European Churches = China?

In less than a week, I will be back in the United States and won't see my sister again until February. It's amazing how quickly the time has flown. And yet, time has also dragged on.

By the end of the first week I was not happy. I wanted to be back in the U.S. more than I wanted to spend time with my sister. Now, I take just about everything with a grain of salt (or spit in the Chinese custom).

I will start my teaching of American customs and my life in American hopefully tomorrow depending on what time we will get in on the train from Xi'an. I, personally, can't wait because it gives me something to do other than read massive amounts of fan fiction or read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand for a scholarship.

But right now, we're in Xi'an. It's a very walkable city - thankfully. I was happy to find it so much different than Beijing where I didn't have a great experience. Xi'an is quieter (if you can call it quiet), cleaner and much more people friendly - although the lack of non-expensive resturants can be slightly frustrating.

That being said, there isn't much to see in Xi'an. The Bell and Drum Towers are in the center of town (quite literally for the first one) and other than the Muslim quarter - there isn't much to see in town. The Terra Cotta Warriors are about an hour by bus and while I am happy to have seen them, you need an imagination to imagine people building them. Thankfully, I have one!

It's been a love/hate experience with China and now, instead of saying that it was good to see my sister, I can say that it was an experience. Because that's what is has been. It's been something I will remember forever, and also not want to experience again. It's weird but also so completely normal. In a way, it is like when we would visit millions of churches in Europe. I would say, "Oh, that's a cool church," but then I wouldn't want to return. China has been like that for me.

Later, I'll talk about hostel life - when I get the chance. For now, someone wants the computer.

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Trig and Chemistry

I taught for the first time the other day. A lesson that I thought would take at least twenty minutes took maybe five. And I was talking slow! There's some things I realized I need to add, revisit and think about some more before I decide to teach that lesson again. If I want to give Maggie's students a true vision of what life as an American high schooler is, then I need to be more detailed.

The other day, while in one of the Junior 3's classrooms I noticeed a board which I guessed to be a no-name board. Most of it was jibberish as all Chinese except the word for 'exit' is. And then I noticed something eerily familiar. AlSo3 I think was what it was. And then with an excited squeak, I looked to Maggie, "It's Chemistry!"

Naturally, Maggie's students found it amusing that I figured out it was Chemistry. What? I'm a senior in high school - I should be able to recognize a chemical reaction formula! That being said, I couldn't tell what type of reaction because above the arrows where it normally tells the energy or what have you, it was written in Chinese.

These Junior 3's are the equivalent of freshman - 14 years old - and they are all taking full-blown Chemistry! I took Chemistry as a freshman but I was by people who were juniors.

Then, walking past a classroom on the senior campus (where we live) I saw a very, very familiar math equation on the screen. They were simplifying trigometric functions. Again with the amazing-ness! I took Trigonometry as a junior and there are quite a few people in my high school that will never take it.

I find it amazing how when I came to China I felt like I was slightly better than my sister's Chinese students because I a) knew English and b) had more money. It was a subconscious thing. But every day these kids amaze me. They are so intelligent. I won't say they are more intelligent than Americans because they have trouble with creativity.

They don't have any "creative" classes - yearbook, newspaper, sculpture (art although generally the students, it seems, don't take it). My sister says that they are not allowed to major in fun things either. They are amazed when they found out that I am going to major in Creative Writing and History. That is just beyond them.

And yet, they are so smart. They have a passion and an eagerness for learning that surprises me constantly. It's a great feeling to know that you can still be taught something even when you aren't expecting to learn.

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Not So Much

I've been in China since Saturday afternoon and I have decided it's definitely no Europe. And maybe that's my fault because I was hoping it would be like Europe. And maybe it's that I'm not used to something so completely, utterly different than what I know. Whatever the case is, China has taken my expectations and blown them out the window.

Walking off the airplane I was happy to see a glass, stable, permanent jet way. Jet ways scare me to death so it was nice to know this one wasn't going to fall. Entering the actual airport it was gorgeous. If it wasn't against Chinese law I would have taken pictures of it. It opened just before the Olympics so it's new and very airy.

A health check (walking through temperature gauges) and customs proved to be scary. There are about twenty customs lines, each with a Chinese official in a surgical mask. Yes, a surgical mask. They don't want to get sick (who does?) and they check your passport and visa - making sure, I assume, you were on the plane manifesto.

