Friends You Can Rely On

Today, I wanted to make an appreciation post for two of my best friends.

Alya was basically born to be my best friend. Or maybe I was born to be hers. Either way, she’s my sister and my best friend. As many siblings might know, those terms can be mutually exclusive, and I am lucky that this is not the case with me and Alya.

Mia met me and Alya when she was entering Kindergarten, I was going into first grade, and Alya was going into third. We shared a bag of Skittles and played with wooden building blocks in my mom’s classroom. And that was it. We have been friends, the three of us, ever since.

We were never really into the same things that our classmates were into. All three of us liked to read, and we had a special obsession with The Lord of the Rings. We liked playing games of pretend, imagining we were on Middle-Earth slaying Orcs and trolls. (But never Balrogs. Since none of us were wizards, we would have been totally outclassed, even in our imaginations.)

Alya was (and still is) the leader of our games. She was the director of our adventures, the decider of our futures. To this day, Mia and I say we can’t make proper decisions without her. (Which kind of spells doom for our personal lives, but I think we’re fine with that.) When our games took a turn for the sci-fi, she was the Commander to my Navigator and Mia’s Engineer.

I have Alya to thank for helping me in all of my writing endeavors. She’s supported me in so many ways. Even more than I support myself. (Which, again, spells doom for my life if she ever decides to abandon me, but that would never happen.) She might have a terrible sense of direction, but she’s still the one who takes charge whenever she, Mia, and I get together.

One time, Alya decided we were going to pluck oranges from Mia’s grandmother’s orange tree. The ground was muddy, and our mother warned us that we were not to get dirty. She threatened us with never letting us see Mia again, which she would never have followed through with, but we were young. We believed our friendship was on the line.

Mia and I were reluctant, but Alya kept pointing out these super amazing oranges on the branches above us. These were like Tropicana-cover oranges. Just one more, Alya kept saying.

Alya had her eye on a perfect orange, but it was really high up. We couldn’t climb to it, and it was dangling right over a particularly muddy piece of ground. Alya said she was going to jump for it. Before she did, Mia tore off the slide from her plastic play-place and laid it over the mud just in case Alya fell.

Then Alya took the leap.

She hung in the air for one interminable second before the stem snapped off and she fell on the slide. Unfortunately, the slide slipped out from under her sneakers, and she landed smack on her bum in the middle of the mud. We spent the rest of our visit to Mia’s grandparents’ house learning how to use a washing machine.

Mia was (and is) the solid backbone of our group. She’s the level-headed one. When Alya comes up a crazy idea, Mia is the one who grounds it in practicality. She is the string to Alya’s kite. Mia is the strongest of us all, and also the kindest. Plus, she has an iron will and a delicious sense of justice.

One time, I had to do something humiliating for a group project in a college class. I won’t go into specifics because it really was embarrassing for me and out of my control. However, the humiliating task was typed up on a piece of paper, and Mia came up with the idea of burning it once the assignment was complete. It was a therapeutic notion, and we all thought it was a great idea.

But Mia went the extra mile. She actually placed the paper in a hollowed-out cinder block, in order to keep the fire from spreading anywhere else, lit the paper with some matches, and then declared she was going to salt what was left when the flames died down.

We looked at her confused for a moment, and then we laughed at the realization that she was talking about the ancient practice of salting the earth of conquered lands so nothing would ever grow there. Mia was symbolically planning to curse the assignment into oblivion.

So when the paper was just ashes, Mia stepped inside, then came out with a salt grinder and ground some cooking salt over the gray remains.

It was hilarious and put a fun spin on something that otherwise would have been a stain on my memory.

I don’t make new friends these days. I don’t really leave my place of residence to go out to places of socialization. Why would I when I have books, video games, and myself to keep me company?

That sounds like a pity statement, but IT’S NOT. (Capitalized letters to emphasize my seriousness.)

I don’t need a lot of people in my life to feel happy. I feel happy with the ones I have. And if I happen to stumble along some others by chance, then that’s great, too.

So here’s to my two best friends in the whole wide world. No matter where we go, when we see each other next, or what we do, I know I can rely on the two of you for all the years to come.

