Quarantine – Poem by Me

all the doors are shut (the windows too) and i've
never seen this town so empty

last week i forgot to buy milk, and this week i can't 
the grocery store became a barren wasteland

people aren't even bothering with tight-lipped smiles
stay six feet away, my mother reminds me

a walk in the park to escape my house only makes me 
feel more trapped. it's too quiet

i return home, back under a roof and between four walls
only to wish i was outside again

but the sun shines down, and i can feel its warmth
through the glass windowpanes

the palm fronds sway peacefully across the street
i want to join them in their lazy rhythm

in this loneliness, there is beauty

I hope you enjoyed this poem and are staying healthy and safe during these crazy times. I tried to bring a positive spin on the current situation in this poem, but I am still aware of the amount of tragedy and sickness people are experiencing right now. I wish you all the best.

Brooke

How to Fit Reading and Writing Into Your Life

Hello everyone!

I used to think I simply “didn’t have time” to read or write often, even though it was what I enjoyed. Obviously I worked on my time management skills and tried to free up my schedule so I had more free time to do so, but I think it’s even more about your attitude and your love for reading/writing that will make it a bigger part of your life than your actual schedule. If you’ve been trying to get yourself motivated to read and/or write more often, keep on reading!

It sounds silly, but just like with anything you’re trying to make time for in your life, the first and most important step is to truly make it a priority in your head and tell yourself you need to read and write. Obviously not in a way where it puts pressure on yourself, but in a way where you’re making time for it just like any of your other “needs”, like eating and showering. When I first started this blog, I decided I would work on my posts every Saturday morning, and that would dribble into Sunday morning if I didn’t finish. That became a part of my schedule; it’s my sacred time for blogging.

I think reading also helps with motivating you to write, and vice versa; if you’re doing one, you’ll be more inclined and inspired to do the other. Once I started writing more often, I realized being more well-read would improve my writing, and then I dove into whatever books and reading material I could find in my spare time. If you already do one a lot, eventually I think you’ll find yourself doing the other. In this case, try to balance the two- if you’re trying to read a really long book, maybe don’t set a goal of writing a novel at the same time- that sort of thing.

Also, with the quarantine in many states/countries because of the coronavirus, a lot of you probably have a lot more free time on your hands. If reading and writing more has always been a goal of yours, now you can dive straight into it, without having to worry about as strict of time constraints. If you’re still busy working from home/doing online school, you can incorporate a reading hour/half-hour before bed. During my busiest times of the school year, I know I don’t usually end up reading or writing that much either beyond this blog, but it’s all about making the most of the time you do have.

Here’s a few little suggestions I have that are more specific:

  • Sign up for the Poem-A-Day email newsletter here! I did this when someone recommended it to me, and it cheers me up to see a new poem in my email inbox everyday. If you don’t get them right away- check your spam, as sometimes mine get directed to there.
  • Sneak in some reading time by reading on your phone. There’s always reading material online. Whether it’s checking the news and staying informed that way, or reading a blog (hint, hint), you can easily have a few minutes of reading here and there.
  • Read books you’ve already read before. This is nostalgic and usually makes you feel good (I read a bunch of my old childhood favorite books recently and made a post on it that you should go check it out!), and I find it’s also less time-consuming because you already understand everything and it’s more about remembering the story than actually diving into it.
  • Make an informal book club with your friends. It doesn’t have to be an actual book club, but just an agreement that you and some/one of your friends are going to read the same book and discuss it at some point. This holds you accountable in a low-pressure way, and gives you a book buddy so you can motivate each other to read!
  • Write in the notes section of your phone. When I don’t have time to sit down with pen and paper, sometimes I’ll jot the beginnings of poems in my notes, and finish them later. This can also be interesting because once you sit down and think about the idea with fresh eyes, you may take it in a completely different direction.
  • Write a poem every day. This is basically the same thing as reading the Poem-A-Day newsletter but in writing form. It helps you get a feel for your voice and what you like to write about.

