Why I Celebrated my 20th with Darth Vader and Hello Kitty

2016-01-04 06.47.16.jpgThis morning when I walked out of my room, I almost ran into Darth Vader.

Well, not the actual Darth Vader (although I would be pretty psyched and a twinge creeped out to find James Earl Jones wandering around my dorm room). It was a piñata head dangling from my doorway, framed in white streamers.

Maybe I should mention that it’s my birthday.

Which prompts the question: what have I learned from the 20 years I’ve spent on earth?

Well, the first few years, I mostly spent mastering the fine arts of talking, walking, feeding myself, etc. I am proud to say that my efforts in these areas were successful. For the most part. 

In the third book in the “Anne of Green Gables” series, Anne turns 20 and remarks, “Miss Stacy told me that when I was 20, my character would be formed for worse or for better.”

As I’m sitting here, wearing Star Wars pajama pants, surrounded by superhero posters, Hello Kitty streamers dangling from the ceiling, a Wonder Woman cape hanging from my door, facing our dartboard, which has a place of honor across from our Xbox and GameCube, attached to our TV, which is currently playing “Lilo and Stitch,” I have to wonder…really, how much have I grown?

Frankly, this isn’t exactly how I imagined life would be at 20.

But is it a bad thing? I don’t think so.

When you’re 20, no one really expects you to have your future figured out (although they keep asking you about it) or even be able to keep your clothes off the floor (except your parents…they never lose hope). As I’m madly scribbling papers and desperately skimming test materials, I check my email for responses to my numerous summer internship applications and play episodes of old Disney channel shows.

Even though I still enjoy the same things, now I see different things in them. For example, in “Lilo and Stitch,” I realized how protective Nonnie was of her sister, despite their fighting. I almost cried when Stitch as looked for his ohana.

On some level, maybe these are things I always understood. Maybe what we call “maturity” is just being able to put into words what we instinctively felt as children.

Going back to Anne, immediately after making this comment, she decides to go for a walk in the park, where a tall, dark, and handsome classmate rescues her from the rain, sends her flowers the next day, and they date for the rest of their time in college.

I doubt that will happen to me today. Or ever.

But did Anne’s friends hang a Darth Vader piñata from her doorway? Or fill her living room with Hello Kitty streamers?

I think not.

In fact, I never thought about it until today, but Anne’s friends didn’t even spend her birthday with her. They went to a football game, leaving Anne curled by the fire with the cats and her friend’s great-aunt.

So, who really had the better birthday?

I’ll probably have a boyfriend eventually. But right now, I have the best friends and family ever. And that’s a pretty great way to start the next decade of my life.

Although meeting James Earl Jones would also be fantastic.

hk

 

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Thankful for River Heights

Ali2

Small-town girl, trying to solve life’s little mysteries.

Kids explore hundreds of places – different worlds, different planets, different countries. When I was a kid, there was one imaginary place I could not stop dreaming about. Again and again, I found myself drawn to this fantasy world, like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. But this flight of fancy did not lead me to Wonderland or Narnia or Earth 2; it drew me to River Heights.

 

River Heights, the hometown of Nancy Drew. The place where most of her adventures find her.

That is the sole purpose of River Heights; Nancy never seems to stay there long, but it is the prosy background for her remarkable enterprises and the diving board for many of her adventures.

I always play Nancy Drew computer games when I’m on a break. However, that will not happen over this Thanksgiving Break, which has been taken hostage by two 10-page papers and a plethora of upcoming finals.

But, as I’m sprawled out in my childhood bedroom, researching Sophocles, I can’t help but think about what it must be like for Nancy to come home after cracking a case.

I’m thankful for my hometown. I’m thankful for the Barnes & Noble, where I never actually bought any books, because I would read them straight through, seated in a tiny wooden chair. I’m thankful for the park, where we would build “forts” out of fallen tree branches. Most of all, I’m thankful for the people. Like the good citizens of River Heights, they continue to encourage the strawberry blonde with a thirst for adventure to go out and find some.

People often ask me if I plan on staying in Florida after I graduate college.