Seeing my sister was absolutely amazing. It even made up for the fact that I had McDonalds two meals in a row (minus the meals on the plane). We got to our hostel and by 7 p.m (5 a.m in the U.S.) I was out.

Beijing turned out to be an experience and preferably one I won't have to repeat very often. (Or at all in the case of the metro experience.) The streets are dark, littered with garbage everywhere. And you have to make sure you are avoiding the spitting. Apparently the Chinese believe that is bad to keep phlegm in your body so they spit it out. And also, they wear knit surgical masks because they want to keep their mouth warm. Interesting huh?

We weren't rushing but somehow we got through the Forbidden City and Tian'amen Square in about three hours. The Forbidden City is cool for about the first five buildings. After that it's like, "Oh, more Ming architecture."

Lunch was at a Muslim restaurant where the beef wasn't of great quality - but we were hungry and wanted food.

The Chinese metros rarely have escalators and never elevators so we lugged my two suitcases all around the metro. We think about half of China's population was on those metro rides. There aren't weekends for the Chinese, as I've experienced.

We changed train tickets and had an absolutely horrible experience with the train. Now we know never to get standing room only tickets on a train again. Arriving in Handan around 8:30 we got to Maggie's apartment and then almost promptly went to sleep.

The next morning I went to class with her. And that was an experience of a lifetime. I walked in to a class of 65 students to find them cheering and clapping for me. It was definitely overwhelming. So far I've been to two classes - I'm going to more after lunch. And they were both Junior 1's - the first year of middle school for them. Both classes asked me my age (they thought I was old) and then later, in the second class, they brought Chinese dimes to me and asked if I would buy them an iPod. Sorry honeys, that won't buy an iPod.

I had something at lunch that really turned my stomach and so yesterday I skipped two classes so I could rest and be near a bathroom in case I needed to throw up. After eating some fried rice last night and again today for lunch, I am much better. So yay for so far avoiding the dreaded traveller's sickness.

Until later -

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Portfolio and China

In less than a week I will be in Beijing, China with my absolutely amazing sister. And I could probably go on and on and on (and on!) about how excited I am to see her, to see China and see some monks kick some kung fu butt. (Plus the Muslim bakeries) But I won't. Because there's plenty of time for that once I get to China (or at least, on the 14 hour plane ride.)

I've been retyping some school essays so I can get rid of them and have a digital copy instead. As a future English and History major I need to have samples of my writing for... something I think. If nothing more than to get inspired (yes, I'm weird). But as I'm retyping them I'm realizing I write much better history papers than I do English papers. Is that weird or what? My AP World History papers are much more fluid, more solid reasoned and except for I tend to like to use the word governments over and over, are pretty good. My Honors English II essays? Oh good Merlin they are terrible!

This year I'm taking Humanities which is basically a philosophy slash social science slash English class. And I'm starting to be able to write good English papers that are well thought out (in blue book style which is hard for me.) However, I haven't written a "what's the symbolism in this piece?" paper in about eight months, maybe more. I'm wondering how that's going to affect me when I'm forced to write papers like that for college.

Don't get me wrong, I still love English more than history but for some reason, I happen to be better at history writing. Weird.


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S-p-e-e-e-c-h (Part 1 of many)

I plan on competing in the Illinois speech competitions this year with my original oratory so I can get used to slowing down my voice. Because, apparently, when I get excited or nervous, I talk faster than the Mercedes on the autobahn.

I knew that Illinois speech competitions are held earlier in the year than Iowa so I knew I needed to find a topic soon so it would be written soon. I meandered around with different concepts and their effect on political standing (left or right) but I couldn't find the information I wanted or needed.

In comes my sister. She suggested doing something about firewalls and comparing them. It sounded interesting since she knows first-hand the issues Chinese people have with their internet and I know from my high school blocking sites like the New York Times blogs. I mean, honestly? Who blocks the New York Times blogs?

Anyway, here I go on a journey to learn about firewalls. Wish me luck!

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Dude, it's like... an epiphany!

There's irony in the title in that my epiphany was of a higher plane of thinking (or so said a friend) and yet, here is the title that sounds very surfer-dude-ish.

I went on a visit to my college of choice: Carroll University. I'm planning on enrolling and I'm super excited, as evident by my enthusiasm during my visit, despite being asked what I was majoring in and what other schools I applied to about twenty times in a period of thirty minutes.