I hope this inspires and motivates you to go read a book or write something. Also, remember that writing and reading are supposed to be fun, relaxing pastimes, and it should be something you can look forward to doing, not force yourself to do or dread. I truly believe there’s a type of book/writing for everyone, and I challenge you to find yours.

Brooke

Rejection – Poem by Me

Hello everyone!

Today I have another poem to share with you all. I’m not sure if these unnecessary introductions are necessary at this point; this will probably be the last time that I’ll have this type of lead-in to my writing if it’s already clear from the post title what I’m sharing with you. Hope you enjoy 🙂

if rejection is one thing, it's versatile
with the press of a button, a few uncomfortable words
a shake of the head, a glaring mark in red pen
but it doesn't even hurt then

it creeps into your head, revealing itself in the form of
tears running down your pillowcase
nail-biting and head-scratching
just wondering how, and wondering why

rejection is a double-edged sword
you already know the how, and you want to 
know the why so you'll do better, be better next time
but once someone tells you why,

that's when it hurts.

Hope you enjoyed as always! Rejection is a natural part of life and everyone experiences it from time to time, so try not to let it get you down. I’ve been second-guessing myself a lot lately and feeling rejected in various ways, but it helps to write about it and get the feelings out. Also, I hope you all continue to stay safe and healthy in these tough times.

Brooke

What I Learned From Rereading My Childhood Books

Hello everyone!

Due to all the free time I’ve had at home, I decided I would declutter my bookshelf in my room. I had an idea of which books I had long outgrown and would be able to part with, but I kind of wanted to read them one last time before letting go of them, just to reflect on what my younger self saw in them. I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts on what I read and how I felt during this little process of decluttering, so if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts and possibly doing this yourself, keep on reading!

I’m not going to go too into depth about each specific book that I reread, but in case you’re curious, here’s the list for reference:

  • The Winnie Years series by Lauren Myracle (Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Thirteen Plus One)
  • Canterwood Crest series by Jessica Burkhart (20 books so I won’t list them all!)
  • The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life by Lauren Myracle
  • The Clique by Lisi Harrison
  • The Ashley Project by Melissa de la Cruz
  • Ten Rules for Living With My Sister by Ann M. Martin
  • Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin
  • A Corner of The Universe by Ann M. Martin (this one’s more serious and sad)
  • Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman

They’re all pretty childish, each centered on girls around 10-13. I read them all in the later portion of my elementary school years, but remained attached to them in middle school. I haven’t looked back on any of them in a few years at least, but there were many other books I’ve donated and let go of since I was younger; these were kind of the stragglers remaining on my bookshelf from long ago. Reading them was a huge awakening as to how much I’ve matured, considering I used to think they were such thrilling storylines packed with drama. Now, a few of them just seemed like, well…typical young person problems. Don’t get me wrong, a couple of them tackle more serious issues for youth and teach important life lessons, but a lot of the books were simply obnoxious (The Clique, The Ashley Project).

It was crazy to think about how the girls in these books (middle school age) seemed so old to my fourth and fifth-grade self. Honestly, now I know why- because middle schoolers don’t act like that. At least in my experience, I didn’t have the independence a lot of the book characters did, and that greatly influences the events in the books/what the characters do. The types of books I read also said a lot about the person I aspired to be. A lot of the books focus on privileged, independent preteens with some sort of exciting lives (boarding school, living in the city, take your pick). This is not exactly the type of life I’ve experienced, but I am 100% okay with that now.

I find these books could greatly skew a young, impressionable child’s impression of middle school, but it’s all in good fun. Even as a child, I don’t think I took them too seriously. However, I’m glad I decided to reread them and experience them one more time before letting go of them; I was worried I would get too sentimental and want to hang on to them, but reading them only confirmed I was ready to pass them on to someone else who can enjoy them. The feeling of clearing space on my bookshelf and that these books will get read by others is super special. I’m not sure where to donate them yet and will obviously still be hanging onto them because of the current quarantine, but I’ll figure it out soon.

