Tag Archives: love

The Pitfalls and Rewards of Studying Abroad

I am slowly gathering together the things I need for my awesome June residency in Dublin, Ireland. The cost is insane, but the reward will be priceless. The opportunity to write and learn in one of my ancestral homes has been a dream for as long as I can remember.

My process for getting ready has been slow (due to money issues), but as a first time international traveler I have jumped one major hurdle….THE PASSPORT.

I have finally applied for my passport. Most friends and family advised I  do it almost a year in advance to ensure I received it. I could have been super cautious, but the truth is that if you know the system, you don’t have to work that far in advance. Typically in the off season (not Summer/vacation times) it will take about 2 to 3 weeks for your passport to be processed and arrive (according to the guy at the post office). With that in mind, I am confident that applying only a few months before my departure will allow ample time for my passport to arrive.

It was a hairy process to start as many people already know. For those that don’t I will give you a run-down.

1) It’s expensive, so before you begin save at least $150 to cover the costs of getting the passport.

2) Documentation is the most important aspect of this process. If you have all your ducks (papers) in a row, then the process will go by a lot smoother. You will need first: your birth certificate (and if you don’t have that you’ll need to research the alternatives) with raised seal/lettering and both your parents’ names. For Pennsylvanians, this new rule has posed a huge problem. Until somewhat recently, birth certificates in PA did not require the names of parents, which makes the passport application process more difficult. Next, a photo ID (driver’s license usually) will have to be photo copied front and back on one page to prove you are who you are.

3) That damn picture is one of the most difficult parts of the process. If you do it yourself, there is a list of parameters you must follow before it is accepted. And if you don’t do it yourself, the cost of having the post office or acceptance facility will cost you. $40 with the U.S.P.S. to be exact. It may seem excessive, but if you want it done right, then you’re bound to pay the money if you can’t do it yourself.  Although I know that Rite-Aid (drugstore chain) has been known to do passport pictures, as well as AAA for a LOT cheaper.

4) Filling out the application should be the easy part. One thing you must be careful of when filling out important papers is to use pen with care. Read carefully because your responses must be placed correctly or it will not go through. I found that for U.S. citizens, the passport book will let you go anywhere, but the passport card is mainly for traveling just to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, and Bermuda. Be careful about which one you pick because it will save a minute of your time.

5) Finally, paying the fees. Ensure that you have the money set aside and what forms of payment are accepted. If you can figure out how much and who to write the checks to it will make the process go by quicker. Just be sure to have to money in there because they will charge you tons of extra money if you don’t have sufficient funds.

With all of that said, I am looking forward to receiving my passport. I have dreamed of the day I could leave the country, and travel to some of the most exciting places in the world. The postal service employee was intrigued to know why I was going to Ireland, and when I said writer he was surprised. It was nice to received such an optimistic response from a stranger. Some people don’t have respect for the craft, and automatically assume you’re a dumb, starving artist roaming the world for some useless inspiration.

At the same time, he encouraged my dad to get a passport in case I was “hit by a shalelie” and I needed my parents to come get me. Not that I disagree with younger kids going on trips, but I’m 22. Anyway, he continued his monologue by saying that he could easily change my name on my passport if I happened to, you know, get hitched while I’m over there. I was flattered at first by the assumption I was enough of a pretty young thing to attract all of the eligible Irish bachelors.

However, I am not the shallow, insensitive type to fall for a guy with an accent. It is a disgrace for women from America to fall in love with men they don’t know just because they’re from a foreign country. Yes, I’ve just described hundreds of harlequin romances, and every hopeless romantic girl’s dream. I just can’t see it happening. For me, going to a new place is fantastic, but it truly takes longer to know and love someone.

As much as any young woman would be swayed with a drink or two and a crooning Irishman: I have a prince charming already, so hitching a foreign guy would be a waste of a perfectly good relationship right here at home.  Too many women make rash decisions with their fleeting emotions, regretting them soon after. It is easy to feel like you fall in love, but the lasting flame of a strong relationship will overpower the allure of a foreign country. I wish all of the single ladies good luck with their dream to make P.S. I love you come to life, but there is a comfort knowing I will have a devoted man that I know to come home to after my trip is over.

