Trying To Find My Aesthetic

This is going to sound a little dumb, but man, oh man, I want to know what my “aesthetic” is. 

You know. Aesthetics. I want to know what colors, textures, images, fonts, and other pretty things truly embody the essence of who I am.

It’s why I’ve changed the header photo of this blog a million and a half times–I’m always on the hunt for the perfect image/color/icon/something that captures my voice, that sums up my tastes. I don’t ever seem satisfied. I’ll probably still change the header a million times more, even after this yet-another-list-like post aims to pin down my general aesthetic, my vibe, my brand. 

I’ve never sounded more millennial. 

Let’s get to list-making. Also, maybe we’ll make a mood board or two. That could be fun

We’ll see how this goes. 

AESTHETIC One: Disney Parks (Specifically Magic Kingdom)

This is a no-brainer. Walt Disney World will forever be my most favorite place, so it’s no wonder I’m attracted to pastel colors, castles, popcorn, fireworks, that sort of thing. Let me try to capture what I’m talkin’ ’bout in a nifty little collage of pics found on multiple free stock photo sites and/or just Google Images or Pinterest or my old camera roll because why not: 

Ok, finding those photos made me realize there are subcategories to a Disney park aesthetic, but this about captures the gist. I think. 

Mickey Mouse, forever!

Aesthetic Two: Artsy Writer/Reader But not artsy in a moody way; artsy in a *cheerful* way 

So. I write. I’m currently getting my MFA in creative writing, and I’ve had some small success so far with publishing some short fiction. It’s no wonder I love typewriters, books, blank pages, notebooks, books, more books, bookshelves, knick knacks on bookshelves, office supplies, and more. You get the idea: 

Ok, in that little collage, I took three of the photos, so that’s impressive; maybe I know my aesthetic after all! Also, as you can probably tell, I really like wood–the color, the texture. Which leads me…

AESTHETIC THREE: DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM/TRAVELER/ECLECTIC/plants lol 

I love Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Everything about it. 

First, I used to work there. I was a character attendent and got to spend each and every day helping my Disney pals go on the best adventures. Second, I love Animal Kingdom’s overall atmosphere. The vibrancy of the colors, the smells of plants and soil and Flame Tree Barbeque, the park’s commitment to conservation, and the Tree of Life, an icon, a beauty. I love, love, love this place. 

To be honest, all but one of these photos are my own, so you can tell I freakin’ love, love, love, love this place so much. Maybe this is my favorite of the aesthetics? Mabye?

But wait! There’s more!

Aesthetic Four: neon lights, calm, cool, artsty, dark

This one’s new for me, but lately I’ve been drawn to this aesthetic. I’m just going to drop a collage, because it’s hard to explain:

See? Totally random. I don’t have a good explanation to why I connect to the lights, the darkness. But I do? For some reason? 

Aesthetic five: vintage things but not-too-vintage, maybe? ALSO VINTAGE DISNEY BECAUSE, *YES*

I LOVE vintage-y stuff. Like 50s/60s/70s vibes. I think it’s because I watched Mad Men for the first time this year. Also, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a show set in the late 50s/early 60s, is just fabulous.

There’s just too much great TV set in the past, and those shows have influenced me in the best way possible, mostly because the shows I’m discussing feature women kicking you-know-what and taking names!

Also, I love vintage Disney posters/art. 

To the collage! 

So this collage is a hot mess, but you get the idea. 

Also, I found the Peggy Olson print on Pinterest, and I just love it. Also, NO, I do not condone smoking (Peggy has a cigarette dangling from her mouth, you see). Remember, this was a different time! A different era! 

i think i’ll stop there 

As you can see, my tastes vary. The vibes I vibe with (gosh, do I sound millennial or what?!) differ across the board. As I look back, though, I think each aesthetic correlates with a different aspect of my life: 

  • Disney parks  = my inner self, my spiritual self. I’m optimistic to a fault (for the most part). My public persona is bubbly, smiley, all-too-happy.
  • Arsty writer/reader = my career, my goals, my aspirations. I love what I do, and these images remind me of what I am lucky to do each day. That’s cool. 
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom = my home life. Would you guys be surprised that I have an entire gallery wall dedicated to DAK?! I own a succulent! I love natural wood! My pillows are bright yellow, and I want to acquire more textured pillows!
  • The moody neon lights = I think this represents my work, my fiction writing. My stories are a little dark with flashes of humor, light. I think this is why this blog and my portfolio employs some of these images. 
  • Finally, the vintage = while I don’t really own any clothes from these eras or inspired by these eras, I find myself wishing I could pull them off. The structured peacoats = swoon. The sunglasses = adore. A good hat = need. Come to think of it, I have a few pieces like these, but gosh, I don’t know if I would be able to pull of an entire wardrobe like it. I wish, though. Also, I want a record player so badly, it’s not even funny. 

