On a Dark Desert Highway.

Maybe you like the oldies-but-goodies, maybe you don’t. But one song that I find myself attached to by strong memories of the shore is the legendary song “Hotel California” by the even more legendary Eagles. The song came on Sirius Radio in my friend’s car while we were en route to our shopping trip last week. The temperature was a bit above freezing, there was snow on the ground, I had a handmade, thick-as-concrete scarf yanked around my neck. It was cold, guys. But as soon as I heard those opening notes being strummed, it was like I had been plucked out of the car and plopped onto the burning sand of my second home: the beach. Specifically Long Beach Island, with its quiet atmosphere and kind locals — almost everything as it was fifty years ago.

After I stood up and brushed off my legs, I walked up to the top of the dune and onto my street, dodging tiny pebbles from resident’s “lawns” that somehow always find themselves under my bare heels. I passed my neighbors heading back to the beach from their short lunch break, then I hopped on one of the bikes in the garage of my grandparent’s beach house and peddled my way to the top of the street. Looked left. Looked right. Looked left again, and off I went. I rode to the opposite side of the street, coyly smiled at a sun-kissed boy then power-pedaled away from him because what else are you supposed to do in that situation?

I made my way to the Wawa where the parking lot, as always, was a mess. Carefully maneuvering through the incessant flow of teen-driven cars, I made it to the safe zone- A.K.A. the bike rack. I picked up my sandwich and milkshake from the counter after a few minutes of waiting then mounted my summer vehicle, the bag of food weighing down one handlebar and my other hand holding the drink. Clearly a bicycling pro. Next stop on my daily route: the pier-looking structure a few minutes away from Wawa. I sat there, drink in hand and sandwich in lap, enjoying the sweet sound the waves were making against the stones and watching the dogs play with toys in the water amongst themselves and their owners. Simple joys.

Making my way back to the house, I see more faces — some new, some familiar- but all basking in the beating sun and fresh air that the shore has to offer nearly every day. I climbed off the bike and stored it away for the next trip about the island — which would usually happen a few more times before I went to bed that day. But as quickly as the song began, it ended. I opened the car door, letting in a rush of way-too-cold air, but I just smiled — summer is only five, very short months away.

Until then, beach. Until then…

x.

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What Collages Can Teach You.

During my first block class in school (Media Studies II), our first assignment for the semester was to make a collage that tells everyone about yourself. Okaaaay, flashback to fifth- NO- fourth grade. But, I said “What the hay,” and got to cutting…and cutting…and cutting. Okay, I’ll admit I really love making collages. But what I realized is that most of my snippets from magazines were of celebrities I admire, namely Taylor Swift, and also the words “New York”. I put two and two together and it equaled this: I may be young. I may inexperienced in certain aspects of life. I may not “know what love is” (I love food? I love my dog? I love Harry Styles? I mean, I’m almost sure I know what love is…That was a joke, people). But what I do know is that I want to be on someone’s collage one day. I want that person to be writing on his or her blog about how they’re going to shoot for the moon, because even if they miss, they’ll land among the stars. I selfishly want to be someone’s role model one day. And a good one, at that.

I can’t recall how many times my parents have said/still say, “Oh, fame isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be,”. Well, fame- like anything else in life- is what you make of it. You can spend your hard-earned fame and fortune on drugs and alcohol and press cover-ups, or you can spend your hard-earned fame and fortune on being a solid role model for people of all ages. It’s your choice. And I choose the latter. When I grow up, whether I’m acting professionally (my ultimate goal) or still writing this blog (but in a New York City apartment), I want to be that generation’s Taylor Swift or Angelina Jolie, two women who come to mind when I hear “celebrity role model”. Taylor Swift needs no explanation, she uses her fame for good. Besides her (extremely generous) rendezvous with fans and celebrities at her house(s) taking Polaroids and letting them hold her cats, she donates time and money to charity- all while being the biggest female singer-songwriter in 2015 (and 2014). And Angelina Jolie is a saint. She doesn’t need any further explanation than the fact that she takes in children that, without her help, would still be stuck in a third-world country, dying of hunger or disease. She’s also intelligent and brave enough to take the precautions against her family history of breast cancer. I will strive to be the ideal celebrity that those two, and many others, already are.

