Friday, July 22, 2016

My Characters: Azlyn Dever

   Let's talk about Forlorn Hope. The novel I've spent the last 2 (and a half?) years writing and rewriting and plotting and editing. I don't talk about it a lot because frankly, I don't feel like people care. But lately I've been really working on it and I wanted to share it with you guys. I want your opinion. So wanna help me out?

   Let's start with a super rough synopsis. 

   My name is Azlyn Dever and I am a Christian. I thought I knew what that meant, but now I'm not so sure. Now my best friend friend can see demons. A boy from my youth group is a prophet of sorts. And me? All I can do is watch my world fall apart. 

   Okay I literally threw that together in ten seconds and its okay at best. Sorry about that. Really that's the only way I can think to put it together. It's a book about three friends and their battle against spiritual warfare. Today though, I wanted to focus more on the characters. They're the ones that carry the story. I also made collages to go with their aesthetics and each day I'll post about a different person.  (All pictures are from Pinterest so sorry if I stole your image. ) 

   Today I want to introduce you to my main character.

Azlyn Dever

Azlyn is the narrator of this story. She's also the only person in her friend group that is virtually completely blind to the spiritual realm, which obviously adds a lot of frustration for her. She struggles with chronic pain throughout the novel but in no way does she let that stop her from living. Azlyn is sarcastic and pretends to be apathetic when in reality, she cares too much. Her fatal flaw is that she thinks she has to save the world. 
Aside from all that seriousness, Azlyn really enjoys pizza and the color maroon and dislikes coffee. She binge watches Mr. Robot in her free time and really likes to make jokes with her best friend, Sadie. Azlyn has a fierce devotion to Ed Sheeran. She hates the word "hipster" but that's what she is. She's sarcastic, sassy, and hecka angsty. 

   If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be Azlyn. I had wanted to name a character that since middle school when I read the Star Wars: Legacy comics. But when I started plotting this, I strongly didn't want to use that name. But then I found out it meant "vision or dream" and I had to. In my first draft, Azlyn had premonitions and nightmares, so that name fit perfectly. So basically, she was inspired by the John Ostrander character.

But besides that, I understand her more than any character I've ever written. Writing her is like putting a piece of myself onto paper. Writing her story has inspired and helped me in more ways than I had ever thought were possible. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into when I decided to write her story for my '14 NaNoWriMo. And as each draft changes, it changes me too. 

I think Azlyn makes the best protagonist because she's the least qualified of all her friends and yet she matters. By all means, she shouldn't be the MC, and yet it's her perspective that the story gets told from. Personally, I think that's rad.

So that's her. Also, enjoy a small snippet of a scene starring my lovely Azlyn Dever.

A slight knocking sounded at my door.
“Come in.” My voice sounded so pathetic outloud. I rolled onto my side and the light from the hallway shone right in my eyes, making me feel like I was being blinded. My migraine screamed at the light, forcing me to shut my eyes,
“I brought you some food and a soda.” I recognized my mom’s voice despite the fact my brain felt like pudding. I heard the door shut behind her followed by a clicking noise. When I opened my eyes, I saw she had turned my desk lamp on. Underneath it she had set a plate of mashed potatoes and chicken, alongside a can of Mountain Dew.
Mom seemed sad, despite the fact that she was smiling. Her smile wasn’t one of joy, but of pity. And I hated pity. She almost seemed tired, which wasn’t unusual for her considering how much she worked. Her ginger hair, which was the exact same shade as mine, was thrown up her usual After Work Messy Bun. She had washed away all her makeup, leaving her face red and her freckles stand out.
I sat up, attempting to ignore the pain so I could reach for the Mountain Dew. Upon seeing my hand, Mom picked up the can and, after opening it, handed it to me. The snap-hiss of the can opening relaxed me, in a weird way. I prayed the caffeine would help me this time, even though I was fairly certain it wouldn’t.
“I have your meds.” Mom’s curled palm reached out to me and I took the pills from her. I took them in two’s, as was my usual routine, until they were all finished. I washed them down with my carbonated drink. I could feel the pills being pushed down my throat, followed closely by the sizzling sensation of a soft drink.
“Pain level?”
“Like, 7.”
“Alright, so an 8.”
I gave her the soda back and collapsed onto my bed. Mom set the can on my nightstand. She came over by me and pulled a blanket over my body ever so delicately, like I was a kid again. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t a kid because if I was, then Ariel would still be around and I still would have had time to save her and Sadie wouldn’t be going crazy.
“What are you thinking about, sweetie?”
“What?” I squinted my eyes at her.
“You have your thinking face on. What’s going on?”
“Nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Despite my unwillingness to talk, Mom sat down on the bed with me. Her hand held onto mine and I felt the warmth of her presence flood me. Mom’s had that effect on people. They were both warming and cooling all at once.
I moved my arm to cover my eyes. “What would you do if you felt God calling you to do something you didn’t want to do? And how would you be a good friend to someone? Like, if you don’t know how.”
Silence followed. I assumed she was thinking of an answer. Or trying to put a context to my question. That was another thing Mom’s do. They always try to figure out what’s going on when you ask a generic question.
“For your first question, I would say to look at people in the bible who disobeyed God and see if that’s the life you want.” She chuckled, probably because she was thinking of a particular story in her head. “And as how to be a better friend...think of how you would feel in Sadie’s situation, I assume this is about Sadie, and think about the things you would want her to do for you.
I rolled my eyes, even though they were still closed. I didn’t know why I hadn’t expected her to name Sadie. She was my mom, after all.
I felt her lips press against my forehead softly. “You’ll figure it out soon. I know you will.”