Ok, now I’m really done. Thanks for stopping by and reading this blog post written entirely in the spirit of procrastination. 

Christmas break is almost here, and I am so, so ready. 

Ok, bye! 

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Twentysomething Thoughts

The following post contains twentysomething thoughts unique to my own experience, inspired by a real-life middle-of-the-night existential crisis. 

Enjoy!

***

Does anyone still feel like they’re perpetually sixteen? Or is it just me?

Should I know how to do [insert random thing you don’t know how to do] by now? (For me, personally? I don’t know how to change a tire. Or the oil. Or fix a toilet or a toaster. Or anything.  Isn’t that what AAA is for? And management? Or am I pathetic?)

Do I look “old?” Or could I pass for a college junior/senior? I mean, I am in grad school… it’s still school, am I right?

I think I look old. I spot crow’s feet. I need moisturizer, stat!

I remember when I was in high school and my friends and I were just sittin’ around chattin’ during lunch about our futures, and I remember thinking, okay, by the time I’m 24/25 there will definitely be a guy I’ve either married or am about to marry, and I’ll have a real job, and maybe a little house and for sure a dog or two, and I’ll be thinking about kids by the time I’m thirty, for sure. 

Isn’t that hilarious?

I mean, if you do have that–good for you. Truly. That’s awesome.

I just can’t imagine that right now. For me, at least–it’s scary. So permanent.

I do have a dog. Ellie. That’s something. My goodness, I love her. Do you want to see a picture? You do? Okay, then! Here you go:

Back to this permanence thing–I think that’s what scares me most. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered I like things to change, I like to move around and mix it up. My dreams change, my address changes, my taste in clothes changes, etc.

So when it’s time to “settle down,” will I be ready for it? Could I live in one place forever and ever? Could I do the same thing every day forever?

Is anyone ever really ready for it?

Shouldn’t I be content with permanence? Shouldn’t routine be a comfort? A joy? Only some are lucky enough to have it, I guess.

Okay, this next one is serious:

Do I need a signature shade of lipstick?

The thing is, even though I’m mostly just a chapstick kind of gal, there’s a part of me that loves the idea of a signature lip shade, perfume, scarf, etc. Having a signature anything–now that’s something, isn’t it? Isn’t that the epitome of being a grown-up, a woman in charge?

Maybe I’ll look into it. The signature lip, I mean.

What if I always feel unsure of everything? Why do I always say, “I’m sorry,” or “I don’t know,” after every dang sentence? I’ve noticed I try to qualify everything that comes out of my mouth. I know what I think; why do I feel like I have to apologize for thinking it?

You know what’s sad/funny? I’m obsessed with presentability. I want every aspect of my life to be presentable. Acceptable.

It’s funny because I claim not to be.

I want to be acceptable. Normal. Me. My apartment. My clothes. My car. My bag. The stickers on my laptop.

Am I too old to have stickers on my laptop?

Is anyone ever really “too old?” I mean, whenever I say, “I feel so old,” to my mom, she just rolls her eyes and says, “Kaila. You are not old.”

And I don’t think she is either.

Don’t we all want to get super, super old? Isn’t that the goal, ultimately? So why do we worry about the whole age thing? Shouldn’t people just be people no matter the number of years they’ve lived?

So there’s no “too old,” or even a “too young,” right? Or is there?

I don’t know.

There I am, saying (typing), “I don’t know,” again. Oops.

One thing’s for sure: I am in my twenties, and I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.

Except for quesadillas. I know how to make quesadillas. And pasta. And scrambled eggs.

And that’s something.

 

“Life, Liberty, & The Pursuit of Cheese Curds”

Alternate title: “My Week of Christmas Trees, Red Barns, and Midwestern Charm.”

Hey, blog.