However, my college visit came with a drawback - I didn't have time to write much more than a few journal entries. When I got home on Sunday I was 7, almost 8,000 words behind. I thought I would try to catch up but then that night as I journaled I realized I didn't want to catch up. I didn't want to force my ideas. I know I can write a novel so NaNo is more of a push in words. And NaNo definitely has it's uses but I don't see it as a thing for me right now.

Don't doubt, NaNoWriMo has helped me write my first novel draft although because of the word goal I ended up with about 15K of crud to be cut. NaNoWriMo has given me confidence as a writer and I love it to death. But it's not for me at this point in time.

Right now I don't want to focus on word count. Sure, I want to write every day but I want to focus on ideas and not words. I think if I do that, I'll have more solid plots, subplots, characters and then eventually novels. And that's my goal - to become a stronger writer.

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NaNo Day 9

The first week is over and unfortunately, life is starting to ascert itself. I am applying for scholarships which require essays and since I know they will take awhile, I haven't started them so not to detract from NaNo. Not a great idea.

Then there's the issue of my sister's Christmas present. I need to have it done soon since I leave in 32 days and I've got to get a few special things to complete it. Sorry for the vagueness, but she reads my blog (hi you know who!) and I don't want her knowing.

Of course, I'm keeping up with my word count but not with everything else. Tonight I'm going to yoga so maybe I'll have the clear mind to get everything accomplished.

13,942 words strong!

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At the end of Week One

I should be at 11,667 by the end of tonight. I know I'll make it but at the moment I'm at 10,275. I'm not that far behind, honestly. I just haven't done my word count for the day.

It's been an interesting first week. I am still waiting very impatiently for my ACT scores and my senior fall photos to come up so I've spent quite a few fifteen minute chunks of time on the website or Elizabeth Somes' website. Like now - I'm checking her website to see if they're up. They were suppose to be up last Sunday. Oh well. Hopefully they'll be up soon.

I've also somewhat completely scrapped my plot idea for NaNo. The Depth of Emotions is now on hold. I'm having a really hard time writing it. I think it's because the muses are saying anything right now. Which is extremely sad since now I only have real people (you know who you are ;)) to distract me in physics.

So what has my NaNo become? Well, it's a continuation in some forms, of my NaNo 2007 memoir, Outside the Inner Fence about my time in Germany. But now it's a bit different. I'm taking journal entries I've written previously and turning it into something.... well, I'm not exactly sure. But I like it. I like it a lot.

We'll see where it takes me. But for now, I'm going to go work on my word count.

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NaNo, NaNo, NANO!

No, this has absolutely nothing to do with the iPod product (although my mom loves her's). This has everything to do with something called National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known all around the world as NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short.

A little history first - NaNoWriMo is in it's 11th year run by Chris Baty - one crazy man who makes us all realize we can achieve just about anything we set our mind to. NaNo is now... well, it's over 10,000 writers so that's a big 'we'.

The goal: Write 50,000 on a brand spankin' new novel in 30 days. (1,667 words a day for the math curious.)

So far I'm about 1,000 words behind due to a cold which I have now gotten over. And of course, I'm not the traditional NaNo-ist this year - yes I'm writing a novel - I'm counting blog posts and side stories as long as they are new words. I know my NaNo novel - titled The Depth of Emotions is not formulated enough that I can do it any justice. Is this cheating? Will the NaNo police come after me?

I don't think so. Because NaNo is an honor system. I believe blogging and side stories are still words - they're still important and helping me push forward in my writing. And if I believe they're words, then they're words. :)

So I'm off to finish my word count for the day. Let's hope it goes well!

Annieca with 3935 / 50,000 words

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Nostalgia or Lack Thereof

Today I took the ACT for the last time. That stupid, four hours of torture "have your brain fall into a puddle on the floor" test. Yep, it's the American College Test if I remember the acronym correctly. And it's my ticket to get into well...nothing really.

True, I needed to take the ACT to get into Carroll or North Central (who accepted me this week and told me I would recieve $16,000 on admission). But now I'm in, I've got the scholarship from the college and I'm ready for whatever comes next.

But, being the unhappy perfectionist that I am, I decided to take the ACT one more time. I was trying to improve on my score of 28. Part of it's a sibling rivalry in which my sister got a 30 and I want to best her. Part of it is just me.

So I went into Pleasant Valley High School (oh I could rant about them and their elitist school and uninspiring learning environment but I won't) to take the ACT one last time.