As she left, the pain in my head doubled. I was fairly certain she left my room. I heard the clicking of a door locking in its socket. There was silence for only a brief moment before I succumbed to tears.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Baseball Has Been Very Very Good To Me

   When I think of baseball I think of packing lunches and blankets to go all over the city for my older brother's travel baseball games. I think wearing his old jerseys to those games so I could support him. I think of asking for baseball cards for my birthday to add to my collection. I think of afternoons where my dad would explain what was happening on TV with the Cubs and teaching me all the rules of the game. I think about going outside into the courtyard and playing catch with my brother and dad. I also recall that we used to get kids from the neighborhood to play with us. We would stay out in the yard all day. I remember playing softball in a league for 4 years and going to an ice cream parlor for ice cream and fries after each victory. I think of watching The Sandlot. Baseball reminds me of my Alfonso Soriano jersey I never took off in middle school. It reminds me of my family because most of my childhood revolved around that sport in one way or another.

   Baseball has always had a special place in my heart.

   This summer I've been blessed to be able to work at the legendary Wrigley Field as a fan photographer and its been the greatest thing in the world. If you've spent more than 5 minutes with me, you know this. Because I don't ever stop talking about it.

   I stopped keeping up with the Cubs when my dad left, because we stopped spending money on cable. My older brother went away to college (where he continues to play baseball for his school.) and so all my huge baseball influences were gone. I sort of let it go for a while. Then the Cubs team I loved fell away; some players retired and others got traded. I don't know where most of them are anymore. They've all sort of fallen off the grid. I had forgotten how much I cared until this summer.

   This summer has been magical. My first day of work I was exhausted. I was standing all day and doing stairs. I was in so much pain on the way home. But I couldn't stop smiling. Whenever I'm there I can't help but think about how blessed I am. I mean, I had been asking God for the perfect job. One I loved, one that was close, one that was easy. And truthfully, I only love it. It's so hard. It's so far away. It takes a lot out of me. But I am so in love. I'ts worth all that to me. My boss is so great and understanding and my coworkers are gems, honestly.

  One day last week I got to work two hours early. So I sat in the stands and listened to worship music. It was the greatest thing. I mean...who gets to do that before work? I just stared off at the field and thought about all the people that come to the stadium. Seriously. I'm constantly overwhelmed when we all rise to sing the national anthem. That place holds over 41,000 people. Plus staff. And its sold out pretty much every night. I always wonder why they're there. I think about all those people who all have stories and dreams and people they love and reasons why baseball means a lot to them just like it means a lot to me. I wonder why they're Cubs fans or fans of opposing teams. Sometimes I feel so small; but most of the time I feel in awe just thinking that each one of those people matter. 41,000 people and each person still matters. I still matter.

   I know most people I know hate sports, and you could be one of them. But think about this: community. That's what it is. Just like I said about the Oscars; it's a crap ton of people getting together to celebrate something so stupid and meaningless yet so powerful. Depression makes me think of things I love as pointless. But times like the time I have at work make me remember that we were created to love and live and enjoy the little things. It's just a game but at the same time, its not just a game. And I'm not sure if that makes sense.

   The other thing about my job is that it's hard. I hate asking people for photos. I'm shy. I have panic attacks at work sometimes. Yet it's worth it. Every time I walk into that stadium I'm greeted by a random person with a smile on their face. I swear all the workers there act like each day is the best day of their life. I remember that I'm doing what I love when I hear Shoop come on the loud speakers and Addison Russell walk up to the plate. My second day at work, my favorite got a homerun and the crowd went wild. I think about that and how alive I felt and how I couldn't stop smiling on the bus ride home.