As you can tell by the two titles, I’ve just returned from a vacation in the Midwest. My best friend from the DCP lives in northwest Iowa and eastern South Dakota, so I was so excited to finally make the trek up north to visit her and her family!

Also, as you can tell from my “trek up north” comment, I do not reside in the Midwest, so everything I experienced was so. Much. Fun. And new! And adorable. And eccentric. All wonderful–magical, even. Charming as heck.

For reference, I like to think of myself as a Texoman–I divide time between the Lone Star State and Oklahoma. (Yeehaw, I guess?) I say “Y’all” religiously, Whataburger spicy ketchup runs through my veins, and I know my state songs forwards and backwards, partly due to overt/obnoxious pride, and partly because we were required to learn “Texas, Our Texas” in the fourth grade. I sang the song in front of the class, as did every little Texan in my school.

I digress.

Let me tell you, I love experiencing new places, especially new regions of our country. In the past, I’ve fully experienced the deep South, Florida, and Texas/the lower Midwest (what I call Oklahoma), but I had never really experienced a place like Iowa/South Dakota. As I was driving north, I noticed some differences in the physicality of the land.

First: Christmas trees. Evergreens! Everywhere! On farms! Beside the road! Just chillin’!

I couldn’t stop saying, “Look at all these Christmas trees!” I loved them so much–Allyssa’s (my friend) childhood home had so many just hanging out in the yard, so that alone could make a girl happy.

But there’s more.

Did you know red barns exist? That they’re not just on postcards? Or on Thomas Kincade prints?

Red barns, my friends, actually do existUsually in an idyllic little grove in the middle of corn fields, as did most of the farms I saw. When I got closer and closer to Allyssa’s homestead, it was late afternoon, stupidly (perfectly) sunny, and my head kept swiveling to-and-fro to catch glimpses of these perfect little barns, some stamped with a decoration that indicates they are part of a “century farm,” a farm that has been in the same family for at least one hundred years.

Can you believe that? I don’t know where I’ll be in two years, and these folks and their family have been running a farm for more than one hundred. (!!!)

Of course, I knew red barns existed before this trip, but where I’m from, most of the barns I see are abandoned and collapsing by the side of the road–I’m from Texas, yes, but not in an area dominated by farmers and/or ranchers. I’m a suburb gal, so the sight of these red barns–bright red, trimmed with white, beautiful, clean and pretty barns–made me so happy.

Let’s move on to the different attractions I experienced. I’ll give you a quick rundown:

Obscure museums, tours, a corn palace (yes, you read that right), a small-town Fourth of July parade, fireworks, a stop at a cathedral (I’m still a Catholic school girl at heart), walks around an entire town (because it’s that small), bingo, a pie auction, and quality chill time with my best friend and her family.

There was probably more–we did so much during my short visit.

Let me discuss the most quirky/charming/wonderful activities, because this trip was chock-full.

The Corn Palace. Yes. It’s what you think it is. In Mitchell, South Dakota, there’s a big building that’s covered in corn, corn husks, and other corn bits. The corn composes intricate murals that interpret the theme of the year. This year’s theme is “South Dakota Weather,” so the Corn Palace was covered in murals depicting snow, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and more. The Corn Palace is one of those iconic roadside attractions–like the world’s largest Ketchup bottle, or ball of yarn, or polyurethane cow (anyone watch The Middle?!)–and, let me tell you, I’m a sucker for that stuff. I live for all things quirky, and I love a good gift shop.

It was no surprise I went nuts for the Corn Palace. I bought a hat and three postcards. The hat is now my most treasured possession.

The Corn Palace = a-MAIZE-ing.

Ha. Haha.

Let’s talk about the pie auction. It is possible, out of everything Allyssa and I experienced, that the pie auction was my most favorite.

A little background: I was in town for Allyssa’s hometown’s Freedom Days, a weekend full of Fourth of July themed fun. There are tons of fundraisers that happen for Freedom Days, and the pie auction is one of them. The proceeds help pay for next year’s fireworks display (which was incredible, by the way; #thankyoupies).

The gist: people in town bake pies, a real auctioneer auctions them off, and the bidding starts at $50.

Yes. $50.

I CANNOT BEGIN TO EXPRESS HOW INCREDIBLE THIS EXPERIENCE WAS. Pies went for $100! $200! $300! $400! $500!