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Of Couch Boats and Coffee Mugs

In a day, I’m going to go spend a few weeks with my sister.

Since I work from home, it’s fairly easy to travel to my sister’s place and stay over for extensive amounts of time. All I need to work is my laptop, a solid internet connection, the use of my hands, and my brain. The only real hassle in visiting Alya is the long drive.

I have found myself reminiscing about all the time she and I used to spend together.

We are/were each other’s best friend. We never really spent time apart from each other until she got married. This was due to the fact that we lived together, shared a bedroom, and couldn’t understand other people nearly as much as we understood each other.

As kids, we didn’t get out much. You know that ’80s nostalgia that’s been going around, with movies and TV shows about kids who leave their backyards to have wild adventures with aliens and other dimensions?

That was never me and Alya.

Our parents are of the “helicopter” generation of parents. Well, mostly my mother. We were never allowed to go out by ourselves when we were young. And since we lived twenty miles away from our school and most of our friends, we couldn’t easily walk over to hang out with classmates anyways.

So we made do with each other.

Our favorite thing to do was pretend we were other people. Cool people, not boring people. We would pretend we were in Middle-Earth slaying Uruk-Hai or that we were in Jurassic Park and a T. Rex was trying to eat us. One time, we pretended we were monkeys and we climbed our next-door neighbor’s tree. The looks they gave us made us never do that again. They weren’t mad. But they looked at us as if we were crazy.

On quieter days, Alya and I would do “Couch Boat.”

For those of you who don’t know what Couch Boat is, it’s when you pretend that your living room couch is an island in a vast ocean, an isolated spot you can only leave with great difficulty. Alya and I would gather up our most entertaining belongings (stuffed animals, blankets, action figures, books, markers) and climb aboard the Couch Boat.

And then we’d just stay there.

Sometimes we’d put on a movie in the background, but for the most part, we’d just float along alone together.

As I’m writing this down, it makes us sound incredibly unhealthy. We did run around in our childhood, okay? We got exercise. We were not just sedentary couch potatoes.

But on a Saturday morning, sometimes there was nothing better to do than good old Couch Boat.

Our Couch Boat these days has evolved. We bring tablets, lesson plans, notebooks, and coffee to the couch now. We do work together separately. But sometimes we’ll put on a movie we’ve seen a million times in the background. And we still pretend we can’t leave the Couch Boat. Well, we don’t actively pretend.

It just goes without saying.

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How Do You Do That?! (Amazing Art from My Sister)

My sister is one of the most talented persons I know, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my sister.

Okay, maybe I’m kind of biased, but seriously, her talent speaks for itself!

Alya's blue tiger

From a young age, Alya showed an extraordinary knack for creating things. She excelled at all things arts and crafts. (Don’t listen to her if she starts saying she’s not that good. She’s lying. She is.) Her childhood doodles did not just deserve to be stuck to the refrigerator door; they deserved to be framed. And she drew so effortlessly. She made it look like nothing to churn out masterpiece after masterpiece.

Alya's Ray Charles

And her skills only increased with age. Her work is jaw-dropping. As I’m picking my own jaw up from the floor, I feel like I have to apologize for this post. My paltry words are doing her art a disservice by merely attempting to describe them.

Alya's pointilism peacock

I’ll admit to feeling jealous of her when I was younger. Where I struggled to draw a straight line or a perfect circle, she sketched anthropomorphic cartoon animals as if it were nothing.

Alya's Evangeline

I’ve more or less grown up at this point (I hope), so I can appreciate her talents without necessarily belittling mine now. However, she is undeniably an artist of the highest caliber.

Side note: And by artist, I don’t mean one of those Abstract Expressionism kind of artists who paint a canvas white and THAT’S IT.

So here’s to my sister, an Above Average artist!

 

Three Embarrassing Things I’ve Done While Taking a Shower/Bath

Before I continue, let me say that I’m writing about harmless antics. Nothing obscene. If you’re looking for that kind of stuff, best you go elsewhere.

Anywaysies, I thought I’d be a little more open to complete strangers, so I’ve decided to share some absolutely embarrassing things about me so that people can know I truly am a below average someone.