Overall, I can definitely see how much I’ve grown as a person through even the books I’ve gravitated towards reading. Most of these books were realistic fiction, but now I prefer to read almost anything but realistic fiction, as books are truly an escape. However, at the time I read them, I think these books still were an escape to me, an escape to my ideal middle school/preteen life. I also learned how important it is go through your books and belongings in general to donate things you’re no longer using. I hadn’t even questioned getting rid of these books before, but I’m glad that I finally did since they’ll go to much better use.

I used to be extremely attached to everything I owned and hesitant to get rid of/donate anything, but now I’m almost the opposite and am eager to give away anything I feel I’ve already gotten my use out of. I suggest you also go through your books, reflect on the person you used to be when you read them for the first time and how they helped you grow, and pass them onto someone else if you’re ready. It’s rewarding, I promise!

I hope you enjoyed hearing my perspective on this. I didn’t want to go too into detail on each book since that’s not the most relevant part of this little process, but let me know if you’d like to hear more about any of them 🙂

Brooke

June Gloom in March – Poem by Me

Welcome back everyone!

I have another poem to share with you all today. If you’re new to my blog, you might not know that I live in southern California. We usually get some drizzle and gloomy days in spring, but the past week has actually been abnormally rainy; it was even rainier than our typical winter week this year. I’m usually a fan of the rain and cold weather, but it was off-putting when coupled with the school closure and coronavirus news. In light of everything that’s happening and the recent odd weather, the idea for this poem popped into my head. I hope you enjoy, as always.

the clouds are rolling in, as perfectly round and puffy as marshmallows
but as dark as an unfamiliar room at midnight
night strangles day too early, especially for this time of year
i light a candle and watch the first drop of wax melt but
the minuscule flame has already blown out- ominous, isn't it?

i've come to pray for actual darkness, not this false sense of security
from yellow-tinged lightbulbs and mere seconds of candlelight. if i'm going to sulk in the dark, leave me to it. 

I hope you all are staying safe and healthy. What’s the weather like where you live? By the time this post goes up, it’s most likely back to blue skies and sunshine here, which only makes it harder not to go outside. Please feel free to leave a comment with some feedback or challenges for future writing as well- I’m definitely trying to channel my energy into writing while spending so much time at home 🙂

Brooke

My Favorite Gluten-Free Snacks & Meals

Hello everyone!

Today I will be sharing my favorite gluten-free snacks and foods that I have been eating while being gluten-free/limiting my gluten intake. If you haven’t read my post from yesterday about the reasons I went gluten-free, you should go check it out as well. A couple of these are gluten-free substitutes to foods that normally have gluten in them, but most of them are foods that just don’t have gluten in them, many that I would eat before starting my gluten-free diet; if you’re wondering why they seem pretty common/unoriginal ideas, that might be why. If you’re interested in finding out what I’ve been eating lately, keep on reading!

  • Chocolate Chex – This definitely isn’t the most healthy snack, but I love snacking on cereal, and this cereal happens to be delicious and gluten-free. I had it as my “dessert” on a lot of school nights. Another good cereal snacking option would be good ol’ Cheerios!
  • Burrito bowls (steak, brown rice, black & pinto beans) – This is my favorite lunch. Burritos are one of my favorite foods, but obviously flour tortillas are not gluten-free, so I’ve settled for burrito bowls, which are delicious in their own right. I love to get this exact type of burrito bowl I described at Sharky’s 🙂
  • Burgers (lettuce wrapped) – I can’t say no to a good burger, so I just asked for my burgers at a lettuce wrap at my normal favorite places. It gets some getting used to at first and some places use a lot more lettuce than others, but you still get your meat/protein.
  • Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Nut Kind Bars – These are the tastiest granola bars ever!!! I discovered them at a volunteer meeting where they gave them out to everyone, and I was hooked. I’ve had one in my lunch everyday since.
  • Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta – This honestly tastes just like normal pasta in my opinion (and I’m picky), so I’d say it’s a win. I also love brown rice in general, so that’s a good side dish if you’re looking for one.
  • Toast (gluten-free bread) with fruit – I thought gluten-free bread would be gross, but it’s actually really good toasted. This is my favorite breakfast food at the moment, since I would normally have normal toast with fruit.
  • Hard-boiled eggs – This is a good protein-filled snack or breakfast food. I used to have scrambled eggs in the morning everyday, but hard-boiled eggs are better for on-the-go and rushing in the morning, and I’ve always liked them.
  • Gluten-free chicken nuggets – This is another unhealthy food, but they taste the same as normal chicken nuggets! I’m not exactly sure what brand my mom got, but I think it might be MorningStar. They’re really good and an easy dinner food.