The biggest bid?

$1,025!

I KNOW, RIGHT?

Apparently, this bid holds the record as the largest in the town’s history. To be a part of this historic night was magic. I even bid on a pie (thank you to Allyssa’s dad for being the sweetest ever), and came home the winner of a S’mores concoction.

Victory tastes sweet.

Speaking of food–let’s talk about FOOD. Midwestern food.

Here are food/restaurants I savored while experiencing the Midwest to its fullest:

  • Culver’s (Hello, Cheese Curds! I LOVE CHEESE CURDS! Those things just don’t exist down here.)
  •  Pizza Ranch. Delicious.
  • Culver’s frozen custard.
  • There was more, but for some reason, I can’t remember.
  • Oh, yeah! Allyssa’s fam cooked brats (my first time trying those, and holy cow, so good), burgers with the best-tasting beef, and “barbeque,” which is our version of Sloppy Joes. All delicious.
  • And Taco John’s. I find the whole concept of Potatoe Oles wonderful/wacky–remember, I’m a Texan, and we think our Tex-Mex can do no wrong.
  • Okay, I still think that. BUT. I loved Taco John’s and its “West-Mex.” Apparently, that’s a thing.

Overall, experiencing some of the cuisines of the Midwest proved fun, tasty, and new-to-me. I loved it.

The best part of the Midwest?

The people, of course. Adorable accents and all (everyone had an accent–Midwesterners seem to skip over their vowels altogether, at least compared to us Southerners. Also, the vernacular: “Pop” instead of “soda” or “Coke,” phrases like “shoot a pickle!” [FAV], and more. Oh, I could dissect dialects ALL DAY).

The people are so nice. I felt so welcome by everyone–Allyssa’s family (I love y’all), the townspeople, our tour guides on our many excursions, etc. There’s a lyric from “Iowa Stubborn” (from the musical The Music Man) that sums up the people of the Midwest perfectly:

“But we’ll give you our shirt/ And a back to go with it/ If your crops should happen to die.”

Good, good people with the biggest hearts. What more can I say?

Thank you, Allyssa and fam, for being my hosts and my guides to all things Iowa/South Dakota. Not only was last week a week for catching up with my best friend, it was a week of new adventures and new experiences. I had the most incredible time.
Now, if you excuse me, I’ll be here craving cheese curds for the rest of the year. They are just so dang good.

Favorite Feelings

The first day of a vacation, i.e. what today is for me. (I’m coming for ya, Allyssa and Iowa and South Dakota!)

The first sip of a large Diet Coke with vanilla from Sonic, because it’s extra vanilla-y.

Reading in a pool, your body half-submerged as the sun warms your shoulders and arms.

When you flip on the Food Network and the Pioneer Woman is on. She’s fantastic.

The crunch of a tortilla chip dripping with creamy jalapeño sauce from Chuy’s. UGH. I melt.

A perfectly clean room.

When you sit down to write and your brain actually spits out ideas.

The first time you listen to an album or a song, and you end up loving it. It’s the magic of listening to lyrics for the first time, you know?

When you used to work at Disney World and you visit for the first time in over a year, and Russell from Up remembers you and walks you to the Wilderness Explorer Clubhouse. (Oh, Disney. I MISS YOU.)

Receiving snail mail from your friends. Just sayin’ hi.

Sitting between the shelves of the local library, writing. You feel so official.

Actually seeing–not FaceTiming, not texting–your best friend for the first time in months. (Tomorrow, tomorrow!)

The tickle of your dog’s tongue on your nose.

Watching baby birds evolve: from aliens to gargoyles to feathered gargoyles to real life birds.

Long drives by yourself. You sing at the top of your lungs and no one judges you when you zone out to think about life and stuff.

And on that drive, you’re able to think of new story ideas and blog posts (like this one) and you feel energized and creative and productive!

And, finally, the satisfaction that comes with writing your thoughts down. There’s nothing better.

Encouragement

Today, around 10:00 a.m.

Hi, blog! Long time no write. Well, I have been writing, just not for you. Which is dumb, but I’m remedying this problem right this very second! Yay!

Grad school has been a whirlwind so far. Truly. I’ve loved it, but it’s been an adjustment. Ellie and I are finally settling into a little routine (I think), and I’m really good at heating up Lean Cuisines and Stouffer’s French bread pizza.

