Nia

The fifth principle of Kwanzaa is nia. Nia means purpose, and specifically it means to look inside yourself and set personal goals.¬†As a Capricorn, I’m very ambitious, and I like to set goals for myself, as you’ve likely noticed, with my checklists of things to do in certain years (I’ve got a lot I want to do while I’m fourteen!). I think that one of my purposes is to write, and here are three goals I’m going to set for myself to fulfill that purpose in 2017.

  1. Do well on my assessment for the performing arts school. (I’d be majoring in digital communication arts, which encompasses writing, photography, cinematography, etc.). If I don’t get in, that’s fine. But I want to do my best.
  2. Finish editing¬†Three. Three¬†is a story I started writing at the beginning of last school year, and I actually finished it last year, too. I’d like it to be the first in a trilogy called¬†The Countdown,¬†but there are still some rough patches (especially in the beginning of the novel) and plot holes I need to address, and I’d like to be done with those.
  3. Start journaling consistently. I do keep a journal, but I tend to only journal when something monumental happens, and even then, sometimes I just write about it here. Next year, I’d like to start doing it more often. I’ll start with three or four times a week, and then we’ll go from there.

Ujamaa

The fourth principle of Kwanzaa is ujamaa (pronounced oo-jah-mah). Ujamaa means cooperative economics, or supporting each other. Now, I don’t have much experience with cooperative economics, per se, but I do have some experience with supporting each other. Specifically, supporting my friends.

At school, I mainly hang out with my two best friends. We’ll call them Magnus and Isabelle (after two of my favorite characters from¬†The Mortal Instruments).¬†Since there’s only three of us in our group, we’re pretty close, and we’ll stand up for each other no matter what. Since we have a small, relatively drama-free school, there aren’t always many opportunities for that, and there haven’t been very many this year. There was the time where Isabelle mentioned that there were some guys in her class giving her trouble, and Magnus and I wanted to put a stop to it.

She wouldn’t let us, saying that she’d gotten her sister (who’s in high school) to do something, but even though she wouldn’t let us confront them for her, we were still there for her. We told her that if she ever changed¬†her mind, we’d be ready to fight. (Sadly, she did not.)¬†But even though she didn’t, we still supported her, because she’s our best friend, and we’d do anything to help us. That goes for any of my friends or family,

 

Ujima

Ujima, the third principle of Kwanzaa (pronounced u-jee-ma), means to work together, or collective work and responsibility. Being in middle school, I do a lot of group work and group projects, and I’ve currently been working on one since Halloween or so.

In my design class, I (along with six other girls in my class) am building a tiny house. Not a scale of a tiny house, like we did last year, but an actual tiny house, that has to be six feet tall and six feet tall. Ours is a PVC pipe yurt, and technically 72.5 inches, but our teacher’s letting us slide after seeing how worked up we got about it. It is only a half-inch, after all.

But in order for a project this big to work, each group member has to carry their weight. (Not that everyone is doing that, which is creating tension within our group.) So, at the beginning of the project, we made a role system so that we’d complete everything. Each of the six girls–we’ll call them Adele (that’s me!), Chanel, Emilie, Gabrielle, Holly, and Mai–has a job they have to complete in order to complete the yurt by the due date (January 26th). Four of the six girls are doing their jobs and more for the group. The other two…well, they’re working on it, I assume. The jobs are as follows:

Holly and Adele: Tarp/Frame (This refers to the construction of the frame and measurement and securing of the tarp. I also have the added responsibility of keeping up with our isometric drawings, since no one else is willing to take them.)

Gabrielle: Roof (She’s in charge of the roof designs and oversees the construction).

Mai: Floor (She’s in charge of the floor designs, if we do decide to build one. Jury’s still out on that one.)

Emilie and Chanel: Interior Design (They’re supposed to be building furniture. We’ve yet to see a piece of completed furniture, but that’s a rant for another time.)

Those are our main jobs, but we often make plans for the construction day based on what needs to get done and how we need to do it. Also, constructing the frame was a three-person job, so we enlisted Emilie to help with that. Even putting up the tarp and securing it requires at least four people. (There are three separate pieces to the tarp.)

This project is almost completed, but we wouldn’t have gotten it done if we didn’t have these specific roles, because if we didn’t, we’d all be stepping on each other’s toes trying to get things done. That still happens sometimes, but thanks to these roles and responsibilities, it doesn’t happen often, and it’s looking like we’ll finish the project ahead of deadline. Well, the outside and frame. Can’t say anything about the furniture.

Kujichagulia

Kujichagulia is the second principle of Kwanzaa, and it means self-determination. (It’s pronounced like¬†koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-yah.) Specifically, it means defining your personal interests and making decisions that are in the best interest of your family and community.

This year is my final year of middle school, and that meant that I had to start looking at high schools in my district. A lot of people (basically teachers and other parents) offered their opinions, and I looked into each option given (although I will admit that I looked into some more than others). It eventually came down to three schools: the high school IB program (at the school I’m currently attending), a performing arts school (which is my top choice), and a school with a strong focus on biotechnology and allied sciences.

