV when you have The Boxcar Children?
And during my ten years as a homeschooler, I forged my identity relatively free of bad influences. I picked up hobbies and learned new skills. I learned what I liked and disliked. I grew in my faith without being teased for it. And didn't do any of it based on what others thought about me. The only thing I picked up 'because everyone else did it' was the Silly Bands fad that crossed the nation when I was 9 or so. I'm unique, I'm creative, and I know who I am. And I contribute that, at least in part, to being homeschooled.
Why can't everyone think like that? Why is it so hard to cast off the herd mentality that binds everyone to iPhones and Nikes and trending haircuts? Why do we think that being ourselves is a sin, that we have to look and talk and act just like everyone around us? Because we don't.
People praise fictional characters for their uniqueness. Hiccup doesn't want to kill dragons like the rest of the Vikings on Berk. Tula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding doesn't want to be a "loud, breeding, Greek eater" like the rest of her family. And we love them for it. But what happens when a person in real life breaks tradition? I've literally seen memes saying it's okay to kill morning people, such as myself, and I'm not okay with that. I've just learned not to give a crap.
I'm not telling you to go crazy, but I am giving you a license to be yourself without worrying what other people think about you.
What was a major influence in your life growing up? And, dare I ask, do you prefer Samsung or Apple? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.