Here goes:

1. When my sister and I were really little, we would often take baths together. Rather than focus on getting ourselves clean (which is what we were supposed to be doing), Alya and I would have a grand old time playing with bath toys, making waves in the “deep waters,” and seriously messing with the shampoo.

We would take nearly empty or half-full shampoo bottles and fill them up partways with water. Then we would shake them like crazy.

In this manner, we created rudimentary foam shooters. The rich, bubbly mixture of shampoo and water would roil within the bottles, so that when we gave them a squeeze, foam would shoot out.

We thought it was fun to see how high we could get the foam to reach. We would aim the bottles at the ceiling, and try to get the foam to reach it. The end result of our baths would be dripping foam-icicles on our ceiling that we weren’t tall enough to reach to clean. We would have to toss a damp washcloth at the ceiling in order to hide the evidence of our tampering with the shampoo bottles.

2. I’m a tad embarrassed to admit this (though that’s what this post is about), but I’ve actually spent several minutes of my shower-time staring at a soap bar, trying to move it with, as yet, undiscovered telekinetic powers.

(Yes, I know it’s unlikely I could do this. No, I did not let this stop me from at least trying.)

I tried to clear all doubt from my mind, but a niggling worm of skepticism always resided in the small recesses of my brain.

Part of me believes it is this doubt that prevented me from lifting the soap with my mind.

3. Finally, I have, on multiple occasions, filled my cheeks with water and shaken my head rapidly from side to side, pretending to be Boss Nass. In case you don’t know who Boss Nass is, he’s the chief of the Gungans in Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.

Here is the link to the noise I’m trying to imitate.

I wasn’t lying when I said this was embarrassing.

Big Dog, Small Bird

My sister, Alya, owns a dog named Ushi (pronounced OO-shee). Alya got her when she was a cute little puppy. She is the most adorable creature I’ve ever met (excluding Froley) and she really deserves her own post (which I may write in the future).

Ushi on the grass

Ushi is a giant dog, part St. Bernard, part Great Pyrenees. If you’re familiar with those breeds, you know that Ushi is massive.

Ushi and I lying on the floor

However, since my sister owns two birds and a tortoise in addition to her big puppy, Ushi has learned to be really gentle with small creatures. My sister’s birds, unfortunately, haven’t taken to Ushi despite her calm-giant demeanor. And the tortoise really just minds his own business.

Froley likes Ushi though.

You wouldn’t think that the ornery Froley who only likes particular people at particular moments would become fond of the large, goofy Ushi.

But for some reason, he’s devotedly tolerant of her.

Ushi and the birds

Whenever Froley and I spend the night at my sister’s, he’ll always wake up in a fantastic mood. He’ll waddle up to Ushi in the morning and start chirping sweet nothings to her wet, black nose. His wings will be semi-lifted in a heart-shaped position, his head tilted as close to her as he can get.

As he twitters at her, Ushi will sniff him once then look away, as if she’s embarrassed by his attentions. (For all we know, she is.)

Froley is the best judge of character (except for when he’s feeling grumpy), so I take his affection for her to be a confirmation of Ushi’s kind nature. Ushi is a sweet puppers, the sweetest, most loving dog I’ve ever had the pleasure to have met.

Alya raised Ushi with care. Just like people think that dogs are proof that God loves us, Ushi thinks people are proof that God loves her. Her face whenever a person is petting her reveals pure bliss. She honestly prefers humans to other dogs.

Despite being a bit of a goof (she’s not overly intelligent sometimes), she’s surprisingly gentle. Of course, there are times when she’s accidentally rough with her enthusiastic affections. (She doesn’t know her own size.)

Ushi and me taking a selfie

I cannot stress enough how much my sister has to do with Ushi’s sweetness. Both my sister and I wanted a dog for as long as I can remember. I ended up taking the bird path (the path less flown), but Alya actually followed her childhood dream and got herself a dog.

Alya once told me how she learned that birthday wishes (blowing out the candles on your cake and making a wish) aren’t real. She said for every childhood birthday she had, she would wish her hardest for a dog, desperately pleading to whatever higher power there was to grant her wish for a slobbery companion. But none came.