And I came out feeling pretty good. My pacing was much better and I didn't feel like "WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?" like I sometimes do on standarized tests. And now, I have the happy announcement to make that I shall never have to take another standardized test in high school or college - until I take the GRE.

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I've never been a fan of tightropes - even balance beams. I've always felt that I'm going to fall. It's a fear of mine - falling.

So imagine putting someone in a few high stress positions and then making her walk across that balance beam of life. Yeah, it doesn't work too well.

While I have already decided that I'm going to go to Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin (Go Pioneers!), the college process has become slightly stressful for me. I had, earlier this weekend, one fellowship application, one full-ride scholarship application and one honors program application. Then when I decided I didn't want to go anywhere but Carroll I realized I then needed to fill out my Intent to Enroll form.

Now, at about dinner time on Sunday I have my fellowship application in the mail, my honors program application just needs to be printed out and my full-tution scholarship needs some finishing. So while I have it under control, I still feel slightly stressed.

I'm stressed because there is a huge pressure on me to get as much money as possible for college despite the $13,000 I earned from being in the top ten percent of my class and being a leader. This pressure isn't just in the form of scholarship applications and keeping my grades up, but on improving my ACT score (I've got a 28 right now) and gettinga 4 on my AP Spanish test this May. Improving my ACT score won't help much for scholarship purposes for Carroll but apparently it will help with other things. It's like National Honor Society - pointless to the college who has already accepted me.

This year History Day has started stressing me out early. The theme this year, "Innovation and Impact in History" is an extremely difficult theme and my topic, "Jane Austen," while fun to learn about, has not provided many views on how she was innovative. I know once I email some professors from different universities I will have a better idea but again, that requires that I email them.

Because of the stress of school, college, History Day and other things I have decided to take a break from writing - my true love. It's painful to think that I am going to have to restrain myself from going full-out on writing whatever I'm working on so that I have time for less-fun endevours. I know however, that saving my imagination for NaNoWriMo should be beneficial.

So we'll see how the next two or three weeks goes. I'm going to be on this tightrope/balance beam for awhile and I need to learn how to balance. Let's hope there's a net below when I end up falling - because eventually I will fall - if not now, sometime.

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Thick Skin Club

It takes a certain type of person to write, I think. It takes someone with extremely thick skin. That's something I don't have. Enter in Mr. Williams, my fearless, brilliant college Humanities (official name: Humanities of the Early World) teacher. He's by far, the best teacher I have ever had in high school and actually, ever. I respect his opinion probably more than I should. It's an idea he brought up in class before.

But enough about the wonderful English teacher, there's something more important. We're going back to thick skin. I have been getting okay grades on my analysis of different pieces we've read in Humanities. That was, until we did our most recent essay answers. (He doesn't believe in the five paragraph essay.) I almost failed those essays. I was hurt, I was angry and if I hadn't really extremely focused, I would have been crying in class seeing the grade.

You see, I trust Mr. Williams opinion but I thought I had wrote a better test than the grade he had given me. I hate to have people be overly critical of my writing – even my analysis of something or a non-creative paper – because I take it as an attack on myself. It seems weird but part of it has to do with the fact that I consider myself a writer – writing is who I am. So when someone criticizes my writing my brain immediately puts up walls and says “You're being criticized.” Not my writing...

I want to work on my skin and toughening it up because college can be brutal. I know I'll have professors who absolutely hate my writing style and will give me a bad grade just because of that. (Or so I've heard.) I know that I will get rejection letter after rejection letter when I submit my novel, Build You Wings. And I need a way to just brush all of that out.

In case anyone was wondering, I did end up talking to Mr. Williams about how I could improve my writing so that I will never get a grade like that again. And now that I am armed with tips, my skin just needs some roughing – that's the only way it's going to get thicker.

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Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night

First off, credit to The Black Eyed Peas for their song.

After rushing home from Emma Young Park in Clinton where we had a cross country meet (covered in mud) I took a short nap and started to get ready. Half an hour earlier than I expected, my date showed up - with his mom. Two things I definitely wasn't expecting. I hadn't gotten my purse together yet so in the process I had forgotten my ID and grabbed mismatched socks for when we were suppose to go bowling. Both didn't matter though since my parents were working the dance and we ended up not going bowling.

After an interesting dinner with 8 girls and my date at Applebees we went to a friend's house to play Buzzword, Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling. It was a bundle of laughs and it was just great - I loved it. I didn't even think about the fact that this was my senior homecoming and I'm not going to have one of these again.