Right now, my stomach is in knots and I’m just a nervous bundle of energy. Today, I turn in my first bit of fiction for one of my classes.

I’m so terrified, guys! I just hope my piece is sort of up to par with all the PhD and the second or third year MFA students in my class. I just hope that my school didn’t let me in by accident, and that my professor and my fellow students won’t read what I wrote and say, “Holy cow, where did this girl come from? How did she manage to get here?!” I know this is a common thought and fear among grad students–“imposter syndrome,” it’s called–but I hate it! I hate thinking I’m not good enough. I hate thinking that other people might think that I’m not good enough.

Isn’t that silly?!

Here’s where the title of this post comes in: encouragement. I’m going to write a bit of encouragement to me and to all of you.

Dear You,

Maybe you will be horrible. You might not be good enough. There’s always that chance that you won’t be good at something. There’s a chance  you’ll fall flat on your face. 

(Wow, strong start, am I right?)

BUT. Even if you are horrible, why is that such a big deal? If you want to be good at something, just put your head down, work like you’ve never worked before, and you’re bound to get better. You might never be the best, but gosh darn it, you can be your best!

(So much cheese; I cringe. But I’m a huge fan of all things cheesy.)

What you wrote is your very best at this moment in time. That’s all you can do. Take the criticism, take the feedback, and then run with. Get better. Work at it. Keep your optimism and grit and your stupid little Pollyanna smile. 

(I smile a lot. Former cast member probs, I suppose.)

You got this. Work! Know that you won’t always get gold stars, and embrace that feeling of uncertainty. You get to work at what you love to do, and you’re going to get better. 

Sincerely, 

Me.

annnnnnddddd….

Today, around 4:29 p.m. 

UPDATE: The class went well! I did a happy dance in my car before I drove home! I got some great notes and good feedback, and everyone was so nice. I’m happy to be here, and I’m so happy to be learning from such talented writers.

My anxiety has been lifted (for the moment, at least), but the bit of encouragement I wrote this morning is still relevant. I hope it helps you, because my little pep talk really helped me “buck up” and embrace my fears. If I acknowledge my anxieties, I can face them head on and accept them. Why stress about being good enough? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I hope you have a great day, my friends. Do your best today and every day.

 

 

Adventures

I just want to share this photo of my pup, and I want to caption it with one of my favorite puppy (and adventurous people) quotes of all time:

Behold, the cutest photo in this world, taken by my sister (follow her at @klemsonphotographydesign on Instagram, people!):

untitled-7

And here’s the caption:

“There’s a great big hunk of world out there with no fence around it. Where two dogs can find adventure and excitement. And beyond those distant hills, who knows what wonderful experiences? And it’s all ours for the taking, Pige.” 

It’s from Lady and the Tramp, and I absolutely love it. And I love little Ellie’s face in the photo–it’s like she’s saying, “Oh! There it is! The biggest and prettiest world I’ll ever know…I’m just…kind of…frightened. Can I go? Will I go? Should I go?”

And, if you’re like me and Ellie, you might think these kinds of things right before you embark on new adventures. I’m about to begin grad school and a graduate teaching assistantship and a new life and in a brand new town and have to meet new people and do new things and shed fear of failure and experience apprehension and step out of my comfort zone all over again so…yes. These thoughts and feelings are quite relevant at the moment.

I’m human–of course I’m afraid of failure. I’ll be working on an MFA in creative writing and I’m already nervous–will I be horrible? Can I keep up with my fellow writers?

Will. I. Fail. Miserably?!?!?

I hope not. And if I do, hey. It’s cool. It’s fine. I’ll be okay. I’ll just work harder and find my way and my place in this big, fence-less world.

There is a great big hunk of world out there with no fence around it, so new adventures will always be limitless. I’m excited to try my hand at this new venture–let’s write stuff! Lots of it! Let it be horrible or wonderful or kind of okay! Either way, it’s a start and a new beginning, and I love those suckers.

You ready, Ellie?

 

 

Adventures In Puppy-ing

Ellie Kevin Lancaster, meet everyone. Everyone, meet Ellie Kevin Lancaster.


This is my sweet little Shih Tzu. She weighs only two pounds and has rank puppy breath, but she is mine and mine alone. She  happens to be a little terror and have quite the rambunctious spirit, but that’s why I’m so smitten.