So, the first step in my preparations has been completed. I await the arrival of my passport in a few weeks in addition to saving necessary money for the plane ticket, and the trip. The excitement grows with every mention of Ireland, the writers, and the places we will see. It is the epitome of my life so far, and I will be glowing as I reach the most beautiful place in the world (in my mind).

Dublin, Ireland will be beautiful no matter what anyone says and I'm not even there yet!

Now I must get back to my paper, which is due two days before St. Patrick’s Day.

Happy reading and writing all!

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Love and Valentine’s Day: From A Writer’s Perspective

Since the beginning of time humans have been social creatures. Love is one of the most amazing and mysterious emotions known to man. The old believe love is learned over time and the young think it happens in an instant. Although I’m technically on the young side of the spectrum, my belief about love falls right in the middle. The opportunity for love can happen in the blink of an eye, but it takes time to get to know a person enough to love them. You can be 15 or 65 and fall in love for the first time.

I began dating when I was 16 and you could say I was a hopeless romantic. Learning quickly of heartbreak and rejection, I went through boy like paper towels. I gave my heart to a boy for a few weeks, and found that we weren’t compatible. You might call me shallow or fickle. I bet my parents would have agreed, but I learned how to love from a lot of little  mismatches. I have the pleasure of admitting I’ve been in love more than once, which is a feat not many people enjoy in their lifetimes. It’s not hard to fall in love. The problem people don’t figure out is that if you’re truly in love you never fall out of it. One person decides that the love isn’t real or strong enough to survive. It forces both to move on with their lives, transforming into hatred or if you’re lucky a comforting memory.

From Nietzsche's "On Reading and Writing"

I’d like to think every intimate (meaning close and loving) relationship I’ve had has changed me. Most in a good way, but others in a bad. No matter how the relationship ends, I take from it a learning experience to help me with the next one. The one thing that has never changed about my relationships, though, is the way I express my love. My significant other, old or current, will have collected notes or letters from me over the course of the relationship. I could say it’s an endearing twist on the common communication of past, but I’d be lying. Writing letters to the guy I love is just what I do. I can’t change how I love a man like I can’t change the ethnicity I am.  It is a staple to my life to write my feelings down for those I love.

Since it is the commercial celebration of love and relationships, I decided to explain how being a writer affects my love life. While writers are mostly loners, we long for love. Some of the most famous authors have been left to fulfill their dreams alone. Yet, it is not a lonely life for everyone. Authors like Robert Frost or my favorite, Stephen King have been able to share their dreams with women who care about them. Having someone to share in the trials and rewards is indescribable for a writer. If we have no one to share in the spoils of our craft, then what is the purpose of writing about life in the first place?

Sophocles, the Philosopher

My current boyfriend (hopefully the last) has know me for a good amount of time. As I’m only 22 years old, I haven’t had a lot of time to develop decades of relationships, but the ones I do hold onto are important to me. He’s known me since before I announced myself as a writer, and supports me regardless of the financial misgivings of the profession. It is a passion he respects and doesn’t understand as most people don’t. He cares for what I’m writing, listening as I read my stories to him. But what he enjoys most is my letters. I enjoyed 5 years of work with him, but the three months of work were the most special. I worked at a grocery story. Noble, huh? And with the massive amounts of free time at work I would write on anything I could find. I’d write him several notes a day, every day for over a hundred days. He loved the experience of my writing because it was the most personal and compassionate loving anyone could receive.

Like the sonnets of Shakespeare or Petrarch, love can be told a thousand different ways. But for a writer to love another person, there is no limit to the kinds and combinations of words we can use to express love in the deepest of ways. So, when I began focusing on my school work and spent less time away from my boyfriend, the letters stopped. I was able to see him and express myself in person and no longer needed the letters to show him I cared.

Some of Shakespeare's many thoughts on love

However, I wrote to him unconsciously.  In every story I was writing, I was putting a piece of him in one of my characters. It wasn’t a conscious decision to put him in, but he made a perfect hero in my eyes. All of the things that made me fall in love with him made it easy to put him in my stories. Although it probably would have worked out better if he was a villain, but lucky am I that I got a prince!  You see, it’s one thing to write how much you love someone. It’s a completely different experience to love someone so much that they are written into your stories. It is a blessing and a curse to put people you know in your stories.