These are honestly the main things that I’ve been eating ever since I went gluten-free. I will say, one gluten-free food I will not recommend is gluten-free pizza. I had some from my favorite pizza place, and it was so disappointing compared to the texture and flavor of their normal pizza. I’m guessing that’s the case with a lot of gluten-free substitutes. I hope this helped you out if you’re looking to to try a gluten-free diet soon. Let me know if you have any recommendations of your own 🙂

Brooke

Why I Went Gluten-Free

Hello everyone!

This is definitely a different topic than what I normally talk about on this blog, but it’s something new that I’ve incorporated into my life and I figured I might as well feature it on here. I have been loosely gluten-free for almost a month now (I’ve had a few days where I ate pizza because I was at friends’ houses and such), and it’s been an interesting experience since I’ve never been on any other sort of “diet” or had food restrictions. I had a couple different motives for deciding to make this change, so I wanted to share my reasoning and experience.

My first and main reason for attempting a gluten-free diet was my constant stomach issues. I’m not exactly sure what’s wrong with my stomach or if it’s a digestive issue, but I had been having burning stomach pain and discomfort as well as issues in the bathroom, and my mom suggested I might have some sort of gluten intolerance. At the time the stomach pains were so intense that I was willing to try anything to make them go away, so we went to the grocery store to get gluten-free bread and pasta, among other things.

I quickly realized that gluten was not the root of my stomach issues. I felt a little better since without eating gluten, I was less bloated by the end of each day, but I still had the burning sensations. However, I decided to stick it through with eating gluten-free because it wasn’t that bad or that drastic of a change, and my friend who went through a similar thing said it takes more than a couple weeks to get all the gluten out of your system.

Before this little experiment, most of the food I ate in a day included gluten, since I eat a lot of carbs and I have a major sweet tooth. This was the second big reason I wanted to play around with being gluten-free; I figured it would force me to eat a little healthier since I couldn’t eat all the cookies and treats that I normally would eat for dessert or go with my friends to get on weekends. It was an easy way to also cut a lot of sugar out of my diet, and I saw results from this; my skin cleared up for the first time in a couple months, and I felt like I looked a lot less bloated everyday.

It was definitely difficult since I did normally eat so many carbs, but it was easy for the most part during the school week. I’ll be making a post shortly about all my favorite gluten-free snacks and meals, so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested. I wanted to mention that going gluten-free isn’t necessarily “healthy,” as you can make it as healthy or as unhealthy as you want to. There are definitely lots of gluten-free substitutes and recipes for cookies and cakes, I just chose not to go that route since one of my main goals was cutting out some of those treats and impulses I normally have. I used the strategy of mainly just avoiding foods with gluten, but there were a few substitutes I got like gluten-free bread.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my gluten-free experience thus far. I’m going to continue monitoring how much gluten I have and trying to avoid eating foods with gluten, but I’m not going to continue a strict gluten-free diet. I think it always helps to try out new things to see if they work for you, but I’m still searching for the cause of my stomach problems. Let me know if you have any recommendations 🙂

Brooke

My Current Reading List

Hello everyone!