Well, Alya, I’d say that every birthday wish you made coalesced and formed Ushi. Just as Froley, the persnickety bird with old-man ways, is my soul pet, Ushi is yours.

You just had to wait a little bit. (Patience, Iago.)

So here’s to our pets!

Me and Froley, Ushi and Alya

O Sister! My Sister

Sibling rivalry is a foreign concept to me.

do have a sibling, an older sister, but we’ve never been rivals. Psh, we’ve been the opposite of rivals.

She’s my best friend. No contest.

My sister and I

Her name is Alya (pronounced uh-LEE-uh), and she is about two years older than me. She doesn’t look it, and she sure doesn’t always act like it. She’s more carefree than me. Where I’m the slow, methodical, and stodgy one, she’s the buoyant, spirited, and adventurous one.

Despite our difference, we’ve always been close. We never really had friends when we were little kids, so our go-to person for fun and excitement was each other. Alya was always the “idea” person. She still is, come to think of it. I’m never bored when I’m hanging out with her because she’s always ready with a potential plan for the day. It’s as if her default setting is to be as enthusiastic as possible.

We went to San Francisco about a year ago in order to see Hamilton. It was hella awesome. (You can strike me down for using the word “hella,” if you want to.) But even though this trip involved seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece of a musical, my favorite part out of the week-long trip was the drizzling morning I spent exploring the city with my sister.

We had breakfast at a diner that served fairly adequate breakfast food, and then we made our way to a coffee shop for some darkly-brewed goodness. (Alya would have gotten herself lost if it hadn’t been for me and my impeccable sense of direction.) Then we went to a furniture store and ogled at all the modern concepts for home decorating. After that, we pranced our way through the misting rain to the Disney Store, where I shamefully got suckered in to buying two Star Wars action figures (K-2SO and Poe Dameron). No matter where we went, we had a blast simply because we were in each other’s company.

Alya shopping

From a very young age, Alya was an artistic soul. Her preschool drawings put my current attempts at sketching to shame. (I stick to adult coloring books now.) Her creativity knows no bounds. She’s an artist in her thoughts and in her actions.

Because of this, I think, she can be wonderfully messy at times. I know this is an artist stereotype, but hey, these things become stereotypes for a reason. Back when we shared a room together, I’d have to slog through piles of her dirty clothing to reach the closet. Now that we’re no longer living together, I kind of miss the mess.

Alya painting

When Alya was in middle school, she suffered the cruel abuses that stupid classmates decided to shoot her way. These prepubescent girls thought it was the height of cool to make fun of my sister for her roller backpack or for the baggy shorts our mother would sometimes make us wear. (Alya and I distastefully called these shorts that reached to our knees and bulged out at the hips the “Puffy Shorts.”) They would laugh at Alya as she passed them by and they would kick her backpack, leaving dusty footprints on the surface.

Girls can be utter dicks sometimes.

She never told me what she went through until we were both out of high school. I don’t think she wanted to appear weak to me. Or unhappy.

But trust my sister to turn the situation around. Almost as soon as she entered high school, she just…blossomed. There’s no other word for it. Her self-confidence skyrocketed. With some amazing inner strength, she bolstered her spirits and disdained to even think about the kind of girls who would make fun of someone else because of their clothes or their backpack.

Honestly, because of this, my sister became the most beautiful girl at school. Seriously. She was/is gorgeous. She grew into the envy of all because she became this pillar of self-esteem.

Alya and I as kids

Alya is the one person who I entrust with the entirety of my being. I can be a flawed human being around her, and she can be her messed-up self as well. We can be goofy, serious, sad, relaxed, excited, scared, enraged, or content around each other, and it will always be a blast.

She’s the one person I miss constantly when she’s not near me. I can tell her anything and expect absolutely no judgment (okay, well, maybe some judgment, but it’s an acceptable level). Plus, it’s impossible to lie to her because she knows me so well.

Her happiness gives me happiness, and I’m certain she feels the same way about me. There’s so much comfort knowing that someone cares about you that much, knowing that someone will always believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself.

So sibling rivalry? Impossible for me and Alya. How can I be rivals with someone who only wants the best for me?