It’s gonna take a whole lot of guts, patience, sacrifice, and money but I’m more than willing to do that for something I fell in love with the minute I could dance and talk. I don’t care how many people along the way tell me “No, this is impossible” or “Uh uh, there’s no money in this right away,” because I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it to fulfill my brief existence here on earth. And if someone has the nerve to tell you NO or that something is unattainable, you do a sharp 180 and show them just what you can do. Whether your passion is mathematics, or science, or teaching, writing, acting, singing, dancing, nutrition, etc., etc., etc., you have a point to prove and it’s easy to give up when the going get’s tough, but promise yourself that you’ll persevere and rise up on top.

I wish you, whoever’s reading this, all the luck in the 200+ bones in my body for your future plans.

x.

Ye Olde EduCon.

I woke up at eight o’clock AM this morning (It’s Saturday, folks) because, let’s be honest, what’s better than a nice visit to ye olde EduCon?

A few weeks prior to this event, my former English teacher from sophomore year invited me to present with her, her partner in crime Ms. Brennan, and two other students from her current class at this thing called “EduCon”. And, if you know me, I love to talk in front of people (Not gonna lie, I’m pretty much counting down the days until I get to take that required public speaking class in college) and EduCon sounded pretty sweet, plus Ms. Ward’s a cool person so why wouldn’t I help her out?

Her (excellent) presentation was based on the 20% Time Project that Google birthed. Ms. Ward, being the extremely intelligent human being that she is, decided to integrate that same idea into her own tenth-grade classroom. She’s a go-getter and along with that she’s an achiever. She sets a goal, reaches it. Sets another one, reaches it.

The bare basics of the idea is this: you give your students about one day of their week to just work on whatever they want. Anything they want to pursue (That’s how Gmail came about). For our specific class, you were to pick something you wanted to learn more about, something you’re interested in, then just run with it. A proposal video was to be made in the very beginning, outlining your future goals for this idea. Every time you had a project day, there was a short blog post to be written which detailed what you had accomplished and what you planned to do in the next week. In the end, you were to have learned something new and applied it to the outside world in any medium you desired. (The 20% Time Project has since been renamed to the fitting title: #HavPassion Project, where students now brainstorm what they have a real passion for, then go with it and see where their findings take them.)

When she first told our class last year about this project we all had these confused, but also terrified looks on our faces. Like, “Wait, we get to choose our own research topic and just do whatever we want with it? This is a trick, right? Definitely a trick. Guys, Ms. Ward’s tricking us, don’t fall for it.” Basically. It also looked like a ton of work. And if you’re familiar with high school students, we don’t like a ton of work. But, unbeknownst to us, Ms. Ward had carefully crafted a basic outline of when certain things were due and different suggestions for how we go about this project, etc. She had it totally under control.

So fast forward a whole year and here I am with Ms. Ward and two other current students of hers, jumping into her presentation at EduCon with our own stories, opinions, and answers to questions from the audience. After her main presentation, the room split up by grade level into groups to further discuss the idea of a passion-based project. It went swimmingly. My two colleagues, if you will, and I talked to the high school crew and answered any questions they threw at us. And they threw a LOT. I loved it. Seeing adults’ eyes widen as the three of us spoke about how awesome this project is and how it truly motivates students to learn was actually so cool to see. Switching roles with the adults and basically teaching them about this topic brought me right back to the pre-teen days of showing my Polly Pockets simple addition and how to fix run-on sentences. The adult folk were totally into this concept and it was rad to see them so interested in learning.

Being a part of EduCon this year was incredible. I’ve never seen so many teachers sitting in student desks ever in my life. Such a great event to spread your own ideas around a room and inspire others. (Go, Ms. Ward!)

By giving students full reign of what they research and create, amazing things can and will happen. So, teachers, if you’re reading this blog right now…Take a chance on this enterprise and have faith in your kiddos that great things will come out of your own little #HavPassion Projects.

Photo by Ms. Jennifer Ward

Photo by Jennifer Ward

Photo by Ms. Jennifer Ward

Photo by Jennifer Ward

The Power of Perseverance.

persevere

[pur-suhveer]

verb (used without object), persevered, persevering.
1. to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.

Persevere. A word that correlates greatly to my sister Dana. All throughout her life there were times when she needed to bulldoze through something. Just go head first into it. And she did exactly that.

Yesterday she passed her driving test. Something she has wanted to do since she was a mere teen. She studied really hard, took driving lessons, and drove with our dad whenever she could. Many people who maybe failed their test the first and second time might just give up. Or tell themselves that they’ll just have to wait. But not Dana. She was determined to get that little piece of plastic with her name, birth date, sex, eye color, hair color, height, and whatever else is on that three-by-two card.  And she did.