As I’ve had more free time on my hands lately, I knew I wanted to do some reading while I had the chance to explore new books. I made a mini list of the books I wanted to read before spring break was over, and I’m trying my best to read everything on it, if not even more books beyond it. If you’re interested in seeing what books I’m currently reading/going to read, keep on reading! A few of these I’ve already read since originally making this reading list, but they’re all books that my English teacher or other people have recently recommended to me.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell – I actually read this in 8th grade in English class so I already have a copy, but we’re reading 1984 in my current English class and my English teacher suggested we read Animal Farm if we were interested in more of Orwell’s work. I remember really liking Animal Farm, so I want to revisit it, especially now that I’ve learned about all of the history behind it in AP Euro this year.
  • A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova – Another recommendation from my English teacher, this again sounded intriguing since I’ll understand the historical context from AP Euro. It’s also not something I would normally read, so I figured I would give it a try.
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell – My English teacher gave us a brief synopsis of this, and I was immediately drawn in. I ordered it on Amazon and I can’t wait to read it! I really like Orwell’s work if you can’t tell.
  • Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell – This was added to my list last minute since the edition of Down and Out in Paris and London that I ordered from Amazon also includes this work. I don’t really know anything about it, but I’m excited to read it.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – I read Jane Eyre in my English class at the beginning of the year, and my English teacher suggested we check out this prequel sort of book after. I had made a mental note to read it at some point but never ended up taking initiative to do so until now, so I’m excited to revisit the world of Mr. Rochester. It sounds intriguing and I’m a sucker for a good prequel type story.
  • Walt Whitman (Selected Poems Collection) by Walt Whitman/State Street Press – This is a little weird since it’s just a book I found on my parents’ bookshelf full of classics and “fancy” books, but I’d heard of Walt Whitman before and since I know a lot of his poems relate to history, I figured it would be an interesting read. I’ve read about half of it so far, but it’s been taking me some time to digest each poem and interpret it.
  • W.B. Yeats (Selected Poems Collection) by W.B. Yeats/State Street Press – This is from the same publisher and it’s the same style collection as the Walt Whitman one, which I also found on my parents’ bookshelf. The name Yeats sounds familiar, but beyond that I’m honestly just trying to expose myself to as much poetry and different work as possible.

I hope this reading list inspired you to make your own, or possibly even read some of these books! I know it’s kind of a strange mix, but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone as well as read some books that my parents already had around the house. Let me know if you have any recommendations 🙂

Brooke

Amidst the Chaos – Poem by Me

Welcome back everyone!

I have another poem to share with you all today. The best way I can describe it is it being my personal take on how crazy life has been lately, especially with the escalation of COVID-19 spreading and creating well, chaos. I’m sure a lot of us have felt life is more chaotic than usual at the moment, so maybe you’ll relate to this poem. I hope you enjoy, as always 🙂

it's a little odd to see my room spinning like this
my sea-foam green walls appear to melt, as if 
they represent my insides. i've felt this way before, 
but never in my own home.

it's scary when the place you've always gone
to calm down isn't safe anymore. it's scarier 
when there's no particular reason that it's not
"safe" and it just isn't. nowhere is.

i press my tongue to the roof of my mouth;
i squeeze the little fold of skin between my index
finger and my thumb, hoping to relieve the
pressure that i feel inside.

the bleak, white light streams in. everything
is still. just as the chaos began, it left.
luckily, it didn't take me with it.

I hope you enjoyed this poem, and I would love to hear some feedback from you guys. I’m always down to have a conversation with some fellow writers! And of course, I hope you all are staying healthy and safe out there. Please make sure to take care of yourselves.

Brooke

Personal Life Update & What I’ll Be Doing Over Break

Hello everyone!

I wanted to do a little personal check-in since I feel like I’ve only mentioned bits and pieces of what’s going on with me on this blog lately. I did make a couple posts about COVID-19 that you could say were more on the personal side, but that wasn’t my intention in making them. In case you want to hear more random things about my life or some insight into a teen’s perspective on life at the moment, keep on reading!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you would know that I write all of my posts for a week the weekend before, so as I am writing this I’m not sure if I will be back in school by the week you’re reading it. However, I’m still going to talk about what my new plans for spring break are, and what else is going on in my life. During the first (possibly only but I doubt it) week of our so-called “corona break” from school, I hung out with my friends one-on-one, tried to get ahead on schoolwork just in case, and cleaned my room. It was the typical type of stuff that I would do if I had extra time to myself on any other week/weekend.