At the dance I found out just what awkward can be. My date doesn't do clubbing dance - the basis of our school dances. I love clubbing dancing since prom last year so I didn't know what to do. I wanted to dance but I didn't want to make him feel like an idiot just standing there while I danced with my girlfriends.

Thankfully a guy I know from the school newspaper came and helped get my date to dance and then it was all fun from there.

Arriving at home around 11:30 at night I promptly dropped into bed. But this morning the aftereffects of not drinking enough water and it being my last homecoming were apparent. I felt sad that I wouldn't have another Homecoming week - especially since this week wasn't all that great due to the weather and us losing our game. I had a headache but that's slowly going away due to my drinking more liquids.

It's going to be a night I'm going to remember for awhile and I've learned a few lessons - dance even if you don't think you want to or know how to - make sure you're one hundred percent comfortable with who you are and who your date is and lastly... just have fun! High school isn't the best time of your life but it certainly can be close up there.

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Money (insert Beetles tune here)

Having finished the first draft of my National Honor Society essay on character (it's about two lines too long so that's why it's a first draft), I realized how important money has become in my life.

I used to think that the economy hasn't affected my family that much money wise. Before the crash we drove two Toyotas, didn't eat out a whole lot and enjoyed an existance that was definitely middle class. Most of that was by choice - we could have stayed in Germany and been upper-middle class but that came at a cost - being away from my sister in college.

Paying for Maggie's college meant we were a little more frugal - we didn't go out to dinner quite as much - and it was important for her to keep up her grades for the scholarship.

Four years later with my sister teaching in China and my senior year of high school, I can definitely tell a change has come about in our way of life.

I lost about 20% (give or take) of my college savings fund due to the stock market. Iowa College Savings Plan has the money I recieved from my grandmother's inheritance and the money my father puts in every paycheck and part of that is in the stock exchange. Needless to say, when it tanked, so did my savings.

However, I'm up to a respectable $31,000 in my fund with a special bond from a family member to only be used for college.

Looking for colleges I was pressed with the idea we had to be able to afford it. This caused some major stress so I was happy when I was guarenteed (even before admittance) $12,500 at Carroll University. It meant that college would not be as much of a financial burden on my parents.

And yet, I can still see the stress. We never go out to eat anymore and leftover night has become common. My mom has been cooking less meat (probably healthier for us) and loads more chicken. She's a coupon-aholic and shops around for the best deals. In many ways this is good for my family. We save money and live healthier. But it comes at a cost.

It comes at the cost that I have to wait for payday to ask for anything - even something as simple as a binder for school or ink for the printer. It comes at the cost that I have to buy my own clothes now because I know we can't necessarily afford my new taste in Gap.

And yet, these aren't things that bother me as much as some things. The biggest thing that bothers me about money is how my mom talks about it. She argues if the insurance company overcharges her $10 or if the morgage doesn't realize that she sent two payments instead of one. Things my mom would never take advantage of before have been taken advantage of. Like the Dollar Store. I know that dollar store vitamins have been studied for not having the right nutrients and actually occasionally being dangerous. But I now have dollar store vitamins.

I don't mind that - as long as I stay safe. But I hate hearing constantly about money. We don't have any more expenses than we did before the economy tanked. My sister's college money is now going into my account and I still get the same amount of allowance. If anything, we're actually doing better because the bonuses are better. But it constantly is brought up. I honestly dislike it. I would rather be oblivious to our financial situation than know what I know now because of Mom's commenting.

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The Definition of Failure

There is no failure except in no longer trying. ~ Elbert Hubbard

Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle. ~ James Russell Lowell

If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down. ~ Mary Pickford

Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. ~ Both by Thomas Edison

There are no failures - just experiences and your reactions to them. ~ Tom Krause

Lastly, Webster defines failure as "a lack of success" and "a falling short."

Knowing what all these people say about failure I think sometimes school has it wrong. True, there are people who don't try and therefore, they fail. And then there are those, like me with my AP Spanish, that try and fail.

Failure is never fatal. It's an interesting concept that I don't think many people think about how it could be misconstrued. Failure in a class can result in a low GPA which affects everything from college admissions, to college scholarships, to job prospects later on in life. Failure also knocks confidence down.