I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t even know what state I’ll be living in six months.

That’s a problem Nancy never has to deal with. Partially because she doesn’t go to college, so no one expects her to miraculously have her life mapped out, and partially because she will eternally be a jet-setting 18-year-old. I’m older than Nancy Drew and I’ve travelled less. Nancy is breaking up crime rings and I’m breaking the bank…and stealing rolls of toilet paper from the school bathrooms. Someday, Nancy’s hair will still be golden blonde as she dates the college quarterback and mine will be gray as I hobble around a house decorated with cat fur.

Now I’m depressed.

And I’ve completely forgotten where I was going with this.

One second…

Ok.

The spirit of the town never changes. And it’s nice to have something stable when life is always shifting and you’re just kind of floating around, trying to find a place to settle down. I’m thankful to have a place that gave me such a great start. And a great place to return to.

I’m thankful I have River Heights.

And Nancy Drew computer games.

Cliche, but True

Most people don’t know that I have a small business.
 
But a lot of them are unknowingly seeking it out.
 
I have officially reached the age where everybody is getting married, engaged, or simply “in a relationship.” Seriously, every time I log on Facebook (which is frequent) girls are flashing diamond-encircled fingers and pictures show couple with sugary smiles lovingly pressed against each other beneath the headline “Jane Doe and Man X are now in a relationship.”
 
Which means that, inevitably, there are a lot of break-ups.
 
As irritating as it can be to listen to someone compose an oral expose on why their relationship is so fairytale-perfect, it is even worse listening to them weep over a failed relationship.
 
What do you say? How do you console the unfathomable heartache of someone who has lost their love of the past two months?
 
I apologize for my general snarkiness. But I am so glad you asked.
 
Times are tough. I’m in college and, therefore, broke. So I have decided to expand and monetize my advice-giving services. I believe that my personal relationship experiences make me uniquely qualified to give advice on handling a variety of situations.
 
When I was 5 years old, I married Wesley Price, the neighbor boy, in my sandbox. As soon as we swore to love each other, in health or in cooties, drama erupted. My little sister was upset that I made my friend Lauren the flower-girl instead of her. Little Julianne Christmas (“J,” as I called her) was furious that she wasn’t invited at all. I was crushing on Sean, the boy who lived next door.
 
You learn a lot from a failed marriage.
 
The summer before 4th grade, my family was preparing to move when Sean asked me to be his girlfriend and offered me a little silver band with tiny blue stars. I had moved on, but agreed, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Then our family moved and I learned the importance of communication in a relationship.
 
Gleaning from the wisdom I have gained through every failed relationship, I now give cliché relationship advice on the weekends. (And Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m.) My business motto is “It’s Cliché Because It’s True.” (Which, ironically, is also a cliché. Because it’s true.)
 
So keep your head up! Sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together. It’s always darkest before the dawn, but tomorrow is a new day. You  only fail if you stop trying – someday, you’ll meet someone who loves you just the way you are.
 
You’re welcome.
 
I charge by the cliché, not the hour. Cash preferred.
 
Ali Renckens
Amateur Advisor
“It’s Cliché Because It’s True”

Littles and Childbirth and STD (it’s clean, I promise)

fam2I was awakened by loud music reverberating from my phone.

It was midnight and I, being an early riser and, therefore, a terrible college kid, was already dead asleep.

Groggy and confused, I rolled over and nearly fell out of bed, wondering why an alarm was going off while it was still dark outside and why it was on my phone when I only set alarms on my desk clock.

I had a vague sense that I was forgetting something.

I picked my phone up and swiped to make the annoying noise stop. Then I realized that it was a call and I had just answered it.

“Hello?” I murmured in a soft, sleepy voice.

“Hi!” an incredibly awake voice chirped. “Want to find out who your Littles are?”

Suddenly, I remembered. I had set my phone ring to the highest volume possible because tonight we found out who our Littleslillarissa were.

Littles? I got more than one?

The rest is hysteria.

I mean, history.

Nah. I mean hysteria.