Unconsciously, everyone we know helps us to form realistic characters. It is the easiest way for a writer to form a character. In this case, writing the love of my life into my stories is a blessing, so far. He is not phased by his involvement in my stories because I never put all of him in one character. Each person has many different personalities inside them: a soft side, a brave one, a private, and a public one. It allows me to use him without having someone recognize that it’s him. He can be a brave prince and a shy nerd depending on the story, but both describe him in a different way. Each day I have the gift of using someone I love to fuel my need to write.

Looks like philosophers really know their stuff

He is my support, my critic, and my inspiration. He may not know how the gears work inside my head or how it gets on paper. He does know me, and that is the most important thing. As long as he knows that I love him through his participation in my writing, I’m doing my job as his girlfriend and a writer. I’ve contemplated using my love writing skills in Hallmark cards, but the opportunity hasn’t presented itself. You can bet, though, that this Valentine’s Day my boyfriend will receive a card full from corner to corner with loving words specially chosen just for him.

Whether you have the chance to love someone now or are waiting for “the one” there is always hope that love will find a way. If not family and friends can be the best solution to a lonely heart. If not, the bars are open and the bottles are flowing. Go out, date or not and have a fun time 🙂

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Bibliophile or Bibliomaniac?

To most people, neither of the words in the title are particularly familiar. Bookworm is the only word known by all, but even that word isn’t associated with the correct definition.  Both words in the title have the prefix biblio-, which some know to refer to books. But what do the two words mean and how are they different? The first, bibliophile can be broken into two parts, biblio and phile. Philo is the greek prefix meaning love of or to love. So, putting together biblio (books) and phile (love of) gets you a noun describing a lover of books. Most of you following my blog can appreciate a name like that. To love books for what they hold inside each different binding. Bibliophiles are simple creatures enjoying books for the fantastic innovation they have become for story telling.

While  many people think a bookworm would be a lover of books, it is defined instead a branch of the bibliophile. A bookworm is a person who loves books for their content, in other words, for reading. Two seemingly synonymous words actually have a different meaning, just a similar starting point.

Now what do you think when you hear the word bibliomaniac? Sounds like a crazy person, right? Well, you’ve got the root of the definition right there in maniac. It describes a person clinically crazy about books. Now you’re thinking, that can’t be too bad, can it? It’s a version of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that revolves around collecting and sometimes hoarding books. Again, not that bad, right? Not necessarily. For some people being obsessed with books isn’t a life goal and it’s difficult to live in the shadow of those who make books their entire life.

http://members.forbes.com/fyi/2005/1212/162.html

The above link depicts the life of a man who has oh too many bibliomaniacs in his life.  As I read through the story, I felt bad for both the son and his father. The father was addicted to books like drugs, but loved them honestly. He may have neglected his marriage, but he enriched his children and grandchildren with art and history. Unlike most bibliomaniacs, he didn’t hoard books with no point. He was also a bibliophile. He loved them so much that he bought author memorabilia, visited the sites of the famous authors, and passed on the books to his children.  The sad part of the story begins when the author’s father suffers a stroke and the vultures of the world swoop down and scarf up his amazing collection of rare books and art like he was already dead. It was a shame two generations before the author had been spent collecting this priceless library only to have it taken away in his father’s sleep.

The man had known what his collection was worth in dollars, but it was worth so much more in love and enjoyment. He was devastated to find his priceless companions kidnapped in his absence.  He could no longer pass everything down to his son. Even the settlement was not fair to this lover of books. They returned some art, only a few books, and money. Money? Money doesn’t replace the connection the man and his family had to the books. While bibliomania can be considered a curse to some, I’m sure the author respected and treasured the childhood he had because of the love his father and grandfather had for books.

The author ends the story on a positive note because the experience with his book-obsessed father has impressed an important moral in his life. That although his father’s books are now passed around throughout the world, that is the true beauty of them. To share books is to realize their importance and create a bond with other people based on those books. Collecting and reading books forms memories that surpass the ownership of those books in one’s life, but never leave the person whose read them. It is a lovely relationships between the imagination and the soul. The author ends the article with the beginning of his book collection. It seems that no matter how hard you try, bibliophiles and bibliomaniacs alike understand the value of books. Appreciating them yesterday, reading them today, and passing them on to future generations tomorrow.