I don’t think you’ll ever meet another person as strong-willed as my sister. She’s constantly overcoming her shortcomings and is a role model for anyone who struggles with achieving well sought-after goals.

Congratulations on achieving your own goal, Dana. This is a monumental occasion for you, and everyone, including myself, is so utterly proud of you.

Much love, x.

I’d Like to Thank…

There are many people I’d like to thank for many different reasons. After ruling out macaroni and cheese as a plausible thank-you note, I decided on a few more realistic things to thank. But no hard feelings, right mac and cheese? You’re still the center of my existence no matter what.

So without further ado, I’d like to thank:

My mom for toting me around for nine-ish months, only to tote me around for another eighteen-plus years. For sacrificing pretty much everything for me and my siblings. I’d like to thank her prematurely for taking me shopping for a prom dress because Lord knows she’ll need superpowers to get through that shopping trip.

My dad for his comic relief in the supermarket and during other majorly boring events. I look forward to your jokes while sitting next to you at the Oscars and other prestigious awards shows of the sort.

My siblings for tormenting me when I was younger, and currently. Without that I wouldn’t be able to lie to everyone and say how much we always get along together. Always. Love you three goons.

My dog, Daisy. What would I do without you barking at anything that moves but also binge-watching seasons one, two, and three of Gossip Girl with me? (There’s more where that came from, pup.)

Taylor Swift for supplying my Hairbrush Songs that I sing and violently dance to in the kitchen where, mind you, there aren’t any shades on the four windows. Shameless. Absolutely shameless. For being there in your songs and on your Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr when I needed to cry over a stupid (stupid, stupid, stupid) boy or a really terrible ex-friend. You’re a musical genius. And just a regular genius, overall.

My best friend since the awkward phase that began in fourth grade for literally cracking me up in any mood I’m in. For getting sushi with me, even though I always chicken out and get the avocado roll. For being that shoulder to bawl my eyes out onto. For meeting me at the dead end when we need to vent to each other about anything and everything. For accepting me as the weird person I am. Thank you.

The 1975 for putting out some of the best music to ever grace my ears. For putting on an amazing concert that has definitely made my life a bit awesome-r. For being the sole reason I wear all black sometimes, just because I was feelin’ a bit ’75-ish that day.

My extended family for being big and loud and loving. I can’t really picture a Christmas or a Thanksgiving or an Easter without you crazy people.

Um….and One Direction for being my teenage heartthrobs…*sigh*. May you all keep performing like a bunch of knuckleheads onstage for the next 100 years. You guys made an impact on my life (and my sister’s)….And a few bajillion others as well. You kill it.

A HUGE round of applause for these folks, folks.

x.

Welcome to My Humble Abode. Feel Free to Sit On My Messy Bed or My Cluttered Floor.

I was reading this writing prompt today about your room and how little things in it can reflect you. So I took to my room and started looking around.

Well there’s my desk that I don’t use for school but, rather, for storing books and my coveted black, brimmed hat and things of the sort. There’s the third window in my room that’s shade is always pulled down. I kinda want to pull it up. I’ll pull it up.

Ha, those are the marks that tape left behind when I was obsessed with hanging the most arbitrary posters on my walls. I wonder why my mom hasn’t grounded me for life yet because of that.

Oh, and there is my six-year-old printed-this-from-Google picture of a young, uncorrupted Justin Bieber. And there’s my last hanging One Direction poster because I had to “grow up” and take all the other pictures down. Too bad I cheated the system and also have a One Direction wall calendar. Take THAT….Mom.

And, yes, my newly installed Wall of Pictures ft. Myself and Friends. How could you miss that. This exclusive room feature includes Polaroids, photo booth pictures, and of course those classic Sweet 16 photos. It’s cute, I found it on Twitter, so…Thanks, Twitter?

What’s next…Ah, yes. The sweet sound of not putting your clothes away for a couple of weeks until they pile on top of each other making you too annoyed to even look at it anymore so you give in and finally put them away. I know that sound all too well (Sorry, Mom). Currently the usual mountain is but an ant hill so I’m fine with not throwing them in drawers for now.

Yeah, that mound of notes, half-used Chapsticks, medicine, books and a few unidentified objects is what I call my nightstand. I use it to store probably too much, according to my mom, but for me, it’s perfectly practical. I’m almost sure I have a note from the beginning of this school year that tells me what I should wear on the first day of class. I’m sentimental.

My bed is unmade. Typical. Sometimes I surprise myself and spend the ten seconds it takes to pull the sheets and comforter up onto the bed, but I usually just sigh at the sight of it and do nothing about it.