The rest of the week was a crafting frenzy. When I wasn’t working on something for the Littles, I was studying or working on our school newspaper. Meals were irregular. Sleep was a sweet dream.

Day Three of Big/Little week, I was initiated into the English honors society, Sigma Tau Delta (STD, for short. Apparently English nerds are terrible at stringing together Greek letters). I was given a certificate and a pin. (I get a kick out of telling people I’m wearing my STD pin.) After obligingly mingling for a few minutes, I power-walked to my dorm (in heels) and began frantically painting for one of my Little’s basket. She likes “Despicable Me,” so I decided to paint a minion with the words “one in a minion.” I grabbed a scrap piece of paper to see if I could even paint a 2015-10-01 22.09.52decent minion. Thankfully, I could, and I managed to successfully deliver her present. As I cleaned up, I picked up the piece of paper to throw it away.

Then I realized that I had actually painted the back of my STD certificate. (Wow, that really is a horrible acronym.)

That about sums up my week. In a figurative and also very literal way.

I was sleep deprived, stressed, and my “To-Do List” kept growing longer while my time to accomplish items on said list kept shrinking. It was the craziest week of my life.

But when I look back on it, I don’t remember any of that.

12088354_900358566722147_837717110339071424_nI think of the notes my Littles wrote me, telling me how much they loved their gifts and how excited they were to meet me. I think of jumping out from behind one Little and hearing her shriek, “You tricked me!” Immediately followed by, “I wanted it to be you!” I think of dragging my Big and one Little backstage to surprise my other Little after her performance and being unceremoniously kicked out. And I think of standing in the lobby, holding her family shirt, when she walked out in the reception line. I think of how surprised she was when she realized what was going on and how another cast member had to tear her away from our first family gathering to thank the audience.

I never understood childbirth before – how a woman can undergo such intense pain and forget about it when she finally gets to hold her little one.

I get it now. At least a little bit.

I love my babies. And, given the choice, I would go through the entire, chaotic week for them all over again.

I would even paint a cartoon figure on the back of a certificate of high academic accomplishment. Or, if it came down to it, not be a part of STD at all.

You know what I mean.

Ohana means family. And I have the best family ever.

Ohana means family. And I have the best family ever.

A Girl’s Mancave

SuperheroesHave you ever had a moment when you realize that you completely missed a crucial phase of life that all of your friends have already gone through?

Not only did that happen to me, but it happened to all of my roommates. All four of us missed the same critical part of life.

You can tell the second you step into our room.

Somehow, we all missed the magical moment where girls just inherently know how to make their living space home-y, chic, and/or cute.

Maybe it’s because we spend too much of our time on Pinterest looking at Myers-Briggs charts and not enough time looking at dorm rooms. Maybe it’s because we aren’t crafty.

Our interior decorating go-to: superhero posters.2015-09-12 22.36.20

We now have seven superhero posters: one Marvel, six DC. (We have very strong opinions on the Marvel vs. DC debate.) Above our snack shelf is a dartboard. Next to Melvin the Drunk Christmas Tree, we have a light-up Christmas reindeer that was stolen from one of the frat houses. Recently, we bought a large TV, which, immediately after setting up, we used to watch Youtube videos about llamas wearing hats.

We call our dorm The Mancave.

There is no “woman’s touch” to our room. It’s more like a slap on the back.

The only relatively feminine aspect of the room is a collage of canvases featuring our sorority. (They look particularly out-of-place next to our poster of the Joker.)

It may not be the cutest dorm on campus. (In fact, it definitely isn’t.) But it’s a place we can put our feet up at the end of the day, crack open a soda, and watch all of the “Superman” movies, including the bad ones.

And in a weird sort of way, it fits us. It’s quirky, eclectic, nerdy, and one-of-a-kind.

And, most importantly, we love our Mancave. To us, it’s home. It’s perfect.

Or, it will be, as soon as we get some well-stuffed recliners. And our Xbox.

Melvin the Drunk Christmas Tree and Giorgio the Pilfered Christmas Reindeer

Melvin the Drunk Christmas Tree and Giorgio the Pilfered Christmas Reindeer