When I was looking at middle schools, I just looked at the schools that I wanted to go to. This year, I looked at not only the schools I wanted to go to, but schools that would be convenient for me to attend. For example, the science school is pretty much next to our house. It’s a short walk, and it’s a good school. However, although I have to admit science is much more interesting than I once thought (particularly genetics and coding) it’s still not my primary interest. Then there’s the IB program. It’s a good school, I’d be able to play for the same volleyball team, I’d already know the teachers, and I already go there, so I’m familiar with it. Then there’s the performing arts school. I’d get to major in writing, take four years of creative writing, and it places just as much emphasis on arts and performing as it does on education, and I think that’s really important.

Each of the schools are great in their own ways, and that meant that this year, it was time for me to make some big decisions. In seventh grade, I imagined that the performing arts school would be the top choice and the IB program would be the second, since my family hadn’t yet moved near the sciences school. When eighth grade started, I imagined that the science school would be my first choice, followed by the performing arts school, followed by the IB program. By November, shortly before the choice application window opened, I imagined that the performing arts school would be first, followed by the science school, followed by the IB program. If my beginning of the year decision had been my final lineup of choices, that would’ve been a choice made in the best interests of my family. All in all, though, this journey of choosing and applying to high schools (and it’s been a long journey, and I’ve changed my mind a lot) based on my interests is me further defining my personal interests. Volleyball and science even factored into my decisions: two interests I hadn’t even known that I had last year. This year was definitely the year of my defining my personal interests. Or, as Kylie Jenner would say, this was the year of me “realizing stuff” about myself.

Umoja

Hey guys, you might be aware that today is the first day of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga, just fifty years ago. It lasts seven days, and each day centers on a certain principle. ¬†(Today’s principle is umoja, or unity.) It was founded for African-Americans to celebrate their shared cultural heritage and traditions. (If you want to learn more about the basics of Kwanzaa, look here. )¬†Now, my family doesn’t celebrate Kwanzaa, but at an event earlier this month, I had the opportunity to learn about the holiday, and I really love the principles and what they stand for. So, this year, for each day of Kwanzaa, I will be writing about an experience I had during this year and how it ties in to a Kwanzaa principle.

Today’s principle is umoja. Umoja is the Swahili word for unity. (It’s pronounced oo-moh-jah.) Specifically, umoja means unity between family and the community, and emphasizes the importance of family togetherness.

This example is a small one, but it’s one of my favorites. Earlier this year, I had to watch the movie¬†God’s Not Dead¬†for my church’s youth group. I mentioned this to my mother, and she said that she would watch it with me rather than me watching it alone. We turned it into a family movie night, watching with my mom, brother, and dog, Kayla.

It was nice to have a night with just my family, without the distractions of technology. The movie was really heart-warming and it sparked a lot of conversation between us. (If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend it; it’s on Netflix.)

There was also another night when the three of us watched an episode of¬†Empire¬†together, despite only one of the three of us being caught up. That was nice too, even though the characters are irritating and are all doing stupid things. But that’s not the point.

It was nice to have a few family nights throughout the year, and hopefully there will be more in 2017.

ÔĽŅThe Amateurs ÔĽŅReview

This review is a long time coming. Ever since I heard that Sara Shepard was going to be authoring a book series for Freeform Books (yep, you heard that right; they’ve got a publishing imprint now, too), I knew that I had to read it. Maybe, just maybe it would fill the¬†Pretty Little Liars, The Perfectionists,¬†and¬†The Lying Game¬†shaped holes in my hearts.

The Amateurs did just that and more.

The Amateurs¬†is about four amateur detectives, Seneca Frazier, Brett Grady, Maddox Wright, and Aerin Kelly, solving the case of Aerin’s sister’s murder.

Helena Kelly was seemingly the perfect seventeen year old. She had the perfect boyfriend, the perfect family, she was pretty, and she was smart.She had everything anyone could ever want. She had a life most teenage girls would kill for.

And one day, someone did.

On a snowy wintery day, Helena and her eleven-year-old sister Aerin were building a snowman together, and Helena sent Aerin inside to go get something they needed for the snowman. Little did Aerin know that that was the last time she’d see her sister alive.¬†A few years after Helena disappeared, her body was found. A year later, Aerin, now just about the same age as her sister was when she was killed, posts a message on cold case solving forum called Case Not Closed.

Enter Seneca, Maddox, and Brett, three super-users from Case Not Closed that see her message and decide to help out. Together, the four of them put their heads together to get to the bottom of Helena’s murder. But the killer’s still out there somewhere, and he’s just a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Will the Amateurs set him off?