 

If my library looked like this, it would be worth going crazy over books!

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Murder by Facebook. Wait, what?

As most of you know, there have been some negative effects to the innovation that is social networking. Websites like Twitter and Tumblr have made it easy for people to share their thoughts instantly across the globe.  People easily hand over  their privacy in return for connecting with people countries apart. It’s not difficult to give people all of the information they need to find your house and break in when you’re away.

Facebook has become one of the most used social networking sites in the world, but it comes with a price. Friendships, marriages, and lives have been ruined because of a simple post on Facebook. Although video games like Second Life and W.O.W. have managed to do the same, nothing can compare to the impact social sites  have had on our perception of reality. While a marriage can end because the spouse would rather live his/her Second Life, sites like Facebook and Myspace can tear apart lives as they are being lived. Cyber bullying and murders have stemmed from the trust and lack of privacy on these sites.

Say you have your address posted on your Facebook and your profile is not set to private. Then, you post that you’re going on vacation for a certain amount of time. Someone can very easily go to your house and break in knowing all the information necessary to never be caught in the act.

On this website, it details the 13 Craziest Deaths caused by social media sites.

http://www.ranker.com/list/the-13-craziest-deaths-caused-by-social-media/whitney-milam

The first is relatively harmless compared to others on the list.  A woman from New Zealand got bored  and decided to psychologically scar dozens of young men. She created fake profiles for young women and killed them through various, traumatizing ways.  And this as I said is a tame one. The next one immediately makes you drop your jaw in horror. A woman separated from her husband does the unthinkable and changes her status to single. Terrible huh? She separates from him and changes her status, OMG?! It seems normal, but her husband felt otherwise. His response wasn’t a nasty message on Facebook. Instead, he sneaked into her parents house and stabbed her to death. You’re thinking this only happens in nightmares, not reality, but no. He did it and then he killed himself. Seems just a little over reaction for a simple status change.

Now I know I used to care about what was put on Facebook and what I put on there. It was only after growing up a little did I realize that there was no sense in caring about what people typed about. It matters what people say in person instead. However, these people aren’t just teenagers, they are full grown adults.

As I read on the scenarios get weirder. A son kills his father for taking away his Myspace. I mean, come on, Myspace? It wasn’t even that great! It was cluttered and too many fake emo kids were on it. However, the kid was suicidal and this act of discipline drove him to the edge. Just a different one.

It’s not just limited to Facebook or Myspace. Twitter is a fast, easy place to threaten and kill people you don’t like. One pair of friends had just this happen. One guy killed the other, fighting over a girl, and tweeted about it later. To paraphrase Kanye West, “How could he be so heartless?”

The moral of all of these stories is not to care about what is posted on social networking sites. In the digital age, more social interactions are being transferred online.  However, not everything on there should be taken to the extent that it is. In the real world things can get out of hand pretty easily. Someone can be provoked to do violent things with just a few sentences. It has become a scary world when you can post something on the internet and physically suffer for it.

To me, being careful about the political or spiritual beliefs you have is important to survival nowadays. Sometimes relationships can change because people have become more sensitive to the things being placed on social networking sites. It’s important to take things with a grain of salt in your virtual world and the real one. Please be careful because the next post…could be your last… duh duh duhhhhhhh!

 

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From a Dream…Came a Story

Sometimes, the best story comes from the most unusual places. For me, some of the most vivid dreams would be amazing stories. The other night, I had some amazing scenes appear in a dream that would be perfect for a story.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say reincarnation? Hinduism? Buddhism? Dying and coming back as a dog because you beat them in a past life? Well, all of these answers would be right, but what I want to focus on is how people remember each others souls in new lives.

The setting for the story is going to be multiple places, but primarily will be following the life of a soul from the 1940’s through to modern times. I want to briefly describe some of the past lives and then focus on the struggle she has to find her soul mate one last time.

Like some stories, the two lovers find each other, live in happiness for a short time, and end up dying because they were together. Not necessarily the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet, but the tragic reality that two people try to be together when they aren’t meant to. If you’ve seen the movie Hancock, it’s similar to that. Two similar people determined to love one another, but fated to die when they’re together.

