Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Post #2: On Sibling Relations: My Friend Aooty

“Stop being so stupid. You’re SO DUMB right now.”

“OH. My. God. Shut up or I will seriously hurt you. NOW!” I yell at the top of my lungs.

“Ughhh, just leave! Whitney, you are soo annoying and stupid!” is the sneering reply I receive, which she yells at the top of her lungs, right before I see a door slamming full speed towards my face.

For anyone who has one of these people in their lives, they know what I mean. No, she’s not my mortal enemy. She’s isn’t some girl who tried to steal my boyfriend, or who spread some nasty rumours about me. No. Those types of people never really elicit this type of response. For anyone who has been in this type of situation, you know who she is. She’s my little sister.

She’s the only person who I find myself fighting with one minute, and then the next minute we’re laughing at YouTube videos or having a Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus-fuelled dance party in my room. Other than my parents, she really is the only other person I fight with. Only it happens with her much more, and the reasons are much more trivial. Like being annoyed with the time she takes to get ready, or having to knock one too many times on her bedroom door before she answers, or not allowing her to borrow one of my shirts, or not watching the TV show she wants to, or… well, you probably get the idea. But I think that’s the luxury in having a sister; she’s the only person I know who I can freely, without any type of fear or censorship, tell “You’re being a loser. Stop bugging me.” Of course I would never say that to any of my other friends. But with my sister, it certainly helps clear up the arguments quickly without any awkward tiptoeing around the subject.

Ashley is two years younger than me, and she’s in her second year at Lakehead University. And to top that off, this year, we’re roommates. I’ll admit that I did have some fears about being her roommate, but it surprisingly seems to be going quite well.

A sister is the kind of person you can call silly nicknames (our most recent are Wooty and Aooty), or stay up late with, or take funny pictures with. One night last summer, she brought her blanket and pillow into my room and asked me permission to sleep on my floor.

“Can we have a sleepover tonight?” she asked as I was already lying in bed.

“Yeah. But I have to wake up early. I have to blow dry my hair in here and you’ll still be sleeping.”

“That’s ok. I wanted to get up early anyways.”

“All right, I hope you’re serious. I don’t like how you get in the mornings!” I said wearily.

She rolled her eyes. “I’m going to go downstairs and make food… Do you want any?”

And so began the summer of continuous sleepovers, my bedroom floor covered in sheets and pillows, and gourmet late-night snacks provided by Ashley. She’s worked in a restaurant for the past four years, and she’s picked up a few tips. She also isn’t afraid of experimenting, so she mixes anything to see if it tastes good. It nearly always does.

However, despite the giggles and snacks at night, every morning I was annoyed again.

“UGH. Why do you set your alarm on your iPod if you don’t plan on getting up to it? It wakes me up too, you know!”

“Sorry… I… I don’t know… Ughhh Whitney...” she’d say some other stuff too, but it got muffled as she turned her alarm off and rolled back into her pillow. When I got up to get ready for work in the morning, she was still sleeping, hiding her face under the pile of blankets and pillows and making barely audible sleep sounds that I assumed indicated annoyance.

Sometimes I asked her to leave, to clear her blankets out so I could have a clean room for once. However, it was only a matter of days until she came back into my room. I was 20 and she was 18, but that didn’t stop us from having sleepovers like we did in elementary school with our friends from class. Except now, I know that my sister can be my friend, too, even if sometimes she feels like my only enemy.

Yesterday, I realized that even though she’s the absolute best at annoying me, she’d also do just about anything to help me. There was a big windstorm and the power went out in our townhouse for at least half an hour, just as I was getting ready in the morning.

“Oh no! I was just about to take a shower! It better go back on soon. I don’t want to take a shower in the pitch black,” I said as I sat on the floor outside the bathroom, wearing only my towel.

Walking out of her bedroom, she said, “Well, I could sit outside the shower and hold up a flashlight.” She started laughing, but her facial expression didn’t indicate sarcasm.


She stood outside the bathroom door and waited until I got into the shower. Then, she balanced three flashlights in her hands, varying between holding them straight up to light up the ceiling, and holding them directly up to the frosted translucent shower curtain. Finally, after about five minutes, she whined, “Woooooty, my arm has been held up for five solid minutes! I need to stop!”