My walls are a flashy yellow (Natalie and I were young and naive when we chose that, okay?) and my carpets are the most confusing color of pinkish purple but more purple than pink but, who really knows?

So that’s my little abode where I spend about six to eight hours sleeping in every night. It’s where I run to when I’m angry or sad or feeling quiet. It’d be kinda huge if Natalie weren’t living in there with me (I’m sure she’s thinking the same thing), but I love its disturbing colors and the memories that are hung on the walls.

x.

Spot my favorite hat.

Spot my favorite hat.

My un-cluttered wall.

My un-cluttered wall.

My Wall of Pictures. Magnifique.

The Wall of Pictures Featuring Me and The Beatles, apparently. Magnifique.

It's not as cluttered as usual...I think my mom has been in here.

My nightstand is not as cluttered as usual…I think my mom has been in here.

Oh, the good 'ol days.

Oh, the good ‘ol days.

Sisterhoood of the Traveling _______________.

Five years ago, if you asked me if I liked my sister Natalie I’d probably say, “Ew no, she’s so annoying and she doesn’t let me hang out with her.”

Today, if you asked me if I like my sister I’d say, “Oh, my gosh, she’s the greatest thing. Like, actually. We love Taylor Swift, One Direction, and Five Seconds of Summer and we always, without fail, listen/sing very loudly to their songs in the car. Always. She brings me along with her, even if she’s just going to the mall to return a sweater. Nat’s basically my best friend, aside from my non-blood-related best friend.” Maybe you’ve had a similar experience with your own siblings. It’s like, one minute they’re your natural-born enemy and you glare at each other from across the room…Then the next, you’re counting down the days until they come home from college for a weekend. It’s all very odd.

I don’t really know what I’d do without Natalie. It’s sort of disheartening to think about because there are so many things I wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for her. Just simple memories like driving back to the beach house from Bay Village on summer nights with the windows down and One Direction’s album Midnight Memories absolutely blaring from the speakers. Or exchanging the most adorable pictures of Harry Styles with each other, and every time he tweeted hearing, “Oh my gosh, Jen, didja see what Harry said today?” and replying with, “Hahaha oh my God, yeah the one about…” It’s the little things that I cherish the most.

There are also some “bigger” memories that I will always hold close to my heart. Like going to the One Direction concert last summer then spontaneously (Literally. There were six hours until the concert when we bought tickets) going the second night of the concert as well.

My cousin’s wedding stands out because we were both eager to go to NY and Taylor Swift’s new album 1989 had just been released and we sang along really obnoxiously to Welcome to New York in the hotel room and it was just great timing on everyone’s part. We had some time between the ceremony and reception, so we peeled off our gowns, stepped into some comfy clothes and walked to the Brooklyn Bridge together for some fantastic — but cliche — pictures.

Summertime as a whole is ten million times better than ever before because we spend almost every day with each other (Maybe that’s a bad thing for her, but I enjoy it). This past summer she got an internship at this really great company but I was selfishly disappointed because that meant she’d be gone for over half the day. But once vacation time hit, it was: “Jen, I’m going to that store in Bay Village, wanna come with me?” and “I’m going to Wawa, come with me.” or “Nat, wanna go for a bike ride?!!”

“Haha, no.”

“Please.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

Yes, for all that are asking, we still get on each other’s nerves and, yes, we still get angry at each other. But, honestly, the minute one of us makes the other laugh, we’re friends again. If you’re not developing a better relationship with at least one of your siblings — I urge you to do so. It makes life in general so much more enjoyable. Love you lots, Nat!

x.

A Concert on a School Night ?! — Part IV, The Final Part

Continued from Part III…

The rest of the concert was filled with sweat, tears, singing, screaming, dancing, holding random people’s hands (I’ll tell you about that very soon…), and standing with my arms folded and a smile on my face just watching four people love their job right in front of me.

About five seconds ago I mentioned I held random people’s hands. Yes. Yes, I did. But only because the Matty Healy told me to. He said, and I quote (But edited for explicit content- we have young readers, folks.), “Put your hands in the air and grab the person’s hand next to you- I don’t care who it is, grab it and go MENTAL!!!” Then their famous song Chocolate (What. A. Tune.) is played. All I can really recollect regarding how I felt in that moment was just feeling infinite (As Charlie from the movie and book The Perks of Being a Wallflower says while standing up in the bed of his friend’s truck driving through a lit up tunnel, “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” Emotional, really.) I felt like nothing could stop me. I felt really young and happy and I think I can say that that was the happiest I had ever been- in a while, at least. Just completely sweaty but full of energy, dancing with strangers to a song that we all know and absolutely love.