The premise of the story goes something like this:

Two lovers trapped in a loop of never ending rebirth because when they’re together death follows them. If they remain apart they will live long, healthy lives, but they never do. Until one time, Fate adds a twist that will change the future of these lost souls. We follow the lives of the woman. Through her many lives, she attempts to gain the approval of her mother and the eternal love of her soul mate.

The following is the beginning of a prologue. This is not a cheesy harlequin romance. It has a romance in it, but it will be a secondary plot to the journey of the woman’s soul. This is a work in progress so forgive the lack of flow in this short prologue.

Sometimes it’s the same. I come from a wealthy family and he rescues me from my miserable life. Other times, it’s different and we meet like any other couple. We date for a while, and then we fall deeply in love. One thing that never changes is the ending.  If we stay together long enough, we die. It’s the way of the cosmos. Some people just aren’t supposed to be together.  The gods will stop at nothing to make sure that it stays that way.

Our lives have ended so many times I can’t tell you which one was the first time. His name has changed, but one thing has always stayed the same, his hair. It’s a bright, soft strawberry blonde. He wears it long sometimes, when he can. Brushing it out of his face or tucking it behind his ear. That’s the easy way to spot him when we are reborn. If he has that long, beautiful hair, I can pick him out of a crowd. If I could remember that detail about him, I would pick him out in a second.

Alas, I’m not so lucky. My mind is wiped clean when I’m born again, the gods are sure to do that to make our lives a fresh start from the ones we’ve messed up before.

 

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Old Friends and New Places: Part 1

Today, I traveled on a short trip to downtown Pittsburgh to meet my high school for a short tour of the town. I hadn’t seen my friend Megan in years and I was excited to get out of the apartment to do something fun. We decided to walk to a cute bookstore nearby, then to a coffee shop afterward.

Side view of the special edition case

Walking down past the University of Pittsburgh, we stepped into Caliban Bookstore. In a previous post, I described my wish to find a bookstore close to me that I would be able to find awesome books at a good price. I walked into a little piece of book heaven. Shelves from the floor to the ceiling stacked with books! There was a glass case by the register full of rare first or odd editions of books. I walked around with my friend and discovered the world I had been missing.

Loved seeing this many books!It's like a candy store that never cures my sweet tooth for reading

As I browsed the  books available, I marveled at the time it took to acquire all of these amazing and interesting reads.

We went downstairs to the fiction section and I was right at home. I combed through the the shelves looking for books that I would benefit from owning.

I settled on two books from Issac Asimov, who will help me to understand science fiction. Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation  are now sitting at home with me along with a book I will need for my trip to Ireland. James Joyce’s Ulysses by Stuart Gilbert will be my guide to James Joyce after the horror of my Irish short fiction class.  I hope that I can return to the store soon because it was such a rewarding experience. It reminded me of the joy that comes with searching for a book and the love of carrying it home with you.  Below are some more pictures from our tour of the bookstore.

My wonderful finds

They even have a cabinet for tiny books

A look inside the cabinet 🙂

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Back Cover Blurb For a Science Fiction/Fantasy Book

This book idea came about one night in a dream. I woke up with one scene in my mind and immediately wrote it down. Now, several months later I have about 30 pages written and I want to see what people would think. I have had some good reception so far, but I want to know if anyone would buy it. Fans of Resident Evil, Underworld, and post-Apocalypse stories will love this mutation of science fiction and fantasy.

Take a look and tell me whether you would buy a book based on the blurb I’ve created:

In 2037, radiation has transformed human DNA to create blood thirsty monsters that will stop at nothing to satisfy their craving. Diane Connelly, an 18-year-old orphan, fights to find the last of her family’s possessions and reach a secret organization created by her mother to save the human race. Teras Delta is a group of were animals dedicated to the survival of the most important species on the planet, humans.

Diane struggles to accept her birthright and supernatural abilities while traveling the world alone. As she travels the long roads of California, she stumbles upon an unlikely friend and learns how to love the defenseless creatures she is sworn to protect. Will Diane reach Teras Delta alive? Or will the distraction of a new friend drive her down a road she will not return?

 

 

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