   I guess what I'm trying to say is that I used to be really sad. Now I'm really happy. If you're struggling right now, I want you to know that it's okay and that you won't be struggling forever. I want you to embrace all those silly things that make you smile because yeah they're stupid but they matter. If you need a reason to keep fighting today, here it is. Think about all the beautiful things you haven't experienced yet and all the people you haven't met. They're waiting for you. Hang on for them.

   I could talk about this job forever so I'm just going to stop here. This post came out way more scattered than I had planned. But really, I never thought I would get to say my first job was at Wrigley Field getting to do what I love. Never in a million years would I have thought that. Yet here I am. Someday, I hope you get a job that you love so much you'd wake up at 6:45 to take a bus for an hour to get to. I hope you feel alive when you're there. I hope you fall in love with your life and don't settle for less.

(PS. I'm obsessed with all the photos I take at work so I hope you love them as much as I do.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Short Post In Which I Share Bad News

   A while ago I underwent a surgery to remove half of my thyroid because there was a nodule growing on it. This nodule had been benign for a long time but then it started to press on my wind pipe, so my doctor elected to remove it. After that, he wanted it examined to look for cancer. Well, all the pathologists at my doctor were split. Half said cancer, half said benign. Thus half of my thyroid make quite the journey. It was transported to Wisconsin, and then eventually to New York to be looked at.

   All this goes to say, they found out I have cancer.

   Before you go freaking out, stop. Take a breath. And relax.

   We won't know what kind or stage until after I have it biopsied. On August 10th, the remaining part of my thyroid will be removed and then I'll undergo radioactive iodine treatment to disintegrate any traces of my thyroid that were left over.

   I know. I just threw a lot of information out there at once. If you're not a medical expert or a sick kid, your brain might be spinning. So to summarize: they have no idea how bad it is, but I'm feeling optimistic. My doctors do seem concerned more than they usually are, that's true. But I know I've gone through this surgery before and I handled it well, so that's good.

   So I thought today though I'd talk about cancer.

   I've known for a while now but I didn't tell a lot of people. I didn't know how to. There were a lot of reasons I kept it to myself for so long. It's awkward to come out there and just say "by the way, I have cancer." I didn't want people to treat me differently. I didn't want people to suddenly care about me when they really hadn't before. I didn't want all the attention to be on me. I didn't want people to feel sorry for me. I didn't want to just talk about cancer. It's weird to say that I have cancer because it doesn't feel real.

   Honestly, I don't feel sick. I'm now a part of this group of people who are deemed Really Sick, and I don't feel it. I don't feel like I should be among them. I'm the healthiest I've ever been. I don't feel like I'm constantly fighting to stay alive or to find a cure. I'm not a huge medical health activist nor will I ever be. I don't feel sick. I don't feel weak.

   But for a while it hit me hard. I'm sick. Even though I don't feel it, I am sick. Some day I may wake up and not be able to walk. Some day I won't be able to eat. Some day I'm going to be in so much pain I'll cry all day. And the worst is the not knowing. I don't know when my body will give out. I'm fine today but how will I be tomorrow? I'm worried because I'm a person that prides myself in being independent and self sufficient. I know someday I won't have that luxury.

   But I guess that's what makes me grateful for each day I am normal. I thank God for my health and that seems almost ridiculous for someone who has so many issues going on. But I am. I know that God is in control and if He didn't want me to have cancer than I wouldn't have cancer. It's as simple as that. With that, I guess I just want people to know that having cancer isn't the worst thing in the world. It's terrible, but there are worse things that could happen. Cancer doesn't get the last word. Cancer can have a footnote in my story but that's it.

   And hey, on the bright side, I get to be Hazel Grace now. So I'll be on the lookout for a one legged boy who carries a cigarette around for metaphorical reasons.

(I had to include this song. It's great.)

(Anthony Rizzo, first basemen for the Chicago Cubs being a gem. He defeated Hodgkin's Lymphoma.)

(Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. 10/10 would recommend.)

Thank you all for listening to me talk about my medical problems and being there for me while I rant. Truthfully, I never wanted to share this with you but, as Rachel pointed out in that movie quote above, everyone was gonna find out sooner or later. I'd rather you hear it from me. Be praying for my family in all this; mostly my mom, because she worries. But also everyone else. Because having a kid with medical issues puts a ton of stress on everyone in the family. 

Thank you again for everything.