I was disappointed when my mom and I had to cancel our spring break road trip to San Fransisco, but I knew it was for the best. I got my driver’s permit on February 18th, and I’ve barely been able to practice driving, so I plan to do a lot of that over spring break. Driving is more stressful and harder than I expected it to be; I’m fairly young for my grade because I have a summer birthday, and a lot of my friends have turned 16 and have their driver’s licenses already. They’ve all told me how easy it is once you get the hang of it, and how fun it is to drive, but I haven’t really experienced that yet. I’m super anxious and paranoid behind the wheel, and it doesn’t help that I live in Southern California in a fairly traffic-filled area. I’m hoping to get better though, and definitely have been sticking to practicing in residential neighborhoods for now.

I’m also awaiting my final responses from the summer programs I applied to. A few days ago, I actually got a response from the Sewanee Young Writers Conference (*cue drumroll*) and…. I was waitlisted. When I first opened up the email and read my decision I was upset, but the more I thought about it, I’m actually happy and kind of honored. I’ve never applied to anything of the sort and I’ve only really gotten into writing this year, so to be recognized in some way and not get a straight-up rejection was actually somewhat validation for me in a way that I haven’t gotten before. I’m crossing my fingers a spot opens up and/or that I get into Kenyon’s program, but I’m definitely not too upset about the waitlist.

Speaking of semi-rejection, I also applied to be on my school district’s student advisory committee a month ago. I received an email that I was a finalist for the three or four spots open reserved for students from my specific high school, so I had an interview with the committee advisor and the committee’s president. I thought the interview went pretty well and I was hopeful that I would get the spot, but I received an email a week later that they did not choose me to be one of the new representatives. I was really disappointed since it sounded like a great opportunity, but everything happens for a reason and it would’ve added another significant time commitment to my plate.

All my activities have come to a halt in light of the COVID-19 issues, so I don’t really have much on the calendar for spring so far. Yearbook had its last deadline, I have a few more volunteer meetings and leadership meetings, and I’m still consistently being forwarded submissions from Polyphony to edit. In one of the volunteer groups I’m in, I got a leadership position for next year- I’m the corresponding secretary who will keep track of everybody’s volunteer hours and run a social media account. Youth and Government had its last meeting a few weeks ago, and I actually won the Outstanding Sophomore of the Year award! It was voted on by the rest of my delegation and advisors, so I was super honored to win a special award as a first-year member. Other than that as far as activities go, I’m just keeping up with this blog and writing in my free time.

It feels weird to talk about school right now, but I feel like it’s always necessary to do a little check-in. I can’t believe it’s my last quarter of sophomore year, and that I’m going to be a junior. I was supposed to register for my junior year classes, but that day was one of the days during our first week of school closure. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that, but I’m not mad about it being postponed since there’s so many class options and junior year classes are so important; I know I’ll have trouble deciding what classes to take, even though I already have a clear idea of what I think I’ll pick.

It just is so odd to think another summer is on the horizon, and that I’m going to be halfway done with high school/an upperclassman. Soon I’ll have to worry about studying for and taking standardized testing, and actually touring colleges with the intention of possibly applying to them and going there one day. There’s so much ahead, and time is only flying by faster. I’m honestly excited for most of it, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking as well.

At home, things are still chaotic. My grandma is still staying with my family and it looks like she’ll be sticking around for longer than we thought, since she hasn’t been able to go house-hunting in light of the coronavirus epidemic and being cautious about social-distancing since she’s in an at-risk age group. I hope you all are staying safe and managing well at home. It’s been nice to have time to relax in my room, but I’m also going a little stir-crazy.

I hope it wasn’t too boring to read this little update on my life. Things have been so crazy that I wouldn’t be surprised if I forgot to mention something, but I figured I had written enough. Feel free to let me know how your lives are going, I would love to talk to some of you 🙂

Brooke