We laughed, and I finished up the shower as we provided our own powerless entertainment by singing songs as she waved the flashlights around the bathroom. For reasons like this, I’m glad I have a little sister. For the price of a few fights a week, I get my very own personal chef, flashlight holder, and best friend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Post #1: My Truth about Stories

I’m an English major. Every time I correct someone’s grammar, everyone else laughs and points out “ohh… you just got English-majored!” I guess most of my friends assume being an English major means that I learn about grammar or speaking English or something. But to me, for the most part, being an English major means that I study literature. However, since I was eight years old, I’ve wanted to write. My truth about stories makes me think about how it felt to be in grade two and to be writing stories in class.

I would sit in the classroom and Mrs. McNichol would announce that for Language Arts class that week, we would be writing stories. I could feel my adrenaline start to pump. Well, maybe it wasn’t that extreme, but it provided me with an excitement that dodge ball or math class couldn’t offer. The stories always had a theme that corresponded to the time of year: Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and so on. We would write our rough drafts and it took forever. I remember having some type of page limit, which I always went over. We would fill our page quota with simple plot lines and elementary dialogue, and then struggle equally as much to ‘edit’ the story. In grade two, there were only two steps to writing: rough draft and good copy. There really was no revision or peer-editing. ‘Editing’ essentially meant proofreading or spell-checking the rough draft. Grammar didn’t even enter into our vocabularies yet, so we simply searched through the freshly-written stories to filter out any spelling errors, and to make sure all the capital letters and apostrophes were in the right places. We then nervously stood at Mrs. McNichol’s desk, watching as her red scribbles on the paper loudly announced: WRONG!

Then we took our papers back to our desks, fixed the embarrassing, red-inked mistakes, and proudly marched back to the teacher’s desk to get permission to enter into good copy transcription phase. Because I enjoyed writing, I was usually among the first students to finish writing and editing. Entering into the next step felt like such a milestone had passed, and I was darn proud. I was ceremoniously handed a fancy piece of paper on which to write the final copy of my story. Or, at least it seemed fancy at the time. Usually it was merely an 8 ½” by 14” piece of paper, but sometimes it was a photocopied 8 ½” by 11” with lines and a clip art picture at the bottom which reflected the theme of the story: pumpkins, Mary and Joseph, Santa, the Easter Bunny. It felt so official either way. Either way, it wasn’t a notebook with blue lines spaced way too far apart, divided evenly by a dotted red line that indicated where to cross your lowercase Ts and make the humps of the lowercase Ms and Ns.

I marched back from Mrs. McNichol’s desk holding my official good copy paper, and wearing my official ‘I’m done my rough draft’ facial expression and sat down at my desk. I stared at the paper at least a minute or so before beginning to set a pencil to it. Carefully, I began with the title. Under it, I printed “By: Whitney.” So far, so good. Now came the hard part. We didn’t use computers, so our good copy had to look as good as pencil on paper, with an eight-year-old’s printing, could possibly look. I carefully transcribed every word like I was writing it for the first time ever. If I made any mistakes, my paper would be scarred with a conspicuous eraser mark. After the agonizing transcription process, the story was usually matted onto some colourful construction paper as a backdrop or stapled into a construction paper cover so that we felt like we’d written our very own books. It felt very official.

Now, writing is different. I feel like it has layers, rather than steps. I usually write everything out, really fast, to get words on the page as quickly as I can think them. I use placeholder words or even placeholder sentences to indicate that something better has to go there. It’s not like in grade two (or at midnight the night before its due), when the goal was to write everything perfect the first time. After everything is spilled out onto page or screen, I read it all. I change it, make it better, substitute the placeholders for what I really wanted to say. If I can, I will get someone to revise it and give me feedback. And then I edit and revise some more. I say it’s more about layers than steps because in grade two, it was rough draft and good copy. Now it’s a bunch of drafts before it gets good. Or maybe it sits for a while without even getting looked at or thought about. I still have a lot of goals about my own writing process. I would like to have more peer editing in my work. I would like to stop procrastinating so that my writing can have as many layers of revision as possible. But I do know that the past fourteen years have taught me that writing isn’t always about the end goal. Most of what it is about for me is the process, and that the process takes a lot longer than brainstorming and putting a few red marks on a piece of paper. Grade two helped me realize that writing can be fun, but the years in between have taught me that it’s a lot of work too.