I am dropping my AP Spanish class that's online. Yes, I am failing it. And yes, it can be seen as a personal failure because I'm quitting it. But I'm not quitting Spanish. I'm just quitting this class that I cannot learn from. I do not learn a foreign language through the internet. That is not my learning style.

So failure... is whatever we make it out to be. For me it isn't dropping out of this class, but instead, it would be staying in the class because I am doing myself no service to stay in.

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I'm finding out...

This week has been insane for me. And this upcoming week won't be much better.

This week has been hard for me - I failed a Spanish test that I really needed to ace to help my grade. I miss my sister in China and December can't come soon enough for that reason.

I'm finding out a friend's relationship with her boyfriend of almost two years is crumbling and neither will admit it.
I'm finding out that I really want to ask this guy to Homecoming but I'm scarred from two previous asking experiences.
I'm finding out that getting accepted to college may make your self confidence soar for a few days but then reality reminds you that life sucks.
I'm finding out that my friends on a writing community I'm involved in are ignoring me, maybe on purpose, but probably not, and so inevitably I feel alone.
I'm finding that cross country is not getting easier.
I'm finding out that when I ask a question on Yahoo Answers people think my novel is "just another cancer/ My Sister's Keeper novel."
I'm finding out that when I'm going 5 miles under the speed limit people like to tailgate me.

I'm finding that I love a church that accepts everyone.

I'm also finding out that this week I have two meets, two team dinners (one's a picnic) and another Spanish test.

Sometimes finding things out isn't all that fun.

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Cross Country

I had one of the two farthest away meets last night at Cedar Rapids Jefferson - Noelridge Park. It was a nice course though a bit boring and lackluster in the hill department (our girls didn't mind the second problem). When we got there it was my job to stand at the two-mile mark and take splits. Taking splits becomes a little competitive to see who can yell over everyone else but that's not important.

The two mile mark was between four baseball fields with a football field in the middle - weird I know. But from where I sat underneath a tree I got to see a junior high football game, baseball practice, and my absolute favorite - rugby practice. I mean, honestly, how many times a week do you get to watch rugby practice if you aren't in some place where you sing "God Save the Queen" as your national anthem?

Another plus of being a timer is seeing all the girls. I see the good, I see the bad and I see the ugly. I see people trip over the only big hill. And then comes the best part - cheering them on. It's one thing to cheer my girls on. That's easy. But a girl was running Fresh-Soph from Iowa City High and she was really struggling. I smiled at her and told her "Good job! You're almost there!" (In Iowa girls run 2.5 miles.) She looked up at me and smiled hugely. "Thanks!"

And despite the fact that I could be happy about so many other things, having just come out of a really horrendous school day, it made my day.

On the bus back, watching the headlights pass us as we went along I-80, I sat next to our home-schooled girl Katie. And I found somebody I like to talk to and wish I had started talking to her earlier this season.

It's a great experience - cross country. And I only wish I had done it all four years. (Well, for the people - of course not for the running!)

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I have been driving myself for about a week now I would say. It's not scary at all although I still dislike parking (I park like a German) and I absolutely hate going twenty-five on Iowa Street. It's sooo slow!

But now, to get away from sounding like a whiney two year old, I'll change the subject slightly. Today I drove to practice after dropping Mom off at home and then went to team dinner (super yummy) before leaving for home. On the way home the radio was playing one of my favorite songs so I turned it up and just taped along, lipsynching like nothing else mattered. It was fun and I felt like a teenager just having fun.

I'm not quiet completely insured yet, but tomorrow I will be. And then due to a business trip to Indianapolis, I have the car all to myself. I can go to whatever church I want, I can go to the mall if I want. I can reset all the presets on the radio (Okay, not really but...) and I can just be me.

I'm not ready for the responsibility of being a full-time driver but I'm realizing I like driving. I like the freedom and I like that I can sing in the car and there's nobody to look at me weird.

What do you think? Driving fun or a horror?

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Being a Senior

First off, let me start out with an obnoxious cheer.


This is what we call the "Mr. Denner cheer." Mr. Denner, my eighth grade American Issues teacher and my Honors U.S. History teacher, has been teaching at my school for 30 years. And that's been his cheer for thirty years. When he retires nobody will be able to beat him. Honestly. And he's also the "Voice of the Lancers" because he runs all of our pep auds and announces all the home sporting events. He's got the perfect voice for it and he gets excited easily. He's a great guy.