Ellie has been a hoot since bringing her home. She arrived on the scene with a bout of fleas and worms–common puppy problems, but inconvenient and worrisome for this new puppy mom. Don’t worry, we took care of it, but for our first couple days of furry friendship, Ellie was calm. Stoic. Tired.

Of course she was. She felt sick, poor baby.

After getting her treated and cured of her puppy problems, my sweet Ellie blossomed into the minuscule maniac she was destined to be.  She sprints across the living room to the kitchen in a furry frenzy, in frantic pursuit of “Big Dog’s” food and treats. Big Dog is Kasper, our former “little” dog.

He’s now the big one.

She plays with her dog bed as if it were an oversized toy, dragging it across the floor and gleefully ripping her claws into the soft fabric. I’ll have to invest in a new one soon.

She leaves tiny little puppy puddles on the kitchen tile. At least she doesn’t like peeing on the carpet too, too much. She gets so busy explorin’ her new world, she forgets she has a teeny tiny little bladder.

She’s my little explorer.

Why the name “Ellie Kevin?” She’s named after two beloved characters from Disney’s Up, of course.

She embodies Ellie’s (the character) adventurous spirit so well. Seriously–each morning she sprints from her kennel and begins to explore her brand new world; she’s full of joy and puppy curiosity, and she’s so sweet and good natured. She wiggles and squirms when you pick her up. She’d rather be discovering new nooks and crannies; she loves to cuddle when she’s tired, but she loves stretching her legs.

She’s my adventurer. She’s my Ellie girl.

And Kevin? You know: Kevin, the bird from Up. Her middle name’s Kevin, ’cause Kevin’s a girl. (Duh.)

I love you so much, Ellie. I can’t wait to begin a new adventure with you soon. Graduate school is fast approaching, which translates to a move to a new town and a fresh, shiny beginning. I can’t wait to take it all on with you.

Adventure is certainly out there.

 

 

Writer

I recently changed a few bullet points under the “about me” category.

First: “recent college graduate” transformed to “graduate student in creative writing.” Yes, you read that right! I’ll be heading back to school in the fall, and I am thrilled to continue my education. Who knows? Perhaps a doctorate is in my [distant] future?

I like school, okay? Let me stay forever.

Second: I changed “aspiring writer” to simply read “writer.”

Because I realized something.

I don’t have to wait until I’m a “grown-up” to fully realize my “grown-up” dream. And heck, I am a grown-up! Painfully so. I’ll be 24 in less than a month, and that’s scary. And kind of cool. But mostly terrifying.

You see, reader, I’m a writer because I write. I am not published in the sense that I have novels under my belt, but I write. A lot. At least I try to.

I do have a few articles published in a local magazine, and that’s cool. I’m so grateful for  the opportunity to contribute to a wonderful publication. But I still have a hard time considering myself a full-fledged writer.

But I am. And now that I’m realizing it, I’m so excited about my future and all the possibilities yet to be.

I write stories before bed! Fiction! And I love doing it! I’m using exclamation points because I think I found what I love to do! Making up stories to fill our dark little world with hero[ines] and characters that came to be because I used my brain muscles and created them out of nothing!

Now, yes, eventually I’d like to be semi-successful in this writing endeavor. But I can’t become successful or good at anything without a little elbow grease and a whole lot of doing.

And the doing–the writing, the doing the writing–makes me a writer. It’s the same concept as running. I’m currently training for a half marathon, and the act of running makes me a runner.

I’m slow as dirt, and it’s hard to wake up early before work to “pound the pavement.” (That’s runner’s speak.) But I run, so I am a runner.

I’m a writer, I’m a runner, I’m a dreamer. And I love and cherish all of those titles.

Have a magical day, my friends.

 

 

 

I Love You, Snoop

My best bud passed away the other day. My best bud had four legs, shaggy black-and-silver fur, a beard, and a stubby tail. He had the sweetest eyes, loved swimming in the summer, lounging on a pool floaty, and eating pizza crust.

His name was Snoopy, and Snoopy was seriously the best dog in this whole wide world.

I miss his howl. I miss his stub wagging back and forth every time I talked to him. I miss the way he used to paw at my hands, wanting me to pet his ears and his head.