The concert ended and I was buzzing with adrenaline. Like, what do I do now??? I wanna go run around in the city and meet new people and eat food but also take a nap. Yeah, well that was far from what actually happened.

I actually ran out to the lobby to meet the two opening bands (Even cuter up close….Hello to both Andy’s.). Got a couple pictures, a quick autograph from Andy #1 in Cruisr, then booked it outside to wait for the lads of The 1975. Yeah they never came. This one security guard walks over to us and says, “I’m gonna be honest with you, Matty Healy will not be coming out here. Not gonna lie, he probably already left. George, Adam, and Ross are still deciding if they will come out here.” It was cold, it was nearly midnight, and there were way too many people smoking around me so I called my dad to check out where he was and quickly ran toward his location. Running up the side of the Tower Theater I saw all the same type of people as me…Looking like they drink blood for breakfast but actually just finding their moms and dads.

The whole ride home was me and my dad going back and forth about our own experiences at the Tower. He saw The Charlie Daniels Band, Rodney Dangerfield, as well as actual movies back when the theater was at its prime. Pretty cool how one significant location is sort of passed on throughout the generations, eh?

Well, I arrived home and went to bed at around 1:30am…Just in time to get four and a half hours of sleep before school the next day. I was pretty tired but ask me if I’d do it all over again. Go ahead, ask me. YES. 100%.

One of the best nights of my teenage years by far.

Photo by Audrey Trajano.

Photo by Audrey Trajano.

Self-proclaimed Queen of 2015.

2015 is upon us. Seems like just two days ago it was 2014…

Sorry. I had to.

As the self-proclaimed Queen of 2015, I have a few things I want to do as a person. I think the folks these days call them “resolutions”. I call them “Bettering myself in any way possible”. Eh, tomato tom-ah-to.

My first and very foremost goal is to just be nicer. I already am pretty nice (I’m assuming that from feedback I get from my peers). But, there’s always more I can do to be a bit kinder. Like not gossiping to anyone but my best friend and my trusty dog (Here’s to hoping dogs don’t learn how to talk in this coming year), complimenting people immediately when the thought pops into my head, treating my parents a bit better because hello, they do almost everything for me, and also being less selfish about sharing my food (Sorry about that, Julia). I’m even extending it to what I say on Twitter because I often think something is hilarious but when I put it out there for everyone to see, there’s a very good chance that at least one person will NOT find it funny at all. So there’s that and also, I’m going to be more aware of the eye contact I give people while they’re talking. I often catch myself looking at the floor or to the side when I’m speaking to someone…Even when I talk to my best friend. That’s weird, isn’t it. I should have enough confidence to look at the two little black dots in someone’s squishy eyes. It’s really all little things I want to achieve in the next 363 days.

I also want to have more self-confidence. I mean, who doesn’t want to walk in front of the Prep boys waiting for their bus and not feel uncomfortable because what if they think this outfit is horrendous, what then??! I think self-confidence is a major boost in a person’s personality because he or she can just be his or herself. Not to bring One Direction into this, but to bring One Direction into this: take a quick (and glorious) look at Harry Styles. He has gained loads of self-confidence over the past couple years. To the point where he now wears whatever the heck he wants to wear (Fans of 1D know exactly what I’m talking about and it’s NOT a bad thing at all…), grew his hair out (very beautifully, A+ job, Mr. Styles), and have you SEEN him onstage?! I mean….Boy can PERFORM! He dances how he wants to, spits water into the air because why not, poses for pictures taken by the crowd, makes some of the weirdest faces (but still manages to look amazing), and puts his own spin on certain notes in songs and absolutely KILLS it every time, wow. Yeah yeah yeah, you’re all saying “Jenna, shut up about that stupid boy band.” But he really is a prime example of being yourself and having fun while doing it.

Then there’s always the “starting Monday I’m gonna run more often.” Oh, if by “often” you mean once every two months then HECK YEAH, I’LL JOIN YOU. But in all seriousness, I want to be healthier and therefore happier in 2015. I’ll dance in the kitchen more often and run around outside like a little kid (because who am I kidding, I’m still a little kid). I also want to have a wicked diet. Maybe I’ll start eating bananas or something.

Best of luck with your own resolutions for this new and better year. Shake off everything bad from this past year and be grateful that you live in a world that accepts a new year as a completely fresh start.

Much love .x