Today was the first pep aud of the year, ironically enough, in the Pit, home of the Lancers. It was the first time I could officially sit on the senior side and even though I didn't have anyone to sit with because all my friends were in band, I felt exilerated. I was a senior! Little things have started to make it sink in like getting accepted to college or realizing that I can walk around without a pass and there's not a teacher that's going to stop me. (Well, except Mr. Hawley.) I have influence over the freshman and I can be a role model to those who need one.

All those things have been driving home the fact I'm a senior ( realization that graduation is in nine months will come later...) but the one thing that really did it was today at the pep aud. I cheered, I clapped and I sang to the fight song not caring what anyone else said. I was a senior and for that moment, despite not liking Iowa and so ready to get out of it, I was an Iowa teenager. And I loved every second of it.

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Acceptance number 1!

My family and I were sitting down to work out when my dad was going to take his days off for the rest of the year when I decided, on a whim, to check my email on my iPod. Lo and behold I had an email from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

I had been accepted!

And not only had I been accepted, but I had been giving $13,000 in scholarships. $12,500 for being in the top ten percent of my class and having an ACT score of 28 and then $500 for a Leadership scholarship.

So I immediately told my parents but then I wanted to tell my sister who is in China. I didn't want to tell anyone else until I told her. She's my other half, my amazing sister so I checked if she was on Skype. Half an hour later we were done talking and I still couldn't peel myself off the ceiling. I think I'm still up there.

I'm still going to apply for a history scholarship since I think that's going to be my double major second major (writing, of course, being my first). We'll see how that goes.

But yay! I have one college that wants me! Farmington, now it's your turn to tell me you love me or some sort like that.

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College Admissions Essays

I am applying to two colleges I am sure I would be happy at for either. They are Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin (Pioneers) and the Univeristy of Maine at Farmington (Beavers). Farmington requires two essays - one about family or to explain something that might be unclear and the second is either a personal statement or a essay of personal choice.

So I wrote about History Day and how it has made me a better person, a better writer, a better researcher. It's almost done which means I get to send it off as soon as the editing is done. Yay for having a second college application sent off! (I sent North Central College's application off in July.)

Carroll requires a personal statement. Which makes me want to know, how personal do they want it to be. I mean, I know they want to know my academic goals which I have no problem describing, but it's not personal. I mean, my goal to be a creative writing professor is not something entirely unique is it - at least for someone going to major in writing? So now I'm wondering how to make it personal and also get across what my goals are. We'll see how that goes.

I'll keep you posted.

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Because Life Doesn't Come with a Title: AKA Welcome

A school district in Iowa has just started up again for the year. Soon football games and pep rallies will fill the student’s time. They will all be searching for some meaning – the freshman figuring out where they belong in the scheme of high school, the seniors trying to figure out where they fit in this world. For one senior – this senior – this task will be more difficult than perhaps, for others. And she will come with her love of writing and her passion for life to see what else is out there – to see who she will become and who she can be.

Now that the third-person introduction is done, I feel the need to tell anybody who is listening who I am as a first-person. My name is Ann and I am that senior. I love writing more than perhaps anything else, save my family. So the idea of writing about my senior year and then onto college came naturally to me. But why a blog, why about figuring out who I am as a writer, a human being, a student, a mentor?

Because defining yourself comes not only from who you have been in the past, but who you want to be in the future. When you are born you are given a name from your parents. Sometimes you hate the name and sometimes you absolutely love it. But a name does not define you – it merely… helps you along. Have you ever had someone say to you, “Wow you don’t look like (insert name here)”? Exactly – your name is not always indicative of who you will be.

A name is not like a title; a title is something stronger with more sticking power than the average baby name book. A title can define you – but more often than not, you define the title. The title can be something silly like “Cheesy Risotto Lover who hates cats” or something serious as a personal ambition: “Become the next UN Ambassador to the U.S.”

So why did I give this blog the title “To Be Titled”? Because life doesn’t come with a title. It’s as simple as that. When you are born you are not given a title unless you are British and a noble. You have to create your own title based on who you want to become but also who you are.

“To Be Titled” also fits for me because I am a writer. I write whatever my heart feels and whatever my muse guides me to. My writing is often not titled until after it is done with a first draft because a title defines – and I don’t want a piece defined until it knows where it will and has gone. “To Be Titled” works because it speaks of my writing and it also speaks of my life as a senior in high school, looking forward to what comes next, wondering where and how she’ll get through it all.

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