I don’t think I could ever understand a person who doesn’t comprehend a pet/human relationship. Snoopy wasn’t just a dog–he was truly part of the family.

My whole little heart loved (still loves) him. He would lick my face when I cried. He was a part of my family for so long; we got him when I was in the fifth grade. I’m twenty-three. Snoop has been with us for the hardest–and happiest–of times. He grew up with my sister and me. We raised him. We carried him on our hips as if he was a toddler.

Our younger dog, Kasper, doesn’t understand. He still looks for Snoop. He doesn’t know how to bark when we walk in the door; that was Snoop’s job, and Kap followed suit. He rapidly blinks as if he’s about to burst into doggy tears. I try to give Kap lots of cuddles. He just lost his very best friend–the only friend of the same species he’s ever had.

It’s ok. I know we’ll feel better, and tears will give way to laughter and smiles, as cheesy as that sounds. We are already beginning to laugh at little things Snoopy did. He loved the words “cookie,” “leash,” “go,” “outside,” and “floaty.” He had a habit of laying in the middle of the floor on his back with his legs splayed in the silliest of ways. He’d relax and just go right to sleep. He loved snuggling under a bed–any space that was dark, quiet, and compact was his favorite space.

He would lay in the hallway that connected my room to my sister’s. He protected us. He would bark and growl at every unidentified noise. He would howl at every doorbell, he would tell the big dogs through the fence who was boss. He was only 20 pounds, but he could handle anything.

He was the bravest. He was my best bud. He was Snoop Poop, because his name unfortunately rhymed with “poop.”

I loved him so much. I know he’s lounging on a floaty, eating pizza, drying off in the sun, and laying in the shade somewhere that has an endless summer.

He loved summer because all of his girls were home.

I hope he knows his girls loved him so, so much.

Scratch that. I know he knows. He’s our Snoop Poop, and Snoop knows everything.

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To Be Determined

You know. Things really don’t ever turn out just how you thought it was going to be.

I thought I was going to be bored to tears in my college town, home of the University of Itty Bitty.  Its  population is tiny; barely over 10,ooo when school is in session. Main Street is peppered with mom-and-pops and fast food. The school was “average,” “undistinguished.” I was a Division II athlete, “lesser” than the best of the best.

I thought Animal Kingdom was going to be so-so as a  home park. I wanted Magic Kingdom; everyone does.  Classic and magical and the best of the best in entertainment. Animal Kingdom, in contrast, is new, environmental. Slightly smelly to be quite honest. I loved Disney with all my heart, but I was never sure if I loved Disney’s Animal Kingdom before my college program.

Preconceptions are stupid, my friends. I know it’s a “bad” word in Kindergarten , but they are stupid. And sucky.

The University of Itty Bitty? It turned out to be the very best experience possible. I became an English major and fell in love with writing and reading and analyzing and academia. I excelled as a college athlete, even though my version of excelling did not involve a Division I national championship. I discovered my love for autumn and authentic blizzards. My heart belongs to the miles of miles of uninterrupted patchwork views, littered only by immense wind turbines and their blades that rhythmically beat against a brilliant, red dirt-dusted sunset.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom? My goodness. It’s my home. I will always remember walking through an empty park at 7:50 in the morning, marveling at how the sun glinted off of the Tree of Life’s  foliage, how the distinct morning shadows highlighted the tree’s animal carvings. The mouthwatering aroma of Flame Tree Barbecue would overpower the stench of the birds that make the Oasis their home. Multicolored macaws noislily squawked and beat their wings, stirring the sweet humid air that forced my hair into its signature braid for six months. When the nighttime offerings began, I would park myself in front of the Tree of Life to watch it awaken.

If you’ve never experienced these awakenings, I’m here to tell you that they create just as much magic as Tinker Bell’s pixie dust.

Now that I’m home, I’m working and applying to graduate schools. As I sit down to complete applications, I notice that I’m applying to big schools with big names and little schools with little names. I realize that I probably won’t get into every school I apply to. Once this whole process is over, I must choose the right place for me. I also know that there is a possibility that I won’t have the option to choose the “right” place–there might be an “only” place.

The “right” place might not be the biggest school with the most distinguished program. But it might be. I’m not sure yet.

What I must consider from past experiences? Preconceptions are stupid. I can’t wait to continue to add to my collection of homes:

My home town.

University of Itty Bitty.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

To be determined.