This book is probably one of Sara Shepard’s finest works. It’s got the plot twists of¬†Pretty Little Liars (imagine taking every plot twist from the first eight books and combining them into one book, and you’ve got the end twist), the romance of¬†The Lying Game and the complex characters and plotlines of¬†The Perfectionists.¬†

The final plot twist of the book is described over and over again on the back of the book, and I have to say that only one of them truly gives that plot twist justice. Kate Brian said it best when she wrote, “You think you’ll know…but you won’t know.” When you think you know who the killer is, you won’t. Imagine reading the last part of the book as a conversation with Sara Shepard.

First, Sara will laugh in your face and say, “Ha! You think that this person’s the killer? Nope. It’s this person.”

Then you’re like, “Oh, that makes sense! Thanks Sara!”

And she goes, “Oh, that’s cute, you haven’t learned anything from reading any of my books. This person isn’t the killer! It’s this person!” Then she starts laughing maniacally, and you’re like, “Okay, that was a good one, Sara. Is it over now?”

She stops laughing and she says, “Yeah, it’s over now but I had fun messing with you. Keep reading though, my ending is on point.”

So you keep reading and it turns out she lied to you. That person wasn’t the killer at all, and now they’re in jail. And the¬†real¬†killer is out there somewhere, eating pastries and drinking coffee (and that is not an exaggeration.)

And once you realize who the killer is, it will blow your mind into a bunch of microscopic pieces of brain-themed confetti. That’s how much of a plot twist it is. Of course, there are a TON of hints hidden throughout the story, but you’d only get that those are hinting at the killer’s identity if you’ve already read the book and are hunting for clues.

I don’t want to keep you here all day, so I’ll leave it at this: you must¬†read this book before you die.¬†I give it a twenty out of five stars.¬†Also, because I’m going insane waiting for the second book, if you have patience, wait to read it until all of the books have come out, because once you start, you won’t be able to stop.

Happy reading!

No Uterus, No Opinion

*Disclaimer: The following post was written for a Social Studies assignment regarding the election tomorrow. However, this post does reflect my personal views on the election. The title doesn’t reflect any personal views of mine, it’s just a Friends quote I liked, and I figured it was somewhat related.¬†#ImWithHer*

“Look, Planned Parenthood has to stop with the abortions.”

“I am against abortion, and that is a tremendous amount of work that [Planned Parenthood does].”

“In the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother.”

“Public funding of abortion providers is an insult to people of conscience.”

“I am committed to nominating pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide, defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions, and reallocating their funding to community health centers that provide comprehensive health care for women.”

“I’m not supporting Planned Parenthood.”

“I am opposed to abortion.”

What do all of these statements have in common? They’re all things that have been said by a man running to be the leader of our country: Donald Trump. They’re all either statements that are just plain hateful, or untrue.

Why in the world would you vote for a man who says things that are hateful (and in some cases, completely and utterly untrue)? A man who, after saying all of the above–and more, has the audacity to say, “I‚Äôm going to be really good for women.¬†I‚Äôm going to be good for women‚Äôs health issues.”

That statement just might be the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard him say, even more absurd than his lewd comments about his daughter, Ivanka.

Donald Trump is the worst possible candidate for women and women’s health issues, and here are the top three reasons why:

  • He wants to ban abortion after twenty weeks. While the majority of abortions performed in the United States are performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, about 1.3% of pregnancies are terminated after twenty weeks. These are referred to as late-term abortions (dilation and evacuation), and they are performed because the fetus’ health is in danger or because the mother’s health/life is in danger, and in some cases, because the fetus has died in the womb (or is very unlikely to survive outside of the womb). ¬†And just to clarify, no, the fetus is not ripped out of its mother’s womb at nine months. That is a crude description of delivery, not a description of a late term abortion. If Trump were to ban abortion after twenty weeks, he would be taking a decision belonging to a woman and her doctor out of their hands. Is that really what’s best for women’s health?
  • Trump wants to defund Planned Parenthood, and believes that abortions are the main service provided by Planned Parenthood, when in reality, abortion is only 3% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. The rest of the services provided by Planned Parenthood include contraceptive access, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, classes on sexuality, and other healthcare services. Specifically, Planned Parenthood provides school and sports physicals, vaccinations (flu and tetanus), help with quitting smoking, anemia testing, and various screenings including thyroid, diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure, all at an affordable rate. Does it make sense to take away funding for a service like this? (Note: their services do vary by location, so in order to find out exactly what’s offered in your state, visit¬†their website here.)
  • Lastly,¬†Trump is not a woman, does not respect women, and clearly has no understanding of what a late-term abortion is or why they are performed. Trump has said that there should be some form of punishment for women who get abortions. It’s not right to criminalize a woman because she had an abortion. Women chose to get abortions for a number of reasons, including rape, incest, inability to provide for/care for a child, or because they are not ready to be pregnant. Whatever the reason, abortion is a choice that belongs to the mother. It’s a choice that does not warrant any form of punishment.

You, as a potential voter, have a choice as well. A choice between an unqualified, misogynistic, sexist, and racist candidate and a candidate who is qualified, intelligent, respectful, and likable.

On Tuesday, November 8, vote Hillary Clinton as the President of the United States.